Intro: Chronicles of Mark Johnson
COMING SOON: The release of The “Chronicles of Mark Johnson,” will be within a few weeks, my good friend and editor Carol Wills and I are just putting the touches to the last of the 8 short stories that make up the first of the four books I plan to publish.
This month sees the anniversary of the first story “The wind in your face,” back then it was just a story for a few close friends.
The first two stories are a bit slow, they are used to explain why Mark has taken himself away from the celebrity photo scene as well as explaining the relationships to characters who appear in later stories. From the massive online readership with friends, Facebook & Bookrix. I am to believe these get better as the stories develop-I will leave that to my readers.
Here is an excerpt from the first chapter:
THE WIND IN YOUR FACE
The man sitting on the cliff top at the edge of his garden, taking photographs of birds as they swooped and dived, looked calm and in his element. Until the phone rang. The phone call brought him back inside the house, which was not a good start for Mark Johnson who begrudged spending time indoors. After many years working in laboratories and studios trying to make a name for himself, he longed for the air.
“Mark! When are you going to do some high-profile work again? This damn phone is ringing off the hook for you ?”
Further introduction was not needed. Phil Moore, a longtime friend, was the only person who had the reclusive Mark’s phone number.
“Well, you know my philosophy, Phil, so you can feed them whatever BS you want. I do not do celebrity shoots, models, or work for tabloids. When I do a shoot it has to be for real. Not because someone needs to be in the limelight for a while! When I get a real shoot I will come back from obscurity – then and only then, Phil!”
“I just don’t get you, man! Top of the class in photojournalism; agents calling me for you to shoot their people. You could be out there with the lights on you, making so much more of your talents than selling the odd article here and there.”
“You hit the nail on the head when you said photojournalism. I do picture stories, not pretties for the glams and tabloids. That part of my work is what drove me here if you remember. I found it soul-destroying and sickeningly shallow.”
“That is as maybe, but it’s the best paid work, and you are the best. They all want you mate.”
“They can want all they like, until I get something that can arouse my spirit, I am content as I am. The stories I sell allow me what little pleasures I require- a roof over my head, food in the freezer, and the pleasure of being out here in the elements.”
“That’s something else I never got about you. Mark. How, when you can make such a lot, are you happy with next to nothing?”
“I just never got into wanting all the trappings of fame. The story is what it’s all about. I am a photojournalist first and foremost. If the shots don’t tell a part of the story, then I have failed. I know I can make my name, have lots of money and fame, but for me it was never about that. For me it has always been about the shots.”
“I can’t tempt you, then? Not even with a trip to Italy for three weeks in the sun, with masses of pretty girls to shoot.”
“No. You can treble any offer made, but I am not interested. Never was, never will be. Those that chose that lifestyle can keep it. I am doing what I like now. I stuck with that false crowd for four or five years when I got started. Every night I ached to take real pictures – stories that would do my art justice.”
“All the years I have known you, you have never changed. Throughout college courses and afterwards, money was never your driving force was it?”
“No, you have that right. I would rather struggle selling a few stories and being true to who I am, than clicking for magazines, just to show how pretty a lady is. If she is that pretty, then let it shine through. So many of them just love themselves and I cannot abide their shallow lives. Out here in the wind and rain, watching the birds and animals, that is what I am all about, Phil. If you get an interesting story for me, please let me know. As for any offers for celebrity shoots, feed them the BS you feel is right.”
“OK Mark. Got the message. Can you tell me something?”
“I will try to.”
“There was a rumour about your college having a research group checking into psychic abilities. Was there any truth in it?”
“There was no secret about it, Phil. We did have a grant to do psychic research, some of us developed great powers and can see the spirit world at times. We didn’t make it known for obvious reasons, we were doing serious research into psychic ability and didn’t want to be classed as just a bunch of crackpot ghost chasers.”
“You are kidding, seeing ghosts!”
“Not at all, think of us as receivers of signals, some people are more adept at receiving than others. We started out as a group of about 20, by the mid-term of the first year there were only 3 left. Me, Rachel Stockman & Pat Sammels. We call them essences rather than ghosts, they come in all forms and some not very nice.”
After Mark put the phone down, he turned and walked across his ramshackle old kitchen to the stove, he lit the gas so he could make a pot of his favourite coffee. The wind was picking up and the choppy seas were making the bell in the river clang loudly.
“Be good shooting today,” Mark thought as he looked out across the bay.
That was always something that mystified his friends. When the sun was out, Mark would rarely take a shot. Give him winds, rain and high seas, and he would be out there for hours. One friend asked him why and Mark replied, “If you want great shots, you have to go chase the weather; you won’t get them if you’re sitting inside in on windy days!”
The clouds rolling over the hills were low and threatening as the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. Up on the hills, Mark thought he could see a face at the old Morton Manor, but he was certain nobody lived there. It had lain derelict for the past twenty years, and no-one had been near it since the mysterious disappearance of the young girl. Over the years of his seclusion Mark had become adept at tuning into the lost and lonely souls of the dead, at first he wondered what had happened to make this occur, now he realised he was a receiver of messages from across the void and accepted it.
Some stories told of a stranger in the area, days before she vanished. Others told of a light in the old house and weird howling noises. Here on the coast, tales of strange happenings abound but this had taken place in recent times, with modern equipment, not olden days with archaic instruments that could not be trusted.
Mark felt this was an interesting story, worthy of his talents; an unsolved mystery for over twenty years, all but forgotten in the area. From those he had asked about the mystery, he had received the same answer – a wall of silence. It was as if the townsfolk were hiding something; something they did not want to admit. No police reports had been kept and no record of the events at the house was available. The whole town was cloaked in deathly silence, as if this was their curse for all time.
Since Mark was a virtual newcomer, he had not known about the history of the Morton house, as he was usually out on the cliffs. He barely paid attention to the old house on the hill until, one day, he happened to be passing on his way to photograph some strong waves crashing in the cove. It was then he thought he saw a face peering out from the house.