The Other God is my thriller about a girl who travels to India to seek the truth about her father, an explosives expert suspected of killing her mother...
It all starts in the Himalayas
Gangotri Glacier, Uttarakhand, India
He read it and re-read it; ancient words in an ancient language:
"Take your only son…" it began.
And he'd known the rest before he'd translated it. The words of Moses somehow etched into an ancient cave in the Himalayas.
He whispered the story from memory and the wind carrying snow from the mountains swept his words away as soon as he uttered them; just as a parent whips away a sharp blade from their child.
But he'd read the words; he'd said the words.
And now, as the sun illuminated the distant clouds in a molten gold, it was time to act.
He regarded his companion, no more than a boy, but tall, lean, tough and loyal to a fault. As much a son as any man could have.
The boy held out his arms without question as the man cut the length of rope he would need.
The glacier rumbled like thunder, drowning out his sobbed apologies, as he bound the boy’s wrists. Pale, un-gloved fingers must have been numb with cold. The man whispered a prayer that the bitter evening would numb the rest of his body too.
He was torn apart by doubts, but he would not be weak, like old Abraham. Abraham who condemned his people by sacrificing a mere goat.
There are no goats up here, old Abraham, he thought grimly.
Tonight he would do what needed to be done. The boy fell to his knees, staring up at him with questioning eyes. ‘Abraham was weak,’ he shouted. ‘I have to be strong.’ But his voice sounded paper thin in the rising wind.
This had to be quick. It had to be merciful.
The glacier growled and sent a tremor beneath his feet.
Sacrifices are supposed to be hard.
The pick axe was not big, but it weighed heavy. He took a final glimpse at his only son and raised his arms. He held his breath. Closed his eyes…
...and sent the ax crashing down.
There was a blood-curdling scream that pierced the howling wind. The glacier shuddered as if triggered by his blow. He lost his balance, his head hit rock, and the axe flew from his grip skittering across the ice.
He lay for a while listening to the sound of his own breath and the moaning ice.
When he finally opened his eyes, the boy was standing over him, blood streaming down one side of his jacket. Both of his hands were free.
They gripped the handle of the ax.
A storm raged in the boys’ eyes: ice blue, the colour of hard steel.
‘I’m sorry,’ the man tried to say, but no sound left his mouth. ‘I’m—’
The glacier shifted once more with a deafening snapping sound. A tooth of ice lifted suddenly and sent the boy crashing against him.
He felt the metal, cold and sharp inside his belly and stared down at the axe jutting from his waist, stared at the blood spilling like oil onto the snow.
A realisation resounded like an ancient, cracked bell: I am the sacrifice.
He reached inside his jacket for the book, the book in which he had transcribed the message carved into the cave walls. His gloved fingers struggled with the zip.
‘Son!’ he rasped. ‘The book...’
But there was another explosion, this time a deep gash opened up in the ice and the two men plummeted towards it.
There was a sickening thud as his descent was stopped by something hard and smooth. His vision went black for a moment, his ears rang and he tasted blood. When he tried to turn his head it was as if daggers jabbed into his spine.
He swiveled his eyes. Below him was the yawning blackness of the newly opened crevasse, above him the sun painted lines of orange rust across a sapphire sky.
A shadow fell upon him. The boy was alive.
‘Take... Take the book,’ he whispered. He could feel the shape of it by his breast, but he couldn’t move his arm to reach it.
The light cast a golden outline around the boy and there was a flickering movement beyond. For a moment the last remnants of sunlight broke through the cloud and shone down on him. The light sparked off the ax point, hurting his eyes.
He wanted to raise his hand to shield his face but his body was like stone.
There was an animal roar and the man watched helplessly as the ax head blotted out the sun.