Posts Tagged ‘Deaf community’

Deaf New Zealand filmmaker Brent Macpherson, of Stretch Productions, features prominently in the Acknowledgements for our new release crime-thriller Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) – and for good reason: the story is set in a university for the Deaf, and Brent educated us on the unique challenges facing the Deaf community and corrected potentially embarrassing errors in our portrayal of Deaf and hard of hearing people.

 

Brent Macpherson

Brent Macpherson…acknowledged in new release novel.

 

As one of the world’s leading Deaf storytellers working in film, television and other creative mediums, Brent’s passion for bringing to life stories about diverse people, including those in his own Deaf community, really rubbed off on us. Without his assistance this novel may never have been completed!

His commentary on Silent Fear  from a Deaf reader’s viewpoint is included at the end of the book.

 

Here’s Brent’s unabridged commentary on Silent Fear:

Silent Fear is one of the few mainstream novels to address the unique challenges faced by members of the Deaf community in any great detail. As a member of that community, and as someone who has been Deaf since birth, I believe this book is an important addition to the dearth of literature that exists about Deaf people and Deaf culture.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me state from the outset I have a vested interest in this book: I liaised with the authors in a consultancy capacity to ensure their treatment of the novel’s (fictitious) Deaf characters and the often unique issues they and their family members face were handled accurately and with sensitivity.

The novel provides a valuable insight into the dynamics of the international Deaf community all in one setting. It highlights a wide range of Deaf cultural elements and behavioural characteristics that are unique to members of the Deaf community.

As you’ll have noticed, sign language features prominently throughout. Members of the wider society may have seen Deaf people signing which is often perceived as a different form of communication. This perception is only a small part of the proverbial iceberg: below water, it’s much deeper and more meaningful to be Deaf.

Like myself, most Deaf people acquire sign language at a school for Deaf. In my case, I attended Kelston School for the Deaf in Auckland, New Zealand, at the age of five and subsequently learnt NZ Sign Language (NZSL) from older students. I became disruptive at a ‘normal’ kindergarten and teachers didn’t have a clue how to cope with me. It was decided that I would attend a Deaf school. To do so, I had to catch a taxi and a bus (the famous white bus) to Kelston for the next four years. These trips would be an hour-and-a-half each way so around three hours a day was spent exclusively in the company of many deaf children of all ages.

Reflecting upon how I personally learnt NZSL, those bus trips have renewed meaning for me. It was a unique time for Deaf students to be able to freely use sign language to communicate away from the gaze of disapproving teachers. We didn’t need to hide from them or from our parents. The bus became a relaxing comfort zone where a hidden education flourished. It was a cultural hub on wheels! Signing in the bus was regarded as an ‘underground language’ away from glaring eyes of the public so we could pass on our language to the younger generation.

Sign language was forbidden during my days at the school for the Deaf. If teachers caught us signing in the classroom, they would use a large wooden ruler to strike our hands and then force us to sit on them for the rest the day. Nevertheless, we cleverly found ways of using sign language. Ways that came naturally to us. We hid from teachers during playtime to sign to our peers. I recall hiding in the toilet to be able to sign one of my friends without being caught.

My proud identity as a Deaf person stems from attending a Deaf school and undertaking those long, enjoyable daily bus trips. Today, many of those students are still close friends of mine.

I was mainstreamed to a hearing school at age nine and will never forget my first day at my new school: I was completely cut off from my Deaf friends and was swiftly assimilated into the hearing world. It was totally alien to me.

My soul, identity and pride as a Deaf young person were stripped away in a flick of a switch.

I had to act and speak like a hearing person to fit society’s norm. I struggled with enormous internal conflicts, and these contributed to a sense of identity confusion. People would often comment, “Oh, Brent, you speak very well.” Yes, thank you, but what about my Deaf friends and sign language? I miss them.

Back then, society viewed deafness as a deficiency or an inadequacy – and, to a large extent, it still does. Of course, my parents thought putting me in a hearing school was best for my education. This was based on advice they received from ‘experts’ in deaf education.

A few years after leaving school, I reconnected with the Deaf community at the Auckland Deaf Society. Ah, this was, and is, where I belong. I met many of my long lost friends from primary school there; I immediately felt re-engaged with my identity as a Deaf person.

I am Deaf – period!

The room was full of diverse Deaf people of all ages signing, telling stories and jokes, laughing, having a few drinks, playing pool, enjoying each other’s company – like one happy family. After more than a decade not being allowed to use NZSL, I was amazed I could still remember the signs, and I was able to quickly relearn my natural language. After all those years of identity confusion, I felt re-energised and enthused, having rediscovered my suppressed Deaf identity and I embarked on a journey into the Deaf world where I belong.

The Auckland Deaf Society is at the heart of the NZ Deaf community just as many other organisations around the world are performing similar roles. Each Deaf community is a cultural group which shares a sign language and a common heritage. Members of Deaf communities the world over identify themselves as belonging to a cultural and linguistic group. Identification within the Deaf community is a personal choice and is usually made independent of the individual’s hearing status.

The Deaf community is not automatically composed of all people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. It is not limited to those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. It may also include family members of Deaf people, sign language interpreters and people who work or socialise with Deaf people and who may display characteristics of Deaf culture. A non-deaf person may become member of the Deaf community by accepting and recognising Deaf culture, and this is usually strongly associated with competence in using sign language.

Deaf people as a linguistic minority have a common experience of life, and this manifests itself in Deaf culture. This includes beliefs, attitudes, history, norms, values, literary traditions and art shared by Deaf people. My language and culture includes body language, facial expression and hand shapes, which all constitute sign language. Behavioural characteristics associated with sign language and Deaf cultural norms are the heart of having Deaf identity. All these elements are critical components for this novel to ensure the Deaf characters portrayed are authentic.

In writing Silent Fear, the Morcans should be commended for the tremendous amount of effort they have invested in researching and ultimately understanding and appreciating the dynamics of Deaf culture and sign language.

The writers strongly recommended I reveal to you that, as Deaf readers will no doubt have noticed, they (the Morcans) have used lower case “deaf” throughout the novel when referring to Deaf characters and to the Deaf community in general – their rationale being that mainstream novelists and newspapers do not (generally) apply the upper case ‘rule’ when referring to this community and its members. This was the one issue we disagreed on…

Enough said.

I am proud to have been a part of this journey and have put my heart and soul into this novel, working closely with the Morcans. The process has been methodical and well considered to ensure the novel captures the essence of being Deaf. I sincerely believe Deaf and Hard of Hearing on a global scale will easily relate to Silent Fear, and I am sure will be enjoyed by all.

The end result is a story, which, in my humble opinion, does justice to the Deaf community.

Brent Macpherson

To learn more about Brent and the planned film adaptation of Silent Fear  visit his website at  https://www.stretchproductions.co.nz/silent-fear    

 

Silent Fear  is available via Amazon as a Kindle Pre-order book (launch date October 31) via https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075HRYTVC/

The paperback version is available now via https://www.amazon.com/dp/0473408120

Bloggers and reviewers note! ARCs (advance review copies) of Silent Fear  are available via this link: https://goo.gl/forms/Dv7GH9oJVAKLuRM23

 

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For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 3 from the upcoming novel Silent Fear — co-authored by the writers of The Orphan Trilogy, Into the Americas and White Spirit.

First, here’s the storyline in brief:

Detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the deaf in London. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world. When more deaf students are murdered, it’s clearly the work of a serial killer. The stakes rise when Valerie becomes the killer’s next target and the deadly virus claims more lives.

 

Silent Fear – Chapter 3

If London’s streets were any quieter than usual, Valerie didn’t notice. The early morning rush hour seemed as chaotic as ever with eternal traffic jams and streets clogged with people driving, cycling and walking to work. Their summery attire signalled another hot day was on the way.

Valerie was in work mode now. Behind the wheel of her police car she was no longer plain  Valerie Crowther, divorcee and only child. She was First Class Detective Superintendent Crowther, of the Metropolitan Police, or the Met, as most refer to it. And no ordinary detective superintendent either: she was one of the few detectives on any of Britain’s police branches fluent in British Sign Language, or BSL as it’s commonly known. As a CODA, or Child of a Deaf Adult, she had a big advantage over most others in the force who were called on to investigate crimes involving the deaf and hard of hearing. It was an advantage she’d been quick to use as and when required, and as a result her specialised services were in quite frequent demand.

Pulling up at a set of traffic lights on the Brompton Road section of the A4, the detective became aware she was under observation from the male driver of a late model Jaguar who had stopped alongside her. She didn’t let on she knew she was being observed.

Valerie was used to being an object of attention. Tall and lithe with jet black hair, striking violet eyes and pale, porcelain-like skin, she had a natural beauty that allowed her the luxury of using the barest essentials when it came to cosmetics. This suited her profession, and she’d often go makeup-free, or as close to, in order to avoid accidentally contaminating the crime scenes she regularly visited. An added bonus was the practice allowed her to sleep in an extra fifteen minutes before arising – something her female colleagues envied.

Just before the lights turned green, she looked to her right and fastened her striking violet eyes on the Jag’s driver who turned out to be a pompous-looking, middle-aged, pinstripe-suited gent. When the lights changed she accelerated away. Glancing in her rear-vision mirror, she smiled to herself when she saw the driver trying to restart his car, which had apparently stalled on take-off.

Despite her good looks, Valerie was only mildly aware of her attraction to members of the opposite sex. It was something she rarely dwelled on. She considered there were more important things in life, such as making a success of her career, paying the bills and looking after her mother. Besides, her looks hadn’t always helped her. Whilst training to become a detective, and even when starting out as a newly qualified detective constable, she felt her appearance was more a hindrance than a help, especially with her fellow detectives. Even as recently as a decade ago, the force was very much a man’s world; females were a second class minority on the force, and pretty females were considered fair game by the dominant males. Still she survived, and, it’s fair to say, she thrived. Her seniority and her reputation were a testament to that.

The detective was well aware her rapid rise within the force still rankled with some of her colleagues. She’d deliberately cultivated a no-nonsense – some would say intimidating – persona, but if that upset anyone that was their problem. As the only child of a deaf adult she’d had to grow up quickly, interpreting for Edith and taking on responsibilities at a very young age. Being a CODA had made her fiercely protective of her mother, and had also moulded her personality to suit taking on responsibilities beyond her years.

As she became caught up in a queue of traffic further west along the A4 at Cromwell Road, Valerie reached out and switched on the iPad she’d left next to her on the front passenger seat. Jamie Lewis’s gory image reappeared on screen. As the only available detective proficient in sign language, she was the logical choice to head the investigation into the student’s murder. She glanced at the image once more then turned the iPad over, and, as the traffic began moving once more, she switched on the car radio. On air, a female talkback host was discussing the headline news of the moment with a male caller.

“Monkey Flu should be called Malaysian Flu because scientists now know it originated there,” the talkback host said.

“Right,” the caller agreed. “I believe the confusion arose because monkeys in a Malaysian zoo exhibited similar symptoms to the first humans who contracted the virus.” The caller continued, “The connection with monkeys has since been disproven, but the name stuck. In fact it originated in horses and birds then crossed over to humans.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” the talkback host said, “and I just want to repeat for our listeners an official statement issued by the World Health Organisation on this matter… ‘H7N7 is a subtype of equine Influenza A virus – a genus of Orthomyxovirus, which is the virus responsible for causing influenza.’ The organisation goes on to say that H7N7 is comprised of the surface proteins Hemagglutinin 7 and Neuraminidase 7… whatever all that means.”

The host switched to a female caller.

“This particular equine-avian strain of H7N7 is a complete mystery,” the well-spoken caller said. “H7N7 hasn’t been observed in horses since the 1970’s and epidemiologists are still uncertain about its sudden reappearance.” She spoke authoritatively and sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

Valerie turned the volume up.

“It was observed by scientists in poultry earlier this year, but not in horses for over forty-five years,” the woman said. “This means humans have not been exposed to this lineage of influenza since the Seventies. Therefore this particular strain hasn’t been included in any human vaccines, and the likelihood of acquired immunity is minimal.”

Valerie hadn’t caught the caller’s name, but thought she could be a scientist or a medical researcher. At the very least she sounded professional.

The caller continued, “Let’s hope our nation’s closed borders policy prevents any infected cases here in Britain because this unusual panzoonotic disease has the potential to become the worst pandemic humanity has ever faced. And it’s all because the scientific community did not suspect its reappearance.” She sounded impassioned. “None of us in the research sector were prepared for this strain of H7N7.”

“Why is that exactly?” the talkback host asked in a tone that almost sounded accusatory.

“Well, most of us believed it had long since become extinct. Although we know how to defend against influenza, this particular strain appears to have the ability to alter the surface proteins at a faster rate than we can create antibodies for it.”

Introducing another caller, the host said, “We now have Rick from Bristol on the line. He informs us he has a conspiracy theory about the Monkey Flu”.

Rick from Bristol coughed and spluttered into the phone before finally talking. “Firstly, let me say that I’m not a tinfoil hat-wearing bastard,” he assured listeners.

“Please remember you are on air, Rick,” the host cautioned.

Undeterred, Rick from Bristol continued, “I do my research and I always keep an open mind. And after doing my research I can only conclude one thing… The elite want to reduce global population!” Still spluttering, he said, “The planet is overpopulated and this virus is their way of getting rid of half of us! I mean, think about it… In 2016, the World Organisation for Animal Health stated they believed the equine, meaning horse, strain of H7N7 was officially extinct… Now remember, all viral strains are kept in storage, so if a long-forgotten, forty-five year old strain all of a sudden reappears in the population like this, we must question how that’s possible? Has it occurred organically in nature? Or was it leaked from some secret scientific laboratory somewhere?”

Valerie turned the radio off as she left the A4 to drive into the quieter streets of South Kensington. She’d heard enough from Rick from Bristol for one day.

It wasn’t long before Wandsworth University came into view. Though she had driven past it often enough she’d never had reason to visit it. Its size never failed to impress her, and she was looking forward to finally seeing what secrets it contained within its walls.

As she drew closer to the front entrance, she had to weave between stationary police cars, crime scene tape, clusters of curious onlookers, concerned students and jostling reporters. The murder of a deaf student was obviously big news.

More than once Valerie had to show her badge to law enforcement officers. They waved her through.

Finally, she found a spare parking space. Only as she turned off the ignition did she notice the ever-stern Lord Wandsworth looking down at her. The thought passed through her mind that he didn’t look at all pleased by the latest turn of events. Or perhaps the old boy doesn’t like the look of me, she wondered.

Climbing from the car, she mentally prepared herself for the inevitable onslaught of questions. The reporters and photographers had noticed her arrival and were converging on her.

Valerie avoided the media representatives with a curt “No comment” as she almost sprinted up the steps toward the entrance. Two burly, uniformed security men prevented her pursuers from following her through the front doors.

Inside, in the relative safety of the foyer, the first thing she noticed was the temperature was cooler. Despite the early hour, the building’s air-conditioning had already been turned on to combat the high temperatures forecast.

Valerie took stock of her surroundings. Wandsworth University was everything she’d expected and more. Its vastness and plushness couldn’t fail to impress. The expensive furnishings and fittings were obvious clues to the institution’s profitability, and all around students and staff members were going about their everyday business, albeit with an extra urgency given the tragedy that occurred overnight.

Directly ahead of her, two receptionists had their hands full trying to cope with a dozen or so people who all seemed to be talking or signing at once. Long corridors to the left and right of reception gave access to numerous ground floor facilities. Signs pointed to the chancellor’s office, a conference room, meeting rooms, communications room, a communal café, gymnasium and indoor swimming pool. A swing door opened at the far end of the west wing corridor to reveal a full-size indoor pool.

Every room, she noted, was illuminated by expensive lighting, which was so startling it bordered on spectacular. She guessed this was as much to accommodate students who used sign language to communicate as it was to highlight the plush furnishings and show them off to the best effect.

Still more signs advertising various facilities on this and other floors caught her eye. They included Lipspeaker UK lip-speaking support, Signworld Online BSL teaching materials, Definitely Theatre UK, Red Dot online video interpreting, Ai-Live captions and transcripts, Deaf Umbrella sign language interpreting, SignVideo online interpreting, 121 Captions speech-to-text services, Phonak hearing acoustics, RAD financial advice for Deaf people and Bellman hearing loss solutions to name but a few. The commercial overtones weren’t lost on her. She could well imagine corporate sponsorship contributed significantly to Wandsworth’s coffers.

Deaf students signed to each other as they walked by, and Valerie quickly established they were discussing the murder.

A group of male students walked past. One of them directed a wolf whistle Valerie’s way. The detective observed them signing lewdly to each other. She fluently signed back to them, suggesting they mind their manners.

Surprised the detective knew sign language, the students averted their eyes and sheepishly continued on their way.

Valerie spotted the lift doors and headed for them. En route, she was approached by a young, pimply student who had observed her arrival and somehow guessed she was something to do with law enforcement. In speech so garbled it all but hid his Devon accent, he asked, “Do yo-u… knoww who… who da kil-ler is yet, Ma’am?” He couldn’t hide his surprise when Valerie replied in flawless sign language, informing him her investigation hadn’t even begun yet. He seemed satisfied with the answer and wandered off.

Valerie would learn later the lad she had just interacted with was one Dale Freemantle, a first-year student at Wandsworth who, in addition to his speech impairment, was hard of hearing. She’d have good reason to remember his name.

One of four lift doors opened nearby and its sole occupant, a young, uniformed cop, caught Valerie’s eye. He’d been told to watch out for her. He motioned her over, and she hurried to join him in the lift.

Before the lift doors closed, they were joined by half a dozen students and staff members.

#

At that very moment, in the nurse’s station adjoining the sick bay two floors above, resident nurse Jean Simons took the temperature of a somewhat flushed Carol Ashmore, another first-year student. Carol, a twenty-year old freckled redhead from Cambridge, had been feeling poorly all night. She coughed and sniffled as the matronly nurse removed the thermometer and checked it.

Concerned, Nurse Simons adjusted her surgical mask as she conversed with Carol in sign. “It’s probably only a common cold, but I’d better take a swab.”

A worried Carol could only look on as the nurse donned protective gloves and proceeded to give her a nasal swab.

After swabbing the patient, Nurse Simons transferred the swab to a viral container, which she placed in a biohazard bag together with a requisition form. The nurse then removed her gloves and signed to Carol that she would forward the swab to the nearest public health laboratory.

T.B.C.

See recent blogs for earlier chapters

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

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Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes)… coming soon!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33590532-silent-fear

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For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 1 from the upcoming novel Silent Fear — co-authored by the writers of The Orphan Trilogy, Into the Americas  and White Spirit.

First, here’s the storyline in brief:

Detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the deaf in London. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world. When more deaf students are murdered, it’s clearly the work of a serial killer. The stakes rise when Valerie becomes the killer’s next target and the deadly virus claims more lives.

 

Silent Fear – Chapter 1

London, like the rest of England and most of Western Europe, was unseasonably hot. Summer had only officially arrived a week ago and already the capital’s maximum temperatures had topped 29°C. Forecasters were predicting the nation’s record high of 38.5 would topple before summer was over.

On this particular weeknight, in West London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the pubs and bars were full to overflowing as office workers and residents mingled over a few drinks of the alcoholic variety as they endeavoured to assuage their thirst.

In the posh district of South Kensington, not far from Old Brompton Road and only ten minutes’ walk north to Hyde Park or fifteen minutes south to the River Thames, take your pick, an elderly gent emerged from his favourite local bar and weaved his way unsteadily across a busy street. He’d clearly had one or two drinks too many. He came to the attention of a passing cop a few minutes later when he stopped to address the larger-than-life statue of Lord Chester Wandsworth, which towered over the entrance of the university he founded over a decade earlier.

Wandsworth University was no ordinary educational institution. It was a university for the deaf community. Correction. It was the university for the deaf community – in Britain at least, and, if those responsible for the running of similar institutions elsewhere were honest, it was probably the university for the deaf community anywhere. Its student fees certainly reflected that, and it attracted deaf and hard of hearing students from throughout the world.

Lord Wandsworth was no ordinary individual either. Partially deaf himself, he took it upon himself to champion deaf students and see to it that they had the same education opportunities as those of normal hearing. The end result of this benefactor’s generosity was a state-of-the-art educational facility whose stellar reputation was known and admired worldwide.

Unfortunately, Lord Wandsworth was in no condition to enjoy the fruits of his generosity. Since suffering a serious brain injury in a horse-riding accident, the good lord had been confined to bed at his private estate in South Cambridgeshire. But his statue at least continued to watch over the university 24/7.

Looking up at the statue, the elderly bar patron had no idea the gentleman it was named after was still alive. Not surprising given death usually comes before the commissioning of a statue in someone’s honour. Such was Lord Wandsworth’s reputation and popularity the tribute had been fast-tracked.

The bar patron usually had a word for Lord Wandsworth on those evenings his wife allowed him out for a tipple, and tonight was no different except that he’d imbibed more than was customary and so was somewhat more talkative than usual. “I’ve always looked up to you, guv,” he shouted, looking up at the stern, stony features of the man he addressed. “But then… I s’pose everyone looks up to you.” He chuckled at his attempt at humour and nearly fell over when he stepped back into the gutter.

“Are you alright, sir?” a gruff voice enquired.

The elderly gent turned around to see a police car had pulled up nearby. The driver, a fresh-faced young cop, asked again if he was alright.

“Aye, I’m fine,” the old man assured him. Not wanting to get offside with the law, he resumed his homeward journey, bidding both the cop and Lord Wandsworth a good evening as he went his merry way.

The cop watched the gent’s progress for a moment before gazing up at the impressive statue and the even more impressive multi-storied campus building behind it.

Wandsworth University was six storeys high and spanned the length of one entire block. Its top floor was ablaze with lights, and the silhouettes of its occupants could be seen at many of the windows.

The cop took one last look at the building then drove off. He drove with all the windows down, preferring natural ventilation to air-conditioning to cope with the evening’s heat and with the humidity that accompanied it.

#

In Wandsworth University’s student common room young, trendy, deaf students of various nationalities chilled out, played pool and watched television. Others ate at a bistro at the far end of the crowded room. Their lightweight attire left no doubt they, too, were feeling the heat.

Most conversed in sign language, their hand signs almost too fast for the eye to follow. Some wore hearing aids, others high-tech cochlear implants. Some even conversed in spoken language while those who were profoundly deaf either relied on their devices or sign language to communicate. More than a few flirted with each other, as to be expected in a gathering of so many young singles.

They were a mixed lot, ranging in age from late teens to mid-thirties, and they were in the main from well-heeled families. They had to be well off to afford the steep fees. There were exceptions, however. Some of the students were sponsored – most by charitable institutions in their own city or country, and a few by Wandsworth University itself by way of scholarships. Lord Wandsworth had expressed a desire that well deserving students from lower socio-economic backgrounds be accommodated as much as possible, and the uni’s board members had honoured that to the best of their ability, or to the extent their budget allowed at least.

A casual observer wouldn’t have picked it, but the normally animated students were more subdued than usual. And it wasn’t because of the oppressive heat. They, along with the rest of the nation, had received concerning news in recent days.

Many crowded around a big screen television set, watching a BBC news report and reading the subtitles that ran along the bottom of the screen as the newsreader delivered the latest sobering instalment of news.

“The World Health Organisation reports the death toll from the Monkey Flu virus has risen to twenty thousand worldwide,” the newsreader said.

More students stopped to watch, engrossed, as disturbing images from around the world flashed across the screen.

Off screen, the newsreader continued, “Although still in its early stages, the pandemic is already more potent than the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak.”

Images included overcrowded New York hospital wards, mass cremations in Mumbai, emergency medical meetings in Moscow, mass burials in Cape Town, panicked citizens wearing face masks in some unnamed Latin American country, sheet-covered bodies on stretchers lining hospital corridors somewhere in Australia, and the bodies of victims being wheeled into Tokyo morgues.

Still off screen, the newsreader said, “In addition to severe flu symptoms, those who contract the virus suffer blurred vision, which almost invariably leads to blindness.”

The BBC news report then cut to distressed Monkey Flu patients in a hospital ward in Brussels. Most of those in the foreground were looking straight at camera and many seemed to have a white film over the pupils of their eyes. Some appeared to be blind. It made for difficult viewing and some students had to look away. For members of the deaf community, blindness was something too awful to consider.

The newsreader continued, “World Health Organisation doctors describe the alarming symptom as a never-before-seen flu ailment and a type of ON, or Optic Neuritis, which is inflammation of the optic nerve and is often associated with multiple sclerosis. Unlike regular Optic Neuritis, many victims display cloudy, cataract-like symptoms in their eyes and invariably end up blind.”

Wandsworth’s dapper fifty-year-old chancellor Ron Fairbrother chose this moment to enter the room. A distinguished-looking West Indian Brit, immaculately dressed with fashionable glasses and a hearing aid, Fairbrother joined his students and watched the news. His sudden arrival was nothing out of the ordinary. The personable chancellor’s management style was very hands on, and he regularly mixed with students and staff in and out of normal working hours.

“No cases of Monkey Flu have been reported in the UK,” the newsreader continued. “The Secretary of State for Health attributes this to the rigid anti-virus strategies in place.”

Britain’s Secretary of State for Health appeared onscreen, looking slightly anxious, but determined. “We are one of the few countries left without a single confirmed case of the virus,” the stressed official said. “This is likely the result of our decision to close the UK’s borders before any other country in the world. You’ll recall this unpopular decision was referred to by some media as paranoid or alarmist, but even they can see it is now paying dividends.”

The newsreader reappeared onscreen and resumed speaking to camera. “Massive disruptions are resulting from the government’s decision to seal off our borders. Tens of thousands of British citizens are stranded overseas due to the ban on all arrivals into the UK.”

That bit of news was especially sobering for the students. A few British students had parents who were overseas on holiday or on business, and some foreign students had relatives who had been preparing to fly to London to visit them. For students affected – especially for those away from home for the first time – the arrivals ban wasn’t good news.

Fairbrother had heard and seen enough. Before departing, he inserted himself in the eye-line of students and waved his arms overhead. Most students caught the movement and turned their attention to the chancellor. Signing, Fairbrother advised them the board would be meeting tomorrow to make a decision about suspending classes. “Until then, we remain open as usual,” he signed. He repeated himself, using regular speech for the benefit of those with hearing aids who may not have been able to see him. His perfect English hinted at his privileged upbringing and his university education. Smiling, he added, “That means your mid-semester deadlines still stand.”

Students nodded resignedly. There were a few glum faces, but the students couldn’t complain. Fairbrother was strict but fair, and he was generally popular with students and staff alike.

#

Two floors below the student common room, in the privacy of his room in the resident male students’ quarters, Welsh student Jamie Lewis typed an email on his laptop at his desk. The nuggetty twenty-one-year-old was drafting a weekly report for his parents. They liked to be kept informed about what he was up to. Jamie, an only child, was close to his parents, so it was no chore at all to keep in touch regularly.

The room was snug but well appointed. Identical to the others on the floor – and near-identical to the rooms in the female quarters on the floor above – it was fully carpeted and comprised a single bed, bedside table, desk and chair, free-standing wardrobe and a bookshelf, which, in this room at least, was fully stocked. All the books bar one were reflective of the subjects Jamie was studying, the one exception being a book on Welsh rugby, his big passion. In his hometown Cardiff he’d played rugby through all the junior and senior grades at school, and here at Wandsworth he was considered a sitter to crack the uni’s First Fifteen in the coming winter.

Not surprisingly, one entire wall was decorated with posters and photos of the Welsh rugby team, including action shots of his favourite players.

Deaf since birth, Jamie was one of a number of students enrolled at Wandsworth who was considering whether to receive a CI, or cochlear implant – that miraculous electronic medical device, which, in theory at least, allows a deaf person to hear. Jamie’s parents were very keen for him to receive a CI, but he was in two minds. He was mindful the CI issue was highly political in the deaf community, and deaf adults who received an implant were oftentimes perceived as traitors and shut out of that community. The political tension that existed between CI surgeons and the deaf populace – in the recent past at least – was legendary. Jamie had witnessed some of that tension first hand, and he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to receive an implant. He was happy as he was.

That’s what he was trying to relay to his parents by email. It wasn’t easy. They were convinced a CI would be the solution for his problem, as they somewhat insensitively called his deafness.

The specialists said he was profoundly deaf, but he wasn’t certain that diagnosis was one hundred percent correct: he suffered tinnitus, and regularly heard the sounds associated with that annoying condition. Those sounds included a ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing and even chirping on occasion. The tinnitus was intermittent, sometimes disappearing for days on end, and in between bouts his inner world was reduced to a deathly silence – as was the case now. Even then, though, he often imagined he heard something. Or perhaps it was just wishful thinking.

Jamie was so engrossed in his typing, he didn’t notice the handle of the unlocked door behind him slowly turn. If he had, he’d have seen the door open a few inches and he’d have seen a gloved hand on the handle. The glove was black leather fashioned in the style of snug-fitting driving gloves.

A male intruder entered the room. He wore a lightweight, hoodie-style sweatshirt with the hood all but concealing his face, and he carried a shoulder bag in one hand.

The intruder carefully closed the door behind him, locked it and then stepped behind the free-standing wardrobe.

Some sixth sense made Jamie look around. All seemed normal and he returned to his email.

Still behind the wardrobe, the intruder reached into his bag and drew out a steel claw hammer. In three quick strides he was right behind Jamie.

Only now as the intruder’s shadow covered the desktop did the Welsh student realise he wasn’t alone. Surprised, he spun around too late to avoid the hammer the intruder brought down on his head. The blow was delivered with sufficient force to knock Jamie out. Senseless, he slumped forward in his chair, his bloodied forehead coming to rest on the laptop’s keyboard.

Jamie’s attacker glanced up at the smoke alarm on the ceiling above the bed. He climbed onto the bed, reached up and disabled the alarm before returning to his victim’s side. Then he reached into his bag again and pulled out a tin of lighter fluid and two blue ear candles of the type used for outer-ear hygiene. He unscrewed the tin’s cap and doused the still unconscious student before returning the now empty tin to his bag. Next, he inserted the candles in Jamie’s ears and then, as calm as you like, he removed the glove from his right hand, reached down inside the tracksuit pants he wore and began fondling himself.

The sadistic intruder was soon groaning with pleasure.

A fluttering of the eyelids signalled that Jamie was regaining consciousness so the intruder donned his discarded glove, reached into his bag yet again and pulled out a length of rope and a scarf. The latter item he used to gag his victim, the former to tie him to the chair. His actions were clinical and efficient. It was as if he’d rehearsed this a thousand times. In fact, he had – in his mind at least. He wasn’t one to leave anything to chance and, in the days and weeks leading up to this moment, he’d thought of little else.

Without further ado, he pulled a lighter from his pocket and lit each candle. He became momentarily mesmerised by the dancing flames, cocking his head as if awaiting some reaction from the now semi-conscious student. There was no reaction for the moment. Not that he noticed at least.

Finally, Jamie moaned as the candles burned down closer to his ears. Fumes rose from the lighter fluid and then ignited with a whoosh. It took a few moments before the student became aware he was gagged, tied up and on fire.

The intruder watched, entranced, as his victim struggled to escape the flames that enveloped him and the bonds that tied him to the chair.

Jamie was now writhing in agony. The flames were fierce and his skin was visibly blackening by the second. Such was his desperation, he overbalanced in the chair he was tied to and ended up on his back on the floor. He now resembled a fireball. A human fireball. So hot was it that his attacker had to take two steps backwards.

The intruder became excited and felt himself hardening again as he observed his victim’s pain and terror. Jamie was now in his death throes, and his movements, so vigorous a few seconds ago, were slowing with every passing moment.

For the intruder, the need to make haste and quit the scene suddenly became the priority. He’d been here long enough. He lifted his shoulder bag from where he’d left it on the bed and took a final look around the smoky room. He was anxious not to leave behind any DNA or other evidence that could incriminate him.

By this time Jamie was unrecognisable and very dead.

Satisfied he’d overlooked nothing – the leather gloves he wore meant he didn’t have to worry about leaving any fingerprints behind – Jamie’s killer signed “Game over, asshole” to the still burning body as he departed, turning the light switch off as he exited the room.

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If you want to read more, another five chapters have been posted in more recent blogs. Enjoy!

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

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Silent Fear: A Novel Inspired by True Crimes  is by Lance and James Morcan. I had an advanced Review Copy from James.

★★★★★

This book is a suspense that deals with the deaf and deaf community as well as murder and an outbreak of a terrible disease for which there is no vaccine. It is set in a school for the deaf in London. The book is definitely worth reading. It draws you into the story until you can’t put the book down. The characters are very realistic and are described so well, they take root in your mind and become alive. The plot has so many twists and turns. Just as you think you have it figured out, they throw another twist in which sets you off in a different direction.

Detective Superintendent Valerie Crowthers was called to Wandsworth University for the Deaf to investigate the murder of Jamie Lewis, a deaf student. She was called to the scene specifically because she knew and used sign language on a daily basis. Her Mother was deaf. She was also one of their best investigators. Her boss, Chief Superintendent Mark Bennett, knew she would do a good job on the investigation. He would be questioned on his choosing her because they had been married but were now divorced. Valerie set out to find the murderer as quickly as possible.

Shortly after her arrival on the scene, one of the girls was diagnosed with Monkey Flu. This flu hit worldwide and was said to be more viral that the Spanish Flu was. It wasn’t in the UK before because the UK shut its borders and allowed no one in nor out. When Carol was diagnosed, the Prime Minister ordered Wandsworth to be quarantined. Everyone in the building at that time would stay. The windows were boarded up and the entire residential building was wrapped in cellophane. Then due to the airborne quality of the disease, the air conditioning was turned off despite record breaking high temperatures. Valerie has her work cut out for her.

The book is excellent. The writing is brilliant and the structure is unbelievably realistic. Once you start reading, it becomes impossible to put it down. I found myself staying up all night just to finish the book. If possible, I would give this book ten stars. It is spellbinding. — Pamela Blevins (USHMM Museum Teacher Fellow, Retired Reading Specialist, Retired Oklahoma Master Teacher)

For the full review, and other readers’ comments, go to:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

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Silent Fear…scheduled for release soon.

 

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