Victor in the Netherworld is the third book in the Barnikel and Fearnaught Occult Detectives series of novellas.
Each novella is a self-contained story, but to appreciate the development of the characters and their relationship, I suggest you start at book one and work your way through.
A passenger boards a country bus, but when it arrives he is no longer on board. Only his bus pass can be found, and nobody remembers seeing him get off the bus.
A passenger boards a small commuter aircraft but when it arrives he is no longer on board. Only his briefcase can be found and he couldn’t have got off.
The only thing in common is they both died some hours before they were seen boarding the bus and the commuter aircraft.
The last thing newly appointed Vicar, Bahati Barnikel, expected was to find herself confronting the Powers of Darkness in a quiet Hampshire village. The Church knew that something was wrong, that some diabolical plan was in the wind, and chose their champion with care. Now its up to her to save the village and its inhabitants, but the enemy is closer at hand than she imagines.
Dark deeds in deepest Hampshire.
Tried and sentenced to be burned at the stake as a witch, Ann Mason’s dying curse, shrieked in agony, echoes down the centuries.
Graves disturbed, the dead apparently walking again and human remains found amongst the ashes of a fire.
Is Ann’s vengeance being visited on the ancestors of those who caused her death?
Reverend Bahati Barnikel, aided by the faithful Victor Fearnaught, confronts evil from beyond the grave, but is all as it appears? How can the Jogger in Black be the younger version of a woman in her nineties, recently deceased and interred in a quiet English churchyard?
On a sunny morning, shortly after the events described in Jogger in Black, Victor picked Bahati up in Fooey, his red 1959 Cadillac series 62 convertible, and they drove to a popular picnic spot, which afforded a fine view over the valley in which Lower Wonston nestled. The River Test meandered along the valley, and all was tranquil.
“You’re very quiet, Victor. I thought you’d have endless questions?”
Victor sighed and threw his croissant away.
“It doesn’t seem to taste of anything,” he looked around and shook his head. “It all seems so normal and yet it doesn’t feel right, somehow.”
“How does it feel, Victor?”
“Like I’m not really here.”
“Do you remember the drive up here?”
“What? Yes, of course I do, I……don’t, actually,” his voice tailed off.
“Look around you, Victor, I mean really look around you.”
Victor frowned and gazed over the valley, then looked at Bahati, then looked at the ground on which they sat. He saw a silver thread which seemed to him to originate from his head. He looked at Bahati.
“Are we really here?”
“You don’t have a cord?”
“No—I don’t need one.”
“Are we dead, then?”
Bahati leant over and put a hand on his arm. It felt normal to him.
“Remember the drive up here, Victor.” It was a command, not a question.
“We had a crash,” he said, after a long pause.
“So we are dead, then?”
“No. We have a job to do, and after we’ve done it you will have a decision to make. That cord is a connection between your astral body and your physical body.”
“Did you know this was going to happen?”
“No—and that’s the honest truth, Victor. But even if I did know, how could I tell you?”
“Where are we?”
“It goes by many names, and it is a place that exists alongside the world that you know, but it does not occupy the same space or the same time. It’s an in-between place—of all the names it has been given, I like Netherworld best.”
“I don’t think I understand. We have a job to do?”
“And we’d better get started.”
“Come on, Let’s get going.” Bahati stood up.
“Yes, right—erm, hang on a minute, I have a couple of questions.”
“I’m sure that you do, but you can ask them as we go.”
Victor stood up.
“OK, well, where are we going and how are we going to get there?”
“Where—I’m not certain at the moment. How—we’re going to walk.”
“Walk? Why don’t we just, you know, whoosh…”
“Yes, whoosh. Think ourselves somewhere and we’re there.”
“I suppose we could—where shall we think of going?”
“I don’t know…”
“Neither do I, so I think whoosh is a non-starter for the moment. As it happens, there is another problem with whoosh, at least for you.”
“Until you get used to being here, any whooshing that you do is likely to take you straight back to your physical body.”
“Accepting that for the moment, how do we walk?”
“The same way as we learned when we were small, we put one foot in front of the other.”
“Ah, but do I really have a foot to put in front of the other?”
“Look at your feet.”
“Yes, I can see my feet, but are they real feet?”
“Do you think they are?”
“They look real enough to me.”
“Fine and dandy, so put one on front of the other and see what happens.”
“I just took a step.”
“Fantastic! Keep doing that until I tell you to stop.”
“OK but where are we going?”
“Down the hill to those houses would be a good start, I should think.”
“Hang on a minute, where did those houses come from? If we’re in the picnic area, then there should be open countryside until we get down to the river.”
“All these minutes we’re hanging on for would be a real waste of time if time as you know it existed here, Victor. We’re not really in the picnic area, you see. You thought you were, you believed you were, and so your mind created the landscape to fit.”
“So what’s actually there, here, or—this is Hampshire, isn’t it?”
“Yes, and no.”
“Please don’t get enigmatic on me, Bahati, I don’t think I could take it.”
“All right—your mind created a landscape to match where you believed you were. Those houses are somebody else’s landscape—their mind created them, for some reason.”
“So my landscape and other peoples’ landscapes can co-exist?”
“Exactly. Now, the reason you can see both landscapes is because you know that you are really here, in Netherworld— not permanently here, in your case, but let’s not complicate things too much at this point. The person whose mind created those houses is here, and he or she will not see your landscape, they will only see what their mind has created for them. That’s either because they do not realise they are here, or have chosen to be here and create their own reality.”
“I hear the words, but I don’t understand them. What if they venture out of the house and see my landscape? Suppose they can’t see it, but my mind has created a tree— what happens if they walk into my tree?”
“They won’t, because it’s your tree. They will never see your tree, nor will they ever walk into it, because none of what you can see actually exists—your mind has created it.”
“Hang on, hang on. If none of this exists, I can just about grasp why I can see what my mind has created for me, but how come I can see what somebody else’s mind has created for them?”
“Several reasons. Firstly you are not really here—although you are, in a sense—secondly, you know that you are here and that here is the Netherworld and not real in a physical sense—and lastly, for the moment, you are able to perceive the reality that other people have created for themselves, and interact with that reality, if you so choose, because you know that you are in the Netherworld which does not physically exist.”
“Just for a very brief moment there, I thought I understood what you were saying.”
“You might have thought that, but of course you didn’t. You have never experienced anything like this before—or rather you probably have, but you don’t remember.”
“Is this me just being dense or is it you talking complete bollocks?”
“Neither. You’ll get the hang of it as you go along. Think of it as on-the-job learning—experiencing it is much easier than me trying to explain.”
“Wait a minute. So—if somebody else’s mind has created a tree for them, are you saying that I could either not see the tree, see the tree but pretend that it isn’t there and walk through it, or I can choose to interact with their reality and walk into the tree and give myself a few bruises?”
“Oh good, I’m glad I’ve got a firm grip—not—on it all.”
“Let me finish. What I was going to say was yes, you could choose to interact with somebody else’s tree and walk into it but, you could then choose whether or not the experience caused you any bruising because the tree does not exist, either in your reality or in any physical sense.”
“Tell me—am I correct in thinking that my going back to the scene of the car crash and laying in a crumpled bloody heap until the ambulance arrives, and leaving you to it here, whatever it actually is, and wherever here actually is—is not an option?”
“No, you aren’t correct in thinking that you leaving this place and returning to the physical world is not an option— it is.”
“Would you mind awfully if I took a moment to scream?”
“Not at all, but if I might make a suggestion?”
“Will I understand it if you do?”
“Have your mind create an Alpine landscape, and then you can spend a few moments yodelling—I believe it’s very therapeutic.”
“Right—then how do I get back here, after I’ve finished the therapeutic yodelling in the Alps?”
“You won’t have gone anywhere, silly. Your mind will have just created an Alpine setting, suitable for yodelling in. Once you’ve finished and you feel better, your mind can recreate this Hampshire setting— or you might be able to dispense with creating your own reality and just accept whatever reality somebody else has created.”
“I hope I won’t offend when I say that I preferred plan A. Excuse me, just for a non-existent moment or two—AAAAAARRRRGHHHHH.”