Prologue 1

Aaron watched the flames shoot high up into the sky, singeing the trees above.
“I told you we had enough petrol,” he said.
Joe smirked at him. “You are too cautious, my friend. The books need to be sent up to the heavens in glory, ne'er to return.”
Aaron smiled reluctantly. Joe was right. Of the two of them Aaron was the more conservative, but that's what made their friendship so solid – the fact that they were so similar yet so different. Their past together was littered with shared adventures, almost all of which were initiated by Joe, and most of which earned Aaron trouble with his father's belt.

It was the very last day of school ever for the two, and the ceremonial torching of school books was almost a rite of passage for the young people of Stokesby in Norfolk. Next term paths would separate, but the pair were off to Bristol university to study Engineering together.

Aaron stared into the flames. “You going to miss Stokesby, Joe?”
Joe threw another book into the bonfire. “Not really. Not that I'm not grateful for all that the Forrester's have done for me since my parents died, but I felt a bit trapped by them.”
“They meant well,” Aaron replied.
“As I said, I am grateful.” Joe replied in a tone that warned off Aaron from continuing this line of conversation.
“I will miss Mary.” Aaron continued.
Joe laughed. “You lovestruck old dog. There are many more fish in the sea.”
Aaron punched his friend playfully. “Oi, I love that girl!”
Joe feigned injury and raised his hands in mock appeasement. “Of course you do. Sorry!”

John Leibowitz watched the scene from the kitchen window. “They're going to burn down those trees if they're not careful.”
Martha looked up from her sewing. “You have always fretted too much about that boy, John.”
He turned to her. “Have I now? And do you remember the shed?”
She sighed. “That was a long time ago. He's a young man now.”
He returned to the window. “He may well be, but I still worry about him.”
Martha rose, put her sewing on the table and walked over to her husband, putting her arm around him. “He will be just fine.”