The Others (Haunted From Without - Book One)


An incredible day.

A scary day.

He'd been in America for over four days now, driving around from one corn farm to another, trying to uncover the truth and doing his own research into what could possibly be the biggest story this year.

A story which most of the local farmers were too scared to talk about, and at least three would never be able to: death has a knack of silencing people very effectively.

Standing up, he crossed to the fridge, pulled out a cold bottle of non-alcoholic Coors and flipped the lid off. Peeling off his sweaty clothes he walked through to the shower, and stood underneath the cold, refreshing curtain of water, sipping his beer and thinking about what he had learned that day.

All the farms he had visited were facing bankruptcy. If not this year, then the next. And all were using corn from one of two suppliers. Genetically modified corn. Corn which, in theory, and according to the advertising, was supposed to produce bumper crops and record profits, and was designed to grow and thrive in the farming conditions of the Corn Belt of America, free from insect infestation.

Except, as with anything that seemed too good to be true, it wasn't.

The GM crops that the farmers had grown had turned out to need as much care and treatment with expensive pesticides as any other crop they had grown. True, harvests in the first few years had been great. But then the insects, which the GM crops had been designed to repel, adapted, and became resistant. And diseases, which had not seriously affected the crops before, began to threaten them increasingly more. By the fifth year, harvests were down.

And that's when the new problems began.

Peter was an investigative reporter for the Scotsman, one of Scotland's top newspapers. Since his reports on Cellular Memory and the exposé of SP-X4 - a rogue stem-cell based treatment for patients of organ transplants, had gone global two years before and been carried in most of the top papers throughout the world, Peter's reputation and career had blossomed.

Peter's trip to the Corn Belt in the Midwestern United States had come about as a result of a chance meeting in a bar in Edinburgh in Scotland. He had been visiting the Royal Highland Show in June, where farmers got together from all over the world, when he had been approached by a farmer from the U.S. and invited to join him for a pint of beer.

"Mr Nicolson?" the large American had said, stretching out his hand. "The name is William Ralston. I recognise your photo from the papers. I read your research on SP-X4. You helped my family, although you won't know it. My wife is a transplant patient, and was taking SP-X4 too, which is why I took such a keen interest, and remember you so well."

A conversation had followed, including the invite to a drink, and soon William Ralston and Peter Nicolson were the best of friends.

"So, I'm guessing you are a farmer?" Peter had inquired. "I mean, almost everyone here is, or are at least in some way connected to the farming industry."

"You'd be right, Mr Nicolson. I am. I own a farm in Iowa. About 500 acres. We farm mostly wheat and corn and raise cattle and chickens."

"500 acres? That's large, isn't it?"

"Above average. We do well. Or at least we used to."

Peter sipped his beer. "The recession?"

"No, genetically modified food."

And so the conversation had begun.

Peter listened as William summarised the past years, highlighting the bumper years of crops, and the substantial profits that had been made. Then his face had become more serious, and he told Peter of the recent poor harvests, and the fears that his farm was dying. That the soil was contaminated. That the crops were no longer growing, GM or natural crops.

"Which is why I am here. I'm the leader of the local farmers' guild, and I've come here to learn more about the issues you are facing in Scotland, and in England, regarding GM foods. I'm hoping to buy some seed too. We need fresh stock, and seed sales in the U.S. are becoming increasingly dominated by only one or two players, neither of whose seeds grow in our soil anymore."

The more the American spoke, the more Peter's senses told him that there was something important here, a significant story waiting to be uncovered.

Drinks had led to a meal, and by the time Peter and William parted later that night, they had swapped email addresses, and Peter was on to a new story.


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