The official report blamed ‘a torrential downpour’ for Ichabod McGuffin’s horrific suffocation beneath two hundred tonnes of hillside. However, there were rumours about his mother, and the hairs on Eddie’s arms rose as he pulled up outside old lady McGuffin’s bungalow. He shook the feeling off and fetched the shopping from the backseat. ‘Such a good lad,’ she smiled, opening the door. She watched him set the shopping down. ‘Yes,’ she said again, and handed him her payment. ‘A good lad. Just the sort we want round here.’
‘Eddie! Stay awake!’ ‘Ah- what the’ Eddie flinched forward, the back of his skull throbbing where it had cracked against heating pipes. ‘Come on Gripes,’ he groaned. ‘What’s your problem.’ ‘You know what!,’ Gripes scowled. He was crouched down in front of Eddie, his phone light throwing his shadow along the length of the corridor.. ‘His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream, remember! You go to sleep and we’re both in big trouble.’ ‘That’s just a story Gripes. No one believes it.’ The torch on Gripes phone flickered. Eddie plucked it out of his hands and switched it off. Darkness swallowed Gripes’ face, but Eddie could smell his breath. ‘Erg mate, you need to lay off the cheese and onion.’ The darkness stayed quite but Gripes’ breathing picked up. He placed his hand on Eddie’s knee. ‘Ed,’ he whispered. ‘You need to wake up!’
Upstairs a door slammed. Then another, and another, until finally the cast iron monstrosity at the top of the stairs shuddered open. ‘Quickly now grab me a jar!’ The jumped the last three steps. Ellsmore jolted awake and darted for the draining board. He fumbled with the jars but turned in time. The surgeon eased his hands over the open mouth and opened them slowly. It thunked against the glass. ‘Real bad ‘un this one,’ said the surgeon and wiped his hands on his trousers. Ellsmore closed the jar. The thing shivered. ‘What is it?’ The surgeon scowled. ‘There are moments caught between heart beats. They make us, us. This one, made a very, very, bad man.’ Ellsmore swallowed thickly. ‘If you cut it out, does that make him a good man?’ ‘Well that depends.’ ‘On what?’ ‘On the moments I didn’t cut out.’ ‘
‘The council started turning the light off after twelve,’ she tells me, head tipped back as she squints towards the spot above us where a bulb should be blazing. The dark means we can’t see chewing gum stuck to the pavement beneath us, or worse the dog shit stains clinging to the concrete slabs. She’s continues staring upwards, but tips her head to the leg slightly, angling herself my way. ‘He’s dating again. Met her at the village green when he went to try his hand at bowls. He’s crap, but on Wednesdays she’s always there to make him a cup of tea and sneak him a bourbon from the club tin.’ The street light splutters into life and we both frown. ‘Strange…’ she hums. ‘I was sure the papers said… oh well never mind.’ She drops her head and her neat, grey perm stays exactly as it should. ‘Are you busy these days?’ ‘Busy?’ I repeat. I think about it for a moment, then shrug. ‘I suppose I’m busier than I was, but I’ve …
The tavern was so quiet that Elias could hear the wind whispering through the gaps in the walls. When the serving girl brought him his drink he paid her with a whole silver, saw her eyes widen, and patted his coat pocket. ‘Keep ’em coming.’ She nodded and darted away. Apart from one table near the door, every seat was taken. Elias counted the mercenaries, almost all of them Roderick’s, their necks marked with his brand. The King had called the practice draconian, but that didn’t stop him hiring Roderick’s men when revolts broke out. That was why rebels had to hire Elias.
The house bursting and yet empty. This is a bareness of harvest or pestilence. Tilly put the book down when her Aunt asked what she was reading. She made an excuse and escaped through the kitchen. Hurried along the pockmarked lane. The keys were cold in her palm, which was odd, seeing as they had been hung by the Aga. When she climbed the gate she heard him muttering about townies always f’ing over good gates by not climbing over hinge end. The tractor won’t start at first, takes a little coaxing. Great Old Lady, done more than her fair share of things and would carry on longer than he would no doubt. She eased it into gear and checked the harrow out of the back window. He’d liked things finished, seen through to the end. Today was as good a day as any.
Isabelle eyed the two black boxes on the kitchen table. ‘Do I have to?’ ‘Yes,’ said her mother, spine poker straight in her chair. ‘Pick a box or choose the door, the choice is yours.’ The memory of her brother’s body inches from the front door rose in Isabelle’s memory. ‘Left,’ she whispered and closed her eyes while her mother opened it.
When the bodies washed ashore, the novices were there to pluck them from the mud. It wasn’t pleasant work. It was a short trip from the edge of the city to the bend in the river. The unfortunates who made it, came out of the silt choked waters heavy and stinking, muscles still locked up by rigour mortise. ‘Another one!’ The cry went up from lower down the bank, further along than the bodies usually travelled. Flexing her fingers to work some of the feeling back into them, Maradine followed the other novices to the cry and tried to avoid looking as if she was dawdling. She let herself breath when she saw the child, eyes huge and bug like, withered limbs half buried in the mud. It was small, small enough for two of the novices to manhandle inside the temple doors without need of her help. She didn’t try to work out how this one had found its way to them. The monks frowned on questions regarding the vessels. ‘Jamie, Galeth, you take …
The outcrop was low and Emile had to crouch for it to work as a windbreaker. Crouching made her thighs burn, but so did walking, and crouching in a low crag meant she could almost feel her face again. She unhooked the water-skin from her belt and weighted it in her hand. Tried to judge how much she would need to get her down the the mountain. More than she had. She put it back and swallowed her thirst. Ignored the wind stripped skeletons propped against the same crag, one holding onto the withered trunk of a sapling to stunted to reach beyond two foot. She closed her eyes to the wedding bands. These memories were left here with the trees, broken, dead, or dying. Emile stamped her feet and braced herself. She was not going to join them. She’d promised herself more. I’ve been trying to turn my attention back to my novel Darkened Daughter, and in doing so I’ve been working on some new characters to incorporate to the redraft. Yesterday I played …
‘You know I don’t deal with fragile little birds.’ Hanson gripped the girl by the chin and pulled her closer. Her forced her head up and grinned when she flinched away from the lantern he held. ‘She’s no fragile bird,’ Raven told him. ‘Took out two garrisons all by herself. She was about to take out a third when we caught up with her.’ ‘Yeah,’ said Hanson. ‘And doped her up on opium for good measure did you? The Chains not enough?’ He dropped her face and yanked the chains connecting her feet to her wrists. ‘For her?’ said Raven. ‘Even this might not be enough.’ Playing around with some new characters for my novel Darkened Daughter. Not sure if I’ll be incorporating Raven and Hanson yet, but this might be an interesting chapter to write on my next accountancy exam is out of the way and I have a couple of weeks free time.