Friday night. The end of another week.
Jill would rather be down the pub with her friends, but being a student often means taking the money whenever it’s offered. That means the odd babysitting job every now and then.
The Comptons are going out and have asked Jill to babysit their young son, William. An easy night’s work, if not exactly exciting. Even so, events soon suggest that not everything is quite right…
Perhaps it’s just the season.
The short, autumnal, days often make the evenings feel darker, lonelier. The growing darkness awakens that instinctive hunger in all living things, to seek out warmth and comfort so as to better ward against the last, chill breaths of a dying year.
We are but moths in the long dark of existence.
And so too are the dead.
Cinder is a short story of around 8,000 words that I wrote over the past few months. Yes, I wrote that slowly.
The tale itself is one of ghostly horror, although I don’t consider it to be horrific. I often find that our senses have become overly saturated to the point that it is hard to define true horror anymore. If I had to come up with a single word I’d probably go with ‘reality’.
I was recently asked what I found to be the hardest aspect of writing (other than actually trying to write). Without a doubt, it is tagging the genre. I never write with a solid genre in mind. I write the story I have and then struggle to fit it into the correct box, even when it screams out in frustration. In the end, I labelled Cinder as horror because it didn’t like the other option I suggested and made it quite clear who was in charge.
If I were to write a suspense/thriller (which I wouldn’t) I would probably be inclined to label it something else. Perhaps it’s a case of over-reading. A bit like watching a film over and over. I read my work to death before releasing it and, by that time, it no longer feels quite the same. I have to leave it a good few months before I can read it again and smile. I do smile. Honest.
So, Cinder will be released next month, October 27th to be exact, in both digital and paperback format. Pre-orders for the digital edition are live at Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo (Barnes & Noble don’t offer pre-orders to nobodies like me so it won’t be available over there until the official release date). Sadly, the print edition is not open for pre-order, but it will be released a week earlier on October 20th. It looks beautiful even if it is only a short story.
In the meantime, here is a snippet from the first part of Cinder. Everything and nothing happens in the few lines I offer.
I’ll officially reveal the cover in the next post. And so, here is Cinder…
crow-black and vanilla
They both laughed.
It was Friday night and aside from a paper that was due, having already been extended from its previous deadline, a weekend of late night spliffs, copious amounts of red wine and sex awaited. It was hardly original; a mere extension of the past week’s activities, give or take a night or two.
Jill stuffed her hands into the pockets of her long coat as she stepped out into the November evening. A grey fog rolled aimlessly along the street, uncaring of those that passed through it. The last ragged breaths of the dying year.
She shivered as the cold slipped furtively beneath the thick skirt that she wore and caressed the pale skin of her purple and black stocking-clad legs. She stamped her booted feet loudly, both to shake away the cold and to get Callum to hurry up.
‘Sorry. I forgot my lighter,’ he said as he shut the door behind him, testing it twice to make sure that it was locked.
Jill lit a cigarette as she watched.
‘You should quit,’ she said, taking a long drag.
She rolled her eyes. ‘Come on. I need to get going.’
He stuck the key into the small pocket in his jeans and followed after, zipping his thick coat up as he did so.
‘Bloody hell.’ He stuffed his hands into his coat pockets.
The couple walked down the street. The fog parting somewhat reluctantly, perhaps in the fear that this would somehow hasten its demise. Jill’s hand slipped from her pocket and reached for Callum’s. Despite the cold, he removed his hand from the relative warmth of his coat and let his fingers intertwine with hers.
Two girls walked by with hushed whispers and sidelong glances. Pretty enough, in an unimaginative way. Jill eyed them both and offered a black-lipped smile completed by a silver ring. The girls quickened their pace until they felt a safe distance had been reached before they burst into laughter. She didn’t care. He smiled.
They reached the end of the road and stopped under the dim street lamp, their breath ghosting as they stood face to face. Worlds grew old and died as they stared into each other’s eyes and then they embraced. Their tongues entwined as they shared in their warmth before reluctantly parting.
‘I’ll be late.’
‘Then be late.’
The fog swirled about them as they nuzzled each other beneath the wavering street light. An old lady carrying shopping walked by, but neither noticed the smile of remembrance that stole away her frown. The fog wavered, torn between the now and the memory of what was.
‘Come on. I’ll walk with you.’
‘What about the pub?’
‘It’s fine. I’ll only be about ten minutes late. We’re off down The Rising Sun first and then up to the Crown or the Baker’s. Something like that.’
She wrapped his arm around her and they staggered off down the road, the fog in tow. It was easily a thirty-minute walk, possibly longer if they stopped in the park for a quick shag in the bushes. They quickened their pace.
‘I’m going to be late.’
Jill grinned and ran laughing across the park green, Callum following after as he fumbled with his belt. He caught her hand and pulled her close to him, marvelling at the contrast between her crow-black hair and pale skin. He kissed her black lips deeply and then they dashed out of the park and across the road.
‘I hate this.’
He tightened his grip on her hand and flashed her a smile.
The road crawled up a wooded hill towards the houses beyond. Although it only took about ten minutes to reach the top, it always seemed longer at night. They passed by the dilapidated bus shelter, silent and neglected amongst the tall trees, and started up the hill.
About half way up, a street lamp peeked from beneath its ivy-shroud, the weak illumination revealing a gate of wrought-iron. He felt her hand clench tighter.
The black gate led to a little graveyard; its long-forgotten stones overgrown and entangled. A lonely little path cut bravely between the shadowy trees, winding in between the old stones. Yet even the path seemed to grow hesitant the further it went from the gate. Eventually, it petered out, succumbing to the tangle of weeds and long grasses, content to remain hidden from whatever lurked in the dark.
He flicked her another smile, but she did not catch it. Her dark eyes, heavily framed with black eyeliner, remained fixed upon the dark trees; wary and watchful.