She's awake. It takes her a while for her eyes to adjust to the light. The light's not the only thing that's new. She's lying down. Her hands and feet are free. No ropes, no chains, no nothing. This has not been the case for some time. She rubs the bruised skin on her wrists, enjoying the feeling of blood circulating freely. She gets up carefully, finding her balance. She can stand firmly on the ground without dangling from the ceiling. This is bliss. But there's more. She looks up and sees that the door at the top of the steps has been left open. She has been down here for too long to assume that this is any kind of mistake. She knows him too well now. They've been through so much together.
She moves slowly towards the bottom of the steps, stifling a coo as the pleasurable sensation of mud slipping through her toes shocks her. She makes her way up the steps and into the room above. She has to shut her eyes. It’s bright up here. There are windows. She has not been in a windowed room since she arrived here. She stops short and listens carefully. After two minutes of standing perfectly still she is satisfied that she is alone in the house. She walks into the kitchen and puts her head under the sink. She fills her mouth with icy water from the tap. She is not as thirsty as she thought, though she manages to gulp down a few mouthfuls.
Her eye is caught by a piece of paper on the otherwise bare kitchen table. She gingerly picks it up. There is a message on it.
“FIND THE TOWN. WAIT UNTIL DARK. FIND A HOUSE WITH A CHILD. TAKE THE CHILD. BRING IT HOME.”
She goes over the piece of paper again to confirm the details. When she is confident that there are no hidden messages or clues that she could be reprimanded for missing when she returns, she returns the paper to the table and walks to the front door. On the right hand side of the door is a chair. There is a pile of clothes on the chair, with a note sat on top of them.
“PUT THESE ON.”
Abruptly, she remembers that she is naked.
As she steps out of the front door she enjoys the crunch of snow under her boots. They are too big for her, the boots, but she supposes that it doesn’t matter too much. The large woollen jumper makes the dried blood and mud that coats her skin itch, but scratching it creates great pleasure. She sees her hair hang down in front of her face and knows that the colour has changed. It was once black, but she made that happen. Now it's brown, the same shade that all colours in that basement eventually became. Looking around now, everything seems white. Without thinking about where she is going, she walks into the woods. She does once wonder whether she is going in the right direction. She knows that she is.
She can smell the people before she hears them. There is the familiar smell of car exhaust. Of burning coal and fuel. She can smell meat cooking. It is a matter of moments before she places the meat as cow. Then she hears the noise of cars. Of chattering people. She moves slower through the woods before crouching. She can see that she has come to a road. The road is wet, but clear of snow. It would be easier to walk along it, her feet are unused to the boots, but she does not want to be seen. She retreats into the trees, making sure that she does not lose sight of the road. She walks parallel to it, keeping one eye on the sky. She sees that the sun is getting low on the horizon, and she knows that it will be night soon. Part of her is anxious to fulfil the commands that have been given to her. Part of her wants to keep enjoying this freedom. The cold, fresh air is intoxicating. She feels like whirling around in the snow, or climbing a tree. She can’t remember ever hearing birdsong quite so clearly. She briefly remembers a garden, but only briefly.
She reaches the town almost without realising it. Or the outskirts. Perhaps she's not even there yet, but she can see a large house not too far ahead. She hears the squeaking of tires and drops right down to her knees. Through the undergrowth in front of her she can see a silver car pulling into the driveway. She creeps closer.
A man gets out of the car, before going to the back. He opens the back of the car and takes out some plastic bags full of shopping. She can't smell the food but she knows that it's there. A woman gets out of the other side. She opens the door behind her and stands back, allowing a small boy to hop out.
She inhales sharply. There it is. This boy cannot be more than five years old. He takes his mother’s outstretched hand and together they walk to the front door. The mother turns and says something to the father, and they both laugh. The father throws the keys to the mother, and they jangle in her hand as she catches them. They enter the house, and she moves closer.
She waits there, crouched in the snow. She knows that she cannot simply walk in and take the child. She has to wait. She waits while the sun finally drops down and the dark arrives. She moves around the outside of the house, careful to stay out of the warm light of their home. She watches as the mother and father prepare dinner. She watches as they summon the boy to eat with them. She watches as the boy shovels his food into his mouth before moving into a different room on the ground floor. She watches as the parents take the boy upstairs. She makes a note of the room which is lit up when the three of them enter, and is darkened when they leave.
She waits for all the lights to go off. And then she stands up.
When she reaches the house she slips off her boots. She doesn’t think about how to climb up to the second floor window. She just does it. She reaches the boy’s window. She briefly considers smashing the glass, but then she looks at the child lying asleep in the bed. She realises that there is an easier way.
She knocks on the glass. Very gently at first, then a little louder. The boy’s eyes flutter then open. He gasps and sits up in bed. She tries a smile. It’s difficult. She is out of practice. But she manages it. After a moment the boy smiles back.
“What happened to you?” he asks.
She considers the question. She had forgotten the blood. And the rest. After a certain point she’d just stopped thinking about it. She could tell him the truth but she doesn’t want to scare him. “I was in an accident,” she tells him. “I need to come in.” Her voice is slightly gargled from lack of use.
The boy is young, but he’s not stupid.
“I’ll get my parents,” he says. She puts a hand to the glass.
“If you help me,” she says, “I’ll reward you. But...just you. It has to be just you. Your parents don’t need to know about this. Wouldn’t you like to see what happens in the woods at night? It’s magical, wondrous.”
Her words seem to be working. She almost believes it herself. He’s out of bed, and approaching the window. She mustn’t scare him now. She’s so close. She can hear his heartbeat. She mustn't drool.
He opens the window. She climbs in slowly.
“I knew there were magic people in the woods,” he says, his eyes shining. It could be hope, though she wonders if it might be greed.
“There are,” she answers. “There are lots of them. And they told me to get you and bring you along.”
“They asked for me?” he asks.
“Well, I imagine any child would do. They weren’t specific,” she says. He’s close enough. His gaze falters, and he opens his mouth wide.
She doesn’t waste time. She grabs the duvet off the child’s bed and wraps it tightly around his head and arms. He starts to scream. The noise is muffled but it won’t be long before the parents hear it. He’s starting to struggle. It’s time to go.
She steps onto the window ledge. No time to climb down. She jumps. To her surprise her legs bend perfectly with the impact. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to do that. She carefully slips on her boots and starts to run, the child held against her.
It doesn’t take too long to get back to the house. She considers covering her tracks but the weather is on her side. Snow has started to fall heavily. Her new clothes are soaked to the bone, and the bundle is getting heavier. It’s not too heavy, however, which she supposes is a bit strange. She makes the journey quickly, almost without thinking. Back at the house, the front door is open. There are no lights on inside. She takes her shoes off by the front door. It feels like the right thing to do.
In the kitchen she puts the child down in the corner by the sink. It pushes the duvet off its face and sits staring at her. It’s been crying but now it just looks scared. Something tells her that she should feel sorry for it. But she doesn’t. She puts her finger to her lips and the child stops sniffing. The quiet tells her that nobody is in the house. But there is another note on the table. She turns on the light to read it properly.
KILL IT. COOK IT. EAT IT.
There's a humming in the kitchen and she's not sure if it's just in her head. The boy in the blanket mews quietly and her belly gurgles.
Right, so. Hope you enjoyed that.
She is the first of the characters in this book. The characters are, in no particular order, The Witch, The Wolf, The Vampire, The Monster, The Killer, and The Fool. The Fool may be changed to The Parent, but I'm letting myself go over the top at the moment. They do, of course, have names, but I'll save those until I introduce them properly.
For those of you who've heard me discuss, or possibly even read, The Novel That Nobody Wanted, you'll know who She is. This novel is a of spin-off from that one. The idea is that you can read this and understand everything that's going on. Whereas the prior novel was a personal journey through a horror/fantasy world, this novel opens that world up and pursues a bigger plot-line through several different characters. Basically, I like the world and the rules and the things I created so I want to approach it from a different angle. Whether it will work or not is unknown. I will talk about Her and what She is at some point, but this will have to do for now.
At present, these excerpts are all subject to change so opinions are welcome. I'd also like to know if you'd like to keep reading. The next one will be The Witch, and will actually start introducing the plot. I hope you look forward to reading it.