This was my second novel, first published in 2018. Although it began life as a short story inspired by a long commute to a rural school where I was working in 2013, it didn’t get its growth spurt until I retooled it for Wattpad’s Open Novella Contest many years later, when the first finished draft (all 25K words of it), made it all the way to the Short List. It’s undergone quite a few revisions since then, as has its cover, and I hope that I have squashed most of the bugs during those editing sessions. Enjoy—and let me know what you think!
It is a very dark place without stars
and, even when you arrive there
Fifteen minutes early –
You are late.
The pale woman gazed into the night, an absolute blackness without moon or stars.
Night stared back, defiant, silent as the sudden hush before a storm.
The woman let it press against the sunken opals of her eyes and flood the frozen rictus of her mouth. She’d lain too long in darkness, captive of its suffocating abyss, wrapped in cerements of time and memory. Cerements as tattered as the remnants of her clothes, each a reminder and as bitter to her as the silt that blanketed her limestone bed and the seasonal detritus that sifted down to lodge in the hollows of her bones.
Sift and fall and freeze and thaw: so many seasons passed, she could no longer count them all. Time had forgotten her. She could sense it in the movement of the currents, in the texture of the inflexible darkness, and in the omnipresent silence pressing in all around her. The dead silence that was a sound in itself. Its echoes of words unspoken and actions never undertaken, a void of discovery. Shadows passing over its surface disturbed nothing.
Forced to bear the mantle of non-entity, discarded and unremembered, she chafed within the boundaries of her unmarked grave, writhing in a repose devoid of rest or peace like a worm within a chrysalis. A prisoner of time, forced penitent for a crime she did not commit, she could not forget and would never forgive.
Squirm and scrape and scratch and claw: gradually the walls of her unwanted carapace, eroded by the constancy of intention, worn soft as a square of old cloth, thinned and frayed, and finally, snapped. Freedom flooded in and she floated out, floated away.
No longer pinned like an unfortunate insect against the wretched agar of unasked for ignominy, she rose, eager to pierce the fragile membrane veiling her world from theirs with the ease of a swimmer surfacing for a breath of air. Long had lain the nights she’d waited, destruction and desecration titillating her nonexistent tongue and taste buds with hints of salt and savory, the promise of the ultimate cold meal served to ultimate satisfaction. Each morsel stirring, as it plummeted into a gnawing chasm whose enormity stretched beyond the farthest horizon, a singular realization. Unjust deprivation, while inciting that initial craving, ultimately transformed her, transmuted her essence. No longer starving, she had become starvation itself, gifting a face to famine.
Only her name, intractable even in death, was still her own, and her name was Tanith. Tanith Harper. Forever young but no longer an unwitting pawn on a plain chequered with secrets and sins. Now the terrible butterfly had emerged from its poisoned chrysalis. It was time to go, time to reclaim what time had stolen. A life so cruelly ripped away, innocence abandoned, casually discarded to conceal avarice, envy, and abomination.
Gathering speed, flesh, and form, she rose, a spark ignited, wrath streaming in her wake. Blood called for blood, although an ocean roiling red, waves rising in a sticky crimson tsunami, could never expunge his stain.
Those he left behind, unworthy to receive his legacy… Those responsible. All would know her and despair. All would die choking on the dreams they’d drowned.
With blackness behind her eyes and in the guttered lantern of her heart—
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