Writers are notorious for having multiple WIPs, abandoning stories like unwanted ancient Greek children, and basically just having a shockingly low completion rate. Flip that coin over though, and you’ll find that it means we always have something to jump back on during a slump.
What does that mean for you?
Well, it means you can expect a lot of new content coming your way. I’ve dug up the ol’ archives and half-finished soon-to-be-masterpieces and am sculpting them into lands anew as we speak. (In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out In the Eye of the Beholder, a five-part thriller!)
Here are a precious few to satiate, or perhaps even deepen, your curiosity.
The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things that seldom even see the dark of night because words seem to diminish them – words shrink them, and what was once boundless comes out simply life-sized. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things are markers. Capstones for graves. Pyres for endless cremations. The most important things are landmarks to your secrets, withering truths long forgotten, begging to be dug up and paraded around once more. Sometimes you’ll take them out of their box. You’ll take the most important things and give them a voice, only to be met with uncomprehending faces, confusion reflecting back on your sincerity, wondering why you silently cried as you spoke. That’s the worst, I think. The worst thing that could happen to your most important things, and for fear of its realisation, we leave the graves untouched, the maps unmarked, and the pyres forever burning. We leave our secrets locked deep within us.
I saw my first dead human being when I was thirteen years old. I won’t bother giving you the date because it doesn’t matter. Everything is still exactly the same as it was all those years ago. It’s as if life simply moved around our town, deciding it was better that it remained untouched; not necessarily undisturbed, but preserved in its fragmentary.
Tony Hall walked into Due North’s one and only gym, strutting up to the ring in the centre, basking in the crowd’s cheers and laughter. He’d fought in this ring five nights a week, same as any job, for nearing five years now.
In those years, he’s faced all sorts of opponents: small, impossibly fast fighters; large, bulky fighters who moved slowly but packed a punch and a half; bears; bearotaurs, terrifying bear-minotaur hybrids; beartrees, which are towering creatures that can split into several smaller bears and still not be against the rules since they aren't technically more than one entity...okay, mostly bears. He loses more than he wins, but the crowds love him all the same. He draws in greater masses every week, meaning more people placing bets and more money, so the ringmaster keeps him on.
He ducked under the ropes, feeling strangely confident, absolutely loving the cheers of the only town in the south of England with “North” in its name. As soon as his opponent entered the ring, his confidence evaporated.
Tony looked into a face held a foot higher than his own, a snarl rippling across it. One eye was covered with a scar, leaving it permanently shut and the other stayed steadily transfixed on Tony, seeming to look right through him, instantly identifying his every weakness. Apparently having chosen to fight bare-chested, three tally marks could be seen tattooed on the left of the minotaur’s chest and Tony really did not want to find out what they were for. While most fighters used their species’ characteristics to their advantage, the minotaur had wrapped a cloth over his horns and some of his head.
The act of kindness did nothing to ease his worries though, and only one word blazed through Tony’ mind.
A dying last breath undoes the past half-century in a grapple betwixt psychology and loyalty, curiosity and peril, possibility and morality, throwing Liam’s world into disarray, as he moves to destroy the one place he had sworn never to enter.
Liam stepped hesitantly into the study, feeling a strange sense of detachment despite his many years in this house. He had been with Mr Device for over fifty years and had enacted each command to the T for every one of them. He was on amicable terms with the entire Device family and there wasn’t a place on the grounds he couldn’t go, nor a facility he couldn’t use. Except the study. The one thing Mr Device had absolutely insisted on was the study being off-limits to everyone else.
But that changed last night. Last night Mr Device had died. He chose to pass on these grounds, in the comfort of his own home, rather than in an impersonal hospital bed, even if his name was on the golden plaque on the ward label. He lay surrounded by his children and grandchildren, muttering words of encouragement and solace to them with his final breathes. In the end he dismissed everyone but Liam and beckoned him closer.
‘Go into the study. Destroy it.’
‘Destroy it?’ Liam felt bad for making him repeat his words when they came with such difficulty, but he could not believe what he was being asked to do.
‘Destroy it.’ Mr Device took Liam’s hand into his own. ‘Promise me you’ll destroy it.’
Doctor Sariah Khan shook her head in fear and frustration. She'd already spent several hours studying the records of the three kids, and she wasn't any closer to understanding this situation than when she started. The documents were all sprawled across her desk and even littered the floor: transcripts of their sessions, drawings from therapy prompts, reactions to various stimuli, frequency of unscheduled and missed meetings - everything she could possibly think of.
Tyson, Bailey, and Grace were all sent to her by their parents describing the same night terrors: sudden sleepwalking, mumbling and moaning in their sleep, wetting the bed long after that should have ceased to be a problem, and jerky bodily movements.
Despite the glaring similarities, Sariah could still chalk that all up to a big coincidence. What she could not ignore was the description each kid gave of their imaginary friend. Every description, despite the children never having met each other in their lives, and even though the only thing they had in common was that they all came to her, eerily matched the likeness of Sam Rooney, a paedophile and serial killer who was sentenced to death five years ago.
"Oh, oh my god. This…" she shook her head and reached for her phone, about to call in the local precinct when she thought of a better idea. She had Detective Paolo Denis' personal phone number, on account of having assisted him with Rooney all those years ago. Denis been the ranking officer on the Rooney case, so she called him up instead.
He didn't answer (she hadn't really expected a reply at ten in the night), so she left a message on the fourth ring.
"Good evening, Detective Denis, it's Doctor Sariah Khan from the psych floor of Edmunds Children's Hospital. We worked the Sam Rooney case together...I-I need to speak to you about it. Please call me back."
She left an alternate number at the end in case this one couldn't be reached and hung up. Then Doctor Khan did she did something she hadn't done in a very long time – she prayed.
There exists a place on earth where the planes of time and space intersect to form a sort of figure of eight. Rubbing shoulders, they spread across all infinity, everything and nothing happening at the same time, all of history and the entire future laid out for all to see, so long as you know where, and more importantly, how, to look.
It is here our story begins, and it is here that a tall figure, features obscured and overcoat whipping about in the wind, stands. Around them, all of space and time is rushing past, threatening to pull them in and leave them displaced for the rest of their time. Yet they stand their ground, teetering sturdily on the edge, manila folder in hand. They time their throw carefully, waiting for the right moment in spacetime to present itself; it will only show itself for a precious few moments before rushing back into the abyss, the time of its next surfacing anyone’s guess.
Having sent the folder through time, confident it will arrive at its destination, the figure nods and turns back, walking through to the time they came from.
There are many, many more, patiently waiting their turn. I’m excited to share them with you.
More To Read:
The Links is a soap opera, in an email: serialised fiction you can read in 3 minutes, 3 times a week. Follow the residents of a tenement in Edinburgh: their romances and heartbreaks, their secrets and lies, their drama. It's a little light entertainment for your inbox! New episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Subscribe now!
98% of the books publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies. After having found this out, The Novelleist is all but set to debut a gothic novel, exploring the fiction creator economy side-by-side with her readers.
Liked the intrigue? Tell your friends - a good mystery is a group activity!
If you’re a Substack writer, please consider recommending Innocently Macabre:
Thanks so much for reading!
Photo by Denys Argyriou