A special sneak preview of my current novel in progress The Town, from Chapter 7 Draft 2 “Intruder.” The Town’s a nice simple outback horror story with a strong touch of the paranormal: but this is less pottery wheel and more wisely refusing that ouija board at a party.
Kate knows she saw the burnt out remains of a town where none should have been, but when she wakes from her blind drunk the evidence is missing.
In this chapter we poke a cautious finger at the blight on the lives of those who grew up too close to the mysterious town.
Copyright © 2016 BP Gregory.
All Rights Reserved.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is copyright apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. This work may not be reproduced or transmitted in part or in its entirety in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the prior written consent of the author BP Gregory, except where permitted by law.
This is a work of fiction. Places and place names are either fictional or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons either living or dead is purely co-incidental.
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From that point on young Carol’s life became increasingly bounded by things that were not normal.
Previously she’d been permitted to undertake the long, long walk to the postbox and back alone. It was one of her weekly big-girl chores, minus the customary resentment and eye-rolling because she liked the implications. The smooth white envelopes seemed important, even when she was a tad late and they came out marred by the coiling of hungry slugs and snails. And it wasn’t really dangerous: you could hear cars coming miles off, if the plume of dust wasn’t enough of a giveaway.
Now her father had to accompany her, tossing the task right back to little kid territory. Which also meant post got put off until whenever he was available instead of when the urge rushed Carol outside, to tramp the weedy verge into fresh air and silence where green moth-riddled leaf chandeliers sieved the light and tapped her head and shoulders like old friends, reminding her you love this.
Instead here was her father slouching in front with hands in pockets and eyes as empty as a figurine, not even trying to make it fun. Max took up rearguard which left Carol piggy in the middle and she couldn’t even pretend it was only her left in the world like she usually did.
The convoy was why she did not immediately understand what was going on when her father held out his hand behind him and she crashed into it.
‘Stay there honey. Just … stay there.’ His voice sounded strained but that was nothing new.
‘Stay Max,’ she whispered rebelliously. The kelpie crouched obediently by her foot, his pale eyes bright. It was his new habit to crowd close enough to trip over but Carol did not mind – not when she woke in the dark thinking she heard somebody breathing in her closet, or peered across a paddock trying to decide if that was a figure staring at her from the other side.
Her father was kicking around, picking up a stick because mud was caked around the outside of their postbox. A cluster of boxes huddled like gossips along the meeting with the main road; the postman could hardly be expected to slog down all those winding driveways. His next shift would be up before the first had even returned from deep in the fields.
It was a bit of local colour that some neighbours got quite elaborate about their postboxes, repurposing old milk canisters or other bits of interesting equipment, repainting every spring in pig pink or cow spots. Carol averted her eyes from the latter. She did not like cows anymore.
By contrast their postbox was just a basic tin box on a post. No need for a lock: her mother said with forced cheer that if thieves wanted their bills they could have them. But theirs was the only one smeared.
Using the stick and with his other sleeve over his nose her father flipped it open and oh no. That was not mud caked on the outside and packed solid within. A smell Carol knew too well from clearing Max’s logs off the lawn.
Only this was worse, a rotting stench like it came from the hindquarters of something mostly dead that did not know it yet, that still strained at the processes of life pretending all was well. And … was that a slime of … dark, clotted and organic, oozing out; crushed tomatoes in a bowl, that texta she split staining the rug and her hands so her mother screamed thinking her scalded and wept with relief when she found the rest of the mess, Carol sick with worry not knowing what she’d done.
Her father gagged once, a harsh gak sound not unlike those Max made with his broken head and then he was herding Carol back with his arms. Doing his best to block with his body the view of what she had already see. ‘Come on, back to the house.’
‘But Daddy …’
‘Right now young lady!’ It was not so much the hysterical tone as the familiar blank expression, she knew better than to plead. His mind was somewhere away and would not be brought back by any shouts or demands because she wasn’t as important. A great surge of anger at her powerlessness swept over Carol, clenching her small fists.
She would wait. She knew how to wait. Perhaps she could overhear them discussing it in their hushed indoors voices tonight and learn something that way.