A FANTASY READ – DARK SLEEPERS
Want to try out a fantasy novel during your break today? This fantasy, set in England, is about a teen girl who can travel out of her body into other worlds.
Published by Irish e-book company HotGeekBooks, here are the first three chapters of this dark journey into the astral realms.
Kezia was fourteen when she watched her dad die. He always drove too fast – speeding across the open moorland as if his open-top convertible was as safe as an armoured tank. She sat in the passenger seat, loving the feeling of flying as the wind blew her hair back from her face. From here she could breathe in the smell of the sheep-chewed grass. She savoured it – it mingled in her nostrils with the more elusive tang of fear and excitement.
The scent of peat bogs and Dartmoor ponies forever merged in her memory with the bitter aftertaste of burning rubber. But most prominent of all was the smell of her dad as he sat behind the wheel, laughing at her squeals as he rounded bend after bend faster and faster. His aroma would always be the fragrance of her childhood – a mixture of cigar smoke, wood smoke and… what was it? In essence, it couldn’t be anything else but the very scent of life to her. Her home.
“Dad, go faster,” she pleaded. Her knuckles blanched white as she gripped both sides of the bucket seat.
And he did. He did anything she asked him.
The day he died started like any other. Nothing remarkable really except, maybe, a fleeting flicker of unease as she reached for the door handle of his red, vintage sports car. Later, she would remember this brief sensation and suppose that it might be a premonition but at the time she felt only her anticipation.
This was her favourite time of the day: uninterrupted time with her dad. He allowed himself this early morning drive as a way to ‘loosen the ghosts’ as he put it, a pathway into whatever he was writing at the time. And he wanted her with him.
This morning was no different. It was spring, April to be exact. A damp chill was suspended in the air. The mist, at this time of year, always hung around like a friend who stays too long after a party. A hazy pre-dawn glow filled the sky, framing the ancient woodland next to the house.
Kezia loved her home and every morning, while waiting for Dad to finish breakfast, she’d stand silently in the same spot and listen to the birds singing their very own beginning.
From here, outside the cottage, she could smell the dewy bluebells that shared the borders with the weeds. Their combined fragrance held firm to the mist and with each breath the familiar balloon inflated in her chest. How else to describe this feeling of pure happiness? She glanced up and saw that her dad was smiling at her from the other side of the car with that look on his face.
“Huh?” she muttered, still lost in thought.
“What are you waiting for, little one?” the question pulled her from her thoughts.
“Nothing,” she answered returning his smile, “let’s go.”
They found themselves in their usual place – huddled together crossed-legged on damp, lichen-covered stones at the top of their tor. The mist obscured the view down to the village below, but the church tower cut through like a floating top hat on a soupy sea. The gorse had begun to flower, filling the air with the scent of coconut; bilberries were starting to form on their low-lying bushes; Kezia felt sure she heard a cuckoo’s call breaking the silence.
“You know, I used to come up here during the war and watch the bombs falling on Plymouth. Your Grandad was away fighting in Africa and I used to imagine that I could see him. Have I ever told you that?”
“Oh only every day,” she said with a half-smile and a glance at the horizon.
“Yeah, well it’s important that you feel this place is part of you… part of your roots.”
“Dad, I do. I always have.” She yawned.
He turned away from the view and looked at her full on. He reached over and cupped her face in his hands and lifted her chin. The skin of his hands was soft against her cheeks. A writer’s hands, she supposed.
“You never fail to surprise me, you know.”
“Yeah, well I’m not a child anymore. I’m fourteen, yeah? ” She pouted her lips for teenage effect.
“If the wind changes you’ll stay like that.”
“Oh please! Very funny. That’s so old,” she replied getting to her feet. “God, I’m drenched.”
“Yeah, me too. Shall we head home? Scenic route?”
“Is there a route that’s not scenic round here then?”
“Again, you outwit me,” he said, with mock exasperation.
They picked their way cautiously down the boggy pathway. He held on to her – steadying her. He gripped her with all of his fingers around the top of her arm. She concentrated on avoiding the sheep droppings and tried to remember the first time she’d come here. She supposed she had been three or four, but try as she might the memory wouldn’t come. They reached the car. The sun had come up now, holding its own in a cloudless sky. It was going to be a beautiful day.
Kezia knew that something was wrong before she heard the screech of the brakes. Her dad had put the top down on the car, and despite the speed, a hundred years passed as they rounded the blind bend. The car impacted with the lorry and it pushed all reasoning thought from her. And yet in that interminably long moment her senses were more alive than they had ever been. Every cell of her skin quivered with the force as if they were the strings of a harp. Like a slow-motion movie scene, the car crumpled and spun, spiralling across the grassy verge and into the dry stone wall beyond. They hit it head on, loose boulders tumbling down on them – and the world went black.
Six months before the crash she had been out walking; it was the kind of wild, autumn day that she loved. Low-lying cloud obscured the pathway so she couldn’t see too far ahead. She loved this too. She trudged over the spongy ground in her wellies. The smell of sodden, moulding leaves, weirdly, buoyed her up as always, as she walked through the woods.
A huddled figure became visible through the fog; he crouched hobbit-like under an oak tree ahead picking through acorns that lay scattered on the ground. She briefly thought about changing direction and heading off away from the path into the trees. But curiosity bested her and she decided to walk on. This was as much her woods after all. The boy-hobbit looked up and grinned as she approached.
“Hey! What you doing in my wood?” He pursed his lips and tilted his head to one side.
She just shrugged.
He wore expensive brogue shoes – not at all suitable for the muddy woodland path. He had a friendly face; his thick, dark brown hair curled around his ears. And he spoke with an accent – sort of Scottish.
“Um I think you’ll find it’s more likely to be my wood as I live over there.” She pointed in the general direction of her cottage.
“Hey, that’s cool. I’m only jesting.” He had a lovely smile.
“Wanna sit down?” he gestured to a granite rock next to him. She raised an eyebrow and then sat down. Besides her feet were aching. His eyes were on her as she fumbled with her wellie.
“It’s wicked here, isn’t it? I think this is probably my favourite spot in the whole world. I’m Ben, by the way. My father is the vicar in the village,” he offered his hand and hesitantly she shook it.
“Thanks, my parents are, um, creative types.”
“That much is obvious.” Ben smiled wryly, his head on one side again. He glanced at her sideways on. It was obvious that he enjoyed her hesitance. He emanated confidence and self-assurance.
“Which school do you go to?”
“God – lucky!”
She shrugged again.
“What does that mean though? You’ve got a tutor at home?”
“Um no. Actually I kind of teach myself. Mum and dad are busy. She’s an artist and he’s a writer. Both of them are epic fails.”
“Oh.” Ben scratched his head, obviously not sure what to say to that.
“Sorry – probably too much information.”
“Hey, I like information. Home good or bad though?”
She’d never really thought of that before. Home is just home. “Good, I suppose. Mostly.”
“God – lucky you. I’m at boarding school during term time, which I hate, but even so it’s still better than being at home.”
Kezia looked up at the canopy of trees above their heads, enclosing them. Things were far from perfect in her life but at least she had her dad.
The silence hung in the air between them for a minute or so.
“It’s not that bad really. My father and me just don’t get on. Mum died when I was little and he has never got over it, I suppose. Angry. That’s it, he’s angry. With the world you know. With God. Bloody stupid, how they hang on to myths and legends isn’t it. Parents.”
“Mine are atheists.”
“Ahhh well then, you don’t know, do you…”
The conversation was beginning to get out of Kezia’s depth. She began to feel stupid next to this quick-witted boy. She bowed her head, and asked, “Is he mean to you?”
“Only when I’m there,” he grinned or grimaced – she wasn’t sure which.
“Want to walk?” he asked jumping up. Not waiting for an answer he grabbed her hand. But he misjudged her weight and she went flying into a pile of leaves. He let out a beautiful, full-bodied, infectious laugh: the one that over the next six months she would grow to love. She boldly looked up at him and he pulled a silly face. She doubled up laughing too.
“Don’t worry, Kez,” he said, “I have that effect on everyone!”
Kezia woke up to find chaos all around her. Ben’s face flashed in front of her, but then faded away again. Moving shapes of black and grey flickered around her like strobe lighting at a bad disco. It made her nauseous so she closed her eyes again. Her eyelids were so heavy. The pain in her back was excruciating and so much weight pressed down on her legs. She couldn’t move them. Remembering her dad, she tried to turn her head but something held it fast. Stuck. She could just about see him out of the corner of her eye. He was obviously in big trouble. His chest pressed up against the steering wheel; his head at a strange angle; blood flowing freely from a gash on his forehead.
He hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt. Please god, don’t let him be dead. Odd images darted through her head. But they made no sense. And the pain now was making it hard to think at all. Then without knowing what was happening she began to rise up. She couldn’t say exactly what it was that spiralled out of her injured body. And she didn’t question it.
She floated high above now, blissfully free of pain. She looked down at the chaotic scene below, seeing everything with complete clarity. A man in a uniform put an oxygen mask over her dad’s face. He looked efficient and in control. Phew. A female police officer talked to her inert body. At least she supposed that she was talking, because her mouth moved and she stroked her hair. But Kezia couldn’t hear her. It was like watching the telly on mute.
I’m not dead then, she wouldn’t bother talking to me if I was dead, she thought with relief.
Firemen used some sort of chainsaw to cut away at the sides of the car. She saw her dad still slumped against the wheel.
Something made her turn around then. Whether it was a pull of love or curiosity she would never know for sure. But slowly she turned her head. There, floating in front of her was her dad. She glanced back at the car confused. But sure enough his body was still there, as was hers.
His face contorted.
“Can you still feel pain?” she asked. As she did it the timbre of her voice hung between them as if it were looking for a place to put itself.
“Not exactly,” he said, “physical pain has gone but…”
His face crumpled and he looked like he wanted to say more but couldn’t find the words. He attempted a smile which she knew instinctively was for her sake. The smile wavered for a second and then he clenched his teeth.
“Dad? Are you ok?” She stretched out her arms to him, but even though he was floating only a metre away she couldn’t reach him. Her hands grasped and clawed at the air.
He started to shrink as she frantically tried to hold on to him. The light that had surrounded him was getting duller as, second by second, he diminished. His eyes, wide and scared, took on the look of little boy who knew he was at the mercy of someone terrifying. As he got smaller and smaller, he, in turn, tried to reach Kezia with his arms. But instead of grasping for her, he was pushing her away.
“You need to go back,” he screamed. “You need to go back now!”
“But…” she started. The panic grabbed at her stomach. She wasn’t ready to say goodbye and please not like this.
Her dad, now the size of a small child, was so dark that she couldn’t see his features at all. She could feel terror pulsating out from every part of him.
“Kez, please, just go!”
“I don’t know how!”
“Just close your eyes. Count back from ten.”
“Like this is a nightmare?”
“Exactly, like this is a nightmare.” His voice sounded so far away.
She did as she was told. Ten, nine, eight… she never reached seven.
Back in her body the pain plunged down on her like a hammer blow. And she heard the female police officer say, “She’s still alive.”
The clock showed that it was time for breakfast. And yet Ben sprawled lazily on his pristine bed. He stared at the ceiling rose that surrounded the light fitting and felt all weird. His skin not attached to him. It was like he floated outside of his body. Prickling all over, he sat up and in that instant he saw Kezia standing at the foot of his bed. She wore a strange dress that he’d never seen her wear before. Thinking she looked quite pretty for a change he thought about telling her, when she faded away. Something was not right. His belly tightened. He wanted to puke.
He reached for his phone. No credit again. “Tight git,” he mumbled, thinking of his father. He logged on to Facebook. Messaged her – but no green dot announced her online. He even tried to reverse the charge to her mobile but it went unanswered. No bloody reception on the moor anyway.
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He tiptoed to avoid the crap that was strewn across the floor. There were piles of clothes; textbooks; discarded, sticky glasses and crusty plates. That bloody James. But maybe he’d lend his phone for a minute. He found James in the library, bent over a book.
“Hey, nerd. Any chance I can borrow your phone? My tight ass father hasn’t topped up again.”
James looked up: “Sure, but you owe me.”
“Sure, maybe I’ll tidy up your mess in our room as you obviously aren’t going to…”
“Oh funny –” he offered the phone in his left hand while still writing with the other. “Might have trouble with the signal though. It’s a bit crap here.”
“I’ll take my chances in the courtyard.”
Outside a bunch of snivelling first years were all doing the same. Ben couldn’t stand their whinging. It seemed to him that life was just hard and you got used to it. He’d been sent to school when he was six, and he’d never cried like this lot seemed to. Most of these boys got to go home every weekend anyhow, what on earth were they complaining about? The sooner they got used to the ways of the world the better.
He wandered around the quad, chasing a signal. Finding one eventually, he slid down the smooth, stone wall. Pulling his legs into his chest he realised that he felt a bit better – calmer. He dialled Kezia’s land line. No answer. He’d wait five minutes and then try again. Sometimes if Kez was in the garden it took her a while to get to the phone.
He ran his fingers through his newly-grown fringe, and looked around him. He glanced through the double-doors that swung constantly – always left slightly ajar by the multitudes of boys coming and going. The highly-polished corridor floor leading to the library gleamed like a fresh conker in the morning sun. How different from Kezia’s house, he thought, chewing his nails absently. Then, laughing quietly, he remembered that first day.
Kezia had asked him shyly if he’d like to come back for a while after the walk. She led him through the stable door into her kitchen. He remembered especially the old, wooden table and the mismatched chairs. Piles of art magazines and moleskin notebooks covered every surface. His naturally tidy nature mentally cleared away the junk. He could see, beneath it, the beautiful wooden dresser that, had it ever been given a good polish, could have been worth something. Dusty candle holders, all different shapes and sizes, clamoured for display space. Drips of candle wax had flowed unnoticed, no doubt staining the wood beneath them with their scented oils. Ben winced inwardly but managed not to show it by picking up an old, well-thumbed copy of Homes and Gardens.
“Cup of tea?” Kezia stood at the wood–burning stove clutching an old, burnished kettle.
“Yep, great. Nice place. Cosy.”
“Yeah, it’s great – like something in Homes and Gardens,” he gestured to the mag in his hand. Cringing at his own insincerity he added with a smile, “well, maybe a wee bit less clean.”
Kezia looked visibly relieved: “…milk and sugar?”
“Just milk, cheers.” Ben took the cracked mug of tea, and cupped it in both hands, trying with all his might not to worry about the tea stains that would, no doubt, be lurking beneath the liquid. Distracting himself again he said, “so what about homeschooling then. How does that work?”
“Well, I just choose something I’m interested in and then take it as far as I like. Dad kind of believes in self-directed learning, that ‘we only truly learn when we are following our own interests’ or something like that. It kind of works, I think. It means that I can ignore calculus anyhow, which suits me.” She smiled.
“God, you’re so lucky, school for me means doing nothing that interests me at all. Apart from drama. Possibly.” Ben sank back in his chair and eyed Kezia from this prone position.
At that moment voices could be heard in the hallway, spiritedly arguing. Kezia stiffened slightly and Ben took this as his cue to go, using the setting up of the church for evensong with his father as an excuse to leave, something in reality he had never done.
And probably never would, he thought wryly, coming back to the present. He redialled her number. The ringing tone went unanswered again. He imagined the phone in that scruffy kitchen ringing away into the emptiness. He hung up and went back to his room.
It was several hours later when Ben got the call. He was summoned to the headmaster’s office, a sure sign that something important had happened. He stood on the plush Persian rug. It seemed at odds with the news coming from down the phone. The mantle clock ticked away; the spring sunshine bathing it in a pool of light; showing up the dust and dirt.
His father’s voice, usually so self-assured, was cracked and breathy.
“Benjamin, I don’t want you to worry but I felt you ought to know.”
Ben knew before he told him that something had happened to Kezia. He just knew it.
“What’s happened to Kez?” He swallowed hard. His mouth dry.
“Um oh right. You’ve heard?”
“No, not really. Just…”
“Of course, how could you have heard?” he said, obviously demurring.
“Well, what happened?” said Ben, impatiently.
“She’s been in a car crash. She’s okay… well, stable… in hospital. But unfortunately Tom, her father has passed on.”
Ben leaned against the desk – not so much for support, but he suddenly needed to feel something solid. He gripped the edge with his free hand. “But how is she really?” Ben asked, knowing that with her dad dead Kezia would be anything but okay.
“Well, she’s broken a leg and taken quite a battering to the head by all accounts, but she’s alive. And she asked for you from the moment she opened her eyes.”
The blind old idiot. From the softening of his voice, Ben could tell that his father thought that he and Kezia were more than friends.
“Well that’s something I suppose – when are you coming to fetch me?” Ben was suddenly desperate to see his best friend, to give comfort in her misery. He knew just what a living hell it would be.
“There’s no question of that I’m afraid.”
“What do you mean? She’ll need me.” Ben tried to keep the whine from his voice but failed.
“Benjamin, you’ve got your end of year exams coming up next month. It would disrupt your education irrevocably if you came home now. Besides you’ve only just got back from the Easter break.”
“Right. Great. So you’re going to keep me apart from my best friend, my… my… well, practically my sister, for Christ’s sake, just when she needs me?”
A familiar bile rose up in Ben’s throat. His bloody, pompous father wanted a power struggle again. His father cut him off quickly.
“No need to swear. Be reasonable Benjamin, it’ll be half term before you know it.”
Ben struggled to keep his temper. His father had no idea how Kezia would interpret his staying away.
“Which hospital is she in? I take it I’m allowed to call her at least.” Ben snapped and swallowed hard. The bile slipped back down, burning his throat in its retreat. His father sounded relieved that he’d backed down. He told Ben the phone number without further comment.
He put the phone back down on its old-fashioned cradle. It cut him off from home instantly. He immediately regretted his tone with his father. Not because of upsetting him but because it made him sound like he didn’t care about Kezia.
Ben told himself that his father would decide that his response was his show of grief. The vicar in him would use his extensive knowledge of death to reason with Ben. It was one of the only aspects of life that most people still seemed to require the clergy these days. He’d probably decided that he’d reached out to Ben in his hour of need. Huh.
Kezia accepted him for who he was. She knew him – only her. And if she hurt? He hurt too.
He dialled the number of the hospital and was put through to her ward. The nurse informed Ben that Kezia was asleep, but he could leave a message if he liked. He mumbled something about sending her hugs and thinking of her and hung up. He leaned against the desk, feeling totally inadequate for a couple of minutes as he attempted to organise his thoughts.
He opened the heavy oak door and walked out of the headmaster’s study. For a moment he was okay. Calm. Content. A little taken aback he walked back to his room.
Kezia couldn’t even escape into sleep. Sometimes she managed to drift off for an hour or two. But even while asleep her dreams were muddled and frantic. And sometimes the dreams seemed more real than when she was awake.
She woke up one morning, and for a few blissful moments it felt like the last couple of months had all been a horrendous dream. She sat up in bed thrilled. Her heart pounded in her chest. She strained to catch the sounds of her dad – to hear him making coffee downstairs. And then as the realisation filtered through into her waking mind, pain descended. It crushed her chest like a mechanical vice and held her in its unrelenting grip. She couldn’t breathe. Getting up, she slapped her face. Anything to distract from this… from this… she collapsed on the floor. Not knowing what to do, she thumped the floor hard, transferring the pain from heart to hands. She clenched her fists so tight that anger flowed through her. There was no stopping it.
“Christ.” She felt no better, so she added, “I can’t stand this!” for good measure. But it wouldn’t go away. “Argh!”
Each awakened and repeated memory of losing her father gouged out a fresh, new wound in her. And yet like a child picking off a scab and watching it bleed again and again, she couldn’t help it. She had to remember. It was all she had.
Bees hummed as they feasted on the wisteria that clambered up the stone-walled cottage and framed her bedroom window. Only vaguely aware of anything she lay down on the floor at the foot of her bed gazing at the view through the same small window; the clouds chased each other across the sky. When she was little she and her dad used to lie lazily out on the moor. He found castles and dragons in the clouds above them, while usually she looked for kittens and puppies.
“That’s it Kezia,” she whispered, “gouge them out.” She lay on the hard wooden floor finding a perverse pleasure in the numbness that spread up her thighs.
She hardly remembered having the plaster cast removed from her leg after the accident. The recent memories of the past two months hid amidst so much fog. It was like the moors had brought down a mist to rival any it had conjured up before now.
She had been too ill to go to her dad’s funeral. Her mum promised her a memorial when she was better. But she couldn’t have cared less. Stuck in hospital weighed down with what…? guilt? and the physical pain in her leg, she wanted to die. She was ready to follow him. But she lived on. Day after day, her healthy body betrayed her, surviving and growing stronger in spite of the way she felt.
Ben had visited during half term. He appeared at the door to her bedroom with that look of a puppy dog on his face – stolen flowers wilting in his hand.
“I missed you,” she said.
“I know,” he replied.
Her resentment at his silence melted away. She sobbed on his shoulder until she was empty. But then, sure enough, it had done no real good. The loss was still there – massive and scary.
Ben helped loads though. He sat down on her bed; told her again and again that it would be all right. She knew it was a lie but it made her feel better. He held her. He coaxed her downstairs to sit in the kitchen. He made her tea; reheated soup from the fridge. The soup went cold in her bowl, but it didn’t matter. His acts of kindness were enough. But Ben was back at school now over two hundred miles away finishing off his year without her misery. How great for him, she thought. This was hardly fair of course, but right then she didn’t care.
The room grew dim and the bees outside the window gave up and went home in the rapidly cooling late May evening air. Rolling onto her stomach she attempted to distract herself from the gloom by picking up a pile of photos next to her bed. She’d chucked them there last night before falling into a brief forgetful sleep.
Each picture framed a snapshot from her childhood. There was a smiling picture of her, aged five, proudly showing off her new gap when she lost her first tooth. Dad had taken it and she could still hear him coaxing her to smile. There was another one of her, aged three, digging for worms in the garden, her dad, trowel in hand grinning behind her.
The pain came before the tears this time as her body shook under the weight of wracking sobs. She struggled for breath in the tide.
“I have to escape this craziness,” she shouted. She flipped over onto her back. She remembered the meditation exercise that her mum had taught her a few years ago when she hadn’t been able to sleep.
She began the deep breathing. In and out… in and out.
She started at her feet, counting down from ten. She imagined them sinking heavily into the floor, merging with the sun-warmed wood. Then, meticulously, she did the same for her calves, thighs, and hips in turn. Just as she drifted off to sleep – she jolted. Nausea, as she started to spiral uncontrollably. She heard a snap. Her body began vibrating. And there she was… floating above her bed. But how could this be her? She was definitely floating but there below her was her body. Inert and still, and she looked deeply asleep. So what was she, if not her body… what was she? Was she her soul? She looked around her room. It was shrouded in mist now, only barely visible through the fog. It was just like when her dad had died. She readied herself for the pain to come as the memory surfaced. She squinted her eyes in preparation, but it didn’t come. The only feeling that existed here was peace.
So what now? And then she knew, of course, why had she tried to leave the pain behind in the first place? Ha! Pain! It just didn’t exist here.
Her dad floated into her thoughts again and she felt a tug at her chest, like an invisible rope pulling at her. She closed her eyes, surrendering to it. Where was she going? Who cared?
She drifted through the door as if it wasn’t there and onto the landing. It wasn’t quite like floating because she had some power in her arms. If she held them tight to her side she found she went faster. And flapping them around slowed her down. Her senses were way more acute and she could hear every sound in the house magnified. She listened; scuttling mice in the attic sounded like heavy-booted men; the kettle whistling away downstairs became a steam train flying through the countryside. Wow, Ben will never believe this, she thought.
Then the kettle stopped whistling and she heard her mum coming up the stairs. Panicking slightly she glanced around, wondering where to go. She looked down on her mum’s blonde head getting closer as she climbed the stairs. Her mum seemed not to notice her. She was so close. Kezia reached out to touch her hair and it fluffed slightly as if a breeze had caught it. But, as she had begun to suspect, she couldn’t be seen. She was invisible.
“Sweetheart? Are you all right?” Alice asked. No answer. She lingered uncertainly on the landing outside her daughter’s silent room for half an hour. Kezia had been in her room all day and the silence, although not unusual, was somehow different today. Slinking back downstairs, she re-boiled the cooling kettle and made herself a cup of tea. She sat down at the kitchen table, slumped and still.
She cupped her face in her hands. Why did she never feel like an adult? One who was in control of situations, in charge of her life, like those women you saw having careers and conversing easily with friends and colleagues? Maybe they all felt the same but were so much better at pretending.
Sipping the steaming drink, she relished the scalding sensation on the roof of her mouth – a relief to feel something other than this desolation.
Tom had taken care of everything. He’d been the strong one and she had allowed it. He had been the parent who made all the decisions. She hadn’t always agreed, but it had made no difference. He always got his way. She wondered now just why she allowed this to happen. Maybe it was the age difference? Maybe it was her fault.
Kezia’s education had been a rift between them for a long time until she had given in. He wouldn’t hear any argument. From the moment of her birth Tom pronounced her special. In his eyes the local primary school would never be good enough for her. She was too good even for a private education had finances allowed it, which of course they hadn’t. He convinced her that ‘unschooling’ was the way to go, so she had gone along with it, and she loved having her daughter at home. And hadn’t Kezia thrived? Wasn’t she doing very well on her own?
Alice couldn’t really answer this. A school would be a great comfort right now. Kezia would have friends rallying round. Teachers would offer help. Instead they had this isolation to deal with.
She slunk lower in her chair. She rested her head onto the table remembering a long-suppressed memory. Kezia had been about six. Tom was away in London meeting with his publisher and she arranged a day visit to the local primary school. It couldn’t hurt to go and see it.
She remembered her daughter’s chubby hand as it nestled with complete trust in her bigger, gloved one. Her excitement crackled in the winter air. She remembered frost on the ground and the trees in the village were bare and ragged-looking. It took a lot of courage for her to get as far as the village and as she and Kezia stood at the school gates she was struck with the fear. She sat down on a wall. Kezia gripped her hand tighter.
“We don’t have to go in Mummy.”
Her rosy face shone with trust. And Alice knew that she could never face the daily drop-off at the school gates. That was probably the first time she realised that she had a problem.
Since that day she had allowed Tom to build a wall between her and Kezia: feeling herself unworthy of the title ‘Mum’. And as each year sped faster along, she turned away from it rather than confronting it. Until now it was twenty metres high and so thick that she could barely hear Kezia’s voice anymore.
Kezia had followed her mum back downstairs. Floating above her head all the way, practising this amazing ability she had discovered, trying out how much control she had. Stopping and starting at will. Could this be real? Was it a dream? It certainly didn’t have the same quality as a dream.
She pressed on. It was obvious that her arms were the main controlling factor but they only worked if controlled by her thoughts. If she thought ‘go faster’ her arms would oblige by clenching themselves tightly to her side.
She hovered around the kitchen for a few minutes watching her mum sipping her tea and then she had an idea. If she was to really practise properly, she had to get outside in the garden. The second she had this thought, she started heading for the stable door. It was closed but she knew that here, wherever the hell she was, the door didn’t exist. Sure enough, she tightened her arms and whoosh; she flew through the wood and glass and out into the night.
The garden sparkled from a recent rainfall. The full moon illuminated everything fully but there was still the mist hiding the shadows. Although Kezia knew that it should feel cold – it was May after all – it didn’t. She flew around the vegetable beds and swooped over her dad’s writing yurt. The canvas walls and roof quivered slightly as she soared past. Wow, she kept thinking over and over, this is just so intense. The feeling of freedom caught her and spun her out over the cottage, and over the woods behind it.
Then, a dark shadow hove into view by the stone wall that separated their garden from the lane. A tiny splinter of fear tunnelled under her skin. It prickled, like the shock from an electric fence. It was time to head home. She glanced behind her as she flew back through her bedroom window; the dark shadow had gone. There was her body, looking like she was sound asleep. She hovered over it, facing downwards. She closed her eyes. For some reason she didn’t want to watch herself re-entering it. It felt too weird. She giggled at the idea of weird. Nothing would surely ever seem too weird again.
Snap. Her body vibrated as she took a deep breath, filling her lungs with air.
“Christ alive!” she shouted to the empty room.
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ShareIt’s amazing to think that these are up to 800 years old, and we can still read them. The literature of ancient Ireland is the most primitive and original among