Beginning today, I am serialising my first novel, written in a fume of creative smog in the winter of 2006, and spring of 2007. The reasons for this are numerous, but break down into a couple of major components.
Firstly, obviously, I want to get it out there, so people can have a look and hopefully respond to it. At the end of the serialisation, I’ll be offering signed copies of the book via Lulu, featuring original cover artwork by yours truly, and a couple of extra surprises.
Second of all, I want to play around with the pacing a little, and there are still some rough edges to rub a stone over. Doing this editorial work in public might seem suicidal, but it’s the best way I can think of to actually get the work done, instead of sitting around moping about how the book’s not finished. So, for those lucky few of you that have already seen a draft of this – there will be changes.
So, here we are then. I’ll tag every episode with something meaningful, so if you do a search on “Satan’s Schoolgirls” you should be able to find everything fairly easily.
A cheap horror movie by Rob Wickings
“Bad natures never lack an instructor.”
Publilius Syrus, Sententiae
For Clare. My education.
PROLOGUE – FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
I have led a life filled with regret, replete with sorrow. Any moments of joy have been soured and flattened by that understanding. There can be no respite from it.Yet somehow, I have come to accept this state of affairs. Somehow, I have come to find a kind of grace in the sadness.
Until now. The painfully delicate, exquisitely balanced life support machine I have built is gone, blasted away in an instant, leaving me alone again, unprotected. I sit quietly, strangling a cold cup of coffee in a knotted grip, and watch the evening news.
A reporter, trussed in scarf and thick coat, buffeted in the violent wind scything across the gorse land (I feel it now, the way it bites through wool and jersey, always with enough moisture in it to soak you through, to wear you down, to pull you under) braces herself against the cold, and tells the story of the derelict building in the background.
Even now it’s hard to look at it. Although St. Anne’s is a skeleton, there are still shapes in the stones that sketch themselves against the rubble. With a start I see that the dormitory I spent the worst months of my life in still stands, intact against all reason, against all wishes. The camera moves on, showing the chapel, the assembly hall, the kitchen block, no more than a single crumbling wall and a hint of foundation now.
Around the building, the cranes are gathering, insectoid, prehistoric. They tilt their tiny heads and gnaw at the brickwork, drooling rubble. Smaller scavengers, trucks in canary yellow, scoot in to carry away choice scraps. Before my eyes, it seems, St. Anne’s is disappearing into the mists from where it came when I first saw it.
The girl in the big coat whitters on, her carefully constructed hairdo gone to chaos in the approaching storm. I will her silently not to make a connection in this, not to use the coincidence for a glib one-liner.
Don’t say the name, I beg her. Don’t tell the story. Above all, don’t show the sign.
My wishes are pointless little things, lost in the noise of the wind. She is there because of the story, because of the things that happened there, the lives that were lost. Without them, this would be the simple demolition of an old building grown dangerous in its old age, put down before it could cause any more harm. There would be no news report, no pretty girl, no camera.
As if that would ever end it. The damage that place did to me, and to the other women who I have no doubt are watching the same programme as I, with the same haunted look, will never end. The girls who survived the fire, the storm. The girls who promised themselves they would never talk about the turning cross, the Dark law.
Or Epiphany Davies. And Cathaerin Halberd. And Sister Serenity.
And Mother Mercy. If nothing else, they do not let the name of the Scourge of St. Anne’s out into the world. Silence, at least, they can manage. They can protect themselves with that.
And, I, on my sofa in my quiet suburban home, watching the girl reporter, her hair going down for the third time as she motions the camera to pan once more around the charnel house of my memories, I realise that unlike my classmates, silence can no longer help me. Our old school has held it’s secrets for long enough. The time has come, as dust claims the school, to tell the tale of how it was lost. The part that I played in its destruction.