My current project is called The Shell Cracked (at least, that’s my working title) which sounds a bit Agatha Christie-ish but is far removed from cosy sleuthing in middle England!
This is (will be) the sequel to Shun House, and is (will be) just as dark and wicked. Those of you who have read Shun House will know exactly what I mean by that. For you loyal readers, and those who are not (yet) here is the opening chapter of The Shell Cracked, to give you a sample of what lied in wait:
Patience is stale, and I am weary of it.
King Richard II, King Richard II: V, v
Five thousand years.
To a mountain bearing the weight of the heavens, such a number is inconsequential. Say instead fifty thousand, or five hundred thousand and the mountain may notice the passage of time. But five thousand? That is next to nothing.
To a mouse scuttling and sniffing the air, hugging the skirting board in its quest for food, twitching ears for signals of death from cat or rat, five thousand is a number outside of reckoning, a count of fifteen hundred or more generations. Five minutes or five thousand years, neither is a measure to be comprehended.
To that which dwells beneath the Sierra Gilillo, five thousand years is time enough.
Time to remember.
From the glens and ravines of the Sierra de Cazorla, a sprig of streams emerge, fed by seasonal rains and secret, subterranean pools. They roam the surface world, seeking each other out, converging as a single waterway that strikes out northward through the Guadalquivir valley. The Rio Kertis holds this course for nine leagues before changing direction, diverting west and then southwest, gradually swelling with rills and runnels orphaned from the surrounding countryside. Spreading wide in a majestic meander, she brings fertility to fields and pastures until, at last, she reaches the sea. There she divests herself of her charge, completing the cycle, returning her waters to the Madre del Agua at the Golfo de Cádiz: el mar Mediterráneo.
Rivers, though, are not the only passages to lead away from the mountains. Beneath the sierras, diverse tunnels weave a Spartan mesh through the Iberian subterrain. Most lead nowhere, crushed by the weight of their world, their paths blocked by rock falls, or petering out to the point where only the smallest of organisms can delve. Others tumble blindly into deep pits, stygian sinkholes overflowing with poison. Some are unnavigable conduits for turbulent streams, or channels for the molten vomit spewed up by Mother Earth. Many never admit the kiss of fresh air, or allow the light of day to infiltrate their darkness.
But there are some that do have purpose, some that do follow a definite course, a handful that do broach the surface to secretly link distant parts by invisible threads.
And there are a very few that lead directly to a place known to the people of the region as el Estómago de la Mundo, lying deep within Gilillo, the highest peak of the Cazorlas, a cavern from which a delving of shafts and drifts extrude intestine-like, a piceous interweaving of catacombs.
No one has ever claimed to have seen this place. Not one of the few that sought to find it ever returned from their quest, but all know where it lies, and what dwells within. Such names they have for her: el Bebedor de las Almas, el Terror de la Noche, el Murmullo de la Muerte.
There she rests, brooding in her nest of husks, shrouded by the darkness, barely moving, ever watchful, nursing a hunger that never ends. Her countless children are all gone, sacrificed to that hunger or fled away from her terror. No other prey comes near and now she feeds off all she has left: her memories, black and hard and cold.
How did she come there? What drove her to such isolation, such loneliness?
Fear. And five thousand years of that fear has fixed her within her atramentous tomb, nevermore to see the light of day. Until now.
Half a millennia has passed and in all that time she has cursed and plotted and dreamed and planned. She is perhaps the last, the final incarnation of her race, the uttermost terror of her kind, the one who will mete out retribution to those who vanquished her kin from the world.
But now a time is come when she will return to the world that rejected her. Her web has reached out in all directions, filaments entangling bruit and report. Now she knows where they are. Whispers and rumours have reached her from the far north, soft-spoken tales of dragons, the Nemesis and bane of her race. So north she will go. Instinct will guide her, hate will feed her, venom will drive her.
It is time to prepare.
One last time her bloated abdomen heaves. One last time she evicts the eggs from deep within, her final brood. A hundred soft sacs spill out onto the silken bed she has created for them. She spins a blanket to keep them secure and now there is nothing more she can do. The next generation will survive or they will perish but she has no more thought for their welfare. One thought only remains.
I’m aiming to see this published in 2017 so please be patient. But do give me feedback on this opening, if you would like to.
Best Wishes and Happy Reading,