Southern Gothic Horror – Our Fearful Roots – Work in Progress
I’m co-writing a novel with Faith Marlow. Despite having an ocean between us, it’s been a thrilling an inspiring experience, and it has opened me to the idea of writing more books this way. Admittedly Faith is one of my best author friends. I interviewed her earlier in the year, and you can read that here - https://carmillavoiez.wixsite.com/carmillavoiez/post/an-interview-with-faith-marlow-women-in-horror-month
The story is about a Seattle family moving to a small town in Alabama when the mother, Mary, inherits her aunt’s house. But the house and Mary share a terrible secret, and her family are in grave danger both from the neighbours and the strange roses that climb the walls of the house.
Bear in mind this excerpt is a first draft and is likely to change before release.
Eric’s anger bubbled. It wasn’t that he’d miss his old school. He’d been having fantasies almost every night of a Columbine-style solution. It was a relief to leave the bullies and jocks, but he should have been consulted. He’d overheard the arguments between Chuck and his mom, but never expected the old lady to emerge victorious, and yet here they were, day four of the most uncomfortable and boring journey of his life.
Even his sister looked pissed off. Half-sister. Worst half probably. Eric couldn’t imagine his biological dad could be as pathetic and annoying as his mom or that waste-of-space loser she’d hooked up with. Anita’s sullen attitude was completely out of character; the kid was like rubber, malleable and easily molded into whatever shape her family desired. Mom dressed her like a doll in ugly pink dresses and Anita had perfected a shy, passive shtick to match, fawning at whichever parental unit deigned to give her their attention, but even Miss Congeniality didn’t reply when Mom started gushing over trees.
He’d checked the internet for things to do in their new town. There was nothing there. Fewer people lived there than attended his old school. How could his mom expect him to survive? She probably hadn’t thought about him at all. This was all about her reconnecting with her roots, and she didn’t care how it might affect anyone else.
Another ugly road-bridge loomed ahead, a concrete monstrosity that spanned the width of the highway and ended in trees on either side. This one seemed different. Time expanded as they nosed towards the shadows beneath its arch. Usually they passed under the bridges before he spotted them, but this one taunted him, making him take notice. Something hung from the center, black and shadowy, indistinct but human-shaped. At first, he thought someone had foolishly clambered down and was clinging to a rope, perhaps to scrawl graffiti on its pitted surface, but the angles of the head and neck were wrong, and arms twitched on either side of the torso.
‘Mom,’ he said, pointing at the specter ahead.
She glanced at him eyes soft then hardening before she turned to the front to look where he was pointing. They’d already passed under the bridge, and when he peered through the rear window the shadow was gone.
‘What was it, Eric?’ she asked.
He shook his head, telling himself that he’d imagined the hanging man.
Chuck drove onward. The unchanging landscape, the heat even with the car’s air-conditioning at full blast, the closed windows, and the blinding light where the sun hit metal surfaces, all of it oppressed Eric. Anita asked whether they’d arrive soon, and Mom said a few more hours.
Signs appeared for Birmingham and Montgomery, place names he’d heard about in school. Bull Connor and his dogs, Rosa Parks and the coveted bus seat, both happened little more than fifty years ago. Eric felt as though the minivan was a time machine, pulling them back half a century into a quagmire of anger and resentment, rivaling his teenage angst and frustration. He shivered and the hairs rose across his arms and shoulders. He imagined cotton fields and plantations, rural churches and sweaty preachers speaking in tongues, white hoods and lynching. Was that what he’d glimpsed beneath the bridge?
‘I don’t want to move here, Mom,’ he said.
‘It’ll be fine, Eric. You’ll make new friends. Everyone is mighty friendly.’ her exaggerated southern accent and forced smile did not put him at ease.
His mother wore a faraway smile. Her eyes were glazed. If he hadn’t feared Chuck’s retribution, Eric might have slapped his mother to wake her up. Instead, he slunk into the back seat and stared at his cell phone, not daring to glimpse the darkness that might bleed through the car windows and drown him in history.
Chuck suggested they stop for food and coffee. When Eric asked if he could eat in the car, his stepfather’s cold stare threatened violence. From the relative safety of their booth he glimpsed around the diner and saw old men and fat women tucking into mountains of unidentifiable food. Chuck thrust a menu towards him.
‘Coke and fries,’ Eric said without opening it. ‘Please,’ he added in the most sarcastic tone he could muster. Not his best, he had to admit. It sounded more like terror than indolence.
Sadly this is the final day of October Frights. I hope you’ve enjoyed all the horror posts and will join us again next year. If you are a blogger and want to take part in 2022, contact Anita Stewart through her blog - Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Check out these fellow bloggers who are actively blogging this week -