This was my debut novel, one I made such a lot of mistakes with.
Feel free to comment, advise or critcise, as I am very interested in improving my craft.
It might never be perfect, but your very first book is always special, isn’t it?
To this end, I will be posting a chapter every Wednesday…
Kate’s days were too long, the nights never ending. She didn’t belong in this life, this face, this body. It was all wrong.
She had wished for death many times, and it passed her by so often. It cheated her yet followed her everywhere. It whispered to her. Black thoughts plagued her dreams, monsters wearing the face of her mother, brother, husband. She wished such evil for them and it had returned to sit like a monkey on her back.
Kate heard the teasing voice in her head and chose to ignore it, wondering again if she was going insane. Why was it still pestering her after all these years, why couldn’t it leave her alone?
None of what it said ever made any sense, so she filed it away in her mind as some sort of deviance she must have been born with, like colour blindness.
Friday had been a busy day like any other and Kate was tired and ready for bed, ready to forget the day and switch her brain off, but the heartburn that plagued her all day seemed to have another agenda.
Pushing the unruly mop of curly hair away from her face, she studied the canvas in front of her, trying to decide if the painting was good enough; or if she was wasting her time trying to be creative when she felt like crap. It had most of the elements her customer loved so they should like it. A stunning waterfall was the focal point of the picture with ethereal greens and blues in every shade imaginable captured in the white froth of the spraying water. The image seemed to shimmer and move the more you looked at it.
She knew the place well, it was in Cornwall and she had been there many times. It was a truly magical place, for you could climb up the rocks and get close to the falling water. Close enough to get soaked, she thought, smiling at the memory. She knew she would have to go there again, and soon.
There was something about water; it seemed to communicate directly with Kate’s soul. She loved nothing more than being near, or in it at every opportunity. A simple boat ride would be so much more special if she ended up soaked to the skin. She didn’t tend to analyse it too much though, water had the power to make her feel good and paint extraordinary artwork. This transferred to anyone who loved her paintings, and that was all she cared about.
Deciding to call it a night, she took a last look at the canvas, reasonably pleased with what she had accomplished. The wet paint glistened like moonlight on the water, and she wished as always the effect would remain when the paint was dry.
In the beginning, she thought the voice just wanted to confuse her as it kept telling her what to do, or usually, what she shouldn’t do.
Why was it she instinctively never took any notice of its instructions, or the seemingly sincere appeals or sarcastic quips? She knew from experience to refuse to cooperate sometimes led to a disaster of one kind or another, but something other than the voice told her that to obey was more than her life was worth.
Either way, she seemed powerless to do anything other than follow her own instincts, even when she knew deep down she was wrong.
It was almost as though she was meant to fail, to suffer. To know and feel just how stupid she was, as though she was born with something missing. She often wondered if the voice was, in fact, the devil, because sometimes it would seem as though it was. All that medieval temptation and mysteriousness – it could well be, she thought, but what was its business with her?
A small part of her brain always sympathised with the Devil. He had been cast out too hadn’t he, fallen from grace and all that? They did seem to have a lot in common. It didn’t explain why this voice had been annoying her for most of her life. There was no reason she could see or imagine, or was it the only thing that listened whenever she prayed for help?
The voice didn’t seem evil or cruel to her. Sometimes there was something else just underneath the surface; something she could sense, but never strong enough to make her toe the line. She never obeyed the slightest suggestion, and despite the consequences, she didn’t intend to start now. She often wondered if her life would have been any different if she had, or would it have been worse?
What could it possibly do to her anyway? It was just an annoying voice in her head and couldn’t hurt her, could it?
She finished her cigarette, stubbing it out in the overflowing ashtray and looked at the painting again. Oh well, she had done enough for one night. She wiped the paint from her fingers with a piece of rag that smelled strongly of linseed oil and made her way to the kitchen.
The indigestion was developing into razor blades in her stomach and she pulled a face. Why was it bothering her now? She used to suffer a lot in the past when she was worried or going through yet another crisis.
Lately, though, her life had evened out and that was just as well for she was getting too old to put up with any more trouble. She was moderately happy and free from problems; at least she thought she was. There was no annoying pig-headed husband to drive her nuts anymore, no pestering family turning up at inopportune moments. She was her own boss, doing something she loved. If she could just sell more of her work, it would be perfect.
Then she could move to a remote island, somewhere she would not see or hear other people with all their noise, but she was content for now.
That’s if she could just get this indigestion to sod off.
While she was making the last cup of coffee before bed, she took another antacid tablet, hoping to knock the heartburn into submission so she could get some sleep.
A wave of nausea and dizziness hit her and she clutched desperately at the worktop, wondering how long it would last this time. This wasn’t like before; she felt hot and seemed to be moving in treacle. She sat down on the nearest kitchen stool, hoping it would pass or just ease off as it had in the past, but if anything she was feeling worse by the minute. There was no pain, apart from the heartburn which was trying to burn a hole in her chest; and when she checked her pulse it was dancing all over the place, seeming to stop altogether for long moments as she frantically tried to hold herself together.
This can’t be happening now, she thought. Was she finally going to die or was this just another one of its games? She didn’t care anymore, she just wanted to stop thinking and feeling. Just stop.
The voice was busy telling her that she needed help, but Kate didn’t want to listen. Please just go away and leave me alone. She didn’t need any insidious remarks tonight.
As she sat there, trying to decide what to do, Dylan, her silver tabby walked into the kitchen and wrapped himself around her ankles.
‘Hello boy, where have you been?’ She hadn’t heard the cat flap so he must have been asleep on her bed. He nuzzled her hand and stared up at her as if he worried about her. She loved him dearly but other things were on her mind just then. ‘I am okay, go back to sleep.’
She was probably right, this was nothing new. She had been having these ‘turns’ for a while now and they always stopped before. As she sat there, she began to realise that this time something was wrong. She was sweating and sleepy, and a strange thing was happening to the indigestion. Instead of the annoying pain of heartburn, it was turning into a clamping grip of iron that threatened to get worse. It was time; it seemed, to call an ambulance…