Six months ago I published a story as part of the Rainbow Advent Calendar. It’s a story set in winter, but it has references to spring and summer. Basically, it’s a fairy tale, with everything you’d associate with a fairy tail: magic, mysterious strangers, daring rescues and of course, a happy ending. It also has something to say about the balance of our world and the equilibrium we have to keep in order for everything to work as it should. When that balance, or equilibrium is disturbed, for whatever reason, the consequences can be disastrous.
On the lead up to Euro Pride Con in Amsterdam at the end of June, I decided to put this story out on Amazon with the hope of getting some print versions to take with me. This may or may not happen, but at least it’s a bit more available now. The links are below but first here’s an excerpt and of course, the blurb and a look at the beautiful cover designed by Roe Horvat.
Liam bid Father Jacob goodnight and left the vicarage to make his way home, cursing that he’d stayed so long, and had drank rather too much mulled wine.
As he stepped onto the track that took him back to his cottage, he felt his heartbeat quicken just a little, in anticipation of seeing the fox again, and in anxiety over what Father Jacob had told him.
Could the fox’s appearance be foretelling some unfortunate event? He hoped not. He wanted to see the fox again, but hoped whatever it was up to, that fortune telling wasn’t part of its plan.
He’d quickened his pace, wanting to get home, out of the cold, biting wind, but when he reached the darkest part of the track, where the trees formed their tunnel, he slowed down. It wouldn’t do to slip on the ice that had formed there. He’d managed to avoid slipping on the way down that morning, but that had been in daylight when he hadn’t had three mugs of mulled wine. Now all he had was a torch and a slightly fuzzy head.
Liam hadn’t realised just how oppressive this tunnel of trees was, and just how intimidating it could be until now, when his imagination was running away with him. Father Jacob’s stories did not help and he felt his heart pounding as he made his way beneath the dark branches.
The air had stilled as he’d entered the natural tunnel and every noise was enhanced and made more sinister by the dark silence. He felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck and an unpleasant shiver ran down his back.
For a moment he hesitated and considered turning and running back the way he’d come, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything. He might be made welcome for dinner in at least a dozen homes in the village, but he would still, at some point tonight, have to negotiate this dark track alone in order to get home. Better to do it now and get it over with.
With a determined roll of his shoulders he shone his torch straight ahead and began to walk. The torch beam caught movement at the far end of the tunnel and Liam gasped. Sitting in the middle of the track, bathed in moonlight, was the white fox. Liam froze, his breath making opaque clouds in the torch beam. The white fox made no attempt to move. It simply sat on its haunches and waited.
Was it waiting for Liam?
That was a ridiculous thought. Why would a wild creature wait for him on a country track? Father Jacob’s anxious warnings filled his head. No matter how hard he tried he could not get out of his mind the thought that this fox was here to warn him. Of what, though? “An accident, a bout of extreme weather, a loss”. He gave a shudder, feeling the hairs rise on the back of his neck.
“Dammit,” Liam grumbled discontentedly. “Damn foxes and Father Jacob’s spooky tales have got me half scared to death.”
Somewhere behind him a twig snapped. He whirled around in fright, his heart pounding in his ears. Adrenaline fed his fight or flight reflex, making simple shadows look like dark, menacing horrors. He took a deep breath and calmed down. Liam was angry with himself. He’d walked this track in the dark many times before and never felt scared in the slightest. He listened to one supernatural tale from Father Jacob and he was quivering in his boots. Stupid!
And now the fox was gone, dammit. Probably scared off by Liam’s startled movements.
Grumbling to himself, he took a step forward and his boot slid on the surface of a solidly frozen puddle. Liam’s feet flew from beneath him and he fell backwards, his head hitting the ground with a resounding and sickening crack.
Liam’s vision blurred and blacked out and he saw stars. His ears rang and his entire body shuddered with shock and emerging pain. For longer than a moment he lay very still, unable to gauge just how badly he’d hit his head. The sickening crack still resounded in his ears and would probably haunt his nightmares as would the realisation that he had surely hurt himself quite badly.
Could this be the accident the fox had been predicting? If Father Jacob was to be believed, that is?
Liam considered his options, because staying where he was not one of them. No one used this track at night time except him. It was entirely likely no one would use it tomorrow during the day either. He’d freeze to death long before anyone found him. He couldn’t use his phone to call anyone, because there was no mobile signal. It was a notorious signal black spot all along this track and well past his cottage. He had a landline for that very reason. Not that a land line would do him any good if he didn’t start moving. Shouting for help wouldn’t do him any good either, there was no one nearby to hear him. He was going to have to move. He had to get to his cottage, even if he had to drag himself there on his hands and knees.
Bracing himself for pain and dizziness, Liam tried to sit. The pain that erupted in his head, followed by the nausea was enough to make him regret moving at all. He was beginning to think that freezing to death was perhaps a better option after all as he lay, sprawled on his back on the cold, hard ground.
He gingerly felt the back of his head and grimaced when his hand came away wet and sticky. He couldn’t see the colour, but he could see the dark stain on his fingertips and smell the slight tang of blood. He’d probably need stitches.
Once more he attempted to move. The ground tilted alarmingly and dizziness, followed by more nausea, forced him to lie back down, this time curled up on his side, just in case he did actually vomit, which was now a real possibility.
Finally he managed to force himself into a sitting position, with his head between his knees until another wave of nausea passed. He then attempted to get to his feet.
His legs felt weak and his head pounded. Dizziness threatened to topple him again and in desperation he reached out for something solid to hold onto, hoping he’d find a fence post, or a tree trunk. Instead he found an arm.
“Woah, there, big feller.” A cheerful, lilting male voice called, as a hand grabbed his and held it fast. The other arm snaked around Liam’s waist to stop him from falling. “I got you, don’t worry. Of course, I can’t guarantee we won’t go arse over tit anyway. I’m only just getting used to these legs myself.”
“W-what?” Liam asked in confusion, trying to focus on his rescuer.
“Legs.” The voice by his side repeated. “And feet, really? How do you cope with just two?”
“I-I don’t…..” Liam put a shaky hand to his head. It hurt when he spoke. He had no idea what the man was talking about, but because he had mentioned feet, and Liam didn’t feel confident enough to lift his head and look at the stranger’s face without vomiting, he looked down, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
For a moment his vision blurred and he saw only flashes of white before his eyes finally focused and he did indeed see feet.
“Oh my god.” He gasped weakly. “You’re not wearing any shoes.”
His head began to spin in earnest and he blacked out.
Tomorrow on my site I will be featuring Adam Only, the new release from Roe Horvat, who designed the cover for A Frosty Tail. Not only does he do kickass covers, he writes kickass books and Adam Only is a corker.
Meanwhile, anyone who wants to check out my other titles you can find all the info at Beaten Track Publishing