"Y'know when something happens and you just freeze, right? Well, I yelled out to my brother and sister. They weren't sure at first. Didn't know what I was saying but they climbed onto the bed to look. My brother was quite tall, so he was kneeling and peering over the windowsill."
"They all saw him?"
"Yeah. Yeah, they all saw him. I'm trying to remember if my sister waved at him. Not sure, she might have done…"
Confused slightly, Lawson scratches his forehead. "Okay, so?"
"We just watched him for a bit, standing in the rain, like he was waiting at a bus stop, y'know? He just kept looking up at us and we were looking at him. Then I remember some shouting from downstairs and we all turned away for a brief second, staring at the bedroom door. When we turned back, he was gone."
"Gone. I mean, he wasn't anywhere. And we could see a reasonable distance up and down the street. We had the upstairs bedroom at the front of the house."
"Maybe you just didn't catch him moving away?"
Mitchell shakes his head, his own instinct revealing itself. "Maybe. I mean, we were kids."
Lawson raises his eyebrows briefly. "So…?"
"We didn't think much more about it. I think we all decided he just ran away. Comical really, but it seemed right at the time. I mean, I was small, I thought it was okay that he just disappeared but my brother, he just kept saying to both of us that he must have run away."
"And that was it?"
Published September 2023, The Book of Orphans is a collection of eleven new stories written across 2022.
They share common brushstrokes: the supernatural, the strange, the grotesque, the paranoid - each delicately splashed with shots of dark humour. Unsettling stories for older children and up.
Pleading. Fists clenched, bouncing across the same section of dull glass door. As they land, colour smears and drags across the surface, clouds of yellow, red, green, blue, appearing and disappearing.
Over and over. Hammering, banging, screaming. Pressing forward against the cold material, colours smearing my face, my skin. There must be someone there. Open. Please.
A nurse eventually appears from a corridor to the side, walking across the reception area towards the main door. She smooths out her long white uniform as she approaches, adjusting a small flat hat sitting on tied back hair. As she nears the door, two thin disposable gauntlets roll down from hand to elbow.
Her head shaking slightly at my impatience, gesturing to calm down, twisting three heavy locks from top to bottom. The glass door slides halfway open, right to left.
"What are you doing here? Everyone should be watching the parade."
"Help me, please. Look!" I point towards the clouds of colour sprayed across the glass.
The nurse takes a deep breath, composing herself. "Okay, I need you to calm down please. What is the problem?" I shoot a glance sideways, noticing the dull cloudy colours sprawling in semi-circular swipes across the glass, already fading. I look down at my boots, my coat, my hands, each scrap of skin and garment suddenly bare. I touch my face. No colours. No powder. Just sweat, grime.
I glance at her. "Even if I told you, you won't believe me."
My debut dreamtime novel, The Last Days of Swan Street, follows later in 2023.
A paranoid fantasy set in a different time. It recounts the final days of the painter Solomon Frank. Grappling with a sudden death trip of addiction, disease and the loss of his own sanity in some future dystopian world.
The novel can be read by older children upwards.
From 'The Last Days of Swan Street', #3.