Novel #23

Well, while we await the success or otherwise of Relick, let’s continue our journey through the rejections.

 

Next came a novella called Valentine’s Day, which is a thriller about a girl exacting revenge on those who had wronged her in love, while being tracked by her best friend whom she secretly loves, but who starts an affair with his female room-mate. It is a different tone of writing for me, it’s just too short at 26000 words to go anywhere. Having said that, I entered it in a first-time novelist’s competition (minimum word count – 25000 words) and came in second. So there must be something there.

 

So now we come to Patch Of Green, at a little over 60000 words. Day Of The Triffids meets Cujo, essentially. Horror, sure, but there’s more emotion in the tale than I usually do, with the characters and their interactions central to the predicament they find themselves in. Basically, a family inherits a farm which is formed around a meteor crater, and is hence protected by Australian heritage listing. But at the base is a patch of greenery – trees, shrubbery, grass, etc – that is not all it seems. I think the tension in the house at the end is not quite amped up enough, especially as people die, but still in all, it’s not a bad effort. Having said that, it has been rejected twice, but after the second rejection (which was positive), it has been sent out into the ether once more.

 

Excerpt

 

Jessica stood in the middle of the bare foundations of the old Flintoff house, watching her father and brother toss the remains of maybe half a dozen animals into the back of a borrowed ute. Only the promise of getting away with not cleaning the worst of the inside of the house had convinced her younger brother to help their father in this unpleasant task. And yet they were only scouring the edges of the thicket, and still seemed to be finding more and more carcasses.

She was not sure if that was normal or not, but it was making her feel very uncomfortable. She could not even bring herself to go inside the house while they were removing the dead animals, leaving her mother to clean by herself.

And, as usual, her mother had simply accepted that as she accepted everything else. Sometimes she wished her mother would just explode and let all her true feelings out… but, then again, Jessica wasn’t exactly known for that, was she? She had not even been able to tell her parents something that was so important to her that…

No, that was thinking about things she was better off not thinking about.

She turned away as the two men dumped something large on top of everything else they had already gathered. Her stomach churned at the thought. Instead she looked at the remains of the building that surrounded her like a stone cage, keeping her safe from the outside world.

It was made of the same stone as the hundred year old churches she had seen in the Barossa Valley when she her grandparents had taken her for a holiday not long after Diane’s death. It was a holiday she always remembered because she had been so sad and yet everything had looked so beautiful. Her grandparents told her much later on that she had cried the whole time. And yet she remembered it as a happy time.

Ever since then she had always stopped to look at old churches.

And thinking about that right now was enough to keep her from thinking about what was going on behind her. So many dead animals…

Death everywhere.

She shook her head and wandered across to the old chimney. She noticed a marked lack of rubble; this place had been pulled apart, not just allowed to fall into ruin. She looked around but could not see where the brick had been taken; the house of her dead great-uncle was made of wood, not this old stone, and his shed was made of corrugated iron. The foundations, maybe? But even that stone did not seem to match what was left up here. She wondered where it had all gone, then shrugged and decided that after all this time her old uncle may have sold it to some-one or used it in some structure buried beneath the green patch that dominated the base of the crater.

What was left of the chimney, though, seemed almost pristine. Unlike the house down below, this one did have a few spider webs crisscrossing its brick work, but not many. She found herself marvelling at the lack of bug-life. Nothing about this place seemed to fit into what she would have thought of as normal for this sort of area. Even the flies seemed to be less than back in Adelaide. Nothing fit into her mental image of Outback Australia.

She gazed up at the sun, shielding her eyes as she did so, then brushed her long hair back off her face, tucking it under the cap she wore. It was hot; she should really go down to the house to keep cool, out of this blistering heat, but she still could not bring herself to even approach the place while they were still carrying bodies out of the green patch. How pathetic, she chastised herself, but stopped that straight away. That was the thinking that led nowhere good.

She looked out across the small holding they had inherited. It was only a few paces between this building and the brick wall that separated it from the rest of the farm land. She knew it was five hundred metres by five hundred metres, a perfect square as taken by the government way back when. But where the land beyond, while dusty and dirty, held some evidence of crops, the only plants that seemed to be growing at all in this area were down in the depression behind her. As though it was sucking the moisture and life from every other living thing in the area.

And that was why the clump of dried grass by the brick wall stood out.

Without a second thought she made her way across to it.

The grass was only a few inches high, dried and withered, barely clinging to the last vestiges of life. Not a trace of green could be seen, even at the base of the shoots. Brown, yellow and even patched with black. But it was such a distinct patch, almost as though it had a predetermined, defined shape…

She took a step backwards and stared over the top of her sunglasses.

It did have a shape. Indiscernible in the bulbous centre, but the long protrusion at one end beside a second shorter one and at the other end an even shorter, almost knobbly piece. White and grey stones stood out amongst the dying foliage, almost giving it more body and depth.

She jumped a little as it dawned on her, then laughed and nodded to herself. A kangaroo. This grass had somehow grown into the shape of a kangaroo.

She froze and looked again.

Those white stones… they weren’t…

No way. They couldn’t be. How could a kangaroo turn into grass? That was crazy. She shook her head and turned back to the house. She was seeing animals in everything now, she told herself. The tooting of the horn of the ute as it made its way past her towards the entrance gate distracted her attention. She smiled in relief and waved at her father and brooding brother as they headed off with their unpleasant cargo, then almost jogged back down the side of the depression to help her mother in the house.

And behind her, glinting in the sun where they were not hidden by dying grasses, the bleached bones of a long dead kangaroo, almost crying out for help, as they had when the beast had fallen…

And the grass that covered them seemed to reach out for the woman walking away… and for the more fertile ground below. Trying desperately to return to…

To life

 

Rejection total: 99 + 2 = 101 (yes, 100+ novel rejection, with more to come! woo-hoo!)

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