Scroll down to read the second chapter from my debut horror novel, FOR RYE. Grab yourself a copy by clicking the above image. I very much hope you'll join me for the nightmare...

Chapter 2

The house looks down at the girl.
     It’s like a scary face, maybe even scarier than Mr Farquharson’s when she hadn’t done her homework, or Mrs Crombie’s when she caught her snooping around her garden, or Father’s when he’s having an angry day. Come to think of it, maybe not scarier than Father’s. His could get SUPER scary.
     
But the house is like a scary face, that’s for sure. There’s loads of windows – not too many to count, but maybe too many to count on one hand. There’s two above the porch, glaring at the little girl like a pair of eyes. The front door is a mouth, ready to gobble her up.
     
Anyway, it’s definitely scary, and not the kind of surprise she was hoping for when Mother said Father was waiting in the car to take them somewhere. No ice cream, no penny chews, no trip to the funfair. They have popcorn at the funfair, that’s what she’s heard. Not that she knows much of that kind of thing, but the funfair would definitely be better than this big weird house. Besides, she might only be five-and-a-half, but she still hasn’t missed the fact everything’s been packed into cardboard boxes the past few weeks. She has a pretty good idea what’s happening, has done for a while. She just wishes they’d spill the beans instead of treating her like…well, a five-and-a-half-year-old.
     
SURPRISE!
     
Nope, that’s not what Father had said, maybe like you’d say to a five-and-a-half-year-old when you’re about to take her to the circus or the beach or the funfair with the popcorn.
     
Instead he’d just made that gruff snorting noise that always made her nervous but also snigger a little inside ‘cause that’s the noise donkeys make ‘cause she’d seen one in a field near school once and she even thought Father looked a bit like a big stern donkey sometimes but she wouldn’t say that to his face ‘cause she knew what happened when you said much of anything to his face ‘cause Mother sometimes did and one time the little girl had been hit by the netball at school and it really hurt and that’s probably what Father did to make the bruises appear on Mother’s face – a big fat netball right on the nose. Bop.
     
‘What do you think, love?’ asks Mother with that wide encouraging smile of hers. The girl marvels at the woman’s perfectly arranged hair. How does she get it so perfect? Mother squeezes her hand. The girl loves it when she squeezes her hand. ‘What a big house! Think of all the places to play!’
     
There’s a duck pond at the other house, the house called home, and she’s wondering if it’s coming with them. She’s too scared to ask so she just pops a big smile on her face and peers around, trying to find a good pond-spot for when it gets unpacked. She says a quick little prayer in her head, asking Jesus to make sure the pond is brought along.
     
Father seems more interested in the big glass crucifix that usually sits on the table where other kids might have a TV but where Father has a big glass crucifix. The boxes were thrown in the back of the car like Mr Chisolm throws the squishy mats back into storage after gym class, but that big glass crucifix, oh, it sat in Father’s lap the whole way here. That’s what he seemed to care about most on the drive. That, and the big creepy painting of the water and the sad faces. She was pretty disappointed to see that hadn’t been forgotten. If he was going to leave anything, it should’ve been that. Or the stupid bookcase he’d had moved in before they even got to see the place.
     
‘Looks lovely, Mother!’
     
Father sets down the big glass crucifix and fiddles with the front door, his hands twitching and quivering – always twitching and quivering. Soon, the house’s mouth is all wide open like a big old train tunnel. Steam trains go straight into those tunnels, they don’t even slow down! The girl always found that funny ‘cause she slows down whenever she goes through a door ‘cause of that time she went through one too fast and BAM, there was Mother crying and Father yelling and who wants to see that? Then again, steam trains probably don’t have mothers and fathers, so they don’t care.
     
Father’s red hair is all shiny in the sun. He stands next to the big old open mouth with the big glass crucifix next to him on the ground. He’s looking down at her, tapping a single finger against the side of his thigh, and he wants her to go in and the little girl wishes she had a steam train ‘cause right now she’s not feeling too cheery about walking into that big old mouth.
     
Trains are brave. Maybe she’ll be brave.
     
Maybe she’ll be a train.
     
So Mother squeezes the little steam train’s hand and off she goes, full steam ahead, ‘cause that’s the only direction big brave trains go.
     
Choo-choo!
     
Soon the little engine is puff-puff-puffing ahead and nope, Mother’s not even holding her hand any more ‘cause she’s chug-chug-chugging all on her own, heading straight for that big tunnel. Trains are brave. Trains aren’t afraid of some stupid old house.
     
The little train tears up the porch’s three steps ‘cause that’s what trains do. Well, they don’t really go up steps, but this is a special train. Three steps is nothing!
     
Except there’s a fourth.
     
The little engine clips her wheel and tumbles to the ground. She bashed her whistle on the step but that’s okay ‘cause the whole thing’s sort of funny anyway.
     
Oh, and she fell into the crucifix. It’s in a zillion pieces now.
     
That’s not so funny.
     
The gruff old donkey starts huffing and puffing and his jaw is sticking out further and further and his hands are quivering more and more and his face is turning red as a balloon and he scoops the trembling little train under one arm and off they go into that big old mouth and Mother’s shouting but Father slams the house’s mouth shut and it’s locked now so Mother stays outside and the little steam train’s on the floor and Father’s staring down at her and she doesn’t feel much like a brave little train no more. There he is, see? Standing over her, fists clenched.
     
‘New house, new rules,’ he says.
     
Gruff-gruff goes the donkey.
     
‘By the Holy Book, by the sacred plight of our Lord and Saviour, that woman shall give me a son. And YOU shall bring upon yourself the solemnity of the meek.’
     
Bang-bang goes the door.
     
‘Do you have any idea how long it took her to give me YOU?’
     
Waah-waah goes Mother.
     
‘Lower thy head.’ He presses her face into the rough wooden floorboards. ‘Lower thy spirit before God, child, and offer upon Him a change in will, a strengthening of service.’
     
Flutter-flutter goes a little moth, landing next to her face.
     
‘Change in will, strength of service. SAY IT.’
     
No more coal for this little engine.
     
‘Chay-chay-change in…Father, please! You’re hurting—’
     
‘CHANGE IN WILL, STRENGTH OF SERVICE.’
     
‘Change in…in will…’
     
‘STRENGTH. OF. SERVICE.’
     
‘Streh-streh…’ The girl chokes on the floorboards. ‘…strength of service.’
     
‘Yes.’ Her father lowers his face to hers, his red hair not so shiny out of the sun. ‘Humble thyself before His will, girl. This house shall be our salvation. Here, our family will grow. Once she finally fulfils her function, once she gives me my son, he shall grow into a man under this blessed roof.’
     
His eyes cut into her.
     
‘And YOU, my child…’
     
Like knives.
     
‘…shall learn your place amongst the meek.’
     
Why are they like knives?!
     
‘Now, get up. But forever keep your head to the ground. Find your place amongst the meek, girl, where you belong.’ He raises a twitching, quivering hand, its fingers slowly clenching.
     
‘Tell me you see, Renata.’
     
Choo-choo goes the fist.

Read chapter 3, or grab your copy NOW!

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