A horror story that will keep you wondering until the last page - who is telling the truth?
Alice is in deep trouble.
The police have found her covered in blood and surrounded by corpses. The dazed teenager explains that she had befriended an angel to help her escape her tiny Yorkshire village that is situated over a gate to hell.
Why? Because the Harvest was coming and the love of her life was up for selection.
“There is blood everywhere, on the walls, on the tables; I’m not sure what I just stood in, but it’s slippery.
Johnny! I scream, to be heard over the racket from outside, but there’s no answer and I can’t see him in the dim light. There’s a wet thump against the outer wall, though I daren’t look out of the windows. If I do, I might never be able to look away.
The shrieking outside is like nothing I’ve ever heard, and I freeze. Clenching my hands to stop their trembling, I peer into the gloom. Soft red light from some torches show me nothing but a puppet-show of shadows fighting outside. I recognise some of the locals: Mr Higgins, the Croft twins, their shapes easy to pick out as they struggle against the imps.
There seem to be more of them now. Where are they coming from? I remember calling to Lyle – not even an hour ago, however much it feels like days – but why are these imps attacking, why–”
“Thank you, Miss Murphy,” Detective Inspector Mehta interrupts me mid-flow. “When you say ‘imps’, what do you mean?”
I’m surprised back into the present, confused for a moment at how real my memories had felt. But instead of being trapped in the village, surrounded by fighting, I’m safe in a small, windowless room that smells of dust and paperwork. Sitting opposite me at the same small table is Detective Inspector Mehta.
I stare at the woman who just interrupted me. No smart police uniform for her; she’s dressed more like a Cosmo shoot for a New York businesswoman. Snappy woollen coat, linen trousers and an empty expression stamped on her face.
Looking away from this stranger, someone more familiar catches my eye. Brian Hall, my welfare contact since my mother disappeared when I was six. Sensible, earnest, and utterly boring, he’s peering at me over his thick glasses, a smile mostly hidden behind his thick beard.
“Honestly, Brian,” I say, swiping at the wetness on my cheeks. “I’m trying to explain but I can’t do it unless I tell the whole truth. If Constable Mehta–”
“That’s Detective Inspector,” DI Mehta interrupts again, this time stopping the tape recorder.
Slumping back into my chair, I try to stop my lower lip trembling as I stare at the table.
“I’m sorry, Detective Inspector. It’s been a hard day…” I clasp my blood-stained hands together at the edge of the plastic table and sniff to hold back any more tears.
“It’s quite all right, Alice,” Brian reaches across the table to pat my hand. “You’re doing well. DI Mehta, I’ve known Alice and her, ah, background, for some years now. Perhaps if she gave you a bit more info, this might begin to make more sense?”
I blink away the tears and look gratefully at Brian, nodding in agreement. “I can do that. I can start from the beginning…tell you what I know.”
“Walk me through it.” DI Mehta leans towards me, her elbows sliding forward on the hard plastic tabletop. “Step by step, day by day. Help me to understand.” She waves her hand, one sweep encompassing the blood on my clothes, the photos of bloodied bodies that lie scattered on the table, and I nod again. The DI clicks the tape recorder back on and settles back in her plastic chair.
“Here’s the thing; because everyone else in my village lies and cheats without even blinking, I value truth above all things. You can trust me…all of this will make sense if you let me explain what happened. I mean, I try not to judge people, but when your father lets you down and the village Elders refuse to help – what else could I do? Okay,” I sniff and swipe at the tears on my cheeks with the back of my hand, “then I’ll walk you through the whole thing, day by day – just like you asked. We all knew someone was going to die today. The funny thing is, I thought it was going to be me.”