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“Hi, it’s Clare Carlin speaking. I’m going to read an extract from my fiction manuscript Excursions.
Tucked inside sleeping bags and finally warm, Tom and Emily watched as Tim, their oldest cousin, wrapped himself in a rug. Their younger cousins, sitting behind Tim, smirked as he drew out a torch.
“You know what happens on the farm at night,” he said, shining the bright light at each of them in turn.
“Something stupid,” said Emily, shoving Tom away.
“So you don’t know,” said Tim.
“No”, said Tom quickly, blinded by the torch’s beam, desperate to end the suspense.
“On the farm at night,” Tim began, “particularly when there’s a full moon…”
Blinking away the dazzle from the torch, Tom could see the moon through the roof of the tent, its perfect radiant circle mimicking the round glow of light now pointed at his chest.
“…especially when it’s really cold…,” Tim went on, “all the bones get up and dance. You’ve seen them, haven’t you, lying around? Sheep skulls? They rise up and find the rest of their bodies, and they dance. If you looked out of the tent now you might see them on the hill.”
Tim paused in his story, crawling into his sleeping bag.
“But don’t let them see you,” he said, the warning punctuated by the snap of the torch being turned off.
“Bullshit,” said Emily’s voice through the semi-darkness.
“Not bullshit,” the younger cousins replied in unison. “Don’t go outside until dawn.”
Tom peered at Emily, trying to make out her expression. He looked at the translucent fabric of the tent. It seemed to be getting brighter outside, whiter and softer as the moon rose. He got as deep as possible into his sleeping bag, felt his sister wriggling next to him, pushing him away with her feet.
Everything was still when he heard it, a scratch, a rattle, something shaky. Cold blood flooded his heart.
Dancing… The word had always meant celebration and fun, now it meant something twisted: jerky, grotesque movements, skeletons desperate to be complete, some unnatural force driving them to seek out their missing parts. Now only ghouls danced.
There was no sense of a night-time farm at ease, the smell of the earth, warm hair softness of working dogs sleeping.
Branches creaked and unseen creatures hunted.
He heard Tim whispering to his brothers.
“I hope they don’t get too close.”
ABOUT CLARE CARLIN:
“I am a writer and journalist. My fiction manuscript, Excursions, won the 2008 Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Jim Hamilton Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the 2006 Express Media National Mentorship Competition (novel). I have had my short fiction published in 21D Magazine, and journalism published in magazines and newspapers. I am an alumna of Varuna, the Writers’ House, and La Muse writers’ and artists’ retreat. I co-judged the 2009 and 2010 FAW Jim Hamilton Awards. I am currently working on my second novel, and blog at www.piecedwork.com
I was resident at Varuna in September 2001, selected for a Development Mentorship programme for new writers, with Charlotte Wood.” Clare Carlin
A Scratch, a Rattle. Published in 21D Magazine, December 2010.
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