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by noddy 

Posted: 27 April 2003
Word Count: 1637
Summary: This is the first chapter of a novel that I have been writing for the last couple of years ! I would be grateful for some feedback...

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“He’s talking to them again.”
“What ?”
He’s talking to them again. At the bottom of the garden.”
Annette Adams stood by the patio doors in the kitchen and gazed down the path towards a small boy sitting cross-legged beneath a knarled old apple tree. It was a bright day in early summer and the grass was covered with white blossom and daisies. The boy was wearing a floppy green sun-hat and a pair of big aviator-style sunglasses. He was holding a book and apparently reading it aloud, shaking his head and gesturing with his hands as if trying to explain something.
“I don’t like it,” she said quietly.
Her husband wandered over from the oven where he was busy stirring a saucepan of steaming rice. He followed her eyes.
“What’s he reading ?” he asked.
“It’s the book we bought him for Christmas. He’s reading them Greek mythology.”
“Greek mythology ?”
She shook her head slowly. “I’m worried about him, Liam. I don’t like him spending all of his time alone. He should be playing with other five year olds, not sitting at the end of the garden talking to himself.”
“Lots of kids have imaginary friends. It’s not unusual.”
“I know. I know. But it’s not just ‘imaginary friends’, is it ?” She paused and turned to look at him. “It’s all of the other things. He was up half the night again. You didn’t see the state he was in. He was terrified. It was the same dream again; the same dream that he keeps on having… you know, the one where the monsters chase him. Sometimes when he wakes up he doesn’t even seem know where he is. He looks at me as if… as if…” She paused. “Sometimes it seems as if he doesn’t even recognise me.”
Her husband continued stirring the rice. “All kids have nightmares. It’s probably just a stage he’s going through. You worry far too much, Annie.”
“It’s not just a stage. He’s not like other children… you know that, Liam. We have to be careful. He shouldn’t even be out there in the sun. The doctor told us to keep an eye on him.”
“Yes, but he also told us not to make a big thing out of it.”
She turned back to the garden. “Maybe it’s school. Maybe some of the other children are teasing him. I never see him playing with anyone when I drop him off and he never talks about any friends. I think we should go and see Mr. Williams again.”
“Not all kids are the same, sweetheart. I spent a lot of time by myself when I was a child. Some kids prefer their own company.”
“Don’t patronize me, Liam, and stop trying to play it down. This is serious !”
Her tone was sharper than she had intended it to be. She saw her husband turn away quickly.
“I was being serious,” he said quietly.
There was silence for a moment, then she stepped over and touched his arm gently. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m just tired. Look, perhaps we should go and see somebody about it.”
“Like who ?” His tone was defensive. “You’re not taking him to a psychiatrist. There’s nothing wrong with the boy.”
“I didn’t say psychiatrist. I just thought that perhaps we could mention it to the doctor. Perhaps there’s something else that they can do to help him.”
“You can mention it if you want to, but as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with him. We just have to treat him like a normal child.”
She turned back to the doors and pushed them open, watching as the steam from the room swirled outside into the fresh spring air.
“Danny !” she called. “Dinner’s ready !”
The boy looked up and waved. He closed his book and lurched to his feet, then stood for a moment, apparently saying his goodbyes, before running down the path towards her.
“Is it chips ?” he asked as he drew close.
She smiled and leant down, adjusting his hat so that it completely shaded his pale little face. A strand of white hair fell across his eyes and she moved his sunglasses slightly to brush it away. He glanced up at her through wide, slate-grey eyes, a look that melted her heart. “Not today, darling. Now why don’t you go and get washed before we eat.” She paused as she noticed a bright red mark on his temple just above his right eye. “What have you done to your head, sweetheart ?”
He briefly touched the mark, then brought his hand down, wiping his nose across the back of his hand. “They did it,” he said matter-of-factly.
She stared at him. “Who did it, sweetheart ?”
Her son looked past her into the kitchen. “Can I have pink ice cream for afters again ?”
“Yes, darling. If you eat up all of your firsts.” She paused. “Who were you talking to, Danny ?”
He looked up at her quizzically. “To them.”
“To who, darling ?”
“You know.” He looked distractedly over to where his father stood. “What’s daddy cooking ?”
She knelt down and fixed him with her stare. “Danny. Look at me. Who were you talking to ?”
He shook his head, his attention still on his father dishing up the dinner. “I don’t know who they are.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, then looked up with a broad smile. “They gave me a present and it’s not even my birthday.” He pulled one hand out of his pocket and opened it to reveal a small, white stone. “They said it was magic,” he said, still beaming.
She reached across for the stone but he withdrew his hand immediately. “It’s only for me,” he said. “It’s my present. Nobody else can have it. It’s magic.”
Annette stood up. “OK, darling.” She looked across at Liam and saw him raise his eyebrows. “Now you take your stone and go and get washed up ready for dinner.”
He smiled and skipped through the patio doors into the kitchen. Then he paused and turned around as if he had remembered something. “They’re fed up with hiding. They don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair either.”
“Who ? Who doesn’t think it’s fair, Danny ? Who were you talking to, love ?”
“You know. To them.” He pointed down the garden. “They have to live in the woods, but they’re really fed up with it now. They're going to come out soon… when it’s time for them.”
Annette followed his gaze, staring at the empty garden as if something might materialize before her eyes.
“Who are they, sweetheart ? Who lives in the woods ?”
“You know.” He stared across at her, his expression suddenly serious. “You’ve seen them. They know you.”
She shivered involuntarily. “Do they ?” She paused. “Why don’t you take me to them, darling ?”
He took hold of her hand and led her back out of the house, past the shed and down the pebbled path towards the apple tree.
Her heart was beginning to pound; she couldn’t explain why, but she felt a strong urge to run back to the house, away from wherever her son was taking her.
Away from them.
As they reached the tree, she began to feel her chest tighten and her breathing quicken. There was a strong scent of rosewood in the air which made her throat feel dry and her eyes sting.
“Where are they, darling ?” she asked, trying to sound calm.
He looked surprised. “They’re here.”
“OK,” she said. She looked around her.
Daniel suddenly frowned, his whole face screwing up. He turned at a slight angle and spoke to the air beside her. “No, I’m not,” he said, then, after a moment, “She won’t believe me.”
Annette could feel the sweat trickling down the side of her body. She reached out and took hold of Daniel’s hand.
“There’s nobody here, sweetheart,” she said quietly.
“Yes there is,” Daniel replied adamantly. “They’re all around us.”
The air was still; the world was silent.
She squeezed his hand. “Come on now, let’s go back in. Your dinner will be cold.”
“No.” He pulled back, then looked away from her again and spoke in a different tone, as if irritated. “Yes, OK. I was now going to tell her.”
Her spine was tingling and her skin felt as though it was tightening all over her body. She wanted to run back down to the house, to slide the door shut and hide behind her husband, to be away from this place. Her fear was intense, unexplainable, unreasonable.
“Come on, darling,” she said, pulling his arm.
“No,” he said loudly, his tone frustrated. “They want me to tell you something.”
She looked down at him and was surprised by his expression. He had taken his sunglasses off and his grey eyes looked cold and empty. His pale, pigment-less skin looked even lighter than usual.
Like a corpse.
She shuddered. “You can tell me back in the house,” she said, unable to control her voice any longer. “Now put your glasses back on.”
“They keep saying that I’m one of them,” he said suddenly. “They keep saying that you’re not my real Mummy.”
She stared around her, terror filling her body, tears filling her eyes, the memory of a rainy October night five years ago and a screaming baby returning to her mind.
“They’re fibbing, aren’t they ? Tell them it’s not true, Mummy.”
Unable to control herself any longer, she reached down and picked him up, then ran, the boy dangling under her arm, back up the path to the house.
Away from them.
Away from the memories.

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Comments by other Members

Shadowgirl at 11:40 on 27 April 2003  Report this post
Great opening dialogue and great name - Annette Adams, lovely!
It was so easy to read too - it flowed so beautifully.
I read this with shivers running up and down my spine. "Don't send him to the psychiatrist," I said out loud to myself (have you read my Ed Psych piece by the way?). This has truly captured me and I want to know more. I think great things lie ahead, a really excellent start. Thank you for posting this and please post more.

roger at 13:19 on 27 April 2003  Report this post
Hi Noddy, I really liked this...(very)well written and leading somewhere interesting. I especially liked the section where Daniel was being evasive. I'd have just said, 'Daniel was evasive', but you said it without saying it, if you know what I mean (don't worry if you don't, nobody does) and that's one of the marks of 'proper writing'. Excellent.

Anna Reynolds at 13:49 on 27 April 2003  Report this post
Really flows as a piece of writing. I like the fact that you haven't overdone the spooky-little-kid stuff, he's not turning into that child from Sixth sense ('I see dead people') but is echoing something that rings too deep a bell for his mother. Nice lightness of touch about this. I would like to see more- why don't you join the Fiction Group?

noddy at 16:28 on 27 April 2003  Report this post
Many thanks for your kind words... a real confidence booster ! I have been worried about possible comparisons between this chapter and the Sixth Sense movie and was considering a re-write. Trouble is, it really sets the scene for the rest of the novel so I don't want to change it too much. Anyway, enough of my rambling. Many thanks again for your comments and will certainly sign up with the Fiction Group (the Ed Psych piece is spot-on, by the way, Shadowgirl.)

llydstp at 10:57 on 30 April 2003  Report this post
I like the way that nothing is resolved at the end. The reader is left wondering what on earth this is all about, and the reader's imagination runs riot. The great beauty of this is that it leaves the reader wanting more - obviously one of the great tricks of good writing.

Just one small point: I think you mean gnarled not "knarled."

Best wishes


Glimity at 16:08 on 05 May 2003  Report this post
Hi Noddy

Excellent beginning to your novel. This is one that I would definitely buy if I saw it on sale.

Having read your comment about being similar to 'Sixth Sense', you can rest assured that the only similarity as far as I'm concerned is the fact that they both have a young boy. But then, so many other movies and books contain young boys - so no, yours is completely different.

If your writing continues in the same way as above, I think you'll have a wonderful novel that is very easy to read and should appeal to a wide audience.

The part that especially drew shivers down my spine (and there were quite a few), is when Danny said to his mum "..they know you."

This is an eery read, full of suspense which kept me hooked.

Good luck with completing it.


Nell at 21:25 on 27 June 2003  Report this post

I'm coming to this rather late, having just read the latest chapter first, and realising that I'd really like to start at the beginning.

It's an excellent opening, hooking the reader and making him/her want more, and I'm pleased to have discovered it at a point where I can carry on without waiting.

The understatement heightens the eerie effect - menace underlies the normality of the surroundings, and becomes more frightening by the contrast.

Excellent and convincing dialogue too.

Now I'm off to read the next bit.

Best, Nell.

Mika Smith at 14:35 on 02 July 2003  Report this post
Hello Noddy


Your profile is so self deprecating. I hope all this great feedback is sinking in.

Regards - off to find the next bit.

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