Speculative Fiction—an all-encompassing genre created to describe stories of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and other stories that have an element of “What if...” in them. A story in speculative fiction is one that adds an element of the unreal, or asks, what would become of our society if history took a different direction at some important event? Fiction with a little something extra thrown in.—William D. Richards
Carus is only fifteen but since
their mum disappeared, looking after her little sister Mitch is her job.
There’s nobody else. Not in their house and not outside, either. There’s
something out there, scratching and scraping at the windows.
The barricades will hold.
They have to.
Carus & Mitch is a novella with elements of
post-apocalyptic fiction, psychological horror and urban fantasy.
Fifteen-year-old Carus’s knowledge of the dangers of the outside world is
limited, so readers will need to piece together the mystery from her fragmented
awake and upright and clutching the blankets. A name echoes from my dream.
I shout my sister’s name when I was asleep? I glance at her bed. The blankets
are thrown back. It’s empty.
stand up and pull my own blanket around me against the cold. Underneath, I’m
still dressed from yesterday.
My voice is cracked and dry.
burst out of the bedroom and stumble down the stairs. The bare wood creaks and
splinters snag against my socks. The blanket trails behind me like a cape.
icily cold downstairs. The kitchen is empty and the dishes are laid out from
yesterday, licked clean of crumbs.
This isn’t funny! Come here!” In a quieter voice I add, “Please.”
glows through the streaks on the kitchen window. I remember my dream. Sunbeams
dipping into water like loose coils of rope. The only noises I hear are the
whistling of the wind and low murmurs from beyond the library.
won’t do for Mitch to see me upset, when I find her. I’m her big sister, so it
stands to reason that I have to be the brave one. I pat the plaits in my hair.
Neat enough. I push at the heavy door to the dining room.
usual hubbub greets me. The smell of droppings makes my stomach heave. The
floor is a carpet of shifting grey and orange, lit only by the sunlight coming
through the door. Chickens cover every surface and fill the upturned packing
crates we use as nesting boxes. A few birds shuffle around my feet, making
exploratory pecks at my toes through my thick socks. One of the cockerels
watches from a vantage point on top of a crate.
long trough filled with straw is set in the centre of the table. There’s a
collection of freshly-laid eggs nestled in the straw. On each egg is a letter
drawn with felt-tipped pen. They spell out the message, HAPPY 15 BIRD DAY
turn. Mitch stands partially hidden behind the door.
wasn’t me. It was the chickens,” she says, bouncing up and down. “Happy
birthday, Carus! I mean bird day.”
totally forgotten my birthday but Mitch is particular about keeping track of
the date. I manage a grin and pull my little sister into an embrace. Often,
lately, I’ve found myself surprised by her height. Surely she’s taller than
most seven-year-olds? That is, if there were any others to compare her to. One
of these days she will look just like me, a gawky, stringy teen. What will I
look like, by then?
chickens bustle around her feet as she leans over the feeding trough to a crate
tucked away at the back. It’s the only one we don’t remove eggs from for
try to peer into the crate too. “Anything?”
turns with a disconsolate look on her face. “The mum chickens are just sitting
there. I can’t even see the eggs.”
that means it’s all working just right.”
look sleepy. What if they’ve forgotten what to do?”
worry. They never forget. Mums just look after their kids without even thinking
about it. They couldn’t stop it if they tried.”
an awkward silence and I can’t think how to fill it. Mitch pulls away from the
incubation crate and hugs herself with both arms. I’ve seen her do that several
times recently and I’m not sure I know what it means. I slip my own arms around
her chest from behind and we stand like that for a bit, like interlocked
statues surrounded by the chickens.
speak quietly because my mouth is right by her ear. “It’s okay. It’s all going
to be okay.”
doesn’t say anything. Her breathing is like the swell of the wind.
stop myself from saying anything about the marked eggs. The letters will have
to be scrubbed off again before I can let them leave the house.
Major lives in Oxford in the UK with his wife and son. His love of speculative
fiction is the product of a childhood diet of classic Doctor Who episodes and
an early encounter with Triffids. Tim’s short stories have featured in Interzone and the Infinite Science Fiction anthology, among others.