Monday, February 23, 2015

Carus & Mitch by Tim Major

Carus & Mitch by Tim Major

Release date: February 23, 2015

Subgenre: Dystopian

About Carus & Mitch

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 memories.


I’m awake and upright and clutching the blankets. A name echoes from my dream.
Did I shout my sister’s name when I was asleep? I glance at her bed. The blankets are thrown back. It’s empty.
I stand up and pull my own blanket around me against the cold. Underneath, I’m still dressed from yesterday.
“Mitch!” My voice is cracked and dry.
I 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.
It’s icily cold downstairs. The kitchen is empty and the dishes are laid out from yesterday, licked clean of crumbs.
“Mitch! This isn’t funny! Come here!” In a quieter voice I add, “Please.”
Sunlight 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.
It 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.
The 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.
A 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 CARUS.
I turn. Mitch stands partially hidden behind the door.
“It wasn’t me. It was the chickens,” she says, bouncing up and down. “Happy birthday, Carus! I mean bird day.”
I’d 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?
“Thanks, Mitch.”
The 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 trading.
I try to peer into the crate too. “Anything?”
She turns with a disconsolate look on her face. “The mum chickens are just sitting there. I can’t even see the eggs.”
“Well, that means it’s all working just right.”
“They look sleepy. What if they’ve forgotten what to do?”
“Don’t worry. They never forget. Mums just look after their kids without even thinking about it. They couldn’t stop it if they tried.”
There’s 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.
I speak quietly because my mouth is right by her ear. “It’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.”
She doesn’t say anything. Her breathing is like the swell of the wind.
I 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.

About Tim Major:

Tim 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.

Contact Tim via Twitter @onasteamer, his Goodreads author profile or his blog, Cosy Catastrophes.

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