Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Apple-Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed

Release date: August 14, 2018
Subgenre: Ghost story

About The Apple-Tree Throne:

 

It is the turn of the century in an England that never was. Bright new aqua-plants are generating electricity for the streetlights; news can be easily had on the radio-viz; and in Gundisalvus' Land, the war is over and the soldiers are beginning to trickle home. Amongst these is Lt. Benjamin Braddock, survivor of the massacre that ended the war, and begrudgingly ready to return to a world that, well, doesn't seem to need him any more than it did in peacetime. His friends have homes and families to return to, while he's got nothing but his discharge papers and a couple of unwanted medals. Oh, and one new thing: the furious ghost of his commanding officer.

Fortunately, since the officer's family is so vehemently adamant that Braddock join their rich and carefree fold, he doesn't have much time to fret about being haunted. But the secrets of the war are about to catch up to them all.

 

Excerpt:

 

It's autumn, the time for ghost stories. Not the innocent skies and washed-out roads of spring; not the stifling heat of summer, nor less the dead of winter when sounds carry for miles. Autumn is when adventures begin, when the air is crisp and the paths are dry and the leaves whisper and the scent of smoke on the downs travels like a secret. It must be autumn, when everyone is held in abeyance between their home and their destination, when every trip is a journey.
I wake to tapping at the glass and spend a moment reckoning it: dash, dash, dash, dot. Dash, dash, dash, dot.
Two nines. Get out.
Shan't. I roll out of bed and see the Major-General, still quite dead, as dead as the last time I saw him, hovering above the sill. The new electric street-lights, soft and golden in the fog, illuminate the gaping wound in his throat. Meeting my gaze with a look of hatred, he reaches out once more and strikes the glass of the window. Nine, nine.
I pull the curtains shut, muffling his outrage till I can drop off again. Perhaps he is still angry about the funeral.

***

"Major-General Theodore Wickersley was a good man," I begin, but this statement is so contradictory to what is actually transpiring at his funeral that I trail off in embarrassment. In the silence, Wickersley's mother emits one loud sob, sending crows yelping from the fawn sea of oaks behind us. Surely for her sake, if nothing else, I must continue.
Before I lose my nerve I describe his rapid rise through the ranks, his fairness as a leader, his loyalty as a soldier. I praise his brilliant military mind — stuttering into silence as another of Wickersley's Irregulars gestures frantically at me to cut it out. I express my deep condolences to the Greater Republic of Britannia as well as his family, friends, and fellow soldiers. As I do so, several of my fellow soldiers simply leave, slipping past the rows of family with murmured excuses, as if a quiet slap to the face might be any less painful than a loud one.
I am the only one who has agreed to speak. It is over swiftly, and the spade-man walks bold as brass through the assembled mourners, who part Red Sea-fashion to avoid his dirty shovel. He nods briskly at me, as one professional to another, and begins to fill in the grave. Wickersley's mother handed me a pink rose when I met them at the gates, which I had meant to toss upon the coffin, but the work is proceeding so swiftly that I feel it would be an intrusion.
In minutes it is done, and he switches to another tool with a flat, oblong head to tamp down the fluffed-up black dirt. Finally, the sliced squares of sod are replaced. They will catch again, put down roots long before winter comes. Funny that cemeteries always end up on the best farmland. Or is it the other way around? All those bodies turning the thin soil rich and black over hundreds of years. That old story they tell to scare children, about what happens to those who eat hazelnuts from a cemetery.

 

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About Premee Mohamed:

Premee Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and spec fic writer based in Canada. Her short fiction has been published by Automata Review, Mythic Delirium, Pseudopod, Nightmare Magazine, and many others. Her debut novel, 'Beneath the Rising,' is slated for publication by Solaris Books in 2020.  

 

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