Before I give you the sample of Home, Sweet Home, I’d like to fill in some of the background for you.
In the forthcoming Dark Chapter Press anthology Kill For A Copy (details of which you can find here), my story marks a return to the fictional town of Tilwick. I have not released a story from Tilwick since 2003, when, years before Kindle and Nook, I released an e-book called Matt Carsun: Saturnine through doomed e-book platform No-Spine.
Matt Carsun, as central character in what was intended to be an ongoing horror/dark urban fantasy series, is a young man who resides in the town of Tilwick, a place in North East England so protected and secretive, that it appears only on maps printed and bought within Tilwick itself. The citizens of Tilwick may only leave when they are 18 years old and when they have passed examinations to show loyalty to their dark master, the exiled demon Mammon.
Mammon, having been blamed for Lucifer’s failed uprising as told of in Milton’s Paradise Lost, has forged a new home among humans, where he utilizes his powers to maintain the balance of his small realm, and where the worship of the humans around him enables him to live on through the generations, shifting from human body to human body every 200 years or so. In Matt’s time, a cohort of demons attempt to win favour in Hell by coming to Tilwick to topple the disgraced angel, but in doing so they cause a chain reaction of terror that ultimately sees Tilwick’s master drawing upon his ancient reserves of strength deep within the earth upon which the town was built, and in doing so, unleashing supernatural forces that threaten the safety and sanity of his people. Of course, a certain young businessman named Matt Carsun becomes embroiled in the plot and I won’t spoil how, but he certainly finds himself in great danger and with personal and moral tests to address as he strives to save the people around him from the evil machinations of a town that treats individuals as puppets whenever the master so desires…
Long overdue a reboot, I am working to bring this story back in a new version called simply Carsun, but in the meantime, here is an excerpt of a new story which takes place in the same town during the period described, when Mammon has tapped into those reserves of ancient supernatural energy, and events both strange and horrific break loose on every street.
(Note this is not the final draft and is a “warts ‘n’ all” sample before editing).
Taster of Home, Sweet Home By Jack Rollins
“I know it’s not our dream house, Keith,” Amanda admitted, pressing her firm body against her husband. She kissed the tip of his chin. “But, we can make the place our own and I’m sure we’ll be happy here.”
“I know, I know. I just loved the old maisonette. I’ll get used to it,” Keith said, sighing in resignation. The maisonette was sold and he was officially a resident of Tilwick’s Golden Acre Park estate.
Peering over Amanda’s shoulder, brushing her blonde hair up behind her neck, Keith observed the cul-de-sac, washed in the muted orange of sunset. His battered Ford Focus appeared somewhat out of place among the BMWs and Land Rovers of their neighbours. The patchy lawn of the front garden, the cracked driveway, the too-small-to-park-a-car-in garage, the one-hard-cough-and-down-they-come fences, all of these things, they made Keith feel as though a huge sign reading Lowest Earners in the Neighbourhood should be erected out front.
Keith had voiced his opinion before the move and Amanda had reasoned that since the property had been uninhabited for two years, nobody would be surprised that the place needed some work. Handing him a glass of a fruity summer red wine, Amanda attempted to free Keith from the mental swamp he kept falling into when he thought about the house and its gardens for too long.
He took a gulp of the wine, recognising Amanda’s distraction tactic and hoping that it would work. She slipped a hand to the front of his jeans and fondled him with just the right amount of pressure in the right place to state her intent without hurting him.
“Which room would you like to christen first, Mr Corgan?” she purred.
Keith almost spat his wine across the window, only just managing to swallow his drink in time. In doing so he avoided the destruction of the white vertical blinds he had installed the previous morning. He clasped a hand over his lips and let out a half-laugh, half-cough.
The white baby monitor plugged into the four-gang extension by the TV flickered to life, with two of the three green LEDs blinking, showing that only a low level of noise had been detected. Little Alex’s cries usually drove the baby monitor up past the third green light and into the two red LEDs that indicated a loud noise had been detected. A second later, with the LED’s still flickering slightly, a snuffling noise was heard through the small speaker. Alex let out a little moan and settled down once more.
“I wasn’t expecting him to settle in his new room so well, tonight,” Keith commented.
“He’s very adaptable,” Amanda said. She pinched Keith’s bottom, adding, “You could learn from him.”
Keith frowned at his wife, something was missing. “Hey, where’s your wine?”
Amanda flashed him a grin and rested her head on his shoulder. “I have some news for you… Daddy.”
“You’re fucking kidding me?” Keith cried, returning his wife’s wide grin. “Really? Well, it must be true, or you’d be drinking, nothing as sure as that!” he said, answering his own question.
“You’re happy then?”
“Happy? I’m over the bloody moon! How long have you known? The move, Jesus the move… Mandy, are you sure everything’s alright?”
Amanda stroked Keith’s upper arms. “Everything is fine. I’ve known for a couple of weeks, but I knew if I told you, you’d probably call off the move.”
“Well, it’s done now.”
“And you won’t be lifting a finger ‘til he’s here,” Keith warned.
“He? Another little chap, is it? We’ll see. And besides, I’m only about six weeks pregnant. I’ll be doing plenty right up until I can’t move anymore. Alex needs his mummy.”
“I know, I know. I just don’t want you to get stressed out again. You know how it was when you were carrying Alex.”
“Yes, Mr Corgan. But this is different, we’re here. We’ve got a view, and space, and nice neighbours.”
“So you say, I haven’t met them yet.”
“Well, that’s the next bit of news. I’ve invited them over this weekend.”
Keith rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. “Oh, brilliant.”
They chatted excitedly about the baby and how Alex was going to be a brilliant big brother. Keith drained his glass and returned to the kitchen. The wine bottle rattled against the lip of the glass as his hands trembled. The thick red liquid poured across the oak veneer of the work surface, trickling over the edge to splatter and pool on the marbled linoleum floor. Keith cursed under his breath and slammed the wine bottle down before him. His pressed his flat palms onto the work surface and pushed a hissing breath through his clenched teeth.
Closing his eyes he felt the sting of tears and the lurch in his stomach as the reality of the situation – that they would never again leave Tilwick, that the second child would essentially root them to this evil old place – took hold and squeezed all hope from his heart.