In 2012 I penned my first novel. It came from a place of pain. Seven years on I have grown both as a Writer and a person. I decided to revisit my book “Wychwood” and give it a re-write, detaching myself from the drama and writing as an observer. Although I received praise for the book I wanted to infuse it with more Grace, more Magic and occult layers. The Main Character has a new name Phaedra (Fay’dra) and I have introduced some new and more sinister characters.
This is Chapter One…
1 AN ANGEL CALLS
It is said that for every soul who walks upon the Earth a Guardian Angel is assigned ~ there are times the Angel may walk beside a soul, there are times the Angel may carry that soul and then there are times the Angel can only stand and watch and weep…
Midwinter. Dusk came stealthily creeping in, intent on stealing away the remains of the day. Fog descended over the grey London skyline, wrapping the Victorian villas in a numinous mist. White stucco coated walls that had shone in the harsh glint of winter sunlight now took on a ghostly air. Comforting coals burning in the hearths within cast a warm glow through opaque windowpanes, orange eyes keeping watch on a cold, dark night. ‘Fire light, fire bright, all is well tonight.’ Smoke snaking from tall chimney pots into the chill air warned any gathering preternatural creatures of darkness to stay away. As dusk succumbed to night’s embrace, the fog began to lift, revealing a star-studded sky. Lights were extinguished and weary folk made their way gratefully to bed, giving thanks to the Lord for the day that was done and the morrow yet to come. One house stood apart from the camaraderie of its neighbours, no warmth or light was to be found within its walls. The interior of number four was just as bleak as its cold, nocturnal façade. Winter’s icy fingers reached into the very heart of the despondent house, into a cavernous bedroom dressed in heavy furniture from a bygone century back when the house was proud and new. A huge mahogany bedstead, barely discernible in the gloom, rose as a dark island in a sea of darkness. Centre stage was given to a huge black Victorian cast iron fireplace, inset with tiles glazed with an elegant William Morris floral design. It was too dim to appreciate the contrast of the beautiful pure white flowers, against the blackness of the cold and empty hearth. Lilies for the departed soul now restored to innocence after death. The room was out of step with the modern world unfolding beyond its ornate walls patterned in rich shades of gold and teal. Heavy jade brocade curtains dressed the window, although slightly closed they admitted a pale sliver of light to slyly come creeping in and illuminate the scene within the room.
From the remoteness of the huge bed, a young child sat up, big hazel eyes wide open, scanning the room for a phantasmagorical Presence she could sense hiding somewhere in the shadows. She drew an eiderdown tightly around her tiny body, tucking the edges under her trembling chin. The big bulky frame of her Father lay beside the little girl. He was sleeping, lost in Morpheus’ arms with heavy breathing reverberating around the room, chasing away the creeping silence. Shadows danced along the walls, thrown up by arbitrary moonbeams. A gilded mirror hung above the fireplace and the child was mesmerised by the forms within its silvery depths.
At bedtime Phaedra loved to curl up with a book of fairy tales enchanting her. She imagined the ethereal creatures from the pages, elves and goblins, fairies, centaurs, unicorns, talking owls, nightingales and brave Knights and beautiful Princesses were all living in the mirror, inhabitants of a world within worlds. As another ray of capricious moonlight fell across the Oak floor, it illuminated a pale, languid, crumpled body. Comatose, the flaccid form lay curled in a foetal position, an almost empty brandy bottle clutched in a lifeless hand. A malevolent shape crouched beside the figure. Both were reflected in the mirror. Seeing the Presence, she had sensed, the child let a strangled sob escape into the gloom, alerting the man. Startled, he scanned the room and assuring himself and his tiny daughter that nothing was amiss, he urged her to snuggle down and sleep. His wife was where he had left her, on the floor. Having witnessed the same drug and alcohol induced scene for far too long and powerless to change things, he had ceased to care a long time ago. Defiantly, the child shook her head, soft auburn ringlets swaying around her little heart shaped face, eyes luminous and anxious.
‘Daddy, the thing is here again! It is sitting next to Mummy!’
‘There is no thing, it is just the shadows.’
‘I can see it in the mirror, flashing dark eyes with red sparks burning like hot coals, Oh Daddy!’
‘Phae, it is just the reflection of the embers in the fireplace.’
‘Daddy the fire is out. Mummy is cold, laying there on the floor, does she need a blanket?’ She enquired tentatively. ‘Why is Mummy on the floor again, and not snuggling up with us like she used to. Why is that scary thing next to her?’
‘Oh, that thing? That’s just Mummy’s shadow friend.’ With tired indifference, he humoured her, eager to go back to sleep. His once beautiful wife’s modelling career had paid handsomely but come at a terrible toll with easy access to drink and drugs and the descent into oblivion and addiction.
‘Shall we cover Mummy to keep her warm? She may be afraid of the dark and are you sure the thing is a friend?’ She persisted.
So many questions, so few answers. Thinly veiling his feelings of revulsion and contempt, voice laden with disgust, the weary man offered comfort ‘The floor is where Mummy and her shadow friend belong, go back to dreamland, Phaedra.’ Then kissing her on the tip of her nose, he rolled over and went back to sleep.
The little girl burrowed under the covers and lay down with her tiny face snuggling into her Daddy’s warm back. Mummy was fine, Daddy knew best. Her worries alleviated she slept the rest of the night comforted by the deep sleep of the innocent. In her dreams, the child called for an Angel, an Angel of Love and Light to come and take the thing away and keep Mummy warm. And the Angel hearing her call, came.
In the hours that lay on the cusp of night and day, a luminous golden radiance bathed the room and an Angel, with benevolent arms outstretched, stepped out into the gloom. He held a gossamer blanket, woven from the light of the stars from the heavens above. With a gentle touch He wrapped the child’s Mother in love and light and tenderness. For the Angel knew, just as the child knew, that the woman although bound by addictions was still deserving of love and compassion.
‘She is mine!’ Hissed a misshapen demonic form.
‘No! She is His.’ Serene cobalt blue eyes looked heavenwards. The Angel knew whilst barricaded into her own pain, it would take a lifetime to free the woman from her tormentor and captor. How long that life would be was written in the stars, yet the Angel was prepared to fight the demon for her eternal Soul.
The demon’s dark eyes flashed red sparks of pure malice and it pushed the brandy bottle across the floorboards. The woman stirred and through a haze she reached for the bottle and taking it from him she drained the last dregs. In his clawed hand the demon held a fresh bottle. The woman lunged at him, eager to feed her addiction.
‘It is yours, but not whilst you clutch at that useless thing!’ it spat in loathing, pointing his gnarled claw at the blanket of Light.
The blanket of Light felt good and through the haze of drugs and alcohol the woman knew she should keep a tight hold.
‘Go away!’ She cried, wrapping the blanket tightly around her body. Grace washed over her and soothed her unquiet soul into a deep and peaceful sleep where the demon could not reach her.
The demon spewed fire and brimstone. ‘If I do not take the mother, I shall return for the child!’ it hissed at the Angel, before its malignant form dissipated into the darkness, along with the stench of stale alcohol and bitter pungency of opiates pervading the air.
The Angel prayed silently and bestowed a quiet benediction over the child and her lost Mother and the man who had long forgotten the truth, as he slept in his warm bed whilst the woman he once loved and had lost her way, lay on the cold floor.
A fragrant blend of frankincense and attar of roses filled the room. The man did not smell the perfume purifying the space around him, his child and his wife. Nor did he see the celestial blanket of stars woven with the Light of Heaven wrapped around her. He did not see the pure white lily the Angel had placed in the woman’s hand when she took away the empty bottle.
He did not see the Angel of Light standing at the foot of the bed, waiting. The demon would return. The woman would try to fight. Without the help of the man her redemption would only come the other side of the veil. The man could not see these things, for he too was enslaved by his own addictions and unable to feel the Presence of God when an Angel calls.
And so, the Angel stood and wept.
Thank you for reading.
The Original version will remain in print as I work on my new version.