Showing posts from April, 2017

Harrington's Folly (A Jessica Norton Story)

My name is Jessica Norton. I collect stories. I'm not a journalist. I collect them for my own purposes, and sometimes I share them. The stories I hunt for are those about things that ought not be. I collect stories about the fissures in the world.

This is the story of Harrington's Folly.

I saw Harrington’s Folly in the distance. I’d left Newdean more than two hours ago, and had been walking north. The Folly wasn’t marked on any maps, so I’d had to rely on directions I’d gleaned from people in the town. It had taken me longer than I’d hoped to get here, but I was in sight of my target now, and that revivified me. It took me a further half an hour to navigate my way there, as the environment around the tower was wild and unmaintained. The brambles were thick, and more than once I caught myself on thorns.
The Folly was a squat, round thing, about twenty feet high, made of red bricks. It was severely weathered, with nothing to indicate that anyone had been here in a very long …

The Greenhouse

George Hastings pulled into the driveway, and didn’t get out of the car for five minutes. He gripped the steering wheel, and seriously thought about simply driving away, back home, back to his girlfriend. He remembered what she had said last night, that he didn’t need to go – ‘You don’t owe the old bitch anything.’ He just told her that this would help him sleep at night, and that she shouldn’t come with him.
‘Great, now you’re doing the lonely, independent macho-man thing, who doesn’t need a woman holding his hand.’ Her anger was just a camouflage over her concern, but it stung all the same.
‘That’s not it. You know that’s not it. I just don’t want you to have to see that house.’
‘I’m not some timid little girl, George. I’m a grown woman, for fuck’s sake.’
They’d argued some more, went to bed facing away from each other.
He left in the morning. The drive to Newdean had been unremarkable, though the sight of the town made him feel sick. It looked unhealthy, and the extreme heat that …

This is Newdean (II)

You've guessed, perhaps, that I call Newdean home. I was born here, I suspect I shall die here. Don't dismiss me as provincial -- I've travelled considerably, and seen a great deal of the world. But, always, I felt an urge to return home, and after a while it seemed senseless to resist this. I stopped travelling, and returned to my little family home.

I haven't left the county in nearly five years. Everything I need is in reach here. I don't just mean material amenities, though these are easily acquired by regular visits to larger towns nearby. My job is enough to sustain me, and my frugality means I can provide myself with entertainment and other treats when the mood takes me. There are two pubs in Newdean, and I frequent them both. There's even a struggling cafe near the beach.

But like I said, it isn't only my material needs that are provided for by Newdean. My soul is thirsty, and Newdean gives it much to drink.

I prefer to walk through the streets at n…

The Living and the Dreaming

I stood in the living room with a glass of whisky in my hand. It was early evening. An autumnal sky glowed beyond the window. I could see the town, silhouetted against the sunset. I sipped the whisky, iceless, warmed by my hand. It was silky, rich, old. Its flavour blossomed in my mouth and a rivulet of flame slipped down my throat.
The living room was utterly tasteful. A thick, old carpet. Heavy curtains, a deep red. Book shelves, inviting armchairs, discrete little tables and an elegant drinks’ cabinet. The owner had made a good life for himself here.
I sat down in one of the chairs as Charlie, whose late uncle this house had belonged to, stepped into the room. He carried two large portfolios with him. He moved a table over, set the portfolios on it, and sat next to me.
‘These are the things, then?’ I asked.
‘Yes.’ He looked at me, with a silent plea for something I couldn’t identify. I finished the whisky, motioned at him for more. He obliged.
Setting the glass down on the table,…

This is Newdean

Newdean. Too plain to be called ‘ugly’. Astonishingly mediocre. Characterful in its lack of character. A nowhere place. Only a handful of farmhouses are more than a hundred years old, held by the same families for generations – these families still dislike the new town. Everywhere else, the houses are only decades old, though nothing looks particularly modern. They have neither the quiet confidence of the new, nor the venerability of the old; they lack even the proud modesty of the terraced houses of major cities. They, simply, are.

Newdean. At the centre of it, ringed by a poorly maintained, half-dead park, is an abandoned building. Donated by an eccentric philanthropist long ago, it is a failed community centre. A barbaric crime was committed there, and it is now shunned by all. The architecture is daring, a strangely warped art deco; it stands in contrast with the rest of Newdean, like a foreign body lodged in an organism.

Newdean. It lies between the sea and the Old Downs, on the …