I Belong to the Earth (Unveiled Book 1), page 1
Blue Stone Press
I Belong to the Earth Published by illusio&baqer, The Zharmae Publishing Press in
Republished by Blue Stone Press September 2016
Copyright © J. A. Ironside 2014
Cover Art and design © J. A. Ironside
Cover Typography and layout M. E. Vaughan 2016
Cover Photograph © Elizaveta Lavrik
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, without prior permission in writing of the publisher and author.
‘There are things we do in life that we can’t ever take back. Bad things that follow us, no matter how we wish we could change them. So I needed to find him. See the man. And the monster.’
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For Sarah and For Ella,
And For Allan:
Sine qua non.
"If I were in Heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable…I dreamt once that I was there…heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath…where I woke sobbing for joy."
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte.
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Chapter One – Chilled
Chapter Two – Watched
Chapter Three - Visited
Chapter Four - Warnings
Chapter Five – Intruder
Chapter Six – Secrets
Chapter Seven - Consumption
Chapter Eight – Flowers & False Sympathy
Chapter Nine – Crossfire
Chapter Ten – Honey & Voyeurism
Chapter Eleven – Forgotten
Chapter Twelve – Riddles
Chapter Thirteen – Questions & Answers
Chapter Fourteen – Triangle
Chapter Fifteen – Bound
Chapter Sixteen – Apologies
Chapter Seventeen – Cutting
Chapter Eighteen – Grave
Chapter Nineteen – Fury
Chapter Twenty – Fear
Chapter Twenty-one – Knowledge
Chapter Twenty-two – Distractions
Chapter Twenty-three – Betrayal
Chapter Twenty-four – Burdens
Chapter Twenty-five – The Jaws of Life
Chapter Twenty-six – Frenzy
Chapter Twenty-seven – Choices
Chapter Twenty-eight – Judgement
Chapter Twenty-nine – Light
Chapter Thirty – Rescue
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About the Author
I wasn’t asleep, not really. I just wished I was. The car’s engine droned and Amy’s head rolled slightly against my shoulder. She snored softly and if I hadn’t been so miserable, I’d be planning to tease her about it later. My head thumped with pain. I screwed my eyes more tightly shut. The accident had left me with fierce, blinding headaches but that was nothing compared to everything else that was wrong with my head since that horrible day. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself and gritted my teeth. The headache screamed up a notch but the pain blocked out a worse ache – the hideous empty space where Mum should have been. My whole family was in the car—Amy, Grace, Dad—but it was incomplete now and always would be. The countryside whipping by the car window grew wilder and more remote. I let it pass me by, listlessly focusing on the constant hum and motion of the car...
Metal shrieked against metal behind me. I jerked upright, eyes wide…
The dragon-like jaws ripping into the car… the Jaws of Life… Amy!
Amy was no longer resting against my shoulder. The car door slammed shut and I jumped at the sound. We’d arrived. I must’ve dozed off after all. Dad and my sisters were already out of the car, stretching their legs and yawning. I squeezed my eyes shut and trying to re-inflate panic-locked lungs. The men from the removal company Dad had hired were opening the back of their van. That was all. Nothing was tearing into the car. The accident was months ago.
Get a grip.
“Emlynn? Em, are you coming?” Amy called. The gravel crunched as she moved away. It was tempting to stay in the car. Pretend none of this was happening. But then Dad’s temper wasn’t exactly even since the Accident. No more dawdling. I reached for the door handle and braced myself.
The first glimpse of my new home hit me like a punch in the gut. It was old. Really, terrifyingly old, not gracefully aged or quaint. Weathered grey stone and a slate roof. Bulging walls and a sort of lop-sided sagging appearance. The windows were small and dim, like mean, squinting eyes. I hated it. Not just because it was the vicarage or because I was being forced to live here. But because it was wrong. It was… hollow. Hungry. As though it was… waiting for something. Or someone. Cold and ravenous.
I tore my eyes away, shaking. I couldn’t go in there. I just couldn’t. What was Dad thinking? The moor rolled away in grey-green waves on all sides. My stomach lurched and I stared sightlessly down at my feet, heart pounding against my breast bone. It was too open. Too alien. Like I could fall off the surface of the planet. The house or the moor? Not much of a choice really. And I couldn’t just stand here. No one was coming to rescue me.
I grabbed one of the boxes littering the gravel drive, concentrating on its heaviness, the sharpness of its corners, on putting one foot slowly in front of the other until I was swallowed by the shadow from the porch. My stomach twisted sideways as I forced myself to step through the front door, trying very hard not to think of a huge, predatory mouth. The hallway was dim and musty. I wondered when anyone had last lived here and then the wrongness descended on me. The strongest feeling of something…out of balance I’d ever experienced, even since the accident had turned my weird extra sense up to full volume.
There was a cold spot on the stairs.
Even from here, I felt it drilling into my bones. My knees locked, forcing me to stop on the first step. There was something there. Something powerful. Something Dead. My hands shook, jiggling the box I carried.
Something terrible happened here.
The creak of footsteps on the landing overhead jarred me back into awareness. I glanced around in confusion. My hands were empty. The box I’d been holding was now six steps below me. I didn't remember putting it down. Or moving. Somehow, I was now right next to the cold spot. How had I gotten so close? I couldn't pull away. Couldn't. I reached out with trembling fingers. No. No don't…don't touch…
The stairwell faded away before my eyes…
Despair, jealousy, rage…
A stumbling thud behind me jolted me back to the present.
"Ow! God damn it, Gremlin." Grace always sounded annoyed. When she spoke to me anyway. She toed the box I’d left on the stairs. It felt like I was hearing her through fathoms of dark water. Grace shifted her own load from one hip to the other. "I could've broken my neck on that."
"Suh suh sorry." I snatched my hand back and cradled it to my chest.
"I so don't care, you are such a freak." She curled her lip at me.
I seethed. The stammer was worse again and—well was it a big ask for Grace to let me finish a sentence?
"Come on then. Move it!" Grace nudged the box again, making it teeter on the edge of the step. Mum's books! I snatched the box up in my arms, slanting a sour glance at Grace. My glare didn't faze her. Not much ever did.
"What were you doing anyway?" Grace narrowed her eyes at me. "I called you twice and you didn't even blink."
Really? She'd called me twice? How long had I been…wherever I'd been before she fell over that box? She wasn’t paying any attention to the cold spot at all. How could she not feel it?
“I wuh-was j-j-just…”
“Just forget it.” Grace rolled her eyes. “And you better not let Dad catch you at any of that weird shit, freak!”
Rage, hot and pure, smothered me. Grace never used my actual name. Freak. Weirdo. Gremlin. I was sick of it. Sick of her attitude and thwarted by my own inability to speak. Snarky remarks jostled against bitchy replies in my head and I couldn’t say any of them. It wasn’t fair.
I shrugged and shook my head, before edging back up the stairs. Grace wouldn't have the patience for me to stammer out the first few words before she got bored and wandered off, anyway.
"Whatever." Grace barged past me.
I wobbled as she knocked me off balance. For a moment I thought I would fall right into the bone splintering cold. My stomach lurched and sweat prickled on my temples as I righted myself. Close. Too close.
"You really are beyond weird, Gremlin." She flicked her glossy blonde hair over her shoulder. It swung behind her in a shining curtain as she stomped off to her new bedroom.
The cold spot tugged at me, demanding attention. I shuddered, pushing myself past it, and up the stairs.
Not my problem. Not my problem.
Not. My. Problem.
I don't care who died here.
If I kept telling myself that, maybe it would even be true.
Maybe Grace was right. Maybe I was a freak.