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Authors: Barbara Erskine

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Hiding From the Light

BOOK: Hiding From the Light
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BARBARA ERSKINE

Hiding
From the Light
 
 

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The Book of Common
Prayer

   

He who has once seen a ghost is never again as though he had not seen a ghost.

Cardinal John Henry Newman, 1870

   

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

I John 1,5

 
Contents
 
 

Title Page
Epigraph
Note
Part One
Chapter One: The Present Day
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Part Two
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Four
Chapter Twenty Five
Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven
Chapter Twenty Eight
Chapter Twenty Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty One
Chapter Thirty Two
Chapter Thirty Three
Chapter Thirty Four
Chapter Thirty Five
Chapter Thirty Six
Chapter Thirty Seven
Chapter Thirty Eight
Chapter Thirty Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty One
Chapter Forty Two
Chapter Forty Three
Chapter Forty Four
Chapter Forty Five
Chapter Forty Six
Chapter Forty Seven
Chapter Forty Eight
Chapter Forty Nine
Chapter Fifty
Chapter Fifty One
Chapter Fifty Two
Chapter Fifty Three
Chapter Fifty Four
Chapter Fifty Five
Chapter Fifty Six
Chapter Fifty Seven
Chapter Fifty Eight
Chapter Fifty Nine
Chapter Sixty
Chapter Sixty One
Chapter Sixty Two
Chapter Sixty Three
Chapter Sixty Four
Chapter Sixty Five
Chapter Sixty Six
Chapter Sixty Seven
Chapter Sixty Eight
Chapter Sixty Nine
Chapter Seventy
Chapter Seventy One
Chapter Seventy Two
Chapter Seventy Three
Chapter Seventy Four
Chapter Seventy Five
Chapter Seventy Six
Chapter Seventy Seven
Chapter Seventy Eight
Chapter Seventy Nine
Chapter Eighty
Chapter Eighty One
Chapter Eighty Two
Chapter Eighty Three
Chapter Eighty Four
Chapter Eighty Five
Chapter Eighty Six
Chapter Eighty Seven
Chapter Eighty Eight
Chapter Eighty Nine
Chapter Ninety
Chapter Ninety One
Chapter Ninety Two
Chapter Ninety Three
Chapter Ninety Four
Chapter Ninety Five
Chapter Ninety Six
Chapter Ninety Seven
Chapter Ninety Eight
Chapter Ninety Nine
Chapter Hundred
Chapter Hundred And One
Chapter Hundred And Two
Chapter Hundred And Three
Chapter Hundred And Four
Chapter Hundred And Five
Chapter Hundred And Six
Chapter Hundred And Seven
Chapter Hundred And Eight
Chapter Hundred And Nine
Chapter Hundred And Ten
Chapter Hundred And Eleven
Chapter Hundred And Twelve
Chapter Hundred And Thirteen
Chapter Hundred And Fourteen
Chapter Hundred And Fifteen
Chapter Hundred And Sixteen
Chapter Hundred And Seventeen
Chapter Hundred And Eighteen
Chapter Hundred And Nineteen
Chapter Hundred And Twenty
Chapter Hundred And Twenty One
Author’s Note
Preview
About the Author
By The Same Author
Copyright
About the Publisher

 

Matthew Hopkins was, of course, a real man and Manningtree and Mistley are real places. But this story is fiction. The parish about which I write does not exist. Neither does Mike’s church, rectory or street. Neither does the lane where Emma lives, nor is there a surgery where I have put one.

The old churchyard appears on maps and in guidebooks, but is now private land. The real church at Mistley does not appear.

 
 Present darkness
LAMMAS

Lightning was flickering over the low Suffolk hills and thunder rumbled in the distance, louder this time. Bill Standing glanced up at the sky where the clouds piled threateningly one on the other, black on purple above the land. He hunched his shoulders and walked on.

He had come out here to think, to clear his head and listen to whatever it was that was battering at his brain, trying to make itself heard. The tide was nearly high, the broad estuary a carpet of white-topped waves hurling themselves inland off the sea. Above his head a gull circled, letting out a wild, mournful cry, then it turned and flew away towards the coming darkness. Bill watched it go through narrowed eyes, feeling the wind on his face. The thunder was louder now and one by one the first heavy drops of rain were beginning to fall. It was early afternoon but it felt like night. Behind him the town was closing down ahead of the storm. He could feel it waiting, watching, bracing itself for what was to come.

His unease was not only caused by the impending storm. There was something else in the air and it scared him – scared him more than anything, in all his eighty-six years, had scared him before.

The old evil there beneath the surface was awakening. It would take very little to set it free. A lightning bolt into the river, a clap of thunder up on the heath, a flash of fire in the furze bushes on the hill and the dark would rise again and envelop the shore, the town, the whole peninsula.

He had known it would happen one day. His father had told him, and his father’s father had known it before him. Why now, he didn’t know yet, but there was no one left to stop it.

He pulled the collar of his coat up round his ears and looked up at the sky which had grown yet darker. He knew what to do, of course. More or less. But he was an old man, and alone. Were there others out there who could help him? He frowned unhappily, his weather-beaten face wrinkling into deep folds and canyons. If there were, he hadn’t seen them yet. What he had seen were signs of trouble, like the blue flames licking from tussock to tussock down on the marsh, fairy sparks, they called them, the sign of danger to come like the black mist hanging on the horizon far out to sea. Darkness long laid to rest was threatening to stir as it had after the Reformation, when the priests who knew how to mediate the dark were overthrown. Hundreds of years before that the evil had come from across the sea; native and Roman gods, and the Christian alike had been vanquished before it as it sucked black energy from this wild, mysterious borderland between sea and shore. For aeons it had lain sleeping, but now he could feel it growing restless. He remembered the words, the ceremonies, to contain it, but did he have the power?

Another clap of thunder echoed over the water and he jumped. It was drifting closer on the wind, circling the town. Lightning flickered behind as well as in front of him now and it was growing darker still, as though the whole world were hiding from the light.

 
Past darkness
AUTUMN 1644

 

The room was dark and he could see nothing, but he could hear the creature in the corner, snuffling quietly to itself. He lay quite still in the high bed, staring up towards the tester he could not see, wishing he had not drawn the curtain so close around him. He was sweating profusely, his hands gripping the sheet, holding it tightly up against his chin.

Where was it? He hardly dared blink his eyes. It had moved. He could hear the scrape of claws against the boards.

Don’t stir.

Don’t even breathe.

It doesn’t realise you’re here.

If only his heart would stop pounding so loudly against his chest. The animal must be able to hear him, smell the sour fear. Inch by inch he edged up against the pillows away from the sound. There was a crack in the bed curtains now, as the sheet caught against the rough tapestry and he could see a faint line of light from the window shutters. It was nearly dawn.

Sweet Jesu, make it go away.

Another sound from the corner of the room sent a fresh sheen of sweat across his shoulder blades. There was a grunt and the sharp crunch of teeth on bone. Dear Lord, the creature had caught something. It was eating it, there, in his bedroom, taunting him. He could smell blood, smell the rank breath, the rotting teeth, he could almost see its small red, evil, eyes.

How had it got in?

He frowned. He could remember closing the door and sliding the bolt. He could remember barring the shutters. Or had he? He glanced towards the tell-tale strip of pale light. He had felt so ill as he climbed the narrow stairs the night before, the fever once again clamping its sweaty hold over his shoulders. He had fallen on the bed, racked with coughing, too tired even to pull off his bucket-top boots. He remembered that. He moved his foot slightly. No. It was bare. He must have kicked off the soft leather boots and removed his breeches and stockings before crawling under the bed covers.

BOOK: Hiding From the Light
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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