Read Lost and Gone Forever Online

Authors: Alex Grecian

Lost and Gone Forever

BOOK: Lost and Gone Forever
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

ALSO BY ALEX GRECIAN

The Yard

The Black Country

The Devil’s Workshop

The Harvest Man

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Alex Grecian

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

eBook ISBN 9780698407268

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

For Christy, as
always

BOOK
ONE

P
eter?” Anna could hear how frightened she sounded, her voice echoing back to her from the flat face of a curio cabinet that blocked the narrow path. She stood still and listened, but there came no answering cry.

She called his name again, louder this time, but with the same result. Or, rather, the same lack of result.

Perhaps,
she thought,
if I were to climb to the top of that curio, I would be able to see quite far along the path.

She approached the hulking cabinet and opened the doors at the bottom. There was nothing inside. She slid open a drawer and pulled it out, set it beside her on the grass. She pulled herself up, hanging on tight to the knurled trim along the side, and used the empty slot where the drawer had been as a toehold. Once begun, the climb was easy, shelves positioned at convenient intervals as if it had all been purposefully fashioned for small children to scale. At the top was an elegant pointed façade, and she clung to it and crouched low, willing herself not to look back down at the ground.
I am not really so high up, after all,
she thought.
Were I to fall, I
might not break my arms and legs.
But this thought was not so comforting as she had felt it would be.

She looked ahead of her up the path, which wound around a dining set and through a great herd of French desk chairs, disappearing at the juncture of a Chippendale butcher block and a dollhouse cupboard. A small blue bird of some sort hopped from the base of a painted white sideboard, then flapped away to the top of a jumbled mountain of coatracks. Behind her, she could see that the sun was beginning to set, the sky bruised and livid.

She opened her mouth to call Peter again, but did not make a sound. All at once she felt utterly alone and afraid.

A grandfather clock chimed nearby. Startled, Anna lost her grip on the façade and nearly tumbled from her perch. She slid down the back of the curio and landed neatly on her feet on the packed dirt of the path.

Well,
she thought,
I suppose there is nothing for it but to find Peter and drag him back home in time for his supper. Otherwise, we shall both get the switch, and I should never forgive him if that happened.

And so she mustered her resolve and marched away into the ever-darkening wood without glancing back even once at the warm yellow lights of her house.

—R
UPERT
W
INTHROP
,
FROM
The Wandering Wood
(1893)

PROLOGUE

H
e woke in the dark and saw that his cell door was open.

Just a crack, but lamplight shone through and into the room. He lay on his cot and watched that chink of yellow through his shivering eyelashes. But the door didn’t open any farther, and the man—
the man Jack
—didn’t enter the room. Had Jack forgotten to latch the door after his last visit? Or was he waiting to pounce, somewhere just out of sight in the passage beyond the cell?

He kept his eyes half-shut and watched the door for an hour. The sun came up and the quality of light in the room changed. The crack between the door and the jamb remained the same, but the lamplight behind it faded, washed out by the brighter gleam of the rising sun. At last, he threw his thin grey blanket aside and sat up, swung his legs over the side of the cot, and padded across the room to the bucket in the corner. When he had finished the morning’s business, he scooped sand into the bucket and went to the table under the window. He splashed water on his face from the bowl, his back to the open door, ignoring it. He drank from a ladle and looked out through the bars at the narrow stony yard, all he could see of the
outside world. Then he went back to the cot and sat down and waited.

His breakfast didn’t come, but sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes Jack forgot or was busy. A missed meal here or there was hardly the end of the world. So he sat and he waited. He began to worry when midday passed without any sign of food. His stomach grumbled. He checked the positions of the shadows in the yard, but they told him nothing he didn’t already know. He had an excellent internal clock. He knew full well when it was time to eat.

When teatime passed with no tea or bread, he stood again and went to the door. He put his hand on the knob and closed his eyes. He concentrated on his breathing, calmed himself. He pulled the door half an inch wider and took his hand off the knob. He stood behind the door and braced himself.

But nothing happened.

Braver now, he touched the doorknob again, wrapped his fist around it, and opened the door wide enough that he could see out into the hallway. He put his head out of the room and pulled it back immediately. But despite his expectations, nothing had hit him or cut him. Nobody had laughed at him or screamed at him. All was quiet.

And so he stepped out of the room for the first time in as long as he could remember. He wasn’t at all comfortable being outside his cell. His memory of the things beyond that room was vague and untrustworthy. He swallowed hard and looked back at his cot. It represented all he knew, relative security bound up with stark terror, the twin pillars that supported his existence.

He left it behind and crept down the passage on his bare feet, leaving the lantern where it hung on a peg outside the chamber. When he reached the end of the hallway there was another door,
and he seized the knob without flinching. He stifled a gasp when it turned under his hand and the second door swung open, revealing a long wedge of wan afternoon sunlight. He had expected the door to be locked, had expected to have to turn around and retreat to his cell and his cot and his bucket. Had, in fact, almost wished for it.

He stepped out into fresh air. He felt the warmth of the sunbaked stones on the soles of his feet. When his eyes had accustomed themselves to the bright light, he looked around him at the empty street and turned and looked up at the nondescript house that had been his home for so long. He didn’t remember ever seeing the front of the house before, and it occurred to him that he might have been born there, might never have been outside it. Perhaps his half-remembered notions of the world beyond his cell were only dreams.

A breeze stirred the hair on his bare arms, and he felt suddenly self-conscious. After hesitating a moment, he turned and went back inside, back down the passage, back into his room, to the cot. He picked up his grey blanket and draped it over his shoulders and left again.

Back outside, he looked up and down the street and smiled. He had a choice to make and he felt proud to have been given the opportunity. Jack was testing him, he was sure of it. He could go left to the end of the road where he saw another street running perpendicular to this one. Or he could go right. Far away to his right he could see the green tops of trees waving to him from somewhere over a steep hill. Perhaps a park or a garden. Trees. He could imagine how their bark would feel under the palm of his hand. He was certain he had touched trees before. He really had been outside his room. He nodded. The trees meant something.

Walter Day turned to his right and limped naked down the street toward the beckoning
green.

BOOK: Lost and Gone Forever
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
The Right Time by Susan X Meagher
Pepped Up by Dean, Ali
Christmas in Bluebell Cove by Abigail Gordon
Restless Waters by Jessica Speart
Black by T.l Smith
Honor Bound by Samantha Chase