[EXTRACT] ‘Halcyon’ – Rio Youers

Thanks to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this book and for including me in their blog tour!

Hi everyone! Today I have something a little different for you! I am currently reading Halcyon by Rio Youers and am really enjoying it so far! This is a new horror/thriller release and this is the perfect time of year to read it! It is creepy and atmospheric and seriously interesting! But I don’t have a review for you today, instead I have an extract! This is one of my favourite sections from what I’ve read so far and I am so excited to be sharing it with you!

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*****

“You won’t remember the time I ran away from home,” Shirley said, standing close enough to the well to make Edith nervous. “You were two years old. I’d just started third grade. There were two girls who bullied me every day and my teacher was a jerk. Also, Mom and Dad were giving you all their attention. You were super-cute, I guess, but still . . .”

Something heavy—a deer, perhaps—moved through the grass. Edith inched but Shirley didn’t move a muscle.

“I didn’t think anybody would miss me.” Shirley shrugged, taking a step away from the well, for which Edith was grateful. “That’s how you think when you’re eight years old. So I threw some clothes into a backpack, stole twenty bucks from Dad’s wallet, and ran away.”

“That was really dumb,” Edith said.

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t gone for long. Five or six hours, maybe. And it’s not like I joined the circus or hopped on a train to New York City.”

“You came here,” Edith said.

Shirley nodded. “The barn first. There were some rain barrels and a few hay bales in the loft. I made a cozy little nest, then decided the barn was way too obvious for hiding in. So I took a stroll into the field, into the tall grass.” Shirley looked around the clearing, then her gaze settled on the well. “And yeah . . . stumbled across this place.”

“You could’ve fallen in,” Edith said. Her nostrils flared. “Nobody would have found you. Ever.

Shirley was silent for a moment. Edith didn’t care for the way she regarded the open hole—with a kind of eerie calm, as if she and it had a mutual understanding. Or shared a secret.

“I thought about jumping in.”

“Stop it,” Edith demanded.

“It has a freaky pull, don’t you think?”

“No. I don’t.”

Shirley’s lips twitched. Her eyes flicked between Edith and the well. “In the end I sat in the grass and imagined bringing Louise Fischer out here. She was one of the girls who bullied me—called me dogface and pulled my hair. A real beeyotch.” Shirley’s expression darkened. She made a pushing gesture with her hands. “Down she went. Bye-bye, Louise. Then I imagined pushing Gabby González in—not as big a bitch as Louise, but close.” Shirley used her fore finger to mimic Gabby’s descent to the bottom of the well. “Adios, Gabby. See you never.”

“Shirley.” Edith shook her head. “ That’s just horrible.”

“I would never have done it.” Shirley flipped her shoulders indifferently. “It was good to think it, though. Not in a harmful way, but as a kind of stress relief, like slamming a door or having a good cry. And it was like the well wanted me to think it—like it was feeding on the bad energy in my head.”

Edith wiped a light sweat from her forehead. She wanted to say something but there were no words. She shook her head again.

“So I gave it more,” Shirley said, and that eerie calm was back in her eyes. “I collected my bad thoughts and feelings— all the things that were getting me down—and I threw them into the well. It felt good, a little bit silly, but good. It was only later, walking home, that I noticed the difference.”

“You felt happier?” Edith asked.

“Not exactly,” Shirley replied. “Well, yeah, but . . . it’s hard to explain. It felt like there was more space around me. More air to breathe. Until I got home, at least. Mom and Dad were pissed.”

“Go figure.”

“They’d checked with all our friends and neighbors and called the police a couple of hours before. Long story short: Dad yelled while Mom hugged me, then Mom yelled while Dad hugged me. They wanted to ground me forever. Instead, they took me—us—out for ice cream, and paid me more attention after that.”

A large bird took wing from the tall grass, printing itself briefly against the sky. Edith looked at it, wishing she could fly away, too.

“I’ve been here a lot since then.” Shirley took a deep breath, then wrinkled her nose as if the air was sour. “I come here when I’m down. Really down. Fights at home. Fights at school. You know the kind of thing.”

Edith nodded. Shirley was great most of the time. A real cool sis. But there’d been occasions—more so recently—when she’d been difficult to be around. She became sullen, wouldn’t talk to anybody. There were days she refused to eat or go to school. She once set fire to all her stuffed toys in the garden, some of which she’d had since she was a baby. Mom said these behavioral blips were in keeping with Shirley’s sensitivities, that she was displaying her “teenage quills,” and that they all had to give her space and support. Giving both at the same time, she added, was one of love’s many neat tricks.

Edith looked at the well, thinking that space and support were wonderful things to offer, but that they didn’t really matter to Shirley. She had her own way of handling things.

“So here it is. My special place.” Shirley stepped toward the crumbling brick wall and peered into the blackness. “It’s like extreme therapy, I guess. Unload your crap and go home.”

“I don’t have any crap,” Edith said. “And the bad things . . . they’re not in my head all the time.”

“Just often enough to be a problem.”

“I’m never coming back here.”

“You don’t have to.” Shirley sneered and pointed at her temples. “You visualize it. That’s what the hypnotherapist taught you, right? When the bad things come, you visualize something that can help. But instead of jumping into my mind, you come here. You see the crappy bricks and the poisonous blackberry bush. You see the tall grass and the barn in the distance. Most importantly, you see the well . . .”

Tears gathered along Edith’s eyelashes. She shook her head and they plinked heavily onto her cheeks.

“You see it all, Ede. Every detail.” Shirley spread her arms and turned a slow circle, like a realtor exhibiting a particularly resplendent room. “ Then you draw the bad things from your mind, and throw them down the well.”

Edith wiped her cheeks. Several damp strands of hair fell across her eyes, obscuring her vision, and that was fine.

“This can work.” Shirley walked around the well to Edith’s side. She brushed the hair from Edith’s eyes and for the next thirty seconds she was very sweet. “I know it’s different than what you’re used to, and I know it’s scary, but you can do this. Pretty soon the bad things won’t bother you anymore. They might go away altogether.”

“Maybe,” Edith said, smearing more tears from her cheeks.

“I can’t have you inside my head anymore. I have my own life—my own stuff to deal with. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, you told me that. Like a hundred times.”

“And I mean it.” Edith sniveled, her wet eyes turned to the sky. “It’s horrible here. It’s creepy and dark. I don’t think it’ll work for me. I need warmth and light. I need—”

“Scream through the night, then,” Shirley snapped. Her lips wrinkled. Her eyes flared. “Draw all over the fucking walls. Mom and Dad know you’re not having night terrors. They won’t take you to Luke Skywalker next time. You’ll end up in some hospital with a bunch of creepy old doctors. They’ll poke and prod you, Ede. They’ll cut you.”

“Don’t say that, Shirl, please, it’s—”

“I’m trying to help you.” Edith’s legs wobbled, then gave. She sat down in the grass with a thud that made her teeth rattle. More tears bubbled from her eyes and she wept loudly. Shirley offered no comfort. By the time Edith regained some composure, the boards were back on the well and her sister stood stone-still and featureless, framed by the tall grass.

“I want to go home,” Edith croaked.

Shirley led the way.

*****

This book is out now in the UK so if you enjoyed this extract go and check it out!

– Maddie Browse

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