Today, Quill & Crow Publishing House released its very first anthology of gothic short fiction, Anomalies & Curiosities. In recent days, I teased my contribution to the anthology on my Instagram. And if you missed it, you can check out my recent moodboard post on “Woman of the White Cottage” as well. You can buy yourself a copy in ebook, paperback, or glorious hardcover now. But, if you need a bit more convincing, then allow me to provide you an excerpt from “Woman of the White Cottage”.
WOMAN OF THE WHITE COTTAGE
The first time Mary saw the man through her cottage window, he was cutting down a tree with an axe. The tree had already slipped out of the earth during the last storm. For weeks it lay there, growing mushrooms at its base. Leaves twisted off the branches and rustled against her cottage windows like fingers tapping, trying to get her.
The man made good work of the tree. His axe slipped easily into the trunk, severing limbs and revealing the wood’s rotted insides. He exerted so much effort, yet made his task seem so easy at the same time.
Mary found herself fixated. She stood at her door, her flesh prickling hot with the rash that kept her isolated in her cottage, often for days on end. Normally the rash affected her hands, but now the burn shifted to her chest, making her heart beat sparks inside of her. With that prickling came a desire. A need.
She made the man a cup of Earl Grey tea and pushed at her screen door. Her hesitant steps sunk into the mud as she crossed her strawberry patch to meet him.
“Thank you,” he said, lifting the cup to his lips. “You’re very kind.”
His smile closed the vastness of the sky above her. It made the woods feel a little less expansive. The tea flushed his cheeks and warmed his strong demeanor. Then he handed her back the empty cup, taking notice of the red bumps on her hands.
“It’s only a rash,” Mary said.
“But what might be the cause?”
Mary took a step back and stumbled, getting dirt on her skirt. “I’ve always had it,” she said. “It comes and goes.”
“Can I see?” he asked, reaching out.
Mary hesitated, feeling the prickle in her stomach as she offered herself to him. He ran his fingers over her skin, his grit scratching the itch, if just for a moment.