First published as a chapbook from Nightjar Press, September 2009, this story won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story in 2011 and appeared in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR for that year. The fee for this story has been generously donated to Cats Protection League – please click the link and consider making some cat’s life a little easier.
MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH is a novelist and screenwriter. Under this name he has published over seventy short stories, and three novels — ONLY FORWARD, SPARES and ONE OF US — winning the Philip K. Dick, International Horror Guild, and August Derleth awards, along with the Prix Bob Morane in France. He has been awarded the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction four times, more than any other author. Writing as MICHAEL MARSHALL, he has published six internationally-bestselling thrillers including THE STRAW MEN, THE INTRUDERS and KILLER MOVE. His next novel, THE FORGOTTEN, will be published in 2013. He is currently involved in screenwriting projects including a television pilot and an animated movie for children. He lives in Santa Cruz with his wife and son. Check out his website at the link under his byline above.
Your reader this week is Donna Scott – Donna Scott is a short fiction writer, editor, performance poet, storyteller and comedian as well as Awards Administrator for the British Science Fiction Association. She has recently worked with Northampton Museum and Art Gallery to produce an exhibition on the 1612 Northampton Witch Trials and a number of spin-off projects in the region. To find out about her latest projects and appearances check out her website here
“The first thing I was unhappy about was the dark. I do not like the dark very very much. It is not the worst thing in the world but it is also not the best thing in the world, either. When I was very smaller I used to wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and be scared when I woke up, because it was so dark. I would go to bed with my light on, the one light that turns round and round, on the drawers by the side of my bed. It has animals on it and it turns around and it makes shapes and patterns on the ceiling and it is pretty and my mummy’s friend Jeanette gave it to me. It is not very too bright but it is bright enough and you can see what is what. But then it started that when I woke up in the middle of the night, the light would not be on any more and it would be completely dark instead and it would make me sad. I didn’t understand this but one night when I’d woken up and cried a lot my mummy told me that she came in every night and turned off the light every night after I was asleep, so it didn’t wake me up. But I said that wasn’t any good, because if I did wake up in the night and the light wasn’t on, then I might be scared, and cry. She said it seemed that I was waking every night, and the she and daddy had worked out that it might be the light that kept me awake, and after a while I was awake I’d get up and go into their room and see what was up with them, which meant she got no sleep any night ever and it was driving her completely nuts.
So we made a deal, where and the deal said I could have the light on all night but I promised that I would not go into their room in the night unless it was really important, and it is a good deal and so I’m allowed to have my light on again now, which is why the first thing I noticed when I woke up was that is it was dark.
Mummy had broken the deal.
I was cross about this but I was also very sleepy and so wasn’t sure if I was going to shout about it or not.
Then I noticed it was cold.
Before I go to bed, mummy puts a heater on while I am having my bath, and also I have two blankets on top of my duvet, and so I am a warm little bunny and it is fine. Sometimes if I wake in the middle of the night it feels a bit cold but if I snuggle down again it’s okay.
But this felt really cold.
My light was not on and I was cold.”