Though the first chapter of The Log House is up on the Unbound website, it’s not technically the first scene.
Today I thought I’d give you all a sneaky glimpse at the true opening to the story. I hope you enjoy it!
The Log House is the story of Penny, a woman abandoned in a forest filled with monsters who is forced to fight for survival and revenge.
Penny pressed the thick cardboard sheet against the window and inky darkness swallowed up the room. With a touch as light as snowfall, she traced the edge of the board, checking every corner for the slightest trace of light. Her finger circled the window three times, and only then did she allow the musty curtains to fall back into place. She counted to five to ensure the fabric had stopped swaying, and then lit a candle with a match from her pocket.
The room faded into life as the flame grew stronger, revealing crumbling wallpaper and a battered floor. A wardrobe leaned into a corner of the room, its doors wide open like a waiting mouth, revealing a selection of worn, faded clothing. Pressed up against the far wall was a small, yellowed double bed in which lay a boy of around three years. His tiny, pale face was almost entirely obscured by the pillows that surrounded him, and was very nearly the same colour. Penny walked over to the bed, placing the candle on the floor. It conjured a swarm of shadows around her, and the child paled.
“Mama,” the boy whimpered, sinking into the woollen blankets.
“Hush, it’s bed time,” said Penny.
“There’s nothing to be scared of. You’re safe in here. Go to sleep.”
“Go to sleep.”
Penny pulled at the blankets and wrapped them around the boy tight enough to restrict his movement. He struggled beneath them, wriggling awkwardly, but soon gave in to their strength. He looked up at Penny, his eyes wet and flickering in the light.
“Night,” he said softly.
Penny pinched his cheek, but said nothing. She waited for his eyes to close, then picked up the candle and left him to the darkness.
She closed the door behind her as she exited the room, being sure to leave it slightly ajar, then turned left down the long, dim hallway. She walked quickly, head down, listening closely to the soft padding of her footsteps. Doorways loomed all around her, pushing into her with invisible pressure, inching their way to her heart.
Penny drew the candle closer, feeling safer in the light. She quickened her pace.
“Why can’t you be more gentle with him? He’s only a child.”
Penny wheeled around, heart hammering and already feeling stupid for being so easily spooked. She scowled and raised the candle, illuminating the round, plain face of the woman skulking in the dark behind her.
“Shadows suit you, Mary,” Penny said. “You never look as good as you do in the dark.”
“He is a child. Special. You should be kinder to him.”
Mary’s voice, flat and generally unremarkable, made Penny’s stomach clench. She took a moment to push back the bad memories that we’re starting to pound in the back of her mind, then offered the woman a sweet smile.
“It’s none of your business how I treat my son.”
“It’s everyone’s business.”
“Maybe, but not yours. Are we done?”
Mary tightened her lips until they became a crack in the china of her face. She took a breath, and Penny watched her shoulders tremble.
“No. No, we’re… look, this has gone on too long. I need to talk to you.”
“We’re talking now.”
“Not here. Outside. Will you come?”
Penny scoffed and stared down at the little woman. She waited for Mary to fall apart under the weight of her gaze, as she usually did when faced with someone with a backbone. Mary did not fall apart. She held her ground, chin raised, eyes watery and set like steel. Penny felt her cheeks grow hot.
“The sun is setting,” said Penny. “You know it’s not safe.”
“And why can’t we talk here?”
“It should be… there. You know that. Don’t you?”
Penny bit her lip, and then sighed. There would be no chance of forgiveness, not tonight, but Mary’s personality shift intrigued her. Something must have happened. Penny wanted to find out what that was.
“Will it take long? I have a child to take care of, remember?”
Penny enjoyed the flinch that fluttered across the other woman’s face.
“No,” said Mary, almost a whisper. “It won’t take long.”