Decades into the future, in a disUnited Kingdom, the breakaway county of Devon harbours dark secrets as its leader, Mayor Spight, trades with the rogue state of New Jersey to keep the engines of state running. Resistance agents are working against the clock to restore power to the people, but time is running out. Young Primrose, tithed by her parents to serve the county, tries to escape the horrors of the fate planned for her…
The surface of the drive was pitted, eroded by decades of heavy rain channelling itself down the hill, but the road beyond was worse and her progress slowed even more as she struggled to keep her balance on the ruts. Her slippers kept coming off and it was an effort to stoop and pull them out of clods of mud, then slip them back on her sore feet. She was sweating and breathing hard even though she was going downhill, and the dark and quiet were so unfamiliar, after all these years of being indoors, that she was terrified.
It began to rain, pattering drops giving way to a steady downpour; soon her nightdress was plastered to her and she was shivering.
For half an hour, she had no company but the trees – whispering overhead as the breeze built up – and the occasional scuttling of something small fleeing from her, making her jump. But she kept going, gritting her teeth against the pain in her joints and chafing of her thighs, her wet nightdress clinging to her shins and making it even harder for her to walk. She lost her slippers in the dark and was too miserable to go back to look for them.
She made it perhaps half a mile before she heard a car engine approaching behind her. The sides of the lane banked steeply; there was nowhere for her to hide before headlights swung around the bend and she was trapped in their glare, blind. The car slowed wheezily beside her and a window stuttered down.
‘And where do you think you’re going, Missy?’ Dorcas’s tone was light, but Primrose could hear the anger underneath, sliding like knives under silk, ready to tear her head off. ‘You get yourself in this car, Primrose, or I won’t be held responsible for what happens to you.’
Defeated, hanging her head, the girl stumbled around the bonnet to the passenger side and fell into the seat, the car’s suspension complaining loudly as it dipped.
As she executed a clumsy reverse back up the hill, to make a five-point turn at the entrance to the drive, Dorcas berated Primrose at length. The girl was too sick with shame and disappointment to do more than hang her head and cry into her lap, and so she missed the note of fear behind the anger.
‘What were you thinking? Making me waste all this fuel finding you, selfish cow … and after all I’ve done for you, keeping you all these years, useless lump … You’d best hope Mr Spight doesn’t hear about this or we’ll both be…’
Frowning, Dorcas clamped her mouth shut, remaining silent throughout the time it took to get them back to the fat farm and up the stairs to Primrose’s room, hauling the girl mercilessly behind her and ignoring her whimpers. None of the other inmates appeared to see what was going on but Primrose could sense them behind the closed doors lining the corridor and imagined them straining their ears, agog at her attempted escape.
A Bite of... Sophie Galleymore Bird
Q1: How much of you is in your hero and villain?
There’s a bit of me in all my characters. I’m much more comfortable writing the villains, funnily enough, and I usually empathise with some aspect of their character
Q2: Chips or pasta?
Chips every time. I’m addicted to potatoes.
Q3: Have you ever written somebody you love into a book?
I wrote my then-crush and best friend into my first book as my heroine. Sort of heroine – she is doppelgangered into a sex-crazed, man-eating monster by a boyfriend. The friend was quite happy with the characterisation.
Sophie Galleymore Bird (born 1967) had her first novel, Maneater, published in 1994. Due to a concatenation of circumstances, the version published was a lot ruder than originally intended and she was too ambivalent about it to publicise it or push its readership – it now languishes in obscurity. But it was once cited in a student dissertation as an example of feminist omnisexuality, which made her very proud.
Two subsequent novels were consigned to the bottom drawer and it was not until To See The Light Return was published in 2019 that she was back in print. TSTLR is her first self-published novel.
As well as writing, Sophie works with environmental organisations, with a special interest in food and renewable energy. She lives with her family in a wing of a mock-Gothic manse surrounded by an abundance of wildlife – including bats in a belfry – and is currently working on a trilogy of crime thrillers.