Tacenda
Charlotte Donnelly
The sole beneficiary of her aunt's estate, Amber decides to move into the large house in the village ... Show More
Genres:
Fantasy, Horror, LGBT, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Tags:
folk horror, gothic horror, england, britain, british horror

Chapter One - Tacenda

tacenda
 
(n.) things better left unsaid; matters to be passed over in silence
 
The bus trundled down the country road, rattling dangerously when the driver took a corner a little too fast. Amber grabbed for her suitcase as it began to roll away, hauling it back so it was pressed up against her knees. She started fanning herself again with the leaflet that had been pushed into her hand at the bus station. Do you believe in life after death? it read and Amber had rolled her eyes at the time. Now she appreciated it. The air inside the bus was thick and cloying, a pressure against her skin, making her feel sticky.

She tilted her head back, trying to get a hint of a breeze on her face from the open window, but it was to no avail and she gave up quickly, resting her head against the juddering glass. Only another half an hour before they reached the village, until she could hopefully find somewhere with some air conditioning.

They rounded another sharp turn, one of the teenagers behind Amber swearing as he smacked up against her seat. An old lady tutted loudly and Amber smiled to herself when the teenager sat back, muttering a hasty apology. The bus was mostly empty this far out from town; she glanced around, counting six other passengers, including the two boys behind her. Out in the sticks, indeed.

Her phone rang, loud even over the clatter of the bus, and Amber fumbled it out of her pocket, frowning when she saw the caller’s name.

Jamie. Of course.

She answered, covering her other ear with her hand so she could hear better.

“Hey! Hey, Amber?”

“Jamie. What’s up?”

“Where are you? Babe, I can’t hear you!”

Amber rolled her eyes. “I’m on a bus. Look, Jamie, what do you want?”

“You’re where? Look, can you get somewhere quieter…”

“I’m on a bus,” Amber all but shouted, shooting the old lady a scowl when she earned herself a tut.

“Babe, I’ve gotta see you, are you gonna be home soon?”

“I’m not in Leicester.”

“What?”

“I said, I’m not in Leicester. I’m moving, okay? I’m like two hours away by now.”

“Moving?!”

“Yes, Jamie, moving.” The bus turned again and Amber made another grab for her suitcase, almost dropping her phone in the process. One of the boys behind her laughed and she felt her cheeks heat.

“Where are you moving to?”

“I… Look, it doesn’t matter. I’m not gonna be back for a while, okay? I got into another stupid fight with my parents and, well, I’m gone.”

“Why didn’t you call me? Babe, you know you’re always welcome at mine.”

Amber’s frayed temper snapped. “I didn’t call you because we broke up two weeks ago! You remember that? Besides, I’ve got somewhere better to go than your poky little flat.”

There was silence on the other end of the line. Maybe he’d lose his temper, too? At least then she could put the phone down on him without feeling guilty about it.

But no, when he spoke again, his voice was low, almost sorrowful. “Amber, I’m sorry about what happened, okay, I didn’t mean—”

“Oh, don’t even start that with me right now!” The bus hit something, something Amber very much hoped was a pothole, and she grabbed onto the edge of the seat, fingers digging into the rough cushioning. “I’ve gotta go, Jamie, bye.”

“No, Amber, wait—!”

Amber ended the call with an irritated huff. She turned her head to see the old lady’s disapproving eyes on her and raised an eyebrow, staring right back until the old dear turned her head to look out the window. After a second, Amber looked out of hers.

Fields stretched out almost as far as she could see, blooming in the early summer heat. A scattered group of houses in the distance signalled the village they’d passed forty minutes ago, and when she turned to look ahead, she saw an ominous patch of dark trees cutting up into the pristine blue sky.

Amber settled back in her seat, holding onto her suitcase tightly as the bus lumbered on, jolting and jarring the whole way.
 
***

They reached what Amber assumed was the second to last stop—the one before hers, anyway—and the old lady and the two teenage boys, the only passengers still on besides her, got off. The driver stood, getting out of the cabin and he did a double-take upon seeing Amber still sitting there, running his fingers nervously over his grey moustache.

“Last stop, love,” he said and Amber frowned.

“No, I need to go to Lower Cwealm,” she replied, the village name unfamiliar in her mouth. It seemed Welsh, which was weird, being as she was nowhere near Wales right now, but however she mangled the pronunciation, the bus driver seemed to understand. “It said online this bus goes there.”

Granted, she hadn’t asked him when she’d got on, but she’d been trying to deal with her suitcase and her backpack at the time.

“Road’s closed,” the driver replied. He shut the cabin door and eyed her luggage. “Besides, that place ain’t really a tourist spot.”

“I’m not going there to be a tourist,” Amber snapped. She sighed, trying to rein in her temper. Sweat crawled down the back of her neck; she’d never been so hot in her life. “Look, I just need to get out there. It’s, what, five miles from here? That’s gotta be a ten-minute drive, max.”

“Road’s closed,” the driver repeated. “Even if I wanted to drive you out there, I couldn’t.”

Amber opened her backpack, wondering if she’d bothered to print a copy of the directions she’d found online—she had no signal out here, she’d realised about a mile back—and then the reality of the bus driver’s words sank in.

“What do you mean, even if you wanted to?”

He shifted from foot to foot, ducking his head to look out the bus windows like he expected someone to be there, watching him. “It isn’t a place people come back from,” he said quietly, expression suddenly haggard, and a chill went down Amber’s spine.

“What happens to them?”

He shook his head. “I’ll drive you back to town, okay? Get you on the bus—where did you come from, again?”

“Leicester,” Amber said. For a moment, she seriously considered it, then, all at once, she felt stupid. It had taken her an hour to get out here. An hour long stretch of deserted road, with no houses for miles. There wasn’t a chance she was taking him up on the offer; anything could happen to her. It wasn’t worth the risk. Especially since this guy seemed convinced people were vanishing after they went to a village. He was obviously unhinged.

She shook her head, jumping to her feet. The bus driver looked on as she shrugged on her heavy backpack, wheeling her suitcase ahead of her. When she reached him, he didn’t move, and Amber came to a stop, heart hammering in her throat.

“Is there anything I can say to convince you not to go out there?” he asked.

Amber shook her head. “Move,” she said, then when she thought it might have come out too harshly, added, “Please.”

He stepped aside, to her great relief, and Amber got off the bus. She rounded it quickly, spotting the ‘Road Closed’ sign and heading in that direction. Her skin prickled with the weight of the driver’s gaze on her as she made her way past the sign and only when she rounded a corner, putting herself out of his line of sight, did she stop to take a deep, shaky breath.

“Creepy motherfucker,” she muttered to herself. She waited for a moment, tilting her head to listen, in case he’d followed. A few minutes later, she heard the bus engine start, sound quieting as it drove away.

Amber relaxed. She fished her headphones out of her pocket and plugged them into her phone, letting out a sigh as the music washed over her. Five miles. It would take a couple of hours, what with all the extra weight she was carrying. She took a deep breath of fresh air and set off, heading towards her new home.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 7/7/2017 11:23:19 PM
  • Lew commented on :
    7/11/2017 10:58:46 PM
    I enjoy your pacing and natural writing style that set you apart from many of the writers on JukePop. Your introduction of Amber is well done. Thank you for posting this ... Show More
    • Charlotte Donnelly Aw, thank you so much! I hope you keep enjoying it! :D
      7/12/2017 1:08:25 PM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    7/8/2017 1:57:14 PM
    First off, Jamie sounds like a total f*ckboy. Second...five miles? All alone for five miles. What could possibly go wrong?
    • Charlotte Donnelly Ahahahahaha you know he is, still trying to decide what his fate is going to be in all this. As for the five miles... I'm sure Amber will be just fine ;)
      7/12/2017 1:07:07 PM