The BBN (Big Bad Novel) began life as a short story, but very quickly made it clear that it wasn’t going to be confined in such a manner. It grew exponentially, sprawling all over the place, and I have to admit that I just went with it, as I was thoroughly enjoying the ride. It’s a very demanding sort of story, and even now, when it seems to have settled itself into being a trilogy, it’s still leaving little splinters and shoots all over the place, little pieces of back story and side story.
So these stories are about events that took place before the BBN, but are spoiler-free – if, in the far-off future, you were to read the BBN, the story would still be safe. They’re in the order in which I wrote them, bottom to top, but you don’t need to read them in that order – each is a story of its own.
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“Is that a shark?”
“Shh! And of course it’s not a shark. What would a shark be doing in a bath?” But he pulled his hand away anyway. Just because it wasn’t a shark didn’t mean it wouldn’t bite.
Beryl growled, but tried the door. “Is there a key?”
“How should I know?”
“What, you expect me to break the door down as well?”
“Don’t you just huff and puff and blow it all down?”
Plus, Auld Scratties stank, and Mitch was not the sort of cat that liked things that stank. He sighed, cursed Chester fairly creatively, and said, “Are you going to come quietly?”
The rat watched him, and wondered what sort of child watched his life slip away with such acceptance, and, more to the point, what sort of person that child might become.
Harvey looked away, bored. “I don’t really care, C.”
“You should, because we all know that guarding is temporary. After guarding comes more final solutions.”
They were the same colour as the sand too, and in the moonlight it looked like the beach itself coming to life, as if someone had spilled magic on a collection of fanciful sand sculptures.
She sniffled, tears gone, then scuttled past him, slipping into the water and turning in happy somersaults that scared the goldfish, before sinking slowly to the bottom and curling up on herself like a small aquatic cat.
It was still there. Kate peered over the potted, neatly clipped hedge, and could see the thing’s legs, or fingers, or tentacles – she wasn’t exactly sure what she should call them – winding around the grate and venturing onto the sidewalk.
The bigger boy shoved Patrick hard enough that he staggered backwards and tripped, spilling to the ground. There was a burst of harsh laughter from above him, and he frowned at his feet, as if to blame them for getting him into this mess.
She ran for the back door – and, later, she’d tell herself that she’d been mistaken about the deadlock being on, that she’d locked it then unlocked it herself, in her dizzy relief, without realising what she was doing. Because it couldn’t have been locked, Kate couldn’t have locked it behind her. So it hadn’t been.
The rat looked up at him, waiting, and the boy could feel the small, fragile warmth of him against his palm, the rapid strum of his heartbeat. It seemed impossible that something so tiny could survive out here, in a world of cats and dogs and traps and poison.