Cathryn has been a writer for most of her life. Originally from Bristol, she now lives in Glasgow with her family and hyperactive dog. She has a degree in French and has taken courses in Creative Writing and Screenwriting. Cathryn taught French and English before becoming a translator and editor.
An extract from a short story entitled Number 6.
Jennifer Cameron. You roll the name around your mouth, getting used to it. You bite down on the consonants and chew on the vowels and, in the mirror, your lips move with the shape of them. Jennifer Cameron. Jenn-i-fer Cam-er-on. It’s a good name. You smile.
Jennifer Cameron will be your sixth.
Before you saw her, you’d thought this time you’d tackle a man. It’s not that you didn’t enjoy the women, because you did; it’s just that they were push-overs, when you wanted to feel you’d earnt your win. So you were hungry for a challenge this time – someone less easy, someone who’d resist to the end – but the moment Jennifer Cameron crossed your radar, you dismissed all thoughts of men. There’s something so compelling about her that no-one else will do.
As always, you’re meticulous in your preparation: planning is the key to success. You find out where she lives, where she works, who she sees. For days you watch her and learn her routine. She’s a creature of habit, it transpires; too busy with work and her children for surprise or spontaneity, and by the end of the week, you know exactly where she’ll be and when. That makes you smile, too. People are incredible. They don’t seem to realize predictable means vulnerable.
Not that many people would describe Jennifer Cameron that way, you’re sure. You’ve seen the way she deals with men twice her size. She may be small and slight, but there’s strength in the way she stands, size-four feet planted squarely apart, and defiance in the tilt of her chin. Cross her and she’s trouble. The blokes from Transco can attest to that.
They’ve been renewing the gas pipes in her neighbourhood for weeks, digging holes in the roads and the pavements, erecting pedestrian walkways and putting No Parking cones everywhere. Jennifer Cameron has had to park her Volkswagen on Linden Avenue for days, traipsing back and forth to the car to fetch her shopping in, leaving there baby unattended. You’re there, watching her, when her patience finally snaps. Her jaw tightens, her hands clench, then all her pent-up irritation spews angrily out.
“Why is that sodding hole still there?” she shouts at the foreman, pointing at the ragged trench in the street outside her front door. “What the bloody hell do you people do all day? I’ve got a baby in the car! Anything could happen to him whilst my back’s turned – and if it does, it’ll be your fault. So why don’t you just stop pissing around and get this job done?”
The foreman, a grey-haired man with an ill-fitting jacket and worried eyes, starts to fumble an apology but gets short shrift for his trouble. Jennifer Cameron will have none of it. She marches off swearing she’ll to complain to his boss. You watch her go – her back stiff, her elbows working furiously – and your excitement grows.
Oh, yes. Jennifer Cameron is going to be fun.
An extract from a fantasy novel entitled Cedes.
At first, there’s scratching – the dry scrape of claw over stone – and then the soft whoosh of a furry body moving at speed. It darts across the cell floor and through the pale streak of light cast by the burners on the other side of the door’s barred window. Kit catches the gleam of beady eye and the pallid outline of a hairless tail before the creature disappears back into the shadows. He holds his breath. The rat is still wary, even after all these months, and any sudden movement is sure to send it scurrying back to its hole in the far wall – although no-one would ever guess any of that from the purposeful way it’s approaching Kit’s half-finished plate of gruel. Whiskers twitching, it takes a good sniff, then leans in to start lapping up the thin, grey liquid with its long, pink tongue. Kit tells himself the fact the creature is eating, the way it returns day after day, is a good sign; it must mean his food isn’t being poisoned. Yet.
The rat licks up the last of the tasteless broth and starts in on the solids, lifting them to its mouth with its almost hand-like paws. Kit’s stomach heaves. Those lumps were all gristle, with the occasional strand of hair thrown in, and it was all he could do to force even a few of them down. The rat, on the other hand, is consuming them with apparent relish, tongue swiping its muzzle every now and again to ensure not a drop of the meal is wasted.
“You’re disgusting,” Kit tells it, but with no malice. Rats have every business being disgusting; it’s their stock-in-trade. And besides, there are worse things to be. He flicks a glance at the cell door and wonders which of the bastards is guarding it tonight. At least it won’t be the squat, dark one. Not any more.
All of a sudden, the rat stops eating. Its head jerks to one side, eyes and ears swivelling towards the door, and then it’s bounding away and out of Kit’s sight. His whole body goes tense. Something is happening. Someone is coming.
Footsteps sound from way down the corridor, the bright ring of metal studs striking stone. As they get nearer, he can tell there’s more than one man coming. Two? Three? He can’t be sure. He swallows, bracing himself. If he has to, he’ll fight them. He’s not giving in without a fight.
From outside the cell door comes the sound of a heavy chair toppling over as its occupant – Kit’s jailer – gets abruptly to his feet.
“Whatcha got there?” Kit hears him ask.
“Another bloody rebel,” a gruff voice informs him. Then it laughs, as if that’s somehow funny. “Been ordered to put him in with His Highness.”
Kit’s warder gives a low whistle. “Poor bastard musta done something terrible to deserve that.”