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© Jennie Kew Australia 2020

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

The Q Collection, Volume Six


“I can’t believe you bought that shithole.”

Sighing long and loud down the phone-line, I remind myself to ignore my best—and only—friend’s disparaging remarks. “Fuck off, bitch.”

She tsks at me before launching into our weekly catch up session, ending the conversation with “Well don’t blame me when the zombies crack your skull open to get to the gooey centre.”

Lips twitching into a grin, I end the call and toss my phone on the couch, then flop down beside it and tuck my hands behind my head.

Okay, so buying a house that comes with its very own graveyard probably isn’t normal, but being normal isn’t exactly something I’ve often been accused of.

When I was six, I used to catch spiders in a glass jar and sleep with it beside my bed. By the time I turned ten I was collecting animal skulls and displaying them on my bookshelves according to size and genus. And at the ripe old age of twelve, there was what my father referred to as “The Gargoyle Incident”, only ever to be spoken of in hushed and reverend tones.

And preferably in the presence of a licensed therapist.

Everyone thinks I’m nuts, and maybe I am. I don’t know. All I know for certain is that twenty years ago I fell off the roof a house—this house, to be exact—but I never hit the ground.

Arnaath saved me.

Of course, my father said it never happened. “You were dreaming, Chloe. You fell asleep in the garden and dreamt you were falling,” he used to say.

The psychologist he took me to as a kid—after six months of me insisting that not only was Arnaath real, but I was going to run away and marry him when I grew up—agreed with him. “Gargoyles aren’t real, Chloe. It’s all in your head.”

For years that was my mantra.

Gargoyles aren’t real, it’s all in my head.

Gargoyles aren’t real, it’s all in my head.

Gargoyles aren’t real, it’s all in my head.

But every time we drove past this old place I’d wonder, was it really?

I suppose it didn’t really matter one way or the other.

Life went on regardless.

I was still the weird girl no one wanted to sit next to in class, who grew up to become the weird chick who couldn’t get a date, who went on to take over the family masonry business and bought an old house that came with its very own graveyard.

Annnd also happens to have a large winged, sullen-looking stone gargoyle on the roof.

My gaze drifts upwards.

The house sits on the outskirts of town, way back from the edge of a lonely pockmarked road. A sad ramshackle of a building hidden behind an unruly thicket of hazelnuts and blackberry brambles, it’s exterior leaves much to be desired. In the twenty years since I fell off the roof the old girl has had four owners. Each of them well-intentioned and enthusiastic and choc-a-block full of the over-confidence that can only be garnered by watching too many home renovation shows on “reality” TV.

Of course, when they found out exactly how much it would cost to renovate the quaint stone church that looked like a small castle in the middle of bloody Nowhereville, they put it back on the market quicker than you can say “money pit”. The upshot being that every time it went back on the market the value dropped just a little closer to what I could afford.

So now I’m sitting in my very own castle surrounded by dead people and watched over by mythical creatures who—let’s face it—are quite probably not real and are in fact all in my head.

Time to find out for sure.

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