The Eight of Swords by Petra Kidd – Excerpt

When a big event happens in the world, people usually remember what they were doing, where they were, who they were with, how old they were when it happened.  For many years to come, they will say, “oh yes, when the planes hit the towers, I had just arrived in Cuba for my first holiday in two years,” or “when the Queen Mother’s death was announced, the entire family were here for lunch, including Aunty Martha who we hadn’t seen since Uncle Stephen passed away.”  All the little details of the moment they heard something terrible or significant happened come flooding into their mind.

 It is the same with more personal events. Happenings, that in a single moment of now then permeate our thoughts and memories forever after.  The day I came home to find my key wouldn’t turn in the lock, my head was full of how one of my colleagues had committed suicide, messily, under a tube train during rush hour.  I can’t tell you that I had any gut feeling or intuition that day would become such a significant turning point in my life. It started like any other, my alarm went off, I pressed the ten minute snooze option, shut my eyes tight and hoped each minute would become an hour in real time.  Of course this is impossible but when you hate your work, every little delay in getting there becomes a mini freedom. 

 I can even remember the dream I had before I woke up. It involved a tea party in the middle of a field with buttercups and dandelions, a voice said ‘don’t pick the dandelions or you will wee in your bed.’  I often wonder if that somehow signalled the events of the day and why if it did, did I get such a pointless and unhelpful warning?

 I stood on the doorstep for a full ten minutes before my poor befuddled brain would take in the fact my key no longer fitted this lock.  Stepping back I inspected the house to make sure that in my confused and distracted state I hadn’t mistaken someone else’s house for my own but no, the door remained red with a brass knocker in the shape of a mermaid, weeds had grown over the air vent, and rain dripped in a reluctant waterfall from the guttering.  No, this was definitely my abode of the past eight years, the place I bought after my second divorce vowing I would never again share my home, my heart, my possessions with another person. 

 Stepping back I glanced at my watch, I don’t know why.  Every evening I walked home from work, setting out from my office around sixish whatever the weather, regardless of time of year. I trudged through snow, battled wind, rain and hail, slid around on ice, squinted through fog and wore a ridiculously large hat to keep the rarely sighted sun of recent summers off my pale skinned face.  Somehow, I seemed to think the time might give me the answer as to why my key wouldn’t fit the lock.  Then I caught sight out of the corner of my eye, the curtain twitch open a second. It fell back again instantly. 

 Did I imagine that?  I thought, standing there stupidly as rainwater soaked my shoulders.  I leant over and tapped on the window.  Nothing happened.  The curtain didn’t move again.  It occurred to me at this point that perhaps I should try using my back door key.  I fumbled to pick it out among all the other keys on the ring: keys to my desk drawers at work, the shed key, my elderly neighbour’s key, a bicycle lock key I had ceased to use many moons ago. I began to walk round the right side of the house, across the tiny front garden, through the side gate and along the muddy path to the back door.  Again I inserted the key into the lock, tried to turn it and it did not budge.  I managed to stop myself from hammering on the frosted glass window of the door. How ridiculous would that be?  Knocking on my own door to be let into the house where only I lived.  On examination the lock looked shinier than my normal rusty edged lock, brand new in fact.  My heart jigged a little, in a downward way, my legs weakened and my stomach did a back flip, panic had finally set in. 

 I put the keys in my coat pocket and walked slowly back to the front of the house, pondering the situation.  Back at the front door I reached up and grasped the mermaid knocker firmly and thumped brass against brass three times.  Nothing happened.  I inspected the lock; again it appeared to be shiny and new.  A couple of deep scratches and a dent I didn’t recognise were next to it.  Someone had changed the locks. 

 I simply didn’t know what to do.  Bizarrely the thought ran through my mind that somehow my colleague had faked his death, come round, broken into my house and locked me out.  Why would he do that?  We hadn’t been particularly friendly, or not friendly. For the past year of his appointment to my team we exchanged personal pleasantries on an irregular basis, shared a filing cabinet, made each other the odd cup of tea and displayed only cursory interest in one another beyond our work.  A burglar wouldn’t have changed the locks. I had no family who would create such a prank. My parents lived abroad. My brother, a well off stockbroker lived happily in Surrey with his wife and two children. Extended family included only a very elderly aunt and a spinster cousin in Australia.  My friends and acquaintances were not of the type to do this either, they were for the most part professionals, reasonably well off, fully encompassed in their own complicated lives, far too busy and harassed to decide to break into my house, change the locks and then refuse to open the door.  They weren’t the kind of people who would think such an elaborate prank funny. 

Available to buy to download via Amazon Kindle.

To read on, click here The Eight of Swords 

A short story of circa 13k words

Copyright © 2012 Petra Kidd

 

Author: Petra Kidd

Norfolk UK is my home, I live in Norwich by the River Wensum where everyday there is something different to see and learn. I feel a big affinity with the river as I grew up in Cambridge, another great river city. My childhood and teens involved many walks along the Cam where we would watch 'The Bumps,' raft races and as we grew older we enjoyed adventures on our punting pub crawls. Growing up in a multi cultural university city definitely influenced my reading choices, I am a big fan of Japanese fiction, love French literature and enjoy Shakespeare. As a young teen I entertained myself with Jilly Cooper and Dick Francis and then became quite obsessed with Henri Charriere's Papillon. At school all I cared about was English, Art and French, in that exact order. When I finished with school I went to live and work in Greece for a wonderful year before returning to study English Literature and Sociology. At this point I read more classics like the Wyf of Bath, Wuthering Heights and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man plus poets such as Wilfred Owen. My first UK full time job was with Heffer's Paperbacks where I devoured several books at a time, excited by the fact I could borrow what I liked. Bizarrely for me I remember reading The Zurich Axioms, I have no interest in the stock markets but it had me gripped. I can't remember why I picked it up but I have never forgotten it. Heffers introduced me to so many authors, via their books and sometimes in person. It was here I learned about all the genres, it fascinated me that science fiction and horror were so popular, I tried reading it all. Aside from writing letters, it didn't really ever occur to me to write anything myself for many years as I worked my way through a variety of interesting and varied jobs. Then on a visit to the London Aquarium I became struck by an idea so powerful I sat down and wrote my first novel. It went nowhere as really I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote another novel and again, didn't have the persistance or determination to take it further, I simply enjoyed the process of writing and my characters. Then years later another idea struck me and during a severe bout of Pleurisy where I couldn't do anything physical for months, I wrote the Eight of Swords and The Putsi. This time I published them as ebooks and they became pretty popular. When I fully recovered, I had to concentrate on my business and looking after my mother who has various health issues and the writing went adrift again for many years until 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. March 2020 I moved to my apartment alongside the Wensum to live alone for the first time ever. During the first lockdown I began to write a diary and then the idea for a new set of short stories came to me and in February 2021 they will be published. The Covid-19 Pandemic is not simply a scary virus, it is a historical time and here we are trying to live through it. To many it will feel like a punishment but to me as a writer, in some ways, it came as a gift. Please stay as safe and as well as you can. I hope to entertain you with my stories as we all try to get through this together, even though we are apart. Petra

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