To celebrate the launch of M. R. Cosby’s ‘Dying Embers’, we have selected an excerpt from one of the stories in this fabulous collection.
Here is a little piece from ‘The Next Terrace’:
“This is boring.” Terry threw some Spider-Man comics across the room. My grandparents had just said good-night. We listened intently as they shuffled softly down the gloomy corridor to their bedroom, completing each others’ half-finished phrases, familiar as old slippers. I was about to get ready for bed, but Terry had other ideas.
“Let’s go look through that hole in the wall!”
He was clearly excited at the prospect. I shuddered, recalling the slabbed edges of the hole, like teeth, and its foetid breath. My mind had created a monster in the next terrace.
“No, come on, we know next door’s empty, so let’s crawl through and have a shifty. See what’s there. You up for it?” He glared at me, willing me to share his enthusiasm, but pleased he could take the lead.
I was always uncomfortable at not being able to enjoy his risky escapades, and Terry revelled in my awkwardness, calling me childish names. It often happened, as we peered down the darkest glades in the park when the evening came on; or he challenged me to accompany him with the school bully on illicit excursions from school; or to make risky forays beyond the gate with the ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ sign on it. “Don’t be silly,” Terry had said on one eventful, moonless evening, again giving me that look. “That sign’s rubbish. They can’t kill you for hopping over a gate.” Things had come to a head earlier in those holidays, when we were playing with matches in the empty house at the far end of the council estate; but that tragic game would remain unspoken between us. I remembered so little of it already, as if my mind had blocked it out.
So the familiar unfolded, and I capitulated despite my misgivings. Besides, I knew Terry’s bravado meant I might be able to satisfy my own curiosity.
“Come on, don’t be a mummy’s boy all your life!” He preyed on my hesitation. “I’ll go through first. You can hold the plastic stuff open and keep an eye out for your grandparents. Give me a shout if you hear them. It doesn’t matter if you’re too scaredy-custard to go through. Go on, say you’ll do it!”