EXCERPT: The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley (@AliyaWhiteley)

Past the church there is the row of cottages where the families that no longer have fathers live by the grace of the parish, squeezed into small rooms with Mrs Colson and Mrs Wells taking in washing when they can get it, and then the road curves around, the hedges spring up high, and there is a loosely pebbled lane leading off, downwards, in the direction of the river.

The trees grow over this lane, forming a darkened tunnel, and the birdsong is loud at this hour. My boots skip over the pebbles with purpose as I approach my love’s cottage. His house is a little way from the village, where the old sisters Wayly once lived. They died within a day of each other, from the influenza. At the funeral the Reverend Mountcastle said he thought they never wanted to be parted from each other, but I thought of how they never served a cup of tea without a saucer, or a slice of cake without a fork, and simply considered themselves to be a matching pair for the sake of neatness.

The garden is not so neat now. Mr Tiller is not a gardener; well, why would a man grow seedlings when he can nurture souls? And I like this wild tangle that protects his door. The roses, no longer trained, do not follow the latticework, but grow out at stubborn angles from the wall to escape the shadow of the house. And the vegetable patches, one on either side of the path, have the rocky clumps, weeds and stones of a wilderness upon them. Where do these stones come from? My father’s fields fill up with them throughout the year, and they must be removed come the spring. It’s as if they work their way up through the earth at night.

The grasses have grown so thick around the walls of the house that I have to push them aside, but at least there are no nettles. I am able to work my way around the corner of the house and then crouch down without worrying about stings and scratches. I find a hiding place; I am ensconced amongst green leaves with the delicate fronds tickling my ears and teasing my hair. I will have to comb my hair out carefully later. Later, when I return to my room and face my father’s wrath for my lateness, I will be a changed woman.


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About the Author

Aliya Whiteley was born in Devon, UK, in 1974. She writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in places such as The Guardian, Interzone, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit's European Monsters and Lonely Planet's Better than Fiction I and II. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People's Choice Award in 2007.

Her novella for Unsung Stories, The Beauty, was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and a Sabotage Award, and appeared on the Honors List for the James Tiptree Jr Award. Her writing is often violent, tender, terrifying and funny. It has garnered much critical praise and provoked discussion. Other published works of hers include a collection of short stories, a novel from Dog Horn Publishing, and a blackly comic crime novel from Macmillan. Further details can be found on her website and she tweets most days as @AliyaWhiteley.

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About the Book

The Arrival of Missives
by Aliya Whiteley

From the award-winning author of The Beauty, Aliya Whiteley, comes a genre-defying story of fate, free-will and the choices we make in life. "One of the most original and haunting stories I have read in recent years." Nina Allan, author of The Rift

In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.

The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?

As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

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