When Kaaron Warren agreed to be a part of Evil is a Matter of Perspective, I was so stoked to have a fellow Aussie join the ToC. Her work is brilliant, her list of awards and nominations as long as my arm, and I'm ecstatic to have her on board. Meet the ladies that made me want to bring Kaaron warren's horror style on board, the Grey Ladies from The Unwanted Women of Surrey!
Excerpt of Kaaron Warren's The Unwanted Women of Surrey
Of all of the unwanted women of Surrey, Grace was the one most terrified when the Grey Ladies knocked on our door.
It was a gentle knock; certainly a gentlewoman. Grace took a last sip of tea and leapt up. “Allow me,” she said, as if anyone else was permitted to answer the door when she was at home. She lived in hope; she imagined somehow her husband would change his mind and take her back to the Manor.
He would not. They never do.
We heard the door open, and her gasp, then a wild screaming.
I spilled my tea in my hurry to reach her, and a plate of scones tipped to the floor. Cook would be heartily offended.
Grace was slumped against the door frame, her face ashen.
Standing clustered together, tall, skeletally thin, grey skinned, were three women. Their mouths were open as if they would speak, but instead they turned and glided away.
Grace screamed again and Dot joined her. Red Sheila shook; she was in no state to comfort them.
“Come on, inside,” I said. Faith still sat in the drawing room, neatly nibbling on a ginger biscuit.
“Faith, help me seat our friends,” I snapped at her, wanting her out of her reverie.
“Who was at the door?” she asked, only now noticing how disturbed we all were.
“The Grey Ladies! The Grey Ladies!” Grace said. “The ones that took Red Sheila’s baby.”
Red Sheila nodded. “They did. Came to visit me one cold night, twenty-five years ago. And did my baby boy live till morning? No, he did not. No, he didn’t. It’s brought it all back to me.”
Grace took a sip of tea; she didn’t seem to notice it was from my cup.
“You don’t say!” Faith said. “Who did they point to?”
We exchanged glances.
“No one,” I said. “They merely looked at us.”
“Then perhaps they made a mistake. Perhaps this time they are not presaging death.” Faith’s sensible voice calmed us.
* * *
Grace’s husband was handsome. We all liked looking at him and the men didn’t notice, so we kept on looking. He was terribly unkind to Grace, though, shaking off her embrace as though she were a bothersome moth, twisting his body to get away from her. All the men behaved that way (although my husband did like to visit my lodgings just before he left and I supposed it was still my wifely duty) but she was not used to it and had dreamed so prettily of what would occur on visiting day.
He made comment with the other men as if Grace was not sitting in his shadow. About his work, mostly, because he was a journalist and that was interesting to them, although I could tell they all thought him a braggart.
“And our daughter?” Grace said, which is when he flicked at her.
“The daughter is fine. She has a good family now.”
She gave a passionate cry and threw herself to the ground. One of the men suggested they withdraw, and they did so, to our glorious garden to smoke their pipes and raise their eyebrows at each other.
Grace ran to her room. We let her be; foolishly, we ignored the warning of the grey ladies and let her be.
It was amongst the men she landed. She’d torn off her dress and squeezed through her window onto the roof. She was lucky, her life was snatched instantly. I looked up as she fell and I thought I could see them, leaning out, the grey ladies, holding on to the window frame with long, sharp fingernails.
One thing about being locked up as an hysterical, unwanted woman; you don’t need to pretend. We all of us threw ourselves to the ground and we didn’t care what our men in their suits thought. Grace’s face was serene, once we’d wiped the blood away
They surrounded Grace’s husband, slapping him on the back, “Sorry, old chap,” but it looked awfully like congratulations to me. “Well done, old chap. You’re free.”
The grey ladies stood together, heads bowed. Aping sorrow. I could see the ghost of their teeth as they tried to conceal smiles.
Grace had been a sweet and kindly member of our household and her passing filled us with great sorrow. And relief? Were we all somewhat relieved that the grey ladies took her and not us?
END OF EXCERPT
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