Eve´s Christmas is a new, bittersweet short story about a young girl at a magical boarding school who finds out she´s not a real person but a character in a story.
It forms a prelude to the Shakespeare´s Moon series of books which will begin in February with The Invisible Hand.
It´s Christmas at St Francis´s School…
I was alone one day at the furthest end of the empty, frosty playing fields when a hole in the ground opened before me. A strange man who would later identify himself as Master Maia appeared from the frosty hatch and beckoned me over. I glanced back at the fogged-over fields and the ghostly image of the school and walked across to where the Master was clapping his gloved hands together.
“Quick as you like, my dear,” he was saying, his breath rising in a cloud.
Below the playing fields, at the foot of the ladder, was a cavernous tunnel warmed by glowing electric railings. The Master pointed out a small wooden table and asked me to sit on the stool tucked beneath it. When I´d done so, he passed me a piece of paper. On this I read:
She is lonely and weird. No-one likes her. She prefers characters in books to real people. She prefers being alone to being in the world. She
The piece of paper was smaller than my hand and torn at one diagonal edge. There were some faint blue lines beneath the text which I recognised as those in the notebooks we used at school. “I´m sorry, I don´t understand what you want me to do,” was the only thing I could think of saying.
“That note was written this morning,” the Master told me.
“But what does it have to do with me?”
“It is you,” he replied. The Master was a strange man, calm but nervy; young and old at the same time. He looked familiar but, as I examined him closely, became a total stranger. I realised that his face was constantly, subtly, changing. This was odd but not frightening. Up above him I saw hundreds of worm tails wriggling from the tunnel ceiling.
“Me?” I looked down at the scrap of paper again.
“There´s no more to the note, only what you have in your hand,” the Master told me. He leaned across to pick a magnifying glass off a shelf suspended by chains from the clay wall. “That scrap was thrown into a rubbish bin. We retrieved it, identified you and brought you here.”
“So…what? You´re saying I´m invented?” I laughed. “I´m not real?”
The Master nodded. “That´s right. But don´t be alarmed. I´m not real either.” He swept a hand around behind his head. “Rest assured, my dear: you´re among friends here.”