Ghosts Treading Water

book, Spain

On 27th October the third novella in my Spanish Spectres series is released. Ghosts Treading Water completes the story that started with Filled with Ghosts, shortlisted for the novella Saboteur Award in 2016.

I remember one good party at the farmhouse. Dad made benches and tables, painted them green. I found twin, gold slow-worms under a stone, and in the early hours a badger loped up the path, bigger, more bear-like than I’d imagined them.

The stream at the end of the garden turns into a river, which eventually becomes the sea. There’s a jetty with some planks missing, and you can sit on the remainders, slippery with moss, dangling your feet and viewing the mud below. During fake tides, the brown water rushes over gulls’ footprints and obliterates them. Stiff legged gulls, their footprints spiky like snowflakes.

Leading towards the mud is a grassy embankment carved into by exceptional high tides; the soft earth is washed over and under, the water secretly burrowing, so deep chasms appear. Shallow depressions in the bank fill with water that freezes in winter; stamping on them, cracking the ice, makes a snapping that leaves a satisfying echo in your bones.

Swimming in the river feels incredible; it’s broad and fast-flowing, with no bridges spanning it. Barges crammed with refuse and leisure-boats compete for space in the deepest part, the middle stretch. Hundreds of gulls follow the barges as they push the oily water ahead. Towards the edges, water barely covers the mud banks and the narrow, pebble shore is dry except at high tide. Wharf mud is grey, and objects solidified by it look fossilised, ropes still wait stiffly, though the boats they once restrained are long gone, either sunk, rotted, or taken away. I recall Mum’s favourite expression, “I’m at the end of my tether.”