Hello and welcome to my stop on the Random Things Tour for The Hungry Moon! Massive thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation and to Flame Tree Press for gifting me a copy! I don’t know about you but that cover alone ticks all my horror-loving boxes! However, we all know better than to judge a book by its cover, so today I have an extract for you.
Let’s take a look at the blurb first: In the town of Moonwell, old rituals are still alive. Right-wing evangelist Godwin Mann isn’t about to let that continue, so he descends into the pit where the being who’s been worshipped by the Druids for centuries is said to dwell. What emerges is a demon in Mann’s shape, and only the town’s outcasts can see that something is horribly wrong.
Rituals and druids and demons, oh my! Now that we’re in the mood, get ready for the extract! We’re at a point in the novel where Andrew, a young villager, ventures to the pothole that gives Moonwell its name. He wants to save his father from an obsession with the cave. And this is what happens:
The light of the last streetlamp didn’t reach far up the path. He blinked at the looming sky and reminded himself that he was here for his father. He remembered treading on the eyeless lizard that day at the cave with Miss Kramer, remembered wishing his father could see him tread on it so that he’d know Andrew was starting to be a man. Now Andrew had to be more of one, had to let his father know there was nothing at the cave to be frightened of, nothing to make his father crazy as he’d looked the night he’d sneaked up to the cave. Andrew closed his eyes and prayed, and then he started upwards.
Once he was above the lamps, they showed him the edge of the path. He stayed well back as he clambered towards the unmoving sky. He felt as if it were pressing down on him, lowering itself spiderlike to meet him. He grabbed the charred edge of the moor and hauled himself onto the moorland path.
When he stumbled to his feet, he saw how alone he was. The ashen moors stretched around him, while below him the lights of Moonwell looked like matches stuck upright in the dark to smoulder. He’d hoped to see cars on the Manchester road, but it was out of sight beyond the woods. He felt as if the world had gone away, abandoned him on the dead moor.
He was shivering, worse when he tried to stop. If it was dead, he told himself, it couldn’t hurt him. All he had to do was look in the cave. How could he tell his father not to be frightened if he was scared himself? He took one faltering step along the path, a darker band through the sullen dimness that coated the slopes, and suddenly his shivering turned into running, just as uncontrollable. Heather crumbled underfoot with an unpleasant oily softness whenever he strayed from the path. He ran up the slope to the stone bowl and fell to his knees at the top.
Ash crawled on his legs and scratched in his throat, made his mouth taste smoky. He rubbed his stinging eyes and peered down towards the cave. It looked just as it had since the wall had fallen in, except darker beneath the black sky. He couldn’t make out more than a large dark blotch without depth at the centre of the bowl. It didn’t seem enough to tell his father. He had to go closer, look in.
As soon as he stepped into the stony hollow, he felt he was going to slip. He sank to his knees again and began to crawl backwards to the cave. As the top of the slope rose above him, the sky seemed to close down like a lid. Now he was afraid of crawling too far without noticing. He hitched himself round, trembling with the stony chill, and went down head first towards the cave.
There was no sound except for the scrape of his toecaps on stone, the dragging of his body as he inched forward on his stomach. Near the cave the slope grew steeper—too steep for him to cling to while he craned over the edge. He lurched to his feet and ran around the cave, a few feet from the edge, to where the slope was gentler and the cave went straight down. He threw himself on his stomach again, gasping and shivering, and shoved himself forward. Five shoves that bruised his chest, and he was at the edge. He levered himself another few inches with his elbows and gripped the edge with both hands, and then he leaned over.
There was nothing but dark below him, a dark that felt much closer than the sky and colder. He pushed himself forward a last inch to make certain. As his eyes adjusted, he made out the far wall of the cave, stretching down into blackness. It didn’t feel especially like a holy place, but was he sure he knew what a holy place was supposed to feel like? Surely all that mattered was that it was empty, cleared of all the bad that filled the sky. He was raising himself on his elbows so as to inch backwards when he thought he saw a movement in the cave.
He craned out further, his elbows trembling with the strain. Perhaps it was just the way things sometimes seemed to move about in the dark when you couldn’t see them properly. Then the movements clarified and separated, and he saw that there were three shapes, three insects crawling up the rock. Why should the sight of a few insects make him feel he couldn’t breathe? His head was swimming by the time he realised that since the pale thin shapes were crawling on the wall where it merged with the dark, they must really be larger than he was.
He jerked forward with the shock of it, and almost lost his balance. The rim of the cave cut into his hands as he saved himself barely in time. He was praying that he wasn’t really seeing what was down there, but every second made them clearer. They were the colour of the lizard he’d trodden on, the colour of things that lived in the dark. They had long fingers they were using to climb the rock, slowly but relentlessly. Two of them were raising their smooth heads towards him in a way that made him think they had no eyes, while the one in the middle seemed to have no head.
That was the sight that convulsed his body, threw him back from the edge so violently that he had no grip on the stone for a moment, almost slid down the slope and over the rim. He staggered dizzily to his feet and fled sobbing up the stone bowl. All the way along the charred path he kept glancing back in terror of seeing the pale shapes crawling after him over the dead slopes beneath the black sky.
He fell several times on the path down from the moors. He had no idea how long he’d been up there, how long his parents might have been waiting for him. He couldn’t even tell them what he’d seen, or his mother would want to know why he’d gone up to the cave, and that would make his father worse. The cave wasn’t holy, it wasn’t even dead, unless the things he’d seen were breeding in it like maggots.
If that didn’t give you all the chills, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am! Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out the other stops on the tour: