I have received one incredibly cryptic request for the novel. Here is a little bit of what I was working on in November, unedited and contextless:
The property was searched and searched again. The police never found the monster who chewed on Shelby. I don’t believe they knew what they were looking for. In time, the case was dropped. I don’t believe they would have dropped it if she had died of her injuries rather than the cold. Why was she naked? Where was her dress? Her hair was wet when we found her. They thought it was the dew rising up from the field, and the mist in the air, but there was silt from the river on her legs. She’d been swimming naked in the middle of the night. I knew. I watched her from the river bank. And she wasn’t alone. There were other women with her, all swimming or swinging from the branches of the trees, or lying on the bare mud of the steep riverbank, sprawled over trees’ roots. Dancing as if they were all mad. Pale women, as blue and faint as starlight, with long hair and black empty sockets instead of eyes. They led Shelby by the hand to that locust tree and they mounted it together, until they were all stood up in the branches howling at the sky. She tied the rope around her ankles so if she lost her balance, she wouldn’t die. But there was waiting for her at the bottom of the tree, the serpent woman who haunted the old cemetery in the pines. She unhinged her jaw as serpents do. She was in the bible, you know.
This is what I told the police when Monty said I wasn’t in bed that night and had gone out for a cigarette. He fell asleep. He wouldn’t have known if I’d come back five minutes later in any case. They said I followed Shelby. Mud was on my shoes. Well, that’s all true. So I did. I saw the black man leave her at the drive. I watched outside the window, saw her walk away and cross the wedge of light cast by the floodlights and disappear down the road. It’s easy to guess where she would have gone — always down to see the Mexicans. They were having a potluck party at the trailer park. I used to like to go to a potluck party, but I didn’t anymore. When she spoke to them, I couldn’t understand what they were saying ever. But they laughed too much.
I saw her take the rope from the barn, and I followed her to the river. I took her dress back to the house and laundered it myself later on. But first, who were these women rising up from the fields? I’d never seen them before, but it seemed like she had because she was kissing them on both cheeks like they were Italians. Foreign muck. Anyone could tell they weren’t from the town or the county. They seduced her. I watched them. And when she lost her balance, I was waiting at the bottom of the tree for her. To save her. But the serpent woman got there first. She was dirty and she smelled like fish. She actually asked Shelby if it was okay what she did. The poor girl was just crying. Well, she shouldn’t have taken my pills.
(I can see the blood and the stillness of her. They said, do you have any idea what happened to your girl? I said, that’s no girl.)
This was of course not what the police wished to hear, and I was made party to my poor girl’s death. If I hadn’t done anything to stop it, I must have done something wrong. The law doesn’t say anything about that. They couldn’t handle me anymore, so they packed me off to Broughton, but you know what? I couldn’t handle them anymore, or their darkness. You have no idea what these people are capable of, but you can sense it while they’re skulking around the house, the fierce and perverted daydreams they must be having and that’s why they don’t talk to you. They have no self-control whatsoever.
Broughton was wonderful because that was the place I found my art. They gave me paint and bits of scrap, and for once in my life I was able to create something beautiful. I began by painting little dresses. They liked those and hung them in the hall. It wasn’t a nice place, but because I was money and blue blood, I got my way always. I painted the scenes of my life and I painted all of the people who came before me and all of those who would come after. Future people are real people; we must never forget this fact.