• West Cork Literary Festival 2021

Aideen McGrade

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Bio

Marketing Executive & Receptionist for a local hotel by day and aspiring novelist by night (and any other time I have a moment). I have a BA in English, an MSc in Communication, Advertising and PR and a PGDip in Digital Marketing.

A world, far beyond our wakening hours on earth has developed and grown in my mind for over five years. There have been times when those in this world have shown themselves and have spoken to me clearly, other times they have shied away. In 2020, I finally completely the first part of their story in my head and on paper.

Current project

I have finished the first part of my light fantasy YA/upper middle grade novel. When 12 year old Aisling is once more reminded of her father’s disappearance, a strange encounter with a whole new world leads her to believe that her father now exists there and her family holds many more secrets than she could ever have imagined. I am currently writing the second part to this series.

I have also started research and compilation of a series of short stories, which I will publish monthly on my own blog. These will be YA short stories and will involve a road.

Writing sample

It had been over two years since Aisling’s father disappeared. Since then his name was only mentioned on the rarest of occasions. In fact, the last time his name was uttered in Aisling’s presence was over two months ago, on his thirty fifth birthday. This all changed on June 15th.

On this day a freckled, gangly girl lay under an ash tree in her back garden filled with overgrown plants and unmown grass. She was quietly reading Agatha Christie’s ‘Death in the Clouds’. Her movement throughout the day had been minimal, limiting her energy to flipping over when one side had overheated. She had been outside all day since she had awakened at eight. From that time her freckles had duplicated rapidly; and the rest of her skin had turned a deep shade of scarlet. Her skin was not well adapted for the heat (a problem which didn’t arise too often in Ireland).

She had heard that today was due to be the warmest day in Ireland since 1991 and in preparation had dug out a bottle of factor 50 sun-cream, with a crusty white film around the lid. She was aware that the sun-cream had more than likely lost its potency, but at this present moment it did not matter to her; that her freckly nose was turning red, or that the tops of her arms were on fire. Anything was better than being indoors. She could hear her mother banging the cupboard doors, clattering saucepans as she went and muttering incessantly.

Mentally she was prepared to stay out until dusk, but physically her body was shouting for a reprieve. Aisling lifted herself from the grass, the sweat which had soaked her lower back and legs had caused grass tracks to form across her pale skin. She was hoping to stroll across the cool kitchen tiles, but instead she heard a shriek lift from inside and knew this wouldn’t happen.

Pushing open the kitchen door she could see her mother perched upright on the sofa. Her hair was greasy, scraped back into a ponytail and she was still clothed in her thick, flannel pyjamas. She was ghostly pale, with a distinct look of weariness on her face.

‘What’s wrong with you mother?’ the girl snapped.

Her mother turned to face her, only noticing that someone had entered the room. Her eyes which had been glazed over under her long eyelashes, now opened widely in shock. She stuttered with intense agitation.

‘Aisling,’ she said as she lunged across the sofa, searching frantically for something down the sides of the cushions and amongst the piles of blankets lumped on top. Aisling watched in surprise, as her mother moved quicker than she had in years. In the background the television continued to sound out the news. Perking her ears up, Aisling stood still listening now to the news reporter.

‘Again, a round-up of today’s top stories. A body of a man has been found on a beach in Donegal this morning. The gardai are yet to formally identify the remains, however they are exploring the possibility that the remains belong to those of Columba McLeod, who went missing from a holiday rental near the area over two years ago.’

The scrawny woman had now stopped searching. She had found the remote, but it was too late to bother switching the channel. Instead she was staring at her young daughter, who was frozen to the spot. The two stayed in silence for several minutes. She looked at Aisling. Aisling ignored her and continued to stare at the television. Aisling’s mother averted her eyes away from her daughter and back gradually in the hope of some response. She searched Aisling’s face for some reaction.

‘Great mother, just great. You did everything in your power to convince me that he was already dead. That from the day and hour he disappeared, he had died, that he had killed himself.’ Her words were calm to begin with, but as she continued, they spilled out faster and much louder. ‘He hadn’t cared enough for this family, and instead he cared only for himself. But now it turns out that he has only just died. We should have been looking harder for him. We should have stopped this. He could have been out there all alone for all those years.’ She was blustering the words.

A whimper came from the fine lips of her mother whose head had now dropped, ‘It’s not him’.

‘That’s all you have to say. It’s not him. How do you know it’s not him?’ Aisling was now squealing at a high pitch. ‘I can’t believe this. I’m nearly twelve. I can handle whatever is going. Tell me what’s going on,’ she demanded.

The news report continued in the background. Pictures scrolled across the screen of happy faces, children frolicking in their paddling pools, pets catching various chew toys, farmers drawing silage.

The sun which blazed outside was almost completely blacked out in the kitchen. Slim lines of light dripped through the narrowest margins between the blinds. The hunger which had ravished Aisling’s stomach before entering the house, had now completely dissipated. It was now filled by rage.

‘Aisling, it’s not true. You have seen the letters sweetheart. You understand why we think he is gone forever? Read the letter,’ her mother said quietly.

  • The Dark Room by Sam Blake
  • allianceindependentauthors.org

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