The Summoning Bell

Submitted into Contest #178 in response to: Write a story about an unconventional holiday tradition.... view prompt

55 comments

Crime Historical Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

 -The Cutter’s Inn, 1844

Winter trees reach with long dark fingers into an unresponsive sky as the figure strikes the match, eagerly bringing the hungry flame to the paper’s edge. Clouds mask the moon as they did a year ago and no reflection from the inky waters mirrors the man’s face, shaggy brows knitted in fervid concentration. He is alone, only thoughts and fears for company.

The canal carves its quiet way through the night, secrets flowing through each of the 105 locks, linking this backwater to the smog and skulduggery of London. The paper catches and the tongue of flame curls upwards, words scorched with a sigh from the page. Rain begins to fall, scoring the smooth water’s surface as if each drop is boring deep, searching the waters for something. Nothing to be found here, he thinks, tossing the burning paper, white ribboning to black, into the darkened waters below. Anything that can sink will, sucked down into the canal and that paper will drown in its drink quicker than one of the rotten-toothed revellers in the inn behind him.

Every year he completes this odd convention, told to none, barely acknowledged by himself: the annual list of regrets, written, just to be consigned to ash in a watery grave. He turns his back; it is only rain upon his face as he passes the canal boats moored there. Hurrying to the welcoming light cast from the only building on the towpath: The Cutter Inn, a guard tower with windows for watchful eyes, he briefly acknowledges there’s an unusual number of barges for this time of year, trade normally ceases for the holidays. But there’s no time to stop and ponder the reason; the tavern’s door is flung open, a drunk staggers out and, as the man retches and curses, he can take the chance to slip in.

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All eyes in The Cutter’s Inn turn from their pints to look at the stranger, shaking himself like a wet dog on their threshold. With a determined tread, he paces to the roaring fire, hangs his dripping cloak on a peg as if he’s been there many a time before and this hook is his own. Standing, steaming slightly in the heat cast from the grate, he surveys the pub and its occupants. Years of spilt beer has stained the sawdust on the floor an unsavoury brown; oil lamps reeking of kerosene choke the air and, at the bar, the dark brows of the landlord knit above his surveying eyes, pulling a pint of ale, his large hands used to the slow rhythmic pull down and down again at the pump, his gaze never leaving the stranger’s face.

This is a place that has seen better days. Haulage by waterway isn’t what it was: the new railway, like an uncoiled snake, rattles and hisses in its cloak of steam into the future, leaving the sauntering canal boats in its wake. And the Cutter Inn, serving the last of the canal traders- dogged souls bound to their canal, boats and horses with chains no upstart railway can sever- are the last to remain, raising a glass as the old year gasps its last. 

“A pint of your best,” the young man says, wiping the rain up from his brow through his hair in a way that might have spelled trouble had any women been present, “and a jar for each man here,” he adds, placing a fat leather purse on the counter to signal the means with which he will extend this hand of bounty.

Loosened by free drink, tongues which might have snapped with opprobrium, scorn at the stranger’s decision to grace them with his presence tonight of all nights, are softened. Talk turns to the year: offerings- gladly received; kicks- deflected or at worst endured. Bert, skipper of the Kingfisher of Avon, is the first to wheeze his reflections through yellow teeth jutting from angry red gums.

“I remember the pies: thick crust and thicker gravy; big chunks of steak and kidney, generous to the last was old Fran. Many a night, when the horse stopped and I needed to give him a lick about the haunches to get him and me on our way, it was only the thought of old Fran and her pies that kept me going.”

The others murmur their assent and the landlord, still delivering the free ale to each table, slams the pint down in front of old Bert. Beer sloshes over the sides, running in rivulets before dripping into the sawdust below. If Bert was about to ask if anyone knows whatever happened to the Inn’s cook, the hovering figure is enough to halt his tongue and he chooses to take a hearty drink of the ale instead.

“To your good health Colin, may your year be a prosperous one!” Another man, ten years younger than Bert but with no more teeth in his mouth, wishes the landlord. The exclamation which shoots from the dark-browed publican’s mouth could be interpreted in many ways; none of them suggest polite agreement. He makes his way back to the bar, wiping his large hands on the apron tied about his waist before thrusting the last ale at the stranger, still standing at the bar, waiting. If the others dare not freely state their minds, even on a night of supposed reckless celebration, the stranger knows no such restraint. He takes a long pull at his pint, wiping the froth on the back of his hand in a somewhat rakish manner; Colin scowls his disapproval.


“So, there is little to celebrate in these parts?” The stranger enquires, surveying the down-on-its-luck establishment, where poverty rather than prosperity seems the only thing on tap.

Bert, obviously the resident blather mouth, starts up again, giddy with freedom now that Colin the publican is back behind his bar.

“Well, we’re like the last men standing.” He lets out a misplaced laugh, indicating with a weathered hand the rest of the Cutter’s motley crew, who nod in agreement.

“And every year the railway takes more and more; first it were our best, now it just takes any. Many a young man has left these parts to feed the coal-guzzling monster.”

The stranger must look blank, for Bert explains: “That’s what the likes of us call that new-fangled train.”

The stranger sips his beer thoughtfully. “And why are they so keen to leave do you think?”

“Fed up with trawling the canals at an old nag’s pace, no doubt!” Bert exclaims, sloshing his drink this time himself. “In all types of weather, you’ll find us out on the canal; the only comfort’s a pint in a place like the Cutter at the end of a hard n’ cold day of haulage.”

“There certainly seems to be little other comfort on offer, that is for sure,” says the man, eyeing the room appraisingly. “Where are all the womenfolk; do none of you have wives if mistresses are not permitted?” He laughs confidently and if one or two men join him, they quickly fall silent as Colin wheels a finished barrel of beer to a hatch, before sending it crashing into the darkness below. All jump although the noise must be hardly new to any of them.

He turns, red-faced and sweating from the exertion back to face the unwanted guest, and his torso and shoulders thrust in a T shape that would spell terror to many a man; the stranger, however, only takes another long expectant pull on his beer.

“You’re not from around these parts.”

It is not a question and the visitor neither concurs or disagrees.

“If you were, you’d have heard about the events of a year ago, that which sent our womenfolk scattering like lambs.”

An expectant hush fills the silence, broken only by the occasional snap of a breaking log in the hearth or the hiss of damp air expiring.

“We never found the perpetrator, but this time last year there was a wolf in our midst in the shape of a young handsome man; stole a lamb as surely as I’m standing here: my daughter, Beth.”

The stranger shifts his weight in his heavy boots for the first time in what might be discomfort. If he is discomposed, the publican is not.

“We searched for hours in the canal out yonder. Searched, till the feeling had gone. Bodies plunging in those freezing waters, looking and looking, every limb turning to ice; but not the heart. It would take more than the canal to cool that. It beats even now, hot and fast. Do you know what for? Justice.”

“You never found her then, your daughter?” The stranger asks, failing to offer commiserations of any sort.

“What does it look like?” Spits the publican, waving at the men staring fixedly into the narrow circles of the glasses they are cradling. “Do you see her? See any womenfolk about here? No, because there aren’t any. Her death scared them off as surely as if they’d seen a wolf rip her throat out.”

Old Bert starts a strange keening sort of a sound and the other man with the gummy mouth helps him up from the table.

“Night one and all. Night Colin.” He says, tipping his flat cap at the publican. “Think this is one New Year’s Day I’ll be seeing in from my bed. ‘Till the next jar at the end of another hard day’s haulage.” He says, picking up his coat and Bert’s; they both shuffle to the door and leave.

Others quickly follow in their wake, perhaps genuinely exhausted, perhaps hopeful of seeing in the New Year in a place with a modicum more of frivolity rather than death about it. Soon, the publican is alone with his unwanted guest, fifteen minutes before he customarily rings the last order bell to see in the New Year.

The publican moves from table to table, ignoring the visitor, tipping the dregs of the drink into the sawdust, stacking the empty glasses one inside the other. He makes his rounds from table to table, ignoring the man, never offering him another drink.

“I think I’ll wash these tomorrow and turn in myself for the night. Little point staying up; I’ve seen in enough New Years to know this one is going to come bringing only flaming misfortune in her hands: more trains on more tracks, no doubt, luring my customers away.”

He begins to collect the lamps from each table, lowering the wicks until the flames gutter and die. Shadows mass and the only light is cast by embers and the one remaining lamp in the publican’s hand.

“Leave it,” the stranger says, turning away from the fire, unfolding something in his hand. “We’ll be needing the light to read this.”

He shakes out a piece of paper which he has taken from his coat. The bottom third is charred, and it looks like it has only recently dried from quite a soaking, but even in the flickering half-light it is possible to make out words, etched like tombstone memorials on the paper’s blackened side.

“Where did you get that from?" Colin rasps, staring with obvious recognition at the tattered sheet like it were a ghost rising ragged but indomitable from its grave. The stranger sits at the table closest to the hearth and takes the oil lamp from the publican’s quivering hand.

“To answer that, I will have to tell you why I’m here. And when my tale is told, I think it will shed more than a little light on your own.”

Colin slumps into the chair opposite him, his face fixed into a mask of dread by the dying light of the fire. “Go on then,” he murmurs through gritted teeth.

“Earlier today I made my way back to this place, The Cutter’s Inn. I’d spent the last twelve months vowing never to come here again. But these last weeks, I’ve heard her voice just as clearly as you have.” Colin shifts, a man at sea, in his chair.

“Up through the waters it’s come. The locks can’t stop it, can’t hold back her beautiful voice. At the Thames it’s the loudest, but even far from the river I hear it still. And to answer Beth’s voice, I came.”

“Why?” The question sounds like it’s squeezed past hands which strangle.

“To throw myself in after her, why else?” The stranger looks to the publican with a blaze in his eyes; a desperate fire more than enough to tip a handsome and healthy man in the prime of his life into premature death.

“Surely you know who I am Colin?” He doesn’t wait for a response, his tale careering forward with a full head of steam.

“You knew of me, don’t pretend you didn’t: the railway man, posted to this backwater to recruit young men to the company. You heard Beth speak of the life she wanted to live in London, a life of finery: balls and gowns, on the arm of her dashing young entrepreneur- me. For yes, I won her heart surely as I won the admiration of the menfolk hereabout.”

“No more,” it is a gasp which the momentum of his story rips straight through.

“We planned our escape in secret of course; she knew you, and your moribund antique ways, would never permit her to go. We were to meet, this very night a year ago: to embark together on our new life; to take the canal boat one last time which I chartered just for this purpose. Slowly, stealthily but surely, it was to bear her away, from you to me.”

“No- “but the young man is relentless, his tale now at full steam.

“But, when I went to the stable to tack the horse which was to tow the boat to this Inn and smuggle her away, I found it lame. I cursed my failure to foresee this possibility; the horse was useless to me and I set out, on foot.”

The only response is a groan.

“As I neared the spot for our arranged meeting, I realised immediately I was too late. I heard two voices raised, hers and one I know now to be yours. I won’t trouble you with the words; you know your response to her pleas. There was a more awful sound than her cries: a blow, then a splash; the roar of my heart stopping for a second.”

The publican’s head has dropped onto his neck, but his chin is forced up with a jerk; eyes spark at his.

“You talk of the icy plunge, searching the canal; I saw only your retreating back. It was me, tearing into the water to save her. And yes, there is a chill to that water; and yes, the passion in a wronged heart never cools.”

You wronged me,” the publican thumps his chest before making a grab for the suitor who rams the table top into his ribs, pinning him fast. The publican’s breath comes in heaving gasps.

“If she met her end that night, the hand that killed her was more yours than mine; the hand that lured her away from where she belonged: here, with me!”

“I knew that was the tale you’d tell. And yes, I overheard your sob story the next day: how your darling daughter had slipped in a fit of passion from the towpath, half-deranged with love, following a foolish fancy all the way to London, only to miss her footing on the icy path. I listened, always knowing it would be your word against mine, and I knew no one would dare dispute yours: the grieving father pitted against the wolfish young man. But now I have this to add weight to my words. Fortune has favoured me at last, casting this into the water right before the canal boat window where I was waiting."


He brandishes the paper in one hand, the lamp in the other, angling its light to illume the words in the gathering dark.

New Year’s Resolutions, Colin Dredge- 1844

As a year of regret passes, I commit to flame only the recollection of a moment’s sin and 12 months of purgatory thereafter. That moment: New Year’s Eve 1843.

Beth: I wished to stop you, to stay your flight. I didn’t mean for yours to be a watery grave, my hand the one that sent you there.

Read this child and be at peace. Desist from wailing at my door, shaking your wet skirts on my hearth, staining my heart with guilt and shame.

Be at rest child; for without your hauntings, I will toss and turn: damned on earth till I be damned in the ground, joining you as this does, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

“Weight to your words- never!” Cries the publican, desperately flinging back the table and lunging for the paper, but the young man is too quick for him. In three long strides he is at the bar, reaching up, ringing the bell for last orders. Back and forth, hand grasping the thread-worn rope cord, beating the iron ringer against the old brass bell, summoning the waiting police to the Cutter’s Inn.

As Colin Dredge is handcuffed and led away, the sweetest bells echo across the midnight sky. They are ringing in a New Year; one stepping in skirts, waterlogged and heavy, but with a head held high, for justice has been summoned and served at last.


December 28, 2022 20:44

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55 comments

Susan Catucci
15:40 Jan 03, 2023

This read as a classic, Rebecca - masterful. Prose is perfection and story transcendent. Amazing stuff (I won't even try to express my thoughts as eloquently as your writing - I'm not worthy!)

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Rebecca Miles
15:55 Jan 03, 2023

That's really very kind of you. I'm bolstering myself with the kind feedback from the community, you included, as I really don't understand why this one wasn't put on the recommended list.

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Susan Catucci
16:33 Jan 03, 2023

I've given up sense and reason, Rebecca, in so many areas of life, this included. And you're right about our community; at least we have each other. :)

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Rebecca Miles
20:29 Jan 03, 2023

We do indeed. And my family reads my stories too, so I've a small but special following. 🤗

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Susan Catucci
21:53 Jan 03, 2023

That's wonderful - anything that happens with any of us beyond the confines of our esteemed body of talent is icing.

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Kyle Bennett
02:11 Jan 03, 2023

That's one of the most commanding authorial voices I've heard in a long time.

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Rebecca Miles
06:45 Jan 03, 2023

Thanks Kyle. I was aiming for polished third-person so I'm glad it delivered.

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Wally Schmidt
00:45 Jan 03, 2023

The setting! The characters! The story! It all just works and is a brilliant read. I literally felt myself being reeled into the story like a fish on a hook until I had a big ol' net around me and it was impossible to escape. Expertly crafted and beautifully written.

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Rebecca Miles
06:24 Jan 03, 2023

Thanks Wally. I love recreating the period settings. For a time I lived in Cambridge with its many canal boats just out of town so this was nice to draw on them, though I never stumbled upon a place like The Cutter Inn, thankfully!

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Wally Schmidt
06:34 Jan 03, 2023

There is something about water in general, and canals in particular, that are so magical. Amsterdam is one of my favorite places for that reason. I was lucky enough to stay on a houseboat for a week there one time and it is one of my happiest memories. As far as The Cutter Inn, I like all sorts of pubs from the highbrow to the down trodden. Anywhere I can watch people and get a good ploughman's lunch.

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Rebecca Miles
07:26 Jan 03, 2023

Ohhh a nice ploughmans with a bit of pickle and a chunk of cheddar. I do miss them; I've been living in Germany too long...next time I'm over, I'm having one! Wandering the canals of Amsterdam sounds loke a good pastime for a writer😉

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Wally Schmidt
07:30 Jan 03, 2023

Or anyone really. But especially a writer, you should go if you haven't been. It's a place I never get tired of going back to

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Aeris Walker
09:51 Dec 30, 2022

I love present tense, and I think it was a strategic tense to use here to really pull the reader into the moment and enhance the suspense. Great setting—your descriptions paint such a clear picture of what kind of rough establishment this is—the kind of place that would probably barely pass a health inspection in 2022, but plays good music and sells cheap beer. I also really appreciate how many themes appeared throughout : the industry themes of trains and canals and steam and labor, warmth and cold, wolves and lambs, regret and fresh start...

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Zack Powell
07:40 Dec 30, 2022

This lived up to all three genre tags you assigned it, Rebecca, and then some! Wow, this was a harrowing tale. While reading this, I kept wondering why the protagonist was only referred to as "the stranger" instead of having a proper name, but it makes perfect sense why when you get to the ending. Great foreshadowing there with the note and the opening scene. Also liked the little clues you planted about Colin being "off" and a little quick to anger. This is one of those stories that can't just be read once. It demands rereads to unearth all...

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Rebecca Miles
11:12 Dec 30, 2022

It's another storm number from me. I'll be getting a Reedsy reputation. I do like me a bit if historical fiction, just as surely as I like a Zack comment. Thanks for helping to start my day off on the right foot!

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Helen A Smith
06:18 May 15, 2023

Hi Rebecca I enjoyed this suspenseful and compelling tale. There was a strong sense of regret and it had the constant undercurrent of threat running through it. I’m fascinated by rivers generally and find canals a little creepy. The characters were so well drawn. A feel of inevitability and things gone bad seeped through every line. The publican reminded me a little of Heathcliff - a dark, tragic character, if there ever was one. Definitely brooding. Also, an unexpected ending. Always good.

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Rebecca Miles
04:21 May 16, 2023

Thanks so much Helen, and for reading an older piece ( December on Reedsy- ancient!) I'm taking a Reedsy writing break which will probably mean a reading one too. I'm about to start examining for an exam board and the qualification process starts today. If I qualify it will be red pen ( or the digital equivalent) for me for weeks. Happy scribbling and I look forward to reading your stories on my return.

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Helen A Smith
12:42 May 16, 2023

Hi Rebecca I enjoy reading your “older pieces.” Good luck with the exam board. Sounds like hard work. 😂

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Raey Kubiak
22:33 Jan 05, 2023

You weren’t in my critique circle. However I HAD to write something and congratulate you on this piece. I loved the fact that you left the time reference of the story for the very end. Great machine, the reader keeps asking “Am I right, is it when I think it is?” Very very efficient. I was sure for the time reference from the very beginning but I had no proof. I had to find out hence I stayed with it! Intriguing plot line and storytelling tension and release. Well done on your excellent use of the language and descriptions to convey suc...

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Rebecca Miles
06:42 Jan 06, 2023

Hi Raey, I'm glad you liked the reveal of NY at the end. It felt very liberating to personify the New Year thus. My tale this week, Cinerella Respun, also has an emancipatory message and is very sinister if you enjoyed this one. Thanks for calling by!

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Raey Kubiak
09:25 Jan 06, 2023

😁😁 that as well! But I was referring to the era it takes place, not the time of the year. The Victorian bit. (I didn’t want to spoil it if anyone is reading at the comments first)

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Daniel Allen
16:01 Jan 05, 2023

There was so much vivid detail and description in this, Rebecca! And I love how you slowly unveiled the truth. The historical backdrop was nicely done and really appropriate, and the ending was absolutely perfect! Keep up the good work!

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N.M. Stech
03:45 Jan 05, 2023

I loved everything about this story. The way you set the stage in the introduction, I felt I was in the inn, feeling the tense atmosphere. By the final confrontation I was hunched over my keyboard pressing the scroll button as fast as I could read. I look forward to reading all your posted stories here, marvelously done!

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Rebecca Miles
06:13 Jan 05, 2023

Thank you. I was hoping for suspenseful, so I'm glad it delivered!

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Lindsay Flo
12:01 Jan 04, 2023

You're very good at taking these prompts and giving them a historical twist, and you write the time/place so well. I love the language you use--yonder, publican, and especially moribund, which I had to look up. (Looking up and learning words I don't know is one of my favorite parts of reading...small pleasures haha.) I felt sad for everyone in this story! Very eloquent writing, loved it :)

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Rebecca Miles
14:16 Jan 04, 2023

Thanks Lindsay. I think that must be why I write these historical pieces, so I can give these old words an airing! I was so happy when the word skulduggery popped into my mind to couple with the London smog! As writers, playing with words can be half the fun, can't it. And on Reedsy I'm learning new ones all the time, especially Americanisms! Sorry I've not read one of your stories for a while. Flu is doing the rounds in our house and I'm on nurse duty. I promise I'll head over soon.

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Molly Kelash
20:30 Jan 03, 2023

Wow. This is a stunner of a piece. Near pitch perfect prose for the gothic theme and time period. I will definitely read your submissions in the future! :)

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Rebecca Miles
20:44 Jan 03, 2023

Thanks Molly; I'd love to have you on board as a reader!

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Molly Kelash
21:04 Jan 03, 2023

Right back at you! Would be honored to have you read my subs as well. :)

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Marty B
07:00 Jan 02, 2023

The historical prose was a great feat!

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Rebecca Miles
15:50 Jan 03, 2023

Thanks Marty. Shame it wasn't put onto the recommended list...

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Edward Latham
00:38 Jan 02, 2023

Happy New Year! A wonderfully described setting to this piece. I could picture the soggy clothes, the dark, brooding atmosphere of the pub just like being there. Some cracking lines in this one too, I enjoyed: 'Anything that can sink will, sucked down into the canal and that paper will drown in its drink quicker than one of the rotten-toothed revellers in the inn behind him' and 'poverty rather than prosperity seems the only thing on tap.'

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Rebecca Miles
15:51 Jan 03, 2023

Thanks Edward. Bit miffed this didn't make the recommended list as I thought I'd nailed the Christmas ghost story. Hey ho, Reedsy roundabouts; I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Edward Latham
19:48 Jan 03, 2023

It deserved it for sure! Out of interest, how do you know if it's made the recommended list?

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Rebecca Miles
20:25 Jan 03, 2023

If you click on the genre tags you assigned the story you'll go to the relevant page. There the "recommended" stories for that week are posted first. These are the ones marked as " shortlist" by the judge who read it; I know because I am one! If you don't get recommended you won't be read and judged by the inner core of Reedsy judges, not sure who they are, later, usually from Thursday on...it's not a perfect system but maybe few are....last time I checked, your story had been shortlisted, so good luck as you're in the running this week! I'...

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Michał Przywara
19:25 Jan 01, 2023

I wasn't expecting a criminal Victorian story for New Year's, but I'm glad I found it :) The mysterious stranger disrupting a familiar group deep in a melancholy drunk, or a rainy evening - this is a great setup. Naturally, we assume the stranger is the killer, or somehow related to him. I didn't see the twist though! I'm not sure why I took Colin at his word, but I guess that underscores the stranger's point. A fun, gloomy story, where the bells really do ring in - if not a better - a more just year :)

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Rebecca Miles
20:50 Jan 01, 2023

Happy New Year Michal! In England there's quite a tradition of telling haunting tales at Christmas time so this is my little contribution. Thanks for being one of my first readers of 2023!

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AnneMarie Miles
17:41 Jan 01, 2023

Another expertly executed blast to the past from our very own Writer of Storms! I am always so enthralled in your sentences, packed with descriptive images and rich language. Each one feels silky smooth like a ribbon gracefully waving across our minds, painting a crystal clear image. This is exactly as you promised, suspenseful and mysterious and eerie: we know there is about to be drama at the Cutter's Inn and we want to know why! Who is this sly stranger and why is he stirring it up with the locals? Your dialogue gives us all our answers, ...

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Rebecca Miles
21:02 Jan 01, 2023

2023: let's write up some storms, sister scribbler! I hope, despite recuperating hubby, you were able to see in the New Year with a celebratory mood even if you weren't going streaking! I've nearly finished a collection of Christmas ghost stories and this is my take on the genre. Cultural differences are interesting; from Reedsy I get the sense that Christmas stories are quite a light affair in America; in England, the spooky is definitely the go-to genre of the season. Not sure what that says about us over the pond but it definitely means t...

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AnneMarie Miles
03:38 Jan 02, 2023

That is a brilliant observation! I wouldn't have associated England with spooky ghost stories, although that might be naive of me considering the biggest one of all originated there. Congratulations on finishing a whole collection of stories!! Who cares if that means you won't get a story out this week; From what you've given me, you are an incredibly busy woman who accomplishes so much! I'm thankful to have already made a submission this week. Whew 😅 now I don't have to feel the self imposed stress of it and maybe I'll even be inspired to d...

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Kelsey H
06:04 Dec 31, 2022

Great story love the atmosphere you created and the all the historical aspects mixed in with the mystery, and a perfect way to end it!

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Rebecca Miles
16:06 Jan 03, 2023

Thanks Kelsey, appreciated.

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Rama Shaar
15:09 Dec 30, 2022

Another very successful attempt at teleporting us to the past! Beautiful language as always! Well done my friend!

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Rebecca Miles
21:33 Dec 30, 2022

Who needs time travel when we have stories eh!? You know where I live: time travel in my medieval tower is not hard🤣

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Rama Shaar
22:08 Dec 30, 2022

Put the kettle on😉

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Laurel Hanson
14:15 Dec 30, 2022

Such a brooding Dickensian piece. You've established the setting and mood so well with lush imagery and historical detail. Since I love Dickens and all his attacks on social injustice, I love your similar inclusion of the little reminders economic struggle with - "where poverty rather than prosperity seems the only thing on tap." Also framing the resentment of the new ways taking away the established forms of enterprise as the underlying basis for the hostility to the young man. Great piece.

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Rebecca Miles
21:32 Dec 30, 2022

I'm listening to Oliver Twist at the moment so perhaps that influenced me; mind you, I thought afterwards the whole piece had a real Hardy feel what with the rustics and the dogged characters refusing to adjust to the new finicky ways. I'm glad you enjoyed all the details; they say the devil's in them but for me it really is the plessure. Well done on the win by the way; I think I saw it coming: such crestive word play. I hope you're celebrating today.

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Laurel Hanson
12:18 Dec 31, 2022

Thank-you. It was a happy moment in the middle of covid induced confusion and fever.

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Wendy Kaminski
03:52 Dec 30, 2022

I liked this story of justice finally served! Excellent setting and depictions of the cold and misery of the area really added to the gloominess of the tale. Thanks for another great story!

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Rebecca Miles
06:25 Dec 30, 2022

Thanks Wendy. This is one watering hole none of us want to be calling in to eh! I'm glad you liked the gloominess and justice. I hope NY steps in with many new story ideas for you.

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Wendy Kaminski
01:37 Dec 31, 2022

Thank you, Rebecca, and you, as well! :)

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Delbert Griffith
21:16 Dec 29, 2022

This is a riveting tale, Rebecca. The way you create atmosphere is nothing short of magical. Your ability to spin a tale and create a haunting tableau to boot is wizardry of the best kind. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done.

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Rebecca Miles
06:23 Dec 30, 2022

Thanks Delbert for popping by. I'm reading a collection of ghost stories, a little Christmas ritual of mine, and so this was my homage to the genre. I'm glad you liked the atmosphere as it was important to the story; I had good fun too with the motley band of rustics. Happy NY to you and here's to lots more stories in 2023!

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Delbert Griffith
11:50 Dec 30, 2022

Happy NY to you as well, Rebecca. Yes, let's kick some literary ass in 2023. I look forward to all of your tales because they entrance me. You have a gift, my friend.

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Rebecca Miles
18:37 Dec 30, 2022

Now that is one ass we're allowed to kick! Let's do it!!!

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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