The Devil of Moravia : Aunt Gloria finishes her tale

Clock face and dialImage : Pixabay


For over a year and for nearly forty instalments, the story of the Devil of Moravia has slowly unfolded on this blog. Now the time has come for the very last part.

Special thanks to all those who have followed the terrible tale of Edmund William Spencer – thank you for sticking with him and with me. Very special thanks go to Joy from Tales from Eneana and to Amanda of Mandibelle 16 for their kindness and encouragement. And for being – as far as I’m aware and forgive me if I’m wrong – the only people other than myself who have read every instalment. Thank you so much, ladies.

So here is the final part. And we end where we began, with a very special Auntie and her very tall tales. See below to experience the Devil’s world.

Onetwothreefour, fivesix , seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelvethirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two, twenty three, twenty four, twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eighttwenty ninethirty, thirty one, thirty two, thirty threethirty four , thirty five and thirty six.


 

‘Edmund died?’ My tongue felt gummed and gluey, as if I hadn’t drunk for days.

Aunt Gloria plucked another cigarette from the crumpled packet, twisting it into the holder, leaning towards me with an expectant air. I fumbled with the matches, taking two attempts before the tobacco began to glow and crackle.

Through a fug of smoke I saw Gloria shrug. ‘We all die, darling.’

‘I know that. I’m not a child. It’s just … Not in stories. At the end of stories evil loses and good triumphs.’

She stretched her legs out before her, wriggling her painted toenails. ‘The Devil was slain and Edmund did the slaying.’

Exasperated, I said, ‘But you hanged the hero. No one hangs the hero.’

‘Not much of a hero. Killing those two young girls.’ Taking a long drag she stared at me through squinted eyes. ‘Besides. In real life every story has the same ending.’

‘But I thought … Edmund and Frances …’

Her lip curled into a bitter smile. ‘True love conquers all?’ She pulled the cigarette from the holder, stubbing it into the full ashtray, her fingers coming away grey at the tips. She opened her mouth to say more, but the spark suddenly left her eyes. Pulling her knees to her chest she stared at the swirls in the hearth rug, both of us lapsing to silence until the back door slammed open and shut.

‘Fi! Where are you, Fi?’

It was my brother Fred, back from fishing, his face glowing from the fresh air.

‘Dad and I caught the biggest carp. Well, almost caught him. The blighter wriggled free before I could grab the net.’

The door went again. ‘Who has left muddy waders on my kitchen floor? Frederick Edmund Spencer, come here this instant!’

I looked up then, at Gloria, her chipped nail polish, her grey roots and smoke stained teeth. It was as if the story had changed me a little, as if my childhood was falling away and for the first time I saw what Gloria was – a rather lonely woman spending the summer where she wasn’t truly welcome or comfortable because she had nowhere else to go.

I avoided spending anymore time alone with her that holiday. Edmund’s story had been too dark – it seemed to stain the air between Gloria and I. And soon the summer was over and I was back at school and Edmund’s story – Gloria’s story – receded to the back of my mind, swamped by Geography lessons and hockey cups and English Grammar and Home Economics.

I thought of Edmund from time to time over the years, wondering how Gloria could know his story if his confession had really been burned, dismissing the Devil as a ridiculous fiction borne out of a lonely Aunt’s need to be liked. But still I searched The Clock every time I visited Gran’s, slipping my fingers between the cogs, scouring the panels with a torch. Perhaps that’s why Gran left it to me, why it stands now, a silent watcher over my own family.

Gloria died on the day my first marriage was annulled. I found her timing ironic – the eternal spinster aunt dying on the day I regained my own independence. She left a will, though the list of possessions made pitiable reading. Her flat was rented, the furniture rented too – even her furs were fake. She left an antique fishing rod to Fred which he sold to a friend at his club within days. He hadn’t fished since that summer I was twelve.

To me she left a large manilla envelope. Inside there were several sheets of a heavy paper covered with lines of sloping handwriting so dense the whole was more ink than paper. My fingers trembled as I flicked to the last page and read the inscription.

… Finished on the eve of his execution, the 5th day of May, 1799 …

The pages whispered as I straightened them, as if Edmund himself was trying to speak again.

Finally, I read the dedication on the envelope written in Gloria’s own thin hand.

For Fiona Frances Spencer. So you always remember your family’s brave past. 

And below, Old Noah’s words.

Know who you are. Embrace it, no matter how dark, no matter how squalid. Only then will you triumph.

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20 thoughts on “The Devil of Moravia : Aunt Gloria finishes her tale

    1. Thank you so much, Penny. As I said, you’ve been so supportive, I really am grateful. Some have wondered if I could self pub The Devil and I’ve had a quick look around for indie publishers that migt take it. No luck as yet, but I’ll let you know if I have any success with it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wait, there’s more? Yay! Honestly, I’d forgotten about this framing device until just now; that’s the problem with reading a book over the course of a whole year. But this does wrap it up nicely, and bring it back to the beginning. I love the reaction, the frustration that the hero dies, and the aunt’s questioning of him as a hero and saying that everyone dies. And how perfect, that he didn’t burn the manuscript. I’m guessing Peg must have rescued it, but now I’m confused about how Gloria is related to all of that, and why her sibling’s children are the ones named after Frances and Edmund.

    I’ll say it again — since I thought the last installment was the ending — great ending!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, thank you Joy. I felt as Gloria and Fiona – and the clock – started the whole thing (yes, it all sprung from the word ‘clock’!) they deserved an ending of their own. I liked the idea of questioning how heroic Edmund is (as I question how Hannibal Lector became the hero of the Silence of the Lambs books) and at the beginning Gloria said there was a family history linked to the clock. Perhaps Edmund is the family’s ancient black sheep, ignored by Fiona’s side of the family, cherished by Gloria, being a black sheep herself. To be honest, I’ve no idea how the manuscript made it out of the cell – perhaps Edmund had a cousin (forefather to Fi and her family) who took it away at the last moment? And Amanda raised a point in her comments that had occured to me. Edmund survived exposure to sunshine – would a hangman’s noose kill him or would he survive the gallows to live another day, be transported to Australia … ? And I had wondered about those Earth Angels, whether to write more on them, their past and Old Noah too. Too many questions left unanswered. But that’s it for now. I’ll pull it all together and see what can be done with it. Thanks for the endless support over this year – you’ve been fantastic x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been a great ride! Really great stuff, Lynn, definitely worth reading.

        You bring up so many interesting questions! What an intriguing idea, that maybe Edmund didn’t really die after all. OR, maybe he survived the sunlight but that was before he sucked up so much of Slatina’s essence, so now he’s more susceptible, and he never even makes it to the gallows… So many ways you could explore all these threads, develop the theme more strongly, tie it in more with Gloria.

        By my reckoning, you’re only up to about “novella” length right now, which means you have plenty of room to add on more if you want. Have fun with the revisions!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right, it’s 30,000 odd words I think, so as you say, plenty of scope to add when I get the chance. It only recently dawned on me that the progress of my urban fantasy novel (the one I started at Na No camp last year) may just have been slowed by writing a novella at the same time! I’m a bit dim sometimes 🙂 . Now, I just have to revise them both …

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That IS an awful lot of writing to do “on the side”. I just checked (again) online and most people say that a novella is up to 40,000 words, but the shortest novel you can get away with is 60,000 words, preferably more like 75,000. So either don’t add much, or add a lot, I guess!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks for checking. Yes, I know a standard novel is minimum 70,000 ish. Not sure the indie market will want a long Gothic novel. Not sure enough people would want to read it! Will see. Thanks again x

        Liked by 1 person

      5. With the growing popularity of e-books, I think novellas are also becoming more acceptable. No sense adding in a bunch of stuff just to get it to 70K if it would sell even better at 40K.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yes, they do seem to be more acceptable now, but that must go for long fiction too I suppose. A levelling of the playing fields for us short and long formers 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely what Penny and Joy have said: fabulous work, Lynn, and well worth the drip-feeding way you’ve dished it out to us. How well you’ve sustained the atmosphere over all that time. Now I want it in hardcopy please — I’d definitely buy it! And looking forward to the Folio Society edition, with commissioned engravings in proper 18th-century style!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha! Chris, you are a wag! I’ve had a quick search for indie publishers who deal in Gothic / horror and haven’t found too many and some of them have sounded questionable so far as dealing with authors is concerned. I shall search on. Self publishing feels daunting and when I see some self pub covers I just wince. I’ll look into it. Thanks so much for the support and for reading so many instalments – you’ve been very kind 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m more than half serious, Lynn, The Devil of Moravia is more than pastiche, it’s a sustained exercise in full-blooded (forgive the pun) neo-Georgian Gothick, a mix of Walpole, Sterne, Gay, Mary Shelley, Jonathan Strange &Mr Norrell and a lot more, probably, that I haven’t read. And vivid etchings in creepy Hogarthian style are what I imagined as I read this.

        It all complements what you sent me and confirms what I already know about the quality of your writing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m so touched, Chris. Truly, very touched. And strangely most of all by the comparison to Susanna Clarke, for as you know I absolutely adored that book. I will pull all the Devil instalments together and reread as I suspect there are a lot of inconsistences and there are several sections I skimmed over I’d like to flesh out – Old Noah, Peg Fair’s past, Samuel’s den of iniquity and those pesky dead twins that got Edmund into so much trouble. So much writing to do and so little time … Thank you as always for your support x

        Liked by 1 person

  3. On one hand I still wonder if Edmund was really executed? Or if that was a watt to end his existence as Edmund the human. On another, I wonder about Gloria. If Crancis was indeed the undead or if she and Samuel and Edmond were still humans of some kind and Frances carried Edmonton de child. Fantastic ending! Many mysterious still but an endurance of heroics left to this girl as she finds her freedom. . A message to embrace yourself who u are and if you must use evil to end greater evils. Old Noah’s words seem to mean to me that we all have darkness within, every one of us but we must make choices and sometimes are choices are difficult when we must use are darkness for a greater good. Well done Lynn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Amanda. Some great thoughts there and any of them could be true to the story! I think Old Noah was right in that we have to accept ourselves for what we are and be comfortable with that, without allowing our darker selves full control. As you say, if we have darkness it can be used for good. Yes, Gloria could be a direct descendant. Or a distant great great great etc cousin. Things to ponder on. Thanks again

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late… a beautifully pitched, chilling chord in that ending Lynn. I’ll be sorry not to have this particular world to look forward to, it’s always managed to engage me. Well done for this endeavour, can’t wait for any possible new direction next; although it’s a beautiful lesson: embrace your darkness, then you don’t need to fear it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for being so supportive Pola. I’m so glad a handful of people liked the story enough to keep reading – you inspired me to keep writing. And yes, it’s a good thing to accept what you are and be comfortable with it. Though perhaps not give into every dark urge! Thank you again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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