I don't have a final word count yet, but I think it's either a novella or a very long short story. Something in the ballpark of 15,000 words. It started out as a short story idea, and I was thinking I'd submit it to this collection of speculative fiction that they publish every year. But it kept going and going. And now it's just too long for that collection. (Their limit is 5,000 words.)
So now I'm thinking of publishing it as a book. I just need three more "short" stories of the same length and it's a thin, 60,000 word novel. The good news is that I'm in the middle of another short story that looks like it will be just as long. The bad news is if I finish that story soon, I'm only halfway done.
I've got mixed feelings about short story collections. They're hard to sell in this day and age. People really go for novels. That strikes me as strange because in today's short attention span age, you think people would welcome a story that they can finish in one sitting. Meanwhile I myself prefer novels. So I really don't know what to do with this story.
Anyway, the new story is called "The Writing Table," and it's a horror story. Or I hope it's a horror story. I don't like dancing around genres and classifications. I really hope this story will freak people out.
Here's an excerpt:
They visited me on the first night. They were just whisperings in the darkness, disembodied voices coming from somewhere beyond my bed, I couldn’t tell from where. On other nights they would become more real, but on that first night, in that strange, unfamiliar house, on that old bed with the stiff sheets, they were just voices.
They welcomed me. Or I thought they welcomed me because they spoke in a dialect that I couldn’t speak. Still, some of the words were familiar, and their tone was reassuring even though their voices were not. They spoke formally, like grownups – no, that wasn’t quite right. They spoke like old people. Even Papa didn’t speak like that. Lolo and Lola spoke that way, when they were still alive. These voices had the harsh, rasping, commanding voices of the old, yet their voices were very small, the way she imagined cats or rabbits would talk if they could.
There were two voices. One sounded almost male, the other almost female. Those distinctions didn’t seem to fit, but it was as close as I could get to the things I heard. After listening to them for five minutes, I realized that they had the voices of beasts.
I first caught them speaking to each other as I drifted off to sleep in my new room in the old house. I fought off sleep and strained to hear them better when they stopped and the beast-woman said in a cat voice, “Shh, she hears us.”
The beast-man went on in a lizard hiss, saying some things I didn’t understand, and then he seemed to address me directly. I caught the words “welcome” and “happy you’ve come to live here.” He said many other things that I couldn’t make out. Then the beast-woman said something, just one sentence, but I understood it in its entirety: “It’s been so long since there have been children in the house.” They said no more. The two voices were silent for the rest of the night. I lay in bed for hours, wide awake.