Get in the mood for Friday the 13th with this creepy excerpt from Sara Faring’s horror debut, The Tenth Girl.
Set in a boarding school at the southern tip of Argentina — quite literally the end of the world — Faring’s novel explores memory, trauma, and the things we create to cope with our own monsters.
Filled with shocking twists and so many ghosts, The Tenth Girl is sure to keep readers awake wondering what might be making those late-night noises in their own homes. It may not be Halloween season just yet, but in this exclusive excerpt, there’s more than just one kind of chill in the air.
Sara Faring talks ‘The Tenth Girl’
Every house has a personality. Some are quaint and full of charm, while others are serene and cold, but my favorites in spooky fiction… are evil.
Nothing sends a delicious chill through me like the recognition that a truly evil house, carrying the weight of decades of bad memories, is coming alive around me. I can feel it watching and waiting, a character in its own right: its floors ready to warp and shift under my feet; its walls ready to close in on me; and its dark, splintered closets ready to devour me.
Read on, this Friday the 13th, to follow Mavi (the unsuspecting, brave protagonist of my debut, The Tenth Girl) as she ventures into the depths of the evil Vaccaro School mansion on an isolated Patagonian cliff — despite being warned she should stay in her room and lock the door behind her, if she hopes to survive this place. But she’s hungry and curious…
And so is the house.
Excerpt from ‘The Tenth Girl’ by Sara Faring
The corridor is as dead as before. Musty, too, as if bowls of moth-balls have been set out as potpourri. Too quiet. I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that a group of teachers, clownishly giggling and watching from behind their keyholes with port in hand, will leap out at any moment to either greet me or threaten to scalp me in the style of the old locals unless I spill my secrets. Tiptoeing down the hallway, I try doors as a matter of curiosity –hesitantly — and they are all locked. I turn up the collar of my coat. The cold is the damp kind, the kind that seeps into my joints if I stand still, as if the air hopes to curl its way around the delicate skin of my neck and sicken me.
I will give Morency this: The house unsettles at night. I hear nothing behind the doors, only the softest creaking and whistling as the house rests. Drafty old beast. A part of me dreads wandering farther — one is not safe alone in the house at night — but the starving part beats the cautious part down.
I climb down the stairs and find two routes to choose from — the winding maze with damask wallpaper leading back toward the front door, reeking of clove and tobacco, to the left — and a second, low-vaulted stone hallway I hadn’t noticed earlier, to the right, glowing faintly under a hidden source of moonlight. I take the latter, always susceptible to scratching the itch of my own curiosity. The softest scrape of my shoe’s soles on stone echoes here: The house can feel me in its belly.
The hallway extends in darkness for some time — at least sixty miserable footsteps, during which I watch my back every couple of seconds, my own ragged breath spooking me. It’s frigid and bare but for lines of golden sconces modeled after gaucho heads, hanging from the walls as if the men were put in pillories. Every face is unique: one toothless, grinning in his wide-brimmed hat, another bearded and scowling, and one winking lecherously with eyes of amber.
I press through one more door, this time on my left, expecting another claustrophobic stretch. But this time I’ve broken into a room that is vast and grand. It must be a ballroom: It’s full of slipcovered furniture, looking like elegant black-robed guests whispering and conspiring in tight social circles. The soaring ceilings dizzy me after tunneling here. I stagger across the veined and patterned marble floor, passing fading murals of eerie pastoral scenes painted on the walls, silvery sconces shaped like clouds, friezes with a storm theme. Lit by that same hidden moon, yet the room also lacks a single window. The air, despite this, is frigid — my breath clouds before me. On the wall, a placid shepherd girl with a milky complexion sits below a slavering, red-faced, Indigenous demon in a charcoal cloud. Poor things, fixed in place and doomed to their narrow definitions for eternity, or until this detestable mural is painted over by some saintly creature.
A draft kicks up, brushing the slipcover skirts around, and I half expect furious heads to turn in my direction. I hear a peal of laughter, falling water, and whispers, building in desperation. Teeth chattering, I spin around to find the source, curiously out of breath, and bump into a covered chest, rebounding off. I curse in the darkness, but the words have no weight to them. I’ll have a bruise the size of an apple on my hip.
Somewhere, another muted cackle. Something creeps nearby, flitting in between the pale folds of the covered furniture. Hungry, I think I hear it murmur, thumping on the walls, scampering around on the ground behind that one chair, dragging something heavy behind it, like a bad leg… I swear I smell a roast, too. A fatty roast with crispy bits, like the asados of my youth. Could it be a student, playing a joke? A mountain animal that snuck in through an open door? For me, at least, there is nothing worse than questioning my senses, because they are what remains to position me in the world when all other points of reference disappear. I shudder and run forward, knees weak, and I see, at last, the palest flicker of light down another arched stone hall. The broadening specks of gold — they are my salvation.
More strained and mournful whispers seep from the walls, the ceiling. An acoustic trick. I turn to glimpse the origin, possessed, while still running. And I slam into something, hard. Pain tears through my side. Falling to the stone floor, I see a face. Pale. Devilish.
“Oh,” comes a groan. From where, I’m not certain. Perhaps it was me, again. Oh.
I find myself looking at a girl, a girl with hair so pale that her scalp disappears into her skin, who looks younger than me, standing above me in the dark. Small as a doll with consumption — the ideal owner of the furniture set in my room.
“Lord Almighty. I thought you were a creature,” I say, hands coming to that soft space between clavicle and throat to steady my breath. “A ghost or something.”
“If only,” the blonde says. Her voice is deeper than I would have expected. Raspier.
I scrutinize her: She looks Swedish at best. Like a sickly pageant girl at worst. Verging on delicately gaunt.
She nods in the direction of the footsteps and wags a sliver of an eyebrow, a thread of silver in the dark. “We’ve been discovered.”
The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring will be available on Sept. 24 from your local independent bookseller. You can preorder from Amazon, Barnes and Noble,and Book Depository, and add it to your GoodReads list!