Chapter One - The Sixth Beacon

Chapter One - The Sixth Beacon

A Chapter by Anne Behne

A teenage girl coming to terms with her mother's mental illness discovers there may be more sinister reasons behind her mother's condition.


The Sixth Beacon

Anne Behne


Chapter One

Sam could feel the provocative hint of summer touching her skin as she climbed the back stairs. The last day of school and the September holidays stretched out before her, lasting almost forever in her mind.
The pungent scent of jasmine wafted in through the back window. The small star like flowers littered the back veranda, already turning brown and scattering with each gust of wind. The air was filled with the clamour of wind chimes and the screech from the rosellas gorging on the sprawling grevilleas hanging over the back fence. Ting..ting..clunk...eeeh...eeeh...ting...clunk- the sounds rising and falling as the wind directed the backyard symphony.
Her mother’s love of chimes had lead to an ever increasing collection as the years passed. She had placed them long ago in strategic positions under the window eaves to catch whatever breeze predominated on any given day.  Sam instinctively knew the prevailing wind direction just by the sound of the chime. The high pitched ting ting outside the kitchen window announced the arrival of the bitterly cold westerlies. On these days Sam’s Dad would drag out the old oil heaters and her Mum would light the gas oven in the kitchen. She would spend the winter months yelling at everyone to shut the kitchen doors to keep in the heat.
Today the clunk clunk of the wooden chime outside the bathroom window heralded the beginning of the summer north easterlies coming off the Pacific Ocean, dropping off briefly as the wind passed over Fraser Island then gathering momentum as it whipped across the Great Sandy Straits, the shallow waters transformed into a sea of white caps.

You could smell the salt sea spray and hear the distant rumble of the sea.

“Mum!. .........MUUUM”  shouting as she walked down the hallway, the old wooden floorboards creaking, the house shuddering with each step. Her Dad’s love of old queenslanders had led them to this town. To her it was a place where she would live only until she left school. And then, like every other teenager in the town she would move to the city, returning only for holiday breaks from uni. Even these visits would dwindle as each year passed and finally a Christmas would be spent with her parents wondering how to sit down to Christmas lunch without their daughter’s constant chatter filling the void.
The house seemed unusually quiet. She listened closely for the normal after school noises, her mother singing quietly in the kitchen, the clatter of crockery while preparing Sam’s favourite after school snack, peanut paste sandwiches. There was no “I’m in here!” from her mother. The house was silent.
“MU....UM!” continued Sam’s sing song call, although her heart missed a bit. She felt something was not right, a certain familiar and frightening scent fought its way to her nostrils. Even before her hand had reached the brass handle to her mother’s room an overwhelming feeling of dread consumed Sam’s entire body, a loud buzzing sound filled her head. Sam could hear her own heartbeat steadily gathering momentum and volume as the recognition of that smell fought its way into her consciousness. Time stopped. Sam slowly pushed at the closed door. Every fibre in her being wishing for anything besides what she knew in her heart she would be faced with. A shaft of musty light slanted into the room from the bedroom window bathing her mother’s body in a golden eerie glow, her left arm extended towards Sam’s feet, her hand open. Blood was oozing from roughly gouged wounds above her mother’s wrist, already the blood was congealing in some places, pooling on the threadbare carpet. A few inches away lay a small pink plastic pill bottle, the lid missing. Half a dozen tablets were strewn across the floor. A wine bottle lay on its side on the wooden chest at the end of the bed, a wine glass broken nearby, the stem fragmented and bloodied.  The pungent odour of alcohol, vomit and urine filled the room.

Outside the chimes continued their mournful clamour.

End of Chapter One



© 2013 Anne Behne

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Added on October 7, 2013
Last Updated on October 7, 2013
Tags: australian, fiction, teen and young adult


Anne Behne
Anne Behne

Maryborough, Fraser Coast, Australia