Risingshadow has the honour of hosting an exclusive excerpt from The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley (published by Titan Books).

About Aliya Whiteley:

Aliya Whiteley was born in Devon in 1974, and currently lives in West Sussex, UK. She writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in places such as The Guardian, Interzone, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Unsung Stories’ 2084 and Lonely Planet’s Better than Fiction I and II. She has been shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award, British Fantasy and British Science Fiction awards, the John W Campbell Award, and a James Tiptree Jr award. Her stories are unpredictable; they can be terrifying, tender, ferocious and deeply funny. She also regularly reviews film, books and television for Den of Geek. She blogs at: aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com and she tweets most days as @AliyaWhiteley.

About The Arrival of Missives:

In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons. The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny? As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM THE ARRIVAL OF MISSIVES BY ALIYA WHITELEY

He opens his eyes.

He sees me.

I am made rigid by his naked gaze. We are caught in an intimacy that panics me; I am aware of the space between us, our breaths, our open mouths, our shared shock. The burning honesty of our pounding heartbeats, separated only by glass.

He is not a real man.

I find myself on my feet, and he is moving also, pushing back the chair from the kitchen table as he rises with such speed, but I surge through the weeds, to the path, and then away: past the gate with pebbles crunching under my feet, in the direction of the river. I hear the front door bang and he calls my name, but I cannot risk turning to see if he follows. Besides, he will never catch me and I can hear the river now. I will cross the old stone bridge by the mill and loop back around the village to make my way home through the fields and I will never speak of what I have seen, never never never.

‘Shirley,’ calls Mr Tiller, from far away.

I start to slow.

I find myself at a trot, and then a walk. My skirts are tangled around my legs; I shake them out as I reach the bridge. Up ahead is the mill, closed up tight for the night. And it is night, now; only the last rays of the sun provide me with the means to see my feet upon the stones. I reach the centre of the bridge and look down along the length of the river.

Mr Tiller has fought a war, and he has returned from it a changed man. I did not truly understand that until this moment. Something terrible, beyond my experience, has befallen him. The shock of it is overwhelming to me. But I asked for the means to test myself, to be worthy of leading the coming generations, and I have been provided with those means. If Mr Tiller is brave enough to live with such an injury, then I will be brave enough to at least stand upright in his presence and acknowledge it.

‘Shirley.’

He has come to stand at the start of the bridge, where it joins with the road. His shirt buttons are redone, although his collar and cuffs remain loose. He looks like a man once more, albeit a dishevelled one, and his expression pleads with me – it is an honest expression, the kind I have dreamed of seeing upon his features.

‘Come back to the cottage,’ he says.

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