My second collection SEEDS will be released into the wild on 16th October * and I am extremely excited. Here’s what some early reviewers have had to say about it already…
“Tabatha Wood knows what scares you. SEEDS is an incredible collection that digs deep into your emotions, showing snippets of yourself and truths of your innermost thoughts in the actions of characters on the brink.” ~ Laurel Hightower, author of CROSSROADS and WHISPERS IN THE DARK
“SEEDS is wonderful from start to finish. This was a damn near flawless collection.” ~ Aiden Merchant, author of HORRIFIC HOLIDAYS and SQUIRMING DISEASE
“Truly, there is something for everyone in this collection – supernatural creatures, creepy legends, the evil nature of humans, sweet retribution, senseless violence, personal transformation, and everything in between.” ~ Tiffany Michelle Brown, author of EASY AS PIE
“SEEDS covers a variety of sub-genres, styles, and tones. It shows Wood knows how to work within these and isn’t confining or stifling herself either.” ~ Lor Gislason, reviewer at Horror Obsessive
You can read more reviews at Goodreads here.
* Release date is for the ebook version with paperbacks to follow.
The first story in the collection is a flash-fiction piece entitled “Bloom.” It follows an elderly couple on a road trip as they celebrate their anniversary and encounter a field of mystical sunflowers. As a special sneak peek, I am delighted to share it with you now.
It begins with a seed…
On the weekend of our anniversary, we hired a camper van and hit the road. It was a stick-a-pin-in-the-map, spontaneous adventure that we had put off for far too long. We took the highway north, away from the city. Drove for hours until we reached dusty back roads. She sat in the passenger seat, navigating our journey. Told me to turn left down to the farm. In hindsight, I should have realised. She had planned this all along.
I see the sea of yellow as we crest the hill; a golden haze spread across the horizon, in stark contrast with the piercing blue sky. Her smile lights up her face as bright as the flowers ahead of us. She claps her hands in glee.
“Look, my love! Isn’t it beautiful?”
I scoff and sigh. “You knew this was here, didn’t you?” I ask.
She turns to me, wide-eyed, her face a picture of faux-innocence, and then laughs. The crow’s feet crinkle around her eyes, but her pupils sparkle like a child’s.
“You could have just told me this was where you wanted to come.”
“But then it wouldn’t have been a surprise.”
I stop the van at the edge of the field but leave the engine idling. I was surprised alright. But I shouldn’t have been. I should have guessed. Sunflowers had always been her favourite. They were our wedding flowers too.
“Are you coming, Millie?” she asks. “We’ve travelled a long way.”
I don’t want to look at her.
“Come on,” she insists. “At least take a photo of me by the flowers?” She tosses her smartphone in my lap and opens the passenger door. I wait until she exits, pondering my options, before I kill the ignition and follow her. Her long, white hair seems to glow in the sunlight. She moves slowly but determinedly, with a dancer’s grace. I call out to her and my voice carries on the breeze.
“Clara, you do know what they say about this place?”
She turns and giggles. “Of course! Thus, the basis of its appeal.”
“You believe it then?”
She stops and turns, fixing me with a steely gaze. “Does it matter what I believe?”
I shrug. I really don’t know.
She continues walking until she reaches the nearest bloom, and her fingertips graze the thick stem. A single petal flutters from its flower head and lands on the top of hers. She doesn’t notice, but my stomach lurches. I feel the sudden urge to pluck it from her hair. I don’t want it touching her.
She moves further down the row, trailing her hands through the yellow storm. More petals shudder free and follow her like bright, dangerous confetti.
“They say that they have power, don’t they?” she says quietly; so quietly I’m not even certain she’s talking to me. “That they harness magic from the sun. Their seeds contain pure radiance. One taste, and you can blossom too. Be beautiful like they are.”
Panic fills my throat, and a cold blush paints my face.
“You’re beautiful already, Clara,” I say loudly, hearing the tremble in my words. “Come away.” But she doesn’t want to listen.
“Yes,” she muses. “Perhaps to you I am. But for how long, Millie? How long?”
“Always,” I say. “Whatever happens.” Now it’s her turn to scoff.
“You and I know that’s not true. The disease will win. It always does. It’s only a matter of time.” She caresses the flowers. Fondles their leaves. “Will you still love me when I am bald? When my skin is covered in lesions and sores? Will you still want me when my eyes turn dull and all I can do is sleep?”
I try to answer, but she’s not done.
“Will you still find me desirable when you’re wiping my arse, and cleaning strings of drool from my chin?”
She spins, a ballet dancer’s pirouette. The sunflowers’ dark faces follow her. My blood freezes. Now I’m certain they’ve seen her.
She shakes her head. “No. I don’t want that any more than you do.”
She reaches for the nearest flower and removes a single, black-striped pod. I break into an awkward run.
“Stop! Clara! Please, don’t do this!”
She moves inside the wall of stems and takes her place beside them.
“You picked me once, one summer. You crossed that crowded dance floor when we were both so very young. Your first words to me were, God, but you’re pretty. I’d never been told that before.
“We danced that night, and all nights after. We’ve seen so many seasons since. You call me your ‘little flower’. Tell me, Millie, after everything we’ve seen and done, would you still pick me all over again?”
She lifts her fingers to her lips, shuts her eyes, and swallows the seed.
Her body stiffens and her back pulls poker-straight. She tucks her elbows to her sides and outstretches both her hands. Her head falls back, tipping her face to the sun, her lips stretch into a tight line. Clumps of her hair begin to fall; pale, gossamer strands at her feet. I scream as the petals pucker and sprout. Yellow arrowheads burst from her cheeks. She shrinks and twists as her flesh is consumed. Her eyes turn solid black. My vision swims with the weight of my tears. I can’t bear to watch any more.
As the sky grows grey and the sun falls away, I sit with my back to the fields. There’s a seed in my palm, as heavy as stone. As heavy as the choice I must make. I know she is waiting for me, dancing in the breeze.
I’ll wait until dawn to decide.