I’ve got a special treat for you this week. A little while ago, I was privileged to receive an advance reader’s copy of The Cistern by Lorne Oliver. Lorne is also two-deep into a series starring Sgt. Reid of the RMCP.
The official book release was yesterday, and you can read my review here. Lorne was also kind enough to stop by and do a guest post for us, so without further ado, here’s Lorne . . . .
Based on Actual Events, sorta
I can honestly say that my new novel, THE CISTERN, is based on actual events. Okay, not the actual crime but other events. In the novel Chrys gets a side job where she has to go to houses which had been foreclosed on to take pictures and possibly clean them out. In the autumn of 2012 my wife had the same side job. She went one day with a locksmith to change the locks and take the photographs, however, they couldn’t find the light switch for the basement. She asked me to go with her on the weekend with flashlights in hand and finish the job. My wife as so excited about it. The family that had lived there just seemed to have taken off leaving behind a lot of their belongings and furniture. Being fans of TV shows like Canadian and American Pickers and things like Pawn Stars she thought we might be able to cash in. This is pretty much how Chrys in THE CISTERN feels and why she takes along her brother Spencer. We saw the same thing when we pulled into the driveway as the brother and sister do…
Giant evergreens made a square around the house and yard blocking most of the wind coming across the fields. There were ghosts hanging from those trees. They dangled from strings tied around the grey paper to create a head. The grass over the entire yard had grown untouched until it was too heavy to stand up and fell over on itself. On one side the grass was only broken by a small kids’ swimming pool deflated and discarded. There was filthy water inside it from rain with piles of dead and rotting leaves turning the water dark. The house itself had an attached two-car garage, the roof shingles had seen better days, and over in front of a glass door was a deck with plants growing up from underneath poking through the floorboards. A vine had climbed halfway up one of the posts around the outside of the deck. It looked as though it had once been screened in, but that was long ago. A storm door stood open beside the garage with the door behind it closed. How long would it take for nature to take over the house?
“This is it?” Nervous energy ran through Spencer’s body as he looked around. On the side of the house what looked like discarded furniture and garbage had become a living mound with grass and plants growing over it. He bet snakes and mice and other nasties found a home in there during different times of the year.
Chrys said, “This is it,” and slipped from the truck with the camera hanging from around her neck and flashlight in hand.
Even though the wind couldn’t get through the trees the chill still made him button up his coat as he got out. A large trampoline stood in one corner of the yard. Dead leaves painted the bouncing surface. Branches from the nearest trees had expanded outward blocking some of the air above it. Those trees creaked and scraped against each other as if in some evil chanting. Witches standing over a bouncing cauldron.
“Where did you say the family went?”
I, of course, started imagining all that could have happened to the family. As we went in things got more confusing. Just like in the book belongings were scattered all over. There was a dining table and chairs, a China set, family photos, a wine rack, tons of kitchen gadgets, clothes, kids drawings, Justin Bieber pictures on one of the kids bedroom walls (okay, I understand leaving those) It was really strange. Then we went down into the basement…
Spencer walked around the furnace and hot water tank, both looked relatively new. Behind them was a wall of cinderblocks that was just taller than his almost six-foot frame, but didn’t reach the ceiling. It didn’t extend to the side wall of the basement either and left a thin path between them. He looked around expecting to see just the one wall, a barrier for the furnace maybe. Another wall extended from the corner of the smaller one and stopped just before the far wall. This didn’t make sense. He pushed up onto his toes. There was a top. It was a room. A room made of thick cinderblock walls and mortar with a plywood top.
The hairs on her arms felt electrified at just the way her brother said her name. He was already moving forward.
Spencer felt drawn to walk around these inside walls. There had to be a door or something. There had to be a reason for them to be there. He said, “This is a concrete room. The walls don’t go up.”
“They don’t go all the way to the ceiling.”
“There’s a ladder.” Spencer stood at the far corner. The short wall made a ninety degree turn. It was indeed a square room right underneath the kitchen.
“Spence, come back.” Chrys watched him disappear around the corner. She looked out to the family room again. Her head spun to look at the tiny window high on the wall and covered on the outside by the tall grass. Could someone be watching? She knew her thoughts and fears were irrational.
“I’m just going to see what’s on top.”
“Forget it. I have enough pictures.” She wanted to get out of there.
The closer he got to the ladder, made of rough-cut two by fours, the more Spencer smelled something foul. It wasn’t that bad from where he stood. Was this a compost thing? Something in his head said he had to continue. He grabbed the top of the ladder and pulled himself up with his phone leading the way. The dark shadows covered everything behind him. The phone sent light over the top. All that was up there was a small skimming net with a metal handle. There was also a square block nailed to a larger square on the top just a foot in front of him.
He took another step up. Spencer said, “There’s a trap door up here.”
All pretty much true. There was a foreclosed abandoned house full of belongings. There was a cinderblock room in the basement with only a trap door on top. I was terrified to look into it. Thankfully, I did not find what Spencer does. The story started to work its way into my brain. What if there was something in that “room.” We found out later that it was a cistern, something to hold rainwater to be used for watering the garden, watering animals, washing clothes, etc. We returned to what we called, The Creepy House, a few times more and every time it terrified me. The what ifs took over my brain and became THE CISTERN.