By Cindy Hutchins
Available October 15th, 2011
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Young Arliss Pardot is found in an old, broken down cabin with hundreds of caged birds and a corpse. She is taken and adopted out, and forgets everything. But years later, when her birth mother dies in Broughton Mental Hospital, Arliss finds that deep in her memory is a dark figure that threatens the very world. As she digs for the hidden truth, she discovers that some things are "Best left Buried".
About the Author
Cindy Hutchins was raised in the
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A bird flying out of a house of sickness means the patient will die.
For many long years the house had been full of the wheezing. Sometimes the sound made Arliss feel so unhappy. It was a continual death gasp, one breath agonizingly following after the other all day and all night. Most of the time, though, she didn’t even notice them. It had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember.
It was worse when her mother was home. It was a distraction, the thing that took all of her mother’s attention, the thing she competed with. She noticed it most then.
If she could go outside it would be better, but they were rarely allowed to open the door, rarely allowed to take the chance.
The old man in the bed was little more than a corpse. Just looking at him in her earliest recollections had been the stuff of nightmares.
He hadn’t always lived there. For a while it was just her and her mother, and she missed those times more than she cared to think about. She hated him, hated looking at him, felt no pang of compassion, no acknowledgement that this man had anything to do with her, much less be a relative. He was a cross to be borne. A stinking, gasping, terrifying thorn in what might have been a decent life.
At first she could look out the window at least, and see the birds, the birds that had given her so much pleasure. They were so free, so joyful. Before the cages, they had been so different. Almost as if they were speaking to her, telling her secrets she could just about hear.
Then, one by one, the cages appeared. It was a starling first, it had found a cranny in one of the eaves of the old cabin that they lived in. She remembered watching it dance across the beams, alighting on the hearth and looking at her as if it remembered her from somewhere. She imagined it came in to give her some moment of happiness, but when her mother saw it…
She remembered her mother as a sweet laughing woman who used to play with her down at the creek. She tried never to look at this woman, this stranger who had replaced her beloved mother, this woman who had dull, oily hair and the dead eyes of tribulation.
Her mother had sworn when she saw the bird. She had actually taken the Lord’s name in vain and her mother had never done that before. She had chased it frantically around the room and caught it and dropped it in a bottle with holes cut in the top until she could build a cage...
It was a little clapboard church, set in a sunny little glen, surrounded by willows and magnolias. He’d spent most of his time here, it wasn’t fancy but it was holy. The walls were whitewashed with cheap paint and the floors covered with pine planking. They had built this building themselves, only buying the pews from a mail order catalog, and they themselves had installed them. Cain had been happy with the straight backed chairs they had before, but as Sy Younger, his right-hand man and Deacon had told him, he didn’t have to sit in them—there were old ladies with lumbago and arthritis. He’d relented and let them have their bake sales and car washes. You have to give a horse its head every once in a while.
The rattler curled around his arm, twisted and writhed, but didn’t strike. He had never been struck by one of the creatures. Others in the congregation had—a couple fatally, but that was the thing about faith. Either you had it, or you didn’t. This wasn’t a test of God, it was a test of man, and it was often pass-fail. Cain had never failed. Not even for an instant...
“You have to lead us now, like he did. We are the damned and you’re our leader,” Sylvia told him....