by Patricia Holland
… a modern Australian gothic novel
Everyone controls Sophie. She can’t walk and she can’t talk, but behind her disability hides a keen intelligence. Living on The Styx River cattle station with her father and a nanny, Sophie is acutely aware that she is a non-person. She feels as voiceless and isolated as the wallabies of The Wall, an eerie wilderness of basalt lava tubes forming a natural stone labyrinth that protects its remote lushness from anyone foolish enough to wander in.
Sophie’s mother Rose, as indigenous custodian, would take the young Sophie into the labyrinth and teach her its secrets. When a bitter divorce forces Rose to leave, Sophie is powerless to stop her grazier father from taking custody of both Sophie and The Wall.
Advances in computer technology enable Sophie to communicate, a fact she keeps secret from her father and his “cronies”. In Sophie’s presence, unaware she understands everything, they plot to build a multi-million dollar tourist resort in The Wall. The development will only go ahead if the rare wallabies are already extinct, so they hire roo shooters to help nature along.
In desperation Sophie writes Silent Scream, an anonymous blog that reveals the plot. When an environmental study team commissioned to find the wallabies goes missing, the rescuers appeal to Silent Scream for help. Raising awareness is one thing, but how can one impossibly disabled girl who can’t help herself, help save the lives of others?
To be published by Lacuna Publishing: August/September 2017
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Featured Blog Post
- Inspiration for The Styx: The Setting
The Styx is set in and around Queensland’s vast Great Basalt Wall National Park, a natural stone labyrinth of lush remoteness. In the dry season, the basalt maze confuses, taunts your sense of direction. In the wet, it’s easier. You can swim from basalt ridge to ridge, snacking on wild fruit as you climb out of one channel of black ink, before slipping into the next.
The channels are deep, but you try not to touch the bottom and you certainly don’t look down. You try not to look down because the water is so black: not muddy black, but black from its depth and black from its basalt lining. At each rise, you emerge swiftly, hoping that the thing that touched you was your imagination.