Today we bring you the INTO BONES LIKE OIL Blog Tour! Kaaron Warren’s novella is a haunting, atmospheric story of loss and grief set in a coastal boarding house where its troubled residents have come to get some well-needed sleep. Kaaron does a fantastic job setting the scene with her creepy old boarding house, so we asked her to share with us some of her own visits to old houses. Be sure to check out the guest post below and enter the giveaway!
INTO BONES LIKE OIL
RELEASE DATE: 11/12/19
GENRE: Dark Fantasy / Paranormal
SUMMARY: In this gothic-styled ghost story that simmers with strange, Warren shows once again her flair for exploring the mundane—themes of love, loss, grief, and guilt manifest in a way that is both hauntingly familiar and eerily askew.
People come to The Angelsea, a rooming house near the beach, for many reasons. Some come to get some sleep, because here, you sleep like the dead. Dora arrives seeking solitude and escape from reality. Instead, she finds a place haunted by the drowned and desperate, who speak through the sleeping inhabitants. She fears sleep herself, terrified that the ghosts of her daughters will tell her “it’s all your fault we’re dead.” At the same time, she’d give anything to hear them one more time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kaaron Warren has been publishing ground-breaking fiction for over twenty years. Her novels and short stories have won over 20 awards, from local literary to international genre. She writes horror steeped in awful reality, with ghosts, hauntings, guilt, loss, love, crime, punishment and a lack of hope.
10 Old Houses I’ve Visited: If these walls could talk.
I’ve always been influenced by old buildings. The atmosphere of them, and the ghosts of memory that walk the halls; I love being in old places. So I thought I’d list ten old houses that have influenced stories, going back to when I was a child. I could list dozens more, and there and hundreds I’d still like to visit.
This is a former art colony in the outskirts of Melbourne, Victoria. We went there for a family outing when I was about ten, and in the main hall I got an intense sense of menace and cruelty. My mother was angry at me because it was supposed to be a place of beauty, but it gave me the shivers. When I researched the place recently, there were all sorts of stories about what went on there, including at least one murder.
2.) Duffy Street, Reservoir.
This was my Grandparents house. It had been my maternal great-grandparent’s house as well, so it was in the family for many years. It was full of nooks and crannies, having been added on to over the years, and I loved looking for secret places. There was a shed out the back that was like a labyrinth; my cousins and I used to dare each other to go further and further back. The small entrance way inspired Dora’s room in “Into Bones Like Oil’. It was full of stuff so wasn’t used as a doorway. It was one of my favourite parts of the house, because it was rarely used, and so still seemed to retain what WAS, what used to be.
3.) Friend’s House
My parents were into Transcendental Meditation when I was young, so a lot of our family friends were the same. This one house we visited often was massive, in my memory, with rooms everywhere. It was perfect for hide and seek; games could go on for hours, that’s how big the house was. The only room we weren’t supposed to go in was the Meditation room. But of course we did sneak in there. It was incense filled, sun-lit and, to me, oppressive. There was something in the room that weighed down on me, and I couldn’t breathe. I never stepped beyond the doorway if I could help it.
4.) Hydro Majestic Hotel, Katoomba
This is a famous old hotel in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. I only stayed there once, on a wonderful week away with my mother and my sister, when I was in my early twenties. It is a magnificent place, full of stories and mysteries and ghosts.
5.) Old Parliament House, Canberra
I was lucky enough to enjoy a Fellowship at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. For many years it was called Interim Parliament House; it was meant to be a temporary arrangement, but ended up being used for about sixty years. So it never WAS Parliament House, it was ‘Interim’ then ‘old’. It’s now a museum, restaurant, bar. I was able to explore all the nooks and crannies while I was there, including wonderful places like The Door Store, where every door ever used in the building rests, way down in the basement (there are many layers of basement). These doors still have names on them, and stickers, and children’s drawings. It’s an evocative sight. Many of the rooms carry similar ghosts of the past, and of course ghosts are reported in the halls and the meeting rooms, tapping on high heels and pulling out chairs.
6.) Beechworth Asylum, Beechworth, Victoria
I do love a good haunted Asylum and the one at Beechworth is brilliant. I’ve stayed overnight here a couple of times, and love the midnight tours. The smells and the sounds inspire nightmares. Last time I was there, there was a desiccated animal in one of the fireplaces. I was working on a particular story, and the pink pepper tree near the morgue helped me crack it.
7.) Monte Cristo, Junee, New South Wales
Another place where you can go on a haunted tour. I haven’t spent the night at this one. There are disturbing elements all over this place, from the slippery top step on the back staircase, to the thick chain and handcuff anchored in a shed, to the crowded bedrooms, thick with the past.
8.) Poe’s house, Philidelphia
There is a creaky floorboard in this house. It sounds like a cry for help, or more like a dying moan for help. I wondered if this helped inspire “Tell-Tale Heart” and if Poe was as greatly affected by the walls that surrounded him as I am.
9.) Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s House, Connecticut
Like Poe’s house, I could almost see Gilman at work here. Was this room where she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper?
10.) Australian High Commission in Fiji
I was reminded of this house today, at a reunion of old friends. I didn’t live in this house but visited it often. When it was filled with people for an official function, it buzzed with life. If you were there in the quiet times, though, you could sometimes here the hum of conversations that weren’t happening. It made me think about all the voices that might have spoken here, the paths that crossed and the choices made.
The reception desk sat empty when Dora arrived at nine p.m. Good. That was the plan. The key to her room was in a lock box that wasn’t locked (“It looks locked, that’s the main thing,” the landlord had told her). The key was there, along with a grease-stained sheet of rules and conditions (No Cooking In The Rooms ) and a hand-drawn map showing her where to find her bedroom.
She was on the ground floor, although it was really the lower ground level now since the building had sunk further into the ground over the years. She passed the doorway her map indicated opened into the breakfast room (7 a.m.–8 a.m. sharp). The room was dark except for the light of the hallway spilling in, but she could see six or seven tables already set up. Each table was laid for one person and she smiled; that was one less thing to worry about. The idea of having to eat with a stranger horrified her. She could barely stand eating with her own family. She thought she could smell bacon, but there was also mustiness and something else, like hot metal.
Someone had hand lettered a sign for the bathroom door—vacant—and that was a relief too, unless someone thought it was funny to turn the sign over when someone else was inside. She glanced up and down the hallway and, seeing no one, ducked into the bathroom, flipping the sign. The other side said: fuck off I’m in here.
The bathroom’s floor and walls were tiled in pale purple streaked with gold. It gave the room an odd glow because the pale green glass-globed light fixture was set high in the ceiling and dimmed by dust and dead insects. The toilet was old but clean. There was no sign of spare toilet paper in the room. Against the wall was a shower and bath combination with a large, pale purple bathtub that sported rust stains and paint chips. The shower curtain was moldy and stained, but at least it existed. She hated showering without one.
She’d wash later, once she figured out who was around and where they were.
She listened at the bathroom door and, hearing nothing, stepped into the hallway. She flipped the sign back to vacant. There were three doors off this stretch, one marked linen, with a lock, the others numbered. It was very quiet, but from each room came a slow murmur, a hum like a one-sided conversation.
She heard the gentle ticking of a large clock but couldn’t see one.
The map said her room lay at the end of the hall. The key was small and flimsy, and she hoped it would work. She was relieved when it turned smoothly as it must have done a thousand times before.
Dora slid the door open. It was lightweight, shaking in the track as it moved. It would provide very little security. But then she was in an inner-city rooming house, so her expectation of security was low.
Her room had once been the foyer, when the house was much smaller and the entrance faced the other way. Now, after renovations and changes, it faced an alleyway. The old front door, now most of one of the walls, was covered with clothes hooks of many kinds. Her wardrobe. She thought previous tenants must have hammered the hooks in as there was nowhere else to hang clothes. There was no chest of drawers in the room, only one shelf over the bed, set into the wall. It looked like the place where, decades ago when a family lived here and milk was delivered to the door, the milkman would have put the bottles. She didn’t remember those days, but her grandmother did, once wistfully and now as if it were still the case, as if milk was delivered each morning. There were six or seven books on the shelf.
Dora had very little with her. One small suitcase that she’d used as a seat and a pillow over the last week. There was no room to lay her suitcase out on the floor so she hefted it onto the bed. Opening the zip, she threw back the lid. She hung T-shirts and skirts and pants, two of each, on the hooks, folded her underwear onto the shelf. She had one book (Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul) but no photos. She zipped the suitcase closed, lifted it off the bed, and placed it upright on the floor. Once she covered it with a pillowcase or a towel it would be a fine bedside table.
She moved the seven books, all by R.L. Stephenson (Confessions of the Dead, Parts I–V, Lore of the Sea, and The Wreck) from the shelf and placed them beside her suitcase. There was a blue bottle she left on the shelf, and—beside it—she placed two children’s hairbrushes, pink and run through with strands of hair.
It was dead quiet outside. She hadn’t eaten since lunch but was loath to go out. She wished she could leave by the old front door, but it was nailed shut. At least she had a window, a bay window looking onto the alleyway. Thick lace curtains covered it, and successive tenants had layered paper over the window for privacy, but someone had scratched a small square at the top to let light in.
She placed her book on the suitcase-table. She had half a cheese sandwich she’d saved from lunch so she ate that, then turned the light out and changed. The single bed creaked as she climbed into it, and the sheets felt slightly clammy. The rooming house shifted and she could hear footsteps, voices, cars outside. She could hear the ticking of the old clock. She heard something heavy being dragged, and a creaking noise where the door used to be, as if that door was being opened.
She sat up. The door was only a reach away, and she could see by the streetlight leaking through the layers on the window and streaming through the bare patch. She could feel when she touched it that the door was nailed shut.
She lay back down, hoping for sleep.
It had been many months since she’d slept well. Even before the children disappeared and were found, her worries had weighed her down, kept her awake and thinking when all she wanted was blessed sleep.
Even when her mother looked after the children and she was on her own, still she couldn’t sleep. Back then, she’d convinced herself her ex-husband was a monster, and she sat curled up in an armchair (one they’d paid a fortune for, which she’d never regretted) swamped by the large blanket crocheted by her grandmother, holding her phone, waiting for the call to confirm he’d taken them, that her children were kidnapped by their own father, the man who’d loved her once.
The call never came. The children were always fine at her mother’s.
Dora pulled the blanket up under her chin. It felt clammy and smelled faintly of wet hair and bleach.
A gentle noise streamed from a corner of the room: the rhythmic wash of the sea rolling into shore and back. The sound came from a speaker in the ceiling. She’d heard about this, the white or pink noise that would supposedly help her sleep. Over that, she could hear the upstairs neighbor moving around. It sounded like they were dragging furniture and bouncing a ball and throwing glasses onto the floor—all at the same time.
She was tired. Very, very tired at her core. The body shuts down, sleeps when sick or starving or dying. You only had to look at footage of starving children to see that.