Your instincts are wrong. Animals rely on
instincts fortheir daily survival, but we
are not beasts. We are not lions orsharks
or vultures. We are civilised and civilisation
only worksif instincts are suppressed. So,
do your bit for society andignore those
dark desires inside you.The Abstainer’s
Handbook (second edition), p.54
17 Orchard Lane
is a quiet place, especially at night.
Too quiet, you’d be entitled to think,
for any kind of monster to live among its
pretty, tree-shaded lanes.
Indeed, at three o’clock in the morning
in the village of Bishopthorpe, it is easy
to believe the lie indulged in by its residents
– that it is a place for good and
quiet people to live good and quiet lives.
At this hour, the only sounds to be heard
are those made by nature itself. The hoot
of an owl, the faraway bark of a dog or,
on a breezy night like this one, the wind’s
obscure whisper through the sycamore trees.
Even if you stood on the main street, right
outside the fancy dress shop or the pub
or the Hungry Gannet delicatessen, you wouldn’t
often hear any traffic, or be able to see
the abusive graffiti that decorates the
former post office (though the word FREAK
might just be legible if you strain your
Away from the main street, on somewhere
like Orchard Lane, if you took a nocturnal
stroll past the detached period homes lived
in by solicitors and doctors and project
managers, you would find all their lights
off and curtains drawn, secluding them from
the night. Or you would until you reached
number 17, where you’d notice the
glow from an upstairs window filtering through
And if you stopped, sucked in that cool
and consoling fresh night air, you would
at first see that number 17 is a house otherwise
in tune with those around it. Maybe not
quite as grand as its closest neighbour,
number 19, with its wide driveway and elegant
Regency features, but still one that holds
It is a house that looks and feels precisely
how a village family home should look –
not too big, but big enough, with nothing
out of place or jarring on the eye. A dream
house in many ways, as estate agents would
tell you, and certainly perfect to raise
But after a moment you’d notice there
is something not right about it. No, maybe
‘notice’ is too strong. Perhaps
you wouldn’t actively realise that
even nature seems to be quieter around this
house, that you can’t hear any birds
or anything else at all. Yet there might
be an instinctive sense that would make
you wonder about that glowing light, and
feel a coldness that doesn’t come
from the night air.
If that feeling grew, it might become a
fear that would make you want to leave the
scene and run away, but you probably wouldn’t.
You would observe the nice house and the
people carrier parked outside and think
that this is the property of perfectly normal
human beings who pose no threat to the outside
If you let yourself think this, you would
be wrong. For 17 Orchard Lane is the home
of the Radleys and, despite their very best
efforts, they are anything but normal.
need sleep,’ he tells himself, but
it is no good.
The light on at three o’clock this
Friday morning belongs to him,
Rowan, the eldest of the two Radley children.
He is wide awake, despite having drunk six
times the recommended dose of Night Nurse.
He is always awake at this time. If he is
lucky, on a good night, he will drop off
to sleep at around four to wake again at
six or shortly after. Two hours of tormented,
restless sleep, dreaming violent nightmares
he can’t understand. But tonight it’s
not a good night, with his rash playing
up and that breeze blowing against the window,
and he knows he will probably be going to
school on no rest whatsoever.
He puts down his book: Byron’s Collected
Poems. He hears someone walking along the
landing, not to the toilet but to the spare
The door to the airing cupboard opens. There
is a slight rummaging around, and a few
moments of quiet before she can be heard
leaving the room. Again, this isn’t
entirely unusual. Often he has heard his
mother get up in the middle of the night
to head to the spare bedroom with some secret
purpose he has never enquired about.
Then he hears her go back to bed and the
indistinct mumble of his parents’
voices through the wall.
gets back into bed, her whole body tense
with secrets. Her husband sighs a strange,
yearning kind of sigh and nuzzles into her.
‘What on earth are you doing?’
‘I’m trying to kiss you,’
‘Please, Peter,’ she says, a
headache pressing behind her eyes.
‘It’s the middle of the night.’
‘As opposed to all those other times,
when you would want to be kissed by your
‘I thought you were asleep.’
‘I was. I was dreaming. It was quite
an exciting one. Nostalgic, really.’
‘Peter, we’ll wake the children,’
she says, although she knows Rowan still
has his light on.
‘Come on, I just want to kiss you.
It was such a good dream.’
‘No. You don’t. You want more.
‘So, what are you worried about? The
‘I just want to go to sleep.’
‘What were you doing?’
‘I needed the toilet.’ She is
so used to this lie she doesn’t think
‘That bladder. It’s getting
‘Do you remember that librarian we
She can hear the smile in his question.
‘Jesus, Peter. That was London. We
don’t talk about London.’
‘But when you think about nights like
that, doesn’t it make you—’
‘No. It was a lifetime ago. I don’t
think about it at all.’