Book Extract: Spread: Tales of Deadly Flora

Please join me in celebrating the publication of Spread: Tales of Deadly Flora – ten speculative tales. It’s been edited by R.A. Clarke. 

Green thumbs beware. Plants are beautiful, peaceful, abundant, and life-sustaining. But what if something sinister took root in the soil, awakening to unleash slashing thorns, squeezing vines, or haunting greenery that lured you in?

Perhaps blooms on distant planets could claim your heart, hitch a ride to Earth on a meteor, or simply poison you with their essence. Imagine a world where scientists produced our own demise in a lab, set spores free to infect, even bred ferns to be our friends only to witness the privilege perverted.

When faced with botanical terror, will humanity fight to survive, or will they curl and wither like leaves in the fall? Read ten speculative tales ripe with dangerous flora to find out.


Josephine Queen has very kindly shared an extract from her story, The Koi Pond. We hope you enjoy. 


*****beginning of extract*****


The Koi Pond by Josephine Queen. A mother and son escape their troubled home life, taking a stroll through a garden that devolves into horror around them.


There was something Thea had forgotten. Something vital. But she put it aside for the moment and stared at the painting. Vivid green leaves crowded together on the concrete strut in front of her, intricate graffiti standing at least tenmetres high. There were more struts beyond this one, more paintings, each one as gorgeous as the next, but this one had captured Thea’s attention. Felix leaned against her, his head tilted back to see to the top of the painting. His weight against her legs warmed her, even in the shadowed enclave beneath the highway bridge.

“Can you see the faces, Mum?” His voice echoed.

Thea shook her head. “I don’t. I just see leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. But no faces, love.”

“They look like the quiet screaming ladies,” he said.

The quiet screaming ladies. Felix talked about them all the time. He wasn’t supposed to go beyond the tall grass behind their house. Owen said there was a deep and stagnant pond back there, one that would suck a small boy down into its black depths without hesitation. But the thought of adventure was enough to make Felix risk defying his father. He’d snuck back once when Owen was on double-shift and came back pale and quiet. Later, when Thea tucked him into bed, he had told her about the big goldfish that lived in the pond and the women who gathered around it, wide mouths screaming silently at him. He’d always had a big imagination.

She looked down at her son now, his face half in the sunlight seeping through the gap between the lanes on the bridge above, half in shadow.

“You have to do your face like this.” He squinted his eyes so that his smooth brown face crinkled.

Thea turned back to the graffiti and copied Felix, her own face feeling tight and dry as she narrowed her eyes. At first, all she could see were the leaves spanning the width and height of the concrete strut. They were painted an astonishing green, the sunlight drifting through from the gap above, highlighting the colours, dipping the shadows between the leaves into blackness. Ferns, she thought, or rubber plants. Huge anyway. Something about the painting made her stomach churn. Maybe it was the size of the leaves.

“Jurassic plants,” Felix said as if guessing her thoughts. “Can you see the faces yet? They’re in between.” His cheeks were flushed from their walk from the hotel.

 Thea tried again. She had a bitter taste in her mouth, and the beginnings of a headache throbbed at her temples. She narrowed her eyes further, and the world blurred out of focus. Where just a few seconds before, there had been only leaves, faces emerged from the concrete. Dead faces hiding among the leaves. Glassy eyes, wide mouths, grey skin. Thea gasped and stepped back, almost losing her footing on the sloped ground.

“You see them.” Felix sounded triumphant. “See, I told you.”

Thea took a step forward and raised her hand to the graffitied art, mesmerized by the eyes that seemed to look back at her, pleading with her. Her fingers grazed the surface, feeling paint and concrete, but something else too. The surface seemed to pulsate. Feverish heat radiated into her fingertips, and she pulled them back. Tears pricked at her eyes. She closed them. The faces looked familiar. When Thea opened her eyes again, the faces were gone, leaving the plants still and cold once more.


*****end of extract*****




About the authors: 

Spread: Tales of Deadly Flora features stories from Alyssa Beatty, Katie Ess, Jon Mierisch, Josephine Queen, Lisa Fox, Katie Jordan, Melissa Mendelson, Andrea Goyan, Alex Grehy and R.A. Clarke.

You can find out more about it on the Page Turn Press website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (X) pages.

It was released on 1st December 2023.

Click to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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