Chapter 3

Written by: Linda Alley


Sabine tightens her grip on her father's elbow as they pass through the vaulted entrance.  She knows all the guests in the pews are turned towards her, that Rudi's looking right at her. But the only faces she can recall from that day are the ones in the fresco. The long line of the medieval plague victims, swaying down the aisle in their slow dance of death.


Sabine, dressed in a Boston Red Sox hoddie and skinny jeans, focused a camera at the Gothic church she hadn't entered for twelve years. Low voices and laughter floated around her as hand-locked couples strolled down into the U-Baun. A dustman was sweeping cigarette butts into his cart.

Sabine replayed the photos she'd taken of the Marienkirche and zoomed in on the oak doors. A sign announced the church was currently closed for renovation.

She lowered the camera and took out her phone, her fingers pressing down on each key until the tips turned white.

There was a click, followed by the gnashing of teeth. Sabine paused, choosing her reply carefully.

“They’re out for lunch.”

“Easy, sweetheart. The sons wanted to get out of their mother’s womb as soon as they could. Taste the real world. They pushed their way down that birth canal coz they knew there were bigger milk bottles out there. Kay, babe?”

A faint exhale grazed her ear. The line went dead. The mother’s womb –the church. Birth canal – an underground tunnel. In the past, monks had dug a passage leading to the cellar of a dockside bar. The boat with the child's name would mark the entry point.

As Sabine hurried down a side street, the dustman propped his broom against a lamp post and pulled an iphone from his overalls. His fingers flicked over the keys but he kept his eyes on the woman in the Red Sox hoodie.

From the faint glow of his watch, John knew he was underground. He stepped forward and yelled as something small and sharp dug into his heel.

“John?”a woman's voice called through the trapdoor.

John's jaw crackled into a wide grin.

“Sabine?” he winced as a broken tooth splintered his gum.

A key grated in a rusty lock and a waft of damp air and light hit John in the face. A rope ladder snaked down through the hole, the last few rungs coiling at his feet.

“Can you?” Sabine's voice was hoarse.

John rubbed his foot and a white molar fell into his palm. He realised it was his own. Ignoring his shrieking muscles, he grasped a rung and started to pull himself up. Sabine's torso was halfway through the trapdoor. He reached up to touch her outstretched fingers.

The flashlight went out.

Rope and rungs whipped down past him. The last thing John heard before he hit the concrete floor was the echo of a shot.

By Linda Alley (NZ)



A very clever chapter from Linda. The start is written in past present recalling a past memory and in a way that automatically lets the reader know that. We then switch to past tense to continue the story. The first paragraph written in italics strengthens the point. Lots of description and emotion. John rubbed his foot and a white molar fell into his palm - and shrieking muscles might have been a little better explained although we know what the writer intends. I thought this was a really interesting and well written chapter. Linda is a 'Minter' writer too.
Favourite words in this one. Coz and birth canal. I really like the dirty part of the world this serial shows. Good on ya Linda!
The opening paragraph was breath taking. So was the rest of the chapter. I held my breath as I read it. Linda what a fantastic job you've done of your chapter. Wow!