In today’s blog I want to take a look at one of the first characters I ever drew up in a horror context. So, come with me on a trip into the past, all the way back to around 1994 when I first came up with the ideas for my first horror novel entitled ‘Retribution.’ After a long time away from this novel I returned to it with fresh eyes a little while ago in order to rework it. There were some strong parts to the novel but some aspects of it which I needed to work on. It has been a pleasure to do so. Becoming re-acquainted with characters I had not surrounded myself with for so long was quite liberating. It was like finding yourself in the society of old friends once again.
But enough of all this preamble: on with my profile of Lucy O’Neill, a young girl who very much finds herself in peril at the vicious hands of Victoria Marchbank, an evil ghost who has come back to avenge herself on a doctor who she believes did not do all he could have done to save her children from ignominious deaths.
I have given a general overview of the novel already on this site. It can be found under the My Books section by selecting the Retribution child menu. But this blog is to do with Lucy. She is nine years old and is not a happy child. In fact, she could be termed a loner with no friends to call on and only her devoted older brother to call on to provide her with any sense of support. She receives none from her father who is very exacting towards her. He regularly finds faults with her, failing to see the good qualities she possesses, concentrating instead on her weak points. Lucy feels frustrated by this. She is also upset by the fact that she can never seem to make friends with other children. It doesn’t help her case that she has a complex about her appearance being a rather plump girl who has to wear glasses she hates.
It is with this backdrop of personal disaffection that Lucy finds herself being drawn into a historical drama which is out with her understanding. The first inkling she has of something strange going on happens shortly after her family move into a new home. The house is called Oak Manor and is a regal building with a lot of history behind it. In fact, it is the former home of Doctor Mathewson, the very doctor who Victoria blames for the untimely deaths of her two children Edward and Norma-Louise. They had had the misfortune to contract the plague.
What happens which makes Lucy realise something otherworldly is going on in her new home? Well, one day she is out exploring in a woodland area which runs alongside Oak Manor. She comes across some children playing and, much to her surprise, she is asked to join them. She is taken aback by this at first as she has never come across children who have warmed to her so readily. In fact, she is not sure how to act at first. However, she soon comes to see these children are very different to ones she has comes across before. They really do seem to want to be her friends.
However, when they start telling her they are not quite what they seem, that they are in fact ghosts, Lucy feels aggrieved. She thinks this is yet another instance of children being cruel to her. She has been the victim so many times of insults and disagreeable conduct from other children that she thinks this is just another case of this and runs away from them in dismay.
This situation does not last long. She keeps hearing the children calling out to her from the woods when she is in her room. She looks out and sees them there. They are so insistent that she charges out to confront them, but is astonished when certain experiences she goes through makes it self-evident to her that these children are exactly who they say they are. Yes, they are ghosts and they have come amongst her to warn her about Victoria Marchbank, a malicious spirit who wishes to cause her harm. In fact, she wishes much more than this. She wants to extinguish her life like she has done previously to all of them. For she has been marked down as the latest child to fall foul of Victoria’s infamy. In a matter of weeks she is going to suffer the same fate as every one of the child ghosts who stand before her. She is to be killed at her hands in a brutal sacrificial ceremony. Only the child ghosts and Doctor Mathewson can stand in Victoria’s way. They are Lucy’s only hope of survival. At least this is how it is explained to the girl herself.
Around this time, an amazing thing happens to Lucy at her new school. There is a girl in her class called Barbara who is much admired by her fellow classmates, especially the girls. Everyone wants to be her friend. From the moment Lucy starts going to the school Barbara takes a disliking to her. This only serves to increase Lucy’s problems at the school. She had been dreading going there, thinking she would be the subject of ridicule yet again by unfeeling fellow pupils. If Barbara chose to pour scorn over her than she had very little chance of making headway with any other child at the school. So her future looks bleak. But then a ray of sunshine show itself.
One day in art class, Barbara is being criticized by her teacher for her work. Lucy decides to come to Barbara’s aid and tells Mrs. Leonard that she should not be so harsh with her as she is trying her best. Her teacher is astonished at this defence of Barbara, especially seeing as it comes from Lucy. She knows how horrible Barbara has been to the new girl and cannot understand why Lucy would choose to defend her. She is not the only one to be amazed by Lucy’s behaviour. The whole class exchange expressions of confusion, but no one more so than Barbara. Lucy compounds this feeling by offering to help Barbara with her artwork as she is quite good at drawing.
Soon, Barbara and Lucy become close friends. This means that Lucy has a large group of friends to call on as the other girls follow Barbara’s lead in warming to the new girl. Later on, Barbara confides in Lucy that she thought her loner mentality came out of a feeling of superiority. She thought she had been acting aloof as she came from a city while they were in a countryside locality. Lucy tells her this was not so at all. Her attitude was based on shyness rather than superiority. She simply did not know how to go about befriending other children.
Soon after this, Lucy tells Barbara and her other friends about Victoria Marchbank and the child ghosts and what fate might have in store for her. At first, she is not sure whether she should have told them about this, but realises she has no need to be possessed of these feelings. Barbara and the others are her friends now and they take her story at face value and offer to help her in any way they can.
In my reworking of this novel I have gone deeper into this side of the story and I believe the book has become stronger as a result. I have enjoyed developing the friendship which exists between Barbara and Lucy and indeed the extended friendship with the other girls at Lucy’s school. The question remains, however, whether all of the support Lucy receives will be of any use when she comes face to face with Victoria Marchbank and the plans she has for her.
Throughout the novel Lucy shares a very strong bond with her older brother David. He is a source of great comfort to her when she is experiencing difficult times. He offers a shoulder to cry on and Lucy really appreciates having him around. It is clear when Lucy starts making friends with Barbara and the others that her brother is delighted for her. This only serves to increase Lucy’s feelings of well-being. But there always hovers in the background the menace of Victoria and what she might suffer at her hand.