Welcome to The Interactive Novel, the novel that allows you the reader to decide what happens during the novel. This winter the interactive novel returns as a novella.
There will be three options published each week. Each instalment will be no longer than a 1000 words. Read the options , then vote for your favourite or what you would like to happen. Whatever option receives the most votes decides what happens.
The Interactive novel is set in 1860 Britain and follows forteen year old Nigel Briggs. Nigel is an apprentice to debunker of the Supernatural Professor Ashcroftin his investigations into the supternatural. To find out more read the other Novels
The Story So Far
Not for the first time fourteen-year-old Nigel Briggs felt out of place. Since entering Professor Ashcroft’s, employment as his apprentice it was becoming a recurring theme. Tonight, he stood beside the mantlepiece in the large parlour of the stately home enjoying the warmth of the fire against his back. He scanned the paintings adorning the walls, rather than watching the groups of distinguished men sat deep in discussion. Professor Ashcroft was across the other side of the room, a tumbler of whiskey in his hand, deep in conversation with an elderly bearded man.
Nigel sighed. This was certainly the most boring party he had ever attended. Their host hadn’t even appeared. Instead he had left his guests, some of the most prominent minds in British science, to amuse themselves. Feeling the need to stretch his legs Nigel left the room. He wandered the hall looking at the paintings. In the dim candlelight he had to squint to make out the finer details in the portraits of family members, biblical and mythical scenes and in one room paintings of black wolf like dogs. He passed pockets of men in small groups so absorbed in their conversation they stood in the middle of the corridors oblivious to his presence. In another large parlour with red walls and furnishings to match he found the wives and mistresses gathered. Feeling even more uncomfortable than with the men he hastily backed out of the room. He passed servants carrying silver trays with food and drink hurrying between the rooms.
He looked down at his pocket watch. Only an hour has passed since their arrival. He wished the Professor had left him at home. He had not wanted to attend, but the Professor had insisted. Their host, a recluse but with a reputation for being a genius in the field of Chemistry, was going to announce a mysterious and in their host’s own words, a monumental discovery that would change the way humanity viewed the world. As some of the world’s best minds would be in attendance the Professor had said it would be an opportunity for Nigel to learn something. However, as expected Nigel had been abandoned to look after himself. He now wandered the corridor ignored and bored. He headed towards the dinning room. At least there was a free buffet.
The room was empty, apart from the large table big enough to sit thirty filled with platters or food. Nigel wandered the length of the table plucking morsels of sliced meats, cheeses and pastry’s as he passed. Nibbling on a pickle and ham tart he stopped by the fireplace. Above the mantel was a painting of a muscular naked man brandishing a flaming torch as he climbed out of a dark hole.
“Prometheus,” said a voice beside him.
Startled Nigel turned to find a girl of a similar age to himself. She was dressed in a dark green ball gown and her brown hair was pulled into a fashionable bun. From her attire she wasn’t a servant, but she was far too young to be a wife or mistress.
“Prometheus?” he repeated his mind preoccupied puzzling over the girl’s identity.
“In Greek myth he stole fire from the underworld and gave it to humanity,” the girl said. She smiled at him, whether it was condescending or not, he was not sure. “It is my father’s favourite myth. He wonders what other secrets of the gods can be stolen from them.”
“Do you just ask questions? My father is your host. He has invited you all here to show off his latest discovery. Most of his guest are boorish old men and then there is you. At first I thought you must be a servant.”
Nigel shook his head. She hadn’t been the only one. On several occasions one of the guests had forced an empty glass into his hand with the expectation that he would replenish their drink.
“Then I thought you must be some sort of child prodigy, but I think I may be mistaken on that too. So why are you here?”
“I’m Professor Ashcroft’s apprentice. He has insisted that I accompany him so that I might learn something.”
“Well you have learned about Greek mythology, so he was right,” she held out her hand. “Eve Crosse.”
“Nigel Briggs. Do you know what your father’s discovery is?”
She gave a bitter laugh. “It is a closely guarded secret. My father keeps to himself. So much so, that I have not seen him in four years and three months. My mother and I live with my grandparents. Considering we have not spoken to Father in such a long time he still sent us an invitation for tonight. Strange don’t you think?”
Nigel shrugged. “He is obviously proud of his discovery and wants you and your mother there to witness that your sacrifice was worth it.”
“You really do not know my father, but then who does? Did you know that the local villagers believe he is in league with the devil? That he is carrying out inhuman experiments into the occult? That he may have opened a portal to hell?”
A shiver crept down Nigel’s spine. He could not have a night away without tales of the supernatural raising its ugly head. Eve continued not noticing his discomfort,
“If I told the other guests here, they would say the superstitious locals just don’t understand the marvels of modern science. That there is nothing that cannot be explained by rational logical thinking.”
“That sounds familiar.” He had heard those words hundreds of times from Professor Ashcroft.
“But what if science cannot explain it? My father is due to make his announcement at 8 o’clock. I suppose we will then find out who is right…”
“It sounds like you agree with the villagers,” Nigel said. “You don’t honestly believe your father is involved with the occult?”
“All I know is there are two sides to a coin. I have not seen my father since I was ten and before then it was only for fleeting moments. He had no time for Mother and I when we lived here. That is why she took me to live with my grandparents.”
“Yet you came back tonight. Why is that?”
She frowned. “You think yourself quite the detective.”
“Sorry a matter of habit. My apprenticeship to Professor Ashcroft involves explaining the supernatural.”
“You investigate ghosts?”
“Amongst other things,” he said deliberately vague. She would not believe half the things he had seen. He also did not want to talk about it, wanting to forget the things that had terrified him. “It’s rather dull and you wouldn’t be interested.”
“You might not want to talk about it, but I don’t mind telling you why Mother and I came tonight. Afterall, it is nice to talk to somebody, even if it is an interrogation. In the room with all the ladies I was just ignored or berated by Mother for not sitting properly. I had to escape”
Nigel knew the feeling all too well.
“Anyway. Even though Mother cannot stand the sight of Father she insisted that we came tonight. Afterall he did invite us and it was the first time we had heard from him since leaving. I did not want to come but Mother insisted. She wants me to meet Father again. Something about it being important to know where I have come from.”
She tilted her head to one side as if caught by a sudden thought. She looked over his shoulder. Nigel followed her gaze to the Grandfather clock. It was just short of half seven.
“Shall we go look at my old room? I would love to see it. I want to know if it is the same as I remember. We have half an hour before Father’s great announcement. I won’t be missed and neither will you if you are able to stand here staring at paintings.”
Nigel followed Eve out of the dining room and into entrance the lobby. A lone footman stood at the bottom of the curved stairs. The open door opposite revealed a library with more gentlemen gathered. As they approached the stairs the footman stepped in front of them.
“Nobody is allowed up there.”
“This is my Father’s house. I just want to have a look at my bedroom.”
He looked at Nigel behind her, then putting two and two together and reaching seven he gave them a knowing wink.
“Sorry. I still can’t let you go up there. It is not worth my job. I’m under strict orders not to let anyone up there.”
Eve turned and headed off towards the library. Nigel followed in her wake.
“Eve, where are we going?”
“There is more than one way to get upstairs and if I remember correctly… yes there it is.”
Ahead of them a servant carrying a tray emerged from a small side door in the corner of the library. The door had been left open, but if closed the door had been disguised to look like part of a bookcase with spines of false books. As they crossed the library another servant with an empty tray went through the door. Without hesitating Eve darted through the false door. Nigel took a quick glance behind him, the men were too busy talking amongst themselves to notice, then followed her through to find a narrow staircase. On the stairs below, the servant was heading down to the kitchens to replenish her tray. Another set of stairs headed upwards to the dark rooms above. On the third step was an unlit lantern, put aside as if required.
“Look Eve I don’t think we should go wandering around,” Nigel said as she picked up the lantern.
“It will take us ten minutes at the most. I just want a quick look and then we come right back here.” She lit the lantern and then without waiting for him to protest further headed upwards.
“Why me?” he muttered under his breath and then followed. He has misgivings about walking around the hall at night. Not just because it was off limits, but because of the local rumours. If there was the smallest chance there was any truth to them, then this was the height of foolishness. He had had enough encounters with the supernatural to know it wasn’t a wise idea to go wandering round dark creepy building.