Cassandra Rose Clarke: Midnight Mass

As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Assasin’s CurseThe Pirate’s Wish and the forthcoming The Wizard’s Promise, all with Strange Chemistry, as well as The Mad Scientist’s Daughter with Angry Robot!

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at www.robottradingcompany.com

2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket

3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box

4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading! 

I woke up to the sound of singing. At first I couldn’t place it, and I thought I was still dreaming, or that Aunt Shelly had arrived earlier than she said and had turned on the stereo downstairs. But when I rolled onto my side and saw that it was a quarter after midnight, I realized it was just the church across the cemetery. Midnight Mass.

Moonlight slanted in through the crooked blinds. The room was brighter than I would have expected, for midnight. I closed my eyes and listened to the singing—it was too far away for me to place the song, and anyway I hadn’t been to Mass in years. I doubted I could remember the names of the hymns.

I rolled onto my back, onto my stomach, my side, trying to get comfortable. I pulled the blanket over my head. The singing continued, fragmented by the wind howling in from the north. I’d gone to Midnight Mass every year as a child and I didn’t remember the singing lasting this long.

I shoved my head under the pillow but I could still hear the voices, whispery, distant, floating over the cemetery. With the voices came the memories of the Christmas Eves of my childhood: walking across the cemetery with my hand tucked in Dad’s, our arms swinging in tandem, my head tilted back, certain I’d get a glimpse of Santa sailing across the dark sky on his way to deliver toys to the Baptist kids who didn’t have to go to church first. The cemetery was always still and silent around us, and whenever we passed the grave of my great-great grandmother, Dad would touch two fingers to his forehead in a salute of acknowledgement. Afterwards, he’d whisper in my ear that if I was lucky we’d see a ghost because even they were allowed to walk the Earth on Christmas Eve so they could attend Mass. Then Mom would tell him to hush up. The idea of ghosts never scared me, though. You get used to it, growing up next door to a cemetery.

I slid the pillow off my head. It was too hot and stuffy under there. The music seemed to have stopped, and I lay still, listening for it—

Nope, they weren’t done yet. A low, haunting melody surged on the wind, the voices rippling like wind chimes. The clock rolled over to 12:21. The shards of moonlight seemed as bright as tanning lights. My insomnia was going to strike. I could feel it, like the start of a headache behind my temple. I’d finally started sleeping well these last few weeks, and it figured that church hymns would be the thing to instigate it all over again. I sighed, dragged the blanket over my face. The singing swelled. It almost sounded too sweet to be the St. Cecilia congregation, and for a moment I couldn’t move, paralyzed by the strange and unearthly beauty of that singing. A chill rippled over my skin, and I wasn’t certain, in that moment, if I was joyful or afraid.

A burst of wind slammed against the window. The screen rattled in the frame. Whatever midnight spell the hymns had created was broken, and I flopped down on my side, staring through silvery moonlight at the elongated shadows of the bedroom. It’d been my bedroom, a long time ago, although Mom had redecorated a few years after I moved out. No trace of my teenage self remained.

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