Friday 9 June 2023

Jenna Clake, "Disturbance"


Jenna Clake, photo by Jamie Logue

Jenna Clake’s debut collection of poetry, Fortune Cookie, won the Melita Hume prize in 2016, and was published in 2017 by Eyewear. It received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2018 and was shortlisted for a Somerset Maugham Award in the same year. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Rebecca Swift Women Poets' Prize. Her poetry criticism has appeared in Poetry London, The Poetry School, and The Poetry Review. Her second collection Museum of Ice Cream was published by Bloodaxe and featured as one of The Telegraph's best new poetry books in 2021. Her debut novel is Disturbance, published by Trapeze in 2023. She lectures in Creative Writing at Teesside University.

About Disturbance
As the sun sets on a feverishly hot July evening, a young woman spies on her teenage neighbour, transfixed by what looks like an occult ritual intended to banish an ex-boyfriend. Alone in a new town and desperate to expel the claustrophobic memories of her own ex that have followed, the narrator decides to try to hex herself free from her past.

She falls in with the neighbour and her witchy friend, exploring nascent supernatural powers as the boundaries of reality shift in and out of focus. But when the creaks and hums of her apartment escalate into something more violent, she realizes that she may have brought her boyfriend's presence - whether psychological or paranormal - back to haunt her.

With astonishing emotional depth and clarity, Disturbance explores the fallout of abuse. Propulsive and wry, this razor-sharp debut twists witchcraft and horror into a powerful narrative of one woman's struggle to return to herself. This lyrical novel explores all the ways that relationships and trauma can haunt our lives, and the lingering physical and psychological effects of abuse. 

From Disturbance, by Jenna Clake
The girl rolled the stone to Chelsea, and the ritual began. The evening’s heat was suddenly inflamed, as though it had been summoned; there was a smell of rain, almost sulphuric and bitter. Chelsea leaned forward and cupped the stone in her hand. The girls fell silent, and the smell of rot wafted past me, as though something had crawled to die under my floorboards. My stomach turned, and I held my breath. My fingers tingled, like I’d leant on my hand for too long. 

Chelsea took the stone to her cheek, and started rolling it over her face. The other girl watched her closely, moving her lips rapidly, as if chanting. Chelsea rolled the stone over her face several times, slowly at first, and then with more momentum every time she reached her forehead. Through the darkness, the moon cast white light onto Chelsea and her friend, like it was coming through a magnifying glass. The building had been quiet since the girl had turned off her music. Even the fridge had stopped whining. The road had been empty from the moment Chelsea’s friend had arrived. It was as if they and I were the only people in the world; they had cast a spell and everyone else had been put into a trance.

Chelsea returned the stone to her palm. She looked at it for a while, communing with it. The rotten smell passed, and something more pleasant was summoned, a scent unseasonably springlike: fresh earth, crocuses, daubs of early daisies, the first day it feels safe to sit on grass. Chelsea dug into the ground with her bare hands, and pushed the stone into the soil, and then replaced the grass on top. A chill ran over my arms, the heat unexpectedly broken, as though a breeze had swept through the flat.

The girls tilted their heads upwards to look at the moon, absorbing its light, so their outlines appeared sharper, as if they’d been sculpted. They might have spoken again – their lips moved quickly, not quite in sync. Then, as they dropped their heads, sound flooded back: a siren blared at the end of the road; the Walkers began to tune their guitars; the front gate squeaked; a car tore down the street; my fridge was now louder than before, and building to a screech. The noise echoed around my bedroom, like something calling from far away. I stayed where I was, wondering if the girls would hear it, and know that I’d been watching them. I felt both inside and outside my body, like I had copied myself and pasted a version slightly over my outline.

The girls shuffled forward on their knees to hug each other. As they held on, the shriek from the fridge slowed, and returned to normal. I swallowed, noticing my mouth was dry. When they finally broke apart, Chelsea was smiling. She looked at peace, like every thought had been drained out of her. I wanted to be down there with them, where that feeling – that magic – was possible.

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