Friday 30 June 2023

Kathy Hoyle, "Chasing the Dragon"

Congratulations to PhD Creative Writing student Kathy Hoyle, whose novella-in-flash, Chasing the Dragon, has just been published by Alien Buddha Press! 

Kathy Hoyle writes short fiction and flash fiction. Her work can be found in publications such as Fictive Dream, Lunate, Ellipsiszine, The Forge, and Emerge Literary Journal.

She was the winner of The Bath Flash Fiction Award, The Retreat West Flash Fiction Competition, came second in The Edinburgh Flash Fiction Award, and the HISSAC Prize and third in the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. Other stories have been listed in various competitions such as The Exeter Short Story Prize and The Fish Short Memoir Prize.

She holds a BA (Hons) and an MA in Creative Writing and is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Leicester. Chasing the Dragon is her debut novella-in-flash.

About Chasing the Dragon

Chasing the Dragon is a visceral, searing novella-in-flash that explores the complexities of familial relationships in a small-town community reeling from the after-effects of the Vietnam War. 

When two young men return home from war, both deeply troubled, their mothers must deal with the terrible fall-out. 

Willy is addicted to opiates and suffering from PTSD. Chester, no longer able to freely express his thirst for blood and combat, seeks other ways to wreak havoc on those around him. And their younger cousins, TJ and Cal, desperate to emulate their hometown war heroes, head off into the woods, only to find there is terrible danger there too. 

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, Bihn, who is terrified of dark spaces, has lost his parents, his home and has nowhere to turn, except the GI camp, where he vows to make himself useful, not knowing that he is entering into the darkest place he will ever know. 

You can see more about Chasing the Dragon here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novella-in-flash.

From Chasing the Dragon, by Kathy Hoyle

Dark Spaces

Bihn does not like dark spaces.

Every day, he digs with grandmother, making holes to hide in, like rats. 

When the soldiers come, Bihn is forced inside. His uncle always sits too close. Bihn can feel sharp whiskers brushing his cheek and smell his uncle’s fetid breath. Fear clutches Bihn’s heart. He cannot help but cry. When they crawl out into the bright sunlight, Grandmother whips him hard with bamboo. Too much noise, she hisses. 

Bihn goes with grandfather to the river. He sees a rare blue lotus flower and bends to cradle it in his small hands, mesmerised by its beauty. A bullet whistles overhead. He looks up to see grandfather fold into the water. Blood pools on the surface. His uncle scoops him up and carries him back to the village. His whiskers scratch Bihn’s cheek.  Grandmother beats him. Your fault! Your fault! 

Bihn steals away at night. His eyes are good, he knows the way through the shadows. He moves, quick and agile, through the dark spaces. Rain pounds his face. He must not arrive shivering like a starving dog or they will not keep him. He must be useful. 

His sister, Thùy Linh, answers the door. She looks like a movie star, kohl-eyed, rippling crimson dress. She brings him inside, holds him to her. She smells like apricot blossom. Mai is pinched and angry. She screeches at Thùy Linh, No! No kids here! He shows Thùy Linh his bruises. Thùy Linh tells Mai that Bihn must stay. She lays out a bed for him in a dark space. Bihn does not like dark spaces.

Mai hisses at him, keep your eyes and mouth shut! He knows how to keep quiet. Each night he falls asleep to the rhythmic thumps of the bed.

Bihn runs errands. He collects the opium, learns how to crush it, how to clean the pipe. He is useful. The GI’s give him Hershey bars. They laugh, and drink and throw the girls around like hollow dolls. Afterwards, the girls hold them while they cry for their mothers. Bihn brings the pipe. The men lay on Thùy Linh’s bed, eyes glazed while Bihn cleans up the mess.

Thùy Linh has a special friend, Willy. She hums to Willy and tells him stories about the dragon father who protects his people. Willy says he will marry Thùy Linh and take her back to America. One night, Willy brings a tall, thin man with him. Bihn sees hatred in the man’s yellow snake eyes. The thin man reminds Bihn of his grandmother’s bamboo whip. His snake eyes loop around the room and settle on Bihn, nestled in his dark space. 

How much for the boy?  

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