H.E. Bulstrode

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Curious Objects and Unforeseen Consequences

Sometimes, a seemingly innocuous object found in an unusual place can spark an equally unusual train of thought that leads to the creation of something quite unexpected. Thus it was that a year ago I happened to be holidaying in France in a rather idyllic gîte that had retained a number of its original features. One of these was its bread oven, which had long ago ceased to be used for its intended purpose, and now remained solely as an object of decoration. Whereas I was content to leave it be and pay it but the most cursory attention, my wife, imbued with a Pandora-like curiosity, insisted upon easing the grille from its mouth and looking within. Thankfully, although this action did not unleash a stream of untold horrors upon us, it, and what was inside – a handful of aged curios which included this pair of old boots – did unleash the imagination.

We challenged each other to come up with an idea for a story based upon the oven and its contents, and having mulled this over for half an hour or so, we discussed our ideas, which although both taking the supernatural as a central theme, were quite divergent in both their tone and subject matter. It was mine that proved to be the grimmer of the two, and this is what has lately come to fruition in my novelette entitled – perhaps unsurprisingly – The Bread Oven.

Although our accommodation last year happened to be in Normandy, the story was transplanted to neighbouring Brittany, from which it takes certain additional elements. Whereas it is a relatively modest piece in terms of its length, it had to wait until last week to see the light of day, as I’ve been busy with other writing projects in the interim. I’d originally intended to publish it later this year, but interruptions to the composition of my next novel led me to pause and publish this shorter piece first.

The Bread Oven is a contemporary tale, in which the past nonetheless looms large. In part ghost story, in part something else altogether, its opening may contain hints of the strangeness to come, but in all respects otherwise resembles the normal everyday world which we all inhabit. To give away any more would risk spoiling the story, so without further ado I invite you, should you dare, to enter the world of The Bread Oven.

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