Elita Moon and the Keeper of Curiosities

by Sara Spence . Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2023


Not long ago, December 29th, England

There should have been twelve.

There were ALWAYS twelve.

Twelve. Clear. Chimes.

But a rapid clicking could be heard, as if the town clock were trying to stop the movement of its gilded hands. Hands that had turned for hundreds of years, through storms and winters and wars. Hands that had never stopped moving, not even for a second.

Until now.

Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, there would be silence; no twelfth bell to toll and echo around the empty town square. 

Time would stand still–just for a moment.

Lamps began to blink through the inky darkness, throwing wavering pools of light across the cobbled streets and bathing the grey stones of the tower in a soft, half-light; the kind that hides secrets from the world.

As the hour drew near, the stillness was broken by the appearance of a white cat, landing on soundless feet from an impossibly high wall. It stood, perfectly poised, its muscles taut beneath glossy fur.

If the children of the town had been awake, they would have noted its piercing eyes–one blue, one green–they would have argued who it belonged to, and then chased, scrambled and hollered to try and catch it as their own. This would have been a grave mistake, for the white cat was not used to small English towns or small English children and did not know that in THIS world, children’s heads could not be bitten clean off without questions being asked.

Instead, safe from small hands and inquisitive questions, it watched, as the minute hand made its final journey. It waited as the clicking began to slow… slow … slow.

‘We won’t have long,’ a whisper, edged with fear, pierced the silence to float down from the tower and land at the cat’s twitching ears. Two glimmering eyes scanned the carved stone turrets as the voice continued. 

‘We must move quickly−as soon as the twelfth has disappeared. We cannot miss our chance, Luna. We have only one.’