Contemporary Fiction

Into the Void: Who knows what demons can lurk behind the veil of infatuation?


This book will launch on Feb 6, 2021. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

New love risks broken hearts. Who knows what demons can lurk behind the veil of infatuation?

Ash and Wren experience a strong mutual attraction from a chance encounter at an art exhibition. Asha’s quirky indifference and unusual character appeals to Wren, who’s relationship with her partner, Mandisa, is in trouble.

Asha’s past is like a deep well of pain, her marriage is failing and she reciprocates to meet Wren’s advances. Asha has been hurt before by unrequited love of a woman, but she promises herself that this time it will be different.

When the sexual chemistry disappoints the experienced Wren, she tries to end the relationship but has no knowledge of Asha’s mental health issues. Setting the encounter on a collision course.

Jacqueline Setti Hardman’s Into the Void is set in the affluent suburbs of present-day Johannesburg, South Africa. Her character driven novel explores the use of first-person narrative, and her writing explodes on to the page in this “not your typical girl-meets-girl” modern lit-fiction debut.

Chapter One


“Alone. In the night. In the dark.”

The dark slender man whispered to me. I stood in the bathroom. Unable to move. The water in the bathtub filled up fast, it overflowed. It washed over to my feet, in small ripples. I still could not move. I was terrified and wanted to cry. In the corner of my eye I could see him. He was standing a hand’s distance away from me. He smelled like a fish. His left hand on his bony hip and in his right, he was holding a yellow umbrella. He had on a black suit, which made him almost disappear into the shadows of the darkened room. His head turned towards me. He had a wide grin, just like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

The water kept flowing and began to rise. I desperately wanted to go and turn the bath off. The room was dark but there was a light illuminated on the water. The water seemed to shimmer as it flowed. The slender man laughed.

“Always, alone. In the night. In the dark. Asha.” He repeated over and over, his voice rising.

He turned around and threw his umbrella into the dark, the yellow slowly fading. He was in front of me, his long bonny fingers clutched my throat.

I startled awake. I want to scream, to get up and switch on the lights, to wake Frank. But my body is paralysed. I can still feel the chocking sensation and I cannot breathe. I try desperately to reach back and wake Frank, he usually knows how to help me wake up from my sleep paralysis.

It seems like forever before I can move my hand backwards. Franks is not in the bed. I groan. The chocking sensation begins to lift and I can move my whole body. I turn around.

Damn it. Of course, he is not here, he is away. I turn my bedside lamp on. Where is he this time? The Congo. He is filming. My hands shake. I start to cry. That was one of the worst sleep paralysis episodes I have had. I go up on my elbows and scan the room. I can see a crack of sunlight seeping through the blackout curtains. I sit on the side of the bed. My cellphone reads 8:15.

The dog is on the rug, sleeping. Its breath shallow. I stare at it for a few minutes. Frank should come and deal with it. Its Franks dog not mine.

I get up and open the curtains. Our bedroom faces the back of the garden. I slide open the doors. The morning frost makes it look like it’s been snowing. I nudge the dog awake and start shoving it towards the door. It wakes up and stares at me with those big brown eyes. I shove it harder. It knows the drill. It lumbers outside, and I slide the doors closed. It moves around in a circle, it pees on the brown grass. Frank refuses to water the garden in winter. It’s a waste of water he always says. But my God it’s a depressing sight, once a week watering would not be bad. In our garden everything dies in the winter. Except the succulents. We have a few of those.

I feel panicky and groggy. I would be taking my first batch of medication at this point, before the shakes get worse. I sit at my dressing table and stare at my large stack of medication. My work has been suffering because of this medication, it dulls my mind, makes me only care about the next dose. I cannot think clearly. I can’t be creative. And my sleep paralysis attacks me more with my night medication. My exhibition is coming up in a few weeks and I have barely scratched the surface. So I stopped taking them. It has been a few days now. The fog is beginning to lift. I can always take them after. But Frank must never know I flush the daily dose down the toilet every day. He will be back in time for the exhibition and irritatingly he is a Nazi about me taking the damn things. I slide them into the drawer. Coffee then work.

The kitchen is cold and I clutch my bathrobe closer to me. I need a cigarette. I rummage through the cupboard for a pack. I take my coffee to my studio and light up. There is only one painting that I have completed, well it could do with more work. I take a fresh canvas and my paint. I stare at it for a while, trying to focus, trying to conjure up an image.

It is a long while before I find myself drawing lines. Greens and blues and purple, I splash paint as well. I have a few photographs and items like underwear I would like to include in this piece. I feel the flow of the inspiration coming at me as if a waterfall is falling from the heavens. It passes through me and I let it.

I have had similar experiences when I paint, but today I feel it strongly. It is vibrant and steady, I feel goosebumps on my arms. I want to go on and on. But my phone rings. Red paint smears over the screen as I slide to answer.

“Asha?” A bit of static.

“Frank? Oh hi. Look I’m busy.”

“Look I need to talk about the exhibition. Something has come up.” I roll my eyes, here we go.

“Babe I can’t make it, we are behind schedule and another site has been found that we have to go shoot. I mean you know how it goes. We go were the work is.”

“So you’re not coming? I have not had a showing in years Frank. This is important. I can’t believe you.”

“I’m sorry OK. I really wish I could make it. Are you prepared?”

“I’m getting there.” I said through gritted teeth.

“Good. Good. Babe?”


“You are taking your medication.”

“Jesus Christ Frank. You won’t come home like promised and then you ask me that. You always have to bloody go there.”

“I am your reminder. I have to ask, you know that. We can’t have another episode. Look I am just worried because you say that you can’t be creative with them. I just want to know how you are managing it.”

“Yes, Yes, sure I’m taking them. Look I have to go. The muse waits for no one.”

“OK babe. I’m really sorry. I love you.”

I hang up. I don’t have the energy to love this man sometimes. I mean really. He’s a dick. I understand his work, but anyway. Medication, medication. Who needs to know? At my easel I close my eyes and try to think about the flow of the water, its still there.


From: Wren

Sent: Saturday, June 6, 2020 12:45:25 PM

To: Malik

Malik, I miss you. Sorry that I have been so silent. I have been so busy lately. Doing this and that.

It’s almost my birthday, 30, can you believe it? I mean I feel old but at the same time young. I don’t look forward to the figures rising on my birthday card gifts though.

Remember when we thought 30 was so old? Jesus man!

I wish you could have made it for this momentous occasion. Be right there with me. We could have had one party, seeing yours is only a week after. But it’s wishful thinking huh?

Well it won’t be anything big, just dinner with Mandy-of-course dah at Joseph and Sam’s. Joseph is cooking, man can that guy cook, it will no doubt be spectacular.

I went for a run today, really long and I’m exhausted!! I had to go with Joseph. I’ve been running with Joseph lately. He is awesome. I prefer to go on my own of course but you know since that incident I’m scared and glad for the company. Did I tell you about the incident? Crap I didn’t, did I?

Check this, it was a Saturday, long run day and it was early, like still kinda dark early. And thirty minutes into my run, a dark grey BMW started following me. I mean at first I just thought he - because it’s always a he right - would like you know cat call me and stuff, or the usual sexist remarks about my butt or something, its gross, I'll never get used to that. Anyway so this car slowly follows me for like a k, I started running a bit faster and it just kept up with me. The dude rolls down his tinted-window and my heart jumped into my throat, there were like three of them in the car. The driver guy just sneers, all ugly. He’s like “Hey baby”.

So I’m like OK there is going to be trouble here, right? There was a waft of weed coming from the car. Ahead, I spotted a gardener outside a house setting up his lawn mower. Man, Malik, I just belted and ran towards him. I got to him. Shaking like a crazy person and told him some guys were following me. The car laid back a few houses away. The gardener, bless him, gave me his cell and I called Mandy to come and fetch me. The car left after like ten minutes, maybe. I don’t want to know how it would have gone had the gardener not been there.

I told Joseph about it and he was pretty upset, “This shit can’t go on and keep happening to women, why are some men pigs” and all that. He offered to run with me on my long runs. Which is nice, but I feel bad because he does not live close, and he comes all the way to run with me. He must wake up early. But that’s Joseph. I have bought pepper spray for the times I run during the week. It is not so quiet and deserted. But just in case, you know.

I had a day-in today with Mandy. Nice. No fighting. No “when will be having a baby” talk – she’s has been quiet on that front lately. Maybe she is getting the message? I don’t know. She has been nice to me, cooking for me every night which she usually doesn’t do. I appreciate it. I do, but I am waiting for a storm. In bed, well. That’s magical. We gel.

Will write soon.



About the author

Jacqueline Setti Hardman is a Zambian born novelist who has lived in South Africa for the past twenty years. Her debut novel is called ‘Into the Void’ and is an African LGBTQ psychological thriller. She also writes short stories which are published on her website view profile

Published on August 01, 2020

Published by Amazon

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Contemporary Fiction