sneak peak at chapter 2 [ Up ]
With his head against the window, Darren watched the tracks glide
along in front of his eyes. They were at once a blur and a definite
shape; although a single point on the track could not be fixed upon,
the track itself was there. All points blurred into one, and they showed
a shape, a single shape. It was, however, the sum of its parts. He sighed,
and felt the train pass from sleeper to sleeper with every beat of his
skull against the plastic window. He ignored the dull and throbbing
pain that came with it, and tried to focus.
It had become harder these days. Everytime he
tried to concentrate on something mundane and empty, his mind switched
back to the pain that he attempted to escape from. The more he tried
the faster it came, but the less he tried the harsher it came. He wondered
if there even was an escape, a way out. You couldn't run away, it would
always follow, because it lived only in your head; that didn't make
it any less real, in fact it made it all the more real. He tried to
conjure up an analogy, like broken legs or none at all. None of these
seemed to fit. It was more as though a metal spike had been fixed on
his head; the more he ran the more it was hammered in by some sort of
imp, and yet if he stopped to run it began to drill in, shake his head.
Best to pretend it wasn't even happening. Best to ignore it.
The blur began to make more sense, to acquire
all the grit and filth again. People began to rise from their seats,
drones pre-programmed to do this by mere habit. They swarmed out of
the automatic doors, and went around their lives. Ants, he thought,
they are like ants. It's not an unfair comparison. They go around their
lives, performing tasks to service the queen. Who, or what, was the
He waited for the crowds to die down, and leapt
off the train. The tips of his soles touched light and soft against
the cold and grey platform. He strode down the platform, watched a man
who seemed distant and empty stamp his ticket. He looked into the man's
eyes; to him they were focused on a list inside his head, protocol to
be followed, things to be checked. After he pocketed the ticket, he
walked out into the cold and barren street, and coughed in vain at the
smog-filled air that crept into his lungs.
Something came to him, an image; large hyena-like
beasts that bounded around the city, that ploughed into the crowds and
chewed at them. The people fled away, like a ripple in a pond, the crests
their dashed open skulls. One broke off from the pack, began to run
towards him. His knees gave way, and he dropped towards the ground and
wrapped himself in his arms, tucking his knees in. He hid his face in
the jumble of limbs, and heard the creature's breath above him. His
voice became a mere whine, a whimper, within which was a plea, a prayer.
It came closer, the sound of the creature's
breath, until it neared his right shoulder, and then a bite.
'Young man, are you alright?'
He lifted his head. To his right stood an old
man, sixty at the youngest, who pulled back his finger. The rest of
the crowds spilled around them, eyes fixed firm on wherever they thought
they were going. He unfurled, and rose to his feet.
'Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks.'
The old man did not seem persuaded. 'Are you
'Yes. I just... I need to be going. I promised
a friend I'd help set her up in her new apartment and look, thanks a
'Alexander; Alexander Smith.'
'Yeah, thanks Alexander, I appreciate your concern,
but I really ought to be going.'
His feet drummed out a beat on the pavement
as he ran, ran to the source, the source of the pack. He darted around
the people on the street, who kept their eyes locked dead centre upon
their path of movement. He let his eyes drift around, an attempt to
see anyone or anything looking at him. An opening drew his attention,
and he stopped beside it, and looked into it. A bare and barren alleyway
'There's nothing there, Darren, you big eejit.
You can't act on every impulse, can you? Can you?'
He turned around, and walked back the way he
came. At the end of the alley, a solitary figure watched him leave.
A sneak peak at chapter 3 [ Up ]
An aluminium can crushed underfoot; the ends of it wrapped itself
around his shoe, and Darren pried it off with the in-step of his left
foot. He stooped down to pick it up off the ground, flicked his wrist
and tossed it into the bin. Some kids giggled on the other side of road,
clustered around a street lamp in the clamy rain of a midsummer's night.
Darren noticed the same black and yellow cans in their hands. At times
like this his mind shut itself in, ran into the cosy recesses of his
brain. The world seemed to become more grey, more worthless, pointless.
What a birthday it had been so far!, he thought. His mind threw up something:
Two-a-penny, three-a-penny, one year older;
Another year a wiser, another year a bolder.
and then was replaced with another rhyme, one that froze him to the
ground, one that made the back of his lower legs twitch, his feet tense
and his palms clenched. It went:
Ring-a-ring-a-rosey, a pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
His legs began to leap forward in great bounds, and his mind screamed
out one word, a name: Willow!
Behind him, the giggles of the street lamp kids
erupted once more. It was pushed out of his mind by the screaming image
in his head. Fifty metres further and already the laughter was a memory,
though he was sure it continued. The back of his brain felt ice-cold.
A crowd poured out from Rememberance Hall, in front of him; into the
rain-drenched street. Somehow he was through it before he noticed it,
and yet still the image screamed in his mind; Willow in an agony of
indefinite length, ceaseless perhaps. If she's
hurt, it's your fault, he told himself, without knowing why.
He turned left through the gate into the apartments,
up two flights of steps and down the catwalk. He paused at the door.
What if she's entertaining someone? And you're
more than half an hour early? Maybe she's not in trouble, maybe she's
The image returned with full force to his brain,
and he kicked to door open.
A sneak peak at chapter 4 [ Up ]
Nathan wheeled the luggage trolley out the green customs channel and
out into the country, out into the world he always knew by more than
just trashy soap operas and advertisements crammed with mindless drivel.
Would that fate befall this cherished place, where he had lived most
of his life?
Lauren walked to the left of him, her arm wrapped
in his. He felt the urge to relieve himself increase. In a smooth movement,
he drew his lips to her ear, after nudging a few delicate strands of
hair from it with his chin. A whisper glided out of his mouth.
'I'm sorry, dear; I must leave you for a moment,
for there are some things a person can't help.'. His lips moved across
her cheek, and she in turn brushed her cheek against them. Their lips
greeted each other, before they departed in a sigh. They rested their
'Please don't take too long,', she said. He
sensed her worry, her pre-emptive feeling of loss. He glided away, to
the nearest bathroom, and locked himself in a cubicle; for 'modesty'
as they called it in church on those blistering hot summer Sundays that
almost melted the varnish off the pine pews, when the priest recited
passages from Genesis as his parents fenced him in, unable to run out
and play in the trees like normal boys, even if he worked up the brashness
to try. Was he glad? It took a long time for him to realise that he
was a normal boy, even if he wasn't in the trees at two on Sunday afternoons.
He unlocked the cubicle door and moved to one
of the three sinks. The water poured onto the soap's lather, washing
it down the plug-hole. I can remember almost
all of it, he thought, as he squeezed more soap onto his
hand. When Jared was one hundred and sixty-two,
he became the father of Enoch. His hands dried in a moment
under the warm stream of air. The earth was a
formless wasteland, darkness covered the abyss.
The inner door to the bathroom blasted open,
by the back of a woman, her legs wrapped around a man. Both were younger
than he was. Ripples started to appear around them, and Nathan blinked
while he tried to make a quite exit. Hair like strands appeared around
them, glowing red and pink, concentrated mainly around their waists.
The man fumbled with some coins at the machine the girl was stuck between,
and a box popped out. The whole background faded out, and the glow around
them intensified. Now the strands seemed more like tentacles, that flayed
around in the air, with a fiery orange core to them. Only around their
waists did the tentacles join; in other places they seemed forced apart.
The serpent tricked me into it.
The tentacles of the man slowed down from the
frenzy, followed by the woman's; Nathan realised he had been staring,
staring for maybe three seconds. The man's head swivelled to face him.
He began to move towards Nathan. Nathan tried to move, to discover he
was rooted to the spot. A blood-red glow issued forth from the man's
eyes. The woman became enveloped in a moss-green cloud; still the tentacles
waved in the air on some invisible wind. It reminded him of Medusa and
the other Gorgons. One look turns you to stone.
'Stop fuckin' staring at my bird!', came a yell
from the man, followed by a sharp pain in his chin. Nathan turned to
face him again, and noticed the glow of anger and hate grow within him.
It ebbed like the embers of a camp fire, yet ready to reignite again
in an instant. The man grabbed Nathan's shirt and pulled it up to his
chin. 'Listen, perv; get the fuck out before I make your face a bowl!'.
Nathan's feet refused to move; in fact his entire
body had gone limp, just like that day, on the beach in LA. His head
felt light. A part of him wanted to leave, but another part wanted to
stay and stop these two. He couldn't explain it to himself, but it seemed
wrong, almost an abherration to the intimacy Lauren and himself had.
With them it felt as though two halves had come together to make one;
with these two, it seemed two came together to make half.
He felt himself lifted away, heard a cry of
'Right then!', a door swung open, and then what he hoped was the outer
door crunching against his back. The last glimpse he had of the couple,
and of the shapes, was of the waist tentacles draw tighter as the pair
resumed their previous position.
He pushed himself slowly up, using the door
as support. Pain rushed back as did the scenery, and he stroked his
spine, as if that would help. He tried to ignore the sounds from inside
the bathroom whilst he . The crowds near the exits parted, and there
was Lauren; her head high. He moved towards her. As he did so, he noticed
her drooped lower lip, and her raised eyebrows that framed nervous eyes.
She looked at him. He took her in his arms, whispered in her ear. 'Lauren,
what is it?'
'Willow and Darren. They said they'd be here
and they're never late. I can't help but feeling something's wrong with
them,', she said, as she drew her head back. Nathan tried to pick some
thought out through her eyes.
'Like they had to go to hospital?'
'Yes...'. She trailed off. Nathan plucked back
his chin, with the attention she payed to it. 'What happened to you,
He forced a laugh out from between his teeth.
'Funny story. I...I tripped over a wet floor sign after I managed not
to slip on the actual wet. It's not showing, is it?'
Her hand brushed his cheek, cupped it with the
thumb stroking his cheekbones. Her hand felt warm, soft and caring;
but who was he to share his pain with the woman he loved? His chin didn't
sting as it did before; an injured dignity the worst of his wounds.
He knew how she worried about him in LA. He had caught her with half-opened
eyes, standing in the door-frame of the hotel bedroom. Her gaze rested
upon him, and her expression he could only describe as a sigh. That
hurt him as much as he could see it hurt her.
He saw that sigh again on her face, and she
said: 'Okay, Nate.'
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