Time Heals… – Chapter One

I fell asleep at the desk again. Another deadline missed. I haven’t published anything in months, not even some stupid click bait crap. What’s the time? The red numbers are flashing at me in the darkness. The clock isn’t even set. What the hell happened? I spin the chair away from the table and kick a glass bottle, oh, that happened. My head. Why do I do this. Because I’m a failure? Obviously. I know that. Casey is going to be so angry with me, again. Another deadline missed means one less article for her website. I’m lucky she hasn’t sacked me already.

The phone has been ringing the whole time. That’s what woke me up, I just wasn’t completely aware of the world yet. It stops and the silence continues. At least I work from home, for now. I’m behind on bills, barely enough money for food and now I’ve messed up again. I don’t think I can borrow any more from anyone else. Casey gave me money for five, two thousand word pieces in advance after that first one. I succeeded on three of them. All crap, stuff that I researched from home. Click bait titles, nothing of substance but hey people click on them. I should just churn out two more and then settle. She’s never going to give me another advance though. If it wasn’t for that first article I would never have gotten the first one. I was able to expose a cheating ring run by the teachers at a local rich-kids school. Where their coursework was finished for them, as long as the parents paid. Big scandal, and it all broke on Casey’s website. Since then, nothing. A one time thing.

I wanted to be a big time reporter, actually report on things. That one story fell on my lap, and after that? Nothing. I was able to get some science research group from some university to lend me enough credibility to tell the world that sleeping with your legs straight helps blood flow – “Is the Way you Sleep Killing You?”. I wasn’t happy with the title either, but I needed to get something in. Since then it’s been two more badly researched, probably completely made up, articles. God, I don’t know what I’m doing.

The phone chimes up again. Should have switched it to voicemail.

“Hello?” I croak.

“Chris? It’s Casey. It’s Tuesday and no article in my inbox. What’s the deal? You told me it would be today.”

“Just a bit of a hang-up, give me a couple of hours. It’ll be there. I promise.”

“Your promises mean nothing to me. You’re just going to churn out some more crap that you’ve made up. What happened? I thought you actually wanted this job.”

“I do. I just.”

“Stop making excuses. There are plenty of stories out there. Not everything has to be some kind of scandal. There are other avenues.”

“Yeah, but that’s not how I work.”

“You don’t work at all. Don’t start with your crap again. I know you. I’ve known you since Uni. You always procrastinated. That’s why you nearly got kicked out twice. I stood by you then, but now. This is costing me money. I paid for your articles. I need those articles. Or the money back. It’s as simple as that. I can’t buy other people’s stories if I don’t have money. And if you aren’t going to make me money, then I want that money back.”

“Jesus, Casey. Call me at three in the morning. And expect me to just hand over all that money. I don’t have your money.”

“Chris, it’s half ten in the morning. If you looked outside your window, you’d know that.” Blackout curtains, a gift and a curse. “And you better have that money. I don’t want to get lawyers involved.”

“Come on, Casey. I don’t want lawyers either. Not that they would do much. It was just an agreement between friends.”

“That you signed on. It still counts if you were drunk. 5 articles. £250 each. Plus £1000 for the original article. You signed, and took the money. It’s been three months since the last one. How are you even affording to live?”

“Rent’s cheap when you don’t pay it, and claim unemployment at the same time.”

“Jesus. David. Get yourself together. You’re a joke.”

I know. I’m not proud of what I am. But what can I do. I’m a hack. I knew someone whose kids were going to that school. They told me about the deal, they didn’t want to pay it. They paid me instead to expose it. Since I was a journalist. I was sticking my neck on the line I told them. Fortunately they hadn’t read the crap I’d written up to that point. Ten things to do with a wet sponge. I hate my life. That’s how I afforded life. Click bait sells. Sells well. I thought this was my big break, it wasn’t. But I thought it was. I quit my other job, the original click bait crap. I was born anew. Going to stay sober and get things sorted. A proper journalist. Took me a while to get there, but I was still going to do it. My life dream was coming true. An actual story that actually mattered. And then nothing. I was a hack. Didn’t know where to start with the follow-up, wouldn’t have even got the first one published if it wasn’t for Casey.

“David. Are you there?”

“Yeah, Casey, I’m here. I’m sorry I messed up. I didn’t mean for it to get out of hand again, I thought this was my big break.”

“It was. You messed it up. But I still need those articles.”

“I know you do. I’ll get to work on it right now, I’ll have some crap by mid day, and then the next one will be something good. So good, you’ll want another contract signed straight away. I’ll even be sober for this one.”

“I don’t want more crap. No one actually reads that stuff. They might click it, but they don’t read past the title. I’ve got other writers, they write good stuff. But I need you to do this for me. Pull yourself together. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

Jesus, she actually cares that I’m a mess. Bless her.

“I don’t have any leads, and I don’t even know where to start. It’s been a real mess over here. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“You don’t need to, I have a story. I have a friend, who works at a hospital. She told me about this suicide.”

“Yeah? And?”

“It happened in this nearby town. Where there hasn’t been a suicide in years. I’m talking a decade. No reported crime either. Nothing. This town hasn’t made a peep in a decade.”

“That doesn’t sound like a story.”

“It does. If everything is perfect there, why did someone suddenly commit suicide.”

“People get depressed. It’s not like there’s going to be some weird supernatural thing going on. I’m sure whatever town you’re on about has its own baggage. Everywhere does. Where is this anyway?”

“The hospital, it’s called Holy Trinity Hospital.”

“No.”

“Please you owe me.”

“I don’t owe you that much. I won’t do it. Get someone else. I’m not going back. I’ve spent my whole life escaping that place, I’m not going back.”

“Come on, it’s been like what? A decade?”

“I’m not doing it. I will hang up if you ask again.”

“Come on, we both know you’re not going to do that. It just requires a little bit of leg work. You’re the best person for the job. There is literally no better person. You know that. You’re from Westmeadow, literally the only I’ve ever met from the place. You have to go back at some point, might as well make it now.”

“I’m not going back, Case, listen to me. This is final. I will write you five more pieces today, all crap and all will get you clicks. That’s the end of it. I’m not going back there. I told you about my past in secret. Not for you to turn it against me. This is the end of the conversation.”

 

To Be Continued

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New Story Tomorrow (Or right now on Patreon!!)

Tomorrow I’ll be uploading the first chapter of “Time Heals…”, my new novel. I can’t wait for people to read it, I’m very happy with it so far. If like me you can’t wait that long then you can jump onto my patreon page and read it a day early. You’ll have access to my posts a day in advance and be supporting me at the same time. The story will be on here tomorrow either way so don’t feel like you have to.

I’ll be back next week with an update post and the second chapter of Time Heals…

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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Locked Door

There is a tree outside my window that was planted before I was born. It stretches up-towards the sky, branches spread wide, mid-yawn. A breeze pushing through the leaves is the only reminder that there is an outside. Even in summer only an autumn’s evening glaze reaches my room. My mum doesn’t like me to have the light on, unless it’s actually dark outside. My door remains closed. I want to open it, but I can’t. It’s jammed in the frame somehow. Warped. I tried pulling it and nothing happened. I’ve nearly bent the door handle off.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t get out. Someone will find me sooner or later. Mum or Dad will return from work and let me out. They always do. I could open the window, and scream for help. But no one  would listen. The tree muffles the scream of summer joy coming from children playing outside.

I should be at work today, but I’m not. They won’t mind. I called in sick, expecting some kind of questioning and got nothing. A one word answer and that was the end of it. A forgotten thought that doesn’t continue after the click. I can do everything I need to in this room. I can walk and exercise. Scraps of food will keep me going for a couple of days at least. Always a bottle of water left next to the computer.

The internet is down. Dad probably turned the plug off last night. He often does that. I can turn the computer on, but there is nothing to do. I could carry on writing a story, but no one reads it. I could play a game but I only have a couple and don’t feel like it.

I wish the sun would come into the room and perform its day long dance, slowly winding along the floor like a snake watching its prey. I would be able to tell something is moving then. That time isn’t just standing still. Frozen like a man watching a car crash.

I press the button on the remote but the red light doesn’t blink on the TV. Batteries may be dead. I don’t know. What’s the point though. Aerial TV disappeared a long time ago and I don’t have anything else to watch. I could watch static for a while, at least something would be moving. I can’t move from the bed to click the big button though.

I fetch my phone from the bed side table. The screen lights up the whole room, sucking away the darkness. My eyes transfixed. Slowly everything outside of the phone fades into complete blackness. I can’t see anything other than the screen. No new texts, no missed calls. I ran out of data so no internet for me. At least I can tell time is moving. I open the clock app and watch as the fake second hand moves around. 1 – 60. Then the fake minute hand moves once. I watch this a few times. The rest of the world has gone. The joy from outside is gone. The pale sunlight faded and it’s only eleven in the morning.

The door clicks open, I hear it but I don’t look up. I don’t move from the bed. My eyes glued to the empty screen of rotating illusion.

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Something New

It’s been a while since the last update post. I think about writing them, but I don’t want them all to just sound the same. It seems like now is a good time since The Broken Pocket Watch finished last week. I didn’t quite stick to the plan of uploading every week, but we got there in the end.

My plan is to continue editing it and then eventually release it as a physical book and ebook. It’s current state is still a bit of rough, with only a few edits. I’m sure there are tons of errors all over that I will have to find. I’m also having a cover made for the book at the moment, which seems to be coming along nicely.

This Friday I’m going to be uploading a piece of flash fiction that I wrote a couple of weeks back. I was suffering some writer’s block and decided to just write something new, quick and without much thought. I’m happy with what came out. The piece is called Locked Door. It’s not very long but I’m happy with it.

Next week I’m going to be uploading Chapter One from a new book that I’m writing. Still writing it now. It’s currently called Time Heals… but that may be changing at some point, it’s just a working title. I’m very happy with how this is turning out and am excited to hear people’s reactions. I don’t know how many chapters it will be, but I have a plan for the novel, a more detailed plan than I normally do.

Outside of writing, things in my life are pretty much the same. I’ve decided to stay away from binging TV shows, limiting it to only when I’m eating and in the evening. I’m slowly making my way through 12 Monkeys, which is dull and Jane the Virgin, which is anything but dull. There’s also the weekly shows, Star Trek Discovery, Riverdale and Black Lightning. I can take or leave any of these. Nothing special.

I’ve seen quite a few good films at the cinema recently, which isn’t surprising as it’s awards season. The Greatest Showman and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri are the standouts. Coco and The Post were also very good. Phantom Thread was decent enough.

I’ve also discovered the joys of audio books. My Mum was raving about how good they are so I started the free trial on audible, and am sold. I’ve been listening to The Stand by Stephen King which is something I’ve always wanted to read, but now I can listen while doing the washing up or walking to work. It took me a little while to actually pay attention properly but once I got used to it I was hooked. The book is great as well. I have about 9 hours left.

Thanks for Reading,

Ashley

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Twenty-Two (Final Chapter)

I don’t have to think about going back, it just happens. At least that one wasn’t so disorienting. I head back into the house. Dad’s working on something.

“When did you go out?” He says, looking up.

“Um. A minute ago, just for a little walk.”

“How did I not see you?”

“You’re so focused on that. I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Ok. Just be careful with that watch. Don’t use it too much again. I don’t want to take it away from you.”

“I swear to you, I wasn’t even using it that time.”

“Sure. Go on, get changed. Dinner will be ready soon. I got us some potatoes. Bit of butter. We’ll call that beauty.”

“Sure.”

I walk past him, trying not to think of the potatoes boiling in Tobi’s house. They’re trying to force its way into the front of my mind, but I won’t let it. That can stay as far back as possible. I go upstairs and change. The clothes sitting on my bed where I didn’t leave them. Maybe I did take them out. Did I? No I’m pretty sure I didn’t. Well I’m wearing them now, so that’s progress. I walk out of my room, and back into my room and take the clothes out of the wardrobe and sit them on the bed as I saw them before, without thinking and then walked back out.

That just happened out-of-order, didn’t it? I’m not sure enough to run downstairs and tell Dad, but I’m pretty damn sure.

“Nymia,” Dad calls. “Dinners ready.”

“Thanks, I’ll be down in a second.”

I take the stairs slowly and pause at the shop door at the bottom. I ignore it and double back around to the kitchen, slowly. Opening the door, I find Mum standing at the fireplace, boiling something. There’s no one at the table. She doesn’t turn to see me.

“Hello.”

She doesn’t respond as if she didn’t hear me. I walk over to her and try to touch her arm, but she dissolves into the air. Her body, swept away into an invisible windswept vortex. In her place, Dad appears, walking towards the pot.

“Let me just dish it up,” he says.

“Thanks. I’ll be back in a second. I’m just going to wash my hands. Back in a second.”

“Go on then, hurry up. It’ll get cold.”

I turn and run back up the stairs. Creaking echoes throughout me. I run over to the toilet and kneel down. I don’t throw up, although I feel like I should. Standing up, I look in the dirty mirror. My cracked face staring back at me. I can’t do this any more. I have to try to break it.

I take the pocket watch out and place it in the sink. I make a fist and punch the glass. It cracks, like the mirror, with no resistance. Another punch and the glass shatters, flying across the room. Almost as if there was years of pressure building up and I just released it all at once. I move backwards, but not quick enough. A shard hits my eye. Dropping to the floor my already bloody hand covers my eye. I scream in pain. It hurts so much.

“What’s going on?” Dad shouts, and in a second is stood in the doorway.

“I broke it. I broke it. I broke it.”

“What?”

“It hurt me.”

I move my hand, and look at him. I can’t believe I can still see through the eye. My whole face feels numb and I can’t stop shaking.

“What happened? Are you okay.”

“I broke the watch. A bit flew in my eye.”

Mum is standing next to him, also worried. I can see them both. But they can’t see each other.

“What’s happened?” She asks.

“I broke it. I broke it.”

“Come on,” Dad says. “I’ll get you to the doctor in the City. We have to leave now. Leave that.”

“Okay,” I say pulling myself up on him.

“You’ll be okay,” Mum says. “I promise.”

“How can you see me?”

“What?” Dad cries. “Can you see?”

“I can see you fine,” Mum says. “Please go and get help. I’ll still be here when you come back.”

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Lets go. Stop talking, let me carry you.”

Dad takes two steps at a time as he carries me down the stairs. I look over his shoulder at Mum who is watching me go.

“It’s okay,” she shouts. “I can see you. I’ll always see you. You’ll always see me.”

We leave the house, with the potatoes still boiling, water flooding over the edge of the pot and down to the floor.

The world turns into a hazy nightmare. Colours twirl and dance around me. Pain comes and goes. I can hear people talking, but not see them. And then I can see them but not hear them. The entire time, colours dance and twirl around me. The sun and the moon are hanging in the sky at the same time, reunited like lost friends who have been searching for each other since the beginning of time.

The next day I’m sitting back at home. It’s night-time, morning and evening all at once. There are thousands of people walking around my bed, merging into one another. If I close my right eye, the one the glass hit then I can’t see them. Their voices become a mumble. The doctors gave me an eye patch, told me to wear it to stop infections. That I would never be able to see through it again. Dad tells me it’s turned pale blue, like my Mum’s eyes. I haven’t seen a mirror yet.

I keep wearing the eye patch, replacing it whenever it gets torn. It stops me from seeing everything. Every moment that has ever happened, and every moment that will ever happen.

The year goes on at an odd pace and I learn to focus on hearing just the present. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to see like that as well, but if not then the eye patch works.

I’m sitting at the table, playing with the eye patch in my hands. I’ve learnt to focus my sight a little. In the sense that I can ignore everything else, it becomes a blur in the background. But at least I can see well with my good eye. Dad is reading the paper while eating eggs from the farm. Mum is boiling something. I can see her, and if I want her to, she can see me. I don’t really understand it, but I’m learning. That’s why I keep the eye patch close, it blocks out everything else. There’s something I want to say, but I don’t know how. I’ve been trying to think of how to bring it up, but can’t figure it out. This is the best way though.

“I’ve got the scholarship,” I say without warning.

They both look at me, with complete shock and joy in their eyes.

“Well done. I knew you would,” they both say at the same time.

 

The End

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