Time Heals… – Chapter Four

My earliest memory is my parents taking me into Northampton for the fair during some school break. I have snippets from before then, but that’s the earliest concrete memory I have. My mum drove us, Dad never passed his test. We played some games, won some prizes and ate some candy-floss. But that isn’t why I remember it. I remember it because of how quickly Dad turned. I know now that it was probably drink that did it, but back then. God I still remember how scared I was, hiding behind the bear Mum won for me. Holding it so tightly on the way back home, hoping I would fall asleep and wake up the next day. I had nightmares about that day for the first couple of months at Uni.

Casey woke me up one night, late November. She sat on the edge of the bed, and gently shook me while whispering my name. He soft words carried on the early winter chill that was flowing in the open window. I’ve never slept well unless I’m cold.

“What’s wrong?” She asked when my eyes opened.

“Nothing, what are you doing?”

“I could hear you moving around, saying something. I couldn’t make out what. You were having a bad dream.”

“That’s not that weird. I don’t even remember what I was dreaming about,” I lied.

“Yes you do. Come on Chris, we both know you remember. What is it? I’m worried about you.”

“Don’t be, it’s nothing.”

Instead of walking away, or at the very least moving around the other side of the double bed and sitting there, Casey moved me over and sat where I was previously laying down.

“So tell me,” she said. “Everything. No matter how unimportant it is.”

“I don’t really want too.”

“I know you don’t, but that’s okay. Nothing you say will ever leave this room. I promise that. You won’t ever have to worry about it again. A problem shared is a problem halved.”

“I don’t believe in that.”

“I know, neither do I. But still, just tell me what the dream was about.”

“It’s a memory, more than a dream. It’s twisted a little, and I was young at the time but I still know it happened.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Mum drove us to this fair in Northampton, during the school holidays. It was on a Saturday I think. On this park near the town centre.”

“That sounds like a nice memory.”

“Yeah, it was. But that’s not why I remember it. I think that would have drifted off like most of my childhood if that’s how it stayed. On the way home, as my Mum was driving us back my Dad got angry about something. I don’t remember what. But it was like he just snapped. Shouting, and screaming. I don’t like thinking about it.”

“You can tell me, I know it’s not easy. Don’t worry. You don’t need to tell me anything.”

We went around in circles for a little while, neither of us feeling tired enough to go to bed. As the clock struck three in the morning, the conversation had moved onto so many different things at that point, there was a nice silence. Both of us sitting there, back against the bed’s head-board and that’s when I told her. I told her about my Dad’s drinking. The way he used to hit Mum, hit me when I tried to stop it when I was little older. The way they used to argue and then make up, and the amount of tears shed by everyone.

Casey stayed quiet during all of it, she just listened as I told my stories. Everything I could remember. About how one time Dad came home from work early, suspended because he was drunk on shift. There would be a meeting about it. I was around ten at the time. There was an argument about money which resulted in me screaming as loud as I could with tears drowning my face as he struck her. I didn’t know what to do. I was old enough to know it was wrong and that I didn’t like it. I screamed loud enough that one of the neighbours called the police. Everything was calm by the time they came around and everything was denied. I’ll never know why she believed his apologies, and his lies about stopping, but that didn’t matter.

A couple of years later when I was twelve, Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I remember being told, sitting in the living room with a fresh bag of sweets. My parents standing above me, never seeming so tall, blocking out the sun coming through the window. I don’t remember exactly how they told me, I don’t think I understood at first but when it hit me, it hit hard.

Dad stopped drinking then. He got his job back, and everything seemed to be getting better. There was just Mum’s problem hanging around us. People spoke to me differently at school, I was going to a school in Wexgate. A few of us were. We had to get the bus everyday. It wasn’t the longest drive probably twenty minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. It felt even longer when people didn’t want to talk to you any more.

Time moved quickly back then, and soon enough I was standing in Holy Trinity Hospital. We had to get the same bus I got to school, into Wexgate and then a few minutes walk down to the hospital. I knew what was happening, I didn’t want to know. I didn’t speak the entire time. I was told to hug Mum but I didn’t want to. I didn’t want for this to be over, even though I couldn’t do anything about it. I hugged her and started crying, silently. After I sat in the corridor while Dad spoke to Mum. A little while later he came out saying it was over, and there were tears in his eyes. At the time, hell probably even now, I blamed him for this. I remembered hearing in school that falling over could cause cancer and that made me think of her screams as he pushed her down stairs or slammed her head against the wall.

After the funeral it seemed like he had changed. He stopped drinking for quite a while, kept his job and didn’t raise his voice in a while. We were distant and it was difficult, but I think that’s to be expected. It didn’t take long though, a few months before things started to slip. It started with him not coming home straight away from work. I was making my own dinners. Someone found out, and that started a big fight. I didn’t tell anyone, they figured it out. I was doing everything at home. By thirteen I was cleaning, doing the washing and sorting out my own food. Normally stealing money from his wallet while he slept. I think he knew. He must have, but he was still furious when he found out. Then he lost his job. I don’t even know how we kept the house at first. He started doing odd jobs for friends, most of it probably not legal.

And then Little Campy happened. Ryan’s little brother, Timothy. That’s when things really went downhill.

I decided then that I would leave Westmeadow as soon I could, without looking back, and never come back. I would never set foot in that town again, or Wexgate. And yet here I am. Sitting in the car, eating chips, knowing that I will be back there in a couple of hours.

I’d already told Casey everything about Westmeadow, apart from Timothy Campbell. Everything, but that. I still didn’t want to tell her. I suppose I would at some point, she had a way of getting things out of me. It’s not that I’d forgotten, I could never forget. I just didn’t want to ever admit that it happened. Thinking it is one thing, but saying it out loud would make it real.

“So how come you never told me about Ryan?” Casey says casually, while gathering a chip on her wooden fork.

“No reason, I just forgot about him.” I wasn’t about to tell her now. That secret can remain with me for a little while longer.

“Really? You know, I can tell when you’re lying right?”

“I know, but I’m not lying. He’s a couple of years older than me. I just don’t like thinking about the past. You know,” I started, but never finished the sentence.

“I know you don’t. And I’m sorry that I’m asking you to do this, I know it’s not easy. I just have a hunch that there’s something there. I know you get that. I honestly can’t find out anything about the town from the last ten years. Nothing about car crashes, accidents, robbery or even something good like new buildings or whatever. It’s almost completely forgotten.”

“I’m sure there are plenty of towns like that.”

“Obviously, but not ones where no one who lives there has an online presence at all. Ryan said he moved to Wexgate when he turned twenty-two and he thinks something strange is going on.”

“Fine, I’ll meet up with him. What’s the worst that can happen?”

 

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Heals… – Chapter Three

I live near Earl’s Court in London. In Dave’s basement. Casey drove us down the long streets, past convention centres, tube stations, shops and restaurants. I didn’t know where we were going. I was just going along for the ride, there would be plenty of time to get out of this. I’m not going. I was defiant before, now I’m pure stubborn.

“Are those in your size?” Casey asks after about five minutes of silence.

“Are what in my size?”

“The clothes in the back. I don’t know if you’ve gotten fatter since Uni.”

“I probably have but,” I reach back into the back seat and grab a bag. “I think these will do. Seriously though, stop it. I don’t need looking after. I’ll do your story, just leave me alone afterwards.”

“I’m not going to leave you alone. You’re a good writer, and you deserve to be part of my website.”

“Case, I’m not a kid. Leave it alone. I’ll make my own way. I’m not sure I even want to do this anymore. I’m no good at it.”

She sighs as we reach a red light.

“Seriously Chris. Grow up. You know you’re good. I know you’re good. You’re just lazy. Always waiting for someone else to put your foot forward for you. It’s just not going to happen that way. You always wanted this, you’re just lazy. You think that everything is just going to land on your lap and you don’t have to work for it. If you wanna give it up, fine. But what are you going to do then? Nothing. Just bitch and whine about things not going your way because you’re not willing to put the effort in. Seriously Chris grow up. You’re nearly thirty and haven’t really done anything worth anything. It’s time you get on with it, whether it’s with this or something else. I don’t want you to fail. I believe in.”

She stops speaking and breaks eye contact as someone behind us beeps their horn. Focusing on the road she taps the accelerator and leaves that moment behind.

We drive in silence for a couple of minutes. I try not to move at all, not wanting to let the plastic bag make a sound. I think I know where we’re going. Back in Uni we used to have this chip shop down the road from the shared house. We would go there every Friday throughout the first and second year. During the third year I met Christie, I didn’t see a whole lot of Casey then.

“I love this place,” Casey slurred one night during freshers week. “I knew I made the right choice coming here. I wanna eat here every night. And now I can. No more parents telling me when and what to eat. I can do whatever the hell I want.”

“Come on Casey,” I said, only knowing her a couple of days. “Lets go home. You’re gonna drop that.”

“No I’m not,” she says while swirling her plastic tray around spilling chips on the floor. “I don’t care about them. This fish. I think I love it. Like seriously love it.”

“Guys, come on. Don’t make a mess. Leave if you’re not going to eat here,” the guy behind the counter grunted.

“Sorry. I think she had too much to drink.”

“I didn’t drink that much. You did.”

“No I didn’t. Come on, Casey. Let’s get you back to the house.”

“Do I look ugly when I eat?”

“No. You look ugly all the time.”

“You’re mean. I wanna go back home, I don’t want to see you again until your not mean. Meanie.”

“Come on.”

She had drank so much. It started as a house get together, to get to know each other. We were all first years. We met up in the living room and introduced ourselves and said where we were from. I said I was from Northampton. Which wasn’t true. I’m from Westmeadow which is about thirty miles away from Northampton. It’s a tiny town, not much bigger than a village. There is a slightly larger town nearby, Wexgate, which is where the hospital Holy Trinity stands. Westmeadow doesn’t have a hospital.  I told myself that I wasn’t lying because I had to get a bus to Northampton before going on down to London.

That was the first time I spoke to Casey. We got on quite well, very quickly, my first proper friend as an adult.

“I’m going to eat here every day. You can’t stop me,” she said once we were outside, as if she’d forgotten I’d just upset her.

“I won’t, you can eat there every day, but how about we both eat there every week? For the whole of University. No matter what happens. We can talk about our week. Help each other out?”

“You mean it? Really. You mean it? I would love that. I think that’s the best thing you’ve ever said, like ever.”

It’s hard to believe that she would be the successful one out of the two of us. That over the next three years she would constantly outdo herself and I would fade away and let myself get stuck behind. I would find distractions from Uni and then eventually away from the chip shop. I didn’t even really stay in the house during the third year. There was always a party or someone’s sofa. Always something to make me feel like less of a failure compared to Casey.

She stood by me though, and helped me make it through. Even if we didn’t get dinner together any more, she wouldn’t let me fail myself. I almost wish she’d just let me fail. It would have been easier in the long run. I’m not destined for anything great. I should be happy just getting away from home.

“Casey, I’m sorry. I know you mean well. I’ll do your story. You’ve helped me a lot over the years, the least I can do is go back there. God knows what you think I’ll find, but I’ll do it. Don’t worry. Are you sure Ryan Campbell wants to talk to me though? Things didn’t end well there before.”

“Good. I’m glad you’re on board. I don’t know what you’ll find back there, I just have a good feeling about this. It could be nothing, but it could be something. Either way I’ll let you off the hook once it’s over. Even if there’s no story, and of course you don’t have to write it if it’s too difficult in the end. I don’t want to push you. And yes, Ryan would only talk to you. He emailed me through the site, and then I called him. He said he read your story and thought you could be the only one who would understand. Who is he anyway? You never mentioned him when you told me about your childhood.”

“I know. He’s someone I really didn’t want to ever think about again. It’s not a good story. I’ll tell you sometime, but not right now. I really don’t want to relive that right now, although god. I know I’m going to soon enough. No avoiding that now. I suppose there never was. Always going to creep up again at some point.”

“Jesus, Chris? What happened?”

“Case. I wish I could tell you, I really do. But I’m just not going to. Not right now. I really don’t want to have that conversation right now.”

“Okay, Chris. You keep it to yourself. I’m sure you’ve got your reason. What did you want? The usual?”

“You remember the order?”

“Of course. Small chips, pea cluster and a non-buttered roll. How could I forget. I ordered for you every week for like two years. Long time.”

“Thanks, I’ll wait here. We eating in the car? Right?”

“No, I thought we could break back into the old house, see what’s different.”

“You’ve always been so funny it hurts. You know that? I honestly can’t move at the moment with how much I’m laughing. Can you see? Ha. Ha. Ha.”

“Shut up.”

To be continued…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ready Player One and a Quick Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. I’m still writing, even if it’s not as much as I’d like. I’m about 13000 words through Time Heals… which really needs a new title. I’m going to be uploading the next chapter pretty soon, so catch up on chapter one and two.

The book is going well so far. I’m a little out of my comfort zone with it, which I suppose is a good thing. It’s a lot more grounded than anything I’ve written before and I’ve had to come at it from a different angle. Hopefully people like it, when it eventually gets uploaded.

I’ve just finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun read and I would recommend it. I don’t have much to say about it really. It was enjoyable and I’m going to read Cline’s other novel. The book shows an all too possible future and while the real world is depressing the VR world Oasis is full of pop culture references and fun. It’s well written and although it’s a little slow in the middle and very predictable, it’s still worth reading.

I’ve started re-watching Doctor Who from Christopher Eccleston’s series. I was a little hesitant about going back that far because memory changes things and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I was worried over nothing. It stands up today and is probably better than I remember. I’m older and can see the darkness behind the silliness of The Doctor, especially when I place it after John Hurt’s War Doctor. Only watched a few episodes but looking forward to watching more.

I really haven’t been up to much more. Writing, working, TV and sleeping. I just felt like I needed to write a post on here since it had been a while. I’ll get to work on uploading chapter three soon and you’ll be able to read it pretty soon. Hopefully one day I’ll stick to a schedule.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eyes of The Dragon by Stephen King

Image result for the eyes of the dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon tells the tale of King Roland and his two sons Thomas and Peter.  When this book was originally released it was rejected by King’s fans as it strayed away from the horror books he was known for. After reading it, I can completely understand that. The book feels like a fairy tale.

For the first few chapters I wasn’t sure who this book was for, children or adults. It seemed like it was written for children, but the language was definitely too adult for the usual fairy tale. Swearing and sexual imagery seems out-of-place in this kind of story, and yet here it is.

The story itself feels like an old tale, something that would have been passed down through generations.  The omniscient narrator urges the reader to see certain characters in certain ways, describing his own thoughts on the tale. In fairy tale tradition there is lessons to be learnt about how people act, and why they act that way. The book also delves into some of the darker emotions people feel, with jealousy and greed. Especially with Roland’s character who breaks down at one point. His screams haunting the rest of the novel.

Unlike fairy tales, this is quite a long book. Not incredibly long, but it definitely out stays its welcome. The tale takes a long time to actually get going, with a lot of set up for things that will be important later. For a large portion of the book I was left wondering why certain parts existed but it all comes together in the end. Peter playing with his late mother’s doll house seems to drag on, but it makes sense later on. I don’t think it pays off very well though. No matter how important things become, it doesn’t stop the initial set up from dragging on.

There’s quite a long section towards the end with Dennis, Ben and Naomi that drags on way too long. It didn’t need to be described in such depth. It really knocks the pace that had been building up and almost ruins the final confrontation. By the time I got there, I was losing interest and it took me a while to get back into gear for the finale.

I felt a disconnect at the beginning of the novel. Maybe it’s just getting used to the narrative style, but I found it really hard to get into. Not just because it’s slow, but the characters just weren’t interesting. I read a few chapters and really thought I should give up now as I knew I wouldn’t like it. Thankfully I didn’t, and by the half way point things had really picked up. The middle section with Peter imprisoned in The Needle was the best part of the book by far.

I don’t want to spoil anything but the locket and letter that Peter finds is chilling, and his plan to escape is brilliant. It’s fun, dark and engaging. It’s just a shame that the rest of the novel doesn’t really live up.

The main reason I read this book is because of Randall Flagg. One of the main villains throughout King’s books. After The Stand this is his second appearance. He’s a brilliant character and it’s worth reading this just for his role in the story. He manipulates and plots, but also is deeply flawed. He leads to his own downfall. In The Stand you get a sense of his character and his long history, and that’s only added to here.

It’s ambitious and has some great moments, but The Eyes of the Dragon is the weakest King book I’ve read. I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you’re a big fan of King or Randall Flagg. It’s not an essential read by any stretch of the imagination.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Salem’s Lot

I recently decided to read all of Stephen King’s books, after finishing The Stand. My next choice was Salem’s Lot since it’s King’s second novel and I’ve already read the first, Carrie. I knew Salem’s Lot was about Vampires, but I had no idea about the overall plot. I think that’s probably the best way to start any horror book or film.

One of my favourite books is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I read the book when I was in school and later studied it at sixth form and university. I like Vampire stories, and it probably wasn’t going to take much for Salem’s Lot to win me over. I really enjoyed this book. It follows Ben Mears, a writer who moves back to Jerusalem’s Lot to fight childhood fears through writing his new novel. He’s not the only new comer in town, as the mysterious Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow arrive at the same time. People go missing, and then start dying. Along with a few others Ben suspects that Barlow is a vampire and thus starts the main conflict of the novel.

The beginning of this book is very slow, mostly building up the town and the people who live there. Something I’ve noticed with both Salem’s Lot and The Stand, is that King doesn’t mind taking his time for the action to start and instead builds up the main and side characters, delicately crafting them through their past and interactions with each other. At first this seems slow and pointless, but it pays off in the end. Knowing these characters so well makes the horror that much scarier. There were a couple of points in the story where I had to remind myself that the characters as well as the town were fictional as they had been crafted so well.

Salem’s Lot is clearly inspired by Dracula, with the two sharing more than a few elements. Stephen King doesn’t shy away from this either, explaining in the introduction that the idea came from thinking about Dracula arriving in modern New York. Ben Mears also states that Matt Burke is kind of like Van Helsing at a later point in the novel. While the story isn’t original in the slightest, the way it’s presented makes it unique. The characters all feel real and I ended up being interested in them, outside of their impending doom. I think the best horror stories make you care about what the characters are up to, regardless of spooky scary things happening or not, and Salem’s Lot does this perfectly. Susan Nortan’s relationship with Ben, and arguing with her Mum. Father Callahan struggling with alcohol and losing his faith in the modern world. I cared about these characters long before vampires took centre stage.

The pace is perfectly slow throughout the whole book as well. There are deliberately long sections where Matt Burke is walking upstairs to face his suspected vampire and Father Callahan leaving the town, adding tension in the overall story. It’s a slow burn but it all pays off in the end. King builds up the suspense making each moment of actual horror that much scarier. After I reached the half way point I couldn’t put the book down and couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Of course it wouldn’t be a horror vampire book without gore and violence, and Salem’s Lot has plenty of that. There is one death in particular towards the end, that I won’t spoil, involving stairs, that is spectacularly gruesome and really made my skin crawl imagining it.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re a fan of the genre. It’s a long slow read, but a brilliant read. The characters make the whole novel worth it.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment