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…

 

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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

 

 

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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

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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

 

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Dracula’s Guest – The Missing Chapter from Stoker’s Classic

I read Dracula quite a few years ago, nearly ten years ago. Back when I was still in school, and the future seemed so bright. I loved the book. I thought it was scary, different from what I imagined  and full of suspense. I’ll stand by my claim that those first three chapters are some of the finest pieces of Gothic Literature ever. The whole idea of isolation in Dracula’s castle captivated me. I later studied the book in sixth form and university and came to understand why the book works so well and why it’s considered a classic, loving it even more.

When I first got my kindle, 2012 (I think), the first thing I did was download everything else that Bram Stoker wrote. It’s free, as it’s all public domain, so why not? I found a short story collection called Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories. I looked into it and found that there was a cut chapter from the original novel, due to length, which was published after Stoker’s death.

Instead of diving straight in I decided to read Jewel of the Seven Stars first as I was interested in reading Stoker’s take on the Mummy horror stories. After reading that, which I also enjoyed, University took over completely and I didn’t really read anything I wanted to for a couple of years.

Last week I was going through my kindle purchases and downloaded everything I’ve never finished and thought I would start with Dracula’s Guest as it’s a short story collection and wouldn’t take my time. It’s taken me a fair few years to get there, but I’ve finally read the missing part of Dracula.

It’s an odd piece of writing. It doesn’t really stand by itself, without the connections to Dracula the story would probably have been completely forgotten by now. Even as part of Dracula it doesn’t really make sense. It doesn’t feel like the rest of the novel, it’s written in the first person, and it’s unclear if it’s part of Jonathan Harker’s journal or just a simple first person narrative. I think it’s safe to assume that it slots into the early chapters of the novel and therefore is from Harker’s journal, but it doesn’t quite feel like it belongs there. I imagine it’s probably from an early draft of the novel. It simply doesn’t fit the tone or the style of the original.

The story itself follows an unnamed protagonist, presumably Harker, who on Walpurgis Night, finds himself in an old cemetery, and has to take shelter from a storm in a tomb. Not much happens. The protagonist doesn’t listen to the warnings from the locals and goes off by himself anyway and ends up  in the cemetery during a horrific thunderstorm. A wolf keeps him safe while people are out looking for him. I won’t spoil the whole story, because if you are a fan of Dracula it’s more than worth reading.

There are a few moments that make more sense if read with the novel in mind. Dracula can turn into a wolf or dog, as he does on the ship when it arrives at Whitby. It makes sense that the wolf in this story is also Dracula, showing as much affection towards Harker as he does in the main story.

Overall, while by itself Dracula’s Guest isn’t a vital read, it’s still more than worth a look if you are a fan of the novel. It isn’t remarkable, but it’s nice to be able to read more of Harker’s tale even if it doesn’t fit as perfectly into the novel as I would have liked. It’s still well written has some good suspense filled moments and kept me entertained. It’s nice to return to this book in a fresh way, and I’ve re-downloaded Dracula to read that once more soon.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley.

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