Time Heals… Chapter Ten

 

I could have really done without reliving that again. The constant reoccurring nightmare that has haunted me since I was thirteen. The amount of sleep I’ve lost, the amount of vomit I’ve produced. I feel sick now. Sitting in a lay-by just off from the main street in Westmeadow. I breath heavily trying not to panic again. How many times have I woken up crying, or having a panic attack because of Tim. I wish I could go back and change it. I wish I hadn’t told Dad. I really mean that. I wish he hadn’t told me. I didn’t deserve to know him. He was the best friend I could have ever wanted, and he trusted me. He should be here now. He shouldn’t have missed out on everything because of me. I took that away from him

My whole body is shaking, blood dripping from a gash on my palm where I hit the dashboard a little too hard and caught it on something. Tears run free down my cheeks and I can’t stiffen my lip. I close my eyes and count to ten while breathing in. Something I was told would help, back in the uni days.

I didn’t really make any friends after Tim. I stayed by myself and cut almost everyone else out of my life. Those that clung on to me, they never really knew me. I grew distant from the world and learnt to put on an act. It made it easier just to leave when I could. Without looking back.

Until now, when I have to look back. Here I am. Westmeadow. I hoped I’d left this place forever, but I never really left. I revisited near enough every night.

My head is pounding. I need to get to a hotel and get a couple of hours sleep before I meet Ryan. Maybe I’ll oversleep and miss the whole thing. That would be ideal right now.

I drive down to Wexgate and start looking for hotels. Anything will do, not like I’m paying. Chain or independent. As long as I can get a couple of hours sleep before I meet Ryan I should be good.

I drive past the hospital, I forgot it was on this street. Damn, that building holds a lot of bad memories. Can’t believe I’m here again, revisiting everything I wanted to forget. Stupid Casey, thinking she’s helping with this. She isn’t. Any progress I’ve made in the last decade has shrivelled away into nothing. I’m back and these wounds seem as fresh as ever, like someone used a rusty knife to dig into the scars.

Every hotel I stop at doesn’t have a spare room. There’s some music thing happening and everywhere seems to be booked up. Just my luck. Couldn’t have sent me down last weekend or next weekend. Had to be this one. Had to be today of all days. When I can’t even get a stupid room in the neighbouring town. God damn it. I can’t believe this. I smack the steering wheel and sigh. My jaw tightly closed. I want a drink.

No. Leave that alone. I can get a drink when I’m back in London, not right now, when I can’t find a place to sleep and have to drive back to London tonight. That’s what I’m going to have to do. Drive straight back home tonight. I was kind of looking forward to the hotel. Everything would, hopefully, be clean and new. Could escape my life for one day.

I pull up into a lay by on a quiet street and move to the passenger seat. The overcast sky still looms above me. At least the rain has gone away. I close my eyes and try and get a couple of hours sleep.

I drift in and out, while the sky swirls around me. The dark clouds race past and with one blink they’re gone, replaced by blue skies and warming sunlight. It’s almost impossible to believe that it was so cold and bitter outside an hour or so before. This is reading weather. Back in Uni, I would take a book into the back garden and waste an afternoon in some other world. The sun glaring down on me, a cool drink with melting ice cubes rattling around. Those were the days. That’s what I should be doing now, not this.

It’s still not time, and now my stomach is actually growling at me. I’m too tired and hung over for this crap. Shifting over to the driver’s seat I pull out my phone and unlock it.

“Closest places to eat,” I ask the map app.

There’s a beep and then several pins appear on the map surrounding my blue circle. A burger joint down the road. I’ll just go there. Cheap and easy. I can eat in the car and then I’ll head to the hospital. I’ll just sit outside until eight, not like there’s much else to do around here.

Eight rolls around slowly, time dragging like a wounded animal away from it’s predator. The hospital car park is busy, people coming and going every second. Holy Trinity hasn’t changed much since the last time I was here. The building still looks like it’s going to crumble any second. The windows are still caked in years old dirt and rain, the automatic doors still seem to be struggling to keep up and the two trees standing above the car park entrance, still look dying. A good sign for any hospital.

I slam the door shut, scaring away some birds in the overhanging tree and start walking towards the front entrance. An elderly couple are walking ahead of me, the woman clinging onto the man’s arm and taking long drawn out steps. Both struggling to walk. It always makes me uncomfortable seeing people like that. Not sure why, maybe it reminds me of death. Whatever I could do without it. I take a step around them, giving them a wide berth so that I don’t accidentally trip them up.

To be continued…

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Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

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Wow. I was not expecting to love this so much. Honestly I’d not heard of this book before the film came out earlier this year. I really enjoyed the film, it’s the most unique and interesting Sci-Fi film in a long time. I had to read the book it was based on. I’m so glad I did. The film is good, but the book is so much better. 

I know that’s a cliche, the book is always better, but it couldn’t be truer in this instance. The book is written in the first person, from the viewpoint of a woman who only refers to herself as The Biologist. She is one member of a team sent into Area X to investigate the strange place. That’s all I’m going to say without spoiling it. 

The book is short, but it doesn’t feel rushed or incomplete. It actually works as the story is presented as if it’s been written in a journal that all the characters own and write in. That does mean you know from the beginning that the protagonist survives to the very end of the narrative, but at the same time you become aware very early on that death isn’t the worse thing that can happen to you in Area X. 

I honestly thought this book was going to give me nightmares when reading it late at night and I had to put it down because, I was either going to have nightmares and not sleep, or read the whole book and not sleep. It’s that good. There is one section, in the lighthouse, which is so tense I was almost holding my breath the entire time. It’s been a long time that I’ve put off doing other things and prioritised reading until I was finished. I honestly couldn’t put it down. 

Annihilation is tense, scary, interesting and honestly unputdownable. It’s book one of a trilogy and I straight away ordered book 2, Authority, and can’t wait to start it. 

Thanks for reading, 

Ashley

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Time Heals… – Chapter Nine

I try to forget what happened after that. I don’t like to admit it, although not a day goes past where I don’t think about it, but it was my fault. As much as I like to think I was a child and it wasn’t, deep down I know I can’t deny my involvement. My dad exploded into anger. Lighting the room up with the red from his eyes. He grew even taller over me, or I shrank. The whole room seemed to twist and contort itself as he stepped back into the centre and screamed.

“I don’t want you hanging around with him anymore. I’ll find out if you are. Trust me, don’t cross me on this. I will find out. You won’t speak to him again.”

I didn’t ask why or tell him that at school they tell us not to treat people any different regardless of sexuality. I didn’t ask him to explain himself. I wish I did, but I was small. God, I don’t think I could even do it now, and I’m an adult. I think.

He slammed the door shut as he left the room and stomped to his own room, slamming that door as well. I lay, shivering with fear, for the rest of the night. I don’t think I slept at all. My eyes never shut, glued on the door. Hoping it wouldn’t open again. Maybe Dad would feel better in the morning. I doubted it.

The alarm went off, and I turned over to tap the button. I didn’t need to press snooze. There was no way I was falling asleep again that day.

Everything was off that day. Nothing felt right. The sun was stuck behind clouds, the wind picked up and ripped through the streets. I almost missed the bus and had to run most of the way. Tim was waiting for me, stretching his neck out with an anxious look on his face. A smile grew on his face when he caught my eye, but I didn’t return it. We got on the bus in silence and didn’t say a word until we got there.

“So, what’s up man?” He asked.

“Nothing, I’m good. Just tired.”

“Come on, it’s because of last night isn’t it. I knew you’d get weird. I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry man. Let’s just forget about it.”

“No, it’s not that. Honestly.” I don’t think he believed me.

“Leave it. I don’t wanna talk about it. Let’s just get to class.”

He picked up the pace and left me behind. I breathed heavily and let the ocean of students carry me to class. I wished I could just talk to him. Tell him about Dad, but it wasn’t that easy.

The rest of the day was pretty much as awkward as the morning. Tim didn’t come outside at break time, I never saw him and then at lunch he said he was going to the library to finish some homework. It felt crap. Once the final bell rang, I walked to the bus stop knowing he had to be there, but expecting him to ignore me. Instead his mood had changed, we got on together and chatted on the way back. It was a little awkward at first, but soon enough things returned to normal. We didn’t mention the elephant, just let it linger in the background.

I thought that would be the end of it. No one would mention it again and it would just disappear. Most things worked like that. Most things. Mum didn’t, but this wasn’t like that. Tim was my best friend. I should have known better. I saw my dad before the bus stopped. His eyes were already full of fire, his mouth trembling. His hands rolled into tight fists and shaking. I think everything one the bus saw him. Silence took over. It seemed like the world grew darker and every other adult waiting for their child disappeared. All the other people on the bus faded and it was just me and dad looking at each other through the window.

I didn’t want to leave the bus, but I didn’t have a choice. My whole body went to jelly and I had to fight not to flop to the floor.

“Come on, you got to leave,” Tim whispered to me.

“Dad’s there.”

“I know, he seems mad. Better to deal with it straight away. You know what he’s like.”

“Please stop talking.”

“Christopher get off that bus and get out here now,” Dad roared, echoing through the bus.

If the bus wasn’t silent before it was then. Crap. My whole body shook and I had to hold back tears. I’d never seen him like this before.

“Get away from that faggot and get out here.”

“What? Did you tell him?” Tim asked.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t think it would be a big thing.”

I did know, how couldn’t I have known. He may not have ever been outwardly homophobic, but the signs were there. He hated most people, this was no surprise.

The whole bus was staring at my Dad, holding back laughter. A couple of heads slowly turned towards Tim. My eyes darted between everyone.

“Hey, can you leave the language at home, please?” The driver asked, “There are kids on board.”

“I’m only here to get my kid, I’ll leave once he gets off the bus.”

“I can’t believe you told him,” Tim whispered.

I winced at the words, not wanting to admit that I’d done it. That I was stupid to believe that anything else would have come from this. That the excuse of being a child doesn’t always work. That other people wouldn’t find out, if not like this then some other way. I was stupid, and I knew better.

I stood up slowly, accepting my fate and walked towards the front of the bus, every step echoing throughout me. The heads of every student followed me along the narrow passage, their legs automatically shuffled into the seats, not to even touch me. The birds chirping outside joined my echoing steps.

“Come on, boy. We’re going home.”

Dad grabbed my wrist and led me away from the bus. A couple of other parents gave me sympathetic looks, but they didn’t say anything. Didn’t do anything and would never mention it again.

“I told you not to hang around him again.”

“It’s no big deal, we were sitting next to each other on the bus. I barely spoke to him all day.”

“No big deal, you stupid dumbass. It’s not natural being like that. He’ll have you thinking your queer before you know it.”

“That’s not how it works.”

“It is, don’t believe what they tell you in school. It is how it works.”

He dragged me all the way home, occasionally calling me something obscene under his breath or right to my face. I couldn’t tell if he thought I was answering back, it seemed like he was having an argument with me, making up my responses.

When we got back home he threw me through the front door and slammed it shut behind him. He then grabbed my shoulder and threw me at the stairs. I bounced off the steps and fell to the floor. I thought he was going to take his belt off and smack me like he used to. I could almost hear Mum telling him not to. Her dead screams echoed in my mind.

“That’s the last time you see him, you hear me? No son of mine will hang around with some freak like that.”

“He’s not a freak.”

“Don’t test me boy. His Dad can let him do whatever he wants, but I will not let my Son degrade himself like that.”

I didn’t answer him, knowing it wouldn’t do any good. That I didn’t want to get beaten. It wasn’t worth it. Through gritted teeth my Dad heavily breathed staring at me with unblinking eyes. His fists tensed and pulsated with anger. I was shaking, trying to curl up and hide. I wanted to cry, but I wouldn’t let him see me.

Eventually he left and the sound of the fridge opening and closing, followed by the opening of a can.

“Go to bed, you little shit,” Dad said calmly from the other room.

I didn’t answer back, didn’t ask about dinner, just got up and walked upstairs and curled up in bed and cried until I eventually slept.

I tried to speak to Tim the next day at school, but he wouldn’t even look at me. A couple of people shouted names at him. Faggot and gay-lord. I could see the hurt in his face, his whole body looked broken. He didn’t lift his feet in the same way. He skipped football, said he wasn’t feeling well and went to the library instead. By that point the teachers knew what was going on and didn’t ask for a note.

Eventually things found a new normal. Tim didn’t speak to me, didn’t really seem to speak to anyone. There were rumours about him joining a new school. Rumours about him getting home schooled. He didn’t speak to me, but at least I didn’t see anger hidden in eyes with every secret glance. And then one day he came up to me, I should have known something was wrong.

“Hey, Chris. I know we aren’t friends any more. I just wanted you to know that I don’t blame you for what happened.”

I was speechless

“It wasn’t your fault,” he said

And with those final words he walked away. The next day he wasn’t in school. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. Maybe he was ill or had actually moved to another school. Then the whispering started. Tim had slit his wrists with a broken mirror the night before in his bathroom.

And that was that.

 

TO BE C

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The Perfectionists

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I want to start this by saying that I’ve never read anything by Sara Shepard, or seen the TV show Pretty Little Liars. I’ve heard good things about the TV show and have been recommended it a few times, but have never seen it. I mention that because there is an adaption of The Perfectionists in the works that will act as a sequel TV show to Pretty Little Liars, but this series is completely stand alone in book form.

I went into this book with very little expectation. I knew nothing of the plot, and chose to read it simply because it was part of Kindle Unlimited and I’ve heard of Sara Shepard. As I read through the first few chapters my hopes didn’t get much higher. It felt very by the numbers, nothing special at all. Five young women, all in their final year at high school find themselves at the centre of a murder mystery. They play a prank on Nolan, the notorious bully, but on the same night he’s murdered. What makes it worse is someone seems to be framing them, putting them in the cross-hairs of the local police.

There were too many characters for me to clearly remember who was who. The book’s short chapters are each focused on one of the main five women at the centre of this murder mystery, and move from one to the other very quickly. That continues throughout the whole book, there are points where I wanted to know what happened next to a certain character, such as Parker at the psychologist’s office, only for a new chapter to start and then having to wait three or four more chapters to find out. It’s not a long book, so it isn’t the biggest issue, but I don’t like the suspense it creates. Especially when there are other sections that are really tense, such as Granger’s house, where the suspense builds and I couldn’t put the book down. One more chapter, turns into five very easy.

For the first half of the book I wasn’t sure. I know I’m not the intended audience. However just after the halfway point when everything clicks together and the pace really picks up, I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down and when I finished it I immediately downloaded the sequel to find out what happens next. The book feels like a whole by itself, but there are more than enough little mysteries as well as the big one to bring me back for the second book.

I find that stories that make me care about the main characters and their aims outside of the main plot, their school-life in this scenario, are usually the most engaging. The Perfectionists passes this test with flying colours. As the final chapters were approaching I wanted to know what happened next with the characters, regardless of the plot. It may take a while to really get going, but when it does the build up was completely worth it. Not only will I read the sequel I will also go out and read Pretty Little Liars.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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It’s Been a While

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last wrote on this blog. I kept on meaning to and then it didn’t happen for whatever reason. I didn’t realise how much time had past. As always, that’s my main aim, to get better at this and not leave such massive gaps. I am writing at least, Time Heals… is coming along nicely. Even if I still don’t like the title and will think of a better one at some point. I’m a little over half way through the novel. I will upload the next chapter in the next couple of days. It’s an important chapter and I want to make sure it’s edited properly and ready to be read.

Other than writing, and work, I’ve nearly finished reading These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas. I was recommended this by someone who read a review I wrote earlier in the year and while it’s taken me a long time to get through it I am enjoying the book. It’s well written and keeps me guessing at what’s coming next. It’s part of a trilogy and I will be reading the following books soon after finishing this one.

This week I went to see A Star Is Born. I was expecting good things, but not that good. It’s definitely one of the best films of the year. I don’t know how it compares to earlier versions, but they’ve been added to my ever growing, to watch list. I’m hoping to go and see Bad Times at the El Royale and First Man soon, both look really good.

I also really enjoyed the new Doctor Who last week. I’ve been a big fan since the 2005 reboot and have gone back and watched a fair bit of the original series. I had little doubt about Jodie Whittaker, but was still surprised at how good she was. I’d forgotten about Peter Capaldi by the end of the episode and wanted to start the next one straight away, which hasn’t happened since David Tennant’s debut.

Venom was also surprisingly good. I wasn’t expecting much at all, and then even less once the reviews came out. It was fun and more enjoyable than most of the DC films. Nothing spectacular but enjoyable and I look forward to the sequel.

The next chapter of Time Heals… will be uploaded as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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