Time Heals… – Chapter Twelve

Ryan directs me towards a little place, only a couple of streets away, called Moonlight Whispers. A small cosy coffee place, that doesn’t care about the lack of customers. Purple seems to be the main colour of choice. The window and door frames are a dark purple, the over hanging sign is brighter shade and inside, all the tables and chairs are covered in purple cloths and upholstery. It’s mostly a darker shade, so not that unappealing or in your face. There are low hanging dim lights that make the place feel smaller than it actually is. Six circular tables are dotted about the place, each with four chairs. All but two of the tables are occupied. A couple in idle chit-chat, a suited man on a laptop, two teenagers with their phones out not looking up and two elderly people sipping and smiling. The walls are lined with photos of the moon, hanging over the sea or a city landscape.

The counter curls around making a semi-circle that juts out of the far wall. There’s two young people working behind it, one wiping down the sides and another stocking up the various treats. Behind them is a wall of cups, coffee bean bags and various syrups. Machines fill every available space on the counter and the back wall.

We make our way through the maze of chairs and stop at the counter. The girl, who was filling up the treats, looks up at us and smiles.

“Ryan, so nice to see you again. It’s been a while.”

“Hi, Kate, it has been a while. Needed a coffee that’s been brewed right again. Spent too long drinking just the hospital rubbish.”

“And who is your friend?”

“This is Chris, we used to go to school together, back in the day. He’s back in town for a little while and we’re just catching up. Thought I would bring him to the best coffee shop in the county.”

“Thanks, what am I getting you then?”

“Just a black coffee for me, please,” I ask.

“The usual as well, please,” Ryan adds and then turns to me. “You don’t want a snack or anything?”

“No thanks.”

“I’m buying.”

“I’m good.”

Kate waits for our little diversion to end and then waves towards the card machine. Ryan slaps his card on it and waits for the beep. The machine chirps and Ryan slides his card back in his wallet. Kate moves to the back wall and grabs two cups, clanking them together as she does.

Machines start whirling and churning and soon enough we’re sitting at one of the empty tables. The chair groans under my weight and cries with every movement. The creaks echo around us, swirling between us as we both pull our chairs closer and finally sit still.

“So, please, tell me your story,” I ask.

“I know it sounds stupid, but it’s the whole town. Just hear me out before you judge me,” He pauses so I nod and then he continues. “A couple of years back people started acting strangely. I moved out when I started working here, got a flat close to the hospital and I used to go back every weekend. See the parents and a couple of friends. Things like that. And then one week, they just stopped complaining.”

“What?” I laughed and almost got up and left. “This was a waste of my time.”

“No listen. Don’t jump the gun. I mean it. You know when you go and see any member of your family or close friends and it’s mostly complaining. About work, other people, aches and pains. You know how it is?”

“Of course,” I nod.

“Well they didn’t do that. Just one week. Mum had no gossip about anyone. Dad wasn’t complaining about work. He always has something to rant about, but it was different. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. Then I went to the pub will Michael and Kristie and they weren’t complaining either. They also bitched about co-workers at least, but nothing. I was on the bus back home when I realised. It was weird. Then the next week, the same. No complaints.”

“So?”

“Just listen. You’d know if something was off with people you see all the time. I went back every week for a few months and they were completely different. No moaning, always positive about everything. Then they started praising the people they used to bitch about. When your dad got remarried, he invited my parents and they actually went.”

“What? Seriously?” That would be weird to imagine.

“Yeah, exactly. They blamed him for everything, but they still got dressed up and appeared at his wedding. Everyone in the town did. Your dad wasn’t liked. I’m sorry, but he wasn’t.”

“I know that, he was my Dad. There’s a reason I left town.”

“Yeah, right. Well they all became best friends with him. No one had a bad thing to say about him. And when I started moaning about him, they just reversed it and started supporting him. Saying that he wasn’t that bad, or he was misunderstood. That’s he suffered but he was a good man.”

“Yeah, he suffered, but he wasn’t a good man before that either. Excuses.”

“you understand what I’m trying to tell you though? The whole town changed, it used to be a horrible run-down hell hole, but people started cleaning it up and then crime stopped. The place is now almost invisible to the outside world. I haven’t read one news story in years about anything that’s happened there, no crime, nothing. It doesn’t add up.”

“No, it doesn’t. You might be onto something there. I don’t really know what could be going on, but something is not adding up. I don’t think I will be going home tonight.”

A wave of excitement rolls through my body, I almost want to dance. There is a story here, I can feel it. I was completely wrong earlier.

We finish our drinks and I offer Ryan a lift home, he refuses and says it is only a short walk. I thank him and take his phone number, so I can contact him if I find anything. I promise I won’t publish unless he had read the entire article.

I leave the coffee shop, with a new lease on life. It is as if the sun is shining down on me and everything was going to go my way. A new story about a strange town, exposing their dirty secret. I can feel it in every inch of me, there is something big here.

To be continued…

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2019

Hi,

I want to start by saying a big thank you to everyone who follows me, I recently hit 400 followers which feels great. Thank you.

It’s been a while since an update post, and the beginning of a new year seems like an opportune time for another one. Writing is going steady at the moment. Time Heals… is at 48000 words and nearing its conclusion. I’m also thinking of changing the name to Homecoming, which I think fits the story a lot better. I’ve already started plotting 2 more stories, although I don’t know which one I will focus on first. Both are more fantasy based than Time Heals…/Homecoming which is a lot more grounded than anything I’ve written before.

I’ve recently finished watching Star Trek Voyager for the first time. I’m slowly making my way through all, soon to be, 32 seasons of Star Trek. As much as I like The Original Series and The Next Generation, and I did think Voyager was weaker than both, I found myself more attached to Voyager’s characters. I was disappointed by the final episode. There are a lot of questions I needed answers too. I found out that there is a series of novels that carry on the story and hold the answers I seek. I started reading them this week, and while I’m enjoying it and it does answer them. I do find the voices of the characters are slightly muddled. It’s enjoyable though, which is the main thing.

Since I finished Voyager I’ve also set out to catch up on some shows I got left behind on. First was Fargo. I watched the whole of season 3 in 2 days. Not as strong as the first 2 seasons but still really good stuff. Glad I’ve finally watched it. Preacher Season 3 comes next.

Most of the movies I’ve seen recently have been disappointing. Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, The Grinch and Bumblebee. None of them bad, but I wouldn’t recommend them. Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse was very good though.

My plan is to keep on uploading chapters every Friday. I’m really bad at sticking to schedules, so we shall see.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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Time Heals… – Chapter Eleven

The inside of the hospital is almost exactly how I remember it. Pale lighting, grey colours everywhere with a little bit of white mixed in. Beeping and noises that keep away the silence but aren’t overwhelming. There’s a middle-aged man sitting behind the reception counter typing away on a computer that is begging to be updated. A couple of people are moving around beyond a doorway behind the counter. He notices me walking towards him and gives me a smile.

“Hello sir, how can I help you today.”

“I’m supposed to be meeting someone here, Ryan Campbell?”

“Oh yes, he said you would be coming by today. He should be here any minute. He said eight.”

“Yes.”

“Just take a seat and he’ll be here, he told me he would meet you here.”

“Thank you.”

I walk over to an empty bench and sit down, instinctively take out my phone and ignore the world around me.

A few minutes pass and then I notice a shadow looming over me. I look up and meet a familiar face.

“I don’t believe it,” I start. “You haven’t changed a bit.”

I half smile, half wince at the sight of him.

“You’ve changed quite a bit. Cut your hair short. Suits you.”

“Thanks,” I say with half a heart.

My whole-body tenses up, expecting him to hit me. To yell at me, or something along those lines.

“So, life treating you well since you left town? I read your article and it seems like you’re doing pretty well.”

“Not bad I suppose, but nothing special.”

“I don’t think everyone would agree with you about that. That article, man, it was eye opening. That’s why I wanted to meet with you.”

“Right,” I say, and then pause. “I don’t really know how I can help.”

“Can we get out of here? I know a cafe, we can get a coffee. I’ll pay. And I’ll tell you everything that I know. I’m sure you will change your mind once you’ve heard what I have to say.”

“Sure, that’s why I’m here.”

I follow him out of the building, not wanting to be alone with him. Silently wishing that someone would stop him, that some emergency crept up and we had to delay our meeting. The outside welcomes us, the evening sun feels warm on my face, as the soothing breeze slightly rustles the trees. I can’t believe how mental the weather has been today. It’s all over the place. Wouldn’t believe how cold it was earlier.

A crow chirps in a tree high up above us and breaks the silence.

“How long have you been a doctor?” I asked.

“I’m not a doctor, just a nurse. That’s where the real work is anyway. We have to look after the patients all day. Not just turn up and be heroes for a minute.”

He laughs, letting me know he’s only joking. I’m sure he’s used to people assuming he’s a doctor or that he at least wants to be one.

“Ah, sorry,” I offer.

“No worries, man. I get it all the time and it doesn’t bother me. Honestly. It’s just one of those things. I never wanted to be a doctor. Never wanted to be a nurse either, things just happened like this. I would have to think about it to tell you how. I feel like I just ended up here. Had to get out of the town, you know.”

“Yeah. I think I know a little about that.”

We reach my car and Ryan walks around to the passenger side. As I unlock the door, he joins his hands together, interlocking each finger and places them on top of the car, as if he was about to start praying.

“I’m not that bad of a driver, I promise.”

He chuckles. “I don’t think you are, I just wanted to speak quickly before we get in the car.”

“What about?” I stiffen.

“You know, man. I can see it on your face. You’ve got some guts coming down here,” He says with a welcoming smile. “I don’t think I could have done it if the roles were reversed. I respect that. And I just wanted you to know, that I don’t blame you for what happened. It wasn’t your fault. It may have felt like it at the time, and for that I apologise. But I know it wasn’t your fault. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and you weren’t to blame.”

“Please don’t do that. Don’t apologise. I know I played my part. I’ve had just as much time to think about it. I didn’t need to tell my dad, I could have let it go and no one would have found out.”

“Someone would have though, that’s my point. Anyone could have let that slip. If you didn’t then someone else would have found out and told people. Hell, it could have even been me.”

He steps backwards away from the car and towards the wall behind him, the whole time looking me in the eye. When he reaches the wall, he leans back on it and lowers his hands.

“It could have been me, man. I could have been the one who let it slip. I would have done if I’d known. I can’t deny that. That town wasn’t a nice place back then. Backwards thinking nut jobs. He wasn’t ever going to survive that.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I think I do. You do too. Remember how brutal it was. Everyone turned against him, not just the kids. The adults as well. The teachers knew he was having a hard time and they did nothing to help, they turned a blind eye because they felt the same. The whole town was just full of backwards thinking low-lives. Even our family turned a blind eye to it. They knew what he was going through, and while they didn’t make it worse, they didn’t help him. I think they almost thought he deserved it. I think they were ashamed.”

“Don’t say stuff like that. I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”

“It was, and you can’t tell me otherwise. I was a child at the time, sure, but I was there. I remember the way they looked at him. Dad came home from work and he was worked up. He was pacing up and down the living room, as Tim was glued to his seat, in the centre of the sofa. I was sitting on the stairs, watching through the banister beams. Dad started shouting, telling him it was a phase and he would grow out of it. He told him not to embarrass himself and that people wouldn’t forget things like this easily. Mum was crying, she said it was because nothing has changed, and her boy was still her boy, and Dad was scaring her. But I don’t think I believe that, I think deep down she was just as disappointed as Dad was. She just knew how to hide it better.”

“Ryan, I don’t think it was completely like that. I’m sure they were shocked but deep down they cared.”

“I don’t think they do. The last time I went to their house they’d taken down all of the pictures of him, and when I asked why they just bounced to another subject. It’s like they want to just delete him from history. Even our joint school photo was folded in half.”

“People grieve in different ways.”

“Will you listen to me, this isn’t grief. It’s been over ten years and they never used to hide away like this. We moved on, we had too, and then it’s like they forgot.”

“Is this the story you had for me?”

“It’s not all of it, but it’s part of it, yes.”

“I don’t think this is a story. I’m sorry. But there really isn’t anything to go on here.”

“Don’t shush me. I’m telling you there is more than what meets the eye here. There is something going on in that town that is dangerous, and you need to get the word out before it spreads.”

“Get in the car,” I tell him.

If I’m going to have to listen to his insane nonsense, I can at least be drinking coffee.

 

To be continued…

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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

Image result for annihilation book

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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