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.”
“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.”
“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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I kept looking and finally found the first installment of Time Heals. I look forward to reading this story all the way through. It doesn’t look like David wants to revisit his past, and I want to find out why. Or course, his present isn’t much to speak of. I hope he gets it together.
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Thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. It’s something I was very happy with when I wrote it. I’ve made plans to go over Time Heals… and edit it and re-release it, in its complete form. I never got round to uploading the entire thing. Changing jobs got in the way.
I also changed the title to Homecoming at one point. I’m not sure which one I like more. I’m not good with titles