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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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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