The Worst Christmas Present

The other night I went to the YA Speakeasy Event at Drink Shop Do just off King’s Cross. It was a really fun night of drinks and chatting to authors and other bookish types, with readings and the like. Halfway through, they request some writing prompts from the audience for the guest authors to go off and spend twenty minutes writing a story about, and one of the themes suggested by my friend Grace, was “An Unwanted Christmas Present”. Now, I’m not a professional authorer, but I did have something begin to form in my head the second she said those four words. So I wrote it down. Warning, it’s pretty bleak.


The first thing I was aware of as I woke up was pain. Two different kinds of pain, quite unbearable in their own ways. One was a dull background ache that crept along my bones like ice, gnawing constantly. The second one though, the second one was something else entirely. When I tried to move, it hit me like a blinding white heat, agonising lightning shooting down every nerve ending. My jaw clenched. Slowly, I opened my eyes, sticky and tired. I was in a dull hospital room, off-white walls stained and plain, and a variety of unfamiliar boxy looking machines hooked up to me. The fluorescent light on the ceiling flickered, needling into my brain.

“Where I am…?” I croaked, my mouth dry and my throat painful.

“Sweetheart? Tim, Tim he’s awake!” My Mum was right there, by my bedside, her eyes red-rimmed and anxious. My Dad shuffled across the room, looking forlorn.

“Don’t try to move too much, son” he told me, an unusual softness in his voice, “You’ve had quite a nasty accident.”

Had I? I tried to remember but everything was a blur. As I strained, things started to come back to me. Leaving the flat at rush hour. Stepping out to cross the road. A blaring horn and a white van that loomed impossibly big, getting bigger with each passing microsecond. Blinding white pain. I flinched at the memory, the lightning pain rippling through me again.

“Don’t try to move, darling” Mum begged, “The doctors have you on some strong painkillers, but you’ve done a lot of damage. Moving will make it worse.”

A thick silence fell into the room. I tried to think of something, anything to say. The looks of concern on their faces ripped at my heartstrings, guilt flooding through my chest.

“I’m sorry…” I coughed, the coppery taste of blood peppering my tongue, “Sorry I ruined Christmas Day…” I attempted a wry smile, but even twisting my mouth seemed to hurt. I dreaded to think how I looked. It seemed both of my legs where encased in a plaster cast that covered my pelvis as well. One arm, my right, was free, pockmarked by a few short lacerations that had the look of flying glass about them. My left arm – the one I actually used – was also in a plaster cast, the fingers poking out from under them gnarled, the nails blackened with bruised and horribly cracked.

“Don’t be silly,” Mum was sobbing now, and the guilt was welling up inside, threatening to flood my lungs and end me completely, “You waking up is a Christmas Miracle.”

Dad nodded his agreement, tearless but his face twisted with emotion, “Absolutely, Charlie. You’re the best Christmas present we could’ve asked for.”

I felt a hot tear slide down my cheek. To them, it looked like relief I’m sure. But it was no such thing. It was a tear of defeat. When I’d made the decision to step out in front of that van, waking up again was the worst possible Christmas present I could imagine.


THE END. Told you it was cheery.

Thanks for Reading!

D

Free Writing No. 6 – Exposition

This time I ended up writing without ANY dialogue, which is probably what I’ve always found easier. Dialogue is harder for me. It’s also first person, present, which I’ve not done a lot with before.


I screamed full and loud into the night. It was a hard, harsh and primal thing, and it shocked me as it escaped from my throat, twisting and turning like an animal on its way up. The sound reverberated across the field, and I could see it as a fountain of red light as my damaged brain mixed sight with sound.

Sometimes it worked like this – sometimes there was directionless anger and frustration at the world around me. I wondered how other people were capable of such ignorance and hate, and it boiled inside me like a force of nature, a volcano of injustice waiting to spew forth. On days like that, I had to run, had to scream and had to let the energy flow through and out of me. If I didn’t, I knew for certain it that I’d burst into glorious flames and be left as nothing but ash and dust in the wind. Those were the easy days, and when I punched Mark in the face today for grabbing my arse at school, I’d felt a surge of action, and that brought positivity with it – I was shaping the world using my fire, and the world had recoiled at my unbridled power.

It was the way it ebbed away that was terrifying. The emptiness that it left in its wake was unbearable, and I’ve never found a way to fill it. It would be coming now, lurking at the edges of my consciousness with dark, hateful tendrils of misery. The fire that fuelled me, that made me so notorious for being outspoken, it was only short lived, and then it seeped out of my body through cracks and joints, leaving my chest – once so filled with righteous fury – hollow and empty. That was where the danger lurked. That was when I took all of my tablets at once, walked into the sea, and drank bleach. Because it futile, my brain berates me, because I will never make this world a better place, and when I die the universe will hardly notice. On the blackest days, I imagine the sun swelling up to engulf the earth and all I can think is that every single human being who has ever lived up until that point will be lost in an impossible swell of nuclear fire, and all the sonnets of Shakespeare, all the ballads of Lennon and McCartney, even my macaroni art that I’d brought home from playschool at aged four, would be completely lost forever. It terrified me, and it filled the void the fire left inside me with a heavy leaden feeling – days where I couldn’t even get out of bed, because literally every single endeavour was pointless. My life has no meaning.

I’ve tried to find meaning in life. I write songs, I front an angst ridden band and drink at house parties, the usual teenage clichés. I’ve slept with boys and girls from school, and some men who probably have daughters my age. I thought sex and alcohol and drugs would help distract me, but they don’t – not even slightly, not even there in that instant. I cut myself because I deserve it, it’s a punishment for being weak, and all the while I hiss insults at myself through angry, bitter tears. I remind myself about starving children, about war torn families and about being white and middle class is hardly comparable. There are others who have such a shittier start in life to me, who would kill to live in my world. If I could trade places with just one of them, I would. I’m not doing anything spectacular with the head start I’ve been given, but that Somali child could be the doctor that cures cancer, with my access to education and privileges. I deserve none of it, and I’ve squandered it at every turn.

I breathe heavily into the warm night air, as the atmosphere around me tingles with potential and static. A storm is probably coming, judging by the thickness of the air and heavy promise of action in the roiling clouds up above. I light a cigarette and blow a long stream of smoke into the air, shivering despite the warmth. I probably shouldn’t have run all this way in my underwear, but when the fire fills me, I move and let the energy dance – because once it’s gone, I’m afraid I might never move again.

Free Writing No. 3 – Rejected

So another piece free writing that I’ve edited and polished a bit to post online. An attempt at some realistic dialogue exchanges… Yeah. Thanks for reading it, if you do. Feedback always welcome.


 

As she walked towards the school gates, she fitted her hand comfortably into the hand of the boy walking next to her, a small, playful smile curving her lips. Hannah stood and watched the two of them walking out of sight behind the tall brick walls that surrounded the school like the walls of an asylum – high and impenetrable to protect its precious cargo. Or to pen them in, stop them from experiencing the world, depending on f you were inside of them, or outside.

“You’re not allowed to be jealous.” Simon told her. Hannah rolled her eyes at him, stamping out a cigarette butt beneath her feet.

“Look, it’s not her fault she rejected you, okay?” He tried again.

“Yeah, but she could not be throwing her fucking boyfriend all over the school, in my face, y’know?” She replied.

“She’s not gay, Hannah. I’m sorry, but there’s not a lot you can do about that.” He reminded her, voice level, but annoyingly understanding.

Hannah sighed, looking down at her feet. She knew it really; she had no right to be upset that Emily had rejected her. It was no more her fault for being straight than it was hers for not being. Simon knew better than most, of course – it had been a year and a half since he told Hannah that he was in love with her, and she’d had to tell him that he just didn’t have the right equipment for her. She was lucky he’d carried on hanging around, really. He’d become her best friend quickly, and she was pretty sure that without him, she’d have checked out a long time ago.

“It just hurts.” She admitted, finally. “Being rejected sucks ass, but seeing her being happy with someone else that isn’t me… It’s too hard.”

“Did you just admit to being hurt?” Simon teased, but the hard look she threw him said to back away from jokes. This was a rare serious moment.

“Look, I know it hurts, okay? Trust me. After we… Yeah, after that, I was so angry and heartbroken. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep…” He said, “It felt like the story of my life had been derailed by not getting the girl. I hate myself for that now.”

“I don’t understand how you felt like this and could still stand the sight of me…” Hannah said quietly.

“Because it was either that or not see you at all, and I know which one was better.” He smiled back her, “Besides, I can look but not touch.”

“Ew! You fucking gross straight boy!” Hannah punched him on the arm, and they both laughed. Somewhere in the distance, the bell rang, letting them know that it was time for French.

“Hey, je suis cannot be arsed with French. Wanna go sit somewhere and be angry at the world?” Simon asked her.

“Absolutely,” Hannah replied, lighting another cigarette, “Our French is practically flawless anyway. Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec  Moi and all that shite.”

“Masterful.” Dry and sarcastic was the sort of Simon she preferred. That was the one she knew best.

“Feelings are hard anyway. Ice cream is great.” She told him, blowing smoke out into the crisp autumn air.

“I hear that sister.”

As they walked along the street, Hannah felt a familiar pulsing in her head, as a dark prickling voice started to break and chip at her walls of emotional defence. It told her how worthless she was, how no-one would ever love her. It told her that Emily would notice her if she stepped into oncoming traffic. She’d have to care there. The guilt would drive them together.

Simon slipped his hand into hers, noticing the distant and dark look in his best friends eyes. He knew it well, and he was damned if he was letting her face it alone. Their hands felt perfect together, and even though she’d never feel about him how he wanted her to, there was no pressure here, just unconditional support. She managed to fix him with a look of gratitude, even as her brain swarmed darkness, and she smiled.


 

Ce Tout.

Free Writing 2 – Nevada Salt Flats

So, here’s another Free Writing piece. Much darker tone than the first one, but hey. Enjoy, I guess?


The sun beats down onto the old, cracked concrete. I swear, the carpark should have at least a few people in it, even if it is the hottest Sunday since records began, or whatever. Instead, all I can see is endless nothing with a closed supermarket looming in the distance like a forgotten giant. The way the concrete cracks at random intervals reminds me of those salt flats you see in pictures of Nevada.

I’ll probably never go to America.

They said that the sun would get the pavements up to a high enough temperature to cook an egg on today. How do you like your eggs? Gritty! Honestly, it’s a stupid method of describing the temperature to people. Just say ‘It’s going to be really hot, wear shorts.’

God, I can feel sweat pouring off me even though I’m shaking. I know, objectively, that it’s ‘warm as balls’ as my dear old father would say, but I’m freezing. I look down at the reddish-brown stains that litter the hot ground and my shoes.

What temperature does blood boil at, anyway? I wondered.

I just had to run my mouth. Again. I had to be the smartass because I’m the one who gets the universe and everyone around me is just a dumb mouth breather. My dad always told me that my loud mouth and quick brain would get me into government one day, if I could apply myself. Otherwise, he guaranteed me it would get me in a ‘whole heap of shit.’ His words.

I sucked in hot, dry air, trying desperately to ignore the very intense pain in my abdomen. I could feel the sticky, warm flow of blood across my hand that I clutched the… afflicted area with.

Don’t think stab wound. It is a stab wound, but don’t think it. I urged myself to stay calm.

Mickey was saying something to me, his face a smug sneer of derision, but honestly he could’ve been singing ‘And All That Jazz’ and I couldn’t have told you.

It was funny; I’d always idly day-dreamed about the futility of existence. Thought myself the real Nietzsche enlightened scholar. It never impressed Katelyn, or anyone else, and now that I could smell the tang of my own life ebbing away, it didn’t feel so philosophical.

One of Mickey’s buddies shoved me. I could smell whiskey on his breath, mixing with metallic smell of me leaking out. I wobbled, but surprisingly I didn’t fall. Why was no-one in this stupid fucking car park? I refused to die alone in a Tesco car park. In this heat, the flies would be on me in an instant. How undignified.

“Please…” I croaked, holding my free hand out in a placating gesture.

Mickey and his friends mocked me, repeating my single plea back to me in high pitched voices. They sounded muted though, like an argument through a bedroom floor.

My legs were starting to tremble. Tears stung my eyes. There was nothing I could do by this point. I was a statistic. At least the car park probably had CCTV or something like that.

I wondered if Katelyn would come to see me in hospital. Maybe she’d fall in love with me as I lay stoic in a coma. Then I’d wake up, and she’d be the first face I saw, and she’d suddenly realise that I was what she wanted all along. She’d realise how much she really cared. Her face would crumple

into a mask of joy as her mascara ran down her face with relieved tears. She’d move in with me. We’d be happy.

As the second thrust of the knife slid between my ribs and punctured my lung, I realised that was probably never going to happen.

Maybe she’d cry at my funeral instead. Maybe she’d realise what she’d missed out on.

But I doubt it.

Blood begins to fill my lung, trickling out of my mouth. Mickey’s is the last face I see, not hers.

I die.

The sun keeps shining in a clear blue sky.


Hope that was good. It felt good as I wrote it, in a strange way.

Thanks for reading.

D

Free Writing No. 1 – Half a World

So, I’m trying to write something. A fictional something. Right now it’s about 32,000 words and I have literally no idea if any of them are good or terrible or whatever. But one of the writing techniques I was recommended was Free Writing, where you sit for 20 minutes and write the first thing that comes into your head. It’s been fun so far! I’m not going to post all of them, because some of them are kinda awful, but I thought I might edit some of them and share them on here to see if anyone cares in the slightest! I’m really not expecting anyone to, but stranger things have happened. I mean, it rains frogs in some places. This being read is pretty normal by comparison.

Shut up Darran.


Silence echoed throughout the gym hall that housed the talent show, punctuated by a single awkward cough. Down beneath me, a hundred or so eyes gazed up at me as I stood on the stage, waiting for me to start. Someone laughed nervously, obviously assuming that this boy in full makeup and dress, wielding a guitar, was some sort of novelty drag act. Nothing but a comedy cabaret played for laughs. There was only one girl in that audience who knew that this was me as I truly was, as only I could feel comfortable. I sought out her green, fierce eyes, and my heart swelled as I saw her immediately in front of me – stage front and centre, just like she’d promised. I stepped up to the microphone and hesitated.

What if they keep thinking this is a joke? And where is the rest of my band? I thought to myself. But time was running on, and I could already see Mrs Erenmeyer frantically gesticulating with impatience. She had no idea I’d planned on performing dressed as a girl either, but she hadn’t batted an eyelid when I arrived dressed like this. Clearly she’d run enough high school talent shows in her time to find the idea of a teenage boy cross dressing positively tame.

There was a hum of energy from the PA as my red wig brushed against the microphone, and finally I found my courage and my voice.

‘Hi,’ I said, trying to maintain a bored, Alanis Morissette drawl, ‘My names Emily Dart, and this is…’

I faltered. I had no band. They’d freaked out when I told them that I planned on performing as Emily, tried to explain to them that Emily is who I really am. All those songs of teen angst we’d written together take on a whole new world when you realise that I really am struggling more than your average horny teenager.

“And this is Unqualified Architects.” Came a voice over the PA. To my right, Anthony was saddling up his lime green guitar, a sudden hiss of static as he pushed down his distortion pedal. I felt my heart catch in my throat as Mike picked up his bass on my left and Adrian sat down behind his drums, adjusting the stool to account for his gigantic frame.

“Warning, we’re really fucking loud.” Anthony spat into the mic, fixing me with a savage grin of devil-may-care styling, full of punk rock attitude. Mrs Erenmyer’s face was a mask of purple rage.

We broke into Half a World, one of the first songs me and Ant had written, four years ago. I slammed my glittered converse into the distortion pedal at my feet, and felt power surge through me as I hammered out the aggressive 16th note riff on my old blue guitar. I spun around in a rapturous spin of elation, feeling my brain explode with endorphins as my pale cream summer dress flowed outwards with my twist. Mike burst into a high-end bass solo that told me I had just a bar before I needed to be back at the microphone. Behind me, Adrian was pinning us down with a tight, machine-gun fire drum beat on the snare.

‘I know that I’m not whole, but I know a lot more than you.’ I crooned into the mic, as Anthony and Mike spat aggressively into theirs the backing refrain,

‘What do you know? What do you know?’ They chanted.

I saw the girl I loved in front of me, not bobbing her head, or tapping along with the music, but arms and legs flailing wildly with pure energy and passion. Right then, I felt like the most important girl in the world, and I could escape the unimaginable feeling of rightness as my painted nails flew up and down the fretboard.


So that was a thing! What came out of my brain! I hope you liked it. If you want to tell me anything about it. feel free to leave a comment, or tweet me (@ShinraAlpha) – I look forward to your torrents of abuse.

THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT.

D