Short Stories

Researching For A Story

Okay. I just want to warn you all that my latest story idea has lead to my google search history looking stranger than it has ever been and, naturally, I am going to talk about it here.

(more…)

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Eclipse

The popular girls at school hated me because I dared to be different. I didn’t wear my hair their way or wear the clothes endorsed by their favourite celebrities. I didn’t even skip class their way. They skipped Science and Woodwork and I skipped Home Economics. Nobody was going to teach ME to be a housewife.

The popular girls at school hated me but I wasn’t without friends. I didn’t strive for their approval, I was perfectly fine with staying exactly as I was, thank you very much! Lianna says that is why she wanted to be my friend. I was just me. Different, unique, unashamedly me and she knew from the first day we met that she wanted to be my friend the most. What I love most about her is that’s exactly how I think of her too.

Our friendship sparked a change within me. I began to love life like I never had before. Lianna introduced me to new kinds of music, a new appreciation for art, and what it feels like to have a true soulmate. We shared our first kiss the day we left school and took our first date at a local museum that was showcasing important women in history. Slowly but surely, we fell in love. Our love revolved around celebrating our differences and being proud of our individuality whilst glorying in our similarities and our togetherness too. Even together we were different from most people that we knew, but Lianna and I, we didn’t realise how different. Not until the eclipse.

I didn’t pay any attention to the build-up of the coming eclipse. It didn’t mean anything other than being something vaguely interesting to watch one day. That is, until Lianna told me a story she had heard from her grandmother about the Goddesses of the Sun and Moon.

‘Contrary to popular opinion, the sun and the moon are not male and female deities; they are both female.’

Lianna stroked my hair as she talked, her head tilted back slightly as she searched her memory for the details.

‘Their names are Sola and Cherika. They met when they were sent to the Pantheon to learn what it means to be a Goddess and how to rule over their subjects. They formed a great friendship that turned into a passionate love for each other. Brahma, the God of Creation became angry and jealous because he wanted Sola for himself and planned to wed her. He created the Moon and banished Cherika to be trapped inside. He left her to circle Earth, hoping she would forget about Sola and fall in love with Geb, the God charged with watching over Earth.

‘Sola defiantly continued to refuse Brahma and plotted to free Cherika so they could be together again. Sadly, Brahma learned of Sola’s plans and, in a fit of rage, he created the Sun and trapped Sola inside. Sola and Cherika were heartbroken but their love for each other remained steadfast. They spent thousands of years trapped and separated, until Geb took pity on them and began visiting them both in their unique prisons, passing messages to the other whenever he could. He became a trusted friend and confidant to both of the goddesses and together, they devised a plan to reunite them without Brahma ever finding out. Geb was able to subtly communicate with and influence the humans on Earth. He found two young female lovers and blessed them with the ability to perform the magic required for the task.

‘At the event of the first eclipse, when the sun and the moon crossed paths in the sky, the two young female lovers on earth began a magical ritual to draw the essence of Sola and Cherika into themselves, under the guidance of the Geb. They found a secluded spot, stripped naked, and let the enegery of the eclipse wash over them as they chanted the words Geb had taught them. Sola and Cherika’s bodies lay in their prizon cells within the Sun and the Moon, but their souls were drawn to earth, where they were free to be together, glorying in their love, unknown to Brahma. The magic froze the women’s bodies exactly as they were until the next eclipse was seen on earth, when they passed the souls of Sola and Cherika on to another couple before carrying on with their lives.’

I was fascinated with this story and so when Lianna asked if I wanted to go and watch the eclipse with her, I agreed. On the day of the eclipse, we wandered to a nearby park and settled down on a blanket in each other’s arms to watch the moon cover the sun.

As the moon began to cover the sun in the sky, I suddenly felt dizzy. The sensation grew as the sky slowly began to darken, causing my vision to blur and the world to spin crazily under me. I lay on the grass and clutched at the ground as the earth began to buck and roll under me. I fought the growing feeling of nausea with my eyes tightly shut. My heartbeat racing and my breath coming in short gasps. After what felt like an eternity, the world abruptly stilled under me. I scrambled to my feet and span slowly on the spot, taking in the suddenly unfamiliar surroundings. The sky had darkened to an inky midnight blue. Stars sparkled and winked down at me and a deafening silence filled my ears until it hurt. My heartbeat thundered in my ears and my body began to tremble.

‘Selena?’ Lianna’s voice came from so close behind me that I span round with a squeal and stumbled backwards.

‘Lianna? Where are we?’

As I spoke, a light appeared in the distance, bobbing and weaving as it moved closer towards us. I began to make out shapes of trees around us, and saw that we were standing beside a small pool. Reeds crowded the edge, rustling and whispering secrets that a soft breeze carried into the sky. The surface rippled and bubbled as unseen creatures broke the surface in search of food, or maybe out of curiosity, wanting to know why we had disturbed their peace. The dancing globe of light was revealed to be a lantern, held by a young woman not much older than ourselves. Her eyes sparkled black in the dim light and her chocolate brown skin glowed faintly, sparkling like it was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds in the muted glow from the lantern she held in her right hand. The fingers of her left hand were linked with those of another young woman, whose skin was as light the first woman’s was dark, with strawberry blonde hair and eyes so pale they looked like glowing pools of ice. Her creamy skin glowed like pearls, shimmering with the barest hints of pinks and blues.

‘Welcome to Eclipsim.’ The woman with the lantern spoke. ‘You have been chosen by Sola and Cherika of the Sun and Moon to carry their essence until the next eclipse. They are the sun and moon goddesses who came to earth to…’

‘….to live in the bodies of humans so they can be together away from Brahma? Are you serious? I thought that was just a story.’ I turned to Lianna in confusion. ‘It’s just a story right?’

‘Well…..I….thought it was…..My Nana told me it was true but I never actually believed her. It can’t be real.’

‘It can, and it is. I know how unbelieveable it all sounds. I was exactly the same as you when it happened to us back in 1999. I assure you, it’s real.’ The woman with the strawberry blonde hair gazed directly into my eyes as she spoke, the passion in her voice matching the serious look on her face.

‘We would answer all of your questions if we could, but we only have until the end of the eclipse to finish the ritual.’

I hesitated, looking at Lianna.

‘Just one question.’ she said to the strange women, whilst looking at me. ‘Why us?’

‘Your love for each other is what drew you to our…..their attention. Its so strong and pure that its fiery and calm at the same time.’ The woman with the sparkling diamond skin explained. ‘Sola and Cherika knew you were the ones, however, when they learnt of your names. I am sure you know, Selena, that your name means..’

‘Moon Goddess.’ I interjected, my mind whirring.

‘ And you, Lianna? Do you know what your name means?’

Lianna sighed and looked down at her hands as she picked at her fingernails.

‘To some it means God has Spoken. But it also means….my Nana told me it means Daughter of the Sun.’ My jaw dropped.

‘You mean we have…Sun and Moon names? Why didn’t you tell me when you told the story of Sola and Cherika?’

‘Because…well…you know…it’s kinda corny. Isn’t it?’

‘I’m sorry, but we really don’t have much time. We need to know if you are willing to take on the honour of accepting Sola and Cherika into yourselves. I know it seems unbelieveable, but think of it this way. You just need to speak the words we tell you, and if nothing happens, you’ll find yourselves back in the park when the eclipse ends, as if nothing ever happened. Okay?’

‘Sure, why not? I’m pretty sure this is all some kind of dream anyway. Lianna?’ I turn to look at the love of my life. She smiles and my heart flutters against my ribcage.

‘Lets do it.’ She answers, squeezing my fingers slightly.

The two strange women speak in unison, their voices ringing in unison.

‘Repeat after us. Virtutem eclipsim…’

‘Vir..tutem eclipsim..’

‘…patitur animarum de sole et luna…’

‘…pati..tur animar..um.. de sole et luna…’

‘…in corporibus nostris.’

‘…in corporibus nostris.’

The pale skinned woman takes my hands gently and I watch, my eyes wide as the strange pearlescent glow on her skin flows through her hands and slowly covers my body. The faintest hints of pink and blue and purples swirl in the light from the lantern now set on the ground nearby. I glance over to Lianna to see tiny sparkling diamonds breaking out all over her skin at the same time they fade away to nothing on the stranger’s dark skin. Lianna looks so beautiful in that moment that my soul aches to hold her. Gradually I become aware of hints of thoughts and feelings that are not my own. Cherika is gazing lovingly through my eyes at Lianna, but I know it is really Sola she is seeing. I let out a small sigh as the strangers step away, and I reach for Lianna. Our lips meet tentatively, but the strength of our love is amplified by Sola and Cherika and the kiss deepens, drawing a soft moan from us both. We lay down together by the side of the pond mere moments before the ground begins to shake and roll underneath us once more. I cling on to Lianna and close my eyes, willing it to stop quickly.

Moments later the earth is still but I can hear noises. Normal noises. The drone of cars in the distance and the call of birds high in the trees are comforting after the stillness and silence of Eclipsim. I gaze at Lianna, a little afraid to speak. I search my mind for an explanation of what happened and found Cherika. Her presence in my mind is not as pronounced as it was in Eclipsim, but she is still there. It wasn’t a dream. It was all real. Liannas eyes tell me she is going through the same thoughts in her mind. I contemplate saying something about what just happened, but I don’t know where to start so instead I just stroke her hair away from her face and kiss her softly, murmering into her ear.

‘Lets go home.’

Trained to Kill

Saul stood with his back to the derelict kitchen, gazing out the window at the storm raging outside. Serenity stood motionless in the doorway, waiting. She knew he had questions, but he just stood there as the wind hurled the rain against the glass. After what felt like an eternity, Serenity sighed and sat down at the broken table. She massaged her neck, trying hard to mask the tension visible in her body language.

Saul did that to her. She had known him half her life, or thought she had. Right up until she turned eighteen, she’d known Saul as the sexy older guy next door. She knew he drove a Mondeo, she knew he worked for a law firm in London and she knew that he just needed someone to look after him and maybe then he would smile. The thought made her smirk to herself now. Oh, how wrong she had been!

When she’d turned eighteen she had taken full advantage of her freedom to disappear for days on end, turning up when she felt like it, or when she found herself into trouble. The last time she had set foot into her parent’s home had been after she’d been away for a whole week, staying in some random apartment with a bunch of people she barely knew. She crept up to her parent’s house in the early hours of the morning, her eyes barely open as she stumbled up the steps to the front door. She kept her gaze down as she stepped over the threshold and came face to face with the body of her mother, limbs bent into odd angles, blood pooled around her head, laying at the base of the stairs. The next thing she could remember was being in Saul’s study with a paramedic shining a torch into her eyes.

That very night, Saul had told her who he really was. A member of a super-secret organisation created centuries ago by members of the community who wanted to protect their communities from dangerous people. They called themselves The Secure Community Society. Serenity had wanted to laugh at the name, but Saul had looked so serious that the laughter had died in her throat, The SCS would attend neighbourhood watch meetings, walk the streets late at night looking for any instances of trouble, check newspapers for suspicious patterns and…they would take out people who threatened lives in their communities.

Saul had taken Serenity as his protégé and had trained her to be an assassin. The Secure Community Society was a private affair and was definitely not operating under the knowledge of the Crown and Government so it was vital that she learn survival skills alongside her weapons and hand to hand combat training. She had excelled at everything she was trained in, specialising in axe weaponry, coming top of her class and graduating from the Secure Training School a year earlier than usual.

Those 5 years of training had hardened Serenity. She didn’t recognise the girl in her memories. She would never be that person again. The time had now come to take her final test: Kill a murderer, and get away with it. Saul was here because she was stalling. She’d been given 6 months to complete the task. That was deemed more than enough time, even for a first timer. Her deadline was up in just 48 hours.

‘Do you know what will happen to you if you fail to complete the test? Nobody outside of the SCS is allowed to know anything about us.’ Saul’s voice was low and gruff. Serenity could hear the suppressed aggression in it, despite Saul’s efforts to mask it.

‘I am well aware what failure means Saul. They’ll kill me.’ Serenity looked down at the floor as Saul spun to face her.

‘Then what the hell are you doing? You have just 2 days left Sere and you haven’t even submitted a target to HQ. How on earth are you going to satisfy all the criteria necessary for an assassination within 48 bloody hours? How?

‘Within your lifetime you have walked past thirty-six murderers. That’s a lot for someone so young. They have gone on to kill people. Innocent people. You have been trained to save lives, Sere. Think of all those girls out there like you who could one day walk in their front door to find their parents dead. You can prevent that from happening. Can you honestly say that you don’t want to prevent someone else going through what you went through? Well?’ Saul had paced over to stand before Serenity towering over her. She could see the tightness of the muscles in his arms as he fought to control his temper. She was his protégé, his project, and she was letting him down.

Serenity slipped a dagger from her sleeve and in a blink of an eye it was buried in Saul’s chest, puncturing a lung. Serenity finally looked up into his eyes as he staggered backwards, his eyes wide as he looked from her, down to the dagger in his chest, and back to her again.

‘I decided six months ago that my first kill would be the most important, Saul. I would pass my test by killing the person who murdered my parents. I knew I would find them, but I never imagined it would be you. Killing innocent people just to recruit their children into the cause? Why would you do that? It doesn’t matter. HQ approved my target and evidence. You can’t be allowed to destroy any more innocent lives.’

Serenity reached under the table and brought out an axe, which she spun and slammed into Saul’s chest. When his tortured breaths rattled between his lips no more, She threw some petrol around the kitchen and lit a few candles. As she walked away, she fished out her phone and hit speed dial. When the call connected she spoke just two words.

‘Its done.’

Image from http://www.freaksugar.com

We Are Roma

Rheinland, Sinti und Roma mit Wohnwagen auf Landstraße

 

I grew up in the countryside, on the edge of a fairly small town. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with it now that I am grown but, when I was young there was nowhere else I would rather be. I explored every street, footpath and secret shortcut through the woods. I would wander alone through the trees trying to get lost, enjoying the sounds of nature all around me, unspoiled by the mindless rush of humanity.

One day I happened upon a clearing in the woods, a meadow that I swear had never been there before. In my youthful innocence I did not question where I was, I just accepted this meadow’s sudden appearance as perfectly normal. The grass rustled with the gentle breeze as butterflies and bees fluttered and buzzed between the flowers in the autumn sunshine. Right in the centre of the meadow was a big black horse, munching happily on the grass around him. He was tethered to the strangest caravan I had ever seen. My parents had a caravan, it was a huge plastic rectangular looking thing that attached to the car. This caravan was round topped, wooden and horse-drawn. I tiptoed slowly around the edge of the trees, taking in the sight before me. As I got within sight of the open door at the back of the caravan I froze. I could see a silhouette in the doorway and my mother’s words repeated many times drifted to me from my memory.

Keep away from strangers darling, mummy and daddy love you very much and we don’t want anyone to take you from us. You much stay safe.

As I stood, making up my mind whether to stay or flee, the person inside moved through the door. A girl my own age made her way carefully down the steps in a pink frilly dress. I glanced down at my jeans and t-shirt, feeling strangely self-conscious but the girl made no comment, she merely beckoned me over. I approached with caution, watching the doorway to the caravan for more people.

‘Nobody else is in there, it is just me.’ I look back at the girl, noticing her dark brown eyes and skin the colour of milky coffee.

‘Where are your parents? Will they be back soon?’ I was curious about the girl and her funny caravan but I was afraid of being caught by her parents and getting into trouble.

‘They are walking in the woods looking for firewood. We are camping here for the night. They will not be back for a little while. You do not need to be afraid.’

‘I’m not afraid’ I lied ‘It’s just… my parents do not like me to talk to strangers.’

‘Don’t worry, your parents won’t find out unless you tell them. My name is Nuri. What is yours?’

‘I am Dara.’

‘Hi Dara’ She giggled conspiratorially ‘Now we’re friends so you can’t get in trouble.’

I giggled too and relaxed, reaching out to touch her dress.

‘Your dress is so pretty. I don’t have any pretty dresses like that.’ My fingers brushed against the sleeve and onto her arm. As my skin touched hers she stiffened and gasped, her eyed rolling back into her head, causing me to jump back hastily, my eyes widening in alarm.

‘…Nuri?’

‘We are not Nuri, we are Roma.’ The chorus of voices poured forth from Nuri’s mouth, a thousand voices, old and wavering, speaking in unison through the girl stood before me. I stared, rooted to the spot in terror. My heart was racing, hairs stood to attention along my arms and neck.

‘You touched us. Now we see your future stretched before you. We see your life string cut short. We see a flight to a distant land, mountains topped with snow and a wooden cabin burned to the ground. You must not go to the mountains. If you go, you will die.’

As the last eching word faded away, I stumbled backwards, turned and fled. I crashed through the woods, falling over roots and grazing my hands and knees in my haste. It felt like an eternity before I found the familiar road back into town. I ran towards home, tears streaming down my face my legs aching as I pushed to get as far away from the terrifying girl and her thousand voices. I slowed to a walk as I reached my street, hastily rubbing the tear tracks from my face as I reached my back gate. My mother called to me as I closed the gate behind me.

‘Dara? Is that you? I have something to show you.’ I met her in the garden half way between the gate and the house.

‘Hi mum’ I waved casually, trying to ignore the sick feeling of fear that was still settled in the pit of my stomach.

‘Your father and I have a surprise for you. This Christmas we thought it would be fun to teach you to ski. So, we have booked a holiday. We’re going to Switzerland!’ My mum held out a holiday brochure which showed a picture of a wooden cabin high up in the mountains, surrounded by wilderness. The smile on her face faded to concern as I swayed, and then crumpled to the ground in a faint whispering a single word.

‘No…’

Que Sera Sera

In a dark corner of a village pub sat an old man nursing a pint of bitter. He was there every night without fail, just sitting and staring into the depths of his drink. He had been there for so long that the villagers no longer noticed him. It was like he was another oil painting on the wall or broken piece of furniture that everyone avoided. His hair was white and stuck out crazily around his heavily wrinkled face. He had a dark wooden cane which he used for walking; he was never seen without it. His muddy brown eyes darted curiously around his surroundings every now and then, between long periods of silent brooding. Nobody spoke to him and he spoke to nobody. Even the barman didn’t attempt conversation. He just poured the old man a pint and took the money offered silently. I looked around my new local pub, curious as to why such a sad old soul was being left to fester in the corner, ignored by his neighbours.

I’d not been living here long, but I was being welcomed like I belonged in the little village of Adstock. I had been born there, but my family had moved away when I was two so I don’t remember. My parent’s moved back here after I moved out and went to University. I went straight from Uni to teaching in a school about an hour away. I am ashamed to say that I had only ever visited my parents a handful of times in the intervening years. They had somehow always ended up coming to visit me instead. They lived in Spain now. They won some money on the lottery and bought themselves a beautiful place out there with their own pool and a balcony leading off their bedroom with fantastic views. I was now renting their house from them in Adstock. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but after my husband Matt and I filed for divorce there wasn’t much else I could do. It hadn’t been a bad breakup, there was no adultery, no recriminations, not even any arguments. Matt and I just drifted apart and didn’t know how to get back to each other. Once we had decided not to keep trying to repair the damage in our marriage, I’d said a tearful goodbye and moved out fairly quickly. It hurt so much walking away but I couldn’t face seeing him; feeling the chaotic swarm of emotions that engulfed me when I looked at him. Adstock was far enough away that I didn’t have to see anyone I knew, and nobody here really knew me.

After a few weeks, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked the barman about the man sitting in the corner. I couldn’t bear the desolate look in his eyes or the way he clung to his pint like it was some kind of lifeline. I needed to know what had happened to this poor man that he seemed to have nothing to live for. Of course I had tried talking to him first; his eyes had met mine for a few seconds before he went back to staring at nothing and ignoring everything around him. The barman took his time answering me, he frown slightly in thought and wiped down the bar absent-mindedly.

“John Walters was a scientist. He’s got some fancy letters to go after his name but he refuses to use them. He abandoned his research and went to work on a farm just outside Adstock years ago. I can only tell you the urban myth about him. I can’t tell you how much is true, or how much is exaggerated gossip, here-say, or just plain made up.” He stopped for a moment to serve someone at the other end of the bar and then came back over to me to lean against the pumps.

“When John was in his late 20’s, he was one of the most brilliant minds in the world. He might be now if he permitted himself to use it. He was given an apprenticeship with this mysterious scientific research laboratory. Nobody can remember what it was called exactly, but everyone agrees it had an obscure name like The Lab, The Science Lab, Lab of Learning or something like that. John was obsessed with time travel and rumour has it that he succeeded. At the time, John was in a relationship with a girl called Maria. Maria was beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring, gentle, cheeky, charming; everything a man could possibly want in a woman.

“Like I am sure any man would if they had the ability, John wanted to know what his life would be like in a few years time and whether he would still be with Maria. He tested his time machine on himself and went forward in time by five years. What he found broke his heart. He had married Maria and had twin girls, but she had passed away. He didn’t know how, but he had arrived in the future on the day of her funeral. He watched her mother and sister blame his future self for her death. They shouted and sobbed that it was all his fault and she would still be alive if it wasn’t for him. Understandably, John was horrified at the desolation he glimpsed on his future face. The idea that he had killed the love of his life was a terrifying one. One he didn’t think he could ever live with. He came back to his own time with an aching heart, unable to shake the misery he had seen in the future. He destroyed his machine, quit his dream job at the lab and pushed Maria away. He was afraid to get too close to her, afraid his love for her would ultimately kill her.” The Barman, Mike, broke off his story and looked up at a burst of laughter coming from across the room. It jarred, so removed from the emotion of the story I was being told, and I winced slightly at the sound. The ladies of Adstock had a book club, which was really just an excuse to have a drink and a gossip, and by all accounts were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Mike glanced up the bar to make sure nobody was waiting to be served, and when back to his story.

“The first few months were the most difficult for him. Everyone thought he was crazy for breaking up with Maria, especially because he couldn’t give her a real reason. She could tell he still loved her and tried to win him back but he was adamant that it was for the best this way. In the end she gave up trying but she never got over him and despite dating a few guys she met, nothing ever lasted. John moved away because he couldn’t bear to be near her. Three years later she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was inoperable and the doctors told her she only had a year to live. As determined as she was, she survived for almost two years. Maria’s funeral was held on that very same day John thought he had avoided. Maria was still dead, and her mother and sister still blamed him, saying that she hadn’t really lived after he left her, that she would have been more willing to see a doctor if she had been happy and if she had been seen earlier they could have operated. John was devastated. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He had avoided everyone who had even the smallest link to Maria so he hadn’t known she was dying. He didn’t know anything until he had received the dreadful phone call.

“He knew now that he had made a terrible mistake. Not only had he lost the love of his life, but he had removed 5 years worth of memories of her from his life. Worse, he had never had the opportunity to tell her exactly how much she had always meant to him. He should have married her. He should have had children with her. Suddenly he pined desperately for the twin daughters he would never know. Five years before, when he had seen himself alone with two little girls, he had been afraid. He didn’t know how to raise children alone. He never imagined he would be able to do it, let alone long to do it. He never got over the loss of his family and the realisation that he only had himself to blame for the isolation he found himself drowning in.

“He has been working on the Farm outside Adstock ever since, and lives in a tiny cottage on the farmer’s land. He comes here every night to drown his sorrows. He speaks to nobody, and believe me, many many people have tried. All newcomers to Adstock try. You are welcome to, but I don’t suppose it will do much good. You are better off just leaving him to his thoughts.”

The barman fell silent. I was staring at my glass thoughtfully, pondering all I had heard. I felt for the old man sitting in the corner, but the barman was right. There was nothing I could do for him. He was just waiting to die so he could be with his love. In my opinion, Mother Nature was being rather cruel in making him wait such a terribly long time. It also got me thinking about my own situation. I had often thought in the last couple of weeks that I would have been better if I had never met Matt. I had moved away so that I was away from everything that would remind me of him. After hearing John’s story, I couldn’t help but think back over the years I had spent with him. All the times he made me laugh, the times he held me as I cried, all those incredibly tender moments we had shared since we had first met. The thought of not having those memories cut me to the bone. There is no way I could ever give them up. Not for anything in the world. I could feel the tears start to form and my bottom lip trembled. I hastily drained my glass, thanked the barman and left. I kept my head down so that passers by wouldn’t notice the tears as they began to fall. I hurried home and picked up the phone. I hesitated for just a second, took a couple of deep calming breaths, then dialled in the phone number for my old home.

“Matt? It’s Beth. Can….can I come and see you?”

Nameless – A Short Story

I wrote this in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge. Click here to see the challenge details.

Image

Nameless

I would introduce myself but I don’t know my own name. They say I was hit over the head and mugged. I had no wallet or phone when I was found. They say I should thank my lucky stars that I am alive; that I woke up from the coma. How do I know that’s a good thing? I can’t remember anything about my life. I have a wedding ring on, so I guess someone should be looking for me. But then I might be separated or divorced and in denial. Or maybe I’m a spy for some government agency and I have amnesia and someone is coming to kill me, like that film with Liam Neeson. What’s it called….? Dammit. Why can I remember his name and not the name of the film? Why can I remember his name but not my bloody own? I know who the prime minister is too. That’s a good thing apparently. It means I haven’t lost years of memory, just memories of certain things. Like myself. I mean honestly, who forgets themselves?

Still, it’s not all bad news; the doctor says this type of amnesia is often temporary. I should get most of it back, except maybe the actual accident. I’m happy with that. I’m not particularly keen to remember being knocked about and robbed.  The doctor said that if I could remember something to trigger my memories like, I don’t know, my name; it’s likely I would start remembering things pretty quickly. I have been warned that it might be distressing, having all those memories all at once. I guess I won’t know till it happens, but it can’t be worse than this. I have tried and tried to remember something, anything, about my life and my past but I just can’t. I am nobody: no age,  no family, no friends, no home address, no job, nothing. All those unknown things, all outside of my reach because I don’t know what my name is. I’ll never underestimate my name again. I will cherish it and wear it with pride, even if my name happens to be something silly, like Ivor Biggen or Reginald Rumplebottom. It’s better than having no name at all. It’s like I don’t exist, like I am a ghost, observing the world but not being able to live in it because I don’t know my place.

The doctor says someone is coming to see me shortly. He didn’t say who, but said he was hoping they would be able to help me find my name in this mushed up brain of mine. It’s probably a psychiatrist or hypnotherapist or something. Maybe they will dig my name out of my unconscious and give it back to me. Maybe it will be written on a shiny plaque. That might be nice. Oh, they are here. It’s a woman. A rather attractive woman if I may say so myself. I like her already. Wait, that perfume. I recognise that smell. My wife wears that….. Julie.

“Julie? Is that you?”

I start to cry as I regain precious memories of my life with Julie. The day we met, our first kiss, my proposal, our wedding, the birth of our first child… I’m a daddy! To some, two, I think, my name is Daddy. It’s too much, far too much to take in one go. Leave me be for a while. Please. I need some time to….process.

 

*     *    *

 

My name is Graham Henderson. This is my wife Julie. I got my memories back when she came to see me in hospital eight days ago. My birthday is August 23rd, 1980. I am thirty-three years old, and I am a mechanical engineer. My wife and I have been married for six years and have a four year old son and two one year old twin daughters. Their names are James, Lily and Rose. I can’t wait to see them. I remember them now, but the memories are hazy. I want to see them. I want to be sure that they are real. I want to be sure that I am who I think I am. The doctors are happy with my progress. My stitches are healing nicely and my bruises have faded to a pale yellow. I should be going home this weekend. The first thing I am going to do is sew my name into every single item of clothing I own. I never want to go through that again. When I caught the scent of Julie’s perfume (one I first bought for her) it was overwhelming. At first it was just a name. Julie. Then I was assailed with memories all at once of everything, relating to Julie. After that, my regained memories triggered more and more. Just like that, within two days, I knew who I was. I couldn’t speak at first, it was just too much. I am man enough to admit I cried like a baby, quite a bit. It was frightening, and upsetting. I relived the loss of my father, my older brother, and our first baby when my wife miscarried at four months. That’s a lot of grief in a very shortspace of time. It wasn’t all bad though. I found I have a younger brother, and he has a wife who is expecting. That news seems somehow even more exciting the second time around. I also have a baby sister who has just been accepted to her first choice university.

My name is Graham Henderson which means I am also a husband, daddy, uncle, colleague and friend. You may think a name is just a name. It’s not. Your name contains your entire life within it. Your name is not just what you are called, it is who you are.

Themes

I have just completed module 1 of my creative writing course. Essentially, module 1 is all about…well…writing. The importance of writing regularly, how to go out and be inspired, and how to draw on your own experiences for ideas and themes for your stories. One of the exercises was to write a timeline of my life, with significant events marked out on it and identify recurring themes within those events. This could be anything. Births, deaths, breakups, moving to a new place, travelling etc.

At the end of the module there are a few self assessment tasks to make sure you have taken in what you have been taught so far. One of those tasks is to pick a theme from your timeline and write the opening scene of a story, a poem, or an essay supporting this theme.

I chose death and loss as my theme. (Cheerful, I know, but I wanted to pick something challenging.) this is what I wrote. Please leave comments below with what think of it, and what themes you can think of that would feature in your timeline.

I ran across the hospital car park towards the entrance to A&E with my heart in my throat. The fear and panic was bubbling up inside me and escaping in small terrified whimpers. The ambulance containing my father had already pulled up outside the doors as I scrambled out of my friend Gary’s fiesta. By the time I reach the ambulance, my dad has been whisked away through the doors. Gary catches up with me at the reception desk inside. I am a mess; tears are streaming down my face, my long wavy brown hair has been blown into knots by the wind and I am wearing Gary’s huge hooded jumper over my t-shirt and jeans. “My dad was just brought in by ambulance. His name is Andrew Parker. Can I see him?” The last on reception checks her computer and for my father and pauses, before looking up at me kindly. “The paramedics and doctors are with him at the moment. If you would like to go and sit in the family room, someone will be along as soon as they can to talk to you about your dad.” “Family room…” I mumble to myself as my head starts to spin. The family can’t mean good news. They don’t separate you from the rest of the waiting room to hear good news. I pay no more attention to the woman on reception, leaving Gary to answer any questions and find out where the family room is. He leads me off through a door to the left of the main waiting area. I walk into a plain white rectangular room with the door in the wall at one narrow end, and a plain frosted glass window opposite. It smells strongly of disinfectant in a way only a hospital can. Plastic chairs like I remember from school are lined up along the two longer walls. In the far corner there is a small square table. On it sits a pale blue plastic vase full of silk flowers in blue and white. There are a couple of watercolours on the wall, tranquil scenes of a meadow and the sea. I pay little attention to them and sit on the chair furthest from the door, staring silently at the floor between my feet. Gary sits next to me and takes my hand. It’s comfortingly warm and I look up to flash him a brief attempt at a half smile before resting my head on his shoulder and staring at the floor once more. As I sit waiting, my thoughts turn to my mum.

My mum passed away when I was 5. My parents told me that Mummy was sick and she would have to go away because she wasn’t getting better. When my mum went into hospital I didn’t understand that I would never see her again. I remember feeling confused that she was crying because she had to go to hospital. Hospitals make people better. That is what she told me the year before when I had fallen and my parents had thought I had broken my wrist. On the day of my mum’s funeral I went to my schoolfriend’s house. I remember it was a warm sunny day in early June and Katie’s parents took us to the park. We played on the swings and had a picnic on a big tartan blanket. When I was dropped off home, it was full of my aunts and uncles and lots of strangers my dad told me were mum’s friends. Everyone was sad, my dad was crying and I didn’t understand why. He told me that mum had gone away and that that was a goodbye party. I cried, then, too but I still thought mum would come back. As time passed my dad refused to talk about her. I don’t really know how I came to realise the truth of what had happened to my mum. I just know that when I was 10 a girl joined my class at school and started taunting me, saying things like “you dad picks you up from school late every day because your mum is so fat her belly wobbles like jelly when she walks.” When I could ignore the jibes no longer I glared at her, looked straight into her eyes and told her “My mum is dead.” It was the first time I had ever said it out loud.

20 years after my mum dies, here I sit in a hospital, waiting for a doctor to walk through the door and tell me whether or not my dad is okay. It’s a strange feeling; you are impatient for news because not knowing what is going on is torture. Your mind running through all kinds of possibilities and ‘what if’s. At the same time you dread the moment that doctor walks through the door in case they are there to confirm your greatest fear. I don’t even realise I am crying again until Gary puts his arms around me and pulls me close murmuring “You’ll get through this Becca. I’ll help you through this no matter what.” I turn my face into his chest and sob into his navy blue jacket. He smells comfortingly of Armani Code; my Christmas present to him. After a few minutes my tears slow again and I pull slightly away to settle my head back on his shoulder after wiping my tears away with my sleeve. He leans his head against mine and we stay that way for what feels like hours, but is probably only about 25 minutes, when the door opens and a doctor walks in. He is about 6 foot talk with black hair, going grey at the temples. “Miss Parker?” He enquires. “That’s m-me” I stutter, my voice trembling with fear. I try to stand but my legs feel weak and I fall back onto my chair. Gary stops me from attempting again and, removing his arm from around me, takes my hand again. I look up at the doctor and take a deep breath in, holding it in as I wait for him to continue. “Miss Parker, I am Dr Collins. I’m afraid your father suffered a severe myocardial infarction. A heart attack. We did everything we could but the damage to his heart was too great. I’m afraid he didn’t make it. I am very sorry for your loss.” I stared blankly into the doctor’s face, unable to comprehend. My dad, the only real family I had left, was gone. “If you would like to see him I can take you to him.” I barely registered Gary whispering “I’m so sorry Becca” as my whole world fell to pieces around me. I felt like a hole had been punched through my chest. It ached painfully. Fresh reared courses down my cheeks. I couldn’t breathe. As my mind floundered, trying to come to terms with what I had just heard, I started hyperventilating. I tried to stand once again and instantly felt dizzy and disorientated. The last thing I remember before the world went dark is the feel of Gary’s arms as he reached out to catch me.