I've been thinking about fantasy stories and how so many of them seem (to me) formulated, typical, boring.
[Story begins in a village where some incompetent kid (who is going to shape up and become the hero) meets with a wizard figure (Merlin) who tells him: YOU ARE THE ONE! Hero goes of with a band of mates and finds the sword/ring/crystal/dragon/or whatever, which helps him save the world. He learns to BE A MAN.
He defeats the bad guy, wins the girl and loses his virginity along the way.] - It's a formula.
Without that 'formula' (usually based loosely on Tolkien's works) - would it still even be Fantasy?
I'm challenging myself to write something that would be easily recognisable as 'fantasy' - but written (hopefully) with some original input.
I know it's already been done (King, China Mieville, others ) and I can't compete with the 'real' writers, but I can have fun
Maybe even entertain some bored browser, who knows?
I'm aiming this at young adults - but I'd appreciate mature reader's comments also - maybe about style?
This first part is about introducing the characters.
Anyway, here goes
Title? (Maybe that comes later - if there is a later)
Since we got back, we've told our story to detectives, scientists, journalists, psychiatrists and mathematicians.
If they think we're lying, they've keeping it to themselves.
My name's Joel Burrows. On the morning of 1st April 1999, along with my acoustic guitar, a transit van and four strangers, I somehow 'jumped' from this time/existence/world into another; one that runs parallel with our own and with billions of others, each separated by what?
A thin membrane of rational thought? Death? Time? Who knows? All I can tell you is that we crashed through the skin of our world into another seven years ago.
And I just got back.
I've been asked to write down everything as I remember it.
I'll do my best.
Part One - The Woman in the Green Waxed-Jacket
That morning I was hitching along the 303, westbound, in the South of England.
Before I tell you about the transit van (which would involuntarily become a cosmic shuttle twenty odd miles up the road), I need to tell you about a woman wearing a green waxed-jacket and driving a Land Rover with a "Buy British" sticker on the windscreen.
When she leant across to unwind the passenger window, looking up at me with sharp eyes, I thought 'Oh ****, it's Margaret Thatcher.'
But of course, it wasn't.
So I got in.
We didn't last long.
Classic FM with its f adverts running like crass, arty garbage between abridged symphonies I could just about stomach
The lemony air-freshener hanging from her mirror was bearable
But when she started telling me how I could turn my life around if I really wanted to stop being a loser, our paths, which had crossed for all of twenty minutes, veered abruptly apart again, like two jets near-missing in a blue sky.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you how dangerous it is to hitchhike?" She was saying, digging hard for any snip of information.
"Can you stop at the next lay-by?" I said; knowing things could only deteriorate from here.
I watched her eyes flick briefly my way in the mirror.
"It's at least twenty miles to Stonehenge," she pointed out. "You should really think about what I've said. You're not a stupid young man - I can tell. You could study, go to university, get some real qualifications for a good job "
"Up here will do." I said, as we flashed by a welcome sign: Parking 1/4 Mile.
She kept her foot down and her mouth clamped shut. There weren't any dogs in the vehicle that day but the familiar animal smell could not be suppressed by the chemical stink of the air-freshener. I felt my stomach flinch.
The next sign, looming on the brow of a hill, seemed to shout at me:
"You'd better stop ." I said, suddenly sure that I was going to throw up.
"Is there anything I can do?" There was a measure of concern in her voice, but behind the question lurked something less pleasant. I suddenly felt like I was in the company of a mad woman.
"Just pull over, please."
She hesitated; then pulled into the lay-by at the last second, like a racing driver veering into the pits on a sudden impulse; barely missing a white transit van parked at the curb.
Then she was breaking, hard enough to throw me into the dashboard. I stuck out a hand to protect my guitar, zipped tight in its leather case.
If anyone had been standing on the driver's side of the trannie, they would have been pasted.
The woman sitting beside me didn't seem to notice. She didn't stop the engine, but yanked on the handbrake and turned to look at me. Despite her greying hair, there had been an amazing brute strength in the way she'd handled the vehicle. I also saw that there was egg or some kind of dried yellow stuff on her chin.
Along with her educated, Surrey accent, her voice was sour, like cheap wine.
"You're going to get lost out there without focus, young man if I know anything about you "
I tuned her out as I opened my door.
"Thanks a lot," I said, grabbing my guitar and stepping down onto solid tarmac. I didn't know where we were and I didn't care. While I turned away, towards some trees, the Land Rover remained, ticking over, as if she really thought I was going to change my mind and go back.
When I didn't, she took off without another word.
I turned and watched the Land Rover until it was out of sight, chugging a trail of greasy fumes and picking up speed as it faded into the distance then disappeared.
I felt determined to shake off the strange mood the encounter had left me in, but that was all. I meet a lot of different people on the road and one more with deep-rooted unhappiness didn't seem especially sinister until later (and much further) on.
I had no idea that I was already in trouble. Why should I? At that point in my life, I thought a woman in a waxed-jacket driving a Land Rover with a 'Buy British' sticker on it - was a woman in a waxed-jacket driving a Land Rover with a 'Buy British' sticker on it.
How stupid of me.
A bloke wearing an Oasis t-shirt under a Khaki jacket was walking towards me, out of the trees, zipping up his fly. He'd been watching the Land Rover as well, but suddenly looked at me.
"Alright, mate?" He said. "Watch out for the stingers."
"You going by the stones?" I asked him.
"Yeah. You want a ride?"
"I could use one."
He eyed my guitar case.
"Okay. We'll wait for you."
I didn't want to explain my real reason for leaving the Land Rover was to get away from the woman driving it. The bloke would probably think I was a f . wimp. I was feeling that myself a bit, now that she was gone - so I went into the trees and pissed in the bushes like he expected me to and strangely, I felt better for it.
The white trannie was still there when I got back. The Oasis fan was waiting by the bonnet with a woman beside him. She was hugely pregnant, her stomach, like a hard brown egg, protruding beneath a short top with BABY stamped across it. An old jacket was thrown carelessly around her shoulders. There was a ring in her bellybutton that couldn't fail to draw the eyes.
"Don't worry," she grinned, "I'm not due for a month."
The Oasis fan put his arm around her, "This is Tania "
He leant forward, " and I'm Sam."
We shook hands.
"Joel." I said. "Thanks for waiting."
"No probs." He walked around the van to the back doors which were thrown open, "You'll have to ride in the back with these two "
He put a hand on the shoulder of a lad who was standing there, eating peanut butter out the jar, with a plastic spoon.
"This sponge-head is Ian, my little brother."
Ian rolled his eyes and took the spoon out of his mouth, "Alright?" He asked.
I nodded and smiled.
Sam flicked his hand towards a figure lying on the floor of the van, "And that's Chris."
"Who drank too much last night," Tania said, laughing.
"Stow it, Tan." A bleary voice came back, "I feel like I died and went to hell."
"Man, that's a song." Sam said.
He started to sing, with a surprisingly mellow voice, "Baaababy, I feel like I dieeeeeed and went to hell oh, woe woe .."
"Christ, Sam can you stick a cork in it?" Chris moaned, as he began to pull himself up like a whale surfacing from the deep. He was a big bloke, a heavyweight.
He eventually managed to drag himself out of the van, (which rocked on its wheels as he jumped down) keeping one hand pressed to the top of his skull, like he felt his brain needed support.
We watched him stagger stiffly towards the trees.
"Where you heading?" I asked Sam, for something to say.
"Down to Cornwall St just." He said. "I played pool there once and got whipped got hammered, too." He laughed and pulled Tania in close.
"Can we get some fish'n'chips later?" Ian asked, screwing the lid back on the peanut butter.
"Sure we can." Tania said, turning to the front of the van, "It's nippy, I'm getting in."
"Here, give us your guitar," Sam said, climbing into the back of the van. I handed it to him and he carried it forward and secured it behind the seats, stopping to kiss the back of Tania's neck (which made her scream) before climbing back out again.
Chris arrived back from the trees, looking slightly less ill.
"We off again?" He asked.
"Yeah, get in." Sam said.
We all climbed up and Sam closed the doors on us. Tania twisted round in her seat, "Comfy boys?" She giggled.
I leant back against some camping gear and told her it was just fine.
Sam was a good driver, confident, but sensible. Tania talked to him continuously, pointing out things she liked the look of; horses in fields, farmhouses, churches; anything else she could spot.
"Jeezus, look at that! It's a f mansion. Who d'ya think lives there? Oh, wow. Did you see those gardens?"
Sam took it all in his stride. "It's going to brighten up later." He said, cruising along.
In the back, Ian and I sat facing Chris, who was rummaging in a rucksack for something. He pulled out some tape cassettes and shuffled through them, found one he wanted and crawled over to give it to Tania, "Stick that on Tan, will ya?"
She looked at it and grinned, "You bet. I love the Prodigy."
Half an hour later we were singing along together .
The Voodoo who do what you don't dare do people
The Voodoo who do what you don't dare do people
Sometimes, I just feel comfortable with people. I sit in on something and instead of feeling like a tramp at an elitist party, I just fit right in. It was as if I'd known these people all my life. And in a way, I had .because they were my people. The type I'd grown up around.
"We're coming to the stones." Sam said.
Tania turned the music down and we all gathered at the front of the trannie for a first sighting. The sky was indeed brightening and as we raced along the sun slipped free of the clouds and I felt a moment of sheer awe at the sight of Stonehenge.
That's when it happened, while Sam, like the rest of us, was gazing out across the fields.
"Look out!" Tania screamed.
I glanced between her and Sam and what I saw at first confused me, then slammed fear into me; way, way down in my guts.
There was a Land Rover parked across the road in front of us. Inside it sat the woman in the waxed-jacket. I saw her face in profile for just a second. She was sitting bolt upright, staring calmly through the windscreen towards the stones.
Tania screamed as Sam yanked the steering-wheel hard right, barely clipping the Land Rover's bumper as we shot by.
Then suddenly we were in the air, tearing the top off a fence and slamming down into a field.
A line of tall beech trees swept out of a low mist towards us and we shot crazily towards them as if determined to hit something. Sam reached an arm across Tania, as the nearest tree rushed at us and smashed itself into the windscreen, showering the interior with glass. Chris thumped into the back of Tania's seat and I ended up under Ian, who whacked me a good one in the eye with his elbow.
There was a sound of splashing liquid, but no strong smell of petrol. For a several seconds no one moved. Our brains needed time to process what had happened. Then Sam was out of his seatbelt and checking on Tania, with blood running down his face from a deep cut on his forehead.
Incredibly, Tania was laughing. Sam put his arms around her and looked at us in the back, "Anyone hurt?" He asked, "Ian?"
Ian pulled himself up, "Oh ****, man we've trashed dad's f .. van "
For reasons of immaturity, this statement got us all laughing.
Everyone was nursing cuts and bruises - some we wouldn't even notice until later. My right eye was swelling shut and I felt like someone had beaten on me with a hammer - but I was alive. We were all alive.
The formula goes back WAY further than Tolkien -- Gilgamesh is one of the first examples of it, I think. It's an ancient archetype, that Tolkien made use of but certainly didn't invent.
Thu 8 Jun, 2006 09:35 am
Thu 8 Jun, 2006 09:36 am
Sorry not to comment on your writing, it's long, here for a minute now but would like to get to it later...
Mon 12 Jun, 2006 06:34 am
Sam and Tania needed to visit the local hospital. Tania kept reassuring us that she was alright and that apart from a bruised knee and aching back, she was in no pain at all - that the baby was not going to make a sudden entrance and that it was still kicking inside her. We breathed a united sigh of relief; having had enough drama for one day.
Still, she wanted to be checked out by a doctor to make sure the baby was fine and everyone agreed with her.
Sam definitely needed stitches above his eyebrow. He stood holding a clean t-shirt to the wound and already the pale blue material was soggy with blood.
"Sit down a minute," Tania said, forcing him to do so, on the edge of the van, inside the back doors. She buttoned up her jacket, watching him with worried eyes.
"God, Sam what's your Dad gona say?"
When he could offer no suggestions, Ian spoke up.
"He'll be alright, once he knows it wasn't our fault." He turned and looking back up the slope we'd plummeted down and I saw again, the Land Rover parked across the road, and remembered Tania's scream
"Listen." Ian said.
We did, but all I could hear were the rooks in the trees.
"Can't hear anything " Chris said, but Ian was already walking away.
We all watched him take about five steps before he broke into a run for the slope. I went after him, because even though I wasn't sure what had happened, I think I already knew, perhaps we all did deep down, that something was very wrong.
When Ian and I got to the top of the ridge we stood there momentarily confused. He grabbed hold of my arm as if to stop him self from keeling over. Believe me, I understood exactly how he felt.
It didn't really work to try to tell myself that we must have shot from the road a lot further than it had seemed. Or that I was wasn't seeing things properly because my right eye was swollen up from the blow I'd received during the crash.
We stood on the top of the ridge and looked across grassland to the hills beyond.
"What ..?" Ian said, but it was the only word he could get out.
The road was not there.
The road signs, the fence we'd crashed through, all evidence of human inhabitancy - all were gone.
We were staring at a blanket of yellow and white flowers. There was no sign of the Land Rover - or the woman in the green waxed-jacket. No sign of the 303 we'd been travelling on minutes ago.
As if conducted by some telepathic hand, we both turned and looked back, passed the transit van and beyond the small woods which had been blocking our view of the Stonehenge site.
I don't know what I was expecting to see- maybe a complete circle of stones standing white in the sun and surrounded by druids - but it did also occur to me that I might see nothing out there, only a wide stretch of grass below a blue sky. That Stonehenge, like the road, would be gone.
Before I describe the scene, let me be straight with you.
I'm sure by now you're thinking, 'What a nut.'
If it helps at all, I was thinking along the same lines myself, as I stood there with Ian beside me making gagging noises. That I must have lost my mind and any time now I was going to wake up in a hospital with a pretty nurse leaning over me and a really bad f headache.
They'd tell me that I'd been in a road accident and sustained a head injury that had knocked me out for several days - that I had been moaning in my sleep, all sorts of weird **** about a mad woman in a green waxed-jacket and disappearing roads.
Disappearing ancient stones, too. Because it wasn't there any longer; Stonehenge.
In fact, there was nothing circular about the scene be looked across to from the top of the ridge.
Beside me, Ian sat down heavily, like someone had kicked his legs out from under him.
"I don't understand " he said.
We looked out over marshland and meadow, hazy under the bright sun.
In place of the stones stood a tall, narrow castle, with flat walls and outer towers no higher than its thatched roof. I'd done enough history at school to know that buildings of this fashion pre-dated gunpowder, which had introduced the cannon and led to the building of round walled castles (better for deflecting canon-balls).
All this I though, just before a terrible realisation hit me.
I could smell a faint stench on the breeze. I wasn't dreaming any of it. This was for real.
I was standing where there should be a road but wasn't, looking at a castle rising solidly where Stonehenge should of been.
Below us, Chris had left the van. He was coming up the slope, looking apprehensive. He must already have seen the expressions on our faces because he kept looking back over his shoulder in the direction we were staring. As soon as he was high enough that he could see beyond the trees, he stopped and stared with us.
There was nothing grand or inviting about the tiny castle, with its flat front and narrow slit windows. It stood inside a squared-off piece of land, flanked by outbuildings and a straight stone wall.
Thin smoke rose from the chimneys and large black birds circled overhead.
I left Ian sitting at the top of the slope and went down on shaking legs to where Chris stood.
"You'd better go on up and take a look at where the road should be." I mumbled, as I went by him.
He didn't answer, he only looked at me with scared eyes.
So I went on down to break the news to Sam and Tania.
Thu 15 Jun, 2006 04:55 am
I'd been waiting for one of them to ask about the woman in the green waxed-jacket ever since Ian mentioned the accident was not of our making. I expected it to be Sam - after all, he'd seen me getting out of the Land Rover back at the lay-by - and I wasn't wrong.
"So what about the Land Rover?" He said suddenly, almost desperately, as we stood gathered by the van.
Although we'd each been up to the top of the slope and back, there was a definite reluctance to venture far from the trannie, which had not disappeared mysteriously, tried to kill us, or transformed itself into a three headed giraffe.
It stood with its doors open, like a metal sanctuary from the crazy happenings outside and around us.
Sam looked at me, taking the bloody rag from his brow. The wound was wide and ugly, but it had stopped bleeding. I didn't know a person's face could be so pale and they still be living.
"Who was she?" He asked.
"I don't know. She picked me up off the M3 and was taking me as far as Andover, but I her got her to drop me off early she was kinda creeping me out."
"What did you say to her?"
"Nothing to piss her off - if that's what you're thinking."
"Sometimes it doesn't take much." Tania said, "If the person you're saying it to is nuts."
She looked a little better now. For a while I'd been seriously worried that she wasn't going to deal with what had happened. For a good twenty minutes she'd sat with Sam's arms around her, shouting at us, "This isn't happening. This isn't right. Someone's playing a trick on me and I don't like .it!"
Later she'd laughed, "Are we dead? That's it, isn't it? We all died in the crash and this is the after-world except the ******* van shouldn't be here should it? Sam? Are we dead?"
We each coped with the shock as best we could. I saw Sam hug Ian, pressing his young brother's head to his shoulder for a moment and looking out towards the sky with frightened eyes.
I watched him slap Chris on the back, saying, "Hey, we're gona get through his, man."
But Chris hardly flinched.
Now, as we stood around, I felt the fear building up again.
"There's not much I can tell you about her," I said, trying to remember.
"She looked a bit like Margaret Thatcher "
Chris sniggered, "Great. That's really great, Joel."
"Look she dropped me off, I hitched a ride with you that's all I know."
They stared at me, then turned and looked at each other. I could read what was going on in their minds. How could they trust me? I'd shown up with the woman in the green waxed-jacket, hadn't I? The same woman that had forced them off the road into this . this mess.
It dawned on me that we were all angry. I'm not saying we weren't scared, because man, we were ****-less - but we were angry too, at being shoved off our route and forced into something so surreal that our brains were constantly trying to find the thing we had missed, the solution to all this, the explanation. The anger built up inside the fear, smouldering and palatable.
Chris was staring at me like he'd quite enjoy turning off all my lights, and the way I was feeling I might just hurt him some before he beat me senseless. Our eyes kept locking together, his aggressive, mine defensive, as if drawn by magnets.
"If I find out you had anything to do with this, hitcher, I'll flatten you," he growled at me.
I had nothing to say to that, so Sam spoke up, "Look. I don't know what kind of crazy **** this is we're in. I just want to get things back like they were. Agreed?"
"Sure, Sam." Tania said.
"If we're going to get through this, whatever this is .we have to stick together, right? Right, Chris?"
"I don't understand what's happened but I know one thing this isn't Salisbury Plain anymore - just like that isn't Stonehenge and those fields up there aren't the 303, but "
He raised a finger, "Like the trannie, we are still the same. We haven't changed. Okay? Everyone's going to stick together - got it?"
Ian nodded and put a hand on Tania's shoulder.
Chris and I backed off each other. Tania took the bloody rag from Sam's hand and pressed it to his eye-brow, which was starting to bleed again, "Sam what are we going to do?"
"I don't know go for help I suppose."
"Down there?" She looked horrified.
"Well what else can we do?"
"We could take Dad's binoculars and get a closer look." Ian said.
"Sounds about right." I agreed.
Sam suddenly stumbled back, hit the van and fell into the grass. For a frightening moment I though he'd been hit by a bullet or an arrow, but he was all right, just weak and feeling faint. He'd lost a lot of blood and looked paler than ever. We helped him into the van and all climbed inside.
"You need stitches." Tania said. "I've got a needle and thread "
"Thread won't hold it," I told her. "But nylon will."
I ended up stitching Sam's wound with a thin nylon guitar string. It worked too. He'd forever look like a welterweight boxer, with the ugly scar it was going to leave, but at least he wouldn't bleed to death.
I'd done a bit of first-aid when I was a kid in the Cadets, but pushing that needle through raw flesh was possibly the most horrible thing I've ever had to do. Sam didn't scream or anything (if he had, I wouldn't have been able to do it) but he held Tania's hand in a vice-like grip and kicked his feet against the floor of the van as the sweat rolled off him.
Afterwards, we decided to try and move the van further into the trees. Tania sat behind the wheel and steered, while Chris, Ian and I pushed.
The van rolled fairly easily, but we had to negotiate our way between the trees and that proved to be a little harder. Still, we parked it far enough in from the tree line to be hidden if properly camouflaged.
Sam had taken charge of the group quite naturally and wanted to go and look at the castle. "Two of us should go," he said.
"You need to rest." Tania insisted.
"I'll go." I said.
I volunteered, not out of any eagerness to prove myself, but because I didn't want Ian going. I don't know why he was only about five years younger than the rest of us, but I'd seen how effected he'd been by the shock of finding himself in a completely different existence to the one he'd taken for granted for the last nineteen or so years.
"Me and Chris can go."
I glanced at Chris to see if he was up for it.
"Sure." He said.
"No. It was my idea."
Ian picked up the binoculars, " and I'm going."
I watched Sam thinking about this. He looked at me. Could he trust me? If he sent his brother off with me, was he sending him off with the enemy?
"Look," Ian said, "we've got the small axe in with the camping gear. Chris would do good staying here and camouflaging the van he's got the muscles for it "
He grinned at Chris, who grinned back.
Sam closed his eyes and sighed, he seemed exhausted. "Okay, you're right but for God's sake, be careful. Don't get too close. Get up behind something and stay there. They may have lookouts in those towers, so when you're in the open, get down and crawl through the grass. Keep your heads down."
"Alright, Dad anything else?"
"Yes. This isn't a game, Ian. This whatever it is, it's for real. If you f .. up, you may be dead, d'you understand?"
"Yes. Of course I understand. We can't just sit here though It's okay. Get some rest."
"Don't worry." I told Sam, although I was doing enough of that myself as I followed Ian out of the van.
It was Tania. She let Ian help her down then hugged him fiercely so that he had to shuffle his feet back to accommodate the baby she carried in her belly. "Don't let anything happen to you, Ian please."
"Don't worry. We'll be back before you know it."
She let him go and looked at me.
"Don't let anything happen to him."
"I'll do my best."
"Thanks. We'll probably get down there and find a television crew "
She didn't believe it anymore than I did, I could see that in the way she didn't smile, so I turned and followed Ian out through the trees.
We stayed close to the tree line, which we followed around until the castle came into view, standing out on the plain.
We judged it to be a good twenty minutes walk away, a bit over a quarter of a mile. To me, it didn't seem far enough. The breeze was blowing across from the castle, straight at us and I could smell that faint stench again. The only thing I'd ever smelt remotely like it was the slaughterhouse in Stickle Lane, back home.
We got down on our knees and elbows, like kids playing war games, and began to crawl through the long grass.
Sun 2 Jul, 2006 09:06 pm
The closer we got to the castle, the more affected we became by whatever radiated from it - and I'm not just talking about the smell.
There was a feeling of being drawn in of being invited forward, as if by the castle itself.
By the time we'd crossed half the distance, the earth had changed, becoming boggier and less pleasant to crawl through; but we kept going, moving up behind some trees, where we crouched nervously.
The quiet was really getting to me. There were the insects, the occasional bird or rustle of leaves . but I couldn't hear anything beyond that. My brain told me I'd gone partially deaf.
No traffic, no planes, no hum of electricity, no distant sound of farm machinery - only nature thriving around us.
Neither of us bothered to try and hide our fear. We were equally as ashen faced. The thought of venturing closer to the castle didn't just frighten us it somehow sickened us too. Yet what choice did we have? We needed answers.
I'd watched a couple of hundred Hollywood heroes do something similar with a jaunty step and a dry one liner. But I wasn't an actor and this wasn't a film.
The castle disclosed little to us, even with the binoculars. There was a high-gate in the castle wall and we could make out a short, raised drawbridge - so presumably there was a narrow moat of some kind - but none of the land around had been cleared, so it was difficult to tell.
Then Ian said exactly what I was feeling, but didn't want to say.
"I can't go any further I can't go out there. I want to go back."
He was crouched down at the bottom of a tree, with his back to the castle. He'd gone from being eager and confident, even impatient - to being completely fazed by shock. His reality had changed in a couple of short minutes.
I stood up and he watched me with wide, watery eyes.
"I can't." He whispered.
"I know, Ian. You don't have to could you get up in this tree? Keep an eye out?"
Something in me wanted him to say no. To refuse. To get up and start running back towards the woods and the others. The way I was feeling, he'd soon be swallowing my dust. I was pumping enough adrenalin to fire a small jet engine.
No one would blame me for turning back with him. Surely?
It was cowardly, I admit cowardly to want him to be the one who forced us back to hide behind his fear, as I knew I would do if we had to explain our return to the others, but I wasn't interested in improving my integrity or honour at that moment.
He stared at me a while, then looked away.
"Alright, I can climb trees "
He handed me the binoculars, "But what will you do?"
We'd both been very close to running, but the chance was suddenly lost to us with Ian's question. I hung the binoculars around my neck.
"Take these and get a closer look I suppose. You'll be hidden up there and we can stake the place out for a while."
"I don't like it."
"We could go back and tell the others "
"Tell them what? Tell them we don't like it? I can imagine what Chris would say to that."
"I'd rather face a ribbing off Chris than go near that place."
"Well that's alright then, isn't it? Because you've already said you're not going."
He gawped at me, unable to respond. I tried to tell myself that I was angry and taking it out on him - but the truth was I was scared and taking it out on him.
Either way, I shouldn't be doing it. He was freaked out enough as it was.
"Ian, I'm Sorry ."
"I can't go out there."
"I know It's alright . Look, it's a castle isn't it?" I said, "Maybe people come and go, who knows? So watch our backs. We don't want any visitors coming up behind us."
He looked back at the woods, then off towards the hills.
"I hadn't thought of that."
I bent and cupped my hands together over my knee.
"No, me neither, until now."
He stepped into my hands and I hoisted him up into the tree. He grabbed a branch and pulled himself the rest of the way and I waited for him to settle in close to the trunk.
"Ian? You gona be okay?"
He twisted around, looking down on me.
"I should be going with you."
"No, I think it's better this way. Whistle if you see anything odd and I'll come back."
I could see the smoke rising from the castle's chimneys and I didn't know if it was a good thing or bad thing. After a moments thought I added, "If anything really terrible happens stay where you are unless you're sure they've already seen you. D'you understand? Don't leave this tree until the coast is clear and when you head back make sure you're not followed."
"Just keep out of sight."
I forced myself to get down in the grass and crawl forward out from the trees. Knowing that Ian was up there watching me was somehow comforting. If he'd had a sniper-rifle and knew how to use it, I would have been happier, but still I did not feel entirely alone.
After I'd crawled for five minutes I came to a patch of marshland and got up behind a thick clump of reeds. When I looked back I could no longer make out Ian's shape in the trees - which was good.
The castle's battlements were empty of guards and no flags were flying. The thin chimney smoke could be from a fire set by tramps for all I knew. There were no sounds of hammering blacksmiths or practising swordsmen and I laughed at myself with relief.
Still, the sense of danger remained and I could no more have stood up and begun walking towards the building than I could have gone back to the transit with nothing at all to tell. It was a stand off.
Up ahead and to my right there was the start of a ditch the might once have been a defensive trench but was now collapsed and overgrown.
I made my way to it carefully, stopping once to look across at the castle. This was as far as I was going. We'd stay until sunset and then head back.
For an hour I watched nothing happen. The sun rose higher in the sky, brightening the building's dark stone walls.
I didn't know what else to do, so I crawled further along the ditch and used the binoculars again. I could see more of the east wall now, and parapets leading to a tower where I focused in on four hanging cages, suspended by thick chains.
Zoomed in as I was, there was no avoiding the horror. Each cage contained a human corpse a partial skeleton. I knew right away that they were real. I can't tell you how- I just did.
That was when I began to be very afraid.
I turned my back on the castle and took several deep breaths. I wanted to run and had to stop myself. But I was leaving all the same. I just needed to find the courage to pull myself out of the ditch and crawl away.
The hollow 'thunk' that resounded from the castle startled a flock of birds and I turned and peered over the lip of the ditch in time to see them rise circling and head off towards the woods.
Then the unmistakable sound of heavy chain running through iron supports. A loud creaking of wood. Time ran away from me, so that I could not stop events even for a moment to digest them.
I heared Ian whistle, once, twice but something kept me there. Maybe I was entranced; or too afraid to run; or just too fascinated - but I remained, even when the drawbridge fell forward and crashed down.
Sun 9 Jul, 2006 12:49 pm
welll?????? keep going!!!!!!!!!
Tue 25 Jul, 2006 01:11 pm
I really like the writing. Great work
Fri 28 Jul, 2006 05:28 am
thanks for the prompt CarbonSystem
I once kipped on a mate's sofa for a month before finding a job-with-a-room, in a pub around the corner; serving double vodkas to students and on-tap beers to fat, gold-ringed business men.
The pub was a dive. A dingy cave.
Victorian built and peeling paint, it had survived the blitz - where many houses on its street had fallen, replaced by unlovely, concrete flats that looked too much like grimy, multi-storey car parks.
There was a weekly pub raffle for a bottle of whisky, a pool tournament every Sunday and a stripper on a Tuesday. And if you know the business end of South London at all, you know it wasn't the most chilled-out job I ever had.
My stay at Liam's was meant to be a recuperative time for me after a long stretch on a strange road. (At least, it had seemed strange then, but that was before I'd discovered the existence of another reality).
Eating eighty percent take-away food and staying up all night playing computer games wasn't exactly 'getting back on my feet,' but it did my mood a world of good. Liam had an impressive film collection and we watched 'Alien's' (his favourite film) on video, at least half a dozen times.
I'd never seen 'Aliens' before, but by the time I moved out of Liam's place, I knew all the one-liners. We'd get a few beers in and roll a couple of long spliffs and lie there in the dark watching the aliens kick arse.
If you're a fan of the film, you'll surely remember the first time you saw the lift doors opening on the crumbling platform where Ripley (out of ammo and with the kid in her arms) watches the Queen Alien materialise like smoke from the dark recesses.
I certainly remembered it.
For a moment, there in that other reality, I even saw it.
But that came later
When the drawbridge slammed down, I threw myself against the side of the ditch.
I don't remember having any cohesive thought in my head at that moment, unless it was to wonder if the terror I felt was going to induce a coronary.
Everything around me, including Ian, ceased to exist. Except of course, for the castle and that empty drawbridge, which poked out rudely from a wide, stone archway, complete with raised portcullis. Beyond the arch, I could see only darkness.
It took me some time to realise that I was still alive and hadn't been struck down by a lightening bolt fired from a sorcerer's pointing fingertip, or something similar.
Before that moment, the idea of such a character appearing in my life would have got a laugh out of me. I mean, a white bearded man in pointy hat, right? Ha ha haa. Very f'king funny.
Except it wasn't funny at all.
Because in that moment, the idea of a psychotic being that could fire several hundred million volts from its fingertips, and maybe even fly through the air, scared the living hell out of me. Enough to keep me pinned to the earth.
I was afraid to move. I was a still post, watching. My body pressed itself closer to the wall of the ditch. My fingers dug into the earth as if it might save me.
The sun continued rising to its zenith.
And nothing happened.
Eventually I wiped the sweat from my chin, lifted the binoculars to my eyes (not easy, with one now swollen like a bruised tomato) and scanned the empty archway up close.
In that smoky darkness, a demon lurked. A ripple of movement.
The Queen Alien tried to take shape a bony, carnivorous face hovering behind a thin veil threatening to blow my mind.
My good eye sought out the figure, but it didn't find it. Somehow a logical part of my brain (scared, but so far un-damaged) knew that despite the strangeness of this new world, creatures with 'Acid for Blood' were not going to be a part of it.
The castle did not feel 'alien' it felt ancient. Primitive.
I relaxed a little until it occurred to me that the lowered drawbridge might not be an exit at all . but an entrance.
Silence seemed to radiate from the castle, along with a new, powerful stench. As the ripe smell reached me, birds and insects in my proximity also fell silent.
"I'm not going in there," I said aloud. And I meant it.
Then it came to me me.
A strong sensation of being watched.
I swung the binoculars up to scan the battlements, as dark dread began to seep its way into my thoughts. Maybe Tania had been right and the crash had killed us.
Was this my journey into the after-world? Did the next life lie beyond the maw of the castle gate?
Again a strong sense of being watched drained over me and I trained the binoculars on a narrow strip of window in the castle's south wall.
Apart from climbing blithely into a Land Rover that morning, it was my first really big mistake.
Thu 17 Aug, 2006 06:43 pm
It was Ian that saved me.
His urgent whistling reached my ears seconds ahead of a small metal ball released on a straight and perfectly judged course aimed to punch through my skull and embed itself in my brain.
My response to the shrill warning was purely automatic - I swung the binoculars away from the window and back towards the drawbridge - an action that saved my life.
Before they'd even stopped moving, the heavy binoculars were snatched from my hands and eyes, whacking me across the bridge of my nose before the strap snapped tight around my neck, jerking me backwards off my feet.
I hit the floor of the trench, surprised and confused, unable to piece together what had happened - until I saw the grey metal marble lying half buried in the ground beside me. I dug it out of the earth. It was heavy, like lead, but it wasn't a soft metal. A quick inspection revealed that the binoculars were permanently scarred.
I crouched in the trench, barely breathing.
Nothing more happened; and when the panic of the initial shock had eased and I couldn't resist any longer, I inched myself over to the castle side of the trench and raised my eyes up over the edge.
What I saw briefly, both terrified and intrigued me.
A man on horseback. A rider on this side of the drawbridge. He was standing up in his stirrups, dressed in fur and leather, one bare and tattooed arm whirling something above his head.
He was a terrifying figure, proud and utterly confident as he threw out his hand, whipping the slingshot in my direction. I ducked - but only just in time - as another missile flew over my head, straight across the ditch and out over the grass.
He was fast and he was accurate; and I knew I'd already be dead if I hadn't by chance turned east and stumbled into the trench I now cowered in.
That's when I felt the first overwhelming urge to flee.
I saw myself running east along the ditch, keeping my head down - hell, crawling if I had to.
I wanted to get away. To put distance between us.
The man (if that's what he is, I wondered) was going to try and kill me.
I was horrified by that thought - but I was also afraid of trying to make even the simplest decision on what I could do about it.
Then Ian whistled again and I poked my head up for another quick look. The rider had dropped his arm, which was good; but now he was nudging his horse forward, towards my position.
I've had to live by my wits all my life and I don't often try to fool myself when it comes to the realities of any given situation, but I took a few steps along the ditch before some stronger instinct stopped me.
It was a pivotal moment.
For a few seconds, the part of me that was ruled by panic tried to deny that the ditch ran for another forty feet and then petered out. I'd noted this moments before, seeing the evidence clearly on the gentle eastward rise of the meadow. Yet there I was, getting ready to run into a trap I already had knowledge of.
I could hear the thump of hooves and rattle of harness. If I ran, I would die. I understood that, on some cold level - but still, I wanted to run.
The other option was too terrifying.
Attack . and try and kill the stranger before he could kill me.
Kill a man.
There wasn't time for a moral debate - and even if I decided I wanted to fight . how the hell could I?
I had no weapons, no skills, no ideas in my head - and on the fitness scales, I weighed in nowhere close to this guy - who looked like he'd never in his life inhaled burning jet fuel or drunk Carlsberg Export. Not to mention that he was on horseback and I was crawling around down here on the ground.
Then a curious thing happened.
I realised that I had nothing to loose.
In a few seconds, one way or another, I would be dead.
I saw this as logic.
The only thing left to consider really, was how I chose to die.
It was a simple dilemma - do I die running and die quickly?
Or do I die fighting for my life?
Being able to make that choice calmly was liberating.
My fear was instantly replaced with a burning rage. I could practically hear the adrenalin sizzling through my body - but I got it under control. I took the binoculars from my neck and wrapped the end of the strap around my fist, then, taking a deep breath, I raised my head and took one more look.
The horse and rider were closing in.
I ducked again, tucking myself in close to the trench wall.
Their shadows appeared on the floor beside me as the horse began negotiating the ditch, and I sprang up, whirling the binoculars in a clumsy parody of the hunter.
I did well, all things considering. It was luck mostly, but not the kind that would have saved me had I ran.
The binoculars whipped twice around my head, picking up speed as they swung in an arc to smash squarely into the joint of the horse's hind-leg.
I don't know what damage I did exactly, but the animal staggered, bellowing its pain, then nose-dived into the ditch.
The hunter kicked the stirrups from his feet and slid backwards off the thrashing animal. He lost his footing and went down on his back - but he was up again in seconds. He glanced at me once; gave a cry of rage, and pulled a short blade from a scabbard at his hip.
|The weapon came with a resounding 'Zshlingggggg gg g'
Then I lost sight of him in that narrow space, as the horse gained its feet and turned to leap and scramble awkwardly up out of the ditch.
Left alone with the hunter, dread returned.
He stood facing me with his feet spread for balance, his knees slightly bent, his eyes fixed on mine. The blade in his hand was pointed at my face and I could see that its razor edge was serrated.
Incredible as it must sound, he was grinning at me.
He looked like a grown up, Celtic version of a "Battle Royale" psychopath. His greasy white hair fell in snakes of matted dreadlocks and I could smell a terrible stink coming off him. The sort of smell you only expect to find in a hospital or the gent's toilet round the back of the Black Dog in Putney.
He didn't move. He only grinned at me, waiting. Testing my nerve.
I'd taken judo classes as a kid, when I first joined the army cadets, but I'd spent most of the time either watching Helen Green (who was starting to get breasts, but had yet to get a bra) or swapping football cards with my best friend, Tim O'Neil. Since then, bartending had given me a certain insight into pub brawls.
But this was nothing like any of that.
For a start, there was no law and order here.
So thinking, I lobbed the binoculars at the bastard's head and rushed forward under their cover to deliver a vicious kick to his balls.
Maybe dirty tricks weren't in his rules of combat - because he managed to fend off the attacking binoculars - but the kick got all the way through and big man that he was, lifted him right off his feet.
For the second time, he was on his back in the ditch and this time he was busy thrashing around - a bit like his horse just moments ago.
I should of finished him then.
The blade had flown from his hand and was lying two feet away, but I didn't even think of it.
It wasn't in me to kill a person in cold blood like that . not then, anyway.
I backed off slowly, shaking with fury, and shock as well I think, because I was kinda screaming at him, "You tried to kill me you f ."
It took him a while to get up, clutching his balls and grunting, but then suddenly in two strides he was on me, swinging up his arm to backhand me across the face with furious contempt.
It was my turn to go down, blood spurting from my lower lip.
Before I had time to recover, he was lifting me into the air and throwing me.
This time I hit the ground on my back and the pain was stunning, knocking the breath right out of me.
He came for me again, making a strange, eager sound in his throat.
I tried to kick him in the knee as he stood over me, but he was quicker and knocked my foot aside. For a moment neither of us moved. We just stared at each other. Then he bent down and grabbed the front of my jacket. I could tell by his twisted smile that he meant to finish things quickly. The smell was sickening as his face hung over mine, cold blue eyes studying my own, frowning at the puffiness of my useless, injured eye which Ian had elbowed during the crash back somewhere a life time ago.
"You die . to serve." The hunter said, mysteriously.
I heared every word, very clearly and although I didn't understand exactly what he meant, I knew that those words heralded my death.
That's when I went for his eyes.
Maybe you know something about being on the receiving end of a beating (or perhaps even the dealing end) but if you've been in any kind of serious fight at all, you'll know that things get bloody very quickly.
My stabbing fingers were knocked away from his face and his fist struck me hard on the nose - once, twice, again, and again, snapping the already tender cartilage and slamming my head between his knuckles and the ground. I yelled in pain, but the sound was cut off sharply as his hands curled around my throat and started squeezing.
I remember clubbing weakly at his head with my fists, and trying to reach his eyes _ but he was like a rock, unshakable, turning his face this way and that to evade me.
I couldn't breathe.
He was killing me and it seemed there wasn't any thing I could do about it.
Then suddenly he released me.
He was going for the blade.
I tried to pull myself together, to get up on my feet, but I was struggling just to stay conscious.
Above me, clouds broke apart to reveal a small, but perfectly blue patch of sky. In that moment nothing seemed to really matter anymore .
Then his foot swept into view, swinging towards me like a jackhammer and connecting with my head.
Bright pain flared then died into darkness
I woke to find myself in a nightmare of agony and fear.
My wrists were bound tight together, my aching arms stretched out ahead of me. A length of rope, pulled by the hunter's lame horse, dragged me through the long grass towards the castle. My hunter walked beside his mount, glancing back at me occasionally to grin.
I tried to get to my feet, but it was impossible. I was exhausted. The ground slid along under my belly, my hands pulled taunt, four feet off the ground.
As the castle loomed closer I gave up any attempt to resist. I needed to save any strength I had left for a time when escape might be feasible. But I had little hope of that. I could barely see out of my good eye and my arched back was a tight knot of pain.
We paused before the drawbridge and I lay there gasping, looking across the narrow moat into the dark maw of the castle.
The hunter walked back to me and bent over to make sure I could hear him, "You die . to serve." He said again, holding up the serrated blade to remind me how vulnerable I was. I had an image in my mind of him standing over a trussed deer and saying the same thing, before slitting the beast's throat.
He studied my reaction closely, drinking up my fear with a cold perversion.
"To serve " He said once more, and grinned, cruelly.
Then a short length of solid oak smashed into the side of his head with a resounding crack, toppling him.
Ian stood there, white faced and shaking.
It took me a moment to believe I wasn't in the midst of some pain-induced fantasy, but a few feet from me, the hunter groaned and turned on his side and I saw blood slide in a thin stream down his cheek.
Ian dropped the makeshift weapon at his feet and took a few steps back.
"Get the blade," I mumbled to him through smashed lips; but he just stood there looking horrified by what he'd done.
"Ian, cut me free." I urged, getting to my knees.
The hunter rolled over onto his back, one hand pressed to his temple.
"Ian! Pick up the f .ing blade "
At last he moved, stooping down to pick up the weapon, never taking his eyes from its owner.
The rope binding my wrists parted easily, but I wasn't ready to get up on my feet. The hunter was moving, but he didn't look like he had any fight left in him.
It appeared from where I knelt, that Ian might have caved in one side of his skull. As I thought about this, the man moaned and farted.
I glanced at Ian. He looked like he might come apart at any second. One flash of his eyes told me that.
"My god, the castle," I remembered suddenly and we both looked across the moat feeling a tired dread; but for now, we remained alone with the wounded hunter.
I tried to think what to do next and getting to my feet seemed like a reasonable start, but my muscles didn't seem able to support me.
Blood began to leak from my nose again and I pressed it against the sleeve of my jacket. I knew my face was swelling up - I could feel it.
"Ahhh, Christ Joel, you're hurt bad." Ian said, grimacing.
He'd been crouching down next to me, but now he stood up and began pacing in small circles, staring at the man on the ground. He had the blade in his right hand, held out away from his body and he looked very angry.
"He would have killed you "
"You did the right thing."
"He was gona kill you."
He stopped pacing and turned to look at me.
"I watched from the tree. I saw his horse go down. Then I found the bit of wood and I ran all the way to the ditch neither of you saw me you were fighting I saw him punching you . I saw him punching you in the face and I didn't go down there I couldn't, I was too afraid."
"Even when he was strangling you even then." He dropped his head to look at his feet. "I ran away."
"But you came back "
"And nearly took his f*cking head off."
We half grinned at each other, but then Ian turned away from me again. He went and stood over the hunter, looking down at him. There were no more signs of life; the stranger lay still in the grass.
"Is he dead?" Ian asked, and placed a foot against the man's ribs to test for himself.
There was a moment's pause; and then a tattooed arm snaked out and a bloody hand grabbed hold of Ian's ankle, pulling hard, so that he fell backwards, hitting the ground, the blade spinning out of his hand.
I'm not sure how to explain what happened next.
Except to tell you that when I saw the hunter getting to his feet, something ugly and murderous screamed out its rage inside me.
I watched Ian go down on his back and the hunter bend over him, hands outstretched as if he meant to crush the kid's head between his palms.
"Get the f . away " Ian shouted and he sounded sickened.
I crawled forward and my hand fell to the hilt of the blade lying in the grass between us.
From that moment, rational thought took a back seat.
I swear I literally did 'see red'. It was a dark, bloody red and the world was suddenly stained by it. But it was not just 'out there' - it was inside me, empowering me. Adrenalin, endorphins, all that **** but something more besides. Something that made the world look like I was seeing it behind a plate of red stained glass.
Screaming insanely, I charged the hunter, knocking him down onto his back for the last time. A second later, without really knowing how I got to be there, I was on top of the bastard, both hands gripped around the hilt of the blade that stood buried deep in the hollow of his straining neck.
Through the red I saw his eyes bulging back at me, blood bubbling from his lips and savagely I yanked the blade to the right, cutting his throat.
I remember his warm blood spurting up in an arc and splattering me.
I remember Ian shouting something as I cut the hunter's scabbard from his belt and slid the bloody blade into it.
Then Ian was shaking me, taking the weapon from me, yelling into my face, "Can you ride? Joel come on, we have to go."
I remember looking back at the man I'd killed, lying there still and bloody by the lowered drawbridge.
Then I was up on the horse behind Ian, and we were leaving the castle and the dead man behind us.
Our journey back to the others was a slow one, carried as we were by a lame horse. If anything or anyone from the castle had wanted to punish us for what we'd done -they would have caught us easily - but we didn't give a ****. Our brains were reeling. We stank of blood and sweat. I was badly hurt and having never ridden a horse in my life before, feeling the pain of my injuries two-fold.
The horse was limping heavier and heavier until eventually Ian got down and led us, while I lay over the beast's neck.
It felt good to reach the woods and slip undercover of the oak and ash, deep into the undergrowth. Birds sang in the trees above, oblivious to all human trial.
The horse didn't smell bad like its master had, and I realised that the stench of the castle was slowly fading away behind us.
But as it did, the reality of what had happened started to sink in.
"Stop here," I said, when we reached a patch of sunlight.
Ian gave me a curious look, but did as I asked. I slid from the horse's back and he caught me. "Alright, old man?" He said, sounding like a Naval Officer in a nineteen forties British war film.
I leant against the horse's side and tried not to laugh, because it hurt too much.
"I'm okay . I just can't face the others yet " I told him.
Ian nodded agreement and we sat down under the trees, and watched the horse tear enthusiastically at the grass.
It was very peaceful there in that small glade.
We didn't speak, but after a while, I turned my back on Ian, put my head down and cried.
I'm not proud of it but I'm not ashamed either. At the time, I was too done in to care.
Ian cried too, although he tried to hide it.
I guess we both knew that no matter how we told it - the others could never understand what we'd just done. We were changed in ways we didn't understand ourselves.
I was a killer now.
Whatever kind of world I was in - I'd killed a man.
We sat there for at least an hour, until the sun was starting to slip westward and the shadows around us grow longer.
Then we set off in search of the transit van and a safe place to lie down.
Thu 7 Sep, 2006 07:05 am
That night I dreamt of the man I had killed.
In my dream, we fought under a black sky, in the half-light; but it wasn't the moon that shone down on us - it was the street-lamp at the back of The Albert Arms a pub I used to drink in as an underage law-breaker.
The bricked in alleyway either side of us was littered with graffiti. Not the type anyone could consider political or social art - or even inventive graffiti - but messages of hate and sexual frustration, coupled with images of exaggerated female anatomy. This had built up over a period of several years until the earliest contributions had faded under many layers of confusion.
The council had cleared it off once or twice years ago, but now not a single brick remained wholly uncovered.
I knew all this because of the time I'd spend as an adolescent, puking up against the alley's walls.
The hunter didn't appear in the least bit fazed to find himself in my world. If porno graffiti was new to him he didn't acknowledge it - he was too busy concentrating on trying to wrestle the blade from my hands.
There was a dark determination on his face as we struggled to overpower each over. I could smell his stench all too well in that confined space and I struggled to keep from vomiting. If I couldn't control my stomach and win the blade off him, he would kill me.
Our faces were close together and I think I screamed as he suddenly jerked forward and blood erupted from his mouth.
I was holding the blade and I took a few steps back, away from him. Then I saw that blood was gushing from a jagged tear in his throat. He staggered forward and his right hand fell heavy on my shoulder as he slurred my name through a slick of crimson. "Joel "
The desperation on his face horrified me.
"Joel, for fu ck sake . wake up "
The dream sunk from under me as I woke into a different half-light.
It was Tania and she was leaning over me.
I tried to get my head around what was happening, but she'd given me some painkillers and vodka to help me sleep and my brain felt like a screwed up piece of ancient parchment - fragile and unintelligible.
"What is it?" I managed to say.
She was almost sitting on me and kept turning her head towards the van doors, which were shut against the night.
"Something's out there," she whispered, digging her fingers into my arm.
She wasn't just nervous, she was terrified.
The fear flowed off her and filled me. I glanced around the van's murky interior. Where I'd seen Ian lay down, there was now only an empty sleeping bag- and no sign of Sam or Chris. We were alone.
"They went out to look . about five minutes ago " she said, now gripping my arm tight. Her face was slack with fear.
"Sam said he'd come straight back. He promised he ."
As her voice rose I reached out and put my fingertips over her mouth.
In the dim light her eyes bulged with panic. She looked like a scared cartoon cat.
I was aching so much she had to help me sit up. I felt like I'd been chopping wood all day, or I had flu, or both. It was as if all the strength had been siphoned out of me.
"Did they take all the weapons?" I asked, looking around.
"Yeah. Ian took that sword you brought back. Chris took the axe. Sam well Sam took the binoculars and a kitchen knife we brought last week in Woolworth's."
She giggled, but it wasn't a good sound.
"Not that he'd be able to kill anyone he's a fuc king pacifist."
I stared at her. I couldn't believe that Sam had gone off and left her like this .
Outside the van, an animal snorted and stamped its foot.
Tania and I locked eyes with each other. What did it mean? Was it the hunter's horse out there or someone else's?
Then a low murmur, that despite being indistinct was, without doubt human. Someone quieting the horse? Someone creeping towards the van doors?
It was ridiculous, (although in this world, I conceded, anything was possible) but I saw the hunter, his gaping throat now white and bloodless, reaching out for the handle on the van's doors.
Tania shuffled backwards, her arms wrapped protectively around her stomach, as if to hide her unborn baby. To be honest, I wanted to join her.
There was a bad moment, when she brushed against my guitar, which was leaning against the drivers seat - but she muffled the sound quickly.
Nothing happened. All fell quiet again.
After several deep breaths and a good talking to myself, I got on my knees and crawled as carefully and quietly as I could to the van doors. As I went I looked around for a weapon - a wrench or some sort of thing. But there was nothing to hand. If I opened a toolbox or the camping gear and anyone was outside, they would hear me.
At the back doors I crouched and listened, but I could hear nothing.
I let a couple of minutes tick by and then I reached up and unlatched the van's doors.
As soon as they clicked open - leaving a two-inch gap, I heard movement. Heavy steps advancing quickly towards us.
The gap between the doors darkened and behind me Tania sucked in her breath as if to scream; then I leaned back and kicked out as hard as I possibly could.
My foot caught the left door, and sent it flying open at high speed, only to stop dead as it hit its target squarely.
There was a loud bang over a wet crunch, followed by a terrified scream of agony and a thump as someone hit the ground.
The doors had banged shut again and I pushed them open and looked down on Chris, who was rolling around on the ground with both hands clamped to his face. The hunter's horse stood tied to one side, clearly visuble under a bright moon. Chris had obviously been talking to her while guarding the van.
The door had hit him hard - possibly breaking his nose.
With my own face swelled by the beating I'd taken from the hunter - I could empathise.
Chris and I had got off to a bad start, with him not trusting me, but he'd eased off me a bit after Ian told them what had happened at the castle.
Looking down at him I had a feeling we were going to be back to square one after this.
For now, he was oblivious; too busy trying to deal with the pain.
The wood axe lay beside him and I picked it up and placed it inside the van doors where Tania had appeared with her hands pressed over her mouth. She was looking at Chris with shocked eyes, but suppressing laughter - which, to her credit, was born of nothing more than pure relief.
Chris was making enough noise to wake the dead in a two mile radius, so I crouched down and put a hand on his back, "Hey, Chris? Man, I'm sorry I thought you were one of them."
He twisted around and lashed out with his fist, which caught me on the chin and rocked me back on my heels. I crawled around for a bit, then we were both up and standing, facing each other.
Blood was pouring from his nose and lips. He reached inside his mouth and pulled out a bloody tooth.
"You fu ck," he yelled and lunged for me.
There wasn't much I could do, except try to fend him off. We exchanged a couple of angry but pathetic punches before Sam arrived, furiously separating us.
"What the hell are you two doing?"
He looked at Chris and gasped, "Jesus."
Chris immediately accused me of trying to kill him - I won't bother telling you what he called me - I'm sure you can well imagine.
"I thought he was one of them " I tried to explain, before Tania took over.
"Where the fu ck have you been Sam? I had to wake Joel up I thought you were all dead. You said you'd come straight back .you arse-hole. "
"Ees broke mi fu ckin' nose," Chris murmured.
Ian joined us, the hunter's blade in its scabbard, at his hip.
"Shut-up, for Christ sake d'you want to bring the bastards back down on us?" He yelled.
For a moment we were all shouting at each other
Then Sam said, "Just stop."
And we did.
Sun 8 Oct, 2006 10:38 am
Sam took charge with a minimum of drama. He reminded us yet again of the dangers of fighting amongst ourselves. Of the benefits to staying calm.
His own fear showed itself however, in his sharpness with Tania.
"There was nothing out there." He said, "Not yet anyway but I think we should be gone before the dawn."
"Gone?" Tania looked confused. "Gone where, exactly?"
Sam shrugged, moving away from her," I don't know exactly Tania - just out of here. Anyone disagree with that?"
It seemed no one did - not even Tania.
"We take as much from the van as we can carry and we head south for Salisbury."
"It won't be there." Ian said. "There'll be nothing there, or something worse." He looked frightened.
Sam climbed into the back of the van without a word and I glanced at Ian before following.
A dark shape in the corner, Sam was already rolling up the first sleeping bag.
I told him what was on my mind.
"Ian's got a point you know That that hunter, back at the castle Sam, we're in big trouble if they're all like him."
"You haven't got a sleeping bag." He said.
"No. That's true. I didn't know I'd be needing one. If I'd known I was going to be zapped into this fuc king place, I'd 'ave brought my frigging semi-automatic.
He looked at me, surprised.
I realised I'd been shouting.
"Jesus." I sat down and pulled my rucksack towards me.
"You okay?" He asked.
When I didn't answer, he waited for a while, before going back to what he was doing - cutting a length of green twine with his Woolworth knife.
"You're worried about her, aren't you?" I asked him.
He stopped again and looked at me.
"She's probably scared to death." I said.
For the longest time he stared at me with the point of his knife aimed my way; then he slowly put the small blade down and covered his eyes with his hand.
I felt like a bastard.
After a moment, he could speak.
"No. You're right."
"When is the baby due?" I asked him.
"Twenty five days."
He looked up and I had to look away, his eyes scared me that much.
"What are we going to do?" He asked me.
"Do? We do the best we can. We get out of here. We find help. Just like you said."
He gave a half laugh, "It's you who should be put in charge here, being an army cadet once, an' all."
"I don't think spending my weekends as a kid crawling through grass down by the canal really qualifies me."
I nodded my head towards the van's doors. "They know you, trust you not me."
"You saved Ian's life."
"Actually, he saved mine."
"Not easy killing a man, I mean I'm sorry you had to do that."
I couldn't think of a thing to say, so I didn't say anything. We both turned as the van rocked down on its back wheels and Tania climbed aboard, helped up by Chris, who faded back into the night.
Sam was already moving towards Tania and she reached out for his hand, "Sam?" She sounded tearful.
"Yeah, come here."
"I'm sorry I swore at you Sam . I thought I thought you were dead."
He grabbed her to him and suddenly they were in an embrace, seeking comfort in closeness, their mouths desperately searching and finding each other in the dark.
I took up my rucksack and slipped unnoticed, by them.
Outside, Chris was taking the hubcap off one of the wheels.
"Souvenir?" I asked, giving it my best sarcasm.
"You'll see, Hitcher," he growled at me.
Ian was standing by the horse. He came over, adjusting something at his waist.
"Joel?" He had a dark shape in his hand, which he held out towards me. In the moonlight I saw the hunter's weapon, tucked in its scabbard.
"This is yours." He said.
For a while I stood there looking down at the short sword and saying nothing. I knew he was right. Somehow, for some reason, the weapon belonged to me.
Earlier, I'd been almost angry to see Ian wearing it on his hip, but I hadn't said anything because there was a part of me that didn't want to touch that murdering blade ever again.
"Take it." He said.
But I didn't move.
Some part of me hesitated.
"We both know it's yours now," he said, with obvious regret.
Somewhere far away, we heard a rumble of thunder. An omen.
Then my hand reach out and I accepted the hunter's sword as my own.
Tue 14 Nov, 2006 07:20 pm
Nobody wanted to leave the van. We all felt the same about that. There was a strange desire to crawl inside our metal cave and pull shut the doors; to lie down under soft covers and pretend that none of this bizarre **** was really happening; to do nothing at all, but wait to die.
If I'd been on my own, I might have done just that.
Maybe I would have got tired of waiting for death (or just plain hungry) and crawled out again- but right then, I felt the urge to 'go to ground,' to burrow into a warm space - to more or less stick my head in the ground - and I wasn't alone.
Our minds had taken such a hammering it seemed we were all ready to give up before we'd even started.
On top of that, we discovered the hard way that there's a fine art to packing a horse - especially one that isn't used to being treated as a pack-mule.
The horse seemed to hate Ian marginally less than the rest of us (possibly because he'd strapped her injured leg) - so he got the job of trying to keep her calm, while Sam and Chris packed both two-man tents, four litres of spring water, a rug from the van floor, Tania's rucksack and various other items onto the war-horse's outraged back.
Because of my own injuries I wasn't able to help them. My bruised ribs and strained shoulders had left me unable to lift anything much above shoulder height - and that included my arms.
"He clobbered you good," Chris grinned at me, referring to the hunter (and no doubt still mad at me for trying to take his face off with the van door).
"Not as good as I clobbered him." I said, and I wasn't smiling.
Tania gathered together what food we had and wrapped it in newspaper. Three apples, a third of a jar of peanut butter,
a couple of bags of crisps, a pack of biscuits, half a tube of mints and a bar of chocolate. She dropped the package into a plastic bag, along with two precious rolls of toilet paper, still in their plastic wrapping, and tied inside an extra bag for dry keeping. She insisted she would carry the food bag herself, seeing as her rucksack would be riding on the horse.
It wasn't possible for her to ride, because she was too heavily pregnant and the horse a giant beast with a warrior's temper. Even if it was possible, it would be far too dangerous a risk. For all we knew the horse might suddenly decide to hightail it all the way back to the castle.
Mary might have rode into Bethlehem on a donkey, but we weren't taking any chances.
I sat inside the van's backdoors and checked on my guitar, which had been knocked way out of tune, but seemed otherwise intact. As I ran my fingers along the strings, I had the familiar urge to 'tune up', and play some chords. F and G and E; but I saved it.
Struggling as they were with the horse, I didn't think Chris or Sam would appreciate the distraction.
Instead, I quietly picked at the strings, letting my fingers decide where to go and emptying my head. As I did so, I felt my body begin to relax for the first time since this nightmare began. Each note rang clear. It didn't matter if the guitar was out of tune, it was music and I've always been a sucker for it.
"It's a beautiful guitar." Tania said from beside me and I was pulled from a momentary trance.
Actually, I was having trouble holding the guitar, even on my knee, and I stood it down. It occurred to me that if we were attacked now, I'd be totally unable to defend myself. I doubted I had the strength to use the hunter's sword to slice bread (not that we had any).
Tania reached across and thumbed the bass E string.
"D'you play?" I asked her.
"Nah, never learned music I like dancing to it though."
She smiled a sad smile.
The moon was clear of the clouds and hanging over us like a giant silver coin.
I felt awkward then and found myself staring at my hands. Part of it was being so close to Tania's pregnant stomach. Sounds stupid, I know, but her pregnancy was something no one wanted to be reminded of. No one dare mention it to her. We were all scared. That's the truth. We didn't know how to reassure her and so we didn't want to talk about it, in case she turned out to be more afraid than us.
I'd once shared a squat in Telford with a dozen travellers, including a woman and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Paula, who was pregnant. I'd made wide circles around that girl. She'd had a look of desperation that scared the **** out of me.
I left the squat before she'd had her baby, but living there for five months, I'd gotten used to the strange concept of human reproduction, listening to her throwing up in the morning and watching her mum rubbing lotion into the stretch-marks on her swollen, blue veined belly.
I'd asked Paula once what it felt like to be walking around with another person inside you, their heart and soul surrounded by you (I was pretty stoned at the time and only nineteen) - she said, "Joel, just thank God you'll never have to find out."
Tania sat down next to me, rocking the van gently.
She'd swapped her summer outfit for a longish green dress she wore under a duffle coat with the hood pulled up. On her feet a flat pair of comfortable looking shoes poked out from under her hem. I realised it was colder here in this place - maybe closer to winter.
"Were you very scared yesterday, Joel?" She asked, quietly.
"When you thought you were going to die?"
Her fingers played with a toggle on her coat.
I didn't know what to say.
"Ian told us you nearly died more than once."
When I still didn't answer, she continued, "I don't want to die on my own. If we're all going to die here, I hope we die together."
I thought about that. I looked at her face. She was very serious. She was in a vulnerable situation, dangerously handicapped by her pregnancy. If the locals decided to hunt us down, she'd be at our and their mercy, but the look of strength in her eyes was unquestionable.
"Yeah, me too." I said, thinking she was referring to being left behind somehow.
"I'd rather die under their swords fighting with all of you, than .on my own."
"No one's going to leave you." I said.
"I know but if something happens "
"Nothing's going to happen."
"Yes it is, Joel ."
Her voice had risen and I put a hand on her shoulder, "Hey "
But she pulled away from me.
"Something is going to happen. Don't you see? I'm going to have this baby." She pressed her hands to her stomach and leaned in towards me, "I'm going to have this baby, Joel. No matter what."
There, she'd said it.
We stared at each other almost angrily.
"Tania? You okay?" It was Sam, walking towards us, looking distracted. "Got those bottles?" He asked her.
"They're in the back," she said frowning, and we both shifted sideways, away from each other, so that Sam could climb up between us.
"What's going on?" He asked, probably having seen our dour expressions. We listened to him rummaging in the back.
Tania shrugged her shoulders.
"I was reminding Joel that I'm going to be having a baby some time soon."
When there was no reply, she called to him, "Did you hear what I said? I'm going to be having this baby sometime soon."
"Not for another month, Tan." Sam said, climbing back down with a couple of vodka bottles. One was full, the other almost empty. He knelt on the ground and began to pour all there was into a plastic, 3 litre bottle.
"What will we do?" Tania asked, watching him.
Sam shrugged, but didn't spill any of the vodka.
"Who knows where we'll be next month? Maybe we'll be home by then." He said.
"D'you really believe that?" She asked him, her voice suddenly cold.
He finished what he was doing. "We'll find someone to help you. There must be midwives here. We'll find someone."
He didn't look at her as he screwed the lid on tight to the plastic container.
"And if we don't?"
Sam moved abruptly, getting up and disappearing down the side of the van.
Tania looked at me, "If we don't?" she asked.
I couldn't answer her.
I heard Ian say, "Christ, Sam .are you sure?" He was still holding onto the horse, but twisting back to look over his shoulder at his brother.
I got up and went to see what Sam was doing. Tania joined me, her arms crossed, hugging herself in an unconscious gesture of worry.
Sam was busy ripping the window-washer hose from the van's engine and didn't bother answering his brother.
We watched him unscrew the petrol cap and feed in the hose and no one spoke again until he'd finished siphoning off enough petrol to fill both vodka bottles.
It was strange, but after killing the hunter, I thought I'd somehow, finally, accepted this new reality; but seeing Sam making Molotov cocktails in the light of the moon, while the dark wood hung heavy around us, hushed and malevolent, I was suddenly, unexpectedly freaked out again.
This wasn't a day trip, or even an acid trip - this was for real.
"We're all going to die." I said; and was immediately ashamed. In that moment, I'd forgotten all about Tania and what I just been saying to her.
Our early demise seemed inevitable. If we'd been a commando unit I wouldn't have put my money on us. This was an alien world and in it we were the aliens. We wouldn't last long on our instincts alone.
"You speak for yourself, hitcher," Chris sneered.
Sam stood up, screwing the lids tight on the bottles, "Well, so far we're still here and one of them is dead. I'd say that counts for something."
He glanced at Tania and I got the message.
What kind of a bastard was I to say such a thing, when one of us hadn't even been born yet?
"****." I mumbled to myself.
I expected Tania to come back at me, but she didn't. Even so, I knew I'd hurt her. She went back to the van and sat down watching us.
Sam tucked both petrol bombs into his own bag and handed Chris the vodka.
"Don't drink any of that," he said, seriously.
"Same goes to you, man."
They smiled at each other. Old friends. Probably school friends. I realised I was as alien to them as this new world.
"Everybody got everything they're taking?" Sam asked, glancing at our waiting packs.
"You've got a roadmap, right?" I asked him.
Sam stopped and stared at me.
"Yeah - a road map? British Isles or whatever "
"A road map?"
I heard Chris laugh and I turned to look at him. The bridge of his nose was swelling yellow and purple. Like me, one of his eyes had been swollen partially shut.
"What you need a road map for, hitcher?" He asked, "In case you missed it - there are no f*cking roads."
"Yeah, I know but "
"You don't know ****."
He looked suddenly really angry. Nothing like the sleepy big-guy who'd pulled himself out of the van yesterday to take a piss on the edge of the lay-by. This was a different fellow. It occurred to me that Chris might be losing his mind. He looked trapped and vicious.
"In case you don't get it . we ain't in the same f*cking world anymore."
"Really?" I could feel my own anger growing and I didn't try too hard to quash it. But Chris had already lost it.
"Joel?" He sneered again, "What sort of f*cking name is that anyway?"
"Shut up, Chris." I suggested.
Spittle flew from his lips as his voice rose to new heights.
"Don't you get it? Huh? Joel? Don't you get it?"
"Hey, Chris take it easy," Ian said.
"I'll take it easy when this road drifter, and whatever else he is, takes a hike Yeah, go stick your thumb out on one of your non-existent f*cking roads . You brought this on us . you f*cking Jonah You brought that bitch down on us - why should we trust you?
"Hey, hey." It was Sam of course, stepping in between us quickly before we could take it to the fight stage for the second time that night.
For a while we stood there like players on a stage - actors who couldn't remember whose line it was next.
"Why d'you ask about the roadmaps, Joel? Sam said.
I glanced at Chris, wondering if was going to start up again if I said anything, but he abruptly walked way.
I watched him until he was settled in next to Tania, his arms folded across his chest, staring at me.
"W well, I can't be sure, but I don't think the land has actually shifted shape. The geography I mean. Hills and valley's are where they're meant to be. Mountains haven't moved - and if we went to where the coast is on a map - we'd come to the sea "
When no one else uttered a word, I went on. "If that's right - we'll have an advantage. We'll be able to follow the map to high ground, or to a river, or whatever."
"So we're still in Britain?" Tania asked.
"My guess is we're on an island geographically resembling Britain as it was a long time before the Victorians blew up half the country laying roads and railways. Maybe even before the Romans built their roads."
"Then how will a road map help?" Chris asked, angrily.
"Don't you get it?" I said, reaching inside my shirt to pull out the small compass I wore on a thin strip of leather cord around my neck. "People were following maps long before the building of roads. With this and the map, we'll be able to make for the hills at least."
Everyone was staring.
Chris left the tail end of the van, which rocked Tania to one side as he jumped down; then he was walking back over, frowning at the compass in my hand. "Isn't that a bit convenient?" He asked.
I looked at the compass. I'd brought it with my own money when I was old enough to get a job at the newsagents delivering the Advertiser. One winter I'd ridden my bike up and down London streets in sleet and rain, wrapped up and nursing a chest infection. I'd wanted the compass very badly.
"I did a bit of orienteering in the Cadets." I said. "It's come in handy once or twice since then."
Sam was looking from the compass to me, back and forth, like he couldn't decide what to make of it.
It was Tania who suddenly piped up. "I'll get the maps."
We stood in silence and listened to her go around the van and yank-open the passenger door. Then she appeared again, the maps rolled into a tube, which she carried over Sam.
"Here, Sam." She said.
Sam had been staring at me, but now he turned to her. "Yeah, right. Let's get our **** together," he said, taking the maps and whacking them against his other hand.
"It's time to go."
I took off the compass and held it out to him.
Tania would be setting the walking pace, and Sam would be leading beside her, so it made sense.
After a short hesitation, Sam took the compass and passed the leather cord over his head, "Thanks."
We gathered our things together.
Tania carried only the food bag and a staff, which Chris had found and trimmed for her from a length of ash wood.
She stood for a moment staring at the van, then turned with Sam and headed south. It was ten miles to Salisbury and that wasn't a great distance for the rest of us, but we'd have to stop regularly for Tania to rest. Already she looked somehow defeated. I saw Sam put an arm around her shoulders and whisper something to her as they turned from the clearing.
Ian followed, leading the horse. He'd given the binoculars to Sam and carried only his rucksack. He glanced back once at the van his dad had lent them for their trip down to Cornwall.
Would their father wonder when a post-card didn't arrive or just presume they were having a good time and had forgotten him? Would Tania's mother be worried when she didn't hear from her daughter? Did their parents still exist somewhere, or was that life before, just a dream now?
The van had no answers. It stood with its back doors shut, half camouflaged and already looking abandoned.
I adjusted my rucksack on my shoulders and checked the short sword on my hip then stooped to lift my guitar case and hook its strap over one shoulder.
"You really think you're gona keep that thing in one piece do you?" Chris asked, grinning nastily again.
"As long as I can."
"Well, if we get attacked by anymore of them killers, maybe you could play them a tune and drive them all off."
He was wearing a big, skanky looking sheepskin jacket. His axe hung from the belt of his jeans and the hubcap, now fixed with a leather strap, had been turned into a small shield he'd hooked onto his rucksack.
"You do know you're nuts, don't you?" He said, as he passed me and headed after the others.
"You've got your hubcap, I've got my guitar." I said, lamely.
He didn't look back.
But I did.
I looked back once at the van, at the clearing where we'd stood only yesterday and accepted the horrible truth.
The moon was filtering down through clouds and trees, a silver scattering of light.
I stood there looking back at a day when I'd discovered I had it in me to kill a man - and then I turned and set off after the others.
Ian was waiting for me up ahead.
Wed 22 Nov, 2006 07:27 pm
Hi. I am not going to comment on your writing because I didn't have the time or the initiative to sit for hours in front of the computer reading it (sorry, I'm not the kind of person who can bear reading someone else's writing on the computer for sooooo long; it gives me a headache).
Anyway, about your comments on fantasy writing: not to be offensive or anything, but I disagree. I mean, of course there are some fantasy authors who seem to stick roughly to that plotline, but to catergorize all of them as such would be hypocritical.
First of all, I'm pretty sure most of the characters in the Lord of the Rings don't end up saving a damsel in distress or losing their virginity (I REALLY laughed at that part ). Also, if you think that fantasy novels generally follow this type of plotline, you could also say that other genres follow certain plotlines as well (even though I don't believe that either; I'm just thinking of examples). In mystery novels, you could say that someone either is murdered or some valuable object is stolen and a detective like Nancy Drew goes through a great ordeal to solve this enigma, and in the end it is finally figured out (even though this is clearly not true; a lot of mystery novels differ from what I just described). You could say that in romance novels a poor peasant boy sees a princess in the market one day out purchasing items for his master, and as fate would have it, they are attracted to one another and fall in love (even though this is clearly not the case; a lot of romance novels differ from what I just described).
Therefore, to prove my point, you shouldn't catergorize all fantasy novels as you did. Besides, in most stories, not just fantasy novels, the main character ends up being the hero. There are very few novels where the main character turns out to be the villian. You make that sound like a bad thing when it's really not. If the main character of a novel is a hero, it makes the character all the more admirable to the reader. It gives younger children someone with good morals to look up to, even if that person is just a fictional being.
Wed 22 Nov, 2006 08:18 pm
All points taken - maybe i've moved on a bit since then
i did mention that there is originality out there (Stephen King, China Mieville etc) - and also that I'm no great shakes myself.
Just want to make it clear I'm not forcing anyone to read this ****.
If so much text hurts your eyes - don't worry about it, you're not missing much.
I keep writing this because I'm having fun with it and you never know someone might be reading it (and that's one more person than no one)
It isn't easy to put your **** up here, really.
Sometimes i think to myself - its crap - just let it sink
But I don't write for recognition or anything - i write because i've got the time on my hands and I'm a solitary type who enjoys challenges
In a way, the folk in my story have grown on me
I think that's why i keep going.
Good luck with yours -
Wed 22 Nov, 2006 08:33 pm
Also it's good writing exercise
Like King says - If you want to write - write
I believe that by writing, we can learn a lot about ourselves.
Your comments about children and morals is off base
I'm not writing this for kids
I'm not writing it for you
I'm writing it for me
There is something in it that I need
Wed 22 Nov, 2006 08:39 pm
I've got to say this
You know your comments about the amount of text? You know, you say...
"(sorry, I'm not the kind of person who can bear reading someone else's writing on the computer for sooooo long; it gives me a headache). "
That sounds like sarcasm to me. Is it?
Cos I'd much rather you be straight with me.
If you think I'm being pretentious posting all this up - just say so - I'm not going to bite your head off and you may have another point.
Wed 22 Nov, 2006 11:17 pm
No, not at all. I just used the 'soooo' to emphasize how long it would take me to read your writing. I am a veeeeerrry slow reader, and along with the length of the story so far, I just don't think that I'd have the time. That's all I'm saying. It wasn't meant as sarcasm. It's a good thing that you're text is so long, actually. It shows your avid interest in writing. But, no offense, I just don't think I'd have the time to read all of it.
I apologize about my comment about morals.
he sole thing that may bother me (unrelated to your writing) is your swearing. I just think that it makes you sound a little less professional. But if that's the way you choose to express yourself, then don't allow any of my opinions to interfere...
Thu 23 Nov, 2006 04:33 am
The swearing is me being honest - and to be honest, it hasn't stopped Stephen King and others from making a living.
I'm not writing for the middle classes here - I'm writing stuff i hope working class guys like me can relate to.