— (Just a little bit of dialogue practice, experimenting with direct and indirect dialogue, as well as playing with intersecting speech and narration)
I sidestep a neutral encounter and make my way to the bar. He’s sitting awkwardly on the corner. He’s edging the glass with his index finger and thumb, causing faint clatters of the ice cube.
He catches me in his peripheral, holding a sideways gaze on me in acknowledgement. He puts two fingers up to the bartender, who in turn brings over two glasses. As I take a seat next to him, he gently slides it over to me. I lift it to my nose. It’s scotch. Single malt. A bit too much ice for my liking.
‘I thought I would find you here.’
He barely acknowledges my words.
He lifts the glass up to his lips and delays it there.
‘Did you speak to dad?’
He nods. He says that they had a talk earlier. They were outside having a smoke about an hour ago, but he hasn’t seen him since.
‘And you’ve been at this bar since?’
He lets the breath out through his nose.
He always did that in lieu of laughing.
‘It’s your brother’s wedding, Mark.’
His eyes finally meet mine as I say this. His glass lowers and he hovers it above the bar.
‘Are you not happy for him?’
He finishes the scotch left in the glass. He signals to the bartender for two more.
I’ve barely touched mine.
‘Sure. I’m happy for him.’
I had prepared myself for whatever answer he would give, but this still stumped me.
‘You know this is weird. I shouldn’t be here.’
I guess I do know it. I try and think of something to say. The silence is heavy. Before I can formulate anything, I start rambling about family. I make clumsy points about turning a new leaf.
‘What happened didn’t affect you. You were too young. We are okay, Luke, just leave this be.’
I am stunted. He’s right.
I flick the side of my glass softly, watching the ripples reverberate and intersect. The way they collide with the slivers of ice, the way they’d reflect in a way that didn’t make complete sense to the observer. How does that happen? I’m sure it had a simple enough explanation. I ask Mark.
I ask him again why there are ripples around the ice when I touch the glass.
‘It’s just the way that the waves –‘
He trails off.
He looks and me intently.
He asks me why I came over.
‘I know being here –‘
I drum my fingers softly on the bar as I choose my words precisely.
‘I know it’s difficult, being here. You’ve had a rough few years.’
I steady myself, overtly conscious of every word I say.
‘What happened to Jane, I mean –‘
His eyes watch me with meticulous ferocity.
‘I’m sorry, Mark.’
He brings his hand over to cover his eyes, and rubs them in a slow movement.
He still wears the wedding ring.
‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. This was years ago, you were still a kid.’
‘But I’m not any more, Mark.’
Whatever he was about to say evaporates. I look him in the eye.
‘No one will talk about what happened. But you’re still my brother, Mark. I never got the chance to grow up with you. But you’re back, and I’m glad your back.’
He reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a leather wallet. It’s initialled M.W.
He pulls out three twenties and places them under his glass. He fires a nod to the barkeep, and using the bar as an anchor, he lifts himself to his feet.
‘We all miss Jane.’
As I say this he rests a hand on my shoulder.
He’s fumbling around in his pocket with his other hand.
‘Did I ever tell you ‘
He pulls a packet of cigarettes from his pocket.
‘about the time she refused to come to my work dinner’
He ushers me with his hand, and waves people out the way with his other.
‘Jane just hated the people I worked with. Said they were stuck up’
There’s a smile on his face. He looks tired.
‘An hour before we’re about to go we have this argument. I can’t find her anywhere.’
He lets out a long breath through his nose. The kind he does in lieu of laughing.
‘I go into the bathroom and she’s just lying in the bath. No water. She’s fully clothed. Her arms crossed’.
I show an endearing smile, I look him in the eyes and asked him what he did.
‘I just laughed. We never went to that dinner. We just stayed in, sat in the bathroom, all dressed up.’
He leads me through the door and flicks the bottom of the packet of cigarettes.
I don’t tell him that I don’t smoke.
I take the protruding cigarette. He lights them both up. I tell him that I want to hear more about her. The good times.
He smiles and twists the ring around his finger.
‘So a couple of years after we met, we were driving up Colwyn bay…’
My posts and pieces will be scarce and inconsistent over the next few weeks (even more so than usual). I have a number of projects and writing pieces due for various things, as well as a website re-launch going live in a few weeks, so whilst I will try and put up what I can on here, I will be a bit shit.
I am however currently working on my final fiction piece for my degree. It’s very dark, weird and frantic. I will put it up on here once it’s been submitted, and I’m currently working on adapting it to a visual form so if all goes well I should have something to show for that as well.
So here we are. That’s my confession. Well. Some of it at least.
The truth about that time at the reservoir never got out, who could believe a snot nosed little underachiever like me was capable of such things. My own mediocrity was a blessing sometimes. And that was the first time I tasted the possibility of something greater than what we really are, well, when you taste the prospect, it’s impossible to not try and reach that point again.
Dawn was the first.
But there were many others like her.
And I missed every single one of those fucking moments.
And I’m just merely seconds away from the end.
Maybe this is it.
My name is called, and that’s my cue.
Dawn was the awakening, and the others were the replications of that birth. There have been nine since Dawn. I remember every single build up, yet never the great departure.
And as I’m trudging down the corridor, I wonder if they reached the pinnacle. If they got what I was striving for. I do hope so.
At the end of the corridor, there is an open doorway leading to a dim room, and in the centre is a chair. My throne.
I’m sat in my chair, and praying that this is the moment I’ve been searching for all these years.
I gaze at the doorway and in walks a figure.
Her name is Anya.
But I call her Dawn.
I met Dawn again 3 years after that night when I visited Atlanta. I tried to deliver us, but I missed it.
I met Dawn again 2 years after that when I moved to New York. I tried to return us to that that night at the reservoir, but I missed it.
I met Dawn a year after that, then again 2 years later, then again 6 months after that. I met her time and time again in different worlds and in different clothes. They all had different faces, different names, and different lives.
But they all had that smile. And they all had those eyes. The eyes that let you see into a soul and just know that they are your salvation.
I saw Dawn in every single one of them. I saw deliverance in every single one of them.
And with every single one of them I was left behind. I never remembered the divine moment, but I always remembered their bodies once their spirit had evacuated. It wasn’t the right time. All in due course.
Whenever a stray flicker of light catches her I can see her perfect figure. Her encapsulating eyes. Her succulent lips. She approaches me, leans over, and kisses me.
And I kiss her back.
I feel the rising obsession creep in as her lips caress mine.
I stand up and gently motion her to take my seat. I walk behind her and wrap a scarf around her eyes. I kiss her neck 3 times and I can feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
“I love you Dawn” I whisper in her ear.
I take off her blindfold, and I am eye to eye with her.
Her eyes are like mirrors for a midnight sky.
Then I’m standing in front of another blood-red work of art.
I’d missed it.
I’d missed her deliverance, and my own.
Another chance at eternity, another chance to soar, and I was off somewhere else, missing it.
Jesus fucking Christ.
I still don’t feel holy.
But I’ve come too far to stop seeking salvation now.
Everyone seems to find the light at the very brink of desolation.
And I’m getting pretty worn out from this expectation.
But I still have hope.
I’ll find heaven one of these days.
Just like it was, that evening at the reservoir.
The next thing I remember Dawn is propped up against a tree. She shimmers with a crimson reflection.
And I fucking missed it.
Everything I thought it would be.
I’ll never know if it was.
I knew I had to be next.
But it just didn’t feel right.
We are switching off autopilot. Prepare for landing.
She still looks beautiful. She looks like a martyr. Someone I could worship. But if I was supposed to worship her, I would have been there for that moment. I would be slumped down by her side, her head on my shoulder. But I’m not. I’m standing at her side and slowly realising the ugly truth.
But if not her, then who?
I’m just trying to recollect myself.
I go down to the water and swim out. I let the knife sink to the bottom and I just keep swimming. I swim until I was at the point when I first came to the surface after we jumped.
And then I let myself sink.
And once more, I’m in the womb.
I’d tasted the concept of salvation. Now I had to live it. I stayed there for as long as I could. I wanted to feel how I felt in my little capsule for as long as my lungs would allow. I felt such peace whilst under the water, but I didn’t know if Billy and Dawn had felt that too. It should have happened here, with them anyway. I should have been able to look them in the eyes as we all evacuated the shitty reality that was this world. We should have been delivered to something better with arms locked. They say your eyes are the gateway to the soul, well I believed it under the water. I couldn’t remember their eyes when I tried to deliver us. I couldn’t remember anything. I’m sure that’s why it just didn’t feel right. There had to be a way to replicate it. To be reborn the way I wanted, gazing into her eyes at the brink of deliverance.
As I rose to the surface it came to me.
From then I knew, this is just the beginning.
I make my way back to the shore. I revel in the cool water rippling over my skin. I let it splash onto my face. As I reach the shores edge, I go to my bag and take out my phone.
I take a deep breath.
And I call the police.
“Hello. 911. What’s your emergency?”
“My friends. We were attacked. We were at the reservoir. We were swimming. Someone came and… he just came and attacked us. I think they’re seriously hurt. I don’t want to go check. I’m too scared.”
I’d like to thank the academy for this award.
“I ran away, I hid in the water. Please come. Please. I’m scared he’s still about. I can’t hear my friends. They’re… I think they’re dead. Oh god please send someone. I think they guy who attacked us is still here”
I’d like to thank my co-stars in this piece, I couldn’t have got this award without their cooperation and professionalism.
“My name is Michael Sheppard. My friends are Dawn Williams and Billy Graham. Please send someone. Please be quick. If he’s still here… I don’t want to die. Please save me”
Billy’s crumpled body is ensnared by one of the creeping shrubs that litter this area of trees. His eyes are staring at me with thanks.
It is okay my child.
The skin around the deep incision in his throat curls around it like the frayed fibres on a piece of fabric. His blood is thick, and flowing over his body and onto the foliage around him. Every now and then, a drop of blood collects on one of the leaves, and drops onto his hand.
I am transfixed.
I don’t remember dragging the knife across his throat. I don’t remember how he got the cut on his face. I don’t know why I drove the knife through his hand. Honestly. I don’t remember it. I was on autopilot before, well, it was a whole new level there. I remember seeing my approach, and then I remember seeing him lifeless.
I missed the best goddamn moment in his life.
I’m sorry Billy, I really wished I could have been there with you for that.
We will be with you soon enough.
And I’m looking down on the crumpled remains of Billy, and whilst I don’t feel holy, I do feel alive.
I know right around the corner my own salvation lies. The best moment of my life was nearby, and I’ll be damned if I miss it. My mortal evacuation was to be savoured.
As I am passing through the trees to our little retreat of seclusion I just wish I could take this moment for myself, but the that indescribable drive from earlier still carries me.
I step into the clearing and gaze at Dawn.
She’s so beautiful. This is it.
She notices the knife and the blood and she drops her beer.
“What the fuck is this Michael?”
As I pace towards her she rises to her feet.
“I love you Dawn” I tell her.
I rush through the trees until I find Billy and he’s picking the best wood to build a fire with. He’s stripping any damp bark off with his dad’s old hunting knife.
“Hey Michael, give me a hand will you?”
I sit next to him and begin stripping away the wood, and he goes back to rummaging for the prettiest sticks he can find. I’m taking away the gnarled, battered outer layer and what’s inside is so smooth. So perfect.
“What do you think Heaven’s like?” I ask Billy.
“What? I don’t know man? I don’t think about that religious shit, you know that” He replies with an uncertainty in his voice.
“But you have to have some idea of how it must be. I think it would be like tonight. All of us, how we are now, for eternity” He displays the same uncertainty as I say this.
“That beer’s gone straight to your head man. That is some damp shit right there” He says this with a laugh.
“I mean it Billy” I display conviction in my voice.
“Woah man, easy there”
“I can make it happen Billy. We can be somewhere else. We can have this forever without the bullshit, without going back to being nothing to the world. We can be everything.” I rise to my feet as I say this.
The stick and the hunting knife are still in my hand.
“You’re freaking me out Michael. You have drunk before right? You’re acting weird man” He takes a little step back.
“This forever Billy. I’m not looking for Gods. I want us to be Gods. We will be delivered”. I take a few step towards him.
“Woah man. You’re really fucking freaking me out. You and Dawn planned this didn’t you? You’re fucking with me.” He lets out a slight laugh. It’s veiled in discomfort.
“Take this seriously Billy. This is the greatest moment in our lives, and you’re there wishing it isn’t happening. I know what I’m doing”
When Dawn kissed me, I was thinking about…well… from that point something happened. I just kind of went on autopilot. Something else seemed to be driving me. I was in complete consciousness, I could see everything that was happening. I wasn’t saying these words, but I meant every single one of them, with every fibre of my consciousness and unconsciousness.
“This is it Billy.
Dawn is wrapped up in a blanket, sipping some bourbon and smoking another cigarette. I’m sat next to her, and Billy is off getting some wood to make a fire.
“I like this” she tells me with a sideways glance and a smile. She pulls the blanket up a bit and covers me in it too. The hair on my arms stands on end.
“I heard what you shouted before we jumped. I think that’s really sweet.”
I smile at her. I take the cigarette from between her fingers and take a drag. I look to the side to try and seem brooding and mysterious, to try and seem attractive. I needed all the help I could get.
And it worked. As I look away she plants a kiss on my cheek.
And that was when I knew it.
That was when I was certain.
“You’re going to save me” I tell her. Slowly and surely.
She seems confused, and she shows this through a tremulous laugh. She leans her head on my shoulder, and I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins.
This is it. This is the feeling I had when I rose to the surface.
“I’m going to go and help Billy” I tell her, and I dart off.
This is it.
Billy had crashed to the surface. He entered the world with a gasp, and then burst out laughing.
A few seconds later, Dawn came back to us. She shook her hair, spit out a little water, strung together a conflicting array of swears, and then joined in with Billy’s laughter.
I wanted to laugh.
Everything just seemed too real.
I had realised that everything had changed.
We swam back to shore and shook ourselves dry. Dawn squeezes the water from her hair and Billy is still giggling. We collect our clothes and head back to our little foliage cave.
We pass a couple of beers around, and Dawn hands us a cigarette each. I don’t usually smoke.
But then again,
I did just have a near life experience.
Billy and Dawn still have goofy smiles plastered across their face. The kind you’d see on a cartoon dog as he sets asides his differences for the cartoon cat and decide to be friends. These kinds of smiles are impossible to believe when you see them on screen.
But there they were right there.
I wanted to join in. Look and feel as stupid and carefree as them, but I just couldn’t shake that feeling I got when I rose to the surface and saw that they weren’t there.
The feeling that everything I could have ever wanted nearly happened without me.
That they had been delivered, and I was left behind.