I've spent a while now thinking about what I might start putting up on my blog, and I decided one thing that might be fun is every time I have to write a creative piece for my creative writing course at university, I'll publish it here too, that way I can get some good critical feedback from a broad audience and hopefully have some fun too!
So the first piece I'm going to publish is short fiction, we spent a while reading various stories by George Saunders, and were then tasked with writing our own using three randomly generated points, a goal, an obstacle and a sentence from which to develop a character - these can be found at the bottom - so, here goes.
I stood tucked behind a small fern at the end of the garden, there was no moon tonight, no stars, I was cloaked in the world's shadow. The only light was from the house, two windows casting a warm glow into the midwinter night. The garden itself was well kept, a small vegetable patch down here at the bottom, a quirky path snaking along on the right hand side passing between an old woodshed and a lawn littered with children's toys. It terminated at a patio which wrapped around the back side of the house. None of it was particularly large, just modest, the house was ex-council, now privately owned by the Johnsons. In the year they'd been there already they'd done quite some work, refitting some windows, having the pipes changed and the whole house rewired, now it was being rented out to the one of the Johnsons' widowed mothers.
A siren sounded somewhere in the distance, a police car by the sounds of it, maybe I was lucky and the other had been caught, haha, it'd make victory all the more easy. No, that'd be too good to be true, plus putting two of us in the same village? Unlikely. Even for them that'd be skating too close to the edge. Either way the siren was fading into the pressing silence of Helmsley and my vigil endured.
The light in the living room flicked out, the one in the bedroom soon after, leaving the entirety of the garden a pool of black, the house barely distinguishable from the night sky. I really couldn't have asked for a better task. You'd expect a sort of rush about now, I'd imagine, a sudden influx of adrenaline, or excitement, would that I could. Seven hours watching this house, seven hours without food or drink, just waiting, and now it was finally time it was just another day, just another night, just another task, it was really nothing more than another day at the office. I made my move up the path placing each step as though I was walking on a frozen lake, holding the sides of my jacket close to me, timing every inhale and exhale to fall between my steps.
Buying a house for your lonely old mother might be a lovely gesture, especially when you're fitting it out with all the mod cons, but there's always one thing that's left out of this grand schemes, the alarm. Sure, have shiny plug sockets, but what good is it if the thing you put in it is stolen in the night? This one was particularly poor, people see the brand names, "Yale", "Tate", and assume it'll be fine. The Yale HSA6200 on this house was fitted when it was first built, the backup batteries inside it long expired and never replaced. I reached inside my coat and pulled out a key, opening the electric box I quickly located the emergency fuse and shorted it out with the aid of a little water. It'd take them weeks to realise it hadn't rained for a few days.
Now the door. You're kidding yourself if you think a lock is going to keep the scary monsters out, it only took two thin strips of metal and a little twist and I was inside. The kitchen was where I entered, I couldn't enter via the front door for fear of the cats alerting the old woman to my presence. She liked to let them sleep in her room with her. She also liked to keep fresh fish in the fridge for them. I took it out and placed it on the floor, wiping the oily residue from my gloves onto my coat. Must be clean. I pulled back the hallway door and sure enough there they were, both the cats the woman owned, I might as well have not been there, they were entranced by the scent; dashing past to take their fill. I'd be gone before the fish was.
The hallway ran parallel to the stairs all carpeted and painted in varying degrees of beige. Along the walls and up the sides of the stairs were various photos, focussing on them I could make them out, one an older man and presumably the husband of the old woman. Another framed two younger adults, I could see now the old woman was the mother of Mr. Johnson, he was the spitting image of his father. Further down a larger photo in much plainer frame held a family portrait, a proud pair of grandparents, and a brimming mother and father holding their new-born. This one wasn't as old as the others, maybe a few years. The other articles were a mixed bag, school portraits, selected landscapes, pets - cat's photographed from every conceivable angle.
Even if there had been a light on in the house it had gone with the electricity, the inside was no different to the outside now, a home? No, a shell. At the top of the stairs there were four doors, one to the right, one in front and two to the left. Only the one in front stood ajar. I smirked a little at the simplicity of it all. How was this a final? There was no challenge, not even any real requirement for skill. The whole competition had been like this, the first round was easy, the second a child could've done, the third was a little harder, but only because the man was grossly overweight. The semi-final did require a little work, only logistically though, and now the finals, an old woman in a backwater village? Please, I could do it blindfolded.
I twisted and edged through the door to find her fast asleep in a double bed. It was the classic setup, floral bed sheets, a bottle of pills next to an open copy of 'Death on the Nile'. Ten past eleven, the bus wasn't until twenty-five past. I was well ahead of time, ten minutes too early in fact. I walked around to the front of the bed and peered through the window. The patio dining table still had teacups on it. I turned and face the woman again, so peaceful.
This is the part where I digress into a stream of thoughts, talk about the significance, or should I say the insignificance of life. The fact is, whether or not I would be on the other side of it one day, or whether I believed in an afterlife or the various gods really didn't matter to me. I could die tomorrow a happy man because this is what I loved, this moment, this serene, almost clinical moment. I was my own god, and in this moment I was this woman's god too.
I sat beside her and brushed the hair from the front of her face behind her ear, a little wet spot of drool had formed on the pillow beneath her head. I watched her chest rise and fall slowly beneath the duvet. In. Out. In. Out. What was that? A click? No. Just my imagination. Focus. In. Out. In. Out. I placed a hand swiftly over her mouth as she released her breath and gave a sharp nip to her upper arm. Her eyes opened, first only partially, then realisation hit, she saw me, my face, all at once her mind raced, who, what, why, how, but none of it was given voice, not even a scream escaped her lips, she hadn't the breath to do it. Footsteps? No, no one had come or gone all day. It was too much to resist, I leaned forwards and whispered in her ear, "What, has the cat got your tongue?" All the while slipping the hunting knife down from my sleeve to my hand behind her back.
"Shh. I have a gift for you." I slipped my other hand into my cute and took out one, thin, tulip. I placed it upon the pillow directly in front of her wide eyes. She didn't understand and for that brief millisecond she forgot about me as she processed the flower. The same brief millisecond that the knife pierced down into her jugular, through her trachea, right to the bone at the back. Godís miracle wasn't giving us life, it was giving us the capacity to take it.
I smiled down at her as I drew the knife out, a fountain of blood pulsating from her neck, it came in distinct jets, after the first her eyes began to roll backwards, by the second her face began to slip, by the third she was gone. People might use wild and obscure similes to describe this moment, there aren't any that can do it justice, there is only it itself, the sublime beauty that is death, nothing else comes close to being like it.
The eruptions from her throat continued a little while longer, each squirt a little less powerful until eventually only a gentle stream trickled down onto the bed. I stood up and took out my lighter. I held it to the plastic plug socket, the plastic bubbled and burst into flames. Being a quiet village they wouldn't expect a murder, the room and body would be so burnt that it'd take a full autopsy to detect any sign of foul play. They'd burn the electrician who rewired the house for a shoddy job not sealing the electrical box properly. I'd be long gone before the truth was discovered - if it was at all.
I turned to the door, the fire now gaining pace it was time to leave. I pulled it open and was met with a young girl of about six. She was clutching a teddy bear, the orange glow behind me was illuminating the tears on her cheeks. The granddaughter, she must've had a nightmare or something. Her eyes bounced from my mine to my hand dripping with blood to the fiery glow behind me.
I understand now, the old woman was never really a part of it, it was her. I stepped forwards sizing up the situation but she was faster, she ran to the right into the bathroom, bolting the door behind her, I was fast to respond, throwing my full weight against it and shattering part of the wood, a shriek coming from the other side when I collided. This wasn't good. I stepped back and gave it a strong kick. The door flew open. I dashed in to find her huddled in the corner, the teddy bear held tight to her chest and her eyes clenched. I lifted my knife and regained my cool.
Crack. I span to see the fire had spread faster than I expected, it was snaking out onto the landing; I didn't have time for this bitch. I looked down on her once more, surely the flames could do it just as well as I could. I ran, fleeing the house through the kitchen, the garden, the neighbour's garden, the street, the next street, the bus stop, the bus. I slipped the bloody gloves into my inside pocket before I boarded. Once seated I took out my phone and rang them, "It's done, they're both dead." A pause followed, a long pause, had I won or not, was the other guy caught? A raspy voice filled the speaker, "Congratulations, the contracts and money will be dispatched immediately." With a crack the line fell dead and I breathed a sigh of relief, I've won.
I could hear sirens in the distance, fire engines, ambulances, they were too late, they were dead, weren't they? At least one of them was anyway.
I hope you enjoyed it, even now I'm judging certain aspects of it and questioning what I was thinking, but what I really care about is what you think, feel free to comment here, on Facebook or reply to the Tweet I sent the link to tell me what you thought of it and points for improvement, no matter what it is I want to hear it!
The goal given was, "To be king of the heap." The obstacle, "The cat lady." The character line, "I put a tulip under all the pillows and then I set the house on fire."