Careful what you wish for…

The sound of Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men, blasted through the air. Kevin groaned as he rolled over in his bed to look at the alarm clock. Not that he needed to. It was always the same time, these kids didn’t know how to sleep! Sure enough, the alarm clock glared 4.45am. He couldn’t blame them, they were just very excited. They were always excited.

“Sssshhhhh, you will wake your dad”. Kevin smiled as Donna’s voice drifted up the stairs. She was meant to be chastising them but you could hear the giggle in her voice. She never had been good at being the tough cop. He laid his head back on his pillow and just listened to them all playing downstairs. He closed his eyes and pictured them in his head. Emma’s copper coloured hair would be almost glistening in the light as she ran in and out of the light streaming through the window, trying to get the perfect light for a selfie. James was more active; very rarely staying in one place, preferring to run through the house until he was out of breath. Kevin’s smile broadened as the sound of Donna footsteps become louder, she was chasing James by the staircase and the sound rung out loud and clear through the empty house. Donna was, for lack of a better term, perfect. She was one of those mums who were the envy of everyone who saw her. She was always cool, composed and well put together. Never a hair out of place, never a stain or smudge on her clothes – despite raising two kids who were particularly messy growing up. Even he was in awe of her, especially as he had spent the first few years of James and Emma’s life smelling like stale milk.

‘What I wouldn’t give to go back to those days’ Kevin thought as he stretched out in bed.

The smile slipped from Kevin’s face as reality of life sunk in. He groaned as he swung his legs out of bed, he was not a young man anymore. His bones ached as much as his muscles and moving hurt. The pills didn’t help, the ravages of time far surpassing the science of a little pink pill. Opening the wardrobe, he took out a navy blue suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie, as always. Laughing, he remembered how the sales women had looked at him when he asked her for nine of the same outfit (it meant he could get them 7 of them dry cleaned on a Friday, ready for Monday, and still have something to wear). It didn’t matter what he wore. They never really paid attention to him and, yet, he still liked to put in the effort for Donna. With his clothes laid out, he hit the shower.  As the hot water of the shower hit his back, Kevin mentally prepared himself for the day ahead. By the time he would come back into the bedroom, he would be exhausted. A benefit of kids was that Kevin had never slept so well in his life. He laughed to himself as the phrase ‘they sleep like the dead’ crept into his mind.

All dressed and ready, Kevin took a deep breath, turned the knob of the bedroom door. The click of the latch retracting echoed through the house. The kids fell quiet. It was time. He took his time walking down the stairs, simply taking in the sounds of his children happier than they had ever been. The walls were full to bursting with pictures of their family through the years; trips to the zoo, holiday’s, birthdays etc. Every single picture had the whole family smiling, they were so happy. He was on the last step, there was no more room for hesitation and, by the sounds of footsteps, they were coming to him. He took a deep breath in and promised himself, again, that he wouldn’t scream or scare them. It hadn’t worked for the last 7000 or so days but today was a new day.

He stood in front of them, as he did daily, a scream catching in his throat. He thought of the irony. When the police had first come to the door and told him they had been killed, he begged to see them again. He would wander around the house aimlessly, praying to a God he suddenly believed in to see Emma laugh one more time or hear the pitter patter of James feet as he haphazardly ran along the corridor. Yet, for the past 20 years, they had visited him almost everyday. Never maliciously, never in anger, but they were slowly rotting. It was worse than the accident, he could see them transforming from young, vibrant people to decomposing bodies. He got down on his knees and prayed. Again. He wanted them to stop coming to visit him, to move on. But he knew, at 4:45am tomorrow morning, the sound of laughter would rise through the house again.

 

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The Embalmer

Simon woke up to the smell of bacon filling his nostrils, god he loved weekends. As a hearse driver, he didn’t always get weekend mornings off so he wanted to make the most of it. As usual, his wife had been up for hours as he had a cup of coffee next to him and his newspaper. It was as much for her as it was for him, he had a tendency to be a bit grumpy in the morning so the thirty minutes in bed helped him wake up, kept him out of her hair and let his bad mood lift. Reaching for the paper, a smile crept across his face. No missing people reported today either. There had been a pandemic recently and the newspapers had really been hogging the headlines with them but it seemed to have quietened down. A great way to start the weekend.

“Simon, breakfast” his wife called from downstairs. That was his cue. Pulling on some trackies, Simon felt ready to face the chaos that would inevitably ensue once the bedroom door was opened. It was like a barrier. From when he closed it at night, to when he opened it in the morning, nothing outside of it mattered. If the kids cried out in the night, Claudia would see to them. She really was a fantastic mother and wife, Simon made a mental note to order her some flowers, or steal some leftover by grieving family members. Well, it would save him forty pounds and its not like the dead were going to miss them. Resolute in his decision to grab some today, Simon made his way downstairs. Although it was a weekend, there was a lot to be done before the funeral later that day. First, he stepped into the kitchen and kissed his family hello. Autumn and Kim were sat colouring in, their breakfast would have finished long ago and now Claudia was trying to keep them entertained. In the corner of his eye he could see the hearse. It was shining in the sunlight, freshly waxxed and ready to go. He just had to go and load the coffin.

“I’ll need to take the car for a spin before work” he took a bite of his breakfast. Bland. Everything was bland now salt was banned in the house. Thank god for McDonalds.

“Why? Its just been serviced, hasn’t it?” His wife asked, struggling with Kim who had decided she would rather colour the table than her paper.

“Yeah but I need to check the brakes. I don’t want to be driving and suddenly have Mrs. Curtis on my lap now do I?” He laughed morbidly and kissed his wife goodbye, heading to the door before she had time to protest. “Plus you know I like to give everything a once over before I work. Its a big day for my clients, almost as big as their wedding day, it has to be perfect.”

Closing the door behind him, Simon felt his heart start to race. The world around him transformed from a crisp, sharp, vibrant place to a blur with only the hearse in focus. He sat behind the wheel and turned the key, the soft hum of the generator whirred in the back and helped him get focused. He drove through the town, the excitement building within him until he could barely keep still. He turned up the radio and haphazardly sung along to whatever crap was playing on the local station. It wasn’t long before the 12 o clock news came on – politics, politics, murder etc. Simon was tuning out, simply enjoying driving the country lanes when something caught his attention

Another victim in Southgrove makes twenty two missing in just over a year. 50 year old Velma Grace from Turnstyle road has been reported missing after her family hadn’t heard from her in 3 days. She was last seen…’

Simon clicked the radio off. 22 victims? Was it really that many? Maybe he did have a problem. He giggled to himself, he knew exactly where Velma was. Of course he did. She was here, with him, in his car. He’d been driving for about an hour now so most of her blood would be in the tanks, replaced with embalming fluid while she slept. She had been his easiest victim to date; so relaxed, so happy to find someone to talk to that she hadn’t seen the chloroform coming. He had put her in the car and had her hooked up to his makeshift machine last night but his wife had wanted him home so he had to leave her in the boot. Still, the generator had kicked in as soon as he was driving, one machine draining her blood whilst the other simultaneously pumped her through of embalming fluid. It only took about 30 minutes for her to lose consciousness fully, despite being drugged, so he didn’t worry about her making noises. Driving to pick up the coffin for the funeral, Simon was pleased to read that today’s was a cremation with an internment to follow soon after. He whooped internally, that made it so much easier as their was no delay. Sliding the coffin onto the display platform, he opened the two little doors beneath it and checked on Velma. She was cold and lifeless but felt a weak pulse. It wouldn’t be long.

As he drove the procession, followed by the deceased family and friends, he was giddy. The kick of killing someone whilst surrounded by people was why he had been doing it so long. Of course, like any addict, he told himself he could stop any time he wanted. The 22 people that year meant otherwise. He clicked open the built in lighter and pushed down. He had transformed it into a switch years ago after a near miss with a nosey neighbour which led to him moving. This way, he could make the switch on the go and nobody would be any the wiser. While his assistant walked the first mile in front of the hearse, a small clicking started from the back. The bottom of the coffin slid open and Velma was pushed up into it. The creaking of the coffin let Simon know the job was done but it was a tight fit. He would have to be careful who he choose next time but part of the danger was whether they would fit or not. Another clunk let him know that the bottom had moved back into place. As his assistant stopped and started walking towards the car, Simon heard the whir of the makeshift drill screwing the bottom back into place. The last screw finished just as the passenger door clicked shut.

As the pallbearers paraded whoever was in the coffin into their service, Simon bowed his head out of respect. In just a day or two, all evidence of Velma would be gone. He had told himself she would be his last one but, as he got back in the hearse and drove to his next funeral, he found himself thinking about what he could do better next time…

Guardians of the Insculpo: Chapter 3.

Catch up on the prologue here and both Chapter one and two here.

Although she had forgotten the dream, the uneasy feeling had followed me around all day, casting a shadow over the day like a raincloud that threatened to rain, but never did. Millie, as always, acted like she couldn’t care less about the hardwork that mum and I had put in to making her day special. Determined not to let Millie put a damper on things, I kept my energy levels high with a constant stream of energy drink and worked tirelessly to put a positive spin on everything but it was hard to keep ignoring the flashes of hurt that spread across her mum’s face each time Millie gave a non committal grunt instead of a response to any suggestions. It was clear that she’d rather be anywhere else

“Who wants a cuppa?”  I asked in a desperate attempt to break the silence.  Passing mum, I placed my hand on her shoulders and squeezed as a sign that I was there for her. I hoped it was enough.
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Guardians of the Insculpo: Chapter 1 & 2.

Have you forgotten the prologue? Don’t worry, me too, but you can read it here!

I sat at the computer editing the book I’d been trying to complete for months. My latest attempt, which seemed like my millionth, was as bad as my first. At this rate I’d never get it finished. The ideas had flowed thick and fast when I first started but now, like most of my ideas recently, my inspiration was drying up. I bunched my hair up into a bun on top of my head and secured it with biros, a habit I’d picked up whilst at university, and downed another espresso in the vain hope that I would be inspired. Or at least caffeinated. With the rate at which I consumed them, I would have shares in Costa before the year was up. Why was this so hard? I had set myself a target of 2,000 words a day, a target I was determined to meet.  It shouldn’t be difficult, the bulk of the work was done; the first nine chapters were complete.  All I needed to do was edit and proof read it before sending it to mum to proof again before I put myself through the thankless task of sending it to potential agents for publication.

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The Mirrors.

I run the brush over my lips, the cold tickling me as my lipstick turns my pale lips a shocking shade of red. I kiss the mirror in front of me for luck, a superstition I do before every show and knock back the sherry in front of me to calm my nerves and steady my hands before pinning my hair back and continuing with my make-up.

A loud crash in the hallway makes me jump involuntarily. The mascara wand jolting into my eye and causing it to fill with water. Grabbing a tissue from my dresser, I hold it to my eye whilst listening to the panicked men who have now gathered in the hallway. Mumbled, unclear speech seeps through the walls and I can only make out a few words; ‘lighting’ ‘stage’ and ‘electrical fault’. Taking another sip of sherry, I count to ten before the knocking at the door begins.

“Come in” I call in my softest voice before the timid stage hand enters

“Sorry Miss Martin” he wavers, his voice barely audible. Good job I’ve heard this all before.

“Call me Virginia, please” I try to calm the poor boy, his looking like he’ll pass out but the prospect of calling me by my first name flusters him even more

“Sorry. V…Virginia. Right. Umm, it’s going to be a little while before you go on. The lighting, well it fell, and we’re working on it but it’s going to take some time.

The rising noise in the grand hall tells me that the crowd are growing impatient, restless in their wait for me. There’s nothing worse than 200 soldiers becoming bored in an enclosed space where alcohol is flowing freely. I spin my chair, years of practice make it flawless, and walk towards the stage hand, swinging the hips that have made me a household name. I won’t make it to the hall, I never do. So I have to get my fun somewhere. Dropping my robe, I smile as his mouth drops, “Well, best not keep them waiting. Maybe one of them will buy me a drink”

Closing the door behind me, I wait for it, the whooshing sound followed by the screams. A loud bang leaves a high pitch ringing in my ears. The screams drowned out only by the growing roar of a fire out of control. The stagehand runs past me and towards the noise, I am now completely alone. This had better work. I know there is nothing I can do but I can’t stop my panic rising as thick black smoke blankets the entrance to the grand hall and plunges the bright corridor into darkness. My throat burns as I inhale the acrid smoke, I get down on all fours, my continuous coughing burning my lungs. I try to think logically, to plan my escape but nothing comes. Confused and light headed, I try to see through the darkness. In front of my, the faint green glow of the fire exit brings a fleeting smile to my face – a chance. I crawl towards the light, my body screaming as my muscles are forced to pull my weight. With my last ounce of strength, I stand and throw my body weight at the door. As expected it’s sealed and with it my fate. Defeated, I fall to the floor and watch the fire rage towards me. It’s over. Flames lick at my skin, combining the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh with the already harmful smoke. I only have time to let out a silent scream before darkness descends.

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The Journey.

I open my eyes but am unable to move, my head letting out a searing pain as warning every time I attempt to. It’s taunting me, letting me know that last night’s shots were not a smart idea. My mouth feels dry as I slowly unstick my lips from one another and attempt to swallow what little saliva I have in my mouth. Running my tongue along the gritty covering that has now found home on my teeth, I slowly sit up and instantly feel the sting of bile rise in my throat. God, the movement of the train is threatening to give my late night kebab a repeat performance.

Wait a train! What train! I didn’t get on a train! My mind goes into overdrive, trying to make sense of the random snippets of last night’s events. Cost cutting pre drinks at mine. Taxi to Olnetios bar, on to a club. Kissing some stranger at the takeaways and then nothing.
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#RelationshipGoals

I saw this competition on the Twitter page of Elle. After kicking myself for not seeing it sooner, I set about trying to write the entry I would’ve submitted. It seemed so easy, write a 500 word essay on the theme ‘#relationshipgoals’. It could be about your relationship with anyone and what you want from it. Little did I know it would take me at least 6 days to write the first sentence.

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