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.
Allowing my imagination and tendency to procrastinate get the best of me, I designed the cover of my international best selling debut novel in my head, choosing the colour, layout and design. I imagined my very successful book launch where fans would scream out ‘Taylor Beattie’ and cry at the mere thought of meeting me. Without thinking, I opened a blank document on my computer and started typing my bio for the back of the book whilst thinking about the type of headshot I would use. Maybe I’d keep it casual, with my auburn hair in the scruffy bun it was in now. Or maybe, I’d have professional headshots taken to ensure I looked good, but how much would that cost? The slamming of the front door interrupted my train of thought and I, reluctantly, started editing again. Only 1,500 words left before my target was met and I could go to bed. I needed to focus.
Three hours, seven coffees, four Facebook binges and a pepperoni pizza later, and I had reached my target for editing. By my calculations, which I assumed were monumentally out thanks to my absolute disdain for maths in school, I had only two more days of editing left before my target was met. I would celebrate by buying the new Stephen King book I’ve had my eye on. Suddenly finding myself more alert, thanks in part to the coffee, I quickly wrote a short story to post on my blog. These were not overly researched, well thought out stories but more ‘coffee break’ that people could read while on lunch, sat on a bus or laying in a bath. I normally stuck to horror, finding it easier to scare people then write of love, but I was trying to branch out. Logging onto my blog, I sighed, my visibility stats were terrible – was I that bad a writer? Why were people not interested in my stories? Disheartened, I uploaded my latest attempt which automatically posted to my social media pages. A quick edit of the synopsis to draw people in and I was ready for bed.
I woke with a jolt, assuming that the alarm had crudely sounded and interrupted my dream – leaving me with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, sending shivers up my spine like someone was walking over my grave. I couldn’t breathe and struggled to swallow down the wave of nausea rising up in my throat. Something was wrong, something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on but I was on edge. Before long, like all dreams, the uneasiness left me and was replaced with a strong feeling of irritation. I glanced at the clock: 5.02am, what a weird time to wake up! It was much earlier than I had planned, it could hardly be called morning, maybe I could get another few hours before mum came to impatiently wake me up. Her voice echoed in my mind “sleeping in is a sign of laziness, don’t sleep your life away”. I was sure that this was the reason I barely slept passed daylight. Sitting up in bed, I tried to get my eyes to focus on my phone but the screen burned and left my vision full of flashing black circles like I’d stared at the sun too long. I squinted until the blurred outline of my screensaver came into focus and I could make the picture out. Instantly I looked towards the top of the phone, searching for any sign of interest. None. Not one person had liked my blog post. Disheartened I threw my body back onto the bed and covered my head. A loud banging from the hallway alerted me that Millie was on her way. I let out a visible sigh as the door flew open. It was Millie’s 24th birthday and the day, like every other day, would be all about her.
As Millie sauntered through the door; her long black hair framing her emerald green eyes which were, of course, perfectly made up. I thought to myself, not for the first time, that I must have been adopted. I bore no resemblance to my family, emotional or physical. My skin was so pale that it looked like porcelain, my lips and cheeks a flush red and my hair a beautiful deep red colour that shone like fire in the right light. My mother and sister bore a much more exotic look; hair dark enough that it seemed black from afar, eyes a piercing green and were the sort of people that excelled effortlessly at everything they did. I tried my hardest to not be jealous of them but I couldn’t help it. Millie was popular, sociable and lived life to the full whilst I was a loner. Not that I minded my own company; I often sought solace in my own thoughts.
“Well, aren’t you going to say it?” Millie asked in her babyish voice. It made my skin crawl but I forced a smile and said “Happy Birthday Millie” as positively as I could.
Chapter 2 – Emrys
Emrys walked with his head down, avoiding eye contact with any of the people passing him as he tried to get away from the police sirens on the next street. He knew they couldn’t have found the body that fast but it still made him jumpy. The memory of what he had done forced the acid to burn in his throat and he tried to swallow the excess saliva that was forming in his mouth. He couldn’t hold it in anymore and threw up in a nearby bin, the remains of too many tequila shots and chilli fries. A couple walked passed him, tutting as they assumed he was being sick because he’d drunk too much. If only they knew the truth, would they tut at him then or run the other way? The urge to confront them, to hurt them, overwhelmed him and he gripped the sides of the bin tight enough that his knuckles turned white and he shook. He remained in that position until the couple had turned the next corner. Why couldn’t he have done that with the guy from the bar? Why couldn’t he have simply walked away? More importantly, what was he doing in a bar in the first place? He didn’t drink – not normally- but the little voice in the back of his head, his subconscious, had been thinking about it all day and he thought he’d try it. The first time he’d been out and he had got into a bar fight. Walking in the direction of home again, Emrys relived the fight in an attempt to work out what had happened.
He had been sitting at the bar, the empty shot glasses stacked like a deck of cards in front of him, as he twitched with irritation. He’d been angry all week, snapping at things that normally wouldn’t bother him. His mother asking him yet again to take the bins out, the answer ‘do it yourself’ had resulted in her lecturing him for an hour while he pretended to listen. The look on her face when he’d squared up to her and forced her to back down – she looked like a timid dog. His phone beeped and he groaned aloud, it’d be his dad and mum would have undoubtedly broken down in tears and told him everything:
‘Get home NOW. We need to tlk’ the text read. ‘Fuck you’ he thought and, before he could think, his fingers had typed it and hit send. He put his phone in his pocket and tried to ignore the bombardment of text notifications. He ordered another strip of shots. May as well enjoy freedom while it lasted.
“Excuse me mate, your phones having a hissy fit” the guy said. Emrys stopped in front of his house and was disgusted to realise that he didn’t even know the guy’s name. He had left someone, not knowing if they were dead or alive, in an alley and didn’t even know his name.
“Yep. Not deaf” Emrys had replied, annoyed that this guy had interrupted him.
“Just thought you should know! You didn’t seem to notice” the guy retorted as he walked back towards his friends who promptly stared and erupted into laughter.
That had been the whole conversation. Nothing aggressive at all and, normally, Emrys wouldn’t have thought twice about it. In fact, he’d normally of thanked the guy for letting him know but as he sat there with the shot in his hand he became angrier and angrier. The voice of his consciousness joining in: ‘how dare he treat you like your stupid? Like you don’t know the sound of your own ringtone? It’s probably because you’re weak. A nobody. Pathetic’. Emrys had tried to calm down, telling himself that he was overreacting and it was all just a misunderstanding but it was no use. He sat and bided his time until the guy said goodbye to his friends and left the bar before he followed him. Ahead of them was an alleyway that connected the bars and restaurants along this strip. It’d be empty at this time in the morning, only really used when it was time to lock up. The whole place was empty, deserted almost; Emrys seized his chance and lunged at him, forcing him towards the alley. The guy toppled, the unexpected weight causing him to overbalance. The sickening crunch of bones breaking made Emrys smile, he’d broken his nose in the fall. The guy turned over and coughed as the blood poured from his nose and into his mouth. He was clearly struggling to breathe, the air knocked out of him. Acting quickly; Emrys climbed on top of him, grabbed the collar of his shirt on both sides before repeatedly slamming his head into the concrete to immobilise him. Emrys wasn’t exactly built but was deceptively strong. Even so if this guy attempted to fight back, Emrys would lose. The thudding was quickly replaced with the squelching sound as blood started to flow thick and fast. The natural resistance of the body seized as the guy became limp. This should have been a sign for Emrys to stop; he had already gone way too far but the voice. That annoying little voice that should have been telling him this was wrong, instead was rejoicing in the violence and seemed to be encouraging it to continue. Years of remaining quiet when he was being shouted at, nagged, beaten, teased and dumped all came to the surface as the red mist descended.
Back home, Emrys quickly went to his room, glad that his father was not awake to yell at him. He didn’t trust that he wouldn’t react with the same aggression as he had earlier. Feeling thankful for his parents giving him the en suite, Emrys washed his hands and face as much as he could. The water ran red as he held his hands under it. He would think of an excuse for the cuts and bruises in the morning, once he had slept. Tiredness suddenly overwhelmed him as the adrenaline of the night wore off and he fell into his bed. He couldn’t sleep straight away, he still felt sick at the thought of it all. No-one would believe it was him anyway; not timid, quiet Emrys who always offered had a kind word and was willing to help out.
As he slept a fitful sleep, he dreamt of a girl. He never saw her face, only hearing her name called by what he assumed was her family. Taylor. The dream wasn’t threatening; Taylor wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, simply going about her day with what Emrys assumed was her family. She was ordinary in every way, other than the mark on her right shoulder. He couldn’t quite identify it but it seemed so familiar and he felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, a sign he was in danger. She was danger. He didn’t know who she was, or even if she was real, but he had to find out. If she was real, he had to find her and kill her. As Taylor started to turn around, Emrys woke. It was still dark outside so he couldn’t have been sleeping that long, Emrys took one last look at his clock before he fell back to sleep; it was 5:02am