This week’s prompt was a very interesting one because it was actually very similar to the plot I had for my (failed) NaNoWriMo story last year. The idea I’ve used is one I’ve had for even longer than that, and have been looking for a way to get down on paper in one form or another for ever, so it’s great to finally get to do that!
I’ve not yet decided if I’m doing NaNo properly this year or not. If I did I would be doing it in addition to this project, and I don’t know if that’s too much to aim for. I guess I’ll see if I happen to be struck by any big ideas between now and November 1st!
Anyway, the prompt for this week was: ‘I love ghosts and I love reading about humans becoming ghosts for the first time, and their experiences with that. Anything from the moment of passing, to interactions with humans and/or other ghosts, to the sensations of morphing into a ghost, etc’. This Halloween appropriate idea was suggested by Saskia van T Hoff on Facebook.
I couldn’t do the whole thing in 2000 words but I’ve had a go at one aspect. See the results below.
2014 – A Year In Stories
This Is Your Death
Liam was dead. He wasn’t sure how, or indeed why, but the one thing he was certain about was that he had bought the proverbial farm.
He was sure of this because while a few minutes ago he had been stroking cheerfully down Charing Cross Road in London, he was now stood, rather disoriented, in what appeared to be the green room of a television studio surrounded by skeletons.
Not people dressed as skeletons, rather actual proper see through skeletons that were moving around and talking to each other and doing other typically unskeletal things like holding clipboards and wearing headsets. One of them was rather inexplicably drinking coffee, cheerfully ignorant of the puddle it was leaving on the floor.
Initially Liam had suspected he had merely fallen asleep, as one often does when strolling through Central London of an afternoon. He had dismissed this theory after pinching, or rather attempting to pinch himself several times, and watching his fingers go right through a ghostly arm. Anyway, whenever he became aware that he was having a dream normally he would just wake up, and he definitely hadn’t woken up this time.
The final nail in the coffin, as it were, was that the above the exit from the green room was a flickering neon sign bearing the legend ‘This Is Your Death’ surrounded by low wattage light bulbs.
When he had arrived, rather when he had become aware of his presence in the green room, Liam had been asked politely by one of the skeletons to wait around for his timeslot, and told that he was welcome to help himself to any food on the table.
He attempted that now, but his ghostly hand merely passed through the delicious looking sticky buns piled high on a plate in front of him. Even licking his fingers to try and remove any sugary residue had no effect. Liam began to suspect he would never taste anything again.
“Mr Goshawk?” said one of the skeletons.
“That’s me,” Liam replied, standing up and wondering why if he couldn’t pick things up he hadn’t just fallen through the sofa, or indeed the floor. He thought the whole thing was rather unfair.
“If you’d like to come with me, sir?” the skeleton prompted and ushered him through the tatty red velvet curtain that separated the green room from the studio.
As he stepped out in to the studio Liam was greeted initially by the sort of music you would have expected from a late 80s Saturday night gameshow, and then by a raucous round of applause from the audience, all of whom were also skeletons.
Liam didn’t have time to process how skeletons could clap their hands before he was ushered in to a comfortable, if faded, looking armchair by the skeletal production assistant.
A voiceover boomed around the studio.
“Liam Goshawk, This. Is. Your. Deeeeeeeath!”
There was a flash, followed by some smoke, during which a man had appeared in the chair next to him. The man was extremely pale, had a widow’s peak, was wearing a dinner suit and cape and, of course, had fangs.
“I’m your host, Vlad Strigoi, with my guest Liam Goshawk. Welcome to This Is Your Death!”
The music played briefly again and Strigoi smiled and waved for his adoring plans through another round of boney applause.
“Tell me, Liam,” Vlad began in a thick Romanian accent, “how did you reach us here today?”
“I uh, I’m not sure,” Liam replied tentatively. “One minute I was walking around London and the next I was in your green room. I was rather hoping you could tell me, actually.”
“But of course! Roll the tape!”
Liam had theories of course. He had been out in Central London, so there was every possibility that he had been taken out by a rogue driver or flattened by a bus as he crossed the road without paying attention. Perhaps it had been natural causes. He had only been 32, and was in pretty decent shape, but he was always hearing about young, fit people suddenly dropping dead of an unexplainable heart attack.
He was not prepared for what had actually happened.
“A bloody piano fell on me?!” he exclaimed incredulously after the short video clip had finished.
“Ah yes,” Vlad replied, a hint of remorse in his voice. “That is never a fun way to go. Anyway!” the vampire continued, cheering up. “We have some very special guests here for you this evening.
“Hello Liam,” said a croaky old voice, coming over the studio’s speakers. “Remember me, dear?”
“Grandma?” Liam said. This was all getting a bit too much.
“That’s right!” Vlad replied, beaming a wide grin that was mostly fangs. “All the way from heaven, it’s your grandmother Patsy, who you haven’t seen since she died of bronchitis 8 years ago!”
A little old skeleton hobbled out on to the stage with the support of a walking stick. Even though she lacked flesh or features of any kind, she was unmistakably his grandmother.
“Come give your old nan a hug!” she demanded, preferring a skeletal embrace.
“I, err, I can’t grandma. Incorporeal you see” Liam said, passing his hand through Vlad by way of demonstration. His grandmother, as disgruntled as it was possible for a skeleton to be, went and sat on a bench reserved for his guests.
“Up next,” said Vlad, “an old friend who you haven’t seen in some time.”
“Bet you weren’t expecting me to be here!” came a younger, male voice over the speakers.
Liam was puzzled as he tried to work out who the next person would be was. The skeleton that wandered out wasn’t much use either, it looked just like all of the ones that had been wandering around in the green room.
“Don’t you remember me, buddy?” the skeleton asked, sounding a little hurt. “It’s me, Darren, your buddy from primary school!”
“Darren Hartwell?” Liam asked. “I had no idea you were dead.”
“And I had no idea I was allergic to shellfish!” Darren replied, drawing a roar of laughter from the crowd.
“How about man’s best friend?” Vlad asked as Darren went to seat himself next to Grandma Goshawk.
Liam heard a loud woofing over the speaker system, and seconds later a small skeletal dog came rushing out on to the stage waving its osseous tail frantically.
“Buttons?!” Liam exclaimed. He couldn’t believe they’d even managed to find his dog from when he was a boy. They’d be bringing out his bloody goldfish next.
Buttons heard Liam’s voice and bounded towards the armchair. The dog leapt up to say hello to its old master, but had failed to take in to account his wraithlike form, and smashed in to the chair instead, dislodging one of its own legs in the process.
Buttons’ canine instincts kicked in and it grabbed the bony limb in its mouth. It then hopped off on its remaining three legs in to the corner to chew away happily on its new toy.
Things continued in this fashion until the benches were filled with people that Liam had known who, like him, had passed over in to the great beyond. There were family members, a couple of old friends, ex co-workers, all sorts. Liam thought they were stretching it a bit when they brought out a girl he had kissed once while drunk at university, but figured that if this was indeed being broadcast to skeletal homes across the underworld that they had to fill the timeslot. If anything he was glad because it meant that they hadn’t found many people he knew who had snuffed it.
After the last special guest had gone to sit in the bleachers, Vlad clicked his fingers and a large, leather bound book appeared in his other hand. It had the words ‘Liam Goshawk, This Is Your Death’ embossed in silver filigree on the front.
“Well that was another wonderful trip down memory lane,” Vlad said, still grinning. “Thank you to Liam for being such a good sport, and for his friends and family for coming out to be with him on this special occasion.
“Liam,” he went on, “we would like to present you with this souvenir book so that you can remember all of the good times we have had.”
Vlad proferred the book to Liam, but then realised his mistake.
“I’ll just put it here for later,” the vampire said, laying it on a table between them. “Now, before we go and you begin your life after death, do you have any questions?”
“A couple,” Liam replied. “Firstly, why am I a ghost when you’re a vampire and everyone else is a skeleton?”
“A very good question! I am a vampire because I wasn’t unlucky enough to be bitten. You are a ghost because you are newly deceased. Once the show is over you will complete your transformation, and regain corporeal form as a skeleton.”
“Of course,” said Liam, dryly. “How silly of me not to know that.”
“What was your second question?” Vlad asked, leaning forward.
“Why this?” Liam replied, waving a spectral arm around to indicate the set. “Why set all of this up, bring all of my erstwhile friends and family here and put on this elaborate show. I’ve been in here 45 minutes, hundred of people must have died since then. You must have a backlog out the door and round the block waiting to come through here if you take an hour over every person!”
“Ah, now, folks, isn’t he an observant one?” Vlad grinned at the camera. “It’s simple my dear boy. Not everyone is welcome to the afterlife like this. As you correctly asserted, we would have no time at all. The fact is that everyone has a different idea of what happens after they died some are greeted by robed figures who read out their collected sins to them, some check in as if they were at a hotel.
“Others, like yourself, have a rather unfortunate obsession with the collected works of the likes of Bruce Forsyth, so when you died you were sent down to us to go through different parts of your life in he he style of a light entertainment programme. We cater for everyone’s expectations, so this place doesn’t get used as often as you’d think.
“Plus,” the vampire added, shielding his mouth from the audience and dropping his Transylvanian drawl to an almost conspiratorial whisper, “the boys and ghouls at home get a kick out of watching other people’s deaths. I believe its a concept known as ‘reality television’.”
“I see,” said Liam. It had all sounded fair enough.
“Well, that’s all we’ve got time for tonight folks, what a beautiful story,” the vampire concluded, returning his attention to the audience, one of whom Liam was sure was crying. “Until next time, I’ve been Vlad Strigoi, and this has been This Is Your Death!”
“So what do I do now?” Liam asked Vlad after the cameras had stopped rolling and the audience had all filed out and gone home.
“Well very shortly you will turn in to a skeleton.”
“But after that, what then?”
“Well, you will have to get a job.”
“A job?” Liam asked incredulously. “But I’m dead.”
“So am I, buddy, but those bills ain’t gonna pay themselves.”
“Where can I get a job?”
“Well,” Vlad pondered, “I hear that one of the runners has left to have a baby, so there’s a job opening here if you’re interested.”
Liam went to question how a skeleton could have a baby, but thought better of it.
“That’d be great,” he said instead. “Thanks.” It wasn’t much, he reasoned, but when you’re starting a whole new death you have to start somewhere.
Hello all, just a quick word from me this week. I’m sad to say that this week’s story isn’t very good. I rushed it a tad at the last minute and honestly I think it would have been better if I hadn’t included any named characters at all.
Oh well, no one will ever be completely happy with everything they write. And after all, that is what editing is for!
My cousin Simon (father of Rosie and Sam from one of my early stories) asked for: ‘A huge asteroid heads towards earth. The world awaits with baited breath. Good news: it missed! Bad news: it took out the moon. Cue massive changes to tides the world over, mass flooding and the rapid collapse of civilisation.’
And here it is!
2014 – A Year In Stories
In Off the Rim
2000 Years Ago
The quiet in the void was deafening. The icy, craggy mass hurtled its way through the vastness of space like a master assassin. Silent. Deadly.
It careened on with a purpose beyond comprehension. One day this ball of rock would affect the destinies of billions of people.
Without warning it collided heavily with another asteroid, and in that one action the very fate of human history was defined.
The rock span out of its orbit around this far off star; a star as yet unknown to humanity, whose fledgling civilizations were only now looking up in wonder at the heavens, and wondering if perhaps they held the answer to life’s questions, utterly oblivious to how right they were.
The Near Future
Jeff Rogers sat dozing in his chair at Jodrell Bank. It was 3am and he had drawn the night shifts this week. It wasn’t so bad. Someone had to man the equipment that looked out in to the infinity of space in case new objects were perceived entering the solar system that required an early warning.
This was the last of his night shifts for the week, and there had been nothing to report. There was never anything to report. He had been working at Jodrell Bank for 5 years and he had never had to report a single incoming object during the night shift.
It seemed to him that it was almost as though the universe went to sleep at night with everyone else. Of course, when he thought about it the idea was preposterous. It was always night time somewhere on earth, and new objects were sighted several times daily. Perhaps the universe just ran on GMT.
His colleague wandered past the open office door.
“How’re things, Jeff?” the man asked, poking his head in.
Jeff came to and glanced at his watch. “3 o’clock and all’s well, Barry…” He replied, with a wry smile, and went back to sleep.
On the other side of the northern hemisphere, in a room deep below Cheyenne Mountain, Sergeant Benny Goulding of the United States Army 405th Rifles, a stellar avionics expert on special secondment to NORAD, sat and watched what everyone in the base affectionately called the ‘Fortune Teller’.
It was actually a series of sophisticated computers linked to a number of orbiting satellites and other probes sent in to the depths of the solar system.
It’s sole purpose was to detect incoming interstellar objects, and determine the chances of any one of those objects colliding with and obliterating the Earth. It existed to give humanity a few hours warning if the whole planet was fucked.
Sergeant Goulding sipped at a cup of coffee and listened to the familiar bleeps indicating that the system was fully functional. It looked like it would be another easy shift.
Scientists had been predicting for years that eventually the earth would be on a collision course with an interstellar object the same size as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs all those millions of years ago.
Most of them would say with a wave of the hand that any such event was millions of years away, that mankind would long since have left the confines of its home planet and conquered far off stars by the time some kind of cosmic disaster wiped the tiny blue and green rock from the annals of history.
But there were those who were a lot more pessimistic. It’s only a matter of time, they would warn, wagging a cautionary finger, as their more reserved colleagues made a joke of their crackpot theories behind their backs.
They were constantly dismissed as nutjobs. The kind of people convinced that everything was out to destroy the world. From Vesuvius and the super volcanoes in Yellowstone to solar flares and the San Andreas fault, the planet and everything outside was trying to wipe away the stain of humanity in one way or another.
Quite some of these scientists were about to, for a very brief moment indeed, feel extremely smug.
Both machines were set off within seconds of each other as the asteroid reached their sensor range.
The British dishes, which were older and suffered from a lack of military funding enjoyed by their American counterparts picked up the signals just as the red phone on Jeff Rogers’ desk buzzed.
He jerked awake, nearly falling off his chair in surprise at the sudden noise.
The phone was designed to be used when one station reported an unusual object and needed to check with its sister station to verify the sighting. He picked up the phone gingerly, and licked his dry lips.
Sergeant Goulding replaced the receiver slowly. He let out a long breath and slicked his hair back. This was it. This was not a drill. He went through his procedures in his head. In this situation it was necessary to immediately inform the Commander in Chief. He had to call the President.
It wasn’t long before the news filtered its way down to the general public. An asteroid had entered the solar system and was on a collision course with planet earth.
Different time scales and projected landing areas were plastered across the media. Some said it would be days before the object landed, whereas some gave weeks, and others a matter of hours.
Everywhere from California to Scotland to the Sahara and the Himalayas were posited as possible impact sites by different experts. Wherever it landed, it was going to be a big one. Big enough to eradicate civilisation from the world. No one had any doubt that this was the end.
Sergeant Goulding and Jeff Rogers both knew exactly how long they had. It had been computed that at the speed it was travelling the asteroid would collide with the earth in 5 days time. And there was nothing they could do. The Fortune Teller had done her job and predicted the doom of humanity.
Vigils were held worldwide, nations put aside their differences and people spent their last moments together before the coming apocalypse. Eventually, society began to crumble as people abandoned their workplaces. Power ran out and utilities broke down as those called on to repair them stayed with their families. Petrol stations ran dry and supermarkets were looted for their remaining food as people fled underground with supplies to wait out the coming disaster.
It was on the 4th day that the news came. The rock had collided with another object in the asteroid belt. Experts predicted that it would now bypass the earth altogether, but the millions who had gone underground were unable to receive the message. They were prepared to wait it out whatever happened, and had simply locked themselves away until they were certain the event was over.
Those that had remained above ground were elated and tried to return to their normal routines on the next day; the day when the asteroid should have struck.
What the experts failed to mention, however, is that the collision with the object in the asteroid belt had thrown the rock so off course that no one could predict where it would go.
At 12pm GMT, the previously expect impact time, millions gathered together around television screens expecting an update on the progress of the asteroid. Littered on the floor in cities worldwide were newspapers with headlines reading ‘Near Miss!’ and ‘Humanity Saved!’.
Cheerful newscasters around the world announced that the asteroid had indeed missed the earth, and would have gone on to say that humanity had indeed had a narrow escape, had their broadcasts not been interrupted by a catastrophically loud explosion as the stray asteroid whizzed past the earth and slammed full speed in to the moon.
The impact sent chunks of the earth’s satellite hurtling through the atmosphere, and the shockwave shattered glass and collapsed buildings worldwide.
The tides were immediately affected and within hours several gigantic tidal waves were bearing down on densely populated costal regions of the planet.
Millions were killed in the initial shockwave, and further still in the subsequent natural disasters and debris impacts. Interstellar radiation put paid to most of those who were left after the first couple of days.
Within a week less than a million people remained alive, scattered across earth’s surface. No semblance of government or order remained, and the people were left to fend for themselves.
But if civilization did not endure, humanity did, and those that survived were eventually joined by those millions who had, sensibly it turned out, fled underground. Between them they took stock and began to rebuild the world. They vowed to right wrongs and make a new world, a better, fairer world than before.
It was certainly no easy ask. The circumstances were difficult and for some time food would be scarce. In addition there would always be people willing to take advantage of lawlessness to carve out some influence for themselves in a post disaster environment.
But humanity, like the cockroach, endured, and eventually again began to thrive. Life went on for those who remained, and the earth went on turning.
This week’s brief posed a particularly difficult challenge. This was because it asked me to incorporate material from a book that I haven’t read, and nor did I have any intention spending the week reading. Further, it was by an author that, while extremely popular, was completely alien to me.
It is safe to say I have never even considered writing anything in this genre before. So, like all good people with their backs up against the wall, I did the only thing I could do and thoroughly weaselled my way out of the challenge by changing the goal posts. The brief, from Sadhya Rippon on Facebook was ‘Death comes to Northanger Abbey.’
I suspect it will become obvious fairly quickly how I sidestepped that one.
I sincerely hope I have done the source material at least some justice, as I was basing it entirely off the summaries on Wikipedia and Spark Notes. If I haven’t then that was my intention all along and this is my ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’.
Enjoy. If you dare.
2014 – A Year in Stories
A Gentleman Caller
“I say, Eleanor,” General Tilney bellowed up the stairs. “Do hurry up getting ready. Your gentleman caller will be here soon and I shall be very annoyed if you are not presentable when he arrives. He’s a very important and wealthy man, you know!”
The words had little effect. Eleanor was little interested in having a man selected for her to marry. It was so old-fashioned, and anyway, he would undoubtedly be a crashing bore.
Eleanor wished awfully that Mama was still around. She would have had a thing or two to say about her daughter being married off against her will, and no mistake.
She harrumphed and decided it was better to acquiesce to her father’s wishes, at least for the time being. Perhaps this wealthy and important gentleman wouldn’t take interest in a lowly General’s daughter like herself, and her father would leave her be again for a little while. That is until he latched on to the son of another of Bath’s social elite and insisted upon arranging courtship.
It was not that she did not wish to meet a young man, in fact she very much hoped to one day be married. She merely wished to do so on her own terms. To find someone that was right for her and not for her father, just like her brother Henry had with young Catherine.
Father did not approve of that relationship either, but Eleanor believed it would stand the test of time and that the young girl would eventually win him over.
Running a pearl-backed brush through her hair she wondered what her latest suitor would be like. If she had to guess it would be the son of one of father’s military friends. A wealthy field marshal’s boy with aspirations in one of the King’s regiments no doubt. She sighed. Her father’s choices were so predictable. He had no idea what she actually looked for in a man.
“Eleanor Tilney!” the voice bellowed again from below. “I insist you come downstairs immediately!”
“Coming, father!” she replied, and finished brushing her hair. Oh well, she thought. Once more in to the breech, eh?
The carriage wheels crunched along the gravel driveway that led through the impressive wrought iron gates and up to the main entrance of Northanger Abbey. The coach and the horses were as dark as night, and the driver wore top and tails of funereal black.
The lacquer on the vehicle was so dark that it was almost as if it sucked in light from around it, Fothershaw the gardener observed as he watered the flower beds in the Abbey’s sizeable front garden. He wondered who might be inside.
Ethel, one of the cook’s assistants, had informed him that she had overheard Simpkins the butler say that Miss Eleanor was to receive a gentleman caller today.
If this was the gentleman in question then he was a gloomy bugger and no mistake, Fothershaw observed, and went back to tending the petunias.
The carriage rolled to a halt, and an immaculately dressed footman stepped forward, opened the door and bowed low.
“Welcome to Northanger Abbey, Mr. Death,” he said, obsequiously.
“It is just Death.”
“Excuse me, sir?” the footman replied, unfolding from his bow.
“It is just Death. Not Mr.”
“Very well, sir. Mr. Death was your father, eh?” the footman said, trying desperately and failing to inject some humour in to the conversation.
“Oh. Er. Very well, sir,” the footman said, learning a valuable lesson in choosing his battles. He looked the man known only as Death up and down. The striking thing about him was that he was entirely covered from head to toe in a huge black robe.
This was striking to the footman firstly because it was a balmy day in the middle of July, and secondly because it was all you could see. He strained his eyes to try and see inside the man’s cowl, but it was as if there was an invisible barrier that seemed to reject his attempts, and those of any light that happened to stray in to the vicinity.
He was glad when the strange man simply wandered off in the direction of those house without another word. The gentleman was the butler’s problem now. He felt a palpable sense of relief, as if the weight of an immense dread had been lifted from his shoulders.
“Welcome, Sir, to Northanger Abbey,” Simpkins the butler said, bowing even deeper than the footman, as the robed gentleman entered the residence. Where the footman had not been, Simpkins was forearmed with the knowledge of the visitors little quirk regarding his name. “Sir, please do follow me through to the drawing room; General Tilney is waiting, and I understand that Lady Eleanor will be emerging from her chambers forthwith.”
Remaining mysteriously silent, the visitor held out a bony hand towards the butler. The hand contained a rather crooked looking scythe with an incredibly keen blade. Simpkins realised that he had not noticed the implement before, and his brain was running several simultaneous marathons in order to catch up with his eyes. Eventually it decided it wasn’t worth the effort and simply elected not to bother.
Without recalling himself ordering it too, the butler’s hand reached out and took the scythe. “Would Sir like me to take his robe also. Sir must be AWFULLY warm.”
“No,” the man said, firmly. A few seconds later, after the butler had merely stood there in a rather stunned silence, he added “Thank you.”
“Very well,” Simpkins managed eventually. “If Sir would care to follow me…”
The butler walked off rather more quickly than usual in the direction of the drawing room, not awfully concerned at this point as to whether or not the visitor was following him. Upon reaching the doors, he pushed them wide open. The General and Eleanor were waiting inside.
“Ah!” the General roared as he left his seat. “Death, my good friend, it has been too long.”
“Indeed, General. I had not expected to see you again for…some time after our last meeting.”
“Well quite. It was such a shame that we had to meet under such sad circumstances, but every cloud has a silver lining, and whilst I lost my dear and beloved wife that day, I am glad to say that I gained a friend.” The General turned to his daughter, who remained seated. “Death was present when your mother passed away, dear,” he offered by way of explanation.
“Oh, I say!” Eleanor exclaimed as she rose from her seat. “Are you a doctor?”
“A mortician, then?”
“Of sorts. You might call me an…interested party.”
“You knew my mother well then?”
“You could say that I knew her better than most…”
“Oh you simply must tell me about her some time, I knew very little of her myself.” Eleanor cast a mourning glance out of the window. “I do miss Mama.”
General Tilney walked over to his daughter and put a consoling arm around her. “We all do, Ellie, we all do. But come, Death here has not come to speak of the deceased. Please do take a seat my friend.”
“Thank you, I would prefer to stand,” Death replied. “Tell me, General, why did you summon me here? I am not in the habit of making house calls. At least, not under the present…circumstances.”
“Well, forgive me for being so bold, but Eleanor here has been looking for a suitor for some time, and I have yet to come up trumps with an appropriate match,” the General began. “I was taking an afternoon stroll a week ago and saw a number of mean harvesting wheat in a field using scythes, and for some inexplicable reason it made me think of you, and by Jove you seem as good a match as any.”
“These men,” Death replied. “What would you say the expression on their face was as they were reaping in the harvest?”
The General scratched his head, a touch perplexed by the question. “Well, I didn’t pay particular attention to their faces,” he said eventually, “but if I had to choose I’d say they were looking quite grim at the time.”
“Ah,” Death replied, sipping a brandy that no-one could recall giving him. “That would explain that then.”
“So, what do you say, Death, old friend? Would you be interested in courting my daughter?”
“My work does not traditionally allow time for courtship,” the Grim Reaper replied, taking another sip from the glass he held in his skeletal hand. It seemed to the Tilneys that in the robe he was wearing, taking a drink without spilling it all down himself must have been a logistical nightmare. “But it is solitary work, and I have wondered what it would be like to engage in the huma…I mean, normal courtship rituals. Very well, as long as Lady Eleanor is amenable.”
“I shall have to give it some thought,” Eleanor replied, assertively. “I mean, father might call you an old friend but I barely know you. Perhaps we can meet for dinner and talk further?”
“Excellent,” Death replied, bowing rather stiffly. “I shall collect you at 8pm on Saturday.”
After Death had left in his coach, and the sense of general unease had lifted from Northanger Abbey, General Tilney sat down with his daughter in the drawing room.
“Well, Ellie, that was certainly a step in the right direction. Why him and not the others?”
“I haven’t agreed to court him fully yet, father,” his daughter reminded him. “But he seemed…different. Not the usual calibre of well-dressed ape that you present to me. I am willing to give him a chance. Do tell me what he was doing in the Abbey when mother died.”
“You know, my dear, I don’t really know now that you come to mention it,” the General replied, stroking his chin. “I only noticed him there at the bedside in her final moments, but it felt as though he had been there forever. He disappeared rather quickly afterwards. It was a sad moment for all and I suspected he had gone to grieve in private.”
“How odd,” Eleanor mused. “And you haven’t seen him since?”
“Not to this day…” the General said, tailing off until another thought grabbed him. “Do you know what else is strange? It’s the darnedest thing, but it has been nearly a decade since your mother’s death and the chap hasn’t aged a day.”
Next week we have a character piece. I’m sure it will be a pizza cake.
Hello everyone. Apologies for the delay between updates. A number of factors have been getting in the way of my ability to write stuff to put up here recently, most notably National Novel Writing Month, which I intend to write about at greater length at some point.
One of the factors is that I have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately, and I have found it difficult to motivate myself to write anything at all, let alone blog posts.
I was given a piece of advice a while ago, and that if you are struggling with depression it can often help to look to the positives in your life as a means of beginning to drag yourself up out of the doldrums to help get you to a place where you can be happy about yourself again.
With this in mind a thought came to me the other day. Most of the people reading this will likely know that in 2005 I was diagnosed with and treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. I’ve never been one to use my illness as a crutch or an excuse except in circumstances where an after effect of the illness or treatment (which was, in many ways, worse than the condition) were genuinely the cause of my inability to meet a commitment.
In fact I’ve always tried to have the most positive attitude possible regarding the whole thing and, besides having joints that an 80 year old would be ashamed of, I’ve not come out of the whole thing too badly really. Honestly I am mostly just glad to be alive.
This wasn’t always necessarily guaranteed however, as, at some point at the end of June/beginning of July 2005 I was put under sedation, which is one or two steps short of being placed in an artificial coma.
The previous week I had undergone total body irradiation as the final major. part of my treatment programme. Nuking the whole body like that does rather put paid to the immune system, and I was warned that I would, while it recovered, be very susceptible to infection.
Despite the best efforts of the hospital staff I rather inevitably caught pneumonia. My temperature went well over 40 degrees, and let me tell you, when that happens you start to hallucinate some weird shit, like seven hour episodes of Emmerdale.
I don’t remember any of this, hence why I am a bit sketchy about the exact dates it all happened, but I can only assume I went full Exorcist, speaking in tongues, rotating my head 360 degrees and floating several feet above the bed, so they made the decision to sedate me for my own safety. Or so I didn’t possess any of the doctors or something. Let’s go with the second one.
Those of you that have had pneumonia, or know someone that has, will know that it can really just gut your body, so you can imagine how dangerous it is for someone whose natural defences have decided to do one. At some point during my two weeks of sedation my lungs failed and for a while stubbornly refused to get their shit together and work again.
A little known statistic that a doctor told me is that if one of your organs fails then you have a 95% chance of it recovering and surviving. If its compatriots start coming out in solidarity, however, your chances of pulling through drop to 5%.
At one point during this time my parents were told by one of the doctors in the ICU that if my lungs didn’t recover within two days it would pretty much be curtains, and no encore.
Obviously this didn’t happen as I am here to tell the tale, but waking up to be told that you had effectively been given two days to live is a bit of an eye opening moment in your life.
This fact came up in a conversation at work the other day (we’re a sickly bunch) and it got me wondering how long exactly it had been.
Well, I can’t be 100% certain due to the ambiguity of dates and the fact that I was basically in a coma when this call was made, but I can say with absolute certainty that within the last month it passed the 3000 day mark.
3000 odd days ago death came knocking, and rather than go along willingly I told him his shoe was untied and kicked him in the knackers when he wasn’t paying attention.
I recall someone once getting outraged at the suggestion that cancer is a ‘fight’ because it implied that the people that didn’t make it, the ones that just couldn’t beat the thing, hadn’t tried hard enough or something.
As anyone who has had cancer, or has seen someone they love go through cancer treatment will know, it is a fight. You have to fight every day because if you give up you can be damn certain that it will eat you alive, quite literally.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving up. Some people just do not have the energy to do it, or they feel that their lives are fulfilled enough that they can go to their end satisfied. For some people the horrors of going through radiotherapy or chemotherapy to potentially tack another couple of years of poor quality life isn’t worth it.
But fighting gives people a chance. Not everyone that fights will win, because after all no-one said it was a fair fight. But some will survive, against all the odds, and live on to fight another day. I am fortunate enough to be one of those people, but there are those who were close to me that weren’t, including my own mother.
So from now on when I can only see the negatives in life I’ll turn to the one positive that, as long as I am alive will only become more and more amazing. If you are in a similar situation I can only advise you to do the same. Because if death comes calling for me again, and he will, I’ll be ready this time, because I’ve already lived 1500 times longer than I should have. And he can fucking bring it.
Finally, I would like to finish this post with the words of Julian Dreyer of La Dispute:
“And sing for all your friends and family; sing for those who didn’t survive.
But sing not for their final outcome; sing a song of how they tried.
We live amidst a violent storm; leaves us unsatisfied at best,
So fill your heart with what’s important, and be done with all the rest.”