Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

It Doesn’t Mean Anything

The temperature is tepid,
flags flick and flex in the winter wind from every window,
lit up by advent candles,
because the football is apparently coming home for Christmas,
after ignoring its obligations for several years (unless a woman asked),
and every night,
the pub is buzzing,
because people finally have something to look forward to on this mad little island.

You told me that you got married, but it’s just for show.
I stared back in shock.
You reached for my hand under the table,
as if you could still do that,
and I snatched it away,
because I can still do that.
It’s all I can do, really,
apart from tutting,
crying out that I didn’t even want to come out tonight.

We both know what I’m saying,
but we let it drown in the noise of the neighbouring pub patrons.
It isn’t that I don’t care about the football (I don’t, but still…),
it isn’t that I hate the crowds (I do, but still…),
it’s just a thing that has followed us for years,
something I can’t remember how to explain to you again,
because this is how it’s always been.
It’s okay,
according to the wisdom of a dummy who has been playing this game for over a decade.
It’s okay, because it’s just for show.
It doesn’t mean anything.

Do I mean anything?
Do you laugh and smile in his bed and tell him that I don’t mean anything?
The railway bridge on the way home will look so tempting in the moonlight now I’ve given that some thought,
but you just tell me that I ought to lighten up.
It’s Christmas.
The football might have plans to come home.
You still love me best of all.

It’s okay.
I just say those things, that’s all.
It doesn’t mean anything.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Mr Bell

As a child, all that Beauregard had was his books. He’d run away from the orphanage several times a week, and the police would always find the boy in the town’s library, huddled over huge volumes, because he simply loved to read.

His name had come from a book. His mother could not read, but his father would read to her during pregnancy, and after coming across the name in a book, it was decided that the little child who kicked against his mother’s stomach every time it was read aloud would have the name.

He hadn’t much of anything, losing his mother before he’d even met her, and his father to grief and alcohol, but he had always had his books.

They weren’t his books, of course, for they belonged to the library, but he adored them like they were his own, and when he turned fourteen and was sent out into the world to fend for himself, the first place that he turned was the library.

Dartford had a beautiful library, right in the centre of town. It had been built by Charles Linden in the last days of the 1700’s, before the man went mad.

Once the most celebrated writers of his generation, Linden had become reclusive in his later years and all that was left of him was his words, and the walls that contained them. The people of the town would still talk in hushed tones about the old man being dragged from his library and carted off to the lunatic asylum. That was the last that Dartford ever saw of Charles Linden, but his library remained, towering over the town, filled with knowledge and wisdom. One last gift to the people that had turned their back on him.

Linden had always been an author that Beauregard admired, even after many had decided that his writing had crossed into the bizarre, so Linden’s library had always been his favourite place to be.

He would sleep in it’s shadow, staying warm inside during the day with the friends and familiar places that lived in the pages, and after a while, the kind eyed librarian, Mrs Waterson took pity on the boy, and allowed him to board in the attic of the library, in exchange for working there.

Beauregard didn’t have much at the library, beyond his books, a sink and a camp bed, but he felt like his life was finally changing for the better. He took such joy in recommending books to the visitors, reading fairy tales to the children and keeping all of his favourite books in the best condition.

He would return to the attic every evening with a bowl of soup from the kitchen, and page after page of entertainment. It was, to the boy who had nothing, the perfect life.

Beauregard never felt any less satisfaction from his simple existence. He never longed for money, fame or fortune, but sometimes, as he fell into a soft slumber in his small sanctuary, Beauregard longed for a friend to share his stories with.

He had begun writing stories after working at the library for a while. Mrs Waterson had decided to pay him a small wage, and he would spend almost all of it on paper and ink, forgoing food every few days, so that he could keep himself in writing supplies.

He couldn’t really say when he met Charles Linden, but after a while, it seemed that he couldn’t remember his life before him. Linden had been dead for decades, and yet, he appeared in the attic to the boy, every night as he took out his paper to write.

At first, the man did not speak. He would stand in the corner of the attic, barely visible in the weak candle light, and watch Beauregard writing. Beauregard couldn’t remember the first time he had been watched, and had never felt any shock or surprise at the intrusion, which made very little sense to him. Sometimes, he thought he was imagining it, but sometimes, as the man watched, he was certain that their time together was real.

As strange as it was, Beauregard had never feared the visits from the long dead man. He had often envied Ebenezar Scrooge for his ghostly company, rather than his money as he had read A Christmas Carol, and now, as quiet as he was, Beauregard had a ghost of his own.

Winter had wrapped its icy arms around the attic, and as Beauregard wrote late into the night, watched over by his spectre, Charles finally spoke.

“Would you like to borrow his quill Beauregard?” Beauregard looked up with curious eyes at the shadowy figure in the corner. The candle light crept across the man’s face, shining on every line and crevice as it passed, before the darkness swallowed up the man’s face again. “It’s how I wrote all my best stories.” Beauregard looked down at his fountain pen, wondering how a quill could be any better, but not sure that he could pass up the opportunity to hold the instrument of his idol, even if it was just a dream.

The boy nodded, watching the man lean down to meet him, placing a delicate, white quill into his shaking hands. Beauregard kept the man’s gaze a little longer, his eyes wandering across the red, wrinkled outline of the older man’s stare. He had only ever seen Linden in paintings, but up close, he was in awe of the man, and as he slowly moved the quill down towards the ink, he couldn’t take his eyes from his ghostly friend.

The spirit motioned to the paper without another word and Beauregard swallowed nervously, dipping the quill into his ink pot and holding it above the paper. The room was awash with winter’s chill as Beauregard began to write. He kept his eyes on the pale face of the old man, his hand moving across the page as he wrote.

That night, Beauregard wrote the most beautiful prose. His mind raced with ideas, and he was up all night, Linden watching quietly as the boy wrote. Somewhere close to sunrise, he fell asleep, the quill still clutched in his hands. Beauregard was tormented during a short and shallow sleep. Chased by shadows and spectres as the night dragged on.

The morning came, and the many pages Beauregard had written were scattered around him, the words crossed through and scribbled upon. Beauregard scratched his head, looking through the papers in confusion. The stories had changed. Once so beautiful, they were now chilling. Macabre, melancholy pages of madness. Page after page of insanity and incomprehensible violence. Beauregard turned away, not wanting to see the words that seemed to have come from his quill.

“It’s your madness now.” Came a whisper behind the boy. He jumped, turning to see the cold stare of Linden looming over him again. “You can’t escape Mr Bell, you know.” The man seemed to fade from view as he sighed. “Even now I’ve given him to you, he’ll still be with me.” The man’s voice vanished along with him, and Beauregard was alone in the attic, with nothing but his pages, his quill, and his madness.

He didn’t know the full extent of it, of course. None of Mr Bell’s favourite writers ever did. You see, it begins with a visit from the last, the handing over of the quill to the new, and then, the first piece of prose. It is always beautiful. It is always something that stuns them, shows them their true potential, makes them hungry for more, and then, they will dream as Mr Bell reads their stories.

Mr Bell will want more and more as the days go by. He has so many ideas, so inspired by the world around him, and all the things that his favourite writers can do with them.

They never get the chance to tell him “no”, of course. Who could? He is always their most generous patron. He provides the quill that brings out their best. He knows all sorts of people in publishing. He can take a poor boy from the attic of a library and make him a star.

You’ll always have ink, if Mr Bell enjoys your work. The ink may be red, rather than black, but it’s just as good. The library might be a little quieter, but that’s only because the visitors are experiencing stories in a whole new way. You see, Mr Bell likes to see things come to life from the pages. He was never the best at visualising, but the visitors of the library are only too happy to oblige.

Beauregard thought he’d be the last. He tasted success as a writer for Mr Bell, and he didn’t much like it. He fought, quite valiantly against the madness, but the madness just fought back. If Mr Bell was perhaps just a wealthy, pushy man, Beauregard might have succeeded, but as I’m sure you are coming to understand, Mr Bell was something far greater than that.

The library doesn’t get many visitors these days. Books have fallen out of favour, and this once beautiful building has fallen into disrepair, but every now and again, someone finds their way to our little library, and Beauregard is always waiting at the door.

He’ll read them a story, to try and scare them away, but he’s never quite quick enough to keep them away from me.

You see, I’m looking for a new writer that I might enjoy, and you never know who might pop into our rather unearthly little library. Take you, for example. I’ve got a lovely quill that is looking for a new home. I’ve grown tired of Beauregard and his stories… I think it might be time for him to be put out to pasture, but, you. I see so many stories in you…

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

True Love

They say that you can speak what you need into existence, and so, I suppose you have to be careful about the lies that you tell. It sounds like a simple lesson, but it’s one that I’ve learned in the worst way imaginable.

Have you ever said something without thinking? Have you ever hurt someone without meaning to? It happens all the time, doesn’t it? It’s just part of life, but you can’t take it back.

I never meant for any of this to happen, but she’s on her way here now. She’s only a few minutes away and when she gets here, my life is over, in every sense, so I’m letting you know, whoever finds this letter, that you must be careful what you say, and never tell a lie that you can’t handle coming true. She’s going to kill me. I wish I could stop her, but I can’t. Please, just listen to what I’m saying. Be careful what you say.

It all started with Lorna.

Lorna was the first name that came to mind when Jessie asked me on a date. Jessie was… well… I don’t know. We’d never spoken, and she had always kept to herself, so I knew nothing about her, except for the fact that everyone thought she was a bit strange. I didn’t really know what to say to her when she asked me. I had barely even noticed her day to day.

People in the office used to joke about her having a crush on me, and sometimes, I thought she might, because of the way she’d stare over from her desk when she thought I wasn’t looking, but I didn’t think about it too much, because she’d never actually acted on it. She’d bring me lunch every day, cups of coffee every morning when I arrived at work, and I suppose maybe I should have seen it coming, but I was never the best at reading signs. When she finally plucked up the courage to ask me out, I panicked and just made up a girlfriend.

It sounds stupid, because it was, but it was a reflex, I guess.

Her name was Lorna, named after the cat I’d had as a kid, and we’d been together for a few years, according to my rushed, ridiculous lie. Jessie’s face fell, her heart shattering before my eyes, and I felt awful, but I’d already told the lie, and I had to see it through. She shuffled away without another word, sniffling a little, and I tried to get on with my day, hoping she’d get over it.

She did not get over it.

Jessie started talking to me more after our first conversation, seemingly emboldened by the rejection, and she was full of questions about Lorna.

I was suddenly trapped in my lie, having to come up with reasons for why Lorna never accompanied me to office social events (she wasn’t out to her family yet), why I’d never mentioned her before (we’re very private) or why nobody else had heard about her (again, we’re very private). She started asking what Lorna looked like, and again, I panicked, picking several aesthetics from thin air and pushing them together to create my imaginary girlfriend.

The day after that conversation, Jessie arrived at the office with a freshly cut and dyed blonde bob, and was wearing a halter neck summer dress, just as I’d described Lorna. It creeped me out a little, but I just tried to forget about it. Jessie was strange, and off putting, but so far, harmless.

It was just a haircut, and a dress. It was nothing to worry about. She was a little scary, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I stayed away from her and tried not to look when she’d stare from her desk, and I just hoped she’d get over it.

Jessie asked me more about Lorna. She wanted to know what she was like, what I liked about her, all the details. I just kept spinning lies. I even took the opportunity to try and scare Jessie off, making up elaborate stories about Lorna’s jealousy. I suppose I hoped that she would worry about Lorna coming after her, but she didn’t seem to get the message.

Every day, she had more and more questions about Lorna, and I’d feed her lie after lie, watching her slowly emulate the girl. I don’t even know why I did it. I think I just hoped she’d start to think that she couldn’t compete, but instead, she just tried as hard as she could to be an impossible girl. It all came to a head a few months later. Jessie was buzzing around my desk, asking questions for her attempts to live vicariously through Lorna, and I just didn’t have the patience for it. I shouted at her, telling her to leave me alone. I felt guilty instantly. She looked crushed, just like she had the first time I turned her down, but, well… it had to be done, didn’t it?

She backed off after that, and I didn’t hear much more from her. It was just the same sad looks from across the office but nothing more. Not hearing from her every day allowed her to fade back into the background.

As time went on, I forgot about Jessie, and about Lorna, and I met Dawn. She was perfect. I was crazy about her the second we met, and that was something I’ll regret for the rest of my life.

Dawn and I hit it off right away. We were inseparable. Everyone could see the chemistry between us, including Jessie. She was furious, storming around the office in a rage, shooting daggers at me every time she looked my way, but that was just the start. She cornered me in the office canteen, pushing me up against the wall with a sneer.

“What would Lorna say?” She whispered, her fingers closing around my throat, her eyes manic. “I’m going to tell her” I struggled against her grip, but she sank her fingernails into my flesh, pulling a yelp of pain from my lips. “I’m going to tell her.” Her nails dug into my skin, blood trickling down her fingers as she tightened her grip. I choked under her grasp, her eyes burning into mine with a fury I’d never seen. The others pulled her back, throwing her to the ground as I fell to my knees, spluttering as a few of my colleagues rushed to help me. Jessie was spitting and screaming, restrained by a few of the bigger guys at the office, but they were clearly struggling to keep her away from me.

She was suspended from work after that, but it didn’t keep her away from me. I created a monster, I guess. Love, lust or whatever it was Jessie was feeling was intense. She couldn’t stop herself. She started showing up at my flat, all hours of the day. She didn’t scream and shout like she did at the office, she’d just stand on the pavement across the road, staring up at the window for hours. No matter the weather, rain or shine, every evening after work, she’d be across the road, watching me.

I called the police, but they’d just tell me again and again that until she actually entered my flat or hurt me, there was nothing they could do, so there she stayed, staring up at my window for hours on end.

Her suspension at work was lifted but she never came back to the office. She’d still stand outside of my flat, and started holding vigil outside the office too, just watching me. It was uncomfortable, unsettling, but for the most part, unthreatening. I guess she had got her violent urges out of her system, and all she wanted to do was watch, so after a while, it just became another part of my life. That sounds crazy, but she just kind of faded into the background. I barely even noticed her day to day.

Time went on, and Jessie just became another aspect of my life. She was just… there. She was always watching, but that was all. My life moved on. I got a promotion at work, Dawn and I adopted a cat from the local shelter. Christmas was coming, and we’d talked about getting a bigger place, maybe taking some bigger steps together, so we were supposed to be saving our money, but there was one, rather expensive gift that I couldn’t stop myself from buying.

I was walking home, the ring burning a hole in my pocket, begging me to ask the question when I saw Jessie across from the flat. I wouldn’t have noticed, and I almost didn’t, but as I turned to close the door and head upstairs, I looked over the road, and there she was, side by side with an almost identical woman.

I opened the door again, glancing over and there they were. Jessie, looking back with a big smile, and by her side, a stranger who seemed almost familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

They didn’t say a word, they just watched, and as I slowly retreated into the flat, I knew they were still there. I sat by the window, watching them for most of the night, unable to escape the unease of them. Jessie hadn’t bothered me for a long time. She was there, but that was all. Her new friend added something more sinister to the situation. She seemed so familiar, and she just stared up at me as I stared down at her, silence and suspicion between us.

I must have fallen asleep at some point. I woke up, and they were still there, soaked from the rain and watching my window as the first snow of winter began to fall from the sky. They stayed through the storm, always there whenever I checked. Days passed. I went to work, I took Dawn for drinks, for dinner. We went shopping. Life went on, again, and Jessie, along with her new friend faded into the background.

I barely noticed them, until this morning.

Dawn was gone when I woke up. It was a Sunday, so neither of us had work. I walked around the flat, calling out to her, but the whole place was silent. I called her phone, but it just went straight to her voicemail. There was more silence as I hung up, wandering the flat again, checking places I already knew were empty as my heart raced. The silence was stifling, but short lived. All of a sudden, there was a thud against the window. I rushed to the living room, but there was more silence, and I could see nothing out of the ordinary. Jessie was across the street, as usual, wearing matching smiles with her new friend. They kept their hands behind their backs, staring up at me, as usual.

I looked down, trying Dawn’s number again, sighing as her voicemail message began immediately. There was another thud against the window, and my eyes snapped up, watching blood drip down the glass onto the snow that gathered on the window ledge.

I stepped forward, chilled as my heart pounded, watching as Jessie and her friend stepped back onto the pavement. Pressing my fingers against the glass, I looked down at them, watching Jessie’s friend pull her hands from behind her back with a grin, my stomach turning as I watched her raise Dawn’s head above her own. That was when it all fell into place. My lie was across the street, holding my lover’s head in her hands. I couldn’t understand how. I couldn’t understand why, but Lorna was across the street, somehow in the flesh, despite being fictional.

I fumbled with my phone, trying to call for help, my eyes blinded with tears, the two girls walking closer to the edge of the pavement as my mind raced. I felt like I was losing my mind, but, hey, maybe that’s what I deserve.

I did this. I don’t know how, but I did. I told a lie, and now, it’s become the truth. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody, but it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t care. She’s already forced her way through the door downstairs, and I can hear her outside the front door of the flat. It won’t be much longer now. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody, but it doesn’t matter, because Lorna is such a jealous girl.