Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Inventor's Daughter - Part 2

So, this is it! The last post before I leave to go to Germany! I have a big concert tonight to celebrate, and and I'm very excited - even about the 24 hours on a bus xD I'm crazy, I know.  Anyway, happy Summer and please enjoy the second part of The Inventor's Daughter. I'd like to give a special shout-out to Cat at Life in a Cat's Eyes for her mention of me in her magazine article - Thank you!

The Inventor's Daughter - Part 2

The stairs were worse than the hall. Books and gears and metal plates were crowded around the edges, with grease and oil stains discolouring the wood below. They circled round and round, and seemed to go on for miles, reaching the blue sky outside. I remembered the odd turret sticking out of the side of his house. That would be his studio, then.  I side-stepped a pile of thick books and glanced at the wall. It was covered in maps and pictures, stuck to the wall with nails and glue and an assortment of other things I couldn’t name. There were dragons and monsters and islands and journeys and metal men, clad in tin suits, and lions and elves. Every inch of the wall was covered in pictures that shone gold in the flickering light of the lamp. Only one of the pictures was different. it was of a little girl. She was wearing a dress and her hair was in ringlets. Her cheeks were puffed up and dotted with freckles. She was adorable.

“My muse.”  Dr Goodwin gestured to the wall. “Helps me think.”

I nodded, my mouth firmly closed. I had been taught not to speak if I could help it. However, one question burst through my lips. “What am I to do, Dr?”

Dr Goodwin kept walking, and in the light I could see a door above us. “I need you to try out a new 
machine. Don’t worry, nothing dangerous. Though I may need you to return if it doesn’t work today.”

“No problem, Sir.”

“There’s a good girl. Now, we’re just in here...”

Dr Goodwin walked forward onto a landing, and pushed open the door I had seen on the way up. It swung open and he stepped inside. “Stand over there. I’ll deal with you in a second.” He sat the lamp down on the table and waved at the other end of the room. “I’ll be a few moments.” He smiled at me, a wide beam, and then busied himself with sketches on the table.

I stepped inside and a gasp caught in my throat. To the left of Dr Goodwin, where he had told me to stand was a huge machine. It was made of cooped and thin, trailing wires ran down from it to a generator. Bulbs and buttons flashed and shone and the metal glinted in the light. It took me a moment to figure out what it was. It was a chair. It was small and tight, just big enough to fit a child like myself. Wires ran down over the golden seat, and embedded into the back was a stand that carried what looked like a mask. It was the oddest thing I had ever seen, and yet it was beautiful. The copper and gold and steel shone in the light and the whole machine was gleaming. No dust or rust was to be seen. Dr Goodwin obviously used it a lot - tinkering with it, trying to make it work.  I turned and glanced at him. “Here, Sir?”

Dr Goodwin didn’t turn round, instead turning over sheets of paper and chucking them onto the floor with a flourish. “Yes. Sit down. I just need to find my...Here it is!” He swivelled round and beamed, his hand tight round a bit of paper. “I’m ready! Just sit down!”

I nodded and squeezed myself into the chair. The arm rests pressed against my shoulders and I could feel my organs being bunch together into a mesh. Dr Goodwin hopped forward and glanced at his bit of paper. “This should work...” He leaned down towards the generator and powered it up, his thin arms working furiously to wind it up. The chair grumbled and a warm tingle of electricity ran down my back. It felt nice.

Dr Goodwin looked at me and smiled. “Can you feel it?” I nodded and Dr Goodwin smiled. His eyes glinted in the light, and for the first time I saw a spark of mania in them. A spark of morbid curiosity. “Good. Now, get comfortable. This might...eh...tickle.” He grinned and moved to the machine. His hands skimmed the buttons and slowly, he flicked a switch. The machine growled and I felt something touch my kneecap.

“W-what exactly does this do?” Fear was creeping into my heart and the thought of the two pounds was gone. I wanted to run. To get out this house and to escape this chair.

“Oh, eh, it just...” Dr Goodwin but his lip and his eyes skimmed over the buttons. “Where is it...” he mumbled. His fingers played with the paper in his hand. I glanced at it. It was the picture from down the stairs. The tin man, clad in a suit of metal. My eyes widened. The stories. They were just stories. Weren’t they? Rumours? Morbid tales? Please? Please no, no, no, no...”

“Sir. Can-can I go?” My voice wavered as I spoke and I swallowed. “I told my mum I’d be back soon.”

“Nonsense. This will only take a moment. Don’t worry! All is safe and well.” He was still looking at the machine, his slender fingers tracing the lines of buttons. He stopped at one and he smiled.  “Here it is! Are you ready? Good! Three, two, one...”

A jolt of electricity raced down my back and I jerked upwards. A metal pad caught me and I felt clamps press it into the shape of my back. Plates of copper fell over my arms and were sealed in place by flickering flames that shot out from the side. Everything hurt and burned and sizzled. My legs were encased in iron, my arms in copper, my chest in chrome. I couldn’t move. I was trapped. A scream escaped my mouth and Dr Goodwin gently placed a hand over my lips. “Shush. It’s fine. Don’t worry.”

I tried to shout, but the noise stopped in my throat. Dr Goodwin stroked my long hair with his spare hand and he smiled. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Ok? I’ve had a little girl before. I know how to look after you. I just need you to be co-operative, that’s all.” His hand moved from my hair and he pressed a button. The stand behind me whirred and buzzed and I could feel it moving upwards. The mask.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as the helmet moved higher and higher. Dr Goodwin pressed another button and it moved closer to my face. It was smooth and rounded with puffed cheeks and dimples. The picture on the stairs, the one of his little girl. His daughter. The mask was modelled on his daughter. He wanted her back. A sob bounced in my throat and I tried to flail my arms. No use. They metal was heavy, far too heavy for me to lift. I would need to build up my muscles if I was to ever move again. Or maybe there were magnets in the chair that held the metal to it. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that I was trapped. The stories weren’t just stories. 

Dr Goodwin smiled at me. His eyes were soft and gentle and I could see my terrified face reflected in them. 

“It’s ok, Mary. You’ll be fine.” He smiled again. And pulling his hand off my mouth, he did it.
He pressed the final button.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Inventor's Daughter (and some footnotes)

Hello! Well, I have a few things to tell you before we begin. Are we sitting comfortably? Good. If not, I'm going to continue anyway.
1. On Friday, I wrote my first fanfiction! It was for a friend's birthday and it was based on the amazing BBC Sherlock. I won't post it on the blog, but if you want to read it, click here - The Ring of Fins. Comment on this blog to tell me what you think! Which leads on well to my next point...
2. Last Tuesday I posted a controversial story. Now, I'm not saying I want a flame war, but the lack of comments made me wonder - how many people actually read my blog? I know I have quite a few followers but still. All I want you to do is vote on the poll opposite. Click 'yes' if you read the blog regularly and comment, 'meh' if you read sometimes and 'no' of you barely read the blog. The post will be up for the next two weeks, so please vote!
3. I'm going away on Friday for a band trip to Germany! It'll be amazing, but it means this blog will be ignored for a week and a bit :D

Ok, onto the story. I was inspired to write this by this song - The Inventor's Daughter. It's much cheerier than my story, but the steampunk elements are still the same. Check out the band - they're amazing! Part 2 coming soon!

The Inventor's Daughter - Part 1

The house towered in front of me, its yellowing walls mottled with broken vines and scratches. Its turret stood out against the azure sky. The door, as always, was closed. It was never open - its paint peeled and faded and fell to the stone porch in ribbons until one day the elusive owner would sneak out and re-paint it. No one ever saw him doing it of course. He was a mystery to the neighbourhood, to the city, to the Empire. He was a ghost. But he was there. The windows were opened and closed and plants flourished inside, their long green leaves bathing in the pearly sunlight that streamed in from outside. The dark smog of London never came near the house and the stink of coal and steam was long gone by the time you came across this decrepit, blossoming mansion. It was an enigma.

I reached up and knocked on the door. My tiny fist couldn't reach the knocker - I was only ten, barely old enough to know what I was doing. No one answered and I swung back on my heels. My dress was frayed and my petticoat was stained with mud, but I didn’t mind. They were clothes, which was more than some people had. I was lucky, my mum told me, to be living in an age where industry was flourishing, to be living at the heart of a mighty and beautiful Empire run on steam and water. It didn't matter that my stomach rumbled every couple of seconds, or that my bracelet was broken, and always had been, or that my face was so covered in rime and dirt that at times I was as black as night. None of that mattered. 

Behind me, I could hear my friends laughing and conversing on the cobbles. They were pointing and jeering and I made a note to humiliate them when this was over. They deserved it. It was obvious that the bottle hadn't landed on my foot when it was spinning. Someone had rigged it, moved it when I wasn't looking. They must have. I was a lucky girl, that's what my mum told me. I was lucky.

Suddenly, a bird shot out from one of the trees lining the overgrown garden. I froze and listened. Footsteps. They broke the silence and the bird song, splintered it in half like an axe through wood. They were heavy and, behind them, I could just make the creaking of the stairs. I gulped and glanced backwards. My friends had gone. I cursed them under my breath. Running off in my time of need. Evidently, they had heard the stories. Everyone had, but few acted upon them. People said the man was a kidnapper, a fiend, an inventor. He made knives out of diamonds, and monsters from the body parts of dogs and cattle. He killed cats and ate their remains, and woe betides any child who went to that door. Stories wavered at this point - sometimes stopping, sometimes slowing to a juddering stop - but those that kept going, those that plugged through the mystery and the gore and agony all ended with one thing. The child, helpless and strung, was plated in a suit of iron. And then, after a few days of struggle, the armour would be heated and the child would burn.

But it was just a story.

The footsteps got louder and I shuffled my position on the porch. My friends said I had to point at him and laugh when he came out the door. Then I was to run. The laughing I had no problem with - the running on the other hand was an issue. I couldn't run fast because of my leg and making fun of a man famed by rumours for his violence and mania and who was probably ten times larger and stronger than me, was not my idea of a fun afternoon. But I was dared. So I had to do. No backsies. No swaps. Just the fun.

The door handle twisted and the door opened. I looked up, a laugh caught in my small throat, and I stopped. The man. He was tall and elegant, with a waistcoat and a pocket-watch on his chest. He had combed back white hair, but his face was void of wrinkles. His was grinning, his white teeth straight and immaculate in his mouth. His manner and stature gave me a shock - the mystery man of Hamilton Way had always been described to me as a madman, a crazy man with wild brown hair and ripped clothes. But the shock faded in an instant. It was his eyes that made me stop.

They twinkled and glimmered, pools of liquid light. It was hard to tell whether they were brown or black, purple or green, in the sunlight. They bounced in his head for a moment, and then caught on mine. He studied my and then beamed. His teeth were white and straight. "Yes! You’re just the person I'm looking for!" His eye sparked and his whole body became alive with energy. "Would you come with me? I'll need your services for a minute, a minute and a half. I'll be quick and then you can go back to your friends."

My mouth dropped open as I stared up at the man. "H-Ho-How...”

"Spit it out! I have things to do, people to see, things to do! I’ve said that, haven’t I? I do that a lot - my brain tends to circle round in a loop. Anyway, get on with it!"

I swallowed and said, "My friends, Sir?"

 "Why, of course! Why would anyone want to come and see a fool like me? I've heard the stories - they're quite entertaining - and the only visitors I get are little boy dared by their friends to laugh and jeer at me. It suits me just fine. Now, are you coming to my room? It'll take two minutes of your time."

I paused. "How much will I be paid, Mister?"

The man cocked his head, his eyes dulled by the mundane question. "Two pounds. An extra one if you would keep your silence about my abode and my manner. The idea of people knowing the true nature of me or my work is abhorrent."

"Two pounds?" My head reeled and a spark of greed grew in my chest. Two pounds! I had never had two pounds before! I was rich!

"Yes, yes. Now, will you join me?"

"Of course, Mister."

The man beamed, his eyes fluctuating and bulging from his slim skull. The pupils fluttered. "Well then, step inside."

I grinned and glanced backwards. I could see my friends head’s popping up from over the wall, their eyes wide and bulbous. I stuck my tongue out at them and grinned. Suckers.

I stepped inside the house. The man followed and shut the door behind him. "I'm Dr Goodwin.”

 “Annabelle, Sir.” I glanced around the hall. It was musty and dark, lit by a single candle that flickered with our steady breaths.  There were a few doors branching out from either side, but the main feature was a long, wooden cabinet that sat against the right wall. It was littered with glittering cogs and dazzling screws, sprockets and gears and glass cases. The orange flame of the candle was reflected in their rivets and dents, their bolts and rivets. The cabinet was covered in them. Hundreds, thousands of metal pieces, waiting to be used. Most of them were covered with a thin layer of dust, and a few had copper splotches round the edges. Rust.

“Right, well, my inventing studio is up here.” Dr Goodwin’s voice broke the eerie silence. It was low and deep, but soothing. I noticed he had secured a small lamp from somewhere, and he was now lighting it. “Hold on, wait...” He struck a match and held it to the wick sticking out of the oil. It caught and he shook out the flame. “This way.” He smiled at me and walking towards the stairs, tapped me on the shoulder. "Stay by me." His eyes glinted and he raised his eyebrows. "There are rooms in here you don't want to see." He winked and with a spring in his step, he marched up the stairs. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Risen Sun

Hello! Before I post this story, I need you to make sure that you have read my premeptive strike post. If not, click here.
Have you clicked it? No? Here's the link again.
And again. And again and again and again. Just to make sure. Have you read it? Good. It's quite long, but I hope you enjoy it.

Risen Sun

My sister bent over and touched her toes, the risen sun too bright in her losing eyes. Her spindly fingers touched the tip of her trainer and she stared at me. Her face was drawn with suffering and her pale cheeks flared with embarrassment. “Do I have to keep doing this?”

I nodded, my mouth pressed into a thin line. “Yes.  You have to get your mobility back.”

Anna nodded and glanced back down at her shoes. They hovered, limp and lifeless, a few inches above the floor. Her heels brushed the foot platforms of her wheelchair. “Do I have too?” she asked again, her voice long and low, a monotonous song.

I sighed and walked over to her, my shoes making soft noises off the floor of our living room carpet. The room was bright and well-furnished. There were two chairs, a couch, a television, a mirror, a tiny wooden cross and a coffee table. Blue curtains draped onto the floor, somewhat shielding the sunlight that was streaming through the clouded windows. The ribbons of yellow illuminated Anna’s sagging frame, her bent posture and the pit of her blue eyes. I knelt down beside her and put a hand on her lap, “Two more, ok. The nurse said you had to do this every day, or else you’ll never be able to use crutches. Now, come on. You can do this.” I looked up into her eyes and plastered a concrete smile on my face. “You can do this.”

Anna fake smiled back at me and leaning forward, she stretched her fingers. Her stomach quivered and jerked. The weak muscles on her back pushed against the thin fabric of her t-shirt.  Her eyes had narrowed in concentration and her pink tongue stuck out from in between her pale lips. Tears were sparking in her eyes, miniature oceans that blurred and rocked as they fell onto her cheeks. My heart panged and I felt a lump rise in my chest. This was my sister. My sister and she was crying. This was my sister. The lump grew in my throat as Anna looked upwards, a weak smile painted on her lips. “I did it.”

I nodded and smiled. “Well done. You can stop now,” I said. I stood up and moved her feet back onto the platforms of her chair. It was black and shining, but it was it was obviously second hand - scuffs and sticker marks coated the back and a chunk of the arm rest was missing.  Mum had tried to make it pretty for her after that day, but it was impossible. There was no way the limp seat and the scarred metal could be beautiful again. So instead, she had buffed it and polished it, and stuck a tiny picture of Nemo onto the back. I didn’t see the point. I wasn’t as though Anna could see it.

Settling her foot on the platform, I stood up and went behind Anna’s chair. She was looking wistfully out the window, out at the summer. I glanced out the window, and then at Anna. Her blue eyes were still lost, but the sun put a glimmer in them that wasn’t usually there. “Do you want to go outside? Go for a walk?”

Anna shifted in her seat, her hands on her lap. “Won’t Mum get annoyed?” she asked, her little voice still full of hopelessness. Some days I longed for that rising and falling concerto of sweetness that was her old voice. Other days, I knew how she was feeling. Small. Vulnerable. Defeated. Lost.

I think for a moment and then shrug. I’m seventeen; I can take care of my sister for ten minutes. Can’t I? “Mum won’t mind. I’ll leave her a note. Do you want me to go and get Roosevelt?” Roosevelt was Anna’s bear. It had been Beary in a previous life, but in a fit of fact finding and compassion, she had named it after its long gone creator.

Anna nodded. “Ok. I’ll leave you here for a minute, alright. Two seconds.” I walked into the hall and scribbled a note for Mum, before running along the corridor and into the study, now Anna’s bedroom. I grabbed Roosevelt from his shelf and ran back to my sister. I handed her the bear. She clasped it in her hands and pressed the furry face to her chest. I saw her nostrils flare as she took in his scent - a mixture of lavender, peppermint, and, much to my annoyance, hospital disinfectant. She glanced up at me and smiled. 

“Thanks, Libby.”

“No problem.” I sauntered round the back of her wheelchair and grasped the handles in my hands. A few seconds, a banged door and a juddering step later, and we were outside, soaking in the rays of the sun.
I pushed Anna down the path and looked at the world. It was too early for anyone to be up, so the streets were deserted. Leaves shone green on the boughs of trees, and I could just make out the veins of white that criss-crossed through their emerald bodies. The bark was brown and crinkled, like paper someone had thrown in the bin, discarded and discoloured. The houses were silent, and only a few birds braved the empty quiet, shattering the morning with their shrill calls. It was perfect.

I played with Anna’s long brown hair, entwining it in my fingers as I walked. Perfect. I hadn’t heard that word in a long while. The last time I had heard it was that day when Mum and Dad didn’t think I was listening - “She’s broken,” Mum had sobbed, while Dad wrapped his arms around her crippled frame. “She’ll never be perfect again.” Dad didn’t say anything, just cooed softly. Sometimes I think that he was trying to be comforting and supportive of his wife, but others, I just wonder if he couldn’t contradict her. That deep down in his heart, he knew Mum was right. And then we started praying.

 “Who’s God, Libby?”

My heart froze and I gulped. What to tell a six year old about God? Confusion whirled in my brain. “Ask Mum.”

“I did,” Anna said, still looking at me, “but she told what she thinks. I want to know what you think.”

I raise my eyebrows. “What did Mum tell you?”

“That He was the Almighty, and His Son is the Saviour of the world. She said that God is the bestest guy ever.”

I lowered my eyebrows. Of course she would say that. After all, she was ‘saved’ that day.  That was why the accident happened.  He had been driving to church, and the car had slammed into her. If she wasn’t so religious, Anna might still be able to walk.

“So? Is he?”

I turned a corner and kept walking. “God is...” I started before closing my mouth. Words escaped me. Anna was impressionable. I knew that. I also knew that she was smart, and wanted to make her own decisions. I couldn’t bring my bias into this. And neither could Mum.  “God is...”

“God is what? Where does he live?”

This, I could answer. “He lives in Heaven.”

“Where’s that?”

I paused and said, “It’s up there.” I jerked a finger at the sky and Anna smiled.

“In the clouds?”

“Yup.” Anna nodded and the conversation lapsed into silence for a few minutes. The birds sang in the trees and a car rumbled past. A question was nagging at my mind. I turned another corner and opened my mouth. 

“Why do you want to know, Anna?”

Anna squirmed in her seat and hugged Roosevelt to her chest. “Mum said that only good people can see God. Bad people can’t and they ‘live a life of sin’. Is that true?”

I bit my tongue. Why was Mum telling Anna this? She was only six! She was too young to know the ins and outs of religion, the effects it had on people. Mum had no right to try and force her into it. She had only become Christian a few months ago - what made her think she could push Anna into being one?

Swallowing , I stopped by a tree and leaned on the bark. I swivelled Anna round to face me. Her face was lined and pale, the dimples in her cheeks impossibly deep. She was wearing a bright pink top and a pair of jeans. The jeans were loose over her limp legs and her trainers swayed with the momentum of turning her round. She was beautiful, even if she was broken. “Some people believe that good people go to Heaven to meet God and Jesus and bad people go to Hell. Some people believe that there is no Heaven and Hell and that God might not exist. I’m one of those people, ok? Mum is someone that believes in God. It depends what you believe.”

Anna nodded and then screwed her face in concentration. “Mum said that people that didn’t see God were bad. Does that mean you’re bad?”

I took a deep breath, trying to cool the anger ranging inside my chest. I was going to talk to Mum when I got back. “No. I’m still a good person.”

“Then why did Mum say that?”

Because she’s a forearm grabber who believes God and Jesus are the answer to the world’s problems. “She said that because that’s what she believes,” I stated. Anna creased her brow, and I sighed. “Ok. Have you ever heard of other religions?”

Anna paused and nodded. “I read about Islem once.”

“Islam? That’s another religion. In that religion people believe in someone called Allah. He’s like God, but different. Now, there are a lot of Muslims - people who believe in Allah, not God - in the world. Does that mean all of them are bad people?”

Anna shook her head. “Exactly. Everyone has different beliefs. It doesn’t make us bad people.”

Anna nodded again and pursed her little lips. Roosevelt was settled in the crook of her arm, and she stroked his head as she talked. “So, does that mean that Mum was wrong?”

Yes. “No, it means that Mum was different. Now, come on, we need to get back.” I walked behind Anna and pushed her back onto the pavement. A leaf spiralled down into her lap and she picked it up, twirling it between her fingers. She was still thinking - I could tell from the way she looked at the leaf, running her fingertips over the veins and dents, her lost eyes focused on the tiny tip.

I kept walking, my mouth pressed into a line. How dare Mum tell her that! She knew I was atheist. She knew Anna was impressionable, and she knew it would annoy me. How dare she? I was the one that took care of Anna - she was too busy going to prayer groups and church and other religious things. She didn’t bathe Anna. She didn’t clothe her. She didn’t talk to her, not if it wasn’t about religion. She had no right to do that! She had lost the right the moment she said Anna was broken.

“Am I going to heaven?”

Her voice stopped me in my tracks. “Of course you are.” Realisation dawned on me. “What did mum say?”

“She said I was broken, and broken people are bad people. And bad people don’t go to Heaven.”

Tears pricked the corners of my eyes, dimming the hatred towards my mother. “Of course, you’re going to Heaven. You’re not broken. You were never broken.”

Anna nodded and bent her head. A car rumbled in the distance, shooting down the road. “So I will go to 
Heaven?” Her voice wavered and pinpricks of tears shone in her eyes.

“Yes.”

Anna glanced up and her hands wrapped round the wheels of her wheelchair. “Good.”

She pushed away from me and rested on the side of the pavement. For a second she just sat. I thought she was watching the trees sway in the distance, the way she often did when we were sitting inside. Had I been paying attention, I would have noticed the tears sliding down her cheeks and the smile on her face.

“Bye Libby. I’ll say hello to God for you.” And then, with a push, she was gone, hit by the speeding car. My mother’s lie came true. She was broken. But in her last second, the risen sun was too dull in her glittering eyes. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Risen Sun - A Premeptive Strike.

Hi :D I got interviewed for a blog! I'd love it if you had a look - it's all about writing ^.^ Click here, and follow!

Ok, tomorrow, or Thursday, I'm going to post a story on here. This story is going to end up with a lot of debates in the comments and probably some hate directed at me, but in all honesty, I don't care.

A couple of weeks ago, I hit a rut in my writing. So, I did what I usually do - I took a quote (in this case, the John Green gem "The risen sun was too bright in her losing eyes") and I wrote a story round it. Somewhere or other though, it became about religion. I don't know when it happened but it did. I was having a few religious debates at the time, so that explains the randomness of it. But this story is based loosely on religion. You know, that topic that people have flame wars over.


Now, some of you know this, and some of you don't - I'm agnostic. I understand why people have faith, and I know why faith is important in our society, but I'm not convinced by it. I'm not going to go into reasons, but my point is this - I'M IN NO WAY ANTI-RELIGIOUS. This story is not anti religion, and I'm not trying to make you all atheists. I'm putting my point of view across through the one medium I have access to - writing. It might not seem obvious at the start, but I actually praise religion at the end (pay attention to the last line) I'm not getting on at religion, and the story isn't meant to be about that. First and foremost, it's a story, and not to be taken too seriously.

This is a premptive strike. Some of may not agree with what I've written, but I hope you'll at least give it a chance.

Thank you for not turning into giant squids of anger.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Runner - Part 3

Hi! I'm officially in S4, the year of my exams. It's a terrifying prospect, what with all the studying (!) but I should be ok...I hope...
Anyhow, here's the last part of The Runner. I glad you're all enjoying it!

The Runner - Part 3

The ground seemed to race up to meet me, and I was vaguely aware of my legs and arms spinning as I fell. Last second, I curled my body inwards and rolled onto the sand. The grains, tiny daggers, rubbed my skin and I could feel the sharp point of some driftwood sticking into my back. I coughed and glanced up. The girl was about a hundred metres away and disappearing fast. I leapt to my feet, shook some sand from my trainers and ran.

The sand was uneven and running on it was torturous. My feet sank as I tried to run and my lungs were straining fit to burst. I was so unfit. But I kept running. A minute or so into my mini marathon, Rudy joined me, his small paws gliding over the sand like the girl’s. I tried to copy his legs, the way they moved so elegantly and swiftly. I focused on the inner sole of my foot, turning it inwards with every step. Running got easier and I could feel myself grinning. I was running. I was free. I turned my head up towards the bottom of the beach, and saw the girl waiting for me on the pavement. I ran towards her, dodging the people relaxing on the sand and smiling at the people walking their dogs. Rudy barked and I nodded. He understood. He got this. It was amazing. It was fantastic. I felt as though I had wings that propelled me forward. I really didn’t care about anyone else looking. They could go back to their silly little lives, chained to their work and their house and their ungrateful children. They could go back to being normal. Not me. Normal is just a word, after all.  I promised myself that when I was old enough to drive I would go places and see the world. I wouldn’t settle down, not until I was ready. Until that time, I would be free.

I ran up a set of stairs that joined onto the pavement and doubled back. The girl was sitting on the wall, her legs brushing the ground, drawing patterns in a thin layer of sand. Her head was turned away from me. 

Panting, I ran towards her, and sat down next to her. I paused to catch my breath and then smiled. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Her voice was sweet, and I recognized it from somewhere. Church? No. I struggled to think of anywhere else. I didn’t do anything else. I just sat at my computer and waited for something exciting to happen.

“What were you doing last night?”

“Running. Talking of which, you were pretty good.”

My heart swelled with pride. “You’re much better.”

“Not really.” The girl’s toe was moving round and round in circles. She was drawing something.

“Who are you?”

The girl didn’t reply, just kept on moving her foot round and round, up and down, sketching something on the gum-ridden concrete. “I mean, I want to get to know you better. I want you to teach me how to do that...stuff. It looks amazing. I want to know how you don’t care about things. Who are you?”
The girl lifted her foot from the ground and smiled. She tilted her head towards me and, a clich├ęd as it seems, I gasped. The girl had a long thin nose, with almond shaped, dark blue eyes. There was a tiny scar on her left cheek. My hand flew up to my face. I had cut myself two days ago, in that exact place. It had scabbed over, but I kept picking it. That, and the voice, and her face and the scar on her toe...

“You’re me.”

The girl smiled and shook her head. “Yes and no. I’m you, but only in your head. I don’t exist - not fully. Watch.” She stood up and walked further into the pavement. Then, with all her might, she screamed. I glanced at the people on the beach. No reaction, not even when the girl started swearing at the top of her lungs, shouting all sorts of profanity.

“So, you’re just in my head?”

The girl smiled and sat down beside me again. “Yeah. But you do become a good free-runner. You start up a club and teach others how to do it as well. Everyone knows you, and everyone loves you. You become a superstar in the eyes of these people.”

I raised my eyebrows. “And you know this how?”

“I don’t. But, hey, you just did your first stint as a free-runner - you might as well do it again. Internet has some wonderful tips, and you should go to France. They’re huge on free-running. You might pick up a hot French guy as well.” The girl grinned and stood up, stretching her arms as she did so. “Well, that’s me done. 
I might come back, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

“Wait, you’re leaving?”

“Well, yeah. I got you running, didn’t I? That’s all I was here to do - make you be a bit more confident and all that.” She stretched her legs and started jogging on the spot. “Bye. And good luck. Hint and tip, by the way - just run and jump, trust your body, and do not under any circumstances, fight an instinct. If you’re jumping across a rooftop, just jump. Don’t think, and don’t struggle when the urge to flatten your body comes. Just do it.” The girl smiled. “Bye.” She winked and ran down the pavement, vanishing into thin air.

I sat on the wall, dazed. My head felt strange, dizzy as though someone had just punched me in the face. The girl was me. ME. It had happened so fast. What did that mean? Was she just a figment of my imagination? Or was she me from the future? What the hell? I shut my eyes tight and took a deep breath. It’s fine, it’s ok...Deep breaths...Ok, so the girl was me. Big deal.  So what if I was talking to myself for ten minutes? No biggie. At least now I knew I could run. At least now I knew what I could do.

I opened my eyes and stood up. Rudy had padded up the steps and he was staring up at me, his lead trailing on the ground behind me. His face was set in that goofy grin only dogs can do, and I couldn’t help but pat him on the head. “Thanks, boy.” Rudy barked and his tail started wagging. “You can get home by yourself, can’t you boy?” Rudy barked again and I smiled. He could always follow me. I unclipped the lead from his collar and stoked his back, his smooth hair sliding out from under my fingers.

I shoved the lead into my pocket and steadied myself. I glanced down at the pavement, at the drawing the girl had sketched with her big toe. It was a crow, its wings outstretched and its feathers blowing in the cool sea breeze. It was wearing a cheeky grin, its beak open to reveal a lolling tongue. I grinned and scuffed the picture with my shoe. I could do this. I just needed to...run.

My legs flew out from underneath me and I raced down the street. My breathing was slow and steady, and I could hear Rudy galloping and barking behind me. I was free. I was finally free. Who gave a damn what everyone else thought? They were just people. They had opinions, beliefs, feelings and they probably wanted to do the same too. They would sit and stare and in their robotic hearts, full of work and school and the relentless whisperings of life, they would be jealous of my quick feet, my agility, my confidence. One day, that would happen and when it did, I would celebrate by going to France and training harder. I could do this. I was meant to do this.

I was born to run.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Runner - Part 2

Hi! I'm not feeling all too well, so I'm just going to leave this on its own. Enjoy!

The Runner - Part 2

The next morning I logged onto my laptop and searched some of her moves on Google. I had walked Rudy home in a daze, my mind filled with the girl. I hadn’t got a good glimpse of her face - only the edges of her eyes and her mouth - but there was something vaguely familiar about her. The evening with Jason had jumpstarted my brain back to normal, and I had spent most of the night trying hard to ignore the incessant ramblings that penetrated my brain, sharp knives of pointless words. I had fallen asleep with the girl on my mind, and had awoken on a quest to find her, or at least what she did.

A couple of frantic searches later and I discovered she was a free-runner - someone who ran around the city for, well, no reason whatsoever. It sounded amazing. The ability to just run and jump and glide, to trust your body to know what to do. It was the definition of freedom. It was fast, it was beautiful, it was edgy, heck, it was everything I wanted. But then again, it wasn’t normal, was it? No. I got enough sneers and looks and laughs as it was. Free-running probably wouldn’t help my cause. And besides, you had to be fit and confident. Me, I was neither.

I logged off of my computer and walked down stairs, giving Rudy a pat on the rump as I passed him lying in the hall. He wagged his tail happily and snuffled at the ground. He was a weird dog. He had spent the whole of the walk home last night, silent and plodding, whimpering. I had never seen him so depressed. But he was back to normal now, so that was alright.

I went into the kitchen, only to find Mum bobbing her head to the radio, buttering some toast. I groaned. 
“Mum...”

Mum looked round and grinned. The movement went from her head to her hips, and I could feel my face reddening. It wasn’t even a good song. “What’s up sweetie?”

“The ceiling.”

Mum raised her eyebrows. “Don’t be cheeky, Jamie.”

“Sorry Mum. My brain doesn’t function very well when my gag reflex is so stimulated.”

Mum sighed and turned off the radio. She swiped the knife over the toast one more time, and then threw it in the sink. “Did you have a good time with Jason last night?”

“We spent the whole night talking about peanut butter and its uses as both a food stuff and adhesive. No, Mum, I did not have a good time. How was your time with Samantha?”

“Great.” She took a bite of the toast and chewed it noisily. “What’s wrong, darling? You seem a bit...” she waved her arm in the air, “distant. What’s wrong?”

I paused. “Are there any free-runners in the town?”

“Free-runners? People that jump over buildings and stuff?”

I nodded and Mum creased her brow. “I don’t think so. It’s a bit of a weird way to spend your time, if you want my opinion. Very dangerous - what if you fall?”

The urge to say something witty and rude rose in me, but it pushed it down. “I guess so.”

“Why were you asking?”

I shrugged. “No reason. Hey, do you think I could take the dog out again?  I really liked the walk yesterday.”

Mum nodded, a smile blossoming on her face. “Of course! Rudy’ll love it! And it gets you some exercise as well, instead of sitting at that blasted computer all day...I wish you’d go out and make some friends...”
I took the lead from the hook and shook my head as I walked out the door. “Not the time, Mum. We can talk about my non-existent social life later.”

“Fine, honey. But we will talk about it...I worry about you.”

“Yeah, me too,” I muttered. I ran to the edge of the stairs and called for Rudy. His ears perked up as soon as he saw me and he yelped with excitement when he saw the lead. “There’s a good boy.” I slipped the collar round his head and darted out the door.

I had no idea why I decided to go out. It was eight hours form the time I had seen the girl yesterday, and there was no reason why she would be there. There was just something inside me, something small and tiny, telling me to go and look. The chance that she would be there was small, but it was hope, a tiny sparking glimmer of hope, the same colour of the sand last night - golden. I might as well take the chance.

I jogged with Rudy to the beach. It was busier today, but it was far from crowded. The sky was a dull grey and the sea was calm, barely a ripple breaking the surface. The shops lining the road were open and a few people wandered in and out of them at irregular intervals, sometimes holding ice-creams on their way out. Why someone would want an ice-cream in this weather was a mystery. The poor people were probably trying to get the most out of their trip to the beach, even if it was miserable and dull and cold. The crow was still circling overhead, its wings flapping desperately in an attempt to stay airborne. I pulled my jumped closer towards my chest and slowed down to a walk. Rudy rubbed his snout up against my thigh and I gave him a pat on the head.

The beach was empty. No sign of the girl there, or on the roofs. My heart sank in my chest. I knew it was pointless to think she would be here, but hope and curiosity does crazy things to one’s head. I had wanted to talk to her, to ask her name, and how she did it - got rid of the fear of falling, and the fear of being judged and just went for it. All I was thinking about was the way she landed on the roof, catlike and majestic, and how that was so far away from everything I knew. I could feel the pressure to be good, to be behaved, to be safe and normal crushing down on me, flattening my windpipe and  forcing my lungs against the back of my chest. I could never be like her. Ever.

I blinked and my heart started moving again. I gave Rudy a tap and started walking again. I tried to calm my breathing down. It was fine. So what if the girl wasn’t there? She was just a girl. It wasn’t as though she meant anything, other than a symbol of rebellion against the harsh regiment that people call life. I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. Then why did I feel so heartbroken, so defeated? She was just a girl. An ordinary, extraordinary girl.

Rudy suddenly strained at his leash, barking and yelping. His tail thumped the side of my leg, and his back legs were pushing against the ground. He was staring at the beach his eyes alight. I yanked him backwards and placed a hand on his snout - our signal for him to shut the hell up - and I turned to see what he was staring at. On the beach, her feet skipping over the waves, was the girl. She looked exactly as she did yesterday, but her wild hair was straighter. It wasn’t by any means perfect, but it looked less...rugged. I touched my own hair. I had forgotten to brush it this morning, so it was a bit crazier than it should have been.

The girl sprinted through the waves, water droplets, like sparkling diamonds, showering her feet. Her hair bounced on her shoulder and she was grinning from ear to ear. I still couldn’t see her full face, but I knew her from somewhere. Drama? No. School? Double no. Who was she?

As the girl ran past, I felt myself do something I never thought I would do. I ran after her. I gave Rudy’s lead a sharp tug and ran to the wall separating the beach and the pavement. The drop onto the beach was a few metres, and I had always been terrified to jump it. But in that moment, I trusted my feet. I let go of Rudy’s lead and jumped.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Runner - Part 1

Hey! I'm back! As it turns out, I can't leave you for any length of time without my brain imploding ;)

I wrote this story a few weeks ago, and while it isn't my best, I quite like it. I've always loved the idea of parkour (free-running) and I've always wanted to write a story about it, so...yeah. Enjoy.

Also, there is an amazing giveaway going on at Page Turner! Check it out!
The Runner - Part 1

“Jamie? Take the dog out will you?”

I looked up from chopping vegetables and frowned. “Do I have to?” I laid the knife down on the chopping board and pulled my soon-to-be-patented whining face. I had stuff to do tonight. Mainly internet and tumblr related stuff, stuff that had an upmost importance to my life as a teenage nerd.

“Yes, you have to. It’s not an option- Rudy hasn’t been walked all day. He’s getting restless”
I wrinkled my brow and my shoulder slumped. “Mum, I have things to do! I need to...eh....study!” I couldn’t help but lie, or keep the whine from my voice, the desperate pleas of a drowning man. I knew it was pointless, but I couldn’t help it. It was a defence mechanism, one I employed whenever I could. It worked sometimes, but Mum had her face on, the one that simply said, “DO IT.” in capital letters. “Mum...”

“Jamie. Go. You’re fifteen now, a big girl, and besides, you were the one that wanted Rudy in the first place, remember?”

“Yeah! When I was, like, nine!”

Rudy was our Irish Setter. He was beautiful and fast, with long flowing hair that glinted auburn in the light. He was affectionate, but, unfortunately, he only had two moods - hyper and hyper. It made him annoying to be around, so much so that I sometimes wished we had never got him from the shelter in the first place. I actually tried to take him back when I was eleven, and I would have gotten away with it too, was it not for those meddling kids who insisted that I ask my mum first.

I throw a glance at Mum, and sighed. Her face was set and her eyebrows were raised in mocking anticipation. Arguing would be futile.  “Fine.”

I grabbed Rudy’s lead from the hook and the door and turned to walk out into the hall.

“Oh, and Jamie? Be back in half an hour. Samantha’s coming over, and I need you to entertain Jason.”

“Jason?” I pulled a face. Jason was twelve and the most annoying boy I had ever seen in my life. And he always smelt of badly burnt cheese.

“Yes, Jason. Now, go, before Rudy leaves a surprise on the carpet.”

I sighed again and walked down the hall. It only took a few steps for Rudy to come bounding down the stairs, his tail wagging furiously behind him, and slip his head into the collar. I tightened it around his neck and gave the lead a short tug towards the door. Rudy barked and trotted forward. His tail was hitting against the back of my leg and his amber eyes were glinting, the eyes of a maniac.

I opened the door and made off into the street. Sunlight streamed down through the leaves, creating a dappled effect on the pavement. We lived near to the sea, and the smell of salt and fish was making my mouth water. It always reminded me of fish and chips, smothered with vinegar, and evening spent sitting on the beach, watching the waves slide in and out, in and out, a rhythmic crashing that was both relaxing and awe-inspiring.

I strolled down the street, Rudy by my side, and turned left, heading down to the beach. It was almost sunset and the air was cold and refreshing. There was a small but powerful wind kicking up at sea - I could hear the waves getting slowly higher, getting slowly louder as they hurtled towards the golden sand that lay just round the corner.

The street I was on was lined with trees, but in a few hundred metres, that gave way to a paraphernalia of ice-cream shops and galleries, chip shops and petit newsagents, and eventually, to the beach itself. The sand was golden in the setting sun, and the sea hiccupped grey waves and seaweed onto its shimmering platter. The beach void of life, bar a few dogwalkers and couples strolling up and down the pavement. Their eyes were turned to the sea, but they weren’t really seeing anything. They were thinking of things far away - did I leave the oven on? I wonder if Susie has gone to bed yet? God, I could kill a cup of coffee - and as a result, their eyes were glazed and empty. If eyes were the windows to the soul, then these people had none.

I gave Rudy’s lead a sharp tug, turning onto the slim pavement next to the wall that separated the beach from pedestrians and cars. To my right were the shops, their shutters down and their front doors locked. A crow circled above me, its black wings beating against the air, as though flying were the hardest thing in the world. I stopped and watched it for a moment, patting Rudy on the head. Its feathers, like inky satin, shone in the dimming light. It was free. It could do what it wanted, when it wanted - it wasn’t held in place by chains, shackles of social conformity and normality. It could fly, jump, run without the fear of being sneered at, of being laughed at. It didn’t have to be popular or skinny or arrogant to be normal. It could just be free.

I started Rudy walking again and it struck me that I didn’t even know what that word meant. ‘Normal’. What was normal? I was constantly being called strange, geeky, abnormal because I spent my time writing songs and browsing the internet rather than getting drunk and sneaking a shag behind the shed like so many of my classmates and peers. If everyone was abnormal, would ‘normal’ cease to exist? Or would it still be there, just with a different definition? I didn’t know. The only thing I knew was the yearning inside me, the wish to be truly free, to do what I wanted, to socialise with the people I wanted, to be free to scream and jump and skip without someone looking at me like I was a freak.

I was vaguely aware of the world growing darker, the pale sunlight morphing into a dark orange haze. The sea glimmered, white foam from the waves wiping the sand clean, a fresh slate.  It was beautiful, perfect.

A cloud of sand suddenly appeared on the beach, and a girl sprinted through it. She was about my height, with tangled brown hair that bounced on her shoulders in messy clumps. She was wearing a pair of combats and a simple grey t-shirt. She was barefoot and she was running as though she was being chased by the devil. Her feet barely seemed to touch the ground, instead skimming over it, sending clouds of dust into the air. She sprinted along the beach for a few more seconds and then leaped into the air, her small hands grasping the wall. She pulled herself up and crouching on the wall, looked at me. Her hair covered her face, but I could see the whites of her eyes. She was smiling. Her eyes held mine for a moment and then, with another burst of energy, she ran along the wall towards the lamppost. She wrapped her skinny arms around it, and pulled herself up, shimmying up the long black pole.

My mouth had formed into a round ‘o’ at this point, and even Rudy was watching her. The girl got to the top of the lamppost, placing her feet above the light bulb. She was steady and her grubby toes curled round the edge of light. I noticed a small scar on her foot, a line slicing across her middle toe, the exact scar that I had, but I dismissed it. The girl arched her back like a cat, leaning forward on her toes. Her head was turned to an ice-cream shop, directly across from her. The road was narrow, with only one lane for cars and the pavement adding width, and I saw the corners of the girl’s mouth turn up. My heart stopped in my chest. She was going to jump. I opened my mouth to shout to her, but it was too late. The muscles in her legs flexed and she hurtled into the air.

I raced forward, ready to catch her as she fell towards earth, but nothing happened. The girl simply flew through the air and, with a lupine grace landed on the roof of the ice-cream shop. Her arms hit the flat roof first, followed by her legs. She paused for a second and then got to her feet. She was unharmed, bar a few minute scratches on her arms and feet. She smiled again and ran.

I watched in awe as the girl ran over the rooftops, jumping and rolling as though it the most natural thing the world. She reached the end of the street in the blink of an eye and then jumping onto the roof of a house, she vanished from sight, her wild hair floating behind her as she scrabbled up the ashen slates.