Hey folks! So, I’m working on a secret(ish) project that involves a lot of script writing and story work, and I’m hoping I can talk a lot more about it at length very soon. However, I can show you this, which is a short story I’ve been working on that features the main character. I wrote this mainly as a kind of writing exercise and to see if I could create a kind of unhinged, crazy character and really make the reader feel ‘inside’ his head. Writing it in first person did make me feel slightly disturbed however… Anyway! I didn’t want to push out the boat to far and let you guys kind of read between the lines at what really happened, but we’ll see how well that worked!
Now, as I’ve said before, my spelling and grammar suuuuuucks, so please excuse & call me about on it! But otherwise I hope you enjoy A Boy in the Woods One Day
When I was young, we would sometimes build sand castles on the beach. Scraped together and built with impatient hands, they were not fancy or beautiful, they sported no towers or fancy houses and gardens for little kings and members of the court. What they were were huge- ugly and industrial, with high walls and deep moats, built around clawed out patches of sand that we would sit inside, trying to resist the encroaching tide. As the water lapped against our walls of rock and sand and driftwood used to build these creations, we would plug up the gaps that formed through gushing streams of salt water, seeing how long we could sit within our dry patch of land before the ocean finally reclaimed it. Soon we’d be left sitting, shivering and sodden in the waters of our dirty flooding castle (now sporting a fashionably large swimming pool on the grounds), looking at the disaster around us, the fall of civilization in grainy, muddy miniature. Leaving the beach (our school clothes were dirty and dinner was at five, plus I had drum practice at 6), I looked over my shoulder, back over our ruins- we’d built a paddling pond full of mucky seawater and wasted time, a shattered lump of rock and sand that would slowly erode over the days like something Percy Bysshe Shelley would be proud of. It was certainly nothing to write at length about.
I thought of these simpler times as I patted the last disturbed patch of ground in the woods near my house. Why did those sand castles stick so clearly in my mind? Maybe there was something pathetic, nostalgic or allegorical about those days that my mind hadn’t yet revealed to me, but was holding in wait for the day I became mature or enlightened enough to understand it. My heart suddenly lurched and my stomach turned over in reply, my balance lost. I leant (or more ungainly, fell) on the upright reddened shovel, doubled over and catching my breath like an old man reliant on a cane. I took some deep breaths, staring at the disturbed ground. I noticed my shoes. The soles were caked red too. Muddy, bloody clay. Thick and vioscous and nothing escapes this ground.
Perhaps the castles represented something I yearned for in life? A return to a more innocent time perhaps? Certainly stress was becoming a problem in life, exams and money and all that kind of stuff. I felt the weight of the shovel on my shoulder and suddenly realised I was almost home. I threw it away with a twirl, hearing it spin through the air and land high in the rhododendron bushes. I never heard it hit the ground. I looked at the disturbed patch of leaves with some worry. I had always liked the shovel. It had reminded me of old days of moving gravel with my father and working in the garden. I felt a sudden, painful pang of regret for throwing away such a precious memory. As I approached the backdoor of my house, I stepped out of each of my shoes in one smooth motion, leaving them a stride apart, sitting on the unkempt grass behind the old boat engines. Walking barefeet now, I squelched off the grass, crunched across the gravel (carefully) and hopped up the concrete steps, leaving four wet sole patches on the dry concrete from my socks. I removed the wet, black socks and threw them in the bin. Maybe I need to go back to that beach. It’s only down the road, a short walk and hop across the burn. A sudden answer came my way, however: the tell tale spots of rain appearing on the concrete. It would hide the sock marks, at least, but I wouldn’t be going to the beach now.
My parents were sitting at the kitchen table, Mum drinking tea, Dad coffee. As I got closer I realised Mum was also drinking coffee. I looked over at the counter, where the milk still lay out. There were no tea bags left. They said their hellos and asked me something, anything, but I could not look them in the eyes or talk to them since it happened. That was something I think they might have started to notice. You don’t notice some big things like coming in barefoot from outside, but you notice wee things like that. It’s hard to talk normally, friendly or at length after you’ve done something like that. I think that was the biggest shame because I was always a friendly, talkative guy. I walked through to the corridor and up the stairs towards my room. My feet were cold, but at least dry now. I sobbed for a bit then sat and read my book until I slept. It was the Mars Trilogy, and although I was more of the type that enjoys sci-fi that focuses on the higher philosophical debates and technology behind the devices and ideas within the stories, I could appreciate the more human focus that the Mars trilogy took. Certainly not a complaint, and I loved the direction the story was taking down (I was on the second book). As I slept, I dreamt about Mars, the characters, that maybe one day I would get there, and then about the girl I had loved, and her naked body sitting on my bed, lounging in my room, lying in the grass and mud, digging her way into my house and then finding me, her mouth still full of dirt and her skin still so pale, almost grey. I woke up wailing, sweating and crying and wanting to call for my mother like some newborn bairn but I couldn’t, and she could never help me and never would ever again. One day she had put me down and never picked me up, and one day I stopped being her son and that was that. I sat there, rocking back and forth, no one to blame but myself and praying for death. Fortunately enough though, it was soon 5AM, and I could get out of bed knowing I hadn’t wasted the day sleeping in.
I ran that morning as I had every morning for the past year. I was the fittest I’d ever been that year, full of energy. “A new Man” people had said to me, and I took that compliment, proudly. I was a new man. I had finally grown up, into someone I could respect. It was the best year of my life. It was meant to be. As I ran towards the old Sawmill, I thought I saw someone running up ahead of me, through the haze of rain and occasional overgrown bend of trees and bushes. His pace was very good, consistent but fast. I tried to catch him, to get closer just to see who it was. There was not usually anyone out at this time, especially with the bad weather as of late. Most people were also up north, helping police with the search. Upping my pace, I swerved off just before the mill, taking a different route parallel to the road that was once an access track for the logging yard. The path was overgrown and uneven, but it was shorter distance-wise and meant I was slowly gaining on the mystery runner. His pace was still consistent, but I swear he was slowly gaining speed, whether this was because he noticed me with a competitive regard, or thought I was some crazy man (haha!) I couldn’t tell. Willing myself forward, I put on a final burst, my heart pumping, my brain electrified as I jumped, dodged and hopped over potholes and branches, the intersection getting closer and closer. We were level now, and I could see his features flickering through the trees like a Victorian Zoetrope. Short hair, blue T-shirt, shorts and flashy yellow running shoes. His face was still hidden, but I already knew who it was. I was still running, getting ever closer to that intersection, but I could see and feel this person beside me as much as I ever would. It was me. I was watching myself run, sprinting down this road like some ghost car in a racing game, watching with fascination as this copy of myself ran before my eyes. I didn’t know what to think, I had run this route a hundred times and never met myself out here. I suddenly realised I was almost at the intersection, the trees were running out and I was going to collide with my doppelganger if I kept this up. This was a bad idea, I had to leave, I had to get out of here and back home, back to my book, my bed. Back the way I came. I tried to turn but I was going too fast, the track too narrow now, there was no going back. I tried to slow, but so did he, trying he must, to keep level with me. My pace slowed but so did his, my steps became erratic but so did his, and as my head turned, tears forming on my face as the trees finally disappeared, so did his.
His face was his, but not my own. Twisted in a sick smile like the one I always wore, laughing and jovial like the kid I was. I was no longer heading for him, he was running to me, his course swerving towards where the two roads converged. Suddenly I saw his face for what it was, not a smile and two eyes but an ugly mess of sand and stone, and rocks and muck and seaweed and shit- it was my sandcastle, ugly curtain walls to keep out the sea, moats of rock and canals gouged into the sand with shells and sticks. Now it was grafted onto my face, moving and sloshing as I ran towards myself, water and muck pouring out of the gaps as the water came pouring in. I screamed and screamed because now I knew what was coming after me- me! The old me, the man and boy and person I killed that night, and they were both coming to get me, the sick bloody couple that deserved each other. I felt his hands grab for me, soft and fleshy and matted with sand and blood and suddenly I was alone, weeping and crying and wishing that whoever the monster was inside me had killed me that day and not the lucky bastard who got to get away.