Tag Archives: fiction

stuck – part six – epilogue

I broke both of my feet, but that’s all. The wound to my head was only superficial, caused by a flying shard of glass from the window I had been sitting beside. I had been struck pretty hard by the wall opposite me when it fell, but that’s what saved my life. The angle of the wall in front of me and the wall behind created a perfect triangle of safety for my breakable body. The bed beneath me managed to save my fall, even though I fell through about five storeys.

The clicker was my neighbour, Johannes. He had the clicker he used to train his dog in his hand at the time, they had been practising tricks. His dog was killed instantly by a falling light fixture. He had only been little. It took Johannes longer to die. He had been crushed by a bookshelf, with only his hand free. He died of internal injuries, they said, hours before we were found.

No one got my emails. The network failed around the whole Wellington region after the quake.

I still shake every time there’s an aftershock. Most people do, especially the long ones. My concussion is still healing, it’s only when I sit up now that I feel dizzy. It takes me a few seconds when I wake up each day to realise that I can move, that dust isn’t clouding my breath and blood dripping down my back, or shards of pain shooting from my mangled feet.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. Over six hundred people died that day, the biggest New Zealand disaster on record. And I survived, all because a drunken wall decided to lurch for me.

~

Read from part one here

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stuck – part two

A click. Loud, and insistent. My eyes snap open from sleep. My mouth is dry and caked, the blood on my chest and back cracks as I move. I look to my left, trying to ascertain if I had imagined it, that loud sound in this tiny dark space. The space is dark now, my laptop must have gone to sleep. But my finger stays where it is, despite the temptation to swipe the trackpad. I know I can hear better in the dark. The darkness grows longer, the silence deeper, until my entire being throbs with the energy of waiting.

And as though something knows I am waiting and doesn’t want to disappoint, it comes again. Loud and metallic, striking through the silence. I jump. My leg shoots fireworks of blinding pain at my hip again and I yelp in surprise. It takes a full thirty seconds before the pain subsides and I am able to unfurl my knotted fingers. By then it has clicked again, methodical and perfectly timed. What is it? I listen for a few more minutes, and the click comes seven times.

I can hear sounds from what seems like far below me. Rescue crew? People removing mangled bodies, both alive and dead? I wonder idly how long it will take them to reach me. Wellington is a big city. It could be days. I’ll be dead by then. It both frightens and comforts me how calmly I accept this. I feel tiny, insignificant, one tiny pod of being in a world of billions of others. What do I matter, really?

Where will they start? How many high-rises are there in the CBD? The quake hit mid-morning, so every one would have been full of office workers, men in ties, water cooler chat and women who had kicked their heels off under their desks. Will they start at the bottom of the building, or the top? I think of the seven floors below me and the people crushed there. Panic begins to rise in my throat like hysteria. I squeeze my eyes closed and count, a technique my father taught me. I get to three hundred and six before I open them again.

The blood on my head has dried and cracked, the clotting mechanism finally kicking in. I swipe at the laptop and my tiny chamber fills with white light. I squint at the screen, trying to understand. The WiFi isn’t working. I hadn’t really expected it to, but I feel a pang of despair that one connection to the world is severed, one tiny way to light a flare for others to find me. But sitting on that list of connections is my iPhone. I can’t see it, and I can’t move to find it, but it sits there on the list, an available network for me to join. I click on it, my breath slowing until it stops completely.

It works, and the bars fill with black. The relief that floods my body is almost physical, as though I can feel and recognise the serotonin mixing with the cortisol in my blood stream. Somewhere near me, whether below my bed or digging into my hip, is the most breakable phone in the world, which just might manage to save my life.

Read part three here

Read part one here

stuck – part one

I’m stuck. There’s nothing I can do to move. My legs are pinned by what feels like 12 tonnes of plasterboard, ceiling paint and rubble. It’s dark here, in my three feet of space. All I can see is the glow of this laptop, the white light of human engineering, miraculously unharmed by the fall. All I can do is type. Dust has filled my mouth, the result of so much GIB shredding I guess.

There was no warning, nothing. Just a low rumbling of the earth, the nano second of growl before the impact came. I’ve felt earthquakes before, of course I have. It’s hard to live in New Zealand and not feel them at least once. But always the slow rocking type, gentle, almost lulling me to sleep as I lay in my bottom bunk, listening to the trees creaking outside with the rhythmic swaying. Never this violent. It was like something hit me, something huge and feral and intent on my death. I saw the far wall reach for me, lurching towards me like a drunken man outside a brothel. I hardly had time to react, only pulled my legs closer. The next thing I was aware of was dust in the air and a white light, and, so faint I almost thought I was imagining it, the far sound of sirens.

My head hurts. I was hit on the left side, and I can see blood trickling down my chest from a gash on my scalp. I can’t reach it though. I can’t move my hand past my shoulder, something is squeezing me from all sides. I tell myself that it’s fine, head wounds always bleed a lot, don’t they? I’m saying I a lot. But there’s no one else here. There’s no one else that I can see or feel, just the heavy, muffled silence of eight floors of rubble. I was on the eighth floor, so high the lift didn’t even go right up. I don’t know where I am now. I don’t remember feeling as though I was falling, but I must have. I don’t remember anything actually. Because I was hit on the head. I remember learning about this at Uni, that your current thoughts are just swirling around in your mind, not committed to memory until a few seconds later, and a jolt to the head can interrupt that. That’s why all people remember of being mugged sometimes is someone rushing towards them, then blankness before the sound of the attacker’s running footsteps.

I guess that’s what happened to me. I wonder where I am, how many metres of space are below me and the earth, how high I am, suspended in this teetering pile of rubble. There were people in the room next to me, I could hear their music earlier. I try to call out, but stutter on the dust. I try again. Nothing. My heart begins to beat faster and I imagine them, just metres away from me, pinned by the tonnes of bricks and wood, maybe a rogue brick smashed through a skull. This makes me shiver and I wrench my mind back, through the tiny fissures of air and space that lead to them, back into where I sit in my tiny bubble of space.

I force myself to take stock of my situation. I am alive. I have light, and a functioning laptop. I have air, although I don’t know for how long. A cold finger of fear touches me at that thought and my breathing immediately becomes shallower. I am bleeding, but not in considerable pain. The blood from my head has made its way to the middle of my bra now, it’s working its way through the dense fabric of underwire and lace. A few moments later I feel it roll down my stomach and off to the side, curling around my back before it drips off. The space is so silent I almost hear the droplet hit whatever is below me. A bed. I was sitting on my bed, writing for work. Now the pillow is shoved up behind me, the mattress curled up in front. My legs trail into the darkness behind the computer light. I try tentatively to move my feet. A white hot spark of pain shoots from my toe to my hip. Good. They are still connected to me. I can still feel them, still move them. I try again, and the pain makes me retch. My mind begins to drift, begins to see other places that don’t exist, a red haze descends.

Is this how people die? Is it more a giving up, a last release than anything else? It’s tempting, if it is. It feels like sleep. The blood is still sliding down through my hair, pooling on my collarbone then rolling down my chest, following the set path until it drips, with a tiny, almost inaudible thunk onto the white duvet beneath me. Maybe that’s what’s making me tired. It feels warm and friendly, a part of me come to the surface.

No. A tiny, insistent thought patters at the soft folds of sleep that beckon me. No. Try. At least try. My eyes close, then snap open, before slowly closing again. Maybe this is it. There are worse ways to go, than being tucked up in a soft white cocoon, red blood meandering down your spine. There are terrible, horrible, violent ways to go, surrounded by hate and spite and tearing noise. But here there is only me, and the soft press of everything around me, and my eyelids, so soft and heavy. It would be so easy, to go like this. Like I had come full circle, back to the womb, tucked almost in the same position, surrounded by the same warmth and darkness and lack of air. Just for a few minutes. Then I’ll try. My eyes flutter closed, and the dark engulfs me.

Read part two here

another fiction snippet – sorry to infuriate!

The feeling rose up inside me like a wave, hot and heady in its passion. It scared me. I felt my pulse tapping at my skin, a tiny hammer, furious and afraid. I laughed to shake it off, and the sound was too loud in the muted bar. It rang out across the gleaming heads of the clientele, arched eyebrows turning, mouths closing elegantly. The sound died quickly, sucked into the heavy red carpet of the large room. My high heels dug into the back of my ankles, the patent leather squeaked against the other shoe.

I felt so out of place here, and a dim flush seeped upwards toward my hairline. The angry blotches of red skin would be quivering on my chest soon, a telltale sign that I was drunk, or flustered or worst of all – both.  Avery swept her eyes across my shining brow, the patches on my chest, and then her gaze came to rest on my shaking bottom lip. She smiled at me quietly, surreptitiously, and snaked her palm into my own. Her hand was warm and dry, and it calmed me a little. I watched my thighs, and listened idly to the chatter.

‘Well I’m not sure what you’re going to do with all of those anyway,’ Millie was saying blithely. ‘You’ll never find anywhere to put them.’

The ladies tittered and rustled, and it was a minute before I realised that their collective eyes were on me, waiting for my input. I looked around at them, suddenly hyper conscious of my over-waxed eyebrows and thick bronzer. It was Charlotte’s pitying gaze that did it.

‘Well I don’t know,’ I said brazenly, flipping my hair across my shoulder. ‘With a husband like yours, I hear that anything is possible.’ My chin was high as I gazed down the barrel of the room at Chelsea, daring her to argue, to deny it. The rumours had gone around like Chlamydia in Hamilton, wildfire through the women in our circle, but never – no never! – mentioned in Chelsea’s presence, and definitely not directly to her. What did it concern her that her husband had a warehouse full of stolen car parts and laundered money. I was sick to the back teeth with it. With the deceit, the hidden agenda.

It was Avery who saved the situation.

‘Okay,’ she said lightly, drawing the word out as though waving a verbal white flag. ‘Enough for you I think Zoey.’ She moved my soda water lightly away from me on the table, the joke failing to raise a smile with anyone. I felt ashamed suddenly, and I watched Chelsea’s face, ashen but smiling, her eyes overbright. I was the only one to notice the tremble of her lower lip, and I felt bad.

Lunch ended shortly afterwards. Despite Avery’s cheerful banter she could not achieve the upbeat vibe that had reigned easily before I had spoken. We said our goodbyes, Chelsea turning her face so as not to meet my eye, and left.

‘For God’s sake Zoey!’ Avery scolded as we marched down the road outside Friars. It was cold and grey, and leaves skittered across the road, loud and metallic against the tar seal. ‘What did you say that for?’ She turned to look at me, stopping abruptly on the pavement. A woman with a pram almost walked into her, and peered carefully into our faces as she navigated around us. Avery’s dark hair tumbled around her pale face, and the concern across her brow almost hurt to look at.

‘Sorry,’ I mumbled at the ground. ‘I don’t know why.’ I felt chastised and horrible, almost defiant against it. I felt exactly like I did when I was a little girl and I pulled a chair out graciously for a boy in my class, jerking it a the last second so that he landed heavily on his tailbone, and regretting it immediately as he started to cry.

Excerpt two

Zoey ~

We ate our french toast sitting on the steps of the deck, plates balanced on our knees. The eggs had been relegated to Gavin and Tame, and for this reason I think they quite liked me. No one had made any mention of the fact that I tried to run, or made me feel in any way uncomfortable, but as each minute passed I feared more and more of being that girl. You know that girl, the girl who hangs around until four o’clock in the afternoon the day after a one night stand, despite repeated and increasingly obvious hints to feck off from both the boy and his many flatmates, who are keen to play some Halo without a girl sitting on the arm of the couch and asking them to teach her how to play. No, I lived in terror of becoming that girl.

We watched each other through askance eyes as we ate, passing the bottle of maple syrup back and forth between us. Neither of us bothered to make small talk, but the silence was nice, relaxing. Birds swooped from the hard grey sky, and my bare arms were cool in the morning air. Again I could smell the sea. As we ate Gavin and Tame left the lounge and retired to their respective rooms, I can only assume, to leave us in private. I couldn’t believe how civilised this flat was.

It looked as though there were families living either side of the house, I could tell by the trampolines and swing sets on the lawns. Either that or this was a raucous party neighbourhood, and if Lucas invited me out back I would be greeted by an over sized bouncy castle and a pool with an Audi parked at the bottom of it. Families were more likely, I thought.

We had been eating for a while before the taste registered in my brain. ‘This is good.’ I smiled up at him, to show that I really was genuine, and he laughed.

‘You sound so surprised. Didn’t you think I could cook?’

‘It’s just, unexpected, that’s all.’ I speared a piece on my fork and wiped it in the maple syrup. I brought it to my mouth and paused, a sudden thought slicing through me. ‘Do you cook french toast for all of your one night stands?’ I was genuinely curious. ‘Is this like, your thing?’ I used my fork to outline his face in the air, as though to physically demonstrate his ‘thing’.

He laughed again. He seemed to find me very funny, and it was quite gratifying.

‘No.’ He chewed his mouthful thoughtfully. ‘My thing is usually eggs. But since you screwed that up…’ He gestured to the plate. ‘This was the best I could rustle up. My one night stands don’t usually run out on me though.’ His eyes roved across my face, searching for a reaction, some clue as to whether or not he could joke about this yet.

‘That was very asshole-esque of you, you know.’ He chewed again, thinking. ‘One of my mates does that, to girls, usually.’

Something Real – excerpt one

Zoey

Life seems so much simpler in the click of a shutter. The tap of a key, the scratch of a pen. Life is framed, frozen and still, poised for just one second of eternity, finally perfect. I have loved photography all my life for this exact reason. Take four people, each with an individual motive, a difference, a fight, and put them together with a lens, a frame, aperture and light. The result is something completely different to that of a hundred real Christmases, bickering across the dry turkey. I loved my grandparents’ smiles in that old photo, their teeth so white and gleaming, dimples and crinkled eyes in exactly the right places. Picture perfect.

My family have always been argumentative. I think it comes from something our father instilled in us. He always wanted to be a lawyer, I think, before Mum got pregnant with Elsa and he settled himself into the soil, the landscaping that had been his business throughout his teenage years and would be so for the rest of his life.

When I say argumentative, I don’t mean that we bicker about small things, rather, we like to debate, to push our point for each side, regardless of our actual thoughts on the matter. My most memorable birthday was my eighteenth. I was lying on the grass in front of the kitchen, and my lazy eyes were focussed on the black gleam of a Tui, upside down in our Kowhai tree, my mother’s pride and joy of the garden. I was only half listening as they chatted behind me, Elsa, Mum and Dad. My stomach was full from the carrot cake Elsa and I had made, swirls of the lumpy cream cheese icing still lingered in my tongue’s memory.

‘But you can’t argue that Dad,’ Elsa was outraged, the wine glass in her hand glinting in the afternoon sunlight. ‘That denotes a complete condescension for anyone who lives south of Tarras!’

I can’t remember what it was, maybe something in the pompous lyricism in her voice, or maybe in the rare use of the word ‘denotes’, but something sparked it.

Dad was the first to erupt into laughter, and as he caught my eye I felt it bubbling up from my stomach, and then we were all howling with laughter, raucous and rolling on the grass, as Elsa sat and tried to feign wise indifference. She took a slow sip of her wine, eyes averted across the lawn in a show of her detachment, and at that exact second, I kid you not, a large, slippery smear of bird shit splattered onto her left shoulder and slid down towards the latticed detailing of her pretty yellow dress. We were silent for one incredulous moment, no one daring to breath.

Mum was the first to speak. She nodded towards the stain, ‘That’s lucky, apparently.’ Her face was perfectly straight.

We all collapsed into convulsions, even Elsa joined in this time. I laughed so hard that day I got grass stains on the elbow of my white cardigan, you can still see the faint mark there now. That photo sits on my bedside table, in a red beaten-shell frame that is now chipped and dull. We look so content on the dewy grass, Elsa’s dress still wet from where she sponged it clean. Mum is sneaking a furtive look at Dad, and you can see in her eyes that she is still shaking with mirth at what has just happened. Elsa and I look exactly the same, our dark hair flipped across our right shoulders, the same chins and mouths pulled into identical pixie smiles, legs tucked up beneath us.

I remember feeling like nothing in the world could make me unhappy in that moment. As though nothing out there could pull me from that happy paradise of sun dappled lawn and birds in the trees, warm cream cheese icing and my fathers hands, scarred and always covered in dark, fertile soil.

I think that day was maybe the beginning of my bad luck.

Heya stranger

Snippets of writing, the sharp line of my pencil as it scratches, dancing across the page. Where did my passion go? Nowhere. It is huge and breathing, like a dormant expanse below the surface. It is always there, I just forget about it, cover it up with busy-ness. Times passes, suddenly three months are gone, and still I do not feel the itch, the crave for a pencil between my fingers.

Then it creeps in, slow, lazy. A warm afternoon, the comforting rasp of the couch against my book. The early morning, before the dawn seeps beneath the curtains. Suddenly that need, that excitement. As though I have something to share with the world, as though I am waiting for a gap in the conversation, my mouth opening and closing at each false attempt. I have an idea… so NaNoWriMo 2012, here we go.