Silent: Late Afternoon

The story should, hopefully, be self-explanatory from the content:


Gavin, Friday Afternoon:
 
Lucy needed to get away for a while. Yeah, that must be it.  She’s obviously stressed and upset, judging from her nightmare in the middle of the night.
 
I’m tired from the long coach journey yesterday. I watch TV and drift off to sleep in the middle of a film, coming to with a jolt. At first, I can’t work out where I am, or why.  You know the groggy feeling? No sense of day or time or location.
 
The information comes back to me in short bursts: Leeds – took the coach up from London yesterday (to save on costs) – arranged to meet Lucy in the park earlier.  The play area.  Lucy didn’t turn up.  
 
I leave another message on her voicemail.  No reply.
 
4.50pm.  I start to panic.   Supposing she doesn’t come back till late on Sunday.  After I’ve gone back to London.  I must have done something to offend her – but what?
 
5.45pm.  I put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster. Remove them. Add slices of cheese and a dash of ketchup. Return to the sitting room where the television drones on in the background and eat without enthusiasm.  
 
What’s going on with Lucy?  If she wanted space, why did she invite me here?  Didn’t we go through this type of stuff before?  I should have left the past alone.
 
Grabbing the spare key, I set off for the park again. It’s a short walk, past lines of houses that have been converted into flats and bedsits. A turning to the main road.  Another warm evening, May. Quiet area – few people around, not many cars. I cross at the zebra, turn left.  
 
The park gates.  Empty, apart from a couple of groups of kids squatted on benches and some boys further up playing football. I stand by the main railings, looking in, feeling stupid.  Why am I there?  It’s so clear that Lucy isn’t in the park.  I turn round and go back, stopping at a shop to buy some treats. Two different flavours of crisps and a couple of bars of chocolate.  For Lucy.  
 
Everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself as I approach the flat. When I get in, Lucy’ll be there.
 
But she isn’t.
 


***
LUCY:
 
She sleeps and dreams of nothing.  
 
Wakes, confused all over again.  Headache. Silence, apart from tapping water in the background.  
 
It takes her a while to piece the facts together…Lucy Stone from Richmond in North Yorkshire, originally Lucy Harlesden from the famous musical family…she has an older sister, totally bossy and irritating, called Olivia, who’s not really her sister but her cousin. Mum and Dad are dead. They died in a fire. Mum’s brother and his wife adopted her when she was about nine or ten and they changed her name from Harlesden to Stone, and she grew up in a huge detached house in Richmond with a great garden round the back.  
 
And then, after Richmond?
 
Uni, Leeds.  Media Studies.  
 
That’s right. She got there and tracked down an old friend who’d lived nearby in Richmond.
 
Maxine.  Her adoptive parents had forbidden her to have any further contact with Maxine, but she went against their wishes.  
 
Where am I?
 
The Cybercafé. She had things to do.  
 
A secret.  She told Maxine about the secret, no one else.  
 
A man in the Cybercafé.  He must have followed her back to the flat.
 
A flicker of memory…she parked her car in front of Maxine’s flat, didn’t she?  After she’d finished in the Cybercafé?  When she got out, a man appeared without warning, blocking her path, and she ran as fast as she could.  A man wearing a baseball cap.
 
‘Help,’ she calls. ‘Someone call the police.  I’m trapped.’
 
Silence.  She remembers running in the opposite direction from Maxine’s flat, tearing sideward across a lawn, down a side alleyway, but the man caught up with her in the alleyway. Grabbing her around the waist, he brought her down on the ground, face up.
 
And then?  Struggling against him on the ground, kicking, trying to push him off with her palms. The man placed a black cloth on her face and she detected a strange sweet, chemical smell coming from the cloth, and after that everything began to fade from her vision.
 
Her mind goes blank. ‘Let me out,’ she screams. ‘Someone call the police.’
 
But the silence and darkness remain.  


 

Silent, Still Missing

The plan: I started this story nearly a decade ago and just couldn’t find an Agent at the time.  Most of the Agents thought the quality of the writing and story idea was above the norm in terms of submissions but they didn’t feel they could take the ms to a publisher as the story wasn’t quite marketable. So I thought I might test the waters here for a while. Anyway, there’s no harm in posting a few pages of a story that’s currently gathering dust, so here goes:

Gavin, Friday Afternoon:

Still waiting for Lucy to get back to me. I wonder if she’s angry about last night. She said nothing about it when she left for Uni earlier.  Just that she wanted my opinion on something.  Let’s have lunch in the park and I’ll tell you about it, she called on her way down to the car. Then she drove away.

The situation’s complicated. You see, the flat doesn’t belong to Lucy but to a friend of hers, Maxine, who’s away for a month. Lucy’s flat sitting for Maxine.  

2.15 pm.  I phone Lucy again, but I don’t leave a message this time. She must be upset about last night.  

I arrived in Leeds late yesterday afternoon, having come straight up from London where I live.  I spent the night on the sofa in the sitting room while Lucy slept in the bedroom. Just as I was dropping off, I heard Lucy shriek, so I went in to check on her. Maybe I shouldn’t have done – but whatever. You can’t exactly ignore someone’s screams, especially when the sounds travel through the walls. I found her thrashing about, clawing at the bed sheets. Trying to escape from something. She had the main light on, which surprised me – as it suggests she’s afraid of sleeping in the dark.

I leaned down to wake her.  

Bad move.

She lashed out at me, then promptly forgot about it, but I’ve still got a sore left cheek. I had to apply ice to it after she left this morning.  Anyway, I didn’t think I should remind her of the incident, but I’m  concerned for her.

Where is she?   2.30pm

I walk back to the flat, through tree-paved streets. It’s a decent area, sort of leafy and green, and expensive. Row of shops and old three-storey houses with privet hedges round the front. I wonder how Lucy’s friend Maxine affords the rent. In London, I live in a box room near a triple carriageway and it costs a lot.

I turn the corner.  That’s weird.  Lucy took the car when she left earlier but it’s outside the flat now.   I let myself in with the spare key.  

Ground floor flat.  Small sitting room at the front (sofa where I slept last night).  Small bedroom at the back (Lucy’s nightmare). Kitchen overlooking a rear garden.  

‘Hi.’

No answer.  I go through to the sitting room.  

Silence. The flat’s exactly the same as I left it. Loose chain by the landline phone. Pile of letters for Maxine.

The kitchen next.  

Cereal bowl in sink. Sunlight coming in through the blinds.

‘Lucy?’ I tap on the bedroom door.  After a moment’s hesitation, I venture into the room, risking another sharp swipe across my left cheek.

Empty.   I speed dial her number.

Nothing. Just four rings, then voicemail.  I leave a message. Hey, Lucy, give us a ring, yeah?  I’m back at the flat.

***
LUCY

What happened? Where am I?

She tries to sit up.  

Can’t.  Feels sick.  Headache.

Tries to think. Who is this man? And why has he taken her?

At least, he hasn’t gagged her.

The Cybercafé.

That’s right. She just about remembers the Cybercafé.

She’d gone to there to do something important. Earlier today.

A man sitting at one of the computer terminals.   Baseball cap.

Eye contact.

She recalls a struggle later, out on a street.  A black cloth.  Chemical smell.  A van door shutting with a thud behind her.

Now she’s trapped.

Just like something people read about in the newspapers.  

But happening to her.

Darkness suffocating, choking her.  

Can’t move.  Can’t breathe.  Can’t swallow.  

She screams.  

And again.

But no one comes.

Silent – How It Began

Hi, I started this story nearly a decade ago and just couldn’t find an Agent at the time. Most of the Agents thought the quality of the writing and story idea was above the norm in terms of submissions but they didn’t feel they could take the ms to a publisher as the story wasn’t quite marketable. So I thought I might test the waters here for a while. Anyway, there’s no harm in posting a few pages of a story that’s currently gathering dust, so here goes:

Friday, May 2019  

My name’s Gavin, I’m eighteen. Lucy’s asked me to meet her in the park.  She said she needed to talk to me about something, but she wouldn’t say what.  

I arrive at the café near the play area and glance at the time on my phone.  

1.15. Friday afternoon.  Outside café, I text, and go in to buy a can of coke, working my way through the queue. I return to my waiting spot and check the messages to see if Lucy’s responded.  

She hasn’t. I stand there with my sunglasses on, sipping coke and scanning the park area for signs of her.  You can’t miss her. She’s just over five foot four, pretty small really. Honey blonde hair down to her shoulders, blue eyes with a hint of ginger around the pupils. Gorgeous but we’re not an item. I’m not sure what we are, but we’re definitely not boyfriend and girlfriend. And that’s come as a disappointment to me.  

1.50.  No texts or missed calls.    

I phone her, but Voicemail kicks in after four rings.  

Hi Lucy, it’s me, Gavin. I’m by the café near the play area. I’ve been there since quarter past. Everything okay?

***  
LUCY  

She doesn’t remember opening her eyes. Just lying on a hard surface in the cold, aware of flickering light in the background.  

Voices call out to her. The voices disappear and she finds herself alone again, trapped by darkness. The stench of damp and rot drifts over, the smell getting stronger.    

In the distance, water drips.  Tap. Tap. Tap. Figures form in the blackness, sewer rats with enormous eyes. They slide along the surface, sniffing as they get closer. She hates them.    

What’s happened? Where am I?

She attempts to push herself forward, wincing when something resembling a wasp sting digs deep into her arms and ankles.  

‘Help,’ she attempts to shout.    

‘There’s no need to be scared, Lucy,’ a voice says in the dark. The voice belongs to a man. ‘Unless you attempt anything stupid of course. Then I’ll have to hurt you. And hurt you pretty badly. I’ll leave you to think about it.’  

He knows my name. Who is he?

Close by, a door opens and shuts.  She hears the man bolting the door, locking her in. His footsteps fade away in the dark.    

A Delightful Mazurka

What an unsettling few days! London and many parts of the UK mourn the death of the Queen. I found the news upsetting and unexpected, despite her age and increased frailty, especially as she had seemed in good spirits just two days earlier.

Anyway, I know the Queen loved piano music and that she enjoyed a mischievous sense of humour. We can mourn and we can celebrate at the same time.

Last night, I did a piano recording of Chopin’s Mazurka in C-sharp minor op 63 no 3, and I thought I would share it here. I trust that readers will not find this irreverent in the current situation.

With best wishes, and till next time.

Pause For Thought – Coping Mechanisms

I’ve maintained a keen interest in relaxation techniques over the last ten years, starting roughly around the time I gave up smoking. This has included slow (or deep) breathing and mindfulness techniques. And more recently, Breath Moving, during which a person imagines sending their breath to different parts of the body.

I don’t know how effective these techniques are. Personally, I would imagine they have a powerful effect if practised daily – which I endeavour to do.

I’ve also incorporated two new techniques into my relaxation routine. EFT Tapping and The Butterfly Hug. I believe these are worthwhile coping mechanisms. However, the techniques can occasionally create distress in people struggling with mental health issues, so anyone interested might first consider seeking a professional opinion (or, at the very least, asking a few close friends or family members to intervene if serious distress does arise).

Just a few of my thoughts.

Till next time.

Having Fun – And Editing Photos

I’ve found the past few months exhausting. World events seem out of control and the state of the economy warns of frightening scenarios – plus post-Covid, post-Brexit and post-fire (a personal and complex story).

I try to relax by practicing meditation, playing the piano, and studying foreign languages.

Recently, I acquired a pixel 6a. I thought I’d experiment with the camera and editing tools.

To put it in context, I like taking photos of mundane and seemingly insignificant settings and developing these (digitally, of course), to make them special. The photos below are pretty basic, but I’ve attempted to add meaning by manipulating colour, contrast and shading, to create a more individual feel.

New flat

New flat

Till next time!

Summer Exhaustion

The title sums it up, I hope.

Thankfully, I feel settled in my new flat following a fire in the previous earlier this year, but the stress from losing the other flat has taken its toll, leaving me exhausted, especially in this unrelenting heat.

I have my piano back with me, so practise most days. I’m currently studying the Rachmaninoff Elegie, a beautiful but haunting piece.

I leave you with an entertaining but moving video of the mazurka from Coppelia by Leo Delibes, a great favourite of mine for relaxing late at night.

Till next time.

A Phenomenal Ballet Performance – “Yablochko” by Igor Moiseyev

Apologies for not posting much recently. I’m still exhausted from an earlier fire in March that saw me lose my home, although life has begun to return to normal.

Rather than post an update, I thought I’d share a phenomenal excerpt from a Ballet performance of The Sailor Dance found in the Ballet Yablochko (Russian for “Little Apple”). I myself have played parts of the second dance (featuring the accordionist) to accompany student dancers in the role of piano accompanist and the piece never fails to haunt me (albeit, in a good way).

The Sailor Dance does not have a known composer, but various composers have adapted it – eg. Igor Moiseyev. In terms of meaning and politics, I think it’s satirical – maybe fun, friendship and mischief, a bit of a laugh at the Establishment.

Great.

I hope you will enjoy the performance. Till next time.

A New Language Course

This beauty came in the post today, courtesy of Amazon.

I’ve spoken German for several years now. In some ways, I find it easier than French. For just over a year, I’ve subscribed to Herr Professor’s free daily podcasts on verb juggling. The guy in charge, Manuel, is an engineer by trade. He’s fluent in Spanish and English (as well as being a native German). For further details, visit: http://herrprofessor.com

The podcasts have really helped my speed in spoken German, along with providing a greater understanding of grammar, namely Cases and Pronouns. However, I’d like to develop my listening skills and widen my vocabulary, so I thought I’d order Teach Yourself Complete German by Paul Coggle and and Heiner Schenke, (standard B1-B2). I’ll do both courses together.

I look forward to delving into the new course tomorrow. Till next time!

A Decade On…

Exactly ten years ago today, I smoked my final cigarette.

Several times, especially in the early days, I considered buying a pack and smoking them all, then quitting again, but this rarely works. Thankfully, I was able not to succumb at all.

Here’s to another decade of not smoking.

(Finding the heat difficult)

Till next time!