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.    

Tormented And Restless

As a writer, I love placing myself in imaginary situations far removed from my own circumstances.

Inventing a scenario, then conveying the drama from my viewpoint. Experiencing the conflict as though it were mine, exploring the different mindsets from my emotional perspective.

Most of all, I enjoy scene setting expressed through immediacy.

Below, I include a cross between narrative and poem taken from a previous novel attempt, a psychological thriller based in Dorset, UK.

Happy reading!


All nights are bad, though some worse than others.
I can’t sleep.
The seconds and minutes pass in silence.
I long for winter.
For the damp and cold and rain and wind.
Snow and sleet and frost.
The summer heat is suffocating, reminding me of that other summer twenty years ago.

Tonight, I see them;
not only Dawn, but her sister as well, both fair skinned like their mother, hair the colour of hay.
The girls hurry along the lane above the coast, sandals scraping on tarmac in the July heat.
Ahead of them lies the sea, the tide out, water still and calm.
A beautiful day.

I shift position and glance at the clock.
Two o’clock in the morning.
I’m thirsty.

Dawn never returned, only her sister.
They had quarrelled, so it appeared.
Dawn, the younger, bored and restless and cross, provoking her sister.
The sister lashing out, catching Dawn in the eye, watching in spite as Dawn tore down the path to the shore, sobbing and screaming, into unseen danger.

We never saw her again.


Whispers In The Dark

you wake with a shout and bolt forward in bed
snippets of your dream slipping away
leaving traces of disquiet
flickers of panic
why did you awake so suddenly?

was it because you thought you heard footsteps on the stairs?
your dream warning of an intruder?
a person you’ve dreamt about before and recently?
someone creeping up the stairs?

you listen now for sounds in the dark
but there is only silence
and yet the house isn’t empty
you sense that

and again you hear it just like you did in the dream
a muffled footstep outside your bedroom
and then the door opens with a creak
and a vase falls to the floor with a crash
shattering into tiny pieces


© Lawrence Estrey 2020

Poetry

psychological thriller

The Stranger At The Train Station

The woman with silver hair wore a cream cardigan and sunglasses.
Pushing a small suitcase along the ground, she approached the ticket office.

Dawn thought there was something familiar about the woman, but she couldn’t identify what.
The voice.
West Country.
The accent reminded her of wild flowers and of an afternoon in a garden many years ago.
An untidy garden in Devon with autumn leaves and a pond and clumps of damp earth.


Based on a previous novel attempt. Genre: psychological thriller

Second Person Narrative, A Short Extract

You wake up in a studio-like room, but you don’t recognise it.

You’re wearing clothes thst you wouldn’t normally wear.

You don’t know the couple talking to you. You’ve never seen them before.

The woman calls you Rob, but that isn’t your name.

You reach for your phone, but you don’t recognise it. ‘What’s going on?’ you say.

‘What do you mean?’ the woman says.


Psychological thriller

A Deserted Tube Station In the Middle Of Nowhere

I haven’t written fiction for over a year, concentrating instead on poetry and music streaming (in my case, uploading classical piano tracks that I’ve played and recorded to online streaming sites).

I still toy with the idea of writing another novel – a psychological thriller, of course – and this evening, I ran a scenario through my mind while I waited for my train at an *Underground Station in north London, UK. The train was slightly delayed. The temperature had taken a dip. I had several minutes to spare, so I let my imagination travel.


*The Underground Station in question is located in a suburb and therefore would be at street level, like a standard Overground station. Crucial for the novel.


Picture the following. The early hours of the morning in autumn or winter. A guy flees a scene for whatever reason and hides in a suburban *Underground Station by dodging CCTV cameras and climbing over a fence – or failing that, finding a small alcove place next to the station. The temperature drops even further and the guy has to stay warm. He can’t sleep. Too cold. Instead, he relives the scene he has left behind. Every so often, he hears sounds. Voices, perhaps? Nothing definite, though. After all, he is exhausted. In real danger.

The sounds intensify as the hours pass, creating fear and panic. Perhaps the people he has run from have tracked him down?

Meanwhile, the back story (the situation he has escaped from) passes through the traditional story-arc, increasing in tension and suspense, to the point where the reader doesn’t know whether the central character is safe or not in his new hiding place. How much of the tension exists solely in the guy’s mind?

These are just ideas for now. The novel would require precision and accuracy, particularly in regards to whether a person could really get onto a London Underground Station platform once it had shut for the night (if, indeed, it does shut), and also showing the Overground position of the station in a convincing manner. Nevertheless, I think the story could work and I will certainly think more about it over the coming weeks and months.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Autumn Recollections

Summer has ended. Autumn has come.

The weather has changed. I don’t like the rain or grey skies. I’d prefer the heatwave of summer

Below I enclose a section from my debut novel – Secrets by Lawrence Estrey – in which the protagonist makes a journey back to his hometown at the start of autumn, his favourite season until an event in his childhood tore the close knit Northern community apart. Not surprisingly, he finds some of the journey overwhelming.

(Genre: psychological thriller; location: Lancashire: UK, published 2011)


I set off across the moors for the journey to my hometown.

Fifty minutes later, the familiar sights greet me like an old loyal friend. The airfield several miles from the estate. Stately Holbron Hall in the distance, standing on a hill. Narrow main roads with damp looking brown terraced houses. The amateur football club with the floodlights. Disused mills, factories. The cemetery behind a pair of gates. I hurry past.

Home, although I don’t recognise all the landmarks or the streets. Some are new, others I must have forgotten about. I can almost feel the reassuring touch of the wind on my face, the autumn glow in the air, the innocence and excitement of childhood.

Back To The Editing Board

Book four. Silent: a psychological thriller aimed at a younger audience.

After eighteen months, I have returned Silent with a view to submitting it somewhere.

Having distanced myself from the writing for more than a year, I can now see some of the issues that need addressing.

I would describe the main problem as meandering — i.e. the narrator straying from the point instead of focusing on the issue at hand.

Like in the past, I’ve encountered the same editing dilemma this time round — i.e. ruthless editing in the form of pruning strengthens the structure and argument, but the removal of the meandering material presents new problems, including a loss in the quality of the prose.

I expect it’s a question of balance. Every sentence must contribute towards the story, but some sentences require greater effort than others.

Till next time.

February Malaise, And A Writer’s Issue

I haven’t posted anything for a while. The cold continues, along with the grey and the general malaise associated with this time of year. The British public longs for spring. I certainly do.

I’ve continued reworking the draft of my novel, a psychological thriller set in the north of the country. As I’ve said in previous posts, tightening sections of the story can improve the narrative; however, it can also create issues. Perhaps in the rewriting, some of the original spirit of the story vanishes.

A common problem.

The solution, then, is to take a break of a few weeks, read the amended sections, place asterisks by the sections that require further attention, then consider adding some of the original writing by these asterisks sentences.

Worth a try, anyway, in my opinion.

Just a few of my thoughts.