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February Short Story: Motion

This story was first serialised in 29 daily parts during February 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Motion

In murky darkness, illuminated only by pale headlights from a teen’s car, a long-dead body is tied to railway tracks. It began as desperate action covering a terrible accident. Three decades later, the next twenty-four hours will finally provide her story’s most suitable ending.

I know Elizabeth loved us both in some small part of that battered heart, affection-starved long before we were considered a possibility. There had never been any ill-will towards either of us, no hand raised or dreams dismissed. She was, for many years, only ally we possessed. We rarely saw Ian: never referred to as ‘Dad’ even during childhood. His biological contribution all that had ever been willingly given: they’d loved each other until arrival of twins broke a brittle heart. No sons, just daughters. Both, twice unconscionable: man never recovered.

The night he tried to kill Mum began as a singularly uninspiring visit, feigning interest at our upcoming eighteenth birthdays. For the first time ever, money was demanded: something clearly very wrong in his life at that moment. It took over a year to uncover true motivation. Nobody expected bread knife as first choice of weapon: that gash took three months to heal. Both of us were enough, just, holding him back as Mum kicked first to balls, then neck as body hit kitchen floor. Two of us trailed his escape as far as the northbound bypass; both cried.

That should have been the end, except a different story was written. Guilt pushed us both go find him, insist he stayed away: dark monster never again welcome under our roof. If we’d ignored our disquiet, it would never have emerged that Mum accidentality managed to end his life. We saw the car, parked inside old garage on dirty land he called home, just far enough away from civilization to remain anonymous. He died where he fell, into a bush: we should have left, right there and then, turned around and never looked back. Hindsight’s a bitch; so were we.

We wanted a statement. It took all weekend, covered under beautifully crafted alibis: no-one even thought collusion a possibility. Such a good job that even three decades on, the whole truth only emerged by accident. Mum would go her grave, blissfully ignorant of any culpability. Leaving body on the tracks without tying hands and feet would prove him already dead. He wouldn’t just sacrifice himself, after all. This was a man who lived life very large; we made this a mob hit, local gang’s well-known ringleader finally punished by rivals for gambling debts.

On day his demise made national news Mum just sat with the paper, stroking remains of scar on her left arm. She cried, yes, but never came forward as his wife, because it transpired they were never married in the first place. On our Birth certificates, that space remained blank. Local Police cited numerous inconsistencies at their crime scene, yet nobody objected over sentences for three men of murder who’d already been arrested for other crimes. Ian became the convenient truth, wrapped in somebody else’s dreadful mistake. Only Harri and I knew better.

For the next twenty-five years, that verity slowly destroyed our familial bond.


This isn’t revenge. Penance is difficult, painful work. Everybody suffers as a result. You get to hurt most of all. The path Harri chose to walk, away from me and towards pointless redemption…

Harriet’s ambition was obvious, early on. It was how Mum would tell us apart: she crawled first, walked first, spoke before I’d even thought about communication. It was if two people’s motivation and drive had been shoved into one stocky body, without thought of the consequences. Except, she couldn’t do anything with Dad’s circumstance but stare. I was one who suggested a plan, wrapped a by now very dead weight in tarpaulin. At exact moment when courage demanded action, Harri sublimated, suddenly submissive to a sister who previously always went second.

We’d both deferred University entry that year, already planning extensive trip across Europe; six months later she’d moved out to live with friends. Mum didn’t seem that surprised, even less so when I decided not to bother with education either, accepting solid offer at the Echo. Photography had become my saving grace; sure, I could have followed Harri to London and more money, but these aspirations weren’t wrapped in pretence and perceived glory. It didn’t matter anyway: ability would eventually lead to recognition. We were undoubtedly precocious talents.

The year I won a national photography contest was the same she was hired by the BBC as a trainee reporter. Mum had double reason to be proud: attention made people begin to ask questions that should have been raised years previously. Where was their father, after all this time? Truth, in the beginning, was enough: he’d ‘passed away’ was line all three of us would recite, emotionally free of details or context. Every year, easier to place events into someone else’s context, creating fiction from fact. Eventually, fear and anguish would finally diminish.

Except, they never did. Excuses would be made, time and again, never to go home, Mum becoming increasingly distant. Her heart had been broken; first by Dad, and then us. My move to Manchester was the last straw: both daughters now financially independent, ties to home redundant. There was a period in my 30’s when lies did not exist: my partner helped enormously. They knew something was being withheld; intimacy far more important than any misdemeanour in the collective past. A week before my 40th birthday however, everything known was summarily trashed.

Harri collapsed literally mid-shift, famously caught on camera during a BBC News broadcast; twenty four hours later she was dead. The brain haemorrhage that killed her, coroner concluded, probably began as a low bleed. She’d fallen off a bike the weekend before, without a helmet. Mum never showed for her funeral, nor indeed did anyone else. It was just me, a couple of onlookers and the funeral staff. Harri was neither popular nor cared about such things as important. Even the Corporation played down her demise; I knew better. Something vital was missing.

I’d moved to London the year before, not told my sister what I’d learnt. Mum hadn’t killed Dad by accident; it had been contrived all along, fight convenient means of scaring us into silence. Cancer would have killed him in months, nullifying a hastily arranged insurance policy. They colluded together: enough cash on his death remained to pay off all debts, providing more than enough to cover mortgage on our family home. After that, Mum sold up and moved, before repeating same morbid dance twice more. Both ‘natural’ deaths, very much to plan… until this.

Wedded twice, both low key. Two men dead before a year of marriage was done, both owning substantive insurance policies. My sister might have been paid for smart, investigative journalism: yet she overlooked significant information. Key evidence, finally, damning and inescapable. Last missing piece, crucially, was motive. Why was this happening, time and again, plus pivotally where did the money vanish to? Hundreds of thousands of pounds, previously untraceable… that last puzzle piece fell into place this week. No longer the victim; I, Isabel am evidence.

DNA is my inescapable, constant companion. When it comes to identical twins, however, using it as identifying evidence in court becomes a little more complex. Genetics have a different part to play; simple fingerprints remain empirical, damning confirmation of absolute identity. Twins are far more likely to occur on my father’s side. Once part of a pair, I’m alone. My father’s twin was responsible for that death, believing my sister was who’d discovered their unexpected collusion with my mother. He shoved Harri off her bike, attempted an assault, failed.

Two people appear in court today, charged with multiple counts of murder. My mum, her lover, dead father’s identical, more deadly half. This isn’t revenge any more. Penance is difficult, painful work: I am ready to send both to Hell.

It’s the least I can do for Harriet and me…

Rise Up

This will be the last post on-site before the big reorganisational change happens, starting next week. Having committed to the change, I’d like to get started on the nuts and bolts changes that need to happen behind the scenes. That will involve a Secret Bonus Area for Patreon followers, accomodation for the NEW Weekly Newsletter… plus shifting around all the old stuff to become more friendly and accessible.

Therefore, starting next week you can expect to see stuff morph and evolve before your very eyes. I don’t have the luxury of just shutting everything down, after all, so we’ll sort as much of the architecture out as possible within the existing framework, then turn up and give the thing a lick of new paint. After all, it would be rubbish to do that first and then discover a bunch of stuff is no longer fit for purpose…

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Then, we’ll relaunch everything in April, with a brief moment for World Poetry Day on March 21st. Of course, you’ll still be able to read my daily rantings via Twitter or on the Laughing Geek Website, or observe my increasing graphic competence via Instagram. I’m going to also be overhauling Ko-Fi to link up with the Patreon, so you can go take a look at that too when everything is complete.

Consider it a general Spring Clean for everything.

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Oh yeah, and about Patreon. I’m gonna go for it again: there is no idea who will be interested, can only hope the content ends up speaking for itself. Lots of people are struggling to get by and won’t ever be able to afford to support me anyway, and as a result I’ve decided to give this whole thing until December to see whether there is enough interest to push forward.

Is what I do worth paying for? It’ll soon be time to see for myself…

Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space

I’d like to present my new single-line logo. It’s sitting on a lovely starry background now, but as time goes on it will alter its position relative to my particular use and desires. After an admission there needed to be a redo of the site design, this portion was very easy to facilitate. What will be harder is re-arranging all the other bits to accommodate expansion, plus change.

However, on that front, things are going pretty well. 

Founders Survey

I’m running a feedback/survey thing right now (click this link to take part) which, if completed, qualifies you for a chance of a £25 Amazon voucher. I’ll push this until March 8th, which is when I’m planning to start instigating design changes. After that, barring major disasters, Patreon is likely to restart in May. I’d do this work anyway, regardless of status, so asking people to become my supporters is a logical next step.

Then we can start talking about printing poetry, short stories and photographs.

Looking Upwards

All of this is part of a bigger, long-term plan to try and self-finance myself for as long as possible. Storytelling has always been the goal. This was my dream as a kid: becoming 007 or Dr Who didn’t seem that practical, when all was said and done. Having a women in both those roles (SPOILER ALERT) during my lifetime is the portent required to get off the arse and start putting in the hours.

After that, all I can hope is that people will be willing and able to support me.

Order from Chaos

Over the last seven days, it’s been easy to admit that work needs to be done around the website. Once that thought was out in the open, lots of subsequent internal soul-searching has taken place. If this whole shebang is going to be successful, there will never be a good moment to talk about money. After admitting this week that a fortune is never really likely to be made on the back of current submission content, it is time to be honest.

As a Digital Curator, it may be time to put down some more solid foundations.

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When I rebooted this site from its original purpose a few years ago, it was to accompany a first, tentative into the world of persistent crowdfunding via Patreon. There was some fuss at the end of that year when the platform attempted to pull a fast one over fees, and my principles suggested a step back from participation until such time as I felt there was sufficient confidence to sell myself again.

Once the site redesign starts next month (you can already be able to see the new logo above) I’ll be posting a Google Forms survey asking people if they’d be interested in becoming contributors to this new direction, which will include Patreon as an option. I’m not going to go back to the platform unless I know there’s an opportunity to make a decent fist of the endeavour.

I’ll be taking my cues from those of you willing to help fund me long term.

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Communication is key to this new direction: the last attempt of providing unique content was not really that well thought through. Now, I’m not only older but considerably more confident of what is possible with my setup and skillset. As a result, there are potentially a lot of very exciting possibilities on the table. This is not just poetry or fiction, photography or general creativity. New adventures are just a thought away.

More importantly, I’m now fully free of the shackles that were holding me back previously thanks to counselling. With the new confidence in myself and what is possible, we can start creating a truly unique and special place online, that covers multimedia and transmedia. It is not just words that sell, after all, and if I can generate content that nobody else is currently producing?

That has to be something to aim for going forward.

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For now, however, there’s some more deadlines to aim for, so it’s time to finish what’s been started before clearing the decks and starting fresh…

Highway (Under Construction)

Going away is always fraught with an element of danger, because with none of the normal things to act as distraction, my mind can wander. However, this brief weekend away has thrown up some really interesting possibilities. I think this time however, a lot of stuff has moved into focus, and as a result, it is probably time for a bit of a rebrand. Therefore, during March, we’re going to do things a little bit differently.

Prepare yourself for a much-needed site Spring Clean 😀

cleaning

There are already things planned of an artistic nature next month: Wednesdays are Workshop Days going forward (and I have no idea what that will mean until I go get a brochure from the people running them, so watch this space) and there’s a couple of days booked at the Arts Collective where I’ll have space reserved to work without restrictions. Apart from that, I’m clearing the decks.

That means we’ll restart all the scheduled content in April, which gives me much-needed time to find better ways of presenting continuous output in a more accessible form. Certainly as the number of YouTube playlists grows, maintenance and upkeep of those lists is increasingly problematic. Ironically also the lists get shorter: it’s an education watching copyright robots take down stuff, or videos suddenly being marked as ‘private.’

You’d think some people don’t realise the Internet can be seen by everybody…

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It’s getting increasingly frustrating having to do stuff piecemeal because I’m reacting and not planning sufficiently, and if my online portfolio won’t support the content that’s already here, adding to the problem will just make things worse the longer it is left unchecked. Therefore, rather than saying to myself ‘this will do’ it is time to stop managing with something that has become unfit for purpose.

There’ll be more details in the next week or so. Needless to say, I HAVE BIG PLANS.

City of Blinding Lights

Those of you paying attention will know I was away this last weekend: some of the scheduled work has suffered (no poetry this week, sorry) but in the main everything has been surprisingly well-organised. The stuff that should have appeared will do so at the weekend. I’m only a day behind on the Playlists. Frankly, this is the best it has ever been. No really, no hyperbole; a new and interesting crossroads has been reached.

Everything is coming together: a poetry collection I can be genuinely proud of in final stages of re-write. Poetry that is a completely accurate and honest representation of what I am becoming in reality. There’s even a short story waiting in the wings, amazingly apposite for current circumstances. With my objective hat on, none of this is really just luck or coincidence either. Years of hard work is coming to fruition.

This is the consequence of looking upward, forward to what could be possible.

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A lot of times, it is easy to self-convince that targets are being hit: however, if nothing comes from your work but rejection, is that really a perception worth hanging onto? It’s the ephemeral, mystical value of ‘polish’ which I’ve spoken about before: something that you truly believe is as good as it gets, until back it comes from someone whose  subsequently published selections you neither grasp nor understand.

It takes a lot of hard work to re-write things you were convinced were perfect before, I’ll tell you. Except, there will come a point somewhere in that process where you’ll grasp an inescapable truth: you were deluding yourself. It’s never an intentional lie, but evolves from understanding that we all improve, over time, with practice. Writing, as we have also discussed before, is no different to exercising, or learning to play a musical instrument, or drawing.

The more you push yourself, the better things get.

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This week therefore is doing this with pieces of work I’m already supremely proud of. The unexpected bonus from this has also been the emergence of some new pieces that are making me genuinely rather excited: creativity will inevitably spawn more of the same, often in directions that are totally unforseen or surprising. Then one just has to try and keep the momentum going.

This will be me, making sure that’s exactly what happens in the next week.

Negotiations and Love Songs

Really, this shouldn’t be being written, I should be getting ready to go away for some much-needed time off, except this week’s thrown up a lot of moments where my plans going forward have altered in both scope and significance. As a result, there is something that needs to be said before I go away: belief in yourself is, undoubtedly a part of the deal with ambition that never gets talked about enough.

I mentioned on Wednesday that I had an evening class/workshop that was being looked forward to, and it transpires that there was a lot more to the evening than I had initially envisioned. It was so successful, in fact, that if the organisation answers my email because I can’t find a link on their website,  a monthly amount  will be thrown down to go do more interesting things on Wednesday evenings in the future.

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You have to be careful when people are being paid to be nice to you, of course, that their affirmations and responses can be somewhat tainted by the fact that if they’re honest with you, that might not be the answer that you want to hear. Wednesday night, undoubtedly, can be seen in two distinct lights. It was in parts an enormous ego boost. In other parts it was a testament to how far I’ve come as a person.

Somewhere in the middle was a set of writing exercises, the opportunity to just think about writing and not worry about chores or demands from others. That was perhaps the most important thing of all, at the end of the day. Whatever else may emerge from the experience, I held my own with a group of people whose only experience of me was that session. I didn’t fuck anything up. That’s a massive bonus.

The truth of the evening’s success therefore can be distilled from these parts.

NICEjazz

It is a foolish woman who does not learn from everything that is thrown at her. Sometimes, undoubtedly, that takes some time to either register or absorb, but in the end being critical of your own actions is one of the most important life skills that can ever be learnt. Better is the state we all should be striving for regardless of whatever anybody else says needs to be done. Being successful does not mean you can be selfish.

The arrogance I see from those who clearly feel that success has granted them some kind of absolution from improvement is the most difficult part of a life online. How I’m choosing to deal with that is twofold: life the best life possible, whilst simultaneously maintaining healthy levels of cynicism and realism. It all works fine if internal balance is maintained, and that’s the plan moving forward.

Any true path to enlightenment, let’s face facts, is never going to be an easy one.