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…

EX/WHI :: Part 23

Previous Part :: Next Part


Arrival Plus One

The night before they won, she realised that nothing would ever be the same again.

Lying awake, Ami watches the man sleeping next to her on his own camp-bed with a mixture of disbelief and reassurance. He’s just as scared as I am, when all is said and done. At least now there’s no embarrassment or worry admitting that in public. Chris and her had talked for several hours after dinner was done, until their plates and uneaten food had vanished from in front of them. It had been taken as a prompt that their ‘captors’ wanted them in beds, a second one having been provided next to that which they’d both slept in previously.

She’d woken as was nearly always the case when her internal body clock hit 7am, to find that their world had been significantly reduced in size and depth: their note-taking space remained but new dividers had appeared: a single sofa and table, plus chairs were shifted against one wall, with what were clearly washing cubicles added opposite. It should worry her that nothing was constant any more but instead Ami’s brain is surprisingly willing to accommodate alteration.

Today is when we are to be tested. Chris had been surprisingly frank on her return from the bathroom: they were both now comfortable with the alien presences that had manifested within them, enough joint sanctity to be confident that this experiment, in whatever form, would be no different from a planned training operation. That meant at some point they’d be provided with equipment: as the thought manifests, so do two large wooden crates at the bottom of each bed.

Now she’s up, looking through what is being provided: fresh clothing and food, no new shoes or backpacks, so they’ll be expected to reuse what was provided yesterday. Chris is stirring and she takes it as a prompt, out of bed and into one of the two cubicles where towels hang next to a shower unit that switches on the moment she’s naked. There’s no need for temperature control either, water just pleasantly hot enough as to not be scalding but damn close, and Ami smiles to herself.

My captors have thought of everything.

There’s no fear either that her partner might take a leaf out of a fictional secret agent’s play-book and come join her: he might be built like 007, but Special Agent Chambers possesses considerably more respect for her than James Bond ever did for his partners.

He’s now also awake and showering…


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

EX/WHI :: Part 22

Previous Part :: Next Part


In a blink, Chris is no longer in the restaurant: instead this is broad daylight and he is at some considerable height, standing on a smooth, white platform. There he also is, standing opposite, making eye contact with himself; that Chambers, in a future he is yet to experience, is holding both of Ami’s hands, clearly struggling to get her to understand something important, quite possibly vital. There’s no context either, too far away to hear any conversation taking place.

The aliens are showing me this for a reason, he surmises, but too much information and the future might not happen. How do they make him certain of upcoming importance but at the same time not destroy the sanctity of a timeline they don’t adhere to but he is bound by? The answer is presented without any other prompt, consciousness grasping three intractable truths: jump, gasp then let go. Moments are placed in his head, but access restricted.

When time comes, you’ll know what to do.

He’ll see himself at each flashpoint: first moment will unlock second: the last will be the most pain he has ever experienced. The alien in his mind is careful not to draw attention to where these pieces of his future are tied, or what prompts them to manifest after this first encounter. It’s vital intelligence, on a need to know basis. When Part One is done, he’ll get access to the next part of this puzzle, for that’s what begins tomorrow morning.

None of what has transpired until now has been significant: they’ve been kept together and given time to bond. When they both wake up, that is when the real experiment begins. The word, in his head, is presented not as something insidious, but rather a challenge. Is he up to the tasks that will be presented? Can he complete the sequence correctly and complete what is asked of him?

There’s never been a physical obstacle that’s overcome Chris’ ability to either brute force it or solve it in time with common sense and bravado. This will be no different: his abilities, plus Ami’s calm and determination under pressure will combine and whatever is waiting for them both will be surmounted, together. He doesn’t need the reassurance of a shared bed any longer.

Returned to the dinner table, Chambers finally understands significance of what is to come.


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

Essential Four

At the end of last week, I applied for an opportunity that a year ago wouldn’t even have been considered as a possibility. It doesn’t matter, now it’s done, whether I’m successful or not. For the first time in probably two plus years, that process wasn’t about wanting to be chosen, but simple satisfaction at taking part. Somewhere between then and now, a fundamental part of my psyche has changed.

The portion of me that thought success only came from other people’s validation has finally realised this is the biggest lie in existence. If that kind of assuagement is what I seek, there are better, far less stressful means by which it can be achieved. They emerge from moments of kindness, helping other people get what they want and achieve their dreams and aspirations. I don’t need to write to do that.

Writing has become expression of moments I’ve been too scared to share until now.

Faith

Validation is achieved by the completion of projects, working to the timescales I impose. It will be when I choose to create and sell my own things and not be reliant on others. Poetry will combine with pictures, video with sound, and everything stops being a race or a contest. It is a freedom I realise only comes in the quiet moments when all the critics, both external and internal, are silenced.

It is the moments when you believe anything is possible, if the means can be located within yourself to release fear and uncertainty. It was one of those moments, a week ago, when I ran for three lots of four minutes without stopping on a treadmill and grasped that if I could knit those fragments together, pieces became a proper run. The confidence gained here combined with new found physical strength made impossible, real.

Understanding how to write without fear taught me how to run.

Day 5 __ Credence

In turn, running gives back to mental strength and creativity. The body self-sustains, creating calm where previously only chaos existed and those difficult tasks finally appear easy, academic. The freedom of expression that only previously took place after long periods of self-imposed reflection spring forth unprompted, with new enthusiasm and joy attached. Creativity really is in a new, exciting place.

However, I was the one who had to change, needs to keep altering myself. If the door’s not kept open to this new place in my mind, if change cannot be embraced and then directed elsewhere, all this good work can still be lost. The task now is not to lose sight of direction, focus or possibilities. With mental and physical strength, anything is and will be possible.

EX/WHI :: Part Twenty-One

Previous Part :: Next Part


Chris feels her lie deep in his gut; there’s more to her ‘conversation’ with the aliens than Ami feels comfortable letting on. He could ask, but this is not the time. Dishonesty’s not a sleight, rather used to assuage his fear over performance anxiety, with reasons he knows are both fair and accurate. There’s a damn good reason he’s not been on a date in over a year. Those blue pills his doctor prescribed might fix the mechanics, but did nothing for his head.

It makes perfect sense to abduct one male and female. It’s why Noah shoved two of everything in the Ark, Bible’s writers leaving rest to the imagination of their readers. If this is an exercise in testing all their abilities… he knows now that’s not something his partner is willing to indulge in, not without far more than just a single evening out under their belts. That alone makes Chris feel more comfortable than has been true since their arrival.

Excusing herself to go to the unisex bathroom he used before they started dinner, Chambers sits alone, staring at a battered Rolex that reads just before 11pm. It’s Bishop’s idea that they keep themselves tied to London time as it exists on their wrists; the more normality that can be self-imposed the better. Whatever else might be happening around them plus within a fledgling shared consciousness, comfort and belief mattered above all else.

He’d thought briefly about asking to share a camp-bed, mostly because he was shit scared and needed reassurance, then considered the messages that might send her which are all kinds of wrong. Right now, he cannot revert to archetype. Strength alone is easy, when you don’t get all the chemical stuff as distraction. She’d made the point over dinner: if you wanted to truly test a species for suitability, there’s gonna be a point where loyalty to each other would be addressed.

It’s also hard to escape jealousy; she’d been shown consequences of failure in her mind and he hadn’t. His experiences of the aliens is far less detailed or interactive: it shouldn’t bother him, but worryingly does. His conscious initially struggled to even grasp the enormity of their situation, yet something is altering. Fear should never allow emotional responses to dictate experience, and yet it has, every time. Personal failure, parenting, relationships, decision-making…

Your importance is about to become apparent.


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

Back for Good

I had a PostIt on the wall. The work’s been done… but crucially, this week’s time to edit involved me, in a dentist’s chair, unexpectedly losing a tooth. However, that means that it’s not much work to get back on track… therefore, I will confidently announce that

EX/WHI RETURNS JANUARY 10th

My episodic fiction is a storyline I’ve loved for a long time, and which is finally going to get a conclusion. For a synopsis, and if you want to catch up before next week:

Here’s a link to what’s happened so far…

I’ll see you in the New Year 😀

Monster

Yup, I’m definitely gonna need more than a month.

nano19th

It’s not like this story is writing itself, anything but. At times it has been a tough job, slogging through the numbers: with the first crescendo of action about to happen, I reckon I’m probably about a third of the way in. However, there is an awful lot of exposition in here, most of it warranted. After we hit the end of this section, things can pick up a bit.

I reckon 100k is probably nearer the mark for completion.

There’s nothing stopping me going back and editing stuff out at a later date, of course: for now, the priority is to tell the story as it stands, and that’s proving surprisingly simple. I’m really, REALLY glad that time was taken to plan this in advance, because there are several points where if it hadn’t been, giving up and walking away would have been a really easy thing to do.

This time however, I have something to prove.

I am not getting any younger, as the hand will attest. The reason I started doing this challenge, so many years ago, was to write a novel. In all the times when the month was over and I looked at what had been produced, there was never really satisfaction with the end product. This time around, this is a piece of work to be already immensely proud of. Whatever may transpire, this will be pushed beyond a first draft.

Creating a monster will come with a new set of responsibilities, but until the story is done, size really will not matter. I’m already organising December’s content around this, so that there is no interruption to my writing processes. It is perhaps most satisfying all that this is a narrative not only to get lost in, but which also is throwing up some genuinely interesting new directions from the original pitch.

Speaking of which, I need to write a new summary to post on the NaNo website…