Nothing like a nice nightmare to end the year, eh? Would appreciate it if this isn’t the narrative for my 2018, thanks very much!
On a night out, casually drinking in work, one of the guys asked me to take a few plates to the potwash. For some reason we had two of them; the one in the kitchen and another in a shed-like building out back. I decided to explore the second.
During this exploration I had an omnipotent cutscene play in my head. A paramedic sat in his ambulance, and something about him seemed off. He wasn’t doing anything, simply sitting there, waiting. Watching.
Outside of the restaurant was like a completely different city; chainlink fences, hard concrete, graffiti. I dumped the plates on the side and explored the crumbling brickwork of this alley.
As I reached its end, I heard a scuffling noise behind me. I turned to see a woman at the other end of the alley, slowly raising her arms to point a gun. With a second flash of omnipotence I knew she would fire it, and I even saw the bullet spinning straight for my head. I ducked beneath a stone pillar and stayed down. That bullet missed me, but a second shot pierced my chest. I couldn’t scream (if anyone can scream in dreams I’m amazed), but the pain was astonishing.
The woman stopped firing. A man appeared from my end of the alley and stood over me, looking thoughtful. He was dressed like a stereotyped chav; cap, puffed jacket, trackies and chains. “Please,” I begged him. “Please help me!”
He raised his own gun and shot me in the shoulder.
As he walked away, I reached into my pocket with my good arm and pulled out my phone. I began to type a status of help on Facebook, but I’d barely written “been shot” before the woman appeared.
“Stop that,” she said in a Spanish accent. I tried to get up, but she booted me in the back and I felt a rib snap. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t want to finish me off, why they wanted to cause me such pain, but she too left me there.
I got to my feet and staggered through the halls of University. There was a distinct lack of blood and not as much pain as you’d imagine. I just felt numb. Why had this happened?
I jabbed 999 into my phone and began babbling about being shot and needing an ambulance from the front of the University. They asked me which entrance and I broke down. There were so many damn entry points that I couldn’t figure out which would be nearest.
As we concluded the phone call, I once again envisioned the ambulance driver. It was clear this was the man I had been talking with, and as we finished speaking I saw him smile, hang up, and fold a piece of paper. The last thing I remember thinking was, “at least I didn’t give him my home address.”
Next thing I knew I was in the ambulance, only it was more like a minibus. My head was fuzzy and there was a stiffness in my neck, but I realised I was not alone. I looked up to see several others in similar drug-induced states to me, and at the front of the bus the paramedic grinned. From the driver’s seat he picked up a machine gun. Not again.
I undid my seatbelt and slowly slid below the seats. I heard the rapid cracks of firing, but there was no blinding light, no screams. I don’t even think any bullets fired. But sure enough, the first three rows of people all dropped dead. I peered over the top of the seat to see sparks flying from the necks of the recently deceased. Touching my own, I felt a small electrical box on a collar. I ripped it off.
I guessed the gun automatically triggered the boxes whenever they were aligned. And everyone else was too out of it to realise. What were we, test subjects? How had they chosen us? Why?
I waited until the paramedic had left his warm corpses before sneaking off the bus. In my messed up head, I didn’t think of walking myself to hospital. Right now I trusted no-one, so I hobbled all the way home.
But they must have followed me. Before long a For Sale sign appeared in my garden, and without any of mine or my parents’ consent, the house was sold. Eventually my parents disappeared. There was no note, no slight indication as to what happened to them, but after recent events I feared the worst.
I was told the new tenants had decided I could still live with them. I waited in the living room to meet my landlords. The front door burst open and the new owners walked in. It was the woman who had shot me. And her loving husband.
They gave me a small space in the kitchen and one of the cupboards for my belongings. They emptied the house of everything they didn’t want, and sat on my parents’ sofa watching my parents’ TV. I sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor, trying to think about nothing.
Obviously, me being alone for five minutes without fresh pain wasn’t an option.
“What you have?” She growled. “I want to see.” She reached for my cupboard door, and upon looking in smirked at my measly possessions. “This all you have, eh?” She poked me in the side and saw me wince. “Oh sorry,” she purred. “Do you have a broken rib?” I nodded through tears. She laughed and punched me.
As another flash of agony reared up my side, I thought, somehow, I’ll get my house back.
She looked at his once-handsome face. The chiselled jawline and strong nose were still there. If she focused hard enough, his eyes were the same green-blue as the day they met. The only problem now was that the rest of him was also green-blue.
She reached out a tentative hand and stroked his cheek. No longer did it feel soft, but rough and scaly. Where there had once been warmth, there was nothing but slimy cold. This wasn’t her Jeff. This, apparently, was Jub.
“I’m still me,” he whispered, raising a webbed hand to cover hers. “I still feel the same.” He started sobbing, great shuddering breaths gasping through his large lips. She didn’t know how to react. Then she realised he wasn’t actually crying; her hand was covering his gill.
“I’m sorry,” she said, backing away. “You’re just…uh…not my type…anymore.” And with that, she ran, Jub reaching a solitary fin after her.
She’d been suspicious from the first date. They’d enjoyed the fairground rides, and she’d laughed at his unusual sense of humour. Things were going swimmingly, until out of nowhere he fell to his knees and broke down at the coconut shy. He refused to speak of the incident, but now she remembered the little golden fish, suffocating in plastic bags.
He’d always downright refused to visit the Seaquarium too, appeared almost angry whenever she suggested it. It occurred to her now that maybe some of his family were captive there. If he even had a family.
Oh God, she thought, clutching her stomach. I hope I’m not pregnant.
This piece was born from an exercise in an Urban Fantasy Lit Circle to place a fairytale character into a modern setting. This was the first image that came to mind:
“Yeah, Karen? We’re gonna need your assistance in Footwear.”
Karen sighed and clicked the microphone button. “Sure, what’s up?”
“See for yourself,” her boss crackled back.
Straightening her blue work shirt and smoothing down her hair, Karen entered the service lift and pressed the Level 2 button. She was always given the shitty jobs, but hey, it’s what you had to do to get a promotion around here. They certainly didn’t pay her enough now. Karen wondered what kind of job this would be; another kid throwing up everywhere, or another group of women fighting over the same cute pair of sandals?
She exited the lift into a new chaos.
As far as Karen could see, each shelf was empty. Every single shoe had vanished. Even the discarded pairs that usually littered the floor were gone. The bare white metal reflected Karen’s face as she tried to comprehend the vast emptiness. She was vaguely aware of a woman complaining to her right, and mumbled a brief, “we’re very sorry madam, we’re sorting it.”
A loud sobbing made her turn sharply left and follow the wretched sound.
She found the shoes.
Every single style, from slippered boot to stiletto, had been accumulated into a large footwear mountain. Amongst this, a woman sat crying into the folds of her pink and white dress. A crowd of women surrounded her, mumbling and giving her funny looks. Any time they reached for a pair, the woman in pink hissed at them.
They turned as Karen approached, expecting her to know how to handle the situation. She smiled nervously and knelt beside the distressed lady.
“What’s the matter, love?” She asked. The lady was surprisingly beautiful behind her puffy red eyes and soggy blonde hair.
“They all fit!” she moaned, hugging some court heels to her chest. Karen raised an eyebrow.
“Surely that’s a good thing?”
“No, you don’t understand! They all fit! All the shoes here fit more than one of us! There’s not a single pair here that just fit me! How will he recognise me now?”
Before Karen could reply, she broke down again, collapsing on the cheap pile of footwear and muttering about pumpkins between sobs.
A big change is on the horizon; one I’ve been meaning to make for a while. ClaireBearThoughts is one of those naive names you create when you can’t think of anything else, but it played its part. Now, as I build my brand, a complete overhaul is required.
Here’s an obscure image of something that will probably mean nothing to you, but might whet your curiosity…
Mike caressed the worn woodwork in a way that he had never caressed his wife. Each dent and patch of sticky varnish rekindled memories beneath his fingertips; the chip where the ladder had fallen whilst decorating for Paddy’s Day; the dark red stain where Beth had dropped an entire bottle of rioja over a customer; the shreds of silver tinsel still stapled to the underside. He looked around the empty pub with tired eyes.
He had purchased The Captain’s Wife when he was just thirty years old; a derelict pub on the brink of demolition. Mike remembered as a child sliding on his knees across the hardwood floors, begging his parents for another coke as they contributed to the heavy smog around them. The pub had been a regular scene of his childhood. But time had eroded the decor and the owner until he could no longer maintain it. Mike, on a whim, decided to buy it, and with love and hard work restored the bar to its former glory.
The Captain ran in his blood like his current dose of morphine. It was the reason he got up in the morning and he could never shake it from his mind. But it was also a disease, eating away at his brain and crippling his brittle bones. The Captain was an addiction, and without his permission, Mike was being thrown into rehab.
He heard banging outside and looked away from the empty optics. Outside, a man in a suit was hammering a sign into the flowerbed, its crude letters sending a stabbing pain through his chest. It was like an invitation for the world to come and peer at his loss. A few weeks ago his wife would have been ecstatic at the sight. Well, he thought, you got what you wanted after all.
“You got everything, dad? This is the last from the cellar.” Paula plonked a cardboard box on the bar and began sifting through the pile of mail next to it. He smirked at the irony of her question, but didn’t have the heart to make a joke. “Yes, thanks love.”
Paula tutted. “More of the same,” she said, holding up several envelopes with “URGENT” stamped across the top. “I wish they’d just leave you alone, they know the situation.”
“It’s fine, love.”
“It’s not fine, everything’s-”
Paula sighed. She squeezed his shoulder and said, “I’ll be in the car when you’re ready.” He smiled gratefully as she picked up the box and backed out of the front door. Silence engulfed Mike, and he loathed it. This was a place of noise and raucous laughter; the clinking of bottles and the smashing of glasses, the roaring chants of football fans, the tinny din of the outdated games machine. He’d give anything to have those back. But the iceberg had already been hit. The ship was sinking with its captain, neither steering through the storm without the other.
With a resigned sigh, he flipped the lights off, gave a last fond gaze and locked the door.
- An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling.
Claire’s Dream Definition:
- A period of time spent traumatised from nearly drowning with a boatful of passengers and all your belongings.
The holiday itself had been alright up until the near death experience. I’d been to this part of Greece before, but my companion had not. The hotel was lovely as always; the staff now knew me on a first-name basis, which probably suggests we should have gone somewhere new…
When it was time to go, we said our goodbyes and boarded the boat that would take us to the mainland to catch our flight. We were less than halfway across the ocean when I felt that something was wrong. There were two mini waterfalls to traverse in order to reach our destination, and I saw them in the distance with a fresh sense of foreboding. Well, I say waterfalls, they were more like water speed bumps. We were stood on deck at the front, and I watched as we went down the first one, but then the boat lurched forward and tackled the second vertically. It didn’t recover; we plunged into the cool water and didn’t come back up.
I looked at my friend and yelled “jump!” just in time and we abandoned ship. Treading water, I watched the boat sink further into the depths. I was hoping it would miraculously right itself and we’d just jumped overboard for nothing. It didn’t. I thought about how far we’d come and decided the mainland was still too far to swim. “Let’s head back,” I said, and we swam all the way back to the hotel.
The staff were confused to see us again. Soaked through and crying, I explained what happened and they gave us food and drink. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. All of my possessions, gone. Like a typical millennial, I was most upset about losing my phone. I thought about all the holiday pictures, my point of contact with the rest of the world, my home. How would my mum contact me? She would want to know I was okay when she heard the news about the boat capsizing…
We wandered around the hotel for the rest of the day, a bit lost. People were still sunbathing and enjoying themselves as if nothing had happened.
A random memory popped into my head; an old man once warned me to be wary on this holiday. “Whatever you do, keep your phone with you,” he’d said. “At all times.” For some reason I had listened to this man – I mean, I usually had my phone with me anyway, but this time I’d kept it about my person rather than in my bag. To my amazement, I checked my back pocket, and there it was; completely fine, not the slightest bit of water damage…
I checked it and went straight to the news, typing in words like “Greece, boat, dead.” Nothing. Was this a cover up? Had it just not been reported yet? There had been at least thirty people on the boat, so surely this was important? I turned my phone off to conserve battery and we went to reception to speak about a room.
Later, someone offered to go check out the boat, to see if there was anything salvageable. Despite our recent trauma, we decided to go with them and show where the boat had capsized. We were on a much smaller boat this time – more a speedboat than a ferry – and when we got to the waterfalls we managed them fine.
“That’s how you’re supposed to do it,” I said knowingly to my friend.
“It was just about here.” Divers jumped off the boat and searched around. They were gone for quite a while and when they came up, one guy brought a Tesco carrier bag with him.
Inside the bag was a model of the ship, exact in every detail to the larger version, even down to singular items on board. The man handed me the miniature ship and said, “that’s everything. Anything you want me to save?” I looked at the ship, with dolls house versions of my clothes, my money and my passport – the keys to getting me home, and the words that tumbled out of my mouth were, “my laptop and PS4 please.”