“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” ― John Lennon
The idea for ‘Fantasme’ came to me more as a random set of visualisations and images than an actual fully formed story . It has been stewing for a while in my mind, not always at the forefront but there in the background. I now have a much clearer idea where I am heading with it, and I am ready to share. Rather than wait until I have completed it, I intend to release segments of the story in serial form. If I do my job correctly I will leave you after each instalment desperate for the next. If not, well at least you can jump ship and move on before the next one hits this blog.
I am writing this as a form of therapy. I won’t delve into the whys and wherefores. However, whenever life takes me down a dark alley steals my peace and gives me a good kicking, as it likes to do from time to time, I like to escape into fiction (or play God in a universe of my own making as I like to call it). It allows me to feel in control for a while, but perhaps more importantly it is distracting.
We all have dark places within, sometimes buried very deeply. Some of us go whole lifetimes without ever coming into contact with them. Others may know they are there, but dare not go looking, for fear of waking and being consumed by them. There are those of us for whom they lurk forever at the surface, ready to take us over at will. Which ever group you fall into your life will be all about subverting these grim forces, or surrendering to them. This is a tale about that struggle, and the places it takes us.
So please come with me. All you have to do is go to your window, pull aside the curtain or lift the blind. By now it will be dark outside, and all manner of phantasm’s dance in the trees, or create shadows that loiter in the corners of your garden, or behind the wall that surrounds your yard. Look into the darkness, really look, let it inside you, and feel it fill you up. Let its cold fingers search your psyche, seek out your inner nightmares and set them free. Now you are in my world. Let me show you around. I promise I will do my best to keep you safe, and if I can I will return you intact when our journey is done.
The Meeting of the Two
Rick’s head ricocheted off the door frame. Spittle and blood sprayed the wall as he collapsed. First came darkness as he flirted with unconsciousness then a watery haze as his eyes filled with tears. The pain in his jaw screamed out, was it broken? Paul, Ricks flatmate moved in to deliver another blow, his face crawling with fear, but the girl on the bed screamed “No!”. Paul retreated a step as if awakened from a fugue state. Ricks vision began to clear, his attacker no longer had a ‘monster face’ and the girl on the bed was now human too. Paul looked genuinely horrified at what he had done. The girl, who just seconds ago had resembled some hideous gargoyle, was now crying.
“What the fuck.” she said over an over.
Rick somehow summoned the strength to lift his body from the carpet. Grasping at the door handle he raised himself to his feet. The door behind him shattered and splintered, a hinge came loose under his weight. Trembling, his legs felt barely able to hold him, he inhaled deeply and held firm to face his former friend. The shovel he had been carrying when he broke into their room was on the floor. His eyes must have lingered there too long because Paul took a step closer. He needn’t have feared though, because Rick didn’t have the wherewithal to launch another attack. He just wanted to escape now, he was badly beaten and scared.
His flatmate was screaming at him, his mouth moving frantically, arms flailing but all Rick could hear was a loud hum inside his head. He backed out the door onto the landing. Paul didn’t follow. He just stood mouthing his silent rage as Rick edged closer to the top of the stairs. He watched as his assailant waved an arm dismissively at him, as if giving up before going to the bed to comfort the quivering female who sat there. He took his chance and clambered down the steps, pulled open the door to the street and disappeared into the rain.
Harry Tumnus wished he’d taken an umbrella to the chippy with him. The rain pelted him as he walked along Duke Street, his bag of Foo Young in hand. He looked down at it and saw the paper dissolving around the polystyrene container. He quickened his pace, trying to outrun the downpour. Sirens screeched behind him, caught him up and sped past. He paid them little attention. There was always something going off these days, and lifting his head to look only invited the cold rain into his face. Focussing on the pavement he trudged on. Harry felt old these days, and as the wind ripped into him he felt older still. He turned the corner into Colquitt street he was almost home now. The apartment would be warm, Match of the Day would be starting in 5 minutes. Plenty of time to decant the takeaway and pour himself a whiskey.
Lucy would have scolded him for taking on such a large meal so late in the day. Harry could actually hear her reprimanding him. But I haven’t eaten all day love, he answered in his head. Well you didn’t get out of bed until the middle of the afternoon she (or his conscience) answered. He was in a nocturnal cycle these days, and he knew he wouldn’t find sleep until the sun came up tomorrow. It had been that way since Lucy passed.
He heard the footsteps on the pavement behind him, but his reactions were too slow. By the time he turned the kid was barrelling down on him eyes wide, a terrified look on his face. Harry doubted the young lad even saw him and he just ran right through the old man and carried on up the street. Harry landed arse first in a pool of rainwater, it was cold and he cried out in pain as he crashed into the unyielding concrete. Something gave in the lowest part of his back, and tears streaked down his face. That was your fucking coccyx you broke yelled his brain. Still clutching the sodden bag of food, he got to his feet bones aching and heart pounding. he felt the tightness in his arm at first, like a band tied around his bicep. his breath quickened and he felt sick in the pit of his stomach. The flat was yards away, the kid was out of sight. He just needed to make it home where he could take his meds. The nurse told you to take your medicine out with you just in case didn’t she? It was Lucy’s know it all tone again. He stumbled forward, carrying his left arm like it didn’t belong to him.
Progress was agonisingly slow, he had no power in his legs. The heaviness that had started in his left arm was in his chest now. It felt like someone had their hand around his heart squeezing. His vision darkened, and he feared he would collapse. how long would he lay there in the street if he did. The clubs wouldn’t let out for hours, he’d probably die in the wet and cold. It was a miserable thought and the fear drove him on. The door was in sight now, breathing hard he dropped the food to the ground and reached into his pocket for his keys. Finally he reached the doorway. He hadn’t had an attack like this since Lucy died, and this one felt worse. He was shaking from the effort, but he was also frightened. Harry wasn’t ready to go yet. He steadied himself by placing his hand against the wall and just managed to steady his hand long enough to get the key into the lock. He sighed at the click and felt the door give.
His heart medicine was on the mantelpiece in the living room. In his mind he could picture it, but the way he was breathing it might as well still be at the pharmacy. Harry made it as far as the living room door, leaving a trail of broken picture frames, victims of his stumbling journey through the hallway. Finally his knees buckled and fell to the ground. He felt like an elephant was sat on his chest, and he was now drenched in sweat. What a way to go out he thought, as black spots danced before his eyes. He may actually have blacked out for a moment, he wasn’t entirely sure, but something startled him and his focus seemed clearer. The pressure in his chest had either eased a little or he was getting used to it. He raised himself slightly and used the wall as support to prop himself up. The pressure intensified a little with the effort, but he forced himself to be calm and tried to control his breathing.
He had seen a physiotherapist at the hospital who had taught him some exercises that could help alleviate panic. In the early days after his heart attack, he struggled a lot with anxiety, in fact it lived with him constantly for a while. Taking care of Lucy had exhausted most of his internal resources, and by the time she slipped away from him he was nothing but a shell of the man he used to be. He almost expected the heart attack and couldn’t believe it hadn’t carried him off too. Instead he survived and eventually carved out a life alone. His heart hadn’t troubled him much for a good few years. He’d even stopped turning up at the hospital, but recently he’d been having the odd “twinge” mostly after the exertion of getting washed and dressed, but occasionally it would wake him up in the night. His “dynamite”, as he called it would normally sort him out though. A couple of puffs under his tongue and normality would return. He’d heard Lucy’s voice in his head harping on about going back to the doctor, and he had resolved she was right he would go tomorrow. Tomorrow was yet to arrive.
Was that a? The sound was small and fleeting. He dismissed it initially, too dazed and tired to rely on his senses. His priority was to regain control of his breathing and he had to get his legs back. It was a matter of yards to the mantelpiece which lay behind the door which stood over him. Then came that sound again. Harry was certain this time. It was coming from beyond the living room door. It sounded like the kitchen which ran off the living room. Something had fallen, and broken. could this night get any worse. was he being burgled too? For Christ’s sake he thought, what do I do. Lie fucking still he told himself. Don’t make a sound. Harry felt his best hope lay with the intruder being an opportunist who would take off with whatever they could carry. If he didn’t attract any attention they would leave without exploring the flat any further.
Then came Lucy’s voice again. Her voice was really loud, in fact it had never been clearer to him. Somehow it eased the pressure in his chest, and he felt he could breath a little easier for now anyway. She said, Harry you know if they think the place is empty nothing will stop them opening that door and finding you lying here defenceless You have to make them believe there’s somebody in. They won’t know your a bleeding cardiac cripple, for all they know you could be six feet ten and built like a brick shit house. Make as much noise as you can it’s your best bet. It’s probably just a kid anyway who will run rather than risk getting caught. There was more movement in the kitchen now, he heard a chair grind across the floor, and something else fell. Harry’s heart rate quickened, and with it came a surge of nausea. He heaved, though nothing came. His stomach was empty. Images flooded his mind, as did countless newspaper stories of elderly people bludgeoned to death in their own homes. Could it really end like this, after all he had faced and survived in his life. Could he really die in his own hallway, soaked in his own sweat at the hands of god knows who, probably high as a fucking kite. Of course he could, it frequently happened to others. Why should he be any different.
Spurred on by this realisation, and by Lucy’s words he felt the urge to scream out, but he didn’t have the energy. The air in front of him seemed to shimmer for a moment, and he felt the temperature drop. Frosty air escaped his lips with each breath. I must have passed out he thought. He was now aware of someone sitting next to him. He turned his head and saw Lucy. I’m hallucinating or unconscious this is a dream, his head raced. She place a finger to her lips shushing him. Then the same hand reached out and touched his knee. It was hot, why had he expected it to be cold? Weren’t ghosts meant to have cold hands? Your losing it Harry he told himself you’re out cold you’ve got to wake up. He shut his eyes tight as if blocking out the hallucination, before opening them again in the hope normality would be restored. She was still there holding his leg. Take my strength she said. he felt the power returning, and his chest felt lighter. This is fucking crazy he thought, never mind making a noise I need to just crawl my arse out of here and take my chances in the street.
Instead for reasons he couldn’t for the life of him fathom, Harry kicked out at the living room door. Bang, bang, bang. Silence. The effort drained what power Lucy had bestowed. She had gone now and he began to breathe harder. His legs were once again terribly weak, but he had to do it again. He lifted his right leg once again and aimed a kick at the door. this time his effort was far weaker, and barely made a sound, but it was sufficient to cause the door to give. The first volley had popped the catch and with the second more feeble effort the door swung open. Harry closed his eyes hoping against hope to hear the back door, located in the kitchen open and his intruder fleeing. There was nothing for what seemed like forever. Then he heard the footfalls moving closer through the kitchen door and into the living room. He could hear breathing now. They hadn’t run, the gamble had back fired.
The door into the hallway swung back, the kid stood there for a moment looking down on him. Harry almost winked out there and then. Then the boy collapsed to his knees, tears streamed down his face and snot bubbled from his nose.
“Oh god, thank god” he stammered “Your human aren’t you? Please, please you have to help me”