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So, I haven’t posted anything in awhile. I need a kick in the right direction. So, to help me get excited and interested in writing again, I’ve ordered myself a Writeable (http://humanwrit.es/the-writable/). They start shipping in July… So here’s to practice-practice-practice, and getting the wheel turning…Again.
 

Previous posts: The Beginning, Crispin Meets Gina, Spilt Milk, Pretty Penny & 4am


Nancy found him a week or two later. He was sitting outside a little deli, elbow deep in a gourmet sandwich.

She sat down opposite him. He looked up and swallowed the last bits of bread and cheese. “You found me,” he grinned.

“I said I would.” She leaned back in her seat and surveyed him as he continued to make his way through his lunch. 

The sun was hot on her back, a pair of large sunglasses covered her eyes and her dark hair was pulled back into a messy pony. Despite the simplicity she still looked sleek, well put together, like she had spent some time trying to find an outfit that looked both carefree and thrown-on, but also classy.

He grinned. She’d probably spent ages looking for just the thing.

She pulled her glasses off and gave him a look. He gulped. He must have looked guilty because she laughed, a low tinkle mingling with the clink of knives and forks and the hum of restaurant chatter.

Nancy ordered a glass of wine and sat talking to Crispin. She liked his animation, his easy smile. He made her feel like she wasn’t a wife who spent her evenings waiting for a husband who never called or came home. She felt real again, sitting so close to someone who seemed to care about the fact she did volunteer work, or that she was lonely and alone. 

Sometimes she could feel every atom in her body wanting to reach for him. The alcohol gave her the courage last time, but she didn’t want this next time to be a repeat. She wanted it clear in her mind, without the numb feeling of too much to drink.

When they got up and left the deli, their arms brushed and she tried hard not to close her eyes and try it again. They walked aimlessly, feeling the slow buzz of his skin close hers.

Even though their mouths moved, her mind was elsewhere. She was squeezing his fingers, undressing him, biting his lip.

Crispin stopped and turned to her. They had reached a cul-de-sac. She took a deep breath and moved closer, into his space, against his chest, her fingers finding his and the hot sun beating down on them. It was like he was holding his breath – his chest was still, hard, until he let that breath go, and he melted against her, setting her on fire.

 

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4am

Previous posts: The Beginning, Crispin Meets Gina, Spilt Milk & Pretty Penny

It was 4am and the sky was a deep blue. A sliver of moon poked out from behind a cloud bank, and Crispin stood mesmerised, eyes fixed on the shadow of a lamppost. He had loosened his tie and popped the top two buttons. Icy air was chilling his skin, raising goose bumps on his neck and arms but the cold hadn’t quite reached his brain yet.

A foggy thump sat in his head as he lurched ever closer to his apartment. Thankgod there is only one flight of stairs to climb, he thought. His feet didn’t seem to understand the dexterity needed for walking, let alone the effort of heaving himself up a staircase.

The headlamp of a passing car blinded him for a second and he closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He saw stars before he cracked an eyelid open and peered around. Definitely too much wine.

Amanda in her silvery dress had sidled up to him after a round of speed dating and smiled at him. Her lips were lush and she was interested. She had taken his hand, and leaned in.

“Want to get out of here?” Her tongue tripped over the words for a second, and he looked down at his own glass. Empty.

“Another drink?” he offered and she agreed only too willingly. He was hoping she’d get the hint, but she hadn’t caught it. An hour later, Amanda disappeared to the bathroom and didn’t resurface. Oops.

He felt a little bad about it. He knew she was trashed when they reached the bar, but it wasn’t his job to play mother. Maybe the explosions going off in his head was exactly what he deserved.

Crispin was suddenly at his door. He looked down the landing and wondered how he managed it. The stairs wobbled, and the key kept slipping on the lock. Groaning, he tried again, this time using both hands. Almost. Finally, he heard the tumblers and the click of an unlocked door. He turned the handle and stumbled in.

Pretty penny

So, this is a little more melodramatic than the others… Sorry! But I thought I should upload it anyway (at least for some sort of critique).

Read the rest: The Beginning, Crispin Meets Gina & Spilt Milk

Penny hadn’t died. She had been injured and was living with her parents. Gina had found out for him, just like she promised.

He was planning on visiting her. The thought made him feel sick to his stomach, but also excited to finally see her face.

It was hot and Crispin was sweating in his shirt. Should have worn something else, he thought, but he had borrowed the clothes from Joe. Joe was a shirts and slacks kind of man, even in the dead of summer.

Crickets chirped. Flies buzzed and irritated his neck and arms. He was always too slow to shake them off. Standing at Penny’s door, he tried to calm himself.

“Why so nervous? Jeez…” He said to himself. She was his fiancée after all. He loved her. An accident like this could not change the way he felt.

He stretched out his arm, his hand in a fist, ready to knock. It took concentration – he was still relearning movement and he felt stiff and aged. The door seemed looming. And then he had done it – his knuckles rapped against the white painted wood. One-two-three.

Seconds passed and then the door creaked open. Penny’s mother’s face peered through the crack. With an “oh my god” the door swung open and he was almost nose-to-nose with Virginia Sinclair.

“I thought – but – Penny!” she called, half staring wildly at him, half staring up the staircase, waiting for her daughter.

Penny appeared at the top of the stairs. He thought she looked wonderful in her yellow sundress. The light from the second storey window hit her and she glowed like a beautiful spirit. It made looking away difficult.

But she turned pale.

Crispin turned back to Virginia, frowning, the feeling of sick anxiety welling up again. Virginia seemed uncomfortable now. Her hand hovered between them, like she wanted to touch his arm, or pull him into a hug, but all she could do was stare.

“Penny.” He turned back to her, his body moving on its own. He stepped into the foyer. Crispin realised she wasn’t wearing her engagement ring. She must have lost it in the accident.

“I thought you were dead,” she said flatly. Crispin was taken aback by her tone.

“I should have died.” Crispin’s voice was soft. Everything about her body language told him not to move any closer.

“We were told you probably hadn’t made it. There was no body.”

“I’m sorry, Penny.” There wasn’t much else he could say to her. He couldn’t take back the mourning or the pain she must have felt. He had come to visit her as soon as he could. He didn’t want her to see him like he was. Joe and Gina had kept him hidden; it would be dangerous if people questioned his treatment. The less who knew, the better – and he had agreed.

“So what then? You just walked away from the accident and left me to deal?” She was angry. Bitter. This wasn’t like her.

“No. I was hurt…”

“You don’t look hurt,” she sneered at him. It was then that he saw the burn scars trailing up her arm and under the fabric of her dress. She seemed satisfied that he had finally noticed.

“And you without a scratch,” she muttered. What could he tell her? How much he had lost? That he was only living because of the hard work and care of a father and daughter? That she was breaking his heart?

“I lost a lot that day –” he began but she cut in.

“Yes you did.” Her eyes raked him, drinking him in.

He looked pasty. Dark rings settled under his eyes. He looked more solid than she remembered. The shirt he was wearing fit him well, but he had lost that tan she loved. His hair had been flattened into something presentable, but pieces still poked up. At least something hadn’t changed. His eyes were skittish, and she wasn’t sure if she was causing this or something else was bothering him.

“What took you so long?” She asked. Her face softened at the desperate look that took over his expression.

“I came as fast as I could… I’m sorry it took so long…” But his words were drowned by the white noise rushing in her ears. The anger rose up in her body until she was shaking. This wasn’t what she meant, and he knew it.

When Crispin turned to leave, she noticed his limp. He walked like an old man. A car was waiting for him out front. He carefully climbed in, and took a last look at the house. Their eyes met for a few seconds before she shut the door.

Crispin looked down at his hands. His eyes stung and his heart ached. His hand moved to his chest, holding it against his heart as the car pulled away.

Spilt milk

Follow on from: The Beginning & Crispin meets Gina

Crispin sat awkwardly in Joe’s armchair out on the stoep. The sun was just rising, the steam from his coffee mingling with the morning mist. He stared straight ahead, unable to look at his missing arm and leg. He held the mug in his only hand and blew on it.

The hole in his chest had been filled. God knows how they organised that one. When he asked Gina about it, she just shook her head and said nothing. Instead of a beating heart, he had a pump mechanism. He had no heart beat. He had no pulse. It was like being dead, he thought to himself. He would never say this out loud.

How do you come to terms with being… heartless? He snorted. It was as if the day he lost it, he became more sensitive. He found himself breaking down slowly but surely, finding more and more excuses not to leave his room. He would break out in a cold sweat and the emotion would well out of his chest, and slip out his mouth. Incoherent and raw, it would leave him a shaking mess.

Sometimes he would feel an itch. He’d reach down and… air. The calf he was going to scratch was gone. A few times he had woken up in the middle of the night, got up and… Fell. Like a fucking retard, he thought.

They had told him the rehabilitation would be hard, that nothing could be done until he healed, until he was in a more stable condition. Gina watched him like a hawk.

He had thought about ending it all a few times. Their house was next to a quarry. When Joe described the grounds and the pit just beyond the hill, Crispin had to pretend to seem disinterested. He would sometimes lie around and think about the drop. His feet swaying on the very edge, the sharp rocks jutting from the sides and the wonderful deep dark pit below. This was probably what they were waiting for. And he didn’t want to give it to them. This was his.

Crispin turned suddenly, coffee slopping down his front, as he heard the door swing open and slam shut. Joe was standing just outside the door, staring at the line of trees sitting against the mountain.

Crispin meets Gina

Follow on from The Beginning

Silence. His eyes were locked on hers. Red from crying, blotchy. He looked hollow to her. Every ounce of hate she imagined he felt for her and Joe was all over his face.

She put her hands up, trying to show she meant no harm and approached slowly. His eyes followed her.

“My name is Gina. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“What the fuck have you done to me?” he spat, his breath coming in rasps.

“How…how much do you remember?” His face went blank. He looked down at the hand in his lap. His only remaining hand.

“Not much…” he admitted. He remembered the roads were slick from the morning rain. The sound of car tyres on the wet tar was loud in his ears and just before crossing the street he looked up. She was at the café just like planned. He remembered her face – she was watching him, and a smile found her lips when their eyes met. But then it went blank.

“There was an explosion. You were caught in it…” Gina realised her words sounded feeble and paused, trying to find the right way to explain it all.

“Penny? Where’s Penny?”

Gina looked down. She hadn’t helped a Penny. Most of the bodies were still unidentified. There were too many; it would take weeks to hunt down a single person.

He started panicking again, grabbing at tubes and tugging at bandages. Gina ran to his side and grabbed his hand away.

“Please, don’t. I don’t know a Penny. But that doesn’t mean the worst. I can try find out for you. But you need to calm down. I know it’s hard but you need to try.” His hand went limp in hers. She didn’t let go.

“Who are you? Why am I here? This isn’t a hospital.” He was making an effort to control himself. Good, she thought.

Honesty is the best policy, right?

“I – well… Look, you have to understand the hospitals were taking a strain. Not enough beds, not enough staff… No one wanted you – said you would die, that to take you would not… Well, the bed and the personnel would be better suited to someone who would survive…”

Gina couldn’t look at him. He fingers shook, and his palm felt damp. She stayed silent.

“What is your name?” She finally managed to say. She hadn’t found any ID on his person.

“Crispin,” he answered.

 

Originally written: [22:32] 19/01/2011
Edited: [21:11] 01/09/2011

The beginning

Written between the 17 – 19 January 2010. Attempt to un-block.

Read the rest: Crispin meets Gina, Spilt Milk & Pretty Penny

 

“Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness.”
— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

 

He was stuck to the concrete. Everytime he tried to shift, he squelched. He tried to blink the blood from his eyes but it kept running down his forehead, his cheeks, his neck. He could taste it on his lips as he gasped.

Fear. “Oh my god. Oh my god.” His lips moved but the sound came out in phonemes. Oh. Oh. Oh. G. G. G… With each breath, he felt the stabbing pain in his heart. Sharp – and then everything became white. And then darkness.

**************

Crispin opened his eyes. The room was dim. Was it night time? His lizard tongue shot out his mouth and moistened his lips. He could taste something chemical, something like medicine.

“Don’t sit up,” he heard through the rushing in his ears, as if he was in the womb, listening to white noise, his ear to the ocean. It was only then did he realise the steady beep, the hum of machines surrounding him, the tubes…

Panicked, Crispin tried to do the exact opposite, but he felt hands holding him down, a warm sensation run through his body and then the dark again.

**************

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

He cracked an eye open.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

He squinted as the bright light hit his eyes and he groaned, closing them again.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

With his eyes still closed, Crispin felt around. Tubes attached to an arm, plastic clustered around his chest. Catheter. He wiggled his toes. Something seemed very strange. He moved his fingers. Again, he experienced that distant feeling of something gone horribly wrong.

And when his eyes opened, Crispin felt like he couldn’t breathe. The wires, the tubes, the confusion – he started to stress, sending the heart monitor into a frenzy.

“Son, son, it’s okay.” A man had just entered the room and was rushing to his side. He pressed a few buttons on the monitor and the frantic beeping stopped, only to be replaced with something a more constant.

The man checked his fluids, fingering pieces of plastic and insulation tape and finally, he looked into Crispin’s face.

“Where am I?” His voice came as a croak. The man’s eyes softened and he replied.

“You’re in my house. There weren’t many survivors. I couldn’t just leave you there. So I brought you here. You’re okay now. My name is Joe.”

“Joe,” Crispin repeated. “Are you a doctor?”

A look passed over Joe’s face.

“Well…of sorts…” This didn’t bode well.

“I don’t understand.”

Joe sighed. “I’ll explain everything later.” He typed a code into a machine nearby and Crispin felt like he was sinking deeper into the bed he was in.

“I don’t want to sleep anymore,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry but you have to. This is the last time I promise.”

**************

The next time Crispin came to, the room was dark. The curtains had been left open and he could see the bloated moon hanging just above the tree line. Turning his head to the side, he saw Joe in an armchair beside the bed.

Joe was asleep, his body sighing slowly with every inhalation and exhalation. He heard the sounds of pots and pans and his stomach grumbled.

“Oh! You’re awake!” A woman stepped into the room, turning the light on and spotting his curious face.

”I’m Gina. Joe’s daughter.”

Crispin nodded. He didn’t know what to say to her. He had too many questions and they weren’t settling enough for him to ask anything.

**************

Crispin screamed. Where there should have been an arm, there was nothing but a continuous curve from shoulder to trunk. And when he looked down, he thought his heart had stopped. He couldn’t breathe. His left leg was completely gone. Not even a stump.

“What have you done to me?!” Agony. Nothing made sense. He didn’t want anything to make sense.

He began patting himself down, checking to see what else was missing.

He wanted to climb out of bed and hit Joe. He has to get out of this place. What had they done to him? In an effort to move, he began grabbing at tubes and wires, trying to find their source.

And then his fingers found their path. His chest. His heart. And then he passed out.

Joe stood beside the bed, sweating slightly.

“Christ,” he muttered to his daughter.

“I seriously thought he was going to rip them out for a second,” Gina said, patting the wires reassuringly against Crispin’s chest, checking that none had come loose or tangled. Joe nodded, still holding the syringe between his fingers.

“I need a drink,” Gina sighed, closing her eyes and shaking her head. “How long will he be down for?”

“A few hours at least,” Joe said, following his daughter to the door. “I think I’ll join you. I expected something, but god, he looked like he would have done anything to get up off that bed and strangle me.”

Gina clicked the light off as they exited the room, Joe swinging the door shut.

**************

Gina heard him first. Her father had fallen asleep in his chair on the stoep. It was a muggy night and the mosquitos buzzed around Joe’s protruding flesh. Everytime he shifted, the rocking chair groaned. Squealing wood, silence, repeat.

But then a mew came from inside. It started slow, a sort of strangled whining, but then it turned to sobs.

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"We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

- T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917)

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