Something a little different for the first day of 2020. Below are the opening extracts of two novels/short stories I started but never finished.
One New Years Resolution is to finish at least one of them but I need you to inspire me.
Which of the two would you like to read to a finish? 1 or 2?
They might take a few more minutes to read than my more recent efforts at poetry but I hope you’ll give them a go.
I’d be even happier if you read them, voted 1 or 2 in the comments, then shared…
1. Untitled Novel.
Jack Davidson died at exactly three minutes after six on the evening of the 23rd June, 2002.
His last day was also his birthday, he was 28 years old.
How he died is very clear. Jack took his own life when he stepped from the platform in front of a train as it passed though the station in what had been his home town.
Why he died is less understood. It is known that Jack wasn’t completely alone in the moments before his death, there were six others on the platform that evening with him.
The answer to the question of why Jack chose that day to die lies with one of them. The burden of carrying that secret will lay heavy and it will be many years before it is shared.
On the day it finally is, there will be another death from among this group.
That, though, is for later.
23 June 2002
Jack was up early on the day he died. This wasn’t particularly unusual, It had been his habit since childhood.
The fact that it was his birthday barely registered. He may have overlooked it completely if it weren’t for the carefully wrapped gift and unopened card left on his small kitchen table the previous evening by his girlfriend Emily.
As he went through his morning ritual of preparing fresh coffee and generously buttered toast the new additions to this daily scene seemed to adopt an almost lifelike presence.
It felt, to Jack, like they were demanding his attention. That they were somehow surprised that he hadn’t immediately stripped them of their outer layers and were now becoming more and more frustrated by his apparent apathy.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t grateful to Emily for her efforts. He already knew that the gift would be thoughtful and that the card would be humorous on the outside and contain an understated message of affection on the inside.
They would represent the kind of gesture that part of him craved. He would see that he mattered to someone. Other feelings would undoubtedly arise however.
Jack knew that being confronted with the evidence of his value to another would be in direct contradiction to how much he valued himself. This kind of thing was a daily struggle for Jack. He didn’t want today to be like that, he knew who he was even if those closest to him did not.
Coffee drunk and toast attempted Jack made his way through to his bedroom and readied himself to leave the flat. Tall, dark haired, medium build and with deep brown eyes, Jack was a good looking man.
Obviously somewhat aware of this, but never entirely comfortable with it, Jack consciously never dressed to impress.
The faded jeans he slipped on were at least five years old and the plain green T-shirt he selected was one of a ‘three for two’ bundle from one of the charity shops that had appeared on the high street in recent years.
Completing his outfit with a pair of brown training shoes Jack stood up, gave himself a cursory once over in the bedroom mirror, walked through to the small entrance hall, picked up his wallet, opened the front door and left the flat for the last time. He didn’t lock the door behind him. The present from Emily remained unopened.
2. The Waiting Room
I was feeling pretty good about myself as I was shown into the waiting room. I’d been one of life’s high achievers so death just seemed like a new beginning to me. I was sure I could make a success of the afterlife in the same way I had in the land of the living.
The waiting room was empty as I entered. My escort bid me goodbye and closed the door quietly as she left.
Alone now, I reviewed my new surroundings. It was, what looked like, a perfect square shaped room. The entrance I’d come into the waiting room through was opposite two other doors. To the left were three small windows, circular in shape and similar in size to a ships porthole.
Against the right hand wall was a desk with two chairs either side. Above it were a number of pictures hung on the wall. Nine in total, hung in three distinct rows. It was to this side of the waiting room that I found myself drawn towards.
Two of the pictures were easily recognisable, my vintage sports car and the London Penthouse I’d lived in after my last marriage ended.
The third picture took a little longer to place. It showed a picture of a digital watch with a calculator on it. It was a gift bought for me by my girlfriend, at the time, as something of a joke prior to beginning my first job as a trainee stockbroker.
It had been years since I’d thought of her. She had been my first love. Thinking about it now, she might have been my only true love. I’m pretty sure she was the only one who loved me despite me.
On the desk below the pictures was an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a strip of passport sized photographs. Four were of the two of us pulling funny faces for the camera. The last showed a couple locked in a passionate embrace.
There was a short note written on the back of the strip. It read; ‘you died yesterday but do you remember the day you stopped living?’
Clearly the waiting room was trying to send me a message. It wanted me to examine the life I’d had, try to get me to see where I’d made mistakes. Fair enough, if this was a test to get me through to a better place then I knew how to play the game. I’d been doing it for years.
I’d always been an impatient man, eager to get to the next thing. Looking forwards, not back so it was a bit out of character that I hadn’t just walked across the room and tried the other two doors as soon as I came in.
Putting the photographs in my shirt pocket I walked over to the doors and tried each in turn.
They were both locked. Next, I tried the door I came into the waiting room through at the other side of the room. That was now locked as well.
Moving over to the windows, I realised that I would need to stand on tip toes to look through.
The middle one seemed as good a place as any to start, although I’d realise later that it wouldn’t have mattered which order I looked through them. It was the waiting room that was in charge of what I would see and when.
Everything had been decided long ago.
A plane could be seen through the middle window. Flying high in the blue sky on a beautiful day. It was one of the planes used for promoting events and was pulling behind it a banner with the slogan; ‘what do you see?, how do you feel?’. The word ‘feel’ was underlined.
The left hand window showed a view along an ordinary residential street. After a few moments I recognised it as being the view from the bedroom I’d shared with my brother while we were growing up.
Across the road was the house of my best childhood friend. At the bottom of the street was a patch of grass where we’d played ball games for hours until it was time for tea.
The three of us had been inseparable. Our friend, particularly during school holidays, would often sleep on a small camp bed in our room. We’d stay up late laughing, telling ghost stories and discussing our first forays into the magical and mysterious world of girls.
I felt nothing.
It was no surprise to see what was to be found through the final window. The waiting room was playing a very sure hand. It was the body of my brother hanging from a tree.
My memory of that day was a little blurred but I was fairly sure it was the exact same scene as it was when I’d discovered him all those years before.
I felt anger, but just for a moment.
I felt nothing.
A little tired now, I crossed back to the other side of the waiting room and sat at one of the desk chairs.
This was proving to be a little more difficult than I expected. Was I expected to atone for the things I’d been shown? If the waiting room knew so much about me it would understand that I hadn’t been at fault for these things. If anything, I’d been the victim.
As I was sitting trying to work out my next move, I noticed the handle on the furthest of the two doors on the same wall begin to turn.
Momentarily frozen to my seat, all I could do was stare as the door slowly began to open. After what seemed an age the figure of a man peered into the room and gave me a wry smile.
That it was my father addressing me was hard to process. Not so much that it was one of my parents now standing in front of me. More that, as far as I knew, he was still alive so how did he come to be here, with me, in the waiting room?