Monday, 11 October 2010

Sixteen Nails

After three pieces of fiction by myself, here's the first piece by a guest writer. If you have anything you'd like me to read and put up on here, please do e-mail me - the more the merrier after all, and it saves you readers getting bored of reading my stuff all the time. I asked Daniel to e-mail me this story. He wrote it about 2 years ago now, but it's always stuck in the back of my mind. Dark, sinister, mysterious, worrying...and that's just him. What I love about this story, having read it several times now, is how I don't know what the hell is exactly going on. It's thought-provoking, in that sense, and is genuinely scary at places. Enjoy!

"Julie was my first love. Her curly hair couldn’t make its mind up if it was brown or blonde. She started calling it mousey blonde when she reached puberty. I called it dirty blonde for other reasons. I was eighteen and she was sixteen, just about as socially awkward as me. Her father was a bit worried about her not ever having had any boyfriends yet so he enlisted my help. At the time I was a Saturday boy in his Hardware Store, selling nails one by one because as Mr Hutchings used to say ‘singles mean sale, packs mean bankruptcy.’

I only ever buy anything in packs now, or at least a container or some form of outer protection. I like kicking capitalism in the balls.

But I do owe the old fool something. One day in the autumn, when the leaves were clogging up the drains and the women had dug out their annual headscarves I dragged on my first ever cigar. I started of steadily, one every fortnight, a thing of beauty and pleasure to look forward too. Occasionally I would smoke them when in bed with Julie which was rare as her underwear was glued to her body. Now I smoke them every day. The fumes waft over Julie every day although she doesn’t smell it. She just lies there silently under the floorboards. Dead. Her father unknowing of a family size pack of nails through every major artery.
Five nails in the lower limbs. Terrific screams. Two in the abdomen, the anterior and the posterior. Blood pours. Everywhere. Eyes roll back. The chest takes three. She is dead but still there are nails to be hammered. Just with slightly less vigour. Morals are key to any killing. Another quintet for the upper limbs. I can feel her getting colder. Blue lips but still I have twenty nails and sixteen of those will do for the neck and head. To this day the remaining four live in an old cigar box on my bedside table.
Afterwards my first thought was to reach for a smoke. But since Julie’s father had given me a liking for the finer kind of tobacco a Dorchester could no longer satisfy my needs. A cigar was calling my name. Hurriedly but expertly I dug Julie’s grave. A grave I would later revisit to collect her body. The police assume her dead. I know she’s dead.

This will be my last time. I’m resigned to that. These days no crime can go uncovered, a slightly darker hair that fell from my head seventeen years ago is all they need. When the case is finally re-opened I’m done for. A dormant beast about to stir.
When I woke everything had changed. The room seemed to have taken on a red tint instead of its usual grey. The room even smelt red. A whiff of danger, the scent of gunpowder. This wasn’t a new smell, it was familiar. I knew something was about to blow up. I needed to find my next target.
With the scent completely filling the room and all furniture taking on a darker shade of red every time I glanced around the room, I had completely ignored the urine soaked bed sheets. Something had already exploded in the night. The smell I had mistaken for gunpowder was actually piss. I stunk of piss. However the room was still red, the shade had grew from pillar box red to blood red. This had to be a message, a sign, seventeen years is a long time to go without the thing you love the most. My waterlogged bed had become my war table, my official centre of planning. Where would I find the next girl?

The woods seem to have a certain magnetism for killers. They draw you in. As early as the twelfth century wizards saw them as mythical, magical places which only the best sorcerers gained entry too. These fine wizards would then tell the woods their best spells and bury important manuscripts there for safe keeping, thus giving both woods and forests alike a reputation as beholders of secrets. That they are.
Trees stand tall like figures of importance, all straight, no deformed, inferior one with a hunch on its back. A social community where every tree is equal to another. Woods are not a mirror of real life.
Their isolated state makes them different to anywhere else in the surrounding area. They are places of escape, youngsters still elope off to woods to enjoy certain experiences. Woods are away from everything that is considered normal. Woods are where people change.
 The offshoots of the trees that run into and under the ground remind me very much of Julie’s major arteries, each one pierced with a nail. Were I a true collector I would’ve buried a body under every single tree. Being dead around so much freshly produced oxygen would be cruelty of the highest order.

Like a rabid dog I move over to the corner of the room. In a crouched position, I throw unwanted books over my shoulder. I’m looking for some old photo albums, just to find anyone’s face. My heart punches at my ribcage and I can hear the hollow sound echoing in the room. A picture enters my head of my heart morphing into a fist, clenched tight like the Himalayas trying to stop me from what it knows I’m going to do. We all have good in our hearts, even the worst of people.
Then I see it. Memories start to gather pace and set about an avalanche inside my mind. I think of all the bad things that occurred so I can detest her enough to kill her. God knows I detest the cover of the album. The front cover presents an image of a rose – the official sign of love – on a blue background, it reminds me of a cheap tin of Cadbury’s roses. I remember her giving it to me on some special occasion, which must not have been a huge landmark seeing as I can’t recall it, and being underwhelmed. A set of photos in a book. She always had originality.
Slightly less rabidly than before I walk over to my bed come river, throw the album on the bed and cause a splash. A few droplets of urine fly into the air and land on the skin of my right leg. I don’t do order so I just skip too any page, the hard material of the front cover causes another splash. Staring up at me is a small child and suddenly I feel wrong. I feel the need to cover up, put something on, I feel ashamed of my naked state. I know I may not be considered normal but I have morals, which I consider key.
With the image of the small child in my head it seems to take an age to walk into the bathroom. I feel dirty but not too dirty to wash myself. The clothes in my bath are what the army would call civilian clothing, I’m not a flashy killer. I try to manoeuvre myself into my clothes without exerting too much effort. Still I can’t shake the image of that child out of my head. Feeling sick, I place my arm across my stomach to give me some support in case I wrench. If any sick does come up I’ll be sure to swallow it. Vomiting is a sign of weakness.

Moving back into the bedroom/living area I’m determined to not make eye contact with the picture. Over and over in my head I plan what is going to happen. It goes like this; I’ll walk over, bend just a little and flick the page over without looking. Then I’ll go and kill her. I’d like to piss on her to exorcise the demons of last night. However just like the woods, the photo has a magnetic force. The face is angelic, nothing wrong with this little life, as pure, true and innocent as anything I’ve ever seen. I cannot tell if it’s a boy or a girl. Its cheeks have dimples.
Blunt instruments, I think, something that won’t necessarily pierce but is capable enough to do damage. I know where to easily get hold of a pickaxe, turn it on its head and use the handle. I’m doing a good job of keeping it out of view.
Until the baby starts talking.
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
It begins to repeat itself.
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
Monotonously it sounds out the words over and over again, I notice the blue bib hung around its neck reads the same phrase.
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
Sitting on my bed the baby looks at home in the urine drenched bed. An urge comes across me to bury my face in my own bodily fluid for a good minute or so just to wake myself up out of this nightmarish apparition. Surely that’s what it is, an apparition.
I have a dead child in my room. What will they think of me now?
A dead child talking.
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
I forgo the need to cleanse my face in urine in order to let another urge sweep through me, the urge to speak to the baby. I can’t even create the phonetic sounds to start the words though. At this minute in time the baby has more intelligence then me. My second attempt is interrupted.
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
The repetition is beginning to grate on me. I never thought I had it in me to hurt a small child but I admit the thought runs through my mind of what the sound of a blunt instrument on a baby’s head would sound like. An explosion of death, dreams and aspirations breaking like glass. Its parents had hopes for their child.
I look at the bib and listen to the words. Have I stopped? I wonder if this is what I’m meant to do. Stop. Look. Listen.
The baby continues. “Look. Listen.”
I’ve stopped which is a start but what to do now? Approaching the small child is something on which I’m unsure. If it can talk what other unnatural things can it do? I lift my foot up off the tile flooring and dance it around in front of me, wondering if moving a few paces forward is a wise option. It’s certainly a viable option but is it one I won’t regret. My hanging foot dipped into the ethereal world in front of me. A breeze brushes across the space in between my ill fitting jeans and my shoe. I move forward with my eyes solely focused on the baby sitting on the photo album. It disappears. The pages turn and the soft voice the baby previously employed now comes back with the boom of a fully grown adult. The pages stop turning and just like I knew I would, I recognise her face.
“She is already dead.”
The voice is of a man, a man who is angry at me. He’s right she is dead. She has been dead for years. I wore black at the funeral and I cried with the rest of them. It takes a cemetery to bring out the good in someone. My mom was raped and killed by a man who was never found. Her body was discovered in the local woods. My killings were in vengeance. Motives are key. And then I realise, this isn’t an urge to kill again, this is a message – the redness of the room for someone you love, the rose on the album, the small child is me – that the walls are closing in on him. Eventually they’ll close in on me too but him first. I sit and wait in my waterlogged bed for the daily paper bearing good news. I sit and wait for the police bearing bad news."

Daniel Edmonds, 2008