Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Savage Writing: Consumption

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I went off-task this week because it did nothing for me, though TB and “Tactical Basque” share the same initials I suppose.

__

Bleak, blue, the evening sky made a silhouette of the figure standing at the graveside. From the cemetery gates one would only have seen the black outlines of crows and slabs and crosses, and one solitary female figure.

Of course she was solitary. Charlotte pulled her cloak around her neck as the breeze ruffled her. The sixth person had died today, and Mrs Tennison, the fifth, now lay under a pile of newly turned dirt at the other side of the yard, as close to the church as possible. People stayed far away from where Claire was buried. They had stayed away from her even before the first boy dropped dead.

Charlotte rubbed her eyes. In this dim light, she could barely see the name on the newly erected headstone. Since coming here at sunset, she had read and re-read it until she knew it by heart; she had drawn her gaze countless times along each groove that made up a letter, and each letter that made up the name, and the date, and the epitaph. ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you.’ Instead of writing of their loss, their parents had carved a prayer for Claire’s soul above her forever.

Charlotte had had a very peculiar dream the previous night. She was on an endless plain, an empty landscape. Beneath her feet there was no ground, but instead wooden floorboards, shining from recent rain. The sky was pregnant with black-grey clouds, and above the horizon there was a sickly yellow-purple light – the colour of an old bruise – which cast a dull glow on the scene. In front of her was a round wooden table, also rain-slicked, with two wooden chairs. The one in front of her was empty. Seated on the opposite side of the table, facing her, was Claire.

She was eating an apple. She looked at her younger sister as if she was the biggest joke she had ever seen.

‘Come sit with me,’ Claire said. She looked as she had always done: dark eyes, too dark for her light brown hair and fair complexion; insolent smile.

‘I daren’t,’ Charlotte had replied.

The apple was gone, vanished. A low rumble from far away rippled across the heavy air. Claire leant forward, both elbows on the table.

‘That’s rude of you, Lottie. Aren’t you glad to see me? Here, have some milk, have some tea; I have everything I want. I didn’t think you’d be so indifferent to seeing me again. Two-and-twenty years together, and you forget me in mere weeks.’

A jug of milk, a pot of tea, two cups and a basket of fruit appeared on the table, on a white tablecloth. The patches of moisture on the wooden surface leaked through the fibres, staining damp circles onto the cloth, as if a giant had dropped tears on it.

Charlotte shook her head: no, I didn’t forget; no, I will not join you. Not like Mrs Tennison, or her son, or any of his friends.

‘Why are you so afraid?’ Claire asked, with a lop-sided grin. ‘Do you think I am a monster?’

Charlotte’s mouth was dry. Her dreams were typically theatrical, with little physical sensation; she watched everything that occurred in them without taking part. And yet, in this dream – though she did not know it was a dream – her mouth turned to coarse cloth, tongue and cheeks a cotton-dry desert. A shadow show played across her mind, where she imagined scenes that had been described to her in real, waking life. The boys laughing, drunk, stumbling into the graveyard. Shovels stolen from the nearby shed. Sweating and becoming gradually more sober as they disinterred the coffin. Kicking it open, and inside…what was inside?

A flash of lightning struck the floor nearby. Charlotte jumped but Claire did not flinch. Her eyes gleamed like a cat’s in that instant of white.

‘Sit with me, Lottie,’ Claire repeated, and through no decision of her own, Charlotte was in the chair, with a cup of tea in her hands. She threw the lukewarm liquid down her throat but it did not slake her thirst; it merely made the woollenness more sufferable.

‘I cared for you,’ Claire said, cheek on hand as she watched her drink. She popped two purple grapes past her lips. ‘And I hoped you cared for me, despite everything. I didn’t think that you would hold evil gossip against me, even now. I didn’t think that you would think ill of the dead.’

Charlotte could not speak, but her mind protested as loudly as it could: I did care. I was the one who held the cloth to your mouth when you exhaled blood. I was the one who brought you these baskets of fruit, and who lied that they were from friends. You had no friends.

‘Have some. They taste like love,’ Claire said. She reached over the tabletop, grape in hand, and tried to put it in her sister’s mouth. Charlotte jerked away.

‘I can’t!’ she gasped. ‘I can’t – they’re dead – they’re dead. They dug you out the ground, and they…they…died.’

Another flash of lightning, to Claire’s right hand side. Charlotte tried to take another gulp of tea but it was empty, and then the cups were gone, the fruit was gone, and the table was cleared. Claire rested her chin on her palms, and smiled.

‘Come follow me, sister? I’m lonely. I miss you. Share some fruit with me? Between family, between friends?’

‘I can’t,’ Charlotte sobbed. ‘I daren’t. I don’t want to go.’

Crunch. Claire was eating another apple. Her eyes sparkled as she looked at her shaking, wretched sister.

‘Then at least visit my body,’ Claire said. ‘I’m lonely. You haven’t seen where they buried me. Please come and see me. I love you.’

A flash of lightning, and Charlotte had woken before she could promise or deny anything.

It was late in the cemetery. She had been here for hours, to make up for not visiting before. She hadn’t wanted to visit at all – especially after what happened.

The boys who dug up Claire’s corpse as a joke had come screaming back, saying that when one accidentally hit the body – ‘accidentally’ – a spray of blood came from her mouth and stained him. That boy died a week later, the others soon afterwards. She was a monster, they said. Claire’s vengeful spirit had returned to wander the village that scorned her, and she ate the souls of those who had hurt her. Stay indoors, don’t be outside after dark, and don’t go to her graveside, or she will get you.

Despite the gloom, Charlotte felt no fear. There was a slab of stone, and under the earth there was a dead body, dead like the pigs in the butcher’s window. She had never harmed her sister. Dreams were not real.

‘You are dead,’ she said to the stone, ‘and can do nothing. Good riddance to you, Claire.’

With that, the silhouette turned from the grave and walked away, and no-one alive could see the shadow of disease as it crept into her lungs and began its task of dragging her back to the grave.

_

I read so many things about improving my writing and how to write that I became too self-conscious to actually write anything, prompting a mini crisis. Luckily, a painting of a scene and a fascinating article conspired to wake my shivering writer’s mind to come up with this. I don’t think it’s very good, but if I only let myself write “perfect” things then I’ll never write anything. I suppose I’ve learned that I can’t be critical and creative at the same time; editing mode and writing mode must be kept completely separate!

And if all else fails, think of this: if EL James and Stephanie Myers can be  writers, then so can I!

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Written by G.J.

28/11/2012 at 11:47 pm

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  1. […] Savage Writing: Consumption (swylce.wordpress.com) […]


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