Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Savage Writing: Of Course It’s Not Possible, But Still…

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It was a bit ambitious of me to think I could finish Stranger Tales No 3 while I was on holiday back home, wasn’t it? Will post it by next week. In the meantime, here is this week’s Savage post. The theme was “insomnia”…I went a little weird on the “can’t sleep” thing.

_

Midnight showers were the best. The steamy bathroom was the cosiest place in the world when outside the window was black and orange, and the only sounds from the street were the odd shouting drunk and screeching taxi. Practical, too. The heat that the water would transfer to his skin would keep him too hot to sleep for a good half hour or so, and once he cooled down the chill against his damp hair would wake him up. The only downside was that he didn’t know whether a midnight shower counted as washing for the previous day or the following one. Your sense of time, your entire schedule, went out the window without the borderline of sleep, and Bryan was determined not to sleep.

He looked up into the corner of the bathroom, just above the shower head, and was satisfied to see that Gerald was still there. Gerald was the tiny spider that lived in that corner of the shower. He had noticed him during his first shower in this flat, and was impressed by the courage of a spider living in plain sight, so close to water and humans. So, Bryan decided to keep him as a pet of sorts – the best kind of pet, the kind that he didn’t need to do anything for. He called him Gerald, though now he was pretty sure Gerald was a female, after all those spider babies appeared last summer. He was surprised that all the babies had left without Angela seeing a single one, since they had spread over the top shower tiles far from where their mother lived. It was a constant tiny worry that one day Angela would notice Gerald, up in the corner above her head, and kill him, so it was a constant tiny happiness whenever he saw that the spider was still in his little home.

‘You’d best make sure I stay awake, Gerald,’ Bryan said. It was nice to be able to speak out loud to someone, even if it was only a spider. It had been a long weekend already, and it was still nearly a whole day until Angela returned.

It had started on Tuesday, when they were watching the news together. It reported forest fires around Fort William, right near where they used to live.

‘Oh God,’ Angela said, ‘do you remember that dream I had that before we left? The one with all the voices telling me I had to leave?’

‘Mm,’ he said. The fires hadn’t harmed anything in the town, or even reached civilisation. They would have been in no trouble if they stayed.

‘That’s so freaky. Really freaky. I’m freaking out, Bry,’ Angela said with a large smile. ‘Ha! It’s so weird, this happening after I had that dream. I hated that place. I knew I had to get away.’

‘Yeah, it’s good we don’t live there anymore.’

The news changed to a different item, and Bryan had forgotten all about the fire until Angela spoke again.

‘And the flat we used to have on Park Road, that burned down after we left it as well. I was so happy when it did, after all that happened with Jane and Marco. I fucking hated living with them.’

‘Mm.’

‘And actually, Carluccio’s burned down not long after I stopped working there. Do you remember how the chefs made me cry? Ha, that’s karma for you.’

‘Karma,’ he repeated.

Angela grabbed his arm and made him look at her. She had very large eyes, and they had the tendency to burn into you whenever she felt an extreme of an emotion. He didn’t think it was possible to look extremely, exuberantly satisfied, but of course she of all people managed it.

‘Bry, this is freaky. Everywhere I hate burns down. Always after I leave it.’

Bryan wasn’t a superstitious man. Forests often went on fire during dry spells, and a restaurant kitchen catching fire was one of the least “freaky” things he could think of. Sure, it was a little unusual that the bookshop under their old flat had caught fire, but nowhere was free of electronics these days, and they could always go up in smoke. No, he was not superstitious. 

But, he was a sensible man, and therefore he thought that if anyone could cause a building to burst into flame through sheer force of will, it would be his girlfriend. She had accidentally brought his mother to tears on more than one occasion, when she hadn’t even been trying to upset her; it was the sort of thing she did without thinking. And while she never did more than make pointed, soul-cutting remarks to those she disliked, he shuddered to think what would happen if she ever released all her fiery hatred.

Well, there was the conservation of energy, and all the heat of Angela’s anger surely couldn’t just dissipate into nothing. Maybe it hung around these places like radiation, and helped blow any slight spark into a blaze.

Unfortunately, after nearly five years together and four of cohabiting, Bryan had yet to learn how to avoid incurring her wrath himself. He had said he’d tidy up the flat before she went to her sister’s for the weekend, but on Thursday night he watched the first episode of a TV show he’d been recommended, and the next thing he knew it was four am and he’d watched the entire first series, and then it was four pm on Friday and he had only just gotten up when Angela was about to leave. The flat was still messy, and Angela was very, very angry – so angry she refused to kiss him at the door.

‘I don’t know why I bother asking you to do these things,’ she said. ‘You’d sleep forever if I didn’t force you to get up, and you wouldn’t do anything around the house if I didn’t nag you.’

‘That’s not true,’ he said. ‘I promise you the flat’ll be sparkling by the time you get home.’

‘Yeah right,’ she said. ‘You’ll just sleep and watch TV all weekend. I bet when I get back on Sunday night you’ll be just out of bed like you are now, and all the mess will be exactly where I left it.’

‘No I won’t!’ he said. ‘In fact, I bet you I can go the whole weekend without sleeping once.’

‘You’d fucking better,’ she had said, before shutting the door in his face.

Bryan was not a superstitious man, but the more he thought about all three of the places Angela had hated going up in flames after she left them, the more uneasy he felt about staying in the flat while she was away, and angry at him. So he stuck to his bet: an entire weekend without sleep, as penance. He had cleaned the flat until it was spotless on Friday night, and happily played video games and watched films until dawn. Meeting up with friends during the day on Saturday had distracted him well, but afterwards he had run out of enjoyable things to do and now it was Saturday midnight and he had a whole eighteen hours to go until Angela was home. If he stayed still for more than a few seconds he could feel the shadowy hands of sleep pulling at his eyelids, dragging them closed, trying to take him to the slumber-lands. He had never realised how treacherously comfortable most of his flat was until now.

Hence, the midnight shower.

He turned off the water and the sudden chill against his wet skin was horribly bracing, as he had wanted. It was going to be a long, long day. He looked back at Gerald, the little black dot nestled in his corner of the shower. If Angela really could set places on fire if she hated them enough, then the shower was likely the safest place in the flat. Maybe the spider had the right idea after all.

 

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Written by G.J.

17/04/2013 at 10:28 pm

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