Swylce

Short fiction and serialised novellas of GJ Fairlamb

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Complacency (poetry is always indulgence)

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I leave no stain on the world.

No more than the usual first-worlder.

Only plastics, carbon dioxide,

and wasted water.

I make no claim on the world.

I have struggled and found Enough.

Safety. Security.

And why not rejoice?

People would die, have died,

for Enough.

My pen lies empty.

I make no stand.

I once had plans

that washed through my fingers

and when I stood and looked again

my juniors walked ahead,

a mile away, ahead.

They speak their ambition in light tongues.

‘I might, I might.’

You will, for you are not me.

Nails crush into palm.

My pen lies empty.

I dabble in the shallows of my authorial plans.

Always Someday, Someday, Someday…

My pen lies empty.

How dare I do?

How dare I not do?

I said I would.

I said I would, but…

I have built this Enough

on this bones of my broken dreams.

I have calm.

For the first, I have calm.

And yet, O Muse, you haunt me.

Restless ambition.

Fool human condition.

This Enough is no longer Enough.

I leave no stain?

How dare I.

How dare I.

I make no claim?

How can I?

May I?

To make a stand?

I will break, as breaking does.

(How many times before I convince myself

that I am not brittle?)

How dare.

Still.

Ceaseless pen.

You urge me to write.

World.

Indulge me, please,

this once.

Allow my selfishness.

Please.

Dead conscious safety or reckless living vanity.

Either way, please indulge–

(No, only one way)

(Ever only one way)

Ever only one way.

So it is.

I write.

Urge.

I have no complacency with you here.

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Written by G.J.

29/04/2015 at 11:11 pm

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Turtle Soul (poetry is always indulgence)

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Turtle soul,

Hedgehog soul,

Skunk.

Touch you and you become a fortress,

Reach for you and the spikes come out.

Sprays the bile all over

Stinking hot and wet.

_

Pound the metal, pound it hard.

Pound every weakness and impurity away.

Snap.

Bad panel.

Too weak.

Chuck aside.

Pound. Pound. Pound.

_

Rain lashes at the window,

water wears away stone over time.

‘That’s just the way the world is.

Nothing is going to be handed to you on a platter.

Grow up.

You’re no special snowflake.

You are not special at all.’

_

Kick a dog enough times and it turns.

That’s the sort of thing child-abused serial killers say.

Kick a dog enough times.

Woof, woof.

No responsibility for me, thanks. I’m an animal.

_

You are better than that, they say.

You are better than that.

You are better than this.

If I was better than this, I wouldn’t be here.

_

Pound, pound, pound.

Be realistic.

Pound, pound, pound.

Cliff to arch to stack.

Be realistic.

_

If you really wanted it, you’d work harder.

If you were really smart, you’d have followed a plan.

If you were really better than this, you wouldn’t be here.

_

Just look at you.

_

Strips away like layers of muslin on a mummy.

Hammered away until glowing-hot core is left.

Voice is acid that burns all but the bones.

You are nothing, nothing,

nothing but bones.

Worthless bones.

_

If I was meant to be better, I’d have done better by now

(says the skeleton, jaw clacking).

If I was any good, I’d know it, wouldn’t I?

Can’t trust people. They’re blind and liars and fools.

But I’d know if I was worth it, wouldn’t I?

_

First goes trust in others.

Their opinions are so slow and weak compared to that voice.

Kindness is burned away,

first to self,

then – withering after, drip by drip over time –

to the rest of humankind.

_

You’re right, you agree with the vicious, why should we care?

These people brought it on themselves.

The delusions, the fear, the insecurities.

The weakness.

Ha! Ha! Look at their weaknesses!

Laugh at them. Laugh at them. They should know better.

This is just how the world works.

Be fucking realistic.

_

(Just look at you, screams the voice inside.

You are them. You are weak.

The weakest).

_

Over the throbbing pulsing exposed kitten-soft core

Come scabs, and callouses.

Hard as shoeless feet, leathered, impervious.

What was once a child’s crying heart.

_

A turtle soul.

Knows better than to let anything touch it.

A hedgehog soul.

Barbs ready, up in defence.

A skunk.

Knows its best to hurt first. Hurt strongest. Leave a mark.

Do something, fucking do something.

This is just the way the world works.

You keep swimming or you die, you keep swimming or you drown.

The weakest are taken down first.

The old, the sick, the young.

From animal’s first impulse: do not be weak, do not be weak,

hide your soul or you will die.

They will reject you and abandon you and you will starve alone and die.

To fibre optic and LCD and sickness vaccines, and still,

you will die if you are weak.

The group laughs at you, you’re dead.

Must do as we say, must do as we want, must follow the rules we laid out.

(We just want what’s best for you, that’s all)

But be realistic.

Be realistic.

You are not special.

This is the best you can hope for.

And if you were meant to be any better, that was a lie.

You believed you were going to be better? What are you, conceited?

The weak only live by latching on to the strong.

How fortunate that we pity you.

(Must be good for something at least,

parasite,

flea).

_

I mean, just look at you.

_

Fine, comes the voice.

Echoing through the empty chambers of brown-green-black caverns.

From deep within the shell, comes the voice:

_

Fine.

I accept it.

I’ll play by your rules.

I am nothing.

You are nothing.

This world is nothing.

We are animals scrambling to the top of a pile and destroying each other and the ground we stand on. There is only so much earth, and material, and air to use. The weak get eaten. Stop swimming and you die. So shut the fuck up and get on with things and don’t you dare complain about what some sad soft-shitted adult or two said about your potential lifetimes ago, don’t you dare remember that people believed in you – they were fools, right? All fools. Be fucking realistic. The world is not going to hand anything to you, you entitled piece of shit.

I mean, really…

Just look at me.

Just…look at me.

If I was meant for anything better, I wouldn’t be here, would I?

If the world feels cruel, it’s only because I’ve been too soft for it.

Ungrateful piece of trash.

_

So says the voice,

of the turtle soul,

the hedgehog soul,

the skunk.

Pound, pound, pound.

Hammered out.

Never be so weak again.

The doors are shut.

The room is sealed.

No-one can hear the scream inside this head.

Nothing is unfair.

All is as it should be.

Pound, pound, pound.

No vocal fold to vibrate, no words to filter through the brain.

Only a vague sense of sound filling up the subconscious,

animal wail.

_

Turtle soul,

Hedgehog soul.

Skunk.

Done.

Written by G.J.

02/10/2014 at 12:50 am

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Savage Writing: A One-Year Man

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The theme for this week was “Heat”

__

A single droplet of water curved down Mollie’s neck, slipped over the two creases of folded flesh, and raced the rest of the way to her chest in the time it took her to say ‘Huh?’

One week until semester started. We’d packed everything into the new flat, and it would be just the two of us until Jessica would move in on Saturday. So, we took a celebratory trip to the pool – or more accurately, the sauna. It had the kind of heat that sits easy in your lungs and on your skin, unlike that summer’s burning sunshine.

‘We broke up,’ I repeated.

‘Really?’ she said, cocking her head further. ‘But you two seemed so happy together!’

I curled up and clutched my legs, trying to ignore how my bones dug into the wooden seat.

‘Yeah, well,’ I said. ‘You know how it goes with some people. He was a one­year man.’

‘What, like there was a natural time limit to him?’ she scoffed.

‘Yeah, kinda. It’s like a season, I guess. When it’s over, it’s over. Not much you can say about it.’

She raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. For the fourth time that day, I wished I could be like her. To walk around the pool with her suit clinging wet to all the contours of her torso, and be utterly uncaring. To slouch in the sauna, when she and everyone knew that that girls with any fat should never slouch. She had scarlet cheeks, a sweaty nose, wet hair flat and unflattering on her forehead – and yet she sat, without any indication that she noticed her transgressions of attractiveness, or cared. Like a baby, or a puppy: unaware, blissful. She did not constantly monitor herself from an imaginary third person eye. She merely was, in a way I could only hope to be.

I rested my chin on my knee, and was surprised to find my knee the colder of the two. Some things in life are surprising, I thought, but in hindsight, the break­-up shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Mollie had a long­-distance boyfriend of two years, and they worshipped each other like the sun. She couldn’t understand a time­limited relationship, but that was how it had been with Andrew and me. He was a one-­year man.

Autumn, last year. Mutual acquaintanceship made at a late summer barbecue, refreshed into mutual interest during a fresher’s week pre­-drinking session. Autumn has always been my favourite: the cooling air holds a promise of fresh, new things. Andrew had hair the colour of summer evenings, and his eyes and laughter lines creased when he smiled, and in the autumn days when the leaves crushed or slushed under our boots, he held a weight of novelty and potential in every word, every gesture, every brushing of his hand against mine. Once I grasped it in my own, I thought I could only ever be happy.

I have bad circulation. My fingers and toes are always ice-blocks, once it drops below fifteen degrees. Andrew, though, he was fire. He was a skinny guy, one of those naturally thin guys whose metabolism was cranked at full capacity, a furnace underneath twig ribs. He was my heat as we lapsed into winter: rubbing my fingers in his as if he was trying to make a spark from them, swearing when I put my feet on his calves in bed. Bonfires and mulled wine cooled over time, but the warmth of his skin on mine never ceased.

‘It’s more fun to have someone to go to these things with,’ he said, of seasonal dinners and events, even as his eyes roved over hair and down cleavage at seasonal drinks and parties.

I felt him slipping away with the long nights, as spring appeared. Missed meetings. Misunderstandings. ‘Monday, not Sunday.’ ‘Sorry, something’s come up.’ ‘You know how it is with my coursework’ – only to see a facebook revelry the next morning.

‘Tell me if you don’t want to be with me,’ I said. ‘Just be honest with me.’

‘Don’t be like that,’ he said, every time. ‘Come here.’

Stuck my hand in the flame, again and again. Leapt in harder after each threat of a cold world without him.

Exams and summer turned into sweaty jubilation. We’d rub our skin red on each other those empty afternoons. And then he wouldn’t text for a week.

Autumn came round again, as it would. I wished we could’ve lasted a season longer. We could’ve ended with a bang on Bonfire Night, instead of a slow, suffocating drain over multiple humid nights. The response to two ignored invitations at the end of July told me simply that he was leaving. ‘It’s been fun.’ Smiley face.

‘So,’ Mollie asked, that day in the sauna. ‘What’s he doing now he’s graduated?’

‘He went to London,’ I said to the thermometer. ‘Like he always said he would.’

‘You going to see him any time soon?’

I shook my head. The warmth of my cheeks disguised the flush of emotion; the sweat and poolwater hid the wetness of my eyes. I couldn’t tell her what I had realised: that there was never a “we” in that relationship. There was only him, and an afterthought. A consideration brushed aside like a cobweb; a moment sticky on the fingers, a tiny struggle to release himself, then nothing. Forgotten.

‘Well, that’s kind of prickish, isn’t it?’

‘I should’ve known better,’ I said. ‘He was that kind of guy. The sort who only sticks around

for a while, until something better comes up.’

I saw myself as he must have seen me: average, dull, clingy. A half-­played game of Jenga, where each missing block indicated a crucial feature I was missing as a person, as a woman. A barely standing tower of holes.

‘Oh, don’t you dare,’ Mollie said.

She stood up, and slouched herself down beside me.

‘Don’t you dare go thinking this was your fault,’ she said. ‘He messed you about for a whole year – he’s the prick here! It has nothing to do with you.’

I hugged myself away from her. Her words were comforting, but I knew the comfort wouldn’t last. We’d go outside into the wind, and the heat of the sauna would be blown away for good, and I would be left with cold toes, cold hands, without even the heat of a one­-year man.

Written by G.J.

21/08/2014 at 10:47 am

Goodbye 2013

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Hi everyone, sorry for the silence. I had planned to have the first of three new short stories written and up here by now, but…y’know…Christmas.

2013 was quite a shit year for me, and pretty much the only thing I can say with pride is that I finished a 140k first draft of a novel (referred to as Frills and Slaughter on my twitter) and am now 35k into the fourth draft of another one (Monster Book, aka That Thing I Wrote). I’m also proud of many of the smaller pieces that I wrote for this blog and for the Leeds Savages – though their schedule got a little spottier later in the year, as I focused on my PhD proposal and my longer pieces. (And discovered tumblr.) I’m glad to see this year go, since 2014 brings a lot more promise, both for my “real world” career and my future as a writer.

Thank you so much to everyone who follows this blog, though it’s one out of similar millions on the net. Thank you for following, liking, and commenting. It helps to keep me going when the demons are at hand 🙂

Thank you for reading and here’s to a great 2014!

Gemma x

Written by G.J.

31/12/2013 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Savage Writing: Tripping

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Theme for this week was “The Void.” Certain things in my mind came to a head. Sorry.

_

He was tripping, and tripped up to the void again. Last time he came to this place, there had been a coat-hook, on the lip of the abyss, and on that hook had hung a skinsuit of himself, facial and bodily features sagging down like a deflated balloon. When a breeze blew up from the void, it had flapped with a plastic-sounding slap, threatening to fly off the hook and into nothingness forever. That suit had been the “him” that he put on to face the world, the presentation of himself that he had grown into, and it was taken away from him when he came to the void. He’d hoped to never come here again.

But tripping pulls you into strange places, and the void yawned back at him like an old, hated relative.

Now bodiless, only a first-person awareness of existence, he looked down, and the gap looked back at him. As he stared into its colourless depths, he became acutely aware of how much was missing from his life and his soul. After all, he decided, there can’t be a void if a person is completely whole. There was some confidence, some knowledge, some security and satisfaction missing from him, and that gap had festered into this void in his mind.

It made sense. He’d always known there was something wrong with him, deep down. When he sat still in quiet moments, it loomed behind him like a childhood monster, hovering above his neck, ready to engulf him. And his life had been full of little reminders of those moments. Like that time that James Collins decided he wasn’t his friend any more, and ignored him completely. Like that time Hannah Amis said that asking him out had been a joke. Like when his father told him he wasn’t as smart as his brother. Like when Lucy said that he only ever thought about himself. Like the time James, and Chris, and Ben, and dad, and mum, and everyone else said “It’s not normal to…” and “Boys/Men aren’t meant to…” and “That, are you weird?”

Deeper now, deeper the void gaped in front of him, no colours, no stars, no swirls, no movement or sound. Just deeper. Lucy had said he only ever thought about himself. He walked past beggars on the street and in his head he justified giving them nothing when he had plenty of change in his pocket. He refused to do good because being selfish meant doing nothing uncomfortable. He didn’t really give a shit about what was on the news. He’d be dead before anything catastrophic ever affected him. The idea of being swindled and made a fool hurt him more than the idea of someone spending the night hungry on the street. When he went out, he called the girls he fancied “sluts” when they looked good and were up for fun, and “bitches” if any turned him down. He made remarks that Lucy should cook dinner because she was the woman, then told her she was being overemotional and should learn to take a joke, in order to shut her up. Any time his brother or friends made a remark that hurt him, he pretended it was true and joked back, because if he protested it would only get worse. If he bumped into a person of a different race on the street, he always checked to see if his wallet was still there. He laughed at mean jokes, purely because other people laughed at them.

Deep, deep down, he didn’t understand why people didn’t see him as important. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t get what he wanted all the time. He wished he was a spy. He wished he was an action hero. He never wanted to die. He couldn’t imagine a world without himself, and the idea that he was insignificant hurt him more than anything ever could, sent him spinning out into panic and nothingness. He did not want to die. He was a coward, a worthless man, but he was all he had, and he never, ever wanted to die.

The lips of the void changed shape into a grimacing mouth. With a growl, its pointed teeth gnashed together, and the void was gone.

The bedroom came into view again. The green carpet, the TV, the posters on the wall. Reality came into focus. Beside him, Chris sighed and lit a cigarette.

‘Weird one.’

He took one out of Chris’s packet, and lit it with shaking hands, pressing the memory of the void back into nonexistence, forgetting every awful revelation he’d seen and every half-baked resolution he had made.

‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘bad trip, man.’

Written by G.J.

28/11/2013 at 12:01 am

After Diary – December

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03/12

Doesn’t feel like the run-up to Christmas. No light or shitty adverts or music blaring out of every shop.

We talked about whether we should get presents for each other this year. Decided not to – even Ben said so. He’s really mature from all this. Eddie said he might go hunt something for us to eat on the day. Hope it’s not pigeon. Don’t want to eat whatever the fuck city pigeons have been eating, dirty flying rats.

Weather’s pulled back a bit. Actually bearable. Or maybe we’re becoming used to it. I only really thought about it the other day, but it’s still nice to just sit in a book shop or a coffee shop and read by yourself. I cleaned the dust out ages ago, and now actual dust is starting to settle about. I get a bit spooked every time I hear a noise, though. After a while the wood’s going to rot or something and the whole shop might domino down on top of me. Being crushed to death is a pretty shit way to go. Not the worst, of course, but pretty shit. Sudden unexplainable Plague is far better.

08/12

Rats. In the storage. Never been so fucking angry in my life.

Crystal said I looked proper scary. I made myself a spear and went hunting but they’re too fast. Luckily there’s still loads of rat poison in all the shops, ha ha ha! Reading about setting traps as well, for when it runs out. Need to find some stray cats and breed them (plus, bonus kittens. I think we could all do with some cuteness).

Traps and poison do nothing for the maggots though. So upsetting throwing out floury things. Kind of wish it would snow, so we could refrigerate something other than ourselves.

Think I’ve lost weight with all this worrying and running about. Cold has something to do with it as well. I would be happy, but I’m actually kind of nervous. I was pretty much the only one of us who could survive on their own stores for a while if we ran out of food. It’s like having a protective blanket taken away. I mean, I know it looks worse than being thin, but I never got ill as much as my skinny friends, and when I don’t care about romance or whatever then caring about my appearance over my health is pretty fucking stupid.

We don’t like it when Crystal has a cold, which is pretty much all the time. Louise said surely it’s about time Marie came back and looked her and the baby over. There’s a doctor in Govan, though, so we can just ask him over. It’s quite nice, knowing we’re somewhat connected.

11/12

Spoke to Osian for the first time in a while. He asked if I forgave him, and I said ‘For what?’ and he seemed to like that. Didn’t forgive him for long though.

He says he’s giving up on the Plague.

I was all ready to give him a huge bollocking, but he started telling me some of the things he’s been figuring out about the Plague. He said it’s not a chemical thing or a disease or anything like that. The way everyone just collapsed into pieces means it must have been some physics thing we’ve never heard of. He told me about these bombs that detroy your body in the most painful way imaginable by altering the water balance in your cells or something. I can’t really remember – it went over my head mostly. But he said he doesn’t think he can learn anything more, especially by himself. Said it’s completely beyond him why it didn’t affet some of us – must be a genetic mutation or something.

I asked why anyone would want to use a weapon on us and he got all scholarly on me and talked about the UK’s enemies and such shit. I don’t believe it. Why Glasgow, out of everywhere? And if it was just Glasgow, or Scotland, then why hasn’t anyone come to help us yet?

I asked what he’ll be doing instead now then. He said mainly helping us get clean water and trying to create a working battery. And something else, with a shit-eating grin. I’m worried.

16/12

Was talking to Claire about books I’d read and ended up in this massive ranty speech about Vitorian books and things and told her the entire plot of Mill on the Floss, and then Middlemarch. Louise listened in, and then everyone listened in. Then Dave said they both sounded stupid and boring and I had a go at him for being a football-loving beer-swilling retard and ran off. Think I’ll stay in one of the rooms of the hotel instead of the concert hall lobby tonight.

19/12

Eddie caught a massive rat and cooked it and ate it and it was fucking disgusting but also delicious just to have cooked meat. Said next thing he’ll get is fox. I bet fox tastes all stringy, but hell if rat can taste good then anything can. But then, he did put a fuckton of spices on it. Spices keep for pretty much forever. So does honey, if it doesn’t solidify. And all the stuff that’s bad for you, ha ha.

I miss bread. Flour in general. Also been craving salad something awful. Eddie and Claire got me to help a bit with the garden. Glasgow Green looks far nicer with plants over it. Sky’s been clearer. You get a nice breeze and that winter chill feeling and sometimes I like how damn quiet it is. For half a second. Then I want to cry. I’d even take a bunch of teenage neds as company at this point, just for extra humans.

22/12

I was working with Crystal and she randomly burst into tears and said she misses JJ and is worried he’s abandoned her. One of those uncomfortable moments when your brain is shouting “I told you so!” but you just can’t say it. Had to lie and say he’ll come back for the baby. She said the baby is all that’s keeping her going. She misses her family and friends. I said she should go back to the West End if she misses her friends, but she said she doesn’t want to be somewhere else if JJ comes back. It’s not far, and he’s on a bike, I said. She wouldn’t hear it. I’m no good at comforting people.

24/12

They actually got a fucking fox! I can’t wait! It sounds stupid but I’m actually going to enjoy Christmas for this!

25/12

Merry Christmas, dead Glasgow.

(Yes the fox was delicious)

26/12

Don’t know what to say about last night. Still a bit overwhelmed by it all.

After dinner, we all sat around as usual (Osian’s been joining us and everything), and we were singing Christmas songs and then Louise starts singing ‘All Alone on Christmas’ and then I remembered when they had the outside cinema on George’s Square last year, and I went along with the Sci-fi society to see Home Alone and Home Alone 2 and Christmas Carol and so many other ones, and it rained and we all huddles under each others’ umbrellas and complained about our cold hands, and suddenly I missed them, I missed them all so much I couldn’t breathe – Eilidh and Gary and Tom and Mhairi and Kate and even the people I didn’t like, like Stewart, or care about, like Imogen. And I couldn’t imagine that they were all just gone, gone like that, and all the people I saw die in H&M had friends and families and parents and people they loved, and kids, and oh god all those kids that had suddenly died, and their teachers too and neighbours and even the news presenters at the BBC and the cameramen and sound peope, everything, everyone everywhere, just so many people GONE, never to come back, not ever. All those dreams and quirks and personalities, just gone like they didn’t even fucking exist or matter at all.

I couldn’t handle it. I started bawling like a baby. I hate crying in front of people more than anything, but I couldn’t help it. I think everyone was surprised, because they were all hugging me and saying it’d get better, and then because they were being so nice I just kept blubbering, and then Claire started saying all this motherly stuff and patting my head as she hugged me and I couldn’t take it, I just let everything out – I told them that I was a waste of space and I didn’t deserve to live, I didn’t deserve to be alive when so many other much better people were gone, fucking dead, and that I was useless and I couldn’t ride a bike and I could barely cook and I couldn’t make electricity or clean water or help to recreate anything from before the Plague because all I was good at was reading and being a bitch.

I didn’t believe them when they contradicted me at first. Ben said about my cake, then Eddie said about all the work I’d done collecting things, and Crystal said she’d never have thought of all the things I’ve thought of, about keeping things safe and stored. Then Louise said of course I was useful, because I was smart. What the fuck does smart mean in this sort of situation? But she said all the books I’ve read help, and she loves hearing about the stories I’ve read because it makes her feel better, and feel like she’s in the past again.

Everyone said they needed me. Everyone. I know they’re just saying that because I’m alive, because we need everyone alive, but I kind of believed they meant it generally. I mean, I was the bitch who rationed water. I was the bitch who forced them to eat beans and tinned greens all the time. I’m the one who made them work when they didn’t have to work ever again. But we’re here, and alive, and I guess we’ve all done what we can to help. I just want everyone to live so god fucking damn much that I don’t care what else happens.

Made me feel good. I still don’t see why I’m alive out of luck, over anyone else, but I have to appreciate it. Mum and nan always wanted me to appreciate what I have. I miss everyone like I’d miss my own leg, but then so does everyone – we’re all suffering. Just got to keep going, I suppose.

Merry Boxing Day.

28/12

Osian said that I’m more useful than I realise. Funny how he waited three days to say that. He said one day, when we’ve gathered more of the Glaswegian people together to one place, I’ll meet some amazing guy who’ll appreciate me for all I am.
‘Bastard,’ I said, ‘what if I’m a lesbian and I want to meet an amazing woman?’
Oh man the look on his face was worth it. I couldn’t breathe for laughing and only barely managed to say that I was joking. He smiled and said that got him good. Made me happy.

31/12

Went out with Crystal and Louise today, looking at baby things in the storage. I tried to keep it tidy so it was easy to find what she wanted, but s

Wait I hear something. Sounds like JJ’s back? Suppose Crystal will be happy. He’s shouting something, Osian too, about the sky – sounds scared – wait

DON’T

LOOK

UP

Written by G.J.

03/01/2013 at 9:28 pm

After Diary – November

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Sorry for the late/sporadic posting. Still not writing very much, and getting a new job and a rotten cold at the same time doesn’t help me to be productive.

 

05/11

One time, on bonfire night, a drunken 14-year-old girl ned punched me on the nose. No reason. Said my voice was annoying her. I’m lucky it didn’t break or anything. I’ve never liked it since, but this year it was kind of ok, if you can believe it.

No fireworks or anything, but we managed a decent bonfire. Talked about Guy Fawkes and hating the English and everyone laughed a lot. Sometimes Eddie has a go at Louise and Claire for being Rangers supporters and they have a go back at him for Celtic, but there’s no way it can be harsh any more. Life’s too precious, and all that.

Ben’s birthday’s on the 12th. All the prepackaged cake mixes ask for an egg to be added and they’re long out of date. Claire said oil can work just as well, or syrup, and that it’s easy enough to make it from scratch when there’s scales lying around everywhere. I had to tell her my plan when I asked, and she said it sounds great. An oven is just a pocket of heat, so we can do it easily. I don’t want to do it in the open though. Got a better idea.

07/11

Osian is the most condescending bastard I’ve ever known. Oh, good to see you finally talking to everyone. Fucker. He knows you just do what you have to. In normal life I’d never have gone near these guys – hell, I’d probably have avoided half of them on the street! But you make do. You have to.

10/11

Maggots in old flour. I’m gonna gag if I see another lot. That’s what I get for breaking in to old flats, Dave said (because Claire told him, the bitch). It’s easier than I thought: kick near the latch, and bring a sledgehammer in case that doesn’t work. Makes me worry how really defenceless I was back in old days.

Piles of dust about thses flats, on the floor and beds and couches. Have to bring them to Osian for analysis. Makes me want to cry. Crystal can’t see me bringing them back or she cries. He says thanks. I wonder what kind of people they were, and whether I would’ve liked them or not, and all sorts of horrible upset things.

13/11

The cake was a bit burnt and weird texture. I made a fire in an old flat’s oven to get it done, and I had to spit wipe a lot of dust off of old bowls and tins to get it done (luckily everyone’s less squeamish about that kind of shit now, ha ha ha!). Making the icing was fun though – I put blue food colouring through it, got some old fondant and made a football and letters to put on top. Everyone was dead impressed that I’d made it, even if it did look and taste a bit shitty.

For his birthday, Ben got his own duvet to curl up in, new waterproof shoes, and the promise of guitar lessons from Eddie. And Osian got him a bike, so he can start scouting a little bit, and help us connect to the other groups around. Claire said he might even be a good messenger for us. He looked happy at being useful. I used to argue that we should keep teaching him, but that fell apart pretty quickly. I can see why the only way they got every kid to school was by making a law about it, if there’s better work for them to be doing.

Got a tear in my eye when they sang happy birthday and brought my cake in. He really smiled. Everyone was wiping away tears after a little bit, even him. I wonder how much he misses his parents. I can’t even describe how much I miss mine, and I’m a responsible adult. Makes me sick, really, even though I know they’d have wanted me to live. They would have known what to do, and helped to sort everything out better. My sister lived in London. Part of me really really hopes she’s alive and okay, but another small part of me hopes that she’s not struggling like us and that she’ll never know what a state I’ve become, what we’ve all become really.

16/11

Louise keeps asking me what I’m reading, and when I tell her she wants to know more, and I tell her to read it herself and she says she hasn’t got the time and it’s better when I summarise it for her. She has got the time. She’s just an illiterate twat.

20/11

It’s. Fucking. Freezing. My hands are barely warm enough to move, let alone write. Definitely colder since the Plague. We’ve all been learning how to start fire from an old scout book I found, since the lighters will run out faster than we’d like at the rate we use them. Osian told me to stop moaning at everyone for smoking, since it heats them up and makes them eat less and we’ve plenty of fags to go through. I told him I thought a smart scientist like him would, y’know, fucking care if some of the last survivors of humanity are going to drop dead of cancer or heart disease. He said that that’s a longer-term problem than we can think at the moment. I thought he was meant to be the man planning for us?

Louise’s been looking smug and gossiping with Crystal. I don’t give a fuck if she’s fucking Osian as well as Dave. “Any hole’s a goal,” I guess. She’s a hole, all right.

Have taken to wearing tights and socks and boots and jeans and two t-shirts and jumper and jacket. If I walk about it’s okay and I get warm enough. I asked if I should walk to the West End and see how things are, and everyone said there was no point if they’re gonna send someone cycling in a few days. There’s still a lot of bagging up to do. I sing to keep awake while I’m working. I always wanted to play guitar, but, y’know.

22/11

Came out with it. Osian got embarrassed. Said it’s our job to keep human race going, and that if we’re staying here and can’t do so much else, we might as well.

Bastard. Cunt.

This isn’t some harem shit for Dr Chemist. This is fucking-over-your-life shit. This is potential-to-die shit. This is setting-back-women-centuries motherfucking shit. You can’t force that shit on people.

Told him to go die in a fire. He thinks I’m too angry, and said he didn’t say I had to or anyone had to. Of course he fucking didn’t! That’s not the point!!

Nearly everyone I know is fucking dead. Is that not good enough reason to be angry???

28/11

Ben went to the West End and back today. People are asking after Crystal and JJ. People at the uni have been filtering Kelvin water, and said they’d send someone over to help us rig something up as soon as we need it. We’ve got enough for the minute, but it’s good to know they’re being proactive. There’s probably stuff in Cali that can help us to do it.

I asked Louise if she was worried about getting pregnant the other day and she actually laughed and said she’s on the implant. Stupid Dr Chemist. I asked what’ll she do when it runs out and she shrugged and said she might as well get pregnant then. I said it’s likely that she or Crystal might die if they have kids and she got angry and had a real go at me, saying that if hundreds of thousands of women have done it before, we can all do it. I said ‘Sorry I don’t want you to die,’ and she said to stop fucking scaremongering and don’t I dare mention this to Crystal because she’s scared enough as it is.

Thing is I used to read this stuff all the time. Maternal mortality rates, infant mortality rates, how in medieval times most women died before they were thirty because of childbirth, and you might have to have four kids before one sticks and lives. I wish I was still living in the modern world.

30/11

Fuck.

Last night, Osian talked about his wife.

We were all by the fire and talking and Eddie was teaching Ben guitar and Eddie was singing ‘Caledonia, you’re calling me’ and Osian started singing along with him and before anyone knew it, he was talking about his wife and how they lived for a while up in Inverness before coming down here, and how one Christmas with her family they all started singing that song it always made him think of then, and of her, and then he started crying and saying how she was at work in the council chambers when the Plague hit and he ran to find her but there was nothing round her seat and she could have been anywhere in the building, could have been any one of the piles of dust sitting around the council chambers.

I’ve never seen Osian cry before. Never even seen him look upset. When I found him he’d already set up the lab for analysis and made a little group with Eddie and Dave and Claire. I thought Thank Christ, someone more like me. But I don’t think I actually get him at all. I’ve never seen Louise look more awkward than she did when the wife was first mentioned last night. By the end they were all howling, of course, and talking about their own families.

Crystal mentioned it was St Andrew’s Day today, since she wanted to work with me today. No-one noticed it even before the Plague, really. I told her that Tenerife’s flag is the same as ours because they have St Andrew as their saint too and she said Andrew’s not a very foreign name. I think I needed something to crack me up, after last night. Not sure when I’ll face Osian again. It’ll be all weird, I think, after everything, but I’ll have to. Crystal looks miserable at the minute – nearly everyone does. Nearly December. I have to suck it up and be strong for everyone.

Written by G.J.

10/12/2012 at 1:11 am