A – Z Challenge Day 8

 

Today sees the end of the first full week of this April’s blogging challenge. Writing six stories in six days has been quite difficult, but so far I have found it to be very rewarding. Let’s hope I can keep up the pace and the optimism!

Today’s word comes from the wonderful Kate again, and the word is
image

“HESSIAN”. I had to look this one up, because I initially convinced myself that it was something to do with an unpleasant old crone. I was quite wrong about that!

Anyway, here’s what I was able to come up with. It’s slightly darker than the previous two stories, just as a heads-up.

(P.S. The word I was confusing “hessian” with was “harridan”, in case you’re interested!”

 

HESSIAN

By Adam Dixon

My breathing comes out in harsh gasps as I struggle to remain calm. My hands and ankles are tied securely and my left side is numb. It’s so hot in the boot that my damp hair sticks to my head and it hurts to breathe; the digital thermometer on the dashboard had read thirty-two degrees outside when I had seen it last. That had been in the morning, long before the hottest point of the day. I am hyperventilating, my is body stiff with fear and my jeans are soaked with piss. The car rocks me to and fro as it cruises along to God-knows-where. I’ve long since given up crying out as the stereo system in the back drowns out any attempts I make with embarrassing ease. I am cursing it with all my might and regretting the day I installed it. All I can do is wait.

After what seems like hours, the car stops. I lay still, praying that a policeman has halted the car, or that the road I’m being driven down is impassable, or even that the driver has had a fucking heart attack at the wheel! I’m so desperate for something to happen that I can’t help but yelp with fright when the boot is yanked open. Sunlight greets me like a slap in the face, its rays barely filtered by the thick hessian sack covering my head. Gruff laughter from those outside rubs salt in my wounds as six strong, rough hands seize me and drag me out. I land heavily on the ground, jarring my numb hip. The ground is strewn with coarse, hot sand and the air seems clearer than back in the city. All I can smell is mouldy coffee; the sack must have been used to transport beans at some point before it was repurposed. I am forced onto my knees with my head hanging low. I am blubbering, begging these strangers not to hurt me. I am pleading with them, offering money I don’t have and promising to change whatever aspect of my life so offends them. No words are spoken, but I hear muted conversation and the cocking of a gun…

***

I sat bolt-upright in my bed, sweat covering my face and torso. I slowly took stock of my surroundings, panting and listening to my heart pounding in my chest. She stirred beside me and when I finally looked around she was watching me with concern.

“Did you have that dream again, babe?” she asked, her dark eyes glittering like orbs in the night.

“Yeah…” I answer. There’s nothing else to say, we’ve already said it before. The same nightmare has come once or twice every week since that afternoon five years ago. That was the day that I realised just how dangerous being a political journalist in the heart of the capital could be. That was the day I realised that I would never be safe, no matter what my employers promised. That was the day I stopped being a journalist.

I groaned as I got out of bed and stood up. The pain in my left shoulder was always worse after the nightmare, almost as if I were actually reliving the experience. In a way, I was, because the dream replayed the entire ordeal back to me in crystal-clear detail. But I always woke up before the bullet hit me these times. Thank God for small favours, eh? Christ…

I staggered out of our bedroom and into the bathroom. I didn’t turn on the light because I knew where my pills were kept. I also couldn’t bear to see the angry scar on my shoulder after the nightmare anymore. I seized the medicine bottle and shook out two of my pills. After a brief moment of doubt I shook out two more. What the hell, right? Tilting my head back I swallowed them dry, feeling them scratch my throat on the way down, threatening to catch and make me gag. I managed to coax them down my oesophagus as I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror. It was too dark to see anything, but I knew how haggard I was looking those days. Bags under the eyes, wrinkles appearing weekly and even locks of grey hair spreading across my head like a fucking forest fire. The hair which wasn’t falling out, anyway. Those men had messed me up big-time.

I wandered back into the bedroom and saw that she was still watching me. We stared at each other in a silence which was borne of desperation: her desperate need to know what I was thinking and my desperate need to forget what I had seen. She broke eye contact first, she always did. I don’t know why that always made me feel good, but it fucking did. She wouldn’t understand, anyway, so there was no point in trying to explain. I grabbed the half-empty bottle of whiskey from the bed-side table and poured out a glass, perching on the edge of the bed. She laid back down and turned away from me. That was fine; no sense both of us losing sleep. So I sat on my bed and swallowed my first slug of that particular morning. I held the glass to my nose and inhaled deeply for several seconds before every subsequent mouthful. I needed to get the stench of mouldy coffee out of my nostrils somehow, didn’t I?

 

A – Z Challenge Day 6

It’s Day Six of the April Challenge and that means another story! Hold the applause until the end, please!

Today’s word comes again from the lovely Kate, and it is “FRAGILE”. An interesting word which gave me a few ideas right away, although most of them concerned fragile mindsets or fragile bodies. In the end, I went for something a little different but which I’m sure everyone can relate to!

Here’s what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it.

Brief note: just a quick reminder to any readers from Across the Pond that it is legal to consume alcohol in the UK from age 18, although I’m sure that the Europeans on the mainland find that laughable!

FRAGILE

By Adam Dixon

Darren cautiously opened one eye and immediately regretted it as the blurred room spun before him. The safe retreat of sleep was unreachable and as he became more fully awake he was welcomed by all the accompanying pain of a hangover; his head pounded along with his heartbeat, his mouth felt as dry as a baked sandal and his neck ached. To top it all off, he was still fully-clothed. Fantastic. A hell of a start to the day. Darren rolled over carefully and the movement tore a groan from his throat.

The door to his bedroom burst open, hitting the wall with an almighty crash and Darren’s father, Mike, stood glowering in the doorway.

“GOOD, YOU’RE AWAKE!” He strode into the room, deliberately stomping his slippered feet on the wooden floor. He slammed the door behind him and made the room shake. Darren clutched his head with both hands and wriggled down under the bedclothes for protection. Mike seized them and yanked them from Darren’s weak grip easily. Darren lay in the foetal position, wincing at every roar and step from Mike.

“OH NO YOU DON’T, YOUNG MAN!” Mike moved purposefully towards the closed curtains. Darren yelped as he realised what he was doing.

“Dad, don’t!” he rasped desperately. “My head…”

“I DON’T GIVE A TOSS ABOUT YOUR BLOODY HEAD!” Mike threw open the curtains, letting a blinding beam of afternoon sunlight crash into Darren’s face like a tsunami against a cliff. Darren squealed and tried to shield his eyes. Mike stood watching his son’s torment, towering over him with both hands on his hips.

“Dad…why?” Darren managed to hiss, turning away from the man who had betrayed him.

“Why? You’re askin’ me why?” Mike said, his eyebrows knitting together in an angry “V” below his forehead. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE CRAP YOU GOT UP TO WHEN YOU GOT HOME THIS MORNIN’?”

“Dad, please, stop!” Darren spluttered. “I can’t think straight, my h-“

“GOOD! THEN THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO REMIND YOU!” Mike swivelled and began loudly pacing the bedroom. Every step sounded as if a hammer was being swung against Darren’s skull from the inside.

“First of all, you got home FOUR HOURS later than you initially said!” Mike began, waving his arms for effect. “Your mum was worried sick! Just ‘cos you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you don’t have to send her an update every now an’ then!”

“Secondly, you woke the bloody dog up when you tripped in through the door at FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE BASTARD MORNIN’! He started barkin’ like there was a bloody murderer comin’ in! Woke everybody up, includin’ half the bloody street! I’ve only just finished apologisin’ to them all!”

“Oh, crap…” Darren moaned. “Dad, I’m so sor-“

“SHUT IT, I’M NOT FINISHED!” Mike interrupted, thrusting an angry finger at his son.

“Not only did you embarrass me at stupid-o’clock in the mornin’, but you then decided to go upstairs an’ use the loo. Your mum followed you to make sure you were alright, only she found you our bedroom…YOU HAD YOUR TROUSERS ROUND YOUR ANKLES AN’ YOU WERE PISSING IN OUR LAUNDRY BASKET!”

“Oh, fuck!” Darren covered his face with his hands again. Mike nodded furiously.

“’Oh fuck’ indeed, Darren, you bloody piss-’ead!” He growled. “You gave your mum a good eyeful when she tried to stop you, too! A couple of things to note there! One, that it’s nice to see that at least you’ve taken after Yours-Truly in that department, and two, WHERE THE HELL DID THAT TATTOO COME FROM?!”

“Tattoo?” Darren was nonplussed. “I didn’t get a tattoo!”

“WELL SOMEBODY DREW THAT BLOODY LIGHTNIN’ BOLT ON YOUR ARSE!” Mike screeched. His voice was becoming hoarse and his face had turned an interesting shade of crimson. He raised his calloused hands to his temples and massaged them, taking deep breaths. Darren felt himself changing colour too; he was probably covered pink with shame, perhaps in contrast with his green gills.

“…An’ then,” Mike finally continued, speaking slowly and carefully. “You walked into the bathroom an’ flushed the bloody toilet!”

There was a tense silence in the room as Mike and Darren stared at one another. The corners of Mike’s mouth twitched once. Twice. A brief ripple of hysterical laughter racked Mike’s body, and Darren couldn’t help but laugh too. Soon they were both laughing uproariously despite the noise and the action bringing fresh waves of pain searing into Darren’s skull.

“Son, you are a flamin’ idiot sometimes,” Mike said fondly, wiping his eyes. “But I needed to shout at you while you’re feelin’ like death, it’s the only way to teach you a lesson. My old man did it to me when I was your age, an’ I never came home that drunk ever again!”

“Ok, Dad,” Darren mumbled. “Cheers, I ‘spose. I’m really sorry about this morning.”

“I know you are, mate,” Mike said, turning to walk out of the door. “But not as sorry as you’ll be once your mum gets hold of you! She’s outside waitin’ for her turn!” With that he wrenched open the bedroom door and Darren recoiled in horror as a livid woman stormed in. His petite, usually cheerful mother seemed to have been replaced by a raging demon! Mike darted out of the room and closed the door behind him, his smug laughter filling the hallway.

Oh God, thought Darren, Please kill me now! He closed his eyes and braced himself for his next onslaught.