Write Off :: The Day before You Came

Write off (3)

Occasionally, you come across something that you don’t remember writing. That is the case with this week’s piece, sitting in a folder that had a bunch of house correspondence in it. It was produced for a writing challenge on Livejournal, and if the save date on the file is correct, produced in May 2004. What makes this a bigger surprise, I’ll be honest, is the genre it was written for.

Buffy-titlecard

I’m a HUGE Buffy fan. I don’t make a song and dance about it, but it was a massively influential part of my life. Ironically, I never felt a huge affinity to the female characters in the show, but was more drawn to the men, especially the character I chose to do this fiction prompt for. I wasn’t attracted to him either: he was me, more or less. I couldn’t identify with any of the major protagonists, except him.

This is Daniel Osbourne (Oz) Fic. It happens before Season Two of Buffy begins. I’d never written Buffy fanfic ever, so decide how I did for yourself.

oz

It’s very much rated R for adult stuff too. I warned you.



The Day before You Came

Oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within its usual frame
The day before you came



the sky goes on forever

Oz turned seventeen in the slow, kohl-rimmed blink of her eyes: ancient in the moment of transition, bones brittle and painful in skin that now crawls with heat and dust. Her mouth is sucking the life from him, teeth on skin drawing blood as she slurps all too slowly across his stomach, destination crotch. Part of his brain, the smallest synapse, needs to prevent the inevitable: too late, boy, the flesh has won, desire is king… thankyewverymuch. He prays for strength, rain, time to stand still, but it’s the briefest of battles. The pills have slowed his world to a crawl; worm speed, worm food her food, kith and kin with the dirt and the fire ants. A thousand miles away the festival shows no signs of abating, the hurricane of noise and sweat building slowly towards optimum destruction. He needs to escape but he’s trapped here all night. The van was traded for a handful of chemical promises, the band’s gift to him on this night of evolution: something special to mark the transition. He wanted to just play and leave yet something stopped his passage. Someone. She smelt of smoke and mirrors, UFO’s and conspiracies. Flame red hair, eyes sharper than diamond… reminding him of a girl he wants to know, but doesn’t know how to ask. That’s for another time.

it should be cold not close to boiling i’m going to combust

The band bought him to Rachel, Nevada and now LuLu is showing him what girls who spend their puberty in the shadow of Area 51 know about secrets: smeared liberally with silver body paint and wearing only a g-string, she whispered in his ear she’d not hurt him, just give him what he wanted. Before he could protest she took him to a tent where her friends giggled and preened, replacing the dull brown polish on his nails for silver and gold, marking his forehead with an iridescent red star. In turn each one filled his mouth with champagne, then sucked the remnants dry, passing pills from tongue to tongue as they did so. Next he danced with them all: myriad fingers moving seamlessly from ass to crotch to zipper to balls, girl-women all-too-trained in the art of instant and painful arousal. Surrounded by the Sisters of the Conspiracy he became a child of the desert, at one with the night before the world got too fast: kaleidoscopic colours, audio overload quicker than either brain or body could cope with. Maybe he should have asked someone what he was taking, or maybe he shouldn’t have drunk anything first. Food sometime today would have helped, but he’s too lost for sense and good advice, too busy losing the battle with the substances. He’s past gone and coming back on the return stub.

LuLu weaves delicate snail-trails of saliva up and down his naked chest: teasing his expectancy, silver paint mixing with adrenaline and pheromone desire. As her mouth finally, blissfully wraps around his cock it’s the catalyst to his chemical reaction: mind and body separate in a burst of light and sound. He’s outside himself looking down on them both, amused that he can fly and get blown simultaneously. Great place to be spaced out: if he drifts too high will they send the Stealth fighters to intercept? Maybe he’ll just disappear in a puff of denial instead…

little green men yeah right big silver women mmmmmmmmmmm

Sunnydale has broadened his horizons: he used to be the ultimate skeptic, now he’s not so sure. There’s something in the air out here, not like the East Coast where he came from. They’re crazy, insane, affected… scared. He never got the fear, not until they passed the City Limits sign. Then it was obvious, that it had been there, traveling with his family: ingrained in him. He just never knew what it was.

Something clicks, a light goes on. His body is beginning to buck, semen shooting into her open mouth, pouring across his stomach, a huge tide of unstoppable reflex. He feels nothing, the drugs have blocked all signals to his brain: forced to watch the moment pass whilst simultaneously trying to work out how he gets his consciousness to fuse back with his body, Oz can’t understand why he doesn’t care. This is a big deal, remember? You should be there, in there… Seed runs away, scattered to the ground where it begins to grow, pale silver tendrils wrapping themselves around his legs, restricting his movements. He needs to stop her, hold her, tell her how grateful he is but there’s a rrrip of foil and something strange on his cock and her words in his ear we need to be safe, right? He tries to reach down, to stroke her hair and kiss her neck but the ground gives way as he feels her muscles around him and in him and

ohmygodit’shappeninghavetogetbacknowaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh

It’s over before it’s begun, the second spurt as she digs her nails into his arms, drawing blood as she screams into the night, drowned by a sudden throbbing bass rumble as the sound system overloads, plunging the entire desert into darkness. He’s no idea how long he’s been conscious, when he passed out or whether he dreamed the whole thing in the first place… then he feels the sudden burning feeling in his throat and the nausea is too sudden and violent to ignore. LuLu is stroking his head and asking if he wants to chuck any more… He’s lying next to a tent, inside which the lead singer of the headline band has one girl on his face and another around his dick, moaning expletives as the pair drag their painted nails across his body. He’s moshing, surrounded by hundreds of rabid drunken bodies, slick with sweat and caked in dust and silver paint…

“Oz?”

Consciousness is sudden, painful to every sense that still functions, ears complaining at the familiar scrape of metal on rubber as his van’s side door is pulled open. Outside it’s too warm to be the desert at night, the vague smells of vegetation and civilisation at the end of a long and hot Summer. He’s back in Sunnydale. Somewhere between Friday and right now he lost a whole weekend in a haze of stop-motion images: he knows what happened, just not the how and the why. Gotta stop doing this or you’re gonna explode. He feels like he could sleep for a week, but ten hours will have to do… there are too many questions but not enough words as someone lifts him, puts his arm over their shoulder, drops him on his bed, drives away in his vehicle.

It can wait until the morning.



Oz wakes up.

The sun is far too bright through the cherry wood blinds, smells of the desert clashing with familiarity, seeping through his semi-conscious defences. He aches in places he wants to forget, but the pain in his soul is too insistent to ignore. Emotionally he’s dead, having killed his own hopes thanks to too little independence and too much stupidity: that is enough to wake him, to force a body abused by the world to demand attention. He only just makes it to the bathroom before he vomits: it’s close. After the first retch there’s nothing but bile and pain, yet it keeps coming, spasm after spasm: the brutality a reminder of the perils of his situation. Finally, blissfully, he looks up and focuses on the clock: 8.45am. Downstairs there is movement, his family well awake. No way to avoid this, just take it head on.

It takes an hour in the shower and bathroom to return his physical state to something approaching normal, and he’s grateful for the acetone he finds in the bathroom cabinet. He’s all out himself, and he remembers all to clearly what happened the last time he went downstairs after a weekend away with the remains of his own efforts on his nails. Rebellion in this family has to happen, sure, just a step at a time. Right now, he’s doing it with clothes. The only souvenir of the weekend that’s not covered in either semen or vomit seems a good place to continue the resistance: that shirt the guys stole for him when he refused to enter the brothel, late on the Saturday night. Everyone grabbed some kind of a souvenir, that was the deal. Instead of sampling the women for himself Oz sat in the van, playing his acoustic, making a note to himself that when he gained manhood, it would be with someone special.

Yeah, and that promise lasted all of a day. Maybe it’s time to stop just doing this stuff and start thinking about the why. Maybe it’s time to get serious and find some new guys to hang out with on the weekends… Jesus, he sounds so old, and he is, a whole year gone, lost in the dust. Can’t ever get it back, remember?

Time to make a change.

Oz clears away the detritus of his weekend, wrapping his clothes and stashing them in his guitar case, to wait for the moment he can clean them without his mom seeing the stains. Then he opens all the windows, letting the Sunnydale air wash through his room, blowing the last of the cobwebs away while he braves downstairs and does something about the ache in his stomach. He arrives in the kitchen just as his mother is clearing away the breakfast things: his bowl and plate remain, Mom prepared to extend serving for his benefit. They never talk; it’s enough just to be there every morning, to keep up the pretence of routine. The smell of cooking batter should make him ill, instead there is a level of familiarity that soothes his senses, settles his stomach. He hasn’t eaten for over a day, it’s time to take the plunge and see what happens. After the sixth mouthful of pancake he knows things are returning to normal.

This next year at school will be different: he’s gonna work hard, do well, and work out how to make something of his life. Plus, he’s gonna find some new friends, special people who won’t get him stoned, then leave him in a pile of his own excretions in the middle of the desert.

Or who will steal his van when he’s unconscious.

”Sweetie, did you hear me?”

Mom is talking to him, and he’s not listening.

“Sorry, say that again?”

‘You haven’t forgotten, have you? You promised to babysit Jordy for Aunt Maureen tonight… you haven’t got anything planned?”

Jesus, after what’s just happened he could do with some monotony, plus Jordy’s too hyperactive to allow him to think for too long. That’s no bad thing. Yeah, babysitting will be cool.

What’s the worst that could happen?


 

Secret Messages

Origins

Before I leave the 1990’s behind for good, there is one story that is worth repeating. It’s not well known, and is the basis for a love affair with computing and the Internet which has failed to diminish over the last twenty years. It began on the back of unabashed fandom obsession for a TV show many people will never have heard of, but which is an important part of UK genre history. The year is 1995, and the TV show was BUGS.

This show was notable because it was created with input by Brian Clemens who was responsible for creating both The Avengers and The Professionals. It was, despite the now highly dated nature of the title sequence, pretty decent fare, and I have a fanfic written (almost complete) that covered my favourite period of the show. However, that was not all I was responsible for during that time period. For a brief and glorious two year period, I was Webmistress of the Official Website.

bugs_website.png

Bureau Two was my baby: the Wayback Machine has copies of the site still archived from 20 years ago, when I was responsible for upkeep and was being paid by the production company to do so. This was the first time an external website was linked to the BBC’s own architecture, making it pretty much unique, and I was immensely proud of the achievement. The date on this capture’s apposite too: six days before the debut of the show’s Season 4, which was cancelled as a result of the Omagh Bomb on the 15th, as the opening episode contained an explosion. The series never really recovered after that, and was quietly cancelled, after which I signed over intellectual property rights and handed the data to the production company for upkeep.

This was my first experience of ‘professional’ writing too, and I was pretty proud of it. I liaised with the production company, had an editor to sign off all the work, and did it all off my own back. It made me realise I was capable of better things than simply the job I was beginning to hate, and gave me a vital lifeline away from my normal routine. Personal circumstances however transpired to push me away from pursuing this full-time, and becoming pregnant pretty much put the brakes on everything that involved dealing with other people. However, it allowed my fiction to finally get a look in. With confidence in web design, I started a West Wing ‘Fansite’ whilst waiting for my son’s birth in 2000, and succumbed to the rapidly emerging online Cult of Fan Fiction.

illegal

We spoke about this last week, and you can read all the sordid details I’m prepared to admit there. On reflection, these were important times: using other people’s characters as a means to find my own voice has a fair deal of merit. I never made any money from them, nor would I wish to, but the lessons learnt concerning narrative structure really matter. More significantly, 2000 was when I began my first novel, which I pulled out this week after an absence of several months and again began to tinker with.

This time, however, it is going to be finished before the end of the year is out.

Mulder and Scully

Origins

The year is 1995. My boyfriend (now husband) and I are living together, and decide to go to the USA for a holiday, to stay with people I’d met via the Internet.

The_X-Files_Season_2

The early days of Usenet are an incredibly significant part of my life, that I really don’t like to talk about at all. I’ve written and subsequently trashed about a dozen drafts of this post as testament to just how much this period screws with my brain. It’s been holding up everything else I’d really like to write about, because… I wasn’t the most emotionally adult person during my twenties and early thirties. Yeah, that’s a diplomatic way of putting it. I’m not proud of a lot of what happened, which covers early days of newsgroups and arguing in ASCII to Livejournal and arguing in web-browsers. I was an antagonist back then too: I’d like to say they were simpler times, but they weren’t. I should have learnt my lesson during that 1995 trip: people who you meet online will often hide things, or lie in order to get what they want. Turning up with a boyfriend on the East Coast in August did not go down well with our first host, and things went largely downhill from there.

On reflection, it is probably why this holiday never gets talked about that much.

My husband being booked for speeding is the only physical part of that holiday which remains, and now becomes useful as a marker. One of the three people we stayed with for that trip visited us a year on, and that weekend’s best left forgotten in history too. What that entire period taught has only become clear in retrospect: emotional immaturity can completely screw you up. In fact, let’s just ignore my 20’s and most of the 30’s and move on. It is important however to note at this juncture how the Internet shaped the future of just about everything I would then go onto do, including writing. My first piece of fan fiction, for instance, was X Files related. However, that was not the show that became my biggest obsession and ultimately caused the most damage.

I was involved in B5 Fandom up until the birth of my son in 2000, and again it is a case of bad outweighing good in my own mind: that means I’ve fairly systematically removed all references and links from that period and am now at something approximating peace with what happened. However, if you really care I can be found, fingerprints almost impossible to delete across a platform which really never forgets and is the most brutally honest remembrance of history. I never wrote fiction for that sci fi show (and know why:) it took another US series, which first aired in the UK whilst I was pregnant for the first time, to push me into what became a legitimate effort into organised working. That co-incided with my life on LiveJournal (which I joined shortly after launch in 1999) and was, for the most part, never truly me at all. However, it was the first time I ever felt comfortable sharing my work in public and for that fact alone, my West Wing fan fiction days should be recorded for posterity.

A cursory Google search brings up only sixteen hits for my old username, but my work is still out there. The Internet never forgets, people. There’s other stuff too, but nothing that I’ve found which is enough to reduce me to embarrassing bouts of toe curling. When that reckoning comes I’m ready for whatever gets thrown at me: I learnt a lot in those couple of years, most of which was built around how I ‘see’ action literally play out like a TV show or film in my head. It wasn’t just West Wing either: CSI, Dr Who and Torchwood have been poked by me over the years. I promised someone I’d pull out some of that old work, and that will happen in the next few months. To learn from the past we must embrace both the good and bad to move forward.

I’ve kept in touch with the only person I ever really connected with back in those days, who is still friends and will probably berate me for being overly hard on myself. The fact remains that the years since my kids have been born are the best of my life, not simply in writing terms. I need this period marked on my history, but nothing more is required to understand what I am. Everything of real interest happens after 2000, but really it is 2004 where the world around me finally shatters and forces a complete realignment. Before I return to the week of the Madrid Train Bombs, however, there is one last story to tell, wrapped around genre TV, and I’ll keep that for next week.

For now, let’s just forget that 1995 to 2004 ever happened.

First Steps

Origins

A lot of my earliest memories are garbled affairs: I can remember the Moon Landing in 1969, fallout during Three Day Weeks and making up games based on Rentaghost during break times on the Primary school playground. However, there is clarity when it comes to learning the recorder (playing in front of the whole school once) and in an ability to make up stories on the spot. In fact, so good was I at doing this, I was asked to make up a spontaneous narrative in front of my Year Six class. It turned into a week long event, each ‘episode’ ending with a cliffhanger. I wish there were memory of exactly what it was that was told, but there’s no recollection of detail. What I can remember clearly however is the excitement each time the job was done.

Spinning tales has always made me happy.

Today, I’d like to share a piece that was written for the first ‘serious’ writing course I took part in, which required an autobiographical submission on my early experiences with words. It is as good a start to this feature as I could hope to present, and it covers the three main stages of my literary journey very well.

The book that began it all, by the way, was Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.


 

One Small Step

 


1976
1976


This is the third time I’ve had bronchitis in the last four months.

On what is the hottest day of the year so far, again I am confined to bed. Every time there’s a cough, fear nibbles a little deeper, concern I will be trapped in this bright pink duvet forever. This is where it begins: anxiety that will, in time, become something far more dangerous than a chest infection. For now it is simply an accompaniment to ill health and ineffective medicines: reminder that I am fragile and mortal, perpetually frightened of ending up in hospital.

I am petrified of dying.

This panic pollutes my heart, unmistakable bitter saltiness even now: perpetual paranoia constantly bolstered by over-protective grown ups who believe I need to be sheltered from the World, who take care over everything. At nine I don’t yet grasp it is sadness binding me to these neuroses like thin cotton, digging into my chest, restricting the  breathing… that I am doomed to be a victim of my own over-active imagination and ill health for the next three decades. For now, listening to the radio, singing along to music and trying to fight boredom is all there is.

My father attempts to lift flagging spirits by bringing me a book. He urges me to read it, to lose myself in musty, damp-smelling pages. We talk about the man on the moon, my first real memory: Neil Armstrong on our ancient black and white television in a cramped upstairs flat, which seems a thousand years ago. He reassures me, this too is all about space, that I will enjoy the story. Science fiction is one of the few real connections we have, music is the other: the rest of the time he remains an unknown quantity. Never here, always working, my sense of him hazy and without affection. I sense his presence only in passing, influence far less less potent than my Grandparents or Mother. To be brought this therefore is significant: I must really be ill.

I read the book and am amazed how quickly I am sucked into a virtual world. The story is re-read countless times in the following days, as I latch onto the last sentence and its open-ended coda.

My teacher has already told me that good stories should always have a beginning, middle and end. Great Nanny loved to use the phrase ‘bad luck comes in threes’: she died because it was her time, this is not yet mine. The third bottle of sickly yellow medicine will be the last: I am going to get better and this imprisonment will finally come to an end.

One day, perhaps I could write a story as great as this.

I plant a seed, possibility of something to do well, and unaided.

That day was buried a desire to describe, tell what could be seen in my head so clearly. That hope, placed with a confidence I didn’t yet fully grasp, was quietly hidden away from layers of uncertainty and doubt: you can write like this if you want to. Your body may be faulty but your mind is capable of so much, if you will only allow it the opportunity to rise above the clouds, into space… and the unknown.

The only thing that prevents you from brilliance is your own fear.

Conquer that, and you are capable of anything.


they-live-1988-obey
1988


I have glandular fever, and am without a job.

I have fallen out of college, earnest dreams put on hold: not intentionally, but through circumstances which create their own wholly acceptable justification. I’ve met a boy, and for the first time in my life experience the breathless thrills of sexual passion… but practicalities inevitably intercede. I lack any financial ability to escape the parental home. Fear remains a constant companion, eroding rational decision making. When my recently-redundant mother begins her own business and asks me to join her, I see a way to escape but also a means to remain safe should anxiety threaten to dominate.

With hindsight this is one of the biggest mistakes I will ever make: I am not yet aware of just how caustic the consequences would become, or what might result from such a close extended association first with my mother and then my father, who joins the business shortly afterwards. Anxieties may briefly recede in my twenties but still hover unseen, constant companions increasingly inflamed by proximity to adults whose ideals became progressively more alien to my own. Expression is progressively stifled, silenced by responsibility. My perception slowly warps, slow curve inwards, away from the light of quality and towards parody and unoriginality. The distractions of reality serve only to compound the problem.

The seed inside remained shrouded in self-imposed darkness.

My father and I find a new topic of conversation: ‘Personal Computers’, machines that one day I hope posses the capacity to do things I could only currently experience as fiction. Here was my childhood future made real, breathless possibilities and access to the World itself. When he presented me with the offer to buy myself and my partner a brand new machine I didn’t consider any ulterior motive. Still thinking as a nine year old, I grasped a way to experience a larger Universe outside of personal gravity. It never occurred that he might be trying to buy back some of the time that was lost with me as a child.

Neither did I grasp that I was being slowly pulled away from what it was I’d planned for my life, weighed down by a duvet of both practicality and duty. The technology created an impression of freedom, that I was independent and empowered, but in the end it was simply a distraction from a truth brain remained unwilling to grasp. I may have felt this was growing up, but work and gifts simply acted as distraction, confining the sickly girl to bed a little longer. By the time I understood what had happened, the damage had already been done. Sadness became something far more dark and insidious, and threatened to consume me completely.


obama
2008


I haven’t had an asthma attack for nearly a year.

My daughter has just turned two. My eldest son is seven, and the nightmares of my twenties are receding. I have a new and utterly glorious set of distractions: work has become my husband’s worry. The irony of him taking control of my parents’ business via a management buyout is never lost on me, that ultimately their need to ensure I was safe has been fulfilled. I have travelled a long road to be here: loathing and self doubt, anger and disbelief, finally compounded with Post Natal Depression. There is finally a name for my sadness, and one man to thank for saving me. My husband’s devotion has been unwavering, his love a constant reminder, if it was needed, that my worth as a person is measured by my actions, and not mistakes.

Finally, with the right conditions, the long-dormant literary seed begins to germinate.

From the radio I learn that Arthur C. Clarke has died. Sitting as my daughter sleeps next to me, staring at a computer screen, I begin to cry uncontrollably. Somehow, between the first time his book was picked up and now, I truly lost my way. What mattered so much in those early days, that talking and telling is far more important than simply standing back and listening, was erroneously put aside. Allowing the demands of others to overtake what granted me the ability to overcome my anxieties was simply wrong. With my parents that resulted in resentment and bitterness, but with the birth of my own children I know the opportunity exists to start again. The impetus is simple: writing makes me happy. Without it, something is missing, has been for far too long.

I finally awaken to my own possibilities.

Twenty five years worth of scattered attempts, fragments on hard drives and archived on CD’s has never been fully realised. When I am able to move past the fear and the uncertainty of my own mortality, that constant fragility, I know what must be done. In this quiet moment without the distractions of work, family or briefly life itself, I make a promise. I will no longer allow the world to distract me from my task. I begin here and now, allowing confidence to find its own direction.

So many other things have evolved in the last thirty-two years, yet this transformation has just begun. I no longer need a publisher to make words appear around the world, all that is required is a computer and a grasp of technology. My father gave me these gifts: a love of words and the means to spread them with so that I can sit and create a web page: it is one small step to combine all that I have learnt.

I may yet forgive my parents for what has gone before.

Publishing my first blog entry, I take my giant leap into a larger Universe.


 

The Ninth Wave

Little light, shining…

The best laid plans normally mean my personal life suffers whenever Real Life gets overwhelming. As you will have noticed, I’m now behind on my Playlists. Hell, I’m behind on most things this week, but with Easter coming I have a chance to restore some much-needed balance. I’ve been quite ill by my standards but I refused drugs and I’ve fought the nasties and I am now *officially* on the mend. I’ll be back to the writing next week, of that you can be assured, but today was all about Kate. This image may have provoked Daily Mail outrage, but if you know the 1985 album ‘Hounds of Love’ you’ll instantly connect the relevance. If the upcoming set of concerts has anything at all to do with The Ninth Wave, I’d be happy.

Yeah, of COURSE I’m going.

There was some panic this morning as I tried to use the Fan Site Code I’d got for early access on the Eventim Website until I realised that I needed to click the e-mail link I’d been given. Once that was sorted it was a case of picking a date and hoping that the website didn’t collapse on me. I’ll be there with the SO on September 12th, and thanks to what I assume was an overwhelming takeup on the part of the fans who also got a chance to pre-order, another seven dates have been added to her schedule, meaning she’ll be in residence at what is now the Eventim Apollo [*] from the 26th of August to October 1st. The fact this isn’t a Tour is significant, I think: I’m hoping with her background we might be getting something considerably more theatrical. What she’d perform is also up for a fair deal of discussion, because a lot of her more recent stuff is… well, let’s be honest, a tad self-indulgent. Mind you, that could be said of her entire output with a partisan hat on… but if she’s staying put for that long, you gotta assume there’s gonna be a reason.

I also have to believe the poster we got for this *does* have a significance to the subject matter, and that’s not the angsty teenager in me speaking and wishing Terry Gilliam had actually made the film of the second side of That Album that was promised but never materialised. Remind me to tell you about ‘Brazil’ one day and its peculiar significance to me one day.

There’s lots of stories like that I ought to tell at least once.

[*] It’s the Hammersmith Apollo. Just *don’t* ^^