Parenthesis announced another writing contest recently, and was kind enough to tag me, or perhaps ‘challenge’ would be a better description.
The brief was as follows:
In Europe and the UK the clocks go back at the start of winter and forward at the start of Spring. What happens to or in the missing hour?
You need to link it to your choice of the following images, i.e your storyline has to connect with the departure point above and any one of the pictures below:
And I selected image 5.
So, hope you glean something from it. (oh, and with apologies to Cult of Luna)
voices in your head. they lie they lie. no one actually has them. not voices always, but crushing noises; like what those scientists discovered, the echoes of the big bang like television snow. or something like that. the one about the tinnitus sufferer who blew his brains out because he just couldn’t handle it anymore. that stuff is all true, only more. live next door to someone who plays loud music always. try to be cool, everyone is allowed some fun aren’t they, but sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, all you see is noise. distraction fails and eventually you blow a gasket or something. that feeling just before you explode where you’re not even thinking anymore, you’re just on this level of seeing and hearing red, you’re so angry you could trash your own house. that’s the level i am on every second of every day, and no, you don’t get used to it. i dream up elaborate ways to kill everyone i meet, which these days isn’t very many people. the other patients, the staff, but mostly people on tv. god bless that beautiful mother fucker who invented television. only, sometimes the news will report on a death, and it would be someone i planned a murder about. and i suddenly start thinking that maybe i did it, and i go through one of my paranoia spirals for a few days. but then i realise that if it had been me, i would never get caught. not even sherlock holmes could even get close…..
(it’s here that the spidery scrawl changes, the forming of the letters more confident, but also more childlike)
I am the Owl with wings like a flood and a cavernous swoop and a hail of blood…….
I suppose you might have called it serendipitous, with the exception that I have yet to decide whether this is a gift of good fortune or not. All it has bestowed upon me for the moment are a pair of weary eyes, sore from staring. I’ve lost my grip on him, and as compelling as my curiousity is, I need to rest if my hope of making sense from nonsense is to live on. This isn’t the sort of prose one can read for longer than an hour, unless of course you are comfortable with exposing enough of yourself to the ravings of a lunatic to blur the line between him and you, and if you are comfortable with that, then perhaps that line blurred years ago. I should be accustomed to trolling through pages and pages of varying historical accounts, but when the history seems to be as fresh, as visceral as this; I only wish others would realise as I have that history is as much seen through the eyes of societies outcasts as it is those who mould it. Greater things await me tomorrow, or perhaps not greater, but great enough to assuage my thirst to solve this riddle, for the moment. Tomorrow I visit the place; unlike most stories not where it started, but where it ends.
I would have been the last one to guess that my nephew and his cohorts, and the aural assault that they call music, would have led to anything worthwhile. But Daniel has always been diligent and attentive, and if I have done nothing else for the boy, at least he can recognize value in a thing most would not. Thus, I cannot say I was surprised when he brought his discovery to me. His band has been rehearsing in what is now abandoned and derelict, but was once a home to men of criminally insane intent. If such a place could be called a home. Why they would choose this as a location is beyond what a man who considers Chopin to be extreme can conceive of, but from what I have often heard emanating from Daniel’s car, perhaps a ruinous asylum is indeed apt. He spoke of needing to maintain the oppressive atmosphere of the place, but moving to another section that might have walls imbued with even more madness; whatever their reasons, the section they chose had never been cleared. Or at least if an attempt had been made, it was a hasty one, leaving behind rusting equipment, creaking cabinets, strangely moulded plastics and, a journal. I’m not sure for how long Daniel kept that journal, or how much of it he might have read, but if he had I do not doubt I would have seen it in his eyes. The pages of this chronicle seep into the soul as if the ink had not been written on paper, but on skin, and one does not turn the final page without parts of it being left behind to haunt like a childhood memory.
I should have guessed it would be around a corner in a leafy lane. But no rusted, iron fencing, only a high brick wall that struggles to keep a sprawling bougainvillea in check. And disappointingly, far more urban hospital than Victorian haunted house. Over twenty years, the grounds of St Lucinda the Benedicted have somehow managed to ward off any attempts at redevelopment, or perhaps none have chosen to pursue that end. This place has been left to die like a vagrant, wheezing his last few breaths on the side of the pavement. Everyone can see him fading, but no one wants to touch him. And like the vagrant, beneath the tattered paint and rags of dust, just something that has lost its way. The only oddity is a low hum, like being in the presence of power lines, only electricity is fed to this area in underground cables. Not strange enough, though. A glance around the reception area, but my imagination fails to populate it with the scurry and hustle it must have once had. No conjurations to fill this place with memories of life, only the fading grey of linoleum floors. I try to empty my mind of intent, to enter rooms and open doors on impulse. Most on the ground floor appear to be utility rooms; staff lounges, ablutions, visitation rooms. The canteen still has a half dozen metal tables, and though most of the chairs are either broken or stacked high against the far wall, if this place had ever been full it might have fed about sixty patients. And it is this realisation that makes me shiver for the first time. The rational part of my brain reminds me that many types of mental illness are non-violent, but my fear has already tasted doubt, and breathed spectral life into the room. At the end of the second row, a thin man contemplates the tray before him, patches of limp, dark hair cling to his scalp like dying grass. He spends five minutes arranging and then re-arranging the layout of the food on his plate, but his eyes never seem to settle. Opposite him and to the left, a larger figure casts a long shadow across the table, and it’s hard to see whether that shadow falls over nothing, or simply devours everything. Something lingers there, a daydream unborn. By the time I look up, the occupants have lost their shape like dissipating clouds, and soon the room is empty again. The room feels heavier, though. There was sickness here, yes, and those afflicted were lost children, involuntary victims to a ruthless condition. But others, few, I sense something less insistent; as if the stranger that knocked had been welcomed in with a smile. And that smile leaves a metallic taste in my mouth.
That hum is getting louder, more like a generator now then power cables. But for what purpose would the generators be in operation? Pausing at a flight of stairs leading to the first floor, should I continue on and let this place whisper more of its secrets to me? But this hum, I can’t even hear my thoughts anymore. There’s a door at the end of the corridor, opening out behind the asylum, leading to a generator room perhaps? It’s colder outside now, a coldness that brings with it a crispness, almost as if I’ve walked into a snapshot of the perfect autumn afternoon. Not a sigh of wind, the sky, the trees, everything in a kind of hyper-focus. Even the blades of grass look sharp, if I run my hand across them, it would be torn to shreds. I feel like an intruder, and with me I bring this noise, a hum now more like the screech of an owl, that seeks out the crispness and taints it, until my vision blurs. A warehouse, god, the noise seems to spill out from inside, but I’m fighting to keep my balance, pain lances through my shoulder as it collides with the frame of a door and I stumble inside, and this noise, it feels like a splinter in my mind. I can’t hear my footsteps any longer; it is only from the low thrumming that creeps through my bones that I know I am still in motion. The nausea has me clutching at my stomach, stopping me from plunging my fingers through my skull; there’s a new facet to the unforgiving noise, and the detached part of me is unsurprised to see that it emanates from my throat. A scream to end worlds and bring gods to their knees.
What is this place? But in the same instant, what does it matter? I need end, need release. Crawling now, unable to tell if I’ve stopped screaming, searching……beams, rope……
Inspector Parthon just didn’t get it. Why the need to make a statement? If you’re going to end it, then end it. What does it matter the flow of time after your passing. Not that he’d ever contemplated it, but an overdose, a decent mattress and perhaps a little Schubert would be the way to go. He’d been standing in a corner of the warehouse, watching forensics click around the scene like scarab beetles, and once they appeared to have finished, made his way over to the figure scribbling furiously into something in its palm. Cornelius lingered in his notebook a fraction longer, then looked up to meet Parthon’s gaze.
“Evening Inspector. Been a long time since I’ve been through these gates.” His awkward dress and unkempt features did little to mask a keen intelligence. Cornelious was a man of many words and numerous opinions, and both were always invaluable.
“Cornelius.” Parthon’s angular jaw dipped imperceptibly in greeting. “Anything I should be concerned about?”
“It would seem not, Inspector. Aside from the surprising identity, nothing indicates anything that differs from precisely what it seems. To the naked eye, that is.”
Surprising, perhaps. But as strange as finding a local professor swaying from a beam in an abandoned asylum would seem, it required a larger dose of the surreal to lift either of Parthon’s eyebrows. Tonight was a time for collation. Questions could wait for tomorrow, And answers, well, often answers never came at all. As he turned to leave the warehouse, a hesitant voice gave him pause.
“Er, perhaps one irregular detail?”
“Ah, yes.” Cornelius zipped open the blackness encasing the corpse. Gloved hands gently retrieved a right arm and lifted a sleeve. “It’s the, er, watch.”
“Or more accurately, the time. It’s ah, inaccurate.”
“Care to illuminate me?”
“Er, sorry. Yes Inspector. Well, it’s an hour behind.”
An eyebrow raised.