The Original Short Story (Where It All Began)

The following post,  is the original short story which I wrote as part of a creative writing task in High School, while the story has progressed to a stage quite far removed from this original story it is the foundations from which all other works over the past few years have grown.

This is the first piece of creative writing I have shared on here, however over the next few months my hope is to continue posting short stories I have been working on as well as personal reflective pieces from the blog itself. Thank you to all those who have followed so far, and I am grateful to all those who have gotten in touch so far.

The site will continue to develop over the coming weeks as I learn how to properly use WordPress, thank you for your support and your ongoing patience with an infrequent blogger.

Enjoy.

Night

Shafts of light pierced the abrupt darkness that enveloped the grounds of the Manor. Ambiguous shapes flitted through the moonbeams. Their emerald irises gleamed in the reflection of the silent sphere in the sky.

Alexander could only just make out the gate at the bottom of the garden. It blew open with a large crash that echoed unexpectedly in the silence of the empty grounds. The leaves did not crunch as he stepped into the garden, consumed by shadows, padding forth with caution like a skulking dog. Squinting in the cold, eerie light, the Manor dominated his peripheral view, dwarfing him as Goliath before David. There was no sound. Shadows flickered. The moon smiled. Taking light steps he ventured nearer and nearer, and stopped as he reached the dilapidated old building. Alexander could now see that slats, which from years of neglect were cracked and had several spars missing, covered all of the windows. The vines on the grey walls strangled the very life from the Manor. Light steps led towards the main entrance, and as he progressed he saw the aged oak door swing back and forth, the hinges torn at the top corner. Adjacent to this violent entrance, an eight-pointed star glistened against the drab, stone wall, surrounded by words which meant nothing to Alexander. Touching the peculiar design and others on the wall, when Alexander pushed forth the door, he was not aware that his hand was caressed with the velvety darkness of fresh blood.

Admitting Alexander over its threshold, the shadows of the Manor swallowed his very essence. Standing silently in the corner stood a grandfather clock; which even after years of disrepair still commanded its dignity with a majestic air. Moonlight penetrated the gaps in the shutters, and fell upon the pools of blood, which lay at the foot of the ancient maple staircase. Ascending the stairs, he watched, as they grew larger, twisting into beautiful scarlet rosettes. Like a shroud, fear draped over him. Each step was layered with years of dust and as he rose he blessed each silent step. No longer did the blood lie upon the floor, replaced instead by a smear in the dust which led to a solitary door at the end of the corridor. He approached the door and listened intently. There was no sound within this room.

Nerves shot through him, and each breath was short and sharp as his hand stretched out towards the brass handle. An almost inaudible creak reached his ears, he was sure it had come from the confines of this room. Pulling out his gun, he kicked the door open, but could see nothing. Emptiness and a permanent shadow filled every corner of this room. The dead air chilled him and the only light able to defile this absolutely darkened tomb fell upon an archaic ledger lying upon a solitary table. Gun lowered, he approached the table, and he cast his eye inquisitively over the cover. The gold lettering had come off the leather bound tome in most places, but looking closer at them, he could see that they were written in the same unknown language, which he had seen as he had entered this very building. Looking through it Alexander was fascinated to see that it was empty; all except for the middle pages, which had drawn on them a large eight pointed star.

The drawing seemed to glow in the unnatural moonlight as he turned to leave. The cold was relentless. Without warning he fell to the floor, the gun flying from his hand and ricocheting against an invisible wall. A large shapeless entity lay upon the floor; this was the cause of his crash to the ground. He stood and once more walked over to the window. Placing his hands upon the shutters he pulled with all his might. The old wood protested pitifully before finally succumbing to the harsh light, which lay readily behind it; as it fell to the floor the light flooded into the room like warriors hastening to the empty spaces in a battlefield.

Alexander turned and for the first time since he had crossed the very threshold gave an audible gasp. Lying face down upon the floor, a body was draped in an ornate emerald cloak. Inching forward he lowered himself towards the ground, level with this unknown body. He placed his fingers on the victim’s neck, trying to find a pulse. The skin abhorred him in its fetid frozen attitude. But something was not right; the body looked somehow different. Healthy. At peace. Alexander was dimly aware of the fluttering against the window and strange shadows danced upon the carved stone floor. And there they were: Two holes, round and true piercing the skin of this stranger, the life-force drained yet lending a strangely erotic and sensual fullness to the curve of the neck. Alexander was at once repulsed and intrigued.

The shutters rattled, though there was no wind. The moon shone and the puncture marks of the corpse penetrated ominously like the piercing eyes of the soul-less dead.

When the door silently closed behind him, Alexander knew he had finally found what he was looking for.

What is Phoenix?

About ten years ago I was but a fifteen-year-old high school student. I was by no means the best student in the world, or for that matter the hardest working. But I tried, when I felt like it.

One area I always tried in was creative writing, from a young age I found myself obsessed with reading, and by extension writing. I had a pretty good upbringing, but for one reason or another I never quite got on with many other young people. I did of course have some friends, but as is the case with most school friends, they were built on superficial foundations, which crumbled when tested to any degree. Reading for me, was a form of escapism, one that I reveled in, as depending on the book I was reading at the time, I could be anywhere or find out anything. I love science fiction and fantasy books as a genre, but often found myself getting too attached to the characters, I would be heartbroken when I finished a book as it meant I no longer had time to spend with those characters.

And then I started writing, mostly I would write short stories which were parodies or extensions of books or TV shows I liked, in essence fan fiction, but as I was quite young I was not yet familiar with the fan fiction forums which comprise many domains within cyberspace. It wasn’t until I was in high school that my family got the first Internet accessible computer in our house; thus any extended adventures which the characters I had come to know and love had become limited only to my imagination. I recall many an hour after primary school, devoted to the adventures of a young Pokémon trainer from Fallin but these stories alas do not seem to have survived the test of time. Perhaps though, that’s for the best.

For a long time that is all writing was to me, an extra episode of a show I liked or a secret lost chapter of a book which I had enjoyed reading, most of the things I wrote were unfortunately never even kept. However, the purpose of the stories I wrote was to entertain me, and so they fulfilled their purpose and gave me a life long passion for storytelling.

I digress however; back to fifteen-year-old Darren and his favorite original short story. I wrote a short story as part of a writing task for my fourth year English portfolio and for years it sat in a folder in my bedroom, and then by absolute coincidence an American woman, who also happened to be an author moved into my house (a story I promise to tell you one day, but it deserves a post of it’s own). Within no time at all she had become a friend, a confidante, and an inspiration. I read some of her work, and was hooked, I realized quite early after I met her, that writing wasn’t just something, which I could do to entertain myself; I could actually begin to tell a story. The story I had then was just one short story which I was proud of, but she read it critically, and the feedback she gave me filled me with such confidence, that I felt I could do anything.

I began to plan how the story could develop and how I could go on to tell it.

Five years later, I am still getting ready to tell my story, but it is not quite the same story as the one I started with. It has grown and become it‘s own universe, populated with characters I know better than myself. It has grown and evolved and while some aspects of the original short story are still present, the world that has developed from it has far surpassed what I ever hoped it could. The main story is still in development, and due to time restrictions because of my job and study obligations I haven’t been able to write as often as I would like to over the years, but now I reach a time in my life where I can afford to readdress what is important to me. Everyone has to start somewhere and for me, today is the beginning of the rest of my life.

Why I Started Ironing…

I hate ironing my clothes, for years as an adult I got away with out having to do this most mundane of tasks by limiting my outward apparel to ‘things that looked better with creases.’ You know the look I’m talking about, t-shirts, jeans and various forms of knitwear. The t-shirts one may argue should have been ironed, but let’s face it, an hour under a jumper that you happen to be wearing that day, usually makes the worst of the creases disappear.

However I digress, for years I attempted to live an ironing free life, and through a number of part time jobs with no uniform, and a few years of full time study it looked like I’d get my way. Even when I started working in an environment that required a shirt during the day, I evaded the hot metal plated hell that was ironing, by only doing the bits of the shirt that people would see, (sleeves and collar, if you have a waistcoat, and trouser legs). But this approach led me to my first trip to the theatre as an adult.

My friend had a spare ticket to the Phantom of the Opera, and I gladly accepted the ticket, however I was working before and didn’t have enough time to go get changed and to then get to Glasgow. No matter I think, I’ll put my shirt and suit into a bag, throw in a pair of my boots and I’ll get changed just before we leave. I left my stuff with my friend and then on arrival the next day was baffled to find it had moved. My bag was still in the same spot, but my clothes had been taken out, as had my shoes. Enters my friend with a sheepish look of apology and chastisement in one expression, holding my suit and boots.

To say that the manner in which I had packed my clothes was haphazard is perhaps an understatement. But the thought of what condition the suit within the bag might be, had been too much for my friend, he had liberated it and pressed it to within an inch of it’s life. My boots had been hand polished to a shine I’m not sure they had ever had. While my friend was embarrassed he had felt the need to do it, I was rather embarrassed to think that it had required such effort.

From this point I did start using the iron a little more thoroughly and my suits, and shirts seemed quite grateful for it. But I still didn’t feel the need to do the majority of my clothes.

Enter studying, two years ago I returned to the world of Higher Education when I enrolled on an evening course at a local college. Something which I have really enjoyed doing, but for as fun as the studying is, when it’s time to revise for important tests, it’s funny how quickly I reverted to my high school approach of doing anything other than studying, as long as I could call it ‘purposeful’. This of course leads us back to ironing.

While studying last year it occurred to me all of a sudden that ‘the pile’ (I invert this statement only to highlight the fact that this feature within my home is there so often that it has been given a name by my flatmate) that usually sits on the end of my couch, which I tended to extract clothes from on an as they are worn basis, needed to be dealt with. Ignoring the fact that this system of storing clean clothes had been in effect for a number of years, and had never been an issue up until that moment.

How curious it is that once this notion struck me, I felt compelled to do nothing other than iron. So to Tesco I went, after all to iron one requires an ironing board, a luxury I had not had since moving into my flat, once I had procured this I proudly set my board up in my bedroom. While there I had even spotted some fancy scented water, to put in the iron to make clothes smell extra nice (the things a study addled brain thinks are a good idea will never cease to amaze me). With Netflix in the background to keep me company, and a mountain of clothes some of which had never before come into contact with an iron, I had a whole day of this chore.

Perhaps, it was the fact that it was saving me from studying exponentials and logarithms. Perhaps, it was the smell of fresh laundry. Perhaps, it was just about knowing, that I had managed to procrastinate at an advanced level and still managed to feel as if I had accomplished something productive. But, from that point I was hooked. Now the iron, and its board have a semi-permanent spot in my flat and they get used on a daily basis. Since studying stopped the frequency of the huge bouts of ironing has also diminished, but I do still go over most of the clothes I wear, before putting them on.

I think the point of all of this is realising that some tasks, are not as compelling as others, at least until you have something even less compelling to do. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from them. The confidence boost I get from knowing I look like I try with my appearance is something I didn’t ever think I’d achieve. Yet I would never have set out to change this aspect of my daily routine, as I didn’t know it was missing from my life until I did it.

Try things, it’s the only way of learning whether they are truly worth doing. The things, which make the biggest differences in our lives, are often little things, which we don’t even take into consideration. But, they can make a difference, what started out as procrastination for me, came with it a time to think about nothing other than what I was doing. Just as I was thinking about getting a particularly stubborn crease out of my shirtsleeve, a moment of clarity struck me, and I realised where I was going wrong with my studies.

Which leads me to my second conclusion of the day.

Taking time out to do nothing can sometimes be exactly what you need.

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