Monday, 22 November 2010

The Black Dog

This isn't all that old, but hasn't been on here before. The link takes you to a Word doc, linked from the Lit and Phil website, which is where this lives. Different in style from my usual stuff. See what you think!

The Black Dog

Monday, 15 November 2010

NaNoWriMo: And there's more...

We're two weeks in and the word count is now up to 25,000. Here's the next wee bit in the story:

‘She’s been through a lot, you shouldn’t be so hard on her,’ Derek said. He and Penny were sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee. Tina was asleep on the couch, her face buried in the bunny toy she’d had since she was tiny. Derek’s heart caught in his throat: he hadn’t seen her cling to the toy like that in five years or more. Penny sighed, ran her hand through her hair.
            ‘How could she have been so stupid!’ she asked Derek for maybe the fiftieth time that morning. ‘First off, defying us, then dragging Annie into it, to share the blame, I suppose, then getting into a stranger’s car! How many times have we told them…?’
            Derek covered his wife’s hand with his own. ‘She’s a kid. She made a mistake. She’s only eleven years old, remember.’
            ‘Annie’s only eight.’ Penny’s voice caught when she spoke of her youngest daughter, and she started crying again. Since she had opened the door to find Tina on the step, she seemed to have been either in a rage or in tears. ‘Where is she, Derek? Who has her?’
            ‘I don’t know, love, but the police will find her. They know what they’re doing. Tina told them everything she could, that’ll all help.’
            ‘I just want her home… she’s so little…’ 
            ‘I know, love, me too.’
‘She’ll be scared out of her wits…’
            ‘Mum? Dad? I’m sorry.’ Tina stood blinking in the kitchen doorway, fluffy bunny trailing behind her. Her father held his hand out to her and she crept into the circle of arms as the family huddled together and cried for their missing little girl.
By eight o’clock, the police were back in the house. There had been a car outside all night, but the men in it had given the family privacy. A different policewoman, this one out of uniform, was explaining her role in the investigation.
            ‘I’m Ruth Crinson,’ she told them, ‘and I’m your Family Liaison Officer.’ She smiled, aiming for reassurance. ‘Basically, I’m your link with the investigation and the outside world. I’ll keep you up to date with what goes on.’
            ‘Do you have any news for us now?’ asked Penny.
            Ruth Crinson shook her head. ‘We’ve got people searching for the car, the abductor and Annie, but no-one has seen anything yet. We want to do a television appeal, if you’re up to it. We can get something on the lunchtime news. Getting the story out there can only help.’
            ‘Someone must know something.’
            ‘Exactly. Now, have you got any photographs of Annie that we could use?’
            The morning wore on. People came and went. The doctor had been to check Tina over and declared her none the worse physically for her experience. Ruth Crinson wanted to talk to the girl again, to see if she had remembered anything that might help, and so Ruth, Penny, Derek and Tina took their seats around the kitchen table. Penny had made yet more tea and Tina was nursing a glass of apple juice.
            ‘Tina, I want you to tell me everything you remember about last night, absolutely everything. Just talk me through it as it happened. Okay?’
            Tina nodded. ‘Okay.’ She started telling her story again, how she and Annie had pretended to their gran that they were really sleepy and wanted to go to bed early, then had put pillows under the covers so Gran would think they were in bed if she looked into the room. They sneaked out of the house, climbing out of the bedroom window onto the porch roof and then clambering down the drainpipe to the ground. They had walked to the Metro station, excited and giggling, and caught a train to Newcastle, then been swept up in the stream of people heading for the concert venue. CCTV would confirm timings: there were spots where the girls would have been caught on camera.
            Tina told again about the concert finishing late, running to the Metro station to find that the last train to Sunderland had gone, catching the one to Heworth to get nearer home. ‘I didn’t have enough for a taxi,’ Tina told Ruth. ‘I bought t-shirts for me and Annie. They were expensive.’
            ‘What happened to the t-shirts?’ Ruth asked.
            ‘They must be in the man’s car. I left mine on the seat when I ran away.’
            ‘How did you get home after you escaped from the car?’
            ‘I recognised the road from driving along it with mum and dad. We go that way to Asda sometimes, or to Newcastle. I followed the road back home.’ She sneaked a look up at her mum. ‘It took a long time, because whenever I heard a car, I hid.’
            ‘Do you have a mobile phone, Tina?’
            Tina nodded. ‘I lost it when I ran away. I dropped my bag.’
            ‘How come you didn’t ring for help when you were stranded? You could have called your parents or your gran. Why didn’t you do that?’
            Tina took her time before answering. ‘I was scared to,’ she said eventually. ‘I knew we’d be in dead trouble.’ She flicked another glance at her mum. ‘I knew there’d be hell to pay.’ She sobbed, put her head down on the table. Derek stroked her hair.
            ‘That’s enough for now,’ Ruth said, recognising that the child had had enough. ‘We’ll talk more later.’
            ‘Will there be anything on CCTV from Heworth Metro station, do you think?’ asked Penny.
            ‘It’s possible. We’re checking that now. With a bit of luck, we’ll get a look at our man, maybe even get the car registration plate. That would be a massive help.’
Annie awoke to find the man leaning over her. She blinked and rubbed her eyes: she felt groggy and disorientated, didn’t recognise the room she was in, wondered where she was. The man had made her drink a mug of hot chocolate when they got back to his house the night before. It had made her go to sleep.
‘Good morning, Sarah. How are you today?’
‘I’m not Sarah,’ she told him. ‘I’m Annie. I want my mum.’
The man smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed. ‘No, child,’ he said to her. ‘You’re Sarah now. You have a new name and a new life.’ He stroked her hair. ‘You’re my little girl now, God’s precious gift, and I’m going to look after you properly. Not like those other people, letting you out on your own at night. Anything could have happened to you!’
Annie began to cry

Friday, 5 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - the next instalment

‘It’s okay, Tina,’ the policewoman said, ‘I just want you to tell me what happened.’
            Tina shuddered, shot a sideways glance at her parents, her mum in the chair, her dad perched on the arm. She was scolded if she sat on the arm of the chair like that. The policewoman was sitting on the sofa, next to her. She had a nice face, kind eyes. Not like her mum’s eyes just now: they were like ice, cold and hard, when they looked at Tina they stabbed and burned.
            ‘It’s okay, love, you’re not in any trouble.’
            Tina doubted the truth of that statement. Her mum had already shouted at her, she’d go ballistic just as soon as the police were out of here. ‘We missed the last Metro to Sunderland,’ she told the policewoman. ‘The concert finished late and we ran all the way to the station, but we missed it.’
            ‘This was at The Arena… MC Boyz?’
            Tina nodded. ‘They’re my favourite band.’
            ‘And you went there on your own, just you and your sister?’ The policewoman flicked a glance at the parents. ‘No adult.’
            ‘They weren’t supposed to be there at all!’ Penny exploded, her fingers gripping the edge of the cushion. She glowered at Tina. ‘You were told “no”.’
            ‘I see,’ said the policewoman. She turned to Tina. ‘But you wanted to go, is that right?’
            Tina nodded, kept her eyes down. The row with her mother had been ‘epic’, as she described it to her best friend, Hilary.
            ‘Normally, we’d have taken them,’ offered Derek. ‘But we had plans and the girls were staying with my mum. She couldn’t manage a do like that…’
            ‘She couldn’t manage to keep them in the house!’ spat Penny. ‘Didn’t even know they were gone until you rang her and she checked the beds.’
            ‘Oh, that’s not fair, love,’ said Derek. ‘She does her best. She’s never had any trouble before.’
            Penny glowered at him, then turned her gaze on Tina, who wisely kept her eyes on her shoes.
            ‘So, Tina,’ the policewoman persisted. ‘What happened after you missed the Metro?’
            ‘There was one that went just to Heworth, so we got on that. It meant we were half way home. We thought there might be a bus.’
            ‘And was there?’
            Tina shook her head. ‘There was a taxi, but I didn’t have enough money.’
            ‘Did you ask the driver to take you home?’
            She shook her head again. ‘I knew I couldn’t pay, I only had two pounds. That’s just enough for a tip.’ She flashed a look at her dad. ‘Dad says you should always tip taxi drivers.’
            ‘Tina, what happened next?’
            ‘There was this man, he saw us and he asked if we needed help.’
            ‘What did you say?’
            ‘I asked if I could borrow some money for a taxi, and promised I would pay him back.’ Tina chewed nervously on a fingernail. ‘But he said he had a daughter himself and he’d be worried if she was out this late, so he’d take us home for free.’
            ‘So you got in the car?’
            Tina nodded. ‘He sounded… posh. I thought we’d be safe with him.’
            ‘Then what?’
            ‘He asked where our parents were, and I said they were out at a party. He said they didn’t deserve two lovely little girls like us. Then I realised he was driving the wrong way so I told him. He said he knew where he was going and not to worry.’ Tina risked a glance at her mother. ‘But I was worried, so I started shouting and hitting him and telling him to stop.’
            ‘Where did you hit him?’
            ‘On the head and the arm. I was sitting behind him. I made him swerve the car and he stopped on the side of the road. I opened the door and shouted at Annie to get out, but she couldn’t open her door. She tried to get out of mine, but he caught her. I bashed him to let go, but he wouldn’t.’
            ‘So you ran away?’
            Tina nodded, saucer-eyed. ‘Yes,’ she whispered. Annie had urged her to go, to run for help, but she hadn’t wanted to. When she realised he would never let go of Annie, she had run, dropping her little handbag with her house keys, purse and mobile phone, sprinted into the bushes at the side of the road. The man had dragged Annie through the gap in the seats and tied something round her wrists. He locked her in the car and searched through the bushes at the edge of the road, but Tina stayed very still and held her breath, and he didn’t find her. After a while, he got back in his car and drove off. The image of Annie staring out of the window into the darkness, tears running down her face, no idea what would happen to her, would stay with Tina forever.
            ‘You left her.’ Penny said the words and they were an accusation. ‘Your little sister, who you’re supposed to look after, and you left her in that car with that man.’
            Tina was sobbing. ‘Mum, I couldn’t get her away, I tried…’
            ‘She shouldn’t have been there in the first place!’ Penny roared. ‘You selfish, stupid little fool! Have you any idea what you’ve done?’
            ‘Mum, please! I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!’
            ‘Pen, love, it’s not the bairn’s fault. You can see she’s upset…’
            ‘Not half as upset as she’ll be when I’m finished with her!’ Tina wondered that she didn’t melt under her mother’s venomous gaze, laser eyes burning into her, hatred burning bright. Penny stalked out of the room, and they heard her slamming about in the kitchen, no doubt making another round of cups of tea that they would allow to stand until they cooled and a skin formed on the surface.
            Derek reached out to Tina and pulled her to him, gave her a hug. ‘She’s just upset, love. She doesn’t blame you, not really. Just give her a bit of time.’ He turned to the policewoman. ‘Do we have to do this tonight?’
            ‘Tina’s told us as much as she can about the car and the driver. We’ve got people out looking. We’ll be in touch first thing.’
            Derek saw her out, then looked at the clock: four-thirty. It was already first thing, he thought as he went back in to see how his wife and daughter were coping. Not that the hour mattered: they would be unlikely to get any sleep.

Still a bit rough, but that's the NaNo nature of things at this stage! Word count up to 8500 - hoping to see 15000 by Sunday night. Fingers crossed! :)

Monday, 1 November 2010

Day 1 NaNoWriMo: 2075 words

I won't be updating this here daily, but thought I'd mark the first day. Two thousand and seventy five words: not too shabby a start. Here are the first three hundred or so:


Penny woke with a start. Something had disturbed her sleep, something out of place… there it was again. A tapping on the front door.
            ‘Derek.’ She shook her husband awake. ‘Derek, there’s someone at the door.’
            ‘What time is it?’ Derek was groggy, full of ale and unhappy about being woken up.
            ‘Just gone two.’
            ‘Ignore it, Pen, it’s the middle of the bloody night.’
            Seconds later he was asleep again. Penny swung her legs out of bed, shuffled her feet into her slippers. Her head felt woozy and she regretted that last glass of wine: she’d be hung over in the morning and she had a busy day ahead of her, starting with picking the kids up from Derek’s mum’s house. The tapping began again. She sighed, pulled the bedroom door shut behind her and flipped on the landing light.
‘Who is it?’ she called when she got to the front door. ‘Who’s there?’
            She heard a strangled sob, then: ‘Mum.’ She fumbled the lock, panic making her clumsy, and yanked the door open to see her eldest daughter, bedraggled and tearstained. Penny gathered her child to her, felt the little girl sag against her, helped her over the step and into the sitting room, shushing her and flipping on lights as she went.
            Once they were seated, she brushed her daughter’s hair out of her eyes, fighting the swell of panic, trying to stay calm, trying not to scare the girl even more. ‘Tina, what’s happened, pet? Why are you not at your gran’s?’
            ‘Mum…’ Tina’s eyes were full of fear.
            ‘Where’s Annie?’ asked Penny, suddenly very afraid. Her two girls were inseparable.
            Tina shuddered. ‘She’s…’ she began, hesitantly. Then she cried out, ‘Mum, he took her! The man, he put us in his car and he took Annie!’

The Last Weekend

NaNoWriMo 2010 has just begun for us in the UK. I'm really excited about this year's story - can't wait until I really get my teeth stuck in to it! But for now, here's the first bit of the one from 2006, just to get me in the mood...


Ronnie Wilson let himself into his flat, shut and locked the door, then heaved a sigh of relief. Going out had been a mistake. Going out was always a mistake these days, just like coming home was always a reminder of what he had lost. He shrugged out of his jacket, hung it up and went into the kitchen. Ten minutes later he was in front of his computer, mug of coffee at his elbow.

Once the machine had booted up he got online, accessed his list of favourite sites and clicked on He was spending a lot of time on there these days. ‘End of Days’ was a personal outlook for the people who met there, not some sort of religious fundamentalist thing. It was a site for people who, irrespective of any dogma or doctrine they might subscribe to, believed that the end of their days was both desirable and imminent. Site users met there for advice and support, and users generally weren’t around for all that long. The friendships that were forged were lifelong, but short-term. People used the site to help them to find the best way to end their lives, one that would guarantee success at the first attempt. As well as hints and tips, the site was littered with warnings, horror stories of people who had tried and failed to kill themselves; the worst ones were those that left the suicide unable afterwards to try again unaided. That was their biggest fear; being trapped in their existence by people who simply didn’t get that not all lives were worth living. That was why they wanted to get it right first time. End of Days was for people who were quite genuinely sick of their lives. Which made it just another thing that Ronnie’s friends wouldn’t understand, just one more reason why they had so little in common anymore. They seemed to be permanently out of step.

Take tonight. Apart from Ronnie, they’d all been on the pull, designer shirts and aftershave used as bait to lure similarly intentioned women. These days most of them were serious about finding someone and starting a relationship, they weren’t just looking for a quick shag. Not that they’d necessarily turn one down, but what they really wanted was to be one of a pair, half of a couple, to make a home with someone. Rob was even talking about kids since his sister had made him an uncle: he was getting broody, for Christ’s sake! Ronnie felt like he was on the far side of an ever-widening chasm, the gulf between him and his mates not one he knew how to bridge. Because while Toby, Mark, Rob and Pete were looking for someone to live with, Ronnie dreamed of someone he could die with.

Anna Mayfield saw Indigo enter the chat room and tapped in a greeting.

Hey, Blue Boy, where you been? Mayfly

Hi Mayfly. Hi all. Met some mates, went out for a drink. Bad move. Indigo

Wanna talk? Mayfly

Sure. Indigo

He and Mayfly transferred into a private room to continue.

So… how was it? Mayfly

Oh, you know how it is. They’re always so full of plans, what they’re going to do, where they’re going to go, jobs, homes, partners…

Yeah, I know. Like we’re all into that shit. Like it’s so great on planet Earth we want to stay forever. Mayfly

I just don’t get it. I mean, I know I used to want that stuff, too, before. But now it’s like they’re talking in a foreign language.

I know, Indi. My mates have started dropping sprogs, and the ones who haven’t talk about it non-stop. Like breeding is their only purpose in life. Fucksake! As if anyone with a conscience would bring a child into this world! Mayfly

I’m so sick of it all. If I was less of a coward… or more of a bastard, I can’t work out which it is, I’d exit stage left. Indigo

Here’s something you might find interesting – - check it out. I’ll hang on here. Mayfly

Ummm… okay. Back in a mo. Indigo

Ronnie copied and pasted the link into a new tab in his browser, then watched as the screen unfolded before him. It was a simple enough message. There was nothing to link to further on in the site, it was all there to see on the single black-edged web page.

Don’t travel alone
A unique opportunity for a select bunch of people to take the ultimate trip
All tickets one way only – guaranteed.

He returned to the private chat room.

Interesting. What do you make of it? Indigo

I think it might be what I’ve been looking for.

Are you planning to get in touch?

I already have.