Occasionally I like to experiment, when I write my prose, attempting to change my writing style, or my method of working. The Dead was one of the fruits of my attempts to do something a little bit different.
The Dead is not a linear tale, but a collage of bits and pieces, the idea that they will come together to form something which is more than the some of its parts.
At its most basic, The Dead is a story of a house and its ghosts.
Extract from The Dead
Empty/ empty no longer: a young couple moving in/ moving out. Removal vans blocking up the road, diesel hulks eliciting complaints and fine Anglo-Saxon from those who know that five years residence mean that they are superior to those coming/ those going. Sexuality debased into oaths, the C-word and F-word and the odd A-word, as well.
A desperately sunny day for the move, shirt armpits dyed black by the summer heat. Too lazy a day even for the clouds to move; yet humans do, proving old mad dog quotes. Temper(ature)s rise. Sweat droplets fall.
A ghetto blaster is in the front garden, entertaining the removal men as they work, to-ing and fro-ing cardboards boxes and old furniture. Perhaps it should be rechristened a suburb blaster – ghetto this is not. It’s playing All That She Wants by some Nordic group, all blond hair and not being Abba.
All that she wants is another baby. The young woman has not had a baby yet, though she has tried. But she is not short of friends. There are always friends to be had, if you know how to listen. She would rather be listening to the Smiths, the one about the Cemetery Gates. But most daytime radio is shit (there, more Anglo-Saxon, even if it only is a thought. And the removal crew wanted to listen to something anodyne (read: putrid). Snooze FM 97.666.
The young woman is sure that the scratch on the dresser wasn’t there before. The dresser was a gift from her mother. She never liked it. But that’s not the point. It was insured, like everything in the house (the old house); but she doesn’t know if the policy covered moves.
You are insured against fire, flood, thefts, but not against acts of a jealous God, nor against clumsy removal men. Nor eyestrain.
Another song ennuis its way into existence. Some girl group who look like models, but don’t play any instruments. Nor write any of their songs. They probably don’t sing on their CDs either. It will go straight to Number One. But nobody will notice anyway.
Moves are stressful. She doesn’t like them. It takes forever to rearrange your life, to find new niche homes for all your precious treasures. Will it look best over the mantelpiece? Or should it go on the dresser. The light is always different. Feng shui, ley lines, all different, in each house.
Your entire life in a van or two. Ego reduced to possessions, your own cargo cult. Take them away and what are you left with? An empty house (two empty houses). And yourself.
Strip yourself down to the core. Take away your music, your clothes, your obsessions and possessions. Be in the white room. Look at yourself in the mirror, unadorned. And what do you see?
(nothing there is nothing there)
Hollow like empty houses. Fill them and your lives with stuff so that you don’t have to be alone and think. So that you don’t sink down into your soul.
Your little china statuettes, the ones which cost so much (the removal men had not better destroy one of those). You have collected the entire set, but they always bring out more. More to waste your money on. But they possess a certain kitsch beauty.
Husband has his books. Not big, leather bound ones which would have gone with the Old House; but ones more suited to an adolescent bookcase: science fiction, fantasy and horror. Most of them with black covers. Stephen King and Clive Barker, Robert Jordan and Iain (M) Banks. She doesn’t know why he finds pleasure in such unbelievable fictions – and he is the most atheistic person who she ever knows. But the books are currently all in cardboard boxes, their lurid covers hid.
This is existential entropy. Life spiralling inwards to dead chaos, lacking heat, lacking life, lacking hope.
She walked past the north wall of the house, and shivered, even though it was a sunny day. It must have been the sudden transfer from light to shade, nothing more. She thought no more about it. Not then.
The main road is audible as a distant hum. The constant drone of traffic in the distance, like bees seeking flowers (where have all the bees gone?). But no hive mentality there. Each driver is separate, encased in metal, his mobile suit of armour inuring him (or her) from the world. Each of them is competing for the same little stretch of near-melting tarmac, cursing against every other driver on the road, yet adding to their number at the same time. Only after dark will this hum lessen and fade, to be replaced by that of the occasional wasp.
Such sounds can be screened out. Those used to the aortas of city life have become used to this automotive susurrus. The noises are not even noticed by the removal men, or the stressed out husband and wife. They were much used to the urban tinnitus.
The metal of the removal van(s) will become fried egg hot before the move is done, baking in the summer sun. Touch it and you will be burned (better put some butter on that).
Books (mentioned), china statuettes (ditto), crockery, utensils, garden implements, furniture, rugs (carpets already fitted), bed items, clothing, computer, television, CDs, CD player, fridge, and a host of other possessions. How rich we must be, with so many things. Are our lives not so much happier than our parents’ were? They had nothing. Nothing but themselves. We medicate boredom with a milliard possessions, so that we don’t have to look at ourselves. In the mirror.
Mirrors, as well: the bathroom mirror, a mirror on a dressing table, a few other vanities to expose the spots for chemical Tippex. But all that mirrors have ever shown is a reversal of life. It is not real, a mere two dimensional illusion.
Tattoos on the arms of the removal men. Faded blue depictions of mermaids and anchors on a man who has never been to sea.. The other tattooee has scenes of a more erotic nature – these are darker, and are more recent creations. He will carry these Tijuana Bibles on flesh unto his dying day. He will be buried in long sleeves to save the embarrassment of his granddaughters. The third man, who has never even heard of Carol Reed, has deigned to remain a tabula rasa.
They’ve seen it all before, taken couples all over the south of England. This move is no different to any other, as far as they’re concerned. How wrong they are, how wrong they were.
This is the beginning.
This is the end.
The Dead is available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle store.