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  1. #91
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Thanks seigfred! All right then, be as kind as you can.
    It's a little longer than it probably should be, but this all kind of sets up the basic premise so I hope you'll bear with me and it won't be too much of a trial to get through it, ye brave souls who venture to do so.

    THE LONG GAME
    PART I: DE PROFUNDIS
    CHAPTER 1
    Welcome to my nightmare


    This was the last thing he needed. The headaches were getting worse; he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in a month, and he knew why. It was the nightmares, of course. Always the same one – her eyes, closed now and slowly being covered over, the scrape of the shovel, the sound of heavy breathing, the hoot of an owl somewhere in the distance. Sweat rolling down his back despite the heavy rain that battered his head and soaked the earth underneath, so that he had to stop and remove his jacket, dabbing at his forehead (even as he was now) and trying to squint through glasses dotted with rainwater, afraid to stop and remove them.
    Afraid to stop, afraid to continue.


    The sudden sweep of headlights as a car passed by on the road outside, seemingly silent, though surely it had to have made some noise? His body tensing, freezing as he waited, holding his breath, then the light of the twin lamps receding into the night. The shovel, held in his hands almost like a weapon (how ironic!) now continuing its grisly work, the soft, sodden soil tumbling into the crevice in the ground, the owl (the same one, or a different one, he neither knew nor cared) hooting again, his fevered mind ascribing an impossible accusation to the sound: I know what you’re doing!


    The cold tears trickling down his face, though he could never remember whether they were tears or just droplets of rain. He was soaked through, and he sneezed, trying to hold the sound in, a sound that echoed in his ears like an explosion. Deafening. Damning. The sudden whoop of a siren, the flashing circling blue light that he imagined reflecting off the stark trees, the discovery that never came, that he saw, imagined, dreaded only in his mind.


    Finishing the job. Walking away, not looking back. Her voice. Did he imagine that too? Surely, for the dead do not speak.


    And yet, he heard her voice.


    He heard her voice, like her corpse rising up out of the grave, pushing the earth aside, climbing out and calling to him.
    Calling his name.
    “Jerry!”


    Someone was calling his name. He was not imagining it. The horror was real. The nightmare was real.


    No, this was not the nightmare. At least, not the one he had experienced every night he closed his eyes, going on for at least four weeks now. This was the other nightmare, the one he couldn’t escape by waking up. What was it they called it?
    Oh yeah. Reality.


    In reality someone was calling his name. His eyes blinked open and flicked to the intercom on his desk, from which the voice issued, a soft, sultry female tone flattened by the mechanics of the speaker to a dull, grating hiss.


    The lower volume of the voice told him Carla was murmuring; she didn’t tend to use his name during working hours. Here, it was all professional. It had to be. But as consciousness returned, pushing away the phantoms, storing them away until night fell and he climbed into bed, when they would be ready to put in another arduous shift tormenting him till morning, so too did realisation and understanding. Evidently Carla had tried several times to call him, using his title, but failed, and finally had resorted to using his name, all but whispering it in the hope of bringing him back to the real world.


    And it had worked.


    “Yeah?” He was a little groggy from the painkillers – he really should see a doctor about those headaches, he thought, then grinned without mirth. Not much point in that, since he was a doctor. Clearing his throat and sorting out his jumbled thoughts, preparing to leap back onto the hurtling train of the day-to-day business of life, he amended his response. Never knew who was listening. “What is it, Miss Dalton?”


    Reasonably sure she had his attention now, Carla said “The police are here, Doctor Fletcher.”
    He heaved a sigh of relief, mixed with a sense of surprise. That, he had to admit, had been damn quick!
    “Send them on in, Miss Dalton please,” he advised his receptionist, and a moment later the door opened and two men in suits walked in. Although he cheerily waved them to a chair (there was only one; let them fight over it) neither accepted the invitation. Their faces were pretty grim, he noted to himself, which he found a little odd. Of course, the police had to be professional at all times, and much of the time that involved not smiling, but even so, for such a relatively trivial matter, you’d think they could at least pretend to be human!


    “Doctor Fletcher?” One of the men stepped forward, businesslike but with a hard glint in his eye that the man seated behind the desk did not care for. He nodded. “Doctor Jeremy Fletcher?” As if there might somehow be two Dr. Fletchers in the one practice, the man who had spoken elaborated on the name, in his attempt, presumably, to ensure this was the right man.
    “That’s right,” Fletcher smiled. “And may I just compliment you on your response time. Very impressive.”


    The two men, the one who had spoken and the one who had, as yet, not, exchanged a look that said this was not the reaction they had expected, but both held their peace, possibly unsure how to react. Doctor Fletcher went on.
    “Now, before you ask, yes of course I’ve informed Visa, and American Express, so she won’t be able to use the cards. But you see, unfortunately there was a large quantity of money, too. Myself and the wife, heading off on holiday and I was going to drop the payment in at the travel -”


    He stopped mid-sentence, as the man who had spoken previously now did so again, his eyes screwed up in confusion. It only now hit Fletcher that these men wore no uniforms, which must, as they were announced by his receptionist as being from the police, mean they were detectives, plain-clothes men, as they used to call them in his day. But why would the station send detectives down for such a minor incident, he began to wonder?


    “Sir, I think there may be a misunderstanding here,” said the first man. “My name is Detective Sergeant Collins, and this is my colleague, Detective Constable Morris. I’m not quite sure why you think we’re here, but I can tell you. There have been several serious allegations made against you, and I’m afraid I must ask you to accompany us to the station to be interviewed.”


    Reality and dream suddenly blended together, exploding in a dark kaleidoscope that shattered his world into tiny fragments and sent them spinning in all directions.
    Her voice.
    Jerry!


    “I – I beg your pardon?” he spluttered, when the impact of what DS Collins had told him hit. “I thought you were here to investigate the robbery!”
    “Robbery, sir?” Collins’ eyes showed no sympathy, but a mild surprise. Those of his, so far silent colleague, betrayed the barest hint of humour. Fletcher took an instant dislike to DC Morris. Surely he was too young to be a Detective? Indeed, he looked about thirteen, with a fresh complexion, sharp eyes and a mouth which seemed designed to be forever twisted into a sneering grin, though he dared not do so while in the presence of his superior. No, the grin was displayed in his eyes, something which could never be proven were he accused of it. But Fletcher knew. Oh yes, he knew.


    “Yes,” he went on, strangely aware that the details, indeed the very incident which had seemed so annoying and important a few minutes ago were rapidly losing precedence in his mind, and were of no interest whatever to the two unsmiling (unless you looked in their eyes) detectives who stood before him. Still, he felt he had to explain, lest they think him an idiot. “Not a half hour ago. Woman came in, complaining of... well, I can’t say, obviously – doctor patient confidentiality, you know. Though come to think of it, she probably wasn’t suffering from anything,” he reflected, as if only realising this now. “In which case, does that clause even apply?” He seemed to be directing the question at the two cops, both of whom looked, and were, supremely under-qualified to deliver any sort of opinion, and neither of which cared to attempt such.


    He felt he was rambling, and hurried on, his mind racing almost as much as his mouth, but nowhere near as much as his heart. Could this be it? Had they discovered her remains? Was this the last day of his freedom? Had his dark chickens come home to roost? Had the nightmare finally, almost inevitably, become real?


    All these questions flitted through his head while his tongue explained, almost incidentally, about the woman who had taken her opportunity to rob his wallet when he had been called out of the surgery. It had been a while before he had missed it, and she was long gone by then. So of course, he had called the police.
    But these particular police didn’t seem to care about what would be categorised as a petty theft. They had, it seemed, bigger fish to fry.

    And he was that fish.


    Which led him to ask, finally, the question he should have asked in the first place.
    “What allegations, Detective Sergeant? And by whom?”
    Collins’ face remained grim. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to disclose those details here, sir,” he said, as if he believed he protected the secret to the key to Britain’s nuclear defence programme. “We can talk down at the station. If you’d just follow us please.”


    As he grabbed his coat and left instructions with Carla to try to get Dr. Benson to take any of his waiting patients with more emergency needs, and to thereafter close up for the day, Fletcher was a little taken aback by the entrance of two more policemen into his surgery. These, however, were uniformed.


    “Dr. Fletcher?” one asked, his eyes darting around the room and landing, with evident surprise, on the two detectives. “You called in a robbery here?”
    Collins gave the bobby a watery grin as he showed the doctor to the door.
    “He’s got bigger problems, I’m afraid, son,” he remarked. “You might want to talk to the receptionist, though she’s a little busy right now.”


    She could taste earth in her mouth, feel it on her teeth, rubbing off her gums. It was tumbling in tiny flakes down her dry throat, and clogging up her eyes. She wanted to scream but no sound came out of her mouth, only an almost inaudible croaking. She tried to kick, but pain lancing through her body told her that her legs were either broken or – she tried not to think of it – torn off, and the hot soil pressing down on her like some invisible and immovable hand prevented any motion even if she could have moved her legs. She had a sudden and terrifying vision of being sealed up in a coffin, lowered into the ground and left there to rot, but she knew she was not in a box. There was, however, wood lying around her – her brain refused to allow her to work out where it had come from or what it was – and she seized upon this buried debris as her only hope of salvation.


    She could hear a voice above her, feet walking, hushed tones. Someone said something, but she could not make out the words. It sounded like it might have been a shout, or a call, perhaps. She was so deep down that it was like being underwater, and she could barely hear any sounds, but she was certain that was a voice. And if it was a voice, it meant that someone was up there. Perhaps that wasn’t a good thing, her brain, deciding to work now, told her: she had no idea how she had come to be buried in the ground, and for all she knew this voice could belong to the person who was responsible for her plight. She could be listening to the voice of her killer.


    Was she dead? She didn’t think so. Not yet, anyway: she could hear her own sharp, ragged breathing in her ears, and the rapid thump of her heart. Her sense of smell had not betrayed her either. She caught the scent of charred wood and smoke, a rubbery, acrid stench that she had once smelled when a badly-repaired plug had blown with a scary bang. And of course, her sense of taste remained, as the crumbly soil continued to pour into her mouth, no matter how much she spat it out. Since she was lying down, and the earth was on top of her, there was nowhere for it to go when she expelled it from her throat, and it just fell back down into her mouth.


    Questing, groping fingers fastened on something, something familiar, and she closed her hands around the tattered dress, dragging the doll towards her. She was too weak to bang on the wood, and her fists would have made no discernible sound anyway, but the head of the doll was plastic, solid, hard. With what seemed to her almost superhuman effort, as her chest ached even worse and pain shot through her entire body, sooty tears rolling down her cheeks, she lifted the doll and brought its head down upon the fragment of wood that lay beside her.
    Again.
    And again.
    Nothing.
    Strength fading, she was losing consciousness when a new sound filled her ears, the sound of earth moving, the sound of boots crunching on gravel, and a sudden almost blinding light filled the hole she was trapped in. A glint of yellow metal, a grim face that suddenly curved up into an encouraging smile, the smell, the blessed smell of fresh air.


    “Don’t move, love,” said the angel who looked down on her. “We’re going to get you out of there. You’re safe now.”


    But despite his reassurances, she knew she would never be safe again.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  2. #92
    Well, you're right about it being long for a beginning I'd've capped it off with him burying her, but oh well, I've read it all now (*hee*hee*)

    You've got a nice voice for it. The line spacing's probably off because of the indent-to-no-indent issue when posting on forum boards, so if you ever get around to posting on the Workshop boards, keep an eye out for line spacing between paragraphs.

    The dirt at the end was the weird part for me. If she's buried alive, the dirt's going to fill in everything, and she would've suffocated and been crushed under the weight of the earth. Try actually getting buried in whatever medium this is supposed to be, but dirt's heavy stuff, and air doesn't diffuse through it well, so there's not going to be any breathing, and she's not going to be able to bang around on anything. If these things need to happen, you'll want to make it crystal clear to your reader that this dirt's just that loose, and Dr. Fletcher is a shitty undertaker

    That said, it's an excellent opening. beginning with dreams/nightmares is kinda cliche--but your nightmare was intriguing due to the voice and content. I really enjoyed it.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  3. #93
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Thanks for that seigfred. Really appreciate it.
    Yes, the lines thing was weird: when I originally tried to post it (three times) it was cutting off like the first two letter in each line, so in the end I had to paste it into Notepad, of all things, and copy from that.
    As for the burial, well, without giving too much away, although the two events are linked, they're not the same. The little girl is buried after her house collapsed/burned down, and as I know people can survive in pockets of air in rubble for a while after such an event, that's what's happening here. I deliberately made it seem so, but the person being buried in the dream/remembrance of Dr. Fletcher is NOT the same one that is related in the last part.

    Thanks again so much for the feedback! I feared ridicule or being torn apart, and it's nice to see that the piece met with such a warm reception.

    When I get around to it, I'll post some of my short stories in the appropriate sections, and maybe you'll let me know what you think of them?

    One more time, thanks.
    TH
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  4. #94
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    I should also add, thanks for your interesting take on the "burial". Though you couldn't have known it was a slightly different type of burial, your insight has proven very valuable. I will now add a line about her feeling just barely able to breathe as she's in a pocket of air, or something. I'll work it out, but the point is that I didn't take into account that someone might read that and think the same as you did, so again thanks for the suggestion/advice.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

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