Charlotte’s World – Chapter 4

Three weeks later and Charlotte’s nightmares and everyday eventualities continue in her life. Dorothy, Hannah, and Tony have been creative with their most recent advances on Charlotte. Most recently, they tricked a fellow ridiculed victim into punching Charlotte every time she walked past, and, as a result, Charlotte has an impressive purple/black bruise on her upper arm. Yet another thing to hide from her parents. Meanwhile, her parents continue their ignorance of Charlotte while Charlotte continues hiding her nightmares.

She is still dreaming about the playground, it forms in her head like broken glass. She can’t yet figure out the order the dream is meant to be in but she can picture each section of it in her mind. It always begins at the playground, she pictures waking up with blood on her hands. There’s a ghostly figure or presence that she can feel but can never fully make out the features of, she knows she’s scared of it though as there’s a lot of running in the dream. She also hears things. Boys laughing and shouting at her. The part she can remember the most detail of is the same thing that forces her awake. Someone or something stabs her in the chest with a knife, this part feels scarily realistic. Charlotte can feel the pain as the knife slides into her chest, she can smell her blood pouring out of her, but then everything goes dark and she always wakes up at the park.

Parts of the dream are missing and muddled up in her head, especially at the beginning. Charlotte feels like she’s losing her hold on reality. She’s pretty sure she imagined that blonde lady in the park. She still thinks of her often, more from confusion and a lack of answers. Maybe seeing that lady along with these dreams are just obvious signs of Charlotte’s poor mentality and she’s just ignoring them because she doesn’t want to end up in the Asylum. All Charlotte knows for sure is that she hasn’t seen any evidence, other than the footprint, that the lady even existed. She made sure of it, checking the local paper and even going as far as checking the public records at the Town Hall. No evidence of a mysterious blonde woman with no teeth hanging around town or the park. Charlotte has returned every afternoon to that spot, even on weekends, but she hasn’t seen any glimpse of the familiar figure.

Today is no different. It’s Saturday, Charlotte’s mother and father are out for their usual trip into town. They always dress in their finest clothing to smile and greet their neighbours and then go for lunch in the fanciest restaurant, making sure to get a seat by the window where they are seen by passers-by. Charlotte is never invited. Not like she would go even if she was. Pompous swine’s. Charlotte grumbles under her breath, kicking dirt out from under her feet, picturing her parent’s upper-class noses hovering over the heads of the just as cold-hearted townsfolk. She walks up and down the non-existent fence line of the park just like she has every day since seeing that lady. Pacing back and forth. As her legs begin to ache she is tempted to sit down but then shrugs off the feeling and continues. Afraid to sit down in case she misses sight of her. Charlotte feels drawn to her, she can’t stop thinking about her and needs to know who she is. Letting out a sigh of exasperation on her 67th lap of the playground’s edge, Charlotte stops abruptly when she reaches the spot where the lady’s footprint once was, now only a flattened level of soil can be seen. Halfway across the large open field, walking towards her is the lady.

She recognizes the way she’s walking and her blonde hair, this time it sits prominently on her front at her waistline. The wind is still today and the sun is setting. Charlotte stands motionless as the figure descends towards her. She looks as though she’s gliding rather than walking as the long tartan skirt she wears skims the floor. On her top half, she wears a white blouse tucked in. Charlotte feels a pang of jealousy as she sees the lady’s breasts bouncing under the blouse, the moment is quickly ridiculed when she remembers the woman’s lack of teeth though. Staring straight at Charlotte with no expression the woman continues her fast approach. Charlotte questions herself about whether she should stay or not but no matter her choice her legs feel rigid like stone removing from her the option to leave.

Reaching only a few feet from where Charlotte stands the lady stops, still with a lack of expression or emotion on her face. She is close enough for Charlotte to finally get a good look at her face. The first thing Charlotte notices though is, in fact, the smell. Rotten Flesh. Her mother once bought a chunk of ham from the butcher that she forgot about and left in the pantry for months. After that time, it was infested with maggots and let off an exuberant smell of decay. This beautiful jealousy invoking lady standing before Charlotte now reminds her of that smell and she breathes through her mouth to try and avoid throwing up. Other than the loss of teeth she’s seen and the retch-worthy smell. The lady is breathtakingly beautiful. More beautiful than the Barbie look-alikes at school and the models in magazines. With sunflower golden hair tumbling over her sleek shoulders. She has glossy and somewhat light undertoned skin like a china doll. Slender eyebrows sit above larger than average sparkling hazel eyes with largely defined eyelashes attached which flutter like silk threads. Set in the middle of her elongated face is a dainty button nose, either side of that sit dotted shadows of freckles, perfectly formed and symmetrical on either side of her high cheekbones. Almost like they have been painted on. Charlotte notes the plump rose colour showing through their surface. She looks like an angel. Charlotte silently acknowledges in her mind, she carries an untoward aroma of elegance and beauty cemented into her skin. However, Charlotte’s nerves feel ravaged by the arrogant imperfections she has seen on her. The lack of teeth, the smell and Charlotte can also see dirt coated fingernails on her slender hands. This angelic woman comes across as somewhat ambiguous and yet, still hasn’t spoken a word. Charlotte takes a deep breath through her mouth to avoid the stench and gives herself a moment of courage before diving into her words.

“Hello. Are you lost?” Charlotte asks in her most approachable yet guarded voice. 

A long silence fills the late afternoon air. Charlotte is about to prompt another question but she gets as far as saying ‘I’ before the woman interrupts.

“I’m Lenita. I can help you Charlotte”

Lenita’s voice is as radiant as her beauty. Soft with melodic undertones. Enough to lull Charlotte into a false sense of security. It almost makes Charlotte forget the stench until she takes a long inhale through her nose. Her stomach quivers in disgust and she bites down hard on her tongue before continuing

“You know who I am? Do you know the girls at school?” 

Charlotte’s first assumption is that she may know the gossipy girls at school. They have more than their fair share of horrid, cruel stories to tell of their antics, starring Charlotte as the main attraction.

Charlotte’s question is met with a blank stare and a smile from the young elusive. Charlotte can confirm she doesn’t have any teeth. It’s like a black hole inside her mouth, who knows where it leads. She doesn’t see a tongue in there either although how the lady is talking without either she isn’t too sure. The sight makes her take a defensive step back a little further. Charlotte can’t think of any positive reasoning why the woman wouldn’t have any teeth.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? This park is private property. You shouldn’t be here” 

Charlotte squeezes the sentence out in a single bated breath. A sure sign of her fear and impatience about this conversation and the fact that the woman knows who Charlotte is whilst Charlotte, on the other hand, is ever the more in the dark.

“I’m here to help” the woman responds.

“Help with what?” Charlotte asks begrudgingly despite being pretty sure that she doesn’t want to hear the answer.

A series of strange misconceptions happen at this point. Firstly, Charlotte notices a scar on Lenita’s face, just above her cheek close to the side of her temple. It must be no bigger than a button. She must have missed it before. It draws Charlotte’s attention because it has a strange resemblance to a butterfly. Brown in colour and faded as if old but it has the small body and wings to the side of it marked like a butterfly corpse. The second thing that happens is that Lenita takes a quick step towards Charlotte and reaches for her, causing Charlotte to stumble back to avoid her grasp. Righting herself, moments later a butterfly flutters past her eyes. Charlotte is distracted and watches the emerald green butterfly float towards the tree line behind her and disappear out of sight. As if experiencing a flashback, it reminds Charlotte of her stubborn recurring dream, it moulds the pieces back together like gluing the pieces of a smashed vase. 

Her dream begins with her walking to the abandoned park. A woman is there with blonde flowing hair and a thin, gaunt, yet beautiful figure. An enviable beauty that spikes a feeling of jealousy. The dream cuts to her running away from the woman who is walking behind her, chasing her, wearing a white dress than bounces to and fro at the knees. Charlotte runs to the new park, the closest place that there may be people. Getting there she hides in a wooden climbing frame with a roof where she finds two boys. They look of a similar age to Charlotte but they have scratches on their faces and are ghostly white with petrified faces when they see her. Charlotte tells them she’s running from the woman. The youthful boys tell her ‘Lenita is the bad one’. They then show her a newspaper article. ‘Young girl found with single stab wounds. Police referring to it as a suspected suicide” The paper is dated ’23rd August 1967″. A date that hasn’t yet been. 

Chapter 5 coming soon. 

Copyright 2018 

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 3

How long have I been standing here? Charlotte questions herself, partly to distract herself from the situation and partly to secure herself back into reality. It feels like a long time, she’s sure of that.

Trying her best to keep her posture and stern face, Charlotte’s body betrays her as she feels a drop of sweat trickling down her brow. Her hands are getting wetter by the second. There’s just something about this situation that is shouting at her to run but she can’t. No matter how much she thinks it, her legs and feet refuse to move. Almost as if the lady has an aura around her drawing Charlotte’s attention to her and forcing them to stare into each other eyes. If anyone happened to walk upon them at this moment she is sure they would think that they were about to fight. A crazy thought to have regarding a stranger. Charlotte has never been in a fight and hopes to keep it that way. Suddenly, wisps of blonde hair begin moving in the wind again as the lady takes a single step towards Charlotte. She stops just as quick but turns her face upwards into a smile in the process. Charlotte can’t see any pearly white teeth in her smile. In fact, she can’t see any teeth at all. Charlotte screams in a panicked breath and forces her mouth closed just as quick as she tries to hold herself together. Don’t be a stupid girl. Charlotte corrects herself in the voice of her grandmother, an intimidatingly independent woman with only a few stubborn wrinkles to show her age. If her grandmother was here right her she would push Charlotte forward and tell her that she’s being silly. Maybe this has all been a misunderstanding and the young lady just needs directions but is too afraid to approach. Enough is enough. Feeling belittled and increasingly more annoyed at this figure and her encroaching presence as well as the fearful turmoil she is creating in Charlotte’s mind. Charlotte forces her feet and marches toward the woman with vigour.

She plans on demanding why she was here but Charlotte never has a chance to ask her. When she’s just a few yards away Charlotte looks down at her wobbly feet to rectify them, when she looks up a split second later the blonde hair and all that was attached have disappeared. It was an open field and there weren’t many hiding places so unless the lady was laid down in the dirt which Charlotte highly doubted, she must have imagined her. That’s the only plausible explanation for the girls disappearing act. Wrong again though, because where the lady was stood there is now the engraved markings from her feet. 

Dumfounded, Charlotte stands in the marked footprints where the woman was and circles her head slowly trying to catch a glimpse. Even if the lady was running she would be able to see her in the open fields surrounding the park. There’s nothing though. Other than the footprint that Charlotte now skims with the sole of her shoe to make sure it’s real. There’s nothing else that would indicate she was even here just moments ago. Saves me the trouble, Charlotte’s thoughts praise her resilience. Bending her neck down to get a closer look at the footprint Charlotte places her own inside and is surprised to note that they have the same shoe size. Charlotte’s feet lack womanly properties at their rambunctious larger than average size. She’s never met any girl with the same shoe size. 

With a confused last glance towards the spot where moments earlier she recalls the details of the blonde-haired lady’s facial features and her lack of teeth, Charlotte decides it’s best to head home after this afternoon’s suspicious dilemma. 

Unbeknown to Charlotte at the time, it wouldn’t be the only time she sees the estranged woman.

Chapter 4 available here 

Copyright 2018 

Should you study writing?

Some people will tell you that courses in writing are a waste of time. The most basic and influential way of learning to be a writer is by writing and reading.  You observe and write what you see. You read and then write some more. This is the simplest way to learn and improve your skills. You learn by doing. 

So, should you study writing? Simple answer. Yes and no. It solely depends on what you’re studying and your reasons for it. Let me explain.

If you want to sharpen your tools and techniques, talk to a community filled with other writers that can, in turn, help each other to become better writers. Then studying a course may be the perfect thing for you right now. Writing courses offer a safe space to experiment and practice with the knowledge that everyone is in a similar boat. You don’t have to worry about receiving a negative reaction such as you would from friends and family. Instead, you will most likely be offered genuine advice and criticisms on how to improve. Courses are great for a pick me up or boost when you have gotten as far as you can on your own. When you get to that step that you just can’t seem to swing your leg over.

On the other hand,  writing courses aren’t great for everyone and some courses are better than others.

There is no such thing as a good writer or a bad one. Every writer is different and what someone hates about your writing, someone else will love (as long as you put your whole heart into it) so sometimes courses aren’t great for certain people. Maybe you’re picking the wrong course and it’s too limited and is teaching you how to be a certain kind of writer. Sometimes you can find yourself on a course filled with hateful people that think they’re superior. They will dumb down your work and quote books you’ve never heard of. Don’t waste your time with those people. Sometimes you may even have a crap teacher or course. It can’t be helped. 

It’s a bit of a lottery finding a perfect course for each person but the benefits are plenty in my opinion. 

So, should you study writing? Yes, when you need to learn and improve your skills with a different tool. Courses are a great place to chat with other writers and really tune into your skills. They help you become a more knowledgeable writer. Just don’t expect everything to be easy or different with your writing as soon as the course is finished. Things take time and writing is a long winding road with plenty of hidden junctions.



Charlotte’s World – Chapter 2

Six years later, Charlotte’s nightmares are more gruelling than ever. Only last week did she wake up in a farmer’s field miles from home and was chased by the angry farmer with a large rake in hand. Another time she recalls waking up and all most falling off a cliff edge into the depths below as she casually turned over whilst stretching. She’s even tried to secure herself to the bed but her mother nearly caught her tying the knots. It was too risky. If her mother catches her they will send her away where all the others go. There seemed to be no desirable ending to her situation. My life is a constant torment. Charlotte wallows in her own dark thoughts as she leaves the school grounds after another long-winded day.

Cutting through the edge of town, Charlotte scoots around the local grocery and heads around the back. This isn’t the shortest route home but she never rushes. Her mother is normally having one of her meetings or out with friends whilst her father is at work in the city. At 4 pm there’s nothing to rush home for. So, she dawdles as usual. Taking her time and heading the long way around town through the Drive-in theatre and around the new park. She would never understand the appeal of moving pictures. Her parents, like a lot of others, had grasped onto the ideals of such a thing. Most people in this small town of 2000 were now driving fancy cars and enjoying unusual hobbies. Charlotte preferred to contemplate her surroundings and read the latest inquisitive novel by her favourite writer Anthony Burgess. Twenty minutes into her dawdling routine Charlotte arrives at the old park. Unlike the town’s main park filled with in-bloom flowers and forest greens, this park was old and forgotten. When the new one was made this became washed up garbage dismissed like a mouldy bloomer.

Not long-ago Charlotte didn’t know of this place either. She woke up here one frosty morning in September last year. Her bare feet on the degraded tarmac and her head next to the rusty pole that used to hold the weight of a swing. It wasn’t until she woke up here that she remembered this place. It was squished into the back of her mind blocked off by newer memories. Waking up that morning she remembered like she was here yesterday. She could recall falling on her knees and her mother helping her up when she jumped off the swing. The feel of the wind in her hair as she whizzed around the roundabout pushed by her father. She must have been quite young at the time because her mother and father don’t have the time for her now. They sigh a lot or shrug off her presence when she’s in the room with them. They act kind towards her for appearances on behalf of other people seeing a perfect family but that’s about it. They resent her for being anything but that sparkling precious diamond. They often busy themselves with hobbies, holidays and work with Charlotte being at the bottom of that list. The silver lining on every cloud though. It made it easier for Charlotte to hide her bad dreams. Still, sometimes she found herself wishing they’d had a second child so she would at least have some company.

She had never experienced any constant with her dreams up until recently when strangely she started experiencing the same dream over and over. She can’t recall all details of the nightmare but it involves a lot of running. Running to something or from something Charlotte wasn’t to know. Sometimes she would wake up with images of blood dripping from fingers engraved in her mind. Other times she woke with a start after hearing a woman’s scream. It would take her a couple of minutes to plant her feet firmly back in reality. Sometimes her dreams were like this. Regular dreams with no set story or structure. Unlike her other dreams though this one was regular in more ways than one. Every time she awoke from it she would be at the park. This had never happened before. Due to the frequency that she had awoken at the old park the past few weeks she had started to include a visit in her afternoon routine in hopes of settling her frequent stubborn atrocities. This recurring dream was broken into fragments. Charlotte only remembers the old park being in it. She remembers running with her feet pounding on the floor. Sometimes she sees images of two figures crouched over something but she can’t figure out what. There’s always a lady in her dream as well. She knows it’s a lady by the way she walks and the way she’s shaped. It’s frustrating to remember something in pieces that you have never experienced. 

Today, Charlotte was sitting in her usual spot on the bottom of the slide – you couldn’t go down it anymore because there were no longer any ladders, just a couple of poles holding it up – when she noticed someone walking somewhat cautiously around the border of the park. Turning around the bends and following the path of the misplaced wooden planks. Only a small glimpse of what was once the park fence and gate remains. Half on the floor and coated in an unkempt thick layer of wild grass and the other half stolen by bored children or drunken men. This person was a similar height to Charlotte and around 500 yards from where she was sitting with her legs crossed, perched on the end of the slide. It certainly looked like a girl, or rather a lady. She carried herself as Charlotte had been taught.

From as young as two girls are taught how to dine with others, how to do their hair and makeup and even how to walk. All in the hopes of moulding them into sophisticated young women. It was the figures confident walk that Charlotte first spotted. A walk she made sure to do in front of others. Shoulders back, hips forward, head up. Unlike this apparent lady though, Charlotte would only ever pretend to be proper. As soon as she was on her own she would slouch her shoulders and kick her feet, scuffing her shoes on the ground like a stubborn child. Charlotte spent several minutes watching the young lady.  She had never seen anyone here at this time before. There was normally only activity here during the evenings when people would use it as a hiding place for their frowned upon or even illegal actions. Charlotte knew people frequented here because they always left a trail of discarded bottles and cigarette butts in the more secluded areas such as the box climbing frame. Now only a few bits of wood it was still enough to duck under as a shelter from the rain. 

The lady looked to be of a similar age to Charlotte’s. She was certainly no older than 18 but she had the playful air about her of an older child. Stepping over broken wood with an energetic leap rather than a womanly stride on tiptoes. Certainly not that young though. Charlotte could see her large breasts bouncing uncontrolled under her floral tunic. Charlotte had certainly never seen her before. She must be new otherwise she would have seen her at school. Unless she doesn’t go to school anymore and doesn’t attend university, but then she would be expected to be courting for a suitable husband by now at the very least. Either way, she shouldn’t be here. Green tentacles loop through Charlotte’s hair and entwine into her clothes as she watches the spindly figure bouncing around the border of the old park as if it were her own property. Laying a tactile slender hand on various posts and flowers as if marking her territory. With Daffodil coloured and exceptionally straight hair moving behind the intruder as she bounces around, she glides around the fence twice in a loop before stopping abruptly on the third time when she reaches the gap where the gate once stood. Charlotte adjusts her seated position. Grasping the edge of the slide with both hands and planting her feet firmly on the ground. She gets ready to run if she needs to. She can’t allow this lady to learn her name. Charlotte has already taken a lot of risk by staying where she is. The last thing she wants is some tattle tale going to her parents. Charlotte would be sent away before the morning rose if her mother and father found out she had been coming here. Charlotte decides she would try to run if the lady walks any closer towards her, confident that she can find a large hole on the opposite side of the playground to scurry through. The slender figure doesn’t move at all though. Not a quiver of her feet that were previously moving so elegantly in their flat white loafers or a strand of her suddenly still hair. If Charlotte hadn’t just been watching her moving she could have sworn that it was a very realistic statue. Despite being unable to see clearly, she would assume that even the lady’s large chest was still and devoid of breaths. 

Standing at the edge without a single toe on the tarmacked square of the derelict playground. The 5’7 tall figure stares straight ahead. Charlotte turns to look behind her and can only see open empty fields filled with shrivelled brown grass and the random spots of yellow weeds. Nothing obvious that would indicate the attention needed of the woman and yet she stares ahead as if watching a play or expecting the world to end before her very eyes. Charlotte’s hairs stand on her neck and she shivers despite the wind carrying a warm breeze. Charlotte is surprised that she hasn’t been noticed, she may be wearing dark clothes but she is still an obvious out of place feature in the park. Something about the mysterious presence of the woman has her courage on tenterhooks. Still, now that she’s closer she can get a better look while the woman’s attention is elsewhere. She’s around 17 years old with a freckled pale complexion and pinched red cheeks. The tunic she’s wearing is covered in vibrant florals and intricate weaving. It looks of the latest fashion. Charlotte recalls seeing something very similar in the latest teen magazine. Brown tights hug her long legs and a yellow pearl necklace hangs from her neck. Her outfit is finished with a flame orange headband in her hair just like the girls at school wear. The bullies would love her. She looks like she’s stepped off the runway and straight into her worst nightmare, so out of place is such beauty in a second-hand disregarded area of the town. Maybe aliens have brought her here. Charlotte silently tells herself off for such a ludicrous thought. Maybe she does belong in the asylum after all. The tentacles of jealousy evolve Charlotte’s aggressive side. She feels betrayed by her own sensibility. To focused on herself, Charlotte fails to notice that the woman’s eyes now focus on her. Looking up she is met with a severe gaze burrowing into her mind.

Chapter 3 available here 

Copyright 2018 

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 1

“Harlot Charlotte!”

Dorothy spits in Charlotte’s face, a wide grin on her ruby red lips like a lion ready to pounce.

Dorothy hates any moment that Charlotte is near. Her weird ways only encourage hatred in Dorothy’s perfect world. Hannah and Tony stand either side of the queen bee. Ready to join in if given the chance. Acting as personal guard dogs, hanging onto her every word. Maybe guard dogs isn’t the best descriptive of the two. They’re more scaly and sinister than that. They only follow Dorothy because they don’t meet her high standards. If they resist then she’ll find others to stand in their place and then they’ll be with Charlotte. Huddled on the floor trying to minimise her existence by pulling in her limbs, close to her body. Nobody wants that. Not even Charlotte.

Words of abuse are thrown at her 5’2 petite frame. I’m just surprised that they know the meaning of the word Harlot. Charlotte can’t help but smile at the thought.

She would assume girls like Dorothy would think it was the latest French delicatessen cheese. Her smile only aggravates the bullies, with a swift kick to her shin they leave her on the floor in a satisfying heap. Smiles holding onto their porcelain doll-like faces as they elegantly sway down the school corridor. Dorothy and her friends can be compared to well-dressed Barbie dolls that should be on stage next to the Beatles. Fashion inspired haircuts, sky high with layers of hairspray to give the most volume copied from the latest issue of ‘Teen’ magazine. Charlotte works quickly to gather her books before they are stepped on by the oncoming stampede of pupils as the bell rings to indicate next period. Besides, if she doesn’t move swiftly they will likely come back for more fun.

At 16 Charlotte’s small, boy-like figure was an easy target for her fellow high schoolers. With skin so white you could almost see through it and a lack of a womanly figure on her protruding bones. She always thought her breasts would come in at a later stage but the small forms she was given didn’t show any sign of growing. She kept her mousy brown hair short. Cut into a neat bowl style that only aggravated the torment from her peers with their beehive hair in red ribbons and headbands. She used to have hair down to her knees to hide behind. After a particularly rough week at school, Charlotte felt belittled and angry at her appearance. She insisted that her parents take her to the hairdresser that weekend. When Monday morning came around she walked through the school’s double doors with a completely new style. Walking down the school corridor with a spring in her step. People were looking at her and for once she liked the attention. That was until the bullies spotted her. Purposefully sitting behind her in class they spent the lesson throwing screwed up pieces of paper at her and calling her a boy. She ran home crying and didn’t go back to school for 3 weeks. Now she must hide in other ways. Hats are useful but the teachers force her to take them off in class. She tries her best to be invisible. Dressing in dark simple clothes. Wearing scarves and hats even in Summer. Anything to help her hide. Sometimes it works. Sometimes she could go a whole day with only a few words said to her. Other days she wasn’t so lucky. Today was a particularly bad day. So far, she’d had her hair pulled, her shin kicked, paper was thrown at her and now she’s just been spat on for little more than minding her own business.

Picking up the last of her books off the floor Charlotte asks herself why she bothers but she already knows the answer. Despite all this. Charlotte would invite the torment. The clothes she wore to hide were in fact covered in holes and carried a second-hand stink of musk. She wore next to no makeup and wouldn’t follow the latest fashions. It wasn’t just the pupils that didn’t like her. People in the streets hated her mysteriousness. Her unpredictability. To anyone that didn’t know her she was a dangerous entity. An awkward presence containing a whirlwind of the unknown. People hated the unknown. They crave chronic stability and routine. Charlotte didn’t meet these standards. Strangers certainly wouldn’t spit on her like the bullies but what they did was worse in some ways. They looked at her like she was dirt. They would drag their toddlers to the other side of the street to avoid walking near her. She was the cigarette butt flattened into the dirty sidewalk. The lamppost with a broken light that will never be fixed. They pretended she didn’t exist. She knew she didn’t help herself. She could buy the latest clothes or smile at strangers but she was always too focused on her own fear. The hurtful words only allowed her the ability to remind herself that she was alive today. To Charlotte, her daily life was heaven. It was sweet and delightful. Every morning when she woke up was a relief. The only problem was figuring out where she was. The night was her enemy. You see Charlotte was plagued by nightmares. Terrible nightmares. Not your usual monsters or aliens. But instead, of serial killers on murdering sprees hunting their next victim or mental patients breaking out of a ward and killing children. Not unusual you may think. Everyone has nightmares, but again, you’re wrong. You see Charlotte was never the victim in her nightmares. She was always the one stabbing people until they stopped breathing. She could feel the warmth of their blood dripping down her fingers. She could hear the blood-curdling screams of children as they cried for their mothers to help them. They always seemed so very real in Charlotte’s head. Nightmares she couldn’t escape from. The worst part of it was that she would wake up somewhere else. Different to her soft bed. Sometimes soft like sand or grass. Other times hard like stone. Never in the same place and never where she fell asleep.

It first began when Charlotte was only 10. Her Mother and Father were quick to notice. walking through the door in the early hours of the morning wearing her frilly nightdress and a layer of dirt. Her Mother spent hours cleaning the house while Father was at the office. If one speck was out of place she would know about it. Charlotte wasn’t surprised when her mother rang Doctor Sanders. He was lost for words at first but after a lot of phone calls with other important Doctors, he told Mother that it may be Dissociative Identity Disorder. Charlotte always knew she wasn’t normal but by mother’s reaction when the doctors explained to her what her disorder is, well, let’s just say Charlotte didn’t feel normal anymore. Around here people don’t talk about the crazy folk in the asylum. They were a taboo subject that was too daring to form on people’s lips. If you talk about the crazies you risked being called crazy yourself. Charlotte didn’t want to go there. She’d heard terrible stories about people who were more dead than alive wandering through endless white corridors, covered in their own feces and urine. She wasn’t one of them and she made sure to convince the doctor and her parents otherwise. She told them she was happy and that her nightmares had stopped recently. After a lot of convincing she was allowed to stay. From that point on Charlotte did her best to act normal so they wouldn’t send her away to that place. Her head of the wives’ club sophisticated mother made sure Charlotte’s ‘disease’ was kept a secret. They carried on being perfect and Charlotte carried on having nightmares, only she didn’t tell anyone about them anymore.

Copyright 2018 

Chapter 2 Available here

How to be a writer – Pick up a pen

Let’s talk about being a writer. You see recently I’ve been doing some studies that focus on writing fiction, as a means to develop my knowledge.  One of the first things we were asked to do on this course is to introduce ourselves. My introduction went as follows: 

“Excited to get going on this course! I’m still very much an amateur writer but I suppose you will always be learning and therefore always an amateur. I have a website www.charlie-wright.co.uk where I share short stories, advice, and guidance as well as other social links. Follow me! Would love some writing friends”

Of course, I had to promote myself, that was a given but I share this not for the promotion but the common sense. ‘Always an amateur’, this one statement peeked interest with a few including myself. I said it off the top of my head but when I read back it makes perfect sense. 

I’m surrounded by doubts, worries, people never thinking they’re good enough. People always striving to improve. Take note ‘improve’. You never stop learning and the term ‘amateur’ refers to inexperience, but everyone is inexperienced in some way otherwise there would be no room to improve, am I right? So, why beat yourself up about not being good enough? There is no highest level or top pedestal to reach so why do we do it? Strange post, I know. I would just like to put that thought in your head the next time you start beating yourself up about not doing enough. I’m not saying I don’t have these thoughts by any means. I have plenty of worries and doubts thanks to an anxiety problem but I don’t let that stop me.

You’re always an amateur. Always learning something new, always striving too improve. So why hold yourself back and limit yourself? I’m not excepting you to write a novel or jump off a cliff ski diving but too just except that you can never be perfect. Perfection is an impossibility. 

So, to any writers out there. Stop worrying about messing up and your work not being good enough. Write what you want to write and stop blaming writer’s block everytime you get ‘stuck’ with doubts. 

Want to be a writer? Then pick up a pen and write. 

Detective Mentis – Chapter 5

Another long day. Mentis collapses on the armchair. Once a place that he sort-out comfort and relaxation. Stress now sits comfortably on his temples. He’s aged considerably in the last 6 months. Silver Whiskers along his hairline have become snake-like tendrils through his balding head. His favourite radio show has gone unlistened for months. Mentis doesn’t recall the last time he ate some proper grub. Still, he needed to lose some weight. He could make money selling this new diet, he could call it the ‘Detective Doom Diet’ – ‘The stress of an endless case will have you dropping pounds in days’ 

Hell, he’s disillusion. Mentis gives himself a stern acknowledgment of his stupidity with a hoarse grunt just as he would if he was toning down Stinton’s anxieties. Something he’s had to do regularly over recent months. The horrors they all saw and helped drag up out the muddy depths hit a nerve with everyone in a way. Stinton more than most. He’s already been up for a psyche evaluation. Fortunately, he passed it. Since then though, the Cheif has had Mentis watch over him, as a mentor somewhat. Something that Mentis would prefer to avoid the duty of but he wouldn’t leave the lanky kid with Erickson instead. Besides, if he looks after the kid then it keeps Erickson at arm’s length.

For the most part, Erickson is putting in the effort. He’s filing some paperwork and even doing a lot of the questioning. On the one hand, it gives Mentis more time to focus on tracking the killer whilst Erickson gathers the evidence. On the other hand, Mentis feels he would do a better job and may pick on a few things that Erickson would miss in his questions. 

The phone lets out it’s annoying shrill and Mentis hurries to answer it. 

“Yes?” 

The other end of the line is quiet in response. Mentis hangs up the phone assuming it’s some kid with his friends pranking random numbers, he used to be one of them when he was a wee one. There’s a niggling feeling despite what he tells himself though. A whisper of the idea with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the killer he’s searching for could be the one ringing him. 

He shuns the idea to the side and locks it away but it’s not enough. In the morning he unplugs the phone, just in case. He has a mobile if it’s an emergency anyway. He can’t have any distractions today. 

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Later that morning, with paper in hand, Mentis steps up to the podium and gives his speech. He looks upon the many people in black, their mournful faces. Parents, friends, siblings, aunts, uncles, even a few pets. One of which, a rowdy Chihuahua, sits proudly on its owner’s lap, barking once in a while for attention.  73 in total. 73 families pulled apart in grief. They’ll never be the same again. Sure, many will pretend to move on but there will always be those lingering stares when people recognize them or a look too long at the front door, hoping for their loved ones to return knowing even then that they never will again. Mentis hated his job at times. This occasion was the top of his list. 

The service is meant as a consolation. The bodies were…investigated over the months which delayed any planned burials. When the bodies have been poked, prodded and digested they were finally allowed to be buried in peace. As much peace as can be had after the ordeal each went through. His words are prompt, professional. A lot of apologies and sorry for your losses. He doesn’t say anything about the killer or the fact that they haven’t found him. When his speech his done. He sits next to Stinton and stares at the ground while they finish the service. Blocking out the cries of the mother three rows back who breaks down in the middle of the service and screams her son’s name in heartfelt anguish.

In that moment he made a decision to himself. He would find the person responsible for these deaths even if it killed him. A decision he never thought would come around. 

Copyright 2018 

Chapter 6 coming soon. 

Writing Inspiration – Where and how to find it.

As a writer, you aren’t limited to where you find inspiration from. Everything and anything can inspire a writer. Everything from the mug of coffee in your hand to the bird sitting on a branch outside to the neighbour who annoys everyone they meet. Inspiration is everywhere if you understand what it is and get in the right mindset for seeing it and understanding what you see.  I would highly recommend reading my post on writing focus. In order to find inspiration, we must be focused.

Reading

Whether it’s reading a book, magazine or another blog. Reading is the easiest way to get inspiration as a writer and you can’t have one without the other. If you don’t read a lot, then you won’t make it as a writer. 

Listening to conversations

Everyone has those times where you’re walking through town doing errands and you can’t help but hear what others are talking. You will be surprised at how inspiring these overheard conversations can be for a writer. 

Media

Films, TV shows, Music, and Video games are all great sources of inspiration. Especially if they follow the same genre that you want to write in. Even the internet can be a source of inspiration. 

Writing with no target

Writing for the sake of writing can be a great help in finding inspiration for new stories or ideas. Just set a timer for ten minutes or so and jot down anything that comes to mind even if it ends up in the bin after, it may well give you inspiration and will certainly get your creative juices flowing and may even allow you to vent some of your frustrations or worries.  

Word Games 

Play word association games, scrabble, even charades. You can get inspiration from any word related games.  For example, pick 6 words out of a book and then create a 6-paragraph story from those words. 

Keep a Journal 

Try to get into a habit of carrying a notebook everywhere you go. Even if you’re just nipping to the shops. If ever you think of something great, then you need somewhere to write it down promptly before forgetting. This is a good thing to get into a habit of doing every day.

Change your environment

Sometimes just a change of scenery or setting can be enough to inspire you with a new idea. When you work in the same place all the time your brain becomes bored and inspiration and focus become difficult. 

Write what you see

If you’re really struggling for inspiration, then sometimes the simplest things can be the most inspiring. You know we talked about taking your journal everywhere with you? Try taking it somewhere simple like a park or even a meal out and write what you see. Everything from the colour of the grass at the park to the smell of the pasta dish you’re eating. every day in as much detail as possible without it being too wordy and pay attention to your surroundings. Spot the things other might not like the waitress giving a knowing look to another about a customer or maybe a child hitting another in the park. Little scenes like this can make all the difference in good stories so make notes for a later date. 

Lost your writing focus? Here’s how you can get it back.

Read a lot 

How many times have you been reading a book and all of a sudden an idea for that story you have been working on pops into your mind and you have to scribble it down before you forget? Use that to your advantage. If you’re struggling to focus, read for a while. Reading, after all, is research for writing. This gives you a break but keeps your mind in writers mode. 

Remove distractions

If something keeps pulling your focus whether it’s technology, people or even the outside world. Remove that distraction. Close your curtains and turn off that TV. 

Write for you

Everyone knows how good it can be to write down your thoughts and feelings or just scribble in a journal. Sometimes it’s good to vent like this with your writing. Writing crap is better than writing nothing at all. Everything you write is still a learning experience. So, grab some pen and paper and write down anything that comes to mind. Time yourself for say, 10 minutes and see what you write. You might surprise yourself. 

Make it a game

If you’re really struggling to focus think outside the box. Instead of seeing writing as a chore or just something you need to do. Make it fun and make it a game. Set yourself challenges such as completing a word count by a certain time or getting a reward when you’ve been writing for so long. This can force your brain into focus mode. You could even create some word of word games from your writing. Give yourself a break and see how many times you can use the word ‘sight’ in 300 words whilst making sure it still makes sense to the reader. Challenge accepted. 

Remind yourself why you’re doing it  

Sometimes a loss of focus can be because you’re doubting your skills as a writer or you have fallen out of love with what you’re writing. In that case, you need to remind yourself why you started writing in the first place. Focus on how it makes you feel.

Rewind

Similar to when you remind yourself why you started in the first place. Sometimes it can be as simple as rewinding or replaying the story in your mind or an idea for a story to be able to pick it up again. Sit back, get comfortable and ready what you’ve already written. That can be enough to make you focus again and can even give you a new insight into what’s next for your story.

Schedule time for writing

It’s too easy to avoid writing if you don’t set time for it. Just like setting time for housework, your job and even eating. You have to set time aside for writing. Creating a general schedule to keep to can really help with this so you know on Thursday Morning, for example, you will be writing the plot line for the story whereas Friday Evening you need to be focusing on spending time reading. This is also a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything throughout your week.

Play that funky music

There have been endless studies done on the effects of music on your focus and general mood. There are even playlists on Spotify for concentration. Sit down, relax and get in the mindset of writing with some appropriate music. 

Write or die 

There is writing software and tools out there that help you with your lack of focus. Well, when I say help, I mean to punish. The premise is, if you don’t write a certain amount of words or right continuously without a break for a whole thirty minutes then everything you have written will be deleted. It doesn’t work for everyone but it’s worth a try. I like the one attached to the software ‘Storyline Creator’.

Take a breather

If you have tried all of the above and still can’t seem to get back into writer’s mode then take a step back and take a break. Sometimes that is all you need. Write something completely different or don’t write anything at all for a few days.

Detective Mentis – Chapter 4

Body after body is pulled from the water in an endless cycle of horror. Each one with eerily similar signs to the other. Mentis loses count when the 18th is pulled from the water. It takes 2 weeks and an endless cycle of new faces from various policing departments far and wide to search every inch possible of the oceans harnessing depths below. At the end of one such day, as the night draws in once again, the chief, alongside a hierarchy of other credentials finally stop the search when it’s been 6 hours since the last body was found.

It’s been a long and tiring few weeks, both on Mentis’s body and mind. The events have taken an understandable toll on everyone. Erickson has been on his back, finding any chance to ridicule him or step on his toes while Stinton has been following in his footsteps. Asking Mentis questions with hidden notes of resentment and egocentrism. Mentis has been doing his best to function on little sleep and food. He’s already adjusted his belt to 3 settings tighter. Every time he got so much as a break he would get a call about another body being found and rush to the scene with a moment of hope that it may be different to the others. That there may be evidence on the body that it’s a suicidal death or just an accident. His hopes were always dashed when he unzipped the bags and saw those harrowed empty eye sockets. Men and women of all shapes and size. Even a boy as young as 10 have been found. The worst thing is, not all the bodies were complete. Legs here, arms there. Years or depredation on somebodies meant it was a jigsaw puzzle trying to work out what went where. Some of the older bodies have been checked by the coroner who estimated they could be around 40 years old.

All evidence points towards it being a dumping ground of a serial killer but they have no clues to who it is and where they are or even if they are still killing. They haven’t found Miss.Simms body so who knows. The earliest body they have found otherwise is already 6 months old. Standing at the edge of the field with Erickson by his side. They look over the grass coated with a layer of body bags. Covering the field like a haunted quilt that nobody would ever dare to wear. Even Erickson is quiet. Stinton is hovering in the wings, observing the scene with a face of terror, Mentis sent him to the side when they were halfway through the body count, Stinton became obviously detached and shaky, who knows how this is going to affect the young lad.

“I’ve never seen anything like this” Erickson is surprisingly considerate. Cases don’t normally affect him, or Mentis for that matter but this one has them both keeping them emotions back with a pitchfork.

“How many is there?”

The chief’s voice appears behind them. All the important people are here. Erickson looks a lot like his dad. Tall, dark, a perfect ladies man. Unlike Erickson though the chief doesn’t drink or anything else of the sort meaning he looks pretty ripe for someone of retirement age.

“73” Mentis forgets to call him sir but on such an occasion the chief decides to let it slide.

“Do you recognize anyone? Do we have any ID’s?”

Erickson answers his next question whilst Mentis signs a document handed to him.

“No, sir. No identities for anyone of them yet. We’ve got a lot of people working here and nobody recognizes any familiar faces and as far as we can tell they haven’t been reported missing”

Erickson has always been respectful to his father and very professional of their relationship. If only he could exert that professionalism for the rest of his job, he would make a good impression. As it stands though, the Chief keeps him on but always lumbers him with others in the department to try and keep him out of trouble.

“Miss.Simms has been the only one” Mentis intervenes. “I’ve asked two men to do a last sweep on the spot where I saw her jump”.

Mentis expects a whiplash from the chief about going behind his back but just as the chief opens his mouth the shout he’s been waiting for arrives.

“I think we found her!”

Mentis rushes to the aid of the two men dragging the body up. Not yet in a body bag it gives him a chance to do the once over. It’s the same lady who jumped of the cliff and started all this.

“It’s Miss.Simms. I don’t believe it” Erickson has only ever glanced at the case information.

“We can’t be sure Erickson”

“Yes, we can. Look at her left arm. You see that tattoo on her wrist”

It’s a tattoo of a swallow in drowning waters. Mentis remembers seeing it from the paperwork and thinking how tasteless it was. He’d never seen a tattoo like it. It was a strong confirmation that it’s Miss.Simms in their minds. A grunt of disapproval escapes his lips. Mentis did the hard work and yet Erickson turns up in his drunken state and can identify the body as quick as he can down a pint.

The chiefs authoritative voice snaps them back to focus.

“Erickson. Go call her parents. Get them down to the station. Mentis, I want you to get all these bodies sent to the coroners and start digging for information. Literally, if you must. Witnesses, evidence, anything you can find is brought to me first”

With Mentis’s nod of agreement and Erickson’s’ figure already in the distance the chief heads back to his car. Now alone, Mentis does a quick check on her body and checks her stomach for the words like the others. This is the only body they recognise and it may be a clue to the killer, a good starting point. Scrawled on her stomach the letters are fresh, possibly a few weeks, maybe they were put there the day she was on the edge of the cliff. These words are different though. They cause hairs to stick up on the back of his neck and he scans the area for any suspicious activity. Standing up he retreats towards the cars and gets straight onto the phone.

On Miss.Simms stomach, scrawled in capital letters across her abdomen are the words “YOU’RE NEXT”

Copyright 2018 

To continue reading head to chapter 5.