Scorned.

4 01 2014

I’m Ryan Bracha. Author of Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed yet, Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, and a collection of stories that I’ll just refer to as Bogies. I work very closely with the Paddy’s Daddy head honcho Mark Wilson, and we like to bounce ideas off of one another, say when something works and when something doesn’t, it’s good to have an honest opinion from a fellow professional. Although I publish everything myself, I’ll always acknowledge PDP and what it stands for, which is quality stories by quality writers. I like how we roll and I hope it continues for a while yet. When I was writing my forthcoming novel, Paul Carter is a Dead Man, which is a dystopian satirical thriller set in a world where Britain has closed its doors to the world after a terrorist attack, and lives are led on a distorted version of Facebook, I made a decision to write a series of short stories that would be free to read for whoever wanted to take a look. They’ll be set in the world that I’ve created, and I will release one short story every month for the whole of 2014. I stole the idea from a band I went to see a couple of months back, and it seemed like a really good way of doing things. I approached Mark with the idea, and asked if I could use this blog as a platform from which to send these stories into the world. He loved it, and said ‘Aye, course ye can ye wee bawbag,” or words to that effect. So here I am, introducing both me, my books, and the year of Paul Carter. The following passage is the exclusive first short story – Scorned – which is a sneak peek into the whole new alternate reality I’ve created, and will hopefully get you revved up for the release of Paul Carter is a Dead Man on Friday January 17th 2014. Please. Enjoy.

 

Scorned

I log in to The Network. Two communication alerts. Big deal. One is an advertising notice. Hi FREDDY, based on your recent Network browsing history, we would like to take an opportunity to offer you 50% OFF THE RECOMMENDED PRICE OF SMITH’S WEIGHTLOSS POWDER. Click here. I’ve received this same offer twice this week already. The other communication is from Claire. Nothing special. Either the notification, or Claire. It’s just a belated response to something I said in the Fruity Basher forum before I retired to bed last night. I remove both alerts from my communication folder and put it away.

Claire’s one of those people that needs to respond to everything, and as a result I can have a throwaway comment turn into a four day conversation. If I don’t respond within an hour or two I’ll receive a carbon copy of the last communication. She panics that it hasn’t sent properly or something. Needy, is one word for her. I’d remove her from my connection list but for two reasons. One, I’m a nice bloke. Two, she lives in a flat two floors above me, and sometimes we get together to combine connections in more ways than The Network can offer us. Okay, technically that’s three reasons, but she’s not my girlfriend. She will never be my girlfriend. I think she knows this. I’m sure I’ve told her.

For obvious reasons I avoid the Fruity Basher forum just now, and have a browse of the Crime Network. It seems like a lot of people have been bad over the last day, as there are currently ninety people being held for judgment across the country. This is quite a high number. I don’t like to judge people from my own region too much, just in case I bump into them. It’s not like I go out much. It’s just, well, you never know. I open the Devine Law Enforcement synopsis and browse the London criminals. Wayne Sables, of the Wayne Sables Dance synopsis. Apparently he’d reached the end of his tether when a ten year old failed to exactly replicate the move that he was performing on his teaching broadcast. Spewed a barrage of foul language. Threatened her life. Threatened the lives of her parents. Of course he’s up for judgment. He’s begging us for forgiveness. Says he’ll never do it again. It was just a momentary lapse of concentration. He’ll pay the family a huge compensation. Now, I’m thinking that the family are hoping we let him off, they could maybe do with the money he’s talking about. But that’s not the point. The point, is that he’s broken The Guidelines. What kind of animal would swear in front of a child? Not me. I told you, I’m a nice bloke. I condemn Wayne Sables and his unpredictable temper, and judge him guilty. I’ll keep an eye on that one.

Aside from the dancing maniac, there’s a murderer by the name of Adam Bamforth. He killed two women in a fit of rage after they’d rejected his Connection Combination requests. He has huge curly hair, and this makes me laugh, so I click him not guilty. The next man, a Pretend British by the name of John Smith (definitely not his birth name), looks out from his judgment chamber with bright red eyes. He’s uttering a language I’ll never understand or acknowledge. He’s doing himself no favours. We’re a united New Britain, and he’s making a mockery of it for us all to see. Guilty. I don’t care what he’s done, or what he hasn’t done. He’s offending me here and now.

Claire Thompson: HEY FRED xxxxxxxxxx

Claire. A private message. I sigh. Contemplate ignoring it. The thing is, she’ll be down the stairs in a flash, under the pretence that she was checking I was safe since I hadn’t responded quickly enough.

Freddy Chambers: Hi Claire

Claire Thompson: No kisses? 😦 xxxxxxxxxx

I sigh again. Blink slowly in annoyance. At myself more than anything. I know how she gets. It was a weird thing to start with. It happened after we’d slept together the first time. She’d stick a couple of x at the end of a sentence. I’d return them to be polite. Then she’d push it and add a couple more after the second time. Up to six after the third time. Luckily for me she limited it to ten. I asked her about it once, she said more than ten would be weird. I curse inwardly and type out ten kisses for her. She responds by way of a colon and a closing bracket to denote a smiling face. And then another ten kisses.

Claire Thompson: 🙂 xxxxxxxxxx

I return my attention to the Crime Network and-

Claire Thompson: So what you looking at on Crime? xxxxxxxxxx

Freddy Chambers: London, a bloke who swore at a ten year old! xxxxxxxxxx

Claire Thompson: No way? Did you judge him? xxxxxxxxxx

Freddy Chambers: Of course 🙂 xxxxxxxxxx

Claire Thompson: Good 🙂 xxxxxxxxxx

She says nothing, so I minimise her messages and try to continue, but the fact of it is that she’s thrown me off now. I can’t concentrate. Sometimes there’s nothing more fun than browsing Crime for hours and judging others. It’s one of my favourite things about The Network. About New Britain in general. We can really make a difference now. Before, all we had to do was complain and watch nothing happen. Robert Lodge really knows us. How we think. What we want. We wanted our country back. We wanted capital punishment. We wanted our decisions to make a difference. He gave it all to us and asked for us to simply follow The Guidelines in return. I think we got the best side of the bargain to be honest.

Claire Thompson: What you doing now? xxxxxxxxxx

Freddy Chambers: Not much xxxxxxxxxx

Claire Thompson: Want some company? 😉 xxxxxxxxxx

She means, well, you know what she means. I’m tired though, in more ways than one. I type a carefully thought out rejection. I’m tired. Maybe later if she’s still up for it. That kind of thing. I even put twelve kisses on the end and a smiley face. She says nothing. I sigh. She’s not my girlfriend. I definitely told her that. I think.

I click onto Fruity Basher, but now she’s burrowed into my head. I know how she gets. Three games pass without word from Claire. Admittedly they are games which end quickly as I struggle to concentrate. I click open her message window and still there’s nothing. She can be such a child sometimes. Usually when she doesn’t get her own way. The silent treatment. I consider typing a retraction, get her downstairs and do what I need to, but no. She is not my girlfriend. I’m seventy five per cent sure I told her this. I should tell her.

Freddy Chambers: You know I’m not your boyfriend, don’t you? I told you didn’t I?

No kisses. Not yet. I need to know that she knows where we stand.

Claire Thompson: No Fred. You didn’t. x

She disappears from The Network. Logs off. Nothing. She didn’t know. I’m sure I remember telling her. It was one night, in the early days. I told her I wasn’t looking for a relationship. That I was happy being single but it didn’t hurt for two single people to find fun together. I told her this. She said it was fine. I’m sure it was her. Another message.

Sally Cutts: Hey handsome, wanna get together for a little no-strings fun again later?

Sally. Oh God. It was Sally that I said it to. It was Sally who was just after the same thing as me. I’m such an idiot. There’s a knock at the door. My heartbeat kicks up a gear as I approach it. I have no idea what I’m going to say. What I’m going to do. I can see her through the eye-hole to the corridor. Her chubby face and lank greasy brown hair. It looks worse when I open the door.

“Claire, I’m glad you came down. Look, listen, I-”

I take a full blown ball of spit to the face. I deserved it, I guess. I don’t know what else to say. We stand looking at one another briefly, before a malevolent smile writhes uncomfortably onto her face. I don’t like it. It doesn’t suit her. I need to break the tension but I’m not used to thinking on my feet. On The Network I can type carefully constructed responses to everything. In person I’m useless. I’m not sure it was always that way.

“Okay, I deserved that. I’m sorry, I thought you knew it was just sex, all of the other girls do-”

I’m so bad at this. I reach out to her but her hands slither from my grasp.

“I’ll show you what you deserve, you slimy bandstand.”

THUMP.

Her face smashes hard into the wall.

“No! Freddy! Don’t!” she wails, “Please!”

THUMP.

I hear her nose break.

“Freddy! Please let me go!”

THUMP.

There’s a crimson face mask against the dirty cream wallpaper. An identical imprint of Claire’s visage.

THUMP.

I haven’t touched her. She’s done this to herself. She stumbles toward me. Pulls me close and embraces me. I’m covered in her blood. It’s on my clothes. My hands. I feel cold as a breeze tickles the sticky moisture all over me. Suddenly I push her away from me, horrified, and she turns, crying, and clambers up the stairs slowly, leaving a sticky deep red trail of her own blood behind her. I have no idea what just happened. What did just happen? I can smell the subtle metallic odour of her blood all over me and it threatens to dislodge the non-brand noodles I had for lunch from my stomach. Her face, it was battered. Why did she do that to herself? I don’t know. I need to clean myself up. I need to speak with her. She’s a mess.

I return to my seat and open up her message screen. She’s back on The Network.

Freddy Chambers: Claire, we need to talk

Network Automated Response: It is not possible to send a Network Communication to a citizen who has made a Crime Network Allegation against you. Please desist.

Freddy Chambers: Claire?

Network Automated Response: It is not possible to send a Network Communication to a citizen who has made a Crime Network Allegation against you. Please desist.

My world comes crashing down around me. I know what she’s done. I stand up. Pace the room. Think. Surely not. She wouldn’t do that. I return to the computer and search my name on the Crime Network.

Freddy Chambers, twenty four, is wanted by Tough Justice on one count of vicious domestic assault against his loving girlfriend, Claire Thompson. Should he attempt to contact you then you must send a Network Communication to Tough Justice, or any other government authorised crew. Failure to do so will result in lawful detainment, and your punishment put out for the standard twenty four hours. The maximum punishment permitted will be death.

My mouth is suddenly dry. My breathing shallow. I can feel my legs weaken. The room spins. I could run. I’m innocent. I should run. I’m innocent! But there’s no point. They’ll get me. They always get you in the end. I feel my backside drop back into my seat, and I light a cigarette. Feel the nicotine course into my blood. It doesn’t help my focus, but it feels nice. I relax. I’m not going to run. Like I say, they always get you in the end.

 

 

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2 responses

4 01 2014
ClaireECruddas

I absolutely love the title of your novel, Just Friends you Haven’t Killed Yet. That’s great 🙂

9 02 2014

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