Wednesday, 1 April 2009

On The Hill - Short Story

This story I have never shared with anyone, but it really shows where I was at at the end of the 1980s. My production of short fiction began to dry up in 1989, partly as I was coming up to finals and partly because I was deep in to writing 'The Karskoe Assassin'. In addition, I had been utterly shorn of all those wistful thoughts I had had before coming to university. Oxford remained untouched as the refuge, the fantasy you could visit, but all my hopes for the university experience I had imagined, were now dashed. I only got a 2:1 when I expected a first. I had had a nightmare of a time in West Germany where I had tried to hang myself and basically did not because I had received money from the EEC as it was then to study there and I thought I might as well drink what I had been given. I had drunk a hell of a lot and had made good friends, some I still know today, while over there which had been a consolation. Coming back to the UK I drank for 21 days without stopping, getting through at least 4 pints (2.72 litres - my limit before I start vomiting) each night in the hope it would kill me. Reflecting on that, given the 'Leaving Las Vegas' approach I adopted perhaps I got a good grade. I do think a huge blunder was to follow the advice of a tutor that I should read a quality newspaper every day as being such a slow reader, it took all morning and those hours would have been better spent in revision.

Anyway, I got diabetes and for someone who bobs along just outside being suicidal that seemed great news because it meant I had my own 'get out of jail free' card. All the complex planning I had been doing throughout my teenage and student years was no longer necessary. I knew that I could at least put myself into a coma if not kill myself simply by injecting the drugs I was prescribed. This story, then was both a celebration of this newly gained ability and also an attempt to explaint to those who see suicide as something so horrific, how different it can seem to those contemplating it. I have always seen it as a release, not a burden and I still think even 20 years later this story sums up my viewpoint.

On the Hill

He carefully checked the two envelopes for the last time and sealed them down. He laid them carefully on the back seat, the names written clearly in blue biro, face up. He stared briefly from the car park out over the fields of the valley below and the sandy, pine covered hill opposite where he sat.

He leant over to the glove compartment and pulled out the syringe and phial. He looked around guiltily but the car park was still empty. Though the day was sunny, it was a weekday, and early. He hoped no dog walkers would put in a sudden appearance. Quickly, his fingers twitching he rolled back the sleeve, piling the cloth of the shirt into a tight bundle just up from the elbow. His blood was rushing as he drew up the first of the injections.

He paused, like most of us he loathed syringes. Then again he reminded himself of all the alternatives his mind had conjured up as he lay sleepless and sticky, staring at the dark ceiling. He ran through the gallery of images of his corpse that he had drawn in his mind over many months. The falls from tall, always old buildings, swinging from a rope suspended above a stairwell, his ankles banging against the metal bnnisters, and the fantasy of the discarded pistol. They were all there, from the blends of death and vodka to the grotesque flaming body. He had wanted private deaths and public ones too. He sighed once more. This had presented him the best way, a little in local papers, possibly an air of mystery, not much pain, it had it all.

He pushed the needle in. It was not much to face to achieve all that. He reckoned he needed three of these shots. He pushed down the plunger. he was already on the way. Still the choking, clinging depression hung around his sides, shoulders and back. It was such a tight coat that he had even forgotten to think what life could be without the gloom. It made everything so futile. All the alternative routes for the years ahead came up against walls. His imagination ran down paths like a rat, dodging obstacles trying to come up with something not unbearable. Even when he found something vaguely viable, something reminded him that it would fail always kicked in. The past was regret, the future was fear. Now was only the road between the two.

He pumped the other two doses in quickly. Satisfied he packed the phial and syringe back into the glove compartment and locked it. He waited, breathing gently, but he could feel not change yet. He was glad as there were still things to do, even with this fast acting stuff there were a few last minutes. He lay all the keys on the passenger seat and stepped out of the car. He held the door handle up as he slammed the door shut. Everything was locked inside, nothing in there could halt the process now, but he wanted to make sure that in weakness he would not try to drag something from there, beg for respite from the seat covers, for a second chance at the dashboard.

He ran away from the car, activity would speed the process. The drug was pushed on its way by his heart. He slowed and wandered down the slope, past the line of the trees out onto the wide field expanse of the hill. The grass was long and yellowy green as it stretched away from him.

He felt release, now there were no longer worries of being alone, no concerns about money, the terror of the drudge of work slipped from his mind. He stood there feeling the slight breeze through his favourite shirt and baggy trousers. There were few sounds. He felt joy, the shackles had gone. Worry was lifted from him, left behind with his life in the locked car. He smiled. His views were confirmed, he knew there was no god nor devil clutching at him, as his superstitions had falsely warned him there would be. This was the life he had been unable to imagine, contained in moments but enough for ever.

He could feel the faint buzz in his blood, the metallic taste in his mouth, the metallic whine rising in his ears as the drug took hold for the last time. As the patches of colour grew before his eyes he staggered a few more steps with the long grass shoots snatching after his calves. He was drunk on the sensation. He had his fill every moment.

His body fell backwards into the deep grass, his breathing was quickly fading, but he had already gone.

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