1963

A piece i wrote that got rejected from a competition. well screw you manchester library, i like it.
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1963
I remember that the forecast said it would rain tonight, that the ground would churn itself up and wash away in a slough of muddy water, but not a single drop has fallen. No birds have sung, no people have walked past; since I turned off the engine the world has been completely quiet and even though I strain to hear any semblance of life, there is nothing.
It is as silent as a shallow grave.
It was clear when I first drove up here, I could see the acres of cotton grass stretched out in front of me, extending for miles, and the shadows created by the subsiding sun gave the illusion of so much more, a sense of forever. Then, it was gone, covered in thick plumes of fog and suddenly every jagged rock became a ghost in the dark, grinning at me with shark’s teeth. It amazed me how quickly it all changed.
In a couple of minutes, a lifetime of land was reduced to nothing. Everything living was gone. Dead.
It’s evening now, the sun has long been retired, and although it’s only been twenty minutes since I parked the van up here, we started late.
My Gran used to warn me not to walk alone at night, not on the streets, not on the moors, not anywhere, never alone. I didn’t really understand why but I do now. I know the reason for her looking at me with fear reflected in her glasses when I walked home from school on winter nights, why she promised me every day that she would begin meeting me outside the gates so we could return home together. I never understood why she worried but I do now.
She never did meet me outside of school; she decided that I was too short and too androgynous for anyone to want to steal me off the streets, and even though she only chastised me for it when I came through the door and distracted her from whatever she was watching, she continued to warn me: never walk alone at night.
I think of her now as I look around at the vehicle I’m sitting in. The van is large, and the van is empty but I’m not alone so my grandmother’s caution doesn’t count. I’m not alone so I’m not breaking any of the rules that she set down for me when I was a girl.
I’m not breaking any rules at all.
I know right from wrong like I know the back of my hand and there’s nothing wrong with sitting in a van parked up on the moor on a Friday night. This is exactly what I tell myself as I sit there, my hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that they’re white as sin forgiven.
My boyfriend will be back soon and he’ll fill this void of loneliness that Gran cautioned me about.
I know I love him. I love that he’s intelligent and confident and different, and he knows about things that my tiny mind can’t even grasp, though I try, and through this enlightenment comes an overwhelming sense of pride because whatever he has done, I have done; when we’re together I can share in his achievements and I’m just as smart as he is.
He had replaced the banality of my life with limitless freedom.
I hope he loves me, my boyfriend, and will marry me someday.
I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the rear-view mirror, a soft smile on my face as I lightly touch the half-moon marks of teeth that lie disjointedly round my shoulder. These tokens of our romance extend down my chest and arms; the bruising bursts out in a panoply of colour, a shower of pigmented red that fades to plum that trails down to old yellowish blotches. I am a chameleon, and he is always teaching me how to change my colours.
He is cruel and selfish, and I love him.
I check my watch, a tight pull of fear in my throat. I wait.
Tonight, I will go home and I will get into bed and I will sleep but a part of me won’t be there. Tonight, there is a part of me that I will leave behind. When I was a child, I was picked on fiercely, I was chased and pushed and pulled but I would not let them get to me. In retaliation I learned to fight; I gave my bullies black eyes and broken noses and they ran home crying.
But tonight, I will leave that behind.
I will abandon my fight, I will desert that retaliation and I will submit.
And when I pull away from here, I will see that child standing alone on the moor, the child who bleached her hair for fear of looking like a boy, the child who resisted her demons, I will see that child and I will leave her there, alone.
For that part of me, there will be no return.
Suddenly there are hands on the window, it shudders loudly and I’m cringing like a beaten dog.
There is a scrabbling of metal and the fear in the back of my throat is back again, only now it’s mixed with so much excitement, so much apprehension that it feels like it might bubble up and spill out over the cracks of my closed lips.
Abruptly, the door is heaved open and he, my boyfriend, swings into the passenger’s seat beside me. He looks at me briefly, shaking and giddy and like a dreadful contagion I find that I am beginning to shake too. My eyes are bright and I am nauseous, I am fearful and sick and exhilarated because wherever he has gone, I have gone.
Trembling, he picks up a towel from the footwell.
There is blood on his hands and his trousers are stained a sticky black.
My boyfriend looks at me, he is alive.
“Drive Myra,” He says to me.
And I do.
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