Shortly after leaving university I took my first full time job. It was in a bank. On the first day at work we had an ice breaker session where we got to know the other new starters. There were about a dozen of us. Almost all graduates. One, with a law degree from Oxford. All for a minimum wage admin job (prospects for graduates were actually better in those days too). The task was to say a bit about yourself and where you ultimately saw your career heading. Like everybody else, I did not intend to stay at the bank and confidently declared that one day I would become a writer.
I worked at the bank for over four years before eventually having a mini breakdown and running away to the other side of the world! At some point during those wasted years I forgot all about wanting to write. In fact, even ten years later when I had rekindled my passion and begun working on my first novel, I was still unable to recall that early dream, and more importantly, what I had been doing at the time to make it a reality.
Then last Christmas when I was home for the holidays, I was searching through some old boxes looking for my uni coursework to give to my sister in law (she is now studying the same course) when I came across a file full of unexpected papers. There were plot outlines for numerous short stories and two novels, a comprehensive list of character bios for the sitcom I planned to write (yes, really) and a few sheets filled with a pretty cool stream of consciousness exercise I was doing to expand my imagination. All of it I had completely forgotten about. In fact, it took several readings of everything before I was even convinced that it was my work.
For the most part, much of the material is completely unusable. My passions and interests are very different now to what they were at twenty two. Finding this stash did, however, make it clear that in some way, I am destined to write. Even during my “lost” years, I was a constant day dreamer. Always letting my mind drift away to a different place. Never focussed on what I was doing at the time. I may be completely different to the young man I once was, but the need to create stories remains unchanged.
Below is the beginning to what would have been the first chapter to one of the novels. I think it was originally intended to be a vampire story (long before vampire stories were briefly cool, and then completely overdone, and then uncool again). It is rough and parts now make me cringe, but it was also my very first (albeit short lived attempt at writing a novel)
Connor looked up at the world. He had no other choice. When you are flat on the ground, up is the only place you can look. As you do, perspective begins to distort and mocks the laws of physics. The whole world extends away from you, only to merge at a single point a million miles distant, yet right beneath your fingertips. The sky becomes a vast ocean, and the buildings its islands. Connor’s assailant is fifty feet tall. A monolith whose leg is bearing swiftly toward him like an archaic battering ram of old.
If he is to make it through this encounter, Connor must regain his bearings fast. His reactions must be perfect. There is no time to second guess. As the blow strikes, he thrusts his arms out toward it. Feeling the momentum, he quickly takes control of it. Redirecting the danger away, he springs effortlessly to his feet, displaying the kind of medal-winning agility that only the boldest of athletes can command.
For the first time, Connor has a clear view of his attacker. It is no more than a kid. A faded brown leather jacket that looks as though it has been backed over by a double decker bus, accommodates a broad yet emaciated frame. Gradual deterioration from months of drug abuse, Connor wonders. A freshly carved scar, not more than a couple of days old, adorns the youth’s face. Now on an equal footing, the youth slowly begins to back down the alleyway, toward the open street, goading his victim at each step. Connor sees his chance. He launches himself toward his foe, frenzied and uncontrolled. This is a mistake.
Just feet away from administering that vital blow, a blinding light stops him dead in his tracks. Stunned and disorientated, he identifies the source of the illumination too late. The car clips him side on, knocking him hard against the graffiti emblazoned walls of the alleyway. As his sense return, he can just make out the vehicle reversing to line up a second run.
‘What kept you? He almost got away,’ barks the youth as he clambers into the passenger seat, his fingers taking a firm grip on the dashboard.
‘You were supposed to draw him out of the alley. We go in too far after him and I’m in serious danger of fucking a fender.’ The driver is now beginning to wish she had opted for the idea of using a stolen car, but this being their first attempted murder they had been left wanting in foresight.
‘Fuck it! Just go in after him. We’ve gotta do this now or else I’m fucking dead, d’ya hear?’ He grabs the wheel from her, steering the vehicle back towards the alleyway.
‘Jesus, Rick! Do you want to kill the two of us too?’ She wrestles control back of the car as they speed towards their stricken target.
Clinging to the side of the alley walls to support his near useless legs, Connor sees no other alternative. As the car hits him a second time, he is prepared. His leap is timed to perfection. Rolling onto the bonnet as the car screeches to a halt just inches from the concrete wall at the end of the alleyway, he clambers onto the car’s roof. It is a sea green Ford. The roof is not sturdy under his feet, but with the extra height of the car he can make it over the wall no problem. Landing on the other side, the pain in his leg becomes more apparent. He manages four, no five steps before falling helplessly to the ground. The scene takes on that now familiar foreboding as to one who looks up at the world.
This second alley is larger than the last. A rusted fire escape extends down on to a green trash skip. Overflowing with garbage, it appears some time since it was last emptied. A black Tom in the corner acknowledges Connor’s entrance with a shrill cry before dashing away to go about its nightly scavenge elsewhere.
Connor quickly surveys his surroundings for any form of salvation. In the movies the fire escape would make for the perfect means of release. This is not the movies. Considering the ladder is folded up a good fifteen feet in the air, it does not appear to be an option. A superhuman could not make that jump, let alone a cripple with one good leg.
Connor looks down at his battered leg.
‘Fuck!’ The torn shreds of his jeans peel away, agonisingly revealing a putrid cocktail of mangled flesh and muscle.
He knows it is only a matter of time before they find him again. The skip holds the only possibility of salvation. If he can remain hidden until nightfall, that is. Using what little strength he has left in his arms, he pulls himself towards it. The damp on the ground enables his limp legs to slide more easily through the dirt. There is maybe three quarter of a foot’s clearance underneath. It will have to do. As he takes refuge under the bin, Connor, like any man facing certain death, begins to dwell upon what events had conspired to hand him such a cruel fate. His mind casts back to a girl, the most beautiful he had ever seen. It seemed an age now, he thought. A different time. A different place. A different world...
And that was as far as I got before life (more specifically, a soul crushing day job) got in the way. In the intervening years I not only forgot what I had written, but I even forgot that I had wanted to be a writer in the first place. Going forward, that is something that I must never allow to happen again.