My Dissertation aka My Novel

If it isn’t already clear to those of you who have been following this blog for nearly a year now (wow) or you haven’t read anything about who I am from way back in my first post; I am an English Literature with Creative Writing graduate. For my dissertation, I had to produce a piece of creative writing with a critical commentary and I chose to start a novel. Now, the trauma of tackling something as large and important as a dissertation has meant that I have neglected this piece of writing for quite some time and I did try to return to it when I was in Barcelona but other bits of writing have gotten in the way. But here I am again, thinking about this piece that I was so excited to get to when I first started planning it out and now makes me wince a little when I remember it or look at the date I last edited it.

I’ll stop moaning about my lack of motivation now and get on to what I actually want to do, which is share a little bit more of this thing I spent so many hours on. The introduction is available to read here if you haven’t already. The section I have cut out in between here was a new part where the other main character was introduced but as I haven’t had a lot of time to think about them and what they will be doing within the overall story, I’m not ready to share them. Enjoy!

I find myself hopping in the same way she did that day and quickly stop myself. The archway is standing in front of me but the pretty pink pastel paint has faded and peeled with the years of neglect. It’s even bled onto the ground giving the stones a dirty flesh hue. I need to pass through here to reach my new home and as I walk up the steps my feet crunch on the broken tiles that have slid off the roof. Half of the archway looks as though it is being digested rapidly by the unyielding appetite of time. With each wary step, I ascend higher and watch my shadow stick behind me but it doesn’t slow me down. I keep climbing and it stretches as it desperately clings to the light until it snaps from my soles completely. I pause for a second and make sure I wipe the remains from my feet, giving each foot a sharp shake.

The rain is dripping through the holes in the roof above me but I can’t feel it touching my skin. To my left is a door – it’s ajar and I presume it leads to the small viewing platform in the arch that used to allow visitors to admire the grounds. I know I should be moving forward but I have a sudden, pressing need to go through the door. Without much thought, I walk towards the door and under the force of my palm it swings violently and with no complaint from its rotten hinges. My regret is instant. The room is filled with bodies, blue and with bloated faces. They are a mass of limbs, so tightly entwined that all recognisable facial features are erased – except for the mouths. A thick tide of foam is dribbling from each one and I can hear them choking on their own breath. I feel the food in my stomach rising but I manage to stumble out before it can travel all the way up my throat.

“I know what will happen. I know what I am doing. It needs to be done. They aren’t real. They aren’t real.” I’m whispering this mantra to myself for a while because when I come to I am sitting with my head between my knees, which push on my temples like a vice to squash the image out. The rain has stopped but a few rogue drips fall on me and find the gap between the collar of my shirt and my neck. I picture the drop carving its path down my back, along my spine before disappearing around my hips. My mind feels clearer. I think my first meeting with the leader. He knew my thoughts, my problems, without me ever saying a word. He called me important, even special. I think about this as I push myself up from the ground and force myself to look back in to the room. This time, I can see that it’s empty. I close the door firmly and move through the archway.

The park is laid out before me – quaint yet deserted imitation Dutch houses encircle me, each one is painted in pastel colours. I begin to spin so they all blur into a kaleidoscope pattern. The windows are so thickly coated in dust that peering inside isn’t an option but I see that one pane in the pale blue house is smashed but the glass is littering the flags outside. An uneasy feeling grows in my stomach again and I decide that I don’t want to know what’s inside. Instead, I follow the weed-speckled brick path that wobbles under each footfall. The cement cracks beneath me and the flakes hop on to my shoes. I picture each piece as though it were a little hitchhiker that’s tired of being jammed in one valley. When I look up again I’ve reached him – the Hollow Man. He was the centrepiece of this theme park before it was abandoned but now he has a purpose again.

I think back to being a child, I would visit the park with my mother and climb over the brown tendrils of metal that make his hair and sit atop his nose. The other children could never make it as high as me and I would shout to my mother but she never seemed able to hear me. I would flail my arms and keep screaming ‘Mother! Mother!’ but her eyes never lifted from her lap. I would play and she would just sit, intensely staring at her hands for hours. If I left her alone for too long I’d come back to her picking the skin around her nails until blood seeped out. I’d clean her up in the bathroom and kiss each finger better, then hold her hand to stop her from opening the cuts again but I couldn’t do that all the time.

The Hollow Man seems bigger to me now than he had done as a child. His gaudy, yellow jacket and salmon pink trousers would be unbearable to look at on a clear day but the most grotesque about his swollen man was his face. The years had taken their toll, washing out his skin so he looked decrepit and somewhat anaemic, which only accentuated the ugliness of his sneering expression with eyes of unblinking cobalt blue. When I try to get a foothold in his hair to push myself up and on to him in the way I had done countless times before, my hands slip and slide over his slimy body. It’s hopeless. Despite looking dead I am still anxious that he might sit up at any moment, revealing everything. My desire to climb is swiftly replaced by my need to check the sturdiness of each twist of metal rope that keeps him tethered to the ground. Once I am sure, the panic evaporates and I am standing next to the hand of the beast.

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