It’s that time of year (finally)
Now that uni is pretty much finished I’ve been trying to clear up my desktop from the sea of little folders and random pictures that have sprouted there like bathroom mold. So in among the skeletons I found this drawing I’d done some time ago for the first Inquisitor Carrow story of Lockhart and his rather nasty end. It’s a little rough around the edges so I’ve tweaked it a little and then added a bit of basic colour, but you get the idea 🙂 I’m busily writing the sequel at the moment and trying to stop of it from tying its plot in knots; it’s proving difficult, a bit like wrestling eels. I’ll get there in the end 😀
This was the exhibition of the Richard Harris collection at the Wellcome Trust held between November 2012 and February 2013. This was also the inspiration for my Final Major Project.
It has been many years since I went to London and then I saw this exhibition reviewed on the BBC website and I vowed I would go, a sort of New Year’s resolution if you will 🙂 In fact, in the end I managed to see it twice and enjoyed even more the second time.
This exhibition was laid out in a series of rooms which each dealt with a different aspect of death, each dealing with the different ways cultures and people have come to to cope and understand the loss of love ones and the ultimate end.
But I think it was the sheer variety of objects on display that was truly impressive. They didn’t have to be great works of art, though of course there were items by well known artists, most prominently being the series of prints “The War” by Otto Dix which were displayed all together as a wall of sheer pain and survival. But in fact many of the items were quite rustic, ordinary in their way, made by or of anonymous individuals. And this was very much the impression I left with, the sheer normalcy and everyday-ness of death.
And the cafe was very good too 🙂
So I’ve been bitten by the writing bug which had lain dormant for so long and has, for the last year or so manifested itself as fanfiction. I have finally written an original piece, a companion to a series of illustrations for my Major Project for my degree. Yes, I have finally finished it 🙂 So please, read and enjoy.
The dying sunlight gradually oozed its way across the graveyard drenching the headstones in glorious reds and oranges, as the sun slowly slipped behind the wintery trees and over the horizon. The icy breeze sighed through the bare branches and dead leaves, around the monuments and stone urns, whistling past all the headstones, some old and weathered, the names of the dead worn away, others new and crisp with fresh flowers before them. And as it went, it brought with it the murmuring of tiny voices just on the edge of hearing.
“…wake up…wake up…” they murmured, for this was the night when the already flimsy barrier between the living and the dead became even more insubstantial, for this was Halloween, Samhain of old, when the dead walked out of the dark, and mingled with the living.
The darkness was cloying, weighing down on him so he tried to push it away, finding flimsy wood so very close to his face. It gave way with a damp snap and a rush of earth. Panicking, he frantically clawed his way free of the suffocating avalanche, almost swimming in the shifting soil, as he desperately tried to reach the surface and air…freedom…light.
His hand broke free of the surface, and slowly, painfully, he pulled himself out of the shifting hole, shaking off soil, spitting out earth, until he lay spread-eagled and panting for breath on the cool ground, revelling in the fresh crisp feeling of the grass beneath his hands, and the sensation of the wind, as it brought him the sounds of nearby traffic, and night-time animals going about their business.
What was he doing here? He looked around in bewilderment, a horrible suspicion niggling at the back of his mind. Well, he’d better get home before Mum had kittens, and the sooner he cleaned the mud off the better; she’d go spare if she saw him in this state.
The streets were the same but oddly different, tiny unfamiliar houses poked in in strange places which just fuelled his confusion…but he’d found it…his home street…where he should be. A new build house, detached with a built in garage, and a through lounge with a very stylish feature stone fire place, Mum was particularly proud of it. The last thing he remembered was he and Dad re-concreting the drive.
He blinked in surprise as he realised he’d reached the end of the road. Retracing his steps he carefully checked the house numbers…42…40…38…36…
This was his house, but it was not his home, the place his parents had bought together, had D.I.Y’d together, decorated and gardened together. They had worked hard to make it their own. And now it was as if someone had wiped away all their little touches. Nothing remained; if he didn’t know otherwise, he would have thought this a completely different building. Frankly, it looked ridiculous with its chunky white window frames and the curvy brick paved drive, and why would anyone coat the borders with chips of wood? The back garden wasn’t much better, with a funny little conservatory trying to look like one of those old fashioned ones his Nana Olive had had when he was really little, and a patio thingy made out of slats of wood. The miserable so-and-so’s had even had the cheek to get rid of the little concrete model of a Swiss chalet that Dad had spent ages making.
This was no longer his family home and obviously hadn’t been for a while.
What was he going to do now?
Feeling like an intruder, he crept down the garden to the back gate and let himself out, the quiet click of the latch making him jump in surprise.
Maybe he’d find answers if he went into town; definitely more than he’d find around here.
He could admit he was more than a little shell shocked as he staggered down the High Street. It wasn’t every day that you nipped in the back (staff only) door of what you knew to be a record store, something he’d done many times before, only to find the place full of ladies party clothes, pink, sparkly, stretchy, shiny, party clothes in every style and shape and size he could think of and many more he couldn’t.
His male instincts had kicked into overdrive as he fled the oestrogen soaked nightmare before it could contaminate him. What the heck had happened to Our Price?
Nothing made sense. Desperate for a sit down he wandered into a cafe. It looked very posh, but shouldn’t this be a bank?
The busy chattering, milling, coffee scented interior was confusing; the incomprehensible chatter of many people socialising, each one trying to make themselves heard over the background noise of the others. It was all rather overwhelming he thought to himself as he turned on the spot trying to take it all in, trying to find a spot where he could be quiet and out of the way.
“Toby!” a female voice called out behind him. He turned again looking for the source.
“Toby, is that you?” the woman asked again, her voice shaky, her face ashen.
He stared at her, this woman he was sure he shouldn’t know but was so…he felt he should know her. Was she a relative he didn’t know about? But she looked so like his Mum with a bit of Auntie Gladys thrown in, and definitely Nana Olive’s eyes.
The woman seemed to sense his bewilderment. “It’s me, Sandra, remember?”
And all came crashing down around him, concreting the drive with Dad, everything had been going so well, and then Dad shouting a warning, turning, overwhelming pain and then suffocating darkness.
Sandra peered up at him, concerned.
“Come and sit with me,” she said kindly.
Things were a little clearer, he thought morosely as he gazed down into his coffee, but why was pain and darkness the last thing he could remember? What had happened?
He jerked his head up, staring at his little sister. What did she have to apologise for?
“I don’t understand,” he replied puzzled.
Sandra shifted nervously, her shoulders tense and hunched.
“Do you remember that day…that day you and Dad were concreting the drive?” she looked up at him, eyes haunted and tired.
He looked at her blankly. “Err…bits,” he finally concluded sheepishly, “it was a lovely sunny day, I remember that,” he grinned toothily.
His sister winced slightly at the sight.
“It was a lovely day,” she agreed, voice distant with recollection, “and you and Dad were re-concreting the drive…and me…I was…” she took a deep breath struggling to get the words out. “I wanted to drive the car but Dad wouldn’t let me,” she finished with a sad smile, “so I…I sneaked into the car when he wasn’t looking. Nobody bothered really with locking their cars in those days,” she said with a wry smile, “and then I took the hand-break off.”
“And the drive slopes down to the road,” he said slowly.
She nodded wincing at the memory. “Yes, it does,” she whispered, “you ended up pinned underneath the car face down in the wet concrete. By the time the ambulance and that arrived you’d ….you’d gone,” she finished with a sob.
“What…wait, how did I get out from underneath then?” he asked puzzled.
Sandra stared at him disbelievingly through her tears. “You’re dead,” she said slowly and carefully, “haven’t you looked in a mirror recently?”
He stared at her incredulously. “Whu?”
Sandra rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Honestly, Dad always did say if you were a superhero your name would be Captain Oblivious,” she huffed at him in exasperated amusement.
“So I’m dead?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, you are,” Sandra confirmed, “in fact, you’ve been dead for well over twenty years. I must admit it was something of a surprise seeing you in here.”
“Well…darn!” he exclaimed.
They lapsed into silence, the background hum of other people socialising washing over them.
“My only bit of concreting ruined,” he finally sighed, “bet Dad wasn’t happy.”
“If it makes you feel any better you left a beautiful spread-eagled impression in the drive,” Sandra smirked at him. “Mum insisted on keeping it, Dad went along with it for a little while…but…”
“But?” he asked.
“Well, it was when Mum started leaving pots of flowers and little teddy figurines by it, that’s when Dad put his foot down.”
“What did he do?” he asked with some concern.
“One day when Mum was out shopping he took a sledge hammer to it. Mum didn’t speak to him for ages after,” she sighed, “I think he had a point though, Mum was starting to get a little bit obsessed.”
“And what about you?” he asked carefully, eyeing her with concern, “how are you?”
Her cheerful facade crumbled momentarily revealing the misery and depression that festered underneath.
“I’m alright,” she replied evasively.
“You were only eight,” he said quietly, “I can’t find it within myself to be angry or…blame you…or…well…you know,” he finished lamely shrugging his shoulders, “it was a tragic accident. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it for so long.”
Sandra gave him a watery smile, “I blamed myself, so angry…and Mum and Dad…they were never the same…” she trailed off into tearful silence, “I really missed you.”
There was only so much mawkish sentimentality he could stand. “Well, that’s sorted then,” he said with a huge grin, “come with me,” he held his hand out.
Sandra looked at him bewildered. “What?”
“There’s bound to be a disco or something around. Let’s go and have some fun,” he encouraged her, “and you look like you’re in urgent need of some. I’ll do my Saturday Night Fever routine for you,” he wheedled trying to tempt her
“All right,” she agreed, tentatively taking his hand.
The sun crept in among the trees, and across the gravestones as it slowly inched its way above the horizon. The wildlife who inhabited the night found their nooks and crannies to safely sleep away the sunlit hours, while all around the birds began to sing and chatter and the drone of distant traffic increased on an unseen road.
It was the beginning of a new day.