Last week I received the feedback from a writing competition I entered. My story ‘V is for Victim’ made the longlist! I’m made up. They were very complimentary about it, phrases such as ‘you write beautifully’ were included. Only suggestion was that the story took too long to get going. Now, on that, I do remember reading a murder mystery which I did not enjoy, reason being, I did not care about the murder victim… the book included no back story. So my character had a back story, I felt I needed to explain why he was stupid enough to be where he was. Bit of a dilemma but definitely helpful feedback. Also, they thought the title gave too much away, because the reader will be expecting a crime. This I totally agree with.
In summary, story must not take too long to get going, don’t give away too much in the title.
Story ‘V is for Victim’ is added below, don’t hold your breath, the title has already told you the ending! I have also posted a photo of Martha the puppy who is sabotaging my writing with her cuteness. The story will of course be included in my short story collection QUIRKY TALES TO MAKE YOUR DAY coming out soon.
V is For Victim
Only September, but the wind nipped at my toes, my bare flesh, my nose. Same weather as it had been on that day, years ago. Can’t believe that I can still feel the cold. Who knew?!
September, how it used to smell of newly sharpened pencils. That night I had the novelty of optimism, the perfect time when stars align. Could this be the one? The first flush of romance, a mobile beeps, a voice speaks That’s how it was supposed to go. I should have told someone where I was going… I was exceptionally stupid.
Twenty-six was a funny age. Almost everyone I’d known had embraced one serious fling at least. I remember, I’d been thinking, am I too young to settle down? It had been different for me, I had bought into the stereotype that ‘all husbands cheat’ … I know I would have. It wasn’t as though I’d been ‘one of the girls’ from work, and I definitely wasn’t like the blokes. Fleeting young men dressed in supermarket suits. Starting their careers in that oppressive office until promotion beckoned and they had moved on. Naturally, I’d always given them the once over but I’d always instantly known. Just like I had known from the very start what I was. Especially when I was a teenager; not so long ago. I’d been too old to be sitting there alone, I know. It wasn’t like drinking cider in the park, in the dark with Cheryl and Lisa, I’d been their ‘Gay best friend’ but we’d lost touch. They might’ve been able to warn me, that Piccadilly Gardens is no place to meet a stranger.
“But I’m not a stranger” he had said “You seem like a very nice boy”
What a creep! He’d paused at that point…
“Erm,” He laughed a smarmy laugh “Now it’s your turn to say something nice?… About me?”
I remember feeling patronised put down y’know? But what do you say to something like that? Lisa had been the same, come to think of it, condescending cow …
“Maybe it’s just my sense of humour” he’d said, to make me feel stupid, I presume.
Is this the way it goes then? I still don’t know. Why didn’t I leave? I had sat down on that bench, and I waited, of my own free will! I arranged it! I’ve only got myself to blame, entertaining an instant date on the internet and expecting love at first sight. That’s not how it goes for people like me, and that’s not all, wait ’til I tell you… He was late! I thought he was playing mind games, that’s what I’d come to expect. I’d continued sitting like a lemon. Sitting, waiting, missing, despairing. Pulling, it happened more than once, why did he pull my hair? Did no one see that? A short half hour later, he would be pushing me, pushing me into… Oh, I’ll get to that.
Desperate amongst the dirty drug dealing that GMP had launched a crackdown on, I had panicked, and shouted for help, like a stupid little kid.
“But you don’t need help” he had said “You seem like a very dirty boy” I shuddered, yes I remember shuddering . Even my automatic nervous system had warned me he was dangerous, breathing into my neck, nipping at my bare flesh, even my nose.
“I can tell just by looking at you that…”
What he said next shall remain unsaid. And what he did, well, I should have left… I could not leave. This is not the way it goes. A mobile beeps, a voice speaks my scream had broken up, cut off, I tried more than once. I could no longer reply.
“Look what you’ve done, this was your fault. This is all you deserve, you’re a very filthy boy” he had hissed “You’ve ruined my shirt with your mess” said a particularly smartly dressed urban legend serial killer.
I’ve gone. I’d met a psychopath. Walking away, holding me up, making out I was drunk for the CCTV. Drugged with legal highs until I died. Then he had the cheek to say :
“You weren’t even worth it”
Soon, it would be someone else’s turn.
Piccadilly Gardens is close enough to the canal, no one thought of that in the search. I don’t remember much of that watery coffin. My DNA washed away, hypothermia concluded. Months later, only internet trolls responded to my ‘Crimewatch’ appeal. They only showed it once, Piccadilly Gardens is no place to be rescued.
Now I’m permanently here in the park, in the dark. I still can’t believe I had been so naive. I mean, who goes on a date in the park? In Piccadilly Gardens FFS!
Time goes on, grief remains, I’m missed every second, of every day. The sun comes up and goes down again. Someone’s sitting on me, on my bench, it’s built to last and stronger than it looks. Trust me, this happens all the time.
‘Hey! Get off me!’ He doesn’t budge, you’ll never guess.. oh no, I didn’t mean! Don’t worry it’s not him back again, although I am on the lookout. I’m all prepared for what I would do, not revenge, just a simple case of making sure it doesn’t happen again. The unwelcome guest is only the relentless roaring snoring of a neighbourhood tramp. How boring.
‘Get your filthy hands off my previously shiny, engraved inscription’ He can’t hear me of course, but I managed to spook him. After a while, he tramps off to the all-night café. He isn’t trapped like me, he can leave, like I should’ve left. It’s alright for some.
I’m sitting, waiting, warning on the memorial my mother insisted on. Although I don’t really care for her chosen wording, she could have put more thought into it, found a few fancier words to describe my disappearance. V is for victim, not ‘very’ it sounds pathetic, listen :
Remembering Darren 22.6.80 -1.9.2006 The day you disappeared. A very sad day
Copyright Samantha Henthorn 2017