Galloping Words

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Remember last week, when I wrote about how my cup of words was (temporarily) empty? I could feel more words coming, galloping towards me, and so I sat back to enjoy a few moments of freedom before they arrived.

Interestingly, they seem to have led me back to a story I wrote over a year ago, as part of the first (and only) NaNoWriMo I’ve ever done. I did my 50,000 with days to spare, the idea flowing fast from my fingers. Since then I’ve added another 20,000 words, and there’s probably another 5,000 or so before it’s finished. I’ve done a rough edit as well, but that’s about all.

When I read through the story the other day, I could see that it was almost complete. But also, interestingly, that it was starting to move away from me. So, with that in mind, I’m aiming to finish it over the next week or so – I can see the scenes that need to be written, and the muse is telling me I need to do it now or it might slip away for good.

I thought maybe it might be fun to share an excerpt, not something I usually do. So, here goes:

You don’t wake up expecting to die.

I didn’t, anyway.

But now here I stand, looking down at what used to be me lying on the pavement covered with a white cotton blanket, a small blot of blood staining the indent where my nose is. My new red shoes sit next to my head, neatly placed in a pair as though waiting for me to sit up and put them back on. Guess the impact must have knocked them off. I can see the car a little way further up the street, the distraught driver sitting on the curb, head in hands, being comforted by a police officer crouched next to him, hand on his back. It was my fault, really. I move closer to them, seeing the pattern on the windscreen radiating out from the point of impact, my final moment preserved in sparkling crackles of glass, bright in the Sydney sunshine.

I drift (yeah, all right, that’s what I’m doing now. It’s easier than walking, anyway) back over to my body and notice that the strap has broken on one of my shoes. My new shoes. Honestly. I’ve only had them a couple of weeks, only worn them a handful of times. They were so whimsical, so bright and shiny as they sat on their little stand in the shop I couldn’t resist.

I’ve a good mind to take them back.

Boom! Just like that, I’m in the shoe store. What the hell? I think, looking around. How did I…? Oh, yeah, I’m dead. Then I see my shoes, my beautiful red shiny shoes, sitting on a table. Marked down. 25% off.

Today is definitely not turning out well.

All at once, as if the thought has pulled me back, I’m with my body again. Things have moved on. An ambulance has arrived, two paramedics lifting me gently onto a stretcher. I watch them curiously, taken by the fact that their hands are touching me but I can’t feel it. The still-distraught driver is now sitting in the back of a police car, blue lights flashing on top, while a tow truck winches his battered vehicle into position, ready to tow away.

So now what? None of this seems real. Which is why, I guess, that I’m not freaking out. Because I mean, normally, you would, right? But I don’t really remember it happening and I just feel that freaking out isn’t going to help things, anyhow. A strange sense of calm descends, heavy on me, as though I’m on the outside of it all. The ambulance leaves, then the police car. The tow truck driver starts his engine and then he’s gone as well, a small scatter of broken glass near the curb the only evidence that something happened here. People are starting to stroll along the sidewalk once more, the day resuming its routine. My shoes are gone too. Everything is gone except for me.

Seriously, now what?

I look around again, in case I’ve missed something. What about that bright light, the one everyone talks about? Don’t go into the light. Ha, I remember that from Poltergeist, watching it with friends when we were younger and scaring ourselves silly, shrieking like loons at the rattle of trees in the garden, possums banging in the roof space, convinced the ghosts had come to haunt us as well. But I never believed in anything specific, you know? As I grew older I vacillated between thinking that when we died that was it, show’s over, and the suspicion that there was something, I wasn’t sure what, but definitely something on the other side.

And now here I was on the other side and the show wasn’t over, not by a long shot but there didn’t appear to be a whole lot of anything here, at least that I could see. What about all those people, the loved ones already passed away, that you were supposed to see? Where was my guardian angel? Why isn’t anyone here to meet me? I mean, all right, like I say, I never really believed in all that stuff. At least I said I didn’t. But maybe a very small part of me, the part that used to lie awake alone in the early hours of morning and wonder is this it, is this my life? Maybe that part of me believed.

I look up. It’s a beautiful day, or at least it’s shaping up to be. A blue sky dotted with white drifting clouds, sun shining, the temperature hovering around the mid-twenties. Not so warm for Sydney, but it is autumn, after all. I watch the clouds for a moment and think to myself, perhaps I’m supposed to go up? You know, ascend to Heaven like they say in the Bible. I guess Heaven is where I’m supposed to be going, anyway. Or somewhere.

As I think it up I go, light as a balloon, floating out over the houses, red tile roofs and patchwork gardens like a child’s drawing as I pass overhead. I squeak in surprise, waving my arms around as I try to steady myself, rolling in the air like a fish in water until I get myself in line. I’m out over the harbour now, the big iron coat hanger of the Bridge below me, cream coloured sails of the Opera House sitting on its point. I can see the ferries, yellow and green, trails of white foam on the dark blue water, getting smaller and smaller like toys as I get higher and higher. I hold myself straight, trying not to wobble as I go up, feeling a little more in control. Yep, I can do this. Don’t know where I’m going, but I can do this. Then I notice my feet.

I’m still wearing my red shoes. But then I guess I’m wearing everything I was wearing when I, um, well, you know. Anyway, it just looks so weird, them dangling below me like that, and then I realise how high I am, clouds like white wreaths around me, the blue sparkling harbour curving out towards the distant heads and I panic. I completely lose it and start to plummet like a stone, the boats and bridge and water coming up to meet me as I close my eyes and scream, bracing myself.

You can’t die twice in one day, can you?

Well, that’s all for now, folks. Regular blogging to resume shortly 🙂

25 thoughts on “Galloping Words

  1. I love it. I remember being a teenage girl. sleepovers carrying aqua net (in lieu of pepper spray) and batons to fend off the ghosts (possums) in the attic. Because that will get the ghosts to leave you alone…

  2. This was a very interesting read, Helen. I love the way you’ve written it and, best of all, you’ve hooked us and left us with a question. The red shoes reminded me a little of Dorothy (but why wouldn’t a gay guy think that? 😀) I can only hope that you will bring this story over to us so that we can find out if you really can die twice in a day.

    1. Thanks Hugh, I’m glad you enjoyed it and are feeling ‘hooked’. 🙂 I’ve actually just finished writing the whole thing, about ten minutes ago, so it’s something I’m definitely going to publish at some point. And yes, the red shoes are a bit Dorothy-like, though they weren’t meant that way 🙂

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