Low Res

The image burns through Jason’s mind as he stares at it – the grainy, dark image that threatens the rest of his life, upon which balances his fragile future. The man at the desk on the screen carries on talking. He speaks of a frenzied attack that left two people injured, and the suspects fled. This is the only picture the police found, apparently, but they are working on it. Jason knew straight away that it is him in the image, and now he is starting to panic – it wasn’t him that had done it, but he was there and that could be more than enough for him to be severely punished at the hands of the judicial system.

“The police have urged anyone with any information on who this man might be to contact them on 101, or call the independent, anonymous line at Crimestoppers,” the man on the screen reads.

Jason lets out a snigger. A photograph with a resolution like that would achieve nothing, and he is confident that he can get away with this. He picks up his phone that lays on the chair next to him and calls his daughter. As always, there is no response to his call. Her mother had left Jason very early on, after Jason grew a temper and some dangerous habits. He blames them for it all, and regularly wishes that he could turn back the clock and never take that first hit, but it’s too late now. This photo makes him think, though. He thinks about his daughter, with her big brown eyes and her curly locks, the way she smiles when he sings to her (well, she used to at least) and the dreams he has for her future. She is a bonny little thing, and he wants her to stay that way, but living with a far from perfect mother like hers and an absent, aggressive father was not standing her in good stead.

Jason maintains that he does it all for her, when he goes out and does things that land his face in the news. He’s always worn decent disguises before, but this time was different – he hadn’t planned to be caught being involved at all, let alone on camera the way he had. His child would understand one day. She would understand that her father does all of this to bring her a better life, to build some funds for her future, her education or equipment to kick-start whichever career she may choose to pursue. But the money always disappears…

Staring harder at that photograph having paused the screen, Jason feels a desire rising within him. A desire to deviate from the path he’s on and begin all over again. He promises himself that this year will be for change. That he will stray so far from his current lifestyle that the man in the picture will no longer be him, he will be nothing but an echo of the past, an alternative ending.

His phone rings.

“Jason,” he answers.

“Jase, it’s me,” the familiar voice speaks shakily. “Have you seen it, Jase?”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it, V. It’s nothing, have you looked at it? Even the police made a point of saying they knew it was a crap resolution when they put it on their Facebook page. Part of me wanted to like it.”

“Not that one, mate.”

“What one then?”

“The other one, the new one, the one of the car.”

“What one of a car? What car? I don’t even know about anything of a car!”

Jason feels the familiar sensation of anger building inside him. V has a stupid voice anyway, and he’s an idiot. Coming out with stuff about a picture of a car? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

“Shut up, Jase, I was trying to help you. Last time I do that.”

Vince hangs up the phone and Jason swears to himself, beginning to desperately search for this picture of the car. It didn’t take long to find, it was being shared everywhere. Why did they have to do this in that village, in that shop? Yes, there were less cameras but seriously, nobody in the city would have cared, it would have just been yet another basic robbery, but here they had the snotty people complaining to the managers of the police force to get things investigated more thoroughly or something.

Jason began to accept the end of his life. Death can come in an instant, but it wasn’t going to for him. He was to be subjected for years, maybe even decades of confinement, the point of no return. His daughter would remain fatherless and he would be yet another statistic, a number on a spreadsheet, labelled for life.

His trial comes around eventually, and Jason takes the stand, his hands still shaking the same as they had when he had stopped it all. He is no longer withdrawing, but the effects seemed to linger for longer than necessary. He feels that is just his luck.

“Do you have any remorse at all for what you did?”

“I do, sir. I really do. At the time it was all to get the money so I could buy what I needed to get through the day, you know. And that was it. It’s not how you might think, it’s not an easy ride, we’re not looking for trouble. But once you’re in that trap, there really is no way out.”

The jury listens intently before disappearing to decide Jason’s fate. He refuses to name the others, and as he stands there he thinks about them, the ones who actually did do the terrible things that day, going about their lives as they please. He had made such promises to himself, and to his daughter, inside his own head, and yet here he is, his life teetering between two very different paths.

They decide it was him. They have no trouble delivering their verdict – despite the grainy quality of that original photograph, the technology assessed that it was him, based on the makeup of his bone structure, and that was almost enough on its own. If it wasn’t for Vince inflicting what he had on that man, Jason wouldn’t be in this situation, but he still can’t bring himself to disclose who he was with, it would go against every cell in his body.

He looks at the judge sheepishly.

“10 years.”

“Then I can start again?”

“And think about your choices next time.”

The Tiger and the Dragon

This is going to be a weird one – bear with me and please don’t judge!

I’ll start off by saying that I honestly don’t have much in the way of beliefs in the spiritual world, beyond my religion. I personally (and this is my personal view for myself – I love that other people have different views and are more in tune with these kinds of things) think that things like this that I don’t understand are beyond my understanding for a reason, and therefore I don’t try to get involved. This is slightly different, as well, and really is something I have an extremely limited knowledge of. But here’s the story.

When I was 4, I had what is now a very simple, routine heart surgery, but at the time it was rather experimental. While the surgery went well, there was a complication that led to a bit of an emergency (my dad will always tell people how I ‘nearly died’) but the doctors were amazing, dealt with it brilliantly and I woke up asking for a blueberry muffin. From that moment forward, if I were to ever have a bad dream or a nightmare, when I woke up I would see a tiger in the top left corner of my room. It was as if he was on a screen, with thick blades of grass in front of him. He would run towards me and after 30 seconds or so, disappear. I knew that if I woke up and saw that tiger, whatever had just happened was only a dream and I was safe. I don’t know why it was a tiger, or what relevance they had to my life. To be honest, they scared me, but this one didn’t.

Fast forward a few years, and as I got older the tiger became a distant memory. It was only this week, when I saw an advertisement on social media for artwork that I was reminded of my little guardian tiger. The advertisement was for an art printing company, and on of the prints was of a tiger on a green background. Suddenly remembering it all, I decided to google the meaning of a tiger guardian spirit, to see if there was anything it may relate to aside from my own childish imagination.

We’ll hold that thought just for a moment while I explain about E. E is my sister-in-law who also had heart surgery as a child. In fact, she was operated on at the same hospital, by the same surgeon as me, despite us growing up in different counties. E’s surgery was much more intense than mine, and for a long while her survival was touch-and-go, but here she still is 20 years later, thanks to the same man that saved my own life. I had been told by various members of the family about E’s dragon. E would see a dragon in her childhood times of need, he would visit her and comfort her and if was there she knew she was safe. E named her dragon ‘Draco’, and it wasn’t until years later that she realised that not only could she not have known about that being Latin for dragon as young as she was when he first came into her life, but that also there is a film in which a dragon called Draco gives a part of his heart to someone to save them. It’s almost hard to believe.

So going back to the tiger thing. When I did my googling, I discovered that the tiger, in ancient Chinese beliefs, must be accompanied by a dragon. I will not go too much into this as I am not in a position to explain, in case my understanding is flawed, but in short the tiger and dragon represent the yin and yang. They balance each other, and cannot exist without each other.

If there is any relation to this in our own animal spirit guardians, then my conclusion is that my tiger, and E’s dragon, exist only because the other does. We both had these things that were there, and they were a part of each other. 20 years later we met and have an extremely close sisterly bond, could this be why?

Pink Petals

Step one – admiration.
This is the good one.
When pink petals appear
as blossom,
cold of winter gone,
bringing hope of spring.

Step two – falling.
It can look almost like snow
when wind blows it
and it floats to the ground
not making a sound.

Step three – sitting.
Not much happens here.
They just sort of sit there.
This is when they start
getting walked over a little bit
their beauty fades
to be replaced by younger green.

Step four – disappearing.
Over time, rain and mud
and feet and wind and tyres
wear them to the ground
they degrade
they’re gone
forgotten.

Repeat.

Written in response to https://creativewritingink.co.uk/writing-prompts – Writing Prompt Three

Pyramid Scheme

A friend of mine once got in touch to ask me to take part in a book exchange. It would start with one person who would pass on their name and address to as many other people as wanted to take part. Those people would give that name and address to as many other people as they could find that also wanted to take part. Those people would post a book, any book – old or new, to that original person’s address. They would then find more people to take part, and pass on the address of person before them. Everyone sends only one book, yet there was scope to receive hundreds, from people they don’t know, in genres they may never have considered.

It sounded like a fantastic idea, and I soon set to work looking for friends and family who wanted to take part – after all, it was only if they wanted to and all they needed to do was post a book. But it wasn’t long before I got a lot of negative reactions, many of which claiming that I was a scammer, this was a pyramid scheme and these are illegal in UK businesses. Unfortunately I’m no expert on UK Business Law, but this was by far the kind of thing they were referring to. It is a very similar concept, and works in the same sort of way – but there is no monetary investment and no promise of return. Just sending a book to someone who wants to branch out their reading list.

So, in the end I didn’t take part at all, which was a real shame. I did, however, end up in touch with a man from New Orleans, US. He had a little boy who was curious about books, and I had in mind gathering these for a young relative of mine so we exchanged addresses and sent each other a local cookbook and our favourite books as children, mine for his boy and his for my relative.

It wasn’t the large number of books I’d had in mind when starting off this process, but it was a thousand times more valuable. We both put a little bit of ourselves, of our lives and of our love for our younger generations in those envelopes, and when I eventually posted it after driving around for a few months with it in the boot of my car, it felt like a very small but very real accomplishment – sending some well-chosen words (Enid Blyton’s, to be precise) across the Atlantic to be enjoyed by someone who’d never before known of lashings of ginger beer or mattresses made from heather.

I wonder now and again whether the young boy liked, or even read, that book, but I’m going to just say that he did, and he loved it.

Rational Explanation

I’m not a massive believer in the paranormal, but in all honesty I’ve never been able to convince myself that ghosts aren’t real. Personally, I think that it’s something that I’m not meant to know about, if it does exist, so I’ll keep my distance, but there are a few things that I’ve experienced or heard about that have no scientific explanation, should I say.

I tell some of these stories quite a lot when the topic comes up in conversation, but the ones that aren’t my own experience may need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and the ones that are may be anxiety-fuelled, so this is no confirmation of anything existing or otherwise.

My dad works as a nurse, and he’s had a few weird things go on whilst on the graveyard shift in a hospital with a very old building. There was one particular night that he was working on a geriatric ward. On this ward, in the bed nearest the window and furthest from the door, was a lady with a catheter that needed emptying every hour. My dad (let’s call him Josh) and his colleagues were taking it in turns to do it, because that area of the ward gave them the creeps, for lack of a better term. One of the other nurses went first, and said she felt something strange, like there were things running past her while she was crouching down to do the catheter bag.

When it was Josh’s turn, he hesitantly crept through the ward, past all the sleeping patients. He crouched down, and experienced the same thing as his colleague had described, but when he turned around there was nothing there. He wished away the seconds and began to make a speedy exit when he saw one of the patients sitting bolt upright, smiling.

Josh stopped and asked the lady sitting up if she was okay.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just watching the children play”.

Josh went on to do a bit of asking around, and found that a few people had mentioned seeing children in old-fashioned clothes running around playing in that ward. He later found out that back in the 1930s, it was in fact a children’s ward.

The second thing I heard from Josh (which will go on to a more confusing story as well here) was about a phantom nurse with a veil. There’d be many unrelated patients who would ask when the nurse with the veil was coming back to tuck in their blankets. Word on the wards was that this was the spirit of a ward sister who took her own life in one of the side rooms in this part of the hospital. I did begin to think that this one was a bit of a tall tale, until something else happened that made me doubt myself.

A school friend of mine was an inpatient in the same hospital, and when I went to see her she told me about a stupid thing her mum had said. She told me that her mum had gone to the toilet, and when she came back she said to her that she’d seen a nurse wearing a veil, but when she went to speak to her she walked off and had disappeared. She thought her mum was just seeing things.

There were also the rumours that Josh heard and swore to be true, which I’m not convinced were anything more than rumours. The one that stuck with me the most, however, was a break room for the nurses on night shift to use for a nap if they wanted to. Apparently, any female nurses that slept in the room would wake up with their hair plaited. It went on so much and for so long that, apparently, management at the hospital had to lock the room up and it’s not been used in years.

Obviously, these are all stories I’ve heard, and while my dad maintains that he experienced them as described, I can’t swear any truth in it. I can, however, share one or two of my own weird experiences.

I’ll start with my university accommodation. It used to be a convent back in the day, and was a grade 2 listed building, so no works could be done to upgrade much of it, so it had that weird feel about it anyway. I was on the second floor, which was the top floor, of my house (which was a section of the building that was built in a square with a courtyard in the middle. On the ceiling in my room was a loft hatch, and one drunken night my friends and I decided to open it and see if there was anything up there. Ever since then, the house felt totally different. I’d wake up and see a person running out of the door, it was just generally freaky. Can I say I’m sure that this wasn’t because of my vivid imagination? Of course not.

The second place I lived at university was a funny old house with a 1960s style front. It had always felt unwelcoming as it had been left in a complete state and not professionally cleaned as promised. There was what looked like a large blood stain on the living room carpet, and all the furniture was in random rooms – two beds in one, three wardrobes in another, all sorts of crazy things. I was already feeling a bit weird about these things after the last palaver from halls, but a house that was only 50 years old was unlikely to have anything, right?

Well, my housemates hadso thought there was something there, and over time I did too. I had a project due to be delivered and it had been a nightmare making it from start to finish. I’m not the most organised person (which you’ll probably notice from reading my ‘daily’ poetry that definitely isn’t daily) so I laid everything out, the label I needed, the project, everything required in the correct order on my desk. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning to find it had gone. This happened to me a lot, which was why I had started to question things – my passport or documents, for example, would be one moment next to me and another moment gone and in some cupboard or drawer. I had convinced myself it was me forgetting I’d moved stuff, but after this I wasn’t so sure. I started panicking a fair bit, as that project had to be in at 9am on the dot for submission. I trashed my room looking for it, and eventually found it on top of my wardrobe, underneath a suitcase I kept there. I’ve never sleep-walked in my life, so unless that happened out of the blue, I have no real explanation for this one.

The next, and final, thing I found a lot harder to ignore. When I first met my wife, I was staying at her mum’s house a lot, sometimes on my own as we worked different shift patterns. When I was there alone, the cat would always come and sit with me and look around at something that wasn’t there. According to my mother-in-law, who rented the house out for about 20 years before moving back into it, almost every tenant that had passed through had made comments about strange goings on, and they were sure there was something there. When the family moved back in, they would find things would go missing and turn up in unexplainable places. Hangers would clang against each other in closed wardrobes, and there were sections of the house that always remained icy cold. She had eventually decided to have a confrontation, and announced that she didn’t mind living alongside whoever this was, but could they please welcome them as they now welcome her. Nothing happened after that, unless I was there alone, which I guess would make sense, as I wasn’t there when that was said, so I wasn’t included in the agreement.

There was one time that really was unexplainable. It was Hallowe’en as well, which I don’t give a lot of thought to as I am Christian, which is also part of the reason why I like to leave things like this alone, as they’re not for me to explore or understand.

So there’s the kitchen door opposite the bathroom door, and a mirror on the wall in between. I was using the mirror to put on some makeup before I went out, and suddenly a musky perfume smell wafted past. There was nobody in the house, and none of those automatic air fresheners to be spraying away. It seemed to come from the bathroom and go into the kitchen, and a few seconds later, the lid of a jar that was by the sink flew across the room and bounced on the tiled floor with a heavy clang. That was it, I went out with only one eye done.

Like I said, these are stories from word of mouth or my own experiences which may have perfectly rational explanations, I just don’t know what they are.

Birthday

Happy Birthday little one
Annual day filled with fun
Look at you now, no tiny bairn
Waiting to grow a year again
Celebrating as your life fleets by –
Don’t you remember that day, oh why
Will you keep growing as we all grow old
Keeping the things that you’ll never be told.
Like how you one dark, dark day became to be,
My whole world and my only priority.