‘Choke’ short story

When I was younger I had the talent of opening my eyes in the pool; the stinging sensation caused by the chlorine never bothered me. Swimming underwater meant I could escape into the realm of something new. Away from this life. It was the only talent I had, and the only extracurricular sport I enjoyed. I loved the weightlessness and the freedom it provoked. I remember when I used to celebrate after swimming just one length of the pool; getting badges for my achievements and pushing myself to swim further and further until I was invincible.

A few months ago I was selected to be a lifeguard in Chicago, America. This was a dream of mine from a very early age and it was a chance to save lives whilst in the summer sun. I always felt that I was missing a purpose in life, so being held responsible for someone’s breath made me welcome the challenge and consequently fill the hole that I was sinking into.  A hero. A saviour. A reward to myself that I am contributing to society. Of course whilst saving lives I thought about getting a sun kissed tan at the same time. I am a pale ghostly shade that blends into the melancholy feel of England, Essex to be precise. I longed to escape and take my passion with me.

Once I got off the plane, the air was thick with heat; my face red raw as the sun slapped my skin, attacking my foreign body. Beads of sweat slowly, yet aggressively, slid down my face, making me instantly regret wearing makeup. The residue of mascara stuck to my sockets and every time I blinked my eyelashes felt like they were cutting my eyes. I took a gasp of air before I collapsed from the shock. I squinted at the view and my eyes uncontrollably watered, “I need to get used to this” I murmured to myself.

On my first shift, my body trembled as I climbed onto the lifeguard post. As I sat there, I realised that there was no escape from the chair. My body was still. I was afraid to move in case the fragile legs snapped and I pictured myself lying face down in the water, or worse, mangled up on the side. I shook my thoughts away as I concentrated on the water. There was so much of it. So much that could go wrong and too much for me to focus on at the same time. Every particle of my hair was heavy on my neck and I fidgeted until all I wanted to do was to pull it out. I imagined myself tearing each strand out. I could feel the creases in my forehead squeeze together. My face felt tight and my chest taught, like I was suffocating on my own air, unable to taste the sweetness of the breeze. The squawks from the birds pierced my ear-drums and sent an uncomfortable hammering to my brain. I held my chest and then my throat to see if I was dreaming this, or if it was sunstroke… Or maybe I swallowed a fly or something. But no. I am the lifeguard that needs saving. How ironic. How embarrassing.

I saw a boat coming towards me. One of the other lifeguards. “Are you ok?” they shouted across the water, their facial expression growing more concerned when the saw the colour of my skin. “N-n-n-no” I answer. I hated when that happened, whenever I got anxious my mind decided to shut down, to leave my poor mouth to try and decipher what was left of my dignity. And there I was, at the back of a lifeguard’s boat. At least they got to save someone today. Unlucky it was me.

They sat me down on the side and asked what was wrong. I assured them that I lost my breath, making up excuses just to end this psychopathic nightmare. Everyone surrounded me and I felt like the air was going again, I could smell the chlorine on their skin and I smelt the perfume in the mist. I smelled sweat from the lifeguard that saved me on his perfectly toned muscles… It dripped onto my leg and I suddenly stopped being attracted to him. Their eyes looked at me how I would want people to look at my body at my funeral; not after a bloody panic attack, but they are not to know that.

At my next lifeguarding session the other lifeguard’s eyes pressed heavily on my body. I fidgeted in my seat after watching Gemma quickly turn away from me. I rolled my eyes. Everyone was still giving me that hopeless expression that I wanted to slap out of them. I felt like one of the children in the water and I felt like jumping in and joining them.

However, as the lifeguard sessions went on, the others decided to leave me alone and let me do my job. Their eyes no longer trapped me. My body sank peacefully into the chair and I smiled to myself for the first time.

 

*

I’m glad everyone believed my story. Eventually.  I’m good at that. Persuading and convincing people to the point where they forget everything. It’s a matter of survival. A few weeks later I was trusted to be left on my own for an hour watching the children. I felt privileged, sitting on the lifeguard chair made me feel euphoric, like I had a purpose and position in life. Like I mattered. I looked down at the children in the water and a smirk crept onto the corner of my mouth as I flicked my now-golden hair over my fresh coloured skin, whilst the sunlight caressed my face and was no longer an enemy.

I wish I could say that feeling lasted. My eyes became lost, like I was looking through a microscopic lens at a different image, like I was looking at someone else’s life. I looked intently at my hands, staring at the creases indented in my skin and the way the lines joined together to form a fingerprint. Yet I didn’t recognise the marks at all. I looked into the reflection of the water and grabbed my face; unaware that my nails were slicing through my skin. A drop of blood fell delicately onto the water and disappeared with a blink. I felt that I was trapped in a body that I wanted to escape out of and my mind could barely handle the emotions attacking my skull. The colours of the water changed from crisp tranquil blue to an eerie grey. Everything seemed out of reach and suddenly I felt my chair was higher up. I looked down and could feel vomit creeping up my throat and my head throbbed from the stress of over thinking every moment. Over and over again.

Suddenly I spotted a boy, a very young boy, who attempted to swim towards the deep end. He had been told off for this many times before. His small body attacked the water, but his legs barely made a splash. His face was scrunched up; his determination only took him so far until his arms started to flap uncontrollably above his head.  I watched as his panic stricken face turning into a more sinister fear that I have never witnessed before. Suddenly his head flopped into the water like someone had punched him in the stomach. But no one else was around him. I could see his limp body slowly sinking down into the water. The other children screamed for me. But all I could do was watch. As I tried to jump and as I tried to blow the whistle, my body froze. My internal voice cried out but my body was stubborn. My eyes became blurrier, my body became weaker and my mind shut down. And as the last air bubble released itself from the boy. I stopped breathing.

The choking sensation seemed to jolt me and I dived in to help the boy. I swam furiously until I reached him and pulled him towards the outstretched arms of the crowd that had started to gather. I could see the boy was safe and was being revived by them.

My eyes are wide open under the water but I am not breathing. I don’t need to. I am in my own world now. The world out there is fading into a bright light. My weightless body floating. And I am at peace.

Life and death short story 2

I am eighteen. I am not longer a child and now have to have responsibilities. Responsibilities I have not thought of yet and will not until the last minute. One advantage that should be the case when turning into an adult is being treated with more respect. I remember in school, the teachers used to make me feel worthless, they used to scream at me when I showed emotion and I never knew the reasoning behind it. They expected me to always wear the puppet strings but I never had them attached in the first place. No one could control me. Everyone has emotions and expressions, so why belittle that? Since then, I am programmed to believe that crying is a sign of weakness, a sign of needing help or a sign that I just can’t cope anymore. Now I am eighteen, does this change? Does a number and reaching adulthood really make a difference in this judgmental world?  So far I have yet to see any difference. People don’t care that I’m older, wiser or even a bit prettier. I don’t feel any different now I am eighteen. I can drink. Yes. I have control of my life. Yes. But who wants to wish their childhood away? I miss not worrying about everything.  I worry to the point where I have to stop myself from ringing all my loved ones if I don’t get a reply, or if they are late home. My father was the same. It’s funny how the psychological attributes can be passed along the family chain. I miss the support of my family and relying on someone. Now I just feel alone.  Eighteen should be the age where I grow up and finally know what I am doing. But I don’t. There is too much pressure on the future when all I want to do is go back to the past and relive some of the moments that I took for granted. Such as, being honest when a relationship wasn’t working, or trying too hard to be what someone else wants and in the process losing myself. There is so much more to learn at eighteen, nineteen and even twenty. Maybe then I will find the answers to the unanswered questions.

Life and death short story 1

As a child I was shy. I would cover my eyes when people sang ‘happy birthday’, I was embarrassed by the attention on myself and wishing someone else could share my special day with me. Although, as birthdays went on, I found myself enjoying the occasion, inviting my friends round for trampoline, swimming and roller skating parties.

However, at eighteen, a milestone in people’s eyes, I was unsure of who I was, afraid of what people thought and ultimately terrified of the future. I wasn’t a child anymore.

That was different when I was five, I used to jump into the sea with my clothes on and my parents shouting at me to come in before the tide swept me away. I remember etching the mud with sticks and creating art with the surroundings. My imagination was always my best attribute. Yet as time went on, I lost myself. I lost the child within me, and focused so much on growing up, that one day I looked in the mirror and shocked myself. I didn’t laugh the way I used to on holidays, I never cried. I was numb to emotion. Numb to the people who left and the people who hurt me. Torturing myself by looking back to the past wishing I could redo moments, or erase them completely.

My twenties were the best days of my life; I was still young, managed to lose the weight and was finally comfortable in my own skin. Finally. However, I was more confused than ever.

Mid-twenties and into my thirties I watched as my friends found love, got married and had beautiful children. I didn’t want that. I wanted to travel and experience life to its core. I didn’t want to be in one place and be suffocated by the lifeless surroundings.

By my mid-thirties my family were asking the question “When are you going to think about settling down?” they chorused, niggling at the itch that I would never scratch. You see, I never believed that everyone should follow a convention, or have the same aspirations or life plan. I’d lose myself completely otherwise. Yet by forty, I did just that. I married, had two children that I adore. It’s funny isn’t? How one day everyone caves in for the sake of a number. A number telling you that your time is slowly wasting away, like sand in an hourglass, softly and slowly until suddenly you have nothing left.

I made the most of my time in my fifties and sixties, and by some miracle, I was still with my husband up until he died at 89. But now in my hospital bed, with my children beside me, married with their own children, careers, and a life, I write my memories down and I find myself smiling. What a life I whisper under my breath. What a life.

Short story workshop piece

Short story exercise based on a relationship that has become tired and cynical.

I see him everyday, too much maybe, yet I can’t bare to be apart from him… or so I thought. As the months, days and years pass I look at him and feel nothing. My mind is numb to his appearance. He speaks to me and I half listen; half caring about his life or existence. Are all relationships like this? Do they all reach a point when you look at one another and rather push them in front of a lorry than see the same person slowly draining the life out of you. Maybe that’s all I know and maybe the only way to combat my cynical mind is to start again. I  need to become a new person and change the way I look at the world or lock myself in a room until someone worth caring about knocks on the door.

‘Another Chance’ Outline

The film begins with the run-down and quiet streets of the city in view, and the houses desolate with their windows smashed in. A single person walks past, glaring into their phone.

A woman, Samantha, looks back at her partner through the window of her car and drives to another house. We see her as she puts the radio on and starts scrubbing the kitchen sink, frantically checking the time; clumsily spilling the cleaning products on her work overalls. She pauses for a moment whilst clutching her head and sighs.

An hour later, still at the house, Samantha glances up to the clock and immediately picks up the pace and frantically cleans the final surfaces before packing her bag and running to the car. Her hands are visibly shaking as she put the keys into the ignition. Back at the apartment, we then see Samantha quickly preparing food. Samantha quickly glances at the clock and swears under her breath, accidently slicking her finger as she looks away. Her eyes on the brink of tears.

Moments later we hear Alex, Samantha’s partner slam the door behind him and crash into the kitchen. Samantha does not make any eye contact with him and carries on chopping vegetables. Alex slowly walks behind her and Samantha tenses her body, quickening the speed of her chopping. Samantha flinches as Alex reaches over to the fruit bowl, he stares at her and a smile is apparent at the corner of his mouth. Samantha stays in the same position until Alex leaves the room and sighs.

At dinner, Samantha watches Alex pour more wine into her glass, noticing he is barely touching his food as he finishes off his last sip and collects a fresh bottle from the cupboard. Samantha struggles to keep up, but Alex stares at her until the drink is down her throat.

We see Samantha walking into the apartment after work the next day and shouting out Alex’s name, but there is no reply. Samantha proceeds to the living room where she finds Alex on the floor with empty bottles of beer scattered around him. Samantha sighs and approaches him to check his pulse: breathing a sigh of a relief, she lays her head delicately on his chest.  Moments later, Alex suddenly grabs Samantha by the throat and pushes her further into the ground. Samantha’s eyes widen as she struggles in his hold and she tries to escape, yet Alex’s grip grows tighter. Samantha manages to kick Alex in the chest and quickly runs upstairs. Alex watches Samantha run upstairs and stumbles carelessly back to the sofa, laughing and mumbling as he slumps down whilst opening another bottle of beer.

In the bathroom, we see Samantha locking the door and, while staring into the mirror, she takes a step back when she sees the handprint mark still pressed around her neck, wincing as she touches it. Samantha then proceeds to take off her clothes to reveal more scars on her body; she runs her hands over every one of them, looking at her reflection intently as her eyes fill up with tears.

After putting her clothes back on, Samantha runs into the bedroom, locking the door behind her before she opens the wardrobe and shoves her clothes into any bag that she can find. Samantha frequently stops to press her ear against the door and listens to any movement that she can hear downstairs. Looking under her bed, she finds a box filled with holiday pictures with the words ‘Robin Hoods Bay’ inscribed on the box from her childhood. She carefully takes the pictures out and flicks through them, her finger tracing over her as a child. She picks an image of herself laughing in the sea and places it in her purse. Samantha pauses for a moment as she looks at a photograph in a pristine diamante frame and quickly faces it down on the surface. She continues to gather everything together and quietly makes her way to her car. Samantha hesitates as she is about to start the ignition, but takes one look back at the house through her car window to see the silhouette of Alex through the curtains and turns the key.

Samantha pulls up a small service station and looks at her satnav and the amount of petrol left in her tank and hits her fists against the dashboard. She then checks her phone and notices that she has 7 missed calls from Alex. We hear the muffled voice of Alex from the phone saying that he will come looking for her if she doesn’t come back. Samantha immediately gets out of the car, holding back her tears as she walks into the nearest café. Samantha reaches the till to buy a drink and the cashier informs her that her card has been declined; her face drops as she begs the cashier to try it again, but nothing changes. Nathan, a late twenty-something looking man, sees the commotion at the till and asks if Samantha wants him to pay for her items. Samantha thanks him, but declines, and she walks out of the door. Nathan follows her outside and expresses his concern, but Samantha insists that she will try and sort something out. Not giving up, Nathan asks Samantha whether she needs help getting anywhere. Samantha, looking into her purse, glimpses at the photograph of Robin Hoods Bay and nods slowly.

We see Samantha in Nathans’ car, looking back at her abandoned car at the service station as her head drops into her hands. Samantha watches Nathan as he drives; her body is pressed up to the door, as far away from him as possible, and she frequently checks her phone and stares out of the window. Nathan asks Samantha what has happened; his tone is inquisitive yet full of sympathy and she reluctantly explains.  After a while, we see Samantha’s body language loosen up as she starts to laugh.

Later that day, we see Nathan arriving at his family-run guest house and offering Samantha a room for the time being. Samantha fiddles with her hands and is intensely silent; however, Nathan insists and takes her bags from the car.

We see Samantha looking in the mirror, smiling, brushing her longer hair and putting on her new clothes, allowing her body to feel the warmth of the sun seeping through the window. Samantha reaches for her phone, and there are further missed calls from Alex and her smile drops. Samantha presses the phone against her ear, her eyes shut as she bites her lip whilst listening to every word until her teeth almost pierce through her skin. Alex’s voice is heard down the phone, revealing that he has tracked her location, and that he is on his way. Samantha screams into her hands, and Nathan runs in. Samantha explains and Nathan immediately holds Samantha’s face and states that Alex is lying, and is only saying that to scare her. Samantha pushes Nathan away from his hold and starts to violently shake as her breathing starts to change. She suddenly clutches her throat as it is made aware that her breathing becomes heavier. Nathan calmly sits her down and runs his fingers through her hair. After a few moments, he hands over Samantha’s medication, which he insists that she takes. Samantha takes the pill reluctantly, but moments later her breathing becomes steadier. Impulsively, Nathan grabs both of their belongings and packs everything into a bag, and hastily walks to the car.

Samantha chases after him; her face is perplexed as she watches Nathan pack the car, explaining that they need to finish off what they started out to do. Samantha takes her bag back from the boot and heads back towards the guest house. Nathan tries to grab her, but Samantha pushes him away, explaining that she doesn’t want another man controlling her life. They continue to argue, and Nathan tries to explain that he’s not Alex and will never hurt her. Samantha quickly calms down and looks at the picture in her purse again and, with a deep breath, returns to the car.

In the car, Samantha replays Alex’s voice mail, and we hear his sinister voice breathing down the phone. Nathan puts one hand on her knee and tells her to stop. Samantha is unresponsive and continues to flick through the text messages on her phone.

We see the ‘Robin Hood’s Bay’ sign in view and a door to a petite cottage and we see Nathan and Samantha in the kitchen. Samantha unpacks the final box and kisses Nathan. They both smile and collapse onto the sofa with a bottle of wine, revealing house warming cards on the mantelpiece.

Moments later, the doorbell rings and Samantha gets off the sofa to answer it. Standing at the other side of the door is Alex. Samantha stutters her words and steps back and Alex, without saying a word, barges past Samantha, smashing every item that he comes across. Nathan immediately runs into the hallway and confronts him and Alex replies with a sinister smirk on his face as he reveals a knife behind his back. Alex turns the knife in his hands and, as Samantha tries to take it from his grip, he quickly stabs the knife clumsily into Nathan’s shoulder. Alex’s face quickly changes from a sinister smile to a state of shock, dropping the knife in front of him and looking back at Samantha. Samantha doesn’t react and instead takes the knife and forcefully stabs Alex in the neck, looking into his eyes as he drops to the floor. Nathan winces as he tries to move his shoulder and struggling to string a sentence together, he chucks Samantha his phone. “You know what to do”.

Samantha compresses Nathans wound whilst looking at Alex’s body on the floor, her hand trembles as Nathan looks at her with knowing eyes, glancing at the clock every few seconds.

Samantha strokes Nathans hair and continues to put pressure on his wound. Moments later the door is burst open by the ambulance who takes Nathan and Alex away, then followed by the police who aggressively hand cuff Samantha and force her in the back of the car. Samantha cries out to Nathan and watches him followed by Alex from the car window the ambulance leave.

Later on at the police station, Samantha is taken to a small, gloomy room. The policewoman questions her about the events. Samantha’s hands shake and her voice stuttering every word, unable to string a sentence together as she explains that her actions were self-defence and the manipulation she went through. We See Samantha’s breathing become heavier as she frantically pinches her skin under the table and closing her eyes for a brief second.

We then see a series of trials in the court room. By the last, Samantha’s body appears to be wasting away, her figure thin with dark circles around her eyes as she barely strings a sentence together. Nathan appears at the witness stand, his body appears to be untouched but up close we see his body has been manipulated.

We then see Samantha embracing Nathan as she leaves the court with a slight smile on her face, but quickly replaces it with doubt. Nathan touches Samantha’s back as they walk towards the car and Samantha turns back for a second to look at the court room. Samantha stops for a moment and rips up the picture in her purse, leaving paper to scatter on the floor whilst making her way back to her cottage in Robin Hoods Bay.

A Miracle

Birth is a beautiful and incredible part of our human existence that warms our heart and scares us at the same time. The act of carrying a baby for 9 months without seeing its features or holding them in your arms requires an element of trust in God, to pray that this miracle will happen. At my age, the idea of having a baby has not even crossed my mind as the thought of it scares me, yet everyone around me nowadays is popping them out like crazy. However, there can be many complications that can happen in childbirth that scares people out of having this experience altogether.

My mother sat in her pyjamas, tracing the outline of where she thought I was, waiting for the small kicks that made her aware that I was listening, regardless of if I could see her or not. She caught my dad’s eye and smiled. “I remember when the bump was so small,” she said, reminiscing about the last few months. However, having a baby in the first place proved to be harder than expected, there were many attempts and disappointments, but now that she was finally pregnant her face was permanently content. Her eyes glowed, and a sense of serenity and peace filled her body. My dad smiled back, no words could express his happiness in this moment. His eyes suddenly glanced down to her ankles, his face tightened up.

“Your ankles… Are you in pain?” the purple and blue stains had viciously attacked her pure white skin, filling her delicate features with numbness and unavoidable pain; this was enough to concern anyone.

“It’s just been the last couple of days, think I’ve been overdoing it”, my mum said, covering up her own worry. She slowly lifted herself out of the chair; her face squirmed, but quickly turned into a smile. “See, I can walk perfectly well,” she said as she dragged her feet across the floor into the kitchen.

Despite her insistence that she was ok, days went past and the pain started to progress, making it harder and more excruciating to walk. The swelling on her ankles had grown and she struggled to do the simplest tasks, such as reaching for her favourite for a cup of tea. She decided that seeing the doctor was crucial, especially if it concerned the baby. A tinge of dread occupied her mind, what if something was wrong? What if she loses the baby? How would she cope? She shook her head violently, stopping herself from panicking out of control. Suppressing these feelings was the only option.

The doctor’s surgery was clinically claustrophobic, with the lighting so bright that it highlighted the tiredness on anybody’s skin. They made their way towards the waiting room; the silence was piercing alongside a mist of miserable and anxious faces. My dad tightened his grip on my mother’s arm and ushered her to the magazine table, trying to lighten the situation by finding a comical article. “Man’s head gets stuck in a dustbin… hang on how big is his head?” they both howled with laughter and ignored the stares; embracing being free for just a moment.

“Mrs Butlin.” the doctor called out of his surgery. This was it. My mother walked slowly, her ankles felt tenderer than ever that day, and she knew something wasn’t right.  “Now let’s see what the problem is”, said the doctor as he examined her ankles. His face started to grow with concern after the multiple checks he had done; his features changed from a vibrant, welcoming smile to a frown which dented into his forehead. The blood pressure was of the most concern: he tried multiple times, squeezing her arm as if it was going to burst until finally he stopped. “By your high blood pressure and sudden swelling of the feet, I’m afraid that you may have preeclampsia. This condition causes the flow of blood through the placenta to be reduced. If not treated quickly this may have damaging effects on your baby. You will have to be taken into hospital for further checks and analysis.” My mother’s heart sank. With one hand, she squeezed my dad’s wrist while the other delicately stroked her bump. Concern filled her eyes, and her face was occupied with dread.

“You’ll be ok”, my dad said simply as they made their way inside the ward. My mum, trying to hold back the tears, did a weak nod, but attempted to smile nevertheless. As the doctors checked her blood pressure once again, it was clear that it was still high. She had to be monitored closely until things looked like they would improve. My dad stayed a night, but she insisted that he went home. Being alone meant she could clear her head, without anybody else worrying about her.

Hours passed and as my mum lay in bed, she was half asleep and half in an uncontrollable state of worry. The doctor loudly entered the room and woke her up instantly. “Just coming to check your blood pressures again, any headaches?”
“No, I feel completely fine”, she said, feeling surprisingly well, considering she had to be monitored every few hours. My dad came shortly after with chocolates, clothes and essentials from the house. “Thank you dear,” she said, with a weary smile. She spotted underneath the collection of necessities, a baby toy. She knew in that simple moment that everything had to be put into perspective, and regardless of any complications she had, a baby girl would greet her at the end of it. Her thumb stroked the material; nostalgia occupied her mind, remembering when she was a little girl.

Just as he left, there was a burning sensation at the top of her head which pounded so viciously that it felt like someone repeatedly hitting her with a hammer. The suddenness and the shock of it all left her no choice but to scream. Doctors from every corner of the ward rushed over to see what was going on, prodding and inspecting her like she was a human pin cushion until it was clear that she needed an emergency caesarean.

And there I was born two months early. My dad was the first one to hold me, as I was taken straight from my mother to the special care unit; I was only three pounds and four and a half ounces. He was delicate with my tiny body and managed to fit me into the palm of his hands; his eyes lit up in awe of the surreal moment. However, a tinge of unhappiness marked his face, with the realisation that my mother missed the chance of holding me first. His responsibility was more than that of a regular father’s at this point.

The doctor soon snapped them out of the moment; his hand loudly scribbled down notes with his forehead dripping with sweat. He slid his glasses down his nose as an indication of authority. It was not over yet.

“Your baby will be put into an incubator to help maintain her temperature; this can take weeks or even months.” Yet another piece of information to knock my mum and dad down. When would the bad news stop? “On top of that, she is slightly jaundiced,” said the doctor, softening his voice considerably, aware that he was the bearer of bad news.

There was nothing for my mum and dad to say to that, other than the promise that they would visit me every day until I was out. My dad kissed me and my mother goodbye, and a waiting game began. Fortunately, my mum came out of the hospital in a week and I was finally out in a month. All the anxiety and pain washed away when we could finally be a family, appreciating life in the moment and being thankful that everything was successful. Unfortunately if the technology and modern day equipment were not there to assist me, I would not have survived. A true miracle.

 

Misconception

I have always had trouble sleeping; either it’s getting to sleep in the first place or the unexplained dreams or nightmares that occur. The severity of the nightmare is usually affected by what I am watching before bed, or what I have witnessed during the day. However this particular dream, or rather nightmare, differed immensely from the rest.

“Thanks for a great night” Niamh shouted across my driveway, making her way towards her house, a few streets down. “Try not to wake the whole house up…”

“Try not to get run over” I quickly said, with a large grin on my face. I realised in that moment, how lucky I was to be at the age where my true friends were evident; having them simply celebrate with me was all I wanted.  After our farewells, I fumbled around looking for my keys in my unnecessarily large bag, and began contemplating how many drinks I had consumed that night.

“I shouldn’t have gone out” I said to myself under my breath, as I finally unlocked the door whilst staggering in to the hallway. Trying not to break my ankles, I then attempted to remove my high heels from my aching feet. Why was I out so late?

Instead of going straight to bed, I slouched on the settee, my feet dangling off the cosy leather, half watching a crime thriller and half dozing in and out of consciousness. After a while, contentment suddenly filled my body, but regardless of how comfy I was, I managed to fuel enough energy to propel myself up and carry my semi-conscious body to bed. Once I climbed the mountain of stairs and fell into my room, I wrapped myself in my sensually silky covers and sunk instantly into the mattress, and drifted off into a deep sleep.

Unusually I felt myself beginning to get restless; the air was clammy and suffocating which triggered me to aggressively throw the silk covers on the floor, whilst the abundance of heat occupied the space around me. I frantically tossed and turned until my body began to get exhausted from my sudden irritability; this persisted until I felt it. A presence. Right next to my bed. I twisted my head towards the movement and that’s when I saw her. A girl, in a crimson red dress, towering over me. Her features were blurred from my hazy and unfocused vision, yet I managed to make out her severely straight hair, which was pulled back using a sickly red bow that matched her dress. Behind her ghostly complexion, her skin was youthful; she could have only been a teenager. Her legs disappeared into a black haze below her knees, making me quickly realise that this wasn’t just one of my brothers’ pranks, it was more sinister. The genuineness and the reality of the situation stunned me into complete silence. I was a paralysed state.

Retrospectively, I waited for this disturbing and distressing image to fade into oblivion, but I was too weary to tell. I felt a cold sensation down my neck. My body shivered. The sensation felt like no other. A breath against my ear was followed by a sinister voice. Its terrifying sunken mouth murmured, “Stay away from me”. My heart felt like it was ripping out of my chest. All that my ears could sense was the beat of my pulse, getting louder and louder, until I was stuck. Unable to move. She vanished within seconds, but the fear of her lurking around terrified me further.

As I tried to make sense of what just happened, my heart was bursting through my ribcage, the pounding escalated as I tried to understand and recollect the brief yet terrifying moment. Amongst the confusion and the unnerving ambience, the room was still spinning from the aforementioned affects of alcohol. In that very moment, I typically decided, like every other young adult after a chaotic night out, that I would never drink again. However, instead of accepting that I was still intoxicated and out of control, I decided in my state of disorientation and uncertainty that I would try and search for this ghostly figure. My body felt heavy, as if I was carrying someone else’s weight. I dragged my feet across the rough carpet, the burning sensation felt as if it was perpetrating through my feet because of my carless way of walking. My eyes were mirroring my movements, heavy and tired.

Then I awoke. I wasn’t underneath my soft and comfortable sheets. I wasn’t even in my room. All I could see was the bottom of the stairs in my peripheral vision, with the echoing noise of footsteps hammering towards me.

“Joanne!” my mum screamed. Yet my brain was refusing to communicate to my mouth. “Get her in the car!” my Mum’s voice was panicked-stricken and I started to feel frustrated that I couldn’t speak; to let her know I was ok. I then heard even louder footsteps, as my dad clambered down the stairs in his hideously patterned pyjamas. He lifted me up quickly and held me tightly as my body felt limp in his arms.

“How much did she drink last night?” My dad said as he agitatedly waited for my mum to respond. “How much did she drink?” My dad’s voice started to tremble, as a result he squeezed my hand tighter, almost cutting off the circulation. The pieces of the night started to form in my mind like a kaleidoscope of memories. How much did I drink?