The Writer – Part Four

Read Part Three.
Read the whole thing on ‘The Writings’ page.

The Writer – Part Four
May 2011

Naomi had smiled when she climbed up to the slant-lit attic that day and asked him to join her for a walk.  The light fell in diamonds on the floor as it came through the leadlight window.  He was writing his second novel and was so absorbed that for several months it had become his reality, and Naomi had been relegated to the periphery of his attention, like a half-realised fiction.  That morning she asked him to go for a walk with her; she said he had stayed in too much and needed to get out for some air.  Fraser told her he was almost at the end.  She said one morning would not make a difference.

“Can’t you see this is important to me?” he said, his voice rising.

“As long as you’re happy.”

He sat at his desk whilst she went for her walk alone – perhaps the sunlight made her smile? – and he only stood up from his desk when the telephone rang.  After the front door had closed behind her he had not given her a second thought.  That evening, when he came back from the hospital he sat down at his desk again, opened a fresh bottle of whisky and finished his novel.

 

“I’m sorry,” said Fraser, “I wasn’t well when I wrote that ending.”

The woman standing opposite him raised her eyebrows and looked around the dayroom.  Her jaw set and she knelt down next to his chair.  This time he noticed that her smile was forced.

“I understand, which is why you’re going to rewrite it.”

Fraser could not hold back a laugh.

“That’s impossible!” he said.

She grasped his hand and asked why.  He gestured at his gown and tried to explain how he could not possibly go back to the novel; how it loomed in his past like an immovable symbol to which he had keep his back constantly turned.  It had become the image, the touchstone of his life since he finished it.  It was associated above all with her, that night and the moment that had destroyed his sanity.

She gripped his hand too tightly and shook her head.

“No. I’ve lost everything.  You don’t get to move on,” she said.

“Does it look like I’ve moved on?”

She dug in her fingernails and made him gasp.

“Listen,” she said in an aching voice, “you destroyed my life.  In the most ridiculous ways imaginable.  My husband died in a car crash; my best friend was hacked to pieces by an escaped convict; and then my four year old son got lost on a moor at night and was found in the morning half eaten by wolves.  Fucking wolves!”

She released his hand and he could see the weight of words behind her eyes that she could not bring herself to say.  She seemed to be fighting not to cry in front of him.  Her expression pierced him and for the first time he felt that his heavy fug of grief was not quite as dense.  His sorrow was constantly, poisonously inward looking, but now some of her pain touched him, and his own became lighter through contrast.  The memories of that night were a little less murky when he saw that they had not ruined him alone.

He had gone on a killing spree, murdering his entire cast of characters in ever more bloodthirsty and ludicrous ways.  All but one had died: the leading lady of the work.  Nadia; the woman based heavily upon his own wife, married to the late leading man who was based heavily upon himself.  Fraser had not planned to write himself and Naomi into the novel so explicitly, but the story had unfolded in ways he could not control and his real life twisted into it.

The ending was never supposed to be tragic.  There would be tragedy certainly, and death, but ultimately the final note, the orchestra’s dying refrain, would be one of hope and new life.  But the intoxicating combination of whisky and death had turned him inside out, and with stinging eyes and blurred vision he had gone on his rampage of slaughter, leaving only one woman – this woman – alive.  What’s the use of a killing spree, he thought to himself, if there’s nobody left behind to see the bodies?

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Fraser saw Caesar being wheeled back into the dayroom, his gown no longer a toga and his eyes glazed.  He looked at the red crescent shapes she had carved into his palm and felt something boil over inside him.  He would not be dictated to by a creation of his own imagination.  He wielded the power and the pen, and he would not let her open up his old wounds just because she could not bear her own.  She was a flat reproduction of his wife and a poor imitation of a woman.  He would not allow her to berate him for an act of grief and he would not revisit that night because a hallucination told him to.  The walls of his cell were so cold at night and she had no idea.

“For Christ’s sake,” he spat, “It’s just fiction.”

She lashed out and raked her long nails across his cheek.  He cried out loudly and on the other side of the room The Bumblebee looked up.

“You feel that?” she roared, “Tell me that’s fiction!”

She stalked away, furious, past the rapidly advancing Bumblebee, who did not ask her what she had done.  Fraser held his cheek and he could see spots of blood on his gown.  The Bumblebee spoke to him, but Fraser pushed him away and tried to turn around in the chair to watch Nadia leave.  He wanted to shout after her but he did not know what to say; he thrashed futilely against the hands that were pulling him out of the chair.

He was taken to a room which had a table with straps and a humming machine in the corner.  The Bumblebee buckled him in and put something that tasted of rubber into his mouth, which he tried to spit out but could not.  A nurse said to Fraser that he had had a difficult day and needed something to calm him down.  He tried to tell her that she must find Nadia and get her back, just so he could see his wife’s face again.  Then they put something on his head, flipped a switch on the humming machine and he was jolted into darkness.


Read Part Five.

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