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Below are the 12 most recent journal entries recorded in testingrange's LiveJournal:

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006
6:21 pm
Part of the point of doing this was to get comments on how people think the writing is going. With this in mind, I've changed the comment setting so they're never screened. Feel free to give your opinion.

On another note, I'm also toying with the idea of doing some pieces of writing for people if they ask, a little like when people commission a portrait. I'm not sure how it would work though. Ideally, I'd get an idea of what people want, and try and do something appropiate for them. If you'd be interested, leave a comment, and I'll get in touch with you.
2:33 pm
For Suzanne
We were married two years after we first kissed, Sarah and I. We’d known each other for years, but not noticed what was in front of us. When we finally sorted ourselves out, it was just natural. It was what such things should be, and everything fell into place from there.

The wedding was simple, not least because we didn’t have much money then. I was half way through my law degree, and Sarah was just starting out as a junior editor for a literary magazine. We’d have liked something bigger, but we thought we’d rather have our day soon than wait until we could do it with all the frills.

We were married in a small church near where Sarah grew up, by a friend of her mother’s. Our mothers both cried and our fathers both beamed, for all approved. We had enough for a short honeymoon. A small hotel in Germany, near where I grew up, was the setting for a week of escapism before going back to start our new life together.

Money was tight at first of course. Sarah was supporting us both on her meagre salary while I did the last year of my degree and found a job in a small firm of solicitors. We got through, and when I was earning too, things got a little easier. It wasn’t long before we were looking at buying our first home. Trawling round estate agents while we looked at the lowest end of the spectrum was exciting at first, but soon became soul destroying.

It was after a few months of this that we received the package. It was postmarked from a week before our wedding, which had been nearly two years previously. God knows why it had taken so long. That in itself wouldn’t be that odd, but we’d only been renting our current place for eight months. When it was sent, we'd lived somewhere else. The package contained one letter and a set of legal papers. The letter simply said “For the two of you, and any that may come. It has served me well, and I know it will be the perfect thing for you. In time.” The set of papers were the deeds to a house, called Lakeside.

God alone knew who’d sent us the package. I wasn’t aware of any distant relatives that were loaded and mental while fondly looking upon me from afar. Nor was Sarah. It’s not the sort of thing that comes up over dinner. Can you imagine it? Oh, by the way dear, my great uncle Gottfried, who’s mad as a box of badgers but owns half of Hertfordshire, thinks I’m the best thing since the invention of gin, and thinks you’re simply marvellous too. None of our relatives knew anyone like that either, and the note wasn’t signed, so we were none the wiser. The address of the house was about an hour’s drive away, so we decided to go and see it. It seemed like the thing to do. After all, what is the done thing when crazy anonymous people give you a house? Somehow a thank you note addressed to “Some generous nutter” doesn’t quite seem the appropriate thing.

It didn’t take us long to find the village the postcode belonged to, but no-one knew where Lakeside was. The local estate agent asked if we’d be interested in selling it if we found it, but it’s hard to accept such an offer when you’ve no idea if you’re selling a palace or a hovel. In the end, we just asked someone where the nearest lake was. That got us there.

Driving through the woods that led to the lake wasn’t promising. Most of the trees were wilting, sagging in the summer sun like an elderly drunk that knows all the pension is gone, but only half the week. Those that weren’t were dead, rotten husks falling away, tired of the company they were keeping. The road became a track, and the track became overgrown. I can’t say we held out much hope. After a while the track began to climb, only levelling out when the incline seemed about to kill the elderly car we could only just afford. And then we reached the crest of the hill.

Laid out before us was a small valley, a field on either side of what was once again a well kept track. To the left, the field was like a bowling green, if slightly at an angle. An ancient tree held an old rope swing, an idyllic image from some American movie that bemoaned the loss of the innocence. It stood by a stream, the branches reaching out over the water, the swing positioned just so for that clichéd image of leaping out into the blue yonder and hurtling into the crystal water below. The field on the right was unkempt, but only just enough to allow nature to get a foot back in the door, without being an unpleasant wilderness in which a running ingénue might fall and injure themselves.

The track led down to the edge of a beautiful lake, beset on all sides by trees and foliage, dark blue water suggesting that this was a body of water that did not contain dangerous currents, sheer drops, hidden weeds to entangle the unwary swimmer, or unfriendly wildlife. Two things struck me about the scene. The first was the house.

Rising out of the hedgerow that shielded it, the house had perfect white walls, wooden verandas that seemed to have fallen from an old house in the Deep South, intricate knotwork around the gables, and old slate tiles. It was set slightly at an angle from the track, allowing us to see the large balcony at the front, reaching out over the lake. Two large pillars at either side of the balcony reached down into the lake, disappearing under the water, supporting the balcony and some of the house itself, which sprawled over the water as well. If fairy tales had been set in Georgia, this would have been the house.

The second thing of note was the man standing next to it, on the track, waving at us as we approached. I stopped the car just short of him, and we got out. He was an elderly chap, and looked like he’d never been near a city in his life. A weatherbeaten face sat below a battered old cap and above a pullover which looked like it was less comfortable than some of the thick hedgerows we’d passed on the way. Corduroy trousers tucked into old brown boots, and an old jacket covered the whole.

“Hello there! I see you found the place alright. My name’s Adam. Well, I suppose I’d better show you around.”

We didn’t think to question why he knew who were, how he knew we were to arrive at that time when we didn’t, or even who he was. We just followed. We trailed behind him as he let us into the house, marvelled at the smell of home that was there already, paid little attention to what he was saying, and mentally decorated. We'd gone from scraping together enough rent for a roof over our heads to owning a beautiful house. We couldn't believe our luck. Well, would you? It was a while before we noticed that Adam had stopped talking. I asked him to repeat himself.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I said, obviously it's not your place right now. It's still the home of the person that lived here before. In time, it will change. It will become your home as you live in it and change it."

I thanked him for the introduction, and he gave us the keys and all the paperwork. I asked him who had left the house to us. He said he didn't know, he was just hired to give the tour, and left on an old bycicle. We never saw him again.

We looked through the house. Adam had been right about the house. It wasn't ours. Not yet. For a start, there was a nursery. It was a very nice nursery, but we'd already decided we didn't want children. It just wasn't something we wanted for ourselves. The place was decorated as for a cute couple that liked school runs, kids laughing, apple pie and wholesome stories. That, put bluntly, wasn't us. We were more likely to want a bar than a cradle. We liked old wood, bookcases and wingchairs better than well lit rooms and space for kids to run around.

The kitchen was perfect though. A great old table sat in the centre, covered in the scars and burns of use, and a large window let light streaming in onto the large range. We loved it. But were a little confused. Sat in the centre of the old table, covered in a thick layer of old, untroubled dust, was a large red apple. It looked like something from an old fairytale. It was a little creepy, to be honest. Sarah threw it in the bin as soon as we started cleaning up and decorating.

The next few years went well. Sarah was doing well as an editor, and gaining an excellent reputation. I turned out to be an adequate solicitor, but no more. I'd managed to get a book published, with Sarah putting a good word in for me with a few contacts, and that was taking off. It wasn't long before I quit the law. I don't think the law was very upset. The house looked and felt more like our home. In the evening we could sit on the balcony overlooking the lake, drink wine and talk about how we were.

Over time, we started to notice the house. Things had changed. We'd stripped out the nursery and put a little desk in there, on which sat a computer. That was fine. But we didn't remember repainting the walls. They were now a deep green, which went well with the rich mahogany colour of the desk. Lovely. Except we'd only put a cheap computer desk in there. Sarah and I argued over who had done it. No burglar creeps in and redecorates. Especially not with expensive (not to mention very heavy) mahogany desks.

Sarah stomped off to bed, and made it very clear that she didn't want me to follow. I wasn't really inclined to. One of the spare rooms had an old bed in it. We had meant to throw it out, but hadn't got round to it. It was old, and the mattress wasn't too fresh. The room itself wasn't great either, as we hadn't decorated it yet. In the middle of the night, I went down to the kitchen to get myself a drink. Sat in the middle of the table, as if it had been there the whole time, was the apple. The layer of dust was as thick as ever. I wasn't in the mood for this shit. I took it to the front of the house, and threw it as hard as I could into the water, then went back to bed.

When I woke up, the light was streaming through the open curtains. The white curtains made of light linen that had not been there the night before. Sitting bolt upright, I looked around. The walls looked freshly painted, but there was no smell of paint. The bed was a double, where it had been a single before. The iron bedframe was nice, but not fantastic. The white sheets were pretty inoffensive. The whole room looked like a guest room. One that you keep for the different types of people that come over. Relatively without character, but perfect for when friends visit. Or you have a screaming row with your wife, and have to sleep somewhere else.

Sarah was at work, but when she got back I showed her the room. At first she thought I was up to something, and had decorated when she was out. I had to point out that she'd been gone for ten hours at the most. Not long enough for me to do all this. And I couldn't paint a wall in a weekend, let alone a room in a day. My DIY skills were legendary in their inadequacy. I slept in the same bed as her that night.

In the next few years, things like that happened again. Normally in connection with our lives. When we had a pregnancy scare, one wall of my office became a mural of wildlife, as if preparing for a new arrival. When we found out that it was, after all, just a scare, it was back to the green. My friend lost his job, and had to leave his place. One of the other rooms in the house became blue, the colour of his favourite team's kit. A single bed appeared, made of light pine. Sarah and I hated pine. But his furniture all matched it. The only thing he didn't have himself was a bed.

When Sarah won an award for a book she'd edited, the mantelpiece became deeper. It had just been a surround, now it was thick enough for an award to sit on comfortably. She won more over the next few years as her star rose, and I added a few of my own. The mantelpiece became longer, sitting above a larger fireplace. When I bought a motorbike for weekends, the garage seemed larger, but the footprint of the house never changed. Only it now comfortably housed our car and bike.

Time went on, and we grew old. The house saw all of this, and was the venue for many things. The friend that stayed here for a while got married in a marquee in the field out the back, which became clear and flat enough for the assembled friends and family. There was a wake in the large lounge. Didn't take much changing, but the friend involved was an Irishman, and had made it clear during his illness that he wanted an old style Irish wake. So where there had been a small drinks cabinet for us, there was a large, well stocked bar. The list goes on.

I got better as a writer, and spent more time away on book tours. It was always a joy to come home to Sarah, and our beautiful house. It got tough at some points though. After one long tour to the US, Sarah and I had a blazing row. She was finding it harder and harder to come home to an empty house for so long, and I didn't know why she worked until 9 or 10 pm when I was there. We were in our fifties now, and were spending less and less time together. For a while, it looked like we might be at the end. At the end of one row, I was sat in the kitchen, brinking my way to the bottom of a bottle of whisky. I turned around, and the apple was back. Covered in dust, like it was a waxwork in an old wine cellar, not a fresh apple sat on our kitchen table. I was drunk and angry, and again, it ended up in the bottom of the lake.

Sarah and I patched up our differences. I did less tours, ignoring my agent's pleas to not let each new book suffer from lack of exposure. Sarah did less hours. We didn't need the money any more, and wanted to spend some more time travelling. Things got better, and our marriage survived, possibly a little stronger. I spoke to Sarah about the apple once. She'd seen it too. On nights where I'd been away, and we'd argued over the phone. Nights when it was tempting to pack some things and stay with friends. When dark thoughts of why she was still with a man who spent so much time away having a wild time went through her mind. It would be sat there, tempting her. Each time, she threw it in the lake.

We saw it a couple of times after that. Each time, we were having trouble. Each time, we survived, and it ended up in the lake.

Then, three weeks ago, after three decades of living here and being married, I got the call. I don't remember driving to the hospital, or much of what was said. Just the faces of pity for an old man, newly lost. Sarah had been found slumped over her desk, eyes still open. She'd had an aneurysm. I'm told she would barely have felt a thing. I don't know if I believe that. The funeral was this weekend. I've been wandering around this empty house on my own. Rattling around with ghosts and memories. I keep thinking I hear her. Every morning is a shock. I open my eyes, notice the lack of her body next to me, and I remember. Every morning I grieve anew.

Nothing is the same without her here. I do the cooking, but I spent half an hour yesterday looking at two different sausages in the butcher's. I couldn't decide, and I just wanted to know which she fancied that day. I liked both options. I wasn't some widower that found himself unable to function because his wife had done everything. I just wanted her opinion. I left without buying anything, and walked down the road crying. Over a pack of fucking sausages.

When I got home, the apple was back. I left it there, and took to our bed. It was still there when I got up. I got dressed in cords, boots, and the thick jumper she'd bought me for my birthday this year. She had often nagged me affectionately, reminded me I wasn't the young man I had been, and didn't have his circulation either, so I should wrap up. She didn't want to outlive me. I walked into the garage, looking for something. We'd never bought what I was looking for, but I knew it would be there. I found it behind the car.

A large trunk contained to thick coils of rope. I struggled down to the waterfront with them, and dumped them into our little rowboat. I had trouble getting into the old lifejacket that Sarah had always helped me with as she laughed at me in bright orange. When I finally got it on, I rowed out to one of the two pillars that supported our balcony and the rooms above, and tied the end of one rope to the base, before doing the same with the other. Then I rowed out to the the little island opposite our house, and looped the ropes around the large rock in the centre. I fed the two ropes back to the house, through the front door, and back into the kitchen.

This shouldn't work, but I know it will. It's just right. I picked the apple up, and rubbed off the dust. Running it under the tap, the waxy shine came through. I said before it looked like a waxwork, but the sheen on the skin was more than any ball of wax. When it was clean, I set it back on the table. Which brings me here.

I've looped both ropes round under my arms, tying them under my chest, as I face away from the waterfront. I push forward, taking up the slack of the ropes. My back clicks, underused muscles and vertebrae being called into action. I hear the house creak around me. I'm sweating profusely now, but I don't doubt that this will work. Don't ask me why, but I know it will. Soon, the creaks get louder, becoming a cracking sound. And then, with an almighty crack, the ropes fall slack again. The pillars have gone. I walk to the table, pick up the apple, and take a bite.

Please forgive me. I can't do this any more. It's not the same without her. I'm sorry. The apple is bitter, but welcome. I know it's the right time for it. The front facade of the house comes away as I move towards it, leaving me staring into the lake. I climb the stairs, and move into the only room remaining above what is left of the balcony. Our bedroom. It is hanging over the edge, one lean spur of a large house, hanging out over a lake as the rest of the house dives in. I feel drowsy. The end is coming, I know. As I slip into sleep, I feel the floor give way, and the room slips into the lake.

I regret nothing. We had our years, and I would swap none of them. I loved her as well on the last day in this house as on the first. But she is gone, and I cannot remain without her.
Tuesday, September 19th, 2006
5:46 pm
New material on the way soon. Been going through a bit of a block, but it's coming back. Hopefully.....
Monday, September 5th, 2005
5:56 am
Deilogue
Note: This is something a little different. It will hopefully be the first in a series, so anything with the title "Deilogue" will be a continuation. As always, constructive criticism is welcomed.

Read more...Collapse )
Tuesday, August 16th, 2005
11:43 pm
I am devoid of inspiration. As you may have noticed, this has been the way for some time now. Consequently, I require your help.

Give me a jump off point. Be it a word, a sentence, an idea, just say something.

I'll will return.
Wednesday, December 1st, 2004
2:41 am
I'm back. Not sure what to think of this one yet.

eschatonCollapse )
12:38 am
It's been a while since anything new was up here. For this I apologise. It's not because I've been neglecting it, but I've been having a little trouble getting anything written. For this reason, I haven't checked it much recently, and have failed to notice a couple of comments. My apologies.

I require kicking when this happens again.

The entire point here was to write on a more regular basis, and that doesn't seem to be happening, does it? Still, I'm nearly there with one.

Watch this space.
Tuesday, March 9th, 2004
6:05 pm
I have a very good reason for removing the last piece. One that is hard to explain, but irrefutable.

But I'll have a go at explaining it.

It was shit.

On another note, I have an idea for a graphic novel, but no idea how to pitch it. Nor do I know any artists for it. Any ideas?
Friday, March 5th, 2004
3:22 am
Tried some new things with this one. Not sure how they worked. See what you think.

What she doesn't know can't hurt meCollapse )
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004
10:10 pm
I apologise for the lack of updates on here. I have written a few things recently, but to blunt, they were mediocre. I have one I might put up, but more will definitely be forthcoming. Keep an eye open.
Thursday, February 19th, 2004
1:04 am
I’ve been driving for hours now. The rain is coming down so hard that I can barely see the road, and the noise on the roof is deafening.

I don’t mind though. I like this game. I know you only do it because you love me. It’s our little secret. No-one else knows we do this for fun. Not the courts. Not the man you married to spice it up.

Not even the child you had with him.

It’s all ok, I know you want me to find you. I know it’s a challenge. I managed to get rid of the last guy, but this one was a real challenge. Changing your name was clever. I knew you’d gone back to the city, but it took me a long time to check the marriage certificates.

But it’s ok. I’ve found you now. And I’ll be there soon. Do you think this one will try to defend you? I like it when they do that. That last one was too easy. Did he tell you about the bar I found him in? I only had to show him the photos. Did I show you the photos? They’re very good. In one of them, you can even see the clamps. I have a good one of him leaving the hotel. That’s all it took.

God, this rain is really coming down now. I’m sorry, I would have been there earlier, but the rain is causing problems. I think I hit someone earlier.

Hang on, I need to change the tape over.

Sorry about that.

Did you miss me? I know it’s been a while. Almost two years this time. But I did it. Why do you play this game? I know you do it for me, but why? Is this me proving my devotion?

I shouldn’t have been angry last time. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. But you took the game too far. You tried to pretend I hadn’t won that round. You kept trying to run. I know you will eventually, but I’d only just found you. And you didn’t need to get me arrested. That wasn’t funny. Please don’t do that again.

It doesn’t matter anyway. That’s over. I don’t have long this time. I’m supposed to report in every morning, and they’ll miss me in about fourteen hours. That was clever. It makes it more difficult.

Oh, I completely forgot. I quit smoking for you. It’s been three months since I had a cigarette. I really wanted one earlier after I…. Oh no, I can’t tell you that yet.

I’ve lost weight too. I’ve been working out. Where I was, there’s nothing better to do. I have to tell you, I’m quite angry at you for putting me there. But I forgive you. I know you love me. It’s a shame we can’t tell anyone else about our game. But you’re right, they wouldn’t understand. But we’ve been playing for nine years now. I miss you. Do you want to give it a proper try this time? We can get a place. A bungalow. I know stairs scare you now (and I’m sorry about that by the way).

It will be great. I can get a real job. Like before. Like last time. I can come home to you. You can be a real housewife. I know you want that. I know you like waiting for me. We can have kids. I promise it won’t be like last time. You’ll have to get rid of his child though. She’s only part of the game.

I want to stop playing. I want you to hold me like you used to. I want you to change your name back. I want to stop hunting for you. I want you to stop running.

I want you to admit you love me.

I know you do.

I’m nearly there now. I can see the city lights. It’s not far to the house you have with him.

Oh, and I have one last surprise.

The man you married?

I already found him.

I have proof.

I love you.
Tuesday, February 10th, 2004
10:11 am
The 1st of July. 1st day of the 7th month. It used to be a fairly innocuous day. It’s bloody well not now.

Now it’s our insurance day. It’s our day we use to stop us all going postal.

See, it got to the point that it was no longer newsworthy if someone ran around their office with an automatic rifle blowing holes in their erstwhile colleagues while shouting something about wanting the desk by the window.

Various measures were introduced to reduce the public stress levels. The first one was free blood pressure tests in the workplace. That one didn’t work. It took a student to point out that people were probably getting even more stressed about their blood pressure being through the roof.

They tried everything. Psychometric testing. More annual leave. Extra days off for stress. Metal detectors at the entrances of office buildings. State sponsored yoga classes. None of it worked.

Which is why the company that approached various western governments seemed like the Pied Piper of Hamlin at first. Everyone knew the governments were talking to some company about what were now being called the Stress Casualties. The rumours were everywhere, and differed from person to person.

The company was going to provide safe prostitution, which the governments would legalise. The company was to be allowed to provide certain illegal drugs. There was to be a show where the public could kill convicted criminals. The list went on.

No-one got it right.

The thinking behind the solution was as follows: We were stressed because of the massive amount of things we felt, but couldn’t let go of. All those things you think, but can never say. The boss who keeps claiming all your ideas as his own when the CEO drops in. The friend of yours who is married to the most inane woman you’ve ever met. The guy down the pub who wouldn’t know what soap was if he drowned in it. The friend you’re hopelessly in love with but can never tell because her boyfriend is a friend of yours, and she wouldn’t leave him anyway.

We were stressed because we bottled all these things up, never letting them out no matter how much we needed to. Before long you only knew something was tearing your friend apart when he was sticking a Colt .45 up your nose.

So the company had an idea. What if you could say all these things? What would it be like if you could give vent to all this rage, love, anger and torment that’s been eating you up? Wouldn’t that be great?

But you can’t, can you? Actions have consequences. You can’t tell your best friend that you’re in love with his wife and expect him to ask you out for a beer that weekend. No, he’s more likely to ask you outside, and try to come back in on his own.

Which is where the company came in. They’d been working on memory wiping, to make more effective undercover operatives. People like the DEA loved the idea. How can your guy get found out if he doesn’t know himself?

Except it didn’t work. The most they could safely erase was 72 hours, or people went round the twist. Break a connection too far and the link is torn completely. The brain just can’t handle it. But 24 hours is fine.

So for the last ten years, on the 1st of July, we’ve been able to say exactly what we thought. One day of total honesty, just as long as there’s no lasting evidence. No writing things down. At the end of the day, a clean slate.

You don’t remember it, but your body does. Less stress. Less hassle. And the Stress Casualties virtually disappeared. At first, there were instances of people not playing the game. Trying to avoid the wipe. Keeping notes. But people soon learned that it was easier not to.

It was great. I don’t know what I’ve said, but I have a fair idea. I’m sure my boss has taken a verbal beating every year for the past five years.

But this year it went wrong. The company took the Pied Piper act to the next level, demanding exorbitant fees for their services. The governments refused to pay. No-one got wiped.

I told my friend. I told him how I felt about his wife. I told his wife.

That evening she was on my doorstep with a suitcase. She kissed me. We spent most of the night together. It was perfect. We lost ourselves completely. We’d always wanted this, but never admitted to it.

She had a touch that could make you think you’d died and gone to heaven. Afterwards, we lay in bed, eating ice cream and listening to music. I’ve never been so happy. I don’t think it was the first time. She went home to tell her husband, promising to return the next day.

The wouldn’t wipe any of us the next morning.

My doorbell rang on the evening of the 2nd. She was on my doorstep again. She was beautiful as ever, but she’d been crying, and she looked like someone had hit her. Hard. I took her in, turning my head to follow her as she walked to the living room. I didn’t see the foot in my doorway as I tried to close the door. I didn’t see the fist coming, only the floor coming up to meet me. I didn’t even see the knife, but I felt it as it went in. It was only my left arm. I’d rolled on the floor, and he’d aimed for the centre of my back. I doubt that the location was accidental.

I could hear screaming. Some of that may have been me. I could hear him shouting, telling someone to shut up.

I scrambled for the stairs, managing to take them two at a time, holding my injured arm with my right. I could hear him down there, slapping her again. He was demanding to know if there was a phone up there. God knows why, he’d been over for beers often enough. I guess he’d never spent an evening in my bedroom.

I don’t have a phone in there. But I do have an old present from a cop I knew once. I had spare rounds for it too.

I heard him coming up the stairs. Not his footfalls. I didn’t need to hear those. He was calling my name, and laughing. I’ve never heard him laugh like that. He was telling me what he what going to do to me. What he was going to do to her afterwards. He didn’t know about the gun. He couldn’t have, as not even she knew.

It was threatening her that did it. He shouldn’t have done that. I closed the bedroom door, and hid behind it, so I would be obscured when it opened. It would buy me enough time.

He didn’t kick the door in. I would have preferred that. I could have understood the rage. But he started whistling. I think the tune was “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”. He opened the door as if he was bringing in a tray of beer and pizza. Nonchalant. As if this happened every day. He was in the centre of the room before he turned round.

I only stopped firing when the clip was empty. A soft click after so much noise. By that point, you couldn’t tell who he was. The face was gone. He was on the floor, and I must have stood over him after he went down, round after round following the first.

He’s still there. It's the early hours of the 4th now, and I’m still holding the gun. We’re sat on my roof now, watching the fires eat the city. The radio is just a test signal.

I don’t know whether she’s here because of love or fear. She won’t speak to me.

But she’s with me as the world burns around us.
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