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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Writing my Third Novel #NaNoWriMo18

3 min read

This is a story about traditions...

Tapping away at the keyboard

Writing my first novel without the competing demands of a full-time job and a blog, was an incredible experience. I had a great deal of help from my girlfriend and my guardian angel, who patiently read my daily efforts and offered a lot of support and encouragement, so that I could complete the project. I had friends and my regular readers following the progress of my draft manuscript as I publicly published it. It was a dream writing project.

I was overconfident for my second novel. I thought that I would easily repeat my achievement, so I set myself a very ambitious challenge. I was somewhat carried away with the notion that I'm a good writer and as such I expected myself to be able to churn out high quality prose with ease. I thought an excellent novel would flow straight onto the page with little or no effort.

I persevered with that second novel for 42,000 words before finally abandoning the project, because it wasn't going to be finished by 30 November, in time to win NaNoWriMo and I was deeply unhappy with what I'd written. I'm quite a perfectionist, but what I'd written was truly abysmal in and in dire need of some serious editing. It embarrassed me that my bad writing was on public display.

My blog writing has become an ingrained habit. I have no difficulty producing an average of 1,200 words per day for this website.

What I hadn't realised is how important it is for me to be able to express myself every day on my blog. I need this outlet. By the end of 30 days - because I'd decided to stop blogging temporarily - I missed my blog so badly I felt like I was dying of heartbreak.

So, this year I'm writing my new novel in private, although I'll share a link with you if you ask nicely. I'm writing without worrying about making my efforts fit for publication. I'm writing for the sheer enjoyment of crafting a story, without worrying about what the public think about it. When I'm finished, if I'm pleased with it then I'll edit it and think about publishing it, but for now it's my own private project.

I've written 1,653 words so far and I'll probably keep you posted about my progress from time to time, because I'm excited about the project and I'm enjoying myself a lot. It's nice not to have the pressure I had last year, even though this is the first year where I'm also working a full-time job and writing my daily blog at the same time, which is quite demanding.

I've picked a story which is allowing me to have a lot of fun. I've abandoned all the restrictions I placed upon myself the previous two years. I'm not worrying about whether or not I'm writing good fiction at this stage... I'm just writing the novel that I want to write. I have complete artistic freedom and I love it.

Having written over 2,000 words today, I'm going to wrap up this shorter-than-usual blog post, feeling like I've done a good day's work.

 

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#NaNoWriMo 2017: Day Twenty-Two – High Dependency

1 min read

Purdy flower

3,390 words written today... I'm clawing my way back. 2,149 behind, but I might be able to make up some of that ground later on before I go to sleep, given that the next chapter should pretty much write itself.

https://medium.com/high-dependency/nanowrimo-2017-day-twenty-two-41f135d6f682

 

#NaNoWriMo 2017: Day Twenty-One – High Dependency

1 min read

Corn ear

Things I don't reccommend: writing a book in a month without a plan, while live-publishing the draft manuscript.

https://medium.com/high-dependency/nanowrimo-2017-day-twenty-one-81d99267e13e

 

#NaNoWriMo 2017: Day Twenty – High Dependency

1 min read

Yet another pretty flower

An unorthodox chapter but it's given me the format for the rest of the book - I've got most of it planned out now. Hopefully I've overcome the dreadful "oh shit what now" moment that was always bound to happen as I flew by the seat of my pants.

https://medium.com/high-dependency/nanowrimo-2017-day-twenty-6c330a6d1de2

 

#NaNoWriMo 2017: Day Nineteen – High Dependency

1 min read

Another pretty flower

Clawing my way back. I was having a really bad case of writer's block. Totally hit the wall at the 30,000 word mark. Damn.

https://medium.com/high-dependency/nanowrimo-2017-day-nineteen-2ef6b4d2e114

 

#NaNoWriMo 2017: Day Eighteen – High Dependency

1 min read

Pretty flower

Having some problems posting links on my website. I am still writing. Here's chapter 18:

https://medium.com/high-dependency/nanowrimo-2017-day-eighteen-7f3e582cc89e

 

Novelist

5 min read

This is a story about editing...

Poste Restante Novel

I decided to re-read my first novel. It surprised me just how well it starts - I was prepared to cringe with embarrassment at something that had not stood the test of time well, but it was OK. Later in the book, I fumbled with a couple of things - perhaps I was hurriedly bashing out a chapter, without a clear plan of how the scene should unfold. Towards the end of the book, there was a glaring error that was due purely to a lack of research: I had been a little lazy. The ending tried very hard to be enigmatic, but I imagine that it would have been confusing for many readers, and a little underwhelming.

Wouldn't it be arrogant to assume that I would be able to sit down one day and pen a good novel? Of course my first full-length story was going to be a learning exercise, and I was going to make mistakes. All I had was the first scene, the general plot outline and a twist - I had no idea how I was going to end the story. Writing dialogue is not something I'd done a lot of, so I had to develop that skill as I went along. I would spend quite a long time trying to remember what I had and hadn't told the reader, so that I wouldn't contradict myself or spoil the surprises I had planned. As a learning exercise, it was brilliant.

As November 1st approaches, I'm getting increasingly excited about starting my second novel. My first book explored an individual, and the other characters were purely set dressing in a story which was about loneliness and isolation. My second book will study relationships; societies - my mind buzzes with ideas, because there's so much scope to play around with multiple actors in my new story.

The opening scene is very important, to set the tone for the rest of the story I'm telling. I keep adding little bits to the image I'm creating in my mind - it's so much more than an image. I think about the textures, the mood, the sounds and importantly, the smells. I want to make the book as much an olfactory experience as is possible to do without having to impregnate the pages with scratch-n-sniff chemicals.

It seems amateurish to break the fourth wall, and to be 'so meta' as to talk directly to you, the reader, about the process of writing a work of fiction. To have hijacked my blog to talk about my next book project, is an indication of just how overexcited I am about writing another novel, such that I can't quite contain myself. I'm terribly afraid that I'll be suddenly overwhelmed by the challenge when I start on Wednesday - the blank page in front of me will intimidate me, and I will be afraid to make the first mark.

As I did last year, I plan on publishing my first draft live, as I go along. I'm thinking that I might publish on medium.com this year, so that I'm sharing a popular writing platform with other authors who are partaking in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo 2017).

Many publishers will tell you to shove your manuscript up your arse, if you are foolish enough to tell them that you wrote it during NaNoWriMo. There's quite a glut of crappy unedited manuscripts that gather in the inboxes of literary agents, during December. Like people who join a gym straight after the Christmas holiday season, as a New Year's resolution, those fat unfit faces soon disappear as the year wears on. I know that if have serious intentions of becoming a bestselling author, I will need to become a better editor.

Like I did last year, I'm inviting edits, improvements and suggestions, as the new novel emerges from the depths of my imagination. It was immensely pleasurable, to have my friends trying to guess what was going to happen next, and to be then able to gauge whether the pace that I was telling the story was too fast, too slow, and whether the twist in my tale was too obvious or not.

I had a wonderful girlfriend and her incredibly supportive family, egging me on to complete my book last year. This year, I'm living with friends on a lovely peaceful farm in the Welsh countryside - the kind of environment which would leave most aspiring authors green with envy.

Completing the project - 53,000 words - was the name of the game last year. To actually finish a novel is very hard - many budding writers won't have the discipline to keep up the word count. The initial excitement and energy can quickly dissipate, to be replaced by a sense of dread, when one thinks about returning to the neglected manuscript. This is the brilliance of NaNoWriMo, which encourages you to finish the project within the month of November, and then worry about going back and editing the damn thing. As a completer-finisher, it suits my personality perfectly: what point is there in an unfinished book? Perfectionism will get you nowhere, if you never get to the point of publishing.

Tomorrow I have boring chores to do and I will write an ordinary blog post, which is a deliberate demarkation between "Nick the blogger" and "Nick the novelist". I'm thinking that I'm going to pause my blog, partly because I want to divert my readers to my draft manuscript, and partly because I don't think that I can context-switch between storytelling mode, and blogging mode.

I'm afraid to lose the comfort of writing my blog. I'm afraid that I'm going to fail. However, it's a really exciting time: I'm like a kid before Christmas.

The working title for my next novel is High Dependency.

 

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#NaNoWriMo2016 - Day Thirty

9 min read

Poste Restante

Contents

Chapter 1: The Caravan

Chapter 2: Invisible Illness

Chapter 3: The Forest

Chapter 4: Prosaic

Chapter 5: The Van

Chapter 6: Into the Unknown

Chapter 7: The Journey

Chapter 8: Infamy

Chapter 9: The Villages

Chapter 10: Waiting Room

Chapter 11: The Shadow People

Chapter 12: Enough Rope

Chapter 13: The Post Offices

Chapter 14: Unsuitable Friends

Chapter 15: The Chase

Chapter 16: Self Inflicted

Chapter 17: The Holiday

Chapter 18: Psychosis, Madness, Insanity and Lunacy

Chapter 19: The Hospitals

Chapter 20: Segmentation

Chapter 21: The Cell

Chapter 22: Wells of Silence

Chapter 23: The Box

Chapter 24: Jailbird

Chapter 25: The Scales

Chapter 26: Descent

Chapter 27: The Syringe

Chapter 28: Anonymity

Chapter 29: The Imposter

Chapter 30: Wish You Were Here

 

30. Wish You Were Here

Leaving Exeter on a dual carriageway, Lara, Colin and Matthew zoomed along at 70 miles per hour. The countryside was fairly flat and uninteresting with roadside scenery flying past them at high speed until they turned off and joined the main road going East. The dual carriageway went North from that junction, towards Somerset and they were headed into the heart of rural Devonshire. The terrain grew hilly and their progress was slowed by trucks and tractors, crawling up the steep hills. There were few places to overtake.

The motorway journey to Bristol and down to Exeter had been bland and monotonous, with little to look at other than the bright blue signs displaying the distances to major towns and cities on the route. Now, the road they were driving on passed through small towns, villages and hamlets. There were pretty country houses and inviting pubs, fields full of cattle, rivers, as well as the exciting twists and turns of the road as it traced the contours of the hills and valleys. Lara found she was working through nearly all the gears in her gearbox and having to use her brakes as the car climbed, descended and tackled sharp corners.

Emerging from a thickly wooded area where the ancient trees leaned over the road from both sides - making it almost dark enough to require headlights - the woodland thinned out and a large flood plain opened up.

"We're not far away now" Matthew said.

A sign said they were crossing the River Harmyn as they went over a bridge. Soon, they started to gently climb out of the valley bottom, curving right in a long sweeping corner that they could not see around because of the slope of the hill. They drove past a petrol station and a few other buildings. There was a small shop that doubled as a post office, a pub and a small garage forecourt selling second hand cars. Beyond the roadside hamlet there was thick woodland and the road continued up for several miles before it plateaued at the top.

"OK, turn right here" said Matthew.

"Where?" asked Lara. She could see nothing but a ditch, thick hedgerow and trees beyond.

"Slow down."

She slowed the car.

"OK. Here."

A tiny single track lane revealed itself. Although it was tarmacked, it was in a poor state of repair. They reached a crossroads with some faded road markings indicating Lara had to give way. There were no signs.

"Straight over."

The road dipped down and all they could see was tall hedge on either side. Occasionally they would pass a gate into a field. There was no other traffic on this quiet country lane. They reached another crossroads.

"OK, go left."

The road dropped sharply and then started to climb gently. At the top of the hill the road forked.

"Stay left."

The road now traced the side of a valley, dropping away to their left and descending into murky darkness at the bottom. Across on the other side of the valley were fields and woodland. They drove through areas of thick trees where their view was obscured. There was a long right hand bend.

"OK. Take this right."

"Where?" Lara asked again.

"Up that track."

The road was slightly muddy with tyre marks and a gravel track forked off to the right. The track led up into a forest with two dark brown grooves worn deep by vehicles in the grey stone chippings. Weeds sprouted out of the middle of the track. Lara stopped on the tarmac for a moment, engaged first gear and drove into the forest.

Passing through a wooden gate that was open, the track went uphill and then plateaued in an area where huge piles of logs had been stacked up.

"OK, go right here."

"Up there?" Lara asked.

"Yep." said Matthew, pointing up a steep side track that was covered with dead leaves and twigs. It looked muddy and slippery.

"Will we make it in this car?"

"You'll be fine. Just try not to spin the wheels."

"Do you mind driving the last bit? I doubt you're going to get in trouble for driving without insurance here" Lara said.

Matthew drove them up to the end of the track. The forest and the tracks all looked the same. It was like a maze. A maze of trees.

"We're here" he said at last.

Colin got out of the back of the car and stretched his legs, looking around in all directions.

"We have to scramble up here. I did say to bring sensible footwear" said Matthew, leading the way up to the top of the ridge. Following him through the trees, Lara and Colin forced their way through the undergrowth and into the clearing.

"Why didn't you say it was a caravan?" Colin asked.

"Well, it's not like you can drive it anywhere. It hasn't got any wheels and you couldn't get a car up here."

"How do you think it got here?"

"I thought that the foresters might have craned it in from the track below. Neil reckoned that a farmer brought it through the fields the other side on an tractor trailer, when the forest was being planted up here."

"There are fields the other side?"

"Yeah, behind us. The other side of the hill from where we parked. Just rolling fields for miles and miles."

Colin went to open the caravan door.

"Hold up there a second" Matthew said, putting his hand out to stop him. "Look at that" he said, pointing to something above the door. Attempting to peel a square of dirt-covered duct tape off, he found that it was stuck fast. "That's funny" he said.

"What is?"

"Well, Neil and me used to stick duct tape over the door frame like that at the end of every winter so we'd know if anybody had been using the caravan, but it won't come off."

"Let's have a look" Colin said, pulling hard on the tape. The top part ripped off leaving two lines of the sticky underside on the door and the frame above. "It looks like somebody glued the tape on. Why would they do that?" he asked.

"Well, I guess the dirt makes it look like the tape has been there for a long time, but we have no way of knowing how long it's been glued there for."

Matthew opened the door and stepped inside.

"Holy shit!" he exclaimed.

"What?"

"Come in. Have a look."

Matthew stood by the bedroom doorway. Lara and Colin stood by the dining room table.

"What? What is it?" Lara asked.

"Well, it's nothing like I remember it" Matthew replied.

The dark maroon carpet had been replaced with slate grey lino. The pink floral cushions had been re-upholstered in white fabric with a navy blue stripe. The dining room table and the kitchenette storage units had been painted a glossy duck-egg blue. The whole interior had been painted white and the walls and ceilings were smooth: the textured wallpaper was gone. Stepping into the bedroom, the bed was neatly made with bright bedclothes. Everything smelled clean and fresh.

Lara reached for the bathroom door handle.

"I'm not sure if you want to look in there" said Matthew.

Inside, the chemical toilet had been replaced by a comode. Underneath the wooden toilet seat, there was a clean empty bucket. Hanging from the ceiling in the shower was another bucket with holes in the bottom.

"A shower!" Matthew chuckled with surprise. "Well, a primitive one anyway."

"How do you heat the water?" Lara asked.

"You don't" Matthew replied.

There was a hiss as Colin turned one of the knobs on the two-ring gas cooker. "I guess you just heat it up on the stove?" he said, with a raised eyebrow.

"This is not like it used to be. It was a shithole. It used to keep us dry and that's about all".

The skylight and the windows on the side of the caravan opposite the door had been cleaned and it was bright inside, lit by daylight. Colin flicked a lightswitch and the lights came on.

"No way!"

Matthew was absolutely gobsmacked. Lara and Colin didn't know what to make of it, having no idea what it was like before.

Upon closer inspection, a gas bottle, a leisure battery, a small solar panel, rain collection and water filtration systems had been installed. The original gas and 12 volt electric installation of the caravan operated as normal.

The trio started opening cupboards and cubby holes. There were plates, mugs, glasses, cutlery, pots, pans and other kitchen utensils. In one cupboard there was some tinned food. There were no personal effects anywhere. Closing the exterior door, there was a cork-board behind it.

"What's this?" Colin asked.

"I don't know. Looks like... postcards" Matthew replied.

Pinned to the cork-board were bright glossy pictures of the Great Wall of China, Terracotta Army, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Taking one down, Colin looked at the back.

"They're postcards all right" he said, handing the one he was holding to Lara.

She gasped.

Mr Romet Kukk

POSTE RESTANTE

Post Office, 12 High Street

Harminster

DEVON, EX27 9LR

UNITED KINGDOM

There was nothing else on the postcard except for the name and address.

 

THE END.

 

#NaNoWriMo2016 - Day Twenty-Nine

10 min read

Poste Restante

Contents

Chapter 1: The Caravan

Chapter 2: Invisible Illness

Chapter 3: The Forest

Chapter 4: Prosaic

Chapter 5: The Van

Chapter 6: Into the Unknown

Chapter 7: The Journey

Chapter 8: Infamy

Chapter 9: The Villages

Chapter 10: Waiting Room

Chapter 11: The Shadow People

Chapter 12: Enough Rope

Chapter 13: The Post Offices

Chapter 14: Unsuitable Friends

Chapter 15: The Chase

Chapter 16: Self Inflicted

Chapter 17: The Holiday

Chapter 18: Psychosis, Madness, Insanity and Lunacy

Chapter 19: The Hospitals

Chapter 20: Segmentation

Chapter 21: The Cell

Chapter 22: Wells of Silence

Chapter 23: The Box

Chapter 24: Jailbird

Chapter 25: The Scales

Chapter 26: Descent

Chapter 27: The Syringe

Chapter 28: Anonymity

Chapter 29: The Imposter

Chapter 30: Wish You Were Here

 

29. The Imposter

The doorbell rang and Neil went to greet some more guests. It was Russ and Katie.

"Hey guys. Come in, come in" Neil beckoned the couple inside. "We're all in the garden."

It was a beautifully warm Saturday in May: the first really good barbecue weather of the year. The garden was well maintained: bright pink and purple azalea, camelia and lilac flowers were in full bloom on mature shrubs that filled the borders. The freshly mown lawn smelt of grass cuttings. The extension at the back of the house didn't leave a lot of outside space, but it was still large enough for a social gathering. In one corner there was a patio which was filled with smoke as the charcoal had recently been lit and was getting up to temperature. The guests moved around trying to avoid the smoke as the wind changed direction.

"Red, white, beer, soft drink?" Neil asked.

"Can I have a white wine spritzer, please Neil?" asked Katie.

"Certainly. Anything for you my dear" Neil replied flirtily. "And for you, Russ?"

"I'll get a beer."

"Beers are in the bucket of ice right there. Opener's on the table. Katie, I'll be back with your drink in a minute" said Neil, disappearing into the kitchen.

There was a fine spread of food on a table set up in the garden. Potato salad had green flecks of chopped chives mixed through the buttery yellow new potatoes. Greek salad was full of bright white crumbled feta cheese, jet black olives and juicy red tomatoes. Mixed bean and pasta salad completed the vegetarian fare. There was enough salad to feed a small army and very little would actually get eaten. Everybody would take a few scoops of each dish to decorate their plate with, but copious amounts of bread and meat were about to be consumed.

"Here you go" said Neil, presenting Katie with her drink. "Barbecue's lit. I'll put the burgers on once the coals are hot" he said loudly to the group. A cheer went up from a couple of slightly tipsy men.

"What are you going to do about that shed, Neil? It's rickety as hell" asked Russ.

"I'm glad you asked that, thanks Russ" said Lara from the kitchen doorway with a smirk on her face.

"Oh you're back are you?" Neil said sarcastically.

From a plastic carrier bag, Lara deposited napkins, paper plates, paper cups and two bottles of Prosecco on the table.

"I've already had a go at trying to tackle that blasted shed. Problem is, a lot of those cheap sheds you get from garden centres come with big panels that we can't carry through the house easily" Neil explained to Russ.

"I heard you already knocked it down once."

"That's not exactly true. We just filled it up with a bit too much stuff" Neil replied, shooting a sideways glance at Lara. She was fiddling with a bottle cork. There was a pop and people cheered. Neil was grateful for the diversion as Lara filled paper cups with a thimbleful of fizzy wine.

"What's the occasion?" somebody asked.

"Oh, I don't know. First day of summer... almost" Lara replied, distributing the drinks.

Neil went to check on the barbecue. It was a shiny black enamelled one with a huge lid. The coals had stopped smoking and turned a little grey with ash. There was no flame but there was a lot of heat. He spread the coals out, put the grill over them and went into the kitchen. He returned with a large oval metal plate covered with plump home-made burger patties. The meat quickly started to drip juice and fat onto the coals, making them sizzle and delicious cooking smells filled the air.

Lara fetched out a serving dish piled high with burger buns and placed it next to a selection of assorted condiment bottles.

"Who wants cheese on their burger?" she asked.

Having tallied the numbers, Neil flipped the patties, which were now nicely char-grilled on one side. He placed sliced cheese on most of the burgers so that it would melt on the hot meat. Placing the lid back on the barbecue gave everything an authentic charcoal smoked taste.

Exchanging the subtlest of glances with Lara, Neil indicated that it was time to serve up the main event.

"Right, everybody grab a plate and a burger bun" Lara yelled.

The guests, who had enjoyed many such a gathering before, now swarmed around the table and passed ketchup, mayonnaise, salad leaves, relish and other things around amongst themselves, while some of the hungrier ones took their place eagerly at the barbecue. Neil deposited burgers into buns as people clustered around him and his giant stainless steel tongs.

With most people happily enjoying a burger, Neil now covered the grill with a variety of sausages. Pork and apple, leek, chilli and onion. Cumberland, Lincolnshire and chipolatas joined a smörgåsbord of traditional and flavoured sausages. Content that the best British barbecue sausages are burnt black on the outside, he could now relax and enjoy a bite to eat himself.

"You're still thin as a rake considering the way you eat, Neil" said his friend Adam.

"Mmmm" Neil responded with a mouthful of food, his hands dripping with burger juice.

"Still, you're looking a lot healthier than last time I saw you. You were wasting away."

"Mmmm mmmm" Neil nodded in agreement, chewing. He reached for a napkin. "How's work?" he asked, swallowing.

"Oh same as ever. Same shit, different day. You?"

"Pays the bills. Can't grumble" replied Neil.

"Last time we spoke you said you were thinking about trying something new. Retraining even. Changed your mind?" Adam asked.

"I was thinking about it. Been doing the same thing since I left college. I'm just grateful to have a job and be working at the moment. You read about a lot of layoffs, you know?"

"You can't worry about that too much though. Life's too short. The gaffer says you've been working every bit of overtime you can get. Make sure you look after yourself, right?"

"Right. It's hard though, isn't it? You get used to the extra money, then you don't want to give it up."

"Sure, but you've got a lovely house. Just don't over-stretch yourself. Don't wanna burn out." Adam cautioned light-heartedly.

"Yep. You're right. I've been feeling pretty down lately. Thought about going see the doctor for the first time in ages. So hard to get time off when your diary's full of client site visits."

The barbecue progressed from sausages to chicken and finally finished with bananas and chocolate wrapped in foil, baked in the hot ash of the coals. The nights were getting longer but it was still cold as soon as the sun was gone and some guests started to make their excuses and leave. A few of the men had moved to the lounge while the ladies were sipping wine in the dining room.

"I've completed this one" Neil was saying, flashing the box of a computer game.

"No way. That's supposed to be really hard."

"I know. I'm not really into computer games, but I really got into that one. Took me weeks."

"Weeks?"

"Well, I don't get to play that often."

"Nah, me either. Bit bored of computer games to be honest."

"I got this one. The sequel. It's impossible. Can't get into it at all" said Neil, showing round another box.

"I hate that whole Duty and Honour franchise" said Adam. "Stupid shoot-em-up. Let's play that go-karting game."

They set up a 4-player computer game while Neil fetched more beer from the kitchen.

"I don't know if it's going to happen again, but I just have to trust that it won't" Neil could hear Lara saying as he passed the dining room. The ladies cooed with sympathy. "Everybody has a blip at some stage in their life."

Back in the lounge, Adam was skinning up a joint. "Outside, yeah?" he asked.

"Yeah, please. No smoking inside the house" Neil replied.

"You coming?"

"Nah. You know I don't like weed."

"Just the white powder, eh?" Adam joked, poking his nose with a bent finger and sniffing.

"That was just that one time at Barry's and she doesn't know" replied Neil in a hushed tone, conspiratorially.

"Gave you the confidence to chat her up though, didn't it?" Adam winked.

"Enough said already. Fuck off and smoke your joint. And make sure the neighbours aren't in the garden before you spark up."

Some time after midnight the remaining house guests departed en masse. Lara and Neil spent a bit of time gathering glasses and bottles into the kitchen and putting the worst of the rubbish into big black plastic refuse sacks, before retiring to bed.

"Do you remember what we were like when we met?" Lara asked, lying next to him with the bedside light still on.

"Yeah. Why?"

"You were so... different."

"When? Then?"

"No, not really. Now. Things seem so different now."

"In a bad way?" Neil asked.

"No. I don't think so" Lara replied, turning off the light.

The room span slightly from the amount of alcohol he had consumed and he was tired. He fell asleep almost immediately. Lately, he'd been drinking more and more. Without going to bed drunk, he would lie awake feeling depressed. Suicidal thoughts were creeping in.

He really didn't want to trouble Lara with his worries. He was struggling to get up in the mornings, but he really needed his job to pay the mortgage and they thought highly of him at work. He'd barely taken a day off sick since he'd started and he knew his bosses were pleased with his performance.

Why was he so tired all the time? Sure, he enjoyed entertaining guests from time to time - especially when there was alcohol - but the rest of the time he struggled to find the motivation to do anything. It was so damn frustrating to not have his usual levels of energy and enthusiasm. He didn't seem to be enjoying life very much anymore.

 

Next chapter...

 

#NaNoWriMo2016 - Day Twenty-Eight

7 min read

Poste Restante

Contents

Chapter 1: The Caravan

Chapter 2: Invisible Illness

Chapter 3: The Forest

Chapter 4: Prosaic

Chapter 5: The Van

Chapter 6: Into the Unknown

Chapter 7: The Journey

Chapter 8: Infamy

Chapter 9: The Villages

Chapter 10: Waiting Room

Chapter 11: The Shadow People

Chapter 12: Enough Rope

Chapter 13: The Post Offices

Chapter 14: Unsuitable Friends

Chapter 15: The Chase

Chapter 16: Self Inflicted

Chapter 17: The Holiday

Chapter 18: Psychosis, Madness, Insanity and Lunacy

Chapter 19: The Hospitals

Chapter 20: Segmentation

Chapter 21: The Cell

Chapter 22: Wells of Silence

Chapter 23: The Box

Chapter 24: Jailbird

Chapter 25: The Scales

Chapter 26: Descent

Chapter 27: The Syringe

Chapter 28: Anonymity

Chapter 29: The Imposter

Chapter 30: Wish You Were Here

 

28. Anonymity

When Neil's work, the crisis team, the police and Colin first called Lara, she was shocked and worried. As time wore on, she became exhausted by the ups and downs of Neil's mental health. When Neil had disappeared, she compulsively checked her phone for any missed calls or messages, desperate for any news. Months later, the nervous energy dissipated and she became emotionally distant and withdrawn; numbed.

Lara had a voicemail and few missed calls on her mobile phone when she finished her shift. It was Neil's parents' home number. She listened to the message.

"Hi Lara, it's Colin here. I appreciate you're probably at work but phone me when you get a chance. Also, see if you can take the weekend off. You might want to come away on a trip."

Spying Anne going to her locker, Lara walked over to her.

"Can we swap shifts this weekend?" she asked, in a hushed tone.

"What the hell, Lara? You were supposed to be coming out with us on Saturday night."

"I know, but it sounds like something important's come up."

"Important how? Is this about Neil? You know how upset you were last time you got mixed up in trying to find him. You only had the memorial service a few weeks ago. Try to take your mind off everything for a while."

"It's not like that, Anne. Neil's dad sounded... different this time. I think he's made a big breakthrough."

"Well find out and let me know. It's going to take a lot to convince me though. I think it's a bad idea."

Sat in her car in the hospital car park, Lara phoned Neil's parents' house. His mum answered.

"Oh hello, dear. I expect you want to speak to Colin, don't you?"

"Yes. I'm returning his call. He left a message."

"The phone has been going crazy this week. Since the service, quite a few of Neil's old friends have been in contact. We met some of them at the service, but it seems there was something in the news and... well, I'll let Colin explain. Here he is."

"Hi, Lara?"

"Yes, Hi Colin."

"Great. Did you meet Neil's friend Anthony at the memorial service?"

"No, I don't remember meeting him, but there were a lot of people there."

"Well, he phoned us up a week later and said he'd seen something in a local newspaper. Said he didn't want to mention it because it was probably nothing."

"Umm, OK."

"Well, he posted us a newspaper clipping. It's a grainy black and white photograph of a man in a hospital bed, but I'll be damned if it isn't a dead ringer for Neil."

"But it isn't Neil?"

"Well, the newspaper says it's an Eastern European man who's lost his memory. He seems to have forgotten how to speak."

"How do they know he's from Eastern Europe?" Lara asked.

"He had an ID card in his wallet. He's from Estonia and he's called Romet Kukk. Did you speak to Matthew at the service?" Colin asked.

"No, why?"

"Well, Matthew knows Anthony. They were all at school together. Matthew phoned up and asked about Neil's disappearance. He reckons he knows somewhere Neil might have been staying."

"Staying?"

"Yeah, like a secret den from when they were kids."

"Where's this?"

"Well, the hospital is in Exeter in Devon. The den is in the same county."

"Sounds like we'd better go down there and see what we can find out."

"Good. That's exactly what I was thinking."

The memorial service had stirred up a lot of emotions and it had been very upsetting to finally let go of Neil. Friends, colleagues and family members had spoken about his life, which was moving. However, Lara had already been to the funeral of an ex-boyfriend. She was tough and she had emotionally shielded herself to some extent. Lara's parents and brothers had helped her move out when Neil was getting seriously unwell and she'd kept things at arms length as best as she could. She couldn't possibly imagine that this doppelganger would be her missing financée. She had no idea what use it would be, going to a place that Neil and Matthew used to visit years ago. It all seemed too co-incidental.

Leaving messages with the local newspaper and the hospital, nobody had been able to answer any of their queries. Lara left early on Saturday morning to pick Colin up, then the pair continued to Bristol to pick Matthew up. They drove straight to the hospital.

"Hi, we're here to see Romet Kukk. Can you tell us which ward he's on, please?" Lara asked.

"Friends or family?" the receptionist asked.

"We're family."

"Are you listed as next of kin."

"I don't think so."

"Does the patient know you're coming? Are they expecting a visit?"

"No."

The receptionist's expression was icy cold. Lara casually flashed her NHS security pass, pretending to rummage for something in her handbag.

"Let me just check where they are. Kukk was it? Mister or missus?"

"Mister." said Lara, relieved that the receptionist was going to help them.

"Oh. It says here they're not at the hospital anymore."

"Discharged? Transferred?"

"The system doesn't say."

"Which ward was he staying on?"

"The system doesn't say. I'm not allowed to see information like that. I'm sorry, that's all I know."

"That's alright. You've been really helpful, thanks." said Lara.

Spying an unmanned reception desk, Lara could see a phone number for the hospital's main switchboard on a piece of paper. She punched the number into her mobile phone but didn't dial it. Grabbing Colin, who was lingering nearby, they went back into the car park where Matthew was waiting with the car. Lara got inside and phoned the switchboard.

"Hi, can you page the bleep holder for psychiatric liaison, please?"

"Sure, no problem" the operator said.

After a few minutes wait, the operator came back.

"Connecting you now."

There was a click on the phone line.

"Psych liaison" a different voice said.

"Hi, my name's Doctor Sutton from UCLH. I was trying to find out who'd been dealing with a patient of ours at your hospital. Name of Romet Kukk" said Lara, lying.

"Yep, I was handling the case with a couple of my colleagues. Piers Cowley. How can I help?"

"Well, to be honest, we were wondering where he was. He doesn't seem to have been referred back to us."

"Yes, that's right. He wasn't discharged. He just disappeared."

"Disappeared? When?"

"About a week ago. Look, can I phone you back in about half an hour. What's your extension at the hospital?"

"Can I give you my mobile number?"

"I'd really rather phone you back on your extension if we're going to discuss the case notes in more detail. What was the number?"

"I'm in a bad signal area, we might get cut off. It's 1-3-5..." Lara hung up. "Shit."

"What's wrong?" Colin asked.

"I think he just rumbled me."

"Did you find anything out?"

"That patient isn't at the hospital anymore. Romet Kukk disappeared."

"OK, Matthew. You'd better show us where this den of yours is" Colin said.

"It's about an hour's drive from here" said Matthew.

 

Next chapter...