Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Space Between Trees

When my son went missing, I was horrified. How do people get lost in this day and age? He’d never been a tough kid, he played sports, sure. But he wasn’t a leader or a game winner. I wasn’t ashamed of this part of him, I should say. I wasn’t ashamed of that, because that part was what he got from me. He had his day, few tries here and there, occasional game where the other players, children really, would pat him on the back. That was pride, for us both. I suppose.

Not without his difficulty is kind. Is it kind? He has a bad mood. That’s not the right words. He has an inability to have consistent mood. In that sense he wasn’t normal. Isn't normal. I don’t think. He was like a ship in a storm, always struggling to rectify the ballast, to equalise. Always rocking, overcompensating. It was horrible to watch, hard to be around. It was awful to be around. He’d puff his chest out and go about his day but I could always see he wasn’t ok. What could I do though? He said he was fine.

One day he announced he wanted to go to Vietnam. It was easy to get teaching jobs out there if you were English, he said. It would cost money. Money put aside for him, our money, I suppose. But we were happy if it made him happy. Or happier. We weren’t to know. Neither was he, really. Who could know? So off he went with our blessing. And as much as I hated putting hard earned money into a whim I was happy for him, for a brief while. It wasn’t that we didn’t hear from him. We did.

Sorry I have just realised I’ve wandered away from the topic.It’s easy to get sentimental, I suppose. Apologies.

It wasn’t the first contact, or any of them in particular really. He was very communicative. Very engaging, very respectful and thankful of this gift we had given him, and more than him. It was the tone. He was “helping those more in need”. As if he hadn’t borrowed money to be there. He was making sure people in the area were not without. It sounds awful, doesn’t it? Thinking this is a bad thing. Posing by buildings he claimed they’d built, or with locals hugging them. Trying to assimilate with people who neither needed nor wanted them, for the sake of their, his, own conscience. Rectifying a wrong done miles away, years ago, which no one at home knew about, but to be approved by the people that you’re running from. Us.

It was sick to me, didn’t sit right. Perverse. It was against character, I suppose, and that’s when the real seeds of doubt were sewn. He’d changed. I think. Do people change or are they always themselves? Always lurking and hoping someone friendly spots them for who they really are? All I know is over those few weeks I lost my son, as I knew him. I found that hard. And I wasn’t entirely fond of what I thought I knew before. Which I promise, is far from the worst thing you will hear. But that was just the start. Now we’re here.

“Well, if you want my opinion”

He began. It was a figure of speech. I'd paid him for his opinion; but it was annoying, too. I'd never met the man, but doctor O’Reilly struck me as a pedant. It was probably an advantageous personality trait given what I was paying him for. But it annoyed me.

He paused. I took the hint unhappily.

“Yes, please doctor“

“If you want my opinion, he's scared. Scared and definitely traumatised.”


“But, actually. Scared and traumatised, but, not insane”

“Well that's good news, isn't it?”

“That depends on what you mean by good news”

When I finally met this man, I was going to punch him.

“Go on”

I said, and lit a cigarette

“Well it is good news for his long term recovery, which I might add in my opinion will still be a significant period. But may not help his case here with the authorities.

This is a place of strange stories, ritual belief and a pathologic devotion to the earth around people. The importance of the land. You have to remember that.”

I was definitely going to punch this man. I began visualising it.

“Mr Marks, are you still there?”

“Yes, sorry. I don’t understand what you mean, does this help his case?”

“I’m not a lawyer, Mr Marks, I’m a psychologist.”

I imagined his nose breaking under my knuckles. Even in my fantasy, I knew I was taking a chance he was less physically capable than me. I could cold clock him, I suppose.

“Ok, psychologically, does this help his case?”

“Honestly, not really. But it might with some pressure from the WHO or perhaps your Embassy. Vietnam doesn’t have great mental health, how can I say, awareness? Understanding? At least from a legal perspective anyway.”

“So you do know legality?”

“I know how medical diagnoses fit within the legal spectrum. I am not a lawyer, I can tell you my opinion of your son, which I have. I can also tell you that my opinion, which I explained when you hired me, is unlikely to be taken into any sort of consideration until your son is placed on trial for murder.”

I winced. It was easy to forget two other families had lost children, and that my son was the main suspect. It was easy to forget for me, anyway.

“Please go on, doctor. I’m sorry, this is all very stressful and I’m sure you can understand…”

I wasn’t sure he could understand,

“I’m sure you can understand, is not something I’ve been through before.

“It’s fine. Id assumed the chances you had two double murderers in the family were unlikely.”

I wanted to smash the phone so badly it hurt him in Asia.

“Allow me to explain more.”

“Please. Please do.”

“Your son is being held as insane. You understand that?”


“My diagnosis is that he is not insane, and it is highly likely, in my opinion, that he wasn’t at the time of the… deaths.”


“However, as you know, given the, how shall I say, circumstances of what happened, and given the on record history of your son’s mental health which Vietnamese authorities requested and have seen…”

“He had depression! That’s not mad!”

“Legally speaking, in Vietnam, it’s a grey area. Put politely.”

“And put impolitely?”

“The Vietnamese authorities have more power over your son’s detention if he is defined as insane, and his history of depression, married with the, frankly, brutal case details make it quite easy for them to assert this. Added to that his bizarre description of events… I mean. Look, he certainly sounds insane.”

“You said he isn’t.”

“Correct. But I understand why the authorities here have decided he is.”

“I, I don’t know what to do. Where we’re at. I. Sorry. I just don’t understand.”

“Please stop apologising. I can’t share any of the evidence with you, I would say ‘I’m afraid’ but it isn’t pretty. However I can send you the tape recording I made of my time with your son. Which has his version of events, in his voice, which you may find comforting. Then you can make your own mind up about the next step.”

“Doctor that would be brilliant, thank you.”

My fantasy of punching the man subsided.

“So Mr Marks, about my payment….”

Monday, 29 May 2017

Simone Part 5: The Dead Are Coming

Rancid, swollen, images of the dead she’d seen flashed at Simone through unconsciousness. Worse was those eyes. Piercing her every blink. Eyes suggesting life but full of death. Broadcasting the afterlife. The desperate, pleading eyes of her son. Asking her not to kill him. If there was a choice she wouldn’t have done. Simone cried herself awake. Linus was making food. It was dizzying bouncing from extreme to extreme. Although this routine she could get used to. How was it that this weird little man seemed so at home in the apocalypse. It’s so hard to look to the future when the past is ripping your heart out. This man had a plan. She didn’t have time to answer her own thought before he spoke.
“Hi. Did you sleep well?”

She half lied out of politeness, in the way English people do.
“Yes thank you. I needed that.”

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Dead Are Coming: Simone, Part 4

Simone Parts 1 & 2 & 3 found on the numbers!

The two settled down in the main room. Linus prepared a simple meal for them of rice with mushrooms and herbs from the wood, salt and pepper. It was by far the best food Simone had eaten in days. Chocolate bars and crisps may last but they’ll only keep you going so long. Though he had those in abundance, too. He’d an air rifle which he hunted with, he said, so occasionally he’d eat rabbit or pigeon, maybe squirrel. Although he wasn’t too fond of squirrel, and he refused to shoot the red ones on an ethical basis which seemed out of place to Simone in the new world. The air gun was quiet, he explained, and the leftovers and innards the dogs would eat. Food was an issue for him, he had been hiding for a month or so, which was almost as long as the world had been in this shit. Another safety precaution. Simone wanted to know what drove him to such extreme safety.
“Oh come on. We all knew.”

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Dead Are Coming: The Large Man

(The Dead Are Coming: Simone, will be back soon, as the story needs more work done in the next section. Believe it or not I have some standards. My Top Ten Horror Films will also be within the next week).

The Large Man is a short story from The Dead Are Coming, a sprawling novel (in Utero) about the living and the dead.

Over the radio, two male voices competed at being annoying.

“Yes, yes! And we’re back! That was the latest from Jizzy Jeff, big tune!”

“Love it bruv! Love it! My man and I are spinning until the sun comes up. Don’t go nowhere.”

“We ain’t going nowhere and I am GLUED I mean GLUED to this mic all night. We’ve plenty more coming, too. Hold tight.”

Music with a limited target audience continued to blare from the radio signal unendingly. If only. Everything ends.

Static. Mostly static.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Laudus Loves Horror! Top Ten Horror Films

If you’ve taken the time to read my writing, you’ve probably worked out I love horror. You may also (I hope) love it too. I’m not great at top ten lists, in that I’m a person for whom scoring a subjective thing such as film tends to know my opinion will change, and just isn’t regiment enough to stick at it. This is not a list of what I think the best made, most wonderful, genre altering horror films of all time are. It is not a history lesson in the genre either, it is personal. This is my list, picked entirely emotively, I can’t guarantee that this list would be the same in a few years, but then isn’t that the brilliance of film? I’ve tried to explain my reasons for each film. Effectiveness, influence and longevity are, I suppose, my criteria. As well as what each film means to me. In the twenty five years since I would scan the back of horror VHS boxes in the video store for grisly images, my love of gore remains intact, but an appreciation of the more subtle stuff has evolved. I’d love to know how people react to this as a top ten.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Dead Are Coming: Simone, Part 3

Simone followed the boy towards the woods, dogs at his heel, seemingly oblivious to the world. Although she knew better than that, now, thankfully. As they got into the woods, trees closing in, fear swept up Simone’s neck. The boy suddenly clicked into gear and pricked up. He knew the dangers of a crowded wood. Why had she thought them so safe, she wondered. The car’s protection, perhaps. A steel and glass illusion of safety behind which she made poor decisions. Like all cars, really, but in a world where poor decisions meant something else. You can’t smell the death in a car. In the woods death carried on the breeze.

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Dead Are Coming: Simone, Part 2

Simone: Part Two

Simone: Part One is available HERE

The petrol ran out quicker than Simone would have liked. Minutes, perhaps an hour? Who knew, moreover, it wasn't important anymore. The car coughed and slowed to coasting pace by the side of a field with long grass, leading to another wooded area in the distance. Simone was in an open space all of a sudden. It was pretty, actually. A good place to die. She had no idea where she was, it suddenly occurred to her, she had left without a map. In too much of a hurry to run away from everything. Improperly prepared was an understatement. A guess would have been Surrey somewhere, maybe south of London, she hoped. Or had she headed away from London now? Simone had wandered, trying to keep off the “roads” and sneak in to wherever she was going. Fear and impulse. No maps, no preparation for this, it was the only time she’d not prepared in her life, and it was a mistake.