Well here’s the whole story. I think I might rewrite it at some point and do it justice, as I don’t like it at the moment. The whole two-narrators and paranoia thing could have potential, though.
By the way, if you’re after something cheerful then try a different story!
The End of the Season
Hello, and welcome to the latest instalment of Samuel’s story! We join Samuel as he sits typing on his computer. We’ll take a look at what he’s writing in a moment, but first I want to show you his room.
Frankly, it’s a tip; he hasn’t tidied anything for weeks. His clothes are thrown about and none of them look clean. They don’t smell clean, that’s for sure. There’s his bed in the corner, his wardrobe…
Oh! Hold on, he’s stopped typing. He’s just sitting there, looking out of the window at the city. I wonder what he’s thinking. He hasn’t been the same since he was fired from his job last week. If you don’t remember, the last time we were with Samuel he was deeply depressed. He’s more active now than he was, but he still hasn’t eaten or washed properly for some time. What’s he thinking? Maybe his computer will tell us something.
Samuel looked away from the computer screen and out of the window. It was a warm summer evening, probably the last before autumn arrived. The sun was sinking below the skyline.
There wasn’t much he’d miss, but he’d always enjoyed this view over the city, the numberless people he imagined drifting among the sea of lights at night. When it was late and he felt melancholy they reminded him that he wasn’t alone.
He’d used to drift off to sleep with comforting thoughts of the city, but that hadn’t happened for a while. Instead he dropped into sleep like a stone through the depths wherever he was sitting when his will to exist ran out.
‘That’s because you’re not deluding yourself any more, Samuel,’ he thought. ‘You’ve always lied to yourself, and always when you’re shown to be wrong you lie again. Not any more, though. Those people are nothing to you.
‘There’s just you and them. You know who I mean. You and them and darkness. Keep that in mind.’
He brought his gaze back to the computer screen. He was writing a letter. It wasn’t addressed to anyone, but that wouldn’t matter. They saw everything.
What’s he writing? I’m peering over his shoulder, so I’ll read it out to you. Here it goes:
You’re watching me. I can’t see you, but I know you’re there. Right now you’re wondering what’s going on, what this letter means. You’d work that out quite soon, but I’m going to tell you now anyway.
I’ve had enough of how you watch me for your own amusement. It’s happening now: you’re intrigued by this strange development in my story.
I’ve lost every friend, every girlfriend, every relative I loved, every job I’ve ever had. All my joys and motivation, all of my options you’ve plucked from me like you’re picking apart my raft as I drift, lone survivor of a shipwreck, and I’m left with nothing to do but give up and drown, to give you the finale, the climax you’ve been waiting for, the culmination of my story.
I’m not going to end it the way you want to, though. There will be no grand finale. The audience will wonder what’s happened, where did the show go? Wasn’t something exciting supposed to happen? I’m going to sink peacefully below the waves and out of your sight. This story will be like a book with the last chapter torn out.
Well, what could all that mean? Interesting stuff indeed. Dear me, what’s going on in poor Samuel’s head? We could take a good rummage around in there for answers, but that would ruin the fun of finding out. It’ll be more interesting to try to work out what he’s thinking as we go.
He’s leaving his bedroom, probably going downstairs. Watch how carefully he has to navigate around all the junk; you think he’d tidy up a bit. Look, he’s ill: he just wiped his nose on his sleeve! How disgusting is that? And because of the dirt I bet. It’s not healthy. Pull yourself out of this mindset, Samuel! Try to do something about your situation! Go on, everyone likes a fighter.
He’s downstairs, heading towards the stereo and the muted television showing some reality TV, as always. Let’s follow him. What’s he up to?
He’s been to the DIY store. There are bags and boxes and planks of wood piled up in the hallway. What does Samuel have in mind?
He walked down the stairs, stepping over the rubbish automatically.
‘Don’t look at me like I am a monster,’ the stereo sang, ‘frown with your one face…’
He stopped, thinking for a moment that he’d caught them; he thought he’d seen something in the sitting room. Finally, after trying to catch them for so long?
‘While with the other…’
Nothing, it was just the TV. He stood watching it for a minute.
‘Stare like a junkie into the TV…’
His music. They were even using that, creating irony or something.
He picked up the plastic bag that held his tools.
‘Stare like a zombie…’
He picked up one of the large boxes too. The thought that they would be wondering what on earth he was up to made him smile.
Now he’s bringing his tools downstairs into the basement. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting interested. First he lost his girlfriend, then his job and now, it seems, his sanity. But he’s been so much more focused recently! I’m beginning to wish I could find out what’s going to happen, but, alas, I’m a voice of the present tense only. I can only control events so much, but I guess that’s all part of the fun…
Hey, do you know something? Have you been consorting with other narrators?
Hmph. We’ll go down into the basement. You go first. I don’t trust you any more.
Samuel brought the rest of the boxes down into the basement and piled them up on the concrete floor, next to the pile of blankets and quilts. Everything that was normally stored down here he’d brought upstairs out of the way.
The concrete floor felt cold to his bare feet and it made him feel alert.
He stood for a moment, going over his resolutions in his mind. He listened to the occasional car pass by outside and watched the red glow of the setting sun through the window. He could hear the music from upstairs, ‘Vicariously I live…’
This tragedy was going to end soon. It was the only way: he wouldn’t get a happy ending. This was the best he could do.
What was that? I tell you, I’m the only narrator you need. Do you think this all happens of its own accord, that this story just happens by itself? There would be no story without me. You like it the way I tell it, I know you do.
We’re in the basement now. Samuel’s taken some big foam squares out of the boxes, and now he’s measuring them against the wall and cutting them to the right size.
What is it?
What’s he doing?!
He’s taking out some tools from his bag, a hammer and lots of very long nails, and is using them to nail the foam to the wall. What for?
I’m sure he’ll tire out soon. Maybe he’ll give up. He’s not strong-willed any more. I doubt he’ll see it through. There’s nothing to worry about.
There’s a little window set back into the wall, close to the ceiling, and he’s stuffing some foam into the little recess. He’s cut it all to shape, and he has a plank of wood to put across to hold it into place.
I don’t like the look of this. This isn’t the plot I’d intended.
I’d set up the situation so well, and…
Samuel took another square of the soundproof foam and nailed it in place over the boarded up window. His arm was getting tired.
He walked away from the wall to look at his progress and get some more nails and stopped for a moment, struck by the realisation that this was a stupid thing to do.
Could he not stop this and leave the house? Go back to normal life? He could find another job, though he wouldn’t be getting a reference from his last one. He could get another girlfriend. He could meet people and find some friends again.
‘What, are you going to go to salsa classes or something? Let me remind you why you’re doing this Samuel.
‘You’re doing this because you’ve felt this hope before, and every time it’s lead to nothing but disappointment. You know it. It’s just a will-o-wisp that leads you astray.
‘They chose you because you’re naturally a hopeful, optimistic person. Don’t let them use you like that. This is fighting back, not giving in.’
Samuel got back to work. Once he was done he moved the empty boxes out of the way and went upstairs.
…guess we’ll just have to run with it.
Hey, did you disappear somewhere? How dare you? Have I been talking to myself this whole time? I’m the narrator. I’m the one in the know. You rely on me. I’ll give you the story you’ll enjoy; who else do you think can?
He’s gone back upstairs, but he’s left the door open so he’ll be back soon. We’ll wait down here. Let’s look in his bag for clues!
Huh, not much of interest, just basic tools.
The music’s stopped, what’s going on? It sounds like he’s moving his stereo. This isn’t normal behaviour. He’s usually moping around in front of the TV or sitting at his computer. Something’s happening.
Samuel picked up the rolls of sheeting he’d left in the kitchen. He noticed the dirt forming wave patterns on the lino as he bent down close to it. He felt dirty himself, and itchy all over his body. He wiped his nose on his sleeve.
He decided some music would make him feel calmer.
He left the rolls of fabric at the top of the basement steps and went to get his stereo. It was a big black one with a turntable as well as CD and cassette players. Samuel spent most of his money on music, especially now that he didn’t have a girlfriend, which would be his only other non-essential source of outgoings.
‘Should I call anyone before I go?’ he thought. That was his black humour. There was no one.
He’s brought his Stereo down, and now he’s threading the extension lead down from upstairs. Busy, busy.
Well, I’m getting tired of this nonsense. Let’s go have a look at Sarah a few streets away instead. After her split with Samuel she’s regretted leaving him and feels pretty lonely. There could be something interesting happening over there.
Whoosh! Sorry, please forgive my sound effects. Here we are. She’s watching the TV as usual. She’s probably thinking, ‘If only I hadn’t split up with Samuel! He was a nice boy, he’d really seemed happy with me. He’d valued that happiness, too.’ Something along those lines.
Does she realise how much she misses him? I don’t know, but I don’t think she’s going to call him.
Just as he won’t call her.
Samuel pounded more nails into the ceiling, trying to spread the sound-proof sheeting tightly. He’d triple layered it be sure it would work. Only the ceiling was left to do: he’d covered the walls and even the back of the basement door. Getting hold of so much of the foam had cost a lot of money, but fortunately he didn’t count food as an essential purchase any more, and that had freed up some funds.
He’d paid his rent for three months in advance, emptying his bank account, and removed the doorbell. He was nearly finished. What was there left to do?
He went upstairs again and gathered up some of his albums, searching through the house for the ones he wanted. He’d spent a long time thinking about which he’d take down with him. He brought them down into the basement and placed them next to the stereo when he was done, within arm’s reach of the pile of blankets.
He went upstairs to the kitchen. He’d bring down the water, and then he’d be ready.
We rejoin Samuel. If he knew what Sarah is up to! There’s that lovely taint of guilt in her, which makes everything even more exquisitely tragic, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe Samuel will find out. I hope so, that would be entertaining.
Anyway, back to Samuel’s troubling activities. He’s in the kitchen now, gathering bottles of water from the fridge.
What’s this? There are nails sticking up through the floor. He’s being careful not to step on them.
He’s placing all of the bottles into the plastic bag, not bothering with any food. I suppose he’s going to bring it all downstairs.
He’s in his bare feet! Let’s hope he doesn’t stand on one of those nails–
(No let’s not hope because tragedy thrills me that’s my kind of story it’s no fun until someone dies)
Oh, he’s tripped!
Samuel crawled down the basement steps, dragging the punctured water bottles behind him. He would have liked to have seen the view one last time and said goodbye. Life never granted him the small things like that. Things always went how they wanted.
He wouldn’t let that happen this time. This wasn’t going to stop him.
He’s heading into the basement. Trying to escape our prying eyes, do you think? It’s useless, he can’t block us out. He’s kicking the door–
Samuel kicked the door shut and went on his belly down the steps through complete darkness. The bottles gurgled as they dropped down each step. He didn’t think to let go of them; all he could think of was getting away. This was it. Escape.
He reached the blankets and dragged himself from the cold hard concrete into the soft womb, then felt for the stereo and his records. There was no light by which to see the buttons, since he’d covered the display with black tape, but he was used to them so it didn’t matter. He didn’t want light. He didn’t want fresh air. Everything he wanted was here. He was warm, wrapped in blankets that were growing wet. Wet and warm and salty.
He curled up as the record he’d chosen at random began to play. ‘After years of waiting…
Samuel finished the rest of the verse, speaking softly so as not to disturb the emptiness around him, ‘As your life flashed before your eyes… you realize…’
Ha! His plotting hasn’t helped him now has it? This is good stuff!
Let’s go down into the basement, so we don’t miss anything. That’s where you want to be, right?
Let’s get this straight right now. You’ve been acting funny, as if you don’t like me or my story. Do you want to know what happens, see this through to the end? You can stop here. This boy will suffer if we continue. Maybe you think he can save himself. Well, don’t let me spoil the story for you, but that kind of optimism is a purer form of fiction than this is. It’s all lies, ones you make up and believe at the same time.
So, are you coming?
Samuel lay curled up in the blankets, listening. He was submerged in the music. His thoughts moved in sync with it, drifting with the rhythm of the beat and the swell of emotion like seaweed swaying as the tide moves over it.
There was no world to be excluded from; the universe was this music, and there was no part of it that was denied to him, no part of it that wasn’t his.
His body was wet. He was in a river, floating. He couldn’t move. Ghosts in the music swam with him, and he knew them all.
Good; you’re with me. I’m slipping under the door, through the foam. Slowly: relish the suspense. It’s completely dark in here, but I can smell his blood. We’ll follow it. I can’t hear him; he’s playing music. Why? He’s supposed to be dying. I want to see, I want to watch. When can we hear his last breath? He won’t be dead yet.
I can smell him. He’s right here. There’s just music and darkness. Here, listen:
All the figures I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row-boat.
Ha! How quaint. It must mean something to him. I wonder what he sees. Lights dancing in the sky, or the desolate and empty sea? (That’s a T.S. Eliot reference, by the way, not something you’d get with any lesser narrators you may have been eloping with.)
He thought he’d block us out. We can’t see him or hear him, it’s true, but there’s the smell of blood, getting stronger. He missed that out of his plans, that sick odour. Our character is dying, isn’t it tragic? What a way to end our story, with that stench, and I can feel the blood soaking through the blankets, and his breath growing weaker.
Let’s get in his head, for a more intimate experience. Read on, a few more lines and he’s dead. I assure you, this is the payoff you’ve been looking for.
Are you glad you came with me? That you stuck around for the end?
Here’s what he hears, what it sounds like to die:
There was nothing to fear nothing to doubt.
There was nothing to fear nothing to doubt.
There was nothing–
That was the Season Finale.
Real-life stories for your entertainment.