In Chapter Three, we meet Mark and Kim. Do you notice the change, that not even they notice?Read More
A Message From The Author
If you're reading this, then thank you. For stumbling across my page and deciding to click read. I really appreciate it - so thank you.
I wanted to write a quick introduction about The Deadlands. You may see the title and think "best-selling short story? How?" Well, it's true. I swear! I was absolutely delighted to have The Deadlands selected to be included in the horror anthology Twisted 50 Vol.1, as part of 50 writers who contributed to the book. It was one of those moments that come along that say "keep doing this, keep going, you're a writer and people want to read your stories." Sometimes, those moments are all we have as writers and we have to grab them and hold onto them because it keeps us writing even when we think we're no good at it - never stop writing, always keep going.
The most exciting part? Upon release the anthology became a best-seller, topping the Amazon charts and taking the No.1 spot from the absolutely excellent The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by the master storyteller - the one and only Stephen King. Yes, so The Deadlands, really is a best-selling short story. I still can't believe it.
It's very cool and a huge honour to be part of that anthology. For those who haven't read the anthology though, I'm excited to finally have the chance to publish it for everyone and anyone to read. And I hope you do. It's not the traditional zombie apocalypse story, and is a world I would really like to explore. One reader on the Create 50 community did say that this felt like the opening of a novel, or a larger story. Maybe it is, maybe it will be. If you read it and think that you'd like to see more of the world created within and the characters, please do comment and let me know.
Anyway, that's enough for now. If you've gotten this far, I'd love it if you keep reading. If not, thanks for taking the time to stop by. I hope to write something one day you can't wait to read.
Gordon's mind had already switched to auto-pilot by the time lunch-time came around, his brain numb from the endless stream of paperwork that showed no sign of letting up. No matter how long ago the world had ended, the paperwork never stopped. If it wasn't for the sudden rustle of sandwich wrappers or the tap-tap of stirring spoons, Gordon would have missed the lunch call altogether. Taking the chance, he slid away from his mahogany prison, grabbed his lunch from the drawer, headed over to the window of the office and looked out onto the Deadlands.
The Deadlands seemed to stretch out forever, far beyond the tall, wired wall of The George Town Sanctuary and the endless stream of dead it played host too. Looking out, Gordon felt strangely captivated by the dead as they shuffled over the dirt, reminding him of a painting his grandmother used to own. It was a portrait of the end of the world; a cracked beauty, life and death blurring together in one brushstroke. The Deadlands were scarily reminiscent of this; the only thing the two lacked in common was the endless stock of meat, bones and dirt that the picture failed to contain.
Taking a bite of his sandwich, he caught sight of his own reflection and was surprised at how different he looked. His face was drawn, his cheeks, once plump, had made way for what could now pass as a strong jawline and his dark, evenly kept head of hair was now thinning with flecks of grey. The thing that struck him most, however, were his eyes. His mother had always said he had old eyes looking out from young skin but, looking now, it seemed that this mismatched symmetry had evened itself out, his face as old as his eyes once been, a thought that made him force his gaze away from the view and onto the rest of the office and his fellow survivors.
As always, Gordon was the only one wearing a suit, a fact that was met with a great deal of scorn and eye rolling from his colleagues, something that didn't bother him too much anymore. There was a reason he wore the suit. It was the same reason he took two teabags in his tea, and wore an overly long Barbour jacket around the sanctuary no matter what the weather. He did all of these things because it reminded him of his father and this made him feel safe. And safety was the only currency worth having in this new world. At least according to him, a belief that that demonstrated how out of place he was in the safe zone, which came down to one simple fact. He had no right being here.
The sanctuary wasn't built for the likes of him it was built for the 1%; for those whose names meant something or whose bank account meant more. And Gordon was neither, he was simply a guy who had been dating the daughter of an MP at the time of the outbreak and she refused to go anywhere without him. Reluctantly, her father put Gordon's name on the list and he was welcomed with open arms. That was until the relationship broke down, the apocalypse proving to be far from the aphrodisiac. A couple of years later, and he was well and truly the outcast.
Gordon didn't like the way things were ran here. He didn't like that safety had come down to nothing more than inheritance and he'd made his opinion known several times at the community meetings, before they stopped letting him attend. He was of the view that survival wasn't a birthright and he wanted to open the doors to those still out there fighting for their lives, offering the sanctuary to whomever, no matter their circumstance. In his protestations, he'd made a fair few enemies and the nickname "The Lobbyist". It was only a matter of time before he was thrown out onto the Deadlands and given over to the Shufflers but as long as he was here he'd keep trying to make a change and try his best to make his co-habitants see the wrong in how they were acting, or rather, not acting.
It wasn't the lack of humility or the indecency of the George Town Suburbanites that bothered him; it was their lack of awareness, self or otherwise. Nothing of the outside world seemed to effect them anymore, the wall separating the sanctuary from the chaos had created a seemingly impenetrable bubble that only Gordon seemed to be on the outside of. There was no shock or horror anymore; there was just the mundane. It was like the world was still turning just as it had been, the dead rising nothing more than a generational shift that had to be acclimated to and another expense to budget for. The apocalypse had become routine and a new way to find entertainment. Last Christmas, for example, Donny (a man who insisted on calling Gordon, "G-Man" and despite everything still only concerned himself with the "3 B's" (Beer, Bitches and Ball Games) had brought into the office a shuffler they had captured, dressed him in full Father Christmas regalia and hung him from the ceiling with a set of Christmas lights, illuminating the swinging corpse like a piñata at a David Lynch party.
He shuddered at the memory, staring at the spot on the office carpet where the sack of meat and bones had once dripped blood and flesh. And of the poor cleaner (her name may have been Margo) who had been left to clean it up later that same night, and who strayed too close, not realising the Shuffler hadn't been put down but was still very much "alive" and kicking. That had been a dark time, even for the end of the world, and it was standing, hands clasped together and head bowed that Gordon had decided that things needed to change and that he would be the man to do it.
Gordon was so busy thinking about his place in George Town, Donny's Christmas cadavers and the ill-fate of Margo that he didn't realise that a crowd that had gathered around him at the window until he heard them gasp, derailing the train of thought he'd embarked on. It was only then that he realised that something was happening. As he followed the gaze of his colleagues out onto the Deadlands, he started to think that the audience had formed to watch another game of Shuffle-Streak - the rules of which were to run through the Deadlands without a stitch of clothing on and attempt to come back wearing that of a shuffler's – and that was when he saw them.
It was a young family, slap bang in the middle of the Deadlands. There was four of them, the daughter about 16 and her younger brother, no older than 8 or 9, were wedged in between their parents as they slowly made their way across the burned ground, George Town only a few well-placed steps ahead of them. Gordon heart's picked up the pace as he watched them, quickly crossing his fingers and muttering a quick prayer to whatever God was listening.
All work had stopped in the office now as everyone gathered around the window to watch. The family hadn't yet been spotted, moving at a snail's pace. No need to run, no need to rush. The phrase "Slowly Slowly Catchy Monkey" echoed in Gordon's ears as he did his best to ignore his colleagues who, with Donny leading the charge, had started making bets as to whether or not they'd make it across and who'd be the last one standing. The sense of hope that had filled him seconds ago vanished and he felt sick climbing up the back of his throat and was made only worse as he turned back to the window.
In the end, it was the boy that was the last one standing. The thing that Gordon would never forget was that the boy didn't look scared or upset, he just looked lost. Confused. He was probably waiting for his Dad to get back up and lift him the rest of the way or for his sister to get up and tease him for being too slow. Or maybe he was just waiting for his mother to hold him close and tell him everything would be alright. He probably didn't know what was happening as the cloud of corpses floated over and began to shower down on him like dead rain.
The office was silent as they watched the boy being torn apart, the only sound coming from money as it exchanged hands. Everyone went back to work with pockets as empty as their souls. But Gordon stood there for some time in a daze, still staring out of the window as the cloud got up and moved onto their next feed. Memories of the bedtime stories he grew up with came back to him then. The ones where the heroes saved the world and rescued those in danger; he realised that these were just stories after all. War isn't won by bedtime stories, he thought. No, they weren't. The reality was very different. Reality was people betting on a life and watching death as a sport. Reality was that Gordon's plan to change things in George Town had just caused the death of four people.
As Gordon continued to gaze out, he didn't know whether he was grieving the family, the death of his heroic plan or because he was the reason that the family had gotten there in the first place. There was no question that it was because Gordon had leaked the George Town co-ordinates to those beyond the wall that the family had found themselves stranded in the middle of the Deadlands.
There was no question that, in his foolhardy act of bravery and nobility that when he had sent a message beyond the walls (it was easy, they still had electricity, and wi-fi – what more do they need to survive?) to tell the world that there was a safe place for them and they'd be welcomed with open arms, that he'd just sealed the fate of anyone who would try and brave the Deadlands for the opportunity to enter George Town.
He thought then of the father he'd just seen torn to shreds and his wasted sacrifice, wishing more than anything that he could trade places with him, away from the world of desk-bound dreamers he lived in and foolish acts of heroism that got people killed.
But instead, Gordon turned away went back to work, his heart weighing heavy as he took his seat, sliding out another form and letting his brain go numb again, telling himself that at least he tried. And that was enough, right?
Sarah's feet crunched the soft gravel as she jogged gently into the drive, finishing her morning run. Leaning forward, palms resting on her thighs, she started to feel the thin blanket of sweat that the morning run had wove on her back; like the foil for the runner who had just finished the marathon. Glancing down at her watch, she smiled. It was 7:45 and she'd just smashed her personal best. Not a bad start to the morning. Maybe even a perfect one. Unclasping her sports bottle from her running belt, Sarah drank, the liquid was like a mini-waterfall wetting the dry rocks at the back of her throat. She felt good, like she did every morning. This was pretty much her routine every day (except a Sunday which was sacred for a quick morning cupcake before a walk with the dogs) but it never got old how good she felt. Looking around the street, each house semi-identical save the few personality flourishes from their individual owner, she could feel the calm of the early morning just on the brink of disturbance. It was one of the reasons she liked to get up so early; she liked rising with the morning and feeling the first weak rays of light struggle to conjure up a little warmth. That, and she had always found that when you woke up before everyone else there was a smaller chance that they could ruin your day from the start. It was something her father used to say.
"Get up before the world honey. Because by 11 O'clock, chances are strong that somebody will have ruined your day." She liked to heed her father's advice and it hadn't steered her wrong yet.
Letting her earplugs dangle and pump the surrounding air with a little music from her running playlist, she took in Fredrick Street. She breathed in the white picket fences and the front lawns as smooth as the icing on a wedding cake. The road looked fresh and free of cracks, as if it had only been laid this week. There was a cloudless sky overhead and the sun shone down, as it did most days, on the rows of houses like a family would their properties on a Monopoly board. It was, quite simply put, sheer perfection. Dreamland 101.
It was just over a year since they'd moved in, Morgan, her and the girls, but some days it felt just like yesterday. Today was no different. It had been a no-brainer really, the house had come on the market at a cut-price & they'd always dreamed of growing up in a little cul-de-sac where the kids could play in the garden, ride their bikes down the street and everyone waved at them in the morning. Regular house dinner parties, book clubs and civilised living with a civilised neighbourhood. Most times, when people came to live out in one of these little pockets of Suburbanity, away from all their family and friends and the memories of their past it was because they were running from something. But for them it wasn't the case. Moving to Fredrick Street, they were running toward something. A brighter future, the one they had dreamed of, complete with their picket fences and BBQ's on a Sunday. It was perfect.
Her jog down memory lane was just about complete when she saw one of the neighbours from across the street (you could see them all really, there only was the 12 rows of houses in this little slice of Suburban Solitude). It was Kim. She was taking out the bins. Sarah waved and Kim flashed a smile before making her way toward her. Watching Kim cross the street, Sarah noticed the slight sashay in the way her body led her forward, still looking so glamorous without a dot of make-up and her morning sweats on. She had the looks a movie star would most likely kill for and, being that Kim was a movie star, she half wondered if this wasn't the case. In a past life, Sarah was sure she would have been hit with that sickening and unpleasant rush of jealously, followed by a crippling guilt and anxiety about judging another human. Jealousy was nothing but an ugly shade on a person, even on the nicest of people, which Sarah considered herself to be. She was sure that jealously would grip the nicest person tighter because they don't know what to do with it and don't understand what it is. It was nothing but the mind playing tricks on you, because it doesn't understand life (and love) the way the heart does. Sad really. But it was OK, because Sarah wasn't the jealous type.
"Morning Sarah. Day and a half am I right?" said Kim.
There was a twang to the way Kim spoke, like she was trying out all the accents she'd acquired at acting school all at once. Sarah, still a little breathless, opened up her arms and breathed in.
"Hell of a day to be alive Kim. Although every day is like that around here, am I right?" said Sarah.
Kim nodded. "Better believe it. Think it'll hold for tonight?"
Sarah took a little glance skyward and squinted at the sun, more for show than any weather reading ability she had, and nodded.
"I say it will, we've not had a bad day in a couple of weeks, Mother Nature's not let us down yet. You guys coming?"
"Wouldn't miss it. 7.30?"
Sarah nodded. "On the button."
She paused, wanting to frame the question so as not to broadcast any party host insecurities, but Kim seemed to guess and gave her that movie star smile.
"Relax, Sarah. Everyone will turn up. It's a nice thing, celebrating us all moving in. And who doesn't love a free BBQ?"
"I've not seen The Hendricks or The Murphy's for a while. You heard from them?"
Kim shook her head. "Not seen either, but I'm sure they got your flyer. Just relax. It'll go swimmingly."
Sarah smiled. "You've never seen Morgan try and cook a burger on the grill. If it's not tasty, it'll at least be entertaining."
Kim laughed and started to walk away. "I'm sure he'll do fine. See you tonight." And with that, she sauntered back across the street, her hips moving back and forward like the pendulum on a grandfather clock.
Sarah almost regretted suggesting the idea of the BBQ now that the day was upon them. It was a year since the Fredrick Street housing estate had been finished and opened up for them all to move in. Well, all 12 of the finished houses anyway. There were still a large number of the secluded community homes to be built and the current inhabitants of Fredrick Street were anxious to meet their new neighbours, each and every one of them hoping the newbies wouldn't disturb their tranquil life. Although recently, it had seemed that all work on the unfinished houses had stopped and they were all now living a stones throw from a construction site. She had hoped that the houses would have been finished and tonight's anniversary celebrations would double-up as a welcome party. Regardless, Sarah thought it would be a nice thing for all the current residents to get together, raise a glass (for her a non-alcoholic cocktail – she wasn't putting on hold her clean living, not even for this) and celebrate the day they all met and started this chapter of their lives. So far, she'd only had RSVP's from 5 of the other residents. The Hendricks, The Murphys, the young newlyweds a few doors down (Pete and Liz Guthrie), Old Lady Charles from round the corner, Mr. and Mrs. Kingston and Gordon the Gopher (on account that he was the handy man of the neighbourhood) had all so far failed to get in touch. Perhaps they were too busy or not interested. Either way, Sarah was understandably anxious as to her hosting abilities and the lack of response for tonight wasn't doing much to fight her insecurities. First world problems she thought and shrugged the thoughts from her mind as easy as they'd come, replacing them with thoughts of how fantastic the night was going to go.
Tearing away from the early morning calm, Sarah made her way back into the house ready for the chaos of the day to begin and into the kitchen to get the breakfast ready for the kids. The school run was a pain for some mothers, but not for Sarah, particularly today when it would take her mind off her worries for later on. It was the second reason she loved getting up so early. She got the chance to spend time with the kids before they went to school; kids incidentally that she never thought she would have. It's not that she felt like she loved her children more than the other mothers who griped at the school gates or was a better mother because she didn't use a nose peg to clean a shitty nappy but because she never felt the desire to moan about the things her kids made her do everyday. She never acted or felt like it was something she didn't want to be a part of. They were a gift as far she was concerned; a cheesy cliché but one she liked to roll out anyway. As Sarah prepared the lunches, she thought that some days she lived only for them. They were the centre of her little universe, and one of the main motivations behind her fitness regimes was the desire to be around long enough for them to grow up and start a family of their own. She smiled at the thought that in 10 or 20 years time, it might be the mother of their children doing what she was doing now; a thought that filled her with an enormous amount of hope and sunshine that shone stronger than the rays outside.
The breakfast bar armed and ready; Sarah retreated to the bathroom for a quick shower and gave her kids a little shout as she went, smiling as she heard the familiar groans of people who'd fallen in love with their duvets over night and didn't want part from them. It was the same start to the day she always had and something she wouldn't change for the world.
Goodbye Rocket Man, Hello The Face In The Sky
Let me start by saying that no, this is not a new story. It is however a new name for an old story and I think a more original one, with a cooler cover.
I frequently play about with front covers and images relating to the stories I write. I wrote a short story called Rocket Man last year, and released it on the website. I knew it shared a namesake with a certain famous song, but, armed with artistic notions of grandeur (as we writers are tend to do at times) I thought people wouldn’t think of the song before they thought of my story. Which was daft. And after the release of the biopic of Sir Elton John, I figured it might be best to change the title and put it back out there under it’s new guise, with a fresh set of images to go with it. So, goodbye Rocket Man (Yellow Brick Road, similarity unintended here also) and hello The Face In The Sky. It’s a better title, and a cooler image too - I don’t know how I thought people would discover my short story under it’s old name (google Rocket Man, it’s possibly on Google’s last page). So please do discover (or rediscover) this short story, The Face In The Sky. Available to read over here with a fresh set of images that accompany the story.
I’m Joining Wattpad!
Now, that headline sounds like the people at Wattpad have reached out and begged me to join their storytelling community and publish stories there. That’s not the case (I wish!), it is however, a great website and app for authors and readers. Anyone can join and, as I wrote about on the blog the other day, is the perfect place to tell stories episodically and release novels and stories as serials. Both The Face In The Sky and The Quest For Perfection (Is A Damn Fine Thing) will both be available to read here on my website, and also on Wattpad.
You can join me on Instagram and Twitter too, (both @dancingtoaster) where I publish different pieces of writing and other content.
The Water Cooler
As another addition to the blog writing, I’m going to share some mini reviews or recommendations of films and TV shows I’m watching, podcasts I’m listening to and books I’m reading!
At the moment, I’ve been watching ITV’s A Confession, which concludes this coming Monday, and is a harrowing true crime tale, with restrained performances from Martin Freeman & Imelda Staunton, to name but two of a great cast. BBC’s The Capture is also an absolutely brilliant, twisty, turny, modern conspiracy drama which is utterly compelling viewing! Late to the party, I’m also binging The OA and, of course, Supermarket Sweep. Yes, you read that right.
The most important series that I’ve watched recently, however, is Unbelievable. An absolutely heart-wrenching, frustrating and vital piece of storytelling based on a true crime. It’s not only beautifully written, sensitively portrayed, but absolute crucial that this be watched, by as many people as possible. It’s quite possibly the drama of the year and is absolutely gut-punching.
My recommendation for your film of the weekend is the wildly titled The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then The Bigfoot. It’s not the movie you think it is when you sit down to watch it and is all the better for it. It’s a beautiful meditation on time, growing old, the stories we don’t tell and loss. And also hunting Bigfoot and killing Hitler. It’s quite honestly everything you could look for in a film, and the performances of Sam Elliot and Aidan Turner, playing the same character separated by decades of life, are captivating.
It’s a must watch.
This is an easy one. My Dad Wrote A Porno, Pilot TV and The Weekly Planet. The only podcasts you need just now.
I’m working on a bunch more stories, including more short stories, novel, comedy, sketches and various other things!
For now, thanks for reading and supporting. Remember, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi!
Charles Dickens practically invented it with The Pickwick Papers, amongst other stories, including Great Expectations. Stephen King championed it with The Green Mile. Andy Weir employed it with great success in the original publication of The Martian. And it doesn’t stop there - Conan Doyle, Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne. They all did it!
Now, you might be wondering why I’m babbling on about these literary giants, but they all have one thing in common (other than being fantastic writers) - I’m talking about serialised storytelling. The serial novel.
Yes, the “It’s like TV for Books” post title makes a little more sense now. The serial novel, a story that’s published in instalments, is something that, as a huge fan of TV, I absolutely love. I experimented with this technique on the site late last year/early this year, with my short story Rocket Man. And people read it, each week (I think). And it’s something I’m going to use the website and blog for a lot more of.
As a writer, you’re constantly writing. Either your thinking of ideas, or scribbling down notes (or typing in your phone notes) or you’re hunkering down over the keyboard and working on a project. I like to write as much as possible and make my writing available to be read by everyone and anyone. What’s the point in letting it gather dust in a drawer or lie dormant on a desktop?
I’ve also been keen to kick on with this idea of Pocket Fiction, stories that you can read in your pocket and on your phone. And, if you’re so inclined, can pay for with whatever change you have in your pocket (see my recent post on joining Ko-FI!). So with these ideas in mind, plus the fact that I have a website that I don’t probably use for the original purpose it was intended (to post stories and other forms of writing), I’m going to start using it to publish serialised stories.
The first one out of the gate, my novel The Quest For Perfection (Is A Damn Fine Thing). You can buy the complete story either here on the website or on Amazon in both paperback or digital, if you can’t wait to read the story chapter by chapter, each week.
Obviously, I’d prefer if you were so excited by the story that you bought a copy, or even donated to the Ko-Fi page. But either way, I’d just be grateful for people to read the story, and let me know what you think.
I’m a writer, first and foremost. And writers need to write, but they also want to be read. So I’m going to stand on the shoulders of giants (Dickens, King, Weir - to name but a few) and join the great tradition of serialised storytelling and serial novels.
If you read, then thank you. And I hope you come back week in, and week out. The prologue is now available to read here.
I’ve set up a Ko-Fi page! If you like the stories and content, please consider supporting. It lets me get from A to B (petrol for the car, a train ticket), eat (shopping or lunch) and pay the bills (you know, the mail we wish we could avoid).
As a writer, I’m happiest writing and sharing stories, and I write a lot. Rather than keep all the writing in a digital drawer, or wait for people to buy my books, I want to find a way to share stories and my writing, whilst making it affordable for people to contribute or support the work if they enjoy it, without having to break the bank. Think about it this way, you can pick up one of my stories (and fit it in your pocket) and buy me a coffee or tea, with whatever you have in your pocket. Hence, my PickPocket Stories.
Thanks for stopping by and for any contributions. Hope you enjoy reading.
You can head over to my Ko-Fi page here and buy me a cup of coffee. Or tea. And don’t forgot to say hey!
Check out the new trailer for The Quest For Perfection (Is A Damn Fine Thing)
What is Fredrick Street? Who are The Wells Foundation?
5 Strangers. One Secret. Nobody’s Perfect.
Available Now: https://amzn.to/2S6VZZy
That’s right! You can now read more of my funny poetry, similar to the I Am A Lad poem that was published on BBC The Social!
You can read them here on the website but I’d love it if you could head over to the brilliant Poetizer and check out my profile (click here) where you can follow, read and engage with the poems! It’s a bit like instagram but for Poetry.
The poems will be available on Poetizer first of all before finding it’s way across other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube). I’m working on something hopefully quite cool and funny to roll this type of content out in a way that’s more interesting and engaging!
So head over to Poetizer and have a read.
It’s publication week!
That’s right - my debut novel will be out THIS FRIDAY in both paperback and digital!
I’m excited about finally releasing this book because it’s been a long time in writing.
As a special treat, and to perhaps whet your appetite (or rather, convince you to spend your hard earned cash) here’s the opening of the novel below - for FREE!
So have a read at the opening and hopefully pre-order your copy of the book!
Cheers - Chris.
Foreword from J.P. McNair
I’ve tried to tell this story the best I could. There are few people left alive to tell it and those that are don’t want to put their names to paper, nor do they want to put their mind back where it once was. The story of The Fredrick Street Five, The Wells Foundation and the events that took place both close to home on a small Scottish and simultaneously far away are mostly unknown. Until now. What follows, is the truth, or as much of the truth as I could muster. Usually, when writing a story based on a real event involving real people, it’s a lot easier. Survivors will talk to you. Information is, if not easy to find, at least it’s there to find. Not this. For a story of this horror, tragedy and sheer human cruelty I would have hoped I wouldn’t have to imagine it so much. I would have hoped I wouldn’t have had to write so much. But the information was scant, those left alive even fewer. But I’ve done my best with the few interviews I managed to undertake, the slim writings on The Wells Foundation, newspaper clippings, extracts from essays and articles. But of course, much of the story appears as written like a book of fiction. I hope this doesn’t detract from the truth too much. I had to fill in the blanks with the information I had. Events may not have played out exactly as this, but it will be as close as we will ever get to the truth of this quiet horror. And I hope you find the truth in here as I did.
J.P. McNair, Journalist and Author of The Fredrick Street Experiments
Transcript of Interview with Sarah Barr. August 25, 2015. Conducted by J.P. McNair.
I had approached Ms Barr several times for an interview to discuss what she remembers of Fredrick Street. Several times she rejected. The other survivor has all but fallen off the face of the earth. Without an interview with Ms Barr, the project is dead. Without her, I have nothing substantial and this may as well be a work of fiction – and will probably be seen as such.
I was persistent though and finally, she agreed to meet with me and tell not only her story, but the story of the others, as much as she could. None of the court records after the incident are public record. The record details everything from the Fredrick Street Five, Dr Tom and Isabel Archer, Ray Samson, Harold Wells & The Wells Foundation. If I want to piece together the events, and what happened, Sarah Barr is my only hope. I approachedthe interview with great caution. She lives alone, in a bungalow in a quiet and sleepy Scottish town, with views out onto the river that runs between here and Glasgow.
When I visit for the interview, one look at her tells me she’s been through a lot; it looks like she’s lived life twice over. Her hair is slightly frayed and her is skin taught, yellowing ever so slightly through years of misuse. Whether it be self-inflicted or as a result of what happened, I don’t know. Not yet, at least. She offers me a cup of tea. The china jingles on the saucer as she brings it to me shakily. When she sits down, she tries hard to smile.
Are you nervous?
She nodded. “A little.”
Don’t be. I won’t push you to tell me anything you don’t want to.
Can I start by asking why you finally agreed to meet me?
She thought for a minute before answering. “I guess, I hope, when I tell you the story of what happened, then it might help me to forget.”
How much do you remember?
The question seems to elicit a shiver. “Of what happened to me? Everything. The rest, I know from what I read in the media coverage, after, and from what I heard during the trial. Will that be enough?”
Yes, of course.
Then she caught me off guard by asking a question herself.
“Why do you want to tell this story?”
I had to approach this answer carefully. It was a question I was often asked by the people I interviewed for my books, particularly as I wasn’t a journalist, and the way I tell my stories are framed as fiction. Most of the time, my subjects are just happy to get their story out there, but on the rare occasion, they’re concerned that people won’t believe it because it’s listed as being Based On A True Story.
When I was initially forwarded the story of Fredrick Street and The Wells Foundation, I was sceptical myself.After I read more about what had happened though, the inherent tragedy and trauma apparent within the events that transpired, I wasgripped and appalled. I felt the story deserved to be told and to be told to as many people as possible. Not everyone is interested in the truth, unless it’s dressed up in fiction. And what happened to you and to everyone else, deserves to be told.
She didn’t say much after that. She simply nodded.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much and was concerned that perhaps the fictional manner in which I write my stories may make her uncomfortable. I have spent years pursuing this particular story and didn’t want to let the opportunity I now had slip away.
If it makes you feel better, I plan to include within the book excerpts of our conversations, something I have not done before,to cement the fact that what people are about to read is a true story. Would that be OK?
She nodded again and seemed happy with the offer.
We sat for a few moments, drinking tea and looking out onto the view. I observed Sarah closely, trying to form my first question carefully. It was she, though, who broke the silence first, fixing me with a steely gaze.
“Where do you want me to start?”
From the beginning.
I took out my pen, and started writing.
The Strangeness Of Fredrick Street
For the residents of Fredrick Street, life was just perfect and just perfect was just so. Everyday, they woke how they wished and worked where they had always dreamed of working. Everyday, they lay with whom they loved and slept like a baby in the womb. Everyday, they were exactly the person they had always wanted to be. Life was nirvana and nirvana was life as the hours rolled on by like tumbleweed on a dusty desert track. Everyday felt like the day before and that, to the small community of Fredrick Street, was sheer perfection. They each had the life of a snake charmer with an eternity of missed bites.
It was flawless.
So flawless, in fact, that they didn’t notice what was going on around them. They didn’t notice that the lights in some of the houses on the street hadn’t been switched on in months, some of them close to a year. They didn’t notice that each night they dreamed a similar dream and woke with no memory of what they’d seen and of where they came from. They didn’t notice real life as it passed them by, because they were living their best one.
Each day and each night however, they were watched. They were watched by a man who dreamed of nothing more than living his perfect life. This man knew more about them than each knew of them knew about themselves. This man had a job to do – one he hadn’t quite been able to bring himself to do yet. For as he watched, unseen, by the residents of Fredrick Street who were hiding secrets even they never knew they had, this man wanted nothing more or less than what the residents of the street had. He longed to be able to stay in bed a little longer and watch his partner sleep with her grumpy frown and her leg draped over his. He wanted to check on his sleeping angel of a daughter after he tucked her in goodnight with a bedtime story. He wished he could surprise his girls with a duvet day on the couch or a trip away to the place of their dreams. But that’s all they were, to him. Dreams. Wishes. For they would no longer come to pass – his life was not lived like the people he had been watching. He knew the tragedy of real life.
As he watched Sarah with her beautiful kids and athlete in training body, Kim with her movie star career and baby on the way, Kim’s husband Mark with a surgical career to rival any, Jessica with her simultaneous popularity and burgeoning academic career and Albert Molineaux with his wife of 60 years, this man wondered if these people had any idea what lay ahead of them, or indeed, behind them. When they started to remember, that’s when the problems would begin. When he started to make them look a little closer at the life around them in their sweet little cul-de-sac, that’s when everything may fall apart. It’s not that he, The Watcher, wanted them not to be happy – it was just the way it was. And the job he had come here to do.
For the residents of Fredrick Street, life was just perfect and just perfect was just so.
Unfortunately, the world had other plans.
it’s almost here! The FINAL version of the book has just been submitted and now all I have to do is wait for the 15 Feb 2019 when it will be out there in the world!
I’m really pleased with the end product and it’s take a number of years to write. In fact, I decided to add a completely new element to the story over the last few weeks which makes it a little more unique and more interesting! There is now a flashback element to it, with the story being unfolded by an author, who will have to self-publish the book after his publishers cancel the publication. Why? You’ll have to read to find out!
It’s a mystery thriller with a little twist thrown in early on. I like to think if you like Desperate Housewives or the books of Michael Crichton or Stephen King or World War Z you’ll like this book. Who are The Wells Foundation? What is the quest for perfection? And what did happen on Fredrick Street?
It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s exciting and heartbreaking and thrilling.
And it’s available to pre-order now!
Yes! I wrote a comedy short for BBC The Social and it is now live!
Absolutely buzzing about this, massive thank you to the producers at BBC The Social and for Cameron Fulton for taking the wee script and making it better!
Have a watch, share, like, comment and enjoy over here!
That’s right! Absolutely delighted that the sketch I wrote and filmed with Kirsty Strain was released this week on BBC The Social.
Its a brainstorm for the new channel in Scotland. Give it a watch - let us know, what show would you tune into!?
Give it a watch, share and like here!
Released Feb 15th 2019
Pre-order the debut novel from Chris Patrick now!
We’re excited to release this thrilling mystery by author (and PickPocket Media creator) Chris Patrick which he describes as a Desperate Housewives if it was written by Michael Crichton.
Author Chris Patrick says, "The best way to describe this book really is that it’s mystery-thriller in three parts. I think there’s a bunch of different influences in the book from Stephen King to Tom Perrotta, two of my favourite authors, which combines to tell a good story. I often describe it as If Michael Crichton wrote a story in the suburban worlds created by Tom Perrotta, then you’re close to what The Quest For Perfection (Is A Damn Fine Thing) is like. It’s equal parts The Andromeda Strain and Little Children. It’s Jurassic Park meets The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. It’s Under The Dome meets This One Is Mine by Maria Semple.
There’s also a lot of TV influences to the novel also. “I love TV and I think that comes through in the book. There’s nods to shows like Lost & Desperate Housewives in there. It’s an ensemble cast of characters in the book and each chapter moves the story on in their eyes. If Michael Crichton or Stephen King wrote an episode of Desperate Housewives this would probably be the result!”
The good news also is that it’s not a massive novel, something that’s a result of the author’s background in short stories and short plays. “I love the short format, particularly in this day and age where everything happens so quickly, there’s loads of stuff out there to read, watch or listen to, and not everyone has the time to sit down and read a massive novel. I think brevity is key and if you can tell a really good story in a short space of time then the better - it’s a bigger advantage these days. One of the things I wanted to do with this novel was start off with the nice slow novelistic build up and as it progresses the pace ramps up to a big climax. It starts off as one thing and ends very differently.”
The novel is released through PickPocket Media (formerly Toasted Fiction) by Patrick on Feb 15th 2019. For more info, read the official synopsis below and pre-order here!
For the residents of Fredrick street, life is just perfect in their small community. They have everything they ever wanted and more.
Sarah has the family and the body she has always wanted while Jessica is a popular high school kid with grades as high as her popularity. Albert is retired with his wife of 60 years. Mark is one of the world’s best surgeons and his wife Kim, with her A-List movie start career, is expecting their first child. They have absolutely everything they ever wanted and live on the street with the kind of houses they dreamed of when they were little kids.
Until the visions start and the memories that don't belong to them are remembered.
For the residents of Fredrick Street, life is just perfect and just perfect is just so.
Unfortunately, the world has other plans.
If you follow the blog or the stuff I write, then you’ll know I put out a new short story called Rocket Man, which is one story I’ve written that I really love. It would be great to get as many people to read it as possible. So in an attempt to do just that, here is the first part of the story. Have a read and if you like, get your copy of the story below.
Enjoy — CP
“I count the stars some times too,” she said.
It was Diane, Matt’s crazy chain-smoking neighbor. She was standing at her fence, looking up at the night sky. He wasn’t in the mood for company, this was why he came out here, away from the black veiled tears and the crying strangers that had gathered in his house, stinking up his carpets with grief and stealing the now-stale food from his kitchen. Diane had always been kind whenever they had passed each other on their street; she didn’t say much and said just enough, making her the perfect neighbour in Matt’s eyes. Lisa had always liked her too. She said Diane made her feel like she was a heartbeat away from the Swinging Sixties, with a hippy for a neighbor – a neighbor that, on occasion, had more flowers in her hair than in a well-kept flower bed.
Looking at her now, Matt realized what Lisa had meant; the way Diane dressed was like nothing in this world, never mind this era. She wore an Indian-style long dress that was brightly coloured, with a rainbow bull’s eye in the middle and a pair of sandals that looked like they were made of wicker. Her hair was wiry and frayed; like she’d perhaps stuck her fingers in a socket and liked the way it set off her eccentricity. He realized that he’d been staring at her without saying anything for nearly a minute now, the silence stretching between them like a kid ready to fire an elastic band at his least favorite teacher. He looked up at the stars again and let their glare rain down on them both. She didn’t seem to mind the silence, which was good, because he wasn’t much in the mood for talking.
After a few last draws on the smoldering cigarette, she stubbed it out on her side of the fence like it were a knee high ashtray and took out the pack for a next go round. She looked toward Matt. “You smoke?”
He smiled. “Not since I used the bike shed to shield the lighter from the wind.”
“Take one now, you look like you need it.”
He took one from the packet and she smiled, the wrinkles smiling with her, and the nicotine yellow teeth dazzled Matt like a row of tiny, fading suns. Matt lit up from her light and took a deep draw, careful not to cough up his first intake. No matter how old you got, you never quite shook that urge not to lose face when smoking a cigarette and always wanted to look cool besides. The smoke hit the back of his throat and wormed it’s way down into his lungs and he felt 15 again sneaking a cigarette away from his parents, his teachers and playing the Fonz in front of his friends. Although, now he thought of it, he was never sure whether the Fonz actually smoked a cigarette. Just seemed like everyone who wore a leather jacket in those days did. He blew out the smoke, clouding the night sky for a split second and smiled. It was just like riding a bike. “I’ve not done that in a while.”
Diane, already halfway through her own, smiled. “It’s never too late to start a bad habit.” At this, Matt laughed and took another draw. The two perfect strangers smoking in silence on a nippy November night.
“How’s little Tommy holding up?” she asked. Not taking her eyes away from the smoke rings and the stars.
“He’ll be OK.”
It took Matt a little longer to respond this time. And when he did, he wasn’t sure he believed the answer. “I guess I’ll be too.”
Diane nodded then, and stubbed out her cigarette. But before she could turn back inside, Matt stopped her. “Diane?”
“Before. When you said you count the stars. What did you mean?
“What did I mean?”
She smiled and reached her hand over the fence and gave Matt’s a little squeeze. “I want to make sure my family’s got plenty of friends up there too.” And with that, she patted Matt on the shoulder and disappeared like a ghost into her own house.
Matt sat there a few moments letting her words sink in. How could she possibly know? A few months before it happened, he and Lisa had been sitting on the porch as he was now and looking up at the stars. She was nagging him for neglecting the telescope she had bought him for this 40thto which he’d promise he would use and soon. According to the box you could see onto the face of planets, moons and stars. “You never know. You could be the first man to find life on other planets. Just like you always wanted,” she had teased.
“This your plan all along? To get me back to work?” he laughed. She just wrinkled her nose and smiled but he knew there was some truth to it. She’d been so angry when he’d left his job that she called is bosses at NASA and tried to get them to take him back. But, as Matt had told them (he had some pull their being one of their chief engineers – a literal rocket scientist) they were in no way to listen to her even if they wanted to bring him back to the space programme or make her happy. Leaving the space agency had been one of the tougher decisions (it had been his dream as a child) but the time it had given him with Lisa and Tommy was more than any project, build or mission could give.
They had been out there for an hour now and he was worried she was getting too cold. As if to ease his fears she brought her cardigan close over her shoulders and leaned into him, never once looking away from the night sky.
“You’re thinking about what happens.” she said. “Next. After.”
It was true; he did little but these days. Lisa always knew what he was thinking before he did. He didn’t respond, just held her close.
“It’s OK to talk about it. You won’t have much chance to talk with me after so you may as well use up the air between us now.”
He looked at her. The way she kept her humour, dark and brittle as it was at times, never ceased to amaze him. She looked up at him, the blue in her eyes still sparkling despite all that was going on behind them. Finally he relented. “What do you think happens? Next.”
She snuggled in and pointed to the stars. “I think we go up into the sky and join the stars. Why do you think there are so many?”
That was the last conversation they had had when it was just them; they way they had been forever before. The last time Lisa had a good day and the last time they sat out together looking at the night sky. He stubbed his own cigarette out and made his way back inside. He figured Diane must have overheard them talking that night. Whether she was being cruel or kind he hadn’t decided. Although, after what would happen next, he wouldn’t pay a second thought to his neighbour’s motives, whether it was a cruel trick or a kind word wouldn’t matter. That conversation beneath the stars, smoke and silence swirling between them both, wouldn’t even fall on Matt’s radar again. Not after what was about to happen. Not after Matt saw it.
Just days after Lisa had left Matt, Tommy and the rest of their family and friends behind for a life amongst the stars and just days after this quiet conversation between two strangers, everything was about to change for Matt, Tommy and everyone in the town that Lisa had departed. Just days after Matt believed he’d lost everything; he thought he’d found something again. No, this conversation, and any that followed wouldn’t matter to Matt.
Not after the night he saw the face in the sky.
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