I Know The Effects of Gravity

From my top floor apartment I can hear eery Christmas jingles from inside shops. It’s got a good location, if you like going out in the town and to the student union but I’ve never been a big fan. Usually, games nights in my house would do me. If I had any friends, that is. They’re always busy, and they live at the other side of the country. They don’t call or text anymore.
I look down at the great drop below me. The shoppers are like aphids. From here, you can’t see their expressions, and you can’t hear them talk to each other. Any one of those aphids could be squashed, or burned by the magnifying glass of God at any given moment, and they’ll never see it coming.
I could jump you know. I can’t stand this life anymore. I hate Christmas, especially. The cheer is fake and that once a year I have to pretend that my family actually care about my life, at least outside my career prospects. All of them piling in from St Andrew’s to lord it over because I’m at Glasgow which is for slow people. But I’m studying medicine, like they want me to, so they can’t hold that against me.
Next week, I’ll be in the exam hall, tested on how efficiently I can regurgitate facts. Everything I’ve learned, everything I am will be defined by that day. I know for a fact going to fail it. I’ve missed so many classes, because I’ve been either so anxious I can’t speak or so depressed I think I’m coming down with the worst flu ever. Slow person. It almost suits me now. I can barely drag myself over to the window sill.
The only person who is actually there is my cat, Tesla. She’s out hunting. Every time she comes home, she brings back a bird or mouse corpse. It’s these little kindnesses that make my life less bitter. Except for her, I have no-one.
I bring myself to my feet. I look down again. I could do it. I could jump… but then, I can hear the cat flap. Tesla. I can hear her meowing. You can’t be hungry, can you? There’s food in your bowl. She sits at my feet. Her claws dig into my feet and she’s looking up at me with those ‘Don’t Leave me’ eyes. She knows.
“You’ll manage fine without me.” I cry.
Tesla meows louder, and sadder. As if to say, ‘But I don’t want to, without you.’
I collapse onto a heap on the floor, and cry my lungs out. She pads up to me, climbs onto my knees and starts to lick my nose. I need help. I pick up my mobile phone and text some of my friends to invite them down for Christmas. I’ll try to keep going for another six months.
My phone pings. It is my friend Stephanie. She says she’s coming down tomorrow.
Featured Image by McKenzie Clarklove-is-a-violent-feeling

Pigs in Blankets

In a little cottage made of stones, there lives a Mummy Pig and her only piglet Percy. Each night, Mummy Pig tells her child a bedtime story.  This night was no different from any other night. Percy was tucked up tightly, and raptly listens as she begins tonight’s tale.

“The Three Little Pigs: Penny, Paul and Peter, all leave their Mummy behind to build their own houses outside the village. They bought their materials at the market and skipped down to the forest and got building. Penny built her house from straw. Paul built his house from sticks, whilst Peter built his from bricks. He was always the smarter one. They built them up, and were happy for a while. They didn’t even send their Mummy a letter, and were blissfully unaware of the Big Bad Wolf stalking around…”

 “Like the Big Bad Wolf who gobbled up Little Red Riding Hood?” Percy pipes up.

“The exact one!” Mummy’s eyes widened. “The Big Bad Wolf was HUNGRY! So he went to the first little house, and banged the door. Little pig, little pig, let me come in, he said. Not by the hairs of my chinny chin! Penny cried. So the Wolf huffed, and puffed and blew her house down, and then ate her alive!”

The piglet gasps. “Ate her alive?”

Mummy nodded, “And then he went to the house of twigs. Little pig, little pig, let me come in! the wolf shouted. Not by the hairs of my chinny chin! So the Wolf huffed, and puffed, and blew his house down. Paul was a fast runner, but he couldn’t outrun the wolf! And he…”

“He didn’t… eat him alive, did he?” Percy stammers.

“Yes, of course he did. The wolf was too hungry to wait for them to cook!”

Percy squealed, but Mummy Pig was unphased, and continued her story, quickening her pace! “And then he got to the house of bricks, where Peter lived, and he tried his usual huffing and puffing routine but it didn’t work on the little brick house. Peter was always a little smart arse. He could hear the Wolf coming from miles away and knew he’d come down the chimney. But as the pot boiled, he could see the Wolf circling around the house. What was he doing that for, Percy?”

“I don’t know…”  Percy snuffled, choked up with tears.

“Because he thought he was so smart, didn’t he Percy? He placed all the straw and twigs from the other houses all around the edges and then doused it all with petrol before throwing a lit match onto it. Peter Pig was burned to a crisp! The Wolf smiled as he watched the brick house burn to the ground…”

Percy couldn’t even utter a word of disapproval. He loved his Mummy. But this story made him so upset and scared.

“Those little piggies had the gaul to leave their poor mother without even a letter! You’re not going to be like those little piggies, are you Percy?”

Percy shook his head. “No, Mummy.”

“You’re always going to stay with Mummy, aren’t you Percy?”

Percy nodded, “Yes, Mummy.”

“Good.” Mummy Pig smiled, as she kissed her piglet on the forehead. “Goodnight, Percy.”

“Goodnight Mummy.” He whimpered.

The Writer’s Mind (memoir, nonfiction)

I cannot even think of where to start. Hmmm… wait, I think I’ve got something! Okay, here goes:

People say that the human brain is like a complex computer: it can do logic and maths problems, transmit information, have memories that grow, adapt and learn, etc. Although, the pitfall with that analogy is that computers can only follow commands- they don’t have freewill, love, passion and, of course, creativity. The human brain is so much more than just an efficient automaton, it determines what and who we are, how we perceive the world and what we put into it and what’s even better is that, unlike a computer, we are not manufactured to being the same, we grow into unique human beings.

My brain at the moment is like a crashing computer, in the sense that nothing works and I feel like smashing it with something. This is my third attempt. Third time lucky, I hope. I don’t usually have this problem. Usually my brain is bursting with fresh inspiration, so much so I find it hard to keep to Task. Task, that interminable treadmill, what computers work best with. Tasks, like rules are made to be broken. There’s a balance to strike between expressing yourself freely and taking you, my audience or readership into consideration. Whoever you are, I must keep you in mind as you are the one who is reading this. To you, I am probably just another essay in a large pile. Reader, let me do a Charlotte Bronte and acknowledge you. My name is Jen McWhirter, I am seventeen years old. I’m doing my final ever year in school and I would like to tell you how my brain works.

I’ve been writing and coming up with ideas from even before I could hold a pen. However, my earliest writing roots can be traced back to the homework I was set in Primary Four. We were learning how to spell, and we got homework often. There was a “Look, Cover, Write, Check” doctrine applied, which helped us process the spelling of each word, and there was another part, however, that required a degree of creativity. By this time, I had a firm grasp of syntax and could weave out sentences like Rumplestiltskin. I had a golden idea: a series of stories centred around what I called “The Werewolf School”, where the pupils were, of course, werewolves in wolf form full-time. I liked them to be feral. One of their most memorable adventures was when the class sneaked on the school bus and drove off to an indoor waterpark for the night. There were so many characters, it was surprising anyone could keep track of it. The main antagonist was their teacher, Miss Battle-axe. She would have, if she had known about this excursion, stopped them in their tracks. Had I have known the words “wee crabbit sour faced auld cow”, that would have been how I described her. What I hated about her was her devotion to stopping her students from enjoying themselves, and forever sentencing them to hours of hard Facts and textbook work.

Back in reality, I had this wonderful feeling that she would enjoy reading it just as much as I did writing it. I had incorporated the words of the earlier spelling task, too. But she thought it was all just straw. I hadn’t stuck to the Task. Task? I wrote her sentences didn’t I? But I was only to write three, not fifty. What? I couldn’t understand it. I only want to make things a bit more interesting for her.

By the time I was nine, I had created a selection of fantasy settings, my own worlds with their own cultures, and everything. I drew many crude maps of towns and countries where several hundred characters lived happy and relatively uneventful lives- or so it may seem on the surface. It would be another thing to look at these people and figure out their life stories, which I will do some other time. I drew epic scenes like the kind you might see in Renaissance pieces except they were children’s drawings with poor perspective and proportion. I had even made a list of popular book and film titles in one of my settings. Looking upon them now, they look like hieroglyphics. It was like they were written in a language only I could understand, their meanings I have forgotten. One day, I will be able to sit and decipher it all and transfer them all into a few epic fantasy novels.

I’ve got this crazy imagination, with hundreds and millions of embryonic ideas growing there. Unlike that chump computer, where everything is systematic and perfectly laid out, in my brain is chaos.  Once these ideas are born, they’re left to fight amongst themselves for my attention. Picture Dragon’s Den, except there’s no business-y type millionaires like Duncan Banatyne, Theo Profiteroles and that grumpy woman but in this case (pardon the pun) it’s just me. Instead of all the little civilised entrepreneurs, begging for scraps like street urchins with flipcharts and model prototypes, one at a time; my savage and colourful ideas stampede, barge, elbow and scream. And there’s maybe thirty of them at once.

They grab me with their fantasy, their diabolically dark twists, their smouldering bodice-ripping romance scenes, their attractive male protagonists and I simply can’t refuse them. And there is me, in a big armchair unable to decide which one to tackle first. I can’t say I’m out, because they’re all my own. It’ll only take my entire life to raise them all, but I’m determined.

The good thing is that, unlike Dragon’s Den, I can take some of these ideas and shape them to make it easier. But only some. The rest refuse- yes, refuse- to be changed. They have strident personalities and are not pinned down without blood being shed. So I let them be. I leave them to simmer in my subconscious for a while before I try again. Can you picture this? Now you can probably imagine why I find things difficult to finish, and I sometimes forget that Task is even there. It’s so loud and Task is not quite loud enough to compete with it. Task needs a megaphone.

Hey I’ve managed to actually type something! I was in pretty full flow, wasn’t I? Nope, it’s gone… loading… My trouble is that this imagination is still going and it’s like I’ve got millions of different programs open. It takes up a lot of memory. Hence why I’ve forgotten a fair bit of my childhood and am virtually dependant on a diary. The files have been lost, and I can’t get them back.

Where was I again? Oh yeah, I remember. Speaking of writer’s block, I had a really horrific bout of writer’s block really recently, like January. My mind was unbearable silence. It was a void. It felt like hundreds of people had died in a huge tsunami but they were all my family. Melodramatic, but accurate to describe how I was feeling. I was breaking down. I had three prelims, an expressive unit for Higher Art to be finished. Higher Art is no cake-walk, despite what you may think, especially when I have two Advanced Highers to be doing as well. They’d told me to design a full house as part of the Art prelim, which I’d never done before as I’d only designed CD covers and hats. I’d only chosen art because I like painting.

One evening, me, Mum, her partner and my brother went bowling and go-karting at The Garage in Kilmarnock. This normally would have been fun but I was miserable that day. All I could do was not cry. I was pretty moody and depressed. I lost at the bowling, and I was livid at myself for being so damn irresponsive. I felt like my limbs had weights on them. Negativity is so heavy. I took out a good deal of that fury at go-karting, which I think I enjoyed despite feeling the lowest I’ve felt for years. I screamed in sheer fury as I whizzed around the racetrack at top speed. But I went home, straight to my room and cried. I had no ideas anymore, my imagination was crushed, I was a failure, I’d never amount to anything- if I am my creativity and my creativity is lost, then what am I?

Eventually, I crawled out of the dark cupboard and sat on my bed. I opened my notebook, and something whispered. One of my novel ideas- Reverie. It was inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, except more surreal, sick and twisted and based off of my own dreams instead of Carroll’s imagination. I added more to my female protagonist and more about the symbolic importance of her two fair-weather friends who lead her astray from the start of the novel. She self-destructs, and after taking drugs she follows her best friend, Locks, into the garden and falls down a wormhole or, more appropriately, rabbit-hole. She is trapped inside her own childhood imaginary world which is being eaten up by pink smoke. This pink smoke is one of many forms of the antagonist, Rasputin, who she must slay in order to rescue her best friend Locks. She meets many quirky characters along the way, including a giant Widow spider who literally devours men and had encouraged her human lady friend, The Bride, to eat her husband on their wedding day.

I’m into writing darker stuff at the moment, and I’m rolling with that tide. I started watching The League of Gentlemen last year and since then, I’ve been relishing dark humour and diabolically evil plot twists. I also had a mild crush on Reece Shearsmith. He even looks good in drag.

As you can tell, I can talk for Scotland, if anyone’s up for listening to me. If anyone can keep up! In reality, I am not great at speaking up for myself, and I also don’t usually sing my own praises. I can type up for myself okay, but in moments of confrontation, I seize up and my mouth freezes shut.

Like when my S4 English teacher showed me up for writing a 4,000 word essay on the Merchant of Venice: I should have shouted back, “I love Shakespeare, take it or leave it”, or “It’s just so inspiring I couldn’t control myself” or, even better, did a Father Jack when he himself was confronted for giving the Bishop Brennan cheek and responded, oh-so-sarcastically: “I’m sooooo, soooo sorry!!”

If only I had that confidence! Or when she made me write a story in a group, with three of the biggest slackers in the whole class: “Please don’t make me work with these idiots!” or “Miss, I’m doing all the hard work, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown if you don’t say something.”

A nervous breakdown, I very nearly had. But I had a dragon of an English teacher and basically everyone in the class hated me for some reason, so I sat back in my seat, bright red and put my head down and worked, as usual. I was put under a lot of stress, then, though I acted rebellious behind her back I was terrified of her. I was terrified of being shouted at by her, and even worse when the entire class were there to witness it. I don’t think she realised, but my whole year basically ostracised me and, no matter what I did or how right my answers were, they smirked and sniggered at me. My English class was one of the worst, and it was actually a fairly traumatising experience. To this day, I hate myself for getting even the smallest of things wrong, and I’m deeply embarrassed if I make a mistake or misread a social cue in front of people. It’s like I can feel their smirking eyes on me, like from before, and they’ll all laugh about me behind my back, like they did before. I look on it now, and I think she was frustrated at me. She couldn’t understand why I was missing deadlines and got annoyed when I couldn’t.

This crazy writer’s brain I’m talking about had caused me a lot of grief over the years: I’ve missed so many deadlines, procrastinated so many times, missed most of my childhood because it was spent in my head, lost a lot of friends because I’d neglected them , and it had really impacted on the relationship I had with my Dad. I was diagnosed with autism when I was two, and rediagnosed as Language and Communications Disorder when I was four. But he seems to have forgotten that. He stopped listening to me 4 years ago and shouted at me instead, and we been estranged from each other for two. My mum was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was about ten or eleven years old, and the medications she had made her brain work far slower than usual. Because of that, she was unable to keep up with what I was saying, about all my ideas. My mind has isolated myself from people.

But hey, I managed to get good grades. I have good friends who know what I’m like and leave me to it. My mum is getting better and has been really well for two or three years now. I’m actually doing Advanced Highers, despite being told on diagnosis I’d never be able to go to a normal school. I just need to be patient with myself. I won’t be able to do things at the same pace as everyone else. Practical things take longer to process in my mind, but that’s okay because I have plenty of creativity and passion to compensate. And I will get there eventually. Here, and now, these are my beginnings in my writing career, and I’ll make plenty of mistakes and there will be plenty of times where I will mishear or even completely misregard Task. For me, it’s about coming to terms with that. Because, you know, despite everything I wouldn’t change my mind for the world.




The End (short story, science fiction/comedy)

still life.JPGJay was awoken by loud, constant hail stones, gritting against the roof of his little house in Anniesland. Urgghhh… Time: he looked at the blaring red numbers on his alarm clock. 9.56am. He collapsed back onto the bed. The hail relented, in fact it just seemed to get even louder when he tries to drift back off. Time: 10.10. He surfaced, groaning and dragging his body out of bed like a zombie. He padded to his living-room-kitchen, and switched on the TV.

“Today on BBC Scotland,”, announced the BBC newsreader. His voice sounded more shaky, like he was holding emotions in. There was dramatic music, before clips were shown of destruction and chaos throughout the world. Jay’s eyes, however, were fixed upon the kettle, trying desperately to stay awake. “Climate change has been proven officially true, now that extreme weather all over the developed world are bringing the world to an international stand-still.” His upper lip quivered as he said, “Could this truly be the end of the world as we-“

The picture and sound cut out. Jay poured hot water into his coffee mug. Then a message popped up on the TV stating technical difficulty. Jay turned around, and blurted out, “Fucking hell!” He sighed frustratedly. He placed his mug on a grubby wooden end table before collapsing onto his worn sofa. He reached for the remote. He turned it to STV- supersofa adverts are better than nothing.

Holly Willoughby and that white-haired guy were sitting on their usual yellow sofa, looking straight into the camera. No jest today. Holly is given a blue prompt card, her eyes become fixated on it as she reads.

Like so many of you who have contacted us, Barbara from Greenwich says ‘My family and I are trapped in our own house, there is no way for us to get out. I am terrified for my future and for the future of my children, I hope we survive.’ Oh Barbara, I hope so too. I’m also afraid to report that according to a worker at the 999 call centre, ‘The emergency services are unable to cope with the amount of calls coming in. Although we are working very hard, we may be unable to save everyone.’ Holly sighs. “Could we- no, we can’t be. We can’t be!” she weeps

Phillip pats her on the shoulder, futilely trying to reassure her. He finished her line, “Could we be the end of the world as we know it?  Tweet your opinion with the hashtag ‘apocalypse’, or Facebook us. Or send us a text message to 2012666 starting with the words ‘WE’RETOAST’ and your opinion, while there’s still electricity.”

Jay peered at the little date and time at the bottom of the screen. 1st April, 11am. Ha! Some stupid April fool’s day prank. Not exactly spaghetti on trees but it will do. Surely, nobody is going to be THAT gullible. Yeah it’s been a bit stormy but a hurricane? Please, any bout of very bad weather. Hurricane Frank, they say? He chortled into his coffee. Bash! Crack! Wallop! Car alarms, screaming, wailing. It can’t be that bad, can it? He opens the blinds to find an overturned car blocking his driveway, the trees almost being blown away. Now how’s he going to get to work at 2? Just his fucking luck! Those random phone numbers aren’t going to cold-call themselves! He tries to call some company who have a tow truck that could move it but it goes straight to answering machine.

Holly sniffed, dabbing her nose daintly with a hankerchief, “That’s right, Phil.We’re lucky to still be alive. Hurricane Frank has taken out much of the BBC Scotland studio. The south west of England is flooded again, and public transport all over Britain has no services…”

Then his mobile phone rang. A text from his line manager: ‘Hi guys, due to extreme weather we will have to ask you to not come to work for the foreseeable future. I, and the others on early shift, have been advised to stay in the building until emergency services arrive. Good luck, and I hope to see you again in the future. All the best, Jeremy.’

He’d always hated that job anyway. Good thing he didn’t get dressed in that shirt and trousers. Maybe this was a sign to resign, he’d worked his fingers to the bone for what little he gets. He switched on the PS4 to play Doom. But before it could even start up, the whole TV, including those smug gits on This Morning, went black. He pressed the button again. Nothing. Huh. Then, darkness.  Oh great, a powercut, he thought.

Then it occurred to him: no power, means no TV or video games. It also means no fridge, no phone, no heating… no way to charge his phone! The milk and cheese strings in the fridge will go bad. The wind is getting louder, the hail and rain thrashing against the windows. Someone may or may not have been hit by a falling tree in his neighbours garden. Then, giant hail stones hit against his roof. Crash. Crash. Crash.  Not a little pitter patter anymore. No… Doom?

This HAS TO BE an elaborate prank. But who could be that sick? He switched on his phone. 100% battery. He decided to play some Temple Run. He could hear some screams, hailstones getting louder until they were smacking down on the ceiling. Rumbling. As usual, nobody was texting him. No internet connection? Damn. The weather must be pretty bad. Spats of grit and dust fall upon his face. He can hear cracking above him. The little man on the screen kept running, grabbing as many gold icons on his way out. Maybe, he’d run fast enough to escape this plot. The monkey sound effect on his phone seemed to be getting louder and screechier, louder as they got closer. Soon, he could barely hear the cracking of his ceiling and walls. Then he had a sudden thought: where was his Mum? Was she okay? He should text her or call… Then, one big crack. Roof foundations smacked against the floor. Before he could react, he was crushed by sudden darkness.


Text, Jen Hughes (c)
Image, “Untitled” by McKenzie Clark