#1
For the observant ones amongst you, you'll realise that i've posted two versions of this already, both of which i've pretty much scrapped. This particular one is more or less finished.


Train Spotter


I

Rowan woke. His heart still pounded in restlessness. He hadn’t slept well, and it showed – the sleep in his eyes clung to the corners as if it was a permanent feature to his weathered face. By now, Rowan had given up on accommodation; it was getting far too dangerous to leave his name at the counter, even his false name. It had rained overnight and a miniature lake had formed in the back-alley where Rowan had attempted to take shelter. The damp, dingy corner that he occupied was litter, and it was his litter.

In the few moments of bedlam, he was able to retrieve his bag from the car wreckage. He still had some left. It was sickeningly ironic, even to Rowan, that the very thing that had thrown him onto the street and on the run was the very thing that had possessed him. His mind slowly clicked into gear and he physically felt another day slide by. It had been two whole weeks since his state of life and mind changed seemingly beyond help in the tragic car crash.

Rowan went through a routine check of his bag – he couldn’t be too careful with making sure he still had all his belongings: a half bottle of water, a dirty rag, a syringe, quarter of a bottle of “Famous Grouse” and a bag of heroin. Rowan was lucky with what he could find in each different town that he moved to, although he would have found it so much easier to stick to the same location and discover the ins and outs of living on the streets there. He knew that wasn’t possible though; he was on the run, and not from the police.

II

It was an average evening two weeks previously, Rowan and his sister, Lucy, were returning home from an unsuccessful shopping trip into the local town. Lucy was the only person that knew, and she was the only person that was kind and understanding to Rowan. Trust was a word that didn’t crop up too much in Rowan’s thoughts or vocabulary, but he could always make exceptions with certain people. He could find his identity in Lucy. “Have you got any in that bag now?” Lucy frowned, while still gazing out onto the road.
“No.” Rowan’s heart thumped a little faster, and a little harder, although he still hoped that she couldn’t tell he was lying through his teeth.

A bonnet smashed into the driver’s side of the car and pierced the metal work. Neither of them saw it coming. A melee of blood danced in the air, in what seemed like slow motion, taunting Rowan; he had done this to his sister. His gaze darted outside the car window, where he caught sight of the perpetrating ebony car speeding off towards the roundabout; they would certainly be turning round to come back for him. Rowan turned to look over Lucy: she was dead, and he was as certain as he could be about it. From that moment, it was as if Rowan had lost the crutch that supported him through his mind; she had come the closest to ridding him of his problem. He weeped openly, feeling his identity tumble into a spin. He almost felt like an infidel of life in those bare seconds as he cast his eyes blankly through the smoke and flames.

He knew at first sight of the ebony car that it was the Mulbury brothers, seeking the cash that Rowan could never quite conjure. His bones quivered with angst as he tried desperately to escape from the car, which was rapidly being engulfed by more flames. “I’m lucky to be alive, let alone be able to move” Rowan thought to himself. When he finally got the door open, he leapt across the threshold and sprawled across the concrete road. Hastily, Rowan grabbed his bag from the back seat, then he made for the ditch on the other side of the road like a wounded soldier, while holding his, injuries (which where mild by comparison) with his bag to cover the blood trail. Rowan nestled in the muddy roadside ditch, completely silent, nursing the bloody flesh on his leg and feeling his iron heart pound continuously.

III

Rowan wiped the sweat from his brow and breathed deeply. He got anxious whenever he thought about what happened two weeks previously in the car crash, and everything that had led up to it. By now, he had made his way down the main street and down into another alleyway. This particular alley backed onto the local pizza parlour, and after a short wait, Rowan knew he could get something to eat. Regulations to throw away leftover food in restaurants may be a waste to some people, but to Rowan, it was the only thing that kept him alive.

Water, although he knew it was drastically impure, was easy to come by; any sort of drain or gutter could easily provide enough to fill up his water bottle. When it was re-filled it was filthy, with all kinds of debris floating and lingering in the contaminated liquid. It reminded Rowan of the smoke that billowed from the car wreckage of his late sister; the debris of the wreckage seemed to follow him wherever he went, on his clothes, on his skin, in his hair and on his belongings. He couldn’t shake them.

Gunshots; they rang in Rowan’s ears, penetrating his senses into disarray and panic. The Mulbury Brothers. They may have only been drug dealers, but they were clever ones; they always seemed to be able to stalk Rowan wherever he hid. At that moment, another gunshot exploded from the canon of the one of the villains’ guns and pierced Rowan’s flesh. The power of the shot on his shoulder fired him against the alley wall. His vision distorted heavily as Rowan reached for his wounded left shoulder. Although this wasn’t the first encounter with the Mulbury brothers and their gang, he was oddly shocked by the gaping hole in his limb. He felt the same feeling, lying helplessly on the floor as he had when he first touched a syringe, the first time he paid for heroin, the first time he hadn’t paid for heroin and the murder of his sister – pure guilt.

Rowan struggled to his feet, trying in desperation to ignore the pain and to keep out of the line of sight. The Mulbury brothers were gaining a lot of ground on Rowan, so he made for the road at the end of the alley as fast as he could. After a lot of toil and energy expended, Rowan spotted his chance; a pick-up truck was just pulling out of the traffic lights. Rowan darted out onto the road and chased the car as ably as he could and leapt onto the back of it, and puled himself up with his one good arm. Rowan made it.

IV

He made his way to the nearest shop he could find; after the pick-up truck had stopped, Rowan mugged the driver. He didn’t like it any more than his victim did, but he desperately needed the cash. Rowan eventually arrived at an off licence after a great deal of pain. In fact, he felt like he could collapse right there on the spot. Rowan didn’t have much money to spare, but only one item was in his mind in this particular shop- whiskey. A bottle of “Famous Grouse” was the only thing that he knew of that was strong enough to deal with his pain. He didn’t need a bandage for now, Rowan decided, besides, he wouldn’t have enough money left.

The shopkeeper looked at Rowan and his shoulder quizzically as he took the bottle from Rowan’s outstretched hand. Rowan looked back with a piercing glare, one with such vigour that the assistant didn’t dare ask. Rowan was relatively satisfied with his purchase and immediately stumbled out of the swinging doors and slumped against the wall in the back alley, which was a setting that Rowan was getting very used to.

He removed the cap from the bottle of whiskey and gingerly splashed some of its contents on his wounded left shoulder. Rowan let out a booming scream of pain that seemed to rumble the parallel walls he was in between. With an unsteady hand he brought the bottle to his lips and threw his head back, gulping up the single malt. Pain still seared through Rowan’s gash in his shoulder, but he didn’t dare try to pull the bullet out.

It was starting to get dark, and Rowan began to shiver. The profile of his weathered face protruded in the moonshine. Not for the first time, Rowan collected his thoughts of the whole ordeal of pain, hiding, guilt and betrayal.


#2
V

Rowan twitched. It wasn’t his wound this time. Déjà vu burst into his mind as he visualised every time that he craved, and every time that he injected. Heroin crept up on Rowan like a concealed villain. Almost hypnotically, he rose to his feet, stood in the alley and swayed momentarily. Rowan blinked heavily then pressed forward through the gloom.

It didn’t take long for him to find a suitable place; the gents symbol on the public toilet never looked so appealing as it did now, shimmering under the grimy glow of the light hovering above it. Rowan savagely shoved the door open and threw himself against the damp tiles in the process. First, Rowan craved more drink; the “Famous Grouse” bottle loomed at the top of his bag, just sitting, waiting, for the inevitable sip. Rowan was hypnotised by the alluring label and the translucent liquid. “Fine malt whiskey” it stated on the label, and Rowan couldn’t help but agree. What Rowan meant to do never seemed to make the slight bit of difference.

He threw his head back again, in the all too familiar fashion, flooding his mouth with, by his standards, a second-degree poison. Rowan seemed to forget completely about his gunshot wound for a while, too distracted by the imaginary hook tugging him, slowly, towards an untimely death. Completely disorientated, Rowan picked himself up gingerly and stumbled up to the long mirror against the wall. He saw his eyes bulge as if someone was scorching the back of the sockets, to back them the bloodshot colour he observed in his life’s reflection, cast on the shimmering pane of glass. His eyes told everything; he knew all too well who was scorching them.

It was like a daily routine; the slamming open of the cubicle door, the kicking aside of the whiskey bottle and retrieving the syringe and heroin from his bag. Rowan knew this process better than he knew how to feed himself. There was only one more stage to go; the needle tore a hole and Rowan winced with pain as his first-degree poison flowed through his arm and into his circulation, contaminating the blood. He sighed with sorrowful relief.

Rowan heard the door to the toilets swing open, which threw his heart off a beat. He perspired doubly as he heard the ringing clacks of the soles of the intruder’s shoes. “Who could be wandering about at this time of night?” Rowan thought. The Mulbury brothers, Rowan was convinced that one if them was outside his cubicle. But as the deep threatening breaths edged closer, they seemed lighter and more delicate than a man’s breath, Rowan realised who the assailant was at the exact moment that they kicked down the cubicle door; Rowan knew that breath anywhere. She was of his own flesh and blood, his own sister stood there in front of him clutching a dagger tightly in her pale hand. Rowan shied away, turning his back against his sister. “Liar,” Lucy whispered. The words rattled in Rowan’s cage for a mind; he knew she was right, that was why the words perforated him so dramatically. “But you’re dead Lucy, you’re dead,” Rowan quivered.
“No. You are.”

The final blow came like a spotlight piercing the dark as the rusty dagger stung into the flesh on Rowan’s back. Steadily, blood flowed out of his new wound, staining whatever there was left to stain of his body and spilling out onto the floor. The blood was filthy and gritty; it was impure. Rowan’s eyes rolled over, tying the end of the knot of his tangled life. Rowan lay in relative peace.

VI

It was the next morning, and the cleaner reluctantly began his routine as he did every morning; he gasped as he set eyes on Rowan’s corpse with the whiskey bottle and the empty syringe beside it. There was not a single drop of blood on the floor, and not a single wound except the dry gunshot one on his left shoulder. Not a thing was out of place. No one else had entered that room the night before.
#3
Oooh a story!

Hehe I'll get to this soon, when I have a lot of spare time to go take it in.

I suggest people comment on this. We must get Calum back 'round these parts
#5
Damn man at first I was thinking "I'm not reading this whole damn thing" but it kept my attention and the ending was great. This surprised me. Great job man, really can't say anything else. Good work. Sorry to be short but I think it was great nothing really to say about it.

u mind reading mine? https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=534479
#6
Thanks! I'm glad you were encouraged to read on.

I can't comment on yours though; it's been closed.
#7
I apologise for the apparent laziness and guilt free fickleness present with the following paragraphs.

The short story is one of the most limiting and at that, most challenging, literary forms to compose successfully, and as such, I congratulate you for having imbued this piece with the requisite action and dramatic tension. However, due to the form’s inherent limitations, one has to convey the protagonist’s (and the antagonist's) personality and motivations in a heightened, yet rather contradictorily, reasonably subtle, manner.

Due to this, in my opinion at least, it is best to reflect the mise-en-scène in the tone of the narrator himself, in order to maintain the emotional validity of the piece as a whole (in other words, when one writes about an ill-fated heroin addict, it would be greatly beneficial if one, as a narrator, adopted said guise). For to be honest, despite your undoubted diligence, I never feel privy to Rowan’s antipathy towards the Mulbury brothers, or indeed, his intellectual and emotional dependence upon his sister, ergo nullifying the dramatic impact of the final scene (that for my admittedly contrary tastes, was a little too ‘deus ex machina’ in nature and execution).

Unfortunately, I just don’t believe, that in this instance at least, that a detached, eloquent narrator, is capable of facilitating the requisite empathy, that as a dramatic author, one strives to elicit. Nevertheless, your stately prose was entertaining, coherent, and ultimately enjoyable, so just in case you reckoned that I was being a bastard for the sake of it, I remain protected by discernable evidence.

Edit:

I warned you that my critical nous was lost at sea…

Keep well mate.

If you can:

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=534980
Incisive inklings of proper piss are unsuited for the quill…
Last edited by HendrixEdge at Mar 1, 2007,
#9
Was good.

- I think you said Rowan a bit too much. I think you need to find a way to change a few.
- Early on, first couple of chapters, I think you did too much telling and not enough showing on his personality.
- Last paragraph of Chapter I imo was very clumsily worded and din't read very nicely.
- "two weeks previously" is awful.
- I kind of liked the last two chapters. Though the "liar" part was great, perfect drama and tension built up there, I just think it could have all ended a bit more smoother or something.
- Thinking about it, I think you should scrap the last chapter, I don't think the story needs it at all.

Very ambitious, good story Calum. Can see you've put alot of work into that and it was a good read. Keep it going, and keep on posting here
#10
Thank you so much for reading all this Jamie; it mean a lot. Thanks also for all the advice and comments.

I hope to post more, but unfortunately, for quite a few months now i have barely written any poetry. Although i have written songs, but i don't think they're that good as pieces of writing... although i like the actual songs. Well anyway, i'll try to stick around a wee bit.

Muchas gracias.