A warm welcome to the lovely Emma Newman who is guest posting a story here this week from her very innovative Spilt Worlds project. From Tuesday November 1st 2011 to Thursday November 1st 2012 a new story set in the Split Worlds is posted on a different blog/website every week, and leads up to the launch of ‘The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns’ on November 1st 2012.
Emma is the author of 20 Years Later, a dystopian YA novel and describes The Split Worlds, her current work in progress, as an urban fantasy setting with gritty noir, fantastical magic, evil faeries and people just trying to drink their tea in peace!
The idea of a story slowly building its own new world by popping up on various websites all around the web-world struck us a pretty ingenious so we are delighted that a little part is bubbling up today on Katy Press. So without further ado…..Here’s Emma…
This is the twenty-third tale in a year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here.
One Good Turn
She saw him from a café across the street as she finished her coffee. White faced, eyes squeezed shut, his arms were wrapped around a lamp post. He was dressed in loose dark trousers and a quilted wine-coloured jacket like one from the awful period dramas her mother watched. Ten people walked past him, eyes fixed ahead in true London style. “Heartless gits,” she sighed and grabbed her bag.
By the time she got across the road he was still clinging to the lamp post like it was a ship’s mast in a storm. The afternoon sun was warm, but not enough to make him sweat so much, and his breath came in short, rapid gasps. He looked about forty, with only a few grey hairs scattered amongst the dark brown.
“Hello,” she touched his arm gently. “Are you alright?”
One eye opened, the other still squeezed shut. It was a pleasant, unusual green and very bloodshot.
“No,” he whispered. “Everything’s changed.”
She looked around. “What do you mean?”
“All of those… things…” He looked at the road. “I just wanted to see the blue sky, that’s all, but it’s too much. Nothing makes sense.”
“My name’s Amber, what’s yours?”
“Archibald. Archie.” He took a couple of deep breaths and held out a hand. She offered hers, but instead of shaking it he pressed his lips to the back of her hand. She tried to ignore the dampness left by his upper lip. “How do you do?”
She discreetly wiped her hand on the back of her dress. “Archie, would you like me to help you?”
“Yes please,” he replied. “I feel quite unwell. I’m so frightfully embarrassed.”
“Okay. You need to let go of the lamp post.”
“Yes, of course.” He eventually unwrapped his arms, keeping his back to the road. “May I take your arm? I… I’m not…”
“That’s fine,” she smiled. “My Mum gets these attacks, I know how scary they can be. Have you found it hard to breathe?” He nodded. “I’ll take you to the hospital, it’s very close.”
“I’m not certain that’s a good idea, I’ll be missed soon and they’ll come looking for me.”
He swallowed with an audible gulp. “My family.” A discarded drinks can clattered along the road, pushed by the breeze. He gasped, horrified. “They’re already trying to find me! I just wanted some time in the meadow, but it’s not here anymore!”
“Meadow? This is London, you need to go about ten miles that way to get to a field. And it’s alright,” Amber slipped her arm around his and held it in the crook of her elbow. “That can’s just a bit of rubbish, it doesn’t mean anything.”
He looked at the pavement around them with frantic eyes, then calmed. “I do beg your pardon.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed it over his face, holding her arm tight. “You’re most kind. I’m terribly sorry to be a burden.”
He allowed himself to be guided. Amber thought of the last time her mother had a severe attack in the lingerie section of a huge department store. She couldn’t remember which one, only the fact that there were no windows and the layout made it impossible to see the exit easily. She’d had to steer her wheezing mother to the escalator, all the staff and other customers watching dumbly. The memory still made her teeth grind.
Archie clung to her arm very tightly, he twitched at every piece of litter that moved near them, but other than that he was easier to manoeuvre. They were at the hospital in less than five minutes, he said nothing as she guided him to the waiting area and left him to speak to the triage nurse.
“Ask him to fill in this form,” the nurse said once Amber had explained the circumstances.
She took it over to Archie who was gripping the sides of his chair. “It smells so strange here.”
“All hospitals do,” Amber said, sitting next to him. “We need to fill this form out, then they’ll check you over but there’s quite a wait. Do you want me to help you fill it in?”
When he didn’t answer she looked up from the form to see him staring at a pen rolling towards him. “I don’t want to go back,” he said, tears forming. “It’s so grey there. And empty. No green, no blue, nothing but mist. I can’t bear it any longer.”
A nurse picked up the pen and hurried on. “Archie,” Amber said, resting a hand on his shoulder. “It’s going to be okay. Really. It feels horrible now, but it’ll pass, I promise.”
“How do you know?”
“My Mum suffers from depression. She said when it’s at its worst, it’s like there aren’t any colours anymore. She said life turns into a black and white film that she watches and can’t take part in. And she gets panic attacks too. They pass. You’ll feel better soon.”
“I doubt it. I’m too tired and too old to care about anything anymore.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You’re… what, forty years old? You’re handsome. You’ve got strange taste in clothes, but that’s nothing to panic about.”
She hoped it would make him smile but he shook his head. “I’m over three hundred and fifty years old. And I’m very tired.”
Amber snorted, thinking he was trying to tell a joke but he looked serious. He wasn’t just depressed, he was a complete loon.
Another pen was rolling towards them, then she saw another and a pencil, a dusty ball of scrunched up paper and a lone earring, all heading for Archie. He saw them too and grasped her hands tight. “Thank you for your kindness. Promise me that on every sunny day you’ll go outside and enjoy the sky?”
“I promise,” she said, not meaning it, but wanting to soothe him.
They both looked at the entrance to see a man dressed like he was about to go to a wedding heading straight towards them.
“Damnable seeker charms,” Archie muttered and let go of Amber’s hands. “I won’t forget you. And I won’t tell my family about you either. It’s for the best.”
Amber watched him leave then took the untouched form back to the desk. By the time she went outside Archie and the man who’d collected him had gone.
She looked up at the blue sky, watched a rabbit-shaped cloud morph into a dragon and then got her phone out, dialling the number from memory. “Hi Mum, it’s me. Just wondering how you are.”
Thanks for hosting Katy Press!
I hope you enjoyed the story. If you would like to find out more about the Split Worlds project, it’s all here: www.splitworlds.com – you can also sign up to get an extra story and get each new story delivered to your inbox every week. If you would like to host a story over the coming year, either let me know in the comments or contact me through the Split Worlds site. Em x