DAMAGED GOODS • by Jon Bland

Fragments of conversations. Images flashing like fireworks in a pitch black room. Music pumping. The sweat permeating through the house; pungent and acrid odours stripping the wallpaper from the walls. An upstairs room. A hand rising up from a four inch stiletto, the back of a leg, the sheer stocking. Reaching the cool skin under a hitched-up skirt. The fumbling and desperate tongues. The fluid writhing. A shadow.

Was that real?

Holly. Present. Marsha. Present. Stevie… Christ, what had happened to Stevie? She was there at the start… she was lying in the snow. She’d fallen over, laughing hysterically. Couldn’t get her up because of the ice. Had she been left there?

Those pills… what had they been? E? Ryan hadn’t lied about them, that was for sure. But was that Ryan in the upstairs room? Stubble. A beard. No, Ryan didn’t have a beard. Who the fuck had that been then? Sudden feelings of intense fear. Alone. Cold. There was nothing to hold on to.

The room was now a mass of legs and heads and arms. Naked torsos. Ripped shirts. All of them strange and twisted. Lifeless. The stench of rotting fruit. Of stale booze. Of smoke hanging low to the floor like a ribbon of poisonous smog, quietly suffocating the last smoldering embers of life from the bodies littered about like cats in a bag. The stained, wet carpet. Cigarette burns. The reek of something dying.

An exit. There must be an exit. Something to try for. Something to focus on. An all-consuming need to get outside. To escape this vacuum of decay. A door. A window. Anything. What about the handbag? Where the hell was that? Just leave it…? No… can’t… it’s got the cash card in it. God, what a mess… must get out. Wait a minute… is that it? Ah thank Christ for that. Right… don’t tread on anyone… avoid the detritus. These animals. These snakes. Their venom seeping from dried cracked lips. Soon it will just be a mangled, melting confused pile of grime and filth and flesh.

Bones feel like aluminium piping. Muscles in spasm, cut off from ligaments and blood straining with effort to keep the heart working. Everything becoming thinner. Tightening as motion sickness begins deep in the stomach where cheap red wine and a six pack of Becks churns into a mush as bile rises and falls in the throat.

A curtain twitches. Sunlight. A vertical horizon of hope. A door in the far corner becomes visible in the blurred darkness. Mascara and sleep clogging up eyes that are tearing up, weeping from smoke damage. Pupils like pencil dots fearing to widen any further.

There is nothing but an overwhelming urge to sleep. To stay still. To curl into the crook of a stranger and wait for death. But the cracked light of a new morning beckons. A moment of clarity in a forest of confusion. A clearing for a thought that transcends the decayed remnants of the drug. A second of strength is enough.

It is quiet except for the cracking of a broken floorboard.

An alarm clock goes off at 6.30 a.m. every day, regardless of what day of the week it is. Jon Bland feeds and dresses his one-year-old. Scrapes the ice off his and his girlfriend’s car. He goes to work. He sleeps. He reads. And in between a few lines might get written. In the summer, the ice will be gone so he’ll change it to 6.35 a.m. and give himself a lie in.

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • http://users.beagle.com.au/peterl P.M.Lawrence

    “Mascara and sleep clogging up eyes that are tearing up, weeping from smoke damage”.

    What are they tearing up?

  • JB

    I got it. I think.

    It’s good imagery. Vivid imagery. But at the same time like a shotgun blast of imagery…most of it was on target but some wasn’t and it kept me in a state of confusion.

    So I think it’s about a wild night, drugs, orgy, dank dark club.

    But paragraph five described the bodies as “lifeless” while the smoke described later was simultaneously “suffocating the last embers of life from the bodies”.

    So then I start thinking horror story…which got reinforced by protag’s seemingly desperate need for escape.

    But then the handbag with the cash card. So now I’m back in a regular non-horror dank dark club. And also wondering if protag’s a girl. And if she made out with another girl while on drugs.

    Felt like horror. Felt like noir. But the lack of tangibles made it decidedly neither

  • http://www.rustlingreed.com/blog Jeff

    Beautifully written prose poetry. Without knowing anything about our protagonist, though, I have no compelling reason to care whether or not she(?) is able to sneak away aftera night of drug fueled sex. The only conflict appears to be overcoming “an overwhelming urge to sleep” and that comes only at the end. The rest is just description and confusion and not driven enough to constitute a plot.

    That having been said, the imagery is great.

  • tigerlily

    This seems all style and no substance to me, sorry.

  • http://tanyabyrne.blogspot.com/ Tanya Byrne

    I enjoyed this very much, Jon. There is a visceral quality to the way it’s written that left me a little breathless. I happen to like the ambiguity, which I assume was deliberate, because I felt it added to the tension of this piece and it fits the situation — the protagonist doesn’t know what’s going on, so the reader won’t, either. Although, I take Jeff’s point and suggest that if this was written in the first person that may be easier to reconcile with. That aside, this is beautifully written and I applaud you for writing something that is a little left of centre. Whatever is said here, please know that there is an almost feral charm to this that I find quite endearing and I’m glad that you were brave enough to share it with us. Thank you.

  • Jo Short

    I find the prose unsettling but think this is the whole point. Vivid imagery and although I can’t say I find it easy to emapathise with how she’s feeling I think this gives me a good enough idea of what it’s like waking up the next day after a heavy binge!!

  • http://www.deborahblood.com Debi Blood

    What an uncomfortable story, moments of ugly, unvarnished truth. Spectacular and disturbing – I love it.

  • Jen

    I really liked this story but the ending seemed a bit abrupt. I would’ve liked more.

  • The Hels

    “A moment of clarity in a forest of confusion” – love it! Although I didn’t like the bit about tha cats in the bag!

  • http://www.silencingthebell.blogspot.com Martine Frampton

    excellent story, very vivid but also loved the vagueness, made it all the more disturbing that you were not sure what was going on.
    thanks for sharing

  • http://www.out-tothblack.livejournal.com Amanda

    Wow. Totally aweseome, “to curl in the crook of a stranger and wait for death.”

  • http://www.cocktailfiction.wordpress.com Cathryn

    I agree with Tanya, a visceral experience that leaves the reader breathless.

    I don’t fully understand the last line, yet it keeps me thinking, and the quietness evokes a feeling of completion.

  • http://www.creepypasta.com Violent Harvest

    You started with not one, but count them, THREE sentence fragments. Holy freaking moly. I can’t read anything that slaughters the English language so readily and so thoroughly, right off the bat. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

    Don’t start a story with dialogue unless it’s extremely impactful and rememberable…. and never start a story with a preposition or a sentence fragment. When you do this, you are instantly alienating a good chunk of would-be readers out there (those of us who still care about form and function, not the Stephanie Meyer fans).