Sunday, 17 April 2011

Chapter 2

"Please, if you are going to read this diary, read the entries in the opposite order. You have to understand how reversed my life was. This is what the note that's stuck to the first page says. Do you want me to translate it in the order it was written, or in the order that she wants it to be read?"

Justine thought about this question for a moment before replying, "In the order she wants it to be read."

"Good, I've taken the liberty of emailing the first - or should I say last? - entry to you. Check it when you get home."

"But how did you know I was going to make that decision?"

Jacob smiled. "I know you too well."

Justine took a step back. "You're a bit of a creep, you know."

"At least I'm not the one who goes round stealing dead people's diaries."

"Touché. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you so much for doing this for me, I didn't realise it would take months to translate."

"It's my pleasure; honestly, it's really interesting. Some of the words aren't translatable though. I'm gonna have to see if they crop up again to try and understand what they mean."

"Is there anything I can do? I feel bad for not being able to help."

"You could try and find out more about her. Personal background, you know, friends and family. Don't you have her medical history?"

"I told you, she wasn't even on the hospital's database. But I'll try my best. Thank you."

"Please, thank me when I'm done! Will you be staying for dinner? I could cook something up, or we could order something in..."

"No thanks, I better be going." She edged towards the door.

"Going home to sleep?"

Justine frowned.

"I know you too well."


Today I awoke with an invigorating start to my new body. Sure, my skin's still the same, and except for the slight bags under my eyes and the inkling of a beard that has crept onto my face, I look identical to what I looked like yesterday. But this is definitely a new body, a new me, with new blood pumping through my veins, and beating in my chest is the dark, delicious heart of a murderer.

My body uncoils out of bed and slinks over to the curtains. The dirty light of dusk is now my morning sun, and although my awakening has taken almost an entire night and day, I feel completely attuned to my surroundings. My memories of yesterday are muted, murky and foggy, but I know who I am and who I am meant to be.

My epiphany didn't last long. However, settling back into reality did not bring the waves of guilt that I had expected to crash down on me, you know, considering I killed a person. In fact, I felt no remorse whatsoever, just refreshed and revitalised, as if I was prepared to run a marathon, which was probably a good thing since I had become a fugitive. I had to make a plan of my next steps, of what I would do next. Leaving would be easy; I had done it before in my past life, I could do it again. It was money that was the problem, or my lack of. How will I live a life on the run if I'm totally skint?

And then it struck me. By committing the ultimate crime I had given birth to the ultimate liberty, because whatever I would do from then on would add little to my ultimate consequence, the penalty for murder. Anything I need, I can steal, and if I'm caught, then so be it. Hell's where I'm heading anyway.

Sat in my mouldy, smoggy flat, I basked in that thought. I was so content with my life at that moment in time that I found myself sitting by the window gazing out until well into the night. I watched the cars drift around the corner with their muddy lights occasionally flashing through the Smog, and the grey, worn out people scurry along the streets in their bug-eye gas masks and Smog-coloured clothes. We're quite antisocial creatures was one of the passing conclusions I made from those grimy panes. I was only stimulated to move from that spot when the Smog had obscured my view entirely, and I realised I was looking out into dunes of nothingness.

By nine o'clock (or around that time, I had stopped bothering with watches), I decided to go out and get some shopping for my journey ahead. I put on my coat, instinctively checking my inner chest pocket which felt quite exposed, and for my mobile that I had crushed earlier, the remains of which were lying in the bin. Despite my pact, it would be pointless to steal when I had a few pounds left to buy my last supplies; just because I had a cool demeanour about my killing didn't mean I was going to be deliberately reckless and carefree.

I've seen what the police can do. Once (in my former life, of course) I was sat in a cafe watching this peculiar man with curly hair. "Curly hair's a sign of the Devil!" my mother used to say, as if she was a saint herself. It was true that you didn't see many people with curly hair - maybe it was one of the effects of the Smog, who knows. Anyway, this man was chatting with the waitress in a tone that was slightly louder than the socially acceptable level, but there were too many people talking for me to really hear what he was saying. I only caught the word "cigarette". At the moment, a bald man with a tan leather jacket put down his newspaper, strolled across the room, grabbed the man with the curly hair by his hair and dragged him outside the shop, without so much as uttering a word. The odd thing was that the hubbub of the day-to-day chatter continued right through this event, as if it was completely normal. My guess was that everyone kept talking out of fear of becoming singled out. It was all nervous chatter, chatter about nothing, just words to fill the silence. No one questioned whether the bald man was part of the police in the first place.

I came back from the shops probably around ten, and I was ready to leave the flat about half an hour later. A glint of sadness flickered within me when I was standing ready to shut the front door for the last time; it was a hellhole, but it had been my hellhole. Still, I smiled as I embraced my new life, or as much as one can smile in a gas mask.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Chapter 1 - part two

The man’s eyes creaked open. A second after awakening, pain surged through his body, becoming so intense that it almost dragged him back into unconsciousness, but he held through. In the corner of his eye, he could just about see the figure of his wife dozing on a chair. Better not disturb her.

He lay there in agony.


Justine got home at dawn, whenever that was (she was too tired to check the time). As per usual, she was shattered and looked as if she had been through hell and back. But as per usual, rather than going to bed she turned on her laptop as she came in, making a cup of coffee while the computer booted up. She had three new emails:

One was spam - delete
One was a newsletter from some obscure shopping website - in other words, spam - delete
One was an email from a man called Jacob:

From: Jacob Kexer
Subject: Diamonds are forever
To: Justine Alphonse


Just letting you know that I’ve started translating it. Drop by mine this evening, need to talk.


Jacob was a journalist, and Justine would have been one too had she not switched to medicine. She had asked a favour of him, which she didn’t want to admit to since it wasn’t strictly legal. The events that lead up to asking this favour had begun a few months back, when Justine was assigned to a patient who no one really knew anything about. The patient was mute, but psychologically so, and the tests that the doctors took seemed to suggest that she had been trained not to speak. But apart from this odd attribute, she didn’t really have a medical reason to be staying at the hospital, and what made matters more confusing was that Justine was told by someone on the director’s board to treat this woman with absolute respect, and that she had to have a room to herself (of course this wasn’t possible, although the nurses did manage to squeeze her into one of the very few semiprivate suites). Now normally Justine would have assumed that this woman was wealthy enough to buy her way into the hospital - she didn’t doubt for one second that the hospital seized every chance to earn some more money - but heck, they didn’t even know her first name! Her presence was a continual mystery.

After she died, Justine became so intrigued into who this woman was that she just had to find out more about her. She noticed that the patient often wrote in a journal, so when they cleaned out her room, Justine succumbed to the temptation of taking it. She could have lost her job if anyone had seen her, but Justine eased her conscience slightly by reminding herself that she wasn’t technically stealing it (even though legally she was).

It was then that Justine found out she couldn’t read the diary because it was all in shorthand. She could recognise one or two words from each page as a result of her journalism course, but the rest was indecipherable to her. Fortunately, she still kept in contact with some of the people that were on the same course, and many of them had quite high positions in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them knew shorthand well enough to translate a book. It was through a friend of a friend that she met Jacob, which eventually lead to asking Jacob for this favour.

The first major problem that they ran into when Jacob opened the first page was that the shorthand was personalised. This meant it would take a long time for him to decode the diary, assuming if he was able to at all.

However, this email renewed Justine’s confidence in seeing this project through to the end. She texted Jacob to let him know that she would be over later. Then she collapsed onto her bed, falling asleep in a matter of seconds.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Chapter 1 - part one

Time doesn’t bode well with you, thought Justine, massaging her fingers into her forehead. It was 1 am, just after rush hour, and the nurse had a headache. She was slouched on the staff room’s sofa with the lights turned off, and her coffee cup for company. Saying that the evening had been stressful was an understatement, yet everyday was stressful on the Emergency Ward, and it didn’t help Justine that the hospital was severely lacking in staff.

Today she had the usual bingers and drunkards, as well as an assortment of slips, bumps and car accidents, but what had made her job hell this evening was a stabbing, because with a stabbing comes the police, and with the police comes chaos. Patients are under no obligation to say whether they’re smokers or not, and there’s nothing the medical staff can do to put patients under jurisdiction, but if the police suspects a patient has been smoking, they are fully in their rights to arrest that patient. Frankly, the whole system was shit. The main reason why smoking tobacco had become illegal was to relieve healthcare services from patients affected by the Smog, but every time the police becomes involved with a case, the entire hospital turns upside down as the smokers scramble to make themselves scarce. The poor buggers with lung cancer but not from their own doing don’t stand a chance. Police tactics were becoming more and more brutalised, however Justine didn’t blame them, it was the Government who allowed their society to deteriorate, even in Dorset, of all places! The yearly healthcare budget cuts worsen the wounds, Justine thought. Not only do the hospitals not have enough money to improve their services, but who’d want to work in one now? Nurses are paid a pittance. Fucking Government.

Justine rubbed her eyes. Although she detested it, what her grandpa had said was true; a war really would benefit the country. Certainly not immediately, what with the economic situation the country was in, yet in the long term it would be beneficial to the people. Why? Because at the moment the country was floundering, trying to fight to survive, but not knowing who to fight against or why. If the enemy was more physical than a faceless entity, it would give everyone a focus, and a reason to appreciate and, dare it be said, enjoy life again. Regardless of this rather appealing idea however, Justine hated the thought of the suffering that a war would bring, and hated herself more for thinking about it.

And of course, a war would put even more pressure on her job. Her head throbbed in discontent.