Ten

The countdown begins.

Tension mounts.

The rumble of an earthquake.

Teeth shaking in your head.

Trust in your colleagues.

Trust in your training.

The cockpit begins to blur.

And then… Heavier than you have ever felt.

More noise than you have ever heard.

Can this thing possibly stay in one piece?

But in the end.

Weightlessness and silence.

Such contrasts, so quickly.

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© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Back Home (Inspired By Stephen King)

I should have trusted my feelings. I new something was wrong, could feel it. Now I can smell her scent. Hear her descending the staircase. I feel sick to my stomach.She is still so beautiful. Emily, such a sweet name, but I know better.

“I feel so much better for that. This city is filthy,” she says.

As she sits next to me, I can smell her newly washed skin. Her arm around me feels so alien. But I know how she can be, I mustn’t react. I must play along, for now.

“It’s so good to see you honey.” She smiles a sterile smile.

Sickly sweet, my cuddly bunny. But a bunny with teeth.

I thought this moment would be a long time coming, and hopefully never. But here she is, out.

“Have you missed me?” she asks.

“I haven’t stopped thinking about you for a moment,” I reply.

And I mean it. This woman has haunted every waking moment of my life for the last two years. I just haven’t been able to shake her, even when there were high concrete walls between us.

“Because I’ve missed you. I know you didn’t mean those things you said,” she says.

As she slips her arms around me every muscle in my body wants to tense. And I want to scream. But I must force myself to relax. But it’s too late.

“What’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy.” She looks sweet and disappointed. I used to fall for this act, many times in fact. But not anymore.

“I guess it’s just the shock. And I’m worried. You’ll be in so much trouble.” My mind is spinning now. How do I get away from her?

“I don’t care. I couldn’t live without you any longer. I knew you would find someone else, if I didn’t get home soon.” She’s getting angry now.

“Has there been anyone?” she asks, her eyes are growing fierce, her jaw set tight.

“Of course not. How could there be?” What am I saying? Who could believe this bullshit?

“You’re lying. I could always tell. Who is it? That bitch Lydia from next door?”

Jesus no, this is getting out of control, so quickly.

I don’t even see it coming, she hits me so hard the left side of my face explodes with the pain. And then she is on me. All I can do is curl into a ball and try to hide from her blows. Her punches and kicks have grown, if anything, more powerful.

Is it the pain or the shame that is the worst? I never was sure. I am the man, after all. Why do I let her do this to me? I know I am stronger, but she can be savage and the terror seems to overwhelm me.

“Look at you. Lying there. Why do I love you? How can I love such a weak creature?”

I can’t speak. I know that anything I say will be wrong. But so is saying nothing. My insides feel like they are contorting with the tension and the indecision.

“Maybe it would be best to just put you out of your misery. That’s what they do with dogs, isn’t it? When they are past their usefulness.”

She has never threatened this before. Of all the times, as far as she went, I only felt on the edge of death when she went too far. When her temper was out of control. But this is worse, she is deciding. I can see it in her eyes. She is weighing her options.

A knock at the door.

She looks out of the window, to check who it is. Maybe it is the police.

“It’s her,” she says. “The bitch. Now it’s time to end this. Two birds with one stone.”

It all happens so quickly, I am frozen to the spot.

Emily opens the door with on hand, and with the other she has Lydia by the hair, pulling her through the door. She is on her like a cat, hissing as she pulls hair out in clumps. Now attacking her eyes, scratching and gouging at them. Lydia doesn’t know what has hit her.

It’s almost like I am outside my body looking in. Just an observer unable to intervene. That’s what the fear has always done to me, made me impotent.

But this time is different, there is someone else involved. This time as I watch, seemingly from outside, I see myself move. Get up and creep forward, there is something in my hand. Something heavy. The clock from the mantelpiece.

As I swing downwards I seem to reenter my body, just before the impact.

A sickening thud, followed by a grunt and then silence.

Emily is slumped over Lydia now. Is she breathing?

I’m still holding the clock. The bottom edge is covered in blood and matted hair. I can’t drop it fast enough when I see this. Revulsion overcomes me.

Lydia’s face is a mask of horror, contorted in shock and pain. I remember how it felt, the first time. But, in time, it almost becomes expected. And accepted.

I don’t want to touch Emily, but I have to. As I pull her of and lay her to the side of Lydia, I can sense that she is gone. There is no longer the presence that was so strong. So intent.

Lydia is shaking now, sobbing uncontrollably. As I help her to her feet she clings to me.

“I’m sorry,” I say. It seems meaningless but I have to say something.

“How did she get out?” Lydia asks.

“It was on the news, that three people had escaped. I prayed she wasn’t one of them.” I still can’t believe it myself. How did she do it?

“Do I look OK? My eyes are burning,” she says with concern.

“She got you pretty good, but I think it’s just scratches. Can you see OK?” It looks worse than I am letting on, but I hope she will be fine. There is no point in panicking her now.

“Yes, it seems to be fine. But my face is so sore,” she almost whimpers. “You had better call the police.”

It’s good advice but I can’t deal with this. What have I done? Now I start to sob, I can hardly breathe. Why? I should be happy, it is over now.

My emotions are running wild. I put my arms around Lydia, I need to hold someone. And she hugs me back.

As I look at her lying there, that’s when it hits me. How dangerous that woman was. Not just for me, but for everyone she touched. And the first surge of happiness begins to flow through me. It is over, finally.

Now I can live, I deserve it.

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© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Top of the Tower – Elected: A short story

Well it actually happened. I only really started thinking I had a chance with a couple of weeks to go. But, in the end, even the FBI came to the rescue. People really don’t like her. My scandals seemed to be ignored. Of course, I have some powerful allies; but still no one seemed to want to dig too deep.

And now, here I am. Now what? The enormity of it all still hasn’t really hit me. The most powerful man in the world, me? I told everyone that there would be changes, and there will, but I need professionals around me. I’ve dealt with politicians my whole life, but now I will be on the other side. I will even have to bury some hatchets; only figuratively, of course.

The wife is already complaining. She doesn’t want to move and live there. But I can’t do the job remotely, can I? They wouldn’t let me get away with that, surely? We’ll see. It’s not a bad house, I suppose.

I have to admit that I have a slight sense of panic, at times. This isn’t a land deal, or a construction project. And some of my supporters are scary, but that is who got me here. But when I see them with one arm raised, even I am disquieted by that image. For now, I hope they stay under the radar. Then in the future, I won’t need them and I can widen my appeal.

I plan on doing this job well, and don’t wish to be remembered as a joke. It has happened before, of course. Thirty-six years ago, people were not sure of another man. And now he is held up as the perfect leader, by many in the party. One day, maybe they will say the same about me.

We will be great again. And I will be the most winning leader ever.

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© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Border 2, the move: A short story

At first I was worried that we would lose everything, but we were allowed to collect our few belongings before the destruction began. It was terrible to behold. What now, where? There had been talk of relocation, but there is such uncertainty. I just hope that the next move brings us closer to some permanence.

I find myself staring at the destruction, feeling numb, I can hardly breath. Nadia has her arms around Yaya and Abdo, trying to comfort them. “Now, we will go somewhere better”, she says. Please, I hope so.

The dream was always to reach Britain, we speak English and have some relations there already. At least there would be some friendly faces to help. But here, it seems like everything will be so much harder. But, believe me, even the Jungle was better than where we came from. If learning another language is the largest problem we have, the future will be bright.

The police are coming now, directing us where to go. Single men here, families there, children here. It is unbelievable how many children there are, with no families. Teenagers with no one to guide them, heartbreaking. Our processing seems relatively simple, the decision has already been made where to send us. Another foreign name with no meaning for me.

We are put on the bus, with many other families. Time to leave. Part of me is sad, how strange to think I would ever feel sad to leave this place. I guess the channel crossing was always the end of the journey, and we never made it. And now we are off, to something better. I must believe.

It is easy to forget what a beautiful country this is, once you move away from the port and the city. We have been told we are going to a large village. This seems surprising, how will we find work there? And the people, what will they think?

Now we are moving, the children are more animated. There is excitement in Yaya’s eyes, it is infectious, I am starting to feel it too. The colours of autumn glow all around us as we speed towards our destination. There is nervousness amongst my fellow passengers, but so much hope.

After a couple of hours we are told we have arrived. What a pretty place, typical old-world French charm. I am amazed, I would not have believed that we would be brought to somewhere like this. It is obviously not the richest of places but it has a warm, welcoming feeling. Nadia looks too shocked for words, but she is smiling, nervously.

Le Grand Hôtel, sounds impressive and looks fine. It maybe doesn’t quite live up to the name, but it looks clean, warm and dry. All the things we have been missing so much. The lady, maybe the owner, is very welcoming and takes us to our rooms. Yes rooms, two rooms with a bathroom.

As soon as we are alone, Nadia begins to weep. Gently, at first, but when the dam bursts she cannot stop. You see, this seems like a palace to us. Two rooms, four beds and the children are already jumping and bounding from one to the other. Unbridled joy, it has been such a long time. The feeling of my wife’s tears, running down my face and soaking into my collar. The feeling of love, of hope.

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© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Top of the Tower: A short story (perhaps based on real events, maybe)

I love being up here. This is when I really feel what I have achieved. People say my Daddy helped me, yeah he did. But I made it, God damn it. Look at them, all the small people. Carrying on with their small lives, totally unaware of how things work.

But I can’t look out of the window all day, there is too much to do. Can I really do it? At the start, I honestly thought I could just stir things up. Get some coverage, maybe snag a new show. But I’m still here, amazing. Now it’s getting serious. It’s so close I can almost touch it. I can’t mess this up.

Most people are so dumb. But I’m not complaining, I’m grateful. Sometimes I wonder just how far I can go, what I can get away with saying. As long as I keep telling people it will be better, they don’t seem to care about the details.

But, just lately? I have to be careful. They can’t realise what I really think of them. What I think of everyone. They are all so small, so weak. Especially women, they are so easy to manipulate.

I used to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I’ve never felt anything for others. After all, Daddy made it without needing love and gratitude; so why not me. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to snuff one of them out. But that is only a passing fancy. I’m more interested in making them feel worthless, that is the real power.

I have my own children and I think they will follow in their Daddy’s footsteps. They are like something else that I have constructed. I have my trophy too; I am still a man and it makes me feel good to see the way others look at her. And even better, when they look at my daughter. I am so proud of how she looks, my boys too. And they think like me too, it’s almost like I have programmed them. But I suppose that is what you do with your children.

Now it’s time to finish this. But I have to take it one day at a time. The next few days will be tough, I hope no other skeletons appear from my past. But there are some, some that are very old and very scary. What I did doesn’t worry me, just what it could do to me now.

Well, here we go again. Just smile and keep it simple. Can it really be that easy?

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© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter