Ethersay is still on sale for 99p/99c for Kindle until the end of May. To entice you all to take advantage of this great deal, today I thought I’d give you a preview of chapter one. In the first part of the story we meet Rebecca who, we quickly discover, has decided to run away from some pretty heavy personal and political trauma, with unforeseen consequences…
The day after the referendum, my life fell apart. It wasn’t obvious at first. Initially, I couldn’t see how bad I’d allowed things to become, how much of a mess I’d made of everything. No, at first I allowed the copious amounts of alcohol and cigarettes – yes, that old habit reared its ugly head from the graveyard of my youth – to numb me, to help me feel nothing, to help me forget how much it hurt. Then I saw him and all of a sudden it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks. It hit me so hard that it took my breath away. I knew then that I had to run.
Of course, I realise that it wasn’t really the referendum’s fault. The referendum, or the referendum on Scottish independence, to call it by its proper name, was more the catalyst, the match which lit the touch paper I call my life. And sure as fire is fire, it ignited me, filled me with a passion I had never felt before. It was a wonderful, addictive thing, to feel so enlivened, so empowered. For months I lived on the cusp of destiny; I lapped it up, unable to satiate my thirst. If only I’d let the passion remain political, then perhaps I wouldn’t be in the mess I’m in now.
“The Prime Minister assures Tory MPs that he will cut public spending in Scotland,” a monotone voice bleats forth from the radio. It is the sort of voice I’d noticed more and more over these past few months; that insidious media voice, the one with the gift for expressing opinion as fact, half-truth as perceived knowledge.
I turn it off, swiping the button angrily with my finger. I am in no mood to listen to that right now.
The tears well up in my eyes once again as I ruminate on the events of the past few hours. How could I have been so foolish? How could I not see what was right in front of me? I brush the tears away but they continue to form, blurring my view of the road ahead. I realise that I have no idea where I am. I glance at the clock on the dashboard. It is past midnight, the sky outside the colour of pitch tar. I sigh, realising autumn is here. Mere weeks ago I could still see that majestic band of blue lingering on the northern horizon. That is one thing I love about Scottish summertime; the long days, and the way that when night finally falls, the darkness is always delectably incomplete. It reminds me of how far north Scotland is. For some reason, I like the idea of being north.
I wonder how far north I would have to drive to see those tantalising blue hues, deeper than azure, brighter than navy. I feel as though they’re calling to me as I continue to drive, pushing my foot down harder and harder on the accelerator. I remember again that I don’t know where I am, or how long I have been driving. I light a cigarette, inhaling deeply as I realise that I don’t care. I don’t care about anything anymore. I don’t care where I’m headed, or what’s behind me.
Reaching down, I put on some music. Screw the radio and its triumphalist propaganda, its pro-establishment bile echoing across the airwaves, laughing at our defeat, stamping on our hopes for change, our aspirations for progress. Since we lost, the news had felt like one big ‘ha ha, we gotcha!’ and I hadn’t the stomach for it anymore. I need to block it out. I need to get away from it. I need to get away from everything.
In my more lucid moments, I had searched the internet for ways to emigrate. I’d learnt all about Australia and Canada and what I’d need to do to go there. I’d daydreamed about jumping on a plane, or indeed a boat, just like many of my Scottish ancestors had undoubtedly done, braving the rough seas in the hope of finding a new life, a better life. Unlike my ancestors, however, I know that there is no promised land, no greener grass on the other side of a vast ocean. The modern world is small, and known, and infinitely disappointing. In the end, I’d shut the lid of my laptop, listening to its short, sharp click as it dawned on me that I might not have the desire to stay, but neither did I have the will to leave.
Yet leaving was exactly what I’d done. I’d jumped in my car and run away, maybe not as far away as Australia, but far enough to put a safe distance between myself and my life and all the people I love.
“I mean loved,” I say aloud. The past tense is definitely more appropriate for some of them now.
I groan as the heavy drumbeat of Muse’s Uprising begins to play. I used to love that song; now I can’t bear to hear it. I recall how he had told me that it was his favourite song. I remember how he took me back to his flat, how we put on some music and drank wine and danced. In my mind’s eye, I see him grow animated as this song begins to play, his singing touchingly out of tune as he bellows the lyrics, air guitar firmly in hand. Decisively, I press the skip button. I can’t stand to be reminded of him right now.
“London Grammar. That’s better,” I say, finding immediate respite in a more peaceful melody. Respite, but not solace. More tears fall. Why can I not stop crying? The road in front becomes a blur once again as I stub out my cigarette. It’s a terrible habit; I shouldn’t have started smoking again. Another bad choice, but it’s the least of my worries now.
I feel my eyelids begin to grow heavy. It’s late; I should find somewhere to pull over and rest. I squint as I look through my windscreen, hoping to find somewhere sensible to stop. The road ahead is winding and narrow, its surface uneven under the wheels of my little car. A country road. Great; I am in the middle of nowhere. In an effort to keep myself from falling asleep, I wind my window down, allowing the cool night air to refresh me. I breathe in deeply, thinking that I can smell the sea; its delicious fragrance fills my car, the scent of salt and seaweed surrounds me.
Metallica’s The Unforgiven. The song is painfully appropriate. I hit the skip button again, my hands shaking as I start to feel chilled by the night air. I begin to long for my warm bed, the comforting familiarity of my soft sheets inviting me into peaceful slumber.
“Rebecca, stop it,” I chastise myself. “You can’t go home. There’s nothing left for you there now.”
Talking to myself. Isn’t that the first sign of madness? I laugh bitterly, sorrowfully. I am right, though. I can’t go home. It isn’t my home anymore. The gentle rustling sound made by the full bin bags flung carelessly on the back seat is a testament to that.
My car’s engine rumbles, a low, incessant hum, like bees busy at work in a swarming hive. I fling the car faster and faster along the undulating road. Live dangerously, die smiling – someone said that to me once. I feel my face crumple once again. I don’t think I want to die. I’m just not sure I want to live, either.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see something run into the path of my speeding car. A deer? A grouse? A person? My heart pounds hard in my chest as I slam my foot on the brake. I can’t kill something, or someone, today. This cannot be how today ends. Today has been horrible enough, without this. I swerve, desperately trying to avoid whichever poor creature has found itself in front of me. There is a terrible thud, followed by a pained squeal. Beneath my hands, I feel my steering wheel become heavy, useless. My tyres screech, twisted and aimless as my car leaves the road. I close my eyes as I feel myself turning, spinning. It is a bizarre sensation, momentary weightlessness followed by crushing pain as my body is shoved against the hard surface of my car. I try to scream but no sound comes out of my mouth. I lick my lips, the metallic flavour of blood overpowering me.
Foolishly, I struggle, trying to free myself. I hit my head against the roof of the car as it crushes down above me – or below me, for in the dark I cannot tell which way round I am. I am dizzy now, the warming sensation of blood as it trickles down my face making me feel simultaneously panicked and drowsy. I begin to slip away, my injured head lulling me to sleep with fantasies of climbing between those warm, soft sheets back home.
My last thought is that he is there beside me, his arms around me as he whispers sweet sentiments in my ear. I see his face, I hear his voice; I feel the rough bristles of his beard against my skin. Then he is gone, and everything fades to black.
Ethersay is available from Amazon now.