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My Familiar And I (part 2)

Posted on September 1, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Prelimary Comments :

I'm not entirely pleased with this but it's about as good as it's going to get.

I'm totally chuffed I've got this one out of my head.

The name 'Griezzle' is taken from a woodcut documenting the confession of one of the witches who 'confessed' to Matthew Hopkins. If you standardise it the name is probably 'Grizzle' but I prefer the elongated vowels.

Anyway, I hope the story stands up and I'd like to know if I wrote it well.

(it's a little on the long side, but I couldn't work out a good place to break it in half)

The story.

            The day after his dog died the old man went away for a fortnight.  I don’t know where, don’t really care, but it was a small slice of heaven to have complete and utter silence.  A few days into the break I went to my doctor and lied my arse off to get a sicknote for a month.


            “I can’t sleep or concentrate,” I told him, offering the weak smile and slightly wide eyes that made drunk, foolish teenage girls think I was sensitive and strange when I was sixteen but make me look weak and useless now I’m grown and the lost little boy act doesn’t cut the ice if you don’t wear eyeliner and play guitar in some whiny band with a foolish name. My Introspective Bellybutton or We Have Feline Faces, or whatever passes for alternative rock these days. “I just need a little while to relax, get my head back in gear.”


            “Are you drinking?” my GP asked, beady, self-medicated eyes peering at me over his beakand absurd Victorian style moustache.


            “Not much,” I lied. “Just a few beers every now and then.”


            “Taking your medication?”


            “I forget sometimes, but yeah. I just can’t sleep. I wish I could but I can’t.”


            “How does four weeks sound?”


            “If you think it’ll help.”


            “Well if you can’t sleep…”


            I’m sure my doctor knows I’m lying to him half the time but he’s known me since I was a kid and he likes me.  He also knows I’m rotting from the inside and it’s not really my fault, it’s the mistakes and cruelty of other people that have made me the way I am far more than any of my mistakes.  He cuts me some slack, far more than he should.  I try to make sure I don’t abuse the advantage but I honestly couldn’t face going back to that damn office and the chance of a few days of peace and quiet at home were too much to pass over.


            “Four weeks and I’ll give you some pills to help you get your sleep pattern back. Just a week’s worth.”


            “I know, best not to run the risk I get a habit for them.”


            The sleeping pills were a bonus I hadn’t been expecting and knew better than to ask for – the down side of having the same doctor all your life is that they know if you have a taste for opiates, which I do. 


            I left the surgery with a prescription for seven low dose valium tablets and a smile I had to hide from the receptionist with a fake coughing fit.  The bitter crone doesn’t quite understand patient confidentiality and I knew she’d gossip to my doctor, my mother and anyone else she thought might be interested if she saw me leaving happy.  She was the one who grassed on me to my mother when I first went in to get help with my head – without her my mother might still not know that I need the pills I don’t take.


            “I can gether back too,” Griezzle said as I left the surgery, preening his raven’s feathers on a wall. “Do you want me too?”


            “Give her worms,” I said, checking my prescription again to make sure I had been givenn valium and not one of the non-opiate based alternatives that just make you sleep without any of the blissed out side-effects.


            “Just worms?” Griezzle sounded a little disappointed.


            “One’s that eat her insides.”


            I didn’t think about that instruction again for nearly a month.  I forgot it within a few hours of giving it, one low dose valium and a few pints in the local Weatherspoons will make you forget most things, but I remembered it again when I saw the article in the local paper about her mysterious death.


            Local Woman Eaten From The Inside – New Terror Parasite.


            It would have made the national news but some nutjob in the Middle East assassinated another nutjob and the lot of them kicked off again.  I think an orthodox Jew shot a Hamas leader but it might have been the other way around; they all ended up throwing stones and bullets which ever way it was.  I gave up trying to understand that shit when I was kid and realised that religion is for fools.


            By the time that happened I had other things on my mind anyway, the bar steward was back at home and I was looking at having to go back to work, to telling people that my company really did have the best aeroplanes in the sky and that I personally thought the in-flight food was the best on the market.


            I’ve never actually flown anywhere and if I was ever going to it wouldn’t be with the company I work for – I only get a ten percent discount and I know the cabin crew barely make minimum wage.  I am one of the many heads of a corporate hydra, the scum on the other end of the phone when you’re trying to register a valid complaint or get that good deal you’ve seen advertised everywhere.


            “Sorry, sir, you’ve got to book three weeks in advance, and those deals are only released in limited numbers.  You’re twenty days in advance so the price is three times as much, and that is the best I can do. You’ll have to fly out at three am, with a seat next to the blocked toilet.”


            That’s whatI do for a living, that’s what my dreams have come to.


            I rationed the pills over the two weeks and, to tell the God’s honest truth, I had the best fortnight of my life.  I was stoned and drunk the entire time, playing my music as loud as I liked and shooting endless zombies – there’s nothing like a Resident Evil game you know how to complete and have accessed the limitless ammo assault rifle.  I had some friends round and we got hopelessly drunk and sang along to ‘Nevermind’ like we were sixteen and Kurt wasn’t dead.


            Good times.


            I even got laid, and not some rough tart.  A proper looker who did amazing things with her mouth and didn’t give me any diseases,she even came close to falling for my broken, sensitive guy bullshit.  I saw her in The Kings Head and asked Griezzle to make her mine for the rest of her life and when it happened I swear I’ve never been happier.


            She died the next day, mashed between a bus and a joyrider on her way home from a concert in the next town over.  Her name was Emily and I swear to all that is holy I could have loved her for the rest of my life.  When I heard I just cursed my luck but now I know there was a talking animal at the scene, looking on and smiling as my last chance for happiness drained away, brains spilled on a paramedics uniform.


            I didn’t see it then, didn’t see the trap I’d happily walked into.  I just got angry, drank a bottle of whiskey and woke up in a pool of my own vomit to the sound of the bastard – always the short ‘a’ and a little bit of spittle in the air as you cut off the final syllable when you’re as angry as I am – stomping around upstairs, turning hisTV on so loud Jeremy fucking Kyle imprinted himself on my brain.


            This is a memoir for the world so I have to let you know that Jeremy Kyle is like Jerry Springer but worse; he lacks the humour but makes up for it with reactionary ,bigoted vitriol.  A high court judge once described him as little better than a medieval bear-baiter, and that is a kind description.   


            Anyway, I was lying on the living room floor, on my back now because no-one can stay face-down in vomit for long when they realise that’s where they are, and the old man was stomping around like an elephant in combat boots, some council-estate fuck-up screaming about something on his TV.  For a second or two I thought maybe I’d be able to fall unconscious again, let the stomping and the blaring fade into background noise.  I knew there was some whiskey left in the bottle and a beer or two in the fridge; I could take them with the last valium when I woke later and deal with the world tomorrow.


            “He killed her,” Griezzle purred, settling down on my chest and looking straight in my eyes.


            “What?” of course I didn’t say that - I groaned in a vague and slightly quizzical way but ‘uuuuhhhrhu?’ just looks like nonsense.


            “He killed Emily, the true love I gave to you.”


            “How’d he do that?” that’s pretty much what I asked, just imagine it all slurred together with some extra vowels thrown in.


            “He has a friend like me. Listen a moment, you’ll hear it.”


            I know some people thing lapdogs are the best thing ever but not me.  Like I said before I have nothing against dogs, it’s the owners who’re bad, but I really don’t like yappy little balls of fur.  It’s not all small dogs, just the ones that won’t stop yapping and jump on your lap like they’re a bloody cat.  It’s the yapping that gets me.  If the military are looking for a sound that can kill they should just harness the sound of a thousand spoilt toy terriers and Chihuahuas.


            The git upstairs, the cat killing, benefit fraudster bastard had gotten himself one of those and lying on my back with puke in my hair I heard it start to run around, claws clattering on the laminate flooring and it’s squealing bark filling my house. 


            “Kill it,” I groaned. “Kill the fucking mutt.”


            “I can’t,” Griezzlesaid. “It’s just like me, it killed your true love and he’s going to ask it to kill you later.”


            “Stop it, protect me. Can’t you do that?” I’d managed to get myself to a seated position, Griezzle in my lap now, and I was looking around for my cigarettes.


            “Is that all you want? For me to just defend you?”


            “You said you can’t kill it,” it was still running around, its yap added to the doomsday rumble of his vacuum cleaner.  I lit a cigarette and said, my head bursting with the noise. “Kill him.”


            “His friend will stop me, he’s already asked it to protect him from me.”


            “Make me rich and we’ll move,” the cigarette smoke burnt every millimetre of my mouth and throat and when I coughed the taste of stale vomit in my mouth nearly made me puke again. “Get me a winning lottery ticket and we’ll just fuck-off.”


            “I can make you rich, but they’ll follow us. He wants revenge, just like you did. For Marvin.”


            I staggered to my feet and dropped the cigarette in an ashtray.  I needed to brush my teeth and drink some mouthwash before I wanted any more nicotine. Griezzle followed me to the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub as I tried to make myself feel a little more human.  The sound of the vacuum and the yapping of the dog followed us, getting louder.


            “Fuck-off!” I screamed at the ceiling, spraying toothpaste foam into the air. “Just fuck-off you bastard!”


            “He never will,” Griezzle said, idly raising a foreleg to clean his chest. “He’ll keep following you, keep tormenting you and there’s nothing I can do except defend you. He’ll make your life hell.”


            I screamed at the ceiling, nothing coherent just a bellow of rage that tore at my whiskey ravaged throat.  The yapping and vacuuming continued regardless.  I rinsed my mouth out, gargled and grabbed the mouthwash before screaming again. 


            I didn’t actually swallow any of the mouthwash, that’s just a way my friends and I have of announcing how scummy our mouths and throats feel – the one time I did try it the only effect was a queasiness that lasted all day and no change in the feeling of abuse down my oesophagus.  Iwashed my face with cold water as I sluiced my mouth out and looked at Griezzle before spitting.


            “What fucking use are you if you can’t get rid of that old cunt?”


            “I will make you rich, give you every woman you want, but only you can release yourself from the old man. He’s as powerful as you now.”


            The telephone rang before I could answer and, drying my face, I went to tell my mother that I had taken my medication like a good boy.  Upstairs the sound of the vacuum had been replaced by the sound of a power drill but the yapping was just as constant.


            I didn’t know what the bastard was building up there but after an hour and a half of it, by which time the whiskey and the three leftover beers were all gone, Icouldn’t take it anymore and left the house.


            “You know what you need to do,” Griezzle purred as I left. “Buy your lottery ticket and everything else you need before you come back.”


            It was late by the time I got home, dropping kebab meat around me again and down to my last ten pounds.  There was whiskey and beer in the rucksack I’d bought to replace Marvin’s coffin and I was so pissed I could hardly see.  I vaguely knew that I wasgoing to regret emptying my account, but I’d run into some quasi-friends after my third pint and a pub-crawl had seemed like a good idea.  They were on one anyway and could pay for themselves, the eighty quid that should have gone on food and electricity had all been spent on myself – tequila shots always sound like a good idea.


            It had been a blinding day, even the parts I still can’t fully remember.  I won nine games of pool on the trot and landed the first one-hundred-and-eighty in darts of my life.  Everyone in the pub did the Bullseye thing –oneee-huuundred-and-eiiigh-ty!


            I don’t know if that’s something the crap 1980s quiz show introduced or if it’s something darts commentators did anyway, I don’t really care, but ask anyone in Britain who watched TV in the eighties and they’ll be able to do an impersonation of it.  I think I shouted it out a few times on the way home, I know I told the dude in the kebab shop about it.


            You-Tube it if you don’t know what I mean, it’ll let you know how to make the sound but not quite how much fun it is to shout. Particularly if you were a kid in the eighties, too young to watch the depravity of Channel Four and left with three channels to choose from.  While you’re at it You-Tube Rik Mayall presenting The Tube for a brilliant slice of prime-time alcohol abuse, possibly the only time you’ll see someone puke live on TV at 5pm.  It’s a classic.


            That’s all details.  I’m shying around the subject, the final episode in the trap Griezzle laid for me and I walked into with my eyes wide shut.  Excellent phrase that, but an abysmal end to a great director’s career.  Never watch that film, it sucks doggie cock.


            He was in, his curtains open and the light spilling out. The door to his balcony was open and despite the drunken hum in my ears I could hear the sound of his power drill. I stopped, in the same place I’d been when his collie leapt to its death, and stared at his flat, garlic sauce dripping over my fingers as I held a wad of pitta bread and spiced lamb halfway to my mouth.


            “You know what you have to do,” Griezzle, a giant rat again for the first time since he first spoke to me. “You know how to be free.”


            The old man walked out onto his balcony, hammer-drill in his hand and smiled at me, pointing one of his liver-spotted hands like some yank calling a home-run.  I snarled and tried to flip the bird back, but the mess of food in my hand got in the way and all I achieved was dropping a slice of processed spiced lamb down my jacket sleeve. 


            Then he was gone from the balcony and I was left alone, barely able to stand and a flood of anger taking away the little sight I had left.


            I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced rage so intense it gives you tunnel vision but that’s what they mean when they say so-an-so saw red.  You don’t actually see red, you just lose the ability to see anything other than the object you hate and WILL destroy and the only things you can touch are the things you will use to achieve that end.


            The kebab was dropped, I’d been enjoying it and hadn’t even touched the extra jalapenos I’d asked for, and I think I ran to the door. I don’t really know, I can barely remember getting my keys out and getting outside.  I’m a little clearer about opening my own door once I was inside the building – I dropped my keysand it took Griezzle to stop me losing my focus.  I don’t really like violence.


            “Ignore that live and let live shite,” Griezzle said, a rabid bat fluttering around my head. “I’ll make you rich when he is gone. Make him history and everything will be yours.”


            There are bruises all over my legs and arms and I think I’ve cracked a rib or two from the lumbering dash I made into my flat, I know I overturned the wicker tall boy in the hallway I use for my phone and ornaments on myself – the glass falcon my father bought for me when I was a kid landed on my head and the hair there is still congealed from the wound it made. I was probably concussed as I staggered into the kitchen, looking for the steak knife I use to chop onions.


            I make a mean chilli, it’ll burn your mouth but the aftertaste is so sweet you’ll want more.  People eat my chilli slowly with plenty of milk to hand but they don’t get gutrot the next day – except the pansies who think a korma is too spicy. I could have been a chef, if I cared enough about food to put up with the hours and conditions it takes to make it in the world of rich digestive tracks.


            I’ll not be doing that anymore, and all those rock anthems in my heart will stay as they are – bad adolescent scribbling set to Nirvana riffs.  I’ll not be doing anything much ever again, not even getting drunk and wasting my life watching re-runs of Friends. 


            I’ve so many other things to say, experiences I’d like to know if you shared.  Which female Friend is to your taste?  Always Jennifer for me.  Did Flock Of Seagulls write some amazing synthpop? Yes.  Does the world lie, cheat and then chew you up so your last moments are like this?


            I guess I’m pretty much alone on the last one.


            Steak knife in hand I ran up the stairs.  I know I was screaming and I know that in my head it was all coherent but I can’t hold my hand on my heart and say that it was, the poor fuckers who witnessed it will be able to tell you more.


            “Kill my cat? You wanna fucking kill me? Bastard! Fucking bastard! Wanna kill me? You wanna kill me? Fuck you! Fuck your fucking dog! I’ll fucking strike first! Bastard-cunt-doggiefucker!”


            That’s roughly what was in my head as I ran up the stairs.  I imagine all I did was roar


            Griezzle was waiting on the semi-laniding – you know, the point where the stairs doubleback on themselves halfway between floors. He was a cat again, legs splayed so he could clean his groin (his balls aren’t as big as Marvin’s were before I had him neutered).   There was a smile on his face and a look in his eyes that I’d have run from if, half an hour ago, I’d known what I know now.


            The bastard’s door was open but I shoulder barged it anyway, drunkards like to make an entrance and I am no different.  I think that’s when I dislocated my shoulder, I might be wrong but even from this position I can see that my right shoulder is several inches lower than it should be so I guess that’s when I did it.


            I dropped the knife on the floor, whatever happened, and now I am here, trussed up and helpless on the altar the old man spent all day building. 


            I have been tricked, manipulated and brought to this. A sacrifice for whatever the bastard who killed my cat plans.


            Griezzle is here, perched on my chest and purring, telling me how it works. 


            “I have always been his familiar,”  he tells me. “I would never belong to one like you.”


            The old man, in his robes and his beard a source of jealousy for every Grumbledore, Merlin and Gandalf, has a curved bronze knife in one hand and a stone bowl in the other.


            I want to think about that painting my father helped me with, the one of a wizard on a path.  I want to pray and have some archangel come save me.  I want life to be anything but this.


            The bastard– always with a short ‘a’ – is cutting out my liver and kidneys.  He knows what he is doing; I will live to be disembowelled before my throat is cut.


            I want my mother and my medication. 








Categories: Christopher Law, Horror, Short Story

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Reply C.M. Marcum
11:00 AM on September 6, 2010 
Wow, definitely Noir, and a surprise ending. I finally see where this was going. Once again you've maintained your character, although he is hardly sympathetic with vomit in his hair. Characterization is your forte. The MC is fully developed; the neighbor not-so-much.

To me, the first order of business is to step back and look at the big picture, before even troubling with the mechanics. In reality people, tribes and even countries can hate and kill each other without just cause. In fiction, we usually find that everything and everybody has a rhyme and a reason for the things they do. (I often liken a plot to putting a big puzzle together.)

In this story we are clear about the Main Character's motivation: he ain't square in the head, his neighbor makes too much noise, and the villain ran over his beloved cat. However, I find that I don't know the Old Man's motive. Why did the villain hate the main character? Also, it's inferred but not quite clear how the MC came to such ruin--he gave-in to the seductions and sins that the familiar offered and therefore was a lost soul, i.e., the killing of the doctor's receptionist and the dog.

You've got something going here. Don't give up on it. it's worthy.
Reply Christopher Law
4:06 PM on September 6, 2010 
Thank you!

I agree that the old man isn't fully developed - he's essentially a cartoon sketch of the villain from 'Gorgeous' (my novel length thing that is either excellent and waiting to be published or a confused mass of rubbish, dependent on how I'm feeling when I think about it). In 'Gorgeous' the villain is a bitter, twisted man intent on gaining power over the world, with a properly worked out back story. In this piece there's a lot missing.

The poor characterisation of him does, in my mind, raise one of the biggest problems I have with first person narration - how to reveal the intentions/motivations of the secondary characters. If I'd written this in the third (second? I always get muddled with the technical terms) I'd have thrown in a few paragraphs from the old man's pov and a couple more of straight narration explaining the MC's past.

I have always been, and probably always will be, massively jealous of people who can write in the first person and still develop all the characters.

You're right about the need for rhyme and reason in fiction, the bit about the middle-east is a horrible example of my liberal-atheist confusion at the state of the world intruding and shouldn't really be in this story. Putting little asides like that in is a flaw I'm frequently guilty of, particularly if I've been reading history.

Anyway, thanks for the comments. I've a new piece I'm working on, back in my third person comfort zone, and I hope you like it when I've hammered it out. I really do, it's going to be posted in at least six or seven parts!
Reply C.M. Marcum
9:14 AM on September 7, 2010 
What you're talking about, I believe they call a 'jump.' Maybe you already know this:

In a novel when you want to change POV, you simply start a new chapter.

In a short story, you double space, center 3 stars and double space again.


bladdy, bladdy, bladdy, the main character thought and did and said.


The old man stirred the pot and motioned for the cat to come closer.

Then when you go back to main character you do the space star thing again. This is the signal to your reader that you are change POVs or scenes or time, whatever.

I can't wait for you to develop the old man. You know, most people are more interested in the villain than the hero. Call it morbid curiosity.