Monday, March 14, 2011

Patient #110314 Richard Godwin

Richard is the first of a couple new acquaintances I've had the pleasure to make as a result of this event. I first encountered his gritty, distinctive noir style at Thrillers, Killers, n' Chillers, and was exceptionally impressed by his economy of language, that manages somehow to be more thrilling than some writers manage with three times the words.

I could go on about what's cool about Richard's writing, but I'd rather let you see for yourself.
Here is "Blister Pack"


Blister Pack
Richard Godwin

“WE KNOW OUR PROPERTIES THROUGH AND THROUGH.”

The ad grabbed me from the word go, and I found myself reaching for the phone and dialling Happy Homes.

The voice on the other end was upbeat in a sing-song maniacal way.

“Hu-l-lo, Happey Homes, Sin-clair speaking, how may I help you?”

“I’m calling about one of your houses.”

He ran through his repertoire and I answered his questions, making up most of the information.

When he got to the bit about a job, I paused for a few seconds before saying:

“Freelance detective.”

“Oh, rilly? That’s most in-teresting , Jack, I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with a detective before will you be requiring a mortgage?”

His voice reminded me of some musical or catchy little jingle, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

 I looked out of the window to watch a dog being kicked by its owner while he rabbited on and made my appointment for later that afternoon.

The hotel was cramping my style and I thought that owning a place would give me just the break I needed now that I was able to do what I wanted with my life again.

It started to rain, and I watched it come down, washing the streets clean and sending everyone in doors, especially those who’d been caught out without an umbrella, although that never bothered me, I liked the unexpected element about rain. Then, later, just before I left, the sun came out.

It was a beautiful colour at that time of day, a melting reddy-orange that streaked the clouds just a little.

I thought about that song “Somewhere over the rainbow” and tried to remember the words all the way there on the bus, but couldn’t.

It was a long time ago that I’d last heard it, somewhere in my childhood.

I got to Acacia Avenue a few minutes before Sinclair was due to arrive and took a walk around.

I was wearing the new suit, which I thought made me look professional. It was a little tight and I’d even bought a tie, a coloured one with patterns of boats on it.

The neighbourhood was a good one, a far cry from the council estate I had known growing up. That was before my mother od’d and they took me to the home which burnt down. But that was all a long time ago and I just decided to stop thinking about it, because I could feel something rising in me like a snake.

I passed a mother with a baby in a pram and she smiled at me, so I just smiled right back, figuring that was what you did around here.

Her face looked hollowed out and the baby was screaming.

I walked round the block.

No syringes, no used condoms, no graffiti.

I felt respectable all of a sudden.

Sinclair was standing by his car and I spotted him a mile away.

He had agent written all over him, from his mobile phone to the property details he was clutching.

“Mr Steele”, he said, extending a hand.

Limp shake.

“Shall we go in?”

He passed me a sheet.

I glanced at it and dropped it on the floor as he fumbled with the keys.

The house was real nice, all new floors and wallpaper.

I wasn’t sure I liked the design since I hadn’t known much wallpaper in my time, certainly hadn’t seen any for years, just peeling white paint and pipes where I’d been living if that’s what you could call it.

Thinking about it made me want to light up but I thought I’d better wait until I’d seen the house.

Sinclair was rabbiting on about something or other and I just tuned him out of my head like a bad radio station and looked about.

It was clean and easily big enough, and I knew I wanted it.

“Will you be needing a mortgage, Sir?”

“No, this is a cash purchase.”

“Oh, rilly that’s eksellent, you’re an agent’s dream.”

“Do you understand dreams?”

He looked at me, not knowing what to say and I could see him reach for his script.

“Do you like the house?”

“Yeah, I like it just fine.”

It was all happy families, kids in the nursery and cooking, real home cooking in the kitchen, not pies with weird shit in them, and I started to feel that snake whipping its tail again. So I asked to see the bathroom.

That was when it hit me.

I knew it would, it always does, somewhere in a house. I should have known it would either be the bathroom or the bedroom, since that was all that was left, and since these looked like decent folk, from what I could see from the pictures they had everywhere, smiling wife and seriously hardworking hubby, I figured it had to be the bathroom.

A click later and I was standing in it.

Bathtub, loo, some small sink thing on the floor probably for babies to wash or something and a mirror.

Sinclair had followed me in and was standing behind me as I looked at the mirror and saw his face change.

His suit started to catch fire and I saw the mark on him. Yes he was one of them all right the mark was right there all across his face and I heard it loud and clear.

Kill the fucker, cut his headoff.

And his skin started to peel away like burnt paper.

I turned round quickly nearly knocking him over and made some excuse about having forgotten an appointment and could I come back again?

“Yes, no problem, but how do you like the property?”

I left him standing in the hallway looking puzzled and ran for the bus like a greyhound who’s just seen the hare.

A couple of days later I called him. I hadn’t changed since the appointment and I smelt real bad.  In fact I hadn’t been out and it was a while since I’d eaten, so I had a quick shower and went to the local caf which I liked because there was never any one in there and it was cheap.

After a hearty fry up I fixed up a second appointment. 

Then I cleaned up my room, thinking this was the chance for a new start, for the kind of life they’d told us all we could live.

I looked at the tie again and the boats sailing around on it and wondered where they were going, and then I put it on, making sure I got the knot right.

I was crossing that bridge and I could see normality beckoning on the other side, I could even taste it.

Then I looked around my room scratching my head.

There wasn’t much in it, just a chair and bed, and the small TV I’d bought, and the little picture of ducks on the wall.

But I had a funny thought all that day which I remember now clearly, that I’d forgotten something really important, you know, like the one when people say they left the gas on, or didn’t pay a bill, none of which I’ve ever known, but I just kept walking about my little room trying to remember what it was and eventually got sick of the walls moving in out like they were breathing and so I went back to Acacia Avenue.

I hadn’t realised just how beautiful it was the first time I went there, I was probably focusing too much on all the money involved in buying a new place, but I kept telling myself that I’d just won the lottery, so it didn’t matter. I was going to throw some parties when I met some people, maybe join the freemasons, yes.

The road was immaculate and the people were so friendly, one woman passed me and said:

“Vellcome to da neighbourhood”, and I answered her back:

“Thank you, ma’am, I will be holding a house-warming party later this year and you are cordially invited.”

She beamed me a smile, and I adjusted my tie.

The place smelt of roses and something rotting at the middle but I just ignored the second bit and concentrated on the first.

Then I saw Sinclair again and thought what a nice fellow he was, and gave him a warm handshake.

“Shall we have a look around, Mr Steele?”, he said, and I just nodded and smiled at him, not feeling too bad that was not my real name.

It was a pity I couldn’t find that lottery ticket, but I knew it would turn up one day, probably still will, and anyway, it didn’t matter.

Then I was inside again.

We walked around the house and I told him how much I liked their ad in the paper.

“Well, we do help people have happy homes”, he said.

“Yes. A happy home is a good place to start, but I liked reading how you know your places through and through, it’s that wording that drew me to you.”

I’d watched those programmes on the TV where they help people buy a place and I knew the script pretty good, so he never suspected.

When he got off the phone he saw me looking at a picture of the family and said:

“Are you married Mr Steele?”

“Yes.”

“Any children?”

“One on the way.”

“Oh that’s lovely.”

Then we went upstairs.

That was when it started.

I knew it would.

I can always tell when a place has them.

They don’t rattle chains or wear white sheets, that’s all cartoon stuff for kiddies.

No, they always come out of the mirrors.

That’s how you can tell if a place has got them.

And I can tell you for sure, most places do. And if they don’t they will, because why would squatters stay in the street when there are empty houses?

So we kept on chatting and talking shop and I asked him how quick the people could move because I really wanted to throw that party, and he said:

“I’ll have to check with them.”

And that was when it happened.

There was a mirror in the hallway just between the two bedrooms.

I hadn’t seen it properly the first time I went there but now it loomed out at me from the hall, almost grabbing me.

It had an ornate frame and on the edges there were clear blood stains, deep ones like when the blood has pumped furiously out of a major artery. The blood had sprayed all over it.

Then we went into the bathroom again.

He went in first and I followed him.

And as I did I remembered what it was I had forgotten.

I could see the pills in their blister pack lying at the back of the drawer in the cheap bedside table at
the hotel.

Dr Brown’s face loomed at me out of the darkness as he fumbled with the cord.

“If you take these, you will be OK. No voices.”

His smile always made me feel sick.

He clicked the light on and we went in.

I had my hand in my pocket and just as he turned and became visible in the mirror, I knew.

He had no face.

Nothing.

Just bloody holes and a head full of snakes.

They were writhing around in there hissing and spitting venom.

Some of it landed like semen on the glass and trickled down heavily.

Then he began to laugh.

I could see his body was full of insects, maggots and beetles and disgusting stuff that would make you throw up if I told you.

He just stood there laughing and saying things like:

“I work for them. They pay me very well.”

The light was hissing and fizzing and the bulb exploded shattering us both with shards of glass and as that happened, I pulled out the knife and just hacked his head right off.

His eyes were popping out like a pair of ping-pong balls and his mouth was moving in slow motion, a thread of saliva between his teeth as he tried to speak in their secret language. But I just kept sawing away at his neck, slicing through his Adam’s apple, and watched the saliva turn red and bubble.

His head came away easily like a slice of rotten meat and hung there from a thread while his neck just showered us both with a curtain of blood and I just stood there hacking away at this last thread which was some piece of wire to their headquarters until his head fell off and thumped to the floor.

It was a good knife, and I dismembered him with it.

I cut him through and through, and placed his organs in a neat row by his head.

Then I just left and went home and had a shower.

They must have been following me because later that day the blue people came and got me.

I heard their radios crackling from the street below and knew they had trapped me again and would send me back to the factory, but decided the next time I would be cleverer.

You probably read in the papers the headlines they wrote. All lies. Don’t believe a word of them.  

Things like:

“Estate agent killed by escaped madman. Married man with promising future decapitated. Lunatic strikes.  Horrified family come home to dismembered corpse in the bathroom.”

That’s what they print to stop you knowing the truth.

But they’re out there and they’re taking over.

They have your wife, your children, your jobs and your futures, and they must be stopped. Some people can see them, but they’re only visible in mirrors.

I can hear them in the corridor.

I know the shuffle of their shoes.

They’re coming to give me my pill.

I gave up trying to fight them since I’ve been back here, since they just sit on you and get the fat guys in white to hold you down, then they pull your pants down and stick it up your arse, laughing at you.

So I’m taking them.

But I’ll stop.

And I’ll get them.

I’ll get them all.

They’ve killed two of my allies since I got out.

They say they’ve gone, but I know they did away with them and they’re serving them up in the pies.

That’s why I’ve gone vegan.

It’s my human rights, you know.

I read that out there.

I won’t keep taking their pills for ever.

People don’t know about the plan to take over the planet.

You’re being used.

They’re all agents, they all work together.

Outside, through my window I can see one of them.

They’re coming, I can hear the door opening and I can see their shadows in the mirror.

Richard Godwin’s novel “Apostle Rising” is being published March 10th 2011 and he is widely published in magazines such as A Twist Of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine and anthologies, as well as being a produced playwright. His story “Pike N Flytrap” is in the latest issue of Needle Magazine and his story “Face Off” is in Issue #5 of Crime Factory.You can check out his writing credentials here and listen to his recent interview on The Authors Show

Richard is online at Richardgodwin.net






36 comments:

  1. This is great. The thing about madness is how much of what the character sees is real? You've done an excellent job of presenting that mental conflict into a rich story.

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  2. OK, so when does the novel come out? You've gotta turn this into long-form.

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  3. Chris wanted madness and you delivered it on a silver platter. Great descriptive writing and I really got a kick out of your depiction of the real estate agent.

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  4. I've been waiting all day to read this! It was well worth the wait. There is a real menace in here, right from the outset and I love how the ordinary gradually becomes the bizarre - we knew it was coming with all the little teases and it didn't disappoint.

    I watched 'Bronson' again last night and the sentiment in Blister Pack evoked the same nervousness in my gut. Excellent.

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  5. Angel that's a great compliment from you. I know your writing and I'm chuffed by what you say.

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  6. Benjamin thank you my friend. 'Apostle Rising' is out available at Amazon, all good bookstores and here http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/03188.htm .

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  7. Sean thank you yes real estate agents are perhaps the major culprits behind insanity. Worlwide economic delusions are rampant.

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  8. Lily from the keen and ardent Queen of Horror that is praise indeed. I hope you're enjoying 'Apostle Rising'.

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  9. Richard, You are adept at creating build-up and then executing a mean piece with all the gore, horror, and madness we hope to read. Almost too good, and one has to wonder ; )

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  10. Erin thank you for that. Wonder what you fugue state expert.

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  11. Richard - the thing that got me about this story was the slow (relatively) way that the character unraveled. The pacing was perfect, and seemed to quicken as it approached the end.

    Favorite line "It's my human rights, you know."

    Great work.

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  12. I think the title indicating "patient" led me to expect a pathology, probably unresolved.
    If I am correct, Richard, you intended to draw a parallel between the nameless patient and empty house, held in contrast to the patient as person with unique traits and a house with personal effects.
    Just as there is more to a house than walls and plumbing, there is more to a person that vessels and skin.

    And yet, in the desire to be seen, to be "part of" and to connect to humanity, he reduces the agent to meat.

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  13. Chris that is an interesting observation. The politicisation of madness is embedded within the history of human rights as they have evolved from the violation of human rights, it seems some compensatory mechanism lurks within the history of law as does the need for self redemption, so does insanity indicate criminality, does it indicate a threat to what the tax paying citizen owns?

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  14. Lynn as always an astute comment, yes the internal vessels we carry within us like so much advertised engineering bought by the health companies touted by the doctors, is a juxtaposition we can use to illustrate the basic unncertainty of what we stand on. Uniqueness is equivocated and estate aggents are operating within a system where lying is licensed for economic restraint.

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  15. Insanity is an example of something we perceive as a resolved case of public rights vs. individual and we like cases that are extreme because we no longer have to make a case. We can take away rights with little hesitation, once we have reduced a human to an unworthy animal. We also rationalize that we are protecting people from themselves.
    And isn't that true, on many levels?

    Society is full of agents, acting on the endowment of the machine.

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  16. an ordinary thing "blister pack" becomes sinster
    i love that. The build up was great.

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  17. One man's reality is another man's madness.
    Excellent story, Richard.

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  18. You captured the sickness divinely, Richard, and Chris, I’m sure you’ve heard this ad nauseam, that you’ve captured the perfect place and look for it. “They get out, don’t take their meds because they don’t like the side effects or they think they don’t need them and BAM they’re back in,” thus spake my mom who worked at a state mental hospital for eons. Apparently some of the lower key ones don’t wanna be out. Which is fine with me. This guy? Definitely fine with me.

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  19. Just a quick side note here- thanks to everyone who's commented on the new blog-theme. Glad it's enhancing, rather than detracting from the stories!

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  20. Lynn would Thoreau who formulated a working manual for active and legitimate Civil Disobedience be perceived as inasane by some peoples' standards today? Let's forget the slash horor of the dead estate agent that is drama, perhaps has Walden Pond become the local Prozac dump?

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  21. Callan you always capture the surreal within the ordinary detail the stripped manikin at the store. So I thank you for that you are a modern Bunuel.

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  22. Jodi as always you cut to the core of it. Thank you my friend you are right perceptions are fluid they are the ink we dip our pens in every day.

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  23. Miss Alister thank you a sharp and resonant response. Then there is nothing new in that and yes you catch the important need to restrain the dangerous ones.

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  24. Chris thank you it's good to see a response. A debate.

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  25. Absolutely, Richard. I was actually wondering when, during this week, we would get into the actual discussion of "madness" v. "mental illness" - and we've even seen a veering toward the classification of Ginsberg / Burroughs "free thought" as insanity territory.

    Very glad to have provoked a little "serious" among the entertaining!

    Thanks again, Richard, for sharing this story.

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  26. Chris I think mental illness is something most people suffer from in their lives be it for a week or more and that ranges from depression to an assortment of things. Real madness real clinical insanity is something else entirely and if you stand at the edge of the river bank and try to pull someone out who is suffering from that the momentum of their process is monumental and totally alienated from whatever reality we inhabit.

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  27. Richard, another great Godwin story!

    Isn't it a hoot to wear the madman's persona in stories we write without fear of being apprehended by the white coats and their long fat nets?

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  28. Blister Pack was a blistering good read! One man's sanity is anothers madness and all that. Another author I want to read more of!

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  29. Sal thank you my friend. We are spinning a yarn.

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  30. Ellie thank you I'm glad you enjoyed it. Check out 'Apostle Rising' for more and feed your taste buds http://www.blackjackalbooks.com/hot-off-the-press/fiction/apostle-rising .

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  31. One of the great fun things about writing is the play on what is real vs what is not real, on sanity vs madness if you will. Well done. Looks like this one was a lot of fun to write.

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  32. Charles I know you understand this you interstellar friend. It was.

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  33. Richard, that was awesome. Dark, crazy and enthralling from start to finish. Well done!

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  34. Thanks David. I appreciate it mate.

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  35. What makes this so positively terrifying, Richard, is trying to decide whether he is truly gone mentally and society is attempting to keep him medicated so society remains safe. Or, could it be that he is in fact correct about 'them' and 'they' are trying to keep him medicated so he doesn't let anyone know and is unable to warn anyone? Beautifully done. These images aren't going to be easy to get rid of, but that is as it should be. Superb!

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  36. Joyce thank you I intended that sense of the uncanny that twilight zone idea of what is real? Medicating patents while necessary is obviously also at times a means of controlling them for ease of management.

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