Sunday, 3 February 2013


Apologies for the delay. I've been struggling with a mountain of University work that doesn't seem to be getting any smaller. I wrote this story a few years ago for a first year assignment. There is actually a script version that I adapted for a second assignment on the blog. I decided to go back and edit the short story version to include some elements that I thought up after and generally polish the dialogue and pacing.

I'm attempting to create a small collection of short stories that take place at the same time in Huddersfield. These will serve to introduce characters which I hope to use in a larger project that i'm working on. 

So here's the first one. Any comments or advice is always appreciated. Enjoy! 



You find yourself alone with microwave meals that taste like warm shit in water. The only light in your life coming from the television that you leave on at night. BBC News channel presenters your only bedfellows. Life has a way of playing with you though. It has a way of shaking you awake just when you think it'll let you fall asleep and never wake up. It has a way of complicating things.

Red covered the ground, hair and blood flared out along the dark concrete like a sick piece of modern art. It was the last fare of the night. How did it come to this?

Dispatch mumbled something over the radio as the rear passenger door opened. The rush of cold air slapped me from my stupor. I yawned as I cleared the metre from the previous fare and started the taxi up.
‘Wher’ya going love?’ I asked looking back through the rear view mirror. My passenger stared out of the window for a moment before answering: ‘Westridge Drive. Beaumont Park’. It was going to take a while to get to Beaumont Park from this side of Kirkburton but luckily the roads were empty at this time of night. I don't often make it my business to think about the passengers other than if they're going to pay or cause trouble. She was young, she looked a mess and it was late. We've had our fair share of drug addicts causing trouble, especially recently, something about a new product being available. I don't really know. Her eyes were locked to the pavement as it rolled by and her hands were tucked underneath a brown leather bag. One of the buckles was dangling off. She better not try to bolt. I was on the home stretch for this shift, I didn't need trouble, and yet I couldn't help myself. I tempted fate.
‘Everything alright love?’
Nothing. Not a flinch. I don't even know if she heard me. She just stared out of the window, her eyes dead and bloodshot. I noticed some dried blood on her lip.
'Bang your lip on something or?'
‘Just drive the fucking taxi.’
‘I wa' just asking love, I didn’t mean to-’
‘Sure you didn’t...’
‘I was just concerned.’
‘Who the fuck are you? My dad? Just drive.' I would have left it there. I didn't need to know or get involved.
'You're about as useful as he was by the looks of things.'
She pushed it too far. I wasn't going to stand for this. What the hell was her problem? She could walk.
'Bollocks to this,' I mumbled to myself as I pulled over to the pavement. I killed the engine leaving a prickly silence momentarily. 'Get out, call another taxi.'
I looked back. She hadn’t moved an inch. ‘Did you hear me, Red? Get out.’ She shook her head and leant back, looking up to the roof of the car. I noticed marks around her neck.
‘I’m sorry… I just need to get to-’
‘There’s no charge, call someone else. Get out.’
‘Please don’t do this to me, not now.’
‘Don’t do what? Look, you wa' rude. I tried doing the decent thing and now I just want you out of my taxi.’
She pulled a gun out of the bag and shoved it into my face. My body froze immediately. I couldn’t seem to breathe.
‘Just take me to Beaumont Park. Now.’
I started the car back up. The metal pressing into the back of my head ran to my feet pushing the pedals down that little bit harder. I looked back at her. She was illuminated briefly as we passed the twenty four hour Co-op, and her eyes shone brightly before being plunged back into darkness.
‘I- I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have a choice,’ she stammered.
I tempted fate and fate spat in my face. She came in smelling of roses and looking like hell. I couldn't help myself. Idiot.
‘Stick up taxi drivers often?’
‘Please. Just drive the Taxi.’
‘Look you’ve got a gun pointed to the back of my head; I think we’re beyond being driver and passenger. So… why don’t you tell me why you’re threatening to kill me just to get to Beaumont Park?’
I changed gear and as I brought my hand back up to the steering wheel I knocked the receiver to dispatch onto my knee. I held down the button between my legs. The red light lit up on the transponder. It was brighter than I realised but maybe she wouldn't notice.
‘Well? I deserve to know… why you’ve got a g-’
‘Stop talking.’ I heard the gun click behind me, she slowly leaned forward and yanked the wire out of the receiver. The red light flickered off. ‘Nice try,’ she muttered as she leaned back into the seat behind me.
‘Why couldn’t you just keep your mouth shut and drive? You just had to talk and complicate things.’
'I have a habit of making things difficult.'

For a while we sat in a nervous silence. I slowed down to thirty miles per hour, I’m not even sure why I was prolonging the journey. We were just passing The Waterloo Pub when she began to violently cough.
‘Y’alright back there Red?’ I asked as I started to pull over again.
‘Keep… driving,' she choked. The gun lowered as she began to cough even harder, gasping for breath.
‘Just what the hell is going on here?’
The coughing slowed down. Her eyes watered as she desperately took huge gulps of air.
'It's got nothing to do with you!'
‘Really? You've taken me bloody hostage, it's got a lot to do with me now love.’
'I swear I’ll fucking shoot you if you don't shut your mouth!'
‘Bet you don't even know how to use the bloody thing.’
Shut up, idiot. Shut up! I never did know when to keep my mouth shut.
She leaned forward and pointed the gun towards the passenger side window and fired. The force of the gun shot felt like someone had punched me in the ear. The window shattered. Glass flew in every direction. I closed my eyes and hoped she wouldn't shoot me. The realisation that I was still driving felt like a jolt of electricity. My eyes flew open and I glimpsed a man staggering into the road. He didn't even seem to notice me as I swerved and kept the car under control.
‘What the fuck are you doing?!’
‘Drive! Or the next one goes through your big fucking mouth!’
I slammed my fist into the steering wheel. Partly out of frustration and partly because she was right.
Shards of glass continued to fall off the door frame as we made our way into town. Things had calmed down a little. We were passing Ravensknowle Park when I reached into the glove compartment. She leaned forward.
‘Relax Red,’ I pulled out a box of cigarettes and slid one into my mouth. ‘You smoke?’ I reached to the back with the box of twenty in my hand.
‘There's a no smoking sign on your dashboard.’
‘You remind me of my ex-wife.'
She smirked. I threw the box into the passenger seat. As it landed tiny shards of glass bounced up. If I didn't end up dead, Timmy was going to kill me for this. I glanced back through the rear view mirror. Red was still smirking. She shook her head in amazement.
‘What you don't think an old mug like me could be married?
‘No I’m just amazed you still want to talk.'
‘I got married. If that ain't a sign that I’m a glutton for punishment I dunno what is.'
'Yep. As in no longer married.'
'I know what ex-wife implies, dip shit.'
'So what happened?'
She looked intrigued. The gun had lowered a little. If she was to fire now, she'd probably miss the back of my head and hit the roof. Progress.
'Well... Carl happened.'
'Oh, and who might Carl be?'
'Some big bollock executive. He was in the office with the leather chair in a suit. I was in here in a leather jacket. Didn't really compare. Weak chin though. He hit like a girl. She always said I needed something to fix. I was quite the handy man, you see. Only thing I couldn't fix was me bloody marriage.'
'You fought him?' The grin got bigger, pearly whites peered through.
‘At their wedding, yeah. They were being married in front of this lake. Helped him cool off.’
She laughed and reached over to the front seat for a cigarette and the lighter. She looked so much nicer with a smile on her face. Why did I even think that?
‘Sorry love, no smoking.’
'What's your name love?'
She hesitated for a moment. The end of her cigarette lit up as she took a drag and exhaled. 'I like Red,' she said smirking.
‘Got a son somewhere too. They moved away after the wedding. America. Not seen him since. Probably couldn't recognise him if he was sat where you are. That''s what anger does to ya. Makes things worse.'
‘Nothing can make things any worse than they already are.’
'Things always get worse. That gun you're holdin' in yer hand will see to that.'
'I don't have a choice.'
The progress I had made seemed to evaporate. The smile slid of her face and her steely eyes refocused. I felt the barrel of the gun poke me in the back of the head again. I shifted gear.
'You a film fan?'
'Movies, films. You watch em? Well, my favourite is Leon.'
'Yeah. It's got that English geezer in it. What's his face? Gary Oldman.'
'I've seen it. Is that what you think is going on here?'
'Well.... I don't think anything. I mean the US version they're just friends. But I watched them deleted scenes and commentaries and stuff, fucking brilliant. Anyway, in that they said they had to delete the scenes from the European version which had Mathilda fall in love with Leon. I mean, we can just be friends, like. I'm not-'
'I'm just tryin' ta understand Red.'
'This isn't something you can fix.'
The cough returned. She doubled over clutching her stomach, her guts practically forcing their way out of her mouth. Her whole body shook as she wretched and spluttered. I pulled over to the pavement and she scrambled out of the car. This is your chance. Do it, push down on the sticky clutch, slip it in first and just drive away. You've tried to help, call the police. I reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out my phone. Outside I heard Red wretch and throw up, the smacking of hot liquid landing on the tarmac. I'd heard it a thousand times and never cared... why was this time any different? I cut the engine and got out of the car. More fool me.
Red was leaning against the back of the taxi. Vomit trickled down the hub cap and onto the tire. It was splattered on the black pavement. Streaks of dark red flared out like flames against the night sky.
'Do you want some water or something Red?'
She looked up, her eyes were watering and blood was trickling down her chin. The gun was shaking in her hand. She shook her head and averted her eyes, hugging her stomach as she leant against the boot and took a deep breath in.
'You're coughing up blood.'
'Why didn't you drive away?'
'Like I said, the whole passenger driver thing went out the window a long time a go.'
She looked away, a scowl on her face, her bottom lip quivering. She shook her head and rounded on me.
'Why do you care so much? What do you want?'
'I just...' Go on. Tell her. Tell her that she's been the only interesting thing to happen in your life for the last ten years. Tell her how much you want to save her.
'You really want to know why I need to get to Beaumont Park with this?' she shoved the gun back in my face. I nodded my head like an idiot, trying to cower away from the business end of the barrel. She pressed it hard against my forehead.
'I'm going to kill the man that took my son from me.'
I looked at the gun, down her arm which was covered in cuts and bruises to her neck which was covered in angry red strangle marks to, finally, her fierce eyes which were bloodshot from the tears and god knows what else. I began to count the freckles on her nose and cheeks as she continued.
'Yeah. I'm going to shoot that fucking pervert for what he's done to me.'
'There are other ways, Red. The authorities or a... lawyer or something right?'
'Oh yeah. Go in there all “woe is me, my step dad Wayne plied me with drugs and raped me. Woe is me, I was so addicted and alone, at the age of twenty fucking three, that I kept going back for more only to get beaten near half to death when he found out I was pregnant.”'
'I didn't-'
'This is the only way. Alright? This is all I’ve got left. This,' she pushed the gun into my forehead a little harder, 'is his. No one gave a shit about me. Not mum, or him or anyone.'
'I give a shit.'
'Well where the fuck were you when I needed you?'
I could have asked her the same thing. She recoiled. She'd let something slip. She grabbed her bag from the floor and stepped over the blood laden vomit.
'I'll walk from here, it's not far. I'm sorry about all this yeah?'
She turned away and began to shuffle down the street. Let her go.
'Wait!' I didn't even realise I’d called out to her. She turned back and looked at me, shaking her head. 'Get in, I’ll take ya.'

The passenger door behind me slammed shut and I started up the taxi again. I glanced into the rear view mirror, Red was looking down at her feet. The gun was at her side now rather than planted firmly against my head. I pulled away from the pavement and began rolling down into Lockwood as slow as I could.
'Murder isn't something you just get away with Red... and what about your kid? How are you going to explain all this when the time comes?'
'I'm not looking to get away with it.'
'So you'd rather go to jail is th-'
An empty plastic bottle bounced of the side of my head. It landed on the front seat covered with glass next to my cigarettes. It was some kind of medication but I couldn't see the label.
'What's that?' I asked dreading the answer.
'Ibuprofen,' she said in a small voice. I slammed on the brakes. The tires and Red shrieked in unison.
'We're going to the hospital.' I began to turn the car around, doing a u-turn at the cross junction at the foot of Beaumont Park road.
'No!' I heard the gun click as she brought it back to it's original position. The metal against my head had a rather different reaction though. I slammed the brakes once more, the gun pressed hard into my skull.
'Look. I'm tired, I’ve been in this fucking taxi for nine hours. Hell, I’ve been in this fucking taxi for seventeen years right and you... you come in and you don't even realise what you're doing to me.'
'Drive. Now! I swear I’ll-'
'I ain't going no where, alright? If you wanna shoot me then fucking shoot me but i'm not moving up that hill any more. We're going to the hospital or you're on your own.'
Without a word she scrambled out of the car and staggered towards her destination. A sense of relief washed over me but it didn't last long. Agitated, I grabbed my box and shoved another cigarette in my mouth. The lighter refused to work. I slammed it into the dash board – that always fixed things. It worked. Leave you old fool. I inhaled, feeling the burning sensation at the back of my throat. She doesn't feel the same way. She's half your age. I inhaled again, deeper. Smoke began to filter out from my nostrils. Half your age, half in love. I inhaled again – too much, the smoke filled my lungs and caused me to cough. I shook my head as I started the ignition again and turned around.
'Fuck sake.'

I bombed up the hill, looking for Westridge Drive, it was somewhere on the right. I glanced behind me and caught a glimpse of a street sign in the rear view mirror. I’d passed it. I slammed on my breaks and turned the car around. I frantically searched for Red. I got to the end of the cul de sac and looked around; to my left there were raised voices and shouting. I rushed out of the taxi and headed into the drive. Blood covered the gate. Up ahead I saw light streaming out of the front door. Red had Wayne held at gunpoint.
I called out to her, 'Don't!'
Red turned to see who shouted. Wayne made his move in that tiny opening and tackled her to the ground. I charged in a moment after and pulled him off her. Throwing us both into the opposite general direction. My head hit the stone wall. We tumbled to the floor. Wayne got to his feet first and kicked me in the head, the sole of his boot forced my skull to crack against the stone step. The world span violently. Wayne pulled me to my feet, his large, shaggy beard just millimetres from my face.
‘Who are you?’
I didn't answer. Wayne drew his large forehead back and struck me in the bridge of the nose. I staggered back, eyes teaming with tears. The gun shot exploded out of no where. Blood splattered forward and landed on my face, warm and surreal. Wayne fell to the floor, the bullet had struck the side of his head and torn a bit of his face off. Red collapsed against the wall retching once more. I tore my eyes away from Wayne and rushed over to her.
I knelt beside her. She fell into my arms, blood trickling from her mouth.
'Hold on, Red. Just hold on. I'll call an ambulance.'
I fought against my tight pocket and slid my phone out. She knocked it out of my hands and gingerly shook her head.
'You came back.'
'Aye. Look, I’ll call the ambulance. I can get your kid too and we can sort this out yeah? Just hold on.' I dialled.
'He would have been such a beautiful boy.' Her body shook as she held onto her stomach and then went still. I pulled her matted hair away from her face. Her lifeless eyes stared right through me to the stars.
The emergency operator squawked from the mobile. I didn't know what to say. They asked for a name. I didn't know it. I didn't know anything about her but it didn't matter to me. In my sorry existence called a life all that mattered to me was her. I was headed towards a hemp rope noose and she was the light. At least... that's what I tell myself at night.