Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

Has a sound ever held you, that won’t let you go? A sound whose waves have become enmeshed with yours so that you are, for all intents and purposes, inseparable?

This broken old shed made such a sound available to me, and now I am part of it. It’s like a distant organ surrounded by static. It’s like the low growl that is the nature of man beneath all of his fancy delusions.

When people visit they become scared because they detect my presence. I make their hairs stand on end and their stomachs prepare for flight. They see the bones of rabbits and birds, and their eyes become glassy like my collection of shards. Although they look right at me, they see only the wall I lean against.

I suspect that my atoms have collapsed in on themselves with no one here to observe them; their charges disintegrating away from organic form and out into this place they say is haunted. I have become tiny orbs of light; I have become dust.

The string of events that follows is all that I remember of the day I came to this place.

I was sitting in the college canteen, waiting for the intercampus bus to take me back to base. The other students chattered excitedly; their chairs scraping against the linoleum floor, their phones bleeping text message alerts. They all seemed so full of innocence and hope, I thought, which was a rude juxtaposition to my skinny, scarred body hunched over a little black notebook in the corner. I put my earbuds in, using Antichrist Superstar to drown out their positive vibes lest they infect me. I needed to keep the darkness and shadow where I could see them: if I gave in to casual amusement I may lose track, and then they would strangle me for sure. I gripped the sleeves of my loose-knit jumper tightly in my fists and scribbled my stream of consciousness into song lyrics.

I lost my family, my home, my role…

The bus pulled into the car park. I watched as everyone else boarded it, and embraced the silence they left behind. Then I watched it pull away.

“You can’t stay here, love, I need to clean.” My hands began to tremble at the very idea of someone speaking directly to me. The kitchen staff’s voice was jarring and unsympathetic, and I allowed it to cut me. My eyes filled with tears and I distracted myself with bundling my book and discman into my bag so she wouldn’t see. I caught the strap on the edge of the table in my hurry to leave, and cursed myself loudly on the way out.

I lost my presence, my respect, my control…

There were no more intercampus buses that day; I’d let the last one go without me. Instead, I wandered aimlessly out of the college grounds into the unfamiliar town. There was nothing there but houses. I sauntered up and down cul-de-sacs, vaguely aware that curtains were twitching: protective eyes wanting to steal a glance at the suspicious young stranger. I could have been anywhere, I suppose. In my head I was fighting the shadows off and taking wounds from ghosts. I knew I couldn’t risk someone coming out to ask me a question, so I slumped myself down in a bus shelter, making it look as though I had a destination in mind. I wrote in my notebook some more.

I lost my sanity, my grip, my goal…

It was getting cold, and my butt cheeks were numb against the concrete. My fingers were turning blue and could not ungrip the pen if I wanted them to. I thought about getting onto the next bus that passed, regardless of where it was headed, just to buy some time and get some warmth. But when it came, and the driver asked me “aren’t you getting on?” I shook my head firmly and ran in the opposite direction.

I ran and ran, and my discman skipped over and over the line “All dried up and tied up forever…” until I could stand it no more. I ripped out the CD and the batteries and flung the whole lot into the road. Still I kept on running, so I didn’t see the van behind me swerve to avoid my possessions. There was an earth-shattering smash.

I lost my mind, my body, my soul…

The world went strange then, like I was screaming silently through frosted glass. My breath was outside of time, my ears were ringing and my heart was a mess, but I couldn’t let any of that stop me; by then I had made the decision to outrun the shadows.

Faster and faster I ran, simultaneously trapped beneath opaque plastic sheeting and becoming a transparent whistling wind. I came to a narrow pathway leading into the woods, where a man with a terrier and a bag of its waste walked right through me. He was staring with a vicious conjecture that made me feel raw and exposed, so I collected up some pieces of glass from the mud to use as weapons for protection. He paid me no mind, though, so perhaps I was already formless. I was certainly beginning to feel empty. I was cold, too, right to the core, so when I discovered the trees were hiding a dilapidated building that sung to me, I ducked straight into it for shelter and privacy. Maybe there the shadows wouldn’t be able to get me.

11 thoughts on “Intercampus

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  1. There is so much praise I could heap upon this wonderful piece, but I will refrain. The reason I’ll refrain is because I am almost done beta reading “Fragments…” and many of the same ingenuous ways that you get very esoteric points across through prose exist in this one as in the stories in your book. And I’ll have much to say about that. Very little of the “critical” variety, I’m afraid, because I can read your work over and over and find that I have to really strain to find even the smallest of flaws.

    Liked by 2 people

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