Rain

It was raining. Raining, like only it could in London. Just like in those films, where rain often doubles for a feeling of ‘intensity’ or ‘oppressive atmosphere’.  ‘Blade Runner…that’s the movie…” Christana thought… ‘it was always so oppressive”. She was sat on a bus, barely keeping herself awake. “Pure heavy rain”.

This was her normal bus route – the 381 that went past and below London Bridge, through some of the more archaic streets in London. In the summer, the same streets, low bridges and Victorian architecture may have contained an anachronistic beauty. On a bus, on a Thursday night in November, when it was raining – there was no beauty. Just an oppressive loneliness.

Christana looked out the window, on a seat ¾ of the way up the right side of the bus, with a young girl sitting beside her. She usually ignored the people beside her, but had actually noticed that this young (probably 16 or 17) girl had her music on loud enough so that everyone close to her could hear it. It sounded like some awful R’n’B. Christana sighed and put her own MP3 Player on – preferring something more classical – Chopin – Nocturnes perhaps. She looked around and out the window.

Looking through the rain soaked windows, the night gradually became a blur – she could make out street light with their slightly smudged back glow, streets blurring into one as the bus drove past them and washed out faces of strangers. The faces of the strangers were one of the many things that the rain in London tended to distort the most dramatically. That and the stars. The thing she missed most about living in London were the stars.

Staring out the window, Christana began to think about the evening. She was exhausted from work. Her job was not particularly taxing mentally – she was a secretary in a large law firm, but she was worked hard. At 38 she maintained some of her youthful looks, but had begun to think that life in the city gave her a worn out look. Combine this with the rain, and the words ‘washed out’ may sprung to mind. Christana had a plain black trouser suit and blue shirt, both were damp from the rain – her cheap umbrella protected her only slightly.

Christana continued to stare out the window, wondering where the exhaustion came from. She supposed it was a combination of poor quality sleep – she found it hard to sleep alone – and lack of exercise. While being of a slim build, she never exercised and relied more on falling asleep because there was nothing better to do, rather any sense of innate tiredness.

Christana saw two dark spots on the window – darker than the rest and supposed they were drops of water. Then she realised they were not moving. Christana stared at the dark spots, blinked and realised that they were not outside the bus – it was the depth perception confusing her mind. She blinked again and began to focus on the dark circles – then, slowly, she realised that she was looking at eyes.

The eyes were on the bus, it was the reflection of a young man, 20 or so, who was looking at her. Staring. The strange thing was, the eyes were not moving or blinking. The bus was moving and jerking along with the usual irregular pace, certainly she felt her own head moving around, but this man (or was it boy?) was totally immovable.

She looked at him, for the first time, in the face. He was not looking at her – apparently he was staring at the same space on the bus as before. But Christana did not think that he was – well – really there. He was stood on his own, at a slightly strange angle, but did not seem to be affected by the bus at all. Christana was worried, just ‘creeped’ out. The bus jerked to a stop. The boy didn’t move, several people moved past him as if he didn’t exist. Christana felt ill, and needed to get up.

About 30 seconds later, she stood up and got a full view of the man – he was dressed in plain black suit, black shoes, black over coat, had black hair (long, slightly pulled back behind his neck through being damp) and he held a black scarf. He was not very pale, but looked a bit like he spent a too much time indoors. As she walked down the bus, slightly off balance, she glanced at his face – she noticed he had a small tattoo on his neck, or rather, it was the start of a larger tattoo.

As she looked at the tattoo which ran from behind his right ear and down his neck, she realised that it got bigger as it progressed towards his collar. It was totally blank ink – like the eyes – and then noticed that he was actually craning his neck. He was craning it so that she could see more and more of the tattoo. It was curved parabolically and looked like it could have been the curved tip of a blade of some kind.

As soon as she realised that he was moving his head – he jerked it towards her – looking her square in the eye as she walked past. Christana was momentarily surprised as the man glared at her, his eyes widening. Time seemed to slow down as she moved past him.

Utter fear gripped her, the black eyes widened and everything seemed to dissolve. The man’s clothes and hair seemed to melt off – Christana was rooted to the spot.

He stood in front of her naked, turning his back slowly so she could see the full extent of the tattoo – beginning with a large and black scythe.  The rest of the tattoo (or was it a painting?) was dominated by Deaths shimmering figure with a black hood covering most of his face. Death was beautiful in his intensity and the tattoo seemed alive.

The man jerked around and stared at Christana, his body fully in front of her. Flames seemed to pour from his face, heat enveloped her and Christana collapsed weak in the knees. She felt blackness envelop her and slowly, what she vaguely thought would be the last time, she thought of nothing but searing pain.

Christana woke up – faces stared at her with a mixture of shock and confusion. It took her 30 seconds to realise they were all holding her, offering her water and chattering. The bus had stopped.

“Are you okay?”

“Here take some water”

“Miss – do you want a medic?”

Christana struggled to her feet, her body was still burning. She had saw death and lived. What did it mean? She got up; people looked at her, now thinking she was clearly mentally ill.

Her body, hair, even soul, all burned, and she realised she had to get off. She tried to say something, but her throat felt like it was melting. All she needed was to cool down – put the fire out – and it hit her, she needed the rain.

Christana pushed out and past the crowd – she was lying right where she thought the man was, and stepped into the street. All of a sudden, her body cooled – the pain eased.

As the rain washed over her, she felt calm; she opened her mouth, drank some of the London rain water and breathed heavily.

It was now she realised she was sweating too. The sweat and rain water mixed and she felt her body begin to cool back to something normal. As this happened, Christana sighed and felt her pulse – it was at least double the speed.

Christana looked around – she was a 30 minute walk from her house. She stood for 5 minutes, and set off home, with no idea what had happened.

The walk took 45 minutes – not the usual 30.

Christana entered her house and looked at her mirror – she looked awful. As tiredness over took her, she stumbled into bed and slept, fully clothed and soaking wet.

The Metro 18-11-2011

 

Tragedy in London last night as a fire on a bus killed 5 people. Police believe the fire was caused by a collision between the bus and a petrol tanker. The collision occurred due to the tanker skidding on its way round a bend. Due to the poor conditions, neither the bus nor the tanker were able to stop and the collision caused fuel to spill.

 Detectives are unsure as to what caused the spark, but say that their condolences are with the families. Of the 17 passengers on the bus, the 5 who died were all sitting on the right hand side, where the collision took place.

 The bus was the 381 travelling and was ahead of schedule…

 

Christana woke the next day, 17 hours after she had slept, and put on the news.

There was a knock on her door, she looked out the side window and could see the silhouette of a man, dressed all in black with a tattoo on his neck.

Christana looked at her mirror. The following words were etched on it:

“your time will come”

Illusion / Delusion

In a bedroom, first light shines through closed windows– a morning sun. There is a bed, upon which lies a 17 year old girl. She moves lightly. Beside her is a diary. It is open. The diary is empty, except for two entries, dated Tuesday 13th October and Wednesday 14th October. The handwriting is neat, though not without a few smudges, with the handwriting slightly cramped on the second entry. There is stillness in the air.

Tuesday 13th October

 Most people have an epiphany that lasts moments, maybe a few minutes if they are lucky. Mine lasted for one day.

Yesterday I woke up and immediately realised that today would be a day like no other. I could practically feel the beauty of the world pressing in my windows. This was no random feeling of wellbeing, rather I felt like I had suddenly realised why people paint pictures of trees, children and other every day objects and call them beautiful.

School was like any other normal day, except that I was able to realise all those things I wanted to. Those decisions that you make subconsciously were tangible and apparent to me. I participated in class as normal, but this time with the knowledge that this was not all there was for me.

Teachers spend years telling you about your potential, how you can become what ever you want, how you can grow and blossom into being a beautiful, articulate person. Today was the first time I believed it. I saw that those millions of tiny things that add up over time do matter, but that the beauty is that we don’t realise we are deciding.

I have the freedom to choose not to participate. In those classes, I saw many different futures laid before me – I could travel, I could study, I could work. Equally, I saw the less conventional ones, leaving school, becoming an artist or even choosing to become a young single mother so that when my daughter grew up I would be close enough to her age. They were all there, and while the possibilities were not endless, there were enough for me to feel genuinely excited. 

I realised that the beauty in life is choosing when to participate – sometimes you need to step back, but today I was fully involved. I could sense something special about the paths I could take. It did not matter that I did not know which one I would go down, but it did matter that I realised that each one would bring its own challenges, troubles and beauty. It was exhilarating.

Even in the evening with my parents, the usual conversation over dinner inspired me.

I was able to see my parents for what they were. I was able to see them as two wonderful people who had committed so much of their life to raising me. But I saw beyond that. They too had their own lives with their own paths that they were on.

My mother had many ambitions but so little time; my father had ambitions too, but so little money. I realised that my parents were just like me, only a little further down the path. Indeed – I felt almost as if they were on the same path, just disappearing over the horizon, almost out of sight but not quite.

At 17, I feel for the first time alive. The excitement I feel is refreshing. I have many choices to make, and no doubt some bad decisions. However, I know now that these decisions will only reflect my disposition at the time and I will embrace the outcomes with an honest positive attitude because there is so much still to see.

There is no illusion here – the potential laid before me makes me, for the first time ever, feel truly alive and able to be part of a wonderful world.

Good Night – may the next day bring with it life’s great challenges

Wednesday 14th October

The challenges I faced today were all part of the path. The path throws random events in our way. Overcoming them is meant to be rewarding, and it is in some respects.

All the distractions that we face on a daily basis do nothing to contribute to the ultimate beauty of the world. These distractions serve only to distance our appreciation of the over all beauty. Peel away the distractions and you get closer to the beauty.

Then again, why do we want to? Why chose to remove the distractions? What is there to see beneath them?

Yes there are horrors in the world, but there are also reasons not to proceed. We feel we can choose what to do, but we can’t.

The only choice we truly have is to whether or not distract our selves from reality. And the reality is the fact that the world goes on without you. People go on without you.

Listening to my teachers made me realise that they were training me to participate in a world that prizes distraction over understanding – jobs, entertainment, socialising – they all serve to obscure clarity.

And I am sick of it. I don’t want my reality hidden. So today, I looked deeper – I looked at the great below.

I saw that the great below was nothing but a shallow, cruel existence. There exists a dispassionate procession of simple facts. There is no absolute purpose of the world, so to give us purpose, we invent distractions.

I can chose not to participate in the distractions, but the maddening thing is I cannot chose not to participate in the true reality, save for one option.

I have to have the ability to chose – today I realised that the last ultimate choice is to choose not to participate.

I have reread my entry for Tuesday, and maybe things would be different if the two days happened in reverse order, but I am resolved.

There is no point, only distractions. This is not delusion – this is a realisation. It is a realisation I feel fortunate to have made – I can leave the world of my own volition. I am a beautiful person, but only on the surface. To the great below, I am a nothing, and that is all that matters.

Good Night – may the next life bring greater challenges.

As the first light streams through the windows, the young girl breathes once and then no more. The knife drops to the floor, the bed sheets stained through with blood. The diary lies still, before the pages flicker over to the next day.

Miles To Go

The woods are lovely, dark and deep…

Walking home never bothered James much – he always enjoyed the moments of isolation at the end of a day. Working as a barista did give James plenty of time to think, but he always appreciated being able to escape from the people during that half hour walk home.

As ever, James had two choices. The first was to take the main road towards his small flat, the faster route for sure, and do his best to ignore the cars, the people and the lives that were going on around him. The second route was more indirect – a short walk uphill, cutting through the Belfast Castle’s grounds. This route added a good 20 minutes onto his journey home, but apart from the occasional hill walker; he was unlikely to run into anyone.

‘It all begins with choice’, James thought to himself, smiling & echoing the line mentioned in one of his favourite movies. James turned right and walked up towards the castle grounds. He glanced at his watch, November 21st, 707pm.

It was raining, as it usually does in Belfast at this time of the year. James never minded the rain – he often found it relaxing, even purifying after a days work. Walking up the hill, leaving the city behind him, his CD player blocking out any residual noise, he smiled to himself and toyed with his mobile phone and keys in his pocket of his coat. The wind ruffled his shoulder length, dirty blond hair – tied back into a pony tail.

As a person, James was prone to daydreaming – his girlfriend often told him so. However, she often mistook his day dreams for someone who could not concentrate – even lacking in true ambition. James would have told you this was unfair. Indeed, he could focus, but he found letting his mind wander was his way of mental exercise and it allowed him to explore all those thoughts and emotions that he enjoyed.

He approached the gates to the Castle and waited to cross the road, his black jeans and coat rendering him barely visible in the jet black night. He looked up and noticed that it was a perfectly clear sky. Before crossing the road, he glanced at his watch – 713pm.

He’d probably be home by 730.

James crossed the road and stepped over the threshold to the castle grounds.

Looking around, the first thing James noticed was the Castle looming over him, silhouetted by the numerous flood lights. This stood high up, off to his right, nestled in the foot of the hill. Once a proud sentry looking out over Belfast Lough, the docks and the city, it was now two things – part tourist destination, part restaurant. He sighed, thinking that so many things were transformed into tools of distraction.

James took the left hand path and walked steadily uphill, first on the public footpath, then taking the slightly muddied track that eventually wound its way round to the castle, but for now just meandered upwards. The trees gradually grew thicker, the path steeper and he turned off his CD player. He stopped. Utter stillness and silence, except for the trees swaying slightly and his breathing greeted him. This silence, he thought was nature at its finest – pure and beautiful.

He looked around and could just about make out the details on the tree’s large stumps – the moon penetrated the canopy slightly. It was dark, deep and beautiful. It never failed to amaze him how just 5 minutes off the main road there was this other world, fragile and transformed by people, but still retaining its original natural charm and beauty. He often felt overwhelmed by it. He looked around and saw the near by rock that marked the next diversion of the footpath, and sat down.

Directly ahead of him was the path to his house – to his distractions and life.

To his right, the path into the mountain and the woods.

To his left, the way he came.

It all begins with choice’ he thought again. He glanced at his watch – it was 717pm.

James stood up and turned to the right and began walking, slowly at first, gradually getting faster.

He turned on his CD Player.

He thought about, first of all, his girlfriend… He thought how much she meant to him, about how he couldn’t explain it, but how he’d felt like he had always known, from the first second, that he thought they’d be together. He knew that he hadn’t always been able to be honest with her – that he caused several of their fights due to his own coldness (or was it… being too dramatic?)… he knew, all at once, those things he wanted to tell her but never knew how… how he had sometimes struggled with his own past, with her past but ultimately all that mattered was the future…

He realised that he was not just a distraction to her – he realised that he mattered to her, and she to him. He had, for the first time in his life, no hesitations…

James sped up, running now – he could hear the wind whipping around him, his pony tail now totally undone… he thought about his family, his life and how he had perpetually disappointed his parents – but realised that he hadn’t disappointed them as such.

They just wanted the best for him – he realised that they were just disappointed that hewasn’t happy, not that he was who he was…

He thought… about the people he cared about the most, his close friends, how he hated that he could never really understand why he needed them, how so much of what they said and did was superficial…

He realised that this was the point of friendship – they give your life meaning through just being there for you – reflecting all those things you don’t like back on you. They care for you, judge you, give you company, but they don’t do it unrequited – they need that judgement back. He understood that, they ask for advice because they need it back at some point – it was beautiful… and honest.

He ran, at full pace, sweat soaking his back, the rain beginning to seep through his coat and jeans. He was now high enough in the mountains to be able to look over Belfast. He thought of all the pointless lives, mindlessness of the distractions…

Yet what he saw was a city beautiful in its night time intensity. He understood that all the distractions that he took for granted were there, not to distract him from the monotony of life, but to share with those people he loved. It was in sharing that that he could realise the importance, and value, of being alive.

Sometimes, he thought, as his heart pounded, it took isolation to see this.

With feet pounding on the uneven surface, he turned a blind corner and realised that, only in the isolation of the woods could he understand the truth – sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to turn around…

Slowly, despite his quick pace, the castle came into view. James turned his music up – and gazed at the castle- it gazed back; judging him, with a cold intensity.

The castle reflected everything he felt – created for one purpose, now nothing but an idle distraction and pointless existence in the world. The Castle hung for a moment, standing against the night sky like a cold beacon.

He ran… ran until his muscles burned and his veins pumped battery acid… and then he ran harder…

His clothes were totally soaked through – sweat mixed with rain water, his hair was plastered to his head. He was being cleansed, both by the rain and intense concentration that the run had given him – it was if a cold fury had forced him to push & punish himself.

James sprinted past the castle, turned right and ran down the hill, the Castle looming behind. Instead of being judged by it, he turned his own gaze inward…

James realised, that the only person who can truly judge him is himself – and that this was the first step to freedom.

He realised that he was not merely the sum of his choices – he was much more – he was his potential. He was everything he could become but never would. He was, all the thoughts he had but never followed through – in essence, he was a human, but he was also an independent being who sets his own standards of success.

James realised that his job did not define him – nor did his own self loathing that he sometimes had when he looked backwards at everything he had, and had not, done.

Instead of realising what he was not, he realised what he was.

He realised that he was someone who could love people, someone who could share things, someone who had the chance to make mistakes – and then make up for them. He realised that the beauty of his own existence was not in succeeding, but having the opportunity to fail and succeed.

James ran. He looked at the entrance to the grounds, for the second time this evening having done a full loop of the grounds, the castle well behind him.

The woods are dark, deep, lovely and he was about 30 seconds from his starting point and yet he felt like there were miles to go.

Running, maintaining the steady sprint and not tiring, he was on the last approach to his starting point and he realised one last thing.

James realised that he was not alone. He was not alone in the world – despite not always being able to express himself, he was not alone. He was able to see the beauty of life for what it was, and where he fitted in.

As he ran up the final hill – tears now mixed with the rain and sweat. James looked upon himself, sitting on the stone. Looking up the path that he had just ran.

This time, there was no choice. He had ran the path and realised that it begins with choice, but ends with decision.

James looked stood up and looked at the sky, thinking about all the things he had realised. There was only one decision for it – he looked straight down the path towards his house and his own life.

There may well be miles to go.

The woods may well be dark, deep & lovely.

However, he realised that this time, when he ran through the woods, he would be doing it on his terms, only being judged by himself, making his own decisions.

He walked down the path, towards his life, not afraid what was behind him.

End

The Purpose = A short Story about isolation

***

Diary: 12th January 2011, James Anderson

Everybody needs a purpose in life – some have a clear idea what theirs is, some spend their whole life searching for one. Me, I tend to rely, not on the luck of the draw, but seek to find purpose day by day. I don’t like distractions – idle watching of television, playing video games, even reading, they all just distract from the search for a purpose in life.

Some people find it in philosophy, some in religion, others in madness. What I realised is that these are all umbrella terms that disguise the real point of life, so Lets be specific – self improvement, that’s one reason for living. Making people laugh that’s another. Like any good ‘measure of success’, you need to be specific and I am sorry, terms like “god” and “morality” are too vague for me – no grey areas here.

I am looking for my own purpose, and I think I found it. See, I just started believing in something – I started believing that I could control not just my own life and destiny, so to speak, but also the plans of others. My purpose has become just that – to influence & survive. The interesting thing for me is not the outcomes per se – it is the ability to influence at all – there is no morality here – I am only interested in cause and effect.

What caused this? I was watching a TV show, or was it a movie, about the end of the world or some sort of zombie apocalypse or other and I found myself fantasising that it would happen to me – I wanted society to end so that those who are driven to succeed and survive can do so. I thought about the brutal reality and how reductive the fall of society would be, and how wonderfully liberating it would feel to have as clear a purpose as simple survival.

I am not a bad person – I don’t plan to kill or physically hurt anyone, but I do plan to bring about a situation where my purpose is clear and I am free from the rules and definitions that most people tolerate and allow themselves to be chained by. This is,my diary, my manifesto and record of achievement.

***

Diary : 13th February 2011, James Anderson

I began by cutting my family out of my life. I live in Edinburgh though am from Dublin originally. I told them that I was moving on – changing my life. My parents found it hard to take – I told them I didn’t expect to see or hear from them anymore, that my mail was redirected and at some point in the future I may get in touch with them, but for now this was it. My mother cried – I said nothing except “good bye”. They asked “why” – I did not explain. I wanted them to learn for themselves. Sometimes shocking someone is the only way to learn – sometimes you need to do something extreme to change things. My father offered to fly over and see me – I told him I had changed addresses and would soon be leaving the city. I told him I didn’t want to see him again. These are my terms and my purpose was isolation and survival.

I think it hurt my sister the most of all. I understood why, but it had to be changed. Lina, my younger sister still lived at home and had tried to look out for me. I told her that this was down to her – she taught me to be strong, independent and decisive. She said she didn’t mean like this. I said good-bye, from a payphone in Glasgow and before I hung up I could hear her crying and asking what she had done wrong. I let the receiver drop and walked home.

***

Diary : 18th February 2011, James Anderson

My mobile phone rang relentlessly for 2 hours so I turned it off and put it in the bin. It hasn’t stopped over the last 5 days. I closed my email accounts, walked out of my job and packed my bag. I will be leaving my house at the end of the month. I have nowhere to go, but this is not causing fear in me – quite the opposite. I want the isolation and challenge to survive and I know that the shock i have caused my family is a good thing – they have been happy with the status quo for too long and sometimes it takes the sacrifice of one person to stand up and make things change.

Leaving my job gave me satisfaction – it was more than mere relief, it was also the feeling that at least I was making a decision – it is too easy to just not decide and so many people do this. I can’t stand it. Coasting through life is not what I want – i want to survive and live and change people through my actions.

I told my girlfriend I was leaving. She asked if I was breaking up with her and started crying. I said I was leaving. She asked me question after question. I told her not to be so dependant on someone. She asked if that’s all she got after 4 years of being together. I just said I was leaving – I wanted to change people. She didn’t understand and kept asking why I was breaking up with her. I just said I was leaving and it was up to her how she interpreted that. She said she didn’t know what to do. I told her that was good – now she too has a purpose – find out what to do and learn to how live independently and not to rely on others.

She just cried.

***

Diary : 1st March 2011, James Anderson

I have left my “home”. It wasn’t my home, not really. It was a place I slept in. I don’t think my housemates noticed. I had 3 housemates – all more obsessed with their jobs than living life. It was a house share – people move in and move out all the time. I didn’t tell them I was leaving. They asked me why I was burning my clothes in the back garden. I told them that I no longer needed them; I told them that I was free. My packed bag includes 1 knife, a small selection of food (mostly fruit with some non perishable) and 3 books. I brought “Let the Right One In”, “The Road” and “The Republic”.

I am on the streets of Edinburgh.

***

Missing Persons line (842pm); 2nd March 2011, Lina Anderson

Operator (female): Hello, you’re through to the Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders missing persons line, how may I help?

Lina : Hello, I… I need your help – I need to report my brother missing… I don’t know where he is and we’re all so worried about him…can you…

Operator : Slow down, try to stay calm and I will do what I can. Start by telling me your name… and then tell me, when was the last time you saw him?

Lina : Well [deep breathing]… I’m Lina and James is my older brother… I’ve not actually seen him for months – since Christmas actually, but I live in Ireland, he lives in Edinburgh and we got a phone call from him last month and we’ve not been able to get in touch with him since then…I’ve spoken to his housemates who have said he left the house yesterday evening with a bag but he didn’t say where…

Operator : Okay, so he was last seen yesterday evening… around what time?

Lina : umm….6pm I think they said… but i spoke to his girlfriend and she hasn’t seen him in 2 weeks which is so unusual for James…

Operator [interrupting] : Okay, I know this is stressful, but there is not going to be much we can do at the moment – its just been 24 hrs, I can’t action a police response until the person has been missing for 48 hours.

Lina : [hysterical] but wait, you don’t understand, this is so unusual for James! He has been acting very strangely – he’s…. he’s barely spoken to us for a month and he said he was “leaving” but didn’t say where. We don’t know what to do, we just…

Operator : Lina, I need you to calm down – I can’t escalate this as a missing person yet, but what I can do is take down James’s details so we have it all on file and then, if you still haven’t heard from him by tomorrow, call back and we can immediately raise it as a missing person for the Police to Look into. Does that sound okay?

Lina : Yes… [deep breathing]….yes… okay, I…understand…

Operator : My name is Ada – I’ll do everything I can to help you, it may be that James just needed some space, that’s not uncommon, but I’ll collect some information from you, flag it as a potential missing person and give you the direct number to call tomorrow if you still haven’t heard anything…does that sound okay?

Lina : [sniffs] Yes… yes…okay… [deep breath]

Ada : Lina, can you start by describing James to me – first his physical appearance…

Lina : James is, well, he is 5 foot 9, weighs around 13 stone, not overweight buta little stocky. He… has beautiful brown eyes, hair that’s tied back into a short ponytail and stubble. He…

Ada : Lina, does he have any distinguishing features?

Lina : Yes, he does. He has one tattoo – on his left arm, umm….upper arm… It’s just a small one, it’s a phrase actually… it sounds so silly as I never really understood it and he never would tell me what it meant

Ada : What is the phrase Lina – is it in English?

Lina : Yes – it is and it says “I live and love in a house of leaves”… it sounds so stupid now I say it but he’d never tell me what it meant… just that it was important to him somehow…

Ada : Okay Lina, thats fine, now, I’m going to ask you some more questions about James’s appearance, do your best to stay calm and answer them as accurately as you can…

Lina : Okay…

The call continues for a further 5 minutes before ending at approximately855pm.

***

Diary : 4th March 2011 : James Anderson

I realised that I had to leave Edinburgh. I wanted to give my friends and family a purpose and to do that I had to get out of their lives. They will look for me and not find me but that’s fine. In fact, that is part of my plan – in looking they will have a drive – it will make them feel alive again. In some respects, Trauma is good; trauma awakens the senses and can change everything. Emotional trauma, physical trauma, two different faces to the same coin.

I thought about my tattoo and what it meant to me – no one ever got it, but for me it was so simple. My life is a house of leaves – its temporary and insubstantial, but it is all i have. I do my best to live with it but I want more – I don’t want idle distractions, I want purpose. And purpose cannot be given, not really, it has to be taken. I can give my family the opportunity for purpose, in fact, my disappearance will put things in perspective for them, but it will be up to each of them individually to seize their purpose and do something about it. I leave them no notes, I don’t intend for my body to be discovered and I don’t intend for anything to be found after this, save one thing.

This is my last attempt at finding my own purpose and influencing others.

My purpose is to not accept the house of leaves that I’ve made for myself, but to strive for more – undertand that some things are more important than others. Having fun, enjoyment, being distracted, they are all temporary, just like my life – the house of leaves.

Legacy is permanent – having a legacy is a purpose.

My legacy will be to have inspired change in my family – the emotional trauma wont be easy for them, but it will be good as it will inspire change.

The house of leaves that is blown away in the wind will be replaced by the intangible – an idea that lasts. Ideas are not concrete, but they are real. My idea and my purpose are one and the same.

I don’t want to live and love in a house of leaves – I want to escape it.

The final pages of the diary are blank with droplets of blood.

***

20th March 2011 – Extract from Edinburgh Evening Standard (Final Edition (page 11))

Local residents in Currie, a suburb SE of Edinburgh are said to have been shocked at finding a small scrap of what appears to be human skin attached to a tree.

The skin, bloodied and dried out appeared to have been cut from a humans upper forearm and contained a tattoo. While police have yet to release significant details, they have confirmed that they believe the find is linked to a missing persons reported in Edinburgh at the start of the month. The following statement was given by Detective Inspector Archie Leech: “If anyone has any information relating to the incident, please get in touch with your local community law enforcement officers immediately. We believe that the skin may belong to a Mr. James Anderson, who was reported missing by his family at the start of March.”

It is not known how long the skin was left there but the eye-witness who found the skin said they could barely make out the words “house of leaves” on the skin as it was so badly discoloured and weathered. The investigation continues…”

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20th September – 2011 – Press release from Anderson family – Extracts from the Edinburgh Evening Standard (Final Edition (page 17))

The Anderson family have released a press statement regarding the disappearance of James Anderson. The statement was read aloud by Lina Anderson, James’s younger sister at a press conference held today in Edinburgh following the official announcement from the police that the case was being put on permanent hold following no new evidence or leads regarding the location of Mr. Anderson for 6 months. An emotional Lina read the following statement out :

Lina : “It is with great sadness that we respectfully accept the decision of the Lothian and Borders Police Force that the search for James be put on permanent hold. We would like to place on the record our heartfelt thanks for their dedication and support in looking for James. While the family remain heartbroken at his shocking and sudden disappearance, we fully understand the position of the police.

This has been an incredibly tough period for our family, but we firmly believe that adversity and challenge help us grow – both as individuals and as a family. We’ve changed – we understand now how special a person James was, and how much we miss him. It was difficult for us to see this initially – but now we realise that your disappearance has taught us what its like to miss something…to miss someone….someone you love….[breaks down]…

We will go on living – we will continue to grow as a family and James will always be part of that, even if only as a memory… we never meant to drive him away, but we see now that if we’re not growing and changing we’re not really living at all. We’ve all changed because of this – and we will continue to do so…[breaks down again]

Finally, I would like to make another appeal to James, if you are listening – please come home. Whatever it is that is driving you away, we can work on it together. Come home – big brother…its the not knowing that makes this so hard…”

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Diary Entry 21 September, 2011, James Anderson

I watched my sister on TV tonight, from a B&B in the Scottish highlands. I was alone, more so than ever. I saw my beautiful sister one last time. What she said made me both happy and sad.

Happy, because I could see the change that had come over her – she was now leading the family, she was taking control and was even talking about her own purpose and ability to go on living.

I was sad however, because of the last thing she said… “It was the not knowing that makes this so hard”… My sister had shown me one sign of weakness – the weakness that she wouldn’t be able to change until she had closure.

I must give her that closure.

Lina – I love you – you even managed to change me. I planned to disappear without a trace but you’ve shown me that to have a new purpose, you need to have closure on the old one sometimes.

Goodbye Lina. Dont live in a house of leaves like me.

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30th September – 2011 – Extracts from the Edinburgh Evening Standard (Final Edition (page 9))

The Missing persons case for Mr James Anderson has formally been closed following the discovery of a body in Aviemore, the Scottish Highlands. Mr. Anderson’s body was discovered in a Bed and Breakfast after guests complained of a bad smell. The death is not being treated as suspicious and the Highland police confirmed that Mr. Anderson had been identified initially by the missing skin on his upper forearm where he had removed his tattoo. His sister, Lina Anderson, formally identified the body, which is being flown back to Ireland to be cremated.

A spokesperson for the Anderson family gave the following statement after it was confirmed that Lina Anderson was too upset following the discovery of her brother’s body to comment:

“The family are both relieved and saddened at the discovery of James body. We are relieved that we now have closure, but saddened that we will never understand why he felt the need to take his own life. Our family will mourn James’s death before moving on with our lives – its what he would have wanted after all. We are all thankful to the police and our friends and family during this incredibly difficult time and would appreciate it if the media could respect our privacy while we mourn James passing”.

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30th September – 2016 – Extract from the Edinburgh Evening Standard – Lina Anderson speaks out about her battle with depression and how her brother inspired her to become a writer

Critically acclaimed writer Lina Anderson has spoken out about how her late older brother inspired her to become a writer to be able to explore her own reasons for living. Mrs. Anderson’s books became best-selling teenage fiction, with many critics celebrating her approachable take on what are traditionally seen as complex and adult issues.

Mrs Anderson, speaking at the launch of her new book made the following statement:

“My brothers suicide and death was the biggest turning point in my life – it taught me not to take what I had for granted and it made me want to help other people who were going through what he was. James was an inspirational person and he’ll always be with me, there is a bit of him in all my books. Above all else, he helped me realise that it was up to me to find my own purpose in life – I want to help other people who may be feeling what he was feeling and give theme the help and support he didn’t have.”

Lina Andersons new book, entitled “How to live outside a house of leaves” launches on 31st October and is said to be a celebration of youth and liberty.

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END