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”

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…”

***

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…”

***

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.

***

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”.

***

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.

***

END