I’m pleased that Rachael from Changing Skin and Other Stories http://rachaelheap.wordpress.com/ has agreed to team up with me for a brief spell for an experimental project we have called It’s Dark In Here. The title comes from Rachael’s amazing slice of magic realism and the idea behind our collaboration is to create new stories or poems based on each other’s work. We have no real theme just that we want to create new material based on each other’s writing, starting with this short story by Rachael;
It’s Dark In Here by Rachael Charmley
There are three cats, five girls and me. I lean against the banisters in the front hall waiting for action. I hang out with a dustbin, a pile of wellies and a giant ball of cat fluff. No one does housework so the old rectory pongs of cat. They belong to Sam whose real name is Doctor Samantha Huntingdon-Carmichael. Her dad’s a rear admiral who brays like a donkey telling the girls they would have a very nice garden if only they bothered cutting the lawn. The mower he gave them gets rusty in the woodshed with a nest of harvest mice in the grass catcher.
It’s my job to pick up local gossip, and I find out Sam does experiments on animals in the basement of the Psychology Department at the university, and no one’s supposed to know. But Angela, who lives upstairs, tells stories about pink-eyed rats with wires stuck into their brains, and beagles that like John Player Specials and cough a lot. Sam’s cats are the only creatures that talk to me. They say they got rescued – from what they haven’t a clue – but the one who’s called One has only one eye, Two has neither, and Three – who used to be a tom – has a limp and a wobbly scar between his ears.
I am newly painted green, and came from the shop behind the cathedral, next to the alley where the choirboys aren’t supposed to smoke. Rosie polishes and oils me when she remembers, and she bought me a wickerwork basket she’s tied to my handlebars and fills with food from Tesco’s every Friday before the boy with the long hair and dark brown voice comes over. Weekends are boring because he has an Austin Healey 3000. When they’re not in that, they’re in her room catching up on sleep.
I like dodging the ruts on the cycle path into town, and trying to run down the public school boys with their silly hats. When the sun’s out the tourists come out – all with stupid Hawaiian shirts and cameras – so I try and run them down as well. It’s a good life.
The boy with the soft brown voice takes us to live in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and paints me lots of different colours with little tins of Airfix paint. But there isn’t anyone to talk to anymore. His snooty ten-geared racing bike never says a word, neither does the barn owl with the very nasty habits. The rabbits living behind the shed were very chatty, but they disappeared after a man in a Rentokil van came and threw something that smelt bad into their warren and blocked off the holes.
But it’s holiday time, and Rosie says we’re going to Wales. I only have three gears so I know there is going to be trouble. It won’t stop raining. Waterfalls splash down the mountainside and flood the roads, and I spend the night against a tree with the grumpy racing bike, while Rosie and the boy giggle in a tent and eat baked beans out of a tin.
It takes her two hours to push me up Llanberis Pass, and fifteen minutes for me to imagine what having a coronary will be like as she rips my brake pads to shreds slithering down the other side. But Rosie doesn’t care – she doesn’t even dry me off afterwards.
When we get home, things start looking up. Rosie and I go out every day as she’s got a job the other side of Beccles marshes. But she spends a lot of time wobbling with her mouth open as herons glide overhead, or jamming on the brakes as she never looks where she’s going. My chain gets noisier, and my screws get looser as she races over the marsh being chased by nosey cows. But Rosie doesn’t seem to notice. My joints are creaking and my frame is twisted. I need a rest.
Then a new bike appears. It’s a Claude Butler, and it’s new, and it looks like it goes faster than me. It arrives the same day as the JCB. As it’s digging some big holes, a cement lorry arrives. The boy with the soft brown voice begins throwing stuff in the holes: bits of old boat, rusty metal, paint tins; in fact anything goes in that looks like it isn’t any use. The boy looks at me, picks me up rather roughly, then puts me down again. The Claude Butler sniggers.
I’m wondering where Rosie is. The cement is streaming out of a long pipe filling up the holes, and the boy has his hands on his hips and he’s grinning. Then he suddenly turns, wheels me roughly to the hole, and chucks me in.
The cement is cold and sticky. Rosie appears and starts waving her arms about. Her face turns pink. I see her lips move, but I can’t hear a thing. The cement keeps coming. And now I can’t see.
It’s dark in here, and I’m cold. When is she coming to get me?
I have written my response to this wonderfully dark and interesting piece of writing and I will publish it tomorrow. My response will show that for the inhabitants of Rachael’s story, no act of cruelty remains unanswered.
Please leave any comments below, we would love to hear feedback about the individual pieces of writing and what you think about our collaboration.