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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes Short Stories

On Self Destruct
Alan Stokes


Claire groans.
Jesus Christ why did I...?
Because I wanted to, that’s why. I invited her to live with me. Two days after we met I handed her a set of keys and asked her to move in with me. There is no one else to blame here.
I turn and look at her, wondering whether or not I should stroke her, then ease myself out of bed, go into the living room and light a cigarette.

F r e d e r i c o - C a s t e l l o n

Claire accused me of abusing her. Me. Because we haven’t had sex for a while she seems to think -
I feel guilty but so what? It’s not like she’s going to find out. Anyway. In a minute I’ll have a shower and clean it off. Then go out. I need to get out of here. I’m going crazy just sitting here.
Claire doesn’t understand. She thinks one day we’ll click back into place. But there’s no way that’s going to happen. We’re fucked.
I’m amazed I haven’t killed her.

Her mum’s the same. That time I met her when she threw a glass of wine against the wall - that’s another reason.
I want to feel the way I did in my twenties. I craved life back then. Even the bad times were good. Whereas now I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself.
Actually enjoyment’s the wrong word. I have enjoyed myself with Claire. It’s just that the bad times are too painful now. They rip into me and the wounds never heal.


She hands me the cigarettes and lighter. I pay her and vacate the shop, aware that I have behaved oddly.
More students. I disliked students even when I was a student. It isn’t the studying that reviles me. It’s what goes with it. There isn’t anything more stultifying than listening to people banging on about nothing.
I’m heading down the hill. I’m picking up speed now. The idea that I need a drink has hit me and I don’t care if –
Like the man in the suit. These people walk around with their eyes shut. They get up in the morning, go to work, have a beer, no, a coke at lunchtime and they think they’re in the fast lane. I see them all the time. I know these people. They’re the kind of people who wake up in the night crying. Why? Because nothing passionate happens to them. They’re dead inside and they know it.
I’ve done things with my life. I’ve taken risks. I haven’t sat back and watched it happen. Even now. Even now I’m doing something important. I know I am.

I should go back.
I’ve bumped into my brother. I’m enjoying myself.
He keeps banging on about it, wanting to know why I hit him.
Finally I crack.
I was whacked out my head, I tell him. The last thing I remember is sitting in the tent, listening to dad and that bitch of a sister of ours instructing me to leave.
My life was insane back then, I tell him.
That's why I hit you, I tell him.
Claire looked beautiful. The only black face and she didn’t care. And she behaved herself. She didn’t shout at me. She didn’t hit me. She didn’t cry. She didn’t demand sex from me. She didn’t demand anything from me.
My brother leaves. He’s tired of my problems and wants his brother back. I know that. He doesn’t have to say that.

I’m in a forest, talking to a man called Henry. Henry has lived in this forest for twenty years and insists he will die here. He lives in a cottage away to our right and has everything he needs. I am the first person he has spoken to for months and it shows. I cannot get a word in.
I sip my drink and laugh. I like this. One day I will write this down, word for word.
The reason I came to this forest is uncertain. I remember wanting to get away from the group of people I was with. I had spent several days in a guesthouse with a group of people I barely new, discussing alternative belief systems, when I realised that I was wasting my time.
I drain my pint and look around the room, shaking my head, wondering what is the matter with me. Why can’t I -
I feel my leg giving way and grab hold of Henry’s arm. Finally, Henry stops talking. He asks if I would like to rest in his cottage. I nod and he puts his arm around my shoulder and walks me to his cottage.
It’s difficult to say how long I stayed in Henry’s cottage. Sometimes it feels like months and other times a matter of hours. All I know for certain is that after I left I was not the same person. Henry changed me. I get to my feet and put my coat on.

Before I met Henry I believed life was futile. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my life, or moments of my life. What I’m talking about here is life in general. I just didn’t see any point to it. Whenever I stopped to think about it, I mean really think about it, life seemed like a cruel joke. Cruel in the sense that I did not get the punch line. After I met Henry I not only got the punch line, I laughed until I split my sides.
I’m home now. I close the door and start climbing the stairs.

Henry was no guru, though. No words of wisdom passed his lips. He wasn’t a philosopher or a thinker or anything like that. He didn’t sit me down and educate me. If he had I would never have stayed there.
I sit down on the bed and stare at her. I want to wake her and explain how I feel. But I've been here before. She knows how I feel. There’s nothing I can say that I haven’t said already.
After I left Henry I was a changed man. And one of the main drawbacks when you change your character is that not everyone is happy with you.
She opens her eyes and stares at me.
It is like you are holding a mirror up to them and they do not like what they see. Secretly they want to change but they know that they can never change. I think this is because, as the years roll by, people cling to what is familiar, even if is destructive, even if, deep down, it is the last thing they want.

Alan Stokes March 2005

Stone Cold in the staffroom
Understanding Bill

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