About 17 years ago, while talking to the then-editor of Warhammer Magazine, I hit upon, what I thought would be a cunning wheeze. Having discovered that many of the submissions involved vampires, and, inexplicably, horses, I came up with a nom de plum and fired off a submission. Tabitha DeVine’s My Four Legged Vampire Paramour was born.
Now, I tell you this for one reason only, that silly character has sort of haunted me ever since. She predates – but almost certainly forshadows – writers like EL James (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Stephenie Meyer (and the Twilight Saga) – I had a vision of how she looked, and the sort of stories she would tell, she was a female Garth Marenghi, only just before Garth Merenghi existed. There may have been something in the air.
(BTW if you haven’t seen Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, I recommend it, you’ll LOVE IT)
Anyway, today’s writer’s bootcamp was to take yesterdays first person prose and turn it into a story with overwrought similes, by an author given to finding deep meaning in everything and with a title with a similar existential edge. So I naturally remembered Tabitha. To my shame I don’t think I did her any justice what-so-ever. In fact I think it was a bit of a pig’s ear. But I did it, and you know, maybe getting it wrong is as good a lesson as getting it right?
Maybe it’s a better a lesson?
Please let it be a better lesson.
Anyway, here’s the snippet…
The Emptiness of Existence by Tabitha DeVine.
While he’d been waiting, the world passed. Everything seemed to be moving except for him, and in the stillness of that moment he heard the pregnant plop of post falling to the floor.
At this time, in this place, there was little apprehension. Even the slow opening of the envelope, the letterhead spelling out the name of the hospital, and the contents of the letter – spewing words on the page like the guts of a shark across the floor in the first act of Jaws, didn’t cause his thoughts to to turn dark. If anything there was a relief. The appointment was soon, the time was early, and though he had no-one to take him there and back he could, at least, drive himself.
Of course, this early optimism was simple niavity.
“Gastroscopy”. He had to google it, but the results didn’t really have an impact. Lots of words, zero feelings. Sometimes he felt his internal emotional state was disconnected from any sort of external stimulai.
The day came. The clouds cleared, the roads thinned out and it felt like this would be it. A simple procedure, results within a week, and his world would again be filled with nothing but the eternal void of existence.
The tannoy announced his name, and he bounced up – wearing that face of cheery optimisim that utterly belied the violation about to happen.
He changed into the hospital gown, stripping away everything he was in the world until all that was left was just another chunk of meat partially covered in fabric.
He lay down, as instructed, in the recovery position. Not quite the foetal position, but enough like it he felt safe.
The tube started going down his throat. This was unpleasant but not horrific. He could feel the bump bump bump of it as it fed deeper and deeper.
And then the gagging began. Constantly stiffling the urge to vomit out the tube. Life, he thought, this is the struggle of life in microcosm.
The doctors would look and tell him what was happening, but the confusion of his physical situation meant he couldn’t focus on the words to make them come in to clarity. His eyes filled with tears.