In Progress

18 03 2011

While I’m waiting to hear back on the submission I’ve already made to DSP, I’m working on a new storyline. It has a little bit of a paranormal bent on it, redemption and, above all, a love story.

This is the first few pages of it. Just a first pass edit on it.

Cole Shaw sat on the edge of the bathtub, his feet planted on the cold tile floor. He looked at the faux-marble pattern and wondered how every hotel had the exact same cheesy tile in it. Do they get some sort of rule book when they decide to build a hotel that specifies that this tile has to be in every bathroom? Really? That mocking voice inside of him drawls. You’re about to do this and you’re contemplating the mysteries of hotel tile patterns? Maybe you’re as crazy as everyone thinks you are.

He shook his head and got unsteadily to his feet, feeling the effects of the alcohol starting to play with his sense of balance. Leaning on the wall, Cole made his way to the window. Resting his forehead on the glass, he watched the palm trees sway in the breeze. It was a goddamn picture postcard scene with the row of palm trees edging onto the beach just beyond, the  waves painted hues of orange and lavender by the setting sun. He clenched his eyes shut and turned away from the scene. If he was going to do this, he told himself, now was as good a time as any.

Sitting back on the bathtub he stared down at the dark liquid in the glass. Liquid courage, or so they say. Cole lifted the glass to his lips, his breath fogging the transparency of the glass as it rested there on his lips. With an unspoken toast he tipped it back into his opened lips, swallowing it down. He was so used to the burn now that it barely registered as a spike of warmth in his throat. He leaned forward, his arm outstretched, placing the glass on the edge of the sink. He stayed in that posture, leaning his temple on the crook of his elbow, staring once again at the tile. He had done this circuit two times now.This time he would finish it.

He lifted his head and pushed the glass away from him, sending it rolling into the sink. At least it didn’t break, he thought, management was going to have a big enough clean up bill already.

He turned his attention to the small plastic container that he’d carefully placed on the counter before he’d opened the first of the mini bar bottles. He brought it closer to him, cradling it like he had his first music award, back when music meant something and wasn’t just another way he was failing.

With trembling fingers, he slid the lid back and reached inside delicately, pulling a paper covered rectangle of steel out. He held it in front of him and let the container clatter to the ground now that he had gotten his treasure out from inside. As he unwrapped it, the blade glinted in the light as he turned it around in his fingers. It was almost beautiful in its simplicity. He peeled back the last of the  paper that covered the cutting edge and let the useless strip flutter to the floor between his feet.

He readied the sharp edge over his wrist, his hand pausing as he closed his eyes and sent out a silent prayer for forgiveness from the maid that was going to find him.

I’m so sorry. I can’t. Not anymore.

He gripped the blankets that surrounded him, the heaviness of the sadness making him feel that he couldn’t breathe. His head tossed on the pillow as he tried to inhale. Sweat broke out on his sleeping skin as he felt the bed spin beneath him. Oh God, he thought, let it stop. Please, let it stop.

The wind howled outside his window, adding to the feeling of melancholy that pressed down on him. The soft swish of snow across the panes sounded like waves crashing on the shore of some far away beach. He tossed in the bed and caught onto the image in his mind. A happy place, something out of a picture postcard.  Concentrating on it, he imagined palm trees, a beach, the ocean and in the distance, a perfect sunset.  With a sigh, he relaxed against the warmth of the blankets and allowed the slow rolling numbness working through his veins pull him under.

Instead of the nothingness he was prepared for, he was confused. He’d expected after the drugs dragged him under that there would be nothing but rest, instead he felt the sadness increase, a desperation that wasn’t his own coloring the edges of it. Why couldn’t he break free? Why was he being held prisoner in his mind? He knew it was useless to struggle against whatever was holding him here. It was too powerful, he had learned that long ago. The nothing he’d been inhabiting washed around him once more, but this time he could make out a shape in the distance. As he concentrated on it, the edges of it became sharper, until he could make out a generic beige bathroom and a man, bent over, one hand poised above the wrist of the other hand. Intensely focused, whatever he was doing taking all of his concentration.

He felt more than saw the tremble in the other man’s fingers, the hesitation. He could feel the coolness of the steel like it was between his own fingertips. The rush of blood in his ears as the adrenaline started to take over. He could taste the cold metal of fear in the back of his throat, overtaking the warm sweetness of the alcohol he could also taste there.

Confusion was giving way to panic now.  The fingers were not his own, as hard as he tried to stop them from their task, he couldn’t. He was trapped inside of this…body? Mind? He didn’t know.

Flashes came to him, first was a name, Cole,  a family, younger siblings, another man that was someone special, but refused to be anything more than a friend with secret benefits. Friends that were a surrogate family. No, more than friends, he thought, they were a family. Words and melody washed over him, a perfect harmony of voices that trailed off in the blaze of rapid fire camera flashes.  He saw a best friend that was the older brother so craved for in youth. There was so much love around, even from the reluctant lover, how could he not see it? It nearly enveloped every part of his life.

As soon as he wondered, he could start to see why. A shattered heart, the pieces of it clung together loosely in his chest, ready to shatter at the slightest touch. The family he had seen morphed into line of puppets whose strings were pulled by two Svengali masters, not caring about those at the end of the strings, as long as they continued to perform on command.

Panic washed over him. There was good there, why couldn’t it be seen? This was wrong, that this isn’t what he truly wanted.  He couldn’t let it all be lost. He’d seen it happen before, he had to make him stop. He breath drew in, a deep gasping breath as the edge dug in to flesh and breached the surface.

Cole’s fingers trembled against the steel, his body silently checking his confidence in what he was doing. He gripped harder in answer. Closing his eyes, he took deep breaths to calm himself.

Come on Shaw, don’t fuck this up. Do something right for once.

He took in a breath and held it in unconsciously, bringing the razor’s edge to his flesh. He felt the sting of the blade sinking slowly into the skin and moving in a downward path, slicing a clean line down the length of his vein. A gasp came from his lips as his fingers froze.


The cry roared through the air or inside of his head, he couldn’t tell, but it startled Cole so much that his hand jumped and the razor blade flew, clattering to the floor and leaving drops of blood across the tiles.

His hand instinctively clamped over his wrist, trying to stop the blood flow, or to try to deny to himself what he had done, Cole wasn’t sure. if it was denial, it didn’t last long as the blood crept past his attempt at a barrier and started oozing between his fingers. A cry of pain left his lips, but it wasn’t alone in his ears. Another voice, a softer cry, joined his.


Short Story: Cadence

27 02 2011

Inspiration comes from the oddest places and circumstances. The following short story was started sitting in the ICU area of my hometown hospital, spending time at the bedside of my dying grandmother. One afternoon, a family came in and sang to their relative and it was as beautiful as it was painful to behold. Before the last note even faded from the air, I had my notebook open and the pen laying trails across the page. I haven’t found a home for it yet and it may be that it’s only home will be here.

© D.M. Grace 2009, with exception of lyrics by John Newton



The swish and hiss kept rhythmic cadence, as regular as a metronome. The stuttering scrapes of wooden chair legs over linoleum punctuated a backbeat, while the soft murmur of desperate, pleading, and resigned voices hummed through the air.


Walking through the hallway, eyes carefully trained forward, but seeing the glass doors as they passed by in the periphery. Automatically, you mentally catalogue which were occupied yesterday and empty today. Years may pass between visits, but always the same human symphony. Every now and again, there may be a guest soloist whose anguish rises above the others, but never for long.


Except for today.


Today, a voice starts slowly, steadily climbing above the others. At first it echoes though the corridor, the first pure, keening note. It raises a wash of goosebumps in its wake as it trembles in the air and then tumbles down into the familiar hymn


Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me….

All other sounds are subdued as the voice rises around the words. In each of the other rooms, you can hear the stillness, the shared knowledge of the reason for the songs presence resonating; commanding respect, even from the machines artificially breathing life into loved ones.


One by one, other voices are added, providing harmony. It makes you close your eyes and grip the armrests of your chair, torn between covering your ears to block out the horrible beauty unfolding around you, and wanting to escape.


You know that the escape would be temporary and only physical as the melody has had time to sink below your skin, making its way deeper, into a place that made you think of sunlight through stained glass and the thin vellum pages of hymnals between your fingers.


Even though it’s been decades since you’ve stepped into a church, you swear you smell incense, but by the next breath it’s gone. The cloying astringency of rubbing alcohol and disinfectant rushes back in to take its place and you’re not sure which nauseates you more.


The song continues one voice clear and strong above the others. You know the room it comes from, always filled with family, from your previous circuits of the corridor. Today the curtain was drawn, spilling shadows of the vague shapes behind it onto the floor as the sunlight filtered through.


Every day you fear that the curtain will be drawn in front of your destination, but you’ve learned in the rhythms of this place, that the rustle of fabric being drawn is a random note that can never be anticipated. Today you and yours are merely part of the accompanying hum; relieved as someone else was shoved centre stage today.


As the song goes on, you hear voices fade in and out of the melody; some coming back more tremulous than others, one voice never wavering as it lead the way. The harmony of the other voices followed in its wake just strong enough to hear throughout the rooms, notes carrying an extra beat as they waited.


You know the moment it happens. There is a pause that drags a split second too long, and then only one voice returns.


T’was grace that brought you safe thus far,

And grace has led you home.


The lull that falls after that last note is filled with quiet grace as everyone seems to shake off the spell that has enchanted them and gradually you begin to hear the familiar swish and hiss of air forced into lungs and the muted footfalls of the soft soled shoes of the nurses.


You raise your hands out to grasp a slowly warming, hopefully healing, hand as you lean closer, talking softly, not wanting to be the one to shatter the calm. “Did you hear that?” Letting the awe you were feeling shine through in your voice. The only answer was the swish and hiss, as you knew it would be.


Sitting in the quiet, the cadence of the ventilator fills the room again and again until you hear the slow roll of rubber wheels and the measured footfalls of people walking come closer. You raise your head to see the slow procession of a sheet draped gurney and behind it walked the family, their faces laid barren in their grief, but their heads held high.


Rising from your chair, you are guided by an instinctual knowledge of respect, turning to face them, meeting their eyes and exchanging nods of recognition as they passed.


Taking your seat again, you squeeze the hand still inside yours.


And wait.