Sample for my dissertation

A sample of a short story I’m writing, for my dissertation this year.

 

The Wounded Wolf

A white wind whistled through the crack in the window. The fire burned, and the room was heated, but it still felt cold. Gloves on, or off, the creeping feeling of danger would not go, and the stench of death would not be shaken. It followed Thomas like a madness. He sat on the floor by the fire. His wife had his bed. She had his cloak, too, hugging her with its stained white fur.

“When are you going to clean this thing?” Freya asked, mindful of her words.

“When we finally have a chance to slow down. We’re only here to get lost for the winter, and hope that no one else is stupid enough to follow us, please, don’t get comfortable enough you want to stay here.” Thomas replied, chewing the bark of the wood he was cutting.

“I’m aware. Do we have anywhere left to go to?” Freya said sharply. She feigned a smile, but words like those are what kept death around.

“Maybe one or two,” Thomas muttered, poking the fire.

“It’s not your fault,” She shuffled to the edge of the bed but struggled to stay sat up, “Don’t give up now, if we go far enough then we’ll be free of the usurper Alaric, and Katherine. We can be free from all of them,” she said, resting her hand on his shoulder.

The door twitched, and rattled from the winds shifting direction, “I don’t think we’ll ever be free unless I kill them,” Thomas looked deeper into the burning wood, “I don’t think he’ll leave us alone until I kill the bastard.”

“That won’t bring the dead back, but what we can do is once winter is over, we can leave and never come back to this place,” Freya said.

“I’m not sure the dead will let me go if I ran from this fight Frey, I’m not sure anyone will. If I run, I submit to being the monster they make me out to be if I fight I’m doing the same, but I think I can challenge him because he’s told everyone about me now. You saw it back at the inn with the soldiers. They were scared of me,” he said, scratching his patchy beard with his long finger nails.

“I feared you,” Freya said. She wrapped her arms around her stomach, and felt the baby kick, “We feared you. We have a chance of something more than blood for blood; we have a chance to prove we’re better than them.”

“Our fathers would look down on us if we walk away now. The old ways—”

“The old ways are not our ways…”

Silence brewed. Thomas struggled to his feet and checked his bandages. “ribs are open again,” he said as the bandage soaked in blood.

“Why did you leave it so long?” Freya asked.

“Maybe you should help me cauterise it.”

“I’m not helping you kill yourself. If you wish to, then do it yourself,” Freya yelled.

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Thomas gave a short laugh, “Remember when I found you?”

“Covered in cuts and bruises, even had a shard of glass in your side from the window you broke through,” Freya smiled softly, “You plucked it out as if it were nothing.”

“What makes this time different?” Thomas asked.

“It was summer then, and I was young and stupid. The difference is I’ve seen enough death from cauterising flesh not to want you to suffer the same fate.”

“Haven’t died yet,” Thomas said, heating his hunting knife in the fire.

He looked away so he could not see Freya staring at him. Half an hour later, a quarter of the blade was hot enough to do what he needed. He peeled the bandage off the skin, and the sound of burning flesh followed. He treated the rest of the wounds with medicine and ointments.

They were staying in a little hut in the middle of nowhere, far from any town, village, or city. The closest one stood several miles west, a border village they were fond of. They were not allowed to go back there. Too much trouble.

“I’ll sleep outside tonight,” Thomas said, shivering away, “I’ll be shivering like this for a few more hours, and I don’t want to disturb you.”

“You won’t… you never—”

“I know,” Thomas interrupted, “I need to be alone like this.”

Thomas staggered away, closing the door behind him. Freya must have felt isolated, but isolation allowed her time to breathe. Thomas gathered wood and stood under the wooden awning. He set a new fire. The winds had slowed. He lit it and kept close. Every noise and whisper woke him. He eyed the darkness as if someone was watching him from it. He never saw anyone, but he was sure things were moving around him.

His bandage was now tightly stuck to his sticky skin. Thomas had a moment of bliss as he watched what looked like shadows move in and around the trees. When he watched them it reminded him of how many people he had lost on the way to this point. “Alone, together, in the middle of nowhere,” he whispered despairingly. He shivered more, “Everyone’s gone, and it’s all because of that bastard.” Thoughts of revenge infected his mind, turning his pain into anger. The episode of thinking was disturbed. A crow flew from its nest, disturbed. He heard a twig snap. He had hoped it was nature’s doing.

The night turned bright, and in a sequence, fires were lit all around the hut. The fires weren’t safe, they touched the brambles, and the ash trees. The fire started to spread. Men walked through the fire as if they resisted it. They stepped over the fire, and it sizzled beneath their feet. Thomas squeezed his fingers around the water bag on his belt. He looked at the men and sighed. His path had felt long, and he had grown tired. Still wounded, he said, “You should have stayed away.”

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Born broken

I’m not sure we’re all born a bit broken, or maybe we’re all born broken in different ways, but I was born a bit broken. It doesn’t hit you until you grow up. It wasn’t my parents’ fault because I had quite the childhood, all the toys, all the games, responsibility, trust, freedom, and understanding. It wasn’t them — it was me. I don’t know. It took me about eighteen years of my life to understand that I don’t feel intense emotions, at first. Bloody hell I feel them, bloody hell I feel them more than many I’ve met, but it takes time for my brain to process information like intense emotion.

 

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It took me twenty-four years to accept myself for who I am, and have been, and who I want to be. It took me two decades to understand that I have been in pain, and in survival mode when there has been little if any reason to be in it. It has taken me eighty percent of my life to accept that it is okay.

I never talked to my parents, or anyone, except someone I met who lived almost two-hundred miles away from me… about me. I never thought of it before then, and I’ll tell you a secret about me — when I was young I don’t know why, but I was sure I wouldn’t be here for long, so sure that I pushed everyone I cared about when I was younger away from me in preparation because I held onto the idea that being a ghost was the better alternative than hurting the people you care about.

I think this idea came from the first person I put my trust in who wasn’t my mother which was my auntie, and I was a pretty shy kid, and a bit weird, I suppose. I wouldn’t talk to anyone else apart from my mother for years, but when I did, and I remember being asked to draw a sheep for my auntie and to give her a kiss on the cheek goodbye. She’d chase me around the room until I refused so much that she would eventually give in.

I remember the night I finally gave in myself and saw how sad she looked when she went to leave, and I kissed her cheek. Little did I know it would be the last time I would ever see her, and that she had a sad face because it was a kiss goodbye. Suicide is a funny thing, and no one knows who struggles with thoughts like that until it’s too late, after all, when you see someone smiling all day, every day, who would know that they aren’t happy?

And you know something, for so many years after that moment, I’d occasionally understand the feeling. The feeling of ‘being trapped’, the feeling of ‘suffocating’, the feeling of being forced to ‘live a certain way’, and quite often I’d sit away from everyone else, and stop smiling. I never told my parents I felt this way. I think I remember shouting it out once, but as childish as I was acting, I don’t think they thought I was serious.

I remember getting bullied, and in return, acting up and acting out. I had anger issues for the majority of my teenage years. I was disinterested in everything that I did, and no one really noticed. Some may have had an inkling and thought I’d just grow out of it, but I don’t think I ever let anyone get close enough to me.

As I grew up, I met someone who helped me see a different way of living, and for a while, that worked, but eventually, I fell back to my neutral self, and I began to feel hate. It wasn’t the bullying that did it, nor a relatively normal childhood. It was me, and it was a hatred for myself. I remember it, looking in the mirror, slouching after playing video games for sixteen hours straight, of thirty-six hours straight, not that it mattered, but I felt disgusted, but I couldn’t stop. The reason for that was because I would have to face myself if I stopped, and for the longest of time, I couldn’t.

My friend, the one that I talked to, helped me reach out, and I met someone who I connected with and that’s when I met my daughter’s mother. I think I met her at a point where I would believe what someone would tell me, no matter how ridiculous, more than my own thoughts, or feelings, or even if I knew the fact was different. The relationship gradually degenerated into something negative, and though I share my part to blame, it affected me more than I realised.

The idea of someone I ‘loved’ if, even to this day I understand the word when it refers to a romantic partner, but when meeting someone who broke me down more, and attacked me when I tried to walk away, on repeat, for about eight or so months, and I still, to this day, say, “It’s okay, we had our good bits.” It isn’t and it wasn’t okay. Her parents never saw it, neither did mine, for a while. They didn’t know she cheated on me half a dozen times, or would throw a punch at me for coming home half an hour later than she expected. It was my first proper relationship, so was this what a relationship was like?

No, it wasn’t. Eventually it came to a point where she brought that hatred and anger out of me and I felt like I wanted to hit her back and that was the point where I broke up with her, and it broke me because for the longest of time I had a chip on my shoulder which made me feel like I should never give up on someone, or walk away, because what would I do if I did that and then the next day, suddenly, they weren’t around anymore?

By the end of that relationship, when I finally made a choice between the man who I was scared of being, someone who you see in the news ‘Another man who hit his fiancee’, I finally made a choice of walking away, and in doing so, it was the first time I looked at myself in the mirror with mixed feelings, and unsure of myself, I tried to do more for me. Sure, it hurt when I found out she had cheated and when I was told it didn’t matter if I was my daughter’s father or not, it’s up to her mother whether I see her or not, and even, the legitimacy of her being mine was questioned, yet tests were rejected, I was lost for a while… and I drank, and meditated, and drank…

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I remember my brother and I got into a fight and I was beside myself — I didn’t remember fighting back, but I did, and for the first time stopped myself from getting shoved and pushed in the corner, but it felt wrong. This bottled up anger I gained from so many years of not fighting back, or standing up for myself, or just simply saying “No more!” had led me to a point where I felt split into two.

Once again, I stood at a point where I had a choice of the type of person I wanted to be, and I chose better. I worked on my anger, and I remember trying out so much meditation I looked at the individual reasons why I was so wound up and angry, and I let them go. I let them fucking go. Twenty damn years of being quiet, holding my tongue, thinking it wasn’t okay, and putting all these tokens into a box as if one day I would enact my revenge, and I just put the box down and let it go. All that fucking pain. I remember looking up and directing my questions at God as to why the fuck all that had to happen for me to learn how to let go, but I guess we are broken to be fixed.

So, I started breaking the habits. I got back into contact, and forgave people, and apologised to people who I felt I had unfinished business with… and though many of them seemed to think I had some ulterior motive, I didn’t, and time moved on. Suddenly, a few months down the line I had a call from social services, asking me to come in to see them.

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I got my life back on track… no, on track, and with a huge amount of help from my parents, my family, and those who stayed, I began taking steps forward, applied to uni, was a support worker, and every so often, I was greeted by a small smile in the mirror. When my daughter was a few months old I was asked what I wanted because so much had happened to her and her mother that she ended up in care. I wasn’t allowed to be in contact, so I wasn’t informed, but suddenly, I ended up with a six-month-old baby, seven days a week, and though I lived with my parents I tried to do it all on my own.

It was difficult, and it was hard, but it was the first person I met who helped me understand what love was and not the romantic kind, but an unconditional love, and though I felt more like I had a pet, than a mini person to look after, considering, anyone who has ever had a child, knows they pretty much poop, cry, eat, poop, and sleep, oh– and poop. Before I knew it we had our first house together, and I won custody in court.

So, it all goes fine, and though we had some hiccups, where I was attacked twice, and have dealt with some difficult financial times, managing University with a child, it took me twenty to twenty-two years to smile at myself in the mirror, and though I have a slip up here, and there, and get down, we spend the majority of our days smiling.

The sad thing for me is that I think I needed someone to rely on me, in order to give me purpose, and that my default feeling is a negative one, so it has taken a lot for me to get into a place where the only path I see forward, is one leading upward…

And here I am. I didn’t have the freedom of being able to go out at night, and I didn’t have the freedom of avoiding life whenever I pleased, and I no longer allowed myself to slope into depression, or slip into a dark place. I no longer let myself because it wasn’t only me who I had to look after. So, it’s safe to say that my daughter has helped me as much as I have helped her, if not more so. Now, I’m coming up to my third year at University, and it is hard. Sometimes, I sit here and think about stopping, but then I look her in the eyes and remember that I’m not only doing this for me but for her as well.

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Separately to my daughter’s needs, I’ve changed mine this year, over other years, and it’s taken me a long fucking time to wake up. In my first year, and second perhaps, I sometimes felt envious of people who could complain about everything and never lift a finger, or people who had it so easy but had a problem, or complained about him and her… etc etc…

It got me in a habit of doing it as well since sometimes, I reflect the energy of those I’m around…

This year… I’ve been distant, and cold with mostly everyone, because of this year, this month, this week, this hour, I realised something… I’m not in competition with them, I’m not in competition with my brother anymore, or my childhood friends, I’m not in competition with anyone in my year, or in uni and I’m not in competition with my best friend.

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The only person I’ve ever been in competition with, is myself, and though I am my own worst enemy, and I have been lucky enough to see both sides of my own coin, I also know that I plan, expect, and try hard to be better than I have been, and better than the person I was before I had a child, but it doesn’t stop there… my aim is to be better than who I was yesterday, and I always see room to improve, but I always see improvement.

So, if you started reading this post thinking it would be another sad story, think again because it’s not, it isn’t, and never will be. I never thought I was strong, and I hope that one day I will see strength in me, but I know, after all this, I’m not weak. So sometimes, I ignore everyone, and sometimes, the only social ability I have in my day is reserved for my daughter, but that doesn’t mean I’m sad, it means that I’m doing more than I’m speaking, and lately, I’m fed up of speaking.

I’ve shared my aims with you in my previous posts, of my weight loss, my writing, and I’ll get them done… so it’s time to remind myself of my own advice, and get on with it, because I am slowly finding pieces of myself to put back together, and I won’t pretend I’ve done it on my own, so if you find yourself reading this, and you’re still in my life, just know that I do care, and I appreciate you, and that even if you’ve never had the opportunity to hold your hand out for me, my hand will always be holding out for you, because I’ve been where you’re standing, and you’re not alone.

My name is Daniel, and this is a summary of my story up to now. It’s time to let go of who I once was, and allow me, who I am now, to be.

That person, this person, me, is someone who will keep walking forward, and never back.

“Less talking, more doing.”

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“And those who are no longer with us, be it by choice, or otherwise… you are never forgotten.”

 

“As for those who think everything is easy for me, I hope you understand a little bit about me now, because nothing is, for me, as it was.”