July Writing Challenge Day 23: Phase 3 Continues

Hello all, welcome back to phase 3 of my writing challenge.

Before we get started, I have a little bit of trivia for you. Did you know that when drug companies make generics of prescription drugs, the generic only has to be within 40% of the original drug’s strength/dosage? Up or down. So, if you’re like me and you take anti-depressants and sleep pills, some months you are taking a drug that can be 40% weaker than the baseline, or 40% stronger. Or, to look at it another way, it’s entirely possible that you are taking a drug that is 80% stronger than what you took last month. No joke.

So, yeah, long story short, I think my meds are all stronger this month, because I am so unbelievably, incredibly, mind numbingly tired all the time. Well, drowsy, I guess is the word, since I’m still a hardcore insomniac and can’t fall asleep at normal times. And when I do fall asleep, I wake up a lot, but since I’m so drowsy I just stay in bed. What this all means is that I “sleep” around 10 hours a day and when I do get up I can barely focus or get motivated. Usually I can shake it off if I absolutely have to get up and do stuff, so today I did chores around the house for a few hours. But alas, I simply slumped back into a chair when I was done and let the day slide by again.

This makes it really hard to sit down and write. The writing part, not the sitting down part. It’s just so hard to focus. I finally managed it though. Wrote for over an hour, got about a thousand words done, plus some editing.

I am going to post the entire story so far, just under 1,700 words, since I did a few small changes to what I did yesterday. Not much, just some word choice adjustments. Let me know what you think. Any comments or criticism you have would be greatly appreciated. Anything to get me pumped for tomorrow, pretty much. Until then I’ll try my best to dream about my story. You know, use my downtime.

Thanks, and enjoy

Knackered – Day 2
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 1696

Gavin floated. Opening his eyes he saw an endless expanse. At first all he could see was amber light, but as his eyes adjust he saw shadows, other things drifting along just as he was. And he was drifting. He could feel it now, a gentle but irresistible tugging towards a speck of light, impossibly distant but noticeably brighter than anything else he could see. As he went, he overtook some of the shadows. Here was a book, bobbing along in the invisible current. It’s pages were dry and brown, the cover stained with mildew. Gavin could see gigantic bookworms wriggling inside. Next came a pile of oblong objects, all blackened with age and rot. The pile turned and grinned at him. Bones. Something streaked over his shoulder, a lump of iron trailing crimson like a rusty comet.

Ahead the speck of light was brighter now. It was still so very far away, but Gavin thought he could discern a faint, irregular pulsing quality to it. Almost as if it were some kind of erratic beacon pulling him in. Pulling everything in. Around him the shadows were larger now, some the size of trees or large animals, and all of them were horribly twisted and wasted, as though suffering from some kind of blight or the ravages of extreme age. Gavin was cold now, and he somehow knew that he was getting colder each second he drifted towards the pulsing beacon in the distance. He tried to turn away but there was nothing he could do except struggle vainly against the tide.

“Gavin…” The voice was quiet, but not exactly a whisper. It was more like a shout heard from a long way off; something carried on a chill wind. “Gavin…” There it was again. Gavin twisted in the amber, searching for the source of the voice, but there was nothing but shadows.

“Gavin…” This time Gavin happened to be looking at the speck of light, and as it flared the word touched his ear. “Gavin….Gavin…” Every time the beacon pulsed it said his name, screamed his name across the vastness of the void. It wanted him. “Gavin…” It was getting louder now. Just barely, but each time it called it sounded closer. “Gavin…” Real terror gripped Gavin now. Whatever was calling for him was vast and cold and ravenous. More than anything, it was the end. Desperately he pulled against the tide dragging him to it, and inch by inch, he failed. It was inevitable.

“Gavin!” Something heavy slammed against the wood planks beside his head and Gavin woke with a start. A threadbare blanket fell off his thin, sweaty body, and onto the hay covered floor of the loft where he slept. Winter wind blew through the gaps in the wall and made him shiver. “By the gods boy if I have to climb up there you’ll be due for a thrashing.” The voice belonged to Mr. Smythe, the day foreman, and he sounded angry.

“I’m up,” Gavin called.

“Well move your arse, boy,” shouted the foreman. “It’s quarter past four already and I ain’t got time to waste on you.”

“Coming.” Gavin reached out and grabbed his tunic on the second try. He slipped it over his head and then reached for his coat on the second hook. Calling it a coat was a bit generous. It was mostly made of patches by this point and was hardly any thicker than his tunic, but it was holding up around the shoulders nicely and kept the worst of the wind at bay. Then he staggered to the edge of the loft and clambered down the ladder. The stables were tiny, just big enough to house a few oxen and their feed, but right now it was empty. Even so, Gavin took care where he stepped as he walked to the doors. Fiero, the stable boy, was notoriously lax in his duties, and Gavin didn’t relish the thought of stepping in anything squishy so soon after waking.

Mr Smythe was waiting for Gavin by the stable doors. “Hurry up, boy,” he growled. “Got a full load coming in from out by the old Briarstoke way so you best go and make sure the number three vat is ready for ’em. I’ll want to get them in it ‘afore nightfall!” He churned up a glob of phlegm from his gut and spat it on the floor, barely turning his head to miss Gavin as he did. Gavin mumbled an acknowledgment and shuffled out into the yard.

The knacker yard was a large stretch of hard, packed earth right in the middle of the city, but it was mostly filled with a twisting collection of low, ramshackle buildings and tin sheds surrounded by a high wooden fence and so not nearly as open as it might have been. Just now it was even worse. Dozens of people choked the snaking pathways that wound through the place. Most milled around the entrance watching a select few load carts full of barrels of the yard’s products for overnight delivery. Gavin ducked out of the way as a pair of butchers lumbered past, their aprons caked with gore and their belts clinking with cutlery. They were big men, roped with muscle, and they had a knack for bumping into you so that you caught the edge of a flensing knife as you fell. Then he skittered between a gap in two buildings and made his way to his destination.

The vat shed was the largest building in the yard. They’d simply stuck it in the back and built everything else around it. It was the final stop for most of the meat that entered the yard, and Gavin steeled himself before he slid the doors open. The stench hit him like a summer squall, warm and violent. He paused a moment, waiting to see if it would overwhelm him today. When the retching subsided he stepped inside. It was perfectly fine to vomit inside the shed, so long as it landed in one of the vats, but if someone trod on his sick on the way in he’d likely get thrashed.

The shed consisted of a series of iron catwalks at roughly ground height above a pit inside which sat the huge copper vats. There were six of them, each one twelve feet across, and they were sunk ten feet into the ground. Below each was a small furnace, and in between them ran a gently sloping channel that led to a grate at the back of the shed which in turn fed directly into the sewers. All of the vats were full of liquid, one clear and the others in varying shades of putrid, from cream with a sickly orange tint to brown with streaks of red.

Gavin climbed down a grimy iron ladder. The space below was crowded web of iron posts, large valves, protruding handles, and pipes, some going up through the roof of the shack to vent smoke from the furnaces, others bending downwards so that the vats could be drained at the end of each cycle. Gavin crawled through and checked each of the furnaces in turn. Five were burning nicely, but the furnace under vat number three, the one full of clear water, was dying down. Gavin rolled his eyes. Obviously whoever had dumped the vat earlier hadn’t been back to check on it, but Gavin knew it would be his skin if it didn’t reach the proper temperature by the time it was ready to be loaded. He cranked a handle and opened the mouth, then he walked to the end of the row and pulled the shovel down from where it was hanging. He opened the coal chute and lifted a load from within.

As he was walking back to the furnace, backwards through the tangle of metal since he couldn’t turn around with the shovel in hand, he froze and listened. He’d thought he’d heard something. It was faint, and in the depths of the vat pit it was hard to tell where it came from. For all the world, it sounded like someone sobbing. For a moment he thought it was coming from inside the vat to his left, and he nearly placed his ear to the copper side to listen better. A dozen latent burns on his flesh began to tingle, and he stopped himself just in time. He decided to ignore it. The vats made strange sounds some times, he thought as he backed up and dumped his load of coals into the furnace. No sense in listening to them. Sparks flew from the metal mouth of the furnace as he stirred the new coals into the red ones. He repeated the process twice more and then closed everything back up.

Then he climbed back up the ladder and made a round of the vats from the top side. One and two were still in their early stages, and there was little for him to do. Vats four through six were further along, and he poked and stirred them as needed with a long wooden pole. Every now and then a bubble of putrescence reached the surface. The stench was worst up here and it made him gag. He spit a load of bile into number five and went on his way.

When he’d finished his first round he put the stirring pole back on it’s hooks. His stomach knotted painfully, but this time it had nothing to do with the smell. After five years working the vats, his body had learned to feel a whole host of things simultaneously with revulsion. Right now, it felt hunger. He took another peek at vat three. It was coming along nicely and should be hot enough by the time it came to add the carcasses, so he decided to head to the kitchen shack and get something to eat.

As made to close the doors he once again thought he heard a faint sobbing coming from the direction of the vats, but it he shook it off and soon it was lost to the sound of the cold winter wind.