The Wake Up Call

Fiction is better than reality. I tried reality. It wasn’t worth it. It was a series of let downs that only reading and writing could save me from.

So I write all the time. So much so that I hardly even see those other “opportunities” (that those non-writers call them) dwindling away. They shrink in my hand until they are so small I can no longer grab a hold of them – friendship, exercise, the outside…  The urge to continue making stories, however, is as strong as ever.

People will know me for my words, not my actions.

I separate my mum from her disease. I always imagine that my mum and an alcoholic were living in the same body. And I know that my mum loved us. And that she hated the alcoholic.

Actions speak louder, but words are stronger. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. What a terrible lie. Words heal and words hurt.

‘I love you.’ ‘I love you too. Actually, I don’t love you.’

 I’d rather be punched in the face than go through that.

Is that why I want to be a writer? Is that why all writer’s do? Because words wield so much more power than actions? That and the idea of being a builder makes me sad. I imagine gorillas banging rocks.

My sister comes in. Again. This time she speaks. ‘Hi,’ she says. She called me Tom. I say hi back. She asks if I want to go outside to play netball with her. I don’t want to play. I say yes and I’ll be there in a sec. If I told her I didn’t want to it would hurt her feelings. She wouldn’t ask me again. We used to play basketball all the time. We also used to play kirby. The last time she asked me if I wanted to play any of those games, I said no. We haven’t played since.

My sister would still ask me to play if I punched her though, because I didn’t say no. I know that because it happened. I got to the end of a sad book and put it down and then she asked if I wanted to play. I told her no. She said but you’ve finished reading. Next thing she is crying. I was too sad to play. That’s what books do to me. They fill me with emotion and they mess with my head, and they suck me into their world so far that I never want to be back in mine. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. In the books I choose it’s usually for worse. I’m drawn to sad books because it’s easier to be engrossed in the life of the dying then it is to revel in the happiness of the living. It’s ironic. The dying live within me long after I finish reading. The living don’t. They can go out and play with their other living friends.  My sister can do that too.

My sister called me Tom again. She’s crying again. It’s Thomas. Not Tom. What if it was Ernie Hem? And ‘good ol’’ Charlie Dick? We write, we don’t sell used cars for god’s sake.

My sister has brought her friend round. She never brings her stupid friend round. She only does to get back at me for something. As if it even bothers me.

Twain, Lewis, Faulkner – they couldn’t write their best works with their sisters and their friends prancing around them, and neither can I. Writing in isolation has worked for them so it will work for me. I shall follow that path relentlessly until – my sister’s friend just smiled at me. My sister probably told her to do it. It isn’t even annoying. Her plan is failing. If anything it makes her friend’s cheeks red in this sorta nice rosey way. I could change her name and make her a character in my book.

I quickly load up a word document and type out a title.



The Girl

The Girl with

The Girl with the

The Girl with the Crimson

The Girl with the Crimson Cheeks

I would describe her cheeks as crumpled roses, unscathed, blood red.

No. Those words won’t do. Bursting, brimming, beautiful.

No. Those words won’t do either.  I guess human characters are more real than words can describe. But.


But written characters feel more. It’s the feeling that counts. There is no skin. There is no flesh. There is no appearance to judge by. There is only who they are. Though they are not in front of me, there are no physical barriers preventing me from seeing who they are. I see my sister’s friend. I do not see the person.

Does that matter? Her cheeks are nice and red and I can see them. They look nice. I cannot see written character’s cheeks. Perhaps words aren’t the most important thing…


Wendell Holmes Sr.’s words are. He would say Learn the sweet magic of a beautiful face, and these intense feelings would repeat a thousand times. I am learning the magic right now. My sister’s friend has a beautiful face.  I remember it as I read. She is looking at me again. I look away. It is raining outside.

I don’t need to look at her. I can read books on beauty and feel what I feel. I can do that anytime. My fiction is stronger than her reality. She will go. Books will not. The raindrops fall hard. It is loud. One drop. Two drop. Not too loud. I Write. One drop. Two drop. Look at my sister’s friend. One drop. Dickens.  One drop. Drop. Red cheeks. One drop.  Two drop. Three drop. Red cheeks beautiful face. Red cheeks. No! Dickens Hemmingway Green Gaiman One drop – Red cheeks! Drop. Drop. Drop. Red Cheeks.

I put my laptop to the side. I want to see her cheeks. I don’t want to want to but I want to. I am a fool. I would be wise to write. But,


But I need material.

That’s it.

That’s why I want to see her cheeks. Material. That’s it. Real life is there to provide inspiration and preparation for writing. I am wise.

I love her aura. She never came close but I imagine she emits a warm aura only possible with red cheeks. My sister never emits that aura. She probably didn’t expect me to understand her friend’s aura. Looks like that backfired.

I’ve read about those sort of characters that send auras and I’ve read about those that receive. Now to gather my own material. Eventually someone will write me an autobiography, but for now I’ll write my own.  I can write about my own. I need to know what fascinating, wondrous series of events accounts for the history of those crimson cheeks? Perhaps she is constantly speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes in, like Lizzie Bennett. Perhaps she has just finished using her telekinesis powers against the immoral, like Matilda. Or she could even be in the midst of taking charge of who she wants to be, like Lisbeth Salander. Excellent. Let me gather material.

I can hear my sister and her friend in her room. A low talking. Whispering. Sounds secret. Her friend is probably telling her about her latest adventure. She just got back from bravely exploring in a newly discovered land, like Lucy Pevensie, and the cold turned her cheeks that wondrous shade.

I stand outside the door, savouring the moment. One deep breath (what is that smell?), and I push open the door.

I never make it to breathing out again.

Through a thin layer of smoke in the room I see the amber tip, alit at the end of her cigarette. My sister has one too. I saw it before she tried to hide it behind her back. I keep my eyes momentarily fixed on my sister because I don’t want to look at her friend anymore. Red roses cannot blossom in ash.

As I leave the room my sister yells something about never knocking and my sister’s friend coughs in a small fit. No wonder her cheeks are so red.

I don’t know why but my hands are shaking. I never should have left the safe haven of those real fictional worlds and I never should have looked at my sister’s stupid friend. She was nothing but a stupid wake up call for a stupid boy. Real people don’t match up. Stick to fiction. Stick to writing.

I re-open my word document and make it right.

The Girl with the Crimson Cheeks

The Girl with the Crimson

The Girl with the

The Girl with

The Girl


The Stupid



The Wake

The Wake-up

The Wake-up Call

5 thoughts on “The Wake Up Call

  1. David Sterling

    At first I found the confusing and perhaps misshapen structure made the story hard to follow and the characters unrelatable. However, as it progresses we see that this reflects the actual nature of the protagonist – confused and detached – and he himself becomes relatable, even when in error. Enjoyable read, look forward to the next story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth Farrell

    Wow, awesome story, Adam. That’s a really different style from what we’d seen before of your writing, but I really like it. Especially how the unusual rhythms of the story mirror the character’s feelings and thoughts. Nice one. 🙂


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