Hold a little titre

I wrote this some years ago as a way of dealing with a minor personal drama by way of undermining serious themes with the kind of jokes I liked when I was 15. The inspiration, or at least the soundtrack to writing this, was “4am forever” by lostprophets. A little awkward, with hindsight, but I bet you still like at least one of Woody Allen’s films.


Icy, grey December water rose above her knees as she waded across the dark shadow cast by the mouth of the cave. The prickling of her nerve endings and the blunt pain of the cold in her calves scarcely crossed her mind as she forced herself each step to lift her sodden boots from the ground and scrape across the top of the rough rock beneath her. Why she had come alone and told no one, she did not know — none of what she had done today made any sense to her. Keep going. Keep calm and carry on, as the poster above her bed read. When you’re going through Hell, keep going. Stiff upper lip, don’t trouble people with your trifling, trivial problems. Keep going, past the mouth of the cave and around the dark corner.

It was strange from the first moment, the letter Alex had left for her to read on her return from the town. From the first time they had met, drunk and directionless, he was so needlessly eloquent. An edge would be a precipice; a chill a paroxysm. Reserved but descriptive, quiet in his behaviour but in his words forthcoming and emotional.


In the letter: the simplest words. No joy in mastery of language, no playful pretension. Nothing of Alex:

I am bored with everything. Not with you but with everything. I do not want to cause a public scene, I will be found in the cave where we went diving last summer.


Direct, like a scientist, or a lesser Hemingway. The man shot the dog. Alex shot me, or himself which is the same thing.

She continued around the corner and before she reached the point where the high tide can block the entrance, she was struck by a pungent smell: ferrous and decaying, wasteful. She feared what she knew was coming and thought back over her week at the cabin with him. She saw his face when she thought he was happy, a convincing façade to cover over what he must know would destroy her. Surely…not this easily, not as sudden, it must be wrong…can there be a surprise party at the end of a dank cave? There must be.

She imagined his intentions as he sat down to write the letter, how he must have struggled against it, and she felt suddenly sick.


It could have been the smell that made her drop to her wet knees and allow the weight of her head to force hot tears out of her eyes. She crawled on a few feet and forced herself to look up and see a shadow of what was surely Alex. Her quivering fingers lit up her phone, which she raised to see his face — eyes closed and swollen, his face unchanged but jowly above the thin, coarse rope.

Among the living, she was alone in the cave. She crawled to where the floor was at its highest point and clutched her legs with her weakened arms as she watched the tide rise up so that it almost reached his waist. She never opened her eyes again — for it was perfect symmetry that the last time she saw him, he was balls deep.


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