Don’t Always Trust the Street Food – Short Story

My second assignment was to write a 2200 word short story. I wanted to try writing in a different point of view so chose to write in Third Person Limited.

Here is the result:

Word format – Don’t Always Trust the Street Food – Paul Blake

 

Don’t Always Trust the Street Food

 

He woke suddenly, a tremendous pain behind his eyes, pulsating with every heartbeat, travelling from the front of his head to the base of his skull. Quickly, new agonies revealed themselves as his brain caught up with the messages sent from a thousand tortured nerve endings; his scalp and forehead felt like there was a cut, or ten, the blood already thickened into molasses, slowly drying; his neck and shoulders were screaming, his lower back competing in volume. Struggling to open his eyes as the drying blood had sealed them closed, he did not feel the eyelashes ripping out, the pain drowned out by the rest.

With his eyes finally open, he tried to see where he was. It was very dark with a very thin strip of light coming slightly above him; beside his head was a small rectangular object, light reflecting off a dead glass screen, he reached for it, gritting his teeth against the pain as the muscles stretched. He grasped the phone in his hand, feeling the sharp ridges of the cracks in the screen against his fingertips. Praying the phone still worked, he pressed the power button. Instantly he was blinded by the glare of the screen, stabbing deep inside his head. He slammed his eyes shut with a curse, and waited for the red tinted after-image to diminish. Squinting, he aimed the phone away and looked around, immediately he saw a door where the strip of the light was coming from. It was beige with a slide lock midway up; there were streaks of blue liquid and smears of blood, partially covering upside down signs indicating no smoking and which way to slide the lock. He lifted his head slightly and saw his bloodied blue jean clad legs and then his battered Converse trainers aiming towards a smoke detector and a dead light fitting. He dropped his empty hand below him and felt smooth, cool metal. The realisation that he was in a small toilet cubicle hit him fast, quickly followed by the knowledge that he was sprawled above the toilet pan, head down to the side, his neck and shoulders taking the rest of his weight, legs propped inverted against a wall. Deciding a short sharp shock would be better in the long run and would at least alleviate the pressure, he pushed his legs against the wall and screamed as his muscles and joints awoke, forcing through the pain, lifting up so his right shoulder was taking all his weight and pushed off from the wall. He collapsed on the floor like a bundle of rags, wedged in with his face hugging the side of the toilet bowl, like a teenager regretting their first night of excess. Its coolness gave a small relief as the pressure from being upside down subsided. At some point during this, he must have dropped the phone and everything went black as the screen automatically turned off.

He stayed there on the floor, jeans wrapped around his ankles, sobbing as the blood flowed from his head and neck around his veins, burning as it went, like a thousand needles pricking him all at once. Eventually it faded, and he groped around for the phone, scraping his fingers on the rough textured metal flooring underneath him. Where can it be? He thought to himself. He reached into the bowl and felt it sitting there. With a heavy sigh of relief that he hadn’t accidently kicked the flush button during his rapid, ungainly descent, he closed his eyes, directed the screen away from him again and pressed the power button. He gently opened his eyes and took stock of his situation. The cubicle was approximately two foot by three foot; fortunately, he hadn’t started his business before he blacked out, so he didn’t have that to deal with. There were bits of toilet paper lying all around, dirty, and crumpled; there was no power or light apart from the 30 seconds or so burst from his phone’s screen. There were several bulges to one wall, which looked like a monster had bludgeoned the outside trying to get in. Physically, he was in a state, most parts of his body were alternating between aching and screaming, depending on movement. Mentally, he felt that his facilities seemed intact; however, due to the bashes to his head, he thought he had better check to see if there were any memory issues.

My name is Jonathan Spiers, I usually introduce myself as Jon; I’m thirty-four years old, He remembered. I’ve been married to Kayleigh for coming up to seven years now; her Dad was a big fan of Marillion, an Eighties rock band whose lead singer was called Fish; their biggest hit was the song ‘Kayleigh’ and she was named after that. Fish? That couldn’t have been his real name, surely? I’ll have to Google it later, if I can. We have a child on the way, it’s early in the pregnancy so the sex is unknown, Kayleigh believes it’s a boy though, a mother’s intuition, I suppose. I co-own a business called Advanced Software Solutions with my business partner, and best friend, Darren Reynolds. A tall, gangly man with unkempt hair and a beard; over-sized, thick lensed glasses and a never-ending supply of obscure band t-shirts. We’ve known each other since school; he is the brains of the operation. Darren decided on the business name and insisted we stuck with it, even after I pointed out the obvious problem we would have with the initials. Jon suppressed a grin at the memory of the argument and continued checking for gaps. We have created a software package which is selling very successfully in the UK. I am currently presenting it to companies in various European cities. This morning, I was in Seville, Spain, taking a later than planned flight to Lyon in France; having spent a long night with clients watching the local football team lose. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped for a bite to eat at a street stall, whose gambas ajillo, a spicy seafood dish which, while very tasty at the time, didn’t agree with my stomach. After a torrid night, the airline was good to let me get on a later flight without too much hassle, or so I thought. Jon concluded with a rueful smile.

His legs started cramping, curled underneath him, his blood being cut off; there was no way he could stretch them. He placed his hands on toilet pan rim and pulled his body up; it felt like how he imagined a pensioner feels after a fall, every slight upwards movement a triumph and a battle of will against gravity trying to return him to the floor. Jon managed to raise high enough to shuffle his arms onto the bowl’s edge and rested there for a moment; his weight supported by the strength in his forearms and his knees. With his body and thighs no longer trapping his feet and calves, he felt the now familiar surge of blood rushing to them, Jon planted his feet on the floor and pushed his body up using his legs, putting him into a very rough version of the downward dog yoga position – legs reasonably straight, bent at the waist, head down and elbows and arms resting on the toilet. After the deadened feeling left his feet and legs, Jon stood upright for the first time and put an arm out to steady himself. His hand slipped a little in the blood and liquid on the wall and he staggered into the edge of the toilet bowl, bashing his shins. The unexpected pain made him curse aloud. Still muttering to himself, Jon placed his hand on the door slide lock; remembering to close his eyes as tight as he could to block out the light and slid the lock open; he slowly pulled the door open towards him. Gradually Jon opened his eyes, his vision slowly adapting to the glut of light, expecting to see rows of passengers looking back at him with differing expressions of disgust, pity and amusement at his condition. Instead, the cabin of the plane had been sheared away; leaving a two foot wide ledge. Where the seats and passengers were supposed to be, Jon could see blue sky with slight wisps of clouds; the jagged edged peaks of a mountain range in the distance hazy from the sun; a vast forest of dark green conifer trees reaching to the snowy alpine summits – a beautiful postcard image; in the middle distance, he saw an earthy plateau covered in wreckage; a long straight gouge scoured in the earth like a child’s finger across a carton of ice cream; the fuselage of the plane, in pieces, scattered, spilling seats, luggage, and debris like confetti at a wedding. Jon stared in shock as his gaze brought in details closer to his field of vision; a drinks cart, dented and upended, it’s wheels pointed to the skies, miniature bottles of spirits, mixers and overpriced snacks dispersed around it, a rude imitation of the tableau before him; banks of seats tossed aside with unmoving passengers still strapped in place, limbs in unnatural positions posed like mannequins abandoned in a warehouse, their faces thankfully blurred at this distance. There was no noise coming from below and there wasn’t any wind buffeting him; the silence gave the scene an unworldly, but not inappropriate, solemn feel. Jon grimaced at what he saw and turned away. Facing the cockpit he was stunned to see the door wrenched open by dark grey rock like a shark’s fin cutting through the ocean as it chases down its prey. The metal opening bulged outwards as the pressure of the impact moulded it like a metallic second skin. Next to the doorway were the plane’s galley lockers, which always reminded Jon of banks of morgue lockers in American crime movies, only containing blankets, food and pillows instead of refrigerated corpses. Opposite the lockers, Jon saw his metallic, filthy sanctuary and fought the urge to retreat inside, to close the door and hide away until help came. He went to the edge of the cabin to see how high up he was and whether he could make his way down to the plateau. He got down on all fours, no need to risk falling out, he thought, and with his body still aching and fragile shuffled across and looked down, he was at least twenty feet off the ground with jagged rock and thick brambles between the cabin and the ground, it would be impossible to get down there, so he was stuck where he was.

He decided to see what was in the lockers and settle down and wait for rescue. There were two rows of three cabinets, he unclicked the fasteners on the one closest to him and pulled it out. It was reasonably heavy, stainless steel and covered in various semi-peeled sticky labels, in it were several travel bags of different shapes, some featuring the airline logo, presumably owned by the cabin crew, a creeping chill travelled up his arms, making his hairs rise and Jon decided to leave them out of respect. He moved on to the second one. In this there were some flattened pillows in cellophane and a couple of worn orange blankets, he removed these and placed them to one side. The final locker was missing; Jon figured it was probably the one he saw in the field below and reached for the locker above it in the next row. This was smaller than the bottom ones. He placed it on the floor and opened it, inside was: perfumes, aftershaves and watches. He closed the door and slid it across the floor, he must have used too much force as it teetered on the edge and fell onto the rocks below, the crashing sound loud and harsh in the still air. Guiltily, he moved to the next locker, he left the locker in place and opened the front. Inside were stacks of cardboard boxes with ‘tasty snack box’ in fancy print on the lid. This is more like it, he thought. Inside the box were: a packet of plain crisps, a small pack of crackers, and an even smaller foil-wrapped portion of soft cheese. Crushed with disappointment, Jon opened the final locker. This only contained sheets of paper; the top one read ‘Toilet Sanitation Checklist’. Jon closed it and pulled it out of the row. He carefully placed it on the floor against side of the cabin, sat down on it, and put his head in his hands.

After a while, Jon looked up, tear streaks ran down his face, blood and blue smears smudged by the wet and his hands creating a ghostly sheen to his cheeks and forehead. He shivered and reached for a blanket. As he wrapped it around his shoulders he jolted as he realised in the far distance he could hear a mechanical noise, like a far off neighbour mowing their lawn on a sunny weekend morning, slowly and steadily, get closer.

END

 

As with the first assignment I received good marks and feedback and I felt I was on the right path. I was also enjoying an Open University assignment for the first time in 6 years,

 

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