I stood in the kitchen, hands clutching tightly at the white stone sink, as sensations flowed unbidden through my head, images flashing by like some diabolical slideshow. CLICK … a burgundy-colour car squealing down the street … CLICK … the sound of a gun cocking, the scent of terror in the air … CLICK … deep dark red blood stroking down the wall forming an ever-increasing pool in the cold marble floor.
I blinked and looked up, seeing again, but with my eyes, looking at the familiar comfortable kitchen littered with cereal bowls, dog leads and the other detritus of everyday life. Unsteadily I reached out and swallowed my daily allotment of pills; the vitamins, herbal extracts and mysterious white tablets in small amber bottles, as I tried to ignore the images and sounds of fire and destruction. From the television, this time, but no less or more familiar and real than before.
I shook my head and gathered my things together, dislodging a pile of birthday cards. I dropped to my knees and started to gather them up, the hastily scribbled messages inside a disheartening calibration of my social and familiar status: “Dear Julie”: two. “Dear Janie”: one. “Dear Mrs Bradshaw”: five. “Dear valued customer”: six. And two with “Happy 50th!!”; two years too late, but they say it’s the thought that counts. With a sigh I gathered my bags and hurried out of the door, late as usual for everything and nothing.
The tall, hoarse-voiced man pulled down his balaclava and cast a sharp eye over the arsenal in the back of the van. He got out and walked to the inconspicuous dark red Volvo idling nearby. “Ai’right you, let’s be on with this!” he shouted over the hubbub of voices and car engines. Inside the van, the rancid sweat mixed with the smell of smoke and exhaust fumes, adding to the charged atmosphere. The men inside the van grimaced at each other, and shifted nervously in their seats. The tall man stepped into the car, and nodded to the van, which slipped quietly away down a deserted side street. Whistling, he switched on the engine and started flipping the radio dial, adrenalin starting to surge inside him.
I crouched down in Fellowes Road and tried to catch my breath, calmly waiting, detached surprise at the innocent and not so innocent deja vu coming from the native suburban street. Calmly waiting, dreading, for the action that would unfold. I rounded the corner into the High Street and inhaled sharply at the sight of the yellow crime scene tape. I turned, gasping, as the ambulance doors opened to admit the sheet-covered stretcher being wheeled out of the bank nearby. I hovered nervously, started to walk towards the imposing granite building, starting to run at the image of blood drops running through my head.
Bill Bradshaw heaved himself onto the overstuffed sofa with a contended sigh and a shower of brick dust. His callused hands reached for the TV remote, his mind blissfully empty of all but the mouth-watering smell of roasting meat coming from the kitchen. He struggled upright towards his tea mug, hand freezing in midair as he caught sight of the familiar, ghost-white face staring back at him above the Granada local news logo.
“What happened then, when you’d seen the car going off like that, what happened next?” prattled the sincere looking blonde in the smart suit (“well, I was, um, I was just standing here”) waving her microphone while casting furtive glances around for someone more outgoing to interview. “…wondering what was going on,” the meek-faced brunette continued, “and, oh, obviously, er, someone had called the police, um…”
Bill sat up, mouth opening and closing like a fish, gesturing wildly towards the kitchen. “‘Ere, you’ll never guess who’s on the telly! Jules, and looking like a bloody zombie!”
He heard footsteps behind him, and a gasp, but ignored it, leaning forward eager to enjoy the show.
My piece is intended as the beginning of a novel or a short story aimed an adult audience, describing the intertwining lives of Mrs Julie Bradshaw, an ordinary suburban woman who may or may not have psychic abilities, and a group of bank robbers. I chose to take this approach not only because it was one I found interesting, but because although the source material clearly shows that a bank robbery has taken place, the main ‘character’ is not directly involved in the action. I used this device as a way of involving her and making her the main character in the story. I used the technique of alternating between the different viewpoints; Julie (in the first person), the bank robbers and Julie’s family (both in the third person) so as to be able to allow the audience a wider perspective on what is happening.
The piece starts dramatically with Julie having violent, confusing ‘visions’ in her kitchen. I use to word “CLICK” to try to give some sense to the reader of what these visions might be like for Julie, that they are sharp flashes that come and go in an instant. The simile, “like diabolical slideshow” injects a note of dark humour while still being descriptive, and is referenced in the use of “CLICK.” The next paragraph places the story firmly back in the everyday, ‘normal’ world, but the reference to “white tablets” is used to cast doubt on Julie, i.e. is she really psychic or mentally ill? The phrase “small amber bottles” suggests the pills are prescription, while the adjective “mysterious” hints that they are for some less than commonplace ailment. The inclusion of the birthday cards and description of the messages inside not only serves to give the audience more concrete facts about the narrator, such as name, age and marital status, but implies she is somewhat of an outsider.
The second segment introduces the as-now unknown bank robbers. The detail about them driving a burgundy car is taken from the source material, but here the colour of the car is described simply as “dark red,” partly because “burgundy-colour car” has already been seen in Julie’s ‘vision’ and it is up to the reader to make the connection, and partly because the language used to describe the robbers is simpler and more visceral (“rancid sweat”) rather than descriptive or poetic, to emphasise the difference between them and Julie. The use of dialect in “Ai’right you, let’s be on with this!” and adjectives like “hoarse-voiced” demonstrate this man’s roughness, while using a more emotive noun like “arsenal,” rather than simply “guns” shows they are very heavily armed and probably violent and dangerous.
The third goes back to Julie’s perspective, as she witnesses the events she describes in the source material. Certain details such as “Fellowes Road” and “yellow crime scene tape” have been used from the source. The use of the phrases, “innocent and not so innocent deja vu” and “native street” suggest the street is familiar to her, but that sense of familiarity is harmless (because she is from that area) but also have a darker meaning (because she has seen it in her visions). The adverbs “hovered nervously” and “gasping” suggest her fragile mental state at that moment.
The last segment takes place in the home of a relative of Julie’s who is shocked to see her on the television news. The man has the same surname, leaving the audience to question his relationship to Mrs Bradshaw. Is he her husband? Ex-husband? Blood relative and she uses her maiden name? The lexis used is more basic, and adjectives like “callused hands” and “overstuffed sofa” give the impression this is a simple, working class household. The dialect used towards the end (“‘Ere,” “telly” and “bloody”) reinforce this.
The excerpts from the television news are taken from the source material, and are used to emphasise the difference between Julie, who “ums” and “ahhs” and the TV reporter, who “prattles” (evoking a mental image of the stereotypical superficially sincere but glossy TV presenter) but does not miss a word). By doing this the reader gets a firmer impression of Julie’s personality and how she appears to the outside world. A further physical description is given with the adjective “meek faced brunette.”