Blood Vision, a work in progress

Posted: November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

It’s National Novel Writing Month and many of us are using the big global push to get that first draft down of a story that has been fermenting, just waiting to be written. Some say a first draft is you telling yourself your story. That’s true. Here is the unedited first chapter of my latest work ‘Blood Vision’.

It was grey. Fortuna Cavalieri searched for her car but the rain got in the way. She swore under her breath for not bringing her umbrella this morning. Who goes out in Sydney in winter without one, when the clouds are hanging low and black as hell? What, was she talking to herself again? ‘Blast,’ she murmured so as not to alert passers’ by on busy Pitt Street, that she was some nutcase to be avoided.

Ever practical – something her migrant upbringing had taught her – she hoisted her briefcase over her head. At least this would protect her black, curly hair from going ‘Afro’, as her mother called it. What a day. She half focused on getting to the bus stop, and half not, preferring to dwell on office politics and the sheer bastardry she’d encountered in what she thought was a cesspit of vipers, otherwise known as a PR agency. ‘Losers,’ she mumbled. A few rain sodden pedestrians glanced her way. ‘Nut job,’ she imagined them saying. She put her head down and kept walking, careful at the same time not to run into anybody. All she wanted to do was to blend into a crowd, but she couldn’t even do that successfully.

She rubbed her forehead, balancing the briefcase with one hand. She’d had one of her headaches again. If she could only find another job, maybe that would help. The public relations agency that had kept her chained was not her style anyway. Bitchy women and no rules, a toxic mix if ever there was one. The boss was even more gross in her eyes because people in leadership were supposed to be ethical but the only thing Karina Blaxwell set was a bad example, and others followed it. At B&J Communications no-one was safe except the tightknit circle around Karina. It was an environment where pure thieving of another’s work was encouraged, where good ideas were appropriated to anyone else but the conceiver, and where taking the piss, behind your back of course, was considered fair play.

She’d made it almost to the bus stop, but spied her favourite inner city bar, like a sixth sense. Oh, what she would give for a drink now. She hadn’t had one since last night and the familiar thirst was gripping her stomach. It needed soothing and she didn’t hesitate, reasoning she could catch the 6.30pm to Leichardt anyway. She pushed the door open and immediately the dark light eased her headache. It was 5.00pm and a few of the regulars were lined up at the bar. Soon the after work crowd would arrive but she moved into a quiet corner of the bar and ordered a Scotch on the rocks with a dash of water – her favourite drink since the accident.

“Eh, Fortuna, how you bin?” she heard Mac say. He was the Monday night barman and a likable enough fellow. She’d known him now for the eight months she’d been coming here. He was also Italian, though by his name you’d never know.

“Yeah Mac. No problems. You?”

“Gooood Fortuna. Goood. Can’t complain, who would listen to me anyway?” Mac had a way of stretching out his ‘o’s’ with just the right amount of accent. She’d listened to men like Mac all her life; men who were not really comfortable using another’s language but did so because they had to just to fit in with a culture that, at times, was alien and inhospitable.

“Non importa,” she replied in Italian, just to make him feel better, and then “Gracie,” as he gave her a drink.

She smiled brightly at him, but slid off the bar stool in an obvious getaway move. She wanted some quiet. That’s the way it was these days. She could count on her hand the number of conversations, real conversations, she had this week. It was just that too many people made her head spin and she needed the space to process what was happening to her. She was not the same anymore. She gulped a deep mouthful of whiskey. It burned as it went down her throat and she was conscious of it reaching her stomach. She took another, and another in quick succession and it was then that the hit began; it went right through her and took the edge off her thoughts. She was ok, she told herself, wiping the condensation off her glass with her thumb and staring at the golden lights of the liquor. It somehow made it alright to be alone, and lost, at 26 years of age, in the middle of Sydney, a city of four and a half million people.

Fortuna thought back to the accident, a place she always returned to when she was drinking. The black, spewing smoke inside the crushed car was always in her memory, that and the silence that was broken only by the ringing in her ears. She remembered the smoke and the feeling of suffocation and then the blackness. She had been in an induced coma in RPA hospital for two months, until one day she opened her eyes to see the round and worried face of her mother hovering over her.

“My Fortuna,” Esmerelda Cavalieri cried out, so loudly a nurse dropped the bedpan she was bringing to her.

“Shit,” was the next sound to greet Fortuna as the nurse, caught unaware, cursed for the ward to hear.

She remembered the rapid response then of the nursing staff, poking and prodding, and that awful feeling as they removed the ventilator from her mouth and chest.

She squeaked her first word since the accident. “Drink, I need a drink.” They gave her water which her mother held gently to her lips. The tiny sips felt good on her parched throat, but she didn’t dare gulp.

While she didn’t fully remember the accident, she was aware of a terrible feeling of doom that often accompanies those who survive life-threatening events. Nothing in the world would ever be the same again. Knowledge always came at a price.

It was slow recovery. She was like a baby at first, living back with her mother in Fairfield, a suburb as multicultural as it came, and back with the expectations that a good Italian girl should not have attended university any more than she should be living on her own in a Leichardt flat and working in the city. No, had Fortuna followed the expectations of her large family network, she would have married a good Italian boy and be in the kitchen cooking up a storm, with a couple of babies underfoot.

She hated being at home again and her mother fussed too much. She only wanted to be alone and make sense of what had happened, and what was happening. Since her accident and coma, Fortuna had been having strange dreams which she called her ‘blood visions’ because inevitably they were bathed in blood red violence – enduring suffering and torture, which always ended in a kill. At first she thought these were bad dreams, but then she would get a vision while she was awake. She visited a psychologist friend of the family who told her it would all go away as she became stronger after the accident. It was only post-traumatic stress and she should accept it as normal, he said. But her visions were anything but normal. It didn’t matter where she was, a thought or feeling would come to her – the anticipation and the rapture of a blonde woman’s hair between her fingers, or the thrill of sharp metal against skin. Always there was a face, distant and out of focus. A man’s presence, with sunken eyes and a dead heart. This man was unreachable, like the undead; a walking, silent shell. And the blood, waves of it threatening to drown her. And that’s how it had been since the accident.

She became quiet and withdrawn, unable to bear crowds, and still her blood visions persisted. So she saw another shrink, not daring to tell her family the reason why she could not bear to be around anyone, certainly she was not able to utter her big fear: ‘I am losing my sanity.’ Round and round she went in circles, hardly conscious of time. At midnight, the visions were at their worst and she began to see their faces; pale, haunted faces full of disbelief and naked fear, desperation and the blackest of despair. The shrink had no answers, only pills. And so she swung her leg over the medical merry go round…for a while until she discovered that while the pills didn’t stop the visions, something else did.

Fortuna had never been a drinker, but she became one in the months following the accident. At first she hid it from her family and smuggled the whiskey into her bedroom. And she only drank at night, when Esmerelda was sleeping, and only enough to block the visions. She knew she couldn’t hide her drinking forever, so she asked to go home to her flat. She should be getting back to her work after all. In the stillness of her flat, the whiskey numbed her and, sightless and alone, she wondered what she could do. She had always been a loner, determined nevertheless, but not one to seek out company unless company presented itself to her. It wasn’t hard to slip almost completely into anonymity, save for the monthly visits home, where she pretended everything was going well and she was climbing the corporate ladder and earning a motza – the only thing that kept her family’s expectations of an eventual marriage in check.

She looked up from her drink. The bar was beginning to fill up with the after work crowd. Time to leave, she thought, and head home to her emptiness, where a pre-prepared meal awaited along with the flat screen television and the half empty bottle of Jack Daniels she’d bought yesterday.

“See ya on Thursday Mac,” she yelled, waving a little too fervently.

“Ciao,” the barman replied, winking. She was a good girl, he thought as he watched her disappear outside and into the busy street, but a little strange. He didn’t like to say anything to her, but he often wondered who she was talking to, sitting alone at her regular table. But it was not his job to judge others, only to pour their liquor and be the type of person they could talk to over a drink. That was all. No judgements or bad thoughts, just a friendly, smiling face behind the bottles and beer taps.

  1. Kim Testa says:

    I love this one Mare. Xxx

    Sent from my iPhone


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