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Apocalypse Regained

October 23, 2008

The smell was all that remained. The smell of the Leylandii* which, for decades after, would make her feel sick to her stomach, an involuntary squirming of the guts as though they could no longer accept being part of her and wished to leave all at once through her mouth. It was inconvenient, of course, because there’s no getting away from Leylandii in the fenced-off, keep out, don’t look world. Hedges to hide behind.

It was the smell of the Leylandii mixed, inextricably, with stale cigarette smoke and a hint of engine oil. That’s what he did. Smoked and messed around with car wrecks. He listened to music too, but that had no smell that she could remember associated with it. Those Leylandii (she would cross the road rather than be anywhere near them) ran along the front of his family’s property and also along the fence that marked the edge of her own family’s garden, the boundary. She never played there after that summer. On account of the smell.

Her family had only moved to the village a few months before. She was thirteen, isolated and lonely. He was nineteen, had long hair and lived next door. She lay on her bedroom floor and read, cycled round the village on her bike, kept out of the way of her mother’s rage. He smoked and played music she’d heard on Top of the Pops, very loud, and sometimes even this was drowned by the tortured roar of an engine prodded into a semblance of function.

She had a diary. A green hard-cover book of lined paper. A pen, a proper ink pen with a nib and green ink. There was only one entry written in her over-precise italic.

“Why is it that despite having this book and this pen and this green ink I still can’t write? I suppose it’s because nothing ever happens to me.”

That, she now supposed, was how it had to be. Nothing had ever happened.

Only the sickness at the smell and the great care she took never, ever to look at him again.

It was another smell that came back first. Acrid, ammoniac. And the pressure of his hands where they gripped her. The pain. The sickening revulsion and disbelief. And the smell of her fear. Small fragments. The dress she had been wearing. Simple, sleeveless, a multicoloured pattern of small flowers. His trousers of lightweight cream-coloured material.

“Let’s go for a walk” he had said. Usually they hung out in his room. If “usually” is a word that can cover the two or three times she’d been there. He would lift her up and sit her on his lap. Sometimes he would kiss her. His tongue in her mouth was slimy and tasted of old ashtrays. She didn’t like it, but it made her feel grown-up. This was called French kissing, wasn’t it? Once his mother came in unexpectedly. He had pushed her, quickly, off his knee. His mother had asked if either of them wanted a cup of tea. She didn’t drink tea, or coffee. Her parents said she wasn’t old enough.

“Let’s go for a walk” he had said, and so they did. He took her along the lane, through the field down the hill to the woods.

“You’re such a PT” he said, his tone midway between teasing and accusation as they walked in the sunshine along the hedgerow.

“What’s a PT?” she asked, worried, knowing it wasn’t a good thing to be, looking up into his face. They were holding hands. She tried to pull hers away but he wouldn’t let her.

“Don’t you know what a PT is?” Mocking now, mocking accusation. “You should. It’s what you are. You’re nothing but a little PT.”

They said no more and he led her into the woods, away from the path, picking through brambles and over fallen logs, deeper and deeper into the gloom until they reached the lip of what had been a chalk quarry, a dip in the ground filled with undergrowth. He makes her sit down on the ground, holding her wrists in his hands.

“A PT” he says, as he tightens his grasp on her wrist and rubs her hand over the cream-coloured fabric of his trousers while he undoes the zip, “is a Prick Teaser”. It’s capitalised. “That’s what you are. You’re a dirty little Prick Teaser and you know you want it. Well here it is.”

Thirty years later she sits at a keyboard. She remembers, she thinks, most of it. But she can’t remember how they got home. Did they walk back together? She can remember his dog’s name but not his surname. She weeps, as she has done intermittently over the couple of months since the memories resurfaced, for the thirteen year old girl who never breathed a word to anyone of what had happened. The girl who never, as far as she can remember, wept for herself.

She sits at the keyboard. She sits, with her fingers laced together. And then she begins to type.

“The smell was all that remained.”

by Anonymous

*A fast-growing evergreen tree much used for domestic hedging in the UK and symbol of suburbia. [BACK]

Reading by Beth Adams – Download the MP3

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  1. October 24, 2008 at 6:18 am

    Not exactly an enjoyable tale to read, but a powerful one, and well told.

  2. October 24, 2008 at 9:10 am

    The first time, it shocked me. The second time, it made me feel numb and sick. The third time, it brought tears. Very good writing about something very bad.

  3. October 26, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    I’m glad you felt able to write this…and the thirteen year old has had a chance to be heard.

  4. October 27, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Bleak and unremitting, but of great value – hopefully not least to the writer.

  5. R
    November 7, 2008 at 11:14 pm


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