Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Voting for Ghosts

Thursday. I wake from a fitful slumber, feet cold, face hot. As I inch feet to steal the warmth behind my knees, red digits flutter in my periphery. 9.29pm. Late. I'm late. Legs tangled in sheets prevent a successful leap from the bed and I plunge, head first, into the bedside table. Corner stabs temple. Shards of pain to the power of three. Underneath my eye, a vessel starts to twitch. One hand has twenty fingers. That's not right. I'm late...

'Are you alright, love?'
Fingers of cold bone jab one hot cheek. Three outlines of a blurred figure enter my vision. A thousand tonne fog rests on my head but it's only air.
'My head hurts.'
'Pfft! I've known pain far worse.'
'And you are?'
'Name's Emily Davison. Come now, you're late.'

I spin my body out of its circus tangle and off the bed. Vision follows two seconds later. Liquid muscles and jelly bones quiver as I heave myself up onto feet that don't feel like my feet. Hand seeks out the pain bleating relentless in my temple. Contents of stomach don't feel safe. I clutch my side, as if that will help.

The four walls of my room have broken and dispersed. A white descends to curl around me, a whisper to my flesh. I follow Emily along a floorless corridor of fog.
'Where are we going?'
She smiles. I gulp. We reach open nothingness. A woman strides out, her neck held rigid by a high white collar. The sternness of her nose is intimidating.
'Wait. I know you. You're-'
'Emmeline Pankhurst.'
It's official. I am late. For my check-in at the Bethlem mental institution.

A ballot box slides out from the white. A pen drops from nowhere. A voting form appears crumpled beneath the painful twist of my fingers. Empty boxes loom, waiting to be ticked. Tick me. Tick me. No! Tick me. Emily creeps forward.
'I didn't throw myself under that horse for you to stand there.'

Emmeline glares at the pocket watch in her weathered hands. Red digits flutter. Pen hovers. Mind quivers. Somewhere, Big Ben chimes ten but I'm not watching the news. My heart leaps. I fall.
'You're too late. You've missed your chance. I'm terribly disappointed in you.'
I'm faced with the pointed stare of two suffragettes and their suffering. Pain has found a beat and plays like dirty hip-hop in my head. I sink into the fog and drown in it.

Thursday. 9.45pm. Wake face down on floor. Spine jarred; feet, thighs, knees tangled upwards against the edge of the bed. Temple aches. I heave myself up onto feet that feel like my feet in a room that looks like my room. Stagger over to my calendar. 7 days to go. Not late after-all...


  1. So what you're saying is, we should all go out and vote on Thursday, yes?
    *Plentymorefishoutofwater - One Man's Dating Diary*

  2. Hi, Lou. I really like this a lot. Is this a novel excerpt?

  3. Fish: i'm not saying that at all. Jeez, can't you read the deeper meaning? I kid, i kid. But no, i'm not saying you should go out a vote. Do what you want! It's your choice. But for me, voting is important.

    Hunter: I'm glad you liked it. It's not a novel excerpt. It's part real, part embellishment. I really did wake up from a sleep, disoreintated, thinking i was late to vote for the general election. And in my rush, i really did knock myself unconscious. What followed probably didn't involve the suffragettes but 3 hours in a hospital A&E.

    I also have a running joke that i'm haunted by the suffragettes if i don't vote, so i chose to use that in my relaying of my ordeal. Maybe i should turn it into a story though! :)

  4. I'm a politics geek. I've taken two days off at the end of the week so I can watch the coverage. So I'll be voting.

  5. Brilliant Lou. I so agree about voting. Hope your head is okay!

  6. Loved the imagery in the first paragraph

  7. This is awesome! I totally had to google Emily Davidson though. So cool.

  8. Fish: Wow. You are a politics geek. I applaud you. Wish i was that dedicated to the cause but the sight of David Cameron's smug face as the results come in might make me snap!

    Tina: Thank you! Head is okay. I felt awful for days but i'm alright. Just bruised. No brain damage...yet.

    SJ: Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you liked it!

    Anon: Ah, i'm thrilled that i made you google an unknown topic. 'Tis how we learn! :)

  9. Many years ago, strange characters broke into my head and performed a bizarre play, with me in it, and without my permission. I woke up soaking wet, and realized that I was quite sick, and had been gripped by a fever, which had just broke.

    Looking back on it, there is something kind of exciting about the way an injury or sickness can play with your imagination. Have you gotten the urge to go back and finish your play?

  10. ouch! the description is so vivid i could feel the fogginess and the pain. will be voting soon.

  11. Bruce: I tell you, as soon as i felt well enough i did have a surge of inspiration which helped with this post. Haven't got the urge to finish the play though. I can't believe you remember that! It's still sitting there, unfished, waiting. But my time is too focused on the novel at the moment. Maybe i should take a step back and focus my energy on the play for a while. Get some perspective.

    Sarah: I'm pleased you could feel it and picture it. Exactly what i was going for. And yes, it was ouch times about a thousand! Eeeeek...voting soon. Nervous! :)

  12. Lou,
    As usual, your post grabbed me and sucked me in. I absolutely love the way you write. If that’s the way you write after getting knocked unconscious, hand me a bat! You must either be a person who is always on time, or always late cause I found your poem “Don’t be Late…” –I am one who is usually late, but only when it doesn’t matter I like to say.
    My Wonderfully Dysfunctional Blog

  13. Checked out your blog as another undecided. I like your style. I'm haunted by the presence of the people around the world who don't get the opportunity to vote. But it is so hard to decide!

  14. Buffi: Thanks for the lovely comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to read. Actually, i'm a bit sporadic in my time keeping. With school and work i was always on time. For everything else, i'm always late. As you say- when it doesn't really matter!

    Mrs Midnite: Yes, the undecided voter. I wasn't undecided for very long. In my heart i knew who to vote for- but i worried about a wasted vote etc...at least i did get to vote though. Some poor sods never got the chance. This country is falling to pieces! Now i'm sounding old! :)


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