Snowcase #3 • 13 August 2007 • The SnowBlog
Derek Haycock has emailed the start of his novel, Franklin's Orb. Derek lives in Suffolk and writes full-time, mainly novels in the mystery genre.
A unique work of art, in the unlikeliest of settings, acts as a beacon for a journey of self-realisation and salvation. Chapter 1: The End of the Beginning
Franklin stopped talking. He stopped for the best of reasons. He liked to talk because he always had so much to say. But then he stopped. I only turned my head for a moment to look at the small alarm clock on his bedside table. Barely a twist of my neck. In that moment, he stopped talking.
I haven't taken a drink since. Not that my body doesn't crave alcohol. It reminds me all the time. I can smell whisky through glass, sense it through brick, and caress it from twenty feet away. But now, when my skin shrinks around me as though it might split, I turn away and think about my last day with Franklin.
Have you ever wanted to run from yourself? Have you ever woken in the night and wondered why you're not dead yet? If you can look in the mirror and say no to both of these, and that you have no fears for the future, then I want to hear your story. I'll rest here, nestled quietly, and listen and marvel. Because I had to learn the hard way.
You might think a near-photographic memory is a faculty to be envied; a key to success in any number of pursuits from science to gambling. But what if much you remember is beyond your comprehension? And what if that you can make sense of batters you mercilessly like an infinitely ringing, discordant echo? You would want release from that. Franklin coaxed me into letting my memories flow again. But more than that, he has enabled me to survive them.
My name is Archie Watts, although Franklin persisted in calling me by the unabbreviated Archibald. Coming from anyone else, that would have been unacceptable, but from Franklin, it was almost musical. He said, 'Your mother named you Archibald, not Archie. She wouldn't like it to be shortened.' I never really knew my mother, so somehow his insight, whether spurious or factual, was precious to me. As she died shortly after I was three, and as Franklin was about my age, or a little younger, he couldn't have known her either. But when he spoke about her to me, it was as if he did know her, and he always spoke in a kind of whimsical present tense as if it was possible my mom could return.
I was working as a building maintenance man in the depressingly appropriately named borough of Hardich, south London; a job for which I was ill-prepared by background, aptitude or training. But I was prepared to work for minimum wage rates, and was as conscientious as my addiction spared me to be. The landlord, John Earl, owned two residential buildings, and I had to service both of them; a total of one hundred and sixty-four apartments. The tenants were charged exploitative rents for damp, draughty rooms, separated by partition walls with the sound-proofness of cardboard.
Author: Derek Haycock