Chapter 10

The process of writing the second album was painfully slow. Colin felt as if his brain was deleted and switched off. Whenever his consciousness had failed to send him a lyric in a flow, he usually tried to be systematic, but now he found even that approach did not work. It seemed like he would never be able to write a lyric again. It scared him.

The wedding had been beautiful. The newly-weds had been just as great as Ash had described them to him, and even his singing had gone well. But since that day, he had not seen Ash at all for nearly two weeks. They would phone each other occasionally, or exchange text messages, even arranged another trip to the Czech lands together in July, however, Colin did not look forward to it much. And he did not look forward to seeing Ash.

It was very unfair to her, he knew that. She had found a perfect gift for his twenty‑fifth birthday in return for the necklace, and when he had objected about its price, she would just smile and ask him when he last got a birthday present. He had always longed to have an atlas like that. He loved atlases, but had thought he could not afford to buy a really good one. So she had given it to him, that lovely creature…

But gratefulness was not enough to make him get on a bus and go to Colinton. He had to be alone. Luckily, she seemed to understand it and made no pressure on him. At least not openly; she was concerned, of course, nevertheless chose to keep the worries to herself.

 

Ash almost bumped into Harry when she locked the door and turned to leave. She greeted him with a surprised look, more because she had not expected him to appear in person than because she had not expected him at all:

“Harry! I… was just leaving…” she managed.

“Somewhere far?”

“No, just to Tesco.”

“Will you let me go with you?”

“Sure, why not,” she agreed.

“Have you seen Colin?” he began after a long pause, which was long enough to last till they rounded the corner and crossedRedford Road.

“Haven’t seen him for more than two weeks, Harry. I suspect you’ve seen him more recently than me,” she disappointed him.

“But you’ve been in touch, haven’t you?”

“Well, yes. He does reply to my text messages on occasion,” she admitted.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing much. Just a writer’s block,” she assumed.

“Of course,” Harry nodded. Suddenly, almost everything seemed clear. Except… “Why doesn’t he tell us, for God’s sake?”

“You know Colin,” she allowed herself a tiny smile. “He’d feel ashamed of himself if he did. And he’d always feared you might not want him in the band if he couldn’t participate in the writing process.”

“Can’t you help him, Ash?”

“Me? I’d love to, but he doesn’t want to see me.”

“But he loves you!” Harry protested. His voice sounded angry.

“Harry, I understand how you feel. But please, try to be patient. I don’t know of any deadline you have to keep, I think it will be safe to give him two months. He needs time. And more than anything, he’ll need to know you won’t be upset if it takes him long to get his inspiration back, because if he doesn’t get this certainty, it will only make him nervous and block him even more.”

“Well, how does he know we won’t be upset if he doesn’t even let us tell him?”

“I’ll tell him,” Ash promised.

 

When she came to Colin’s house in Silverknowes that Saturday, she only found a couple of lights on. She tried ringing the doorbell, even though she knew it would be useless, but only got what she had expected – no reply. She glanced over the road to the gradually darkening lawn. It was not a welcoming look.

And then she saw a little boy at the gate.

“He’s not at home,” the boy said. “I saw him running away to the sea.”

“And you decided that if he can stay outside so long, you can do that, too?” she smiled.

“I asked him to take me with him. But he wouldn’t. Do you think he’s a werewolf?” the boy asked curiously. “I heard werewolves change into monsters at full moon. And he always runs away at the full moon.”

“Maybe it inspires him,” Ash suggested with a smile. She was not worried about the boy’s imagination too much. Parents do not tend to take their children seriously.

“My parents like his music,” the boy followed the course she set to the conversation.

“That’s nice,” she nodded. “I like it, too.”

“Are you his girlfriend?”

“No, I’m just a good friend.”

“Will you wait for him with me? So we can ask him what he was doing?”

“No, sweetheart, I can’t.”

“Vinny!” a woman’s voice called suddenly.

“I’m here, mum!” the boy called back. “I have to go,” he turned sadly to Ash. “Will you say hello to Colin for me if I don’t see him?”

“Of course,” she promised him, a little relieved that she was free to do what she came to do. She found the key to the front door in her pocket, and quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind her. She cruised the house, switched off every unnecessary light and ended up in the kitchen, where she made hot tea into a thermos she had brought with her.

Then she left the house and quite casually made her way across the lawn. In a way, she was not afraid. She had a powerful weapon with her, and another powerful weapon hidden somewhere in the scrubs near the seashore.

“Hey, young lady,” a voice disturbed her thoughts. “Are you lost?”

The voice belonged to an obviously drunk man whom she could smell even from the two-metre distance that was between them.

“No, in fact I’m not,” she replied. Her voice was low and full of warning, but met no sober ears to notice that.

“Hey, that’s great! Why don’t the two of us have a party here right now?” the man tried to touch her, but she was quicker and avoided that unpleasant experience. ‘If this place is full of drunks, why does Colin go here?’ she asked herself. ‘Isn’t he afraid they might find him?’

“Sorry, friend, I’ve already arranged a date with someone else,” she replied. It was all in vain, though, and she could see it. She reached for the bottle in her bag, ready to open it and splash the hot tea over the drunk if need be, but something else happened.

From the dark scrubs behind her came a loud, threatening growl. Blood ran cold in the veins of both Ash and the drunk at the sound of it. And then it came again, even louder.

“My lord!” cried the drunk. “Save my poor soul!”

Then he realised his lord would not help him unless he did his part as well and ran for it. Ash watched until he was out of sight, and then turned to where the growl had come from. She could see the source of the terrible sound now.

“You couldn’t choose a better day for a visit, I assume,” the creature said.

“At least you won’t be bored,” she shrugged. There was something menacing in the way the creature looked at her.

“Funny,” the creature uttered through its clenched teeth.

She took a few steps towards it, and it backed away defiantly. “You shouldn’t have come,” it said.

“I want to be with you,” she replied softly.

“You can be with me any other time,” the creature growled.

“I want to be with you now.”

“You’re asking for a bite, Ash,” the creature warned her.

“You love me,” she said firmly. “You won’t do anything to harm me. Now, take me to your den, I brought you something,” she ordered the werewolf.

 

Quite amazingly, it worked. She followed Colin to his hiding place deep in the scrubs. He still looked offended, nevertheless; he just curled onto the blanket and paid no attention to her at all. Ash did not mind. She took the thermos from her bag, and poured some tea into its cap. Then she put the flask aside and kneeled down beside Colin.

“Will you say no to a cup of tea as well?” she asked, and tried his paw with her free hand. It was not exactly cold, but very close to it.

He lifted his head and let her carefully pour the tea bit by bit into his mouth.

“Thanks,” he appreciated her help then quietly.

“Thanks for saving me,” she smiled.

“You’re welcome. But that doesn’t change anything. You shouldn’t have come.”

“Why not?”

“Because…” Could she not see? He was an ugly monster, and liked to keep that fact to himself, away from everyone else, and her most of all. He wanted her to think of him as a relatively handsome human being, not this parody of life. “Because I didn’t want you to see me this way. And I’m naked,” he added reproachfully.

She laughed. “Don’t worry, I won’t look,” she promised him.

“And I just felt like crying before you disturbed me.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to be normal!” he exclaimed unhappily.

“You’ll never be normal, sweetheart. You’ll always be special to all of us. Have your cry now if you need it. I’ll be here for you,” she said gently.

“Oh Ash,” he breathed out and buried his ugly tearful face in her arms. “Promise me you’ll never tell anyone about tonight. Please, don’t tell anyone…”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” she assured him. “This is our world. I don’t feel like letting anyone in…”

By “our world” she meant their relationship as such, but was not going to tell him. There would have to be much explaining if she did. She would have to tell him what she had read in Harry’s mind, too, and that was of course impossible.

She held him half the night, and then fell asleep by his side, until she woke early in the morning. Instead of the expected bushes, she saw a familiar cream wallpaper, which puzzled her. She did not think she would “survive” a transportation like this without waking up.

“Good morning, sunshine,” a soft voice greeted her.

Colin was sitting on the carpet at the side of the bed, and when she turned to him, he reassuringly took her hand in his.

“Morning,” she managed. “What time is it?”

“Just about seven,” he informed her. There was still something gentle in his voice that she had never noticed in such a great amount. “How do you feel?”

This question puzzled her. Had anything happened at night? She sat up.

“I’m all right. I guess. Why do you ask?”

“It was pretty cold last night. You’re not used to that,” he explained.

“Oh,” she understood. “Listen, Colin,” she suddenly remembered, “I saw Harry the other day. The band would like to know what you’re up to.”

“What have you told him?”

“That you’re having a writer’s block and that they should give you time to get your inspiration back…” she answered truthfully.

“I should make you my spokesman… Spokesgirl, I mean,” he corrected himself.

“Yeah, why not?” she smiled.

“Ash, I want to show you something,” his eyes suddenly sparkled. He offered her a hand and helped her stand up. Then he seated her at his desk and woke up the dormant monitor of his laptop.

“You wrote a new lyric?” she turned her head to him rather excitedly.

“If you can call it a lyric. I want you to read it and tell me what you think.”

She looked back at the screen. The lyric was written in notepad, in a font that reminded her of an old Macintosh her father had. It had been made in 1993, but had exceeded the qualities of PCs for several more years, until it simply gave up and ceased to be used anymore.

 

“You came to seek me at the seashore

Protected my eyes from the sharpness

Of the full moon torturing my vision

 

You came to spread your wings over me

Fed me with warmth, comforted my mind

You spoke to me softly and erased my fear

 

Angel, with your halo so bright

Angel, you came to my rescue

Angel, please never leave me

Angel, how can I ever thank you

… for being there in my time of need

 

You came to give me everything you had

Offered me your heart in outstretched hands

Even though you saw how weak I was then

You were there to fight for me

 

Angel, with your halo so bright

Angel, you came to my rescue

Angel, please never leave me

Angel, how can I ever thank you

… for being there in my time of need

 

You came to my life so suddenly

But I never saw the strangeness in the

Quick spark that you lit me up with

 

Angel, dearest angel, with your halo so bright

Angel, you came to my rescue

Angel, please never leave me

Angel, how can I ever thank you

… for being there in my time of need”

 

“Colin, there’s no way anyone will understand this,” she said quietly when she finished reading.

“I’ve a good practice at explaining what the poet wanted to say by this or that,” he smiled. “The most important thing is that you came to save me. I should have thanked you for that, but I was too ashamed…” he suddenly stopped.

“Don’t even mention that,” she shook her head.

“So, what do you think?”

“About the lyric? It’s bit similar to Calling, but I believe you can conceal it,” she winked at him mischievously.

“You’ve got a point,” he nodded. “We’ll have to try and see how it goes.”

“So we’re calling a meeting to the pub tonight?”

“Sure.”

 

“Harrison, I’m talking to you!”

Harry jerked. He had been looking out of the window, barely taking in what his companion was telling him. Now he turned to the young doctor he was having a coffee break with, and said:

“I’m sorry, I was just thinking of something…”

“Whatever it is, it takes too much of your time, Harry. You look like a ghost,” the doctor informed him.

“That’s weird, ’cause I feel more like a monster,” Harry sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve lost faith in medicine, Terry. I mean modern medicine can work miracles, and it still hasn’t find out how to erase emotions? Haven’t we been told that even emotions are nothing more than chemical reactions?”

“Harry,” the doctor smiled, “do you know how many people in this world are incapable of feeling love? Why do you want to get rid of it? It’s a blessing.”

“What about stupidity?” Harry remarked.

“Why stupidity?”

“Terry, I saw that girl first. The only thing I had to do was get up, walk to her and say something, but I never found the courage! I can’t even blame anything on coming too late, because I was the first one!”

“You said they weren’t together, didn’t you? Maybe you still have a chance…” Terry suggested.

“Yet,” Harry nodded. “They love each other. Terry, if you saw them, you’d know; they’re so in love it looks as though they were born to be together, they look as if they were breathing for each other! I can’t separate them. I love her, and he’s my best friend.”

“That doesn’t sound like words of a monster,” Terry pointed out.

“You think?”

“I think you’re a very respectful creature.”

Harry collapsed onto the table with his head on his forearms. “Give me something, Terry,” he pleaded. “I’ll go mad if you don’t help me.”

“Wouldn’t you feel better if you talked to a therapist instead?”

“Nah. I’d feel even more stupid.”

“You know what, Harry?” said Terry thoughtfully. “You said it seems they were made for each other, didn’t you?”

“I did. Why?”

“Well, suppose you did go to her that July night, suppose you won her heart, and then she met Colin…”

Harry lifted his head, his eyes bearing a horrified look. “She wouldn’t betray me…”

“She wouldn’t want to, but maybe she wouldn’t resist,” Terry shrugged.

“But that doesn’t solve anything.”

“No, it doesn’t. Neither would any pills I could give you. Be reasonable, Harry, what you need is a girlfriend.”

“I know,” Harry assured him. Of course he knew. He was still intelligent enough to know that. “But before I manage that, will you give me something?”

Terry sighed. He did not like the prospect of feeding his friend with antidepressants. Yet, he understood the seemingly unsolvable situation Harry got himself into. There was hardly anything else he could do, unless he wanted to let him go on suffering.

“Ok, I will,” the doctor agreed eventually.

“Cheers,” Harry expressed his gratefulness, but without a trace of smile or even relief.

 

When he got home that evening, he took out the tiny tablets and read the leaflet. It was a pretty nasty stuff that Terry had prescribed him. An amazing list of possible side-effects, and a result not guaranteed.

One tablet in the morning, another one in the evening. Well, he might as well start now, it’sseven o’clockalready and he is supposed to meet the rest of the band, plus Ash, in an hour…

Twenty minutes later his stomach decided to show him one of the negative side effects of some antidepressants. Harry had not been sick for years, but when it came, he immediately remembered that being sick on an empty stomach was an extremely painful business. If he knew his family was somewhere out there alive, he would probably shout for his mother.

 

When the doorbell rang, he was already feeling a bit better, so he was able to get up from the floor and see who came to bother him.

“Hey, we were just wondering…” Alan, for it was him the rest of SMPDM had sent uphill to investigate the situation, began, then stopped at the sight of Harry’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I just…” Harry’s mind was close to either blank or total chaos, he could not really tell, and had no idea how to explain everything. “Come in,” he said instead, and Alan did, even though he had not meant to at first.

“Hey, is this… what I think it is?” he asked. The box with the tablets was still on the table in the living room. Alan grabbed it and studied the cover.

“What do you think it is?”

“Some people call it ‘happy pills’,” Alan remarked. “You’re going to be sick as a dog for a few weeks if you go on taking them, Harry.”

“Thanks for telling me, I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“Is this about Ash?” Alan investigated. They all knew about her, except Colin, of course. After Harry had first met her in the pub, and had got into a deep crush with her dreamed-up version later that night, he had told his fellow band members about her. The sensation wore away in a few weeks, but they had somehow got used to their frontman at the time being in love with a mysterious girl whose first name was the only information about her anyone in the pub managed to get. And all of them understood, from the first moment they had found out who she really was, how Harry had to feel. He never mentioned her before the others, though, as he had not done for months, anyway. When Ash was around, he pretended everything was all right and was always friendly to her, and to Colin, for that matter. If he had to confide in someone, it was usually Terry McIntyre. It was ok to do that; he was an outsider.

Harry nodded. There was no point in lying.

“Isn’t there another way this can be solved?” Alan wondered.

“I suppose,” Harry nodded. “I could kill Colin. But that way she’d hate me. And I’d have no band. Or I could run away somewhere, but that way I’d have no band either. I love SMPDM, Alan. Being able to keep my head over matter is the only solution I could come up with. I’ll take a break if need be, I’ll even try to switch shifts with someone at the hospital so that I can go there when I feel better, but I have to do this.”

“Does she know?”

“Ash? Yeah she does.”

“What does she think?”

“Dunno,” Harry shrugged. “She’s a caring person, I don’t want her to feel bad about it. She likes me, I know that, but Colin’s the one she loves. The good thing is that I can shut my mind from her. She has no need to know how I feel now. She’ll think I’m over it, that I’m just a good friend (which I’ll always be), and everything will be ok. You do understand what I’m trying to tell you, don’t you?” he asked, as he realised he was probably not making himself too clear.

“I do. But what about you, Harry? Who will care about your feelings the way you care about theirs?”

“I’ll be fine,” he managed to smile. “And now you’ll go to the pub again, tell them I’m sick and need a break. You will not tell them what it’s about or I will kill you,” he warned his band mate, stressing every word. “By the way, how’s the new lyric?”

“I don’t know if you’d like it. From what I understood, Ash stayed with Colin during his last transformation, and this was a way to thank her.”

“That’s amazing,” Harry let out. How brave that girl was! And how weird it was to be finding out that the imaginary character he had given her was so correct!

“Yeah, it is,” Alan agreed. “But we won’t be able to make it a song without you, you know.”

“That’s unfortunate, but I can’t do anything to help you now,” Harry apologised. “Let me be selfish in this, Alan, and extinguish Colin’s enthusiasm for the moment, until I’m ready to share it, ok?”

“Yeah, of course,” Alan nodded. “I’d best be off now, though,” he said then and got up.

“Thanks for the visit,” Harry smiled, a bit relieved that the keyboard player was on the leave, for his stomach apparently began to think the break it had given him was long enough already. As soon as he saw Alan off to the door, he had to seek the company of the toilet again.

 

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