Heartburn

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‘It’s dangerous out there,’ he warns, shoveling a Mars Bar into her mouth. ‘Trust me.’

 

Unable to respond, she chews and swallows as fast as she can, teeth grinding, beads of sweat leaking from her skin and trickling down her sullen face. Her hair is damp and stuck to her forehead, stagnant in the breeze emitted from the fan beside her bed. She looks at him, eyes dry and swollen, tears no longer possible.

 

‘You’re better off here.’ He un-wraps another mars bar and winks. ‘I’ll look after you.’

 

This isn’t the way it always was. When they met she was fit and healthy. She was a different person, in more ways than weight alone. They would walk together, hand in hand and happy. They would visit and vacation and travel to places near and far away. They would tease and joke and laugh until their muscles throbbed, their aches soon soothed by love’s warm and soft embrace. It was a time of friendship and boundless affection, until the boundaries broke and crooked walls closed in, crumbling brick by errant brick. Now, as she lies motionless atop the special mattress and strengthened frame beneath, cushions plumped and propped beneath her head, she is more uncomfortable than ever before.

 

‘Come on. Eat up.’ He pushes the chocolate into her mouth. ‘That’s it. Good girl.’

 

It wasn’t long after they married that things began to change. The dates beyond their gates vanished; replaced by evenings sealed behind the curtains, fast food and fizzy drinks flowing in their veins. Excursions out gave way to couches and cushions and conversations controlled within a box, widescreen inches imitating life, the living still and lifeless. When clothes no longer fit and elastic ceased to stretch, she finally weighed herself, and fainted. It was too much. She was too much. Too big. Too disgusting. All flappy and fat and foul. She woke up on the freezing bathroom floor, saliva pooled beside her mouth, her head sore, horrified.

 

‘Swallow it all.’ He mimics her chomping mouth. ‘Every last bit.’

 

She told him she wanted to lose weight. It was time to change. She tried to reason and explain, but he said nothing, the television flickering in the distance, an empty popcorn packet silent on his lap, fingers twisted into twitching fists. The room remained silent until he got up and stood before her, his face inches away from hers, eyes wide and angry, the word; cunt. Her will to lose the weight was countered by expletives and accusations. Shouting and screaming. Jealousy and suspicion. Phone smashing. Broadband disconnecting. Covert spying and curfews. Anger and abuse. He was her new life, he said, be happy, and eat.

 

‘I got you something.’ He removes a Bacon burger from a bag. ‘Just the way you like it.’

 

Ignoring the change in his personality was impossible, his eyes forever fixed, suspicion and mistrust conspiring in his head. She sat beside him on the sofa, clutching her expanding rolls of fat, trying to understand how and when it happened, trapped and scared and silent. A week later she was called in to her managers’ office, informed about her poor performance, and fired. It didn’t matter, her husband said. Work was not important, not now that she had him. It wasn’t long before family visits and friendly phone calls ceased, dial tones dead and doors forever locked. She wanted to tell them. She wanted to tell someone, anyone, but she didn’t know where to begin. She didn’t know what to say, or how. It was her fault, all of it. Soon enough the need to leave the house was gone, together with all she knew of love. There was no one left. No one but the figures on the screen, the comfort of the food, the world outside, spinning.

 

‘How about some drink?’ The glass of Coke balanced before her mouth. ‘Drink it up. Good girl.’

 

The vigour she once possessed was assimilated and extinguished, leaving nothing but exhaustion. And now, staring at the ceiling, she has no idea how much time has passed, no knowledge of the world beyond. Fact and fiction merge and everything blends into nothing. The dreams. The nightmares. The faces on television repeating the same atrocities over and over again. The war. The riots. The recession. The never-ending crisis. The fear and hate and hurt. Day after day. Year after year. Present, past and future, fickle and capricious. Germans. Russians. Christians. Muslims. Atheists and non-believers. All of them blown to bits by shards of shattered dreams, hope wilting in the ashen soil on which they tread, leaving her behind.

 

‘There’s a funny smell in here.’ He presses down on the nozzle of the air freshener. ‘That’s better.’

 

She watches the perfumed particles burst into the air above, tiny scented shapes falling down down down until they land on her bare perspiring arms, chemicals masking uncleanliness and decay. Trying to work out how long she’s been stuck in the room, she thinks about forgotten facts, anything and everything which might help, though none of it does. She can’t remember the last time she left the bed, the dignity of independence suffocated beneath her rippling folds of fat. The day she let her dreams dissolve, her grip on life was lost. She ate, and ate, and ate. Chew and swallow. Chew and swallow. Cry. Everything she once resembled was now reduced to bedpans and soapy flannels and shame and isolation. Only this remained, all 58 stone of her, lying in a bed, lonely and lost, entombed. But not for long. Not anymore.

‘Hhhmmmrrmmmm.’ She whispers.

‘What did you say?’

‘Hhhmmmrrrmmmmpppphhh.’

‘I can’t understand.’

‘Hhhmmmppphhh.’

‘What?’

He leans over and aims his ear towards her trembling lips. She pauses and examines his unshaven skin, inches away from where she lay, the vein on his neck inviting. She musters what energy remains and bites down as hard she can, muscles clenching, jaws locking, blood seeping from his punctured flesh onto her fattened face, the pain, for once, his. He fights to break free, flailing limbs unable to focus on his freedom, empty wrappers crunching beneath his feet, Coke spilling and staining crumpled sheets, blood pressure dropping, heart rate increasing, shock and dread deepening. She tightens her grip and holds on, her hunger, almost, quenched.

*

The Soundtrack for ‘Heartburn’ is Xavier Rudd’ s ‘Follow The Sun’.

*

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SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER

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You sit down with a glass of wine, red, nameless, indistinct. You twirl it in your grasp, yearning for the taste, wanting to get fucked up, scared of what might happen. You stare at the glass, your reflection, you. You sit, try not to think, and think. You think of marriage and kids and plastering and pain. You think of the future, and you drink. You know, honestly, that you’re not good enough. You know that all the words you write are worthless. There is a reason no one reads your work. There is a reason you have a job, in an office, at a desk, your manager, a mouse. Meetings and minutes and mornings consumed by something far beyond sadness, sorrow coursing through your veins, eternal sleep the strongest seed within. You think about the stories and settings and characters and chaos. You think about the people on paper who will never matter. Instantly you have an idea, and let it go. You light a cigarette and look up at the sky, darkness comforting your skin, a dog barking in the distance, alone. It’s your birthday tomorrow, tonight, now, and you have nothing to celebrate. Another year has passed, like those before, barren. Publication remains a puzzle, pieces missing, permanently. Agents and editors decide without you, your details shredded and disposed, nothing but dust, again. You wonder if a gun would make a difference. Would you pull the trigger. Would you watch your shadow fall away in the dirty glass of some shapeless mirror. You wonder how your flesh would feel, serrated and torn, trembling. The rejections make you sick, the damage no longer critical. One day someone will discover you, and look away, disgusted. Perhaps your child may read your words, intrigued, confused, lost. You think of a word; defeat, and let it linger. Your glass is almost empty. Ash has stained your trousers. This is what you are. Washed up. Withered away. Wrinkled. You feel something, sometimes. There is silence. The dog is dead. The night is numb. Water drips, the moment disturbed, gone. You think about your story, the life that beats beneath, bruised. You ponder on its purpose. You wait for answers, tense and tired. Why do you do it. Why do you bother. If you stopped, would anyone notice. Would anyone care. Would you. Is it worth it. Really. Truly. Worth it. A crooked nail scratches at your skin. There is something wrong with you. Something you cannot explain. Something strange and disconcerting. Something colossal. It is stubborn, insane and foolish. You can feel it. Deep inside, beneath your bones, burning. There is no escape. Ever. And you know this. It is the only thing you know. One thing, two things, all things. All the time. Everywhere. No words can describe it, but they will, eventually.

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X- MEN OMEGA – AGE OF APOCALYPSE

So here here is my screenplay for X-MEN OMEGA – AGE OF APOCALYPSE.

This is the second script in what was intended to be a trilogy of films based on Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse Universe, which I wrote many years ago when I was hopeful and naive. If you would like to start from the beginning and read the first installment – X-MEN ALPHA – click on the link below:

X-MEN ALPHA

Or you can jump straight in to – X-MEN OMEGA – via the below link:

X-MEN OMEGA

I hope you enjoy.

Here is my original post about my X-MEN AGE OF APOCALYPSE screenplays:

https://tomekdzido.com/2014/01/20/x-men-alpha-age-of-apocalypse/

wolverine

Wet Brain

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The shakes make moving difficult, but I struggle on, the need to leave the hospital more pressing than the pain. I’m on the brink, the doctor says, risking ruin and extinction, but I’m still here, somehow. I don’t need doctors or nurses or charts and graphs to show me what’s wrong. I can feel it, deep inside, beyond any scientific remedy. Even God himself has left me to it. He didn’t give up, I did. Not that there was much to renounce. When you have nothing, there is nothing to lose. Many ask for grace and good health, but for me, it’s all in vain. What is the point of praying if words are worn beyond repair? If minds and muscles are withered and weak, why stick around and sulk? Life without the drink is dull and listless. I no longer remember how I used to live before the booze. I know there were particulars which must have existed, such as parents and brothers and lovers and friends, but that was then. I realised long ago that remembering didn’t help. Memories were muddled, deformed by years of disciplined avoidance. Thinking about how things used to be was corrosive, more than the whiskey which appeased the past. Now, I’m on my own. But it’s all right. I’m okay with that. It’s the way things are. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I’m not interested in your sympathy. I don’t need it. Save it for someone else. Me, I just want a drink.

I leave Charing Cross Hospital and wait at the traffic lights. I watch people pass and vehicles vanish as vital signs flash and flicker. Everyone has a place to be, eventually. An old woman stands beside me, breathing heavily and holding a flaming cigarette between her fingers. Her eyes are sunken and her skin is loose and wrinkled. She looks tired and frail. Exhausted. I try to light a cigarette of my own but my shakes are still too strong and I can’t work the flint properly. I consider asking for the use of her cigarette, but I figure she deserves to be left alone. She’s done her bit, and now it’s up to Him. I notice the hospital tag on her left wrist and wonder whether she’s been officially discharged. She takes a long drag of her cigarette and coughs violently, ash falling from the smouldering end and disintegrating in the humid air. Leaning on the lamppost she steadies herself, until she catches her breath and sucks on the filter again. She has her crutch, and I have mine. We all have something which makes the world a more bearable place to live, or makes us better suited to live within it. We all have the hope of happiness, however strong or out of reach we think or feel it is. It pushes us on, even if we don’t know where we’re going, or if we’ll ever get there. Me, I don’t drink because I hate myself, or you, or anyone else. I drink because I like it. Similar to the way you like your infant child which soils itself, or your lover who disagrees, or the job which underpays. It’s the kind of ‘like’ which debilitates and invigorates in uneven measures, though mine are generally 60ml and frosty. I’m not a bad person. I’m not a thief or cheat or murderer. I’m not a man of ill intent. I’m just a man, a person, me. So here I am, and there you are. Different sides of the road, waiting together.

Inside the shop the air is thick with incense, indiscernible scents circling between the narrow aisles and laden shelves. Whilst I wait behind the customer in front of me I examine the gleaming bottles of alcohol which line the wall. I look at the reflection on each bottle, a mirror of the world beyond, contorted and bent and out of shape, perhaps the way it really is. I finally reach the guy behind the till and point at the small bottles of own brand whiskey which I know won’t taste great, but will at least take the edge off till I get home. I pay the man and exit back onto Fulham Palace Road where everything moves on, like it always does. I take the first turning on the left and let a mother and child pass me by before unscrewing the bottle and taking a hit. I expect my brain to shut down, but it doesn’t. The doctor was wrong, this time. I know the wet brain will come eventually, but not yet, it seems, so I finish the bottle and throw it in the nearest bin.

Now that the hospital appointment is over and I’ve got a couple of miniatures in my pocket, I’m in no rush to go home, so I make my way to the park not far ahead. Once I pass through the gates I look for a bench on which to sit. Choosing one situated away from the main path, I lower myself onto the weathered wood and feel for one of the miniatures in my pocket. I take it out and examine the tiny bottle fixed within the folds of my open palm. My fingers trace the lettering on the label until my dirty nails work at the corners, peeling and pulling and rubbing the bottle clean. I look at my reflection in the glass, my eyes staring back at me, searching. Long ago, this man inside the bottle was a husband, a lover, a friend. He was a father too, and by definition still is, somewhere.

There’s a group of kids playing football and I watch them run around and let loose with their fluorescent orange boots. I remember my first visit to a youth centre my parents encouraged me to get involved in back when I was young and healthy. Once they’d dropped me off and satisfied themselves that everything was all right, they departed for the other things they wanted, often more than me. I spent a while looking at the other kids playing table tennis or darts or five-a-side football, until I found a quiet corner and awaited my parents return. It was at this moment that another kid sat down next to me. I looked at him and smiled. He didn’t. ‘You don’t belong here.’ He said. Looking around I knew he was right. ‘Where do I belong?’ I asked. He shrugged his shoulders and looked away. Forty seven years later, I continue to ask the question, the answer waiting, still.

*

The Soundtrack for ‘Wet Brain’ is Radio Moscow’s ‘Sweet Little Thing’

*

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