What Comes First? The Characters or the Plot?


What comes first? The characters of the plot? I guess the answer is different for every writer, and often different for every book. I’ve been thinking about this since one of my daughters showed a rare interest in my writing and asked me what came first; my characters or my plots? My immediate answer was the characters, as this is how it so often feels. But as I went through the novels one by one, I had to admit that it’s different each time. For example, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was an idea that grew into a character, followed by a more complex plot. The Tree of Rebels, which will be my next release, was undoubtedly plot before characters, more so than any other book I’ve written. I’ve blogged before about how difficult this made the process, and how it has taken longer for me to understand my characters and feel comfortable with them. With Elliot Pie (a book only in its first draft) it was the character first, but his character, in being someone who was intrinsically curious about strangers, was the plot. So they evolved simultaneously.

Having thought about it for some time I realised that my novels, This Is Nowhere and The Mess Of Me both have something in common. They were both written in the same way. I had the character first, and then had to create a plot to go with them.

I’m not sure this is the best way to write a book, but it’s just the way it worked with these two. With This Is Nowhere, I had the character in my head for some time, and with the character came the whole feel and tone of the book. Slightly sombre, dark around the edges, yet gentle, confused, struggling through mystery. I knew the character was a male in his late twenties or early thirties, and I knew he was rootless and aimless, a drifter. He had never grown up, but why was that? I knew he had a bad relationship with his father but the rest of that came much later. I knew he had a recurring stomach ailment, and had turned his back on the religion he had been brought up with. I had images in my head of a boy running across a sun baked field, though running from what I had no idea. The whole thing seemed to evolve in my head through feelings and images. I got the idea for the plot involving his missing mother when I was walking my dogs in the woods one day. I’m pretty sure, though it is hard to recall now, that my daughter had spoken to me about a missing persons case, and that had set something off in my head. What if this drifter was to return to his small home town in order to find out what happened to his mother, who vanished when he was a child?

With The Mess Of Me it was harder. In this case, I would probably not advise coming up with the character before the plot, although in all honesty I had absolutely no control over this!

Lou Carling started talking to me when I was about half way through writing The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. This was fantastic to me at the time. Having had a long break from writing, in tackling The Boy I was giving it all a go again, seeing if I still had the urge and the passion. When Lou started talking and grumbling, I was overjoyed because I had that feeling again. Of fireworks and ideas exploding in my head, of panic and excitement knotting in my belly, of wanting to hurry home to the laptop, of needing to scrawl notes onto scrap paper so I wouldn’t lose a thing. Essentially, Lou let me know that it was back. Writing was back.

I let her babble on for a while, mostly because she really amused me. She had just finished her GCSE’s and had a long summer before A-Levels ahead of her. She was deeply cynical about everything and everyone, and had a rather filthy mouth. Her best friend was a boy called Joe, a lanky, hazel eyed boy whose mother was her mother’s best friend. I could see Lou and hear her. In fact she barely left me alone. She would have constant conversations in my head, really interesting little nuggets of dialogue I just had to scribble down for later. But I had no plot. What was this book going to be about? What was going to happen to her? What did she want? What did she fear?

It took a while, but I got there in the end purely by listening to her, and being witness to the world that started to build around her. The claustrophobic council estate, growing up without money, feeling exasperated and embarrassed by her family. Hating everyone, especially herself.

I’m happy to admit that large parts of Lou are based on me, on my own experiences, on my own views and feelings growing up. In many ways, she is the character closest to me, at that age anyway. But I allowed her more freedom, letting her express herself when I was too shy to. Immensely liberating, I can tell you. The plot I ended up with actually came from a strange childhood memory.

When I was young, my mother had a friend who had five sons. She was a larger than life kind of woman, large in build and large in voice. She would sweep you in for a cuddle and nearly break your bones. She used to make jokes about swapping my mum’s daughters for her sons, and I used to think she was serious, and I was just a little bit afraid of her. I loved going to her house to play though. With her two youngest sons, me and my sister and brother used to trespass onto the grounds of their local school and play games with their pet dog. We would climb and hide in trees and bushes and behind walls and the dog would look for us. I can also remember playing with a huge mound of cardboard boxes in their back garden, making dens out of them, climbing up them and leaping off to crush the boxes below.

Her three older sons were teenagers when we were small. They flitted in and out of the background, and as I was so shy I probably never spoke to any of them. I watched them get the odd clip around the ear. One even had his mouth washed out with soap one day. But they were like mysteries to me. Part of my life, and yet totally unknown. They could have been anyone. They could have had any kind of life without me knowing. I had no idea who they were, where they went to, what they did, or what they dreamed about.

One day we were coming up the front path and one of the teenage boys was sat on the doorstep with his head in his hands looking absolutely miserable. In the cool dark of the kitchen, I overheard my mother’s friend telling my mum he was in so much trouble. They muttered and murmured in there for some time, while he remained on the doorstep. I never did find out what he’d done wrong.

So somehow, for some reason, this all crept into Lou’s world. The house full of boys. The mother on the warpath, driven to distraction by her unruly brood. Having these people you’ve grown up with, and yet never really know. Mysteries that unravel just out of reach and over the heads of young children who are told to go out and play.

The drug running storyline was of course utterly fabricated. It could have been anything really, the trouble the boys were in. Everything else from here on was pure imagination!

In many ways the drug running activities of Joe’s older brothers, and the way both Joe and Lou get pulled into it all, is a sub-plot to the main one, which is simply Lou’s journey over that summer. Her determination to lose weight and get skinny. Her finding herself, without it sounding too much of a cliche, was central to it all.

So that’s the story of The Mess Of Me. Where it came from and how it happened. It is probably my most character driven book, with the plot almost taking a back seat to the characters.

What about you? As a reader, do you ever wonder what came first, the plot or the characters? Can you ever tell?

What about you writers? Is it always the plot first, the characters later? Or the other way around? Which way does it happen for you, and does it make it harder to write if it happens in a way you are not used to?

Feel free to comment below!






In Blood – short story

In Blood

We met in blood.

His and mine.

Sweet, dark tangy blood. Do you know how it tastes? Thick, dark blood. The essence of life. I do. And I like it. I like the rich, metallic tang, and I like the full, intense aroma, and I like the sight of blood in its many forms and shades.

In blood, it ended the same way that it started, and now they call us toxic. They call us sick. But I will wait for him.  We are connected now. His blood runs with mine.

The night of the party, that was our night. Our first night. But I had been watching him for a long time before that.  Let mel tell you what I saw. I saw a brute, a bear, a man, a thug. He was top heavy with arm muscles and his movements were precise and fast. He was a man who had never doubted himself, never questioned anything. He did not know hesitation or procrastination. He knew who he was, and the best thing about him was that he did not give a shit about anything. Not one single thing, not one single person.

Everyone knew who he was. The big lad, the top one, the bully boy from the bad family. Bad reputation. From the estate. Not to be messed with. Steer clear. If you had the brains you were born with, you would steer clear. But silly girls never listened. Silly girls saw his looks and his power and believed they could change him. But not me; I never wanted to change him.

I didn’t worry about brains, although I had plenty of them. Instead I concerned myself with instinct; where my guts led me. Besides, trouble was fun. Good girls were dull. Life was short, and Heaven was a lie.

He didn’t notice me back then. I was in the background. I think that is how he sees most people. Blurred noise while he cuts through it all. You always see him coming. You always stand back, hold your breath, look on. I remember doing that, when I was just in the background, looking in. I was a self-satisfied,  slinky, skin slashing, know it all. I still am.

I watched him, watched and learned. I was intrigued. I thought maybe, we had things in common. You see the thing about him I liked, was the thing about him they all hated, or feared. He was mean. He didn’t give a shit about anyone. He would hurt you, use you, laugh at you. It was just him and his brother Travis to take on the world; the twosome, one long and lanky and messy haired, and him, solid and immoveable. The younger brothers were not on his radar, not any of them. Not the little sticky fingered brats, and not Joe. If Joe was anything to him, it was a punch-bag.

I didn’t care about Joe. Not much. Or Lou, my so called best friend. I try not to care about people, for numerous reasons. It’s boring, for one thing. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but people are mostly terribly boring. Plus if you do care about them, it tends to get sticky and complicated. So, we had that in common at least. Me and Leon. See, I knew it would work. I knew it was right. If I had said such a thing to Lou or Joe, or to anyone, they would have laughed and jeered, and then looked at me as if I was crazy. Yes, I am a little bit crazy, I want to tell them, so fucking what? Who isn’t anyway? Everyone is fucked up, and that is the truth, my friends. That is the truth. With some people it’s obvious. It’s written all over their face or their body. Some people hide it better, but usually they are the ones who are more fucked up than anyone. At least the freaks and the geeks and the oddities let it loose, let it out, embrace it and rejoice it. Be different.

Don’t be afraid of pain.

That night, we caught each other’s eye for the first time, and it was all how I knew it would be. I get a feeling, a sense about these things. I was tiny and dark in my little dress and shoes, and he was the monster I invited to my party. The kitchen was full of people, packed tight. But Leon was the only one I could see. The rest were blurry-faced. I moved closer to him, and then moved away. I caught his eye, and then refused to look back at him. I watched from the edges as he drank beer with his brothers and Lou. I felt flashes of hot, surprising rage, when she looked like she was in the centre of them. All three brothers looking at her and laughing as she got pissed up.

I made my move when she ran outside to be sick and Travis followed her. Joe turned away from his brother, and Leon was alone.  He took a chair and sat down, and before he could lift his beer to his lips, I was on his lap.

‘It’s quieter upstairs,’ I told him, and then I was gone. I heard his curious tread coming up the stairs behind me.  I opened my bedroom door,  and in he came. Just like that. We didn’t talk a lot at first. He sipped his beer and looked around at my room. Then he went to the window to check out the garden.

‘Your bedroom is about the size of our house,’ he muttered, and I laughed. I was lying on my bed and playing with my razor.

‘Don’t you get bored,’ I said to him. ‘With everything, and everyone?’

He came closer, his eyes narrowing in on my razor blade. ‘What are you, suicidal?’

‘No, not at all. I’m just bored. And I’m interested in pain. How about you? Tell me something interesting about you.’

He was quiet for a moment, just watching me. He looked hungry then, like a dog sizing up a good, juicy bone.  I waited for him, eyebrows raised.

He said; ‘I’ve got a wrap of coke in my back pocket, if you’re interested.’

I grinned and held up my razor. ‘Well aren’t we just made for each other?’

And we sat together at my desk, and I passed him my blade to chop up the coke, and my bare leg was pressed against his denim clad one, and the pulses in my body were on fire, throbbing and swelling. And then she knocked on the door. That little bitch.

Let me tell you a few things about Lou Carling.

She used to be fat, but now she’s not. She’s on a mission to destroy herself, and I am along for the ride. These kinds of things are interesting. After all, isn’t that the gist of being human? Isn’t that the curse? Once we are old enough to understand that everything must die, we start to destroy ourselves any way we can. Drugs. Drink. Sex. Work. Hate. Love. You name it. It cuts us up, from the inside out. Lou Carling is one of these people, cutting herself up on the inside where nobody can see it. On the outside she is tough and sarcastic and slow to smile. For some reason, she cannot see that her best friend Joe is totally and utterly in love with her. It makes me quite sick. It’s almost like incest. I’m not kidding. They were bathed together as kids, ran around naked in the garden, you name it. But now that their bodies have grown and been honed and hemmed and tightened and lengthened, things are getting all screwed up. Believe me, spend ten minutes in a room with those two and you will want to scream at the top of your lungs; for God’s sake just fuck each other and get it over with!

But anyway. I digress. Lou Carling, short and sweet and bitter and more fucked than any of us. I hang around with her because I want to see how fast she unravels. I want to see what lies underneath.

She knocked on the door with Joe because she was worried about me. How sweet. What happened next was not surprising to anyone at that party. Leon went out there, called her a few choice names, and then beat his brother up. Meanwhile she stormed past them to see if I was okay, and yes, how surprising, I was okay! I was chopping up lines of coke, and she could join in if she wanted to, but no.  No, of course, not Lou Carling. Not perfect little Lou. Smoking the odd spliff with Joe and drinking cider in the park is fine, but you know, anything else is evil! We had words and she went on her merry way to see to her precious non-boyfriend.

When Leon came back in, he had blood on his knuckles and blood on his face.

‘Little bastard,’ he said, under his breath.

God, I wanted him then. I wanted him so much. I couldn’t even speak. But that didn’t matter, because it was all there in the way he looked at me, and the way I looked at him. He was breathing hard and fast, and part of me wished I had gone out there to watch. Pow! Pow! Take that Joe, you little runt, you loser, you nothing!

I don’t mean it. Not really. I kind of like Joe. I kind of like everyone.

But things get so boring

We got back to business. I watched his face as he cut up the powder. I examined the contours of his features, and the curve of his chest, as he breathed fast, in and out. The muscles flexed on his bare arms. He was so very alive. And so was I. So was everything and everyone. It got so much I wanted to eat it. I wanted to grab the whole world and all the fizzing exploding swelling life within it, and shove it right into open mouth, chew it up and swallow it down. Weird, when you feel like that.

We took our medicine and then went to lie on my bed. We kicked off our shoes and stared at the patterns on the ceiling. After a while, he rolled over and looked at me. It felt like he looked into me. He cupped my face with his hand, held it like it was china…

‘What are you waiting for?’ I asked him, and he shrugged.


That was the first time. But it was not the last. His blood mingled with mine, and then again on the night he rushed in and saved me. I was out of it. Mostly, I was absent. But I do remember his arms scooping me up from the bloody mush of my bed. It felt like I was being ripped from my mother’s spongy womb. I remember the feel of his arms, like branches of a tree, holding me close and holding me up. I don’t remember him ripping his t-shirt, which that night was once again doused in the blood of his brother Joe. I don’t remember him using the cloth to tie up my wounds, but apparently his quick thinking saved my life. He tied me once again to this world.

The thug, the animal, the sub-human scumbag. He came to me that night. He could have gone anywhere. He could have vanished from all of our lives, and Lou and Joe and his mother, and the rest of them, would all have been relieved. Good riddance to bad rubbish. But he came to me. He came to me. With the vilest crime a crimson stain upon his hands and all over his clothes, he came to me.

And our blood met again, and when all of this is over, he will be back.

And I will be waiting.

If you are interested in these characters and would like to find out more, you can download the YA novel they are related to here ; (available in paperback and ebook)12227067_1068628339823097_548647694753202354_n


When I’m Thinner…(The Mess Of Me)

The Mess Of Me was never meant to happen. It was never a plan, or a decision that I made. I was busy rewriting my novel The Boy With The Thorn In His Side; a book and a plot which had been with me for over twenty years. It was finally, blessedly getting its time. It was happening. I was writing again. I didn’t know who it would be aimed at, and I certainly did not see myself as a Young Adult writer. No, Lou Carling was not wanted, or invited, or planned. She just showed up one day, and the funny thing was, she had lots of things to say, which were sort of similar to things I wanted to say.

I know that if I look up and see his face, then I won’t be able to say any of the things I am thinking. Is that the way it is for everyone? Or are there some lucky people who are able to voice their exact thoughts and feelings in such a way, that everyone understands them instantly?’

She was hard to ignore, but I tried for a while, because I so needed to get The Boy With The Thorn In His Side done. It had been bugging me for years.  Like a lot of the characters that end up in my books, sixteen year old Lou wouldn’t go away, or shut up. She was a persistent voice in my head during dog walks and time alone. I started listening to her more and more, and God, she made me smile.

I could be so much more, but I can’t seem to be bothered. I want to do nothing. Be nothing. Have nothing to say….I am stuck I suppose. I am jammed. I am unable to move on. I am oddly incapable of development. But I am very good at shrinking.’ 

And so I gave in. The Mess Of Me was written very quickly, during a three month period of rest from The Boy. The Boy was with one of my beta readers, and so I had a window…

Lou didn’t even give me a plot to start with. She was extremely fond of swearing, and she had a cynical, narrow-eyed way of looking at the world she lived in. Her world was small, and reminded me of the one I grew up in. Council estate, identical houses, playparks and graffiti.

I think, look at this here, this is my entire life! This is it, right here. This park, and this field, and school, and the walk over the bridge to get there, and the town, and the bus ride in, and the Priory church and a terraced house, and noisy neighbours, and the parade of shops, and everyone knowing who you are, and where you live, and the working men’s club, and the car parks and the alley ways, and the Provident loan lady and the Avon calling, and the Christmas hampers that take all year to pay for.’

The more she talked and moaned and bitched, the more of her life I could see unfolding behind her. I could see her so clearly, and knew her so well by the time I started writing the book for her. And it was for her. It was to shut her up and get her out of my head, but it was more than that. I wanted to build a plot and a world and story around her character, and the way she masked self-loathing with scorn and contempt for just about everyone and everything.

The truth is, she reminded me a lot of me at that age. How I was convinced that everything would be better when I was thinner. I would be happier, more popular, things would go right, I would know who I was and what I was doing. All of that, and more. In short, life was on hold until I got thinner, and when I did get thinner, everything would be perfect and I would know what satisfaction felt like. I would know what it felt like to look in the mirror and smile and be proud. I truly and naively believed that being thinner would solve all of my problems.

I was all grown up with kids of my own when Lou started talking to me about her problems, but right away, she brought back so many memories I had forgotten. Like her, I can remember having a ‘never again’ moment with a doughnut.

I can still remember the day I snapped. I can still remember the jam doughnut that I crushed inside my fist, instead of inside my mouth. I guess it made me feel stronger somehow, more in control, more savage. Less of a fat loser.’ 

I was house sitting for my mum’s friend, and she had MTV, which was excellent, because we didn’t. This was back in the day when MTV was just the one channel that played music videos every day. I saw the video for the Aerosmith song ‘Cryin’, the one with Alicia Silverstone in it. I remember thinking how pretty and blonde and thin and perfect she was. I sat there on the sofa, eating doughnuts, and feeling the reality of my own squidgy flesh trapping me in a body I loathed and wanted rid of. I knew it was not going to happen by thinking about it, or moaning about it, or crying about it. I had to actually do something about it. And if I did something about it, one day I could be like the girl in the video. And everything would be better when I was as thin as her…

Lou was funny and sad. She was bitter and cynical and snarling in my head, and she sounded so much like me, and she thought a lot like me too, but she was braver. She was bolder, smarter and funnier than me. When I was her age I kept my mouth shut and my feelings to myself. Lou was less likely to do this, and it was such sweet relief to let her take over for a while, to let her loose. Like me, she also allowed the words she could not say or contain inside her head, to spill out across the walls of her teenage bedroom.

Life is fucked up in broken wellies…’

As she loses more weight, Lou discovers a power she never knew she owned. It starts innocently enough, with a calorie controlled diet, and a new found enthusiasm for jogging. But as the weight begins to fall off, Lou finds it then becomes harder and harder to eat. In fact, just thinking about food grips her with fear. She starts to avoid it. She skips meals and she lies. And as she gets thinner and thinner, she experiences an increase in attention from friends, family and boys.

Her best friend Joe and his older brother Travis start to show an interest in her. They even fight over her at a drunken party. Her best friend/enemy Marianne, encourages her to lose more weight and stick to her diet.

Over the course of the summer between school and college, life unravels fast for Lou, Joe and Marianne. The drama centres around Joe’s decision to help deliver drugs for his older brothers. Leon and Travis are paying him attention for the first time in his life, which makes him risk everything in order to help them. Lou is pulled into the drama and the madness, and all the time, quietly in the background, she continues to lose weight. At one point, she catches sight of her face in the mirror and for a brief moment does not recognise herself at all.

But then I realise that it is me, it is my face I am staring back at, and how very peculiar not to recognise myself? I do not know whether to feel glad or sad, and I suppose that I feel plenty of both.’

The book starts with her lying in bed and running her hands over the bumps of her hip-bones and ribs. She wonders if she will be happy when she is as thin as she wants to be. I can remember doing the same thing at the end of the day, when the hunger was at its angriest. I would feel the lumps and bumps of bones rather than fat, and I would feel calmed and affirmed.

Like Lou, I had been a chubby youngster. I surprised myself as much as anyone else the day I said ‘no’ to pudding. But once the word ‘no’ came out of my mouth, I realised that I could say it and mean it. It became easier and easier to say. No. Would you like a second helping? No thank you. Would you like ice cream? No thanks.

The ‘no’ was my friend, and on my side. Unlike everyone else, it wanted to help me reach my goals. The trouble was, the ‘no’ voice gets louder and more insistent. The ‘no’ starts to speak up more and more and more. So that you go to prepare a healthy breakfast, and the voice says ‘no, you don’t need that’. Or you tuck into your dinner, a smaller portion than normal, of course, and straight away, the voice pipes up; no, don’t do it. No. You can’t have that. It gets harder and harder to ignore that voice.

For fans of the book, I can confirm that a sequel has been started, but is on hold while I complete other projects. I do however, know exactly what happens and the entire book is plotted out. Titled The Mess Of Us, the book is set two years on from the first book. Are Lou and Joe together, or are they still just friends? How has Joe’s personality been effected by the ordeal he suffered towards the end of the first book? Does Lou still worry about her weight?

I stand sideways and run one hand over the bumps of my ribs, and for some reason this just makes me collapse in tears, because when I look at her, when I look back, I can still see fat where it shouldn’t be.’

It would be unrealistic to suggest that Lou’s eating problems have magically vanished. Readers of the book will know that she does manage to get herself together towards the end of the book, partly due to the intervention of her mother, and partly due to what happens to Joe making her realise other things are more important.’

Like Lou, I grew up and got to grips with things. Like Lou, I never totally succumbed to my inner demons; instead I fought them off and pushed the ‘no’ voice away. Not all people who experience eating disorders are able to do this. I was lucky enough to receive help which enabled me make sense of so many things, and made me realise what I wanted out of life. Funnily enough, even at that young age, the thing I wanted most of all was to be a mother, and I knew that my ridiculous eating habits were damaging my chances to be one. I had something to work for, something to hold onto. Motherhood is explored in The Mess Of Me, and in the sequel too, but in different ways and for different reasons…

I’ve always said having kids saved me. I became in awe of my body. I was proud of it. I didn’t hate it anymore, and even more importantly than that, once I had daughters I felt a responsibility not to pass my body issues on to them. In our house, we try to focus on health and happiness, not looks. But it is hard, in this society, which still values the thinness of women so much. You only have to look at the way the media portrays women; focusing on whether they have lost or gained weight, what dress they are wearing, what haircut they have, rather than on the job for which they are famous.

I’ve had four children, and my body is not what it was. Time and child bearing have taken their toll, and rightly so. I am not hung up on it anymore, but I would be lying if the ‘no’ voice had completely gone away. Just as it would be unrealistic to expect Lou to have completely recovered between the two books, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone who has experienced eating disorders to be over them forever. Like other forms of addiction and compulsive behaviour, these things become part of you, and to a certain extent, they are always there. There are days that go badly, days when you feel down, days when you look in the mirror and that gloating little voice pops up to whisper in your ear; ‘things would be so much better if you were thinner…’

The Mess Of Me happened because Lou Carling invaded my head space and bitched about everything that annoyed her. Parents. Friends. School. Having to grow up. Everything. Funnily enough, the book jumped the queue and ended up being published before The Boy… It was ready to go, and became my debut novel in 2013. At the time I still wasn’t sure who was meant to read it, or who it was aimed at. These days, I am extremely proud to call it a Young Adult coming-of-age novel, and although I do write books aimed at adults as well, they always seem to have young people in them too. Weird.

The Mess of Me by Chantelle Atkins

He Is A Storm


He Is A Storm

There is a storm in his head.

It is black and violent and consuming and becomes him.

It has been there for so long, ebbing and flowing, dimming and glowing. It burns from the inside of his brain, begging release. His heart is on fire. Pain explodes in his guts and suddenly he is not human anymore.

Because a fine line snaps.

Because it pulls taut, tighter than normal, tighter than anyone can stand, vibrating like guitar strings. And on this day, and in this moment, it snaps. The line snaps and it sets him free.

He is no longer tethered, or loosely, marginally restrained. He is no longer held back, warned off, given the look, or contained. There is nothing between them now. Nothing except the black storm inside his head and the ping of the line as it snaps inside of him, and sets him free, sets him reeling forwards.

He moves soundlessly in his head, yet somehow he knows his open mouth is bellowing years of pent up rage. He feels his bulk multiplying in size and force. He is like a building rising up before exploding and falling down. And he does fall down.

Set free, he gives himself totally to violence. It’s blind and raging and delicious and addictive. He falls down upon the smaller body, and they clash, bones jarring, muscles screaming, eyes popping. Game on. And sounds rise into the air around them and above them, as they entwine and entangle, as they smash and crash and dance into the wall.

His own soul bellowing while it dies.

The cries of shock and pain. They make primal sounds, the two of them, dancing. And the girl is in the background but she is insignificant to the fight. A fly in the air buzzing. A bug on his neck scratching. He swats her away like she is nothing.

And the more he punishes the body he has seized, the more free he becomes. An ugly wound stuffed tight now breaks open, and the foul gush runs free, rumbling and turning within the fire that burns. And the more he hates and the more he punishes, the better he feels, the best ever, and he wants to cling onto that feeling for longer. And so the rage screams from his lips, and the fists go in and out, in and out, until the blood smothers them, thick and warm like crimson gloves.

It spatters his face like paint. Droplets in his hair and eyes and mouth. He is eating him alive. Blood brothers. The bug is on his back again, fighting and clawing, her screams mixed with the bellow in his own brain, until he throws her aside and lands on top of her.

And now the storms starts to subside, starts to ease off, like a deep breath taken and held, and everything stops, and he sees his bloody fists and he feels the ache of his knuckles and he sees the terror in her face, and he sees the body lying still against the wall.

But he asked for it. He went too far. Wrong moment. Wrong time. Wrong person. Wrong place. Wrong life. He couldn’t stop. Because he didn’t want to stop. But now he has stopped. The storm betrays him and skies start to clear.

She stares back at him and suddenly there is someone else, coming towards them, shocked and crying out. And this breaks whatever is left of the spell, and the hold the storm had on him is gone, over, broken.

The line tries to find its way back, tries to reattach, but it can’t find its way. He gives up. He gives himself up to everything. He runs from their terror and from the blood on the wall and from the figure on the floor. Like a beast, like a creature, like a monster, he charges bull-like, monstrous, inhuman, thick and hard and powering through everything as he explodes from the inside, and he runs from them all.

Blood in his mouth.

Sweet and tangy.

He spits and retches and heaves and runs. He opens the car door and somehow he is driving. Tyres screech against tarmac. Panic thunders in his chest. He can’t breathe, or see, or think. He is not human, he knows only this. He turned his back on it and embraced insanity. He drives, not knowing where he is driving to.

He drives to her.

Something desperate and clawing, something raw and open and bleeding and weeping and begging and shaking. Something hammering at his blackened mind. Words and visions and blood soaked dreams. His mother washing his mouth out with soap. Picking up the frying pan and battering his step-dad over the head with it. Wanting to do so much more. Needing to.

The door is open. Unlocked. No cars. No one home? It is like the house is waiting for him, door open, enticing, inviting him in. He runs in, blood soaked and calling her name, twisting his hands inside his t-shirt, trying to wipe off his crime.

His mind is chattering. Cold now. Afraid.

Oh what have I done, what have I done, what have I done, what have I done…

            Powers up the stairs. His body is rigid, rock hard with adrenaline tightened muscles. He could run through walls. Sail through windows. Calling her name. Calling for her.

What have I done, what have I done? Oh what have you done? What have you done?

            He finds her lying there like a pale, limp starfish.

Arms and legs all stuck out to the side of her tiny body dressed in black. He finds her open eyes staring, but not seeing. He finds her sheets soaked in blood. He finds her wrists sliced open, undone, like him. Her line snapped too.

Oh what have you done? What have you done?

            He pulls off his t-shirt and wraps it around her wrists, winding the bloody material around and around, binding her hands together.

What have you done?

            He gathers her small body into his big, naked arms, and her head rolls back and he hears her gasp, feels the breath leave her mouth and smother his face, and he holds her and runs.

In the hospital he sits, covered in so much blood, yet none of it is his. They think it has all come from her, the girl he brought in, the life he saved. He sits there, on a hard plastic chair while they stitch her up, fix her, attach her line and shake their fingers.

You saved her life.

            She’ll be okay. What’s your name?

            Where are you going? Where are you going?

            Don’t you want to see her now? You can see her now.

            But he can’t see her now. He can’t see anyone. Least of all himself. He is a storm.

This short story is written from the POV of Leon, a character in my novel The Mess Of Me. If you would like to find out more about his story, you can download the novel here;http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mess-Me-Chantelle-Atkins-ebook/dp/B00CSVQ8EQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1438892427&sr=1-3