In The Dark

Written in response to This is my opening to my novel (not quite polished) In The Dark. The prologue is set twenty years before the main story, when my main character is thirteen.

I can slip in and out of Joe’s bedroom, what big bro don’t know.

Pushing the white door, lightly, I whisper his name; just in case. Inside, I shut the door with a soft thud.

His little green Christmas tree sits in the corner, covered in baubles. It’s so bloody neat in here. In little piles, his schoolbooks, probably in alphabetical order, are on his table.

Even his bed is made.

It’s like nobody lives here man.  

Mum’s always having a go. Sarah, why can’t you be more like your brother? Your room is a pigsty. If you don’t bring those clothes down I’ll take out the wire from your X-box. Nag, nag, nag, every single day! Speak to the hand Mum. It’s my bedroom – if I want all my shit on my carpet, then that’s up to me.

Anyway, how she thinks I’m going to keep it tidy is beyond me? I have the tiniest of rooms. You couldn’t swing a cat in it, let alone keep my shit tidy.

I check through his CD rack. Whatever! Sting, you need to get a life. David Bowie is where it is at. Now, where does he keep the cool stuff. His walk-in wardrobe! I slide open the wooden door, shutting it without making a sound. The light switch is twisted just enough, so the bulb shines on the wooden drawers. Giving everything a reddish hue.

Stepping forward I brush something fuzzy away from my face. It doesn’t move. In the gloom, everything is hazy.

This is no good – I have to risk it. Twisting the light on fully I spin around on my heels. Joe? What the bloody hell! Imagination fills in blanks I don’t want to know about.


His feet are still warm. Joe! Joe! Pulling as hard as I can, he doesn’t budge. Sick rises then crashes back down into my stomach. Creaking, like his whole wardrobe is going to collapse with him, Joe drops like a ten-ton weight.

He just lies there, not moving.

‘Stop mucking about!’ I scream.

The song, played on adverts, to help save a life – Save Joe’s life.

Pulling his neck back, a deep breath almost cracks my chest in two. Ah, ah, ah, ah Staying alive! Staying Alive! Thump, thump, thump. Staying alive! Staying alive!

‘Sarah, what’s all this commotion!’

Thump, thump, thump. Staying alive! Staying alive! Staying alive!

Mum drags me up, shoves me out of the room.

Still pushing, still trying to save him, Mum carries on from where I left. I stand mute. Watching Mum’s hands push hard on his chest – she’d give her life to Joe.

Silent, the whole bloody room is silent.  

Mum twists her head, stares me right in the face. ‘For God’s sake, an ambulance. Sarah! Don’t just stand there. An ambulance!’

I crash down the stairs, taking them three at a time. Grabbing the receiver, it fumbles in my sweating hands. 999. Clicking takes too long. Why is everything so bloody complicated? Fire, ambulance, police.

‘How can I help you?

‘My brother . . . dying . . . help!’ I spit out the words, it’s like they are stuck in my throat.

‘Can you tell me your name?’ 

Her tone is so calm, like my words have no meaning. I have no choice but to give her an answer. ‘Sarah, my brother. God! Hung himself. Shit, Mum upstairs.’ I can’t get my bloody words out. Staying alive, staying alive, staying . . .

‘Sarah,  you’re doing great. What I need you to do now is slow down,’ she says, like I won’t be whole again. ‘Breathe in, count to ten, breathe out, count to ten,’

I can’t breathe, my heart is pounding so much, I can’t hear the beats any more. Staying alive is in my head. Over and over again. Singing in some stupid long playlist of one.

‘I know this is frightening, take a deep breath in . . . hold for ten, then a deep breath out. Count with me. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.’

I concentrate on her counting. ‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten . . .’ the song slows to a stop, so does the thumping of my heart.

‘That’s it well done,’ she says.

‘Need an ambulance, fifty-four The Link. Please hurry. Joe, my brother, not breathing.’

‘An ambulance has been sent, is anyone with your brother now?’

‘Mum . . . upstairs . . .’

I glance upstairs, it’s so quiet up there.

‘I’ll need to know what is happening Sarah. Can you do that for me?’

‘Hanged himself.’ My tired eyes hurt, and I can’t swallow.

‘Was he conscious when you found him?’

‘No . . .’ I let out a strangled sob.

‘I know this is difficult, but we need to know so we can best help your brother. How long has it been?’

‘Twenty minutes . . . I don’t know . . . Mum picked me up from school . . . she had gone to work.’ I can’t talk any more, like if I do man, it’s all the more real. I fall backwards on the steep stairs, grabbing at bits of stray threads on the carpet.

‘I promise I won’t leave you, if you want to talk, you can. If you want to be quiet, that’s okay too. When the paramedics get here, let me know. Can you do that for me?’

‘Yes,’ I say.

Our doorbell rings and hammering on the door follows. I let go of the phone and I rush to open the front door. Finding my voice from somewhere, I have to get a grip. ‘He’s upstairs, doors open.’ I do exactly as I’m asked, picking up the receiver again. ‘They’re here.’

‘Sarah, I’ll stay on the phone with you. I want you to know you’ve done really well.’ Unable to move, I listen to the comforting voice at the other end. It’s just so quiet up there.

 I’m wasting time, not even talking.

Then I see Mum, skin so white it is almost translucent. She leans against the wall, not even screaming. It’s like the world has stopped spinning; just me, Mum, and a void of nothingness.

‘Mum . . .’

Letting go of the phone, it hangs limp in my hands. She drags her feet now, walking down the stairs, in slow motion. Held tightly in her hands, Joe’s small Man-United teddy bear.

She’s not even crying, just a permanent vacant expression fixed to the wall.

I look beyond her, to Joe’s room.

With only a few centimetres between us, she almost collapses against me. ‘We were too late,’ she says.

She’s lying! He isn’t dead, he can’t be.

Published by writerravenclaw

I am a fifty something mother of two grown up children, and one beautiful grandchild. I have been married for nearly thirty-four years. My first book was published ten years ago. I wrote my book Sticks and Stones because of my experience of being bullied at school.

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