More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

homage to horror

All Fall Down: Homage to 1980’s Slasher/Horror Films. Part Two. A Pocket Full of Posies.

All Fall Down
Part Two
The School reunion

Skull Illustrations by Laurie Lipton Less 487 x 700 117.0KB skullappreciationsociety.com

nun with a skull face by:Skull Illustrations by Laurie Lipton

All the posh kids had done very well in their education and each went on to make their own mark in their chosen field all thanks to the ongoing dedication from their teacher, Miss Hickory who through her own promotional career allowed her to not only encourage and push but also keep an eye her murderous brood. Unfortunately for Miss Hickory, soon after the children had moved on, her illicit affair became public knowledge forcing her to move away from the school she loved and ended up resettling in Ipswich, where she struggled to find a job and any true meaningful relationship. Eventually Miss Hickory turned to booze and drugs and became a shadow of her former self.

One night while she was nursing a large scotch on the rocks and a joint, her doorbell rang. Miss Hickory tried to look at the clock and through her bleary eyes saw it was 12:55 a.m.

Wondering who could be possibly calling on her at such a late hour, Miss Hickory pulled herself out of her chair and went to the front-door and peered through the spy hole. To her surprise, she saw a nun standing on her doorstep. Curiosity got the better of her and so she opened the door and slurred, “Do you know what time it is sister?”
With the street lights off and only a trickle of light creeping into the hallway from behind, Miss Hickory could not see the nun’s face. With her head bowed down, the Nun spoke very gently, “I’m so sorry Miss Hickory, I know it’s an unnatural time to be making such a call but I must speak to you, may I come in?”

***

Cherry Blossom came downstairs stretching and yawning, picked up her mail and toddled into the kitchen to make herself a much needed cup of coffee, having been up till late in the night editing a twelve page spread about new hot designer, Max Calender-Queen.
As she waited for the kettle to boil she flicked on the TV and went to scan through her mail when suddenly a face from her past filled the TV screen, making her stop in her tracks. Cherry then sat down with her hand over her mouth as the picture of Miss Hickory was replaced by a solemn looking news reader.
“Police are baffled at the seemingly motiveless murder of a Miss Hickory, who lived in Dickory Road, by Ipswich’s dock. According to neighbours it was their postman who made the grizzly discovery on his rounds this morning. Police have confirmed that Miss Hickory was killed with a single blow to the head by her own brass clock that had stopped at 1 a.m. precisely. As there was no sign of a break-in police are assuming that Miss Hickory knew her attacker and let them into her home.                                                                           As we speak, police have begun a house to house enquiry and are urging anyone who may have heard or seen anyone acting suspiciously within the Dickory Road area to get in touch”.
With her heart pounding hard in her chest, Cherry switched the television off and wondered who could have done such a thing to Miss Hickory, “She was so nice.” Thought Cherry to herself as she picked up the phone and told her assistant-editor that she would not be into day.
After a long hot shower, Cherry tried to control the feeling of unease that flowed through her body. As she dried herself off, a long forgotten memory tried to break through the wall she had built inside her mind from many years ago but the same surname, Flynn, Flynn, Flynn kept tapping at her unconscious mind.

If Cherry had allowed the wall in her mind to come down then maybe she would have remembered that terrible day by the mineshaft when poor little Johnny Flynn lost his life. However dear reader, Cherry’s guilt had buried that memory so very deep that it was unable to save her; if only she had not allowed herself to become so harden to life, she might have been able to save herself from the horror to come by remembering what she and her friends had done many years back on that fateful day.

Eventually Cherry decided the surname that kept bugging her had something to do with Errol Flynn and so she got herself dressed and made her way back downstairs and started her day again by picking up her mail and seeing the usual invites: a fashion show in Paris, a celebrity lunch in Chelsea and a charity plea from some far off country that Cherry had never heard of.
Cherry was about to throw all the letters in the bin, when a handwritten envelop with the Coalville postcode caught her eye. Upon opening the letter a smile crept across Cherry’s face as happier memories flooded her mind.

Dear Cherry Blossom,
As you may have read on the World Wide Web the popularity of school reunions are now back in vogue big time. As someone who has always had their finger on the pulse of the next big thing we really hope you can join your, Big-Steps, Wide Strides class of 84. You will be delighted to know that many of your classmates have already excepted our invitation and are looking forward to getting together to reflect on the past and celebrate all that the future may bring.
The gathering is taking place this weekend at a beautiful house just on the outskirts of Coalville. All catering and entertainment have been taken care off; please find enclosed a map. We very much look forward to seeing you on the Friday night.
Yours most sincerely,
Schools’ reunited.

A much needed flood of warmth swept over Cherry, meeting up with her class mates was just the thing she needed, it would be good to know that they were all okay and to talk about poor Miss Hickory’s untimely demise. She began to wonder if any of them would know why she could not stop thinking about Errol Flynn. Cherry made a quick call to her assistant-editor telling him that the magazine was ready to publish and that she would not be available until after the weekend.

***

Unbeknown to Cherry, her old class mates, Bella Donna, May Flower, Rose Petal and Dan De-Lion had all received the same letter on the same day. Unlike Cherry, the other’s were looking forward  to gloat at the lesser successful classmates who had been unable to escape from Coalville. What they didn’t know of course was that this was to be a very special, select reunion.

***

On the day of the arrival of her guests at the retreat in Coalville a woman in her late fifties, dressed in a black and white maids outfit walked into each of the guest bedrooms, checking that everything was in place. As she patted each of the single beds she found herself singing the nursery rhyme over and over again. “Ring a ring o’roses, a pocketful of posies, ah-tishoo,ah-tishoo, we all fall down.
A smile spread across her face as she heard a car drive with speed up the long gravel road leading to the house. As she made her way down the stairs, she wondered which of the troublesome brood would be the first to arrive. Stepping onto the porch, the woman shielded her eyes from the glowing sun and saw a tall slender woman dressed in a long flowing white dress and a wide brimmed white hat.
Cherry had been to enough social events to not feel nervous, but for some reason as she walked towards the maid she had a real feeling of apprehension, but that quickly dissolved when the maid gave a welcoming smile and said, “Hello my dear, you’re the first to arrive, let me help with your baggage, we’ll soon have it unloaded.”
Cherry looked again at the maid and asked if she had worked in London as she was sure they had met before.
The maid shook her head, “No my dear, I’ve only ever known Coalville as my home, so it must be someone else you are thinking off.”
Cherry wrinkled her nose as if a bad smell had wafted past her and said, “Oh you poor thing, I’m so lucky to have escaped Coalville. I now live a fabulous life in London, I’m chief editor of the nation top women’s magazine, Hi-Yah. You must have read it, I’m sure even in Coalville they would stock it.
As she carried Cherry’s cases the maid nodded towards the lift and said, “I’m sorry my dear, I can’t say I have.”
Cherry wrinkled her nose again, “Oh, how awful for you, don’t worry I have brought a few back copies in the boot of the car, you can collect them for me after you have shown me to my room”.
The maid smiled again and pressed the lift button to the second floor.
Cheery tried to hide her disappointment at the plainness of her room. The single bed had a simple white duvet with a bedside cabinet by the side. On the facing wall stood a chest of drawers, while in the corner was a small wardrobe.
The maid placed Cherry’s bag on the bed and said, “There’s a shower and W.C. adjacent to your room”.
Cherry was a little perturbed and the thought of having to share the bathroom, but before she could say anything the maid added, “We’ll be having Champagne at four, I’m sure the remaining guests will have all arrived by then”.
Cherry said, “Thank you,” as the maid left and closed the door. It was only then that Cherry noticed a tapestry, in a frame, screwed to the wall above her bed. As she took a closer look she saw it was the nursery rhyme, There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. Below the rhyme the same artist had stitched a picture of a woman with a fly diving into her mouth.
“How weird is that!” Said Cherry out loud.                                                       “Bloody weird” came a reply from behind her. Cherry Spun round to see a tall elegant woman dressed all in black. Her face was pale, made all the more striking by her bright red lipstick. Cherry took a moment to register who it was and then said, “Bella! Is that you?”

Bella winked and said, “Yes Darling, don’t I look fabulous?”                            She then stepped forward and both women gave each other an air kiss on each cheek, knowing full well they had each taken much precision and care having their makeup done.
Bella then looked around the room and said, “Pity, your room is just as much of a dump as mine, if it had been better I would have got you to move”.
Cherry suddenly remembered just what a bully Bella had been, but she was an adult now, she could handle Bella. Sensing that she had successfully rattled Cherry with such ease, Bella continued, “Of course my room does have its own ensuite bathroom so I guess my room is better than yours”.
Cherry nearly chocked, “Ensuite! Really! Well, I’m going to have to get a room with one as well.”
Bella laughed out loud, “Oh darling, it’s so good to know you are as gullible as ever. Of course there’s no ensuite in this dump, I’m just hoping that there no one else in the rooms on my floor. I did ask that woman who took the bags if there was a penthouse suite on the floor above me but she said the two room above were crippled with damp and as such locked. Of course I pushed her further, well you know me darling and asked about the other rooms but she informed me that many of the rooms are being renovated and that our rooms are of the identical highest standards. Both women let out a little laugh as they looked round the plain room. Bella continued, “Well, I had to tell that servant woman that I disagreed on what she thought were high standards compared to the luxury I am used too, but then she mentioned a champagne gathering at four and so I thought I’ll stay for that, then go”.

Cherry took another look at the nursery rhyme on the wall and asked Bella if she had one in her room. Bella put her finger to he mouth and pretended to gag, “Ugh, yes darling, Little Miss Muffet would you believe, what is worse is there a picture of a huge spider in the corner of the bloody thing. Who ever done it has to be sick as they have stitched in a Brazilian Wandering Spider, just like the one that nearly killed my second husband on our honeymoon. I did try and unscrew it from the wall with my nail-file, but it’s stuck fast, so i’ve draped my Gucci scarf over it instead. Besides, I think after the champagne meet and greet I’ll just say my goodbyes and get out of this godforsaken town”.
Cherry wanted to ask which husband she was on to now when she noticed her watch said 3:30, “Come on let’s go downstairs and see who else has arrived”.
As they stepped out into the hall, they were greeted by the maid who told them that the rest of the guests had arrived and were waiting for them to join them. Cherry opened the lift door and went to step in when Bella pulled her back. Cherry let out a gasp as she looked down into the depths of the lift shaft. The maid let out a little chuckle and said, “I’m sorry my dear, this building is so very old and the lift can be very temperamental. For some reason the lift will always return to the ground floor so do be extra careful during your stay.”
With that the maid, pulled the lift door shut and pressed the call button which re-engaged the lift as its mechanism cranked and churned its way up.
As the three women stepped into the lift, Bella took a closer look at the maid and asked if they had met before. The maid smiled, and said, “I must have a familiar face, your friend was asking the same thing, but no I do not believe we have had the pleasure in being aquatinted”.
Bella looked at the maid again, and said, “Hmmm, What did you say your name was?”
As the lift clunked to the ground floor, the maid said, “Trisha Steers”, then pulled the lift door open and stepped out into the hall and saw their old school friends. May Flower was dressed in a smart, charcoal grey two piece suit, Rose Petal had multicoloured, hippy style frock on and to Cherry and Bella’s surprise, Dan De-lion looked quite buff in a pair of tight leather jeans and leather waste coat, with a tight white t-shirt underneath. Bella marched up to the table where the champagne was, grabbed herself a glass and went over to Dan and said, “I always knew you were a poof.”
Dan gave Bella a quick look up and down and replied, “Only a true fag-hag would have spotted the signs Darling.”
The pair clinked their champagne flutes, gave each other an air kiss and downed their drinks in one then spun round to talk to whoever was infront of them.
In no time the group of friends were chatting as if it was only yesterday, each secretly pleased that none of the other students from their school had made it to the reunion as they all cooed and arrhed at how well each of them had done since leaving Coalville.
Rose Petal had her own fashion company, Cherry Blossom was chief editor of Hi-Yah magazine, Bella Donna was now married to her forth a millionaire, May Flower bred and exported pedigree Shih Tzu’s to film stars for a living, and Dan De-lion had his own leather and rubber fetish company.
After the conversation had run the gauntlet of back-patting and to a small extent backstabbing, the gang eventually talked about the terrible demise of Miss Hickory.
“It was such a shock,” said Cherry, close to tears.
Bella then piped up, “What, that she was a dyke? I thought we all knew about that”.
May shook her head, “You don’t have to always be such a bitch all the time Bella, the poor woman was murdered. If it wasn’t for her, then maybe none of us would be as successful as we are now”.
Bella, puffed on her cigarette, and said, “I didn’t need that lezza to find me a rich old men with dodgy tickers to make my fortune. She then looked at her watch and  said, I think it will soon be time for husband number five”.
May was about to say something she would probably regret, when Cherry piped up again and said, “Please can we talk about something else?”
Much to Cherry’s relive, Rose stepped in and said, has anyone else got one of those dreadful nursery rhymes in their room? I’ve got Humpty Dumpty in mine”.
Unable to stop herself, Bella said, Well darling, by the size of your hips these days I’d say who ever put you in that room got it spot on!
Cherry, slapped Bella’s arm, “For goodness sake Bella, can you please stop being a bitch for just five minutes, Please!”
Everyone stopped and waited for Bella to slap Cherry back and were greatly relived when she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure, I’ll give that a ago.”
Dan, who was a little disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a big fight, said, “Well, that will be a challenge” only for Rose to give him a look that made him add, “I’ve got Doctor Foster, what about you Rose?”
“Orange and Lemons, I wonder why we should have then in all the rooms, it’s a little bit odd don’t you think.”
Everyone jumped when Trisha suddenly reappeared and said, “This place used to be an orphanage, the nursery rhymes were apparently very popular with the unwanted children who lived within these walls and so the management have decided to keep that little bit of history for this lovely housing retreat, don’t you think?”
Bella, always ready to stir things up, said, “Well I for one think its stupid idea, as does this reunion, I only came to let you know that I’m still so much more fabulous then you lot will ever be.”
“Me too,” added Dan, “I was hoping that there would have been a few of those plebs from our year here too so we could have had some sport knocking them down like we used to do.”
Dan then turned to Trisha Steers and said, “Who exactly organised this god awful weekend, was it you?”
Trisha shook her head, “Oh no my dear, I’m just here hosting the event, now why don’t you all come through to the main room where dinner has been prepared.”
The party, who were all ready for some distraction made there way into the dinning room and were pleasantly surprised to see a lavish table complete with silver candelabra on the table and silverware, fine china plates and linen napkins. As they got closer they saw each had their names elegantly written on crisp white cards.
Dan walked over to the table and gave a long whistle as he picked up a bottle of vintage red wine, “Whoever set up this reunion, has very good taste”. He then looked over at Bella and said, “Come on Bella, let’s just chill a bit and enjoy the spoils we’ve had put out for us.”
Bella snorted at the very idea, turned on her heel sand made her way to the lift.
Cherry went to run after her, but May pulled her back, “Don’t get so upset about her, Cherry, it’s just what she is hoping you will do”.
Rose poured Cherry a glass of wine, pulled out a seat and said, “May’s right, let her stew it over, she won’t be able to bear sitting up in her room on her own”.

***

Back in her room, Bella shut the door and rummaged through the back of her suitcase and pulled out a silver flask and a small velvet purse. After taking a swig of brandy from the flask she then opened up the purple purse and took out the silver bullet shape case and mirror. As she tapped out two lines of coke on the mirror she felt herself relax. “After a little stardust, I’m going to get out of this shit hole and go back home.”
Bella then rolled up a crisp fifty pound note and snorted the white dust that gave each nostril a very satisfying sting. “”Fan-fucking-tatsic”, said Bella. She went to put the purse away, but decided she deserved another hit and so tapped out another two lines and snorted those, quickly followed by another swig of brandy.
It was only after the second dose that Bella’s head felt foggy and her legs buckled beneath her. Luckily she was able to manoeuvre herself away from the bedside cabinet and flopped down on the bed. As she lay their she looked up at the picture on the wall. “What twisted fuck thought that was okay for a children’s orphanage?”
Bela then tried to sit up, but all she could do was raise her head from the pillow, the rest of her body was completely paralysed. It was only then that Bella realised that what she had snorted was not her brand of coke, but that made no sense, she’d had a toot earlier before creeping up on that old sap, Cherry.
Again Bella tried to lift herself off the bed, but found it impossible to do so. With all her might she tried a third time and managed to just lift her neck and shoulders up. It was then she saw a nun standing in the door way with her head bent downwards. Bella tried to speak, to tell Dan that his sick joke just wasn’t that funny when the nun slowly lifted her head, to reveal a grinning skulls face.
Bella’s head and shoulders became too heavy and she felt her self flop back down on the bed. Unable to move or close her mouth, Bella watched on in horror as the skull faced nun came up to her bed, reached into the bedside cabinet and pulled out a small packet and showed it to Bella. through her bleary eyes Bella could just make out the words on the package, Rohypnol. With her tongue as disabled as the rest of her body, Bella found that not only could she not move but she could not even drum up a scream.
Panic filled Bella’s body as she watched the nun bend down, reach under he bed and pull out a large wooden box. The skull faced nun then shook the box, causing whatever was inside it to scratch around angrily. For the first time in her life Bella tried to shut her eyes and pray for someone to burst into the room and stop this madness, but even her eyelids refused to obey her. With no choice, Bella watched on in horror as the skull faced nun flicked the latch on the box, lifted the lid and emptied a three Brazilian Wandering Spiders  onto Bella’s chest.  Bella was well aware of just how venomous these spiders were, having used one to bump off husband number two. The scream was loud and clear inside Bella’s head, but no noise escaped from her mouth as the spiders scurried up towards her open mouth.

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Brazilian-Wandering-Spider.

The nun watched on in fascination as Bella’s bowels let out a gush of piss down her leg as the fear raged hard throughout her body. As the spiders hairy feet explored Bella’s face and its collective eyes stared  down at her terrified face, Bella felt her heart pounding hard against her ribs. The nun moved closer, looked down at Bella and removed the mask. With her eyes wide, she took in her killer’s face who took great delight in pushing her boney fingers past Bella’s lips and widening Bella’s mouth, allowing enough room for one of the spiders to explore the inside of her cheeks.Bella then felt a mix of horror and relive as the spider pulled itself back then plunged its fangs into the soft side of her cheeks; the poison seeped into Bella’s blood stream and raged through her body. For Bella, the pain was agonising as the venom seared through her veins, shutting down her organs one by one. Gradually she felt her throat close up and darkness fill the room as the nun stood patiently waiting for Bella to take her final breath.

 

All Fall Down
Part Three
One down, four to go.

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