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About the author:
Joseph Kiel is the alter ego of a filmmaker from Lincolnshire in England. He wrote and co-directed the independent feature film Shadows of a Stranger which had the sixth Doctor, Bungle, and the Voice of The Cube in it. He continues to write film scripts as well as novels, and sometimes he crosses the two worlds as he has done with Broken Melody. Maybe he’ll make another film one day, at least in a parallel universe.
Here is a short sample from the book:
I’d had some hangovers in my time but this one was the worst. My head pounded as though last night’s debauchery had bruised my brain and I had that yucky taste of stale vodka in my mouth. I knew this one was going to take a whole day to wear off, but what was worrying me the most was that I couldn’t remember anything of what the hell I was doing last night.
I mean, I remembered the start of it, of course, the stage before we’d gone out and got trashed, despite having plenty of pre-drinks. It was Veronica’s birthday and we’d gone into the city to celebrate. I don’t really like Veronica I have to admit. I find her a bit stuck up and the sarcastic tone she always talks in really grates on me. But we have a mutual friend, Rachel, and it was Rachel who twisted my arm and made me come along. On a Thursday night, too, when I had lectures and seminars to go to the next day. But, hey, we’re students. It doesn’t matter what night the party is. Every night is party night.
But this one I was really regretting saying yes to as I dared to dangle my feet outside the bed in search of my slippers. I held my head in my hands as though I was frightened my brain was going to slop out of my earholes. I dared to glance at my bedside clock. Oh crap. It was a quarter to ten. Only fifteen minutes till my lecture. I had to move. I’d missed way too many lectures in my first semester. I’d made a New Year’s resolution that I wasn’t going to miss any at all for the rest of the year. I didn’t want them to fail me for poor attendance. It was only my first year at Meridian University.
The adrenaline kicked in and helped ease the pain of my headache slightly. I stood up and quickly rummaged through my wardrobe for something to wear, anything. I couldn’t be a picky diva this morning. As I reached for the first thing, I noticed some ink on my hand, like I’d been stamped. So maybe we’d been to some nightclub last night? And we’d popped outside for a cigarette or something and they’d stamped us with this so that they’d let us back in again? I didn’t recognise the symbol though. It was a black circle with a cross in the middle. It was still looking pretty vivid on my skin, not having faded with sweat and hand wash, but then for all I knew, we were probably in this club only a few hours ago. I didn’t have time to think about it though.
I put on a thick jumper and some jeans then took a quick look in the mirror. Thankfully my subtle makeup was still holding up. No surprise that I’d been too paralytic to wipe it off last night. I should be thankful that I’d even made it back to my own bed.
There. Just a couple of minutes and I was ready to go. I’d really smashed a stereotype this morning. I reckoned I even had a spare moment to write Rachel a quick text before I left my dorm room.
Girl, what the hell did you do to me last night??? X
I really hoped that she would be able to fill me in. I really hoped that she was going to be able to tell me that she’d been with me all night and remembered everything and we hadn’t done anything stupid at all. Waking up alone, it was apparent I hadn’t brought back some pervy married pensioner to my room last night and he’d had the biggest thrill in decades… my body certainly wasn’t telling me that I’d been up to any shenanigans last night. And I didn’t sense that anyone else had recently been in my room and in my bed. But I just didn’t like that lingering thought that maybe someone had taken advantage before I’d got back home. I really needed Rachel right now to help me piece together the events.
I knew there was no way I was going to get a reply before my lecture. Rachel would be snoring soundly in her room for the next few hours at least. The lucky cow, she didn’t have any lectures or anything on a Friday. The weekend had already started for her.
I grabbed my key off the holder – I’d even had the wherewithal to hang it up there last night – picked up my bag that I’d placed by the door, filled with the relevant folders and stationary. Like I said, I’ve done this partying thing before and have learnt that if you’re going out then it’s worth spending a few minutes before it all gets going to get everything in place ready for whatever’s on the timetable the next day.
I grabbed my coat, a scarf, and a woolly hat with cute eyes and ears on it, then trotted out of the halls of residence towards the lecture theatre. As soon as I stepped outside, the daylight seemed to prickle my eyeballs, not that it was a bright morning at all; the skies were actually as clouded as my brain. It wasn’t a long walk, but as I dashed through the underpass, the icy February air really hit me and my brain felt like it was swimming in acid.
Honestly, I’d never known a hangover like this one. I felt… different. Had we taken something? Boy, I’m not really the adventurous sort like that. Sure I’d smoked a bit of weed now and again, but that was about my limits. I remembered one evening – another drunken night – Rachel had mentioned we should try a legal high some time, that her boyfriend took this certain one all the time and he’d recounted to her in great detail how amazing it was. Triple Rainbow it was apparently called, and it made him feel he was a mermaid swimming in a giant fish tank. However, even then I had no appetite for getting into that bullshit. But maybe last night she’d presented me with a pill and she’d twisted my arm again?
I supposed it would explain a lot. To be fair, I would really hope that Rachel had made me take some chemical crap rather than some stranger slipping some shit into my drink. Oh God. I couldn’t even entertain that thought. I dwelled on that for any amount of time and then I really was going to spew up then and there in the lecture hall.
I took my seat at the back. I was so glad there was little light in there. The darkness felt very soothing on my fragile state, and no one would be able to look at me and see how terrible I appeared. With any luck, if I held my notepad on my lap and kept my hat on, the lecturer wouldn’t be able to tell if I fell asleep. Hey, my New Year’s resolution was to attend all my lectures. I made no vows to myself about being conscious within them and actually absorbing any information. There was little hope of that happening with this one.
I already felt drowsy by the time the lecturer stepped up to the podium, feeling snug underneath my silly panda hat. A moment later though the adrenaline suddenly surged again as the lecturer was interrupted by the sound of my mobile phone announcing a text message.
Awesome. The entire lecture theatre turned round to look at me and I wished that my seat was actually the tongue of some giant furniture monster that would mercifully swallow me up.
‘Sorry,’ I muttered sheepishly, before the lecturer carried on lecturing and heads turned back the right way round.
With all eyes off me, I pulled my phone out my pocket, quickly switched it to silent, then opened the text message. Great! She was awake. It was from Rachel.
FML. Send me a paramedic coz I am literally dying. We totally need to do this again tonight x
Fucking drama queen. Do what again tonight!? Can’t you just answer the question and let me know what the hell happened?
Even though the lecturer was in full swing by now and throwing around all his big academic words that I should have been scribbling onto my notepad, I quickly wrote out another text for Rachel, again asking her the question. I then rested the phone on my notepad, waiting patiently for another text to promptly appear. It was inevitable, right? Rachel was now awake. She’d already texted me back just seconds before. Yet even though I desperately wanted to know the answer to this very simple question, there were no more texts imminently appearing on my phone.
Thanks, Rachel! Just go back to sleep, why don’t you? Honestly, the modern day equivalent of waiting for a watched kettle to boil is waiting for your phone to buzz with the message you want. I decided to send her another.
Wake up you lazy cow! X
I knew it was a waste of time though. I had a lecture to somehow put my mind to. Or, most likely, I would do the same as Rachel had done and go back to sleep as well. I again looked at that ink stamp on my hand and tried rubbing it off. What was that symbol supposed to mean anyway? Was it a crosshair? A Jesus thing? What kind of place were we in last night? Damn thing wasn’t coming off either. Seemed like I needed to get some serious detergent on it. I sensed that this mysterious symbol was the riddle, and for some unknown reason my subconscious was screaming to me to somehow solve it. And soon.