Downward Spiral. Short Story.

Jeremy sat in class, waiting for the day to be over. The geography teacher droned on about plates and crust and something else, magma maybe? He looked down at his copybook, the page was full of doodles and scribbles, not a single solitary note had been made. He looked around at everyone else, furiously scribbling away. What did he miss? Did Mr. Andrews say there was going to be a test or something? He tried to figure out where they were in the lesson, but it was proving difficult. He started to make a few notes, then his mind started to drift again.

The bell rang, everyone was already packed up and leaving. Jeremy hastily grabbed his books and shoved them into his bag, no time for organisation. He got half way to the door when he realised his forgot his pencil case.

He joined the milling crowds in the halls, they were too small for the number of students, there had been talk of banning bags from the hallways. He made his way through the corridors to his next class, biology. He filed in with the other students and sat at his seat. There were no notes on the board today, that meant one thing, they were going to watch a movie. He grinned, everyone loved movie days. The teacher came in and after a few minutes, she selected a tape and put it into the vcr, the screen flickered to life and she turned off the lights. Today there was no fiddling around with cables for once, it worked straight away. It was a documentary about plant life. Jeremy settled in, pen held loosely in his hand. Around him a few people started to jot down notes, Jeremy didn’t bother.

They got half way through the documentary before the bell rang, no homework, that was a plus. Shit. Did Mr. Andrews give out geography homework? He’d have to ask someone. His day went by normally, Jeremy doodling most of the time, half listening to teachers drone on, he got the homework and then headed home.

He walked today, as he did every other day. He was given money for the bus, but he was saving it. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. It turned the fifteen minute journey into a walk that was just over an hour and a half. He could shave down the time if he had to, but he walked slowly for the most of it. He walked alone as everyone else got the bus, that didn’t bother him though, he liked walking alone. When he got home he’d do his homework and prepare dinner for his parents, it was his turn today, and then he’d go out with his friends. The walk gave him some time alone in the mornings and evenings. His parents seemed to think that he played football or something before class, he didn’t dispel their belief. The walk was safe, at least as far as he was concerned, it brought him through suburban streets and occasionally past a row of shops. There was always one or two people around for most of his walk. The creepiest part for him by far was going by the derelict houses. They were more shells than houses, some didn’t even have roofs. A fire had burnt most of them down a few years ago. Blackened walls seemed to crookedly grow from the ground. There was still a faint smell of burning. He didn’t know why they weren’t knocked down or why the people never rebuilt. He suspected that most of them died in the fire. He was young enough at the time that his parents wouldn’t tell him anything about it, and now he had little interest. Of course there were the usual rumours of devil worship gone wrong and drug rings and such, but Jeremy didn’t believe any of it. Sometimes there were little kids running about, playing in the ruins. Jeremy never said anything but he worried that they’d seriously injure themselves. It wasn’t his problem, not his fault if they had shitty parents.

He arrived home and went into the kitchen, the routine was hard to break. He got himself a glass of water, then he sat down to do his homework. It wouldn’t take long, he had gotten a lot of it done during his free period and there was just a small bit left. Once that was done, he started on dinner. Sometimes his mother would tell him what to cook, but today she had given him full control. He looked through the cabinets and eventually decided to make lasagne.

It was just finished cooking when his parents arrived home. They each went to change and when they were done, the meal was plated and ready for them. Dinner was always a lively affair, full of conversation, they never ate in front of the TV, always at the table. Once he was done, Jeremy put his things in the dishwasher, then he went outside to find his friends.

It wasn’t too hard to find them, they were grouped together on the small green as usual. It had been a nice day and was turning into a mild night, they were sitting and chatting. Jeremy sat down on the grass, they all chatted for a while before playing some football.

Jeremy got into bed and picked up the book he was reading. It was taking him a while to get through it, he’d been unusually tired the last few nights. Normally he’d read until he couldn’t anymore, then he’d put down the book, but he only lasted a few pages lately.

His dreams were vivid and strange, though that wasn’t unusual for him. He woke a little before his alarm, then he pulled out his writing pad, he wrote down a few notes on his dream, then he got ready for school.  Same thing, every day. His life had settled into a nice pattern, one he enjoyed. Nothing was going to change that, at least nothing he could see.

Then his grades started to slip. They weren’t spectacular to begin with, usually a low B, but then they went down to a C, then D. He stayed there for a while, he just couldn’t concentrate. His parents yelled and berated, took away privileges, grounded him, but nothing made a difference. He tried to explain it to them, but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand. He would sit with his books and read through everything again and again, but nothing would stick. It was all new information each and every time he reread it. It just wasn’t sinking in. His teachers were sympathetic at first, offering him extra help or ways to boost his grades and he did take them, but slowly the sympathy died and they stopped offering, only grudgingly offering something after he asked a few times. They ceased to believe he was just having a few problems and soon they were all convinced he just wasn’t trying hard enough. He just needed to apply himself. Jeremy had never had problems before in school, he had always done reasonably well, he had never considered himself stupid or dumb, but as the months went by, he began to question his intelligence. Maybe he was just stupid. Maybe he couldn’t learn any of this stuff. They only thing his parents didn’t take away were his books. He could remember these without a problem, so why couldn’t he remember his schoolwork? As time pressed on he began to lose what little interest he had in school, why should he try when he was going to fail anyway? He had undergone tests, ones to see if he had ADD, or dyslexia or anything else, but there was nothing. He was just a normal person, one who obviously didn’t apply himself. He withdrew more and more, he didn’t go out to his friends anymore, he didn’t really talk at dinner. He chose to sit alone at lunch, sometimes he would try to study, but soon he stopped that too. There was no point in trying to change it, it was obviously inevitable. His life settled into a new pattern, one that would be almost impossible to break. There was nothing he could do, there was no point to anything really. He clung to his books, he had that at least. If he couldn’t live a normal life, if he couldn’t be smart, well he could read about those who were, live their lives instead.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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2 Responses to Downward Spiral. Short Story.

  1. fminuzzi says:

    Reminds me a bit of A Simple Wish (they have similar main characters and home atmospheres, even if the parents don’t act the same way). I think my main comment for both is that the beginning is on the long side, showing things that might not need showing (even if you’re setting the ‘this is what is normal for them’ bar).

    • Yeah, I can see why it would remind you of that. I originally hadn’t planned to take this story in the direction it went, but I just kinda followed it as I didn’t like the original ending.

      I also see what you mean about it being on the slow side/taking too long to set the normal bar.

      Thanks for the comment and (constructive!) criticism 🙂

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