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Dark Pupils - Chapter 4

by eanna 

Posted: 03 May 2006
Word Count: 3379
Summary: Recognition

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

It was much colder today that was for sure. Not as cold as this day last year. Oscar felt, but definitely far colder than yesterday. The winter was ready to set into the grey stone of Dublin and the steps below him that would soon be impossible to warm irrespective of how much prolonged arse cheek contact they were subjected to. Soon it would be time to hit the holes beneath the city and sleep through the worst part of winter.
Ah well, at least he had his health, the wet part of it anyway, the part that was intermittently friendly with the fresh whiskey bottle that was in his coat pocket. Yes, he had that, and a couple of quid that he'd scabbed off a student that morning outside the university where Oscar often went to watch.

Students; god love them. Beautiful and bright, the robots of tomorrow marching into the shredder with their eyes wide open and their hopes higher than that junky cougher fella that hung around on Pearse Street in the mornings. Oscar went there frequently too, to watch the robots lead each other off the DART and file slowly towards work.

Every day with their brains dying and flattening out, the robots went to work, all of them trying to better each other at being more the same than anyone else. The new government of course, claimed that all of that was about to change.

"We are reawakening the Ireland that died over a thousand years ago," they cheered on television. But Oscar was sceptical about anything that came out of a mouth with a suit attached.

Yet he still wore his own, as punishment, beneath his now tattered Cromby. Like a fully uniformed Nazi Soldier walking through the town in plain view, inviting hatred and revulsion upon his person, Oscar traipsed through Dublin with his head held high. Yes, he too had been a robot. Until one day. D-day.

Marching with the others Oscar had been walking beside the Liffey towards the forecourts, on his way to a series of meetings outside the courtrooms. It was there that he and the other solicitors scurried back and forth with counter offers and promises of steadfast representation. But on that day fifteen years ago something had happened that made Oscar stop dead in the street. In fact he stopped so suddenly that a sleepy fellow with a paddy-cap on ran straight into his broad back and cursed him for a bastard.

"What are you doing?" the man had cried all angry and repressed. But Oscar had only been able to look at the man's face, grey it had become to him, and shake his head to say.
"I don't know," he told the man with the grey face, "do you?"
"I… I…" the man was confused and he had continued on, shaking his head in a sad fashion, unsure of himself. Oscar was sure then, sure that something had happened to fix him right then and there. He had seen the city lit dimly with grey dead bodies, walking and talking but too dim to be real.

It was the young ones that he noticed now as he roamed the streets. They had sure power in them, such potential. Maybe this new government was going to rekindle the county's once great history and give these young ones a chance to be free?
Oscar shivered. Yes, it would be time to hit the holes soon. To burrow down into the tunnels under the city for the winter, drink, and sleep in the darkness, that was all he had in his near future.
But not just yet he felt. Something was happening with the boy. He had to watch the boy.
Oscar had a family somewhere too. Oh yes, a wife and a child or was it two? No, three children. He missed the children and was painfully aware that he had abandoned them. Did he miss his wife, the doctor? Well they'd had their good times, which were hard to remember now amongst the disagreements. It was amazing how many little details he could recall from their arguments, actual examples used and points made. It was astonishing really, but it was pointless to dwell on it now that he'd left them high and dry.

Oscar was sure that they would understand if they had seen through his eyes the grey bodies that clogged the city streets. If they looked out from him and took in the enormity and uselessness of it they would have to comprehend, wouldn't they?
Especially when he had looked down at his own hands and seen the dreaded lack of colour there too. A grey man like the rest he had become, with nothing to live for and no hope of a real future.

That was the day Oscar had stopped walking to work, or to anywhere in fact. From then he had looked around with new eyes at the world he had been tricked into. That was the day he sat down on the steps of the nearest building and began to wait, to watch, and to look.
What was he looking for? Well, if he knew that then he would have seen it by now. What did he know? Whatever it was, it was the students that held the key. The young are always the ones that make the big changes, and there was one that he had been watching in particular. One future robot that Oscar felt drawn to, who passed by him every day and never looked sideways at the old tramp.
This one was different, but lately even he had been acting in an unusual manner.

Across the world, a jaded example, the chaos butterfly was lying dead in a pool of wax. Things weren't being caused by tiny wings any more. This was a time for human endeavour, and their actions were going to cause enough harm by themselves. The thought made Oscar uneasy because he felt that it was true, that everything was on the verge and all that he could do was watch.

Café Hola…

In the university canteen Peter was trying coffee. Now it wasn't as though he hadn't tried it before. Hasn't everybody, he asked himself. Even people like Peter with severe allergic reactions to caffeine have been tempted into, nay, forced into trying it. For some reason Coffee was cool, Peter didn't know why, it just was. There was never a way around it.
Peter smelled the brew on the table before him and thought about drugs. Among the diminishing number of pleasures left to the average human that are detrimental to the common health, coffee was the last to retain its coolness. Some things of course would never be cool.
Heroine wasn't cool, and Peter didn't care what anyone said about Iggy Pop or Lou Reed. It was just too dirty and unseemly. Hash/Marijuana however, was cool whether some people wanted to admit it or not, really cool.
These were illegal, or what Peter called NO drugs, of which there are more than two, but to list them all and to NO or YES them all would have been pointless, although Peter was prone to pointless listing.
For example: Legal, or YES drugs, like Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Prozac, Diet Pills (speed) and Orange Juice had all lost their coolness factor Peter felt, although Alcohol still managed to remain both cool and massively uncool at the same time. It depended on the time of day in his book.
The big N in cigarettes had been the coolest of the YES drugs until recently, but it was growing unpopular, now that people wanted to live longer and be happier, bless em.
So what could you do, Peter wondered. All the YES drugs were bad for you and all the NO drugs, some of which aren't so bad for you, were… well, illegal - ish. What was left?
Coffee? Probably not, but it'd do until the government found a way to put Ecstasy into alcohol pops. So he was stuck with it always being shoved in his face and offered ad nauseam.
So there was Peter, again, trimethylxanthine intolerant with a mug of coffee in his hand and he was actually considering having a sip. In normal terms Peter was a bit of a freak, because unlike nearly everybody in the whole world, he could not do caffeine. Not even a sip. It was amazing really, but Peter felt rather that it was just plain annoying.
"Come on man, drink up," said Terry, "it'll get cold!" Peter stared into his mug. Don't be an idiot, he told himself.
"I prefer it cold," he told Terry who had gone back to staring at the girl behind the counter.
"Yep," said Terry, "They make great coffee here." He gave the redheaded girl a cheeky smile and, to Peter's surprise she smiled back openly.
"So," Peter began, "What are you stu…"
"Studying? Ooh bad question, you don't get out a lot do ya? It's all right. See that girl?" Peter didn't need to guess who Terry was talking about.
"Well," Terry whispered, "We used to go out last year." Terry nodded and pointed as though Peter still hadn't guessed the subject of the conversation.
"What happened?" peter asked, getting the idea that he was only filling in the lines so that Terry could run off his mouth.
"Summer," said Terry, "She's from Galway - Went home - Relationship over." After he said this Terry turned back in his seat to face Peter properly, "I suppose some things don't mean anything. But there was this other girl in my course last year, man, she had the biggest jabs you've ever seen…"

Peter got a sad feeling from Terry then, as the talkative one continued on about some girl's lips and another girl's arse. It was a feeling he recognised in himself. It was there behind the other boy's eyes. Not a glint, but worse, it was a dullness. In the core of Peter's brain he had a dark patch and he recognised the same in Terry. It was scary, like he'd known the other boy all his life. What could it be that connected them? The hint of madness in Terry's voice, the dark rings under their eyes? Yes, that was it, or if not, it was a common symptom.
"You sleeping?" Peter interrupted, and Terry shut his yammering immediately.

What the fuck? Terry thought. He was suddenly unsettled and his stomach had gone off. Too much coffee probably, he thought as he finished his. How was it that he felt like he knew this Peter guy? What was going on in his head? Peter had noticed that he was suffering from lack of sleep. So what, it wasn't as if Terry had hidden it very well? But if Peter knew for another reason, then he had to find out. These last weeks and months couldn't be regained, but if someone else were going through it too, then at least that would be something.
"Yeah I sleep a bit… sometimes." Terry said, guarding his expression, unsure of what to say next. "You?"
"No," said Peter simply, "None." Terry grew nervous and picked up Peter's coffee and sipped at it.
"Urah! Man, it's frozen! I'll get you a new one," and before Peter could stop him Terry was off to the counter to get him a hot sup.


"Hey there… mama." Terry said to the blonde-haired girl, trying to look ever so cool.
"Gonads," she told him.
"Gonads," she said again, "they're playing tonight at eight." Terry looked down to his trousers.
"Really, how did you know?" The blonde-haired girl smiled.
"Very funny," she said pointing to a poster that drooped on the wall, its blue tack stolen by an irrepressible yet decidedly nerdy vandal, "The Gonads, they're going to be the band of the year." Terry looked over both the picture and the blonde-haired girl.
"You want to go?" he asked, as brusque as he could, though his back was now sweating.
"Em…" the blonde-haired girl, looked up to the left with mock indecision, "Oh all right, I'll go." Terry smiled.
"Yes! I mean, cool yeah whatever. Meet you outside the place at eight-ish then."
Terry spun around and failed to strut back down to the table where Peter waited. He sat down.
"You forgot my coffee," Peter couldn't help but smile through his sombre nature.
"Well there is no way I'm going to go back up there after that bit of skill. You'll just have to give up."
"Done," Peter assured him, "now enough messing around." Peter had been given time to go over his options while Terry arranged his date. "We have to talk about Things."
"Things?" Terry asked.
"Yeah things," Peter agreed. Honesty was the best way forward. "Like what's been happening to you this summer. And, what's been happening to me."
Terry thought about disagreeing and denying that anything had happened to him at all. He almost said that everything was great, happy days, breezing through, and other words to that effect. But he stopped himself.
"Ok," he said instead, "but you first." Peter took a deep breath and began.
"It's like this," he said, "I've been having these dreams."

Robot Dance…

"What sort of dreams?" Rachel asked Marie feeling a shiver run around her neck, "you're having dreams too, I mean are they? Like what sort of dreams?" Marie looked uncomfortable and lowered her eyes to the table and her cup of tea. The two girls were sitting in Rachel's kitchen having their lunch and though the heating was on, it seemed, to Rachel at least that it had gotten perceptibly colder and less habitable since the subject of sleep, or lack of sleep had been broached.
"You know," said Marie, "kinda disturbing dreams, ya know? The ones that seem to be really real like and you could swear they were real that, even after you wake up and find yourself in your own bed." Marie scowled at her own vagueness. "It sounds stupid I know,' she said, "but…"
"It’s not stupid at all Marie," Rachel interrupted, "Maybe you've been having too much caffeine or…" she trailed off. She'd been having them too and she had asked herself the same questions. "Or, you might be stressed out?"
"No really… wait a second. You said too, didn't you?"
"Wha… Well yeah, yeah I have. Well only one dream really. Again and again, the same one, over and over, it's sooooo fucking freaky."
"Well?" asked Marie, "go on, tell me?'
"You tell me?" Rachel retorted, not wanting to go into it just yet. It was far too vivid.
"Ok, let's leave it then," said Marie, "and talk about something else."
"Well, maybe we need to get out and get laid or something."
"Oh yeah, has it been long for you?"
"Bitch," Marie laughed, "ok it hasn't been that long for me, but when was last time you got a good poke?" Rachel laughed and said, "Aw!" as Marie made a fist and gave the air an uppercut with it.
"That's disgusting! You tramp."
"Well," said Marie, "don't worry about that, let's just get you out there and see what happens, haw?" She rummaged in her bag and brought out a blue halter neck top. "I bet you'd look great in this."
"Yeah, bloody right I would, it's my top you bitch!" Rachel squealed in high-pitched disbelief.
"What, no it's not. Well alright," Marie tutted, "you loaned it to me when we went out for our exam piss up in May, remember?" Rachel seriously doubted that she had, in fact she was almost positive that her blue top, a favourite, had only gone missing a month or so ago.
"Give that to me," she said, "I can't believe you just took it?"
"Oh, shut up," Marie chuckled, "let's just worry what you're going to wear with it shall we. You're not going out with me wearing those crappy jeans." Rachel looked down at her jeans. They were a bit crappy. She supposed that could wear her blue skirt, no, it would make it look like she was wearing a uniform, maybe she could wear that brown belt and…
"Wait, where do you think we're going?" Rachel asked.
"To the gig, where else?" Marie tried to act coolly. Rachel's phone began to ring.
"Eric's Gig? Greasy Eric?" Rachel asked.
"Phone's ringing," Marie interjected as Rachel's Samsung picture phone with built in mp3 player and mega-pixel camera rang loudly again.
"The same Eric who you called a useless cu…"
"Your phone is ringing!" Marie repeated. Rachel tutted and answered. There was no name on the screen. It just said CALL.
"Hello?" Rachel answered the phone rolling her eyes, "what? What? Oh, it’s you." She handed the phone to Marie. "It's jerkass."
Marie was all, yeah, yeah, and yeah as she took the phone. "Hi honey," She preened into Rachel's receiver.
"Get your own phone," Rachel muttered as Marie blabbered in the background. Out the window Rachel could see the garden with its tall grass and overgrown bushes. How long ago was it since her dad had tended it? It must have been ages.

Actually, now that she thought about it Rachel couldn't remember how long ago it was since she'd seen her father. Another party conference, the Regressives were hard at work these days and her father was working to get high up in the party. Rachel didn't know why, it was obvious that it would be ages before they were back in power. Since the Progressive Party had taken over Ireland had become a well functioning democratic state, not a model of the same.
It worked, thrived and prospered under the power of the people and the watchful eye of Walter Thisgo… Rachel felt a wave run over her when she thought of the countries most successful leader. Probably the weather, she thought. Since the fallout in West Britain, Ireland's coastal seas had becoming wilder and the capital was often treated to chills out of season, all part of life now that Sellafield was spent threat.
Rachel wanted to know what the wonderful Thisgo was doing about that. Where were his innovative and oriental style techniques when it came to the nuclear world pact? Rachel also wondered why it was that she gave a shit about any of that and shook it off. Her parent's ideas were obviously leaking into her again. She'd never even seen Walter Thisgo, wasn't that weird? The old UK was the least of here worries. It was Peter she thought of much more than anything else. Sad but true, she was in love with an…
…Antisocial oddball, she'd never said two words to and when the whole island went K and big time boom, she would probably still be wondering what he liked to eat? What sort of music did he like? Was he a good kisser? Could he ever be as wonderful as she dreamed he must be?
"Rachel, hello?" Marie tried again. "You're not in his bed again are you?"
"Not yet, I mean no!" Rachel laughed. And, wanting to deflect attention from the familiar flush she felt was rising in her said: "Well where is it on, this gig?"
"Oohh she's getting embarrassed now. You mean, you want to go? I was expecting a bit more of a struggle Impey: Oh Please? On my part and a lot more: Uh, I haven't got any money, I won't know anyone, out of you. This is great!"
"Yeah, yeah, where?" Rachel smiled. Why not, she thought.
"It’s on in 'The Inn.' Eric is mad exited. They're going to open with a Pink Floyd number that'll blow your mind."
"Really which one?"
"I don't know, six, whatever. I've never even heard them." Said Marie and Rachel laughed again as she looked out the window at the washing line, there were clothes on it that seemed to have been there forever. How long had her parents been away? She just couldn't recall. It was like she wasn't bothered remembering.
"Anyhow," she said aloud to Marie, "do you have a belt I could borrow?"

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Comments by other Members

Ava at 21:13 on 05 May 2006  Report this post
Eanna...dia duit, conas a ta tu? and all that malarkey. I liked your tone here, it was very Irish and I love your theme. Nuclear power pisses me off too, you're writing some good stuff here.

One thing I would say is to be careful when you're switching mind-sets between Terry and Peter and Maria and Rachel because it can so easily go wrong. I think you should ask one of the experts (like Terry) to check it over and get his opinion, he gave a great deal of good advice when I had a similiar POV.

I was a little confused by this, I wasnt sure what you meant-
all part of life now that Sellafield was spent threat.

But I really like it, upload more!!

smudger at 15:29 on 06 May 2006  Report this post
Hi eanna,

This entertained and intrigued me. There's some good cyncial humour in it that appeals to me.

I found myself wondering if this was intended to be a future Irish distopia, or a contemporary Ireland that's been altered for your purposes. If it's the former, then you might consider dropping in references to some more futuristic technological or social developments. I also wondered if non-Irish readers would 'get' all of your asides about Irish or UK-centric issues such as Sellafield. It depends on your intended readership, I suppose...

Students; god love them. Beautiful and bright, the robots of tomorrow marching into the shredder with their eyes wide open and their hopes higher than that junky cougher fella that hung around on Pearse Street in the mornings. Oscar went there frequently too, to watch the robots lead each other off the DART and file slowly towards work.
I liked the evocation of the cynical outsider in this para.

The vision of a grey Dublin full of grey people was well-constructed.

left them high and dry
- cliche?

The whole passage through the eyes of the tramp creates a strong atmosphere of threat and disintegration.

Legal drugs
- I don't think diet pills based on speed are legal anymore (minor point).

Terry said to the blonde-haired girl
- She's not the same girl who was a readhead a few paras back, is she?

"You're having dreams too, I mean are they?" - This seemed a bit jumbled?

She supposed that could wear her blue skirt
- typo

Hope this is useful.

Bring on the next one.


johnwayne at 16:23 on 06 May 2006  Report this post

Hello there,

I really like this stuff. I love the student setting, and I am exicted about the hooks, the bad dreams the lack of sleep etc.. great.

I agree with Sarah about the POV stuff, it could get very tricky.

A few observations:

It was much colder today that was for sure. Not as cold as this day last year. Oscar felt, but definitely far colder than yesterday.

Last year, Oscar felt, but…

But Oscar was sceptical about anything that came out of a mouth with a suit attached.

Good advice for life, although I, of course sometimes have to wear one too!

Across the world, a jaded example, the chaos butterfly was lying dead in a pool of wax. Things weren't being caused by tiny wings any more. This was a time for human endeavour, and their actions were going to cause enough harm by themselves.

LOVE that. The idea is really, great and so nicely written!

Marie was all, yeah, yeah, and yeah as she took the phone

Marie was all, 'yeah, yeah, yeah' and 'yeah'


Sorry...got a hair-trigger on the submit today...

Hope this helps...

looking forward to more...


joolsk at 14:46 on 08 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Eanna,

I've discovered the penalty for not commenting quickly on work, everyone else says all the useful things first!

Overall I thought the chapter was very intriguing, you have plenty of very good material in here. The others have already pointed out where you could tighten up, but the thing that I struggled most with was the opening paragraph:

It was much colder today that was for sure. Not as cold as this day last year. Oscar felt, but definitely far colder than yesterday.

Perhaps its because I come from a short story background, but I like every new chapter to have a 'hook' that immediately draws the reader back into the story, these first few lines distracted me.

I hope you find this helpful, the premise of your novel is fascinating and you have a way with words which sparks an occassional clear genius that I'd love to see more of:

Across the world, a jaded example, the chaos butterfly was lying dead in a pool of wax. Things weren't being caused by tiny wings any more. This was a time for human endeavour, and their actions were going to cause enough harm by themselves.

These few sentences made me salivate! In those cleverly crafted words your work transitioned from good to great!

Keep it comin'!


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