AS English Gothic Coursework

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the first draft of the short gothic story I had to write for my AS English Language and Literature coursework. I would appreciate any feedback, opinions, comments, etc. on how to make it better, if you think it reflects the gothic style genre and if not how to make it more so, or less if needed. What do you think about the protagonist? Could you follow what was happening all the way through? And so on. It's only a first draft and obviously needs a lot of improvement so any advice would be appreciated!

Submitted: December 20, 2013

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Submitted: December 20, 2013

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My eyes fluttered open. Darkness. I could have sworn my eyes were still closed. Nothing could ever be this dark. This black. An endless Cimmerian shade of nothingness. I tried to open my eyes again. Still nothing. Confusion. I could feel my eyelids moving, blinking in a desperate attempt to regain the ability to perceive my surroundings, hoping fiercely for any image, any sudden range of colours, even the smallest splinter of light. Yet all I could see, or not see, was merely an exhaustive, cold darkness. An endless obscurity. Blindness. Oh, my god. I was blind.
 
No. No. I'm not blind. I can't be. Oh, my head. The initial drowsiness I had awoken with was slowly wearing off, leaving a dull ache in its wake. I wanted to squint and rub this raven illusion out of my eyes.
 
Another surprise. However hard I tried I could not seem to lift my arms. They would not budge. I knew they were there. I could feel them, mentally visualise them there, limp at my sides. They just would not move. 
 
What the hell was happening to me?!
 
I tried to move again. I tried to lift my arms, legs, head, torso. Why could I not move? I knew that my body was there. I could feel it, feel myself lying against something cold and metallic. Very cold. An unusually glacial, steel-like surface. How could one physically feel, sense one's surroundings, but not move?
 
Frozen. Blind. Trapped.
 
This is not happening. I am not here. Not really. Wherever 'here' is. It's a dream. A cruel nightmare. A frightful illusion. Or perhaps...a numb reality.
 
The initial shock of my impaired senses was quickly turning into brutal recognition. I was dead. No. I was paralysed. An accident? Why could I not remember? Anything before this new-found horror seemed erased, substituted instead by the onset of a desperate need for knowledge. Who was my mother? Where did I live? What was my name?
 
Madeleine. That at least I knew. Madeleine was my name.
 
My mouth felt dry. My throat was parched. My body's urge for water, even the tiniest of drops, was increasing by the second. For the first time since I had woken up I tried to speak. Silence. The muscles in my throat were not even moving. Ofcourse, they're not. I'm paralysed. The reminder of this horrible affliction hit me ten-fold again. Oh, dear god.
 
Yet, I continued trying to utter any words, syllables, make sounds, full-on scream. "HEEEELP! HELP MEEEE!!!" my mind was shrieking.
 
Silence. A silence in complete contradiction with the bedlam inside my head. My whole body was aching with attempts to move, speak, think, cry, laugh. The mental venture of trying to force my limbs to wake up was too much. My efforts were wasted and I remained locked in my permanent lying position, now fully sentient of my impetuous paralysis. How ridiculous it all seemed. Like a cruel trick of fate.
 
Calm. I need to keep calm. Okay. Where am I and how did I get here? Although my sight had failed me my sense of smell had not. I could discern a faint smell of chemicals and...decay. Mortal rot mixed with a stronger stench of urine. My urine. I could taste ammonia in the air. Some kind of laboratory? Hospital? 
 
Funeral home?
 
Although I could not see anything I just knew, I suspected that I was enclosed in a very small space. Breathing was hard and becoming harder still. The claustrophobia was asphyxiating. 
 
The Herculean task of trying to move, to perceive where I was, to figure out what the hell was going on took its toll once more. My head continued pounding.
 
The cave-like darkness, the cradle of death, of dying and putrefaction was too much. It surrounded me. Oppressive. I can't breathe. I can't see. Panic arose within me once more as cold realisation set in.
 
Buried alive. I'm buried alive. No. Impossible. It must be a dream resulting from scary stories told late at night or bad food and too much alcohol. It had been Halloween, hadn't it? Becoming buried alive just doesn't happen. But-but, I am. Or something similar. Locked up somewhere, at least. Where else can I be? It all seemed like a dream, a horrible nightmare but with a clarity unmathched by anything else I could ever imagine. An empty vividness. A phantasmagoria raving in front of my visionless eyes.
 
If only it was a dream. If only I could have done something to prevent it. If only I could remember. Halloween, Madeleine. It was all my mind could dig out of my useless subconcious. What if I've been kidnapped? Taken, like in those Hollywood movies? What if I've been raped? Was it my own fault? Could I have done anything to stop it? Stop being here? I had all these questions but no answers. Please, if there is a God, don't let me die here. Please, somebody help me.
 
For a moment everything paused. I lay there breathing soundlessly, listening to the abating beat of my weakened heart. I knew what was happening. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was dying. Or at least I was going to die if I didn't, by some miracle, get out of whatever Siberian coffin-like enclosure I was trapped in. Teardrops were trickling down my face. Or at least I thought they were.
 
As I was about to drift off into a senseless unconsciousness, the sound of indistinct footsteps quietly echoed within my cave. Wh-what? Without having time to summon another thought, a big metallic clang sounded, something being unlocked.
 
Without warning, my endless darkness was washed away by a blinding white light. Oh, the end hath come, I thought. The reaper was here to liberate me from this awful place and now I was merely a deer caught in the headlights of death.
 
*****
 
Lights. Lamps. Ceiling lamps. I found myself staring at cheap, industrial ceiling lamps. Although they were dimly lit I still felt like I had been blinded by the sun. Where was I? Had I been saved? I tried to see where I was but my ability to move had yet to be restored and I remained fixed in my lying stance with the ceiling as my only view.
 
Suddenly my range of vision changed. It was angled forward and down as if I was trying to sit up. But I wasn't. Someone was leaning me forward. I had felt someone's hands, so warm on my ice-cold skin, grab me beneath my arms. Who was there?
 
I could finally see what I had emerged from. What had entrapped me in a nightmarish hysteria. Temperature: subzero. A little dark doorway with a thick steel or iron hatch hanging on its side. I could glimpse another five hatches along side mine and a second row above those, all closed. I instantly recognised them as being body coolers. The kinds with heavy rolling drawers where bodies would lie, sometimes in bags, sometimes not. I only knew this because I was a crime fiction fanatic.
 
Another detail remembered!
 
I was lying on one of these rolling slabs where the dead either lay before being embalmed in a funeral home or whilst waiting to be picked up from a hospital morgue. There were a variety of reasons people died in hospitals. Unsuccessful surgery, heart attacks, or some prolonged illness that had finally taken its toll. But not me. I wasn't dead. I was certain of it.
 
Then why was there a toe tag on my foot?
 
I felt myself being dragged from the drawer onto a metal gurney lined up beside it. The toe tag had some numbers and a name scribbled on it by what looked like a Sharpie marker but I did not have time to read it before my visional range altered again. Once again I was glaring at the ceiling.
 
The gurney started moving. It screeched as I was wheeled along a corridor to another room. Same industrial lights. Same chemical smells. 
 
Then he leaned over me. A man, probably late twenties, with dark, slighty ruffled hair. His face was obscured by a surgical mask, the only thing visible being his eyes. Dull, grey eyes, completely devoid of emotion. He was wearing a suit and tie. I knew that people working at a funeral home were required to wear a suit and tie, mostly to look dignified and professional when dealing with grieving customers and being seen in public. This is funny because most of the time they're dealing with grim stuff such as blood and bodily fluids, which I guess is why his suit was ironically covered by a white, plastic apron. To keep from getting dirty.
 
The gurney had stopped rolling. I could not see where I was; the ceiling looked the same as the last one. I could hear a tap being turned, water rushing into a sink. He came over to me again and...started washing me. A wet sponge was cleaning my left arm, my right arm, my neck, my breasts, my stomach. I remembered that I was naked and cringed in embarrassment and horror. I tried to call out, "Hey, hey! Stop! Get away from me!" I did not want anyone touching me, violating me. Fury overtook my fear. How dare he? Taking advantage of a poor, paralysed woman. "How dare you?" I shrieked. I wanted to scream, twist, turn, fight, hit the monster putting me through this terrible ordeal.
 
The suited stranger continued doing his job in silence, completely unaware of the angry commotion inside of me.
 
He thinks I'm dead. He truly believes he is just getting another corpse ready for burial. Oh, no. No, no, no. I don't want to die. Please, stop. I stared daggers at him, trying to get him to look at me, see me through my eyes, the "windows of my soul". The urgency. The fear.
 
Hopeless. My efforts were futile, my energy wasted. He continued scrubbing away the marks of life on my body. Massaging me ever so gently. Respect for the dead, I thought. I felt myself resigning to the facts of my own demise. 
 
He moved me again. This time onto my side so that he could clean my back. From my new point of view, I saw what you might expect to see in an embalming room. Shelves with several containers and bottles of what could only be embalming fluids and other ghoulish paraphernalia. There was also a machine stationed next to the metal sink. The tubes wrapped around it were filled with a pink liquid that could only be formaldehyde. A formaldehyde machine. My mind shivered at the thought of being pumped full of this frightening goop, to be prepared like a mannequin for display.
 
Decorated. Preserved. Mummified.
 
I was turned onto my other side. Another part of the mortuary came into view. The first thing I noticed was my own face reflected in a long mirror in the corner. I was shocked. Sores and cracks split my lips and a bruise was blooming on my forehead. Wow, I really did look dead. My eyes looked just as dry as they felt. They were wide open, permeated with my inner sentiments. Anxious puzzlement. Blanched convalescence. Why could this man not see this? How could he not see the hysteria or feel my penetrating, desperate stare? What was he doing? 
 
He preceded to scrub my lower back and then even lower, between my buttocks, my legs. Oh, god the humiliation. And everything reflected for my own viewing by the mirror in the corner.
 
Then I noticed the coffin. It was completely made of wood and lined with what seemed like the finest of fabrics and foams. It looked expensive. The Cadillac of caskets. A deathly sarcophogus all ready and waiting for the deep six. A dress was draped over its end. A dress that I immediately recognised as one of my own.
 
And just like that it all came rushing back to me. My memories hit me with a cataclysmic force, saturating my mind with pictures of my family, my workplace, my friends, my dog, the Halloween party. The dress itself was one of my favourites. A long silver evening gown with an open back and a slit up the side. A most unusual dress to be buried in. Why would my mother, my poor mum, have chosen that for me to wear to my deathbed? 
 
She wouldn't have. She wouldn't have been able to afford such a costly casket either.
 
Complete and utter panic.
 
I was on my back again. The man's facial expression was still indiscernible behind his mask. The whole time that he had been bathing me so that I could be dolled up for a macabre viewing, he had remained impassive and silent. Just doing his job.
 
Then he pulled down his mask, gazed straight into my eyes, and smiled.
 


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