Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t Again 2
My rewrite of Hannah's story, 'Mispers'
So I know that my marked-up version of Hannah’s story must have been quite confusing since I cluttered the text with my remarks.
Now I have done a complete rewrite to demonstrate how the passage might work better.
Have a look then post your remarks.
Donna Dearden’s text message should have come with a health warning. Like the ones on the electricity substations that we were all left irrationally and permanently terrified of after watching the public information film at primary school.
Danger of death.
But at that point, she didn’t know what she was getting me into any more than I did.
The morning I received the text – it was still night, not even 5am - I was already awake because of the nightmare. . Michael’s even voice, followed by a sharp elbow in the side of my leg woke me. I had been whimpering and tossing and turning and I had managed to do a 180 in bed and get myself lost under the duvet from the waist up.
‘Emma, you’re dreaming. Stop fucking about.’
The nightmare was a twist on a classic; I’d added some new material in the last few months. Instead of just dad, with a fuzzy-edged black hole where his face should be, purposely tipping backwards to his death in the quarry with a screech as he fell making a sound like grinding metal, I was pushed in after him; an unseen hand gripping the back of my collar and another shoving my body forwards.
‘Love you, too,’ I muttered.
Michael moved again behind me, turned over with an exaggerated sigh and tugged on the duvet. He liked to trap the edge hard between his knees to keep himself covered. I didn’t yank back, but patted my hand around for the bedside table, found my phone and read the text.
Hoping this is Emma Atherton at the Milton Mercury. I’m sorry to message out of the blue, my family are beside ourselves with worry for my brother who has been missing since Friday. Please can you call as soon as you are able? We really need your help. Donna Dearden.
I rubbed at my gluey eyes with my knuckles and kicked away the little of the duvet still in my possession, folding it double over Michael. That was my retaliatory move, though he seemed to be immune to the heat anyway. You’d have to be in order to buy an apartment with such aggressive underfloor heating and no opening windows.
An apartment he ought without even telling me - his actual fiancée.
I tentatively crossed the bedroom by the dim light of the phone screen, still unfamiliar with the scale and layout of the room and wary for my shins.
By the time misper, or missing person, cases reached me at work, usually through a police press release or my contact in the police station, Mirek, flagging it, the response team would have a few days of enquiries under their belts. Less if it was kids, unless they were habitual runaways, or if it was adults pegged as high-risk.
My closely-guarded reaction to them all was largely the same, even 20 years on from dad’s disappearing act; that guttural feeling of dread I had the first morning I woke up to discover he still wasn’t back.
I padded into the main living space, hoping the huge open plan lounge, dining area and kitchen would be cooler. I could have knocked down the thermostat a hundred degrees and turned on a light or two, but that would have required me to reverse years of well-honed, albeit self-harming, stubbornness, and let Michael explain the unfathomable smart controls that commanded every function in his ridiculous apartment.
Sweating, even though I was just in my underwear, I pressed my forehead against the chill of the floor-to-ceiling glass wall that spanned the width of the room for as long as I could stand it. In daylight I could peer south beyond the metal and concrete vista of Liverpool city centre to the Cheshire Plains. At night I found the wall of black glass oppressive.
Bill, my editor’s voice, was in my head. Something about maintaining boundaries. I didn’t often follow his advice; real or imagined.
Missing since Friday - so three days.
I could look up Donna Dearden first; see if she’d put anything online and get a link to the brother. Or I could just call her and find out what was going on.
I poured a glass of cold water, let it overrun onto my hand, and looked at the digits on my phone.
.I waited until five on the dot. Donna picked up after just one ring.
‘Hi - is that Donna?
‘Yes’ Her voice was small, frightened.
This is Emma Atherton. You just texted me.”
“Oh my god. “ Immediately her voice changed to something stronger and more energised. “ Thank you SO much for calling me back. I don’t know what came over me to call so early. I just got in a panic.”
“It’s really not a problem. I was awake anyway. Anyway – what’s the problem?”
Her voice dropped as if she thought someone might be listening in on her.
‘It’s my brother, Julian. It’s like he just vanished into thin air.’
What do you think? Is it better than the original? If so, why? If not, why not?