Lauren brought in 6 paintings to inspire. The one that “spoke” to me was “Rooms By the Sea” painted in 1951 by Edward Hopper [many thanks to the Emyoku Project for this reproduction]. And this is the piece I wrote…


When I awoke I reached out for my watch but time was further away than expected and I needed to stretch for it. The movement made my head feel as though it would split open. I lay supine for several minutes until the last striations of pain had died away from behind my eyes, until I could gather myself to broach the bathroom.

I stumbled over clothing and shoes strewn across the floor. My underwear, trousers, shoes and a belt covered the first few feet then came my shirt, cravat and finally my jacket, one arm crooked and inside out, its silky striped white lining visible. All of these tried gamely to ensnare me on my exit. Opening the door I listened for a noise, any tone at all, but everything was still. I felt alone in the house. But what had happened to Jane? Were the trainee priest and his female admirer still here?

I cupped my hands under a tap in the cool bathroom. I was so dehydrated that I could feel my skin drinking in the moisture, water running through my throat and stomach, life being absorbed back into dead cells.

I took 2 paracetamol from a mirrored bathroom cabinet and swallowed them on an empty stomach. Checking my reflection a wan ghost stared back, empty of eye. I turned away to lay my hands on a garnet coloured towel, which I hauled tightly round my waist, and walked into the hallway.

Then a toaster releasing from somewhere down the hall, a sharp acrid smell, the scratching and scraping of a knife, footsteps tapping across a floor, a sudden explosion of water hitting a steel basin.

Suddenly the drug hit my stomach, and muscles clenched, ready to heave. So I leant with my back against a wall. When nausea disappeared, I leant forward and the wallpaper clicked and popped, as my sweaty back lifted away from it.

I faltered to a white rectangle and passed through to a sandpaper smooth sandalwood walkway with blue sea below. I tore off my towel and the sun hit me like a red hot searchlight. My toes barely had time to grip the walk’s smooth edge and I stepped off, my breath leaving my body as brine struck the back of my throat.