The Darkness is now live!

So it’s official

After talking about this book for months, it’s such an honour to say that my first ever novel, mental health story The Darkness is now live on WattPad.

Click HERE to read it now!

So what’s the big deal, just another WattPad story, right?

Well, this is a big deal.

And I’ll tell you why.

As many of you know, I am passionate about mental health and often talk about it and share my struggles. I created Stay Swimming(my mental health blog) because after helping friends through hard times I realised that helping people helped me. I was also good at helping people.

I want to take that help to a global scale. I do still help friends who need them, but I can share my experience, and offer my advice which can hopefully help you as well.

I’m taking this to the next level

So, the mental health blog is good, but is everyone with mental health going to come to the blog? Am I going to be able to advocate for better mental health in the confines of my website? The answer is no.

So that’s where The Darkness comes in. It’s all about taking the mental health help off the site and taking it to the millions of readers which are on Wattpad.

So you can read the book for free

Yes, the book is completely free. I thought about traditional publishing methods, but I feel this particular book is best on Wattpad, where it can be shared by the many and read and engaged with by the whole world, not just a select group of paying customers. I want to help people with mental health. I just feel it would be wrong to charge people for something that could help them, after all, if they were my friend I’d give them it for free. Why not the whole world?

So, please do take a read

If you want to read it click here. Any comments and feedback are welcome, this is my first ever novel but I already have more ideas in the pipeline for future books.

Interception

Slowly waiting he paced around the station making sure he did the final checks before the subject arrived. He had already been here a few hours and he knew every nook and cranny of the building he had been tasked to. He knew that he would only have one opportunity, so to minimise the risk of losing that, he had allowed plenty of time.

His eyes darted around while he walked slowly, jostled on either side by foolish passengers who hadn’t allowed themselves enough time for the train. Or they may have left work late. Or had to take a phone call on the way to the station. Or had walked into an old friend. He was used to looking at all the scenarios. He tried to focus on the ones that he had planned several weeks for, rather than the lives of the other passengers’.

He looked at the ticket he had bought in advance. He was predicting that the subject would go straight on the train, preoccupied with the need to travel, rather then admiring the cool sunlight outside. Everything rested on this being his destination. If it changed, there would be no second chances, no backup arriving on another train.

It was down to him alone and as the clock chimed the realisation of the magnitude of the task that he meticulously planned the finest details for was finally starting to settle in. What had been a carefully planned exercise, safe when observed on a whiteboard, now turned into his dangerous reality. 

He forced himself to breathe as he ascended up the escalator to his vantage point at the top of the station. From there he found a spar bench and took a newspaper out of his backpack. He scanned the articles in a half-hearted attempt to look like an insignificant commuter. 

Newspapers weren’t his thing, it was the 21st century. If he wanted the news he could find everything he wanted on the phone screen in front of him. 

As a man of efficiency, wasting time was one of the things he hated most about his job. Time was one of the things that couldn’t move backwards. Could never be recovered. Therefore it shouldn’t be wasted.

However, in his line of work, long stakeouts were commonplace, and a waste of time when a whole day was wasted monitoring one location, only for the subject to appear in another. However, he had trained his skills for this job, and continued to train them every day, so not to do a job that utilised those skills would be a waste. And in his opinion, downright wrong.

He stood up, ashamed. He was meant to be completely focused on the job instead of philosophising about life. That was simply not appropriate. Putting the paper into his bag, he started to walk close to the railing, looking down, waiting to see the subject walk from under him. He paced up and down making sure he covered all areas of the ground below him. 

The jostle of the other passengers had died down, with fewer facilities being located on the upper level. He was angled opposite the balcony now, waiting to see the subject pass from under him any minute.  If all went to plan he would rush from one train under the floor and appear on the other side for his next train.

He walked side to side across the floor checking his watch at increasingly regular intervals. He assumed the train would be delayed. He had no communication from anyone in the office, he was completely isolated from the outside world. But right on time, the train pulled in. 

He stopped. Startled. Instead of a black hooded individual with a suitcase as planned, a well-dressed man wearing a suit even, walked off the train. He carried nothing in his hands and casually walked with commuters. This was the man who had planned his trains so well they were less then a minute apart. This was a man who was engaging in an high-stakes already disrupted plan with a mounting pressure to get to his destination. But the man before him didn’t appear any of those things.  However, this was definitely the subject. The face matched, the hair matched, the height matched. It was all there. But something wasn’t.

He went back down the escalator, keeping his eyes trained on the man in front of him. He was approaching the train as predicted, everything was going as planned. His pre-bought ticket slide through the barriers and they both approached the platform. 

They both got on the train at adjacent doors, the subject, it seemed harsh for some reason to call him that now he wasn’t matching the profile, didn’t appear to notice him at all.

He found a seat facing backwards so he could see into the next carriage. Resting back into his chair he put his bag down and relaxed. He knew it would be a while until their stop came, so he just thought about the previous events. Something was wrong, the man seemed far too casual for someone undertaking a task of this magnitude. 

He didn’t get it, curiosity had sparked within him and now he wanted to know more. The film of the few seconds where the subject had walked under him at the station, as he casually stood on the escalator, as he waited patiently in the queue to board the train. The thoughts just kept running through his head. It just didn’t add up.

He decided to get up and go to the toilet, at least then he’d have an excuse for being near the carriage. He hated train toilets, not because of the atrocious smell or the yearly cleaning schedule. But because they were confined, had one exit and an easily pickable lock on the door.

He started walking the journey which was only a few meters, but for him felt like miles. Each step needed a conscious effort to lift up, move forward and then go back down again. 

Finding the toilet engaged he waited to one side. He looked back into the carriage and couldn’t see the man anywhere. After a few minutes of waiting, he started to turn around wondering who on earth took so long in the toilet. As soon as his hand went to open the doors back to the carriage, the door clicked. He looked around but saw nobody leave.

“Hello Jason,” said the subject, standing in the doorway, now in his dark hoodie, suitcase in hand. “I’ve been expecting you,” he continued, “shall we sit down?”

FREE winter short stories

This event ended Christmas Day 2018. This post is kept here for archiving. 

Do you love to read short stories?

Same here. I love to write them even more.

So this winter, I’m giving you short stories FOR FREE!

But why on earth would I do that?

Writing your stories for free allows me to give find out what kind of content you like. And I do it because I just love writing. Consider it my Christmas gift to you.

I can write about anything and everything completely for free and at your request.

Here’s how it works

You get the message to me

There are so many ways you can do this. We’ve set up a special contact form but you can email me(jake@jakesymons.com) send me a DM on any of the social sites I’m on.

We then agree the idea

I will then take your idea and write a short summary about it. I will then send you this and we can discuss the idea that you want to be written. Whatever I write will be between 500-1500 words depending on what we decide. 

You get a short bio

You will get credit for your idea in the form of the short bio below. This changes depending on how many details you want to give. Please note you don’t have to give the details required, but they are available if you want to get a backlink and traffic to your site or social media. 

This story suggested by [your name] was written for the FREE winter story event. [Your Name] is  XYZ and you can find more [link here].

And that’s it!

This is my Christmas gift to you. It’s completely free and you get the content you want on the site. I love interacting with my audience, and getting to know you. 

So fill out the above form and we can get started crafting your short story together!

The Writer: (An exactly 300 Word Story)

Staring at the envelope his tentative fingers revealed the contents inside. Even though they were sitting in an equal circle, it was his turn to sit at the head of the table, his turn to be in the spotlight. All eyes were on him.

Whatever was on the card in the small brown envelope on his lap would dictate his life for the next week. Whatever was printed in bold capital letters would be his topic to write about. No swapping. No going back. This was his card, his moment.

The process had already started. The flap, slightly damp with sweat was pulled back by shaking hands.

For a moment he thought there wasn’t a card there, that he could escape. With high hopes, he stared into the envelope, and on cue, the card stared back at him.

After a large intake of breath, he dived in and slid the card out of the envelope. He looked around at the expectant faces. Full of excitement, they were totally fixated on the card in his hand.

Like he just pulled a rabbit from a hat he stared at it with excitement. He looked down at the card and read the words. With a short smile, he read them again, each letter individually to see if there had been a mistake.

The breath he was holding was finally released and he placed the card in his lap shielding it like a poker player, as he held in his excitement and passed the envelopes along.

He knew from what it said, that this writing would not only take him on a journey in his writing but explore his entire life. He tried to look disappointed, to not give the secret away. He wanted to hold onto this moment for as long as possible.

.

Outcast

Alone. Stranded. Destitute. What more could they lose in this unforgiving, barren land? But for the outcasts, life was unforgiving, uncaring, unending. It wasn’t just the challenging demons of the present that haunted them. It was the past. The future> All woven into one terrible, terrible hideous creature that broke every spirt in their body and left them desperate. Afraid. Alone.

One of these victims was Sarah, who undertook the monumental task of freeing them at such as young age. She stared out from the Command Tower and looked at the collection of tents and thrown together houses that to a passer-by would look no more than a slum.

But it was her slum. her responsibility. At least it was for now. A droplet of water glided down her cheek as she remembered the tales she had been told. Tales from her parents’ generation. She was sitting down outside her tent, when Ol’ Jibb spoke to her. He was one of the lucky ones. Not for some brave heroic deed. He wouldn’t be one to be written about in the Historical Records, one to be spoken about for generations. He simply did what many others failed to do. He made it.

Jibb was full of tales of the Days of Long Ago. Fays of peace. Days of love. Oh! She longed more than ever to get back to those days. Now she was living a nightmare of jumbled thoughts and violence. Was it the violence of her own mind she feared most? How can you measure something you fear more than death itself?

It happened in a day. Proudly standing, the President appeared, his unreadable face masking his thoughts more than ever. He announced The Test. Sarah shuddered at those words. Imprisoned by her thoughts she looked down at the floor, examining the nails in the oak wood in the hope she could distract herself. WHat she would give to shut off those thoughts. But she could only do that in death. And death was not ready for her, yet.

So, she relaxed and surrendering to herself she went back to the fire. Ol’ Jibb was talking about the results of The Test. The President only wanted those with the highest scores. Everyone else was removed from the city. The walls came up, the slums developed. All because of a result on a piece of paper.

Anyone who stayed behind was killed. She shuddered at the brutality of her thought. ‘Passed away’ would have been more appropriate. But a life of evil had taken its toll. Why try and dress up her thoughts. But she had to remain hopeful. Tonight was their last attempt. Spirits had been broken enough, this was their last fight in them. If they failed now, it would all be over. Everything gone. She couldn’t let that be her legacy. 

Even those who made it out weren’t safe. The President ordered the majority of the slums to be eliminated. Wars continued to rage on against the sums on the sides of the city walls. Built away from the city, their shelter offered some protection. But a quick walk up the hill was all that’s needed to see violence which would scar for eternity.

“Sarah I need you to come down, the others are waiting” said Jack.

“Don’t you knock before you enter a room” she snapped, angered by the interruption of her thoughts.

“Sarah, are you okay?” Jack asked.

“None of us are going to be okay again Jack,” she said, her water droplets turning into a light downpour, “we’re never going to be okay again.”

“But remember Ol’ Jibb. He gave you this building. Built from his bare hands. He gave you the fight. He gave you those Historical Records. Don’t let him down, Sarah. Do this for him”

“Don’t you dare use Jibb against me. He was like a father to me” Sarah yelled, her cool composure of a strong leader disintegrating into the abyss.

Jack looked down. Hurt. In another life, their old life, maybe they could be together. They had everything that was needed. Same age. Liked the same things. Ticked all the boxes. But Jack knew that was just a fantasy. A fault line had cut between the two of them, and only the earthquakes of arguments kept them together at all.

“You can’t still blame me for my parents’ actions, Sarah” Jack said. He didn’t know what to say. If Sarah snapped now the whole thing would be off. Everyone below had been looking up to the Command Tower. Everyone had waited for this moment. 

“Why do you say ‘actions’?” Sarah laughed, “Tell me exactly what so-called ‘actions’ did they do?”

“Sarah, please, now is not the time,” Jack said. He was trying to think on his feet. He sat down on an upturned box, studying his feet. Looking down he knew everything about them, in a world of violence, staring at one’s feet was the only way to cut one’s vision off from the horrors of the outside world. It was a skill Jack had mastered well.

“I want you to say it. I need you to say it. Tell me what they did,” Sarah said, standing behind him.

“Sarah I’m not going to say it,” Jack said his voice reduced to a whisper. If only it was another way. He carried his parents’ shame with him. Their burden became his. And now, standing a few feet away from the girl he had a chance at a life with, he hated his parents more than ever.

He felt ashamed for doing so. But then he felt shame for a lot of his thoughts. But how could he escape those negative thoughts? HE was trapped. He thoughts swaddled him from the violence outside. They were the only thing he had left. And he was losing control of even them.

“They killed them!” Sarah shouted, “So they could escape, mine never could.”

“They never escape,” Jack whispered, his soft voice broken.

“They chose not to escape Jack. They took the selfish decision. Kill my parents and them themselves so they didn’t have to face the consequences.”

“I’ve got to live with that too Sarah. We were so young. How could we be to blame?”

Sarah looked at him. Her brain was alive with red sparks. The floodgates opened and now a torrent of thoughts was filling her brain. She sat down and squeezed her eyes shut. No! That just made the thoughts more vivid. A picture of her parents was slowly bringing itself into the front of her consciousness.

Her symphony of darkness was interrupted. She had managed to repress most of her thoughts into a small corner of her brain, leaving the rest of her mind in the safe darkness where no thoughts could penetrate. Now there was light. Her thought’s had been released.

“Sarah?” quizzed Jack, not knowing what to say. He so desperately wanted to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be okay. Repeat the lie that had been passed through generations.

But he held back.

“I’ll be waiting outside Sarah. We need to leave in five” he stated before briskly walking out of the room. Life was too much for him. He had to focus on the plan, hide those feelings away, release them at a later date. Preferably never at all.

Sarah looked back towards the balcony and saw Jack walking off. She broke him. She was broken herself. Her mind was on fire, her thoughts a roller coaster that would never end.

But she had to stay strong. How could she expect the others to if she couldn’t. She climbed down the ladder and approached the waiting crowd. She canned the crowd on her decent. Every last man, woman and child was there.

They clapped as she climbed down. She stared at the ocean of broken faces below her. A small podium of boxes had been created for her. She walked up to it, the crowd fell silent. Adults, twice her age and more, exceedingly qualified and experienced to take her position, fell silent before her. If Ol’ Jibb had believed in Sarah, then that was good enough for them.

“You may be expecting some grand speech here, but as many of you know I’m not one for words,” she said. A laugh from the crowd. A scream of “You can do it!” erupted from the back,

“But I have err…erm…” Sarah trailed off, her words stalled by the faces among her. They had fought so much for this day. They had sacrificed so much. She turned round and stared at Jack standing to one side behind her. her thoughts had already got the better of her once today. She couldn’t repeat that.

She stepped off the makeshift podium. The crowd were still silent, every eye watching her. She stared back at them. If she left now, her parents’ would have died in vain. She found her mum’s face and brought that image straight into her mind.

“I stand here on the same earth you do,” she said, articulating every word without hesitation. her voice, the same powerful one she used when she made her first speech as Commander.

“And we are all here to fight for that earth,” she said, a cheer from the crowd again.

“We should not have to suffer for the events of generations past. We will write our own history!” The fight in her had been released. It wasn’t as though a tiger had been unleashed within her. An entire zoo filled with proprietorial beasts had been let out. The crowd cheered again. 

“And we have been fighting. We built the tunnel!” She said, a pause again fro the crowd to cheer. She could see their broken faces slowly lifting. Their depressed thoughts rising into the mist and disappearing above the clouds. The happiness they felt in this moment from their superficial freedom far outweighed any happiness they felt before. They savoured this moment. This moment would be the most powerful in all of their lives/. They held silent for a few moments, to be finally at peace.

“And we will use the tunnel. The Test has divided us. But tonight. Tonight we go under the walls, under the city and back to our land. Back to the homes we lived in. The streets we journeyed every day. Back to our life.” Another pause for the crowd. The cheer never came.

“But how will we get back to that life?” Sarah asked the crowd, repeating the question that was on all of their minds. She could tell that her speech, although on a good track, was starting to trail off.

“It’s written in the Historical Records that if the President is killed all previous decisions under them are reverted. A clean slate. The Test is no more” she answered.

“But he’s guarded. How will we do it?” someone shouted from the back.

“Ol’ Jibb was the closest of all of us to the President. The President doesn’t have guards within the grounds when he’s home. He doesn’t believe in any threats from us. Our tunnel goes up within the grounds. Therefore, we bypass the guards.”

“You make it sound so simple. Why hasn’t it been done before?” someone asked. The crowd were getting restless now. Promising freedom was one thing. Getting everyone to work on that promise was another. 

“We have never tunnelled so far before. We have done something no one else has been able to achieve. Years of trying has not led to our chance of freedom. We owe it to those who have gone before us. Those here now that did go through it,” Sarah waved a hand to the adults in the pack. Though few, some managed to make it out alive.

“We suffered The Test. Then The Killing. Now we can get our freedom. Our Freedom will have capital letters. Our Freedom will go down in the Historical Records.

“So?” Sarah asked “Who’s with me?”

The sea of broken faces all stepped forward.

“We are,” they said.