A Horror Story

purple-parcel-with-pink-ribbon1Randle and Sarah were madly in love, the type of love, which consumes someone. They filled their days concocting grand gestures of amorous abnormality. Hearts and love letters scribbled on the fridge, ‘I love you’ s in the drawer at her office, flowers on her car bonnet before she sped home to meet him. He would often find lengthy poems about his ears in the morning ‘Frosties’, caricatures of the pair of them drowning in a terrible boating accident, dying together; a perfect death. “So round and soft and always listening, I love you and your ears”. Sarah wasn’t very good at poetry. Their lives were consumed by each other, and they consumed one another, craving the others touch and breath and laugh. Cherry blossoms in bloom in each other’s garden, and wilting dead petals when they were apart. And so it had been for sixteen years; not a second past, not a bowel movement nor an invasive surgery had kept the couple apart, for sixteen, long, red years.

 

One evening Sarah received a call from her mother, her father was slowly passing away in a sterile bed, and her mother was rowing boats of tears. “You have to come to this city where you grew up, far from your new home, you have to come and watch your father die with me”. “ Of course” Sarah said, being a good daughter she would come and watch her father die with her. But the dying father was far from her home, and she would have to fly hours to see him. “I have to leave to see my father” Sarah sobbed, her hands moist with salty tears. “ I can’t afford the time off, I can’t afford to go with you”, he said, his own tears mixing with the tears of his lover. The tears turned black and dripped from their fingers and on to the Ikea bed they had consummated a thousand times, each morning a honeymoon in a sturdy, Swedish bed.

 

At the airport, security was rushing to the scene where the shrieking sirens of a tortured animal echoed over perfume bottle and sun hats. The couple were howling, primal howls of loss, their hair was matted with sweat and their lips bled from mashed kisses, the magnetic points of their heads crashing together with each step they attempted backwards. Like a conjoined twin pulled apart by horses, invisible tendons snapped and ligaments tore, their lovers flesh pulled was from the bone.

 

After returning from the airport Randle attempted to hang himself, stopping only at the last moment, knowing that Sarah was still alive, and he couldn’t bare an extra eternity without her. Flight security had sedated Sarah, who drooled out of her corner lip and onto the lap of an unfortunate backpacker who scowled at her, but remained quiet for fear of being caught with the small bag of weed hidden he had in his pocket.

 

As soon as the plane landed Sarah began sending letters to Randle, and Randle would reply. Opening the letters with frantic tares of a searching, hungry badger, masturbating to the words as he read them. ‘I miss you so much it hurts’ she would begin, long thousand letter copy books of misery, drenched in salty black tears, “if only you were here with yours ears, and your hands, oh how I miss your hands.” “ I miss every inch of you,” he would reply “ I want to hold each strand of hair on your body and caress it, living is a death, I’m being murdered with every moment I remember of you’.

 

A week had gone by and Sarah was contemplating placing a pillow over the shallow breaths of her father, each breath keeping her from Randle. “ I miss your hands, I miss your ears”, she would write, thousands of times repeated across the margins, slashing several of the pages with her pen with intense, longing strokes.

 

Another week went by and Sarah had been brought to a ‘home’ by her mother, she had placed pillow after pillow on the unstoppable dying fathers face, who’s breaths mocked their love. After the Pilipino nurse had caught her filling his IV with bleach she was locked away. “ Your hands, and your ears” she whispered as she drew lipstick across her gaunt face, “ Your hands and your ears”.

 

The next morning a package had come, she had been expecting a letter from Randle, but a package from him was ‘oh so much better’. A gold ribbon sealed the purple parcel, “how romantic”. Lifting the ribbon skyward like a conductor beginning a concerto the parcel ribbon fell open and she, in a ritual trance lifted the soft cardboard cover. Inside was a hand, Randle’s, cold from the ice surrounding it. Beneath it was an ear, blue and wilted, but most certainly Randle’s. “how romantic!” she cried before placing the hand to her cheek and squeezing the ear to her lips.

 

That night Sarah slept with the hand, as a husband and wife would sleep with one another. She placed the ear beside her pillow and whispered feral sexual thoughts to it. She had been so consumed by the hand that the next morning she had forgotten to write her letter, but continued her affair with the hand and the ear, begging it for more of him.

 

The next morning she awoke to another package, this one was red with a green shiny bow. She opened it and pulled out Randle’s penis, and one of his eyes, his right eye, she had always preferred his right eye. “how romantic!” Sarah beamed and rushed to the bedroom to try out the new gifts.

 

More and more parcels continued to come, a finger, a toe, a tongue and a nose. Sarah was delighted with the arrivals but soon again became sad. “Randle is slowing sending himself to me, how romantic! But what a poor wife I have been, not to send a piece of myself to him, if he can still even see, or smell, or touch. I have to make the grandest gesture, I have to match this love”. That night Sarah wrote a letter, like the thousands and thousands and thousands she had sent before “ This is all I can give you, for you have given me everything”. She carefully placed the letter into a large blue box, with a purple ribbon, surrounded by fresh rose petals. On top of it she placed an eye, an ear, both her breasts and her left hand, keeping the other to help clean up the blood “plus, Randle always preferred my left hand”.

 

Back at her home, Randle was sweating and cursing, and hacking and sawing. The femur was a hard bone to cut. He mopped his brow before continuing, hacking and sawing marrow dust misted the air as the blade went through. Then there was a call at the door, “What now?!” he cursed to himself, leaving the dismembered vagrants body on the warm red Ikea table, and he opened the door. Outside was a blue package, with a purple bow. He dropped to his knees and cried. He opened the box and gathered the remaining pieces of his wife. He cried and cried, and vomited and cried, salty black tears into the blood matted carpet. Once the tears were gone, he returned to the vagrant and surveyed the pieces of his wife. An eye for an eye, a hand for a hand, and he began to sow her back together.

 

 

Internships: Their negative affect on Irish media

internship

 

For a recent journalism graduate like myself there are a few particular phrases, which I have come to despise. The first is ‘unpaid internship’ and the second is ‘at least three years industry experience’. The former is oft meant to be the introduction to the second, should you have completed the impossibly unfair expectations of the first, the second will come. Oddly enough the two don’t sync with the same industry rhythm that’s expected. To be honest, it’s not the two phrases themselves I take umbrage with, but rather the blank space left between the two. “Unpaid? For how long? That’s too long, I’m sorry I’ll have to throw my CV into the Costcutter up the road”.

When a friend of mine explained, wielding his economics degree that he had planned to begin work with the ‘Big Four’, ‘KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte’, I thought, ‘how lucky for him’. 23,000 euro starting salary, paid job experience and the possibility of moving out of his parent’s house must only be on the horizon. He had chosen to be a money hungry bedfellow of the capitalist system, while I had retained my ill-informed morals. It’s only fair that the gatekeepers of truth should be put through the monetary mill, suffering for our art (or whatever it is us journalists are meant to believe). It’s only fair that I should slog it out in an unpaid internship for the next few months in the hope of, maybe, becoming a copy editor for a travel magazine…. or it it?

Recent graduates of the journalistic persuasion are expected to work, unpaid for as long as deemed suitable, until they have learned the skills that, for some reason were never taught to them in college. In education you pay to work hard, often-ridiculous sums for an apparently unrecognised degree you emerge with, only then to be asked again to work without pay, until a time where you have been deemed ‘fit to enter the working populous’. So few other professions expect this right of passage, and its no wonder so many recent graduates of journalism degrees are working in Penny’s and Centre’s across the country. These places pay them for their services. One thing I believe that Irish media outlets often forget is that a portion of job satisfaction is tied up in how much you earn. One’s skills and efforts should be at least modestly proportionate to what one earns. When a person earns nothing, they feel like exactly that. When you pay someone nothing, you are telling him or her, that there are worth nothing. Running with sweated, stained shirts across Dublin’s city centre, loosing sleep and developing caffeine induced heart palpitations in the feeble hope of being seen, as a ‘functioning member of society’ seems like a rather exploitative system. There are many flaming hoops to jump through, and no net for us to land on.

 

The second, and possibly the greatest problem with the internship system is the amount of talent that is squandered because some cannot simply afford to work unpaid, for as long as is expected. Some manage the almost impossible workload, stacking Spar shelves with soggy milk packages by day, and writing furiously, and deliriously by night. This wouldn’t seem, as much of an impossible task if those who are both covered in milk and drowned in grunt work weren’t expected to perform to the same standard as the rest of the ‘functioning, paid, older and unconvincingly wiser’ staff.

 

The fact remains that if you cannot afford to work for free, for months on end, the chances of you becoming a journalist are limited. Immediately, an entire class of people become alienated. Even students from well-to-do families, in their twenties will still have to cup hands and dirty their knees to their parents if they want to intern while staving off a disease brought on by eating nothing but pot noodle. This internship culture homogenizes the voice of the media, and alienates any of the much-needed left of centre voices, which are only found squeaking angry, incomparable truths behind and an RTÉ reporter’s back.

 

We have in the last few years seen an interesting political shift, where left of centre candidates have entered the Dáil, most recently with the election of Paul Murphy in my own constituency, in the recent by-election. Murphy ran as a single-issue candidate, to oppose the water charge and won, its what the people want. So, if we are able to shake up the political landscape, then why not the media landscape? Why not foster a meritocracy rather than a system where jobs are auctioned to the highest bidder? Why not allow a minimum wage for students entering internships, and why not improve the media as a whole? Why should we settle for a single class voice? It’s that same frame of thought which gives the American media Fox News and that’s not something, I believe the Irish people want. No one is asking for anything beyond reason here, just to earn enough to continue to work as incredibly hard as journalism graduates always have. Allow us to make your publications better, allow us to drag the Irish media into the 21st century and allow us to be the journalists that you believed you would be, when you began your career.