The Hanging Christian – Episode 1

The Sunday Serial returns with a fresh tale of seduction, madness and essay deadlines…

building atmosphere characters corridor episode fiction Gardies King's parade patrick brooks police serial st johns story Tab

“Have you read any David Foster Wallace–”

She slammed him harder against the wall. “Shut up and kiss me.”

“–but his prose just–”

Freya tried to push his lips shut with her own and ground herself into his pelvis. He finally got the message, and began tentatively jutting his teeth into her mouth as if he was trying to get revenge on a dentist. She was too drunk and depressed at yet another night of expectations collapsing hopelessly unmet opposite Gardies to even save herself some bruised gums and give up. As his tongue joined the assault of clumsy and soul-destroying ineptitude she glanced down at the thesp sitting beside them against the wall. So powerful astride the ADC stage just a few hours earlier, he was now vomiting quietly into his cheesy chips.

Freya wished she were him. Freya wished she were the vomit. Freya wished the pretentious wimp gluing himself to her mouth with his own globby saliva weren’t all too horrifically average of the Cantabridgian male specimen. Maybe even slightly above average.

A bit too late, she detached herself from his shaking embrace and dried her mouth on her sleeve. He looked at her like he’d just seen Bambi’s mum get shot for the first time.

“I–I… what college are you at?” he mumbled.

“Oh fuck off.”

She unchained her bicycle, swung onto the saddle and kicked away before he could start crying.

Freya always enjoyed the drunken cycle back up Castle Hill, reveling in the eerie 3am emptiness of the lamp-lit streets. In her hurry to escape she’d forgotten to clip on her lights, but with the wind fresh against her cheeks and lactic acid stinging her calves as she hit the crest of the hill she didn’t give a fuck. There was no chance that a police car would be cruising along Huntingdon Road at this hour.

She somehow felt the warmth of the full beam on the back of her neck before she heard the purr of the engine.

It was a police car, of course.

She stopped by the curb. The policeman wasn’t what she was expecting. Squeezed into his uniform like gangly toothpaste, he was young and attractive in an odd, off-kilter fashion.

She gave him her best innocent smile, which probably just looked a bit sinister.

“Why didn’t you have your lights on, miss?” he said. His accent was ambiguously Irish, as if he’d been living in the UK for a while.

“I forgot. I had them in my pocket.”

“Please don’t forget again. I’m sick and tired of scraping you idiots off the road. You might want to consider wearing a helmet too.”

She nodded, unable to take her eyes off him. It wasn’t that was he handsome in a Ryan-Gosling-dashing-features-pretty-eyes kind of way. He just had a look of the real, of gritty honesty and hardship. The complete opposite to everyone she knew at Cambridge, for whom integrity was an alphabetised bibliography.

He turned and walked back to his car.

She finally made it back to her halls to find her corridor mates sprawled across the carpet like an Escher painting of Sourz-stained tops and interlocking tights.

“Oh my god, Freya!” screamed Beatrice, brandishing her iPhone, “look what Atticus posted in the Whatsapp group, Tanya swore she wouldn’t tell him about what I said last night–”

“Fuck off Bea, you little slut,” said Tanya from within the centre of a complicated five person spoon. “Ouch, that’s my boob you idiot, move your arm.”

Freya stepped over the writhing bodies of her so-called friends and locked her bedroom door behind her.

“Oi, Freya, where ya going we’re just about to play Never Have I Ever…” came a muffled yell through the door, but Freya was already lying facedown on her bed, shoes flung into a corner and make-up wipes far too distant on the edge of her sink to be bothered with.

Before she slipped into unconsciousness Freya just managed to remember that maybe she should set an alarm for the supervision that was now only five hours away. But she just couldn’t summon the mental will. What was even the point? Who cared if she even failed all her exams and was kicked out? After a term of ever-swelling dissatisfaction and mounting ennui, she certainly didn’t.

Far away in the ancient college of St John the Evangelist, a fire roared in its stone hearth, casting flickering shadows on the beautiful thick lay carpet, and a hunched figure sat at a great mahogany writing desk, staring out through the latticed windows into the night.

A shiver passed through the figure, then he rubbed his forehead and turned back to his work.

Those notes on agricultural efficiency weren’t going to write themselves.