This Amphibious Existence
I’m currently looking for a publisher for a contemporary 120,000-word novel set in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
This Amphibious Existence is an apocalyptic romance that poses the question of how you would live if you knew that the world was going to end in 12 months. Unreliable narrator Frank has grown tired of a life characterised by alcohol, blackouts and remorse. Trapped in a relationship with long-suffering Madeline, Frank meets a beautiful and hypnotic stranger just as an asteroid is discovered on a collision course with the earth. With only one year left to live Frank idealises this stranger as the answer to all of his hopes and dreams, but as people begin dying it becomes increasingly apparent that Frank might have fallen in love with a monster. Inspired by the John Keats poems Lamia and The Eve of St Agnes, This Amphibious Existence combines blistering honesty and social realism with crippling indecisiveness and cannibalism.
Emeritus Professor of English Literature John Batchelor from the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne describes This Amphibious Existence as combining “social realism and apocalyptic fantasy and romance in a way that reminds me somewhat of the young (H. G.) Wells” and compliments my “evocation of post-adolescent nihilism and existentialism”.
“Why can’t you stay?” I whisper, pulling her closer.
“Because I don’t belong here”, her lips so close to mine, “and neither do you. I can’t die here.”
“Maybe we’ll make it. Did you ever stop to think of that?” If I don’t kiss her I might die.
“I can’t afford to take that chance. Bad things will happen if I stay. Come with me.” The chambers of my heart fill with ice..
“I can’t. My whole life is here.” I hardly recognise it but that’s my voice speaking those words, refusing the opportunity of a lifetime.
“What do you have here that’s so special?” Letha asks.
“I have a girlfriend.” Don’t make me explain myself. I’m weak and paralysed by indecision. Just let me die.
“I’ve heard this one before, but I don’t see her here by your side. Where is she now when you need her? Does she complete you like I do? Is what we have together not worth making a sacrifice for? You know that we were meant to be together.” Kill me now and put me out of my misery.
“It’s not that simple,” I sputter. “It’s complicated. I can’t just leave her, she loves me. She needs me. I’m all she’s got.”
“What about you? Do you love her?”
“I suppose I do. I wish that I didn’t. We disagree about so many things. She’s terrified of change and terrified of stagnating. She lives for tomorrow and never appreciates today. She worries about everything and has to have someone to blame for all the things she can’t control. She hates my friends, hates all the parts of me that she can’t change. Sometimes I want to leave her so much that it makes me sick. When I met her we raised some real hell together, but it was just a phase for her. When she settled down she became so puritanical and disapproving. She expects the whole world to share her views and acts so disappointed in me when we disagree. It’s clear that she’s more enamoured with the person that I could be than the person that I am, but in spite of it all, she needs me, and I need her too. She’s always been there for me when I’m at my lowest, when nobody else understands.”
“Can you even hear yourself?” Letha sneers. “If she’s so wonderful then why does she keep you here? You’ve as much as told me that you hate this city and everything in it. She doesn’t love you, she’s just afraid of being alone. Can’t you see that?”
“I want to see it, I really do. It’s so easy for you to tell me what to do, but this is my life we’re talking about. I want to be with you but I’m scared. I can’t abandon everything because the world might end. Madeline is selfish, but so am I. She does love me, in her own way, but she isn’t blind, she just makes do as best she can even though she’s terrified that I’ll abandon her. Madeline has so little to be happy about, how can I take it away from her?”
Letha has tears on her cheeks, shiny smears spreading in the dying gusts of wind. A calm descends upon us, bringing with it a deathly silence.
“I’m truly sorry Frank. Your soul called out to me and I thought that we were destined to be together, but I was wrong. You’re a scared little boy and I’m not going to wait here for whatever scraps you throw my way. I won’t be your whore and I refuse to share you because you’re too afraid to come clean to Madeline, it’s pathetic.” Letha lets go of my hands and turns from me, but as she walks away she stops and looks back, anger melting into disappointment.
“I thought that I had all the time in the world,” her words have a depressing air of finality, “but I was wrong. There are so many places that I still want to visit, so many things that I need to experience. I wish that I could share them with you. Think about it. It will take me two weeks at most to set my affairs here in order. If you won’t come then do one last thing for me, please, don’t tell anybody about us.” She kisses me fleetingly on the lips, salty tears her only gift.
“Will you still come to class on Wednesday?” I call as Letha walks out of my life. She turns and smiles one last smile full of regret, then vanishes into the night. I want to follow her, but how can I? I’m not strong enough to leave this life behind. Not strong enough to see the look on Madeline’s face when I say goodbye. I don’t want to die alone.