The Killer Question – Part Five

See the first letter here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I gained both my degree and my master’s in Psychology at the University of Exeter, under the tutelage of the very skilled and able professors who work there.  My interest in Psychology, especially surrounding violent crime, developed during my teenage years. Unless I am mistaken, you met my father while he was incarcerated. It was after his death that my desire to understand the motives behind his crimes began.

You may already know that the Stanford Prison experiment was the very study which highlighted the need for certain ethical guidelines to be compulsory, and its aftermath produced the foundation for the rules we follow today. Let me reiterate, you may withdraw from the study at any time you wish. You do not need to give a reason and your decision will not affect your treatment. Your concerns are taken seriously.

I cannot say I have a “favourite” victim of yours. However, your behaviour after murdering Hayleigh Jones was unusual and inconsistent with your other crimes. Your other victims were simply left in their beds. After strangling Hayleigh, you dressed her in her wedding gown and left her outside the church she was due to be married in three days later.

Was this simply to gain attention? If so, you certainly succeeded. It was the murder which sparked the media frenzy which did not end until well after your capture and imprisonment.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson

P.S. I’ve always preferred moths to butterflies. They’re much less ostentatious.


The Library Book Project – 23 August 2013

Obviously, this stamp was the date on which I was meant to return the book by. Don’t worry, I don’t still have it! I returned it a couple of weeks ago, but I was reluctant to hand it over without even trying to let someone know why this particular book was kind of special (to me, at least). So, I wrote a note explaining what I had done, and tucked it inside the plastic cover. ImageThe likelihood is that one of the library workers noticed it when checking it back in, thought, “Who is this crazy person?” and threw it away. But, I like to think that maybe the next person to pick it up will take out the note, read it, and think, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” And then they will take it home and be part of this exclusive club of people who borrowed this exact book, and who will probably never meet each other.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually count how many stamps there were before starting this project. I just thought it didn’t look like a lot, and that it would be over with quite quickly. It turned out to be a bit more work than I imagined, but it was definitely worth it. I really enjoyed thinking about the different kinds of people who might have picked this book up, and what their problems might be.

I guess I did project a lot of my own reasons for going to the library onto the characters. My housemates were/are busy working most of the time, I had just finished NaNoWriMo, my friends from uni are back in their home countries. I still had another two months to go before going back to uni. I felt a bit lonely and purposeless. The library was just somewhere to go, a reason to get out of the house.

I’d really love to know what you thought overall of the project, so please comment, get in touch, something like that. You can find all twenty stories by clicking “The Library Book.” in the Categories list to the left of this page, or alternatively, you can go to the intro page and look through the pingbacks in the comments section.

Writing, Stress and Escapism

Today my Facebook newsfeed is covered with posts about A Level results day. It brings back memories of last year, when I was receiving my results. I had been consistently  underachieving throughout my A Levels, but with some retakes and hard work, I had hoped to make it into my insurance university choice.

The day came and I didn’t get into university. As it turned out, I bombed the exam I had been least worried about and was one UMS short of the grade I needed in that subject. I sent off for a remark, and spent a week applying for apprenticeships, JSA and carefully avoiding all my friends who were celebrating their excellent results.

My remark came back, and I had managed to get the grade I needed. That, my friends, was the first time I cried with relief. Despite my shaky start, I’m loving uni, and managed to get a high 2.1 this year.

However, I felt the whole situation summed up my final year of A Levels pretty well. I constantly felt like I was being tested, (which I guess was true, we were assessed pretty much every week,) and I felt like I constantly had a teacher watching over my shoulder, telling me I needed to do better, like I didn’t already know that I needed to do better.

Add that to my three failed driving tests, various friendship/relationship breakdowns and I can say that year was horribly stressful, to the point where I felt ill. This was also the year that I really got into writing my novel.

Without a doubt, the two things are related. I desperately needed a project where I could escape, one that I didn’t feel judged on. Something that was completely for myself, and did not necessarily have an effect on my entire future. Eventually, I very reluctantly let my sister view my work, and the fact she was supportive meant so, so much at the time.

To be honest, sometimes blogging means I lose the feeling that my writing pieces are a chance for me to escape, but to be fair, I’ve not much to escape from these days, given how much I love my course and the environment at uni. It’s good to know, though, that if I ever feel that same stress again, I know where I can leave it behind.

The Library Book Project – 04 March 2008

For more information on this project, click here.

I narrow my eyes at the clock on the wall, calculating how long it will take me to finish this exam paper. It’s only been half an hour and I’m about two thirds of the way through my multiple choice question booklet. I know I’m in for a long wait at the end. I sigh, but not too loudly. The air in the sports hall is the kind of cold that goes to your joints, making the hard seats feel harder, the desk more unforgiving on your elbows.

When I’ve finished the questions, gone through them once and gone through them again, I take a sideways glance at my classmates. Most still appear to be looking through the paper, but a couple are idly arranging their stationary, clearly as bored as I am. I almost feel guilty for not going through my paper for the fourth time. After all, I’m a second year student now. This is the first round of exams that count towards the final degree result. This is my final exam of the season, and the stress gave way to weariness a week ago. Weariness bred apathy. I just want this over with.

When we’re finally released from the sports hall, my friends and I have the usual natter about how the exam went, then I begin to walk home. I pull my coat around me, but the chill is still nipping at my fingers. It’s mid-February, and spring hasn’t even stuck its nose out yet. The flat is much warmer, but I dread the think of the heating bill. My housemate, Sara, greets me. She’s playing with the iPod touch her parents gave her for her birthday.

 Sara’s the kind of girl who doesn’t have to worry about heating or electricity bills. That’s why the TV is still on, a commentary of Obama’s success in the Columbia and Maryland primaries running pointlessly in the background, while her earphones are still in. Her parents pick her up out of every scrape. I couldn’t believe it when she came home a couple of weeks ago with that iPod touch. It must have cost a fortune. I don’t know anyone else that has one. I’ll admit, I’m jealous.

I sit in my room and realize that I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t get rid of that exam season niggle, the one that tells you that you need to be revising and making notes. I could drown it out with alcohol and pizza, call my friends and organize a little end of exam party, but the truth is I’m broke. Instead, I wrap myself up a little warmer, put my coat back on, and take a little walk.

The town centre isn’t far away, and as I weave in and out of the pavement traffic, I realize that I don’t exactly know where I’m going. I think about going to McDonalds. As poor as I am, I can afford a big mac as an end of exam treat. I walk down the street and noticed the library. I’d forgotten about this place. I’d signed up for a card just after I first moved in, but never took anything out.

I want to kill time, and since I can’t afford new books, I wander inside. They don’t have a large collection, and I feel awkward walking past all the shelves, knowing I need to stop somewhere and take a proper look at what’s on offer.

An orange spine catches my eye. The white writing reminds me of a coca cola bottle. I pick it up, interested.

Having Doubts About Everything


A “compliment” slip from Anatomicals. (Possibly the best skincare company I’ve ever come across.)

I went back to my parent’s house for a few days recently. I say I went back to my parent’s house. I saw them for about a day and then spent the rest of my time with a close friend. I had a really nice time overall, but one of the first issues I faced was that my sister also came home and essentially told me that my housemates had been saying things about me behind my back. (To clarify, she lived in the house as well until recently, so has known my housemates for longer than me.)

This really threw me off, as I would say that for a student house, we get along pretty well most of the time. Things aren’t perfect, but when you’re in a house with four other girls (and only one bathroom!), you’re generally just grateful that you aren’t screaming tearfully at each other or trying to rip each other’s hair out.

It made me feel like I didn’t really want to come back, but I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. 1. My sister is one of those people who have a  tendency to take things you say and make them sound about one hundred times worse. 2. Yes, there was a period when I was ill, when I was busy with NaNo, when I was waiting for an appointment at the breast cancer screening clinic, when housework was not my priority. I can understand why my housemates may have been frustrated about that. If they said anything, it probably wasn’t personal.

And then, a few days later, I went out with my friend and got terribly drunk. And it was very fun at first. But then I kind of hit that moody, depressed state which I’ve never experienced before. The one where you wonder what you’re doing with your life because:

A. You still don’t have a job because you’re a lazy fuck and nobody wants to employ you and why am I so useless and oh god.

B. You’re really not that smart either. You’re not dumb, you got a 2.1 this year after all, but that’s still not a first.

C. You are surrounded by the absolute dregs of society, including some freaky stranger who keeps coming up behind you and putting his arms around you and trying to kiss your neck and arrrrgghhh leave me the fuck alone!

D. You’re a terrible writer. A real stinker. What are you playing at, spending so much time on wordpress and pretending people care about what you write?

E. Your housemates hate you. Maybe they’re right and you are a horrible, terrible person.

And, I’m absolutely sure that a lot of people on here can empathize with D. Not because they’re bad writers, just because they have doubts. Even famous authors have doubts about their work sometimes. 

I guess there’s no big secret to suddenly gaining confidence in your work. It takes time. I think it’s all about practicing and not giving up.

Oh mighty users of WordPress, what is your opinion?

The Dispute

The Following Is A Dramatization Of Real Events.

The hungry ache slowly inches upwards through my torso, like some particularly malignant cancer. The thirst is worse than that, as if a small dead mammal crawled down my throat while I slept. I could give in. The future would still be uncertain, but the outlook would be less bleak than it is now. I could face her accusing look. But I’m sticking to my principles. I never committed a crime and I won’t pretend I did just for some peace. I’d rather stay in this room and rot.

I mean, for crying out loud, if she got so upset over the washing up, how will she react if she finds out I haven’t once vacuumed under the couch in the past nine months?

There’s been a small amount of drama between one of my housemates and the rest of us recently. It’s a long story. My other housemates have all fled elsewhere. I’m pretty much staying in my room until they get back. Apart from maybe going to the door to collect a pizza delivery.