Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Influence

The Influence 
First Draft:

The theory behind my research is to look further into the influence we have to others, that reaches beyond our physical communication one another. I theorise that we create specific emotions that are created on a subconscious level perhaps even chemically. I can give historical examples such as; Gengis Khan, who it is said, valued loyalty and united the Mongol empire amoungst other achievments. We could theorise that his influence was to invoke loyalty in others on a powerful scale.
Oscar Wilde being another example renowned for his flamboyancy and effect on others. This of course, is merely speculation.
I began my research years ago, documenting social encounters and the reactions people have towards one another, though it was some months ago I documented a few cases of abnormalities in not only social convention but in noticeable environmental changes.
My first test subject displayed soothing reaction, in what would have otherwise been a tense situation. This was the only subject that displayed a range to the ability, the ability to broadcast an emotion.
I have yet to find an ethical testing process for any neurological answers.

Anna’s Introduction

In spite of her somewhat morbid environment Anna loved her job, she took great pleasure in knowing that although she could not heal that bodies that bought them here (and sometimes never let them leave) she could try and heal the souls. Something she had always been able to do.

As the receptionist of All Saints Hospitals east wing that dealt with the mentally ill, she saw many grieving family members trying to come to terms with the loss, so to speak, of the people they had come to love, who had changed irrevocably. 

Anna had made close friends of most of her colleagues over her three years on the east wing, one of which being Samantha, a full time nurse and mother who had little patience for error. She had warmed to Anna the most over time, as most people did. Sam stormed over to Anna's circular desk with a face of fury and a stack of papers.

"What idiots are employed here that leave me endless paper work with illegible handwriting? Like I don't have enough to do with the student nurses already,
Now I have to decipher this crap."
Anna leaned cautiously out from behind the computer screen and tucked a loose strand of her dark hair behind her ear before speaking.
"Ah Sam, you were the trainee once and I'm sure they'll be fine after more time with you. You're an excellent mentor... despite your anger issues" 
she cowered jokingly away from Sam, knowing that this would lighten the mood. Sam chuckled and leaned dramatically against the desk.
"I suppose it does give me an excuse to escape them for a while, while I repair the damage." She contemplated temporary escape from the relentless and often stupid questions of the students." Oh also, watch out for Dr Hodgens, he's been snappy all day." she whispered.
Sam outwardly cringed when she realised Dr Hodgens was rounding the corner to walk past the desk. As he passed them he smiled at Anna and relaxed his shoulders as he continued on to his next patient.
"Unbelievable!" Sam said with pretend annoyance, "I've bought that man endless coffees to try and put a smile on his face"
"What can I say, I'm just magic,” said Anna with a sly wink. "Did you need help with those papers? I don't mind staying a little later, but then again that microwave meal won't make itself.”
"No" sighed Sam, "I still owe you from last week, since Mr Laytons wife broke down after finding out his episodes will become more frequent since he's clearly deteriorating faster than we thought." She shuddered at the memory, hoping she would never have to worry about such damaging mental illness affecting her family the way she had seen with Sandra Layton. Although she appeared strong and cold to her fellow nurses, Anna knew that it was one of Sam's greatest fears since she saw the effects every day and admired her friend’s courage greatly. Anna played down the situation.
"She was fine in the end, I sat with her briefly and gave her some coffee, and she spoke with me after she'd calmed down about how he'd tried to hit her and the staff, which must be heartbreaking." She realised the sensitiveness of talking about patients and decided to change the subject."I did however have a favour to ask you, if you'd be kind enough to repay mine?" 
"What would that be?" Sam asked curiously.
"Can you pick me up tomorrow morning, if you have the car?"
"Yes yes, I'll be there at 6.30, but right now I have to clear this mountain before I get a royal bollocking from Hodgens" She covered her mouth in mock shame for her swearing and walked off with her papers and threw a lazy wave behind her as she contemplated her large work load feeling the annoyance return.

Anna reloaded her personal emails for the 8th time of the hour and then switched off the monitor in frustration. Sighing deeply she leaned back in her chair, catching her reflection in the blank screen. She hadn't changed much since adolescence, the same dark hair, big eyes and sharp features, her cheek bones had become more defined perhaps and she was pleased with her general appearance. She was neither striking nor plain. 

Her thoughts drifted to her predictable evenings, she would have to order some shopping tonight instead of have her usual takeaways since this morning her trousers felt tighter than usual and the guilt of another fried meal was too much to bare. *** She would watch television, check her emails, and read a book in bed. Always the same. 

She wasn't sure if she felt lonely, or glad for some peace. Consoling the staff or families was really her main job since everything balanced on a needles point. Tension filled each ward, and she had witnessed momentary breakdowns, and explosive conversations between staff and patients alike. Yet she had never been confronted with this herself, she would always be the mediator, trying to restore the peace. She felt useful; healing the healers. Even if it was presumptuous to think so. She was of little importance and replaceable and those presumptions got her through each day.

She glanced at the clock expecting another late departure as her night shift replacement was almost always late. To her immense surprise Anna saw Harriet, a middle aged woman who irritated the staff endlessly with her thoughtless comments, yawning and stirring her coffee in the window of the staff room. Had Anna been so wrapped up in her own world again that she hadn't even noticed her? Harriet opened the door feebly in a dramatic attempt to display her great fatigue and waved as she walked over.

"Got up in time I see!" Joked Anna.
"Barely, you'd think I'd be used to nights by now, but those damned builders are so inconsiderate" Anna didn't want to point out that the builders were merely doing their job assembling Harriet’s conservatory"  Harriet shaking her head with an air  of self righteousness suddenly remembered  that she wanted gossip. Leaning over the desk, which wasn't at all necessary since no one was around, she asked;
"How did she take the news?"
"Who?" asked Anna pretending not to understand.
"Mrs Layton, obviously" Harriet leaned closer eager for some gossip.
"Well badly given the fact that he's deteriorating so rapidly followed by a violent attack on her when he'd forgotten where he was again." Anna tried to conceal her annoyance, but she disliked Harriet’s nosiness and enjoyment of others pain as if it were some soap opera and the patients were merely actors to entertain her.
"I spoke to her briefly while the nurses tried to medicate him, and bought her some coffee. She calmed down a little, after being hysterical" Anna didn't really mean this as gossip since, Mrs Layton’s hysterical screaming and crying was common knowledge since news travelled fast.***
"How do you do it Anna? It's creepy the way you do that with people" 
Anna frowned at Harriet’s assessment of her, and realised it was a new record of less than two minutes it took to insult her in some way.
"I just know people I guess" She said dismissively. Harriet, appearing not to notice, sipped her coffee and smiled feeling calm, pleased with the information and ready to start her shift.

Anna got up and grabbed her bag from underneath the desk, attempting a swift exit.
"See you bright and early Harry" she said as she forced a smile and walked away hoping to avoid any further annoyances from such a callous woman, who in Anna's opinion, should know better. Walking down the corridor to the exit of the east wing she remember she'd wanted to give Dr Gibbs the book she'd recommended to keep him occupied on a week of night shifts in the on call room. If she went past reception, Harriet would undoubtedly try and re-engage conversation and ask who the book was for, and so a rumour would begin that a romantic affair was in the works, but then she couldn't be sure where exactly he'd be, since doctors were in constant movement and pre-occupied their entire shift here. She decided to put her bluetooth in to feign a phone call in case Harriet should appear and drop the book into the on call room. She would of liked to talk with him about the book briefly before she gave it ** to him, as they did whenever they gave each other a new read.

Most of the nurses found him short tempered and rude, but he'd always been pleasant to Anna. Once again she felt angry and the world for its judgemental ways. People were quick to pass judgement but rarely took the time to listen to the circumstances. For instance; Harriet, although a callous woman, and a chronic gossip she worked two jobs and cared of her mother who had dementia. So yes, she was thoughtless, but certainly not heartless. No one took the time anymore, it was always first impression and snap judgements. As she walked back out of the wing towards the exit not seeing any sign of Harriet at her post, knowing she'd re-filled her coffee cup for the 3rd time, she felt guiltily for her lack of patience with her but then she'd rather feel guilty than annoyed all over again.

It was 6.40 by the time she got home. She felt better for the walk and the guilt of another takeaway had subsided; she would order in a pizza and purchase her food shop online to ensure this pattern wouldn't continue. As she rounded the corner onto her road she didn't feel the sadness she used to feel of coming home to an empty house without a partner. Perhaps she was merely used to it, rather than preferred it. She wasn't particularly social, despite her ability to talk easily with others, when she did venture out on an evening it was usually alone to read in her local pub undisturbed or occasionally chat to other usuals***. She had never seen the need to go out only if her friends would join her. She wasn't afraid of being on her own, and should she want to, could join a conversation easily enough, knowing she could leave it just as easily, without the pressure of forcing the conversation which usually involved fixing her friends love lives or offering advice. It became tedious very quickly.

She put the key in the door and realised she had forgotten to take out the bin bags. Annoyed at her own thoughtlessness, she threw down her bag and cleared her kitchen that was still messy from this morning’s rush. Finally she sat down on the sofa and pulled a blanket over her to warm up.

"No" she thought, "I do enjoy being on my own, I wouldn't say I feel lonely". She wondered if this were true or if she were trying to convince herself. She thought about her life and how she came to be this way. She'd always been an average student, and average looking, but her peers thought of her as weird, when she'd rather read in the lunch room than talk about boys or fantasize about their latest crushes. That's not to say she'd ever been bullied because she was always confided in, regardless of popularity status, which at the age is crucial. Everyone always had a problem they needed fixing, or a second opinion to know they fit in. There was no one like that in Anna's life, she was merely the mender. Never the mended. 

She set the table, checked some emails and ordered shopping while she ate. Always the same. When she lay in bed she tried to think of any days that stood out, where something had happened, or she'd done something out of the ordinary, but couldn't. She shut her eyes and thought about the following day, planning her outfit and her make-up, knowing no one would notice and it would be exactly the same. Always the same.

Adam’s Introduction

"Gym at six, in at seven, meeting at eight. That's the plan. I need to impress, maintain eye contact and seal the deal. I need this. I can do it." 
This was Adam’s usual mantra to start a difficult day, where commission and bonus' were always the main objective.

Mornings were Adam’s favourite time of day. He felt new, re-charged and ready. Evenings were his low point. Where he'd been promoted from his job mainly handling the telephone and calling customers, he was now the negotiator of deals; the hand-shaker. Good impressions were the key. It left him exhausted after a day with buyers and sellers, competitors and adversaries. It was getting worse.

He knew his job better than his colleagues and rarely shared his job ideas or offers with them because he knew from experience that, whenever he had, they would out shine him. He worked best alone.

He left the house earlier than usual to catch the train into London which should take him roughly an hour, but he needed to clear his head and get some cardio in before the meeting. He caught the train at 4.40 and bought a coffee from the service trolley, he'd been drinking more and more coffee every day to try and fight off the fatigue he felt. He was becoming concerned; he'd need to look into getting something more effective if he couldn't keep up. Adam couldn't understand it; he was strong, confident and happy but the more he tried to make a good impression the worse he felt. Not just physically but mentally too.

He got off the train and into the gym. He went over his proposal again while on the treadmill. He needed go over the details of a potential sale of an expensive property in North London; if successful a tasty bonus would be his. If not, he might never get this chance again.

He showered, put on his suit and walked into his office. He set up his presentation in the meeting room and waited. He didn't want to talk to anyone in case he lost his nerve or gave anything away.

Colin Newman was the first to enter the meeting room; he was Adam’s manager and head of the team who would overlook the proposal and effectively decide if Adam was suitable for the responsibility of selling such a high-profile property in this sought after area. The meeting was necessary because of the clientele more than the property itself. They needed a good speaker to be the "face" of the company and where Adam was still relatively a newcomer he would have to prove himself confidently and run through how he would sell the property in spite of its extremely high price. 
"Morning Adam, I hope you're ready for this meeting. It's a big opportunity" Colin said sternly. 
"Of course. And I'm grateful for it" Smiled Adam, well aware that Colin was trying to intimidate him. Colin would be unlikely to care either way usually but this decision would ultimately lead him to take the blame if they lost it to another agency. 
As the other members arrived he felt adrenaline course through him. He felt ready. As they became seated and arranged their mugs and papers he began his proposal. 

It had gone well he thought, after everyone had gone through the proposal, leafing through the papers he had given them and a run through of the ways 
he wanted to promote its sale and historical value to justify to the clients the cost and benefits of living or renting it. They had nodded and stroked chins and whispered to each other which he took as a good sign, but he'd received no feedback. As expected toward the end of the meeting he began to lose focus and requested a brief coffee break to gather his thoughts and fight the feeling of fatigue. Perhaps he shouldn't have gone to the gym.

He stood outside and waited for the deliberation. They had all appeared seemingly tired and didn't really want to be there but through the course of the past hour they became more focused and where they initially avoided eye contact he had felt six pairs of eyes draining his concentration.

Did everyone feel that way? He was under the impression the initial greeting and beginning would be the hardest.
Colin opened the door and asked him to come inside as they had made their decision. Colin motioned for Adam to take his seat and stood to deliver the news.
"A good presentation Adam; you've clearly done your research. The board and I are concerned about your lack of experience with less than 6 months in this department and question your ability to sell to the clients."

"Bullshit!" Adam thought angrily but maintained an impassive expression.

"That being said, we feel it would be good experience to be part of the team but to work as a partner with me on this."
"You want the commission and glory after having me do all the research for you...You back stabbing prick!" thought Adam, now furious with his efforts being barely rewarded.
"I understand. I look forward to working with you on it then." Adam smiled convincingly, appearing pleased that he still got to work on the property.
"Well then, it seems we're all happy, let’s get back to work." Colin got up and left the office; the board members followed. Adam smiled, shook hands, and left the room without complaint. Inside his thoughts were chagrin. 

On the train home Adam went through the meeting trying to figure out what went wrong. He decided that Colin realised how easy it would be for Adam to seal the deal and wanted in on the action. After all his hard work! What was the point?
He needed a drink. He got off at his station and walked swiftly to his local knowing that his old school friend James would undoubtedly be there.
The pub was old and dingy, with maroon walls and bad lighting. He spotted James alone at the empty bar nursing a pint, in his unattractive work clothes which were, as expected, covered with paint. 

"Alright there mate?" Adam said as he patted his friend on the shoulder and pulled up the stool next to him.
"Alright stranger? Fancy seeing you here! I thought you'd be too good for us now you're all suited up and with the London folk. Couldn't buy an old friend a pint
could you? I'm skint till always." Adam laughed, already prepared for James request.
"I suppose I could do, since I've been such a bad mate." James winked at the barmaid and asked for two of the usual.
"You looked wrecked mate. How’s the promotion?"
"Yeah it's alright I suppose; some back stabbing pricks about though" 
"Ahh that's what you get for working in a poncey office. Labouring is where it's at I'm telling you." 
"Yeah, I can see. How's the pay working out?" They laughed at the easy banter between them. 
Adam recalled their days at school together; back then they had been the kind everyone thought would end up in prison. Always causing trouble and terrorising their peers. Bullies. Over their years apart where Adam had been forced by his mother into college to study business and economics he really came into his own. Without James' stupidity and Adam’s bravery they left their adolescent pranks and petty crimes behind them. James had started work with his father’s painting and decorating company and they both grew up quickly. They had always remained friends and met up now and then for the odd drink.

"I can't seem to keep awake past noon anymore. I feel drained all the time." It was one of the rare moments that anything serious was ever discussed between them. James knew if it wasn't serious Adam wouldn't have said anything at all and knew that the time for jokes had passed.
"Get a blood test; you might have something. My dad felt tired all the time with his diabetes. Get it checked out."
"I did. Nothing is wrong with me. I'm starting to wonder if it's something brain related."
"Try some coke; that might sort you out." James said casually. Adam who was taken aback by this looked with confusion at his friend.
"Cocaine?" He said, remembering the days when they had smoked joints together and felt unstoppably cool. Was James still this naive?
"What? I don't do it." He looked to see if the barmaid were still in the far corner and out of earshot. "I do deal here and there though for some extra cash. I'm not saying you should but it might help. To be honest mate, you look fried and you must have had what? Like a dozen cups of coffee today? Might balance you out." He shrugged and returned to his pint.
They let the subject drop and after a few more drinks James got up to leave. He brushed past Adam and stood behind him. 
"See you around Adam. The missus will be ready to skin me if I come home any later." His usual excuse for an early departure.
"See ya." Adam felt the beginning of a headache place itself firmly above his forehead. He pressed his fingers around the bridge of his nose trying to push it away, without success. After finishing his drink in one swift gulp, he picked up his bag and left the bar. Normality he would of flirted with the barmaid but he could barely think straight.

He rummaged in his pockets to find his keys outside his house and felt a small plastic bag in his pocket. He froze, knowing what it was.
He fished out his keys and walked in the door before taking the packet out. 
"You sneaky bastard..." he thought. He remembered now James' brief invasion of personal space as he'd squeezed past him to get off the stool. 
"Still up to your old tricks I see." He stared at the white powder feeling a wave of excitement run through that left him dizzy. He had no idea what to do with it if he were to take it. He'd never seen it firsthand. He opened the bag, dipped his finger in and cautiously put it in his mouth. It was a strange consistency and he wasn't sure if what he'd done was right but he remembered in a film he saw it was rubbed on the gums as well as snorted. His headache subsided and he could almost feel the electrical impulses of his brain firing. He glanced at the clock, 11.54. He wouldn't be able to sleep now.
 Perhaps if he had some more in the morning he'd be fine for work.

He thought about his current conquest Evelyn; that he might call her and see if she wanted to keep him company. It was doubtful since they'd been speaking for months now, occasionally bumping into each other in bars but she'd kept her distance. She would flirt with him via text message, but as soon as meeting up again were mentioned she threw him the cold shoulder. Prick tease. She was stunning, no doubt about it. Thick caramel coloured hair, tall, statuesque and gorgeous face but a bitter harpy. She was never without male attention. Ever. From what she'd said in the brief reference to partners, she'd never had one. "No one ever stuck around. Only after one thing." were her exact words.

He picked up his phone and sent her a message. 
"Evening Stranger, are you still awake? I could do with some company..." He doubted she would respond to his invitation but he was tired of chasing her and wanted a satisfying end to this game of cat and mouse, where she clearly called all the shots. He wondered if she were different, would he genuinely of cared about her. She was a bitch and oddly enough, depressed. He thought her ungrateful. How could she be depressed when she could have any man she desired? Her looks alone should have resulted in some happiness; to be the envy of other women and the seducer of men, desired by all.

Evelyn’s Introduction

Evelyn picked up her phone that was placed next to her on the bench. Glancing at the screen she saw that Adam had sent her a message. She frowned in confusion. Adam had never sent her messages in the evening, especially not this late. Always in the morning. She was getting bored of his advances and requests to meet for "drinks". He didn't want to know her. He wanted sex and then to leave. He would either offer some poor excuse in the morning, if not immediately after or simply be gone without any explanation. She wasn't as hurt by it as she used to be. At 34 she'd heard it all before.

Evie, as her aunt had always affectionately called her, was desperately lonely. Women shunned her, either intimidated by her looks, or on the assumption that she was a bitch, which was probably a fair assessment. She was desired by almost every man she had ever met but never loved.

She was sat on the bench that had her mother’s name engraved on it, in the park near her childhood home. She often sat here late at night. Since her mother had died of cervical cancer only a few years after she was born, she could only remember the soft shine of her blonde hair and that her hands smooth and warm. She sat here to feel closer to her; to sit where they had on warm summer days, eating sandwiches and watching the other children play. When her mother had died, her father had asked his sister, Helen, if she would watch Evie for a few weeks. A few weeks turned into 17 years, with her father remaining missing/suspected dead to this day.

Helen was her only friend, parent and confidant. She was a friendly ear, and a good woman. Short and petite, she was only 19 when her brother gave her Evie to look after. If she resented Evie, inadvertently, for taking her youth away, she never showed it. They saw each other once a month or so. Evie smiled at the thought of her aunt. She'd done her best and it pained her to see and hear all that had come of her niece’s life. Evie would shrug it off, as nothing other than men being pigs and bad choices but she knew it was more than that. 

Evie picked up her phone, "Busy." was all she text back.
"Get the picture you creep" she though viciously. Perhaps she'd change her phone number again. If she weren’t so certain that he would leave as soon as he got what he wanted, she would have enjoyed the attention. In reality it was fruitless.

"Bitch!" thought Adam when he read her dismissive message. "She's just frigid." He knew this didn't exactly make sense but he wasn't willing to let her bruise his ego. He looked around his flat decided how to fill the next 6 hours.

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