Extras: Prelude In Jay Major

This is a super-short, based on The Septic Circle, written in a regular style (unlike The Septic Circle, which takes the form of the characters’ diaries). It is a brief prelude, focusing on Jay, shedding a little more light on the character and what drove him to end up in Cravenly, on that fateful path to join the circle!

Apologies for the unusual formatting. WordPress seems intent on stripping out any natural indentation and proper spacing for the dialogue, which is why it appears as it does. The usual copyright notice applies and can be found at the foot of the site.

Prelude in Jay Major

“Son of a bitch,” Jay muttered, closing his eyes to momentarily shut out the ruination of half an hour’s painstaking hard work. He took a few steps down the ladder, dumped his paint brush beside the tin, and fished his phone out of his pocket, almost dropping it as he fumbled to answer.

“Yeah?” he answered, shaking his head at the pastel blue streak now adorning the formerly pristine Victorian cornicing.

“Hello to you too,” came the only voice that Jay still relished hearing. A brief smile escaped him, and he turned around and perched on the ladder’s top platform, feeling his legs almost sag with relief – it had been a long day.

“Simon, have you any idea what you just fucking caused me to do?” He ran a blue-spattered hand through his dark hair and sighed over his shoulder. The mark was still there.

“I bet you weren’t resting, that’s for fucking certain,” replied his brother. Jay pulled a face.

“I’ll rest when I’m dead.”

“Keep this up, you soon will be,” Simon replied.

“You know, if I were the older brother, I wouldn’t give you a hard time.” Jay stared around the living room of his third renovation in five months, enjoying the calm; the break. Too rarely he allowed himself moments like this.

“Yes, you would,” said Simon, snorting. “You’re a bastard.” A smile twitched over Jay’s mouth again.

“What are you doing, anyway? You got your new place all sorted yet?”

“Days ago. Just job hunting; combing through the ads among all the other crap in the paper.”

“Anything decent? Wouldn’t have thought there was much in Cravenly,” Jay said.

“There’s peace and quiet – you should try it.” Jay could hear the amusement in his brother’s voice. “Anyway, no, just a few agencies I might apply to. Drivers needed, that sort of thing.”

Jay scowled. His brother deserved something better; something wonderful – for everything that he was, for everything he had done for him.

“Si, I told you, come and work with me.” He rubbed his head, wishing his brother would let go of some of his pride.

“No. I told you, you’re a bastard and a pain. I’d kill you in less than a week.” Jay actually managed a low laugh.

“Simon, you know… you never need to work again if you don’t want to. I…”

“Forget it.” The silence allowed him to play over the last row that had erupted when Jay had previously suggested such a thing. Simon was too honourable, independent, and stubborn for his own good. Jay vaguely remembered his brother accusing him of the same things in the past.

“So, where are your fearless crew? I take it you’re still at that fucking house?” Simon asked. Jay was glad of the subject change, even if he could sense where it was headed.

“They knocked off three hours ago.” He tried to rub away the start of a headache with his fingertips. The silence carried Simon’s disapproval as much as his eyes would have, had he been standing at the foot of the ladder, glaring up at him.

“Mmm.” Simon fell silent. Great, here we go, Jay thought, picking at a hole in the knee of his dark work jeans. “It’s nearly ten. You shouldn’t be there. We discussed this.”

“You discussed it, Si, I was forced to listen.”

“You didn’t though. You were watching TV, laughing at that TV presenter’s wig the whole time, and then you fell asleep!” Jay made a non-committal noise and scratched at a spot of paint on his thigh, wondering if he could get away with putting the phone down and slipping back to work while Simon moaned.

“You’re running three crews on three projects, all of which you’re managing simultaneously, even finishing up at night yourself when they’ve gone home. When did you last eat? When do you sleep?”

“I ate this morning,” Jay used a stub of pencil from his pocket to draw a cock on the ridged metal of the ladder. He was tempted to over-embellish his day’s food intake, but he couldn’t be bothered. Anyway, Simon always saw straight through him.

“A meal which consisted of leftover what, exactly?”

“I don’t fucking remember,” he lied, feeling defensive. “But it was mouldy.” Simon exploded in his ear, making him flinch.

“Fuck sake, Jay. You can’t do this. You can’t keep on doing this. Have you heard of burnout?”

“Paradise or Revenge?” he snarked, rolling his eyes, before getting distracted, admiring the renovated ceiling rose.

“Don’t be a dick.” Silence. “Hey.” Simon’s voice lightened, meaning either humour or charm were coming – both of which Simon knew worked on him. Jay scowled. “It’s not as if you need the money, especially as you don’t seem to have any vices except dodgy sci-fi and work. You stopped needing the money years ago, so why not slow down?”

Jay scraped his scuffed boots on one of the ladder’s grubby rungs. “And do what?” Why couldn’t Simon bugger off? If it were anyone else on the planet, he’d have told them just that by now. He alone benefited from Jay’s famously short reserve of tolerance, and the well was starting to run dry this past week.

“Get a life, get a new hobby, maybe get some friends,” he said. Jay snorted and considered hanging up, but he knew from experience that Simon would only come round and continue the lecture in person, eventually winning and dragging him off for a decent meal. As much as he wanted to see his brother, he’d rather get the work finished. The problem was, there was always work to do.

“Why do I want something as inconvenient as friends?”

“Look, I don’t know, but get the fuck out of there. Come over, I’ll order in. Please Jay.” Jay looked around at the abandoned litter of buckets, bags of plaster, paint tins, tools, and odds and ends of wood that had made their way into the room, stacked under and around the ladder he was working with.

“Sorry.” And he genuinely was. “I’ve just got stuff to do.”

“But you don’t have to do it You pay other people very well to do it for you.”

“What else would I do?”

“We’ve been over this – just relax. You’ve been doing this for years. Take a break, Jay. Please.” The silence hung between them. He could feel Simon skirting around, trying not to go to that place – the one they barely spoke about.

“Don’t,” Jay whispered, pre-empting him.

“Running yourself into an early grave, Jay… it won’t change the past.”

“This isn’t about her.” The lie knotted in his throat, cutting off the other words.

“Yes it is. It’s all about her. It always has been. You buried yourself in work since then and kept digging. You won’t pull yourself out or even let anyone else try.” Simon’s voice was soft, weary, persuasive, tired. Jay’s fingers oozed into numbness, having driven the blood out from clutching his phone too tight.

“Simon.” He could barely speak.

“Don’t shut people out, Jay. Don’t shut me out, at least.” Simon’s words were fair. They were true, but they made him angry. As honest as Jay was, he had a hatred for the truth when it related to what passed for his life. He chose to ignore the concern in his brother’s voice.

“I couldn’t if I fucking tried, Simon,” he snapped. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore, and I’m sick to fucking death of being nagged to slow down, or to stop.”


“I’ve worked too hard to build up this business. And you know what – I don’t want to stop.” His voice bounced around the bare walls, and came snarling back at him.

“Why, because then you’d have to face the ghosts you’ve been running from, the life you’ve been trying to bury under work?”

“You know what?” Jay stood up and snatched up his paintbrush. “I don’t need your nagging. I don’t need your advice. I don’t need your interference.”

“I’m trying to help…”

“I don’t need your fucking help, either,” Jay shouted, turning to stab the paintbrush back into the tin. Anger smothered his usual grace and the ladder teetered as his foot twisted, forcing him to lunge and dip to keep balance. He failed.

The ladder toppled, bringing Jay crashing down, and taking a nearby stack of wood and half a bag of plaster with it as it fell to pin him.

“Jay?” Simon’s pen hovered over the newspaper, the ring around a driving agency advert remaining half complete. He listened. “Jay? Are you alright?”

Jay’s opened his eyes and then blinked against the fine plaster, which was dancing in the light from the chandelier above him. His back was agony and his head hurt, despite having avoided hitting the actual floor, thanks to what little protection his leather jacket and carrier bag of crisps had provided. That was what the OXO-y smell was, intermingling with the plaster and spilled paint – paint which was pooling around him.

Shooting pains from his foot broke through the temporary fog of shock and ate their way up his leg, making him groan. Somewhere, through the settling dust, he could hear his brother’s voice.

Jay blinked and swiped his hand through plaster and paint until a lucky, flailing pass found his phone. It was still working – just.

“Jay, what the fuck happened?”

“Simon?” Jay mumbled, trying to move and then thinking better of it when the pain intensified. “Erm… I er, I think I need your help.”

Simon stood up and tossed his pen onto the newspaper. “I’ll be right there.” He grabbed his coat and ran out of the door, banging it shut behind him.

Slowly, the pen rolled and settled across the gutter of the pages, the inky nib pointing idly at an advert for the local theatre, where Cravenly’s new psychic star was making his debut appearance.

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