Runner Up for the 2022 Sloan Prize
Declan Kelly was born in Edinburgh and have lived there his whole life, especially enjoying the city for its atmosphere and people. He first began writing in high school and continued to do so after winning a school writing prize. He is currently studying law at the University of Edinburgh and received a special mention of the Sloan Prize in 2020 and was a further runner-up in 2022. When not studying law, making art or writing, he spend his nights working in a local nightclub.
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To Live and Die Out Your Nugget
I’ll tell ye suttin ye might no ken. I didnae ken it, felt like a daftie when a did. You’d hink the biggest doonside tae being a massive alkae wid be the hangover. Aye it’s a rough yin, but that’s no it. Naw. It’s when yer drinking, ye canny dream it night. No proper like. Ye sleep wae oot dreaming. So when you wake up, ye start dreaming during the day aff the sleep deprivation. That’s when the hallucinations, psychosis, blackouts and nose bleeds kick in. That’s when shite starts getting interesting.
I take a fat drag eh ma fag, smoking out the fire exit alcove. I dash the wee drip fae ma nose tae be greeted by a wee bit rid. I wish I could start greetin like, but this isnae a time tae be shedding nae tears.
Monday night and another de’d shift. Patch hinging about wae fuckall tae dae on the off chance some old geezer fancies a pint wae the missus. Wasting my time f’or their convenience? Nae chance.
I drop my dog end among the grime and puddles eh the back alley, the whole area humming eh stale alcohol sweetness and skanky fag smoke. The fire exit clutters open and out pours the rest eh our capitals finest hospitality staff to join the party. Half eh the poor cunts are relegated to stand in the drizzle. Body’s knackered fae the rid bull wearing aff and the shift ending. I ask the question every cunt wants to ken but doesnae forward on the account eh seeming the steamer.
“Yous aw still going out.”
Aw the naysayers chime in first, most geeing some limp flimsy excuse. Thankfully that’s met wae a volley eh “How no?’s” and “Shitebags if ye dinny’s”. Tam hits oot that they have uni in the morning. I’m quick tae inform that I share the same predicament. Ah ken that I intend on getting mare pissed than the rainfall, the rain indeed pissing it doon. Plus, the bev will only help my uni work.
“Ken what, aye gon then. Christ tonight wis dead, c’n ah borrow yer lighter?”
“Caman, aye here you go. Better no chore it.” Ah say, tossing Tam the lighter.
Tam hits me wae this cheeky side eye cheesing, as if tae say “Aw I’d never dare that” wae the intention of especially choring it. Doesnae matter, I’ll get it back when I go tae the bar, Tam being loveable but an undeniable freeloader and scrounger.
Ah assess the wee gang we’ve got as they puff their vapes and finish their snouts. Decent numbers. Defo enough for a mad yin. Of course on paper and in chat it’ll be just a quiet yin. It’s always just a quiet one…
We end up in the usual place wae most eh the usual folk. Monday night so you ken the usual crowds eh expensive claies neds and clueless students has aw but been dashed fae sight and mind. Naw, this is a night for hardcore alkaes and hospitality folk, and you ken there’s an overlap. I rock up tae the bar aw casual after asking the rest if they were wanting tae join. Best thing about it, the bars dead. No big fuck off queue. I catch the bartender, baldie boy barely pushing twinty-five.
“Hiya pal, kin ah get a jägerbomb, actually naw can ah make that two eh them. And two double vbl’s?”
Tam being ma wee shadow hits oot wae:
“Naw I’m no wantin’ jäger, have you got any tequila?”
“Get a sambuca, ye kin set theam oan fire.”
“Nah sambuca gees me the boke. Tequila please!”
Standard, keep it simple in the meantime. The jägerbomb will facilitate the smooth transition fae crippling caffeine addiction to the inevitable late night drink fuelled antics. Tam offers to pay to my delight. I say cheers. The caird declines. I take back my cheers and foot the bill. My bomb gets tanked no issue wae a quick clink eh glesses. Boom, doon in wan. Tam leaves a wee dribble eh tequila after fumbling wae the lime ‘nd salt, but I’m quick to make that disappear. Yer either a tequila or a sambuca lover. The tequila makes me want tae dry heave.
We cut back across the danceflare and sit our arses doon wae the others, remaining drinks in hand wae nae intention tae let them remain for long. Good few eh us fae the work round the wee booth. A few fae management are pissing and whineging about shite that doesnae concern me about problems oot wae ma payslip. The convo moves fae moaning about staff tae general gossip. So and so shagged them and they chatted shit about him her and the other. I’d like tae say I’m fully intrigued but truth be told couldn’t gee less eh a rats arse. I keep chiming in over enthusiastic.
“Did they aye?”
“Aw whit, really? Nae wae!”
Best ‘hing since they get the maste bit raging, either that or they just fire back wae a wee disappointed glare. Depends who you hit wae it. Good patter either way. Almost like they’ve no learnt tae deal wae my sarcasm it this point.
“You’re actual such a snide wideo.”
“You love it though.”
The time rocks up round quarter past. Decent few mare drinks in, and my hearts beating pure rapid. There’s blood in my alcohol system. I’m buzzing and bouncing, the blurred darkness eh the pub helps curb the growing anxiety fae the several ridbulls that had been tanked in the past twelve hours. The ridbulls themselves hitting a square-go eh their ain against the stinging eh my eyes and limbs fae burning the candle at both ends. Shite is going real gid. Tam taps my shoulder. Dazed, I look up half-baked tae see whit the script is.
Tam tries tae blether some’hing over the tune blaring the no’ew.
“Chum me tae the toilet.”
“Aye nae bother, let me grab ma fags ‘nd lighter oot my jaykit.”
One eh the gadgies in the booth is sitting on the jaykit pile, so I’m forced tae interrupt the boys class story or point, and you ken it was a class yin cause he started it wae a momentous “here mate.” The cunt fumbles holding up this and that as I try tae direct the dafties search. I decide tae speed ‘hings along a bit and lean across the table tae grab the fucking jaykit. I end up nudging a couple glesses over which drenches the table. I look at the mess, and decide anything I could spout to convince this tae be the product eh an innocent accident and not being steaming wid only make me look mare fucked.
“Whit kin I say? I’m tam beaming.”
We both dash fae the booth, and am hit wae the revelation that the place is now actually getting quite rammed. More steamers now than the Mississippi River man. Cunts aw cutting nastys and moving as shadows amongst the smoke, sharp lights slashing past ghosts and clouds tae the backdrop eh amped up baselines and club bangers. As I’ve began walking, I can feel ma legs getting aw squiggly. Tam grabs my hand and moves like a spearheid through the mobbed danceflare.
Before long we’re it the toilet, swinging the door open tae reveal a room that’s no pitch black like the bar but one that’s fried wae light by a strobe blazing overheid. Tam makes a quick move tae the cubicle. I try tae make a move fur the sink no fancying breaking the seal yet, but end up slipping oan my arse like oot a cartoon. The floors drenched like a fucking slip’n’slide, making my attempt tae git back oan my feet take mare than wan go.
I manage tae pull my soaked sel’ aff the manky flare, and I catch myself cheesing in the mirror. The world seems brighter when you’re fucked out your nugget, all movement seeming loose and yer eyes catching a spinning roll. Sad ‘hing is I’m peaking, and I’m no hear to be peaking. I’m hear to catch the fear. Cause that’s when shit gits interesting. The shadow cunt standing in the corner wae the hat might be a sight that am oan my jolly wee way. I hear some bird behind me whiteying violently. Defo no tactical by any means. This lass is out of it. I lay my heid down fae the light and spit intae the sink tae fight the hand sanitiser taste in my mooth.
I decide it’s time tae break the seal after aw, turning roond and swaggering tae wan eh the stalls, trying to keep balance fae the blood rushing tae my heid and the swimming pool flare. I swing the door wide open and appreciate how the smell eh piss and blinding light has dimmed. I plant my arse doon and stare up to the top eh the door, buzzing out my face wae the drink and letting my neck fall back in relaxation. Then ah realise the door, aw graffiti. Aw kinds eh hings written oan it. One stands out though.
Your no even here babes, but I bet you sure wished u were.
Awful grammar likes, wrong ‘your’ and everything. Must say started getting a bit mare concerned when the lights dimmed. Then there wis the perpetual boom boom and vibrations eh the tunes in the next room getting mare distant. I thought tae mysel’ ‘this is a bit fried, even fur getting mad wae it.’ Then my stomach wis wrenched by a realisation. I’m no even in the cubicle. I’m oan the fucking flare. And I’m pissing.
“Here hen gon get up.”
I’m laying face doon oan the toilet flare, my fingers clenching intae the tile work as I try tae cling ontae any scrap eh reality. My shins and elbows are dripping, which can be explained by the state eh the flare, but the moist clench eh my jeans tae my groin is defo no the product eh a wet flare. I stare up tae see a bouncer in the lassies toilet, his ID plastered oan his arm like a gimpy gestapo.
“Mon, you! Oot you’re too drunk.”
“Em excuse me? I’m not oan this floor cause I’m drunk, I’m oan it cause it’s slippy as fuck. Kin ye no get someone tae sort this out?”
I called my bluff no kenning how long the cunt was watching me make a spectacle eh mysel’. Thankfully, Tam came tae ma rescue.
“Whit you even daeing in here? This is the lassies. Git oot ye fucking nonce!”
Tam grabbed ma airm, and we both kent whit time it wis; time tae fucking boost. There’s nae recovery for the riddy that is pissing yersel’.
So we’re both stoating doon a chilly George Street, the dreary rain fading tae a sleet beyond a cover eh thick fog. Street lights paste the mist wae a ghostly white light. I mind there used to be these bright orange street lamps everywhere. Had a real sense eh warth, and when they mixed wae that deep blue eh a winter twilight, it made for a spectacular heat vision contrast. They replaced them wae energy efficient white LED’s. There’s no more glow towards the sky. I’m no a fan of global warming, trust me, I don’t like de’d wee sea turtles as much as the next person, but the new lights just seem dim. I miss the orange heidlamps. I preferred it when the world wis warming and the lights were too, although I wouldnae tell anyone. Same script wae they shitey paper straws.
“How you feeling.”
“I’m feeling it. Defo no making my class the morn.” I said, giggling and stumbling, still hazey fae the bathroom psychosis.
“It’s jist art yer daeing, nae stress.”
“Aye, but you canny paint, canny even draw, aw you can dae is swing yer jaw.”
“Aye like you’ve never done gear.”
“Aye did it, got that foosty shite at the back of my throat, never again.”
I could feel the sickness coming oan, and the impending sense eh doom was getting settled in. I took myself doon fur a wee seat oan the kerb, try and compose myself against the sugar coated sickness whelming up fae ma belly. Plus, the hat man shadows were coming back. Sure Tam widdnae spy them. Tam hasnae been awake a fraction eh the time ah hud. Fucking knackered, buzzing, zinged and riddled wae the fear. Perfect time tae ditch these street wanders. Need tae get hame to dae ma painting.
“Tambourine queen, we need to get fucking hame baby cakes!”
“You’re oot eh it eh?”
Ma words are slipping and sliding right oot my vocabulary into slurredville.
“Mon, lets get you back.”
Yass caman Tam, just in time. I’m sure this is a product eh ma state that I’ve gotten mysel’ intae, but I could spy real tall folk walking in the distance across the street. Maybe twelve feet tall or so, real pastey white bastards. Lanky arms and legs anaw. I’m definitely sure Tam couldnae see it, cause I was heavily vexed, and I’m used tae seeing spooky shite after my nights out.
The world wis cauld, and every few paces I could feel mysel’ catching a tumble tae grace the sandpaper feel eh the asphalt wae a kiss oan it’s frozen cement complexion. Each time I could hear the alarmed calls eh my entourage, Tam the Bam.
“Here love you, right, but why do you always get so wrecked?”
“You wantin’ the truth, swore doon?”
“Aye gon’ tell me.”
“Cause I had this wan dream right. Terrible dream like. Nightmare even. Aw the way back when we used tae get fucked aff jaekie juice when aw the pubs were closed. I sat in my gaff, paralytic, so steaming I could barely stop the room fae spinning, ye? And you ken whit I did?”
“Whit’d you dae? Art?”
“I did fuckin’ art, aw man you ken me so well like.”
“But that’s t’e feckin’ ‘hing, ye’, I couldnae barely hud the fuckin’ pencil. But I started sketchin’. It wis like the devil seeped intae ma mind and did the sketch fur me. I woke up the next day still steaming, feeling the barest bit bamboozled, wae this massive sketch eh a demon.”
“Swear you’re oot your nut like.” Tam said bare pissing hersel’ laughing.
“Mental ‘hing is, it disappeared one day. No a fucking scoobie where it went. So I get positively wrecked, hoping I can recret, recreetat. Re-do! Re-do that bad boy masterpiece. I’m no sure. Just wae the lockdowns, it felt like the world wis ending, and it made me feel it peace, y’know? I dinny ken, miby am just chatting shite. Just trying tae skave aff the numbness eh it all, ayy.
“Any luck wae that?”
“Naw, no yet. Although I ‘hink I’m getting close.”
“No sure, just feel it.”
The truth wis, I did ken why I felt like I was close. I didnae tell Tam a bare face lie. I felt close, cause these days I had mare spectators and mare spectres when I tried painted that picture. There wis mare shadows following me hame each time I went hame. I could sense a few eh the shadows following us tonight. The blackouts were getting mare frequent as well.
We reached ma gaff, nd I invited Tam up fur either the opportunity tae call a taxi, or an afters. Whitever tickled our fancy eh. Mind you, I could tell wae the fear hinging over me that mare drink wid send me spiralling bad. I clenched the railing eh the stair well to ensure I didnae succumb tae a late night tumble doon several flights. Tam maybe clocked ma instability, and I could feel Tam’s airm trying tae guide me tae the front door. I wondered if Tam could feel the shadows trying tae guide her. They defo were in the stairwell, ah kent that.
I wis that fucked I could barely find my flat, nd I’m sure Tam only managed to find the right wan by using invitations to pres aff eh auld messages. I whipped ma key fae where I had it stashed and littered cash oan my doorstep as I did so. I shanked and stabbed the key intae the keyhole, and managed tae make entry efter a heavily laboured tussle and ruckus wae the front door. The hallway welcomed us in fae the gutter, daeing so with a ear wrenching silence, so loud a difference fae the clubs and bars eh the raving sesh that preceded it. The moon slashed into the hall fae the windae peering into the hoose fae the backgreen, spilling a carpet eh lunar light as a doormat tae the gaff. We crossed the threshold, finally separated fae the outside.
Before ah left ma hoose it wis dark inside, and I felt numb tae the feeling eh it all. Despite the coal laced blackness eh the witching hour, the house felt fuller eh company, even if Tam dinny come hame wae me. As if some cunt fae the corner was whispering. Like they were saying:
“You will feel every’hing…”
My nose started bleeding like fuck, but at this point I just let it gush. Nout that’s worth daeing at this urgent minute. Every’hing felt bad right now. I didnae worry though, cause I kent it wis only going tae get wae worse.
This piece is primarily written in the Scots vernacular typical to Edinburgh youths, particularly that of the working class. That being said, it likely also includes influences from youth slang and further afield due to the influences of social media and general mixing of accents and dialects of different regions as a result of Edinburgh’s diverse student population. That being said and somewhat accounting for this, the focus was to capture the strongest iteration of the Scots vernacular that’s native to Edinburgh. Whilst it is highly likely that this vernacular is far from being the most prolific in Edinburgh, it is still present despite many likely not speaking it with the fullest intensity as demonstrated in this piece. That being said, this intensity is not completely unheard of, and indeed there are some that do speak with this level of distinctiveness.
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