Tag Archives: creative writing

#DiceGames: Day One

4 Jun

 Prompt: a moustached giraffe, ice skates, the Isle of Man.

(Disclaimer: This is my first foray back into flash fiction since exams, essays, and generally trying not to fail my degree took over my life. Be gentle with me!)


‘Welcome to the beautiful Isle of Man,’ the sign proclaims in peeling yellow letters, the first thing I see as I  step off the ferry. I blink at it, bemused. What am I doing here? And is that…a giraffe?

I close my eyes briefly, trying to clear my foggy head, but when I open them it is all still there: the sign, the fairground in the distance, the giraffe. Still bemused, I make my way over to it, only to nearly fall over in shock when it greets me with a cheery “Good day, madam!”

I am speechless, taking in the sight of this talking giraffe, which upon closer inspection is wearing a suit, a top hat, and a monocle, and sporting a rather fetching handlebar moustache. The mouth underneath that moustache is looking decidedly irritated actually, and soon the giraffe speaks again.

“Good day, madam!” He repeats, the cheer sounding a little more forced. “My name is Gareth, and I will be your tour guide for the duration of your stay on the beautiful Isle of Man!”

I can’t help it. As soon as I open my mouth, a snort of laughter escapes.”Gareth?” I splutter incredulously.

Gareth sighs. “I didn’t choose it, you understand? If I had, I would have been named something much more respectable, like Horace. But no, giraffes have to have names which begin with the  letter ‘g’ and so Gareth I became.”

I’m dying to point out that Horace is no better a name than Gareth, but I keep quiet, figuring that I’ve caused enough offence for one day. Besides, Gareth is already talking again, outlining the day’s itinerary. It sounds jam-packed. And more than a little crazy.

“And then in the evening…” he’s saying now. “…we can go ice-skating! Do you like ice-skating? I love it!”

I’m just trying to envisage what an ice-skating giraffe would look like when another strange thing happens (as if I hadn’t had enough of those already today). It’s as if all of the colour begins to drain from the world, and in the distance a voice is calling my name.

“Jenny!” It repeats insistently. “Jenny, can you open your eyes for me?”

Baffled at this, for I’m sure that my eyes are already open, I am nonetheless able to obey, and see a figure standing over me, dressed in what looks like a pair of baggy green pyjamas.

“I’m Dr. Phillips.” She says soothingly. “I know that you might be a little groggy from the anaesthesia, but I want you to know that the operation was a complete success.”

“Where’s Gareth?” I croak out, my hold on reality still tenuous at best.

“Gareth?” The doctor’s brow creases in confusion and I realise my mistake. “There isn’t a Gareth here. I can call him for you if you like? Or Susan’s outside, I can get her to come in?”

I shake my head weakly, allowing sleep to pull me back under. If I’m lucky, I might be back on the Isle of Man in time for the ice-skating.

#DearValentine Week Four: She Smiled

26 Feb

Prompt: Surgical tools, a car, the countryside. This was also inspired, in no small part, by my addiction to Grey’s Anatomy.


She Smiled

Most people would be afraid if they found a complete set of surgical tools in the back of their boyfriend’s car. Actually, afraid is something of an understatement. Most people would either call the police, run for the hills, or do both simultaneously.

But, there being no hills in the vicinity (it was Norfolk, after all), she simply smiled, retrieved her lip gloss – the loss of which had caused her to find the tools in the first place – recovered the tools with the cloth, and went inside to make dinner.

The next day, when he suggested they go for a drive, she didn’t panic. Didn’t imagine her body lying in a shallow grave, the looks on her parents’ faces when her picture appeared on the evening news. She smiled, she accepted, and she sat in the front seat, determinedly not thinking about what she had uncovered the day before.

Eventually they stopped. It was a field, that was all she knew, and this part of Norfolk was mainly fields so that didn’t exactly help her with getting her bearings. She wasn’t worried though. She smiled, sat on the blanket which he spread out on the slightly damp grass, and made small talk about the shapes of the fluffy clouds floating above them.

Eventually he stopped talking and gave her an unfathomable look.

“I’m just going back to the car.” He said. “I won’t be long.”

She just smiled.

True to his word, he reappeared after a few minutes, hands behind his back. He looked at her, spread out on the blanket, still smiling, and his face fell.

“What?” She asked. Her tone wasn’t accusatory, it was simply amused.

“You know.” He said dejectedly. “Don’t you?”

She kept smiling, bit down on her bottom lip, and nodded almost imperceptibly. He groaned.

“It was supposed to be a surprise!”

He held out his hands. In one was the bundle of surgical tools, in the other a bunch of bananas.

“I knew how worried you were about our first day, and I wanted to make you feel better. One of the second years suggested this….and why are you still smiling?”

She laughed at the irritation in his voice, and pulled him down beside her. And she kept smiling afternoon, as they performed life-saving surgery on the bananas and quizzed each other on medical terminology. She had known better than to be afraid of surgical equipment. She was a trainee doctor after all.

#Dear Valentine Challenge Week Two: Remembering

11 Feb

Prompt: a box of chocolates, plane tickets, the Eiffel Tower.


Remembering

She couldn’t believe that he’d actually remembered. It had been her dream ever since she was a little girl, something which she thought could only happen in the movies, but which she’d fantasised about anyway.

Still, it had managed to remain safely within the confines of her imagination for years, not even shared with her closest friends. Until she had had too must “champagne” (air quotes heavily in use) at the office Christmas party and had, in the space of two minutes and thirty seconds, disclosed her most carefully guarded secret. She hadn’t really expected him to remember though, at least not in such detail.

The box of chocolates in their innocent gold wrapping, a seemingly unimaginative Valentine’s Day gift. The plane tickets nestling beneath the bottom layer, discovered only when the chocolates had all been eaten. The candlelit dinner on the top level of the Eiffel Tower, with the carpet of lights stretching out below them and the string quartet playing quietly in the corner. The ring in the champagne glass (real champagne this time, no air quotes required). The promise of forever.

Her dream proposal. She hadn’t been able to believe it.

Couldn’t believe not only that he’d remembered, and after all this time, but that he’d given it to another woman.

Perhaps it was time to stop believing in fairy tales.

 

#DearValentine Challenge Week One: Office Gossip

5 Feb

Somehow, I managed to miss the beginning of ‘Timony Souler’s new writing challenge, #DearValentineBut although I’m too late to sign up properly, I only missed the posting date of the first prompt by a day, so I decided to participate anyway. This week’s prompt was: a note, a photograph, the docks.


Office Gossip

It’s all that anyone in the office can talk about, unsurprisingly really. Why on earth would Barry, who wears string vests under his suit jackets, chews with his mouth open, and seems incapable of continuing a conversation for longer than thirty seconds, why would he have a picture of a beautiful woman on his desk?

“Maybe it’s his sister?” Someone suggests, but this suggestion is quickly shot down. How could that gorgeous creature possibly be related to Barry?

“Maybe he’s stalking her.” This whisper spreads across the office, and heads nod in agreement. It can be the only explanation.

Emily, the giggly girl who was hired to be the boss’s assistant, but who seems to do nothing but gossip and dispense phony relationship advice, creeps over to the desk and studies the photograph. “There’s a note on the back!” She announces, as the assembled crowd hold their breath. “I think it’s a love letter!”

There’s a collective gasp, some quiet murmuring, and then someone speaks up. “He probably faked it.” The voice is malicious, it belongs to Roberta in Accounts, who hasn’t had a date in thirty years and probably never will again. “He just wants us to think he has an admirer. Why else would he have left it out there for everyone to see?”

More quiet murmurings. No-one likes Barry, but no-one much likes Roberta either, so they’re reluctant to pick sides.

“Well we’ll soon see.” Emily declares, with the expected giggle. “According to this note, he’s meeting her at the docks tonight. If he comes in looking like the cat that’s got the cream, then we’ll know that it wasn’t made up.”

But Barry doesn’t come into work the next day. In fact, he doesn’t come into work ever again. And when, a few weeks later, the body of a fat man in in a suit jacket and a string vest is pulled out of the water at the docks, the whispering in the office quietens guiltily. Only for a day or two, though.

#Nightgale Challenge Week 4: The Journal

26 Jan

PROMPT : Writing is Immortality

Keats – “But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retarts: Already with thee! Tender is the night, And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,”(Ode To a Nightingale)

(For the first three installments in this mini-series, see A Cure For Death, Dinnertime Conversation, and The Churchyard.)


The Journal

I stand in the doorway of the room, the room that was my sister’s. The room that bears no trace of her ever having lived there, apart from the book with the faded leather cover which rests on the crisply-folded linen sheets. Swallowing, I perch on the bed beside it, and cautiously touch the cover.

Two nights before, Elisabeth had been in a strange mood, methodically filling the pages of the little tome, hurried and yet oddly serene. The next morning she had been gone, leaving only the book behind. I flip open the cover, and see an inscription in her handwriting, clear and smooth but with a tendency to disregard the lines.

“To be deciphered only if I should fail in my quest.” I read, feeling a growing dread in the pit of my stomach. “For while I am still able to die, these words will live on forever, and allow anyone who wishes to continue this pursuit to do so.”

Fingers trembling, I turn the page. I do not know for certain if Elisabeth has ‘failed in her quest’, but I know my sister, and I don’t believe that she would have left the book unless she believed that failure was likely. But as my eyes fall on the next page I give a sound that is part-chuckle, part-groan. ‘Decipher’ was the correct word; the book consists entirely of diagrams and drawings, explained with a series of complicated symbols, the like of which I have never seen before in my life. This book may contain the cure for death, but to understand it one would first have to understand Elisabeth.

Sounds

20 Jan

This is a little something which I wrote in this week’s creative writing session. The prompt was “the most beautiful sound in the universe”.


Every day I am surrounded by sounds. The whistle of the kettle boiling the water for my morning coffee, the rustle of the newspaper as my husband turns its pages, the stomp of my son’s shoe-clad feet on the stairs. Outside on the street there are yet more sounds: horns blaring, doors slamming, people shouting. After a while it all turns into one indiscernable roar of noise. I cannot escape it, even if I plug my ears. It just continues, the sounds reverberating inside my brain.

Sometimes, when it’s late at night and I can’t sleep, I go downstairs and sit at the kitchen table. Even then, alone in the dark, there are sounds. My husband’s snoring, audible despite the heavy oak door between us. The slow steady beep of the smoke detector. Dripping, from the tap which we never seem to have time to fix. An occasional wailing siren, splitting the night in two.

It is at times like these that I close my eyes and remember. I remember my childhood, in a village so small that the local bus was barely more than an oversized people-carrier. I remember sitting at my bedroom window, staring in the direction of the city, where the life and the energy and the people were, and longing to be a part of it. I remember the silence of the nights there, broken only by the birds singing as daylight approached. I remember that birdsong, the only sound in an otherwise silent world. The most beautiful sound in the universe.

Nightgale Challenge Week Three: The Churchyard

19 Jan

January 19th – PROMPT To Die and become one with Nature

Keats – “Darkling I listen, for many a time, I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die;”(Ode To A Nightingale)

(For the  first two installments in this mini-series, see A Cure For Death and Dinnertime Conversation).


The Churchyard 

A few weeks pass, and Elisabeth doesn’t mention her musings on death. I even start to think that she may have lost interest in it, out of character though that would be. And then I find her in the churchyard.

There is a large tree there, opposite the patch of earth where they buried Old Man Johnson just three weeks ago, and she is seated under it. There is a notebook in her lap, but she isn’t writing in it, and she flips it shut as I approach.

“Hiding your secrets?” I ask, half-teasing, half-wistful, and receive nothing but a smile in response, as she strokes the soft leather of the cover.

“What are you doing here?” I try a different line of enquiry, unsure as to whether I actually want a response, but unable to stop myself from searching for one.

“Thinking about the bodies.” She replies softly. “They become a part of the ground, and plants grow up from the ground. The same plant on every grave. Isn’t that interesting?”

It is interesting, and, I notice as I look around the graveyard, absolutely true. The same plant on every grave. What are the chances of that?

Nightgale Challenge Week Two: Dinnertime Conversation

12 Jan


Today is the second day of  Stevie McCoy‘s #Nightgale Challenge, a four week creative writing challenge based on immortality and Romanticism. Today’s prompt was this:

 Immortality comes to you, you do not go to Immortality

Shelley- “Why dost thou pass away and leave our state, This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?… No voice from sublimer world hath ever, To sage or poet these responses given – Therefore the name of God and ghosts and Heaven, Remain the records of their vain endeavour,”(Hymn To Intellectual Beauty)

(N.B. This piece is a sequel to A Cure for Death?, the piece which I wrote for Week 1 of the #Nightgale Challenge. I would advise you to read that first, if you haven’t already.)


Dinnertime Conversation

“Where were you today, Elisabeth?” Mother asks sternly, ladling stew onto our plates. She is seated at the table, chin resting in her cupped hands, staring out of the window.

“Elisabeth.” I nudge her, breaking her from the trance. “Mother asked you a question.”

She lifts her chin, her startling blue eyes focusing on my face. “At the Johnson house.” She replies, her voice low and almost sing-song as she recounts the tale. “Old Man Johnson is dying you know. I wanted to see what it was like.”

“Elisabeth!” Mother scolds. “What a thing to say! And I highly doubt that the Johnsons appreciated your company!”

“They did.” Elisabeth replies, eerily self-assured. “They said that all friends were welcome, and Old Man Johnson liked me.”

“I talked to the priest.” She continues, as Mother buries her face in her hands. “He said that Immortality comes to you, you do not go to it. He says that we’ll all be granted the gift of eternal life in Heaven.”

“And?” I prompt.

“I told him he was wrong.” She shrugs. “I don’t want eternal life in Heaven, I want it here. And I’m going to find a way to get it.”

Resolution Confusion Writing Challenge: Anger Management

10 Jan

I’ve been so wrapped up in reading for (and distracting myself from) my dissertation, that I almost forgot to post my entry for ‘Timony Souler’s Resolution Confusion challenge! The challenge was to take one of six resolutions and make it go wrong, and my resolution was:

5. I will go to anger management classes.

I’ve noticed that most of my flash fiction pieces end up as a fragment of a scene, so I think that I need to set myself another challenge to write a proper self-contained short story. I’d be interested to know what other people think though.


Anger Management

“So how did this happen?” Sadie asked, dabbing gingerly at the cut on my forehead with the alcohol wipe. For a trainee nurse, she was surprisingly squeamish when it came to the sight of blood.

“It’s all Emma’s fault.” I grumbled, wincing and pulling away as she attempted to cleanse the wound. “Her and her stupid anger management classes!”

“Oh?” Sadie’s face, a picture of concern only a moment before, was now taking on a pink tinge thanks to the effort of containing her amusement. “So they didn’t go well then?”

“I went to one.” I explained, in what may possibly have been an exaggeratedly long-suffering tone. “The instructor made us sit on the floor for two hours doing breathing techniques. Two hours, Sadie! I’ve been breathing perfectly well on my own for the past twenty years, I didn’t need her telling me that I was doing it wrong!”

“Maybe…” Sadie began, before trailing off when she saw the expression on my face. “Never mind. What happened next? One failed anger management class does not explain why you’re bleeding all over my kitchen.”

“Well I tried to explain what a disaster the class was to Emma.” I continued. “But she wasn’t having any of it. Said that I’d made this resolution for her, and she wanted me to see it through.  And then she said that if I really didn’t think the classes were working for me, then I should explain why in a calm and rational way.”

Sadie cocked an eyebrow at me. I glowered back.

“Sorry, John.” She said, pressing a bandage to my face and securing it with what looked like masking tape. What was wrong with plasters, that was what I wanted to know. “But this does not look like the result of a calm and rational conversation.”

“Oh but it was!” I defended myself. “It was very calm and extremely rational…right up until the moment I punched him.”

Sadie blinked, her expression the same one that she wore whenever I explained my messes to her. It was the ‘tell me you did not just say that’ face.

“It might still have all been OK.” I continued, not wanting to deprive her of the full explanation. “If he hadn’t had anger issues of his own. And a black belt in karate.”

Nightgale Challenge Week One: A Cure for Death?

5 Jan


Today is the first day of  Stevie McCoy‘s #Nightgale Challenge, a four week creative writing challenge based on immortality and Romanticism. Today’s prompt was this:

Through Hemlock

Keats: “That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim:”(Ode To A Nightingale)


A Cure for Death?

She is in the woods when I catch up to her, sitting cross-legged on the dusty ground, completely relaxed despite the scene that she has just caused. When she is in one of these moods she cares little about anything but her own disjointed thoughts.

“What are you doing?” I ask her, knowing already that the answer will be far from satisfactory but needing to ask regardless, desperate for even one small glimpse into the bizarre workings of her mind.

“Thinking.” She responds dreamily, her eyes fixed on some far off point in the distance, on something only she can see. “About death. It seems such a waste, doesn’t it? There must be some cure for it.”

“A cure…for death?” Even for her this is strange. Strange and even more unwarranted than usual.

“Yes.” She is impatient now, as she so often is when others fail to understand her. “Something right under our noses, no doubt. Probably a plant.” She pulls a leaf absently from the specimen beside her, twisting it between her slim fingers.

“Well, not that one!” I snap, impatient myself, tired of her inability to reside on the same planet as the rest of us. “That’s hemlock. It’s poisonous.”

“Oh?” She shrugs, unconcerned, and the leaf spirals to the ground. “No matter. Another one perhaps. There must be thousands of plants in here.”

And then she takes off again, a blur of dirty smock and unravelling pigtails as she disappears into the gloom. I sigh and sit on the ground in her place, picking up the discarded hemlock leaf. My sister, my wild, impulsive, untameable sister, may have a point. If there are plants in here which can kill, why should there not be some which grant eternal life?