For a long time now, my two main hobbies have been writing short stories and taking lots of photographs. It therefore makes perfect sense to me to start a photo prompt challenge of my own. I will post my first challenge this Sunday, and hope you’ll join me in writing a response to it.
You can post absolutely anything in response to my challenges, from poetry and short stories, to photos of your own. If you want to know more about “The Sunday Scrawl” challenge, you can visit its page here.
Thanks for reading; I’m looking forward to hearing from you next week!
Here’s another story inspired by the photo prompt challenge run by Creative Writing Ink. I absolutely adore this week’s picture; it’s so beautiful, but at the same time conveys a kind of severity that’s a little scary – maybe that’s why this story takes a darker turn? Enjoy!
The distant crash of waves told Kayla they’d arrived. She didn’t look up, even as her brother parked up the car and slipped wordlessly out into the sunset. If he saw her looking, he’d make some comment about her interfering, and she didn’t want to interfere. She wanted to go home.
Hugging her knees in the back of the car, she chanced a glance out of the window. The square-shouldered shadow of her brother was already moving behind the trees that concealed the path to the water. She watched him hesitate for a moment, and then dip out of sight.
She leant back in her seat, wishing she was anywhere but here. By now, her brother would have joined his friends on the sand, a beer would be shoved into his hands and he would be circling around some innocent – would it be a boy, or another girl, this time? She didn’t want to know. She was just lucky that his friends didn’t know that she was out here, hiding in the dark. Loyal to her brother though they might be, she highly doubted that their loyalty would stretch so far as to refusing to beat up his sister. Any excuse to cause pain, that’s all they wanted.
She kicked the front seat angrily, digging her heel into the soft material. She wanted to be home, snuggled on the sofa with a book or a film. Her brother only dragged her into this because it would look suspicious, otherwise; that was the price of having a twin. Their mother would worry if Kayla didn’t go to all the same parties that Martin did. Well, maybe she should worry. Maybe it was about time.
A sudden scream made Kayla sit up abruptly and reach instinctively for the door handle. She slipped out into the half-light, squinting towards the source of the noise. It hadn’t sounded like it had come from the beach below, but from he heath on the opposite side. She whirled about in the dark, fear clouding all other thoughts. Was there someone else out here with her? She took a couple of steps towards the heath, the mossy grass cloaking her frightened footsteps.
The night was silent now. It was almost as though Kayla had imagined the sound, but she knew she hadn’t. She continued to stumble onward, her feet slipping slightly as her path took her slightly downhill. It was warmer away from the beach, and there were more cars parked down here; she supposed they were her brother’s friends’. She hesitated, looking nervously back over her shoulder. Night had fallen almost entirely now, the stars and moon above her providing only a pale, ghostly light for her to see by. Any number of people could be skulking by those cars, and yet Kayla felt sure that their owners would be down at the beach by now. They wouldn’t want to miss all the fun, she thought bitterly, as she took a few more steps forward.
Then she froze. There was someone stood by one of the cars, but it wasn’t one of her brother’s dumb friends. It was a girl, about her age, with long, dark hair and deep, green eyes. She was watching Kayla from over the top of the large book she held. Then, smiling, she returned to her reading, her eyes flicking furiously across the page.
Kayla swallowed, clearing her throat slightly as she approached the girl.
“Who are you?” she asked rather bluntly, coming to rest on the car besides the girl. She smiled again, but, still, she didn’t speak, and she didn’t put down her book. “Do you know someone down at the beach?” Kayla pressed, looking hard into the girl’s eyes, but she didn’t reply; she only smiled and continued to read.
Kayla’s eyes fell on the cover of the book, taking in its strange symbols and old, crumbing spine. She wondered wildly if the girl even spoke English. Perhaps she was just some innocent tourist who’d wondered too far from one of the nearby campsites.
Kayla had just about decided that it was time for her to go, when the girl moved closer to her, holding up the book for Kayla to see. Her eyes fell on an old photograph of a pretty, dark-haired girl dressed in leotard and tights. Beside the picture, was a cutting from an old newspaper. With a nod from her mysterious companion, Kayla began to read, scanning the headline, which read, Olympian Gymnast found Dead. The article was about sixteen-year-old Jessica Marlin, who had died seven years ago, found beaten and raped at the bottom of a gutter. Kayla remembered hearing about Jessica on the news, although she’d only been small at the time. It had been awful; she’d been one of the country’s high hopes for the upcoming Olympics, but she’d never made it there. Some thug had killed her before she’d gotten the chance. He was in prison now, of course; it hadn’t taken them long to catch him, but that hadn’t brought Jessica back.
Breathing rather heavily now, Kayla looked back at the girl, who was fiddling at something at the front of her coat.
“Do you know what’s happening on the beach tonight?” she demanded, stepping away from the girl slightly. “Do you know what they’re doing?”
The girl merely smiled, undoing her coat to reveal, underneath a thin cardigan, a shining leotard, glinting by the light of the moon. Kayla stumbled backwards, losing her balance and falling to the ground. Her head hit the uneven earth with a horrible smack, causing the world to start spinning out of control. She rolled over, coughing violently and clutching to the ground for support.
By the time the pain had cleared enough for Kayla to open her eyes again, the girl and her book had vanished from the car. Whether they’d ever really been there, Kayla would never know, but, what she did know, as she pulled out her phone and glanced in the direction of the beach, was that she was really, truly scared, and that she had been for a long time now. Swallowing hard, she dialled the number that she should have called nearly a year ago. She bit her lip as the phone began to ring, and then,
This 100 word story is for the purposes of The Friday Fictioneers Challenge that runs on a weekly basis. You can read the other entries for the competition by clicking on the blue froggy button at the bottom of this post.
Some people bury their secrets in the past, but not my mother. She buries her secrets in a jar of marbles. She doesn’t know I’ve seen them, and I’m not sure I’ll ever tell her, but up on the windowsill, next to the old candlestick and forgotten paintings she did long ago, sits her jar.
I’d noticed that someone had moved all the marbles round, so I’d stuck my hand inside. I’d seen the old photographs and crumbled drawings. Now, I feel almost ashamed; I feel like I’ve crossed some line somewhere and stumbled upon her soul.
This short piece of writing is for the purposes of the competition at Ad Hoc Fiction. With only a 150 word count and a weekly word prompt, this week’s word being “hinge”, this competition gives its winner free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award, for a chance to win £1000!
The corridor looms before me as I creep on, strange shadows dancing around the corners. I know that if he hears me now, it’ll be over. I’ll never get away. So, I step carefully over the broken floorboards and begin my steady progress down the stairs, hardly daring to breathe.
The second stair lets out a deafening creak. I turn, staring hard at the bedroom door, but the house is silent. I breathe again, creeping down to the hallway below. There, I straighten and begin to fiddle with the lock on the door, but it’s stiff.
Another noise makes me freeze. Was that the sound of a hinge as it was pried open? I ignore it; this house is always making strange noises.
I finally manage to force the lock across the door, but before I can open it, I feel a cold, gnarled hand pressing down on my shoulder.
There’s a funny thing about short stories; we all seem to read them and many of us write them, but they don’t seem to merit the same level of renown compared to novels, plays or poems. I have therefore decided to start reading more of the most famous short stories, reviewing them alongside my usual book reviews, because I honestly believe that the short story can be just as powerful, and just as effective, as a novel.
The name James Joyce is a famous one, yet this is mainly due to his most well-known novel, Ulysses, which is a modern parallel of Homer’s The Odyssey, a review of which you can read here. What less people seem to be aware of, however, is the collection of short stories, The Dubliners, that granted Joyce his fame. Published in 1914, these fifteen tales depict the lives of everyday people who live in and around Dublin, Joyce’s place of birth.
This was a time when Irish Nationalism was at its peak, its residents seeking to reaffirm their nationality to stop their culture from dissipating through globalisation. This issue is, in particular, considered in the collections final, and longest story, “The Dead”. Before I go any further, however, I would like to draw your attention to this website, where you can read “The Dead” online for free. If you simply don’t have the time, though, here’s a brief overview:
The majority of the story is set during a dinner party, where the main character, Gabriel Conroy, moves about the guests, chatting, dancing and providing insights to the messages that Joyce intertwines with his narrative. After the party, Gabriel and his wife head over to a hotel where they plan to stay the night. At this point, Gabriel is beginning to feel a “keen pang of lust” for his wife, yet Gretta refuses his advances, announcing that a song she heard at the party reminded her of a past lover of hers, Michael Furey. As Gabriel struggles with his shock and disappointment, Gretta goes on to reveal that Furey died when he was very young, and that she feels responsible for his death. “The Dead” ends with Gabriel reflecting on the divides between life and death, considering his position in the world.
Although the main theme of this story is undoubtedly death, there are many other ideas explored in “The Dead”, such as, in particular, the topos of Irish Nationalism:
“And why do you go to France and Belgium,” said Miss Ivors, “instead of visiting your own land?”
“Well,” said Gabriel, “it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.”
“And haven’t you got your own to keep in touch with – Irish?” asked Miss Ivors.
“O, to tell you the truth,” retorted Daniel suddenly, “I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!”
Gabriel is called a “West Briton”, which is taken as a serious insult, for merely writing for a particular newspaper, which reveals the fragile attitudes of nationalism at the time. However, the accusations put to Gabriel go even further than this; when he is first introduced, he is wiping snow from his galoshes, and Gretta later reiterates their importance by suggesting that Gabriel “makes” her wear them. Aside from this comment about patriarchal power, these galoshes, as Brenden O’Hehir remarks in this essay extract, are symbolic of everything that is different about Gabriel; he is the exotic, educated gentleman who, through the course of the narrative, begins to realise that he no longer belongs with the “ignorant old” nationalists around him.
He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning, for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers. Some quotation that they would recognise from Shakespeare or from the Melodies would be better.
The story considers other issues, too, such as religion; it is common knowledge that Joyce, although he was Christened a Catholic, not only drifted from the religion, but came to hate it. He suggested that the Catholic order was part of the problem in the loss of Irish identity, and this is revealed in “The Dead” through two, separate comments. The first regards the place of women in the choir, Aunt Kate complaining about how her passion for singing was being threatened as the Church sought to “turn out the women out of the choirs that have slaved there all their lives and put in little whipper-snappers of boys over their heads”. This is not only a comment about women, but also a loss of tradition as the old is replaced by the new. The second comment more directly mocks the customs of the Catholic church, as the monks are described sleeping in their “coffins” each night. This appears to be a comment about religion not only preventing nationalism, but keeping it from moving forwards, as these monks are presented as the living dead, preventing Irish culture from adapting in a new, modern way.
I will leave you with a quote that represents one of the main messages of the story: whilst it is important to remember the dead, we cannot let these losses drag us down in life, preventing us from moving on. Everything needs to adapt, even Irish culture, and there is nothing to be gained from hanging onto something that can’t be changed.
Our path through life is strewn with many such sad memories: and were we to brood upon them always we could not find the heart to go on bravely with our work among the living. We have all of us living duties and living affections which claim, and rightly claim, our strenuous endeavours.
This week’s photo prompt from Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers demanded a fair bit of thinking about; the picture could have taken me in several directions this time around, but I finally settled on a story that came to 174 words, one word within the limit. Enjoy!
I stand at the very edge of the tower block, my eyes scanning the streets below. I can see them all from here, whether they’re strolling through the suburbs or rushing about their business in the bustling streets beyond. They never look up at me. They’re too intent on their own destinations to give a thought for anything happening around them.
Two months back, a woman had jumped from this very building, casting her life aside as she’d dived into oblivion. No one had noticed her before it’d been too late. No one had saved her.
I move a little closer to the edge, the toes of one foot now hanging off entirely. I wonder what she’d been thinking as she’d stood here. Had she been lonely? Or had she been relieved as she’d given up the fight?
I move away from the edge once more, mind resolute. Never again will I let this happen in my home. I will watch for them. I will wait, and when they need me, I’ll be there.
I’ve recently discovered yet another writing prompt challenge; one of the best things about WordPress has to be how many of these challenges there truly are! If you don’t normally do these challenges, why not have a go? They can be about absolutely anything that comes to mind when you look at the below picture, so long as, according to the rules of this challenge, your response is 200 words or less! I hope you enjoy my little story!
She travelled by the thickest cloak of night, her head bent low against the rain. It bounced off the concrete and drenched her ankles, but she couldn’t let such trivial things impede her progress. She was only safe, so long as she moved quickly. If anyone looked out now, they would only see a shadow whipping past their window. They would never know it was her, she told herself as she rounded yet another corner.
Turning into the next street, she slowed as she approached The White Horse Inn, withdrawing her bundle from her robes and placing it securely under its roofed entrance. She stepped back a couple of paces to look at her child, reminding herself why she was doing this.
If there was one thing that was sacred in this town, it was its law-abiding nature. The law wasn’t just a set of rules to these people – it was the word of God – and any person, anyone at all, would happily turn her over to the authorities. She was letting this child go, so that she would be free from accusations. She thought of the toddler she kept locked away at home, and turned away from her baby.
This is my second attempt at Sammi Cox’s weekly writing challenges! Each weekend, she posts both a word and a picture for writers to attempt either her prose or poetry prompt. This week, the word was “mimic” and the prose challenge was to tell a story in less than 50 words!
They dance and they play, rolling over one another as they rejoice in their freedom. I watch from below, my limbs heavy and eyes weary. How I wish I could mimic these clouds; how I wish that I, too, could be free, but I can’t. I’m trapped.
I would like to thank Elsie Hagley for nominating me for my first ever blog award! If you haven’t checked out her blog before, please do so; she publishes a truly amazing range of posts, including weekly challenges, recipes and poems! This is a blog that I’ve followed for a good long while now and I always enjoy reading Elsie’s posts.
Each nominee must thank the person who nominated them and link to their blog.
They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image.
They must add seven facts about themselves.
They should nominate fifteen people to do the award!
Seven Facts about Me:
I’m currently in attendance at the University of Exeter, studying towards a degree in English Literature.
My first ever story, written when I was five, was called “Lucy and the 100 cows”.
I’m very passionate about animal welfare and have been a pescatarian for fourteen years now (this means that I eat fish but not meat).
I am the proud owner of two cats, Margo and Mitch, and absolutely adore them! If you check out my Instagram page, you might see an occasional picture of them popping up from time to time.
One of my favourite things to do is simply to go for a long walk in the middle of nowhere; the more lost I get, the better!
I have quite a bad allergy to egg and so can’t eat most of the desserts/bakery products that are out there! If nothing else, this keeps me healthy.
Some people love Marmite and some people hate it, but as for me, I’ve never even tried it!
If you’re looking for a new blog to follow, whether they’re a beginner or old-timer, these are the blogs that I highly recommend you check out!