Thursday, 31 December 2009
From 'The Dawning', to be published January 23rd!!!
Wishing Everyone an Excellent and Exciting New Year - may 2010 bring you all that you desire, and more xx
Monday, 21 December 2009
Charlie, in the Snow
The snow is falling, white and wet, in the way of snow. I watch it settle in her eyelashes and in her hair. I watch her watching it.
My little sister. Charlie.
Big, pale, blue eyes (the blue of winter shadows, the blue caught beneath thick ice). Pink, parted, cupid lips. Just seven years old as she stands there amidst the sparkle, with her small, soft arms lifted towards the blackness beyond it all, her mittens dangling from her wrists.
The mitten-strings are invisible so that the gloves themselves appear to float alone like some magic trick. Small, lilac clouds. And I notice how Charlie is swaying, just perceptibly, in her moon-boots. I stare at her woolly knees and at her blond hair and her rosy cheeks and I think how people are right; she is truly “Angelic”. She doesn’t belong in this world; everyone agrees.
Ever since she learnt to talk, she has told us herself: God is here. Inside me.
Of course she was the first to know. Mom never told her to say such things, despite what certain folk imagine. The truth, I think, is that Mom is actually a little scared of Charlie, underneath. But then aren’t we all a bit afraid of her in our secret, separate ways? And that’s right, isn’t? Shouldn’t holiness, after all, be at least partly frightening? Awesome – I think, and I don’t use that word the way that other kids would.
As I stare at Charlie, I try to see it, that hard place, that holiness inside her. A thread of burning ice amidst that softness. It’s probably clearest when she’s Healing, whether she’s illuminated by the angled spotlights and generous candle-dazzle surrounding our Church’s altar, or caught within the smaller, nervy flicker and fug of a Chosen sickroom. Perhaps you might glimpse the Truth inside her then, as she lays on her small, splayed hands. It’s there in the pinched concentration of her doll-like features, in the increased frosting of her gaze. A kind of ghost-light, which further enhances that wintry blue, while the Uncured groan and shudder underneath her. When they finally give in, weeping, to her shivering touch.
It’s because you can see Him moving through her, Mom says. His Holy Spirit.
But I can’t see that coldness in Charlie now. That icy flame is nowhere close.
Right now, with her head flung back and her gold hair pouring and glimmering past her fallen hood – right now, as she catches flakes like feathers on her lapping tongue, my kid-sister looks like any child. Like any seven year old, lost simply to the magic of snow, to that dizzying, obliterating tumble. And usually, even when she’s not Healing or Praying, when she’s not ablaze, but meant to be simply playing, or resting, Charlie’s expression remains careful, guarded. It’s an old-lady look, almost – but not tonight. Tonight, she stands gawping and open before the whirling sky.
Dumbstruck, I think, and maybe that’s why I dare to bend to my knees amidst the wetness and scoop up a handful, packing it tight against my already-stinging, blotching palms.
And “Charlie!” I call in a teasing voice, as if this is something I always do, something quite natural to us – as I draw back my arm and throw.
The snowball hits her squarely in the middle of her back. It drops in satisfying cream-pie strings from the ends of her shining hair. And I’m immediately gasping, bent with laughter at my own audacity; I’m helpless as she turns, still caught in a kind of halting, jarring wonder, towards me, her blue eyes wider than ever.
“Hey,” she calls, “Hey you, Sammy!”
But through the stars, through the shattering glass piercing my own hot, wet vision, I see that her flushed face remains open, that her red mouth remains open; she’s grinning back – and then she’s crouching against the thick white, packing her own ball in return. And she doesn’t pause to pull her mittens on, she’s too determined. She’s going to get me too – except that then, when she straightens, something happens. Her shoulders hunch as she lifts her face and sees not just me, I understand that – but the Church looming over us, its relentless light glaring in garish patches at my back. Painting trapdoor panels in the settled snow between us.
I watch Charlie’s hand fall open. A small pink starfish. The laughter dries on my clumsy, chapping lips and my mouth feels full of stones as the whiteness slithers from her fingers.
And suddenly I see that there is perhaps nothing illuminating her gaze except that yellow from the Church windows –
Nonetheless, I bow my head as she pads past, her precise, little footsteps almost silent as she returns inside to save us all.
By Megan Taylor, December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
As well as discussing her own post-publication nerves, Shanta also discusses the experience with Anne Brooke, Fiona Robyn, and myself (not that I'm ever really scared of readers or reviewers - honest).
The feature can be found here.
Friday, 4 December 2009
And last night, I read a pre-launch extract at Nottingham Writers' Studio, alongside Steven Wilcoxson, who was promoting his fascinating debut, 'Make Less Strangers'. Everyone was hugely lovely and supportive. It was a really fun night.
And during the next couple of weeks, I'll be sent my final proofs. And we have a tentative launch date - 23rd January 2010 (which happens to be the day before my birthday)!
And it is nearly Christmas!!
I'm so happy I think my head might actually fall off.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
We signed contracts last week. I’m so happy I could pop.
I have many people to thank, and lots to do – January doesn’t seem very far away at all. But for now, here’s a brief outline of ‘The Dawning’:
It is New Year’s Eve, a time for fresh beginnings - but for each member of the fragmenting Haywood family, this night could mark the end.
With mother Stella battling depression and father Philip determined to escape, eleven-year-old Zachary and his teenage sister Nicola are forced to fend for themselves when confronted by their own worst fears.
Set against a backdrop of wintry beauty on the edge of a Peak District town, ‘The Dawning’ explores the darkness that can arise even at the heart of a family, over the course of a single devastating night.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
It was the perfect beginning to an evening spent discussing horror stories.
After we had finished being lost (I am indeed highly skilled at getting lost) I was welcomed with coffee and biscuits by the bright and lovely people of Fosseway Writers group. I'd had the honor of judging their horror short story competition and I'd been invited along to their meeting to announce the winners. It was a very enjoyable evening, great to put faces and names to all those words and to hear the entries brought to vivid, unsettling (undead) life as they were read aloud. The whole judging experience, though very tough, was hugely rewarding and I felt truly privileged to have been involved.
While the night might have pressed cold and black against the car window, the reception from Fosseway writers couldn't have been warmer. I love being around other people who love writing - it's so inspiring. Thank you tons.
Friday, 30 October 2009
“There have always been stories about the place,” she said. “Sightings of shadowy figures and sudden lights. Strange noises in the night. For a while, we even thought about including them in the brochure. Some people like that kind of thing.”
Looking back on it now that I’m older, I imagine that she was simply talking for the sake of talking, chatting to ward off the panic as the reality of what she was doing finally started to set in. I can clearly remember how her eyes flicked at me in the rear-view mirror, a dark, wet flash and then away, and how her shoulders had risen; she was practically cowering in her seat. Clinging to that wheel. And certainly not thinking straight to say the things she said.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Fiona Robyn is going to blog her next novel, Thaw, starting on the 1st of March next year. The novel follows 32 year old Ruth’s diary over three months as she decides whether or not to carry on living.
To help spread the word she’s organising a Blogsplash, where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth’s diary simultaneously (and a link to the blog).
She’s aiming to get 1000 blogs involved – if you’d be interested in joining in, email her at email@example.com or find out more information here.
Monday, 19 October 2009
It contained exactly what I’d hoped.
A pile of brand new, as-yet-unpublished short stories, each neatly printed, each writer anonymous.
I had been asked to judge a local writers’ group annual short story competition. The terrifying responsibility of the task hit me right alongside the enormous privilege. But even before I started reading, I was grinning from ear to ear.
I love competitions.
I’ve had stories short-listed in a few, including the Asham and London Writers. And I’m pretty sure that having How We Were Lost placed second in the Yeovil Prize helped to draw it to the attention of certain publishers. But I also believe competitions are hugely rewarding even without the placings or the prizes. They’re great for the discipline of constraints and regulations, and for their deadlines, and perhaps for pushing writers into attempting something new.
Tonto Books have recently announced the results of their latest short story competition, judged by the marvellous Caroline Smailes. The finalists’ anthology, ‘Even More Tonto Short Stories’ looks like it’s going to be a fantabulous collection and I wanted to add my congratulations to all the winners, but most especially to some highly talented, bloggy friends, Shanta Everington, Nik Jones and Fiona Robyn.
And to those who didn’t quite make it this time (ahem) – Congratulations too for giving it a go (-:
Friday, 9 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
We did it!
And I loved it
So I'd like to say some enormous THANK YOUs
Firstly, thank you to awesome, award winning author Nicola Monaghan, who was not only generous enough to share her reading table, but also helped so much beforehand, offering encouragement about my writing, easing my nerves and ensuring that our pieces worked so well together.
Thank you too to LeftLion for organising such a brilliant, buzzing event, to Nottingham Writers Studio for all their support, and to all the lovely, lovely people who came along to listen.
You're all fabulous.
THANK YOU TONS
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
I've been challenged to list 5 obsessions. Since my personal obsessions (wine, chocolate, daydreaming etc) aren't very exciting, I thought I'd offer 5 obsessions in my writing instead (hope that's ok) so here goes
Some features that tend to haunt my stories are -
Moving swiftly on, I'm to pass on the award and challenge to 5 others, so stand by
Sunday, 6 September 2009
I wanted him to. I asked him to.
It's freshly printed and neatly hole-punched. It sits like homework in its brand new folder. All the latest edits are in place.
The pages are crisp and clean and as-yet unscribbled on. I'm ridiculously aware of their slow slide, their rustle.
I can't be in the same room as him. I'll start watching his face - I might not be able to stop myself from asking.
And so I hover nearby, making coffee, And then more coffee. I pretend to think about the book I'm reading and the other writing I have planned. But -
He has been reading for almost two hours.
Eventually I go up to our bedroom. I rummage through the heaving shelves there and then lie on top of the covers and turn pages determinedly.
I try not to picture him doing exactly the same downstairs.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Thank you Annie for cheering me right up (-:
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
It’s been quite a weekend.
On Friday afternoon, I received my MA results. And I’ve passed. With Distinction!!!!
I have loved studying creative writing so much. I’ve learnt tons, read some absolutely brilliant original fiction and met many wonderful, supportive and inspiring people.
Having the actual marks has been like adding extra delicious fudge icing to an already lush and chocolate filled cake. Or something (in case you haven’t guessed, I’m very happy)
And then, on Saturday, I ran my workshop at Lowdham Book Festival.
We had a full house and everyone who took part was wonderful. I was a bit nervous beforehand, but then there was a lovely moment when I looked around at all these writing people and I could almost feel the crackle of words flying about their heads. Thank you so much to everyone who came along.
And then, I was whisked away for a celebration involving cocktails and cabaret.
I’m still grinning.
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Friday, 29 May 2009
I'm running a creative writing workshop at this year's Lowdham Book Festival, from 10.30 - 11.30am on Saturday 27th June.
Come along and learn how to transform childhood memories of real places into fictional settings. You might even find the beginnings of a whole new story . . .
The workshop is FREE and will take place in the Nottingham Writer's Studio tent. Book your place by calling 0115 9597947, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'd love to see you there!
In other news, I've been playing with my website. Along with information about How We Were Lost, you can now read more about my recently completed novel, Before the Light and the brand-spanking-new The Lives of Ghosts.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
This year, Salt lose their Arts Council funding. You can help them to survive by buying a single Salt title. Please visit
Or visit their blog to read more about this campaign
Sunday, 10 May 2009
For me, having some space between completing a draft and beginning to read and edit is essential. My overall perspective on my stories is shaky at the best of times, but during those final intense novel weeks, the trees have so completely overgrown the woods that it’s almost like writing in the dark.
But now, after spending some time working, playing, reading, writing a new short story, but mostly simply attempting to catch up with all the things and people I’m destined to never completely catch up with, while at the same time trying not to think about my novel at all - I’ve printed it out at long last. (293 pages - the printer was a bit grumpy about it, but finally gave in). And this morning - I opened it.
It was a shock. To say the least.
What is this story? Who told this story?
Was I honestly such a different person when I wrote this - or has some mysterious, masked author crept in and secretly rewritten my novel while my back was turned? Perhaps I was more thoroughly possessed by my Ghosts than I imagined . . .
In a way, this sense of surprise is ideal, since in order to go through the manuscript as subjectively as possible, I need to try to see it from the perspective of a reader (a crotchety, pernickety, generally quite difficult reader frequently works best), but nonetheless the gap between the novel I believed I had created and the actual story on the page before me was startling. After all, these characters have been living in my head for almost a year - yet somehow, they’ve managed to sneak off and make their own way. Even their scenery is subtly different . . .
However, after that initial jolt, when I actually allowed myself to simply read (and only read – no rewriting or corrections are allowed, not just yet!), I found my irritation giving way here and there to a grudging pleasure and then, eventually, to a dawning relief.
Well, hello there story, I thought. Nice to make your acquaintance.
I’m looking forward to finding out what you’re about to tell me next . . .
Sunday, 19 April 2009
And no one will ever read another word that I write?
(have I lost you already?)
I think that -
I’d still have the stories in my head
I’d still want to explore those people, and those places
(and especially all their secrets)
I know I’d still need the sheer escape of writing
So, I reckon that . . .
I’d still love it
I’d still write.
So that’s ok then.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
My piece about loving Wollaton Park has recently appeared on BBC Nottingham's website! Please click here if you'd like to read more . . .
Monday, 23 March 2009
Fiona not only read my novel, she has also written a review!
(Thank you Fiona)
You can find the review on her 'planting words' blog, over here . . .
Thursday, 19 March 2009
F: My novels always begin when the lead character 'appears' in my head and I start getting to know them. Violet materialised as a tall, skinny character with a brusque manner - I knew she was a workaholic, and I knew that her life was about to change in a fundamental way. As time goes on I 'get to know' my character better, and the story emerges from there. Sometimes I think I know what a novel is going to be about (I thought The Letters might be about feminism, and bodies) but it turns out to be something completely different.
M: Although this novel is far more complex and challenging than any simple ‘comfort’ tale, there is a wonderful ease about your writing, almost like stepping into a warm bath. On your blog, you have talked about ideas of being 'the typist’ - channelling words and scenes as if from somewhere outside yourself. Could you tell me a little more about this?
F: Oh, what a lovely image! I am pleased you think so. When I speak about 'just being the typist' I'm not implying that I have a direct connection with my great great aunt Jessie on a spiritual plane... It's more that the characters and the story come from my subconscious, and that my subconscious knows better than 'I' do how the characters hang together, and what their journey might be. You could also compare it to the 'small mind, big mind' concept in Buddhism, I suppose. I see my job during the first draft as getting my small mind 'out of the way' so the story can come through me. 'I' come back during later drafts to make decisions about structure, clarity, dialogue etc., but I haven't found it helpful to get this part of me out too early. It can freeze me up completely if I'm not careful.
M: I especially loved the vivid and finely wrought descriptions in ‘The Letters’ and was hugely impressed at the extent of detail surrounding your main character, Violet. How deeply did you ‘live’ Violet during the writing?
F: I suppose I carry my lead characters around in my head while I'm writing, but I'm not thinking about them all the time. Sometimes details will come to me when I'm not expecting them - I'll be driving the car and I'll realise that my character hates cheese. But often the details arise when I'm writing a scene. Sometimes the details don't seem to fit the character when I read them back, and so I'll search around for one that feels more authentic.
M: I see that there are two more forthcoming Fiona Robyn titles on Snowbook’s website ‘The Blue Handbag’ and ‘Thaw'. Would you like to talk a little about what’s coming next, or perhaps what you are working on right now?
F: The Blue Handbag follows a 62 yr old gardener, Leonard, who becomes a reluctant detective after discovering some mysterious facts about his late wife. Thaw is about Ruth, a microbiologist, who gives herself three months to decide if she wants to carry on living or not - the book is her diary for those months. And my work-in-progress is about Joe, a nerdy boy who goes to visit his aunt in Amsterdam - I'm off there this Summer to get some research done. What a lucky person I am.
M: Thank you Fiona very, very much!
To find out more about lucky, clever Fiona and her writing, please visit http://www.fionarobyn.com/
Sunday, 15 March 2009
In fact, my typing fingers seemed to have transformed into snails. And not just any snails. Obese, elderly snails in a going-backwards race.
This is probably partly because I have quite an ending in mind, which I’m a little scared of writing, but I also suspect that I’m on go-slow because I don’t actually want to finish. I’m aware that I’ll need to hide this one away for as long as I can possibly help it before I go back in again, on the editing attack, for draft two. And, as infuriating and disturbing as the writing has sometimes been, it’s also been such an exhilarating pleasure that I don’t want to say goodbye. Not just yet.
But there are a lot of things about to happen around these parts. There are more job things and children things that I need to focus on, and other-book things too (including finally finishing my creative writing MA and practising reading for next week’s Exclusively Independent event). I really should complete this draft – if only to begin it all over again, sooner.
But instead, what am I doing? I seem to be thinking about snails still, about how generally beautiful their trails are, and how strange their eyes and mouths, and about the snail hospital my sister and I ran when we were kids . . . And I’m even blogging about them too.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Friday, 27 February 2009
The evening will also include writing by Nigel Smith, Wayne Burrows, Richard Pilgrim, Ian Douglas and Michael Eaton.
Tickets cost £5, which includes a complimentary glass of wine or juice and are available in advance from the Box Office (0115 989 5555), or on the door.
On this occasion, I won’t be reading from ‘How We Were Lost’, but my short story ‘On the Island’.
It would be very wonderful to see you there …
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
So if you're knocking about in London on Wednesday, 18th March at 7:30pm, why not drop by Hammersmith Library?
Along with fellow Flame novelist, the very talented Shanta Everington, the evening's other fascinating, featured authors will include Michael Marr, Peter Cave, Stephen Clayton and Michael Bollen.
Although tickets are free, you will need one to enter. These are available from Hammersmith Library (telephone: 020 8753 3812)
I hope to see you there!
Monday, 16 February 2009
Sunday, 15 February 2009
As part of Salt’s ‘Cyclone’ blog tour, I’ll be posting an interview this week with ‘Sister Morphine’ author Catherine Eisner.
Dealing with death, desertion and drugs, revenge and revelation, ‘Sister Morphine’ is a unique collection of startlingly inventive and genre-busting tales.
Monday, 2 February 2009
Probably shouldn’t be blogging. Don’t really know why I’m blogging.
The snow is lying so thickly and falling (still falling!) so beautifully and that is such a novelty here. Heart-lifting, dizzying. We love it, we want to be out in it – but we’re sick (the cat, meanwhile watches at the window, with flattened ears and risen hackles; he’s disgusted - wants the flutter of real feathers, not this).
My mind is whirling quietly too. There is so much to think about right now.
There are the happy, interesting book things coming up – the p/b launch this week of Caroline Smailes’ fabulous ‘Black Boxes’. And at some point too, I’m interviewing Catherine Eisner about her intriguing ‘Sister Morphine’ for Salt’s Cyclone tour.
And there is my own writing - I’m in the final third of novel 3, preoccupied by ideas of motherhood and loss and gleaming water, and all the different ways there are of being haunted . . .
Then there are the big issues, the possibly life-changing ones - jobs, home, children.
Spinning thoughts like TV static. Exciting, frightening. Yet somehow so absorbing I almost feel detached, disassociated. It doesn't quite make sense, not yet, I know.
But bugger it. Later on, I think, my smallest and I will bundle up despite our colds. We’ll go outside and play.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Our new interactive blog story, 'The box' (cheers Eli!) is finished.
I've run all the pieces together and you can find it, completed, on the blogstories page of my website.
I'm not quite sure what kind of monster we have created (-; but I've had so much fun - I hope that you have too.
Once again, I've been amazed by your generosity and your imagination and your energy. Also by what a strangely living creature a story can be.
So, without further ado, enormous thanks are due to each of the wonderful, talented writers who took part –
and Anonymous (?)
And with extra thanks to
For all their additional, kind blogging support.
And to all you lovely readers too, of course - Cheers!
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
But I wasn't worried. I was content with my baby held warmly in my arms.
My sister however, did not feel the same way. She stood across the kitchen from me, her face as pale as her fancy Vionnet dress, glaring accusingly at me. Why didn't she understand? She never understood.
'What are you thinking?' she cried 'Its an abomination, put it back, get rid of it!'
Instinctively I held the baby tighter and backed away from her. 'No, I can't. I won't. Look how helpless he is.' I looked down into his deep blue eyes and felt nothing but love. Motherly love. This what I'd always dreamed of. 'I'm going to take care of him.'
'You're crazy.' my sister spat, her hand reaching out. She grabbed a kitchen knife from the sink raising it up in the air with its tip pointing down, dripping tepid sink water onto the floor.
'It's wrong. You must see that. Put it down Emily. Put it down now!'
Why did she not understand? Always telling me what to do. Bossing me around. No more, I thought. I had my baby and nothing, no one is going to take that away from me. I glanced around and saw the hammer resting on the table, out of reach. Then, my thinking became clearer, and I knew what I had to do. I looked down into the baby's eyes and saw understanding. I gently placed him on the table and turned to face my sister.
'Put the knife down Alice. Please.'
'It's wrong.' she repeated. 'I have to get rid of it'.
Alice lunged forward towards the helpless baby, the knife catching the morning sunlight. I grabbed her wrists forcing the blade up above us, but she managed to get her other hand to the baby's leg, and yanked him off the table. My heart stopped as I saw baby Dippel flailing as he shot across the kitchen bashing into the cupboard door and down onto the floor. I was incensed. That poor baby. I grabbed both of her wrists and started pushing back and kept pushing. Her eyes showed no understanding, no understanding at all. They were wide open with bitterness and hatred. I kept pushing and then the hatred drained from her eyes. Letting go, I watched my sister drop to the floor and with the knife pushed into deep into her own belly. She looked up at me in surprise and tried to speak but no sound came out. What have I done? I dropped to my knees and cried
'Alice. Sister. I'm sorry... ' But it was too late. Her head drooped down, lifeless.
'Why didn't she understand?' I cried.
'You did what you had to. She would have never understood what we have.'
I looked round and saw baby Dippel on the kitchen floor, struggling helplessly to support himself as my sisters blood pooled around him.
'I just wanted us to be a family.'
'We still can. It was good that you only cut her body. We can still save her. We can still be the family that you always dreamed of.'
The horror of my sisters death flowed away, replaced by the warm feeling of understanding.
'Now quickly, go find a saw. We have to remove her head.'
Thank you Dansk - your last line nailed it for me!
Thank you EVERYONE, that was so much fun ( :
And a giant extra round of applause to Patience, here, and C-Ray on MySpace for providing such wonderfully insane alternative endings to this fabulously crazy tale (check them out)
But, I almost forgot! Before I can post the whole merged-together story on to my website, we need a title - any suggestions??
Saturday, 17 January 2009
"I'm sure Uncle Dippel had far stranger dreams than you could ever have" said Alice. "There was that whole episode with the servant boy. And one Christmas, when Aunt Frieda was drunk she told me he'd worked for the Nazis during the war."
"Don't be stupid. Aunt Frieda's always drunk anyway."
Alice shrugged, and forced the claw end of the hammer between two pieces of wood.
"Wait!" I called out, but her mind was made up.
She yanked the hammer hard and went stumbling backwards as a shower of dust and splinters flew into the air. But she had barely even made a mark. Cursing, she tried again but still made little progress. Her face hardened as she wiped the dust from her face with the back of her sleeve.
"Bastard thing" she exclaimed. "You have a go."
My hand was shaking as the hammer was passed to me. I gulped audibly and moved towards the table.
There was a noise coming from the box, a kind of scratching and rustling. I could barely even bring myself to look at it, let alone go at it with a hammer.
But I didn’t have to. All of a sudden, the lid of the box popped up slightly - as though an internal catch had been undone. Then, in a few clattering movements, it was pushed aside and fell down onto the tabletop.
As I tentatively gazed into the darkness, the first thing I saw was a tiny pink hand reaching up towards me.
"No.... It can't be...." I said.
But so it was - there, lying on a glittering bed of styrofoam packing was a plump baby, no more than a few months old and surprisingly healthy-looking considering it's predicament.
"Hello Alice, Emily." Said the baby. "I expect you thought I was dead."
By hedgehog on Blogspot
I had never heard Alice speak so quietly before. Her tone was lighter than the waft of her petticoats. But while she was the one shrinking back now and shaking, her pink shoulders quivering, her head swinging slowly back and forth - I leant closer. I was no longer afraid.
Apart from a rather baggy and sallow-looking nappy, the infant was naked. His flesh was smooth and rosy and gently folded; his little globe-like tummy almost glowed. He kicked his fat, little legs at me as if delighted. I noticed a light sprinkling of sawdust clinging to his perfect, pea-sized toes.
“For God’s sake, don’t touch him!” Alice hissed.
While there was an undeniable familiarity about those delicate features (something about the gumminess of that smile perhaps, or the frosty glint of those blue eyes?) the baby’s face was in no way an old man’s face. And he certainly didn’t smell like an old man, or a dead man, either. He smelt exactly as a baby should, as sweet and fresh as stretching bread dough. Intoxicating. When I reached out to lift him, I made sure to breathe him in.
And he was so warm against me; he fitted perfectly. My very own baby. Sure enough, it was the moment I’d been dreaming of for years.
Of course, Alice didn’t see it that way.
“Are you insane?” she sobbed. “What are you doing? Can’t you see what you’re doing?”
Then she was grasping for the metal rod beside the window - she twisted it so violently that the blind didn’t simply spring fully open, but fell crashing and rattling to the tiled floor. For several seconds, the kitchen was flooded with a light so glacier-bright that I could hardly see what I was cradling in my arms.
Your turn . . . Please end our blog story!
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
'Emily you're such a scaredy-cat'
She turned to face the table, hammer still held upright, her smile now transformed into a look of determination. Yet she hesitated.
The kitchen light faded for a moment, perhaps just a passing cloud, and in that instant the box seemed to grow, to take on mass and became this foreboding presence in the room. My hands gripped the sideboard behind me.
'Uncle Dippel would be ashamed to see you now'
'Well Uncle Dippel isn't here now' I replied. 'I didn't ask him to leave me anything'
'But he did, and you know how rich he was. Whatever it is it must be something special if he sent it to you.'
I stared at the box. Our address stamped on the side in large Germanic letters. I could barely make out the return address. Then I noticed the small marks underneath. The three small zigzag lines above the letters B and F. I looked up at my sister and shook my head once.
'For God's sake' She said, and stepped up to the table. Placing her palm on the top of the box, she positioned the hammer's claw over one of the nails. And stopped.
'Emily' She breathed. 'It's warm'.
By Dansk on Blogspot
“What do you mean?” I said. “It can’t be.”
Her eyes narrowed, but they seemed somehow even blacker. Shinier.
“Come here then,” she said. “Feel for yourself.”
I didn’t want to go to her; I didn’t even want to be in that kitchen anymore. I wanted to be outside with all the normal, box-less people, worrying about normal, box-less things. Late buses and low bank accounts and stale sandwiches for lunch. Instead, there I was, back at the table. My thin arm trembling as I reached out –
I snatched my hand away, gasping, long before I touched it.
Immediately, instinctively, I began rubbing at my fingers - although in truth, the heat emanating from that battered lid wasn’t fierce in any way. In fact, it was a strangely soft sensation. Like a fistful of feathers. A wafting sigh. I shuddered.
“Alice,” I began carefully. “Do you remember the stories that Mother used to tell about Uncle Dippel? About his laboratory. His hobbies . . .”
My sister rolled her glistening eyes at me. “Oh, you and Mother and your stories,” she said. “He was just a moneyed old man with too much time on his hands. And, like you, too much imagination.”
“But it wasn’t just the experiments, Alice. He was an inventor too. Don’t you remember? Wasn’t he supposed to be building some kind of literal ‘Dream Machine’? Some contraption meant to grant your deepest wishes.”
Alice snorted. She was playing with the hammer again, licking her plump lips. “And that’s supposed to be a problem? You’re crazy. C’mon. Let’s open it!”
I lifted my pale palms to her, trying to explain. “But you don’t understand. You have no idea. There are things that I dream of -”
I froze then, suddenly wordless. Interrupted by a gentle creak.
Your turn . . .
Sunday, 11 January 2009
“Well, it’s here,” she said. “Arrived at last!”
She swished from foot to foot on her side of the box and her peach-painted mouth twitched as if with a smile, but I wasn’t convinced. Her eyes remained dark and wet. She was doing too much blinking.
“I can see that,” I replied.
I’d wanted to keep the atmosphere light, casual even, but my voice came out higher and frailer than I’d intended. I sounded like a child. A little boy, with a trembling lip and a crumpling chin and two grazed knees. Barely even pretending to be brave.
I cleared my throat and for a moment, thought that I smelt something beyond the sour mop bucket and old bacon fat, something beyond the synthetic roses of her perfume.
A forest smell, a black leaf smell. Could it truly be coming from within?
I saw that she had taken the hammer out already.
As she raised it slowly in one milk-white hand, I heard her cotton skirts whisper and the creak of her bodice, or of a stiff, pink sleeve. She turned the claw-end carefully to face me.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” she asked.
She held herself still now, waiting. From the world behind the blind came the ordinary morning sounds of birds twittering and car engines’ coughing. There was the panicked scuff and scurry of late-to-work feet. I let the clock tick once, twice, and then again before reflecting back her empty grin.
“You do the honours,” I suggested. And took a small step backwards, towards the door.
Your turn . . .
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Please continue the story directly from my last blogged instalment.
Although less is absolutely fine, please don’t write any more than 300 words.
Please don’t end the story (not till the final post, anyway).
Please don’t write anything obscene or offensive - although dark and disturbing is usually fine by me. (As is funny. And surreal. And heartbreaking. And action-packed. And quiet. And mostly anything you like really.)
Please feel free to post anonymously, if you should so desire.
Please play. And keep playing.
It could be fun. (-:
This blog story will also be running on MySpace and LiveJournal
Thank you so much folks!
See you tomorrow?
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Would you like to play?
To begin 11th January 2009!
In not more than 300 words, written every 3 days, with only 3 posts each – can we create a short story together?
Last Time . . .
In June 2008, to coincide with the launch of my website, I posted the opening to an experimental short story on my then brand new blogs, and asked the blogs’ readers to provide the next 200 words. Every 2 days for 2 weeks, we took 200 word turns at creating a blog story. It was intense, and crazy, and fun. And at the end, we had 'The Cabin'. You can read the complete merged-together piece via the blog page of my website.
This Time -
As mentioned above, things will be slightly different. I thought I’d try something a little shorter and lighter (less commitment? More fun?) but make the time between posts and the maximum word-count for each a little longer . . .
The idea is this:
On Sunday 11th January 2009, I will post the opening to a brand new short story, which I hope that you will continue by providing the next 300 words (or far less if you so desire). After 3 days (January 14th), I’ll read the responses and choose just one to carry on from with my next piece. Then it will be your turn again. And so on.
Once again, I promise to publish the whole, joined together piece on my website http://www.megantaylor.info/
I’m looking forward to playing . . .