Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Writing Prompt!

Today's writing prompt is a first sentence. Your writing can be any length or genre as long as it begins with this sentence. 


'I told her it looked a little strange, but she didn't seem to care, she just shrugged and walked off.'


Don't forget you can post your reaction to this weeks prompt in the comments section below to give out even more great inspiration for others. 


Happy Writing 

Rach x

Monday, 30 January 2017

Motivational Monday! Dialogue-Only Short Story Competition

Dialogue is an important part of any story, and there are many conflicting views about just how much dialogue you should use. 
               This week's featured competition invites you to write a short story using only dialogue!






So, your story should be between 1,500 and 1,700 words long and must contain only dialogue. Have you ever tried to write anything like this before? I like it, it's a challenge and a bit different to what you usually find. 


The closing date is the 15th of February, so you've got a couple of weeks to put it together. 

dialogue only short story competiton

This competition is hosted by Writers Online and there is a small entry fee. For subscribers to WO the entry fee is £3, and for every else it's £5.

To submit your work head over to their site and submit your entire work in a single file using the links provided at the bottom of the page.

The winner of this competition will win £200 and publication in Writing Magazine. One runner up will also receive £50 and publication online.

Please remember to check the website for formatting guidelines and more information, sadly many great stories, poems and literary works are disqualified in many competitions simply because the writer did not use the desired formatting, don't let your work be one them!

To read the rules, find out more and to enter please visit Writers Online Dialogue-Only Short Story Competition.

Happy Writing & Good Luck


Rach x

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Writing Prompt!

I thought I'd mix it up a bit today and come up with a more challenging prompt to give you seeing as I've been a bit lax with my posts recently. So today's writing prompt is a combination of three things and a piece of dialogue!

So, you must use all three of the listed words, as well as the dialogue, in your piece of writing, however you can use them in whatever order you'd like to and in whatever way you'd like to. And your writing can be in any style and in any genre.
So here goes, something a bit different for today.


Your three words are; Mist, Mauve & Merry (I forgot to tell you they'd all begin with the same letter - love a bit of alliteration!) 

Your dialogue is; 
'Well now, I don't think there's much we can do about that.' 
'Oh.'
'Save for buyin' a new fence o'course.'
'Yes, well I suppose so.'


Don't forget to leave your response to the prompt in the comments below for more great inspiration, plus I'd love to see what you come up with!

Happy Writing!

Rach x

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Wordy Wednesday!


This weeks Wordy Wednesday word is a good one for describing unusual movement, try it when you're next writing a character scene;

Laterigrade


- To move sideways
- Sideways movement such as that of a crab or spider
- A laterigrade animal

Laterigrade originally comes from a combination of Latin words and although used rarely it would have entered the English language somewhere around the 18th century.

'Careful not to be seen by those he was watching Si edged through the trees in a laterigrade fashion, creeping slowly around the periphery of the camp.' 

Can you use this word in a short piece of prose, flash fiction or poetry?
Comment it below and share the creativity!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Writing Prompt!

Today's prompt is a person, a place and an emotion. The idea is to combine all three into a short story or piece of prose or creative writing, I like to think of it like filling in the blanks around what you've been given!


'An old woman, an empty city street at night, repulsion.'


Happy writing!

Rach x

Monday, 16 January 2017

Motivational Monday! The Next Great Travel Writer 2017

Can you write a short short travel story about a travel experience unlike any other?

This week we're featuring The Next Great Travel Writer 2017.

All you have to do is write a short story, 1,000 words or under, about a travel experience like no other.

The prize for this competition is a session with a Penguin editor and £1,500.
There's also a £500 prize for the best entry written by a University or College student.
There will also be a set of books awarded to the entry that gets the most votes from the public via Twitter.

There is no entry fee for this competition but you can only submit one entry.

Please note that the closing date for this competition is the 5th of February 2017, so you've got a bit of time to get creative and prepare your entry.

All work submitted must be your own work and must be original and previously unpublished.

Please remember to check the website for formatting guidelines and more information, sadly many great stories, poems and literary works are disqualified in many competitions simply because the writer did not use the desired formatting, don't let your work be one them!

To read the rules, find out more and to enter please visit The Next Great Travel Writer 2017.

Happy Writing & Good Luck


Rach x

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Last Whale

Chapter 2

After only two pints and a bit of banter at the local that evening, he’d made his way home a little early.  Jane was still out when he got there. She stayed away these days as much as he did, following the executive tradition of working late followed by a couple of drinks before returning home to bed to sleep.

A small smile of irony surfaces as thoughts about how unsatisfactory life had been pass through his mind.  It was just like the smile that used to come back then, in the quiet or alone moments. It’s funny, when you look back, those thoughts, the unsatisfactory ones you had at the time, never stayed around for long. They threw themselves up like a little package of doubt and were gone in an instant. He had always known what was in that package really, but had chosen not to inspect it too closely. Were they really right together? Was he doing the right thing? Why was he so useless in bed these days? Why didn’t they do it so often any more?

It went on and on and had been deliberated over so many times before without any feasible solution presenting itself, that he had condensed them all into a fleeting passage of well known frustrations that came and went within the space of that involuntary smile.

It made a change to be home early.  He mooched around the flat and threw a cushion here or a magazine there and convinced himself that he was tidying up.

Before he’d thrown off his newly decorated jacket, he’d glanced at himself in the bedroom mirror. There he stood, beard, ruffled mop of auburn hair, tie at half mast and work suit bedecked with a new motif incongruously and awkwardly placed on his lapel.

The short pile of the jacket material was proving too flimsy for the sticky back badge and it was already coming loose from its’ moorings. Spurred on by the enormity of his good deed and the haunting possibility of change that hung in his mind like a tempting carrot, he’d dared to imagine the muted colours and home knit pattern of the no-sleeve v’neck sweater and had his jacket off and other things on his mind in seconds.

The ship rolls again and with it takes a tide of memories covering the eventful two weeks that had followed.

Frank turns on the bunk and huddles down to sleep against the metal wall.  The memories are still there and he delves deeper into his past with the interest of a man restoring his life lovingly on film, and, like films, drama can wait around the corner like shark at the beach.

Almost involuntarily now he remembers the days before she happened. He’d been working as normal for a few weeks, becoming more and more interested in some definite aspects of his articles. There was the one about the self styled Guru of Breath who believed that the air is the carrier of the true self, and that as we breathe we can experience our lives with each turn from in to out as fully as possible.

He’d been quite charismatic and talked of unblocking past emotional traumas with such a casual and everyday air that Markham had found him quite interesting. Digging up the past wasn’t his idea of fun, but actually the prospect of improving ones lot in life was proving awfully tempting.

Increasingly the idea of becoming whole, happier, began to pound at his mind like the sea at the cliffs. Some of these people being interviewed certainly looked happier than the guys at the office, and spoke with a sincerity that, on the face it, started to make the normal moanings and groanings of life seem less important.

After talking to someone about divining and sitting in a corn circle in Wiltshire, Markham found the clogged ashtray of his car and the re-entry into London’s’ choked and stinking streets a poor comparison of lifestyles, even when you considered that these people might be nuts.

Where did they find the time, and the energy? Most of them weren’t rich, and yet they didn’t seem to complain but rather enthuse about new ways of doing things.

It reminded Markham of those old country programmes that used to be on T.V. when he was a kid.  Jack Hawkins or Higgins or whatever his name was, ambling along country lanes and detailing the magnificent specimen of fly used to catch a really good trout. ‘Out of Town’ that was it!

He’d also had to admit that the issues coming out of the normal channels where environmental disaster loomed over pond and planet alike, were beginning to make him more upset. Oh the regular culprits were to blame; the government and councils that, with typical sixties unawareness, secured their decisions by robbing Peter to pay Paul. For example, building over local beauty spots to create a much needed flyover, or allowing foreign trawlers to fish nursery banks near the shoreline. Where did they think next years fish would bloody well come from?

Just when it all began to look like mess and disaster, he’d come across some loony idea and zoom off to a homeopath or healer and afterwards come back with a little more well being or humour than when he’d left.

Of course it wasn’t all that way. He’d drunk some bloody awful teas, sniffed rose oil and essence of bark and listened to some mindless lectures on what seemed like contortionist self agony, and hadn’t enjoyed or believed in any of it.

Not only that but there was usually some inexperienced salesperson around who tried to convince him that he could lose weight through a series of expensive concoctions and a multi level marketing plan. Less beer would probably do the same job and he’d save money.

One afternoon he’d been invited to strip down to his underwear and lay in a tank of salt water where he’d be deprived of sight or sound for an indefinite period of time.  It sounded to him like the sort of thing they did to captured spies!

He declined on this occasion, but it wasn’t easy, something was eroding away part of his resistance to new ideas and it seemed to persist with its own growing hunger. He began to feel like a man that has just finished a well known high street burger. He was still hungry for food!

Whatever it was, he decided that for now he should keep it at arms length and not get too involved. No one he really knew thought that any of this was of interest. The boys at the pub certainly found a lot of fun in his exploits and the odd social occasion proved that the majority of the world had enough scepticism to help keep a realistic grasp on things.

So it was that after a few months he’d decided that reporting like this may be light interest, but it didn’t make up for the rush of an exclusive or the fight for facts that he’d been used to before.

What he really wanted was to get into some muck and spread it around a bit. To this end he’d decided to spend a few days looking into the hippie or groupie therapies that were lurking at the back of peoples conversations during his interviews.  These seemed to be the more extreme examples of ‘inner exploration’ and although the people that he’d talked to about it would tell him how great they were, Frank had done some reading up on such meetings and found that they were usually reported to involve group sex or drug running related stories.

The common ones linked in this way were mostly three day seminars, usually concerning a minor deity or guru holding meditation weekends.

He'd found one that the old expenses might cover nicely. A weekend in the country with a not so well known group of enlightenment specialists, “A Weekend With Dieter!” The spec read as follows:

‘One of the most beautiful experiences in life is to share with each other. This weekend is an exploration into how we relate to others and ourselves. Dieter is one of the worlds most experienced and renowned therapists in the art of self discovery and the path to self knowledge. This weekend will hold a host of possibilities to allow us to discover the true love and depth of awareness available to us all.’
Fee:  ,500.00 inc board

It came accompanied by a picture of a beautifully smiling and happy, pretty girl. It was dated for the weekend after next, and, following some intense negotiation, which included re-establishing his job spec, the expenses were granted and the arrangements made.

When booking his place on the group Markham hadn’t told them that he was a reporter.  If muck spreading was to be assured, then the less anyone knew of his true purpose the better.

The next two weeks passed along the same lines as before and Markham rested a little in anticipation of the possible scoop to come. The day before he was due to drive out into the wild green yonder, he’d decided to call it a day early and drive home to pack.

He spent the afternoon sorting out woollies and the loose clothing he’d been advised to bring, had a bath and truly put his feet up. He cleaned around the flat and lazed in the armchair reading for a while.

At about six, he realised that Jane would probably be home for eight and decided not to call her at the office, but make her a special meal as a treat.

At eight he was all done. The table was laid and the fruits of his labour ready and simmering. At eight thirty he pondered on the wisdom of not calling her and phoned in to see if she was on her way.  The answer-machine gave no joy and by nine he had eaten on his own and was just clearing up when Jane arrived.

He heard the front door and the slump of her shoulder bag being dumped into the nearest chair.
“Hi I’m home”
“Hi, where have you been?”
A customary peck.
“Only the usual, couple of drinks, bit of a chat, you know. How was your day?”
“I cooked you a special meal, I thought you’d be home earlier.”
Jane slumped in the doorway to the bathroom, her lithe form contorted by the tired slack of her hips to one side.

“Oh, thanks, don’t talk to me now darling, I’m just too tired and I need a bath.”
She’d always been a good figured woman even though she was really quite ordinary to look at.  Frank remembered how she could sparkle for him and how long ago that really seemed. Glancing at her slim legs and curved hips aroused a frustrated memory of when she used to come to him. He stopped himself from thinking about it and turned away, defeated, back to the kitchen. Thoughts like those would do him no good when she was this tired.

“I’ll heat it up. It’ll only take a minute and then you can have a bath and really relax.”
She appeared at the door jamb and leant against it.
“How was your day?”
Frank talked above the scraping of dishes and the door of the fridge as he tidied up and made ready a portion of lasagna for the microwave.
“Oh the usual, I took the afternoon off to get ready for tomorrow. I thought  I’d cook a romantic meal and get us in a nice mood. Maybe we could still go out and have a drink before bed?”
Jane eased herself off the doorpost and slumped to the tap for a drink. He could hear the bath running in the background.
“Not tonight, I’m too tired.”

She was so offhand that it niggled him. He’d gone out of his way to prepare a nice nest for her to come into and his hopes had been fermenting for hours. He looked at her sideways as she tipped back her head to drink. All his ambitions and excitement were downed, and as if on a counterbalance, his fears and frustrations began to rise to the fore.

It seemed ages since they last got it together and she was always there to buffer him whenever he did try an approach.
“Well when do you think we will be able to get together then?”
She had obviously been waiting for this moment, and dreading it. She stopped drinking and leant heavily with both hands on the sink.
“Please, don’t start,”  her jaw was instantly tight and her determination not to have a conversation or argument clear as crystal.
Frank however couldn’t resist. Now he felt guilty for mentioning it at all, his blood was up and compulsion took the reins.

“You spend more time on your job than I do on mine. I thought I was supposed to come home to a willing wife once in a while, not wait for a bi-monthly permit from the agency in order to commence normal relations.”

This was always the way it started. A worn out record that both of them had tired of. She ignored him, spilled out the rest of the glass into the sink and turned on her stockinged heels for the bathroom.

Frank continued to fuss around the kitchen. He could feel his temperature rising and didn’t know exactly why. She’d turned her back that way before, many times. Whenever he wanted to talk or share she just didn’t seem to be there. He was tiring of the game, and the hurt, he felt out of control and his badly battered pride was like a dented tin can. He swallowed, scraped his plate into the flip top bin and then froze. His lip tightened, he was bloody well not going to stand for it any more!

His slippers clung to the lino as he strode heavily from the kitchen and across the hall to the bathroom, plate and knife still in his hand.

He held his voice in check as he reached the door.
“So what’s happening Jane? We always have this argument and we never talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“What do you mean nothing to talk about. We don’t fuck, we don’t talk, what the fuck do you think we do do?”
She was cleaning her teeth. He could remember it so clearly now. He was always the first to lose his temper and she always responded with silence. This time it WAS going to be different.

With the onset of his outburst he could see the emotional floodgates opening before him, a tidal wave of emotion building for a flood. He wasn’t sure if he was going to go all the way this time, (whatever that meant), but then at the beginning of an argument, he never was.

“What do you think normal people do?” He stepped into the steam standing two feet behind her and felt it cling to him like a chilling shroud. “I’ll tell you what they do, they talk and they relate, and they FUCK for Christ’s sake. What’s the matter with you, don’t you have a sex drive anymore...
At that point he’d caught her eyes flashing up into the mirror staring directly into his and he knew.

His world imploded. All his outgoing temper collapsed in on himself to be replaced by the absolute and undeniable truth radiating through every pore. His mind reeled in the uncertainty that his stomach knew as truth. His breath seemed to stop and the world stood still as if an hour had been captured in a second. Looking back on it, it seemed that it was the fact of being so blind, so conned, that brought his temper flooding up and spewing forth, finding no resistance at all.

The pain, like an electric boulder in the pit of his stomach seemed to be driving his brain as he dropped the knife from his right hand and in one movement threw his palm straight for the back of her head.  She’d ducked, (she was waiting for this day, how long had this been going on?) turned, pushed past him while he was off balance and made for the bedroom and the safety of a locked door.

Frank had re-balanced and followed on her heels, blind and intent on catching her. What he would have done had he caught her he had no idea, it just seemed that he wanted to catch her, to kill her, to stamp out the last few moments as if they had never existed. Perhaps it was lucky that he had only found the hard and unyielding gloss work of the door and that his pain and temper had been vented in his banging and yelling rather than on her own person.

Whatever it was, he was glad now that she had come to no harm.

After he had broken most of the memorable items of their life together that could be found around the lounge, he’d sat on the sofa and shaken with contained rage and suffocated pain.

It was two cigarettes and a large whiskey later that Jane had emerged from the bedroom, run for the front door carrying a small suitcase, and bolted from the flat. By the time that Frank had heard her open the front door it was too late to stop her. He sat and stared at the gaping hole that let his world flood, irretrievably lost, into the outside chaos, and then he doubled over, and cried.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Flicker

There's a flicker in the corner of my eye, it's there one minute and gone the next, then back again. I almost know what it is. It's like a half remembered dream, so close I can almost touch it but so far away it may as well be at the bottom of a lake. I feel my face form a grimace, and for a second I squeeze my eyes shut. When I open them again the flicker is gone and I let my body exhale a small sigh of relief. Maybe it was just my imagination after all. I turn to the left, ready to carry on, my right foot steps out into the empty space in front of my left and as it does I catch it again, that flicker. My head darts to the right, my eyes searching the darkness for... what exactly? But it's gone. My right foot comes down at an odd angle, on the side of my foot, and I feel my ankle buckle and my leg give way. My knee hits the rocky ground and I let out a small sharp yelp of pain. Somewhere ahead of me a voice shouts back.
"You alright back there?"
"Yes." I call in return, though in truth I don't feel alright. I feel confused and my knee is throbbing painfully.
I stagger back to my feet and reach up to adjust the headlight attached to my helmet, it slipped when I went down and now points up at the ceiling. My fingers are clumsy in the cold and one of them hits the off button, for a moment the world around me goes completely black. I blink stupidly into the darkness as my fingers fumble to find the button again. Then in the corner of my eye the flicker is back, and this time it's closer, and I almost know what it is but by the time I've turned to look it's gone again. My mind races, scanning through all the information I've stored in it over the years, searching it's databases for the one piece of information that will somehow make sense of this... this... My fingers find the button and to my relief the headlight comes on again, surrounding me in a small pool of yellow light. I look to my left, up ahead the rest of my team are fast becoming dark figures receding into the distance. I need to catch up or I'll get left behind so I gingerly start walking after them, wincing slightly at the pain that shoots through my knee when I put weight on it.

I'm not going fast enough. Up ahead I can still just about see the shadowy figures of my team, but they seem further away now. It makes sense, I'm probably only moving at about half their speed, but even so I should be catching up to them, not falling further behind. But I can still see them, and I don't want to worry them or slow them down so I keep my mouth shut. If they go out of sight, then I'll call for them to come back.
My knee really hurts, I can hardly put any weight on it and it's making walking really difficult. I'm using up a lot more energy and my hobbling walk is making my muscles feel tired. The flicker is still there, I feel like it's following me. I keep catching it in the corner of my eye and each time it seems slightly closer, like a predator stalking it's prey. I try to push that thought out of my head. It's probably nothing, or it's a hallucinatory symptom brought on by some rare kind of moss or fungus that grows down here. I probably got it on my fingers earlier and wiped my face without thinking. Whatever that flicker is I need to ignore it, I need to focus on catching up with my team. But they seem so far away now, miles away, distant figures surrounded by their own tiny pools of light. The tunnel ahead is so long, so very, very long. I don't know how I'm going to manage it.

I push myself further, but my shoulders are aching now, weighed down by the backpack that earlier I thought was so light. How long have we been down here now? Long enough to make my light backpack feel heavy? I try to remember if I put any rock samples in it earlier, that would explain it's apparent weight gain, but my mind won't focus and I can't tell if I'm remembering or imagining. I blink and the flicker is there again. It's following me, it's been following me for a while now, and even when I can't see it in the corner of my eye I can feel it's presence behind me, stalking me. It sends shivers up my spine now and all the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. My heart beats faster and a surge of adrenaline, generated by fear, pushes me to hobble forwards faster.
I am scared, I am scared of the dark and the flicker, I am scared of losing my team and being left behind, but mostly I am scared of dying down here in the darkness with no one to know or to witness. My muscles are seizing up. I feel as if I've been hobbling along for hours, maybe I have. My knee is excruciating and I come to the conclusion that I must have broken it, fractured the knee cap or something. I can barely move it at all now without crying out in pain. Which leaves me hopping along on my left leg, my hands against the damp tunnel walls either side of me for support. But the muscles in my left leg are screaming now, begging me to stop and sit and rest. Even the thought makes me want to stop, I feel as if my whole body is on the verge of collapse.

I look ahead to find my team, desperate for their reassuring presence, but blink into empty darkness. There is nothing, they are gone. Panic grips my chest and I feel a cold pressure wash over me. In the corner of my eye the flicker is back only this time it's much, much closer, almost as if it's standing right next to me. Fear constricts my throat but I try to call out anyway.
"Hey... hey... back here... help... "
It is nothing but a whisper, a hoarse and strangled cry that reaches no further than the wall of darkness in front of my face. It does not even echo. I fight my mind, reaching desperately for the names of my team mates, my colleagues, my friends... but they are gone, just as surely as their fleshy counterparts are. Who were they? I did know them, didn't I? I'm sure I... But their faces are fading too, blue eyes, brown hair, green eyes, blonde hair, a big nose, or a small one, I can't remember. I frown into the darkness in front of me. I've stopped moving now and am leaning against the damp tunnel wall, letting myself rest for a moment and staring down the dark tunnel. What was it I was looking for again? I'm sure I was following something, searching for something, there was a reason I was going this way, what was it?
The flicker dances in the corner of my eye and while something about it is terrifying, something about it is also calming, reassuring. I may have lost all else but I still have the flicker, my one piece of normality now. I watch it, not directly because then it disappears, but out of the corner of my eye. It moves steadily, slowly, as if it is dancing, or playing, or preparing. But I still cannot make out what it is. I'm sure I have seen it somewhere before, heard something about it, read about it, dreamed about it maybe. The knowledge is there, hovering just out of reach, just like the flicker.
It moves closer and I can feel it's presence, it brings goosebumps out across my flesh and makes my hair stand on end, it's somehow electric.
I blink into the darkness.

Then suddenly it is there in front of me and I remember, I remember.

I hear myself begin to scream as my world goes dark and I am gone.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Wordy Wednesday!


This weeks Wordy Wednesday word is;

Crepitate


- To crackle
- To make a crackling sound
- Crackling/Crackle
- Also to experience or produce a grating sound or sensation (such as fractured bones moving against each other)

Crepitate come from the Latin word crepitatus, which means to rustle or chatter. The word would have entered our language sometime around the 17th century.

'The cold night was alive. All around him the wind whispered through the leaves and the darkness seemed to crepitate with unspoken tension and possibility.' 

Can you use this word in a short piece of prose, flash fiction or poetry?
Comment it below and share the creativity!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Motivational Monday! The Great Escape Writing Competition

Writing Competition
Can you write a short short story about a great escape based on the picture to the left?

This week we're featuring The Great Escape Writing Competition.

All you have to do is write a short story, 1,000 words or under, (including the title) in response to the given picture.
This competition is hosted by The Creative Competitor and they want you to really let your imagination run wild with this one. They're looking for winning stories that are dramatic, action-packed and compelling.

The first prize for this competition is £500,
Second prize is £300.
Third prize is £200.

The entry fee is per entry, and you can enter as many times as you like as long as you pay the correct entry fee of £3.50 each time you enter.

Please note that the closing date for this competition is the 31st of January 2017, so you've got a bit of time to prepare you entry/entries.

This competition is open to writers worldwide but all work submitted must be your own work and must be original and previously unpublished.

Please remember to check the website for formatting guidelines and more information, sadly many great stories, poems and literary works are disqualified in many competitions simply because the writer did not use the desired formatting, don't let your work be one them!

To read the rules, find out more and to enter please visit The Great Escape Writing Competition.
Happy Writing & Good Luck


Rach x

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Last Whale

Today I am proud to introduce the first chapter of a new story written by Sat.
New chapters will be uploaded weekly on Saturdays so don't forget to check back for more.

This is the story of The Last Whale.

Chapter 1, A Beginning


The global village, the G8 summit, world economy (or lack of it), sports, my car, emissions, our future, the children, my house, a holiday, career, my partner, my health, our food, my day, my sleep, my dreams, I don’t understand where it all fits….together!

From the moment I awake to the moment I sit down, what time, what reflective, useful, me time do I get?  How do I make sense of it all when it doesn’t stop, when I can’t stop, when if I did stop what on earth would I find?

I can’t help others in far away countries, I have to save the rainforest, how can I adopt a child when I have trouble looking after my own, yet I should, I should.

They’re out there, people, ruining everything around me and what can I do to make a difference to that!  Where do I look, what should I put my energy into, what is right, how should I live?

So I do what everybody does, I work, find a partner, bring up children and try and make something of myself, of my life, and hope that on the way I bump into destiny, my destiny.  I hope that all the wrongs in the world will sort themselves out, that they will gradually get better.  I help where I can, by this donation or that support, doing on red nose day, then maybe, just maybe it will all be enough.

So this evening, after kids lights out, I flump, as one does, in front of the tube that brings me news of all the things I can’t do much about and which reminds me of the whirly burly of thoughts in my head.

I’m a sad act, sitting on the sofa like this. I should be doing something, something more.  But I’m tired and it’s been a long day and I just want to relax.  So I watch the tube and wish my cares away.

Damn button, never works first time.  Click over the channel, no more news! Ah, a nature programme, the sea, I like the sea, oh and that bloke, the narrator, I like him, this’ll do.

“Far away, deep in the blue dark oceans beyond the everyday thoughts of man, in the
cold and calm womb of the sea, swim two majestic and soulful creatures of enormous
size.
In these depths where light filters through the waves like gossamer curtains, and the sun plays gently on their huge blue hides, the supporting and peaceful womb of the sea surrounds these age old creatures.
There is a meditative, timeless ambience that follows their gentle and slow rhythmic undulations on uncharted courses, for untold miles.
This majestic couple are like any other indigenous life in the sea, and have captured the hearts of mankind and our imaginations since time immemorial.
That is, until now.  Because these are two of the last Blue Whales in the world.”

The familiar image of the naturalist wheeling out his poetic and informative story had more than the usual interest to at least one member of the watching public.

Frank Markham had just been appointed to be environmental journalist for one of the worlds leading newspapers and as such studied his subject at every opportunity.

His first few months would determine his success. He needed a big story. He had a feeling that he had just got a sniff of one but couldn’t work out why.

The narrator continued:

“In the frozen lands to the north of their present course, are the Canusu Indians, a tribe that has inhabited the Northern, frozen wastes for centuries.
It is their interdependence with all of the creatures and the habitat around them that modern man knows about, but sadly doesn’t seem to fully comprehend.
While we keep on damaging and destroying the world around us, it is here, where survival depends on all five senses and many years of intimacy with nature, that a new story is being told in the thick atmospheres of seal oil fires.
It begins with how the Indians are the greatest of tribes because they refused the outsiders magic.  Yet it carries on to observe that however lucky they are to be Indians, they are still luckier to be the ‘creative in the middle’, a term that defines their part in the food chain, taking from here and there, but never taking all.
The sung story continues still further to include how blessed they are to witness the world and it’s working, before it climbs to a warning that chills to the bone even quicker than Karnukha, the ice gods, breath.
The ice cap is melting.  Although the Indians see it a different way.  The story tells that it is the tears of the Whales because they can no longer come home, and it tells that the tears are filling the ocean and flooding the world.
If Arnah the sea god cannot help them, then the tears will keep on flowing until the world is drowned.
So the Canusu cry with the sea and then pray for the safe return of the whales.  Many songs are sung before each such meeting is done, and then the waiting goes on.
Next year will see the whales complete again their course around the world. Will it be their last? Do the Canusu sing in vain?"

Eighteen months later

The rough seas bite hard against his skin and the salt spray stings his cheeks and cuts at the corners of his eyes.

Markhams’ beard is full of salt and his hands are numb and sore with the wet and cold.

The deck of the Everglade sways from side to side in the heavy swell of a temperamental Pacific, and the decks below are awash with the invading sea.

For Markham this is a once in a lifetime journey.  Reporting on environmental issues had started out as a normal job with no special significance or interest, but had very soon metamorphosed into a burning passion, consuming his personal as well as his working life.

It had been a post that, like any other, needed research into the issues, long hours of phone and footwork trying to catch interviews and creating stories from the endless streams of information pouring out of the Green party and various save this or that offices.

That seemed a long time ago now. Between then and now was a journey of a different kind, a journey from one attitude to another, a leap across a chasm with no possibility of return.

On one side he had stood in a dark and dingy London pub full of backchat, pints and pies. Fast food, sex, stories, and people flashed through his life with no emphasis on any particular thing, except to keep on moving.

There were pills for the headaches and pills for the acid. In the car existed a chaos of wrappers and ash, and at home, of washing and washing up.

He'd had a working wife who suffered attacks of the nags and had a bored and barely willing body. Pity there were no pills for that.

The distance he’d travelled since then seemed immense, greater even than the ocean which he now attempted to plough through and which seemed so dwarfing as it peaked and troughed around him without care or thought for his very existence.

He leaned on the metal rail and held it for steadiness and security.  It was a firm reminder that he was really here. Not that he needed reminding so much, more that the journey was providing a respite from the world, and an opportunity to reflect in solitude on the changes that had indeed occurred with their own inevitable steps.

“Mr Markham! I don’t think this is a good place to stand. It’s going to get rougher. You might be better off in your cabin now, until its blown over.”

Frank turns to look into the huddled face of the captain and simply nods. He seemed a goodish sort; although Markham didn’t really know him very well, he had helped Frank with the details of his journey when he’d first arrived in Lagos looking for a ship to join and that had sort of made them comrades.

As he made his way to his cabin, Markham reflected on the journey to Lagos.  His thoughts reeled back across the months as he traced the line of events that led to being here.

It had started on the first morning of his new appointment, after that whale programme. The first thing that he’d done was to contact Greenpeace and ask for information on the Blue Whale. The girl there had been sort of helpful and had promised to send a leaflet to his home concerning whales and their hunting.  If he wanted any further information he could call again.

Jack had been wandering the floor with paper in his hand trying to yell at someone above the phones and general hubbub created by an ‘open plan’ office environment.

“Jack have you got a minute?”
“Where the fuck is Bob?” He turned his cluttered mind toward Frank, “What is it Frank?
“I want to follow up an assignment on the last two Blue Whales. They’re readership interest and I can get a lot of sympathy out of it.”
“Frank you’ve only just got the job. Stay with Pete and learn the ropes huh!”
“What’s to learn, I’m a reporter for Christ’s sake, I know a story and this is a story.”
“Alright, look, put it together and leave it on my desk. I’ll look at it sometime Ok?”

It wasn’t Ok but Jack had been right. He’d started to write out a brief but it was too flimsy, not enough detail or information, meat, if you’ll excuse the term.

Pete, however, wasn’t an exciting prospect either.  He didn’t drink beer, had given up smoking and seemed to enjoy himself in his own little world ever since he’d been given permission to follow ‘green’ issues.

Markham had spent the first few days trying to get to know the guy better.  He’d asked lots of questions but just seemed to get unsatisfactory answers. Pete, it seemed, was slowly turning more and more green at the gills.

On their first day Markham remembered asking what to look for. Pete could only be twenty seven or eight, he’d started wearing cotton check brown shirts and loose clothing with his jeans. Oh and those damn phrases, like ‘cool’.  Why do all these people stereotype themselves so much?

He hadn’t always been like that.  Markham could remember having several pints and a good laugh with the lads at the local and Pete was usually there. That was until about two months into the environmental page.

Over coffee and herb tea, (Pete carried his own teabags), Frank had asked for the pointers.

“So what’s the angle then Pete?”
“Well what I’m into at the moment is wave and wind power. The professors have come up with a theory and it makes sense. We can supply all of the country’s needs if we combine three or four alternative ‘natural’ sources of power but it will still need nuclear and that’s a no no. The problem is that the government has spent millions on nuclear and fossil forms of power, so they don’t want to know about saying they were wrong and having to spend new money on alternatives, quite frankly they just don’t want to”.

“So what’s the scam? Someone taking a back-hander or what?”

Pete frowned, “You really are a died in the wool reporter aren’t you. It’s difficult to pinpoint, too much red tape.  You’ll find a lot of it in this job, we’re at the front of change and no one likes change, especially the government, they think it’ll lose them votes”.

Frank was agitated, “So what’s the point?”

“The point is that we’re going to rack and ruin. Look. It’s hard to grasp hold of, but we’re going to run out of fossil fuels in the early twenty first century and the new ‘green paper’ isn’t specific enough about their commitments. We could end up in a lot of trouble. The country racing to produce power when it’s too late sort of thing, the ramifications on our lifestyle alone are staggering.”

“So what’s the story now?”  (fourth time and counting...)

Pete literally gave in. “Well I’m doing a lot of research at the moment.  There isn’t much time, I’ve got a deadline in two days. Jack wants the four of us in the department to keep alternating stories. It’s mainly due to the amount of new information we have to collate and make sense of. By the way, that’s what I’ll be looking to you for initially. I know research is going bananas collecting as much as they can, but we haven’t got any stocking fillers so we can spend time on bigger issues.”

It was all too much for Frank, “Hang on a minute I don’t get it, there’s no real cover up and no single person to blame! So what’s the issue? What are you going to print?”

Pete smiled. “It’s not a normal reporting issue Frank. Usually you point the finger somewhere when there’s trouble or an ‘in vogue’ debate on someone’s inefficiency. What’s so and so going to do about this and that, and why did this come up in the first place. The environmental issue is still so young that anyone can say ‘we didn’t see it coming’ or ‘no one was appointed to it then but they are now'," Pete waggled two fingers in the air to emphasise the well known phrases. Markham had only ever seen it done before on American T.V. and it hadn’t looked right then and it certainly didn’t feel right now. Pete continued, “What we have to do is to point out how bad things really are and how bad they could be if we don’t do something constructive about it. It’s more of an informative role really, sort of magazine reporting if you like.”

Frank couldn’t believe his ears. This was looking more and more boring. He hung his head and stared into his empty coffee cup.

Pete ventured a last couple of words, “Look Frank, I know it doesn’t seem like much, but what we’re doing is important.  Get into it and you’ll see I’m right.”

He paused, looked at the top of Markhams’ head and smiled. He seemed to confirm something that he’d been thinking, “anyway, for now what I need is for you to look into the paraphernalia of things that surround green issues. A lot of people that are into green are also into alternative medicine and religion and all sorts of extras.

I need short page fillers of the relationship these people have with other things they do and what that might mean to our society in the future, acupuncture, massage, that sort of thing.”

Frank remembered brightening a little.  “Ok, a look into the loonies could be fun for a while.”

At this Pete had looked perturbed but obviously decided to let it go for a while. They stood up and went their separate ways. Pete to the professors papers and Markham to research to get some sort of idea on who to look into as a page filler.

He rests his feet against the metal bar at the foot of his steel bed and sips back a drop of whisky from the lip of the bottle. The ship rolls from side to side and nurses him into a reminiscent half sleep.

The first few weeks had been pretty boring. Initially he'd had no interest in herbal teas or foreign religion, but he’d gradually forced his interest from the immediate news churned out of the official offices of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and had got to grips with Pete’s request for surrounding material.

He soon found that Pete had been right. Some of these people had strange disjointed ideas about life, and most of them didn’t seem to be very plugged in to reality.

He did however notice that each and every one, whether a masseur or meditator, believed one hundred percent in whatever they were doing. He remembered thinking that at least they didn’t walk around the streets proclaiming doom and gloom.

He’d started with the required ‘small’ issues, bearing away from acupuncture, holistic medicine and others that were usually covered by in-depth features, and tried reflexology. Massage of the feet that relates to all other parts of the body, bringing healing without drugs. Nothing major of course, more for body maintenance and relaxation.

He’d had to admit after his first visit he’d felt better for the massage, even though the woman had made him wash his feet first. It had been a nice stocking filler so to speak.

There had been many others. Alexander technique was one that he had found fascinating. He’d been shown the examples of people that had been horribly disfigured by their own posture.  Their backs bent and legs askew, they had obviously been suffering discomfort in many ways before embarking on a course of treatment that left them straighter, taller and seemingly happier for the experience. It had been a truly educational piece that had left him watching other people’s bodies and postures for days afterwards.

It took a few weeks however before he realised that he was running from therapy to therapy like a frightened cat. He hadn't known why, but he had begun to feel as if he were changing, slipping into a time stream outside of his normal habits.

The hooded cloak of reportive investigation normally gave him the protection of an ‘arms length’ approach to anything new. This was, of course, the ideal attitude for a member of the fourth estate to adopt. A truly observational and objective approach that neither interfered nor judged.

However he was aware that he was becoming increasingly curious about the many options available. They seemed to have a collective thread about them, something in the background. He began to feel like a closet window shopper. The kind of person that browsed shops for things that he couldn’t possibly afford and didn’t want anyway and who never browsed the shops for things that he could afford or did want. It was a very safe existence.

Inevitably this would be frustrating. He began to differentiate between his desire to explore and his unwillingness to be involved. He was determined not to be taken in by the beguiling smiles and helpful nature of the people that he interviewed. Even so, he had come away from most encounters with a feeling that he’d somehow left out an important question or had simply not taken things seriously enough.

Some of these people had inevitably proved to be wishy washy air heads, charlatans with no real substance and he became good at highlighting them as such in his column. But some of them... It wasn’t something that one could easily pinpoint.

At the pub, none of his friends wanted to discuss what he was doing unless it was to take the piss. This was mildly frustrating after a while as he did want to talk about his work and what he experienced in the course of things, but no one wanted to listen really.

He remembered having a system where he would look in the mirror and imagine himself in a home-knit sleeveless jumper. That usually put him off ideas about possible future changes and anyway, this was a job, not something that he personally wanted to get involved in.

Still there were aspects that intrigued him somewhere. He remembered his first reluctant concession to the experiences of the past few weeks with his rather generous purchase of a ‘Save the Whale’ badge from a stall at a small fair.

Not a huge confirmation of his conflict or interest, but an undeniable action of participating in a cause, a statement of opinion. Something he wouldn't have done before.

He smiles now at how tiny a move this had really been and at the time how weighty it had seemed.

He remembered wearing it self consciously on his lapel with a mixture of scepticism and pride. He didn’t want to be labelled a ‘greenie’ but on the other hand he did believe in the whales. Not only as a story, but as a crime that could be avoided. The combination of his enthusiasm for a new position at work and the t.v. programme that had provided the vehicle for his interest, was maybe more than it had first appeared.

He had taken in all of the information on the whales that the programme had provided. He had felt the wrong of the situation and helplessness of sitting home, alone, wishing that it could be different.  Wishing, along with perhaps the entire watching public, that we, mankind, hadn’t come to this.  That there should be plenty of whales and that he shouldn’t have to bother about problems outside of, and on top of, his immediate worries.

Maybe it was simply annoyance after all.


The next few days however, proved to be a different kettle of fish.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Last and The Lost

It had been a long time since he had last looked upon the surface of a living, breathing planet. Yet before him now was that very thing, partially covered by swirling masses of dark cloud. A dream come true? A vision of the future? Who could dare to hope. In his mind he pictured the mottled blue and green of the naked earth, a sight not seen for centuries, and for a moment he let himself imagine that the planet below would herald the same familiar sights, the same glories. But no, Earth was long gone, lost to the depths of space and the ravages of time, and he could not let the fondness of his memories cloud his judgement of the truth. The world below him was indeed alive, and the specially designed computer systems surrounding him told him in a series of complicated graphs and reports that it was potentially habitable. The air composition was similar to that of the late Earth's, although it sported a higher moisture count among several other slightly higher or lower chemical differences. But that was fine, and in fact it confirmed something especially hard to find, something especially promising. The planet lay in the habitable zone, the small slim curve of space just far enough away from a sun star that it was not too hot, yet not so far away that it was too cold, the exact distance needed to support liquid water, and therefore, life itself. If the sophisticated diagnostic systems he was, and had been, running on the planet were correct then the entire thing had the likeness to some kind of jungle. No doubt it was overgrown and tangled, but, if plants could grow, then it should be teeming with life of other kinds as well, although so far his systems hadn't picked up on any. He stared down through the many layered reinforced glass window of the spacecraft, his spacecraft, looking down upon an alien planet, a living planet, a glimpse of hope.
The next step would be to send down probes. They would descend through the atmosphere, collecting information and taking readings until they reached the surface. Once they landed there would be a brief stretch of time where they would get their bearings, take photographs, sample the earth, and wait for further instruction - or interruption. After that they would set out, each in a different direction, exploring the planet and sending back as much data as they could transmit to their hosts on the craft that floated above. If there were indeed life down there then they would find it, and if they didn't, they would at least confirm the chances of human life surviving in such an environment.
He had noticed as they had drawn closer to the planet that there were no other spacecraft surrounding it, no stations orbiting it, no rockets or probes leaving or returning to it, and no signals being sent from it. They had, of course, sent their own signals down, in the vain hope that something down there might be advanced enough to receive them and possibly figure out a means of replying. But so far the planet had been silent, eerily so.
His carefully designed systems had already explored the structure of the planet and the small solar system that it existed in, estimating that it had been formed at the very least a few billion years ago. That was time enough for life to develop, though what kind of life it was hard to say. Perhaps it would be what they thought of as prehistoric, some kind of dinosaur species yet to be wiped out by an extinction that would make way for a species such as theirs. Or perhaps that had only happened on Earth by chance and here it would be an entirely different story. Perhaps the prehistoric creatures here would flourish, growing and evolving and moving forwards. Or perhaps another kind of being would gain sentience, one entirely different to the human race. Perhaps it already had and they simply could not see or understand each other, their differences too great. Until their probes reached the surface there was nothing he could do but speculate.
If there was life down there it would be totally different from anything they had encountered before - not that they had encountered much in their travels, only a few microbes and basic fungal entities, nothing to get excited about. But that had been on other planets and stars, ones deemed uninhabitable for human life, ones outside the habitable zone that they had already known would not be capable of supporting them. This was the first time they had come into contact with a planet in the habitable zone, one that could potentially be the salvation they were looking for.
After the initial confusion that always followed being woken from stasis had cleared, he had found a small spark of hope flaring in his chest. The computer had woken him, it had woken him because he was captain, it had woken him because it believed it had found what they were looking for, the gemstone at the end of their quest. He had stared at the small dot on the screen, his eyes scanning the initial reports the on board systems were already putting together, that small spark of hope growing. It sounded right, it sounded good, it sounded... too good to be true.
He had woken a skeleton crew, only the heads of each department, and as they had drawn slowly closer to the curious planet he had held a briefing, filling each of them in on what he had learnt so far, and what he hoped to discover. On each of their faces he had seen the same spark of hope that now lived inside his own chest, but he had cautioned them against it, reminding them that the likelihood of this planet offering them what they sought was a billion to one. They had nodded, and he knew they would try, but it was difficult, no one wanted to be stuck on this spacecraft any longer than they had to be, and the longer they were out here the worse things would get. The idea of sleeping an eternity in stasis on board a lone ship travelling through the never ending void of space was a terrifying one, and one they had all had to face at the conception of their mission, one they had had no choice but to face. What if there was no other life out there, what if they really were alone, wandering the universe, lost and asleep until the ships power finally failed and they all perished in the void, the last of the human race. It was not a subject talked about openly, not a fear voiced in the dark. To voice it would be to give it some kind of power, some kind of reality. No. Carry out the mission, find a habitable planet, find life, find a way to perpetuate the existence of the human race.
Once they had been briefed the skeleton crew had departed, each to work their own departments, run their own programs, receive and translate their own data. He had given them each leave to wake any crew that they needed, but had cautioned them to only wake whomever they deemed was essential. Too much hope could prove fatal if the planet was not what they suspected it could be. Too many crew with too much knowledge, too much fear, too much desire, could be deadly.
Now, all across different parts of the ship his skeleton crew worked with their own skeleton crews, sending him their data, their intelligence, their projections. So far it looked good, it looked promising, but they had to stay detached, to let emotion tar their work could be fatal, not just to them but to the entire remaining population of the human race. To fuck up could be to prove the extinction of their species. There was no room for error.
He moved his eyes from the reports flickering across the screens in front of him and back down onto the planet below. It was not what he had expected, what he had imagined, what he had hoped. As they had drawn closer he had let the imagine of Earth excite him, an old and well known image that filled him with a feeling he couldn't quite name. Yet as they had finally drawn into orbit and had glimpsed their first view of the planet below he had felt that feeling slip quietly away, leaving him cold and alone. While the reports and data streaming in from the ships computers told him that the planet could be habitable the sight before his eyes looked angry and foreboding. For this planet was not blue and green, partially obscured by white and grey clouds, this planet was dark. It was red and mauve and undulating and dark angry clouds swirling across it's atmosphere. At first they had thought it all land mass, then they had thought it all sea, but eventually they had distinguished that the red was the land mass and the mauve was the ocean. What had coloured these such alien and striking colours was still unclear, but he could not help but feel that it did not bode well for the success of their mission. As he stared down at the planet he was reminded of a painting he had seen when he was still a young boy attending school. It had been a religious school, one of the last before their society had been purged of all that, and on one of the walls in their congregational hall had hung a painting, a dark and foreboding painting full of reds, blacks, purples, flames and death. It had been an artists depiction of hell, and it had scared the young boy looking at it to the depths of his bones. The thought came unbidden to his mind and he felt a shiver of unease pass through his body.
'What if they were wrong, what if they were all wrong and we have somehow found hell?'
Only time would tell, and that time was fast approaching.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Wordy Wednesday!


This weeks Wordy Wednesday word is a great one to describe the winter weather most of us are seeing at the moment;

Gelid


- Very cold
- Icy
- Frosty
- Wintry
- Chilly

Gelid is derived from the Latin Gelidus which means icy cold. It is thought to have entered the english language somewhere around the 1600's.

'Alice shivered as she slipped out of the tent and out into the frosty landscape surrounding her. The crisp layer of undisturbed snow covering the ground and the glittering icicles hanging from the branches of nearby trees were certainly beautiful, but it's beauty did nothing to hide it gelid reality.' 


Can you use this word in a short piece of prose, flash fiction or poetry?
Comment it below and share the creativity!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Writing Prompt!

After an unexpected break we're back with a new writing prompt for you this Tuesday, because of course, Tuesday is writing prompt day!

So today's prompt is a first sentence. Use this sentence to spur on your creativity and begin a piece of writing, it can be any genre or length as long as it starts with the following sentence.


'The soft waves of the ocean lapped gently against the grey sand, causing little white bubbles to froth and foam along their edges, it had been a long time since he had last seen the ocean, heard the cries of the gulls above, and felt the cool sea breeze brushing against his skin.'


If you'd like to share your creativity for more fantastic inspiration for others then feel free to post your response in the comments section below. Or if you've written something you're particularly proud of you can submit it for publication on this website, just visit the Submissions page.

If you're looking for more great inspiration then you can also visit the Writing Prompts page where you'll find loads more exciting prompts to get your creative juices flowing.


Happy Writing

Rach x