Welcome to Hot Potato!
6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story
Today’s first fortnightly instalment, features writer Steve Harris who is starting the whole collaborative short story off!
Night fell swiftly, like a bird of prey plunging from on high to claim a squeaking victim. The evening was still warm from another baking hot day. Winston lay on his back on the hard concrete yard, the way he always did when he wanted to gaze up at the heavens.
The fragments of broken moon created a dusty ring around the planet that made it harder to see the stars clearly most nights. Only when the once-whole moon would have been dark, when the Earth was between Sol and what remained of the shattered satellite, could Winston see what he wanted to see: constellations, an iridescent miasma of flickering suns burning themselves up billions of miles from where he lay.
Something waited out there. Something wilder and brighter than he would ever find on the sluggish ball of rock and decay where he’d had the misfortune to be born. He had no idea how to express the certainty that for him life lay beyond the atmosphere of his home. He simply knew. The same way he knew when he was hungry or he needed the bathroom. His mother thought he was an idler.
“Winston, get yourself inside and do some school work before bedtime.”
“Do I have to?”
“Of course you have to. There’s work for educated people and nothing but misery for the dumb and the lazy.”
You would know, he thought to himself as he took one last look at the stars, squinting slightly so that the light from them all blended into a fire, like a signal beacon calling him to rise up from the Earth, to seek adventure and meaning.
“What happened to the Moon?”
“Do your school work.”
He knew she wouldn’t answer. Nobody ever answered that question. At school the teachers avoided it, or pretended they had not heard when it was asked countless times a day. The adults kept forbidden knowledge from their children. Sara, his best, his only friend in the bedraggled neighbourhood, once whispered her theories during a particularly evasive science class.
“Must be something terrible. Something they think will scare us to death. Like a huge war or an experiment that went disastrously wrong. Zombies and mutants and stuff.”
“Do you think we will be allowed to know when we’re adults?” he asked.
“Don’t know,” she admitted. Like Winston himself she felt that at ten years old they were already pretty grown up as it was.
“I’m going to find out.”
She did not argue. He sounded utterly convinced.
Steve’s text has been passed to the second potato Michael Schmidt. Michael is now writing the second ‘beginning’ section. Each potato is free to take the narrative wherever they like.
The next instalment of the short story will be on Thursday 27th April. Do come back and see where Michael takes us next! The writers are collectively and progressively taking up the structure of beginning, middle and end.
You can find more out about Steve here: