Tag Archives: Shannon Pardoe

A Shattered Moon: A Hot Potato Collaborative Short Story

22 Aug

Moon

A Shattered Moon

by

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt,
Shannon Pardoe,
Sam Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

Illustrations by Sam Grainger

(written collaboratively March-May 2014, as part of our Hot Potato initiative)


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.

 

Face
Of course no one could have known what would happen next. Sitting on top of a rock outcropping just above the hole in the ground he now called home. Winston looked out on the skyline of a wasted L.A.. He fumbled through this and other memories as the sun didn’t so much as set, but withdrew into a grey night. Sara’s green eyes sometimes appeared when he closed his. But just like all the other faces he used to know– the nuances in her expressions, the exact impression of the freckles that spread across her cheeks and nose, have slowly faded away over time with every night, with every cigarette, with every jar of moonshine.

He remembers nights outside playing with Sara. He remembers sprinting home for supper after the street lights had come on. He also remembers the suspicion he felt after viewing the U.N.-approved orientation video at his town’s drive-in movie theatre. The video briefly explained how the moon had been hit by a meteor and how there was nothing to worry about as only the tides would be slightly affected. He remembers as nations slowly stopped fighting and focused inward on themselves as if bracing for something. He remembers the intangible panic he felt during those last years of unnatural peace. He remembers waking up one night to shrieks of desperation and the roar of space shuttles full of doctors, scientists, and engineers stealing away from earth in the night. He remembers words like Europa, Titan, Mars—and then of course, he remembers standing outside of the same drive-in movie theatre watching a television feed of those same shuttles colliding, one after another, into the blanket of debris which had been left by the destruction of the moon. They must have known it was a suicide mission, but what did they know that would force their hand in such a gamble? What piece of knowledge had they kept from us that made their suicide mission seem like a safer alternative to staying on Earth? He looked up at the night and gritted his yellow teeth at whatever leviathan of antithesis lay lurking between the stars. He never believed in God, but he believed in this.

He remembers the last lines of a poem and falls asleep out on the rocks as the words ring back in forth in his head–what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Earth to be born?–

—–

Winston woke the following morning disgruntled and listless from a poor night of sleep. He watched in silent indignation as a dusty haze swept across the horizon, bringing with it memories of long summer days and burning skies. Ever since the Event these memories had become his constant companion, playing out in his mind like the old movies he used to watch back at the drive-in theatre. Had she known even then?

Since the moon’s destruction things had fallen into chaos, the seasons had become erratic and with no anchor the raging seas had calmed to a gentle ripple. For those, like himself, who stood in defiance of whatever darkness lay beyond the planet the world had become a dangerous place, far worse than anyone imagined. The floating debris offered little protection from the asteroids that fell from space, crashing into the planet and leaving craters and burning cities in their wake.

But it wasn’t the destruction he feared the most. It was the silence, the emptiness left behind from those who had fled, they had run from the unknown and into the arms of death.

Like Sara and the rest of them he has stayed, too afraid to take the plunge into darkness opting instead to face whatever evil lurked between the stars. Even as a child, before grasping the enormity of what was happening, he had sensed that something was watching them, waiting. There was no way of knowing when it would happen but part of him knew it wouldn’t be long ‘til he found out. Until then he had only one task, one goal that would tip the scale in Earth’s favour – Sara. As shards of light drifted across the remains of his old home he could hear her voice.

“Winston, do you remember the promise we made to each other when the shuttles left Earth?”

Of course, how could he forget.

“You promised that no matter what we would stay together.”

He sighed, even here on the rocky outcrop he called home, far above the desolate streets of L.A she had found him. It was because of her that he had made it this far, the pixie like voice driving him onward, but she was only a voice. Even though he could no longer remember her face something deep inside his chest told him that somehow she was still alive, waiting for him to find her. The last words she had spoken haunted his every moment. He had to do it, he had to go on.

One sleepless night everything changed: he had found Sara’s telephone number, hidden under bags of waste in a dumpster. He had waited for morning to follow up on what he’d found. It’d be safer then. Terrors moved through the streets at night; terrors even he couldn’t face. He rolled the soggy piece of paper around in his mouth. Nothing would take it from him. Nothing. He’d swallow it if he had to, if it came to that.

Images of Sara kept his eyes light through the night, and his thoughts had a constant pulse. It had to be her. It had to be. She was alive. He knew she was. She was the solution. She was his absolution. She was the only hope left.

He’d begun to fear the worst after years of searching. But, in her old abandoned house he’d found it. It caught his eye in a most unlikely place.

The toilet bowl was dry and stained with murky lines. Unknown to him, just out of view, a piece of paper clung to the side of the basin. A small corner came loose from the trickle of his urine and curiosity had made him peel it away. It read:

New – 207 948 9882

Hand

Eventually, the morning came and brought a twist in his gut. He climbed out from the dumpster and made his way to a bar at the end of the street. It was a risk that had to be taken.

The bar held a mist of smoke. The low-lifes vegetated; cigarettes hanging from their bottom lips, drinks resting between their fingers. Empty eyes rolled over him as he entered, and remained fixed. The bartender glanced up in tired recognition.

‘I need to use your phone,’ Winston said.

‘Look, I’ve told you alrea- ’

‘I need to use your phone.’

The bartender nodded towards the end of the bar. ‘You’ve got two minutes – no funny business.’

Winston took the sodden ball of paper from his mouth, smoothed it out and dialled the number; a Maine area code. Why Maine? There was nothing left on the east coast; just wastelands. What was she doing in Maine? His bones vibrated painfully as he held the receiver.

It picked up.

‘Good afternoon, Sara’s Boutique Florists, how may I be of service today?’

It was her. That voice. It was Sara. The relief tasted of melted sugar in his throat. He broke into pieces and clutched the phone with two hands.

‘Sara? Christ, Sara, you’re alive. Fuck! Sara, it’s me, it’s Winston!’

‘Shit…’ the sound suddenly muffled on the other line, ‘Give me a sec, Jill, I’m sorry, it’s him again.’

‘Sara? Sara? I don’t belie – I don’t believe it. Sara, it’s me! It’s me, Winston. Where did you –. Where are you? I thought you were gone. I thought I’d lost you.’

There was no reply.

‘Sara? SARA?’

‘Winston, please don’t call this number again. I thought I made that clear to you last time. I don’t look after you anymore, Winston, I’m sorry. You’re not my responsibility. Please stop calling me. Goodbye.’

The phone clicked.

‘SARA!’

‘Hey!’ The bartender had moved to Winston’s side and ripped the phone from him, ‘Get out of my bar you maniac, I said no funny business. GET OUT.’

All Winston knew was he had to see Sara for real, despite her cold words. He had to go to her, find her. The wasteland of coast was not an easy path to follow, but through the midden of fallen sky and obliterated earth Winston carried on. Every step was somehow more treacherous than the last as fragments of stone, moon, and people’s lives crunched under his heavily lined boots.

The moon’s breaking seemed an entire lifetime ago. Its pieces still plummeted to earth on occasion, never letting anyone forget the past and grounding them in some strange future. Winston’s steps were slow and deliberate as he navigated the debris of Maine, each step bringing him closer.

For how long had he considered the day the moon was ravaged the changing point in his life? For how long had he been wrong?

All the world had watched, paralyzed, as the moon shattered and ruptured humanity’s trajectory for a bright future—the worst of cataclysms—yet Winston was unchanged by it. He had a strong spirit.

He had changed when he had lost her—and every day since he had blamed the moon, and had felt his heart breaking, healing, and breaking over again. He had become a drifter, floating through whatever came his way, coasting. Drinking.

Maine’s air had a crisp bite as he consulted his pocket map, and carefully measured the last leg towards a facility the world seemed oblivious to. How she had come here, and why, didn’t matter. He had to find her.

He had been lost in his head for so long, he had forgotten she was still alive and not a fragment of the past. He devoted everything to his memory and her face. Her face, piercing, drove him on. It held electrifying beauty.

The scientists had failed. They were meant to be the last, best hope for humanity—and Winston didn’t care. His only hope was Sara, his only vision was of her face. He didn’t register his steps in terms of mileage, but measured them in terms of closing the distance between him and her.

He could at last see an unscorched building, the last structure this part of the world seemed to have, and slipped inside. The door creaked, but no one seemed to hear. A dull hum filled the corridors as he quietly began his search for her. His boots clumped loudly and left scuffs across the floor tiles, so he removed them. He peered in doors only to find empty rooms.

Carefully he continued, turning a corner and—

“Winston?”

“Winston, is that you? Where the devil are your shoes?”

To Maine he had gone, for a woman he only remembered as a girl. He had made a promise to her…had she forgotten that she had made one to him as well?

Sara stood facing him at the end of the corridor. He walked towards her, stepping lightly and slowly, as though she was a tiny animal and so much as a breath less delicate than hers could cause her to break away.

Her hair was twisted high on top of her head in work-mode, and she wore a white surgeon’s coat complete with rubber gloves. A tiny badge pinned to her left breast read, “Sara, Florist.” Little spots of color flecked her gloves and coat. She’d been painting.

“I knew you’d hate me having this job,” she said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t in touch. This was just something I had to do. Something… Without you.”

It had been like traveling a hundred years in the dark. Looking in abandoned places for numbers that might not be there, going into bars asking favors from people that didn’t even want to see you. A hundred years in the dark till now but instead of one light, he felt a thousand burning between the place where his bones meet his skin, and under their glare he felt more lost. He wanted to undo the pin that held her hair, letting it all fall across her shoulders and tell her how pretty she looked.

How much he’d missed her. A decade ago, he wouldn’t have thought twice, but right now one more step and he’d feel like he was breaking the law.

“Do you want to see the lab?” she asked him.

He followed her into a crisp, white room where jars holding pickled flowers lined the rooms. He stared. Roses, tulips, lilacs; each jar held one single flower of a different breed to the last.

Real flowers hadn’t existed like this in years, yet here they were, blurring the line between past and present. The long white petals of a daisy unfurled in the dappled liquid, its base gleaming like a yellow eye, its stem curved, suspended in the jelly.

She brought him to a table just in front of them, and opened the lid of a metal box.
There, inside, a miniature blue flower dipped its head towards its stem, curling into itself. Its leaves fanned out like ghosts in the water.

“Prototype, “Sara said, “Bluebell. Wild flowers are harder to recreate, because they weren’t as artificially engineered as the more popular ones. Rose was the first one, obviously.”

“Obviously,” he repeated, dumbfounded.

“I don’t know. You always seemed so obsessed with the moon, with the past. It was like you blamed it for everything. I needed to get out of LA. I mean, we haven’t had weather like the ancestors did since before we were born. So, I never understood why everybody mourned it so much. It was a terrible thing to happen, sure, but don’t you feel like the more we’re mourning one kind of light, we’re missing out on another?”

“Your flowers are beautiful,” he told her, “but fake.”

She looked down, sighing.

“I thought you’d say that. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing. Can’t you see the benefits of the work we’ve done here? It’s only one small thing, but it’s a step towards recreation. Towards life.

“Through art.”

He shoved his hands into the pockets of the white coat she’d given him to hide their trembling.

“This isn’t Art. This is synthetic. Like, most of outside, what’s natural, what’s life is not synthetic flowers. I’d rather give my girlfriend a bouquet of moon! Because that’s what’s real. At least when she smelled she’d smell a piece of something that did exist, that was blown up, and that hurt everybody. It wasn’t nice that it happened, but I’m not about to forget that it did happen. This world has been changed, and no amount of chemical flowers is going to make me forget that life doesn’t exist any more.”

“What is the difference? Yes, they’re chemical, yes we made them and we painted them! But they’re here! They’re something! A step towards rebuilding! A step towards finally being happy!”

“It’s not about being happy. It’s about truth. Denial of the truth is the worst thing anyone can do to another person.”

“Is that why you came here? Hoping that I could be your truth, hoping that I’d want to go off with you and wander around, picking up bits of broken moon and imagining what life could have been like? We’re not kids any more, Wints.”

“I just wanted to see you. I had to see you,” he paused, “I still want you, even… even if this is what you want.”

“This is what I want.”

“I know. When I called you I just had to see it for myself.”

“I’m moving to New York,” she said suddenly.

“When?”

“Tomorrow, they have a new lab opening. They have a project opening; they’re planning to recreate the whole of Central park, but with lots of flowers ahead,” her voice sped up, excited, “We think we can manipulate the roses to grow right out of the bark in the trees, can you imagine how beautiful that would be?”

“When do you leave?”

“In 2 days.”

Winston could see it now. The stuff of dreams. But how real was a dream when it hadn’t come from within? When it had come from someone placing it there, someone constructing it. He would never be able to visit the park without feeling like he was a trespasser in someone else’s garden.

“I should go,” he told her.

She didn’t blink.

“Okay.”

A hundred years in the dark, for only a flash of light.

He left the building into the dust swirling street. Charcoal grey shimmied in the thick air around the emaciated branches of a tree. There was something beautiful in its wasteful figure. The way it held itself, proud of its bareness, unashamed.

He bent down, scooping a piece of moon up from the gravel and placed it in his pocket.

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Earth to be born?

Sara could have her garden, they all could. The moon felt coarse and hard in its pocket, its jagged edges scratched his legs through the thin fabric of his pants but he did not remove it. It would remain there all day, every day, a rough beast in his shallow life.

Sara and her friends would create a garden, inventing Nature in a way that no one had intended, and in decades no one would know the difference.

He put his hand in his pocket, holding the piece of moon. A hundred years in the dark with only a reminder of light.

Writers’ Information

Steve Harris:

http://theplanetharris.com
https://twitter.com/theplanetharris

Michael Schmidt

http://glitteringafterthoughts.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/geometric_auras

Shannon Pardoe:

https://twitter.com/shannongpardoe

Sam Grainger:

http://sgraingy.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/SGraingy
http://sgraingy2.tumblr.com/

Josh Kremer:

https://twitter.com/joshuaDkremer

Jessica Cooke:

http://madramblingsss.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/JessicaCooke5

If you would like to take part in our next Hot Potato short story collaboration do get in touch via the comment box or via the Contact form on the What’s On page. You would be welcome.

Hot Potato 2! Short Story Collaboration #6 Jessica Cooke

20 May


Hot Potato

Welcome to Hot Potato!

6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story

 The Potatoes: 

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt, Shannon Pardoe, Samuel Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

.

Today’s instalment is the last section in our Hot Potato story featuring writer Jessica Cooke  who  has had the hard job of tying up all the the threads of our  collaborative short story.  You can find  all of the other sections of our short story here

.

.
Sara stood facing him at the end of the corridor. He walked towards her, stepping lightly and slowly, as though she was a tiny animal and as if so much as a breath less delicate than hers could cause her to break away.

Her hair was twisted high on top of her head in work-mode, and she wore a white surgeon’s coat complete with rubber gloves. A tiny badge pinned to her left breast read, “Sarah, Florist.” Little spots of color flecked her gloves and coat. She’d been painting.

“I knew you’d hate me having this job,” she said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t in touch. This was just something I had to do. Something… Without you.”

It had been like travelling a hundred years in the dark. Looking in abandoned places for numbers that might not be there, going into bars asking favours from people that didn’t even want to see you. A hundred years in the dark till now but instead of one light, he felt a thousand burning between the place where his bones meet his skin, and under their glare he felt more lost. He wanted to undo the pin that held her hair, letting it all fall across her shoulders and tell her how pretty she looked. How much he’d missed her. A decade ago, he wouldn’t have thought twice, but right now one more step and he’d feel like he was breaking the law.

“Do you want to see the lab?” she asked him.

He followed her into a crisp, white room where jars holding pickled flowers lined the rooms. He stared. Roses, tulips, lilacs; each jar held one single flower of a different breed to the last. Real flowers hadn’t existed like this in years, yet here they were, blurring the line between past and present. The long white petals of a daisy unfurled in the dappled liquid, its base gleaming like a yellow eye, its stem curved, suspended in the jelly.

She brought him to a table just in front of them, and opened the lid of a metal box.

There, inside, a miniature blue flower dipped its head towards its stem, curling into itself. Its leaves fanned out like ghosts in the water.

“Prototype, “Sara said, “Bluebell. Wild flowers are harder to recreate, because they weren’t as artificially engineered as the more popular ones. Rose was the first one, obviously.”

“Obviously,” he repeated, dumbfounded.

“I don’t know. You always seemed so obsessed with the moon, with the past. It was like you blamed it for everything. I needed to get out of LA. I mean, we haven’t had weather like the ancestors did since before we were born. So, I never understood why everybody mourned it so much. It was a terrible thing to happen, sure, but don’t you feel like the more we’re mourning one kind of light, we’re missing out on another?”

“Your flowers are beautiful,” he told her, “but fake.”

She looked down, sighing.

“I thought you’d say that. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing. Can’t you see the benefits of the work we’ve done here? It’s only one small thing, but it’s a step towards recreation. Towards life. Through art.”
He shoved his hands into the pockets of the white coat she’d given him to hide their trembling.

“This isn’t Art. This is synthetic. Like, most of outside, what’s natural, what’s life is not synthetic flowers. I’d rather give my girlfriend a bouquet of moon! Because that’s what’s real. At least when she smelled she’d smell a piece of something that did exist, that was blown up, and that hurt everybody. It wasn’t nice that it happened, but I’m not about to forget that it did happen. This world has been changed, and no amount of chemical flowers is going to make me forget that life doesn’t exist any more.”

“What is the difference? Yes, they’re chemical, yes we made them and we painted them! But they’re here! They’re something! A step towards rebuilding! A step towards finally being happy!”

“It’s not about being happy. It’s about truth. Denial of the truth is the worst thing anyone can do to another person.”
“Is that why you came here? Hoping that I could be your truth, hoping that I’d want to go off with you and wander around, picking up bits of broken moon and imagining what life could have been like? We’re not kids any more, Wints.”

“I just wanted to see you. I had to see you,” he paused, “I still want you, even… even if this is what you want.”
“This is what I want.”

“I know. When I called you I just had to see it for myself.”

“I’m moving to New York,” she said suddenly.

“When?”

“Tomorrow, they have a new lab opening. They have a project opening; they’re planning to recreate the whole of Central park, but with lots of flowers ahead,” her voice speed up, excited, “We think we can manipulate the roses to grow right out of the bark in the trees, can you imagine how beautiful that would be?”

“When do you leave?”

“In 2 days.”

Winston could see it now. The stuff of dreams. But how real was it dream when it hadn’t come from within? When it had come from someone placing it there, someone constructing it. He would never be able to visit the park without feeling like he was a trespasser in someone else’s garden.

“I should go,” he told her.

She didn’t blink.

“Okay.”

A hundred years in the dark, for only a flash of light.

He left the building into the dust swirling street. Charcoal grey shimmied in the thick air around the emaciated branches of a tree. There was something beautiful in its wasteful figure. The way it held itself, proud of its bareness, unashamed.

He bent down, scooping a piece of moon up from the gravel and placed it in his pocket.

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Earth to be born?

Sara could have her garden, they all could. The moon felt coarse and hard in its pocket, its jagged edges scratched his legs through the thin fabric of his pants but he did not remove it. It would remain there all day, every day, a rough beast in his shallow life.

Sara and her friends would create a garden, inventing Nature in a way that no one had intended, and in decades no one would know the difference.

He put his hand in his pocket, holding the piece of moon. A hundred years in the dark with only a reminder of light.

 

 You can find more out about Jessica here:

http://madramblingsss.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/JessicaCooke5

 

Thanks to Jessica the final section of our story is now in place. The entire piece is complete. I will now go away and do a bit of light editing to draw the sections together into a cohesive whole.  The next stage will then be to find an artist to provide illustrations and to create an interactive pdf of the story. This will be given to the writers. The story will then be the 2nd piece in a collection of stories we hope to publish when we have accumulated enough for an entire book. 

Tomorrow ArtiPeeps will be featuring the third FreeSpace of poet Kate Garrett and her collection of poems on pregnancy and the experience of women through the decades. Do take a look.

As ever, thank you for your interest.

.

BE THERE AT THE START AND HELP US MAKE THE VIRTUAL REAL

Transformations

29 Twitter poets and artists, I contemporary version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Do take a look at our Transformations Kickstarter Campaign:

http://kck.st/1i2e721

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new-badge5

 


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Hot Potato 2! Short Story Collaboration #5 Josh Kremer

5 May


Hot Potato

Welcome to Hot Potato!

6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story

 The Potatoes: 

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt, Shannon Pardoe, Samuel Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

.

Today’s fifth fortnightly instalment, features writer Josh Kremer who is picking up the story where Sam left off.  You can find the first section of our short story here, the second section here   the third here and the fourth here

.

The wasteland of coast was not an easy path to follow, but through the midden of fallen sky and obliterated earth Winston carried on. Every step was somehow more treacherous than the last as fragments of stone, moon, and people’s lives crunched under his heavily lined boots.

The moon’s breaking seemed an entire lifetime ago. Its pieces still plummeted to earth on occasion, never letting anyone forget the past and grounding them in some strange future. Winston’s steps were slow and deliberate as he navigated the debris of Maine, each step bringing him closer.

For how long had he considered the day the moon was ravaged the changing point in his life? For how long had he been wrong?

All the world had watched, paralyzed, as the moon shattered and ruptured humanity’s trajectory for a bright future—the worst of cataclysms—yet Winston was unchanged by it. He had a strong spirit.

He had changed when he had lost her—and every day since he had blamed the moon, and had felt his heart breaking, healing, and breaking over again. He had become a drifter, floating through whatever came his way, coasting. Drinking.

Maine’s air had a crisp bite as he consulted his pocket map, and carefully measured the last leg towards a facility the world seemed oblivious to. How she had come here, and why, didn’t matter. He had to find her.

He had been lost in his head for so long, he had forgotten she was still alive and not a fragment of the past. He devoted everything to his memory and her face. Her face, piercing, drove him on. It held electrifying beauty.

The scientists had failed. They were meant to be the last, best hope for humanity—and Winston didn’t care. His only hope was Sara, his only vision was of her face. He didn’t register his steps in terms of mileage, but measured them in terms of closing the distance between him and her.

He could at last see an unscorched building, the last structure this part of the world seemed to have, and slipped inside. The door creaked, but no one seemed to hear. A dull hum filled the corridors as he quietly began his search for her. His boots clumped loudly and left scuffs across the floor tiles, and so he removed them. He peered in doors only to find empty rooms.

Carefully he continued, turning a corner and—

“Winston?”
“Winston, is that you? Where the devil are your shoes?”

To Maine he had gone, for a woman he only remembered as a girl. He had made a promise to her…had she forgotten that she had made one to him as well?

 

 You can find more out about Josh here:

https://twitter.com/joshuaDkremer

 

 Josh’s text has been passed to the sixth potato Jessica Cooke. Jess is now writing the section which takes us to the end of our story. Each potato is free to take the narrative wherever they like.

The final instalment of the short story will be on Tuesday 20th May where our collaborative piece  will be brought to its conclusion.  Do come back and see how Jess ties all the story threads up! The writers have collectively and progressively taken up the structure of beginning, middle and end.

Tomorrow ArtiPeeps will be filled with some Transformation poetry from Book 15.

As ever, thank you for your interest.

.

BE THERE AT THE START AND HELP US MAKE THE VIRTUAL REAL

Transformations

29 Twitter poets and artists, I contemporary version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Do take a look at our Transformations Kickstarter Campaign:

http://kck.st/1i2e721

new-badge5

 


.

 

Hot Potato 2! Short Story Collaboration #4 Sam Grainger

23 Apr


Hot Potato

Welcome to Hot Potato!

6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story

 The Potatoes: 

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt, Shannon Pardoe, Samuel Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

.

Today’s fourth fortnightly instalment, features writer Sam Grainger who is picking up the story where Shannon left off.  You can find the first section of our short story here, the second section here  and the third here.

.

He didn’t sleep the night he found the phone number. Hidden under bags of waste in a dumpster, he waited for the morning. It’d be safer then. Terrors moved through the streets at night; terrors even he couldn’t face.

He rolled the soggy piece of paper around in his mouth. Nothing would take it from him. He’d swallow it if he had to, if it came to that.

Images of Sara kept his eyes light, and his thoughts had a constant pulse. It had to be her. It had to be. She was alive. He knew she was. She was the solution. She was his absolution. She was the only hope left.

He’d begun to fear the worst after years of searching. But, in her old abandoned house he’d found it. It caught his eye in a most unlikely place.

The toilet bowl was dry and stained with murky lines. Unknown to him, just out of view, a piece of paper clung to the side of the basin. A small corner came loose from the trickle of his urine and curiosity had made him peel it away. It read:

New – 207 948 9882

The morning brought a twist in his gut. He climbed out from the dumpster and made his way to a bar at the end of the street. It was a risk that had to be taken.

The bar held a mist of smoke. The low-lifes vegetated; cigarettes hanging from their bottom lips, drinks resting between their fingers. Empty eyes rolled over him as he entered, and remained fixed. The bartender glanced up in tired recognition.

‘I need to use your phone,’ Winston said.

‘Look, I’ve told you alrea- ’

‘I need to use your phone.’

The bartender nodded towards the end of the bar. ‘You’ve got two minutes – no funny business.’

Winston took the sodden ball of paper from his mouth and dialled the number; a Maine area code. Why Maine? There was nothing left on the east coast; just wastelands. What was she doing in Maine? His bones vibrated painfully as he held the receiver.

It picked up.

‘Good afternoon, Sara’s Boutique Florists, how may I be of service today?’

It was her. That voice. It was Sara. The relief tasted of melted sugar in his throat. He broke into pieces and clutched the phone with two hands.

‘Sara? Christ, Sara, you’re alive. Fuck! Sara, it’s me, it’s Winston!’

‘Shit…’ the sound suddenly muffled on the other line, ‘Give me a sec, Jill, I’m sorry, it’s him again.’

‘Sara? Sara? I don’t belie – I don’t believe it. Sara, it’s me! It’s me, Winston. Where did you –. Where are you? I thought you were gone. I thought I’d lost you.’

There was no reply.

‘Sara? SARA?’

‘Winston, please don’t call this number again. I thought I made that clear to you last time. I don’t look after you anymore, Winston, I’m sorry. You’re not my responsibility. Please stop calling me. Goodbye.’

The phone clicked.

‘SARA!’

‘Hey!’ The bartender had moved to Winston’s side and ripped the phone from him, ‘Get out of my bar you maniac, I said no funny business. GET OUT.’

 

 You can find more out about Sam here:

http://sgraingy.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/SGraingy

 

Sam’s text has been passed to the fifth potato Josh Kremer. Josh is now writing the fifth section which takes us towards the end of our story . Each potato is free to take the narrative wherever they like.

The next instalment of the short story will be on Monday 5th May where writer Jessica Cooke will be bring our story to its conclusion.  Do come back and see where Jess takes us next! The writers are collectively and progressively taking up the structure of beginning, middle and end.

Tomorrow’s creativity on ArtiPeeps will focus on the last part of our Found Poetry Collaboration. A sad day, indeed! 

As ever, thank you for your interest.

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BE THERE AT THE START AND HELP US MAKE THE VIRTUAL REAL

Transformations

29 Twitter poets and artists, I contemporary version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Do take a look at our Transformations Kickstarter Campaign:

http://kck.st/1i2e721

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Hot Potato 2 ! Short Story Collaboration #3 -Shannon Pardoe

7 Apr


Hot Potato

Welcome to Hot Potato!

6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story

 The Potatoes: 

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt, Shannon Pardoe, Samuel Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

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Today’s third fortnightly instalment, features writer Shannon Pardoe who is picking up the story where Michael left off.  You can find the first section of our short story here and the second section here if you missed it..

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Winston watched in silent indignation as a dusty haze swept across the horizon bringing with it memories of long summer days and burning skies. Ever since the Event these memories had become his constant companion, playing out in his mind like the old movies he used to watch back at the drive-in theatre. Had she known even then?

Since the moon’s destruction things had fallen into chaos, the seasons had become erratic and with no anchor the raging seas had calmed to a gentle ripple. For those, like himself, who stood in defiance of whatever darkness lay beyond the planet the world had become a dangerous place, far worse than anyone imagined. The floating debris offered little protection from the asteroids that fell from space, crashing into the planet and leaving craters and burning cities in their wake.

But it wasn’t the destruction he feared the most. It was the silence, the emptiness left behind from those who had fled, they had run from the unknown and into the arms of death. Like Sarah and the rest of them he has stayed, too afraid to take the plunge into darkness opting instead to face whatever evil lurked between the stars. Even as a child, before grasping the enormity of what was happening, he had sensed that something was watching them, waiting. There was no way of knowing when it would happen but part of him knew it wouldn’t be long till he found out. Until then he had only one task, one goal that would tip the scale in Earth’s favour – Sarah. As shards of light drifted across the remains of his old home he could hear her voice.

“Winston, do you remember the promise we made to each other when the shuttles left Earth?”

Of course, how could he forget.

“You promised that no matter what we would stay together.”

He sighed, even here on the rocky outcrop he called home, far above the desolate streets of L.A she had found him. It was because of her that he had made it this far, the pixie like voice driving him onward, but she was only a voice. Even though he could no longer remember her face something deep inside his chest told him somehow she was still alive, waiting for him to find her.

The last words she had spoken haunted his every moment. He had to do it, he had to go on. 

Shannon’s text has been passed to the fourth potato Samuel Grainger. Sam is now writing the fourth section which takes us further into the ‘middle’ of the story. Each potato is free to take the narrative wherever they like.

The next instalment of the short story will be on Wednesday 23rd April. Do come back and see where Sam takes us next! The writers are collectively and progressively taking up the structure of beginning, middle and end.

 

 You can find more out about Shannon  here:

https://twitter.com/shannongpardoe

You can read part of Shannon’s novel  here, and a short story of hers here

 As ever, thank you for your interest.

 


 

 

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Hot Potato 2 ! Short Story Collaboration #2-Michael Schmidt

27 Mar


Hot Potato

Welcome to Hot Potato!

6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story

 The Potatoes: 

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt, Shannon Pardoe, Samuel Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

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Today’s second fortnightly instalment, features writer Michael Schmidt who is taking off where Steve left off!  You can find the first section here if you missed it..

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Of course no one could have known what would happen next.

Sitting on top of a rock outcropping just above the hole in the ground he now called home, he looked out on the skyline of a wasted L.A. and fumbled through this and other memories as the sun didn’t so much as set, but withdrew into a grey night. Sara’s green eyes sometimes appeared when he closed his. But just like all the other faces he used to know– the nuances in her expressions, the exact impression of the freckles that spread across her cheeks and nose, have slowly faded away over time with every night, with every cigarette, with every jar of moonshine.

He remembers nights outside playing with Sara, he remembers sprinting home for supper after the street lights had come on. He also remembers the suspicion he felt after viewing the U.N.-approved orientation video at his town’s drive-in movie theatre, which briefly explained how the moon had been hit by a meteor and how there was nothing to worry about as only the tides would be slightly affected. He remembers as nations slowly stopped fighting and focused inward on themselves as if bracing for something. He remembers the intangible panic he felt during those last years of unnatural peace. He remembers waking up one night to shrieks of desperation and the roar of space shuttles full of doctors, scientists, and engineers stealing away from earth in the night. He remembers words like Europa, Titan, Mars—and then of course, he remembers standing outside of the same drive-in movie theatre watching a television feed of those same shuttles colliding, one after another, into the blanket of debris which had been left by the destruction of the moon. They must have known it was a suicide mission, but what did they know that would force their hand in such a gamble? What piece of knowledge had they kept from us that made their suicide mission seem like a safer alternative to staying on Earth? He looked up at the night and gritted his yellow teeth at whatever leviathan antithesis lay lurking between the stars/ He never believed in God, but he believed in this.

He remembers the last lines of a poem and falls asleep out on the rocks as the words ring back in forth in his head—what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Earth to be born?

 

Michael’s text has been passed to the third potato Shannon Pardoe. Shannon is now writing the third  section which takes us further into the ‘middle’ of the story. Each potato is free to take the narrative wherever they like.

The next instalment of the short story will be on Monday 7th April. Do come back and see where Shannon takes us next! The writers are collectively and progressively taking up the structure of beginning, middle and end.

 

You can see more of Michael’s work here: 

http://glitteringafterthoughts.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/geometric_auras

 

You’ll find Michael’s  FreeSpace here, here and here.

 

Hot Potato 2 ! Short Story Collaboration #1-Steve Harris

12 Mar


Hot Potato

Welcome to Hot Potato!

6 writers over 12 weeks, writing 1 short story

 The Potatoes: 

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt, Shannon Pardoe, Samuel Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

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Today’s first fortnightly instalment, features writer Steve Harris who is starting the whole collaborative short story off! 

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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.

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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:

http://doctorbeatnik.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/theplanetharris

 

 

FreeSpace #2: Shannon Pardoe (Writer)

15 Oct

InternalObsession by Alison Pratt

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Obsession

by  Shannon Pardoe

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How did I get here – trapped in such a lonely place so far from the light? Was it you with the cold stares and harsh words, or maybe it was the loveless childhood? But does any of that really matter? No. Its too late. I’m too far gone.

Look at me.

What do you see, a happy girl with hope for the future or a sad broken child with cold, dead eyes?

Grey clouds loom overhead causing raindrops the size of bullets down around us. I like the rain, its unpredictable. A cold wind tears through my body so I pull up my hood in a vain attempt to keep out the chill but it’s worth the pain. I need this, but after all this time I still don’t know why. There’s something about wandering through a forest of food that fills me with excitement and fear, it’s a heady drug-like combination. Maybe this is what it feels like to get high? The supermarket rises up before me in the distance, so much to choose from yet so little time. All I think of is how it will feel to slide my hands over shiny foil packets and feel their contents give beneath my firm grasp.

Someone coughs beside me and I suddenly remember, Mia, my best friend is with me. As we walk the frugal conversation shifts from the weather to our upcoming exams. Our first year exams have sped by so fast there’s barely been time to catch our breath but it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one worried about failing. Not that I care right now, there’s only one thing on my mind. Food. It’s making me anxious and I need something to take the edge off. Weeks of university catered meals have given me little pleasure and just the prospect of a decent meal evokes a raw need deep within me. I need change, something so exciting, so pleasurable that a mere memory will make me squirm. The thought makes me salivate.

When we finally climbed the hill, a welcoming sight greeted us. We had made it to the shop and nothing, not even the English weather, was going to get in our way. So what if I was living in my overdraft and caught in the clutches of unemployment – shopping on a budget was a challenge I willingly accepted. My heart began to flutter as we reached the doors, they were slippery from the rain and as we pushed ourselves inside we were dazed by the sudden humidity and sweet smell of sweat. Fighting through the Saturday morning shoppers proved no small feat but after pushing and pulling, we made it. I bent over and grasped a basket with my left hand, struggling to reach my fingers around its thick plastic handle. I was ready.

My friend and I agreed to wait for each other by the checkout; she knew the way I felt about food and would rather dive into her own shopping than watch me obsess over mine. No one likes to share anyway. Not wanting to waste precious time, I made a beeline for the nearest aisle only to find myself dumbstruck by the most perfect pair of tomatoes I had ever seen. Their rounded shape rested on a bed of paper, offering themselves to me. Their colour was of a red so deep you could almost fall into it; I took the first one in my hand, then the other, gently kneading the silky flesh between my fingers, amazed at the way each one filled the palm of my hand. Both were firm to the touch as my fingertips explored every dip and fold. Not wanting to get too carried away I quickly dropped them into a clear plastic bag. Tying it so tightly so that the two fruits would have little choice but to rub against each other, unable to free themselves. By the time I reached the end of the aisle a wide range of fruit and vegetables with different shapes and sized had found their way into my basket. I couldn’t remember picking them up but the thought of sweet tangy juice flowing freely into my mouth was enough to make me tingle. Ahead was the biggest challenge I had yet to face, dozens of golden pastries climbing on top of each other behind a thick layer of glass. They didn’t care who was watching and they knew the affect they had on the passers-by who’s eyes fixated upon the buttery heaven – unable to tear themselves away.

Behind the counter stood a man whose chiselled and welcoming smile hinted that in his younger days he would’ve been quite a catch. Now his hair was white, his skin saggy, wrinkles lurked at the corners of his eyes, and yet he still seemed content. Tentatively I looked on as he armed himself with metal tongs. For a brief moment, I felt powerful; as if I was the Roman emperor gazing into the blood-stained arena to select my champion. I hung on tender-hooks as he leaned toward my chosen hero and began untangling it from its gooey brothers. The old man’s eyes gleamed as I took the box with shaky hands. I know just what he wants. He wishes it was him licking the length of éclair, peeling back the layer of thick chocolate to reveal a dangerously crispy shell. He wants to watch as I bite through the outer layer and slowly reach my tongue inside its cream filled centre. But I won’t let him, its mine now and only when I’m alone will I dive into the greasy box. I’ll take my time with the sticky éclair, savouring every sweet mouthful.

How many can I fit in my mouth at once? Somehow I find myself in the raw meat section, my feet must have carried me while my brain was deep in a food fantasy. It wasn’t my intention to wander in here it just sort of happened, a forbidden forest taken from a carnivore’s daydream. I had already filled my basket with an assortment of meat before I saw it and by the time it was in my hands there was no stopping me. The thick cut steak looked at me and I looked back at it. A rumble echoed deep inside me as I imagined the juicy meat spread across the worktop letting out a soft squelching sound each time I hammered it with my shiny meat tenderiser. I would then tease it with a blue flame before tearing it into pieces so tender they melted in the mouth.

Minutes passed as I plundered the remaining aisles, sweeping up whatever treats and sweets took my fancy. I spotted my friend waiting at the till, rushing over to stand behind her and spread my heavy load across the conveyor belt.

With raging hunger I glanced out at the mountain of chocolate bars lounging on display beside the cashier, then I saw it. Purple foil twinkled in the overhead lights; yellow letters caressed its gentle curves, begging me to come closer and take a bite. I mulled it over in my head. I had to have it. We locked eyes, drawn together by a desire so deep it threatened to drown us. Tears filled my eyes as I reached out to take the bar, moaning as I pulled it toward my chest. “Stay with me.” The words rolled off my tongue as I tenderly unwrapped the packet and exposed rich folds of chocolate heaven. With pressure building inside me, I took the entire length in my mouth as pleasure exploded inside me, the creamy chocolate residue sliding down my throat. This is it I thought, pure release, a Cadbury’s Twirl. With a tingling sensation spreading down through my body and into my fingers, I tossed the used wrapper onto the black conveyor belt. It would only be a few seconds until shame and regret snuck up on me, but by then it would be the checkout woman’s problem.

***

I don’t remember anything about the walk home, only the growing desire and drone of my friends voice above the traffic. What I do remember however was the rhythmic shovelling of food into my open mouth. How it felt to feel myself filled with all the things I know I shouldn’t have and was it down by chugging a strawberry milkshake. I writhed on the floor as euphoria washed over my body, arching my back and curling my toes I let it take me. My fingers were sticky and I could feel a mass of fat burrowing deep into my body, what had I done? I cringed as my body began to swell. The pleasure coming to a sudden end as dark thoughts swam around my brain, shattering into a thousand tiny pieces that fell back down into the hole so deep no amount of food could fill. Feeling myself spiralling out of control, I gave into the twisted voices.

Shame and guilt flooded my senses as my body began to move on its own. In reality, I’m not there and I move as if in a trance. I know what’s happening yet I don’t feel it. How did I get this way? I caught sight of myself in the mirror, clothes two sizes to small desperately trying to hold back thick rolls of fat that wobble with every step. What have I done?

Somehow my body is able to squeeze into the tiny pod that is my bathroom, no going back now you stupid pig. You don’t deserve to eat you fat bitch, no wonder the room goes silent when you walk in. Everyone hates you, you disgust them. The words aren’t mine yet they speak with my mouth, I feel possessed but in my mind these words are the truth. I’ve seen my so-called friends stare when they think I’m not looking and talk about behind my back, they too find me repulsive.

My giant arms struggle to heft my shirt over my head and my hair weighs a hundred pounds as I rake it back into a tight ponytail. I don’t even have to try any more yet I grab the toothbrush anyway, it makes me feel powerful and comforts me. At this point I don’t know whether to feel proud or horrified; I throw back the toilet seat and flex my stomach muscles in a way I know will work.

Tears sting my eyes as the all the shame guilt and loneliness surges back up my throat. Half-digested food dives into the bowl, splashing my face with sick and toilet water. I should’ve put some paper in first. I wipe my face with one hand while the other punches my stomach but as my hand brushes the dry skin, I notice chunks of sick glued in my hair. It doesn’t bother me; I’m too busy trying to get it all out, every last crumb. Making myself sick till the room spins gives me this crazy high I know is wrong but I just can’t seem to help. I’m addicted to food yet scared of it at the same time, this is all I know.

With the cold emptiness restored, I slumped onto the cream floor. Disgusted, not by my actions but by the food and the sheer quantity I was able to consume. My dirty little secret is well hidden from the liars and cheats who say I’m too thin or that I need to eat more, but they don’t know the battle that goes on behind locked doors.

Even the blood splattered among the sick can’t stop me. I don’t want this, I never wanted this but this is my life. This is my control. My release.

.

nb. Shannon has drawn from her own experience of mental health issues for this piece, and is currently in treatment. You can catch up with her writing again on Tuesday 5th November

https://twitter.com/shannongpardoe

The fall by Shannon Pardoe (FreeSpace #1)

5 Jun

FreeSpace

‘FreeSpace’:

offers 3 post slots  to creatives for mini- projects or the specific showcasing of material in a more in-depth manner. The slots can be taken up in a cluster or spread across a number of months
>>>

Featuring first time writer:

Shannon Pardoe 

and her novel

The fall

______________________________________________________________________________________

Humanity: The fall  follows the story of Charlie who, after surviving a biological terror attack, must face the horrors of the world left behind. Starving and alone she finds herself teetering on the edge of survival she soon realises that the evil lurking in the darkness is far worse than anyone could have imagined. The deadly pathogen and war torn streets drive Charlie into the arms of ex-solider Gabriel. But the sanctuary he offers her soon turns into twisted prison threatening to destroy the last remnant of humanity the pair find themselves at a crossroads. band together and start anew or succumb to the evil that pollutes the air. With the pair fighting to stay alive in a harsh world the people they encounter and the places they go will change their lives forever.

I have really enjoyed writing Humanity and as a first time writer I hope you will enjoy reading my work as much as I have enjoyed writing. If you stick with it and find the time to read the completed book I hope you will stay tuned in order to check out the next book in the Humanity story line. Thank you for taking the time to read this twist on the supernatural / thriller genre.

********************************

In the mirror stands a young girl. Her plain features compliment the mousey blonde hair that falls just below her shoulders. Her cobalt eyes widen with fear as she stares into the blackness. She is searching for something. If it were not for the layer of dirt clinging to her tiny frame, her ghostly reflection would appear to glow. Memories threaten to drown her as she draws a line in the dust at her feet. Long ago this room had been furnished with beautiful furniture, now all that remained was her mother’s dressing mirror. Something enters the room. It watches her from the shadows, lurking in the darkest corner out of sight. By the time she spots the disfigured creature, it’s too late. It tears through her flesh; there is nothing she can do to stop the vile poison flooding her veins. As the life flows from her body darkness takes her, the image of her attackers grey eyes becomes her last.

>>>>

Charlie wakes from her nightmare gasping for air but as the fear begins to pass the realisation hits her, the nightmares are real. Fear is good, it reminds her that she is still alive. She braces herself as the truck speeds over a broken road but the military vehicle offers little protection from anything, especially the cold. Through holes in the ruddy green tarp the sky is still dark, yet in the distance streaks of light start to crawl out from under the night sky. Watching as the icy landscape begins to reveal itself she reminds herself that the view beyond the truck is not the same as the world she grew up in.

>>>>>

The rush hour is dead and the streets no longer slumber in peaceful bliss, they are barren. Survivors hide in the shadow of the old world, and hiding in their homes they wait to feel Death trace his cold finger down their spines. The cold air makes Charlie shiver but tucking her legs into her chest does little to bring warmth back into her body. There is just enough light to make out the sunken faces of the men and women sat beside her. An old man sat in the corner nursing a burnt patch of flesh on his bony arm whilst the woman next to him dressed a weeping welt with a dirty rag. As she turned back to the hole in the tarp she almost missed it; a child dressed in rags that had been quietly tucked away inside it’s mothers coat.

>>>>

Since the war children had become a rare sight and so for once the sight of others had become a pleasant one. The smell of dead flesh had become so commonplace that Charlie had stopped noticing it. But whether or not that was a good thing she was yet to decide. When the world fell apart, widespread panic and uncontrollable riots sent those graced with the gift of common sense running out of the cities before the government could prohibit public travel. Others armed themselves and stayed to fight but most gave up hope and sat in their homes waiting for the end.

>>>>

For a short time chaos ran rampant through the streets, but then the bombs fell. Shops were ransacked, men killed, women and children raped, but it didn’t last long, if the war hadn’t killed them then the radiation would. Then something strange happened. Those who didn’t die from the radiation began to change. Some, like Charlie, found that their DNA had developed a protective layer against the radiation; preventing the absorption of further radiation. Others weren’t so lucky. The radiation poisoned both the body and mind of those who failed to evolve, their bodies became contorted and their minds bent by evil. They are consumed by an insatiable hunger, a hunger so powerful the need to kill and eat overrides all else. Survivors banded together to defend strongholds in the country, isolating themselves from the mutants but those who remained in the cities died. When people tried to escape the renegades harsh slave like treatment they were shot, or worse.

>>>>

The world was a harsh wasteland where survival was measured in minutes until out of the darkness a guiding force appeared to guide survivors into the light. The militia. After securing an ex-military camp they set up their own society and in return for work you were given food and protection, the perfect society. Or so she thought. “How many others like us do you think there are?” “Sorry?” She turned to face the man sitting next to her “Survivors – how many do you think are left out there?” His voice was low, aware of those surrounding him. “I don’t know.” Since losing her parents, Charlie had made a point of involving herself with people as little as possible. Her compassion for humankind had fallen since the war; the eyeless faces of dead children in mass graves still haunted her dreams.

>>>>

For now her only concern was joining the militia and securing her own survival, other people would only drag her down. As another cold wind tore through the truck bed she shivered. The man beside her began to unzip his coat “Here, take this.” “I’m fine, really” In a world where rape, kidnapping and murder had become a favourite pass time it was hard to trust anyone, especially men. It hadn’t taken long to learn that these days nothing came without a price. Even before the war. “We’ll be at the station soon, give it back then if you want but I don’t need it. No strings attached I promise.” Despite feeling uncomfortable taking things from strangers Charlie was beginning to turn blue. So taking the coat she slipping her arms into the warm fur lining and began to wonder how long it had been since she’d felt this warm. Pulling the zipper all the way up her neck she breathed in the stranger’s musky scent. Kindness did not come easily these days, she would have to get used to it. Leaning back into the truck’s metal bench she tried to push her dark memories aside and image what the militia’s camp looked like. Was it really as safe as the rumours suggested? But it would be a while before she found out, they hadn’t lasted this long without precautions and there were many stations she had to pass through before being admitted to the main compound. The truck came to a sudden stop displacing Charlie from her seat. As people scrambled to get their belongings, the tarp flaps were thrown open by two men holding rifles.

>>>>

One of the last people to climb from the truck, Charlie joined the line survivors as they began walking towards a make shift bubble dome. “What’s your name kid?” looking up from the dead trampled grass she realised that the man from the truck was now trudging alongside her. Unlike the other’s his eyes were full of life, as if the war hadn’t tainted him. “Charlie” the word barely escaped her lips, it was silly but her name was all that remained of her past life. Names were precious they had power. “Keep the coat Charlie, was nice to meet you.” As he strode up to the dome she watched as he shook hands with the solider at the door. To her surprise, he was lead behind the dome rather than going through it like the rest of them. Keeping her head down she entered the dome, as she risked a glance to her left she noticed that thw walls were orange and stamped with black hazard signs. Something she hadn’t seen since the beginning of the war. Up ahead the corridor split in two, men went left and women went right.

>>>>

When they entered the next room some of the women laughed while others cried, Charlie gasped. Showers. The women began to strip and wash themselves with soap under the lukewarm water. It was a procedure designed to remove any irradiated particles clinging to their bodies; not that anyone noticed it was the first shower any one had seen in months and a welcome reprieve from the dark muddy waters in the lakes. In the old world being, naked around strangers would have made her feel uncomfortable; but the emaciated bodies served as a cold reminder of how the world had changed. Once washed the women were given new clothes, rather old clothes that had been salvaged from the dead. Despite new clothes, Charlie made sure to pick up her old ones, especially the strangers coat. The thought of a shower must have reignited some essence of humanity in the survivors because for once nothing had been stolen or fought over. Once dressed the men and women were reunited.

>>>>

As they moved through the orange dome they came upon a woman holding a clipboard who began asking the name, age and previous occupation of everyone who had gone through the decontamination process. “So Charlie, you’re seventeen years old and were applying for nursing school? Sorry to keep you waiting but it’s important to keep track of who enters our Compound.” The woman must have asked these questions hundreds of times, she seemed bored and her voice had that static secretarial edge. “If you’d like to return to your vehicle the convoy will be moving on to the second check point in a few minutes.” Climbing back into the truck Charlie took up her old seat. Counting the faces around her, she realised that someone was missing. The man who’d given her his coat had not returned and not being one to waste things, she zipped herself back in the sweet smelling coat. When the last person got back into the already cramped truck the engine roared into life making Charlie jump. After only a year of wandering lifeless roads and empty skies, technology had made her jumpy.

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As the dull sun reached its height in the murky sky, it suddenly hit Charlie that she had been travelling for days. Exhausted and cold the little food she’d had did little to fill the empty hole in the pit of her stomach but the prospect of real food at Compound was enough to keep her clinging on to life. With nothing else to do until reaching the next checkpoint she looked out across the dreary landscape, it seemed to go on forever. Most trees had withered and died in the fallout; but hardier trees like conifers had survived, yet in this part of the country they were few and far between. The remaining grass was brown and dying and she struggled to recall the colours of her favourite flowers. It seemed as if nothing had survived the falling ash and toxic rain. How she had survived this, long was a mystery but with the day dragging on Charlie tried not to think dark thoughts and soon found herself slipping back into a deep sleep, unaware of the crying baby still tucked into its mothers arms. >>>>

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Shannon will be sharing more of  The fall with us in her other 2 posts. Looking forward to it!  >>>

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 You can find more about Shannon and her work here:

http://shannongpardoe.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/shannongpardoe >>>

 

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If you would like to take up our FreeSpace opportunity please do get in contact via the comment box on any of our posts or pages or via @ArtiPeep. You’d be more than welcome! >>>>

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