Tag Archives: short stories

The Art of Storytelling: Norse Sagas from Millfield School Pupils #3

3 Jul
IMG_0799

Image by Nat Hall

 

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Year 9: Norse Sagas

Featuring

Martha

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Our Year 9 pupils have studied the craft of story-telling, and what better way to learn than by reading the Norse sagas, with their epic storylines and memorable characters? We gave them a brief to create their own variations on the Norse saga, drawing upon the old tales for inspiration, but taking them into new territory. Everyone in the English teaching team was impressed by the boldness and skill of the stories our young pupils wrote. Here is [ part 1 of ] a small selection. I hope you enjoy them. Our thanks go to Nicky for giving Millfield pupils such an exciting platform for their creative writing!

James Baddock

Head of English, Drama & Media
Millfield, Somerset, UK

ArtiPeeps has been thrilled to have  Millfield’s pupils working in tangent with one of our projects (The Nine Realms), and to see their talented, creative pupils on our site once again. It just goes to show how inspiring the Icelandic sagas still are and how alive the art of story-telling still is! For the past three weeks we have posted out 5 short stories from 5 of their very creative pupils. Below is the final saga and story.

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My Viking Saga

by Martha

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The Fegr province was regarded as one of the most beautiful lands in all of Iceland. Its snow- capped, mountainous peaks interlaced the horizon with silhouettes of all the interesting shapes imaginable to man. Wisps of glistening snow crystals illuminated like shining jewels by the effulgence of the moon shine, drift in the wind from the icy mountain tops, patterning the skyline. Its incomparable allure, a fit location to be the home of only the most divine of beauties. On the Northernmost peak, Iss Fjell, Ice Mountain, lived the most celestial of beings, angelic, and fair. Her name was, Sassa, the Ice Princess, the daughter of the great King Eeirikki Egilson, son of the once vigorous, candid ruler of Iceland itself.

Sassa had long white hair cascading in perfect curls down to her waist, her sapphire blue eyes were striking against her fair complexion, slender and tall, she had an certain elegance and grace that would be enviable to all women. Her loving and gentle nature was adored throughout the Fegr province, she would often visit the small town beneath Iss Fjell, where the inhabitants would approach her and could not help but feel at ease in her presence, as if she was part of their community. Sassa was young, only seventeen years old, she had an ignorance, a beautiful ignorance, making her pure, innocent… Her eyes had a light that should always come with youth, and her effervescence was enlightening. Her father rightly felt that only the finest of men would be fit for his daughter and, on the day of her eighteenth birthday he invited young suitors from every corner of Iceland to compete for her hand in marriage.

Little did her father know, Sassa, wasn’t interested in being married off to these great nobleman. She had fallen in love with the village huntsman. She had met him in the woods almost seven years ago, when they were both children. From that day forth she had met him most days. They would spend hours hunting together, and slowly they fell for each each other. The huntsman was a strong young man, named Vidar, he wielded an axe, simple and plain unlike the fanciful decorated weapons of the noblemen and had a bravery but yet a sentimentality lacking in most headstrong youths. Vidar was a descendant of the great warrior Bryanjar Erlingson, and it was evident he had inherited many of the qualities of an exceptional fighter. Of course the King could never approve of such a romance between the pair, a village huntsman in the eyes of the King wasn’t good enough for his crown jewel, Sassa. So Sassa kept their meeting a secret, a secret she had kept for many years.

One the Day of her matching, Sassa had decided to approach her father, she couldn’t keep her secret any longer. She told him of her disapproval of the matching ceremony, and of her dislike of the suitors he had selected for her.
‘Father I simply can’t marry any of these men, for I’m in love with another man’ Sassa pleaded.
‘And who is this other man!’ The King demanded, his tone burly and authoritative. His snowy grey beard shook with rage.
‘He is a huntsman’ Sassa replied proudly, yet her inner fear of her father’s anger showed in her timid expression. ‘He’s a brave man, strong and kind, he loves me with all his heart, isn’t that what you want for me father, to be happy?’
‘Not if it is to marry someone of such a low class in our society, a huntsman is not fit to marry for a princess, the men I have selected for you are of the finest in Iceland, surely that is good enough for any girl’, the king spat.
‘My huntsman is a far finer man and better warrior than any of these suitors, I would stake my life on that’ Sassa replied. There was an honesty in her voice, something that could convince anyone that her words were genuinely the truth. The king may have not been willing to believe this, but he knew his daughter believed that the man she loved was stronger than the suitors.
‘Than he shall prove to me, he shall prove that he is a better man and stronger warrior than the noble men I have selected for you. What I propose is a series of battles, If he defeats all the suitors , than you shall marry him, if you wish, yet if he is defeated, you will marry the single and first suitor that defeats him, you will no longer have a choice of the suitors and the huntsman not killed in battle will be banished to another Kingdom. If this agreement is broken, he shall be executed for treason’ the king suggested. Sassa had no other option if she didn’t want to lose her true love. The agreement was made and the next day Vidar came to the palace, to fight to the death for the girl he loved.

From a distance. The palace on Iss Fjell looked like it was entirely made out of ice but as you neared it was apparent that it was in fact a crystal palace, with spired towers, magnificent pillars, and decadent ballrooms. Every little detail within the palace was intricately designed, masterfully placed. Vidar entered into the cavernous marble hallway at the entrance to the palace. His footsteps echoed throughout the room, the sound bouncing off the high ceiling above. At the end of the hall was a throne, made of marble as the rest of the hall was, on it sat the King, his piercing glassy blue eyes examined Vidar sending chills through his body. Next to the throne stood four suitors that he would face in battle. The first suitor named Bryanjar was dressed in full armour, his steel plated appearance revealed his most well known trait, his coldness. He was a good soldier and the son of a great nobleman but was no warrior. Stood next to him was a young man named Cuyler, he was not as well built as the other men, he was small, and slight, however he had superior agility and speed, his skill was with a bow, it was acknowledged well that he would never miss. The next suitor was named Fritjof, he is a descendant of the God of tricks Loki supposedly. Fritjof was not a kind man in any respect, he had long dark hair and dark black eyes, like a snake, he had a sceptre glowing in an eerie green glow. As his name indicated Fritjof was known to steal many thrones and the peace of many kingdoms, by tricking his way into the many various kingdoms he had conquered. The final suitor was Hagen the highest son of the present ruler of Iceland Eirik Halvardson, his family were known to be ancient descendants of the God of lightning Thor, Hagen was handsome and notorious for his charming demeanour, any princess would have married him, yet he was desperately in love with Sassa, who he had known since they were children, the King was very good friends with Eirik Halvardson. Although Sassa had great respect for Hagen she didn’t love him. Hagen did not just have charms and good looks on his side, he was stronger than any other man in Iceland and was almost a giant in size, he was muscular and broad, Vidar knew that he would be perhaps his toughest competition, as Hagen didn’t have just sheer size and strength he had the same sentiment as Vidar, he was genuinely in love with Sassa.

The battles took place on the tower arena of the palace, it had a semicircle of seating and a stage that hung off the edge of the tower to a great drop below. Many came from all over the land to witness the choosing ceremony. Vidar fought Bryanjar first, Vidar refused to kill anyone in these battles, his only aim was to win and not get killed himself. Bryanjar was no match for Vidar’s skill with an axe. Bryanjar’s amour protected him from any major injuries but he soon conceded, Vidar had proved to the king he was a far mightier opponent for the suitors than he could have ever imagined. Next Vidar faced of Cuyler, this battle was less hand to hand combat, Vidar was forced to dodge Cuyler’s arrows of fire aimed directly at him, he hid behind the obstacles in the arena, he found some branches as wood on the ground and used his knowledge and hunting skills to quickly create his own arrow. Vidar grabbed an arrow that had landed in the ground behind him and loaded his new weapon. He waited for the right time before releasing the arrow which hit Cuyler directly in the torso, Cuyler was taken out by this unexpected attack, and Vidar had again proven not just his might but his cunning and intelligence. 

Vidar then faced Fritjof, it was night now and only the moonlight illuminated the arena, Sassa sat nervously watching attentively, her fear was perhaps greater than Vidar’s. Fritjof’s sceptre gleamed on the cool moonlight. Vidar charged at Fritjof with all his speed and force he faced certain injury, and, possibly, inevitable death. Fritjof dodged to the side in one fluid move. His enemy swivelled in his direction. His menacing eyes were a blazing red and his dark hood made the rest of his features indistinguishable. Vidar’s opponent thrust his sceptre forward, only to be met by Vidar’s axe. The two weapons met in the air with a resounding ‘clang’. Vidar was surrounded now by at least ten images of Fritjof which one was real he could not tell. He swung his axe around at each of the figures, slashing the real Fritjof across the face, the wound healed almost immediately. Fritjof thrust Vidar against the wall, his axe skidded along the ground, Fritjof was choking him with his strong left hand, Vidar although he knew Fritjof had superior magical qualities, he matched him in strength, using his free hand Vidar pulled a dagger from his pocket and stabbed Fritjof’s torso. Fritjof recoiled in pain, giving enough time for Vidar to escape his grip and bring Fritjof to the floor. Grabbing his axe he held it to Fritjof’s throat indicating it was time for him to surrender. But suddenly the image of Fritjof lying on the ground in front of him disappeared and the real Fritjof plunged his sceptre into Vidar’s back, a hollowing gasp escaped the audience and Vidar collapsed to the floor. Fritjof now stood over him, Vidar used this as an opportunity to throw his axe at him killing him leaving Vidar injured but the winner of the battle.

Hagen upon witnessing this battle saw how brave and strong a man Vidar was, he knew that he was good enough for Sassa and he also knew he would probably lose if he were to fight him, Hagen loved Sassa but in doing so wanted what was best for her. He could see how much she loved Vidar, and knew if he were to defeat him in battle how unhappy she would be married to the man who killed her true love no matter how good of friends they were. Hagen addressed Vidar personally.
‘You are better than any man I know, you are truly the perfect man for Sassa’ Hagen said, his statement was humbling.
‘Thank you, you are fine man for doing what is right’ Vidar replied, before Sassa ran up to him and told him her father had approved of their marriage. Vidar smiled and nodded in respect to Hagen before carrying Sassa away into the woods to be married.

 

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More creativity from Millfield:  

You can find some other poetry and writing from Millfield pupils here and here (their Freshly Pressed ‘Sense of Place Poetry’ 1 & 2) and their ‘QUEST short story openings‘ here.

Thank you for your interest.

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The Art of Storytelling: Norse Sagas from Millfield School Pupils #2

25 Jun
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Image by Nat Hall

 

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Year 9: Norse Sagas

Featuring

Reanna and Harriet

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Our Year 9 pupils have studied the craft of story-telling, and what better way to learn than by reading the Norse sagas, with their epic storylines and memorable characters? We gave them a brief to create their own variations on the Norse saga, drawing upon the old tales for inspiration, but taking them into new territory. Everyone in the English teaching team was impressed by the boldness and skill of the stories our young pupils wrote. Here is [ part 1 of ] a small selection. I hope you enjoy them. Our thanks go to Nicky for giving Millfield pupils such an exciting platform for their creative writing!

James Baddock

Head of English, Drama & Media
Millfield, Somerset, UK

ArtiPeeps is thrilled to be having Millfield school working in tangent with one of our projects (The Nine Realms), and to see their talented, creative pupils on our site once again. It just goes to show how inspiring the Icelandic sagas still are and how alive the art of story-telling still is! For the next three weeks we will be posting out 5 short stories from 5 of their very creative pupils. Watch out for another two stories next week.

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Vikings

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Viking Saga

by Harriet

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WANTED : STRONG MEN, ANY AGE. That’s what the sign said. I wanted to go but that decision now just filled me with regret. Why would I leave? All I wanted was for my family and friends to think that I was brave, but the truth is; I am just a coward. Killing people isn’t brave it’s cruel. How could I let myself be so cruel?

I shook violently. I had the visions again. It had been four days since our ship arrived back in the village of Shlaahra. Shlaahra was a beautiful village off the west coast of Scandinavia, Shlaahra was small but it had enough to provide any person with the essential equipment that they would need to survive. Massive trees sheltered the whole village and the crystal clear lake stretched out until it stroked the feet of the mountains on the horizon. My face had been slit open and I had lost a lot of blood but I was recovering slowly but well. I had grown up in the village of Shlaahra and spent all my time here as a child, never really wanting to leave, until I was about the age of seventeen. Leaving the village no longer sounded scary. It no longer felt dangerous. I would be fine. Oh how very wrong I was. I remember the day that those huge men who wore furry boots up to their knees and long flowing capes that were decorated in purple and gold. They came to our village looking for warriors. I felt an urge in my stomach telling me to go. These men that had come to our village were brave nothing could scare them. Every single one of these men had a strange look in their eyes I couldn’t work out what is was an first I thought it was just bravery but only now I have realised that it was something more, they had pain buried deep under their stern faces. I know this now because I feel the same pain, the pain of regret.

I had been stuck in my bed whilst the rest of my comrades had been out celebrating the success of the raid and the new land that they had conquered. If I said it didn’t bother me that I wasn’t able to celebrate I would be lying but the guilt was still eating from the inside out. I sighed and looked up at the ceiling the beams of wood that had always held my house tall and strong somehow looked weaker. The gash across my face burned as I applied one of the herbal remedies the doctor had made me. I touched the opening on the left side of my face it started just below my hairline and finished on my collarbone. I got up slowly and struggled over to the door. My hand wrapped around the door frame and I watched the little children playing in the grass, remembering when that was all I wanted to do all day. The visions of the children faded away and a breathe of fresh air tickled my spine, my eyes had been taken over by the memories that I so wanted to forget.

I was back on the boat. We were sailing towards the village that we planed to raid and conquer. The sea spat on my face and the wind danced with my hair. I asked myself “is it bad to be excited?” I looked up a grey blanket of cloud filled the sky. Fog engulfed any light that tried to be seen. Nobody made a noise. Sea birds flew alongside the boat screaming and screeching. The man sat behind me whispered to the man sat next him. “we’re close”. My heart started to beat faster and louder. The skeleton of a tree emerged from the fog.

I started to shake uncontrollably. I blinked hard and fast. The sight of the children playing came back into focus. I was now sat in the doorway breathing heavily I didn’t want to remember what happened next but I couldn’t control the thoughts from crawling back into my head.

I was now running up the beach, seawater splashed up my back. The adrenalin flowed through every inch of my body. My heart was pumping so fast I could hear the blood flowing through my ears. As we got closer to the village I heard screams and yelling. I smelt something burning and smoke filled the air. The men that had run ahead of me were burning down the houses of the locals. At this point I knew I should have run. I should have hidden, but I didn’t, I kept going. A man charged towards me with a sword. For a moment I was completely stunned, the man flung his sword towards my stomach. I dodged it. The man slit my face. The axe that I was holding in my right hand swung around, I hit the man in the side…not once…not twice…but three times. His blue eyes stared at me as he fell to the ground. I left him lying there dead with his long brown hair swamped in blood.

I started to tremble. This was the memory I wanted to hold back. My eyes started to fill up with water and I shut them tight. The images of that man that I killed so barbarically will never leave my mind. My memories with forever taunt me.

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Fire

 

Saga

by Reanna

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She came to us in our time of need, the Phoenix of the gods, Thyra. She was a great sorceress, she stood at six feet tall, with scarlet hair and piercing yellow eyes, said to be so bright she burned what she stared at. She wore a maroon elk’s skin, which she was given by the her grandmother on her death bed. She had the wrist bands of Thor, protecting her from any blows, stronger than the strongest shield, with a shirt formed with the hair of Sköll. She was adorned in a flowing grey Cape, and wore the armour of Freya, with the cunning of Loki, and the courage of Odin himself. She was so strong she created flames hotter than the sun, but this was not all the time.

She lived in this very village, a young girl, who hid a secret. She was said to be fuelled by the underworld, creating fire out of nothing, a pyromancer. She helped those she could, fuelling fires for the people of our village, warming the homeless and poor, she was highly thought of by the Chief of our village. He presented her with the Phoenix gem, a perfect kite-shaped jewel said to have been chiseled by Asgard’s finest craftsmen, and given a blessing by Nótt. The chief told Thyra that only the purest may control the raging flame. She never took that necklace off, and it served her better than any other.

She also was given Thrain that day, her beloved horse. Her father said he was the descendent of Hrímfaxi, the horse of Nótt, the night, who pulled his chariot across the sky, and gave us the peace to rest. He was a small horse, only 15.2 hands, but he was brave. He was a shining dark bay, with a luminous white sock on his left hind leg, and a bright white star on his forehead. He had a jump that could take you to the stars, and a spirit so strong he would never back down; he would face the mightiest of beasts and refuse to retreat. He never left Thyra’s side, and he was her closest friend.

In the darkness of Hrímfaxi’s sky, Thyra was out riding on Thrain, using the old leather bridle her father had made for her, and an old saddle that she made herself out of an elk’s hide. She was with the daughter of the chief, Astrid, a young girl of 10 years old, who had beautiful golden hair, with a black coat on over her white shirt, and brown, tight pants that she always wore, despite her father’s hatred of them, and her little iron grey pony, Carr.

They were slinking between the trees, Thrain’s coat glittering in the moonlight, Carr marching proudly at his side, his little brown eyes twinkling with what was normally mischievous intentions. The soft wind brushed through Thyra’s silky hair, her bright eyes seemed to glow in the darkness. Astrid was chatting away, as she always did, and Thrain was listening, as he always did on these little adventures. The Great Grey Owls were hooting, and the bee-eaters were hopping from branch to branch, disturbing the trees around the four explorers, as Astrid liked to refer to their little convoy. 

But this night was different. There was a shriek, and a strong wind followed. Carr jumped at this, but Thrain stood strong, and blew at the direction of the sound. Astrid whispered to Carr, trying to calm him down. Thyra moved Thrain between Astrid and the direction of the sound. She dismounted, leaving Thrain to stand with the diffident pony, and walked towards the sound’s origin. She summoned a bright flame to her palm, which flickered as she sneaked through the bushes.

Thyra approached a clearing. Glowing ashes were floating around her, their dying light illuminated her pale face. There were five great oak trees fallen around her, charred. She ran her hand down one, lifting some of the ashes into the air. There were dark scorch marks in the ground, but they did not seem of fire, but lightning. Suddenly, there was a snap of a twig behind her. She turned, her palm ablaze with a large blue flame, which was roaring as she stopped. What she found was a rather pleased looking Thrain, accompanied by Astrid and the little Carr, who had obviously been munching on a near by bush, as he had leaves poking out the sides of his little mouth.

Astrid had now dismounted, and was inspecting one of the trees lying on the ground, while Thrain and Carr were poking each other with sticks they found, and seemed to be having a good time. Thyra was looking to the sky, hoping for a sign of the creature that caused this destruction. She was soon graced with an answer, as Ara, the Banshee Knight leaped from the cover of the trees beyond the clearing.

 It screeched as it pinned Thyra to the ground, producing a blackened purple blade from its sheath on the creature’s belt. Its eyes glowed a deep violet, its rotten, yellow teeth dripped corrosive pearls of venomous spit from a sepulchral, grotto of a mouth. Astrid gave a scram and ran behind one of the standing trees, and Carr followed. The monstrosity clicked as it formed an electric charge in its hand, making it turn a luminous purple. Thrain has begun to gallop over from where he and Carr had been standing. He angled his head so that the stick he was carrying was driven straight into the Banshee’s side. It wailed in pain as the makeshift pike impaled its exposed chest, and shrieked as the gelding placed its weight onto the fiend’s torso. There was a large crack, followed by a blood-curling scream from the banshee, and Thrain stepped back off the squirming monstrosity that now lay before him.

Thyra stepped on the creature’s wrist to remove the sword from it, and threatened it with a dancing red flame in the palm of her hand, the Phoenix gem glowed on her neck, making her eyes seem to flow with a look of inclination. Her wrist bands were coated with the beast’s drool, and the light of the flame made then twinkle like the stars above them. Thyra ended the monster’s suffering, with a swift downward blow to the head from its own blade. The creature squealed for a moment, but then lay still as the blade passed through the back of its skull.

The creature disintegrated into dust, only leaving its foul armour, which Thyra had no use for, but amongst it was a shimmering white gem, which piqued her interest. She removed it from the centre of the pile, and set the rest alight. She attempted to examine it in the moonlight, but Thrain had taken quite an interest in it also, and tried to eat it whenever she lifted it to view. Astrid was hitting a tree with her sword, with Carr standing behind her poking her with the stick he had been playing with earlier. They mounted and left the forest for the town, using the stars to guide them home.

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More creativity from Millfield:  

You can find some other poetry and writing from Millfield pupils here and here (their Freshly Pressed ‘Sense of Place Poetry’ 1 & 2) and their ‘QUEST short story openings‘ here.

One more saga coming from Millfield next week!

Thank you for your interest.

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The Art of Storytelling: Norse Sagas from Millfield School Pupils #1

16 Jun
IMG_0799

Image by Nat Hall

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Year 9: Norse Sagas

Featuring

Olivia and Natasha

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Our Year 9 pupils have studied the craft of story-telling, and what better way to learn than by reading the Norse sagas, with their epic storylines and memorable characters? We gave them a brief to create their own variations on the Norse saga, drawing upon the old tales for inspiration, but taking them into new territory. Everyone in the English teaching team was impressed by the boldness and skill of the stories our young pupils wrote. Here is [ part 1 of ] a small selection. I hope you enjoy them. Our thanks go to Nicky for giving Millfield pupils such an exciting platform for their creative writing!

James Baddock

Head of English, Drama & Media
Millfield, Somerset, UK

ArtiPeeps is thrilled to be having Millfield school working in tangent with one of our projects (The Nine Realms), and to see their talented, creative pupils on our site once again. It just goes to show how inspiring the Icelandic sagas still are and how alive the art of story-telling still is! For the next three weeks we will be posting out 5 short stories from 5 of their very creative pupils. Watch out for another two stories next week.

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Loki

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English Saga

by Olivia

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The towering pillars and castle turrets sparkled in the dazzling sunlight. It was yet another beautiful day in Asgard, as you would expect for a land of the Gods. Loki sat rested against the trunk of a flowering tree, ripping up chunks of grass in a restless manner. Desperate to create some havoc (after all, he was the God of mischief) he racked his brains for ideas.

It was surprisingly quiet for such a lovely day; the courtyards and gardens lay untouched. That is, until the sound clip clopping sound of heels in the distance grew ever louder, until Lilija and her heels made it to the courtyard. Her ankle length silk gown swooshed past Loki as she paraded through the garden, providing him with a gentle breeze – much appreciated in the stifling heat. This was the most action Loki has seen all day, and he was growing increasingly restless and deprived of mischief. Frustrated, he turned back to what was left of the churned up grass beneath him. Until… Lightbulb! His face lit up; he knew what he was going to do.

Her glossy golden locks flicked back over her shoulder in the gentle wind as she made her way across the bridge from Asgard to Midgard, the land of the mortals. Although days as beautiful as this one were not rare, Lilija never grew tired of them and would never miss the opportunity to stroll though the beautiful forests of Midgard. Dappled sunlight fell upon her delicate shoulders through the canopy of trees above, and a soft breeze brushed against her skin. Usually she loved the escape from Asgard, and the opportunity to have her own space and be alone with her thoughts… but was she alone?

The brilliant sun dipped behind a large white-grey cloud and suddenly the woods became eerily dim, and a sudden chill fell over her like a blanket. Papery leaves rustled in the bushes and scraped past her ankles. Bewildered and unsure of what was going on, she became self conscious – she was not used to being out, alone in the woods when it was grey. Her mind sprung into overdrive, overthinking every danger gaining inspiration from every insecurity of the young goddess (there was many to choose from as she had such a comfortable life). Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Lilija did.

Loki perched on a branch in the form of a crow, watching over Lilija. It was not long until Lilija would tire and fall straight into his prank.

Lilija began to relax once she found her way out of the dense forest, and made her way towards a large flat rock to sit and rest her legs. It was cleansing for her to sit and watch the perfect nature that wasn’t artificially beautiful like everything where she was from. Although relaxing, the sun was hot and had been beating down on her for several hours now, and she was parched. Loki knew that Lilija would not be prepared for this – she never was – and this is where his plan came in.

To Lilija’s delight, she spotted a glass of water (or so she thought) glistening in a shady spot under the edge of another rock. Maybe if she wasn’t so desperate, or had the common sense to check whether it was water and not some foreign clear potion made by Loki, then what happened next would not have taken place.

Feeling rather pleased with herself, Lilija lay back on the rock to soak up some more rays before making her way back – or at least, she tried to. Something was stopping her! Bewildered, she turned around to investigate, and to her horror she found an oily, curly green tail sprouted from her coccyx! Her eyes shot back to her hands, which had now become dry, wrinkled and that same off dark green colour yellow/white claws had replaced her manicured nails. She felt her dress become increasingly tighter until a boil covered, bloated pot belly burst through the seams of her tailored silk dress. Lilija had never been so horrified in her life! Meanwhile Loki sat watching the whole thin, screeching with side splitting laughter; his potion had worked, he’d turned the princess into her worst enemy, a goblin!

Distraught, Lilija fled back through the forest to the bridge, so she could burst through the gates to Asgard and make it to her quarters before anyone could see her. However, the gates were guarded at all times by Horatio, guardian of the golden gates. Inevitably, she was stopped at the gates, and told to leave or face fatal consequences. As much as she begged and pleaded, Horatio was having none of it – understandably, he thought this ‘goblin’ was crazy. Distraught and in despair, Lilija fled from the bridge. What was she going to do now?

Loki couldn’t help but feel dreadful for causing the goddess such a hard time; he only wanted a bit of fun. He felt it was his duty to fix what he had started. Just as he had done earlier that morning he began to concoct a potion that would hopefully reverse the effects of the previous potion. Meanwhile Lilija was slumped, sobbing at the foot of a tree.

Several minutes passed before Loki’s potion was finally finished and sealed it in a small flask with the label ‘drink me’. Loki, still disguised as a crow, flew over Lilija and dropped the concoction into her lap. Confused, Lilija picked up and inspected the flask. Drink me? She has enough sense to ponder drinking this unknown liquid, but she was so distraught and in such a bad place mentally that she would rather die than live the rest of her life a goblin. Relived, Loki perched nearby to watch the potion kick in.

Lilija tossed the flask on the floor and held her head in her hands, staring down at her ugly feet. only they weren’t ugly anymore! Her manicured toenails and slim ankles looked identical to how they had when they left the castle that morning! Looking down, she noticed more and more of her was her own body! Immediately she ran over to the water, and stared back at her reflection. Beside herself with joy and relief, she ran to the gates before anything else could happen to her!

She flopped onto her plush queen size bed and sighed. It had been a long day, and certainly a walk she’d never forget.

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The Giant Skymir

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The Land of the Ice Giants

by Natasha

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Complete devastation. The war was done and lost. Any memory of a life before had long since been abandoned. You could still smell the dead in the air and the lingering of sadness dangled from the surrounding icicles. The snow was stained a vermilion red, decorated with bloody limbs and weapons retired from battle. It was harder than I imagined it to be. To return and see the utter desolation. The once alive mountains stood silently, mourning as they were forced to witness the slaughter and were able to do nothing about it. I wandered aimlessly for a while, reminiscing in the part I played that destroyed this once tranquil place. It was then the memories came flooding in…

My bloody sword hung limply from my quivering grasp. All determination had deserted me, but I knew deep down that I couldn’t give up now. The beast towered over me, I could feel his warm breath brushing against my sweaty skin. I swung my sword with all the strength that remained but I unanticipated the distance. The beast saw my fault and pounced while I was off-guard.

Suddenly I stopped myself, I didn’t want to remember. Maybe coming back here was a bad idea after all? I looked up at the sky. As a child I was told stories about the wonder and beauty of this place. How in the morning the sky would turn a pinky-orange colour and how gradually throughout the day it would transition into a deep purple. People travelled from all parts of the country to gaze up at those skies. Now as I look up all I see is black. Enormous black clouds, bulging with rage. What has become of this place?

The beast leaped on me with such force it knocked all of the air out of my lungs. My head hit the ice with such intensity that I feared I wouldn’t be able to get back up again. My eyes glazed over, a mixture of fear and fury. The beast pressed my sword against my gulping throat. I couldn’t fight it, I wasn’t strong enough…

I immediately stopped myself because I knew the worst was to come. A shudder of fear engulfed me as the memories replayed themselves, still as vivid as ever. To my horror my eyes fell upon a terrifyingly familiar sight. The gem still shone bright, even after all these months. The ruby stone was so large I could vaguely see my panicstricken face in the reflection. Slowly, I crouched down and clasped it in my hands. I am forced to remember.

The end was about to come. I knew it and didn’t have anything left in me to fight it. The beasts grin was repulsive, his eyes narrowed as he relished in my suffering. I had lost all hope. Suddenly the beasts expression altered dramatically. He roared in agony and turned his ugly head to peer behind him. Surprised, I tilted my head to see the disturbance. An emptiness filled my stomach. A fear worse than death consumed me. Gilleous stood behind me, sword at the ready, his arm dripping from a fatal wound.

A tender feeling came across me as the potent memories cut deeper into the already aching feeling in my gut. Never had I felt so much pain. I couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell to my knees. Hoping the Gods would rescue me from this
inescapable grief…

Gilleous looked deep into my eyes then swung his sword across the beasts chest. The beast howled in agony and retaliated by hurling his axe at Gilleous. However, he narrowly missed his left shoulder. Seizing the opportunity Gilleous plunged his sword into the beasts chest. The beast screamed with rage and fell to the floor. Gilleous stumbled over to me, holding out his hand to help me stand. I laughed with relief. Everything was going to be alright. Immediately I regretted that thought. Gilleous’s comforting smile was suddenly replaced with a shocked, pained
expression. He dropped to the ground and to my horror I saw an axe, encrusted into his back. I saw the despair in his eyes as his body crumpled into a heap on the ground. The beast was lying on his back, bleeding profusely, grinning hysterically. Satisfied with his final kill.

I just wanted to die. The pain was so unbearable. I hadn’t cried like this since the day of his death. It seemed that I had been building up all this emotion deep inside of me. The drought was the worst part of grieving, now it seemed I was drowning in my own tears. I clasped the gem in my trembling hands. At least I would have something to take back to his family. Suddenly a strange feeling came across me. I could breath. Amongst all the sadness I found a glimpse of comfort just in the memory of Gilleous. Although I missed him with every bone in my body, deep down I knew that he died protecting me. I had to honour his memory. That’s what he would have wanted after all. I took one final look at the miserable battle scene and mounted my horse. I stroked her blonde mane affectionately, I remembered the day
Gilleous brought her for me. I could barely sit properly the first time I rode her, but over time Gilleous taught me. He was always the best teacher. I was soon the finest rider in our kingdom. Yes, I said to myself aloud. That’s how I would remember Gilleous. As the man who nurtured me, helped me mature and grow as an individual. The greatest man who ever lived.

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You can find some more poetry and writing from Millfield pupils here and here (their Freshly Pressed’ Sense of Place’ poetry) and their QUEST short story openings here. More sagas coming from Millfield pupils next week!

Thank you for your interest.

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‘Self Portrait between Reputation and Character’ by artist Ann Supan (FreeSpace #1)

19 Mar

SURRENDER HD

 I SURRENDER by Ann Supan 

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Self Portrait between Reputation and Character

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It has always been my ambition to become a portrait artist. However, as a self taught artist and someone who prefers to be alone, I still find it so hard to make a self portrait.

“You cannot lay bare your private soul and look at it. You are too much ashamed of yourself. It is too disgusting. For that reason I confine myself to drawing portraits of others.” – Mark Twain

To make a portrait of someone else, in my opinion, is easier because you are making it with the knowledge of capturing how someone looks like and feel at that moment alone. Where in people, on such cases, “choose to” put on a face they think is the one they would like to show the world.

Of course, I could also choose to do this but I find it so difficult to pretend and draw at the same time especially if my intention is to make my own portrait as real as possible. No one knows best the real me besides myself. Knowing this, it hinders my intention to capture “all of me”, if that is even possible, in just one piece of art. I have to find another way.

I then realized that though a “face” can be deceiving…”hands” cannot.

In fact, our hands can tell a lot about ourselves. From our palm lines to the size and shape of our hands, each part holds a special meaning that is specific only to us and our personality. A form of art known as Palmistry is actually the art of telling the future through the study of the palm and it can also teach us a lot about our CHARACTER.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of these people.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

You see –
– Faces shows “what we choose to look like” to control of what others thinks of us – our REPUTATION
– Hands shows “who we are” – our CHARACTER

Bear in mind that Reputation and Character are two very different things. REPUTATION is that which people are believed to be; CHARACTER is that which people are!

Like Thomas Paine said –
“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.”

The Vanity project shows and/or includes my hand/s in each piece as my own rendition of a self portrait because I choose to show who I really am through every lines of my hands.

I honestly think that this project does not end here as I love drawing hands – I will be creating more as I go along with my life.

As every piece is unique, to read about the description of each piece, kindly click on the Fine Art America’s “The Vanity Project Gallery” link below so as to avoid making this blog any longer 😉

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/ann-supan.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=474860

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Ann will be returning for her second FreeSpace on Thursday 23rd April. She is one of the artists to be exhibited in our The Nine Realms  combined arts experience this  September in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

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Biography

What if?’ will always be the question Ann Supan tends to ask herself every now and then. She is an Engineering graduate who knows she wanted to be an artist since she was 10 years old. She is a Filipina visual artist who loves to draw and likes reading as much as traveling. Her main interest in art is portraiture as it is her ambition to express beauty and emotion on her work. She focuses mainly on likeness as her technique and style is simple. Recently, she has been making ‘dual portrayal’ portraits in order to make her work ‘thought provoking’ as well.

She specializes in traditional drawing in the categories of figure drawing, illustration and shading using graphite and charcoal as her main medium. She also likes to use different mediums as shown on her selective impressionistic pieces.

Through years of practice and experimentations her artworks now revolves around on both realistic and impressionistic form.

https://twitter.com/Sketchbook0918

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*FreeSpace offers 3 post slots on ArtiPeeps to any creative or group. They can be taken in a cluster or over a period of months for showcasing, projects (encouraged) or self expression. If you’re interested in FreeSpace do get in touch via the reply box on this post or the contact form on the What’s On page. 

Weekend Showcase : Stephen Thom (Writer)

13 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Stephen Thom

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Marbles

 

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IT IS ALL LITTLE MARBLES IN OUR EARS

by Stephen Thom

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Hugh placed his plastic cup of sparkling wine beside the picnic hamper and pushed the tweezers deep into Lottie’s left ear. She slugged her own cup back violently, wincing as the bubbles surged down her throat and cold metal tongs simultaneously wriggled into her earhole. Selecting a pair of tweezers for herself, she directed them into Hugh’s right ear and tried to focus on her own prodding and poking. And as it was, she succeeded first. A little, smooth, dark round bead was tugged from Hugh’s ear, clenched between the pincers of the metal implement. Swiftly the bead was followed by more and more tiny round balls, connected together by some sinewy, sticky tether. Hugh’s ear bled as the beads were carefully extracted; dribbling, red pearls hanging from the lobe.

‘How does it feel?’ Lottie asked. Hugh’s head was throbbing, but he didn’t want it to show. Instead he tried to change the subject. ‘I can’t seem to get a handle on yours.’ He switched positions, wedging the blanket into the sand beneath it as he shifted onto his knees. Finally he felt his tweezers click around a smooth surface, and with his eyes screwed up in concentration, tugged the first few beads from Lottie’s left ear. They slid out with comparative ease; soon a whole, slick chain of dark little stony spheres was unravelling out of her earhole, and she barely flinched as she focused on yanking and squeezing Hugh’s assorted beads out individually.

‘Ow,’ he muttered, craning his neck against the roving tweezers. ‘Ow.’ His eyes flickered to the trail hanging from his ear. ‘Ah…Jesus.’

‘They look a bit like marbles,’ breathed Lottie, stroking his head to calm him. ‘I thought you’d be able to see…more, or anything. Maybe they’re different on the outside, like, maybe they change?’

‘Maybe,’ choked Hugh, grinding his teeth as water formed in the corners of his eyes.

With a sucking noise, what appeared to be the final bead was wrenched from Hugh’s ear; Lottie laid his collection in a bundle on the blanket beside her own, long since unravelled to the ground. They surveyed the piles of beads in silence for a while, Hugh rubbing his ear. ‘How long do you think we have?’ He murmured.

Lottie looked up at him. His eyes were jet black, but she declined to inform him of this.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said, reaching for his hand. Hugh let her caress his palm for a moment, then picked up one of his beads. He rotated it between thumb and forefinger. In the centre of the little ball, a cloud swirled amongst the gloom. As he watched, it gathered texture, accumulating into a structured mass. This mass snaked out to incorporate fleeting glimpses of minuscule limbs, features, stretches of environment – a world condensed into a smooth, sticky marble.

‘No, you were right,’ Hugh concurred, ‘it must have been a type of…camouflage, or cover. Look, this is when I met you.’

He held it up to her glassy eyes, still in ownership of their pupils. A scene danced across the minute circular landscape.

‘It wasn’t, though,’ she replied, averting her gaze. Then, looking back at Hugh, she saw a thick sliver of black liquid ooze from his dark eyeballs. He wiped his cheek in shock. Hastily, he pulled the beads up one by one, scrutinising the pictures the little marbles conveyed.

‘This is Greece!’ He cried. ‘This was our holiday! When I was twelve…I had such bad sunburn. I had to have cold showers. Look, this is when Mum was ill…we were waiting at the station for Dad to pick us up, but he’d got the time wrong, and you just kept talking about how you have to pay to use the toilets there, I guess you didn’t want to talk about anything else-‘

‘Hugh…’ Lottie covered the bead with her left hand, and pulled the arm of her jumper down over her right hand, wiping away some of the black fluid flowing down his cheeks.

‘I don’t know if it was the right thing to do anymore,’ he croaked. He was having trouble kneeling upright now; he seemed to be hunching into himself without realising. ‘Even if they’re not ours, or mine, or whatever, it’s what we knew. It’s all I knew. I should honour that. It doesn’t feel right, or like I thought it would. I still spent my life with these people.’

Lottie kissed him on his smudged cheek. ‘It is right,’ she said, and she felt her own voice flagging as she did so. ‘You did spend your life with them, and you will meet them again, just in the right way this time. These things, here…’ her hands fumbled with the beads, ‘they’re not our own, they’re someone else’s interpretation. But all these…links, they’ll come back to you. You will see them again,’ she finished, trying to sound decisive.

Hugh’s face was a mess of black fluid, and he sunk to the blanket as his knees failed him. The sand that had drifted onto the blanket mingled with the thick oilish substance as cracks and sores opened across his skin, and more of it flooded forth. Lottie held his head tightly, staring straight ahead as her own eyes dulled to black.

‘Hugh, did you hear me? Hugh, it’ll be your own now.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he sighed as a black mass converged before him and fractured into a million splinters; splinters that remolded themselves as little black marbles, tumbling in every direction.

He saw his embryonic, shapeless shadow chasing after them, ready, renewed-

‘Don’t ever be sorry,’ Lottie sobbed, somewhere far behind.

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Biography

Stephen Thom is from Carrbridge in the Highlands of Scotland, and enjoys reading and writing fiction with an interpetive element. His pieces have appeared in Firewords Quarterly, Holdfast Magazine, Fur-Lined Ghettos, High Flight, Don’t Do It, Thought Collection Publishing, Thick Jam and Puffin Review amongst others.

http://stephenthom.wordpress.com/​
@StephenThom3

Stephen also plays mandolin in a folk-rock band called ‘Dante’. Their debut album, ‘Wake’, was released in October 2013 to fantastic reviews and features in the Herald’s ‘Top 50 Scottish Albums of the Year’.

http://www.dantemusic.com
@wearedante

 

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 Image by Barnaby N: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/212455

 

 

 

‘North by West Midlands’ Part 2 by Louise M. Hart (Poet) FreeSpace #1

3 Mar

Angel of the North

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North by West Midlands, Part 2

Except Yourself

by

Louise M. Hart

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I travelled north to learn how to be free
But the shrieking gulls delivered my spirit
To Nemo’s tomb
Buried beneath 20,000 leagues of despair
Under a doom sated sea
A fisher of souls, swept to her watery demise
By waves that tempted my mind
And stung my watery eyes

Lapping the frail shore of my bored
Consciousness
I roared from the depths
Of my soul’s new found distress
And swallowed the sea water’s acrid foam
Like a fleet of melting acid ice cream cones
My thoughts nourished by the taste of its cool duplicity

Being caught between the to and fro
Of my unique soul’s existence and human homogeneity
I had become invisible, both on land and sea
Like a single splash of water on a pier-less shore
Depositing no residue of my life or piteous form

One day, I stepped into troubled waters
Where I witnessed rising from his/her liquid bed
Like Poseidon’s changeling son/daughter
The angel of the north
Who spoke to me, “It’s not so bad, up here, with the haggis
And the local beer
Better rain upon a sunny head
Than sun shining beyond a mind
That is dull as lead”
“Like mine,” I screamed
“It is not your home location,” S/he equivocated
“Inducing your mental rot
Your soul is sick
For existence has failed to offer you a role
In this season’s production
Of the dominant model
Of the anti-social whole
This is not how life should be…
This is not how life should be”

Angel of truth
Lancelot, inhabiting a nautical incarnation
Of Avalon, for the guiltless generation
Riding against the tide, with limbs of lace and leather
Your presence warmed my heart
Like rays of sun in wintry weather
Words slid from your tongue
Like a gentle elixir
I drank them slowly
And let them fix me

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Part 1 is here

 

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You can find more about Louise and her poetry here:
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Louise will be returning for her second FreeSpace on Wednesday 22nd April.

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_________________

*’FreeSpace’ offers creatives or groups 3 slots on ArtiPeeps which can be taken up in a cluster or in a sequence over a period of months. They can be used for further showcasing, self-expression or for projects.

If you are interested in FreeSpace, don’t hesitate to get in contact via a reply box, or the form on our What’s On’ Page or via @ArtiPeeps

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.

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