Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge : After the Invasion

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Image : Virginia Frances Sterret


 

It’s getting dark as Sylvie reaches the top of the mountain, the last glow of the fat sun fading to violet and blue.

She loves nights on watch at the old Observatory. According to her friend Trad, there were ladders reaching floor to roof when the People first found the valley – cogs and wheels too, and a pulley system, rusted and choked with red vines. But it all must have been hauled away years ago, melted, broken, its use forgotten.

By the fire one night, she and Trad argued what the place would have been used for – a grainstore, a pump house, a torture chamber. Grin – the most knowledgeable of them when it comes to Before – said observe meant to look at things, though there isn’t a lot to see now: red vine (everywhere since the Invasion); the village; the distant wink of the sea.

‘A look out,’ Trad had said, sinking back, closing his eyes. ‘Top of the mountain – must have been a look out for Invaders.’

Grin shrugged. ‘Then someone fell asleep the one day they needed to be awake.’

Now alone under the empty dome, the mice scuttle round Sylvie’s boots, a barn owl glides, ghostly pale over her head.

She sits, settles her rifle at her side and gazes up at the stars.

 


Written for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. See the well chosen painting and write a story to go along. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

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34 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge : After the Invasion

    1. Thank you Chris! The building shape reminded me of an old observatory and the odd red tree of the red weed from War of the Worlds, hence a slice of the post alien apocalypse. Always fun to visit these ideas, though maybe not to stay 🙂

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    1. So very true! I often write flash pieces and think ‘ooh, I like that character / setting / idea’ and then move on to the next flash and never get to develop anything further. A shame, but just not enough hours in the day 🙂

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      1. I haven’t worked out the mechanism that decides whether a story is going to be a short or a novel. I don’t think I sit down and try and hatch a full length storyline. It’s odd but the stories seem to know what they’ll end up as.

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      2. My flash is written like many of yours – in response to prompts, but so far all my novel ideas have come from elsewhere. usually the germ of an idea – an image, a setting etc – that I have then though was strong enough (and could hold my interest long enough) to be turned into a novel. I’ve started plotting a certain amount with longer works as I’ve found I’m a terribly unsuccessful ‘pantser’.

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      3. I was going to agree and add that I couldn’t work with the idea of making it up as I go along either. Then I thought how odd that sounds. But a novel never really seems to be ‘made up’. It’s as though the story is there, a bit foggy in places, but the actual plot is there waiting to be written

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      4. I know what you mean. On good days ideas just appear in your head for scenes and characters as if from nowhere, the details just need firming up a bit. Funny old thing, writing

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      5. That sounds grim. The tone of what you’re writing can definitely affect your mood. Let’s hope you’re through that section soon and onto something more cheerful

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      6. Always good to have a few different things you could write, isn’t it? Hop from one to another as the mood takes you. Hope things improve soon

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      7. Good luck with it Jane – you taking a break over Christmas? Maybe mince pies and sherry trifle are what you need to give you a boost.

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      8. Can’t get the mince here. I’ve never found it anyway and I’ve always been terrified of sherry trifle. No break but I don’t like Christmas anyway. Too much like hard work and it’s so cold!

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      9. Keep warm while you’re working Jane – and maybe play The Carpenters’ greatest hits in the background to keep the tone cheerful 🙂

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      10. Haha! Yes, I’m really not a fan myself either. But they are blandly perky, so … Now, Blondie or Stevie Wonder are much better choices

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  1. No reason a book can not be made of shorts — brief observations into time and space. Guess the novel shall always allude me as I rarely know where I’m going — even on the longer works that are stories I’ve told myself for years that have derivations and sidetracks, and chapters I’m finally trying to write down.
    Great “observations” on the observatory.

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    1. I read once that you can see the chapters ina novel as individual short stories, with their own start middle and end, but chapters that all link and add different aspects to a bigger story, move that story onward. Makes a novel ever so slightly less daunting, cutting it into smaller chunks 🙂

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  2. I like this take on the image, Lynn – like Jane I feel as though it could be a longer story, and like you I find I do these prompts then move on to the next thing 🙂
    Still, I’d be intrigued to hear more about this post-apocalyptic world… 🙂

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    1. I quite like stories where the worst has already happened. Have you read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel? That manages to tell the story of before/during the apocalypse and afterwards too very effectively and emotionally. I thought of that as I was writing this

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      1. I haven’t, and I daren’t add it to my current TBR pile, for fear I’ll disappear beneath it! I’ll keep it in mind though 🙂 And I think you did capture that idea of post apocalyptic aftermath very well.

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      2. Thank you Helen! Station Eleven is a good read, but I know what you mean – if I stacked all of my TBR books in one pile they’d come to my waist, yet still I ask for more. You can never have enough books 🙂

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    1. Ah, thanks Chris – glad you think it worked. I wondered about the names, the balance between familiar and the ‘other’ of the future. Thanks so much for the feedback – always valued 🙂

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