Writing Competition: This is the end, beautiful friend

Image: Alicja Pixabay

Is it me or does the world feel like it’s more messed up than ever?

There was a time when all we had to fret over was nuclear annihilation and whether Wagon Wheels are smaller now than they were when we were kids (Yes they are.)

Now the NHS is on its knees, we’re threatened with medicine and food shortages if we leave Europe, civil disobedience if we don’t.

We’re in the middle of a man made Mass Extinction event, global warming is causing erratic weather patterns that threaten much of life on Earth and we’re liable to choke on our own plastic waste in the coming decades.

The question is, where do you channel the quite justified anxiety caused by these concerns?

Do you

A: go full Rambo-style survivalist, build a bunker in your flowerbeds and wait for the coming end armed with a cricket bat and some ancient tins of fruit cocktail to throw at oncoming hordes (I’m in the UK – holding them off with an assault rifle is not an option)?

B: pretend nothing’s happening, keep the worries inside until they form an ulcer the size of a dinner plate?

Hmm. If only there was some useful way to work through these anxieties …

Storgy Magazine has the answer.

They’re running a competition called Annihilation Radiation. There’s an End of the World theme, but here’s the twist that got me excited.

You enter the comp through Storgy’s Submittable page. Within 24 hours, you’ll be sent a link telling you whether you’ve been allotted a Beginning, Middle or End story.

Will you get to write a tale about patient 0 in a global a virus pandemic? Or one that records the catastrophe as it transpires? Or tell what life could be like after the mushroom cloud has settled?

And they’re not purely looking for grim outcomes – humorous stories are encouraged.

If you fancy a go, follow the link and if you do enter let me know – I might just be tempted to hold your hand through the End of Days.

What Pegman Saw: A lesson in forgetting

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Image: Google Street View

‘Forgetting’s easier.’ Hobb used to say.

That’s when he’d say anything about those days at all.

Of course, he was wrong. Because you can’t unsee what’s been seen, can’t unremember a thing that’s happened in your own street, at your own door.

Between one neighbour and the next.

You just push it down, away, paste a smile over the grieving as you paint new walls where the old ones stood, plant geraniums in the ashes and hope they’ll grow.

Forgetting’s not forgetting, it’s denial. And denial’s a cancer burrowing at your heart, forming wormy pits in your soul until one day you’re nothing but hollows.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw. This week we are in Tulsa. See here to join in.

This week’s an unusual one as Josh and Karen, Pegman’s founders, have asked us to write a story on a specific time and place, namely the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.

Others – Iain, Penny, Rochelle and Josh himself – have made such a good fist of relating elements of the events, I felt anything I added would ring hollow. Instead, I chose to focus on the fact that this event seems to have been largely ‘forgotten’. Not taught in schools, not widely discussed. I considered what this ‘forgetting’ might do to some.

What Pegman Saw: Johannes fuit hic*

Image: Google Street View

Johannes set the time and place for our meeting.

Fourth bench from the oldest stone crossing, when the 101 cast their bills to the west.

Typical Johannes.

My guidebook said the oldest stone crossing was the Meeburg. As for the 101 I hadn’t a clue … Then a flotilla of white darts scudded along the canal, their wake pointing to an egg yolk sky. I smiled – the 101 swans of Bruges, returning to their nests at sunset.

I walked Meestraat, remembering Mother’s words when I told her Johannes was an author and an oil painter.

‘Writers are liars and thieves. Artists are cowards.’

Not for the first time I wondered at her life before marrying my accountant father.

The bench was black with rain, golden with fallen leaves. Taped to the seat was a large cardboard sign.

New York calls me home. Enjoy the canals. J

I hate it when Mother’s right.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Bruges, Belgium.

Notes.

*Being an art history graduate, the first thing that came to mind when I saw Pegman was in Bruges was the Flemish artist, Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) – also known as Johannes. Van Eyck is famous for many wonderful oil paintings, not least The Arnolfini Portrait. He has signed the portrait just above a representation of a mirror. It reads “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434” – “Johannes van Eyck was here 1434”.

Visit here to learn the full story of the 101 swans of Bruges.

As far as I can make out, the Meebrug is the oldest stone bridge in Bruges. Other crossing places may be older, but the Meebrug is the oldest structure.

What Pegman Saw: Lost, found, stolen

Image: Google Maps

We were led along a narrow lane into the backyard of a house. A hosepipe coiled round the base of a banyan tree – emerald green and dusty – an equally dusty tortoiseshell cat coiled on a nearby garden chair.

The gallery was a wooden construction built onto the back of the house, the roof glass, letting in any dappled light that escaped the clutches of the banyan.

Sonny handed his kyats over to the elderly artist and strode in. I watched the twitch of his shoulders through his sweat-soaked shirt as he moved from one image to the next. The trip had been good for us. Time to heal, learn how to be a couple again, not a family.

‘Kim.’ An edge in his voice.

A painting. A little girl with Sonny’s charcoal eyes, my ash-blond hair. Our little girl, holding the ragged Mr Ted we buried with her.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Myanmar. See here to join in.

Friday Fictioneers: Ruins

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Papa kept the photographs in a drawer in his study.

‘My portraits’, he called them, though when Meggy drifted in one long and listless Sunday she found no faces, only photographs of old buildings. The shiny surfaces snagged her fingertips, as if the spires and stained glass were reaching, tugging at her.

Decades later, when his camera had long since been boxed away, she would find the old man dozing, blanket tucked round skinny knees, the images hanging from his lose grip.

She wondered if he’d realised back then that people, like buildings, become ruins of themselves.

***

Written* for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Do visit here to take part and join this merry band of super talented people.

*Also written in my kitchen, while a builder friend fixes our boiler … along with the climate, the upcoming election and Brexit!

What Pegman Saw: Forever Change

Image: Google Street View

The island speaks of forever.

Rock the colour of a whale’s back. A fathomless sea that leaps into the sky, swallowing the horizon .

Everything is as it has always has been and I want to be part of it, lie in the waves, let the barnacles clump my skin, the worms burrow into the warren of my bones.

A dash of red draws my eye, the colour so bright it hurts. The colour of pillar boxes, of telephone kiosks and buses, of change.

I want to be alone with the sea, but the colour grows, becomes a girl in a red dress. She battles her hair, the skirt that tangles round her calves. She bends, plucks shells from the whale’s back, tucks the stolen treasures in her pocket.

She smiles as she passes, the shells jingling, that smile pulling me back to life, the possibility of change.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Guyana. See here to join in – it’s a fantastic prompt, so do come along.

Friday Fictioneers: Lost Treasure

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

When Josey was a little girl, she would spend rainy afternoons playing with her mother’s pot of spare buttons – pearlised cuff buttons, chunky wooden coat buttons, shimmery greens and blues from old skirts and blouses. Josey let them run through her fingers like sea-smoothed shells, listening to their their soft chink and slither, pebbles caught in a swell.

Now Josey carries a pair of nail scissors in her coat pocket. She snips the threads and cords while people aren’t looking, adds their buttons to her stolen treasures.

But the collection isn’t Mother’s. They don’t feel the same.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. To join in and write your own tale, see here.

And many congratulations Rochelle on seven years at the helm – a more gracious, talented, generous and encouraging leader, we could not wish for.