Last Meeting of the Semester

Attention, Creative Writers! We will be hosting one last meeting of the semester. It’s not an official workshop – there are no tasks or anything – just a chance for you to bring along some of your work and to get to hear everyone else’s.

If you have a piece you’d like some help with, or just some feedback, or you just was to share it with the group then bring your work along. If you don’t want to share, that’s ok – but we assure you, everyone is very nice when it comes to feedback.
PS feel free to bring drinks if you wish – either to celebrate the end of term or just to ease the pain.

Usual time and place – hope to see you all there.

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Winter Writing Competition!

Hello everyone! We promised a winter writing competition, and here it is!

The deadline for submissions is the 19th of January- so there’s no excuses, you’ve got loads of time…

The theme is just ‘winter’. Feel free to go in whatever direction you want to go with it- you can go Christmas themed, snow themed, cold themed… We’re leaving it very much up to you, and we want to see what kind of things you can come up with.

We may post some prompts halfway through, in case anyone’s stuck!

The word count limit is 2000 words . It won’t be strictly enforced- a little bit more is okay, but please don’t go too much over- we don’t want thousands and thousands of words.

We have not yet decided on how this will be judged. Potentially some kind of poll, but we’ll let you know. We have also not decided on a prize- possibly some chocolate (we’re students too, after all).

Email your submissions to gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com- again, we haven’t decided on the specifics but hey, we have six weeks to decide…

You have six week- GOOD LUCK, and keep your eyes peeled for updates!

Group Novel: Chapter 9

Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018

 

I didn’t know what had happened at first; it seemed my body has taken on a mind of its own- limbs moving without my permission, words being spoken from my mouth that I had not first formed in my mind. But as I watched, a silent spectator within my own body, I began to understand that my body has betrayed me, that it has chosen to align with this invader.
When I a child, there were countless trips to doctors, sleep therapists, and such, all attempting to help me overcome the bouts of sleep paralysis that I had begun to experience. The what’s and the why’s I didn’t care about. All I wanted to know was how to stop it: how to stop the night time schism between mind and body, when my eyes would open, but not even my little toe would bend to my will. Now, I knew I wasn’t sleeping, and neither was my body, but the same crushing fear I had experienced then, I could feel running up my spine.
While I could not choose what to look at, I could still see what was unfolding in front of me: my love, with that concerned look on her face, the creases in her forehead when she’s afraid. Everything that was happening I had to discern from the expressions that shifted across her face; though I could see, all the sounds around me were muffled, as if I was listening to them underwater. I tried to figure out what my body was saying, feeling my mouth and tongue and teeth move together. I could tell at one point my body smiled- watching her I could see the jovial feeling was not shared.
If I had any control over my body, I know that my heart would be beating faster and faster, fear-induced adrenaline coursing through my veins, my breath would be short and quick. But I could not even control my own heart.
I had to let her know I was still here, that somewhere imprisoned within my body, my soul, my spirit, my consciousness at the very least was still alive. The words, the screams, I could form in my head, but trying to make my mouth move in unison with those thoughts was a challenge. I tried to recall how each letter, each sound, felt in mouth: where my teeth fell, where my tongue began and rested, the shapes my mouth would make. But these were just thoughts, muscle memories. My mouth now only responding to the invader.
I tried screaming, my voice inside my mind increasing in volume to the point where you wonder ‘did people hear that?’ Harder and harder I bent my mind, its sole purpose to speak, not think. I could see Alice move towards me, then a burst of light pushing us back. In that split second when my body was disabled, so was my ignoble bodily guest; for that split second, I could glean her thoughts, those primed for speaking and those kept within. More. Sacrifice. For me.
Now was the chance, Alice leaning over me. I spoke, I managed to break though the chains of possession, my mouth moved according to my will but I could only manage two words: ‘Alice…run.’ Then it hurt, the invader snatched back the reins, but not without reprimand. My mind was not twisted or bent out of shape, but images were shown to me, quite deliberately. Images of faces I half recognised, the echoes of torture distorting them. And there was blood.
There were more muffled sounds, my mind too shaken to attempt to decipher Alice’s body language. If the invader could purposely show my images, could I know her thoughts as I did before? I tried to quiet my mind and search, quite literally within myself, for the mind my body was now obeying. Clearly that previous split second was a moment of weakness, for as I searched, all I could hear was myself. My invader was too strong, too clever to let their prisoner know more than they should.
All I could do now was watch, wait for a chance to speak again. I hoped that moment would come soon, for I saw Alice nod in her head, agreeing with something or promising to do something the invader desired. Sacrifice. More. Alice would try and wrestle me free, I knew, but I had to work on escaping myself, a mental inside job: for Alice could not know what was awaiting her.

Group Novel: Chapter 8

Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018

There was a thing behind us. There was no other word that I could think of. Its basic shape was human but it was as if someone who had never seen a human tried to build one out of spare animal parts. Even the head was made up of different pieces. The piece with the mouth smiled at us.

I felt arms catching me before I even knew I was falling. Arms I knew so well, yet much stronger than I had ever known them,

“There, there, now. It’s alright. I won’t let him harm you.”

Marie’s voice was wrong. Hollow, melodic, and echoing. There was a sibilance to it. Like the rustle of leaves. Or the hiss of a snake. I turned to face her and what I saw made me squirm away from those too-strong arms. It was Marie’s face. Her body. Her clothes. But those eyes – they were solid gold. No pupil. No iris. Just gold.

“Marie?” I asked, fearing the answer.

            “Is that what her name is? Hardly regal, but one mustn’t fuss.”

“Mistress?” garbled the patchwork creature, “The transference worked?”

            “It would seem so, my dear Hagar. I must thank you for bringing her to me,” said the woman – or whatever she was that spoke through Marie’s mouth. Struck dumb and frozen by confusion and fear, I could do little more than stand there as she nodded at me and the woman with the axe, “If you would.”

Something between a paw and a hand grabbed my shoulder and threw me to the ground. The axe-woman fell hard beside me.

“Bow before the Queen,” gurgled the thing that Hagar was.

            “I will bow to no such creature as she!” The axe-woman spat, struggling back to her feet.

“Take care, Evangeline. I have been merciful so far.”

            “Merciful? You stole away my family, demon! You kept me your prisoner!”

“My guest, my dear.”

            “Guests are free to leave.” Marie’s lip curled in a way I had never seen before,

“If you wish to be a prisoner, Evangeline, then by all means. Hagar, take her back to the fort.”

Faster than I could see, Hagar had grabbed Evangeline, twisting her arms behind her back.

            “Let me go, foul creature. Let me go!” Evangeline fought and struggled against the hold of mismatched arms. And then, in a swirl of leaves, the two were gone. And I was left with her.

“And now for you, my dear,” the Queen said with Marie’s lips, “Alice, isn’t it? Yes. This body knows you, doesn’t it?”

            “Let her go,” I said in barely more than a whisper.

“I’m sorry, sweet Alice, I didn’t catch that.” I got to my feet, glaring into those cold, golden eyes.

            “Let her go!”

The Queen laughed. It echoed through the clearing and the trees and it sounded like the flute music,

“Oh my dear, sweet girl. I can’t do that. It’s taken me so very long to find a compatible host.”

            “I don’t care! Give her back!”

“No.”

 I ran at the Queen and there was a burst of light that knocked us both back. I was the first to my feet and ran to Marie’s side.

“Marie! Marie! Please, please wake up. Please be ok.” Her eyelids opened and her eyes were blue, “Marie—”

            “Alice… run…”

“But—”

            “Get out of her! Run! Run!” Marie’s eyes shut and she started convulsing.

“Marie! Marie!”

Then she went still. Gold eyes opened and the Queen sat up,

“Ooh. She’s a fighter, this one. Now,” she smiled, fluttering those terrifying eyes at me, “where were we?”

Group Novel: Chapter 7

Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018

Stirring quietly, I shuddered against the chill of the woods. The wind blew low and mournful, an eerie lament whistling its way through the trees and, unbidden, memories of flute lessons at school came to the forefront of my mind. Marie had been a beautiful flautist. When I finally opened my eyes, it was to the crushing realisation that the past hour or so had not in fact been some horrific nightmare. I lay alone, save for the mysterious woman who still brandished her axe and glared down at me suspiciously.

I sat up, trembling as the leaves crunched under my weight. They had said there was death in the leaves. For Marie’s sake, I prayed that wasn’t true.

“Get up,” the strange woman said, her voice sharp but not unkind. I scrabbled to get to my feet, grimacing as yet more dead foliage accumulated around me, the golden leaves fluttering down from the boughs above.

“What the hell happened?” I asked, well aware of the mild note of hysteria that coloured my voice. I don’t know why I expected this woman to have answers to the questions that plagued me but still, I looked to her with woefully misguided hope.

All I got by way of a response was the woman turning and looking at me, although it felt more like she looked right through me, staring off into the distant darkness of the woods. “There is death in the leaves. You should have known that.” With that cryptic message, the woman began stalking away and I scrambled forward, trying to keep up with her.

“My girlfriend is gone! What are we meant to do?” I called after her, my own voice ringing out and ricocheting off the trees, coming back at me tenfold. The woman said nothing, merely continued on her walk forward although I noticed the way she flinched at the sudden way my voice shattered the stillness. “How do we fix this?” I cried, feeling white-hot desperation lash through me once again.

We aren’t going to do anything. I’m going to end this. There are faery folk in these woods and they have to pay.” I had no idea what I was doing but I couldn’t leave here without Marie and so, I followed this woman who seemed so hellbent on revenge. Evidently, she too had been wronged by the forest.

What a ridiculous thing to say. Not that I was still cynical about the dangers that were present here. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. We had been cocky and naive and now Marie was paying the price for my foolishness. Guilt seized my heart and i only just managed to swallow back sobs as I continued to follow the woman.

“Where are we going?” I asked, hoping she wouldn’t notice the pleading tone in my voice. She obviously did however, as she slowed to a stop, turning to face me. For the first time, I really took in her face. She couldn’t have been much older than I was and yet her eyes looked old, set in an exhausted looking face. My heart yearned to reach out and offer her sympathy but something about the set of her shoulders and the way her axe still rested wickedly on her shoulder made me think that perhaps she really wouldn’t care for such a thing. Instead, I bit my lip and met her cool gaze, despite feeling my heart beating furiously at my ribcage, as if longing to burst free and return itself with Marie.

“The myths say that the faeries stay at the standing stones. I’m going to destroy them.” She said firmly, mouth tightening into a scowl as she spoke. “I have had enough of this and I will suffer them no longer.”

That explanation was obviously sufficient to her and off she strode again. How she knew where she was going, I had no idea but it was better than being alone so, obediently I trotted along behind her. If we found these so called faeries, perhaps Marie would be nearby.

As we moved, the wind grew slow and silent until no sound remained except our own breathing and the rhythmic crunch of leaves underfoot. Every single step made me wince a little more. The mere reminder of the apparent death that these leaves heralded was enough to make me feel ill all over again.

Then, in the distance, dappled sunlight illuminated our way and its golden rays led us into a quiet clearing. All was silent and yet, when we stepped into the soft, warming light, we were confronted with a ring of standing stones.

There, in the centre, stood Marie. To my surprise and perhaps my horror, the careless sunlight reflected off her glassy eyes. Delicate wisteria blooms were woven through her hair, the stark white of the flowers standing out considerably against dark locks. Transfixed, I began moving towards her before I had really registered what I was doing, only realising when I felt a sharp grasp on my upper arm. The strange woman yanked me back.

“Don’t. It’s a trap. They won’t hurt her – not while the sun is still in the sky,” she whispered, as if afraid of disturbing whatever creatures lingered in the clearing. We stood there for a moment, unsure as to how to progress. The forest made that choice for us. The wind picked up once more, a soft zephyr snatching at my hair as it gradually began to increase in strength. Eventually, I was forced to tear my gaze from Marie in favour of covering my face, scrunching my eyes closed in the hopes that it would stop me from hearing that haunting flute lament once more.

When the wind died, Marie was still stood where she had been previously except now, her hands were curled elegantly around an ornate golden flute, fingers poised perfectly. My gaze immediately fell to that and so it was to my shock when I heard the strange woman scream. When I tore my gaze from Marie, I saw just why she was screaming. I recoiled as my own desperate howls joined that awful chorus.

Halloween Competition (or lack thereof…)

The more eagle-eyed and aware among you may noticed that while we mentioned a Halloween short story competition in a workshop, we never posted about it on the blog or mentioned it again. That is because we completely forgot about it. Whoops.

However, we will definitely be having a Winter/Christmas short story competition, which will be a generic Winter/Christmas theme with lots of space for interpretation. We haven’t fleshed out the details yet but it’ll probably kick off around the start of December with a deadline in January, to give everyone loads of time. So keep your eyes peeled for that!

Thanks, Maura

Group Novel: Chapter 6

(Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018)

We meandered blissfully through the labyrinth of trees, a wild citadel in its own right. Trunks towered like turrets, arms stretching out, enmeshing in an impenetrable wall into the distance. Wooden limbs stroked the air and brushed across our hair, caressing our clothes and guiding us further and deeper into the forest.

Due to the echoes of our own chatter, it took us a while to realise how quiet the woods were. Only once we had exhausted our lazy back and forth, once we had allowed our senses to absorb the scene around us did the silence make itself known. Inattentive to this – we had no reason to think otherwise – we marched on. I trusted the warmth of her palm in mine and let my eyes rove around freely. I’m not entirely sure how far we had walked at this point. Time seemed to slow underneath the golden canopy. Eventually, it was a small shiver scuttling across my skin that had me glance upwards, looking to the sky for answers.

“Do you think we should turn back?” I asked, unable to place my finger on the unease that was slowly and stealthily spreading through my body. It was at that moment, the second my voice broke the silence, that I became conscious of how heavy the air felt, how oppressive the stillness. The quality of the atmosphere somehow delineated and crystallised my form from my immediate environment, all of a sudden alien and claustrophobic. My blood barrelled through my veins, and I felt at once too large and too small in space.

I turned to Marie. And by that I mean, I turned to where she should have been. But the air stood empty, the very act of absence taunting me.

When pain and panic collide, people talk of your stomach dropping. This isn’t what I felt. What I felt was my entire being retracting into the centre of my body, into one pinpoint that could have burned through the fabric of time and space, had the heat been allowed expression. What I felt was my skin recoiling from my fingertips and toes towards my insides, withdrawing from the moment, turning back into itself.

While my frame seemed to collapse in on itself, I felt my neck jerk around disjointedly in a desperation I had previously only seen in animals on television. An animal, wild and discombobulated. My gasp clawed through the air but no sound escaped me.

My brain attempted to wrap itself around the present moment and I lurched forward. Her touch lingered in mine, her face was imprinted in my mind, her taste flavoured my words, I know she was there, she had been there.

I stopped. I stared at my palm.

The hand that had one second ago fit so snugly into mine left no tangible mark, no evidence, no warmth. Within seconds, the way she had inscribed herself into my history appeared to unravel, without her skeleton, the backbone to her existence, securing our intertwining scrolls. My tongue seemed to swell, constricting my throat. Words didn’t fit into my mouth.

I looked up. In the distance, a figure. Was it her? Did I really just lose myself completely? What the fuck was going on?

My tongue uncurled and I screeched her name, unable to keep the hysteria from tainting the ring of her name. I found my legs and sprinted towards the silhouette, desperation seeping out of my pores.

She turned around, but it wasn’t her. What it was, was a woman with an axe.

The woman stared at me with a savage look that I believe mimicked my own. Strands of hair curtained her face, a combination of fear and disbelief reflected in her eyes. I saw something in her eyes, simultaneously profound and glazed over.

After what seemed like an eternity locked in my own head and body, her “what?” grated painfully against my ears. It did the trick though, ripping me out of my mind and planting me firmly back into that excruciating forest. She spoke again.

“Who are you?” she demanded, “Why are you here?”

I heaved out a choked “Alice” before my legs finally gave way, betraying me at last. I had not been far wrong: the forest was a fortress. A fortress under siege.

-Isabella Eastwood

Group Novel: Chapter 5

(Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018)

It was a pretty town, big enough to get lost in, but small enough that the people were welcoming, smiling at you in the shops. We’d chosen it, Marie and I, because of the hills and fields around it- we liked walking, hiking, liked going off into the woods and the wilderness with nothing but lunch and books to read while we ate. We liked the sense of escaping into nature, and we liked that sometimes we didn’t see a single person on our long hikes. We liked the peace.

We were staying in one of the guest rooms of a big house that had been converted into a bed and breakfast of sorts. The old lady who owned it was kind and friendly and the room was nice and bigger and better for the price than we would ever have got in a city. She hadn’t made any remarks about two young women on their own, and she hadn’t even raised an eyebrow when we’d asked for a room with one double bed- and that was much better than the cities. We hadn’t expected that.

We’d spent the first couple of days just wandering the town, holding hands and walking down streets that felt so far removed from where we’d come from. It was nice, and peaceful, and we played board games in the sitting room of the B and B, read books and napped and relaxed. But I was getting antsy now, and I could tell that Marie was too, and so when the next day dawned clear and crisp and cold, we packed a lunch and then headed out, stopping first at a little corner shop to pick up a map of the surroundings.

And in that little shop, we had the most bizarre interaction. Marie had picked up a newspaper to buy- we both liked the crosswords- and I’d found a map, and we took them up to the counter, where an elderly man sat. We placed our items down in front of him, smiling at him, and as he rang it up and I handed him the money I asked him if he had any recommendations for walks in the woods, and I don’t know what reaction I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t for him to flinch and drop my change on the counter.

The coins landed with a clatter and I caught them before they could fall to the floor, looking at him in utter confusion. His face was pale, and his hands were trembling, and his eyes were panicked. I turned to Marie, but she looked just as nonplussed as I was.

“Don’t go into those woods,” he said hoarsely, and I frowned.

“Why not?” I asked, concerned now. I hadn’t seen in the news anything about murders or strange deaths here…

“The leaves…” the old man said, voice shaking. “There is death in the leaves, there are faery folk in the woods.”

I heard Marie stifle a laugh beside me, and I bit back my own smile. “Okay, sir, thank you,” I said, struggling to keep a straight face, and then I grabbed the map and the newspaper and Marie’s hand and sped out of the shop.

We got halfway down the street before we started laughing.

“Faeries,” scoffed Marie, stuffing the newspaper into her backpack. “Faeries. Death in the leaves and fairy folk, fuck, how ridiculous.”

I unfolded the map, still giggling, the sun hot on our faces. “Where to first?” I asked, tracing a path that looped out from the town and then back. “That one?”

Marie nodded, and I refolded the map, small enough to fit in my pocket. Marie reached for my hand, and I squeezed back, and off we walked.

We were young, and foolish, and scornful of stupid warnings. And so we walked into the woods.

-Maura Kenny

Group Novel- Chapter 4

(Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018)

And so I ran. I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran from the room where my mother’s blood dripped to the floor, past the quiet solitude of the thin hallway, the one that often separated us, and stopped at the front door. Ragged breaths beating against my chest, heart pounding in my skull. I spotted the axe, leaning against the thick, inner cabin walls like it was part of the woodwork, though the sharp, red edge gave it away. It hadn’t moved since my mother first ran out the house with it – as immobile as the crazy in her eyes.

“Fuck it,” I muttered, and picked it up in one, sweeping motion. This ends now.

I held the back of the axe with one sweaty palm, took a deep breath, and pushed open the front door.

The leaves had settled now. Any indication of their terrible acts gone. Erased, like the strength my mother once had. Deceased, like my father. Forgotten, like my own sanity…

I trudged into the woods with a determination I didn’t feel I had earned. I had no idea what waited for me. For all I knew, there were faery creatures lurking in the wood, controlling the leaves as they were meant to control the seasons, my childish fantasies unfortunately realized. It was cold, the winter air causing my breath to fog up in front of me, but I barely felt it. Adrenaline kept me warm. The trees had already unleashed their weapons – dead leaves, brown and gold and red, layered the ground in dry heaps. I wondered if it made them angry to crunch them under my boots. That’s when I realized. Dead leaves. Dead…

I stopped. The sky had darkened now, the sun sinking somewhere behind the shield of grey clouds, and I wondered if that meant nature was soon about to be completely against me. The leaves on the path before me rustled and shook, stirring under an unknown breeze. I braced myself, knowing what had to be coming.

“Come on…Give it to me next. I’m right here…”

They swirled together, up and up and up, into a spiral tornado of expired autumn colors. I stared, my mouth falling open and hand going slack, as they twisted faster and faster, always staying perfectly inside their wind tunnel. Then, as if in slow motion, the wind stopped altogether. The leaves had assembled themselves into a shape, one I oddly recognized, and as it rose upward and looked right at me, I couldn’t help but scream.

Without thinking, I swung the axe out in front of me.

-Krista Martino

Group Novel – Chapter 3

Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018
“Mother?” I called out, hurrying over. “What’s wrong?”

She had been a strong woman, my mother. The indomitable head of the household, a source of comfort in the madness. When I got scared in the night by the howling winds and shaking trees, she would regale me with tales of conquest of good over evil. In my child-like imagination, she was an Amazon warrior with a shield to protect and an axe to fight against the armies of darkness. She was a fighter, undaunted and unafraid. Perhaps the only thing she ever feared was losing her husband.

But ever since that day, my mother became a perpetually frightened woman. She was always looking over shoulders and was spooked by loud noises. Fearfully hiding in her own home.

While seemingly suffering from a terribly similar affliction, she was unlike my father, who would stare at the woods. He would sit on the porch, where she never could. He too was haunted, but I thought I saw awe and reverence in his eyes.

Perhaps out of habit or some kind of imitation, I find myself frequently looking out at the leaves, even sitting in the same spot that he would, trying to see what he saw and trying to imagine what he thought. Sometimes I looked at the shades of green and ochre in contemplation: how could something so simple be so evil? And other times, with a rational mind, I steeled my gaze in challenge.

But my mother was different. She never looked out and shuttered all the curtains. She was scared to be seen and afraid to be heard. She muttered hysterics and whispered in her distress. That’s the thing: she never screamed.

Death greeted me as I entered the room, with the sharp coppery tang of blood and the cold that sent chills down my spine. The drapes had been torn from their holsters and thrown haphazardly across the room. The window was smashed in, letting in the frosty draught. There it was painted in sloppy capitals over the walls and windows: “DEATH”.

She stood in the centre of the room, a solitary figure at the scene of the crime. One hand clutched at her face, where her mouth took ragged breaths and her eyes took in the view with shock. Her other hand betrayed her actions, blood dripping from the centre of her palm as she held it out to point a damning finger. It might have been comical, if she didn’t look so genuinely mortified.

“Mother, what happened?” I rushed to her side and laid a hand on her arm.

She remained rooted to the spot, petrified in place. Her gaze transfixed, her form set in stone. She took in a deep breath, and whispered, “…the leaves.”

Several lines of blood languidly trailed down the side of her arm, staining her clothes. A small puddle of blood had formed at arm’s length, rippling slightly with each new drop from her hand. And yet a tremulous finger held out in accusation.

I followed her direction, with my eyes, to the window. To a spot just beneath the “A” and just beside the broken edge of the glass. Through the glass and to the oak trees.
It was gone in an instant, and one could never be certain, with such overcast skies and rustling leaves, through dirty windows and blood-stained streaks.
But for a second, I swore I saw a face.