Living Flame

There are many things that can be created from fire. Swaths of soot left after a blaze. Smoke spiralling into the air, silhouetted against the sun, painting the sky with the dark against the light. What is charcoal if not charred remnants, used to draw, used for art? And even fire itself can be beautiful, blooming like a flower, orange and yellow. Even in its destruction it is beautiful, sweeping through wood and paper and forests and buildings, leaving barely anything unscathed.

And we fear it, as we should, keep it controlled in fireplaces and furnaces, with weak pathetic flames burning in lamps and on candles. But even with our precautions, sometimes it escapes, wreaks havoc, causes devastation and feeds like a living thing, breathes and grows and survives like a living thing.

But always, even in the aftermath, in the smouldering remains of what was once a whole house, a thriving woodland, you find the strangest things, untouched and unscarred. An intricate candlestick, on a carved marble fireplace. An iron-wrought bench, inscriptions painstakingly worked into the back.

You never know what you will find, when you put out fires. You never know what will have destroyed, and you never know what will have been left for you to discover.

-Maura Kenny

(04/02/18: create, fire quote)

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Be Strong

“Be strong.”

She could hear the voice in her head, saying those two words, be strong, the last thing she’d ever heard the girl say. As they’d been dragged apart, the other girl hadn’t screamed, hadn’t cried, had simply looked her dead in the eye and told her to be strong.

And so she tried. She held her head high, and she wiped away her tears, and when she saw an opening, she ran for her life, ran faster than she’d ever run before.

“Be strong.”

She kept her head down, worked hard, listened out for any word, any news. She smiled and laughed and befriended people and she tried so hard to be strong.

“Be strong.”

She went to the gym, went running, punched a bag. Mental strength could come from physical strength, and as her muscles strengthened and she ran faster and punched harder, she flet strong.

“Be strong.”

She’d been told to be strong. And so she was.

-Maura Kenny

(08/02/18: strong)

My Ship

It hadn’t been the cleanest ship, hadn’t been the fastest or the nicest or the best. In fact, some would say it was downright disreputable. The rigging had been frayed, and the wheel always squeaked, and some of the doors were permanently wedged open… but it was mine. My ship, that I’d taken all over this beautiful, terrible world. My ship, that had been with me for years. My ship, that I’d lost due to my stupidity and my trust and my bloody inability to leave the girl I loved.

I’d loved her, and she’d betrayed me, and I’d lost my ship, and I’d lost her. Years had passed since then, but the ache hadn’t faded.

I had spent those years doing the best I could. It was hard, going from captain of a ship to just another pirate, and having to fight back men on every crew I joined, men who didn’t believe a woman could be a pirate. But I hadn’t become a captain by luck, and after I’d bested a few expert swordsmen, word had spread, of a captain without her ship.

I joined crews, and I worked hard, and I fought and bled, but I wasn’t ever a part of any of the crews I joined. Always separate, always alone, always aching.

And I kept looking. Looking for my ship, and for the girl I’d loved.

-Maura Kenny

(03/02/18: disreputable, picture of ship on an island)

Warm-Up

The exercise involves lying full-bodied on the floor for another to draw around your form. The purpose of said exercise is to articulate a sense for the flow of immobility, immobility as flow and thus possibility. Many groups attempted similar activities to great aplomb and connection. Artists collapsed upon their models. Models rose to heights of personal ascendence. Poetry collections were published. Limbs grew lithe in artificial moonlight. The studio upgraded its entire rigging. We brought new humans to practice passivity. Every pairing was a pool of pleasure. Who knew the flesh untouched could be so malleable. To cultivate the necessary unrest, ambient ocean sounds may be played directly into the model’s ear. Arousal. Here we are, rhythm of intermittent tide, a pencilled warble. This man has muscles that articulate a paradoxical vulnerability. It’s in his tattoos, which only the artist sees. A he or a she or neither, in which case a very special effect is reached. Systems fall into perfect error. Undulations of hair leave their impress upon carpets, but admittedly parquet floors were instructed. Recommendations swept away in paper flakes. Controversies stirred at the death of a single participant. They had scratched, I am just looking for a way out. It never occurred to the artist that the model was in fact referring to their very own body. Doors were locked and provisions made. They ate tinned peaches and dripped the slippery juice across each other’s faces. Some of them miss the practice as it was before. No good to dwell in the past. No good at all. The snapshots were flushed when authorities arrived. Time will tell, how else? Little white lines. Social media profiles in the boom era broke down when the 404 parade came round, desperate and percussive. I make of you a blade of rain, they said. This isn’t the eighties, the skin replied. There were twenty-two poems explaining aesthetic paralysis. A great deal of laughter and stuck-together A2 paper, resonant scent of impermanent ink. When your felt-tip skims my shoulders I melt like infinite butter. His tattoos twist, I drink them.

 

– Maria Sledmere

(04/02/18: ‘create’)

Super

What good were superpowers when everyone had them? Sometimes, she watched old superhero movies, and saw how the superpowered characters were the stars, how they were unique and idolised. The rare ones nowadays were those without powers, and they certainly weren’t idolised- they were shunned, hated, pushed away. They often lived apart from the rest of the society, ostracised, working the jobs that no-one else would. It was unfair, but to most people that was simply how the world worked.

Lost in thought, she didn’t notice as the plate she was washing slipped from her grasp, landing with a splash and a clatter. She jumped, looking around guiltily, but she was alone.

She picked up the plate, focusing on her task. What had she even been thinking about? Well, whatever it was, it didn’t matter.

-Maura Kenny

(07/02/18: clatter, The Incredibles quote)

Strong Like Mom

I saw this little boy at the park with a shirt that read, Strong Like Mom.

I looked at woman who was with the boy, his mother, I presumed. She was petite, didn’t appear to have any obvious superhuman strengths. She wore a bandana on her head and my first impression was that maybe she’d been through chemotherapy. 

I thought about that boy, in that shirt, walking into a drab hospital room and seeing his mother on the bed, fighting for breaths with tubes in her arms, up her nose, yet managing a weak smile when she saw her wonderful boy. He was horrified of course. And with sleepy eyes and a groggy voice his mother assured him she would be fine.

Just fine.

It was a lie at the time, the sort of lie you tell little children and those you love. Because the truth is too painful to speak or hear. The truth for her was that she was beginning to think the end was preferable to the hopeless depths she faced that day. But maybe they don’t make shirts that say, Honest like Mom.

Such morbid thoughts. I turned to my newspaper, then decided that wasn’t the case. The bandana was more of a Rosie the Riveter look. It was after all, Rosie red, not the cowardly white of a surrender flag. A second look to confirm. This was a woman who’d survived abuse, not cancer. She’d summoned the courage to take a stand, lived in shelters and scraped so that boy would never have to grow up with a monster. What I was seeing was a dream come true. The park she’d dreamed about, watching her boy run and giggle and enjoy the day. Why, I was watching a second chance.

She was wiping off one a swing when looked over and our eyes met. Her posture tensed and her jaw went tight with distrust. Oh no. She’d known a man, a family friend. He was older and used to tell her she was pretty. At the time she was only beginning to wonder about such things, and one afternoon when they were alone he did something terrible.

I looked away. But from there my thoughts spiraled. She wasn’t his mother at all. His mother wasn’t fine. She’d lost that battle. With cancer, depression, or addiction after that sunny day with the family friend. Maybe the boy wore the shirt as a memorial.

The woman was still staring at me. And I knew I should leave. So I got up, folded the paper. I wanted to assure her that I meant no harm. But I didn’t want to cause any more problems. So I left. I left my thoughts on that bench. I left the boy with the woman to play at the park.

I hope it was just a shirt.

-Pete Fanning

(08/02/18: strong)

No Tea Today

The moon was full, but it was far too cold up this hill for dancing naked (although clothed dancing might be a good idea, to warm up). I huddled over the weak fire, glancing around. The others were late.

There was a thud, and a muttered curse, and I glanced around, hiding a smirk as I saw another witch extract herself from a tangled thorny bush, yanking her broomstick out after her.

She climbed to the top of the hill, slumping down cross-legged on the ground beside me, warming her hands over the fire.

“This is a shit fire, isn’t it,” she said, after a moment of silence, and I glowered at her.

“Well, I had to do it by hand, you know I’m no good at fire spells,” I said defensively, and she nodded in acknowledgement, pulling her wand out from her sleeve and poking it at the fire. There was a pop and a spark and the fire sputtered, suddenly bigger and much warmer.

“Give it more wood,” she said, and I grabbed some of the kindling I’d collected, feeding the fire gently. “That should do it,” she said smugly, and then turned to me. “Alright, get the tea on,” she said, and I sighed.

“You were supposed to bring the tea this week,” I snapped, exasperated.

“No, Annie was!” she said defensively.

“No, Annie can’t come this week, remember? She’s got that convention up north.”

“Oh.”

There was a beat of silence, and then she spoke again.

“So there isn’t anything?”

I rummaged in my bag. “There’s some biscuits that Mrs Potts made me, for helping with her sore legs. They’re strange, though, she puts all sorts of fruit in them.”

I handed one over, and we chewed them thoughtfully.

“Yep. Fruity,” she said, and I laughed despite myself.

Then there was another thud, and another curse, and we hurried over to help Faith out of the thorn bush, abandoning our biscuits gratefully.

-Maura Kenny

(01/02/18: fruity, moon, Good Omens quote)

 

Flash Fiction February 2018

I realised that we hadn’t actually made a blog post officially launching this year’s Flash Fiction February challenge, so that’s what this is!

Every day in February, we’ll upload three prompts to the Flash Fiction page, accessible through the drop down menu or this link.

The challenge is simply to write a piece of short fiction for each day in February. These should definitely be shorter than 1500 words, but the shorter the better- it is ‘flash’ fiction.

You can submit your flash fictions to us via the link at the bottom of the prompt page, or by emailing us at gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com.

At some point, we’ll compile all the submissions into an anthology- previous anthologies are available on the blog.

Don’t worry about the quality of your work- the entire point of this is to write without editing. Sometimes the hardest thing to do can just be to get words down!

Good luck, and happy writing!

Flash Fiction February Page Access

Attention everyone – due to a small bout of daftness, I forgot to categorise the page properly. Because of this, the page did not appear in the Flash Fiction February drop-down menu. I have tried to fix this but it doesn’t seem to want to add. I’ll do what I can to fix this bit, in the meantime, you can access the page through the link below.

Apologies again.

Flash Fiction February 2018

Group Novel – Chapter 10

I was flung into some kind of cell by a creature that was halfway between a snake and a tree. Flung with some force – skidding across the gravel floor and crashing into the solid wooden back of the cell. The tree-snake creature hissed something I couldn’t understand before half-slithering, half-hobbling away. I scrabbled to my feet and to the bars of my cell – I went to rattle them but saw that there were large nails sticking out of them.

   “They don’t like iron.”

I jumped at the sudden voice. Looking around, I saw the girl – Evangaline – half-hidden by shadow in the cell across from mine.

   “What?”

“The faeries. They don’t like iron. These cells are made for people of their kind.”

   “Their kind? What kind? Who is she? Who are you? What is this place? What do they want and what the fuck has happened to Marie?”

Evangaline stood and approached the iron-spiked bars of her cell,

“I’ll answer your questions, all of them, to the best of my knowledge – but first, I ask that you answer one for me.”

   “Fine.”

“What is the year?”

   “What?”

“What is the year?” I blinked a little. How long had Evangaline been stuck in this place?

   “2018,” I told her. When I did, she didn’t shout or scream or cry. She didn’t call me a lair or fall to the ground in despair. She just said,

“Oh.”

And yet that one sound held all the sorrow of a person whose entire world had broken apart.

   “When I came in here, it was 1906.”

“What?!”

My outburst was one of disbelief. One-hundred and twelve years. How could she be here after 112 years?

It took me a while to let that news sink in. I’m not sure how long – there were no windows in the cells, only an eerie glowing light from strange flowers along the walls. If it wasn’t a dungeon, it would be quite pretty. Eventually, I heard myself say,

“112 years?”

   “It would seem so,” said the voice across from me. “Do you still wish me to answer your questions?”

“Do you still want to answer them?” Evangaline nodded. “Then yes. I’m Alice. Alice Brodie.”

   “Evangaline Myers. But most people call… called me Eva. I hope that answer who I am.”

“But how did you get here? How have you been here for so long?”

   “The Queen tore my family apart. Drove both my parents to madness. She wasn’t having me too. She still won’t. As for my time here, the rules are different in her realm.”

“But who is she?”

   “The Faerie Queen, self-appointed. From what others in these cells say – she was banished from the Seelie court.”

“Ok,” I said. I had very little choice than to just accept what was going on. “What does she want with Marie?”

   “She needs a body. The Seelie court cast her out of her own form.”

“But why my Marie?”

   “That I cannot tell you. She has tried with many over the years. My mother. Me. Dozens of other women who had the misfortune to get lost in these woods. None have been compatible with her… not her soul – I doubt highly that she has one. Her essence, perhaps? I don’t know what makes your friend different, but she must be – to sustain the Queen.”

“What happened? To the others?”

   “Most burned up. Others went mad.”

If that was what happened to all the others, what was going to happen to Marie? I slumped against the wall of my cell. I had to do something. I had to get Marie back. No matter what it took, I had to get out of this cell.