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!

Always Have Pride

“Bisexuality isn’t real! It’s just a word for people who are confused. You’re either gay or straight, and you’ll grow out of this and pick one.”

It’s a sunny day and I’m in a crowd of people, marching along. I can see boys holding hands, girls kissing, a tiny kid beaming from ear to ear with a t-shirt proudly proclaiming ‘I love my two mummies!’ and waving a mini rainbow flag in one pudgy hand. I’m wearing my bisexual flag t-shirt and my eyeshadow is the colours of the flag and around me it’s a riot of bright colours and happy faces and joyous noise. I smile.

“You can’t use ‘they’ to refer to one singular person, it’s not grammatically correct! There’s no such thing as ‘non-binary’, everyone’s either male or female.”

I turn to my friend and they grin at me. There’s a trans flag badge pinned to their t-shirt, which has ‘they/them’ painted on it in neon orange, and they’re eating an ice cream cone. The ice cream drips onto their wrist and they laugh as they try and fail to lick it before it melts. They’re relaxed and at ease and it’s lovely to see.

“What’s the point in gay marriage? I mean, you can just have a civil partnership, that’s the same, stop complaining!”

There’s two old men walking along, a stream of people going faster around them, the two of them content to go their own pace. They’re holding hands, wedding rings glinting on their fingers. Their hair is grey and their faces are wrinkled and they’re wearing matching t-shirts that say ‘together for thirty years, married for one!’, and they’re gazing around them with faces full of emotion, as if they’re astonished at how far we’ve come. They look so happy, and I can’t stop my tears.

“Don’t be ridiculous, this is just a phase. You’ll get over it and find a nice boy and settle down.”

It’s later that day, and I’m sitting on the beach, watching the sunset with my girlfriend. Today’s makeup is smudged across her face, glitter everywhere, a giant rainbow flag tied around her shoulders. She’s beautiful in the fading light, and I love her so much that my heart is full of it, and I’m so incredibly lucky that she loves me too. And as she kisses me and the sky changes colour, all I can think is how much things change. Things change and people change and you should never stop hoping, and wishing, and loving. And you should always have pride.

-Maura Kenny

[22/02/17: Non-Binary, Pride, picture of two girls of a beach]

Study of Witches

Extract from “The Study of Witches” by Stephen Cabrano:

Magic tends to skip a generation. Often, witches learn from their grandmothers, and so they always have a slightly old-fashioned approach to things. Heavy spellbooks filled with crammed handwritten spells and recipes, old cauldrons and knives… Not to mention that specialised tools such as broomsticks and wands are remarkably expensive- hard to make, so there are few who do.  It’s rare that your average village witch will have a new one. More likely she’ll have a broom that’s been handed down from at least four witches before her, that’s been mended and patched so often that there’s very little of the original broom left.

But the witches themselves tend to be modern, and it makes for an entertaining and remarkable system. Young witches are filled with thoughts about progress and new ideas and a fresh outlook on everything. They work closely with the people and they learn what they want. Witches are almost always empathetic, caring, concerned about the people in their village, the people under their care. They talk with the people and they hear their ideas and then they try and implement them.

Because of this, witches’ homes are always so anachronistic. Old books stacked beside laptops, cauldrons beside electric kettles, and once I even saw a brand-new modern motorbike in a garage beside an old broom with half of its twigs bent all over the place. It truly is an interesting juxtaposition.

Note scrawled at the bottom of the page in pencil:

What absolute fucking bollocks. What a wanker. If I’d known he was going to write this drivel I’d never have let him in my bloody house. What did he do, go to three witches’ houses and decide he was an expert? Just another man with unwanted opinions. Well he can take his bloody ‘study of witches’ and shove it up his own arse. And I’ll remember this if he ever needs help from an ‘anachronistic witch’. Pompous prick.

-Maura Kenny

[18/03/17: Anachronistic]