Monday, 5 August 2013

Writing Challenge: A Childhood Memory

The first of my completed writing challenges; a short story based on a memory from my childhood. I hope you enjoy! And do please let me know what you think.

The Reader

The light from her bedside lamp only reached a few feet, leaving most of her bedroom in darkness except for the small orb that illuminated the corner of the room where the head of her bed was. Where she now sat, knees bent up to her chest and a book in her hands; the words just visible in the dim glow from the lamp. When she read, she could get lost for hours, days even, in the imaginary worlds held within the pages of her favourite books. Sitting in the clouds that surrounded the highest branches of the Faraway tree; sharing stories with Peter and the Lost Boys, hidden in their house, underground in Neverland.

Hiding in that big, old wardrobe in the spare room; playing hide and seek. She peeked out through the small crack between the doors that had been left slightly open. She could hear someone coming, so she moved back to hide among the coats that were hanging in the wardrobe. She gasped as her hand brushed against something cold and wet and she turned to look at what should have been the back of the wardrobe. Instead, she discovered the source of all that cold and wet; snow. Trees, covered in snow. A whole forest hidden inside a wardrobe; how odd. And it was winter here, even though, on the other side of the wardrobe it was a wet English summer. As she stood on the edge of that midwinter forest, she shivered. Reaching back into the wardrobe she grabbed one of the large, fur coats that hung there and wrapped it around herself. The coat was soft and warm, and the cold of the snow couldn't penetrate it. With tentative, yet curious, steps she made her way through the snow-laden trees until she came to a clearing. She stopped at the tree-line, peering into the clearing, in the middle of which stood...

The door to her bedroom creaked open and her father, looking somewhat annoyed, stood in the doorway. He looked down at her, then his gaze moved to the book in her hands and he let out a, slightly exasperated, sigh. Looking back at the innocent look on his daughter's face, he shook his head. "Put the book down, turn off the light and go to sleep." He then turned, closing the door behind him, and walked away down the hall. She listened for the creak and thud of her dad making his way down the stairs before turning back to the book she'd been reading.

Back in that land of winter, she was tramping through the deep snow, making her way back to that little cottage; the one where the fawn lived. The sound of footsteps crunching through fresh snow followed her, as the others tried to keep up. She saw the little house in the distance and broke into a run; as close as one could get to running through thick snow in galoshes that were too big and a heavy fur coat. Drawing nearer, she began to get a bad feeling, a strange tingling feeling in her spine, she could sense that something was wrong. The thick, grey smog that she would have expected to see pouring from the chimney stack, wasn't there. The air above the cottage was clear. Then she noticed the front door; it was open. And it was at a strange angle, almost like it was hanging from its hinges. In fact, as she reached the cottage she realised that it was hanging, as though it had been partly torn from its frame. Her head began to buzz with the possibilities of what could have happened to the poor creature, to whom that battered door belonged. Stuck to the front of the door was a sign that read...

Her bedroom door opened suddenly and her father no longer looked merely annoyed; he was angry. He stared down at her, muttering under his breath, words she couldn't quite make out. He always muttered when he was angry. "Put the book down, turn off the light and go to sleep", he said clearly. Then he waited, towering in the doorway, for her to comply with his orders. Slowly she closed her book, making a mental note of the page she'd reached, and placed it on the table at the side of her bed. Her dad sighed at her slow movements and so she quickly turned the light off and lay down, staring up into the darkness. Her dad then left, closing the door again, and made his way back downstairs. When she heard the door to the living room downstairs close, she rolled over and turned on her bedside light, picked up her book and found the last page she'd read.

Freezing cold and tired; her legs hurt from the long journey and her stomach grumbled and complained. The brief rest they had managed, had been in a damp cave, lying on hard, lumpy ground and her back hurt terribly. The atmosphere was rather miserable but they had to continue on. It was beginning to get light and as the sun rose, the temperature also began to rise. The warmth was very welcome and soon they were all beginning to remove the heavy coats that they'd put on when they first entered that cold land through the wardrobe in the spare room. Somewhere in the trees above them she could hear the bright, happy, chirping sound of birdsong and from somewhere deep in the forest she could hear the bubbling, tinkling laughter of running water; a brook or a stream. The cheerful sounds of spring lightened the mood somewhat and made them all more hopeful for the rest of their journey. From somewhere up ahead of them, she could hear a strange jingling sound, like that of bells. Keeping to the edge of the treeline for cover, they crept along in the direction of the sound. As they drew nearer to the source of the sound she could just see a large, red sleigh through the trees. Soon she realised who the sleigh belonged to and they all broke into a run, heading in the direction of the sleigh and the figure of...

The door of her bedroom burst open, making her jump in shock. Once more, her dad stood in the doorway looking down at her, a look of anger on his features. "Put the book down, turn off the light and go to sleep." This time not only did he wait while she put her book down and turned off the light, but he remained standing there for another minute at least after she'd rolled over, to make sure that she got the message. Once he was satisfied that she was finally going to go to sleep he closed the door and went to bed himself. Lying on her side, she held her breath until she heard the door of her parents' bedroom close behind her father and the squeak of the bed springs as he climbed into bed. Then she sat up again, switched her bedside light on and picked up her book where she'd left off.

They made their way through the crowd of creatures; fawns, centaurs, minotaurs all gathered in the battle camp. As they walked, the crowd parted for them to pass and all eyes followed their progress towards the large, colourful tent of the battle chief. When they reached the bottom of the steps in front of the tent, all went silent around them as the eyes of every creature and person gathered focused on the doorway of the tent. She felt a sense of awe as the heavy silence built around them. She couldn't describe the sensation that overcame her as she waited to meet the one they all talked about; her heart was pounding in her chest, her palms were sweating and she couldn't take her eyes off the front of the tent that stood on the platform above them. Suddenly the blare of ceremonial trumpets sounded, leaving her ears ringing, and the flaps of the tent were drawn apart by two guards to allow a great figure to emerge from within the dimness of the tent; the figure of a...

Her father was even more furious this time as he flung the door to her bedroom wide open. "Put the book down. Turn off the light. And go. To. Sleep." She quickly put her book on the bedside table and switched her lamp off. Then she rolled over and pretended to try to go to sleep. After a minute her father spoke again, "This is your last warning." And then he closed the door. She lay in bed listening. She couldn't hear her father's footsteps retreating towards his bedroom, which meant that he was still outside her bedroom door, waiting to see if she would turn her light on again. She waited in the dark until she heard the floor of the hall creak under her dad's feet as he returned to his own room. After another minute of lying in the dark, she rolled over and, once more, turned on her bedside light and picked up her book.

Weeping over the dead body of the great lion she tried desperately to untie the ropes that bound him to the great stone table. Eyes full of tears, her vision was blurred and she couldn't see the knots properly. Her hands shook from cold and grief and she couldn't undo the knots no matter how hard she tried. The more she worked at the ropes the sweatier her palms and fingers became and the more difficult she found it. She screamed in frustration, beating her palms against the cold, hard stone of the table he lay on. The knots were simply too tight and the more desperately she tried to free him, the tighter they became and the more difficult it was for her to find any purchase on the rope. Eventually she gave in and collapsed across his body, crying into his still warm fur, clutching his thick mane in her small hands. She fell asleep, lying on top of him on that grand stone table, but when she awoke in the light of the morning...

"Put the book down! Turn off the light! And. Go. To. Sleep!" Her father shouted as he threw open her bedroom door. She didn't hesitate in putting her book down and switching off her lamp, then rolling over in bed to go to sleep. "I mean it, this really is your last warning." He shut her door and went straight back to his own bedroom. She lay on her side in bed, not daring to move. She lay there for what felt like ages, unable to sleep. Eventually she heard the loud snores of her father, who had obviously fallen asleep, coming from her parents' room. She waited another few minutes, as the snores got louder, before rolling over and reaching for her book. She listened again, to make sure that her father was still fast asleep, and then turned on her bedside light and settled in to read.


The next morning she awoke, at the sound of her alarm, to find the light from her bedside lamp added to by the light from the sun streaming in through her bedroom curtains. After turning off the alarm, she felt around for her book and then, looking over the side of her bed, noticed it splayed on the floor. She had obviously fallen asleep whilst reading, again. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and reached down to pick up her book. She placed it on her bedside table and then switched off the lamp, the light of which was rather redundant at this time of morning. Then she got up and stretched, yawning from tiredness.

Writing Challenges

I've decided to set myself a series of writing challenges because I'm a bit rubbish at disciplining myself when it comes to writing. The idea actually came to me when someone who's blog I follow asked for people to do a writing challenge based on the twelve signs of the Zodiac. They asked people to pick a sign (the first twelve to pick different signs are the twelve who are doing the challenge) and then write either a short story or a poem or mini-essay loosely related to that sign. I decided to do this challenge and so picked the sign Aquarius. I have a vague idea of what I'm going to write and I will post it on here when I've finished it, but the challenge gave me the idea to set myself a series of challenges to write short stories based on a variety of themes. I only have a few ideas at the moment so other ideas would be much appreciated.

My ideas so far are:
  • The Zodiac Challenge
  • To write a short story based on a memory from my childhood
  • To write a fairy tale
  • Tell a story through a fake newspaper article 
  • Write about somewhere I've visited 
I said I only had a few ideas. So I want to ask anyone who reads this to give me some other ideas. They could be themes or just a random word and I will add it to my list and challenge myself to write something based (though possibly quite loosely) on the suggestion. Either comment on this post or if you know me personally you can message me on Facebook or by email. I will try to do each suggestion within a week or two but please bear with me if it takes longer than that. I will post each challenge on this blog and I will also post on Facebook when I have completed each challenge for those of you who know me personally and are friends with me on Facebook. 

Thanks and I hope I get some suggestions from people.