#AmWriting Exercises: Character Sketch – “Telling Half a Truth”

This sketch was written for the fiction writing course I am currently taking through FutureLearn. For this exercise, you had to write a character sketch (300 – 500 words) using one or more methods of creating characters, and show elements like appearance, feelings, current circumstances, occupation, voice, attitudes, hopes and fears.

Character Sketch – “Telling Half a Truth”

Markus looked at himself in the mirror for a moment, taking in the gaunt features before starting to apply a thin layer of makeup. Through the years he had learned well how to mask the signs of what little sleep he managed to get. He sighed as he put the makeup back in the drawer. So many of the spirits would just not leave him alone until he’d listened to their messages.

The face that looked back at him from the mirror had a healthy glow now – now he could start seeing clients. His cheap plastic watch beeped the hour and the carnival music started playing outside. He pulled at the white shirt he was wearing. He preferred calling his work clothes costume-party-gypsy-chic. It was what people expected him to wear.

He walked the short distance from his trailer to the tent where he plied his trade. Some of those who had arrived early at the carnival grounds already gazed at the red and purple tent with curious expressions. Markus knew that, before the end of the day, at least one of them would have come to visit him. It was like people just knew when spirits were there to speak with them.

Markus ducked into the tent, bending almost double because of his height. Green eyes that had seen too much of life darted around the tent to make sure everything was in its place before he sat down at the table and ran a hand through dark shoulder-length hair.

Tightness gripped his chest as the spirits closed in around him. He sat down at the table, drumming his fingers on the wood.

“You’ll have to step back,” he said to the spirits only he could see. His voice had a subtle English lilt to it, betraying a youth spent in England.

All but one of the spirits stepped back — an elderly man with a thin grey moustache and a birthmark covering part of his face. Markus glared at him.

His first clients — four bubbling teenage girls — entered.

“So,” one said, sitting down and sticking out her palm, “what does my future hold?” She giggled and Markus wished his childhood years had been so carefree.

The elderly man stepped forward.

“I am her grandfather,” he said.

“Coming to… take her to the light. There’s going to be a car crash this afternoon.”

Markus took the girl’s hand and stared at the lines on her palm.

“In your future I see a lot still happening,” Markus said. “You will have one great love in your life.” The girls giggled.

“And Peter is here, hoping to see you. You’ll find him by the cotton candy.” Markus grinned at the girl’s surprised expression. It was difficult as hell being a real psychic, but when he could give someone some happiness it seemed worth it.

The girls paid and rushed out of the tent.

“Thank you for not telling her,” the elderly man said and Markus nodded.

#AmWriting — Writing Exercises: Challenging Expectations

“Coming Home” forms part of the fiction writing course I am currently busy with. For this exercise you had to write a piece of between 300 and 500 words in which you portray a character in a complex way, going beyond the stereotypical portrayal. I chose one of my own stories (“Beneath the Bed”) and wrote “Coming Home” based on the prompt “meticulous manager who lives in a messy house”. (You can read “Beneath the Bed” below “Coming Home”.)

Coming Home

Sarah moved the stapler on her tidy desk into its correct position before switching off her laptop and placing it in her matte black laptop bag. She glanced in a hand mirror to make sure that her hair and makeup were still immaculate before saying goodbye to her colleagues and heading for home.

The local pizza restaurant was her first stop on her way home. She ordered a four seasons as a take-away and hailed a cab home. The black Corolla stopped in front of a double storey house with a well-kept English cottage garden filled with roses and lavender.

She glanced around before she opened the front door, making sure that no prying eyes were watching. Tucking the pizza under her arm, she squeezed in through the front door, sidestepping the pile of mail and newspapers that kept the door from opening properly. A stale smell greeted her as she walked with careful steps along the tunnel that was her only access to the bedroom and bathroom. The piles and piles of useful and useless belongings barely registered anymore, but tears still pricked her eyes when she entered the bedroom. Only part of the king size bed could be used, the rest was piled with clothes that did not belong to her, but which she could — like the rest of the possessions — not throw away.

With a sigh she plopped down on the bed and turned on the TV to a random station for company. Before opening the pizza box, she picked up one of the men’s shirts on the bed next to her and held it up to her face, taking a deep breath. If she really tried hard she could imagine that it still smelled like her husband. New tears burned her eyes as she looked around her. How could she change anything in the house now that he was no longer with her? What was the use now, after all?

She put the shirt down and opened the pizza box. The smell of pizza replaced the stale smell of the room and she ate in the hope of drowning the empty hole inside.

Breaking stereotypes — “Beneath the Bed”

I wrote “Beneath the Bed” for Cracked Flash Fiction a few weeks ago. The prompt was “You’re my favourite monster”.

 Beneath the Bed

“You’re my favourite, Monster,” Lisa said to the shadowy lump beneath her bed and smiled. Her two front teeth were missing and she was holding another tooth in the palm of her hand.

“There is no reason for you to be afraid of the tooth fairy, okay?” she said. “She’s a nice fairy who’ll bring me money and then tomorrow we can go buy candy.”

There’s a snapping of teeth and a scrabbling of nails beneath the bed as Monster tried to catch a stray bug that had found its way there.

“Okay?” she asked again. Monster had become awfully quiet and agitated since the tooth fairy started showing up.

“Okay,” a voice rumbled from beneath the bed. “Can we have chocolate, Lisa?”

The little girl nodded, blew Monster a kiss, and pushed a small teddy bear beneath the bed before she jumped onto the bed and placed the tooth beneath her pillow.

Monster crept further into the shadows, hugging the teddy tightly, when Mom came to say goodnight and shivered with the knowledge of what was going to happen during the night.

The witching hour came much too soon and, with it, monsters like the bogeyman, shadow man, and the tooth fairy. She entered the room through the window. A thin sliver of nothingness that took on the form of Lisa’s mother as she neared the bed and picked up the tooth. Monster held his breath.

“What of yours do you give me in return for her safety, Monster?” she hissed.

“Two years of my time with her,” Monster answered. It was always two years.

A banknote was shoved beneath the pillow. “I accept.”

The tooth fairy slipped out of the room again, her passing only a whisper in the wind.

Beneath the bed sounded Monster’s muffled crying.

Notes on the stories

Coming Home

I decided to use the prompt ‘meticulous manager who lives in a messy house’. In my piece I pushed her to two extremes – at work she seems to be perfect and have it all together, while at home her life is a complete mess because she lost her husband; she has become a hoarder. I think this method worked because I gave a concrete reason why her house is in the state that it is in, rather than simply having her leave her shoes by the door, for instance. I do think that I could have said more regarding why she is so meticulous at work.

Beneath the Bed

In “Beneath the Bed” I played around with monsters being scary, tooth fairies being good, and children being afraid of monsters. I turned each of these stereotypes on its head – the tooth fairy is evil and the monster and child are friends. From the feedback I have already received on this flash piece, I would say that this method did work and the characters did not remain typical. If I had more than 300 words I could have broadened the tooth fairy’s role and motivations – as well as those of the monster – which I think would have made the story better, albeit longer.

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#AmWriting: Writing a Short Story Step-by-step – The Beginning Revised

This story is part of the Writing Fiction course I’m currently taking. You had to switch on the radio and use the first thing that you hear as inspiration for a story or a character and write a story/beginning of a story of less than 500 words. I got a news report about this blogger who received a suspended sentence. This is what came out of it thus far… (caution: this promises to be a very dark story).

You can read the first draft here. 

The unnamed story’s beginning revised… 

Sarie shifted her weight slightly to one side and felt the thin prayer cushion, with its embroidered trinity knot, give way under her knees. Tendrils of auburn hair that would not be tamed by hairspray fell over her face. Around her the church had fallen silent after the end of the sermon. Outside sounded the sunlit sounds of cars, people talking animatedly, and a newly baptised baby crying. Behind her, on the aged wooden pew, lay an open prayer book that did not match the others in the church and bore her grandmother’s name on the inside of the front cover. Beside it was her laptop, purse, and a Bible as worn as the wood below it.

“Our Father,” she mumbled below her breath, but the next words of the well-known prayer were lost in her racing thoughts and the comments she had just read. Her words seemed swallowed by a darkness inside.

A tear dropped from her chin onto the red shirt she was wearing, leaving a darker red stain on the fabric. She wiped over her face with one hand, not caring if she smudged what little makeup she wore. She was after all, she thought, hardly the stock photo, picture perfect blogger that she’d hoped she was going to turn out to be when she first started leaving posts on her own site. Long but frizzy hair, a face covered in acne marks and arms always covered by long sleeves to hide the lines of scars that marred them, hardly said ‘cover girl’. “All she really has going for her,” she’d overheard her mother once say, “is that her eyes are two different colours”.

She clutched her hands together so that the knuckles pressed white against her skin and leaned her forehead on them as if the act of supplication could reverse time and take her back to before she had opened her laptop and read those comments. In the darkness behind her eyes an old demon awoke and bared its razor teeth in a wide grin. “Just one cut,” it whispered to her and she wondered how it was possible for this devil to have not only woken up, but to be whispering to her in the very church she sat in every Sunday. Just like that he’d invaded her safe space, just like the trolls who spewed their vitriol into the ether of the internet ruined the one way she had of showing her true self to the world. Just like that, with one whisper from within, her holy space had been defiled. She looked up at the wooden cross that hung in the front of the church, stared at the coloured glass scenes of redemption on the windows on either side, and watched the world turn to a smudged watercolour as tears welled up in her eyes.

To be continued…

#AmWriting: Writing a Short Story Step-by-step – The Beginning (Draft 1)

This story is part of the Writing Fiction course I’m currently taking. You had to switch on the radio and use the first thing that you hear as inspiration for a story or a character and write a story/beginning of a story of less than 500 words. I got a news report about this blogger who received a suspended sentence. This is what came out of it thus far… (caution: this promises to be a very dark story).

As-yet-untitled-storys opening (draft 1)

She shifted her weight slightly to one side and felt the thin prayer cushion, with its embroidery of a trinity knot, give way under her knees. Tendrils of hair that would not be tamed by hairspray fell over her face. Around her the church had fallen silent after the end of the sermon. Outside were the sunlit sounds of cars leaving the premises, of people talking animatedly, of a newly baptised baby crying. Behind her, on the worn wooden pew, lay an open prayer book that did not match the others in the church and bore her grandmother’s name on the inside of the front cover. Beside it was her laptop, purse, and a Bible as worn as the wood below it.

“Our Father,” she mumbled below her breath, but the next words of the well-known prayer would not come; the words drowned by her racing thoughts and the comments she had just read. No words would come.

A tear dropped from her chin onto the red shirt she was wearing, leaving a darker red stain on the fabric. She wiped over her face with one hand, not caring if she smudged what little makeup she wore. She was after all, she thought, hardly the stock photo, picture perfect blogger that she’d hoped she was going to turn out to be when she first started leaving posts on her own site. Long but frizzy auburn hair, a face covered in acne marks and arms always covered by long sleeves to hide the lines of scars that marred them, hardly said ‘cover girl’. “All she really has going for her,” she’d overheard her mother once say, “is that her eyes are two different colours”.

She clutched her hands together and leaned her forehead on them as if the act of supplication could reverse time and take her back to before she had opened her laptop and read those comments. In the darkness behind her eyes an old demon awoke once more and bared its razor teeth in a wide grin. “Just one cut,” it whispered to her and she wondered how it was possible for this demon to have not only woken up again, but to be whispering to her in the very church she sat in every Sunday. Just like that he’d invaded her safe space, just like the trolls who spewed their vitriol into the ether of the internet ruined the one way she had of showing her true self to the world. Just like that, with one whisper from within, her holy space had been defiled. She looked up at the wooden cross that hung in the front of the church, stared at the coloured glass scenes of the windows on either side, and saw the world blur around her as more tears welled up in her eyes.

To be continued…

Writing Exercises – Building on a character & making a start

Or, some more bits and pieces from my writing course

In the third version of the character sketch the “he” at last gets a name, I delve a little more into the surroundings and add some more details like the character’s thoughts.

The other two (very) short pieces may also serve as inspiration for some new flash fiction – you never know!

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Version 1 of the character sketch

He sat down at the front of the bus, shoulders slightly hunched, the thick camouflage jacket hiding a deceptively lean frame. Long grey hair that may once have been blonde was tied up in a hastily made bun, the cerise pink hair elastic pilfered from his daughter’s room in stark contrast with the greens and browns of the jacket meant to hide him in plain sight. Three day’s worth of grey stubble lined an ageing but handsome face. He stared at the road, noting every block the bus passed, ignoring the other passengers with their phones, books, tablets, and cameras.

Version 3 of the character sketch

Gareth sat down at the front of the afternoon bus, glancing at his watch and muttering to himself. Slightly hunched shoulders, covered by a thick camouflage print jacket hid a deceptively lean frame. Shoulder-length grey hair, which may once have been blonde, was tied up in an untidy bun, the cerise pink hair elastic pilfered from his daughter’s room contrasting with the greens and browns of the jacket meant to hide him in plain sight. He rubbed a hand over three day’s grey stubble that lined an ageing but handsome face. Shadowed eyes were turned to the road to note every block the bus passed while ignoring the other passengers with their smart phones, books, tablets, and cameras. In his hands, almost hidden beneath the jacket, was a letter in a rectangular envelope. Trembling, work-hardened hands played with the corner of the folded paper, bending the browned corner back-and-forth, back-and-forth as the bus rumbled and shook along the road. Indistinct music thumping a beat from earphones behind him dragged him back into the present and he glanced at his watch again. The bus is taking too long, he thought, fidgeting with the jacket’s zipper for a moment. Come on, come on! He watched the streets go by too slowly. Binney, Duke, Balderton, he repeated the names in his mind. Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, he bent the browned envelope. He glanced down at the old paper bearing only a date and time. The person it was intended for would know him, he had been told by the letter’s previous keeper.

Using familiar words in an unfamiliar context

The keys jingled a dull choir song as Frieda searched through the handful of metal for the key to the front door. Behind her an orange- pink watercolour sky slowly faded to dusk, silhouetting the city’s skyline in black and gold.

Finding a voice

(Emma said that) Flowers always made her think of funerals. The day her mother was buried it was raining softly – as was right, in her mind – and the church was filled to the brim with flowers. Her mother had been a botanist, after all, and it just seemed proper.

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#AmWriting – Writing Exercises: Adding detail and imagining spaces

Here’s some more bits and pieces I’ve written for the fiction writing course I am currently taking. The exercise about adding more detail to your writing was especially helpful this past week, and definitely something I am focusing on more. It also gives a better idea as to the story I’m slowly building around the character.

Imagining Writing Spaces

Comfortable:

Patrons talked in hushed tones while they ate light meals and drank strong coffee. In one corner of the coffee shop, a writer was bent over a laptop, fingers rapidly typing away at a story blooming in the ether of her imagination. A cappuccino and glass of water stand half-forgotten on the table, the waiter already used to leaving her alone while she’s lost in a world of her own making.

Uncomfortable:

She sat behind the laptop, a large screen mounted against the wall above her head, an audience seated behind her. She moved uncomfortably on the squeaking office chair and prepared her notes. She started typing, each word appearing on the screen above her as she typed. Soon she could hear a murmur behind her, the audience giving their own comments on what she was writing. Her finger lingered over the “delete” key.

Adding more detail

Version 1

He sat down at the front of the bus, shoulders slightly hunched, the thick camouflage jacket hiding a deceptively lean frame. Long grey hair that may once have been blonde was tied up in a hastily made bun, the cerise pink hair elastic pilfered from his daughter’s room in stark contrast with the greens and browns of the jacket meant to hide him in plain sight. Three day’s worth of grey stubble lined an ageing but handsome face. He stared at the road, noting every block the bus passed, ignoring the other passengers with their phones, books, tablets, and cameras.

Version 2

He sat down at the front of the bus, shoulders slightly hunched, the thick camouflage jacket hiding a deceptively lean frame. Shoulder-length grey hair that may once have been blonde was tied up in an untidy bun, the cerise pink hair elastic pilfered from his daughter’s room in stark contrast with the greens and browns of the jacket meant to hide him in plain sight. Three day’s worth of grey stubble lined an ageing but handsome face. A pale face and shadowed eyes were turned to the road to note every block the bus passed while ignoring the other passengers with their smart phones, books, tablets, and cameras. In his hand, almost hidden beneath the jacket, was a letter in a rectangular envelope. Trembling, work-hardened hands played with the corner of the folded paper, bending the browned corner back-and-forth, back-and-forth as the bus rumbled and shook along the road. Indistinct music thumping a beat from earphones behind him dragged him into the present and he glanced at his watch. The bus was taking too long to get to its last stop.

 

Afrikaans Fiksie/Fiction – Labirint Twee

Die labirint se kronkelpad lei my al verder van die middelpunt en raak verstrengel met ander se paadjies. Die bol gare in my hande word al kleiner en kleiner soos ek deur die labirint loop en die gare, saam met ander s’n, soos ‘n web agter my laat. Om my is die groen mure, die baksteenmure, die ogies- en lemmetjiesdraad té hoog om oor te klim. As ek maar net die labirint van bo kon sien sou ek dalk antwoorde kon kry.

Is die labirint dalk ‘n ewigdurende sirkel; ‘n wiel wat slegs om en om beweeg waarin die eras, jare en seisoene hulle slegs herhaal? Of dalk is dit slegs vierkantig of reghoekig? Of dalk, soos die Nazca-lyne, sal dit prente vorm wat net van die wolke af gesien kan word en in geheim gehul is vir die sterflikes.

Maar ek stap steeds. Onder my voete is daar grond, gruis, gras. Herinneringe wat naderhand tot stof vertrap word soos wat hulle oor en oor en heen en weer in my kop ronddobber. Ek loop en loop deur die gange van my gedagtes terwyl die bol afrol. Iewers ver agter my is die beginpunt van die bol. Iewers in die middelpunt van die labirint. Iewers… maar ek kan nie fisies terugkeer nie. Die gare kan nie netjies opgerol en op ‘n ander pad geneem word nie. Dit wat reeds op die gare geëts is kan nie weer uitgevee word nie. Die wol kan nie weer wit gemaak word nie. En vir die hoeveelste keer wonder ek of daar net een pad uit die labirint is, of baie. Kan my voete al die tyd net hierdie een grond-gruis-gras pad volg? Kán wol weer wit gemaak word?

Ek stap verby ‘n lang gang vol portrette. Ek weet wie die gesigte in die olieverf is. Ek was daar toe elkeen omgekom het. Ek was die laaste een om hulle hande te neem. Ek was die laaste een wat hulle gesien het. Ek is die een wat hulle gare geknip het. Ander het dit dalk gespin en gemeet maar ek? Ek het net ‘n skêr gekry. Ek stap verby en kyk nie weer na die gesigte van dié wat onder my toesig deur die skoppensboer kom haal is nie.

Is dit reg dat ek – ek wat gare knip en weef en spin en sien hoe dit alles voor my oopvou soos ‘n fyn tapisserie – nou ook my eie pad moet stap om net aan die einde my eie gare te moet knip? Of gaan iemand anders dit knip?

Miskien gaan die gare net opraak.

Sal die uil ook vir my kom roep of die sterre vir my kom sing? Of wag net die skoppensboer?

Die gare word al minder en minder.

Maar my hande is nog nie moeg nie.

“Labirinte” kan verder gelees word op Wattpad.

Flash Fiction: The Man in Blue

This flash fiction was written for Microcosms on Friday. The prompts were musician, hospital, and fantasy.

The Man in Blue

Music drifted through the silent hallways of the hospital as the clocks outside tolled the midnight hour. Sleeping patients woke as a figure dressed in blue slowly stalked down the long hallways, silver flute pressed to his lips. Around him nurses and doctors seemed not to notice the music or the figure, only seeing that the patients became restless in their beds.

Here and there patients peeked from the doors at the tall, skinny man whose long coat was hidden in midnight shadow. Some said prayers and crossed themselves, willing their feet not to move to the sound of the ethereal music. At last one man stepped from his room, following the unearthly music and the man in blue.

Step for step he followed the dark figure, entranced, swaying to the music that only the dying could hear. A woman joined him, white nightgown shining in the hospital’s half-dark hallways. Together they danced-walked-waltzed behind the man in blue, out of the wards and through the reception to a lush moonlit garden appearing just outside the sliding door.

Gone were the electric lights, noise, and pollution of the city, replaced by the notes of the music that now sounded even sweeter than it had inside the confines of the hospital. The man turned to them, revealing his midnight cloak to be shining wings. He lowered the flute from his lips, but the music remained. Around them the night garden bloomed.

 

Short Story: The Memories of Keys

Sinieka picked up an old key that lay on the rubble-strewn road. Images of the owner’s life before his bloody death on that spot flashed before her eyes and she put it in her pocket while her lunch churned in her stomach.

Between the piles of rubble no more doors remained. No more locks were needed in a world that was laid bare and broken by countless wars. Not that keys and trinkets were what the crew was after. She still preferred to think of it as cleaning up and not scavenging. She wiped her brow, feeling the grit of dust on her skin. The wind picked up and she turned her back so that the dust would not hit her face. It howled through the deserted and crumbling ruins as if crying with the voices of the dead. When it had passed, she followed the rest of the group once more, taking a few running steps as she tried to keep up with the taller members of the group.

“The colonies were supposed to be different,” she said. The rest of the crew ignored her as they picked their way between the remnants of shattered lives and skeletons of buildings. Only Roa, working next to her, bothered to speak.

“Not your history lesson again, Sinieka,” he growled as he heaved a piece of rubble out of the way. His dark skin was covered with the light-coloured dust from the ruined masonry. Rivulets of sweat raced down his temples.

“Lessons,” she said, emphasizing the plural. “Humankind has had so many close calls you’d think that we’d stop trying to wipe each other out.”

“You are talking about humans, you know,” Roa said, shaking his head. He hefted another piece of debris out of the way and stuck his head inside the half-ruined room it revealed.

“Roa, for God’s sake,” Sinieka cursed, grabbing and pulling him back. “One day you’ll do that and the whole place will collapse on you.”

“Relax, will you?” Roa batted her hands from him. “Anyway, I found another one for your collection.” He bent down and pointed to some keys fastened to a key-chain with a faded photo of a young girl. Sinieka pulled it from beneath the dust. She shoved it in her pocket before any of the keys’ memories could flash before her eyes. Another member of the crew called out something about finding medication in tact as she thanked Roa. They made their way across the street and down the ruined block. Perhaps today these cement and steel skeletons would give up something worth selling at the markets. Keys were fine if you could read their memories, but they didn’t put food on the table.

 

Sinieka was careful not to touch any of the metal surfaces in the ruined clinic with her bare skin – a feat much easier said than done. She donned thick gloves as Marcus started handing her boxes of medicine, instruments, and dressings. They packed as much of the stuff into the bags they were carrying as they could. No one knew if more scavengers weren’t perhaps on their way right now. You had to grab what you could get as fast as possible in this post-war world.

 

“Marcus and I will stay behind tonight, the rest of you, get back to the ship. There’s too much still here to leave for some other crew. We cannot take the chance of just leaving it,” William, the leader of the crew said. “Roa, you lead them back.”

Roa saluted and shifted the bag on his shoulder. Sinieka also threw her bag over her shoulder and felt her knees buckle beneath the weight.

 

Outside the light was already fading and they hurried back to the safety of the ship.

“Stop!” Roa shouted and placed his bag on the ground. “Everyone, put your bags down and go to the ship.”

“Roa?”

“This is too good to be true, Sinieka, don’t you think? That whole clinic just sitting there for the taking?”

“Sometimes you’re lucky.”

“And sometimes it’s a trap.”

Sinieka placed her bag on the ground. It was a good six months’ wages that she was thinking of leaving behind.

“How will we know?”

“We won’t until we get everything tested. I say we leave it here until morning and then we get the team to come and test it.”

“When did you start believing the lies of the enemy, Roa?” Ger, another of the crew asked. His bag was stuffed and he was even carrying loot in his arms. “No one is out here setting traps. You take what you find, that is how life works. It is only you and Sinieka who still believe in fairy tales and good manners.”

“William put me in charge and I say we leave everything here until morning.”

“William is an idiot and my leg is still killing me from the bullet I took three months ago. Have you seen this?” Ger asked. “Morphine tablets, and they’re still good.”

“Just wait until tomorrow,” Roa pleaded.

“I think we should listen to Roa,” Sinieka said. “He’s been doing this a lot longer than any of us.”

“Fine,” Ger said. “But I’m keeping this,” he added, and shoved some of the tablets into his pocket breast. He sat his overstuffed bag down and strode back to the ship.

“Ger!” Roa called, but it was too late. Roa threw himself over Sinieka as the fake medication detonated, killing Ger instantly.

“Run!” Roa shouted, pulling Sinieka to her feet. She could hear the explosions behind her, the final one being the clinic, which crumbled to the ground. Her ears rang when she entered the ship and sank down crying. She was only half aware of the pain in her leg and arm and Roa clamping a bloody hand on her leg and trying to get her to focus.

 

It was nearly midnight when Sinieka limped to her bunk and took the small box from her chest of possessions. Inside lay more of the lost and forgotten keys she had found on their scavenger hunts. One bunch of keys was of her own home that had been utterly destroyed. She pulled the new set of keys from her pocket and, as she touched the toothed metal, memories sped through her. Visions of faces, locks, doors, and secret lives lived blinked and danced before her eyes. She laid back on her bunk and closed her eyes. The keys slipped through her fingers one by one.

The last key was her favourite. It was the key the woman held ready in the lock when she received the news of the evacuation. It had remained there as the woman grabbed her child and a bag of possessions. Perhaps they had been saved, after all, the keys simply an unnecessary item to take.

She took another, blank key from her pocket and imprinted upon it the memories of the day and of Marcus, William, and Ger. There were others like her, she knew. Others who could read metal and could read keys. Others who would one day know of Marcus, William, and Ger and how they had died. On the locket around her neck she knew the happenings of the day would also be imprinted. Her life was imprinted on that locket as others’ were on keys they carried with them. She touched her stomach. Perhaps her child would also have the same talent as her. She looked at the key again. If that happened, she thought, she would throw away this key. The child need not know that his or her father died crushed in a clinic. She would tell her child heroic stories of their lives as rescuers.

She lay down on the bed. That is what she would become now, she decided. Even if it meant leaving Roa and the others behind. Her child would not be a scavenger.

“How long till we reach the city?” Sinieka asked in the darkness.

“Three days. Now sleep,” Roa answered from his bunk.

Three days, Sinieka thought. Three days to a new life. She imprinted the hope of a new life on the locket.

***

This story was originally written for Patreon last year, but I have been wondering whether or not I should revisit this world – what do you think?

 

Reading Timeline for The Ruon Chronicles (thus far):

Basically, there’s the creation of Airtha-Eyrassa and the first three ages and the first two Sunderings before the published short stories/flash fiction takes place.

The fiction which have been published (and which I basically now regard as canon *gets giddy from using the word “canon” in reference to own work*) takes place in the following order (please note some of these are only available to Patrons):

“Shadows” and “Dust Red As Blood” technically takes place during the first part of The Ruon Chronicles, but was written more as exercises. You won’t, therefore, see these in the books word for word. And they don’t give away too much, methinks.

“The Oath” and “Box of Secrets” takes place 35 years before “Grove of Graves”, btw. And about 150 years before Charms

At the moment my timeline is on Scapple, but, I am afraid, it is absolute gibberish to anyone else trying to read it! XD

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