I have amazing online writing communities – in several places – but the one that’s inspired me for years is #DFQ and the lovely Anna, and we recently organised a meet up in Nottingham for its UK members. The Cross Keys was our meeting place and we loved the decoration! It was a scene of wonderful writerly delight, invention, and meeting of like-minded souls. We all ‘got’ each other and it was great!
This is us: Nick, Angelica, Bekah, Lisa (Me), Becky, Miranda, Sorcha, Wombat, Jessica and Alex… and during our wordy meet up Wombat issued us with a challenge… He gave us each a first line, picked at random, and to be woven into a story… Here’s my response with its first line italicised:
Nick is an average young man, filled with aspirations, struggles, hopes and doubts. He has everything that gives a young man life and a hunger for more. In five minutes he will cease to exist.
Nick bends his neck and stares up into the canopy. Dappled light flickers across the leaves, and he flinches as a glancing beam temporarily blinds him. Blue lights dance in front of his eyes and he grins as his gaze flicks across the foliage in the arboretum. It’s quiet and except for the soft hum of bees his ears pick up no sound.
Goosebumps ripple across his skin as a draught rustles through the leaves. The change in temperature makes him clutch his arms to his chest and his muscles tense in answer to the chill that fills the air. The sun, the light above the woods, begins to dip, to lower beyond the horizon and a lazy orange haze, like fire, shimmers through the tall trunks. Nick’s forehead creases and an urgent thought in the back of his mind begins to stir.
Racing to the front of his head, come memories, flashes of colour, memories of sunsets on beaches, and kisses that taste of salt, and the grit of sand between his toes. Nick shakes his head. It takes only moments for the light to fade and with it the hum of bees retires, replaced with the hoot of an owl and a sliver of white glimmering high above the trees. Nick rubs his arms and he remembers more.
Night life, sitting in a restaurant opposite a chatty blonde, cars rushing by on fast roads, a multitude of lights, orange, red, yellow, neon blue and more. He grins as he remembers a hand holding his, as he stands on a pier watching waves crash across the dark ocean, the moon a twinkling river of diamonds on its surface.
The moon is gone before he has a chance to recall more and birds begin a dawn chorus as he stands on dew damp grass. His memory smiles and despite his boots he feels the wet grass beneath his feet, and daybreak evokes pictures of waking in a tent, of bacon crackling on the stove, and a girlish giggle as he strokes her hair in the new glinting sunlight of the day.
His earlier thought simmers, just beyond reach. Birds now twitter in the canopy and as warmth caresses his skin, Nick grabs at the distant notion.
The clack of a woodpecker tunes his thoughts to fingers on a keyboard, then to a jackhammer on the pavement, heat haze shimmering like dust. The haze clouds his mind, confuses his thought process and impinges his memories. The dazzling sunshine glints, and realisation floods his brain, and he flinches as fragments of glass cut through his mind.
Nothing is real.
Heat fizzes and pops and in a second his thoughts cease.
Nick stands, silent and immobile, and two caretakers trample through the simulated arena to collect his body.
Back at the computer the tech guys shake their heads and begin reprogramming.
Anna is an average young woman, filled with aspirations, struggles, hopes and doubts. She has everything that gives a young woman life and a hunger for more. In five minutes she will cease to exist.