They flow through my veins with their Oyster cards. Faux ocean colours adorn those precious plastic cards that get them from A to B, from work to home, from love to hate, from birth to death.
In Canary Wharf the towers of gluttony glisten in the drooping winter twilight. In the square mile, the financiers scuttle, their redundant bowler hats replaced with devices, metrosexual fragrances and cheap suits sourced from child-labour in places they’ve never heard of.
On my spine, the boats chug and the astute commuters travel. They travel the slipstream of their predecessors; they bobble on the gentle tidal flow, in the wake of the Nordic, the Roman, the spice ships and the bubonic plague.
She walks down Baker Street – no signs of Holmes, Watson or Moriarty. The journey is uneventful, humdrum. There is uncertainty in her steps. The amber streetlights glow in the waking vapours, casting perpetual halos as she trundles along, towards the bridge.
The ghosts of Newton, Shakespeare and Churchill watch; like me, they know where she goes, but they can do nothing to stop her.
She rubs her hands over her self-inflicted scars. She screams the guttural scream of an animal dying, she screams…but nobody hears…nobody can hear as her sounds echo inside. Her feelings are buried under layers of well-practiced pretence, parental responsibility and cloaks of normality.
She hasn’t left a note. What would she say? That she’d neglected them? That she’d not been strong enough? That she had everything and yet she felt so devoid of hope? Children of five and eight wouldn’t understand these words – they’d replay them endlessly and wish that if they argued less things might have been different.
She hopes my tides will take her. She hopes my bridges, like fingers, will clasp her and gently drop her into a dark and endless sleep.
She stands over the inky flow, griping the railings.
Then…she hears a voice. Concern. Compassion. She talks, she talks like she has never dared to talk before.
She leaves the bridge. She will search for her saviour on social media. One day she will find her and together they will save others.
360 words – a photo of a plate of oysters. Hardly any time.
This resulted in me creating a story, refining it, editing it (continually). Then I read what was the winning story (incredible), and I know what I had done wasn’t salvageable. So it got binned.
I used to hate these moments – clinging on to each sentence. A few years ago I might have saved the story thinking I could reuse it or elements of it, but it’s so good just to let go. So…I have come to love these moments. Something better, much better always comes because I’m so determined to right the wrongs.
And so it was with this one.
Parts of this are going to be in my planned novel. So it was incredibly exciting to give it a go. I loved the take on the prompt I went with in the end.
I know some people hate personification, but I enjoy reading it when it’s done well (obviously can’t cast judgment on my own work).
This is one of the stories I’m most proud of. It didn’t get placed, but I’m okay with that. The judges have an impossible decision and it really doesn’t mean the work is not high standard. Who knows maybe a different week might have resulted in a different outcome. Best to remain positive and I’m learning to be kind to myself.
Looking forward to seeing if I can expand one of the characters in the near future.