Welcome to my blog. I started writing in September 2016 at the age of 41. That was when I first discovered letters, before that I always wondered what those funny shapes meant.
I had been doing an Open University BSc Computing and IT degree for six years. Struggling with learning programming languages and running out of time to complete the degree. I decided to change to a BA/BSc Open Degree and thought I’d try a Creative Writing module for a change.
My first assignment surprised the hell out of me; instead of swearing at the computer, and the kids, I actually enjoyed it. The assignment was to do a freewrite from a given prompt and then take an idea from the freewrite and turn it into a 750-word short story. A world away from not being able to make a train move in Java.
The prompt for the assignment was: An Echo
My freewrite resulted in this:
Running through the wood with the wind whooshing through the trees, sheets of rain coming down, turning the ground to mush, slipping and sliding, must escape, the loud echoing cry of the wolf, too close, what can I do, the snarl behind me, the anticipation of attack, I spin around to see, tripping over a root, can feel it’s breath upon my face as it passes past, scrabbling on my knees for purchase on the treacherous unsafe ground, it cannot be much longer, don’t know what to do, there is no escape. High heels down a long corridor, clack, clack, clack, like an old-fashioned typewriter the keys hitting the paper with every step. The agonising wait for the echo of the ultrasound, sitting in a cold, beige, hospital chair and the look of sheer terror on your beloved wife’s face as you squeeze her hand praying for the nurse to find the beat, the feeling of helplessness and how quickly the atmosphere changes to joyous relief as your baby’s heartbeat reverberates throughout the cubicle. The haunting, echoey cry of a baby getting their first injection, this feeling they convey through their wails of betrayal and confusion, why would this person who loves them the most put them through this agony, the sharp stab of the needle and the burning as the liquid is injected, trust will never be the same again. Echo beach, far away in time, echo beach. Waves crashing against the shore, on a frigid night at the end of summer, the flicker of fire reflecting on the sea and in the eyes of my darling as she looks towards the dark with her cold unseeing eyes. The wail of brakes screeching in the tunnel, echoing, conjoining with the screams of people on the platform.
The resulting short story (available as a .doc file Watching – Paul Blake):
Today is the day, I know it. I see him standing on the platform; he is there each day at the same time, in the same place. Today he is dressed in a sharp navy blue suit, pale blue shirt with the top button undone, no tie, grey rucksack hung over his left shoulder, only the faded green Adidas Gazelle trainers spoil the overall look. Maybe he ran to the station or has to walk a while to his destination. Maybe I’ll find out soon. I sit on a bench behind and to the side of him as I usually do, the cold metal seat is uncomfortable but I bear it. He is standing there, content in a world of his own, the white cord from his perfectly shaped ears leading down to a pocket inside the suit jacket. His foot tapping in time to the music, I listen for the faint, tinny beats coming from his earphones, trying to recognise the song. I love it when I do; it feels like there is a connection as I silently sing along in time.
I’ve never had the courage to approach him before; something always held me back, always given me pause. The obnoxious woman speaking loudly on her phone about the guy she met the night before; the golden, happy, family going on holiday with their suitcases and pram, excited and so full of joy and laughter; the putrid body odour of the middle-aged man in his crumpled shirt and bloodshot eyes wafting down the line; the stern-faced businessman tutting at the delay, pacing like a thoroughbred at the start of a race. They would have spoiled the mood, the sense of occasion, the sense of providence, so I held off my advance. I want to savour this moment, a day I’ll never forget, etch each precious sensation deep inside this memory. I hear the clack, clack, clacking of the high heels echoing down the stairs; the scraping of a handbag next to me as it is placed upon the ground. I smell hot coffee in the hands of those waiting; that modern-day morning aroma pungent in the air, tainted by the faint, sweet miasma of decay wafting up from the tracks as stale air is pushed through the tunnels by the trains.
I see the rustle of a dozen newspapers as their readers turn the pages, reading about the latest scandals, gossip, and lies. I see the woman stood nearby him absorbed in her book, her thick-rimmed glasses overtaking her face. The man with unruly eyebrows, playing on his phone, gazes over at her, his look of wistful longing quickly replaced by passiveness as he checks around him to see if anyone caught him staring. I see the train lights far in the tunnel approaching us at speed, blazing like a cat at night illuminated by a torch. I wipe my hands on my trousers; the sweat of anxiety making them damp; I feel the rough cloth texture on my fingertips and palm as it soaks away the fear. I stand and make my way behind him. Taking in as many details as I can to remember this for all time; the colour of his hair and the way it shines in the artificial lights; the neckline is looking shaggy, he is due a cut soon; a few stray hairs on his shoulders glisten in the lights. He is taller than I thought; not enough to make a difference. I can smell his subtle cologne with notes of exotic spices and I utter an inaudible sigh of pleasure. The music from his earphones is louder now, I recognise the tune. This is a sign, a message from above, that this was supposed to happen.
I reach out my shaking hand and tap him gently on the shoulder, a shiver runs up my arm as he turns around and looks at me, his eyes widen with recognition, a hint of a smile forms on his lips. He has noticed me after all! As he reaches up to remove an earphone and starts to say ‘Yes?’ I place my left hand on his chest; feel the muscle under his shirt, slightly yielding but still firm. I push him backwards with all my might and slowly walk away. Away from the screeching wail of brakes as they conjoin with all the screams, a delicious reverberation of noise, that perfectly finishes this memory and fills me with eagerness and anticipation of the next.
I thought it was pretty good for a first attempt, you can let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and it was well received by my tutor and gained me good marks and the confidence to continue.