So, it's officially 2011. While most of you have had your minds and bodies reverted back to the daily grind, I've been enjoying a slightly extended Christmas break. Well, extended by two weeks actually.
But before I relinquish myself to the burning gazes and glared daggers, I have actually been doing something productive amidst all the general dossing around.
I have been working on and perfecting a pair of short stories to be exact, which, as any writer with sufficient experience in the genre will tell you, is no easy task.
The first - "Going from St Ives" - began with a rather well-known nursery rhyme riddle. As the title suggests I am referring to "As I was Going to St Ives" riddle. If you haven't seen it or even heard of it, here it is:
'As I was going to St Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
And every wife had seven sacks,
And every sack had seven cats,
And every cat had seven kits.
Kits, cats, sacks, wives,
How many were going to St Ives?'
Out of respect for both the sheer cleverness of the riddle and of course your own discriminating intelligence, I will not give away the answer. In fact the answer had nothing to do with the short story I wrote. Having read it again recently during a brain-teasing binge, I found my mind latching onto the set-up. The main question I had was 'Who is this mysterious man with seven wives?'. Having pondered that for a while I moved onto 'How common was it in the past for a man to have seven wives?' and 'Why would he have so many sacks filled with cats and kits?'. And then the story began to unravel.
Playing on an extract of the opening line, "Going from St Ives" is a tale of the man who met the traveller and what he did afterwards and, to an extent, what he did before. I shall reveal no more about what I did with this little endeavour other than saying that I answered some of the unspoken questions whilst even raising a few more.
"[FORGET ME]" is much more personal. At the risk of revealing a rather unappealing aspect of my personality, I will admit to you that I am a bit of a naive fool when it comes to achieving true romance. It seems that when the prospect of love comes along I catch it and force it into the constraints of internet communication. Let's just say that this hasn't worked out well for me in the past.
This is a short story about just how badly a romantic encounter over the computer can go wrong. Thankfully though, this is not all me in this tale; I have borrowed and (shamefully) nicked a few other examples I have heard about whilst also exaggerating a few of my own more memorable experiences. Also, for all my fellow tech-minded social networking enthusiasts out there, I have dropped in a few web colloquialisms. See if YOU can find them all!!!
Anyway, enough of the back-story, time to move ahead with the short stories themselves. I think I'm getting quite adept at the short story artform. I hope you agree. Either way I think I'll just keep pumping them out until something else comes up. I may keep making more even then, just for the hell of it. I'll shut up now...
GOING FROM ST IVES
The stranger took some time climbing the hill. Guy waited, watching the young fellow's back closely. Do not turn. Just over the hill now. Just a little further. No need to turn.
"May we leave now?" Drusilla enquired exasperatedly.
"Yes, dear, may we?" Anna lent in, raising one of her sacks. "The strays are starting to nip, little blighters."
"And the sun is starting to fall." Christine chimed in.
The gaggle of haggard women resounded their agreement.
Marie rested a hand on her husband's arm, her fingers brushing his torn sleeve. "The job is done, my love. You said it was our time to leave."
Guy raised a hand. Silence. Over the hill and gone. Splendid.
He was a traveller, the stranger. A brave young lad destined for a distant town. The only things within his possession were the food in his satchel, the clothes on his back and eyes for the horizon. His words.
The boy had nothing. Not a thing of worth. Their conversation had been short.
He was simple in the head as well. He did not think to ask why they had no horses or a cart, why they were leaving with such haste. When one of the women (Drusilla, no doubt) mentioned the kits and how they were tearing up the sackcloth, the lad barely even batted an eyelid. His only interest was in how many each sack contained. Gormless child. If only those bloodthirsty fiends in St Ives had been half as naive.
They had caught on immediately. Having discovered the state of the clerk and the spotless vaults, they knew that Guy was the man responsible. In all the ruckus he had barely enough time to gather the strays and mark out a safe path through the woods. The threats and the fire were very distracting, even for a man of his talent. Still, they had escaped and were making good time. At least that was until the stranger had stopped them with his inane conversation.
And now this traveller was headed there; his fresh young face to be blasted with the ensuing pandemonium. Poor simple cretin. His stay would most certainly be short and uncomfortable, to say the least.
He turned to Isabel. My name? How dare she be so impertinent!
"Shall we go now?"
"You did say that we should leave." Beatrice proclaimed.
"My fingers are sore, dear husband." Emily muttered. One of her sacks was slipping through her fingers. The heaviest sack. The money sack.
Guy glimpsed the horizon. The humble speck of a man was whistling away.
"Yes." He spoke, "Yes, we are done here. We will be remembered."
Snatching the sack from Emily, Guy strode on. The next town was a good long walk away but not far.
Well, I guess that means it's over. Message received. Received loud and clear. Crystal clear. Understood. Except it isn't, is it?
Yes, it is. Well, technically. She certainly gave it to me straight in that last email. I probably did something to annoy her.
Probably? Just probably? My God man, you've been hounding her for months! I just wonder what it was: the straw that broke the camel's back. Not that she looks even vaguely like a camel, of course. She's not a stupid ugly animal. Well, maybe she is...
No, she isn't! She's perfectly entitled to her own opinion. Her strong opinion. Her strong, rather blunt opinion. Her strong, rather blunt opinion that still kind of hurts.
But why should it hurt? She has apologised. In a way. She's just getting stuff off her chest. That's what Mel does. That's what drew me to her in the first place. Anyway it's not like she's told me to piss off for good.
Or maybe she has. 'I'd appreciate it if you deleted my phone number as well.' But we rarely communicated away from the computer!
Hang on a minute, just hang on. Maybe it's not all that bad. I'll just check.
Seems like she's blocked me. Her email account's gone, she's locked me out of her profile on all the main networking sites. That seems a little odd, doesn't it? I knew about the email thing but I never knew she could do that with the sites.
Every trace of her is completely gone. I didn't know Melissa knew about that stuff. Why would she even do it? I don't remember an argument. What did I say?
I don't think I said anything particularly horrible. Surely she just has me mistaken. Mel has a tendency to get a bit over-defensive at times; she even admits it herself. If I've said anything it's probably somewhere in our Wall conversation archive. Let's check. Nope, that's gone too. Completely gone.
How long has she been planning this? It all seems a little too orchestrated for my liking. And what's this? 'This whole thing has felt incredibly forced'? I never realised I was so unlikeable.
Cow. Sneaky, conniving cow. A lying bitch too! 'Forced'? If it was so bad then why did you bother? Why did you think that lying and grinning and bearing everything was doing me a justice? I may be short and a little bit slow on the uptake but I will not be pitied!
'Forced'. I thought I deserved better than pity. I am NOT a fucking lame dog! I'm a man!
And a 'lecherous' man, according to madam. 'Lecherous' - what does that even mean? It's probably that webcam incident she's getting at. I apologised! It was late and I was horny, and she knows how lonely I can get. Besides, it's not as if she saw anything she hasn't seen before. Tart.
Yes, she's had ALL the boys has our dear sweet Melissa. A virgin, she most certainly ain't. I'd have probably been another notch on her well-battered bedpost had we actually ever met up as I suggested. But no, the price was raised for me, too rich for me! Cold-hearted slag queen.
She only ever graced me with her presence the one time. One time! That Tuesday in the city centre. That was all. Just her and me walking through the streets, not even holding hands. There was a breeze that drove a gap between us. She kept her distance. She stuck close to the shop windows. I remember how I almost lost her outside that big clothes outlet store near the end of the high street. She was ogling that dress. That long blue dress with the sequins running down the side in spirals. I remember thinking she'd look good in that dress.
In fact, I think I told her. Didn't I? Probably. Yes. She smiled and laughed and smiled again. It might have been the same smile. Maybe. Normally they drain away quite quickly.
Damn that smile. It made me a fool. It made me hopeful of a future with her. But it was all bollocks, wasn't it? She didn't really care. She only pretended.
She had me going there for a long time though. Talk about endurance. It must have been a real pain in the arse. I hate her. I hate myself.
It was me, wasn't it? Nudging and poking her all the time. If I hadn't been so eager she'd have probably forgotten me. I really didn't know how stupid I was being. And I was stupid.
She barely knew me. The internet was...is my comfort zone and I guess I was too comfortable. She barely knew me and I kept on pushing her. When I push, the ugly stuff tends to seep out. I guess I'm just a difficult person at times.
I have to face up to it. I'm a coward. That's why I'm on those sites every night, that's why I rarely ever go out. I'm a coward. A fucking wussy wimpy coward. The world scares me. I never really thought about it before but it actually scares me. It's the other people; all the work you have to put in to get anywhere with them. I need to grow up. I will grow up. I swear I will.
But will I? Easier said than done, mate. I need time to recover, to get over this. I'm not quite right. I'm not quite me. I guess I still hurt a little.
That damn bitchy whore. She's probably right. She probably knew from the start. I hate her, I really do. I don't want to be the deluded bastard in all this. I've always thought I was the mild-mannered good guy who's just waiting. Looks like I'm not though. No better than that tosser boyfriend of her's.
Maybe I should do something. I still have her number AND her email address. I could do something! I could tell her, teach her that I'm not who she thinks I am. That I'm better than her. Make her feel bad. Bad about everything.
No...No. Definitely not. Time to shut down the computer, turn away from the screen. I don't want to look at this...thing anymore. Not for a while, anyway.
Thank God that's over with. John'll be happy now. I'm fucking ecstatic.
Hopefully he'll get the message. So long, Ned. I've had enough of the crazy.
I wonder how he'll react? He'll be okay, won't he?
Meh. He'll get over it.
I wonder if mum's done with the phone yet.
And there you have it. This is what I've been working on over the past week. Well, that and getting 100% on one of my Xbox 360 games (NOTE FOR GAMERS: Don't get excited. It's only "Destroy All Humans!: Path of a Furon"). Either way I feel that it's been pretty productive. Just think; when I'm officially back at uni, I'll be probably be knocking out this sort of stuff on a regular daily basis. Probably. Well, maybe.
Thanks for reading,
:) Owen :)