Our prompt this week was those beautiful and bountiful opening lines, taken from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. And they were indeed bountiful, if your stories were anything to go by – there were mysterious creatures, apocalyptic visions, microchips and a very famous cat. We enjoyed it all immensely.
But let’s get on with the serious business. These books are getting ever so impatient.
RUNNER-UP: Jane Bradley
“This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could have brought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this would be a very different story.”
The audience laughed. Jean began to relax. It wasn’t so bad, after all, as long as she did what her daughter had told her – picture the audience naked.
She was doing that now. Mrs O’Leary in her green woollen coat. Gone. Naked.
Bridget Nelson in her red knitted jumper and floral skirt. Poof. Naked.
Jennifer Butler’s smart cream blouse and navy slacks. Abracadabra.
Only wrinkly, saggy bodies in front of her. This was much easier.
She had had to use her imagination.
Her body was nothing like she imagined theirs to be. She’d seen to that with years of careful eating. Eschewing the Angel Delight for tinned oranges. Long walks. She’d not let herself go.
“Unfortunately,” Jean continued, “I had to scribble this speech on the back of an envelope on the way here.”
She had. Ten minutes of bus scribbling between Trimdon and Sedgfield. She’d left the folder containing her neatly written speech next to her umbrella stand in the porch.
On the bus, a man had tried to engage her in conversation. She’d been tempted; he was just her type.
But without a speech, she’d have been lost and this was an important day.
There was a noise at the back and another woman arrived. She was wearing a damson-coloured raincoat. Jean had it off her in a second. Kapow. Then the pleated mustard skirt. Pop.
She could concentrate again.
“Now, I will tell you why I would be the best choice for chairwoman of the WI.”
WINNER: Tim Roberts
Mother of Dust
In a desert — for only deserts remained — she knelt beside the the last living thing. She caressed its pale stalk and it fell into her palm. Closing her eyes, she searched the darkness.
The stars were gone.
All that remained was a dead wind, racing across the red dust; coming to collect her; to distribute her amongst the ashes of her world.
This is how he ends the story. There are no books from which he can recount the tale. He tells it from memory, just as his father told it to him.
“That is the history of Mother Mars,” he says. “Do you have any questions?”
One of the wide eyed children, who sit cross-legged before him, raises a thin arm.
“Will we ever have a chance to visit a real planet?” asks a tiny voice.
A muted giggle ripples across the young audience.
The teacher shakes his head, slowly.
“Our kind has no place on the great rocks,” he says. “For thousands of years we have survived on our ships. Here, we can do no more damage.” He taps his boot on one of the alloy floor panels of the great ship Nostos.
Later, as his students file out to collect their lunch in the bio-dome, he looks out of the classroom’s silicate porthole. In darkness, he sees the pinpoints of light from distant solar systems and he is thankful that they will remain forever beyond reach.
Congratulations, Jane and Tim! And thanks to everyone who entered, as ever. You are the gift that keeps on giving.
Happy weekends, happy writing all!