We did something a bit different today. We asked for QuickFic stories inspired by a randomly-selected Wikipedia article, which happened to be about Sverre Farstad, a Norwegian speed skater and Olympic gold medallist.
RUNNER-UP: Anne Petrie
‘You’re skating on thin ice, Lou. You’ll be in deep trouble if you carry on like this.’
I can’t stop, though I hear the creaking and cracking beneath my feet. There is too much still to do.
‘I must,’ I tell her. ‘Only today. I’ll stop tomorrow.’
‘You said that yesterday and…’
‘I know, but this time I mean it.’
I look down. The ice is fragile, translucent, beneath it a fathomless depth of numbing cold where nothing can be alive. Down there the dead dwell in chilly passivity. I shiver and wrap my arms around myself, but still I tremble. I want to sleep, to but I must not. You die if you sleep, and there is so much to do, so very much to do.
‘The usual, love?’ the man says. He takes my money and hands over the wrap. I snort, wait. The shakes start to subside, the weariness recedes, the fragile ice thickens. Now I can skate. I can spin and spiral and flip and fly and the dark abyss of the dead will not claim me.
WINNER: Sharon Telfer
He keeps the blades sharp, the leather supple. Harder to keep his body in shape. The muscles in his legs are softening, that crouching balance tipping to one side.
The occupiers have forbidden skating. They seek to crack those they have conquered, shatter these people of the ice. He teaches other sports, gymnastics, football, wrestling: games of softness, the body’s rounded warmth. He trains his players to bend, to twist, to clutch. He yearns for the cold solidity of the ice.
Other men have gone into the mountains. They move on the enemy through the winter’s dark shrouded like ghosts bearing the white touch of death. Boys he was at school with, men he used to see in church. He has been sounded out, careful conversations started. He has pretended not to understand. Now people talk to him only of the weather.
He has a family to protect, he reasons, young children, his mother is frail. It is a shock to him, his fear. He has hurtled down the frozen river, the ice spitting in his face, the deadly water kept away by an inch of glass, his life balanced on a slither of silver speed. Now, overnight, terror has smothered him like a blizzard that leaves the morning world indistinct, uncertain, unfamiliar.
He takes down the skates down, runs his thumb across the edge. Whorls pattern his skin like lines traced in the ice. He wonders if this war will end in time.
Congratulations, Anne and Sharon! And thank you, everyone – there was some seriously special stuff sent in this week. It was beautiful.
Happy weekends! And we’ll see you again next week.