There is a certain magic that happens when writers get together. Finding that magic has been harder work than usual this year. So when I was asked by Katherine Wildman to help on a project, I was excited. When I found out it was part of the TICE online programme, I was ecstatic. TICE has managed to keep engaging young people in meaningful, industry-led experiences by moving online during the pandemic, including their creative writing offering. Copywriter (and all-round gorgeous person) Katherine joined one of my online workshops during the summer and felt that it could work for her students. I was in. Over an hour on Zoom, we talked writing, objects, and how to find new ways into stories. And probably lots more. Editing is a wonderful thing.
My Building an Archive workshop is inspired by Lost Children Archive, the award-winning novel by Valeria Luiselli. It is a narrative built with ephemera, shining a light on the things we value, what we leave behind and what these choices say about us. In a nutshell, it speaks to me on a hundred different levels, many of them stationery related. I’ve run the workshop four times this year and am constantly amazed at how objects allow people to open up and let me and others in.
Sending the recorded workshop off into the world was strange. I’m used to feedback, asking questions and changing course to suit the writers I work with. I hoped that the students would find it even just a little bit useful. Not too long ago, an exciting series of emails arrived, all the output of one student who had not only engaged with the workshop but poured out heart and soul into a series of object inspired flash fictions.
And this is what I want to share with you. A piece of flash fiction written in response to this most wonderful collaboration between me, Katherine, and the always amazing TICE. The first, I hope, of many new voices.
My Bible by Abigail Akinyemi from Churchill Community College
My heart filled with utter despair. They squeezed me into a tight room which was scarred like it had been attacked with a caustic substance. “This is what you people deserve,” he remarked with sharp poison. I wished to be home. The picturesque fields that would be in my view every morning were gone.
I searched for a feeling of gratitude. Nothing. My nose scrunched up in disgust. A pungent smell made habitat in my nasal passages, I couldn’t even guarantee the smell wasn’t coming from me.
The door slammed behind me not even taking pity upon the hinges on which it swung. Monochrome took dominance in allegiance with rotting brown. Scuttling came from every corner. The only area of slight relief was a bench looking particularly unstable like it would come crashing down in the next minute. But complaining would not end my hardship.
Complete humiliation! Was I not exempt from being treated with such disdain? Karma seemed to have a soft spot to ridicule me.
My drowsiness nearly caught me off guard but not before the knock on the door that shook the entirety of the land. My dress scraped against my leg until I gave up adjusting it. Oh, I’d give anything to wear some trousers. “Mr Pickerel, to what do I owe this pleasure?” His wry smirk gave it away with the two guards singing domination. “Miss Verity we want to have a chat.”
That chat escalated. Now I’m here with bountiful charges against me. Guilty was inscribed on my forehead.
I crashed into the icy waters; the rush of water emptied my soul. I didn’t want to try anymore. I curled up wishing that God would just take my life. I prayed to drown, despite not knowing the pain that entailed. “Lord, have pity on me, just take my life. I can’t do this. But I’m begging you. Kill me, drown me in the depths.” Seconds passed. Still nothing. My body was not giving up on me and instead of feeling useless felt renewed. He wasn’t giving up on me.
I knew the fate of witches. Their lives were like pawns in mans’ satanic game.
I leaped tingling with weary excitement. If I was still alive the universe would keep me safe. With cries of jubilation, out of the turbulent seas and beamed at my captors.
My hands were saturated in sweat. From the mighty precipice that I’d been thrown off, I stared in awe and a loud voice rang from the top, “She’s a witch, I tell you. Arrest her.” I felt the iron clasp around my wrists forcing me into bondage.
Days flourished into weeks. Finally, I heard the silently deafening knock of the executioner. Knowing the execution would not be done surreptitiously, I picked up the lone tattered bible. I was going to get through. Even as they led me, even as the axe was resting on my head, I trusted him. I was just a constituent of his plan as I heard the executioner scream.