A new short story, in several parts!
This is an illustrated, speculative and auto-fictional story. All the pictures were taken a year ago by Marco Vinagre in Kings Cross, London.
A faint clap of thunder
Perhaps rain comes
If so, will you stay here with me?
Yukari in The Garden of Words by Shinkai Makoto,
from Man’yōshū, Book 11, verse 2,513
As the clouds start to gather ominously over me, I walk faster on this forest lane. I think I lost my way, and I might get soaked soon. Ahead, I spot a greenhouse. Intrigued, I can see potted blue bulbs from outside the window panels. Nobody seems to be there. I open the door and step inside. I leave my bag on the floor and look around. I come closer to the clay pots.
They don’t host plants. These are small planets. Is it a conservatory of worlds?
Fascinated, I reach to one of the tiny earths when an electronic sounding voice startles me.
“Welcome to the Garden of Worlds. You might think I’m a god cultivating multiple worlds. ” I haven’t thought of this at all, but, frozen, I listen. “You can call me the Gardener. You see, these globes represent different futures for Earth, but they’re drying and withering away. You’re the first person to come in today. Would you help me water them with your hope?”
Is it a metaphor? I relax. This person or AI doesn’t seem dangerous. I think about greenhouses, and how comforting they can be, however ruined the world might be around it. Whoever is watching me now, I will share these moments.
…. More on my blog OpheliaAutumn.com! The Garden of Worlds
On my fashion / picture blog, you can find a new short story! It compliments some pictures taken by Marina Bratunova back in May, with Alexis and me 🙂
He walked among the ferns and suddenly, he was free. He had never felt that before, in Rome or on the battlefields, as his mind was always obscured by duties and punishments and blood and so called civilisation. But the clouds had just lifted in his head. He had only wanted to get away from the madness for a moment, or at least that’s what he had consciously thought. Now, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to fight anymore. Even though he had always been told that Rome was the epitome of progress, he had never hated the Celts or their legends. He felt more connected to the deer and luscious flowers of this magical forest than to his martial comrades and ceremonies for the Emperor.
Read the entire short story on opheliaautumn.com!
Adapted from a 100 word story, aka a drabble, I wrote at a writing workshop for the Ministry of Stories volunteers.
Floating with my dreams over the surface, I swim outside my comfort zone while trying not to cling to my teacher’s warm skin. I feel like an out of control freak but her patience is helping me get familiar with this less dense atmosphere.
I know a song that would steal souls, but my tune once attracted the wrong kind of fish. I used to wish I could stay in the abyss and play with beautiful lost treasures forever.
Now I won’t be helplessly washed away on the shore, I will look at the sky on a sea of hope.
I wrote this short story very recently, for a contest whose theme was “Love and lust”. Sadly it didn’t get selected, I still hope you’ll find it entertaining. I’m happy to receive constructive feedback about my style or storytelling techniques.
Warning: as the theme might let you guess, this text contains scenes of a sexual nature. Please only click on “Continue reading” if you can handle it!
I started to write this story more than two years ago. It started with a silly, funny story I wrote for a colleague named Isabel.
I finished it today, after talking about dinosaurs with my friends’ children in the South of France.
Isabel was standing by a still pond. In the windless morning, the water was truly unmoving and grey. She couldn’t recollect how she had arrived here, only that she had felt compelled to stop by.
Something was missing but she couldn’t wrap her mind around it. It kept on eluding her – something in the corner of her eye, a nagging feeling that… what?
She tried to calm down and explore her surroundings, trying to find clues in the icily beautiful landscape in front of her. It looked off – too cold, too dead, yes…
The pond, as wide as a small lake, mirrored the unbroken sky. Nothing was stirring in the liquid expanse overhead, not even a… ah, the thought had left again.
The dark water was still calm, but if she stared long enough she could make out darker shapes, big, dangerous fish lurking underneath, undisturbed by… by nothing, really.
The reed bordering the edge looked inconspicuous and safe. She slowly walked around the pond, embracing the mountains far away and the slowly setting sun. She tried to sharpen her senses. All she could hear was the chirping of… no, the bristling sound of the trees and the fluttering of bat wings. Wings. Interesting. She thought of… butterflies, exactly.
The reed was everywhere on the shore, perfectly nice and clean and out of the way. A bit incongruous. It was clearly trying to elude her attention but it looked much too calm to be true.
“Isabel…” she forced the thought… “Isabel Swan… You can remember… You can do it… Isabel Swan, that’s my name, a swan is… is something you’d find here… It’s not a swamp, no… like, swooning maybe? Or… swimming?” A sweet swearing word escaped her.
At last, she could see… a long neck… an ivory, sometimes ebony, soft beauty with a beak and…
Sixty-six million years ago. The sentient reed couldn’t stand them anymore. Those huge, hungry beasts were either trying to gulp it down or to devour each other. If only they had managed. Instead, they would trample flat every reed they would not eat. The clever plant had to do something to get rid of them.
So it created a spell – because the self-conscious reed was also able to make magic, quite frankly the only species on Earth – to curse the dinosaurs and all their descendants.
It made itself poisonous so they would die when they ate some reed, or something that had eaten some.
The dinosaurs disappeared in the snapping of a straw.
And now, you might remember, the birds were the dinosaurs’ children. In the reed’s parallel reality, they never existed because of the curse.
Was Isabel from a different world? Why did she know about the birds? She snapped reality back to where it should have been and gave life to the birds again.
They now roam the Earth as they were supposed to. They grace our skies with feathers and flock dances, our lands with eggs and songs.
The reed seems to have gone silent. But the dinosaurs aren’t back yet…
The doors of the overground carriage shut loudly, isolating me from the still slightly crowded platform at Whitechapel station.
It was already late and I just wanted to go home and sleep.
I was trying to shake off my growing, unexpected uneasiness by staring at my phone and I nearly didn’t notice something was wrong until an emotionless voice stated for the whole train’s benefit: “Stepney Green”.
Wait… That wasn’t the line or even the direction I was supposed to take. I wondered how I could have jumped on the wrong train, but I guessed I hadn’t paid enough attention. I had to go back.
Chuckling inwardly to reassure myself, acknowledging that these things happen, that this was just the harmless result of my lack of sleep, I walked down a few badly lit corridors and waited for a train on a shady platform full of drunk teenagers. I was back to Whitechapel in no time. The platform looked pretty much the same as ten minutes earlier, albeit less crowded.
This time I triple checked I was entering the right overground, a weed-smelling train heading north west. I cautiously took my e-reader from my bag and started to read a nonfiction collection by Neil Gaiman. I let the stations flow past in a blur, losing track of the world around me until Neil Gaiman asked the readers to look around them and observe their surroundings. I lowered my e-reader and looked. That’s when I noticed I was going back to Whitechapel.
Not again? What had happened? Dejected and slightly frightened, with a headache looming over, I got off hastily at Whitechapel and tried to figure out what my options were. It was now too late to take another train. Was the ghost of Jack the Ripper haunting this station? I surfaced under a cloudy night, wanted to call for an Uber, but my battery was out and I couldn’t see any taxis on Mile End.
I took a perpendicular street, which looked older and more unkempt than its neighbour. It was a quaint little thing, cobbled and deserted apart from a quiet stray fox. Nothing there seemed to have been built after 1901 and some window sills were holding drying laundry. Utterly fascinated, I immersed myself in this unusual gas lit atmosphere and followed the fox for a while, until I noticed a decrepit sign adorning what looked like stables: “Sights and Stallions”. Interesting… But I couldn’t think about going home on horseback, could I?
I had mounted a pony once when I was eight and a camel when I was twelve. That was hardly impressive. But did I have any choice? Wasn’t it the time to be bold and daring? I had to try something and didn’t feel like walking home yet.
I knocked at a shabby looking door leading to the brick horse stalls. A tall, bearded man with a top hat opened.
“What do you want, miss?” he asked in what sounded to me as a cliché, Oliver Twist cockney accent.
“Hm, do you, by any chance, provide carriages or horses? I appear to be, ha, stuck here in Whitechapel.”
His genuine laughter, devoid of malice, filled the empty street.
“Sure thing, Belzy will bring you home. Don’t you worry about him, he’ll come back here on his own. And the first mount is free!”
“Thanks a lot! But I…”
“Don’t trouble yourself, he is very kind with everyone.”
This was all very surreal – the stallion was, I could swear, looking at me with a hint of amusement and everything was so out of place. I mounted the horse with indeed very few difficulties and Belzy – was that short for Belzebuth? – seemed to know instinctively where I was going, for he headed almost immediately North West.
After a while though he started to recede, his stride less confident, and he finally turned around. Nothing I could think of doing was working and the horse left me right in front of Whitechapel station.
Would I ever go away?
My heart racing in a panic, I just ran as far as I could, people looking at me weirdly. I stopped to catch my breath, panting, and found myself back to where I started.
I’m writing this on a notebook waiting for the morning train, hoping that this time I’ll manage to get out. I’ll leave this on a train seat and perhaps if I don’t make it, someone else will read it and find me. I’ll be waiting for you in Whitechapel station.
“So I’ve been told you’re quite mad, inmate.”
“Of course I’m mad. I’m the last witness of a dying star.”
“So you have traveled in time?”
“Don’t be silly. I watched it from my balcony.”
“Does it really matter, then?”
“Well, and you do?”
“If I… How dare you! I’m a rising star!”
“Yet I’m watching you restrained to this chair and you’re no brighter than a sun.”
I attended a very interesting dialogue masterclass by Claire McGowan – I’ve been trying to practice.
I can’t stand my neighbourhood anymore but tonight it feels both great and wistful. On the piss-smelling pavement, old cats from decrepit houses are meowing. Suspicious dwellers close their shutters while teenagers play football on dirty playgrounds. It seems so grey and mediocre and meaningless but also alive and fascinating. At the junction between a real railway and an abandoned one, an open door leading to a council estate is daring me to enter.
And so I crouch alone in the dark, in an empty, post-apocalyptic looking courtyard, leaning back against a slightly mouldy cuboid building. I listen. The wind. Creepy noises in the trees. Trains passing by. Police sirens. A weird humming from a nearby electrical cabinet. The lights on the wall, dimmer than my phone’s backlight, don’t make this place more welcoming than a prison yard. Yet I’m not afraid. It feels right to stay here for a while and write. When I can’t feel my legs anymore, I just walk away.
(I learnt later this might be the place where a late great aunt had lived…)
The coast’s cliffs are Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. This is where Mary Anning discovered the first complete Ichthyosaur fossil.
I’ve written a very short text, inspired by the past, present and possible future of the Jurassic Coast.