Creative Writing Prompt Session: Fake Fortunes

Fun Fact. Did you know that small packages of fortune cookies are incredibly difficult to get ahold of… For the CW session this evening had the choice between a) small number of really $$$ cookies b) large number of reasonably priced ones or c) no cookies. So I made some fake fortunes using Google and some clipart from a label template on Word that in hindsight is unusually creepy.

The prompt I chose from the pile of prompts was:
An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly! [taken from an internet site, prompt not my creation]

—–

“Your call is very important to us, please hold.”

I wrapped the phone cord around my finger, listening to the dull tones of some old Muzac in the background.

This wasn’t a normal call. It was important. Surely something could be done to make sure that they picked up this call, right now. I needed them to listen.

My eyes darted over to the corner of the room, the forbidden space that I wasn’t supposed to look at it. The gelatinous blue blob was still there, pressed against the far wall as if it had always belonged there.

“You are currently number,” there was a small pause followed by a more robotic sounding voice, “1,206 in the queue.”

Over one thousand people above me? But right there in the corner was the little jelly creature, waiting for me to look at it. I wasn’t stupid, I knew what would happen if I gave it more than a second of my attention. They’d gotten my Aunt June just like that and I wasn’t going to let it happen to me.

The blob was looking at me. I could sense it.

“If you would like an operator to ring you back then please press 3,” the voice, sounding even friendlier than before, said. A call back wouldn’t take that long at all, surely, and it might be better than waiting for the list to slowly tick down from 1,206 to 1. That or I’d finally look at the blue alien blob in the corner and everything’d be fine.

My finger hovered over the number three. Three was my lucky number once upon a time, until the aliens came down to earth on the 3rd Saturday in the 3rd month of the 3rd year of the 3rd decade of the 3rd millenium. That’s 19th March 2033 for anyone who was already completely out of touch by that time.

I believed in lucky numbers. Not fate or anything so… permanent. Just that things could be predicted. So I didn’t walk on cracks, or under ladders or anything so dangerous as all that.

“If you would like a call back then please press 3,” the voice repeated, sounding so cheerful I could almost picture the person’s face being glued into a permanent smile.

I wasn’t going to fall for that trick, even if it continued to say that on repeat instead of the crappy background music.

It was getting a bit irritating though. I turned around, facing the wall rather than the window, so that I had my back to the blue blob. It wasn’t as if it could do anything to me while I wasn’t looking at it. I was completely safe, as long as I didn’t look it in the eyes.

A distraction was needed, something to stop me from falling into the temptation of looking at it. After all, it isn’t every day you see an alien. We always thought that first contact would be some magical experience. It wasn’t. Just some blobs of jelly beaming themselves into your house and using some kind of mind control wizardry on you if you dare to even try and welcome them to the planet. And they’d make you want to welcome them too, make it so that all you could think about was turning around to greet them.

I opened the cupboard above my head, careful not to look in the mirror attached to the back of one of the cupboard doors. Cans of soup I couldn’t open without a tin opener – which was on the other side of the room – and a few boxes of cereal. I stood up on my tip toes and leaned over to look into the back of the cupboard.

I could almost feel it’s little jelly eyes staring at me, trying to make me turn around.

“You are now 1, 204 in the queue,” a robotic voice told me and I resisted the urge to spin around and laugh in its face. Didn’t it see, I was going to make it to the front of the queue! Someone was going to come and help me.

But then I realised, it made no difference if someone would come and help if by the time they got here I’d already looked. The phone wasn’t a good distraction (and no-one was coming really, were they?)

I took down the box that was hidden at the back of the cupboard. It was a dusty box of fortune cookies. I’d always loved them as a kid.

Cracking one open with my spare hand while holding onto the phone with the other, I looked at the fortune.

Huh, wasn’t that funny.

It said:
Something incredible will happen to you very soon.

Well, that was a coincidence wasn’t it?

Because there was something amazing and odd in my kitchen.

And all I’d have to do was turn around and –

“You are number 1, 197 in the queue. Please hold, your call is important to us.”

I slammed the phone down against the receiver.

Making first contact with an alien. That’s something incredible, right?

I turned slowly, fortune cookie shreds still in my hand. I’d seen others screaming as their mind seemed to melt from the inside out but that wasn’t predetermined to happen to me.

I might see something incredible

I looked up.

To see the little blue jelly blob staring back at me with a cute cartoon grin on its face. I smiled too. It looked almost like something off Cartoon Network or CBBC. Funny, that.

But then it seemed to shift, as if the air was vibrating.

It wasn’t a cute, cartoon jelly blob at all.

It was —

It–

 

Reading Regularly 2017: Book 4 [Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan]

For those who are new to my blog (hello, by the way!) Reading Regularly is a regular series of blog posts in which I talk about books I’ve been reading pretty soon after turning to the final page. It’s a snapshot of how I felt about each book I’ve read this year, not intended as a review but just a quick working through of thoughts on a title. There’s generally no star ratings, no detailed analysis, only an emotional response. I’d love to hear what you think about the books I’ve been reading too! 

Image resultThis book was an impulse buy, based on the absolutely stunning title and the wonderful recommendations I’d seen for it online. I bought it very late at night quite early on in the week and it’s been the latest in a string of great reads. I’ve been really lucky with my reading choices lately!

Hold Back The Stars was a really well put together book, with the ending really resonating with me. There were lots of ways a story based on two people stuck in space running out of oxygen could have went and the ending was nothing that I was expecting. Not until it was right there in front of me, a few pages away.

It’s great for reading to be magical again, something done to lose yourself in fiction, rather than to analyse some dusty historical facts. This was a quick read, short and snappy, but it was one I enjoyed.

Once it was over, it became a little bittersweet. It’s hard to say exactly why without ruining the plot for anyone yet to read. Strangely, it felt like a perfect summer read for sitting on the beach with. It is, of course, not summer yet but today the sun was shining and the weather a little improved, so I can at least pretend warmth is on its way.

I read Hold Back the Stars over the course of a few nights, at a time when I was very stressed with uni, and it was great to delve into a world made only of words for a few hours at least.

Time for Robot Dreams Draft Three!

This weekend I came up with yet another idea for a new project, to do with a shadow detaching from a person when they commit something terrible and living out a life independent of them.

It seems fun, it seems new and it seems exciting. But there’s just one thing. Last night I had a dream that was, essentially, a scene from Robot Dreams playing out again.

And it reminded me of the story that’s still sitting half formed, waiting to be rewritten once again.

It would be really neat if by 1st April, a year on from the day I begun writing, I could say that — for now — Robot Dreams is complete. So far there’s been around 160,000 words put into the story and there’s many more to go.

So here goes. A pledge, a promise to myself.

I will write, and I will rewrite.

Until the very last page.

Valentine’s Day Prompt

Well, I didn’t end up writing over the weekend but something good did at least happen. I did some work on some uni related things and have been ticking a few things off my to-do list, such as finishing some more seminar revision reading for my end of year exams and something even Bigger and Better.

At today’s Creative Writing session I decided to do a Valentine’s Day prompt so set up two envelopes filled with names in little hearts, with the intention of writing a story featuring those two characters. There was then a packet of love hearts with the text on the sweet you got to be a designated line of dialogue within your story.

I chose one character from the male envelope (Mr. Darcy) and one from the female (a stuntwoman) and my Love Heart — well, the second one, I ate the first without checking — said ‘Keep Cool’.

So, this is what I came up with…

“It’s really simple,” he drawled, pointing over at the lake in the middle of the gardens, “you just have to step into the water and then walk out again.”

“Isn’t it going to be a little cold? I mean, I’m not paid for anything that’s going to make me, like, suffer. I was really more hoping for a kind of skydiving gig.”

“It’s not cold at all.”

“Really? Then why is that guy,” she jabbed her finger in the general direction of the man, who had just been freed from the humiliation of standing in the middle of the lake while sappy music played, “standing there shivering? And he’s wearing a jumper.”

“He’s shivering because he’s pathetic. It’s not the most difficult job you’ll ever have. Just get on with it,” his sentences were getting shorter and snappier as time moved towards his first scheduled coffee break of the day. A grande soy latte with cinnamon. It wasn’t as if she was going to have to actually say or do anything. He’d much rather be doing her job, the assistant mused, then standing here talking to all of these primadonnas. He sipped his coffee absentmindedly, reminding himself what a great job he was doing, before turning back to the woman.

“You’ve got thirty seconds of screen time. That’s it. So make it count.”

She turned away slightly, looking over at the lake again. “I’m not taking off any clothes. You get that?”

“No, no, no! This isn’t that kind of a gig,” he backtracked furiously, even though he had to admit he thought she was one of the most attractive contestants they’d seen that day.

“Well, what is this then? My agent tells me I gotta come here and try out, next thing there’s T.V. cameras everywhere like the tryouts are the show. No script, no info, no nothing. Just tell me if I’m wasting my time.”

“It’s a reality show. You’ll like it. I swear. There’s no funny business here.”

“Just wading through a freezing cold lake?” She squinted, to see that calling it a lake was really far too generous. It was a pond at best, little more than an oversized puddle placed in the middle of an overgrown garden a few miles out of the nearest city. She could tell that it was supposed to replicate some show of opulence but she didn’t have the general knowledge to quite work out what it was supposed to be. The props set out casually around the venue, like a few oversized umbrellas and a hat box, didn’t fit with the Tudor period she’d learned about at school but nor were they modern.

It was all a bit ridiculous really.

She’d only been persuaded to come along because her friend had sworn it was a good idea, that there would be casting directors there and maybe, just maybe, she’d at least come away with a few blurry freeze frames of herself on TV to stare at on a lonely Friday night. If anyone ever told her that her dream wasn’t going to come true then she could point at the screen, sit right up close to it as if she could feel heat and comfort coming straight out of the TV, and say: “Look, that’s me.”

Watching the successive line of Lake Walkers head into the water and back out again, she could see that there was a pattern. For everyone who swore and shouted in response to the water, there was a swift handshake and a shove in the direction of a waiting bus. It was unmarked, without any form of identifier apart from the helpful sign stuck up in the front window BUS. Not that it would be missed, it was the only modern thing on set apart from the cameras and their crews.

She didn’t want to go in the bus. It was obviously the losers’ coach, intended to get rid of the no-hopers before they could infect anyone else with their lack of talent. Even if this wasn’t the job for her, then she didn’t want to lose. No, if she wasn’t going to get the job then it should be because she had chosen to turn it down.

The queue shuffled forward, towards the lake, with each actor or actress standing close to their assigned staff member. It was too surreal, the way that no-one was allowed to go near the lake unattended and had to just continue their slow walk forwards until every so often the chief cameraman would shout MOVE and the person at the front of the line would sprint forward. Water going everywhere, they’d spread their arms wide and stride through the water towards the shore at the other side.

After a few awkward seconds of watching grown adults sludge through the water the camera was turned off and the participant, their task completed. For the last few metres towards their only audience was the balding man holding out towels and telling them which way to walk, with the next contestant already in the water by the time the previous one had got on the bus.

“Do you think I’ll be getting on the bus?” she asked the man assigned to her. He took a big gulp of coffee and then shook his head.

“You’ll be fine. Just do exactly what they tell you and it’ll be great.”

“Just move?” She copied his exaggerated drawl, wondering where exactly he was from and what exactly had made him think it was a good idea to put on that fake, exaggerated accent. Almost as if he was an actor himself.

“Simple, isn’t it.”

He turned back to watch the people jump into the lake, their journeys being quicker and quicker as the cameraman seemed to be getting more and more fed up. MOVE and MOVE and MOVE and MOVE. At one point two men dived into the water at the exact same time, not spotting the other, both striding forwards with a confident smile before being told that if they couldn’t even follow a simple order then how could they possibly be the star of a big budget movie. It was a valid question: to the bus with them.

It was almost her time to shine. She was ready, waiting for her moment in the spotlight.

“Any advice?” she asked the man beside her jokingly, seeing how seriously all of the other actors and actresses seemed to be taking their short lived role.

“Keep cool,” he said with a smile, looking away from the coffee long enough to watch her journey into the water. MOVE – and she was off. Striding forwards, her supermodel long legs carrying her forwards so it seemed that she was barely in the water at all before she was out the other side.

She looked around, turned back towards the cameraman on the opposite shore, who made some kind of grunting non-committal noise and then focused on the next contestant. And, MOVE, and so on.

Taking the towel from the man in front of her, she rubbed at her hair, surprised at how itchy she was. A quick look down at her shirt, at the muddy water covering her, before being shoved to the left.

She stumbled down the track, slightly disorientated from the cold, not quite sure whether she had been put in the direction of the bus or not. Not that she really cared, not at this point. After all, if the crystalline lake had turned out to be so muddy and smelly she wasn’t even sure that it wasn’t swamp or sewer water, whatever was coming next couldn’t be a good thing.

The line was much shorter here and she shuffled forward obediently, itchy and freezing, towards an outdoor ballroom set. Standing on one side of the room were an array of fancily dressed men and women, all exceptionally attractive and all in their early twenties. It was clear what the other side of the room was for. Five at a time, the contestants had to step forward and try and keep up with the awfully elaborate dance steps, while all the while a flashing neon sign pulsed up above.

It was the only thing out of place in this whole arrangement, the massive sign proclaiming THE NEXT MR. DARCY telling her that this wasn’t the commercial she’d thought they’d be filming. Nor was it the low-budget thriller that she could hear the man behind her talk whistfully about, how he’d been so close to final callbacks and now he was here.

No, this was something else entirely. And all she could do was keep the advice of that coffee slurping oddity, and try and keep cool….

Thoughts

So, here’s the thing. I love writing Robot Dreams and I love writing Ghosts of the Tower (but that one’s a little too complex for my degree addled brain right now) and I want to reclaim the excitement of the First Draft once again. It’s been an odd few months, full of essays and exhaustion and mini existential crises. Let’s just say that third year doesn’t give you much time to think about what you actually want.

After my essay deadline last Friday I went home, completely exhausted. I came back to uni on Monday for some classes and then went back home until Thursday when I have a lecture. It was awesome. Really amazing to have a break. I finally had my birthday meal with family, I was able to separate the person I am at university from who I really am and have a break from the weirdness that is Durham.

Yesterday I went to my last college ball here in Durham, as I’m unlikely to be going to the one in the summer. Here’s a picture of me before I went out, ft. my Year 13 prom dress. It was a good night, so different from the Candlemas I remember from first year but still fun. There’ll be some better photos later on, when they’re uploaded or delivered.

But it was nice. It also made me remember that at the end of my time at uni it isn’t just my degree I’ll be leaving with, but the memories and experiences I’ve given myself along the way. So. Another experience I’d like — to once again be writing in my uni  bedroom with the little lamp on, no cares in the world other than the story tumbling out of my head.

I have work to do today, obviously, but this evening I’ll be back and blogging. Starting something new. Living in the moment, not in the textbook, for once.

See you then!

E

 

Reading Regularly 2017: Book 3 [The Burning World by Isaac Marion]

Image result for burning world isaac marionI’ve been waiting to read The Burning World for years, ever since I knew it was a thing. It’s been a weird wait. When I read Warm Bodies I can remember feeling much more hopeful about the state of the world than I do now. Perhaps that’s why parts of The Burning World felt a little… uncomfortably true. I won’t go into it, spoiler alert, but the whole corporate story line made me a bit uneasy. I knew the book was going to be on a bigger scale than the original, but it was still odd to read.

There’s something weird about reading a book that is both something you’ve been waiting for a long time to see and also completely different to anything you imagined it would be. So. It’s difficult to get my thoughts in order on this one. It’s definitely a 4/5, that’s for sure. I enjoyed it enough to sit the day it came out before my lecture and then all the way until I went to bed reading it from cover to cover.

It just felt like there was something missing. I think the main reason for that was probably that the next half of the story isn’t out yet — The Burning World is the first part of a story too long to tell in one book. It made things feel a little bittersweet. There were some revelations, but not all the ones I was hoping for. There were some reunions, but not the ones I’d imagined. Some character development, but not completely realised.

I’ll be waiting the next book eagerly to find out what happens to all the main characters I love. It’s interesting too, how the way the world has changed since 2010 and 2017 is clear in the difference between this book and the last. Seriously, some of the postapocalyptic features (the walls, anyone?) felt a little close to home.

At least there are no zombies in real life though.

Reading Regularly 2017: Book 2 [The Last One – Alexandra Olivaa]

Image result for the last oneIt’s been a while since my last reading post, with essays and whatnot meaning its been a while since I’ve read. I do have a growing TBR pile on my table at uni and also have a few books I’m very excited to be released preordered.

So. Book 2. What can I say? The greatest praise I can give it is that I decided to start the first few chapters as a quick respite from essay writing and then a few nights later I was so interested in the book I read the final 150ish pages in one sitting.

That wouldn’t normally be impressive for me… but at this point in final year, it definitely is. It was unputdownable.

If you enjoyed Station Eleven, this is a must!