ShutUp30.23: A Day in the Life

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Take a character from one of your stories. Answer some questions about them. Then, write their average day before the story starts.

Ivy woke long before the light, as she did every morning. She clicked on the bedside lamp and turned over to squint at the dial of the alarm clock. 4:32, it said. That was 36 minutes more than yesterday, at least.

Turning sent a shooting pain down her gammy leg. She spent the next five minutes massaging the aching tissue, and the five minutes after that trying to breath deeply like Doctor Singh had taught her. She didn’t really believe that it helped, but it was probably worth a try.

At five to five, Ivy swung her bad leg over the side of the bed and lowered it gingerly to the floor. She turned off the ringer on her alarm clock, wondering when the last time it had actually rung was. Still, Sharon had been thoughtful to pick out one so solid and familiar. Ivy hated the red buzzing lights and over-cheerful morning DJs that came with most modern clocks.

It took Ivy about five minutes to get down the stairs these days. The kettle isn’t going anywhere, she thought ruefully, using both her cane and the rail to bolster her bones against the shocks of gravity. By the time she arrived in the kitchen, she’d more than earned a cuppa and a sit down. In a wee while, she’d put some porridge on. Once the sun came up.

 

What do they do in their free time?

Bingo, shopping, a walk on the beach.

Where do they go on vacation? How often?

Madeira, once a year, with the Legion.

Do they collect anything?

Porcelain ornaments.

Do they give support to a charity? Which one?

Royal British Legion, volunteers in Marie Curie Cancer Care charity shop

Do they read books? Go to the movies?

Reader’s Digest, Silver Cinema at the Odeon

Do they have plants in their home?

Cheese plant (dusted every day)

Do they cook?

Since Arthur passed, mostly tinned fish and toast. Porridge for breakfast. Discounted breakfast pastries when she can get them.

Are they politically involved?

Politicians are all the bloody same.

What are their habits?

Early to rise. Fond of comparing greengrocers’ prices across the town, using her free bus pass. Walks with a cane. Tuesdays bingo, Thursdays Silver Cinema. Tea with Sharon and the boys on Saturdays. Church on Sundays.

What do they have in their bathroom cabinet? Under their bed?

A lot of pills, mostly Arthur’s. Under the bed there is a chamber pot, although Ivy isn’t quite sure why. It just seems a shame to throw it away.

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ShutUp30.22: Shopping Cart

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Tall human, hairy face. Has brought own bag (plastic). One ready meal: PriceCut Special LoSalt Lasagne. 6 tall cans No Frills lager. Large bag pork scratchings. Bip, bip, bip. 

Small human, hairless face. Yellow hair with two tails. Pick ‘n’ Mix; strong preference for fizzy worms. Bip.

Long thin human, hairless face. Long straight hair; long straight turquoise attire. Some evidence of knees. Feet: artificial height enhancers. Masottina Le Rive di Ogliano Millesimato Extra Dry Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, 6 bottles. 2 packs Private Selection Finest Hors d’Oeuvres. Ibuprofen (generic), 1 pack. Bip bip bip.

Perfect size human, hairless face. Symmetrical chestnut hair. Pleasing peach face. Soft, in all right places. One ready meal: chicken curry for one. Oh! One small screw-top bottle of dry white wine. OH! Bip, bip, my heart goes bip. Are you dining alone? Bip! 12-pack, Durex XL Comfort condoms. Bip!?

ShutUp30.21: Your Story Your Way

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Write about the image below.

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Joyce waited by the big old wooden door at a quarter to seven on a Sunday morning. Few people passed, at this time, mostly young people with their hoods up, shrouding hangovers. Nobody paid attention to Joyce at the best of times, not these days. But then he came.

He came slowly, our Henry. He’d pitch himself forward on to his stout wooden cane, throwing the slimmer cane out to the side in case the world suddenly invented gravity that came in horizontally. Joyce waited for him to look up, for the eye contact, for the anticipation, but moving took all his attention. When Henry finally arrived by her side, he took a few deep breaths before meeting her eyes.

“Alright, pet?” he said.

“Aye,” she said.

“What news?”

“He took over funny on the train. Young lad stood up to let him sit, but he lost his balance and fell. Station staff brought a stretcher, carried him up the stairs, and that’s when we saw him.” She shook her head. “Terrible to-do”.

“Hmm,” said Henry. Joyce wasn’t sure if this was an expression of sympathy or a cough. She waited, and the silence grew up between them.

“And the product?” he said.

Joyce shook her head. “It wasn’t mentioned. I told them I was a family friend. Sat in the waiting room for hours until his wife left. I could hardly pretend I was her.”

Henry rested both hands on his cane and looked down, as if deep in thought. When he brought his head up again, his eyes were sharp, with none of their earlier confusion.

“We had a deal, and you will uphold your end of that deal or suffer the consequences. Product or payment, in full, by the agreed deadline. I don’t care how you go about it.”

Henry put down his other cane, and began to wheel away. Joyce stood frozen.

Over his shoulder, he added “You know what I’m capable of.”

“Yes,” Joyce murmured. “I do.”

 

ShutUp30.20: Walk That Way!

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Take three with that same prompt.

A lone light shone in the house. The rest of the neighbourhood stood in shadow. Not a thing moved.

Inside the light sat a woman. Her hair is long and fine, but lustreless, in transition from brown and grey. It hangs flat against her temples as she hunches over, intent on the objects in her lap.

These small, fragile artifacts are all that remains of this village. They must be preserved, curated, remembered. She is a Collector, and this is her Collection. She, and it, are all that remain. The last bulwark against forgetting what was, and, in so doing, losing ourselves.

Tea, Dolly?

Collectors did not choose to be Collectors, she thought, lovingly smoothing a bent corner. They were chosen, chosen by the simple fact of being the only ones left. Chosen by the cataclysm.

Are you asleep in there, Dolly? Shall I turn off the light?

The Collector studied the largest of the artifacts. Four figures, arranged in a line, two bigger than the others. Unknown and long dead, as all these humans were. Yet there was something about the tallest figure, the man in the middle in the fitted jacket, that made her feel… that made her feel.

With a faint click, the light died.

Sleep tight, Dolly.

The Collector remained at her post, artifacts still arranged on her knees, invisible in the dark.

ShutUp30.19: Walk What Way?

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Rewrite yesterday’s prompt with a different trajectory.

A lone light shone in the house. The rest of the neighbourhood stood in shadow. Not a thing moved.

Eleanor relished the serenity, stilling her breath to almost nothing. It was incredible what the body could make do with, when it was just ticking over. When it wasn’t running from pillar to post, at the mercy of helpless mouths.

Gareth was a good lad. A good man. Upright. Dependable. She wished he came around more, but she could hardly have asked him to stay. What was there in a town like Rhyl, for a brisk young man with the whole world to come?

The soothing voice interrupted her thoughts. Begin wiggling your fingers and toes. Awaken your whole body.

Yoga still felt like something of a luxury, but it eased the pain in her pelvis and helped her feel almost sprightly. She’d caught sight of herself in a mirrored display at KwikSave the other day, and had to hide a smile at how poised she was looking. I could pass for ten years younger, she thought. If there was anyone here to see me.

She rolled up to sit cross-legged, following the voice through several breathing cycles, until it signed off. Namaste.

Eleanor stood, her thoughts going to her scar as she stopped her hands from doing. Eleri hadn’t asked to be conceived, hadn’t wanted to be born. They’d opened Eleanor up, the doctors, and let the darkness in.

She bent over slowly and rolled up the yoga mat, propping it in its corner. Time for bed.

ShutUp30.18: Walk This Way 1

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A lone light shone in the house. The rest of the neighbourhood stood in shadow. Not a thing moved.

But there was movement. Leaves rustled, more agitated than the wind justified. Shed doors rattled against their bolts. Dogs howled, with more than a hint of hysteria. What moved, you see, was not a thing.

It was a dark and stormy night. But here’s another thing, a funny thing:  it shouldn’t have mattered to the Ui that it was dark, for we humans couldn’t see it/ them anyway. The dogs could, it would seem. They howled and howled as the rain lashed down.

But it did matter, in a way, to the Ui. It/ they may not have brought the rain, or the darkness, but it/ they did bide its/ their time until it came. What that should tell us is that the Ui is/ are a punctilious non-thing, paying scrupulous attention to every detail of a scene. It/ they frame(s), colour(s), but write(s) no dialogue.

But someone is talking. There, in the house, standing brazen in the light. This one a someone, a human, a real one with a name and a six o’clock shadow. “Damn mutt,” it says, and the Ui inhale(s), unsettling the cosmos. If the Ui was/ were not a non-thing, and had ears that could exist in the known universe, an observer (if such a thing was possible) would swear it/ they was/ were listening.

And if said observer hung around on that impossible plane of existence for long enough, they might swear that they heard a sound impossible to describe. A voice conceivable only to those who have heard the shriek of razor-metal bees careening down a never-ending blackboard. A voice that said, with relish and caustic malignance, “blllloodddy muttsssss”.

ShutUp30.17: Fight!

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I’m a bit behind. In my defense, I have been poorly. With thanks to Major-General Catarrh for his sterling work.

The calm before the storm. Everything appeared normal, the home they loved so well as moist, purple and undulating as it was in the songs. You could hear snatches sung about the camp, hummed under the breath as the men went about their final preparations before the big push. For the most part, though, a purposeful silence reigned.

Major-General Catarrh had seen plenty of action in his long and storied career. There was the long winter of 1989, when a freak virus had invaded via the Sinal canals and besieged the entire cranial delta. Troops had given their lives in the billions, as engineers at relief camp Node had worked around the clock cranking out phlegm. There were the training skirmishes every spring, where defense forces mobilised against innocuous-seeming plant matter that nonetheless laid their host low.

Put yourself in the enemy’s shoes, they used to say in training school, but he had always found that hard to do. The invading organisms seemed such mindless things, bent only on fighting and self-replicating. A far cry from the fraternal bonds of his brothers in mucous, defenders of the host.