Yesterday I wrote a piece of flash fiction for Whimword, an informal flashfic competition. Every week, they give you a word and you give them a story or poem of up to 500 words for their site. The winner chooses next week’s word.
This is my first time writing one, and I suspect it won’t be my last. This week’s word is ‘Locket’, and yesterday I at down and penned a Lovecraft pastiche that I was actually quite proud of. It’s not exactly stunningly original, far from it in fact. But I like it. Only problem? It was 600+ words.
Today I took a scalpel to the story, paring away anything that could be classed as surplus fat. After several goes, I took a machete to it. Turns out 500 words is difficult to stick to. Who knew? The mood changed as the cadence of the writing changed. I like the finished product, though in some ways I prefer the bloated one. Maybe I just need to mature as a writer.
I will post the story below, but first, I will also share a piece of what is becoming my writing process. When I need to sit down and write, I am getting into the habit of writing a sort of freeform stream of consciousness ramble, just to get words flowing before I light upon whatever I actually intend to write about. Tonks has said they look a bit like weird poetry, and as this is the literary equivalent of doodling, I shall call them Doodlepoems. Below, I share the one I wrote yesterday that lead me to write the story below it.
Test vest rest guest quest
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy wait is the fox brown I thought they were red what the fuck
I don’t have a aim for this, I’m just going to doodle
I’m too tired and sad and hungry to focus
Focus hocus pocus louc louctus of borg
Typing until something sticks
Just waiting for the hooks to sink in and drag me aklong with them
This week’s whimwword is Locket
It’s a necklace that opens up
no shit sherlock
usually there’s a picture inside
a picture of a loved one
a picture of yourself
a picture of a toaster
it’s almost never a toaster
Doesn’t have to be a picture
a lock of hair
a tiny pebble
a grain of sand
Why would there be a grain of sand n the locket
to commemmorate th beach
a beach where something important happened
a long time ago
a lock of hair in the locked locket
the locket is locked and must never be opened
inside the locket is a secret
the secret must never be let out
david cameron fucked a pig
that’s not the secret
i just wanted to type that
The locket belonged to my mother.
She told me never to open it, to keep it safe in its box in her basement. I forgot all about it until she died.
I ‘d been going through her things, sorting out what to give away and what to keep. The box was in a corner, small and insignificant. I opened it and found the locket tucked into a nest of papers. The papers were journal entries.
They told of a journey my mother had taken when she was a young anthropologist, a journey that took her all over the Pacific in study of local rituals and religions. That’s where she was given the locket. Her notes described the terrified people who begged her to take it far away from the sea. It was said to be connected to a series of deaths by drowning.
The notes didn’t specify what the locket contained. My mother received conflicting reports. She was told that it contained a grain of sand from the world’s first beach. The tear of a god from beyond the stars. A demon’s last breath. The soul of the sea itself.
I scoffed and didn’t read any more. I didn’t return the locket to its box, choosing instead to wear it.
That night the dreams began.
They started innocently enough. I dreamed of walking along a beach, letting the waves wash over my bare feet. As the nights went on, though, the dreams continued. I found myself wading out to sea until the waters closed over my head. I sank down to a ruined city of ancient cyclopean towers. The city was home only to fish that watched me with strangely human eyes.
By day I was exhausted, calling in sick to work, cutting off contact with my friends. Days blended into each other and I fell into a deep depression. By night I kept exploring, walking the streets until I found what I didn’t know I was looking for.
I found a temple.
I drifted up the aisles to a wide, squat altar. There was a groove in its surface where something would fit, needed to fit. In the last dream, I removed the locket and placed it on the altar. It fit.
There followed a terrible earthquake. The buildings came crashing down around me as the city rose above the waves. The sky was a maelstrom of clouds and fire, and on the distant shores I could see that the world was burning. It felt right. It felt good.
I awoke in a cold sweat, the locket clutched in one fist. It was open. It was empty.
I raised it to my ear. I could hear the sound of waves gently lapping. If I closed my eyes, I could smell seaweed and saltwater. The locket wanted to be returned to the sea. It needed to be returned to the sea.
Yesterday I booked a ticket aboard a Pacific crusie ship.
I’m so sorry.