Friday Fictioneers – Looking For Fish

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple‘s weekly prompt had me excited as soon as I came across it a couple of days. Unfortunately, I couldn’t send in my entry for the previous prompt, so I stepped up my game and decided to send one in for this week’s prompt as early as I could. I had a 100 words to tell a story inspired by the photograph you see below.

Hope you like it!

Photo Prompt – © C.E.Ayr


Looking For Fish

Word Count: 100

Let’s go meet the fish, daddy”, she mumbled.

The structure she had been in, shed its skin and turned a bright blue; fallen bricks turned to dust, then water; lifeless bodies turned to whales, sharks, little fish she couldn’t name; people’s desperate screams formed the cage, as she continued her descent – more and more fish swimming around.

With tears rolling down her cheek and joining the water, she saw her father opening the cage door. She leapt, clinging onto his arm, just like she had on their previous fishing trips.

Together, they swam into the darkness of the ocean.

Six Word Stories Challenge: Loss

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 Disease took away hope; gave love.

This post is in response to a challenge set by Ben at A Hopelessly Wandering Mind for bloggers to write the best possible story in six words on this week’s theme – loss. This is an amazing challenge and I hope I have done it justice with my entry.

I urge the readers to check out the blog linked above, as it has a collection of beautiful six word stories and other interesting blog posts.

A Life In Colour

I’m still searching for the multi-coloured sneakers I had bought for Kat on her 14th birthday. “I’ll go for a run till the supermarket and see how they fare. I’ll be back in 20 minutes”, she had said, excitedly. This is how she trained for her fledgling track-and-field career.

It’s been four months since she went on her run, but even today, I can hear the sound of the blast in my ears, playing on a loop. Every single day, I drive to the end of the world, where they disposed off the debris from the blast, yet I am unable to find those multi-coloured sneakers.

Is it because Kat is still alive or has all colour in my life disappeared after lowering an empty casket in my daughter’s grave?

A Writer’s Escape Plan

“When someone else says you’re a writer, that’s when you’re a writer. Not before.”

Wise words, maybe; not accurate, however. You’re a writer when you feel your character(s): their hardships, their love, their defeats, their jubilation. I considered myself a writer the day I wrote an unofficial, congratulatory letter to my fictional, younger sister who had just received the first rank in her examination, from my fictional hostel room, as part of my primary school curriculum. There’s one important thing you must remember, everything you write must be honest and from within – a personal experience – even when it’s fantasy or fiction, and doesn’t remotely resemble anything in your life right now.

As a writer, you can never stop thinking about life and its experiences; never can your thoughts remain in the normal, acceptable spectrum of beliefs, which is why most of these thoughts are crushed before they take shape, in the fear of scaring away or alienating your everyday friends. Those friends you create in your head, your protagonist, the love-interest, the antagonist, these fictional friends never make it out of your daydreams. Daydreaming is essentially what provides you with the ammunition to create a new world that allows your readers escape reality from, but before that, you have to escape and look at reality as an non-participating observer. Whether it’s in a hostel bathroom, surrounded by sounds that are too graphic and full of towels that hang too low, or if it’s a middle of the night nightmare just prior to a big exam, these ill-timed dreams that screw with your mind are responsible for the ideas that give shape to your stories. You can’t successfully shape these ideas into the stories they deserve to be until you take out the preconceived notions and biases you have may have; your characters may be based on your own personality but let them figure out their own reaction to an event, without any judgement and prodding from you. It’s important to remember, as you write, that every character has a life independent from you; even though they’re only alive on paper, let them breathe and live.

NaNoWriMo is an annual event most amateur and semi-professional writers are aware of. Every November, thousands of aspiring writers build, share, write, correct, critique, develop, review their own novel, while helping others along the way, together working towards a goal of 50,000 words each. I came upon this event in December last year, narrowly missing out, but I have it bookmarked ever since. Unfortunately, at the end of November 2015, I will be taking, by far, the most important examination in the life, and will not be contributing/taking part in this edition of NaNoWriMo. After the initial disappointment and anger, I realized I didn’t need any event in any month to give words to my ideas. My thoughts don’t need to see the light of day only in the month of November, nor do they have to be critiqued by strangers online. There’s no problem with that but I have a fair few friends who love to correct my grammar, insult my vocabulary and offer excessive, suffocating amounts of help, without needing any incentive.

So what should I do now? Simple, what every writer should do: write! While most fiction writing tips and help providing websites (I’ve visited about a 100 of them) mention the need to create a backbone before anything else: a series of events in the story jotted down, knowing how the story ends and how many characters-their occupations, mannerisms, vices-are going to be a part of it, before writing the first chapter.

My project, that starts today, involves no planning at all. I don’t know whether I’m writing a fantasy, a thriller, a novella, a flash-fiction, or the biography of a telephone pole. I will simply sit down at my dinner table one hour a day (that one hour that isn’t reserved for my study preparation), scribble down notes as they come to me and type the first chapter without it heading in any direction, much like this piece of writing, which is so disjointed that it could have been posted as several, individual pieces of information. It may very well be that I go nowhere, just running around a tree over and over, without any end in sight, and could end with a ‘Ctrl+A’ followed by ‘Backspace’, or maybe, this creative outlet will produce just enough to keep me motivated. Motivated for what, you ask?

No one, except the one providing unconditional support, in the 22 years of my life, had ever told me, “You should take writing seriously”, and in the past three weeks, I’ve been told those particular words four times, mostly because of my blog post – Three Flat Lines. I still don’t see it as a viable career option; it’s just a hobby that provides an escape for me and, hopefully, for my readers, from this life that is full of responsibilities, deadlines and moving ahead in a straight line (while thousands and thousands of people doing the same, pushing and shoving you along the way). For a brief moment or two, I want my readers to step out of this line and experience a new life. I want at least one person, now or years later, to realise that it’s perfectly alright to take a break from this never-ending line. When that happens, when I have proof that there’s someone out there who took this flight away from reality because of my writing, I will see myself as a writing success.

That’s all, really. You can go back to your busy lives, while I go back to mine. Thank you for visiting this blog of mine, and I hope to see you again. Be sure to like and follow the blog, if you want to keep an eye on my progress. I also must urge you to share my previous blog posts, assuming you liked reading them. It just takes a click and it’ll probably be buried in the dozens of 10 things that prove you are … posts that seem to have filled social media websites recently, but one share provides as much motivation to an amateur writer, like myself, as a pat on the back for a job well done.

TL;DR – I’m going to writing a lot in the near future. Stay tuned.

P.S. – I haven’t proofread any portion of this blog post, so excuse any glaring errors.

Life’s Tasty Lemonade

When life gives you lemons..’ is a phrase I’ve never really gotten behind or believed in. All throughout our existence, from the moment we step in this world, all life does is drain one day after another, relentlessly, without a single holiday or break, until we exhaust our resources and death grabs us.

Early in our being, people say, “You have a long life ahead of you”, without realizing that every day after that, our life only gets shorter. Yoga, positive thinking, feeding the homeless, charities and donations – we all do good, hoping to earn karma points and extend our contract with life, but when has karma promised to give you anything in return? There is no connection between being a good person and living a long life. In fact, some of those who shone the brightest, were the ones that death took away without warning, early, before their calling. It was life that ceased to exist for them; yet somehow, it is death that gets blamed for it.

In essence, what is death but a mere repayment of loan to life? Why do we worry so much about death when it’s only job is to rescue us from the jaws of life? Death is a saviour that stops by just once and frees us of the debts we owe to life.

Three Flat Lines

The alarm clock’s ringing woke me up with a start. Flailing my arms in the general direction of the clock, I was looking to somehow plead it for five more minutes of sleep. It definitely wasn’t on the table next to me, where it had always been. Maybe it wasn’t the alarm clock at all, I told myself. It’s the telephone or the doorbell; I wondered with my eyes still closed. No, definitely the alarm clock – it had to be – the thought continued.

It wasn’t until the doors slid open with a loud screech and the sounds of multiple people running towards me hit my ears that I realized what was happening. My eyes, now wide open and looking for an explanation, moved to my wife’s bed, at the hospital, with various machines and wires around it. One of these machines was responsible for this ringing noise, and it didn’t matter which, they all meant only one thing: something was wrong with Jenny. As reality started to sink in, I could feel an uneasiness at the bottom of my stomach, which only started to get worse and worse every passing beep of the machine; I thought I would puke if it didn’t stop soon. One of the nurses started tugging on my right arm, the arm that had been Jenny’s to cling onto all our life. I noticed it was the same nurse who asked the two of us about our relationship the first time we had come to the hospital. Back then, we didn’t know we would be here six more times in the next four years; we had told her every piece of our story, and she had loved all of it. I resisted but eventually left the room after her constant insistence. With the doors shut and the curtains drawn, I couldn’t see the woman I had called my wife for nearly five decades, anymore. The receptionist, a young 20-something who had taken a liking for the two of us during our previous visits, offered me a chair and some water.

“She can’t do this to me. She can’t leave me here alone”.

I was in tears, even as more and more of the familiar hospital staff gathered around me. I remembered the way Jenny had interacted with each and every one of these people, asking them about their lives and sharing stories from ours. She was like that – there was a warmth about her that drew people close to her, even having never met before; that’s how she drew me in. They all consoled me and told me it would be alright, but I wouldn’t believe it until I saw my wife talking and smiling again. During our last six visits to the hospital, Jenny had insisted I stay next to her, hardly ever letting go of my hand. This time, she didn’t let me stay the night even once. “These people in the hospital know how to take care of me. You go home and you sleep. I’ll still be here tomorrow morning”, she said every evening, after I had finished reading her some of her favourite passages from various novels. Part of me wanted to leave the hospital right then and come back in the morning, hoping that Jenny would still be here when I returned.

I looked up towards the receptionist, Dana, who had been trying to comfort me, but who herself was in need of comforting. Dana had earlier claimed that our story had been better than any she had read in a romance novel. The three of us had even spent last Christmas together, where this young girl was still trying to find her feet in the world. She took my hand and guided me back to Jenny’s room as the doctors left, whose expressions were incomprehensible to me. The nurses still surrounded her bed but made way as they saw Dana and me approaching. Jenny coughed, on hearing that noise, albeit of discomfort, I smiled; she was awake. I held her hand, as I had countless times in the past, waiting for her to intertwine her fingers in mine as she always did – but she didn’t.

I was never the social one of the two of us, and as the entire room stared back at me, I was hoping Jenny would open her eyes, tell them everything was fine and rescue me from this situation, like she had the first time we had met. We were both riding the subway, young teens doing odd jobs. When a spot freed up beside her, I fought with a man twice my age to grab that seat. She still asks me to this day why I struck up a conversation with her on the subway and I still didn’t have an answer to it. I continued to play our subway conversation, our first meeting, in my head frame-by-frame. The white sweater she wore on the cold day, and how she turned towards me, flicking her hair away from her face as I greeted her with ‘hello’. Being awkward and socially challenged, I proceeded to describe to her the workings of a Fortune-500 company, the very little knowledge I had about it, to an Arts students who wanted to be a teacher and knew nothing about business. I would realize that much later, as she told me about her life and dreams, after gladly having listened to everything I had to say with a smile on her face. As she continued telling me about her music choices and movies she wanted to see, I had this uncontrollable urge to say to her —

My wife’s hospital monitor started beeping again, as it had fifteen minutes ago. This time, however, she was awake, her eyes open but distant. She used all her strength to take off the oxygen mask and called me close. She whispered the words ‘I love you’ into my ears and just as quickly, the monitor had three flat lines on it.

My cycle of thoughts had continued even as the machines were loudly beeping and Jenny had pulled me close. As the girl in the subway, whose name I didn’t even know yet, talked about her likes and dislikes, the words ‘I love you’ spilled out from my mouth without thought. I had not been thinking it and I wasn’t sure what provoked those words, but they just came out. The crowded subway stared in disbelief as I diverted my eyes. Some laughed, some turned away feeling embarrassed for me, but this girl next to me casually held my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jenny. I love you too”.

And in this hospital, on hearing those words from my dying wife, I held her hand and placed them in mine, like I had for the last fifty years, and I said to her, “Hi, I’m Michael. I love you too”, as she closed her eyes one last time.

The Class Clown

Today’s generation probably hasn’t experienced a fun-fair or circus, like the previous generation has. There aren’t many around and there are definitely no television commercials to get us excited even if they were. I, for one, had only seen the acts of a circus on television, during soaps and dramas, and those too, didn’t appeal to me at all. When there’s so much to do and so much to watch, why would someone pay to see some men on a unicycle or an elephant crushing a watermelon under its feet, I will never understand. When I saw a circus act was in town, however, I decided to pay the nominal fee it took to get into the large tent, just for a peak. The handful of people, with their very young kids who were the only ones excited, sat alongside me, had their eyes fixated on the main performance: Twins hanging from a cloth, a cloth that seemed destined to snap and tear off any second, I, instead, noticed a side-attraction: A circus clown juggling three colourful balls – red, green and blue, his eyes blindfolded; the speed, the consistent motion, it was almost poetic and, for a second, I forgot about the stench that had filled the tent. His act wasn’t funny to the minimal audience, however, till he dropped one, and later, all three balls, completely ruining the juggle and the purpose of the act itself. This brings to light a very important point: It’s not the act and talent of the clown that is funny, it’s the failure.

Nobody bats an eye when there’s a newspaper article about a young boy from a village somewhere in Maharashtra getting a perfect score in SSC/HSC/CET and other competitive exams. It is expected that there’ll always be someone who overcomes the odds: studying without notebooks, or electricity, or both. However, if we, as students from any esteemed college in Mumbai, with 24-hour electricity, dozens of notebooks, textbooks, digests at our disposal and dozens of libraries in the city fail to score more than a neighbour or a friend, we’re instantly on par with the clown who couldn’t juggle. Where have I come up with this comparison, you may ask? There’s no connection whatsoever between students like us and a clown in a circus but there is a connection – a very simple one in fact. We’re all jugglers in a circus! We work hard, attend college, sit for classes and do our work diligently and nobody cares. Even if you have secured a considerable score in every exam up until today, look back and answer truthfully – how many people have sincerely cared? If it wasn’t about a comparison or a benchmark being set for themselves or their kids, no one aside from your family would bother asking about your grade. That’s the ‘no one caring about your success’ part, which probably makes you feel like you’re wearing the clown costume, sure, but you are still wondering where the juggling part is.

Being a student today isn’t easy, not at all. We’re in our early 20s now but we’re still behaving like teenagers, so I don’t have to even tell you how difficult it is for us right now. We’re constantly juggling various parts of our life – we don various masks: a son/daughter, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a sibling, a friend, a student, an employee, a confidant and we’re supposed to make this transition from one role to another seamlessly, without a single trace of the other roles we have stored in our closet. You’re just a kid trying to get started in this world. Does anyone you know really understand the pressures that come with being a student or a fresh employee? No, I’m sure not, instead, “you’re a student. You’re supposed to study” or “You’re working now. Do what everybody else does to survive” is the response from anyone you try to tell otherwise. There it is, I can see it! The slight change in your attitude towards this article – you’re convinced about the lack of interest in society about your academia and, with that, made you realize you’re the clown in a circus. Now, to the best part, why is it funny when you drop the ball – figuratively and literally? It’s clear; it’s because it’s you who did it and not the people laughing at you. We’re all going through the same kind of situations and if there’s someone worse off than me, it means I’m not last and that calls for a celebration. When the clown juggles the balls perfectly, every movement as graceful as that of a ballet dancer and blindfolded, nonetheless, he’s doing something we can’t possibly do; that’s a feeling most people cannot fathom. The moment the clown drops the ball, the audience becomes better than him – one less person to compete with, in this world of constant competition.

Don’t worry, my rainbow-haired, red-nosed, large-shoe wearing friend, you’re not the only clown around. I’m a clown, the person sitting next to you is a clown, and pretty much everyone is or is going to be a clown soon, juggling the various parts of life the best he/she can. All you can do is take off your blindfold, face the crowd, smile and laugh at yourself when the balls are on the floor. And for God’s sake, get those elephants out of this circus – they’re stinking up the place!

To me, writing comes naturally; writing sense is a challenge.

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