2012 Short Story Collab, #1

This project took place in March, in honour of International Women’s Month. It began when I wrote the first 100 words of a story and then sent it to two other women, asking them to pass it along after adding onto the beginning. The only rules to this collaborative project were that each entry should not exceed 100 words and that the story had to cross international border after each writer added her part.
The story only leapt borders a few times, but each time it did it took a new direction.  I’m glad to bring this project to light this week, as the UK is about to embrace National Flash Fiction Day on 16 May. Both Martha Williams and Sarah Hilary, who are co-authors of the story below, are central players in the UK flash fiction day.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to the women who participated in this project. The next story in the series will follow later this week.

* * *

Collaborative 

Michelle Elvy – Martha Williams – Claire King – Sarah Hilary

Speaking of flying. Dreaming, that is. The dreams are never the same of course: sometimes you float among cold choking clouds, other times it’s oily, hot and thick and you can’t tell if it’s liquid or gas suspending you above-ground. Sometimes you’re wrapped in whipped cream (never with strawberries, which you don’t understand because it’s your dream dammit and you love strawberries). Or you float through a watery world, where owls gurgle a greeting through kelp and tall poplars wave prettily while goldfish glup-glup by.

Awake, you peddle to market on Monday, wheels rattling over the kerb, road, cobbles… across the square through a haze of cinnamon, where grizzly old men clutch espressos at small, round tables and schoolchildren chatter through minty breath as they walk past market daffodils.

This morning, for the first time in months, the grey light is pierced by a hint of gold and the cold fails to bite your fingers. For a few minutes you pause by the church and look to the sky. Then you remember the time and lurch ahead, swaying madly from side to side.

When you arrive, breathless, the door’s already open.

In your scatter for the steps you lose your footing and fall forward. Your basket flies from your hands as they reach out to stop the crack of skull on slabs, but before your palms touch down your feet leave the ground. You spin up in a slow tumble, the contents of your basket meeting you on their way down.

For a moment you do not try to right yourself, but embrace the familiar feeling. You smell tea… and bath salts. That’s new. You hear a voice and open your eyes.

I’ve been waiting for you.

Your gymnastics amuse him. He picks you up, sets you straight.

Do you have it?

Yes.

You’re breathless, but that’s good; he’s seeing what he wants to see, a desperate, driven young woman.

He doesn’t know that he’s not the only strange man in your life.

You remember your dream, hot and thick. Engine oil, from the Spitfires. They dropped you from the clouds, their secret weapon. You fix your mind on the old men in the square, the schoolchildren, that hint of gold after grey.

You put out your hand and smile for your enemy to take the bait.

*

Claire King lives in France. Her novel The Night Rainbow will be published February 2013 in English, German and Dutch. She is fiction editor at The View From Here and blogs at www.claire-king.com
Sarah Hilary won the Sense Creative Award in 2010, and the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize in 2008. Her fiction appears in The Fish Anthology, Smokelong Quarterly, and in theCrime Writers’ Association anthology, MO: Crimes of Practice. In 2011, she received an Honourable Mention in the Tom-Gallon Trust Award. In 2012, she launched Flashbang, a crime writing contest in association with CrimeFest. Sarah is currently committing a crime novel. Her agent is Jane Gregory.
Martha Williams writes. You can find her in connection with the 2012 UK Flash Fiction Day here
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11 Responses to 2012 Short Story Collab, #1

  1. Sarah Hilary says:

    Thanks for inviting me to be part of this, Michelle. It was a fascinating project.

  2. Pingback: Claire King | A Collaborative Flash

  3. Claire King says:

    Thanks from me too, Michelle, it’s so interesting seeing where different writers take a story!

  4. ewein2412 says:

    “COLLABORATIVE,” INDEED. heh.

    I did LOVE that. hee. I confess, I hoped it was taking some such PARTICULAR turn from the moment the bicycle appeared. But my radar detection equipment is rather finely tuned in that direction. It’s a super concoction. Such a treat to stumble across unexpectedly on a monday morning!

    I also really love the requirements you’ve imposed on yourselves. well done- I can’t even tell the different hands that put it together, though maybe a closer reading would turn up some clues. And I have a suspicion or two regarding Ms. Hilary!

    • Sarah Hilary says:

      So glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. It took a very different direction, I know, to what was in the first author’s mind when she started the ball rolling. I bet you can guess exactly which 1/4 was mine (and what I’d just finished reading when I wrote it).

  5. m says:

    When I was little, we used to play a game where one person drew a head, then folded the paper so that only the lower neck showed, and passed it to the next person to draw the shoulders. By the time the picture had done a full circle, a man had been drawn, each part by a different one of us — all unable to see what had been drawn before.
    This reminds me of that; reminds me of childhood, old friends, and different minds all muddling together. People pie — great fun — thanks, Michelle.

    • Thanks to you all for your energy and creativity on this project. Sarah, Claire, Martha — it was terrific seeing how you took this story and turned it so tenderly in your careful hands. Stay tuned for more, in a few days…

  6. Pingback: Collaborative story | martha williams

  7. penpusher1 says:

    I though it flowed seamlessly – a thoroughly enjoyable read.

  8. chris says:

    It is indeed a seamless read. I’m a big fan of collaborative writing, and stories like this one are the reason why. Great job, people!

  9. Sarah Hilary says:

    Thanks, penpusher1 and Chris!

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