The Deadline

WRITING EXERCISE #2

  • Your story must include, word for word, ALL of the following SIX descriptions (describing whatever you want):
    • SHINY, SILVER
    • COLD AND GREASY
    • SCRATCHED AND WEATHER-WORN
    • SWEET AND PUNGENT
    • INK-STAINED
    • SHRILL, PIERCING
  • One of these six descriptions MUST appear in the first sentence of your story. (The rest, wherever you like.)

The Author closed his manuscript, running ink-stained fingers over the scratched and weather-worn leather sleeve. The pages came together with a slight huffing sound, a sighed communion of secrets. The Author painfully straightened his hunched shoulders, feeling the bones crack as they shifted into an unfamiliar position. The Author’s ageing dog fixed him with a baleful stare as he stood and edged around the enormous grandfather clock that was currently taking up most of his small one-bedroom house. “Don’t give me that look, Scribe” he grumbled, as he squeezed himself into the kitchen and started to make himself a peanut butter and jam sandwich. “Sustenance is required if I’m to save the world”. Scribe, unimpressed, turned his stare to the uncurtained window which rose over the Author’s desk.

Outside, the world was in turmoil. Clouds boiled an angry red in the sky, accompanied by ominous snarls of thunder and illuminated with spider veins of quicksilver lightning. People were running about haphazardly in the streets, breaking shop windows and looting with abandon and without purpose. Others stood, mouths open, taking photographs on their phones and uploading them onto social media #endoftheworld (currently trending). Yet others were attempting to make every moment count: cradling babies, hugging grandmothers, falling into vats of previously off-limits ice cream, feverishly copulating, or whatever else people who had only minutes to live, did. Every now and then, police and ambulance sirens emitted shrill, piercing whines and it was to this soundtrack that the Author resumed his seat and re-opened his manuscript.

The wooden floors of his house groaned under the weight of their unexpected guest. The enormous clock had appeared out of the blue, in tandem with all hell breaking loose outside. Just another augury of the end of the world, albeit one seemingly just for the Author alone. The oddest thing about the clock apart from its presence in the first place was that it was going backwards. The time on its clock face was utterly inaccurate – it had started with both hands on 12 (even though it was 9 am on Sunday morning) and since then the hands had steadily moved backwards. The clock’s shiny, silver pendulum swung ponderously to and fro and boomed out chimes counting down the hours. The Author wouldn’t have had any idea how much time he had unless someone hadn’t helpfully stuck a post-it note on the pendulum with the number “72” written on it in thick black marker. He’d taken that to assume he had 72 hours to… do something. And he had decided that thing was to finish his book, because it was the one thing the Author had failed to do in his long and literary life. A bestseller multiple times over, he had retired in a funk of gloom because he knew that he had one final book inside of him, but, like a stubborn tooth, it refused to budge. Instead of pouring out onto the page like all his other books had, this one had stayed resolutely inside of him, clogging him up like a blocked drain. Continue reading The Deadline

May 28, 2011

14,000 things to be happy about

Settling down here hasn’t been easy – and that comes from someone who wasn’t expecting a fairytale to begin with. Still, I have to say I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be. A lot of the time it was like I was watching myself from a distance, with a growing sense of alarm as I floundered about in this new life, but unable to do anything to help myself out.

The first month was great: after months and months of waiting, I was finally here in Sydney. As with all new chapters, I felt awash with inspiration and hope, reveling in a fresh sense of freedom without all its worrying limitations. My parents were taking care of me until I got back on my feet, I had a great new apartment and after three long years, I was finally spending more time with my sisters. Summer was giving the weather its best shot before its imminent departure, so I spent many a morning rambling around either my neighbourhood or my sister’s in shorts and a tank top to stave off the heat (which actually reminded me a lot of home save for the lack of feeling like I’d be run out of town for wearing shorts anywhere other than the confines of my house or some remote beach). Life was good.

But soon, Summer waned, taking with it the warm security of the phrase “…but I just got here”. There was nothing for it but to start looking for work. And anyone who has been in my position (and by this I mean looking for that first job out of Sri Lanka) will sympathize because it is the single most demoralizing experience – ever. It is abominably cruel that we are meant to remain sprightly and brimming with self-esteem and worth when we’re met with rejection at every corner. So – being hideous at selling myself at the best of times – I had a truly ghastly time of it. I went from being headhunted in Sri Lanka to being at the bottom of the food-chain in Big Bad Corporate Sydney. Suddenly I felt like my experience amounted to nothing, that I was horribly unqualified and generally rubbish at everything. Applications got harder and harder to write, I started sending my CV out to places I wouldn’t have dreamed of applying to a month ago, and all the while alarm bells were going off in my head, accompanied by a voice that was telling me with brutal conviction that I was never going to find a job and would have to return to Sri Lanka with my tail between my legs come a month or two. Continue reading May 28, 2011

Lift-off; touch-down.

Airplane_by_MiekoMiley

The plane purred into the humid early morning air, as if it was rousing itself in preparation for the journey ahead. Strapped not-so-comfortably into my seat, I was doing exactly the opposite. Literally minutes away from lift-off, I was plagued by a sudden and unfamiliar urge to run back the way I came.

I plugged in my iPod, leant back in my seat and closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, we were taking off. Glancing out of the window, my throat constricted as I watched the ground rush away from me. I hadn’t expected to miss home barely before I’d left it. I blinked hurriedly but a couple of embarrassing tears slipped out before I could stop them. If I hadn’t been feeling so sad, I could laughed at the irony. I am the ultimate escapist – always wanting to run away, always dreaming about new beginnings. But there I was, at the brink of changing the direction of my life – literally – and all I could think about was what I was leaving behind.

The journey passed in a haze of literal and metaphorical cold feet. I don’t remember much of it now, save for a brief chat with the passenger sitting next to me; an elderly Australian man who allowed me to indulge myself by telling him all about what was now essentially my old home, old job and old life. In turn, he told me about his and we swapped snippets of each other’s lives in between the odd movie, or whenever we paused our separate viewings to eat a meal.

All I really remember, though, is being consumed by thoughts of home. My parents, my friends, my job. The small, sometimes chaotic, but still precious little world I had built for myself in the three years I had lived there as an adult.

The announcement of our descent towards the Sydney airport roused me from sleep. Half submerged under my blanket, I attempted to drag my thoughts to the present as the plane turned its nose to land. My stomach lurched, half from the elevator-like sensation of our descent; half from something else altogether. I got my belongings together, clutching my bag to me protectively, feeling suddenly rather small and alone. The plane landed, shuddering on the runway, gaining a rush of speed before it slowed down to a mellow amble. As its slow motion faded into stillness, I held my breath and glanced up. The yellow light of the seatbelt sign blinked off.

I had arrived.

The stars have it… or do they?

Marry Me Young, by PlayPretend

There’s just something about storybook fortune-tellers, isn’t there? Whether they are men or women, young or old; whether they read stars, tarot cards, palms or crystal balls, they all seem ageless somehow; and beautiful, and wise.

The idea of being able to read signs off of people and nature and somehow tap into the grand design has an irresistible pull for me. One can’t help but think that these people must have something within them that is somehow more intuitive and more powerful, even, than the rest of us. They are privy to a kind of knowledge that seems to us impossible to fathom, let alone to attain.

They – these mystical gypsies, fortune-tellers, astrologers and shamans – hear tunes we are deaf to, understand languages we cannot read and feel rhythms to which we are numb. It is as if we go through our lives with blocked ears, rhinoceros skin and a limited understanding of pretty much everything, while they are somehow born with the gift of being completely open to what the universe has to tell them. Are they magic? Are they the warlocks and witches of our time?

These individuals and their x-ray vision into our pasts and futures have always intrigued me. In fiction, they are the characters that attract me the most, even though they may not be the heroes or heroines of the stories I read. It is for this reason that this blog is modeled on the spirit of the Gypsy – carefree and unafraid, mystical and wise, dancing to a tune that only she can hear and enjoy.

Astrology is not exactly fortune telling I know, and many even consider it to be a science of sorts – but I feel that the two are somewhat related. And as with fortune telling, the ‘concept’ of astrology is a strongly attractive one. The idea that the sky and the stars can whisper the secrets of Earth and its people to a chosen few is breathtaking, to say the least.

That being said, my encounter with an astrologer here in Colombo was far less romantic. He looked to be about a thousand years old, more stoned than wise and he talked so much, mystery never even had a chance. Continue reading The stars have it… or do they?

New Year; Start; Life.

By bekahx3

2011, folks.

8 days in, my year feels wide open. I am unemployed and on the verge of a huge move out of the country – perhaps for good – and right now, it feels like my life could go in just about any direction. It’s an exhilarating feeling but one that’s laced with its share of anxiety as well.

Where will this year take me? I wonder several times each day as I count down to my departure date. I play out different scenarios in my head – jobs, travel, relationships – fantasies, really, but it’s fun to daydream about when I find a spare minute. Mostly because I’m at a point in time where I feel that literally anything could happen and I’ve never felt that more keenly than now. Before I’ve always been able to map out the next few months – if not years – of my life. First I had university, then I had a job. But now…?

Sure, the blanks leave room for the usual fears. Will I get a job? A good job? One that I will love? Will I make it all work? But right now everything feels far too shiny and new to be that scary. It’s funny how new years always have that effect on me. I did not feel at all Christmassy this year, but when my clock switched from 11.59 pm Dec 31 2010 to 12.00 am Jan 1 2011, I felt that old-new thrill once again. What a feeling!  The world was brand new again, and so was I.  Continue reading New Year; Start; Life.

Remembering to Remember

I’m listening to music that is all levels of bad. For one thing, it’s Australian. For another, it’s from the (very) early 90s. AND it’s a girl band. Singing pop.

But I’m honestly loving it. The music reminds me of that incredibly pure time in my life – when I was living in Sydney with my mother and two sisters. I say pure because I don’t have to filter it of upsets or crises – minor or major – to really enjoy the memories. I just remember being… happy. No ‘buts’. Just happy.

This was about 20 years ago, and as worrying as it is to be able to say that about any point in my life, I remember it all so well. I see the memories like old polaroids – over exposed, with a fading sort of hyper colour, but still retaining the simple pleasure of the images they’ve captured. Polaroids should never go out of style. But I digress.

I remember the smell of a sunny weekend morning, walking to the shops holding my mother’s hand. We’d buy candy at the newsagents. My sisters and I would stare longingly at Tilly’s, the art shop, hankering after the glitter and coloured pens. If we were good we’d get VHS videos at the rental store – one I remember in particular: ‘The God’s Must Be Crazy’.

I remember planting that bottle brush tree outside our house with my mum. She taught me how to pat the soil around it and how to water it every now and then – although it was usually her watering and me playing skip with the hose. I remember how it grew over the years. Now, 20 years later, it is a massive tree, bursting with fluffy red flowers.

I remember the corner-shop just up the road from my place. My mum would send me there to get danish pastries and baklavas when we felt like indulging. Sam, the owner, who I think was Lebanese or something, used to slip an extra danish in the bag for me and give me a quick hug before letting me trip on back home. That was before the weight-related insecurities, when I was too young to know what dieting and carbs and calories even meant. Every sweet that touched my lips was savored without an ounce of guilt mixed in with the ingredients. Ah, heaven. Continue reading Remembering to Remember

Thoughts: Getting lost in Beijing, China.

Thursday, 27 May 2010
11.07 pm, Beijing


I’ve got House on in the background. It’s hilarious, true, but I’ve never warmed to the show. Then again, give me the DVDs and some free time, I’ll probably be hooked on it in no time.

It’s just past 11 pm and I’m in Beijing, wondering what on earth to do with my restlessness and insomnia. I’m in a hotel – I love hotels, especially when everything’s paid for and I have unlimited internet. Still, I’m getting slightly stir crazy. I spent most of today indoors because it was rainy and gloomy. The few times I did pop out, it drizzled all over me, which I hate.

This city is confusing. I kind of love it. I kind of hate it. I love it because it’s new and for that reason, exciting, fun to explore and observe. I hate it because even though I’ve been here long enough to feel familiar with my little part of it, I still haven’t really warmed to it. I feel sort of like a comfortable alien. Funnily, that’s what they call foreigners on the arrival card: “Aliens”. As in, “Aliens must keep their passports with them at all times”.

House is acting gay. Funny. Damn, I think I’m liking it.

Beijing is vast. It really is. Everything about it is huge… Well. Except the people. But even they are not as small statured as I thought they would be. It is as if they are trying to catch up with their environment. You travel the city on massive wide open roads that are pock marked with fancy cars and lined with monumental buildings. Alleyways hide smaller shops and ugly apartment blocks, but on the main roads, there are only these immense, impressive structures. Some of them are post-modernistic masterpieces; yet others look British and colonial; and yet others are just big. Continue reading Thoughts: Getting lost in Beijing, China.

Waiting to fly.

Tumblr

It’s only 9 am and I’ve come close to crying more times than I can count. This stress reminds me of heartbreak simply because it’s making me want to crack under the pressure of something huge; something I feel I can’t get through. It’s only a day though. A moment, really. And moments pass. I thought heartbreak would never pass – but it did, and if I got through that, I can get through a few hours of hard work, surely.

And then I’ll be on a plane. I love flying. I’m afraid of heights but when I’m on a plane, that height is unfathomable to me so I’m not frightened of it. Instead, I’m eternally fascinated: I love the grumbling rush of the plane as it ploughs down the runway, I find the lift-off always takes me by surprise – it always happens sooner than I expect – and I love that feeling of suddenly being weightless and airborne. I never tire of seeing the earth shrink by degrees, and watching cars and humans rush around their day like tiny lego people in a child’s make-believe world. Then, even that disappears under layers and layers of cloud. Those clouds. I wish so much that I could play in them. Continue reading Waiting to fly.

Packing.

Vintage Luggage Parmiters Antiques Southsea, by Geishaboy

I’ve been dawdling over my packing the last few days. Knowing it has to be done but loitering over it anyway – indecisively putting clothes in and taking them out again; making patterns on my bed with lipsticks and blush brushes.

I like packing. I hate order in life but like finding order in little things. A well-packed suitcase is a thing of wonder. Pressed and ironed clothes make geometric designs in the case, all the while maintaining a smooth, flat surface. Then comes that tricky layer in the middle where the bulky, shapeless items go: shoes, handbags, that perfume he gave me, the cream I just bought, still in it’s box. I stuff under wear and scarves to fill in the cracks. And perhaps the most trickiest to pack: bras. I wish I was a small-breasted girl who didn’t need them, but alas, I am not and I do.

Yes, I like packing – but it stresses me out. I don’t stress easy but this always gets me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because packing is kind of like predicting the future – or at least taking a stab at it. You pack according to what you think you’ll be doing. But no one really knows, do they? I have a rough idea – I’ll be seeing my sisters, my friends, my aunt in her house by the beach. But what about those delicious unknowns in between? How to plan for those? How to pack for those? Continue reading Packing.

Gypsy says Merry Christmas


Christmas, by 6Artificial6

Written a few days ago…


It’s that time of year again. Christmas. I can hardly believe it – it can’t possibly have been a year since the last, when I was fighting to stave off the blues and appreciate the reds, greens and golds of the season instead.

I always feel like I’m in a bit of a time-warp around this time of year but this time the feeling’s increased a hundred fold. In a way I feel the year has sped by, yanking me with it, leaving my head a-whirl as I try and look back to see where it’s all gone. But it also feels like last year’s crazy turmoil happened a hundred years ago – another life; another me. Continue reading Gypsy says Merry Christmas