Wonderbook Writing Challenge 1

Isn’t it weird that I want to write and I love to write and some days I wish I could spend my whole day in front of the computer just writing, writing, writing, but at the same exact stupid time I have to force myself to write/finish things? Isn’t that weird? What’s up with that?

My friends Carolyn and Joslyn came to visit me this past week (they left this morning and I’m sad about it). Carolyn brought with her a Christmas present for me! A book called Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer. It’s amazing and I love it. The book is just what it says it is, a guide to creating imaginative fiction, which is exactly the kind of fiction I would like to create.

I started reading the book almost immediately, getting to know the different components and set-ups. Vandermeer includes actual instructions and tips for writing actual fiction alongside drawings, paintings, and all kinds of illustrations to encourage and inspire. Within the book are numerous essays from writers of fiction and also writing challenges!

When I saw that the book had writing challenges I got really excited.

“This is like a class! This is like school!!” I jubilantly cried! I love classes! I love school!

So I’ve started in on the first chapter (Inspiration and the Creative Life) and I’ve happened upon the first writing challenge! The challenge is titled “Using an Absurd Prompt” and the accompanying prompt is this picture:

Image

Immediately upon viewing the picture I thought of an opening scene, a hook, for a little story. That was last week but today I finally got to sit down and start writing it. Which was really fun for the first 600 words but now I don’t want to finish and the only reason I am going to finish is because I wrote this blog post and so now I have to finish.

Remember, it’s supposed to be absurd.

Also, you can expect other such writing prompts here. I’m getting serious about this! Hopefully there’ll be some more from Grayson of The Commonwealth along the way.

One more thing. Brittany from Brittany, Herself posted today about buying a car (congrats!) and being nervous about doing so because her occupation is “Internet.” I’d just like to say that my (new) biggest dream is to one day have my occupation be “Internet” and also “Books” slash “Stay at Home Mom.” A gal can dream, right?

Enough beating around the bush. Here’s the story:

Mr. Smith was always a quiet man, a man who kept to himself and would rather not be bothered. Mr. Smith would wake every morning at precisely 7am. After a visit to the washroom, Mr. Smith put water on for tea, tea he would enjoy while perusing the morning’s paper – national news on weekdays and local news on Mondays. Mr. Smith had always been extraordinarily interested in local news. (The town of Circle Port puts out a weekly paper called the Nautical News, on account of our proximity to and reliance on the sea.) Not that there’s anything interesting that happens in this port town. With a population just shy of 2,000 and water almost all around, there’s just no room for secrets here.

That particular morning, however, the morning of Monday, January 20, there was something in the Nautical News that caught Mr. Smith’s eye.

            LOCAL FISHERMAN MISSING

Mr. Jessup Fisher (52) went out to sea early Friday morning on his routine, daily 5am net check (Fisher fishes fish). As of Saturday evening, Fisher had yet to return. His wife, Sandra, claims (as is confirmed by not only this reporter, but anyone who knows Jessup) that Fisher was not engaged in any “funny business” and as there were no storms this weekend, we can only assume that Fisher ran into trouble on the sea….

Not bothering to finish the story, Mr. Smith finished his tea (without finishing the rest of the paper) and left for work a whole and exact seven minutes earlier than he had ever left for work in his twenty years with The Soots. (The Soots handles all official Circle Port business, especially when it comes to banking and loans.)

Of course the secretary at The Soots, Lilac Tug, failed to notice the difference in Mr. Smith’s arrival time. Lilac Tug would probably fail to notice her own nose if it weren’t attached to her face. She is very absent-minded. I, however, Frank Ignatius Skyline, am very observant and when Mr. Smith entered our shared office a full ten minutes earlier than usual looking more than a little preoccupied, I noticed. (The extra three minutes were gained in Mr. Smith’s commute, which he took at more of a jog than usual.)

Having seen Mr. Smith fly off the handle on more than one occasion when confronted about any abnormal activity of his (once he took his tea at the office instead of at home as usual and when I questioned the change, the man glared at me, drained the tea cup and left the office abruptly, only returning the next day – at 8am, of course), I decided right on the spot not to ask Mr. Smith about his change in habit or about his furrowed brow. Indeed, I decided not to ask Mr. Smith about anything that day, including the particular case we were to be working on that morning, and made up my mind to instead focus all of my time and energy on discovering why Mr. Smith arrived at 7:50am instead of 8:00am on that particular (and fateful, I was soon to discover) morning of Monday, January 20.

After a day of watching Mr. Smith (I assure you, my work suffered greatly) I was left with very few clues. Mr. Smith himself – a man who is generally very professional, mind you – spent the whole day distracted (I’d wager it wasn’t just my work that suffered if you know what I mean). More than once I heard him mumbling to himself. One time he made a phone call that, though I couldn’t hear the exact words that were used, seemed very threatening to me. As if Mr. Smith were doing some threatening, not the other way around, to be clear.

When it was time to cease business for the day – 6:00pm sharp, daily – I decided to take a bold step in following Mr. Smith to see if maybe I could gain any more understanding of his strange behavior. If he were to head straight down Lure Lane, I would know he were heading home and would clear my mind of the whole affair never to bother about Mr. Smith’s habits again. If he veered, however slightly, from the most direct path to his apartment, I would follow him as discretely as possible.

Now, before I let in on what I saw on the evening of Monday, January 20, I must pause to offer the reader some key information. As I have noted, Circleport is a port town (as implied by its name) surrounded almost entirely by water. Besides the men (and woman) working for The Soots, most citizens of Circleport are fishermen by trade and hobby. On Friday evenings all of the men of the town, Soots included, can be found in the local pub, Waveys. Finn “Wavey” Waverman owns the place and cut the fishermen a good deal for their catch. He makes a mean fish sandwich.

Anyway, and more to the point, on a rare Friday night one can hear the fishermen gathered at Waveys talking in hushed, reverent tones. On any ordinary, mundane Friday night the fishermen (and Soots) are a rambunctious bunch and Waveys is full of indistinguishable chatter and music. But on rare occasions, one, such as myself, might stumble into an almost silent Waveys and observe every man in the joint gazing starry-eyed at a storytelling fishermen spinning tales about the Pecielago.

The Pecielago, or “fish bat,” is a mythical creature in whose existence a logical man such as myself would never believe. Even unbelievers can indulge their creative side, though, and so sometimes I listen in on the fishermen’s tales of the mammoth Pecielago and how on still, quiet nights the creature rises from the depths of the sea to consume unsuspecting fishermen.

You see, the Pecielago was born from the spirits of all fished fish in Circleport Port. The spirits of the fish who could not escape the relentless nets of men came together to form a great fish-bat, a fish with wings that would enable the fish to fly up and away out of the sea and escape any fishermen’s nets and also two sharp claws that tipped each wing that would enable the great fish to attack the men who so mercilessly attacked them day after day.

Or so the story goes. Like I said, I’m a logical man who doesn’t buy in to such imaginings.

You might be wondering what the Pecielago has to do with our Mr. Smith, but in order to reveal such information we must return to my telling of the evening of Monday, January 20, when I followed Mr. Smith from The Soots office, when I followed Mr. Smith, not down Lure Lane as I should’ve, but to the left toward Hook Street, which led straight to the harbor.

Lurking along in the shadows, I was careful not to make any unnecessary noise and even more careful not to lose sight of Mr. Smith. By this time I knew there was something strange going on.

What kind of respectable man takes an unexpected route from work to home?

Sadly my questions were not to be answered. Mr. Smith stopped before we reached the harbor, paused just for a moment, and then inched forward quietly toward the water. Most of the fishermen had left for home (taking a direct route, I can assume!) and those that were finishing were at the boats furthest from us. Well, watching from behind a bush, I was expecting Mr. Smith to change course and walk up onto the nearest dock. Imagine my surprise when he did no such thing and continued straight on into the water!

I couldn’t believe what I had seen! There was no longer any sign of Mr. Smith! He just vanished into the sea! I sat crouched in that bush for twenty minutes after Mr. Smith had entered the water and never saw him leave. Naturally I couldn’t tell anybody what I had seen. They would think me mad!

If my surprise were difficult to imagine at my colleague’s descent into the sea, wait until you read about this. The next day, Tuesday, January 21, Mr. Smith arrived at The Soots office at exactly 8:00AM, not a second earlier or later, normal as can be. It was as if the anomalies of the previous day vanished as effortlessly as Mr. Smith vanished into the sea.

Everything was as it should be until lunchtime. Before stepping out for his usual lunchtime cigarette, Mr. Smith, after a moment of silent work, crossed our shared office, placed a single sheet of paper on my desk, and left without saying a word. On the paper was this solitary sentence:

Meet me at Prick’s Rose Garden tonight at midnight to have all of your questions answered.

“Questions?” I asked myself. “What questions? Surely Smith doesn’t know about how I followed him last night. Surely not!” I decided to disregard the message. Mr. Smith decidedly had me mistaken for someone else.

I was set on my decision to ignore this written communication from the mysterious Mr. Smith for five minutes. Then for ten minutes and then for forty. But when Mr. Smith never returned from him lunchtime cigarette, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided I might as well show up to Prick’s at midnight, if only to gain some more information as to what made Mr. Smith act so queerly the day before.

The afternoon passed quickly in a flurry of activity. Nobody mentioned Mr. Smith’s absence and I followed suit by staying mute. When I left The Soots office I took the most direct route home.

After a perfectly pleasant dinner with my family, I bade my wife and children good night, and set out for Prick’s. I decided it would be better to go early and seek out a good hiding spot.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Prick’s to find Mr. Smith already there!

Quickly I ducked behind the nearest rose bush and just as quickly I stifled a groan. I had forgotten about the thorns, you see. Checking my pocketwatch, I found that I had gotten the time wrong. It was only 9PM! And Mr. Smith is normally so punctual. Perhaps he had some private business to take care of before the midnight meeting.

“I can wait,” I assured myself.

Well I didn’t have to wait long. After only five minutes of watching Mr. Smith stand quietly and with minimal movement in the middle of Prick’s Rose Garden, something strange happened. It was as if all wind and noise were removed from the world in the blink of any eye. All was still and I was almost afraid to breathe!

Eyes fixed on Mr. Smith (there was plenty of light provided by the moon, you see) I waited one, two, three, seconds before the moon went out and everything was dark. Frozen in fear I counted to myself. Before I could get to ten the moonlight was back but now Mr. Smith was the one who had vanished.

Slowly I crept out from behind the cover of my rose bush (suffering minimally from the thorns) and made my way as carefully as I could – the circumstances being very nerve-wracking, you see – to where Mr. Smith had been standing. I found the most curious thing! Where Mr. Smith had been less than a moment before, where the very man was standing when the light from the moon went out, was only a pile of ashes, ashes I could only assume had been Mr. Smith.

I reasoned with myself that whatever had happened in that ten seconds of darkness had consumed Mr. Smith and reduced him to these ashes. I had decided to lean down and take advantage of the returned moonlight to investigate the situation further when something made me stop. A noise, a whirring or a whooshing, was coming from the pile of ashes.

Then, suddenly, the previously still (abnormally and suspiciously still, if you recall) night was replaced by a brisk gush of wind that stirred and lifted the powdered dust that was once Mr. Smith. The ashes twirled and spun with the wind, gaining speed. The whirring and whooshing increased until it was almost unbearable. I clamped my hands on my ears, bowed my head, and felt my feet moving almost involuntarily back toward the safe haven of a rose bush or my home.

Then, everything stopped as quickly as it begun. I lowered my hands and lifted my head just in time to witness the previously airborne ashes unceremoniously falling to the ground.

Allowing my curiosity to get the best of me, I stepped forward – again slowly and quietly – in order to discover either the source of or the reason for the sudden whooshing wind. Once again I was intrigued!

After three steps I was stopped in my tracks. Something within the ashes was moving! I squatted down for a closer look and noted that yes, the ashes of Mr. Smith, scattered by the mysterious wind, were coming back together again. Only they weren’t coming back together to form a mere pile as before. No, Mr. Smith’s ashes were tip-toeing toward each other (or would have been, if ash had toes on which to tip) to form… but it couldn’t be.

Out of the rose garden where Mr. Smith became almost nothing, out of his very ashes, a great Pecielago rose, wings stretched wide.

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