Writing Workshop – A Second Chapter
For my writing workshop this week, I set the prompt ‘second’, and I thought that today I would share with you an except of the second chapter of a story that I’ve started working on again, after putting it down for a while. There seems to be a fair bit of interest in my writing at the moment which I need to make the most of, so I’m hoping to get this good enough for submission this year, if I can.
I’m not going to tell you as single thing about what it’s about, what came before or what might come after and it’s just a first draft, but I hope you enjoy it.
“I slept then, deep. No memory, even, of finding a seat, only the repetitive lull of the train bending its way through the miles as I was pulled under.
I did not dream. I slept the sleep of something dead with no capacity left to rearrange fractured thoughts into pictures, if that is what dreaming is, I have never been sure. Although, actually, no, I did not feel dead, numb as I was. Perhaps, the sleep I slept was more like that of something brand-new, without yet sensory impressions to give shape to those fleeting cognitive flashes. Yes, it was more like that.
I woke to the feeling of being shaken, and wondered, briefly, confused, if perhaps I had passed out on the station platform after all, and whether everything that had come after it had been the dream, that perhaps I would come round to find myself still sitting there, still with that choice to make. But no: my nose working quicker than my brain, and the smell of upholstery and coffee and the stale, air conditioned air that comes with many shared hours in a train carriage with a few dozen strangers, quickly convinced me otherwise, and I looked up into the oval, white-downed face of the ticket officer as he roused me to state we had reached my destination, and that the train service was terminating here.
Here. I was here. Christ, had a slept that long?
My bones ached, like they had been shaken to the point of breaking, or perhaps squashed together in some tight, restrictive place, and only just unfolding and knitting together for the first time. Maybe both were true. I was trembling as I stood, pulling my bag out from under the seat, stumbling against the edges of the seats in the aisle as I made my way toward the exit as if the train were still moving. The vague concerns of the ticket inspector followed me as I lurched and recovered on my newly purposeful legs. No, no I was fine. I didn’t need to sit down, or for him to call anyone – I vaguely flapped one arm reassuringly as I used the other to steer myself, turning my head to smile, only to trip once more. It occurred to me that he probably thought I was drunk, and that made me laugh, an irrepressibly girlish giggle that burst from my mouth like a dropped bell. I had not heard that sound in a long time, and it seemed so wildly inappropriate in the circumstances that it made my face flush, fingers covering my mouth in an attempt to stuff it back in.
After what felt like an age, I was there, the hungry mouth of the train that had swallowed me just a doorway once again as I stepped down and over the gap to the hard concrete platform, reassuringly stable and firm through my thin pumps. I had a sudden urge to kick them off and feel the rough coldness on my soles, just to convince myself I really was here, but the owl-like ticket officer, his head bobbing up and down in curiosity and mild alarm, was hovering in the doorway. I suspected taking off my shoes might be the final push that made him pick up the walkietalkie at his belt and squawk a call to the police. And I couldn’t have that, god no.
I gave him what I hoped was another confident smile, my teeth and lips seemingly clambering over one another in an over-eager bid to display my sunny togetherness. God, I must have looked insane. But it was too late: look, I was walking! I was walking away, down the long platform, my legs more confident already, the sounds of the Tannoy system and the engines of cooling trains echoing and vibrating in my ears.
I felt my head lift and my back straighten, knots of tension and held emotion falling away from me like an unravelling jumper as I walked. I felt good. I couldn’t believe how good I felt! Was this what adrenaline did? Or shock? Or was this more than chemical courage? Was this simply freedom? Is this what freedom felt like? Fuck it, I didn’t care. I was here. I had done it.
As was my habit, my eyes started to pull upwards as I walked. They always seem to do that, to pull down or up but rarely look straight ahead, as determined as any persistent squint. I often wondered why I did it, and, as far as I could remember, always had. But as my gaze met the thick stripes of molten sunshine stretching from between beams, heavy with motes that hung and shimmered, I remembered that feeling of new worlds above and below me as I walked as a child, worlds that everyone else with their straight-ahead focus seemed to miss: a mass of discarded, plastic wiring heavy with dew under the hawthorn bush on the walk to school, like stars in some tiny microcosm of the universe; the horse-head gutter outlet, high in the dim overhang of my Grandmother’s blue house, dirty water gushing from its open, screaming mouth… oh there was so much light here, so much life.
With my bag heavy on my shoulder, I let myself be pulled into the heaving tide of the station concourse, stumbling to avoid suitcases, and groups of hesitating tourists with anxious tour guides. Shuffling in-bred pigeons hobbled on their stunted, raggedy feet between the ironed legs of men in suits, and waiting teenagers, and an endless stream of beautiful, purposeful people wearing confidence like cheap perfume. The air smelt of burgers and sweat and toilets and coffee, and it was quite possibly the most wonderful thing I had ever laid my eyes on.
Overhead, time hung, suspended in a cubic clock, an upsidedown face with moustached-hands pointing to the ten and two. Its eyeless countenance dripped with bird shit tears as it laughed and turned and clacked its tongue at the shifting mass below it and the insistence of this place to count the hours and minutes, as if they actually meant anything at all. And I stopped and I stood and I laughed too, until people started to stare and I remembered where I was and that I had better keep moving.”
- an extract from Untitled, by Josie George
Now it’s your turn. Show me your writing on the theme of ‘second’.
Leave your name and the URL to your post in the Linky below (the URL should be to your post not just to your blog) – it’ll be open til Sunday night so if you haven’t had chance to respond yet, then you’ve got plenty of time to join in. Don’t forget that anyone can take part! New prompts will be up this time next week, so I hope to see you back soon.