Going through a phase

May 6, 2014

As the title suggests I’m going through a phase. This, it would seem, would be my Neil Gaiman phase. That’s what happens when every time you get in your car Neil reads a short story to you… what happens is that loads of little vignettes and flash fiction and short stories that have been gathering dust for sometime in the back of your mind find an escape route. They disguise themselves as stories that I think Neil might have written (if the idea had been his and not mine) and when I’m trying to think of something else to write, they pounce at the lull and write themselves.

So, I wrote a 75-worder (different from the 75-worder that prompted me to write the last blog, but pretty much in keeping with the style) and the story was just too big. I mean it went into 75-words, but only in the same way that a family of four might try and pack a week’s worth of holiday clothes into a bag meant for carry on luggage. It’s in, but you’re fairly certain that the slightest nudge and it’ll explode filling the cabin with your smalls and odd socks.

This 75-worder did pretty much the same thing. While trying to make it fit better into the Paragraph Planet format, the zipper of my metaphorical hand luggage came undone and the story made a break for it. I tried to convince myself that I could hold it in a drabble of 100 words instead, but the story was having none of it and pretty soon I was picking phrases out of the hair of the woman four rows down and unravelling descriptions from the overhead TVs.

So I gave up, I wrote it as a proper story since it clearly wasn’t going to let me write anything else until I did.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it once I’d written it, I mean it was done, it was out of my system, but in one last gasp of defiance it demanded an audience. So I posted it on my deviantArt page, it sat there for a few hours and I noticed a that it had been read a few times and it had got a couple of nice comments and well, given how little traffic I get on my page that wasn’t too shabby. So, I’ve tweaked it a little and I’ve decided to post it here too – this is under the vague assumption that it might be seen by more people here…

So, without further ado, may I present Green Eyes:

Green Eyes

The increasingly heated discussion with my wife is interrupted by a crash from upstairs. I stomp up the staircase so that my daughter knows of my displeasure in advance. I find her huddled in the corner of her bed, shaking. I ignore her distracting pretence at fear and I demand to know what she has done. At first she says and does nothing and I feel my anger rise at her defiance. Then slowly she points across the room into a darkness that should not be there and at a pair of luminous green eyes deep within.

The eyes do not flicker with fire, they do not blink, they are not windows into hell, they simply are.

My daughter final speaks. “He is the Tear Monster,” she tells me in faltering tones. “He comes when I have been crying. He waits until I am not quite asleep, when I cannot move and he comes to my side and licks my face and takes away the tears. He likes the taste of my sad tears most he says. He likes it when you and mummy fight. I cry a lot when you and mummy fight.”

I am stung by her words, delivered with such honesty.

I ask her if she would like to sleep in our bed tonight, something I had told her she was too old to do last year. She does not reply with words but holds out her arms and I scoop her up and hold her close as I carry her to my bedroom and lay her gently on my bed, although she is understandably reluctant to let go.

I am whispering her a story filled with princesses and unicorns as she finally, but fitfully, drifts off to sleep and my wife enters quietly, curious, it would seem, to know where I have gone.

When my daughter, our daughter, is definitely asleep I rise carefully from the bed, turn and wrap my arms around my wife and hold her close. She is stiff with the anger of the argument, but I persevere and eventually I feel the tension dissipate and she reciprocates my embrace.

When we finally, mutually, break apart, I look at her and whisper, “No more fighting.”

Her expression tells me she does not believe me, but she nods and we undress quietly and climb carefully into bed, our daughter a snuggly, wriggly wedge between us.

I dream of green eyes glowing in the dark, but they are not so intense and indeed, as I watch, they flicker and go out, leaving a purple after image in my mind’s eye.

In the morning, I rise with the first buzz of the alarm. My girls stir but do not immediately open their eyes. Later, I bring a coffee for my wife and a glass of warm milk for our daughter. I can see that our daughter is watching, studying us carefully as she sips on her drink. I do not carry on where I left off the night before. If my wife is surprised, she does not say so. Perhaps she is just grateful for the respite.

Later still, after my wife has left to take our daughter to school and before I genuinely begin work on my book, the rapidly approaching deadline, source of the current discord, I visit my daughter’s bedroom. I stand in front of where I thought the eyes had been the night before and I whisper into the silence, “There will be no more tears for you.”


Until next time…

John Hoggard

John Hoggard

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Dream logic

May 2, 2014

I have been listening to Neil Gaiman reading the unabridged audio edition of Fragile Things. It is as glorious as you can imagine. He is the best of company on my journey to and from work and I am happy to let him do all the talking.

In the Introduction he says dream logic is not story logic, easily and comfortably putting into words something I am acutely aware of but have often tried to prove to be untrue (tried and failed of course).

However, as many of you may know, I have found I can sneak up on these dreams, ensnare them, at least for a moment, in the form of a 75-worder. For a 75-worder in itself, does not necessarily have to follow story logic given the scarcity of content and the need for the utmost clarity.

So, this morning, having woke from the limited sleep I got, filled to brimming with the most wondrously complex tale, I realised immediately that it would be lost to me in minutes, so I captured the essence of it in a 75-worder. It is, unusually, already pushing against this constraint and I have most a drabble written based on this seed. I am hoping that this, with some careful nurturing, will grow into an entry for the Fantastic Books Publishing comp that WW member Pam has already entered (and I was included in the 2012 edition, when FBP published, Fusion).

After I had written it, another 75-worder piled in behind it, capturing how the previous process actually felt like (although, for purely dramatic effect, I effectively lie in the final sentence…). I will share that second 75-worder with you now:

On waking my mind is filled with the most glorious of tales. I quickly throw open my laptop. The moment the screen brightens I begin to type. However, illuminated thus, the tale dashes this way and that, like a cockroach scurrying into the shadows, trying not to be seen. Eventually it hides beneath the bookcase in my mind, the one filled with other tales still to be told and I know already it’s lost forever.

Thank-you for your time and if I finish the expanded story of my dream I shall let you know.

John Hoggard

John Hoggard

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