*All stories best read on nickpetrouauthor.com as “WordPress Reader” omits formatting
PCWC Shorts Part 1
Every so often I will be typing out and posting some of the work I have done whilst at the Peters Cowan Writers Centre (PCWC). Each piece is completely random, different and impromptu.
Writing Prompt: Invent a word: make up your own words in a story or poem that explain one’s emotional state at a party.
I’m cosmoverting, undoubtedly now. Pushed it aside until this very moment — when the one inside oozes out.
So many levels, each assigned to a separate entity. So many levels, colliding in a confined space, catalysed by non-lethal dosages of poison.
How can this be the norm? Imagine it from the outside — an isometric perspective from up there. I look to the sky wanting so desperately to be seeing it from the comfort of my own lawn.
Cosmoverting: some would be quick to label it as abandoning, bailing, bitching out. But the motive is different entirely: I want — not to escape from reality to my made-up world — but to escape from this made-up world to reality.
My neurons latch like tendrils to the sky. I cannot stop it now.
The taxi will be here in ten minutes.
Writing Prompt: Write about an object that you have on you or in your bag. (In my case, it was a small pocket knife.)
I find it funny that I am unsure of this one’s origin. My progenitors escape from this continent far more frequently than even humans my age tend to do.
Every time they go, they buy me one — a knife that is. More often than not, they will find multiple, overwhelming me when their suitcases explode onto the carpet floor of our underutilised formal lounge room.
How many do I have now? Thirty? It has become a collection, a tradition.
To me, these tools are works of art, and each has a different story: “We found this one at a winery in Florence… This one here we got from an old German dude in Munich.”
A knife can be such a permanent configuration of matter. With proper care, it can be passed from father to son indefinitely.
I have used this particular tool to slice the lemons from my gin, to cut the fraying threads of my shirt, to eviscerate the plastics of packaging. And each time I do any of these things I think of them: roaming the cobblestone drives of an antique city, watching the sun rise over snow-capped mountains, drinking red wine in the twists of a back-alley restaurant.
My parents are tangible proof that age is indeed a construct of the mind.
Keep on booking those flights, keep on smothering me with emails and images from your temporary words, keep on bringing me knives.
Writing Prompt: Write about an object that the person to your left had on them or in their bag. (The person to my left, Vicki, had chosen to write about the Agapanthus flower which could be seen through the window.)
When Vicki asked the members of the Peter Cowan Writers Centre what the blue flowered plant outside was called I froze up. Just like I do when anyone asks me what a particular species of flora is: “You studied environmental science, didn’t you? What plant is that?”
Truth is, I think I have forgotten ninety-five percent of the things I had learnt throughout my degree.
I have spent so much time at this place, this very place — the university. So much time striving to find the thing that I will be about. Thought for so long that I would be the guy who can give a scientific name and common name to the greenery in the garden. Probably look the part too.
But the greatest occurrence has occurred… so recently: I have found the thing that I will be about. I will be a writer. I will spill my brain onto the page. I will keep doing so until it becomes the action that sustains me.
What was the name of the blue flowered plant outside? I will pretend that I have forgotten, and then create an entire fictional world to justify making up a name for it.
Writing Prompt: Flash fiction: 100 words or less.
Rodin was weak with dread, trembling with it like a sheet of mountain wind.
He thanked the gods for his iron: the shell containing his fear, shielding his legion from the jelly within. The family crest upon the breastplate was now barely visible — worn with light and friction.
Rodin grasped at his spear with a firmness fleeting. Would he have the intent to wield it lethally?
The enemy brimmed in youth — poised and lean upon the tilt of the hill.
Rodin’s body was preparing for it now — the silence. Outmatched in every aspect, only outcome to be: the souls release.
Writing Prompt: Short Fiction: Exercise in creating and plotting a short story.
Bass, quaking polymer floorboards; brim of a tall Perspex cup filled with blue icy liquid; smoky breath in the nights cold; soft lips, tasting of alcohol; bristle of mustache —— And then a sheet of void, then ringing ears, then blinding light from every conceivable direction.
Jane awoke with her blood-filled skull hanging over the armrest of a synthetic leather couch. For the briefest moment, she was in her apartment — but this place was not her apartment. In fact, she knew not where she was or how she had come to be there. This lack of direction may have hesitated others, but not Jane. She went straight for the sink, taking in desperate gulps of water and a whole bunch of other chemicals with it.
Uneven footsteps through a foreign hallway, brushing of body on wall, waking cracks of bone and a morning roar. The realization froze the young woman, leaving water to stream over her lips and waste into the silver sink: That is not Dan.
Jane was swallowed by guilt, and she digested in its gut for the longest moment.
What had she done? And then she remembered the soft lips, the taste of alcohol, the twined prongs of that awful mustache. What had she done?
Jane eroded while the hallway beast drew near, searching internally for the courage to face it — this thing that had defiled her, thieved her from her most precious Dan. It was behind her now, she could feel its fetid breath upon her.
“Morning, Jane,” it spoke with a human voice.
Oh, it was a human… she knew that…
“You threw up on yourself, a bit on me as well. Nothing happened, you can stop hiding in that sink.”
Nothing happened… nothing happened. Jane took a giant breath, thinking only of her precious Dan.
Then the human man spoke again: “Jane, get your head out of my sink.”
So, she did; she turned to face him. In many ways the man before her reminded her of the rich and loving Dan: deep set blue eyes, tall and slim, dark olive complexion. Oh, but that mustache — rank. What had she been thinking?
“Where am I?”, she asked with all the innocence she could muster — as if she had never been in this circumstance before.
“South of the colonization memorial, about ten minutes on foot. The area is called Kensington, like the place on Earth.”
Earth… Earth… Earth… The word echoed through Jane like the bass from the cold night before.
The guilt she had felt seconds ago was the greatest feeling perceivable compared to this now.
Earth… Earth… Dan…
Today was local date 14/13/0031. Today was the day the colony ship set for return to Earth.
Without a word, Jane charged down the hallway, crashing through the filter-door at its end. She coursed down the streets, dodging hovercars and humans, all the while oblivious to the flaring strands of clothing that failed to cover her. The space-port train left from the memorial — she would make ten minutes three.
Jane boarded the magnetic rail, sitting on the floor with her head between her legs near the luggage compartment door. Sweat flowed through her hair, bringing out the stench of tobacco. She felt like she was the crazy woman you can always expect on public transport — with her tears and bare feet, and reeking of her own bile.
Then Jane noticed she was alone on this metal tube. Not another passenger at all. Why? Where is everyone? —— Blinding light from every conceivable direction.
Dan… Dan… Dan… His face melted into her.
Now the sound from the blast. And then it came over the mountains through the filter-window before her — a sleek, silver rocket carrying her sweet, sleeping Dan away.
Sketch Credit: Sarah Gerber