Friday 15 February 2013

#FridayFlash - Rainy Day

Celine sits on the station platform, waiting for her train to York. She fiddles with her hair and taps an irregular rhythm with her feet. The announcements board says the train is on time but it cannot come soon enough for Celine. Her Boyfriend promised her a day out in York, a city she has not visited in years, and she has not seen him in almost a month.

Her phone jangles in her pocket and she fishes it out, pulling free an assortment of tissues and old bus tickets as she does so. She sits among the detritus of her everyday life and opens a text from the Boyfriend.

"Hi C, sorry 2 do this, have been thinkin a lot lately & i don't think this is workin 4 either of us. Probs best u don't come 2 york".

Celine stares at the screen. Moments crawl by before her fingers shake themselves free of their stupor.

"But I'm already waiting for the train." She presses send.

"Sorry C. Really am. Just don't think we're rite 4 each other. Hope to stay friends, ur a gr8 girl."

Celine peers at the phone through a film of salt water. Her train pulls into the station but she doesn't see it. She wipes away the tears and re-reads the texts, hoping she made a mistake, or that he was joking. She starts to type four or five different replies, each time deleting the message in case another comes in explaining it all.

A station guard comes over after half an hour. He asks her if she needs help, and leads her out of the station. He looks at her kindly, like a grandfather indulging a child with a scabby knee. It only occurs to her later that she is probably not the first dumpee he has encountered at work. He even buys her a cup of coffee after a hatchet-faced woman in the station office refuses to refund her now-useless train ticket.

Her friends rally around, and try to take her mind off it. They do a reasonable job, and after a few months, Celine deletes the texts from her phone. She deletes all of his texts, both good and bad. She cannot stand to be reminded of the wonderful things he said before he became so cruel. She gets a new haircut and uploads the photo to Facebook. The Now-Ex-Boyfriend 'likes' it almost immediately, but she un-friends him as quickly, and clears out her cache of photographs. He ceases to exist in her life, both online and off. A nasty streak, buried deep within Celine, hopes that she has erased him from existence altogether. She never hears from him again - it could be true.

Two days later, Celine takes all of the feelings she ever had about him and packs them into a cardboard box. She writes 'Rainy Day' on the front in black marker, and stores it at the back of a closet. She doesn't know when, or if, she'll ever need them again. She pushes other boxes, containing clothes or books, in front of them, and vows to get on with her life.

It doesn't take long for the box to start rattling. Something inside it wants to break out.

Monday 11 February 2013

NaNoReMo update

At the end of January, I announced that I'd be reading Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto for NaNoReMo. I'd chosen it due to its privileged position within the canon of Gothic literature, and because many of its themes and motifs appear in later novels, and by extension, within the gothic mode of filmmaking.

It's not a long book - my copy is only 115 pages long - and I can only thank my lucky stars for that. I'm already about a third of the way through but it has not been a pleasure to get even that far. I know that storytelling has changed an awful lot in the 249 years since it was published but the novel feels more like a documentary than a work of fiction. Walpole almost exclusively 'tells' the story, rigorously ignoring any opportunities to 'show' what's going on, and the characters are almost entirely devoid of any depth.

In the story so far, the Prince of Otranto, a fairly odious and one-dimensional man named Manfred, has been anticipating the forthcoming wedding of his son, Conrad, to a princess named Isabella. Manfred is desperate to continue the family line to avoid a fatal prophecy, but before the marriage can take place, a giant helmet falls from the sky (yeah...what?!) and crushes Conrad. Manfred then decides to divorce his wife, Hippolita (a simpering woman continually described as being a paragon of virtue, who is so weak and pathetic you just want to slap her) in order to marry Isabella himself and thus produce more heirs. Isabella is having none of it, and escapes to a nearby convent through a rather convenient subterranean passage. All of this takes place within chapter one, and it's difficult to care what's going on when so much content is crammed into the story before you even know who anyone is.

It takes a lot for me to abandon a book, and I'd quite happily set this aside if a) it wasn't such a seminal text, meaning I feel like I have to read it, and b) it wasn't so short. I'm pretty sure I can whizz through the rest of it before the end of the month, and if I do...well I'll be switching to Edgar Allen Poe instead...