Right, so, the other day I decided to test out Scrivener, which has been lying around untouched for some time.
Following the success of Ommwriter’s fullscreen writing process (which broke my drought but not in the way I’d have liked) I used the same function on Scrivener. This took place at around 9pm. The next three and a half hours were a very surreal blur. Just for a little background information on this — normally, I write short stories, it’s what I love best, probably because they tend to finish quickly and that gives me a sense of accomplishment. When I began, and for a long time afterward, I would write and finish short stories in the one sitting. Always.
I don’t know when that trend was broken – not too long ago, I imagine, a matter of some months, no more – but my writing has suffered ever since. Mostly, it’s a practical decision: stories morph too often and too rapidly in my head, along with the style in which they’re written, to sustain any kind of break in continuity. I’ll end up with a mismatched story full of all kinds of holes. Mind you, that’s sometimes the case anyway. So, for the first few months of this year I worked as an assistant for a disabled student at my university, in a Photography class. Ever since I began, a story has been bubbling away in my head, one involving the intricate process of film development. But I never had the time to really sit down and hash it out.
Fast forward a few months and I haven’t written anything (short story wise) in a long time. Now, when I started to write this story, I had no plan (I frequently don’t) which isn’t unusual, but I also didn’t even have a concept (I normally do), I was writing purely on a line-by-line basis. Somewhere along the way, the idea I had a few months ago, morphed into this piece. Problem is, I’m not sure it should have. It didn’t achieve what I wanted it to with photography, had none of the atmosphere I anticipated and…I really don’t know what to make of it. Partly, for me, that’s because at some point it became more of an experiment with style and perspective than anything else. In any case, even if I decide to scrap it, I can still use it as a blueprint (which is sort of how it feels anyway) for something more concrete and in-depth.
I thought I’d put it up and see if I could get a reaction or two, da? So without further ado, here it is:
The sky is stark.
Against it, the black skeletons of trees loom.
That’s not right. Zoom out. There are two large windows, cream edges. The white sky is startling. Its blankness is unsettling, an unfinished canvas.
Blue struggles through, in patches.
It is reflected in the pool below. The patio hugs the side of it, in turn enfolded by an old, grey fence, gapped like worn teeth. Beyond, in diluted greens and brown, weeds and shrubbery cover the broken ground.
Darkness. The memory of trees lingers, but it is not enough to impress upon the black. There are no stars. Light pours down over the bed, a single warm yellow bulb in a too large room.
The camera is huge and heavy.
The first few inches of the windows are obscured by the rolled up blinds. The cord slithers down the side, entwined around a hook midway. Around the cream edges is the set frame, a fine aquamarine.
Night presses against the glass.
Twilight beckons, a deepening blue-black.
The trees emerge, coy at first, but growing in number. Thin limbs, bushy fingers bunched on the edges. Each curled fist wavers above, casting a different fantastic shape, outstretched wings here, lone rabbit there. They stand too closely together for anything else to be discerned. Relief blurs the vision.
How long will they last?
Tan hands cramp around the camera.
Its visage is scarred and grim, knobs and bits sticking out. Its eye is glossy. Don’t look at it for too long. Far better to turn its bleak gaze elsewhere. To the window and the charger dangling on the ledge, slim black wire limp.
The sky is a sea, off white.
It has never been the same twice.
Empty clicks resound.
Shoulders sag, breath rattles loose. Weariness claws at tired muscles. Morning has been replaced by the sparkle of afternoon sunshine. The dark room waits, down the hall. Don’t look at the pictures, just the door. Indented with four rectangles, two long, two short, and a gold handle.
The room beyond is velvet shadow.
It’s another world, this oblivion of colour, of definition. It’s bliss. Unpack the film, quickly spool it onto the reel. The plastic texture scrapes against skin, sharp sensation in weightless space. Pungent chemical smells swirl, dizzying. The tank is loaded, film protected. The safe light flickers into life, benches illuminated beneath the rose tints.
Pristine skies glare down on sickly trees.
It’s a haunting question. The proofs came out as they always do, blank. In every way that matters; the featureless dome above remains, the pool glitters, the windows don’t change. Over the fence, there is nothing.
The prints are the same. Lilac lights plays over the developer in the tray, but the floating prints defiantly stay empty. Is this relief or hatred that trembles inside?
Notice the twin hooks on the aqua frame, one to either side.
A thick wood pole stretches above the window, just beneath the ceiling. Dusty gauze lies between the glass and reality. Angle to the side; glimpse the side of the house next door.
Do they see? Can anyone see?
It sweeps over all, obscuring day, shading in the open spaces. It is as it ever was. Darkness blooms. The wait begins, to see if the grove survives the night. It’s easy to get lost in the details, in the watch. To lose sight. And so it is that the light is almost missed, the twinkle nearly forgotten.
There is a star, an impossible point of illumination in an unchanging landscape. Fingers snap with the clicking, twitching with feverish speed.
The window gleams.
Reflected in its emptiness, the door is open. The walls outside are covered inch to inch in pictures. Anna. Mum. Dad. Out of reach.
It occurs slowly.
First, the captured smile, a one-in-a-million shot. The number increases. Realisation gradually dawns – that smile will never again cross that face, in that light, with that lipstick. It is gone, forever. There are other expressions, a countless number of crossovers, frowns, limp smiles; ever more wrinkles, laugh lines, an occasional pimple.
Eventually, idiosyncrasy is lost. Defining characteristics are no more.
Everyone is gone.
Downstairs, there is one unmarked wall. It seems so at first; it is the project, the mirror to reality outside, all printed proofs side by side, shining with a polished finish. Perhaps something will develop there, organically. Perhaps something will change.
Hours go by, just sitting and watching.
Time becomes meaningless.
In the depthless dark, urgency jars.
Impatient fingers fiddle with the reel, something snaps —suck in a harsh breath of pain. Warmth sluices over skin. Just ignore it, keep going. Lock it into the tank, flick on the safe light. Blood trails down the side of the black tank, a scarlet streak that winds around its side as the tank is agitated, shaken from side to side, developer sloshing inside.
What is happening inside? It trembles and gurgles and rushes about, a birth in its infancy.
Nothing feels right anymore.
Like a sickness is raging within. The window is spinning, the light is gone, the world returned to its usual dormancy. The prints were black. Bile rises but is squashed with a bitter swallow.
Nothing is right here.
It is cold, shockingly so. The edges are blurry with mist. Morning arrives in its normal panoply of white, an all-encompassing blanket of cloud. The camera is light as air, no time to wonder why, it rushes up once more to try and steal reality. Figures appear. The trees, or are they even that, these black pillars that hold up the sky? Perhaps they are the shadows of great men, cast from a distance across the flat white plane.
It’s hard to tell now — Focus.
There is something new, something small. Zoom in. What was that? It was fleeting but it was there…wasn’t it?
The wall glows.
Cold permeates. I stand before it, listening to the rustling of leaves.
Above, the sky is stark.