It’s been a long time since I started a completely new piece of writing; at the moment I’m aiming for 50,000 words – and that maybe all I write, but who knows, I don’t, where this story might lead.
When I write I usually have some particular idea which I work my characters round – a mystery they are trying to solve, a puzzle they are trying to work out, and I usually have the idea of the central character, a bereaved person, someone who is turning the tables on their unknown stalker, someone with a close friendship their partner is suspicious of… But this time…. the story is unravelling as I write… maybe unravelling isn’t the right word as it suggests falling apart, where as I mean unfolding, revealing…
A lone woman… her name not revealed until the second chapter – living in mysterious circumstances in a small what we used to call bed-sit now apparently also called a microapartment or microflat, reflecting on her past and guiding her life by a self-made set of runes…
I’m mystified and intrigued; I hope if it ever gets further than my 50,00 words for the National Novel Writing Month challenge then these puzzles will be satisfactorily resolved!
Here is an except when Milla (I found her name) is thinking back to her early life in an anonymous city:
She began to read what she had written; she had started with her memories of the city shrouded in fog so long ago, trying to recall the smell of it, the almost taste of it, the blanket silence it had shrouded the world with. It was exciting somehow to be so anonymous, to be so silent. She hadn’t felt afraid, not even when later that day when she had come home on another creeping bus and somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up lost in a maze of streets. She hadn’t lived in the city for very long and didn’t know her neighbourhood very well.
She wondered where her flat-mate was… flat, it was called a flat but really it wasn’t that, just an attic bedsit at the top of the old house. A single room with two beds one on either side of a manky carpet, a table and two chairs in the space where the attic window jutted out of the roof… There must have been a cupboard or wardrobe or somewhere they put their clothes but she couldn’t now remember it.
In the corner was a small unit with a Baby Belling on top… maybe there were shelves beneath, maybe there was a green curtain across he shelves on a wire, and maybe this was where they kept their food and their crockery and utensils.
The bathroom, shared with other unknown people was on the floor below; a toilet, a bath, a basin… or maybe the toilet had been separate. One good thing was the hot water, they had hot water which was better than some of the places where friends lived.
So on that foggy morning, where was her flat mate? Why had she come out on her own and tried to catch the bus? Maybe the girl was skipping classes… that wouldn’t be a surprise… and looking back now across the years Milla saw how naïve she had been, how trusting…
Naïve and trusting… that in many ways summed up much of her life.
They had been so hard up when they moved to the flat. It was furnished but there was no bedding. Milla had gone into the city to a big store which was no longer there and now she couldn’t even remember the name of it. There had been a basement with cut price all-sorts, and she had bought a piece of blanket, no doubt a factory off-cut. It was not hemmed, just ragged edges and it was bright yellow and thick; she soon found that in fact it wasn’t as warm as she had hoped. The little flat directly beneath the roof was so cold, so cold that in winter the inside of the windows were iced over. Thinking of that made her wonder if there had also been a skylight… or maybe she had imagined it.
There was no-one she could now ask… some friends were long estranged, two were dead and one had never visited her then… When friends did come round, after the pub and often with a Party Four – a small keg of whatever beer was cheapest, they sat in rows on the beds apart from whoever claimed the two chairs. There was a very small two-bar electric fire… did they have a meter to feed for the electricity? – another thing she couldn’t remember.
When their newly made friends had first come round and sat on the beds there was a crackling of newspaper… Milla and her flat-mate had read, maybe in George Orwell, that tramps put newspapers under their clothes at night to insulate themselves from the cold. So Milla and her flat mate had put newspapers between their sheets and the blankets which covered them. It hadn’t kept them any warmer, but everyone had laughed at the crackling as they sat down.
Students today would be horrified, outraged… but in this strange new world of the twenty-first century, in a land of so much plenty, so much excess, there was such poverty that it may well be there were people with a single blanket and newspapers to keep them warm at night.
© Lois Elsden 2017
You can find my books – some of which I started writing during previous National Novel Writing Month challenges: