I’m on week 4 of my creative writing course and this weeks assignment is about flash fiction. We have been building up story ideas and characters for the last couple of weeks and we are now required to turn this into a story of less than 1000 words. The prospect is horrifying me. I already have about 650 words from previous assignments… Additionally, as I was building up the following I had started to create a story which is probably far too complex to fit into 1000 words. And I hadn’t fully figured out an ended. I had a vague direction I would like to take the story but not a concrete conclusion. I have a lot to figure out before it’s due on Sunday!
The character development isn’t flowing prose so shouldn’t be read as such. We were asked to think about various aspects of our character to help us get to know them.
It’s exactly five minutes to ten when he checks his watch. You wouldn’t know it was morning in the dusky grey wilderness he finds himself in. Pine trees stand, bolt upright, their tops engulfed in heaven and their feet wrapped in virgin snow. Ahead, he can see the silhouettes of his travelling companions. He doesn’t know them well enough to make out identities from their backs; all present as harsh black outlines against the velvety white. Standing still for a brief moment, he thinks about where he came from. Where he ran from. Another world away.
His age is difficult to pin down. If you were giving the police a description, you’d probably say 30s to 40s. You’d say he was slightly taller than average. Dark eyes and dark hair against tanned skin. He looks healthy, strong, like he’d embrace manual labour. He walks confidently and every step he takes seems planned and sure, like he knows he’s going in the right direction even in unfamiliar terrain. He rarely looks behind but you get the sense that he knows everything that’s going on around him.
He has picked up phrases and slang from all over the world. Even he hasn’t figured out where he came from originally. His accent is peppered with hints of different countries and different regions. He fits in everywhere and nowhere.
His clothes adapt to his surroundings, a human chameleon. Surrounded by desolate snow plains, he is a silhouette of dark clothes, a warm padded coat with fur around the hood. His hood is pulled up against the bitter biting air. On his back, he carries his home. His life.
He is trekking through painfully cold wilderness. Despite being surrounded by snow and ice, he barely has access to water. His shelter changes every night. Dug out pits in the snow. Pressed against the back of a cave. He takes what he can get. He scavenges what he can throughout the day and raids a stash of energy bars when it gets tough. He can go without food when he has to. He is mentally and physically strong and a little bit of hunger won’t change that.
He is a man. And every man is an island. He doesn’t need anyone else. He has never needed anyone else. He has always moved from place to place making new acquaintances as he goes. He doesn’t have friends but scattered all over the globe are people who would do him favours, who would welcome him into their home. He is a loner who everyone is drawn towards. Except on that dig… But that was an anomaly, equilibrium was quickly restored.
He was happiest in the sun. In South America, working alongside archaeologists. He found the work satisfying. It was methodical. He could almost see it as a stable career direction for himself. If he could change one thing, he would go back there. Sleeping in below freezing temperatures, his dreams of a previous life under the brilliant rays keep him warm.
Next to his heart rests his most treasured possession. A small map of the world that has been creased and refolded so many times that the UK barely exists. He’s had it for as long as he can remember and it’s travelled round the globe with him. An anchor. A guide.
He lies. He lies frequently. It’s not that he’s a liar as such. It’s just he frequently finds himself in the kind of situation where it is best to alter the truth.
His doesn’t believe in regrets. Life happens and you get on with it. That’s his philosophy. At least it was. He finds now that he gets pangs inside his heart. Either he is slowly suffering heart problems or he is experiencing regret. He’s not sure which he finds less terrifying.