I have an obsession with the concept of dystopia. Always have. I like the cloud darkness that comes from chaos and disorder. I like it in an almost sick kind of way. It pushes people to their utmost limits, and I want to know what happens when they get there. I’m practically voyeuristic about it.
Do they break, crumble and fail? Or do they rise up from the ashes of society and become a hero?
The other day I was talking to a colleague at work about utopia. Whether it could ever really exist. What would a world that’s truly peaceful look like? Could we, lowly humans, ever live in a world thats peaceful? I’m not sure. I think humans are predisposed for conflict. We’re drawn to it like moths to a flame.
I tried to imagine a utopian world, what it would look like, how society would function. Every time I did, a rebel faction would rise up and ruin it. Has life really scorned me so much I only have disdain left for humanity? I hate to necessarily deride humans, but, I’m not convinced there’s enough evidence in society to provide otherwise. War because we disagree, famine in some countries and obesity pandemics in others, we sell arms to our enemies, and rape the land.
If we were lucky enough to land in utopia, there’s no way we would last. Five minutes and then we’d fuck it right up.
So, that got me thinking about my story, the Firmament, you know the one that came from the Flat Earth, weekly wonder. I wrote a piece of flash in last weeks, writespiration. What if when Lexi got to the other side thinking she would find utopia… What if she did find it, only…. utopia’s never really utopia, right?!
This weeks challenge, write about utopia, whatever that looks like or means to you. Incorporate it into your story and all in less than 200 words. To join in, leave your entry in the comments, on a post and link it back, or drop me an email.
Here’s mine, and I very, nearly, kept to the word count this week!:
The Firmament #8
He walked me so slowly through the streets, it was like time didn’t exist. His face was full of energy; his smile so radiant it reminded me of stepping into the light after being in the cinema. Rich greenery and summer’s blossom filled the streets. I paused, focusing on the houses. They were identical. And in front of each stood a couple waving and grinning at me in front of their perfectly neat homes, mowed lawns and white picket fences. I searched for a word, anything to describe what I was looking at.
“Am I dead?” I asked, the blue eyed boy. He shook his head, ruffling his white uniform. It had a strange symbol embroidered on it, a tiny triangular emblem encircled by a loop, as if the triangle were caged by it.
“No Lexi, this is utopia.” He had the same forced smile plastered on his lips that the couples had. I swallowed hard. I didn’t believe in heaven and I definitely didn’t believe in utopia. Father’s betrayal taught me enough to know people aren’t really capable of peace.
I tried to smile back, but only managed a curl of my lip. I attempted to nod and wave back at the faces, but spiders were crawling down my spine. I glanced from the couples to his face and my entire body went cold. A sheen of sweat covered his forehead, he gave me a curt shake of the head as he scanned frantically from me to the couples. I knew what that meant. It meant keep your mouth shut. I nodded, and we continued walking.
I cast a final look at the couples and their houses and knew what was making my blood run cold. Their eyes were completely dead. I was right. This place, wherever I was, was a complete lie.
First in, Helen, with a continuation of her new story, Silver and Black. I am already a huge fan.
Water tumbles, phosphorescent foam spattering against the dark flow. I can see a little better now that we’re out from under the trees, the moon’s light unhindered.
The waterfall thunders into the gorge, the stream rushing through the forest to throw itself over the edge of the rocks.
Which is where we are standing. My toes are almost at the edge, the stone slick under my feet. Ordinarily, I’d be terrified. But Kyle is next to me, his arm around my waist.
‘I won’t let you fall,’ he says, leaning in close, his voice a deeper rumble against the water’s roar.
‘Okay.’ I nod. It is exciting, standing here in the circle of his arm. I tempt fate, leaning forward a little, the drop sheer below me to a moonlit pool, churned silver and black.
‘Hey.’ He pulls me back, then turns me to him. I feel him smile as his lips meet mine, his arms coming around me, his body hard against me. Then the kiss takes me and I feel as though I’m falling, the ground dropping away from under me.
The kiss ends. And I realise I am dangling in mid air. Over the edge.
Next, Ali, with a heartfelt story any parent can relate too.
The Slap by Ali Isaac
As I tiptoe from Mal’s room, Cai streaks past, scattering a trail of clothes in his wake.
“Quiet now. Mal’s sleeping.”
“No!” His favourite word, the first he ever said.
“Put your pyjamas on. I’ll read you a story.”
“No!” He darts into his room, slamming the door. I clench my fists as Mal starts to wail.
Cai is bouncing on his bed, tousled hair flying. I pull him to me, and begin stuffing his legs into the pyjama pants. He kicks wildly.
“Nooooo, don’t want to.”
His foot connects with my chin, the sudden jolt of pain knocking me over the edge. Before I realise, I land him a sharp, stinging slap on the thigh. He stills immediately, clutching his leg.
We stare at each other warily, eyes smouldering accusation.
“I’ll tell Daddy,” he yells, bursting into tears.
“So will I.” I am yelling and crying too.
We hug, and for Cai it is soon forgotten, but I can’t forgive myself.
“It was just a slap,” says Conor later, when I confess.
“Yes,” I agree, wiping away tears. “Just a slap.”
But the red mark on Cai’s leg fades long before the bruises on my heart.
Next, Gordon, with this inspiring tale captured from a little bit of history
“There is a white woman to see you.”
“Don’t be mad, there is no white woman for hundreds of miles.”
His servant handed him a small piece of card, ‘Miss Mary Kingsley’ – a visiting card, whoever sent visiting cards in the middle of Africa?
He stepped out of the room onto the veranda, a small woman sat there, she was wearing a tweed skirt and carried an umbrella.
She stood and held out her hand.
“Monsieur, I am sorry to disturb you but I wondered if you could assist me in hiring a boat.”
“Mademoiselle, that would be impossible.”
She looked curiously at him, then down towards the river, where more than a dozen canoes lay.
“Let me continue,” he said, “No one will go up river because it is impossible, the tribes that live there, the Fangwe are cannibals.”
“Oh no, I don’t want to visit the Fangwe.” He was puzzled, she pronounced the name in the native fashion, “You see, I have just come down river, I need a boat to take me to the coast.”
He looked in awe at the tiny woman. He knew it was impossible, but he knew it was true.
Next in, Geoffle, with a pirate tale I reckon would make a great MG story
Jim always wanted to go to sea. At ten he became cabin boy to Captain Corman and set sail for the Indes. Corman had no children and liked Jim. He showed him the maps.
Jim pointed to the tumbling torrents, foaming at the Edge. ‘What happens here, Cap’n?’
‘There, Jim? Either this map’s wrong or we tumble to our doom. I’m betting it’s wrong.’
‘We sailing right to the Edge, Cap’n?’
‘And beyond boy, and beyond.’
Jim loved the maps, especially the fabulous horrors that cartographers chose for the Edge.
One hot day, the First Mate and the Cap’n stood on the bridge. They’d forgotten Jim was there.
‘Any day now, Cap’n.’
‘Any minute, Mr Mate. By my calculations we are close to the Edge.’
The Mate laughed nervously. ‘Can’t see no waterfall, Cap’n. We’ll be alight, then?’
‘I’m not so sure, Mr Mate.’ The Captain took his eyeglass away and pointed to a black shape, looming ever larger. ‘Looks like those map maker knew a thing or two.’
The Mate squinted, while Jim clung to the rail. His young eyes saw clearly what the Captain had seen with his glass. ‘You see it Jim?’
‘Aye Cap’n. Here Be Dragons!’
Next, Cynthia, has submitted her first ever entry, and what a tease of an ending she’s written…. what happens next?!
Sometime in the past quarter hour, the air had turned stale. That was when this interminable meeting was supposed to end.
“Now, then,” Jack Lemmings muttered. The CEO of Lemmings International shoved some papers into an unlabled file folder, “let’s talk about the Employee Satisfaction Survey. It seems folks…”
Jack turned his focus to me, searching for the right words.
“Seek direction?” I followed his lead.
“Yes–seek direction,” he repeated. He steepled his fingers and began to drone.
Others in the room shifted in their seats and stared down the clock, willing the second hand to tick. Just. Once. More.
A bead of sweat formed on the clock face and fell soundlessly on my necktie.
“That’s it,” I stood up.
All eyes turned to me.
“What’s it?” Jack asked.
“It’s time,” the words rushed out of my mouth, uncontrollably, hurtling themselves towards the inevitable. My words led the way, and my instincts could do nothing to stop them. Within moments, I blazed out the door.
I turned my head to glance over my shoulder.
They were all there: Jack and the gang from Lemmings International. A sense of glory swept over me.
This was our time!
Next, Jane, with once again, beautiful imagery, I wish I could write description like her.
I sit on the edge of this cliff, my heels scuffing the white dusty stone, and I watch the night fall. Not that it does, fall, it just is. Always. Whenever I sit here and watch, it’s nightfall. The stars glitter unhelpfully, and I wish they would do something more distracting, like fall. The Aurora Borealis would be pretty. But that’s just in stories. No colour twitters here to take my mind off the dust. My boots chunk against the rock, scuffing my heels, and the stars say nothing.
Below, the dust is deeper. Like snow and just as cold. But too far away to be real. Like the sea that left so long ago nobody remembers. It seeped into the dust and makes waves now inside the cold rock. So they say, but I’ve never heard it. The only sound here is the stars, and they’re silent. Sometimes I think I hear them singing, but it’s only the mice. They scuttle through the dust, taunting me with their rattling.
You took it all away when you went, the colours in the sky, the sea, grass swaying beneath my hand. This is all you left. Dead rocks and silent night.
Next up Allie, with a horror story if you ask me. It reminded me of my own horror story with bed bugs in student digs. Anyway, to Allie’s edge.
As I entered the room, I was struck by the mismatch of velvet curtains against the floral pattern of the bedspread. The clock on the table showed it was one in the morning, but to my body, it felt more like three. Exhausted, I pulled open the covers. Did something just move across the sheets? My tired mind protested in denial, but as much as I wanted a good night’s sleep, I couldn’t succumb. Kneeling next to the bed’s edge, I pulled out a credit card and scraped along the mattress seam.
Please don’t let the bed bugs bite.
Next in Adele with this imagery fuelled piece
The wind tugs at my hair, slapping it against my face, I stamp my feet.
“Not playing today.” I am sulking, why did they come and take my dog away, why? He didn`t do anything to those stupid sheep, I hate the farmer, he`s a mean old man, even if he`s my best friends Dad.
“I`m not crying.” The wind picks up my shout and runs with it, I follow. Running, screaming, Terns scattering as this wild monster bears down on them. Then I stop. I`m at the place, the very scary place. Here the world stops, the edge falls away into the hungry sea below, it`s spittle hits my face. I am fascinated, I am very scared. I sit down. I hear things, nasty, sneaking whispers that tell me to jump, go on just a bit closer. My tummy feels funny, my legs tingle.
“No.” I shout at it. I lie on the ground amongst the gorse and sea clover and kick my feet. Finally I cry.
The wind strokes my hair and dries my tears and together we edge backwards from those voices. The wind blows them away, they have no power over us.
“I`m broken.” The wind just tugs at my hair some more and I get up from the ground. A dirty, raggy taggled girl who has just lost her dog because sheep are more important than dogs, than people, than another hundred thousand reasons.
“When I grow up I`m going to have lots of dogs and no one will take them away.” I say to the wind who quite happily goes on ahead of me.
Next up Judy, makes us reminisce about a certain musical genius… sing this one…
It’s close to midnight
And something special’s just about to start
I’m so excited
I can feel the rapid pounding of my heart
I’ve stayed up late
Just so I can watch this special moment
Had something like this happened on tv
Only in movies!
Yes it was Thriller, Thriller night
And I was sitting there, right on the edge of my seat
You know, killer, Thriller night
The moment had arrived and it was
Perfect, amazing, that niiiiiight
Zombies and undead,
creeping from their graves in the dead of night
Michael and Ola,
Walking home under the full moonlight
He starts to change
But first of all, she doesn’t seem to notice
Then he looks strange
As she looks at him
Right between the eyes
He’d been Zombified!
Yes, it was Thriller, Thriller night…..