Friday, February 16, 2018


It was our monthly Writer's Circle meeting last night and we had a 'write beforehand' exercise that we then shared and critiqued.  The theme was waking from a dream, and everything has changed. We had an extremely disturbing sci fi story, a ghost tale, a wonderful story about 'shoulder people' (from a truly stunning writer) to name but a few. As ever we had a fun night with much laughter and some excellent writing.  Here's my contribution:

My mind tossed in dreams like clouds in a whirlwind. The day before was hurting, tomorrow was a chill wind, brown was a circle and the sound of traffic became a warm touch.  My skin went cold and the prickles rose and grew - I saw a forest sprout from them and flood into a valley that sang.  Although asleep I knew that my world was changing.  The sound of birdsong, struggling to invade the cocoon of consciousness that kept me in that strange world, translated as the worn surface of an ancient oak chest. 

Finally awake, I opened my eyes. Last night I had slept poorly – a broken heart makes a difficult bedfellow.  Strands of dream tugged at my memory briefly as I slapped my phone in an effort to silence the brittle alarm. 

I lay in my bed for a moment, feeling the cool sheets on my bare skin. It felt… like chocolate.  As the night fog cleared from my brain I swung my legs over the edge of the bed to place them on the cold parquet floor. The wood seemed to suck warmth from my soles and sent a jolt like lightning up my legs. It felt as if every hair on them had been commanded to stand to attention, and a snatch of the vision of a forest growing before me briefly distracted my arousal into consciousness.

I stood and headed for the bathroom, my head spinning slightly.  The bathroom window, unshielded by curtain or blind, spilled white light into the room that felt like diamonds scraped across slate. Squinting, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was still me, hollow eyed and wan with sorrow, yet something had changed.  There was a brightness in my eyes that looked back at me with a challenge. There was a new dimension to what I saw, what I heard, what I felt.

Bravely I squirted paste onto my toothbrush and had the strange sensation of a white hare running on heather. I looked at the brush, at my face in the mirror, and started to brush my teeth.  Everything was normal and yet it was completely different – as if as an adult this was the first time I had done any of these things … waking, walking, touching, seeing.  The brush in my mouth was Tuesday’s meeting, my spit in the bowl was block and tackle, rope twisted and shining.

With the whole world evolving weirdly around me, I continued to get dressed and experienced everything on a different level.  My mind was desperately trying to assimilate new sensations attached to old experiences. I wasn’t sure how I’d get through the day. Surely this disorientation would pass?

Dressed, ready for work, I went downstairs and prepared breakfast – where a landscape painting, soft silk and ball bearings all contributed to the experience of eating cereal. Everything looked normal, and tasted normal, yet everything had a new dimension too.

I left the house, thoughts of the unceremonious dumping by my boyfriend, and the tumult of three days before – had Tuesday only been three days ago? – disappearing as I tackled the walk to the tube and negotiated my short commute with a world of new senses invading every single experience.  Could I continue like this?

I exited at Tower Bridge, and joined the throng towards our office. Glass, like a lambs bleat. Concrete, smoke over water.  The roar of traffic, flames on an open log fire. My phone buzzed – and the strong sense of purple was almost shocking. I looked at the message – from Aunt Emilia. Aunt Emilia, who could not say certain words because they felt like bricks in her throat. Aunt Emilia who was sensitive and fey, and yet the most creative, loving and extraordinary person I knew. Aunt Emilia, who – suddenly – I realised I understood. I thought this was a gift, or a curse, from birth. But it seemed for me, that a broken heart (and the smell of old wet paper pervaded) had triggered the condition.

I swung through the doors into the office and thought about James, his corduroy callousness, and a river of leather swept past.  I thought of how I would like to feel – happy, free, loved, and the painted wooden door of an old stone cottage swung shut in the breeze.  I started to choose how I felt and different images, sensations, tastes and smells pervaded my every step as I climbed the single flight of stairs and into our open plan office.  “Good morning!” I looked around and saw colour, tasted new and familiar things, the air was tangy with orange and pebbles.  A new day had truly begun.

(C) Carolyn Sheppard 2018

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Image (C) Royston Writer's Circle

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