An intriguing challenge was posted the other day in a LinkedIn writers’ forum: write a complete story in 26 sentences, each sentence beginning with a sequential letter of the alphabet. In other words, the first sentence starts with A, the second with B, the third with C and so on.
The idea came from writer Candace Simonson of Missouri in the US, whose own blog is at candysimonson.wordpress.com. Candace had started something rather fun. Several members of the group had a go, coming up with a diverse variety of fiction. Interestingly, none of the stories sounded contrived despite the requirement to begin sentences with particular letters of the alphabet.
Finding a word beginning with X was tricky, of course, though some took advantage of the rule allowing the licence of starting X-words with ‘ex’. One, creatively, chose ‘xeric’ (meaning a moisture-free environment) and other contributors started their sentences with ‘xylophone’ and ‘Xavier’ while others, including me, went for ‘X-rays’.
I found the exercise strangely inspiring and absorbing; I hadn’t written anything for purely creative reasons for a long time, unless you count this blog, which is a creative outlet of sorts. Without even thinking about what genre I was going to write in I just started writing and it quickly became a horror story about an eight-year-old murderer.
After eating breakfast he felt nauseous. Before his head had got this mixed up, he’d been able to keep down the aftermath of a night’s heavy drinking but these days, the addition of food to the witch’s brew in his stomach often provoked a backlash that made him rush to the bathroom.
Certainly, the fried eggs and bacon he’d just consumed made it feel like there was a volcano stirring in his gut, like porridge simmering glutinously on the hob.
Despite the precaution of taking a paracetomol before bed, his head felt awful too: thick, dull, leaden in its immobility.
Empty, too, as though nothing could stick in it for long. Frightening flashbacks kept bursting onto his mental retina, only to fleet away into the place that dreams – and nightmares – go when we wake.
Going back in his head to the beginning was the only way he could make sense of where he was now. How had it happened? Inside his cerebral cortex, where his burning brain could find it if it tried, was a picture of the scene.
Just eight years old – a sweet child, everyone said. Knots of nausea formed again in his gut as he remembered.
“Let’s play a new game,” Zoe, the little girl from next door, had suggested, bored of their usual pursuits. Maybe what happened next was the first sign of an evil that had always been inside him. Nothing else would explain it. Over and above the habitual tedium and simmering, irrational fearfulness that always filled his mind there was a state of badness. Psychiatrists had tried to explain it since that childhood incident, calling it a ‘disorder’. “Queer in the head,” was the verdict of those less educated, less sympathetic.
Reaching for the kitchen drawer he’d pulled out the bread knife. She’d trusted him, didn’t move away, didn’t flinch, just stood and looked at him, expectantly, waiting for the game to start.
Then the silver blade – actually not silver at all, he knew now, but steel; cold, grey, hard, like the stuff in his head – flashed, glinted, plunged and sawed.
Unconscious, bleeding – dead, as they told him when they came running in from the garden, summoned by her screams – she lay on the kitchen floor, next to her neatly-stacked fingers and ears.
Vomiting first – that had been eggs and bacon too, oddly enough, he remembered – he’d sat down patiently next to her on the floor, holding her dismembered hand in a kind of comforting embrace, scarcely comprehending the clamour of voices, screams, sirens.
Why, they kept asking – and had been asking ever since. Examinations, brain scans, psychiatric assessments, medication, youth custody, and in due course back to a kind of freedom created by his complete inability to remember.
Yesterday, though, it had all come flooding back, completing the gradual return of his memory, and the alcohol went flooding in too, to medicate, as it had for years now, the flashbacks that plagued him.
Zoe had been his first, all those years ago, and right now, seeing his second lying immobile in the same spot in his parents’ kitchen, his head and his stomach contents finally erupted.
Anyone who’d like to have a go at the A-Z fiction challenge can post stories in the comments section here, or at the original thread in the Freelance Writers’ Connection group on LinkedIn.
Picture credit: David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net