Wednesday 26 July 2017

New flash fiction - "A Fresh Perspective."

I've always liked reading my work out loud as part of the revision process. Even if you're just reading it out to yourself, sometimes vocalising it can make you realise when you are being overly verbose, when you are repeating yourself or when the rhythm of your prose is just "wrong." However, nothing is as good for fine-tuning prose as actually reading it out loud in front of others, preferably in front of large-ish groups who are less likely to be as placatory as friends or family. Further proof of this came tonight after another great evening at 42, Worcester's Horror/SF and Fantasy spoken word evening. I hadn't booked a mic slot but decided just to take something with me if a gap came up. Thankfully, there was a spare slot so I ended up reading a relatively new flash piece, A Fresh Perspective. Now, when revising this at home I thought I'd done a pretty good job of cutting it down to what I thought was a fairly zippy 1020 words. However, on being faced with the prospect of reading it out loud, I suddenly realised that bits I had originally been quite pleased with (which linked the creation of new artistic perspectives to the protagonist's own subjective experiences in the story) were actually a bit clunky and would undoubtedly result in the audience losing interest. Then I found myself cutting out other chunks of these sections, even as I read it.  So all in all, I ended up losing almost 100 words, or 10% of the story, just through the act of being hyper-critical because I knew it had to maintain the interest of real people (rather than nebulous figures that you just think of as "some reader, somewhere").

So anyway, here is the freshly edited story as performed tonight. It seemed to go down pretty well, which is always encouraging, anyway.

A Fresh Perspective

The Artist woke up face down on the wall, his favourite Braque print digging uncomfortably into his ribs. It seemed that gravity must have shifted 90° as he slept as he was now lying on the far wall of his bedroom looking up at his bed, which seemed to be hanging from what was now the ceiling. Yet it couldn’t be that gravity had shifted 90°, as his bed was where it always was, albeit at an utterly unfamiliar angle, and the rumpled covers still lay on it. Similarly his desk and chair were still in the corner of the room, although from his perspective, now wedged into the far corner of the ceiling. He stood up. Aside from his own position in the room, everything was much as it had always been.

He yawned and then made his way to the bedroom door, now embedded in the floor at his feet. He pulled it up and looked down. There was a drop of around 6 feet to the hall wall but then he would have to navigate a 20 feet drop to get to the far wall of his open-plan living room. He was already behind on several commissioned canvases and this damn gravity-thing was the last thing he needed. Still, he was an artist and it was the nature of the artist to explore experience. So he flipped over the door frame and dropped to the hall wall, his feet punching through the plasterboard. “Damn it!”

Prying his feet free, he then walked down the wall to the living room door, shaking the dust from his feet as he did so, before getting to his knees so he could peer over the edge of the doorframe, into the room below. The sheer drop was somewhat broken by the cupboards and units of his kitchen area below the wall he was currently kneeling on. But did this phenomenon extend to the entirety of his flat? He could see his sofa and telephone twenty feet below on the floor/wall opposite.

I suspect that I have transcended the limits of ordinary reality and now perceive the world with the agility of a mind freed from entrenched perspectives, thought the Artist and he grew eager to explore further.

If he could somehow swing from the doorframe across the room, it was only a drop of ten feet or so to his tall cupboard which, if he could reach it he could then land on before dropping down to the rest of the living room. Gingerly, he edged his way over the doorframe and then carefully lowered himself until he hung over the opposite wall. He then started to swing forwards and backwards as he tried to build momentum, before with one final kip, he flung himself across the room, landing on the side of the tall cupboard. However, as he landed he smashed his face into the wall and he could feel himself dropping backwards into the living room below. Desperately he reached out and managed to grab the side of the sink, and he pulled himself forwards. Above him were his other kitchen units, herbs and spices, yesterday’s Chinese wrappers, coffee jars and kettle all still resting, perpendicular on the worktop, in defiance of the phenomenon that seemed to be afflicting him. Damn it. He could do nothing in the morning without a morning coffee, but making one would involve climbing up the wall, perhaps using the side of the window frame as a foothold and then somehow monkey barring his way across the kitchen units, if they could even take his weight of course. So the Artist shifted position and sat on the edge of the unit; it was just a ten foot drop to the far wall of his living room.

The only logical explanation for this situation is that it is the manifestation of my will to transcend boundaries yet my flat’s continuing existence continues to prove that humans may attempt to defy gravity but never wholly escape, thought the Artist.

He sat on the edge of the unit and again, dropped down until he was hanging from its side. And then, the distance minimised as much as he could, he let go, landing in a heap on the far wall. Grumbling, he got to his feet and looked above him, at the walls, paintings hanging horizontally, his dining table and chairs now suspended on a wooden wall, fifteen feet above him.

The Artist grew excited at this exciting development in his creative life. This physical experience could provide a radical shift of perspective so I can look at the world through a completely different lens. This phenomenon provides an opportunity to reimagine the physical and psychological reality I previously thought of as fixed as something more flexible, mutable, and light. Excited, he considered the artistic possibilities his new perspective afforded. He considered the colours, the shapes the conceptual possibilities that he could now exploit. He looked around these familiar yet strange surroundings for his easel and paints before remembering with a shudder that they were in his bedroom.
         And so he jumped and jumped and jumped. But as he leaped, arms outstretched for the kitchen units out of reach above him, he realised there was no way back out of his living room.

        And it was then that he finally saw the true gravity of his situation.

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