The following is a piece of coursework I was tasked with writing in my first year of GCSE English; It’s an extract, or a beginning if you will, of a piece of fantasy fiction that never came to fruition. In fact, I don’t think Susan O’Collins ever got further than being a piece of coursework, and she was certainly written as a character within the confines of the task- I’m not sure this is entirely fair to her. Either way, I hope you enjoy this snippet.
‘Throughout history, we have considered ourselves godlike.’ The words rattled from Susan’s fingers, jet-black sparks flying across the keys as she hunched over her laptop, utterly enthralled in her work.
‘There is no question; humans, in all their self-inflated pomp and arrogance, consider themselves above the mundanity of the natural world, of the hierarchy of life’ – she paused for a gulp of highly caffeinated coffee, which seemed almost to refill itself after her slurp- her eyes roved wildly around her dark flat in search of a shred of inspiration- ‘They create themselves, in their own, short-sighted minds, into something they are not- all powerful creatures of utter leadership, dictating to their underlings the way things should be run. How petty. How foolish.’ She gave a short, slightly unhinged giggle of self-satisfaction, and ran a dirty, tattooed hand through her equally dirty, unwashed hair.
‘Of course, humans have no more powers than any other beast, all bar one; the power of creation. Even that is not solely the gift of humans; the bower bird will continue to create elegant twig bowers for itself, however much we decree creation is not possible in animals; the robin will still compose meaningful ditties for itself, however much it is frowned upon.’ Groaning a little, filing through overly hazy, twisted memories, Susan grappled for a suggestion of David Attenborough documentaries seen long ago; yes, bower birds are a thing, she reassured herself.
‘Perhaps that early statement should be retracted, yet I cannot bring myself to do so; humans are always constantly creating, even those who beg the excuse of laziness. In that aspect, yes we are godlike- wielding the ability to create worlds, hidden or unhidden, private or shared.’ She paused, mumbling under her breath; the eery bluish light of the computer screen illuminated her emaciated body and the purplish bruising of her eye bags, catching upon the same typeface like tattoos creeping up her neck- She continued on just as fervently, tattoos writhing in the faint glow.
‘Threads of spinning silver thought coalesce into hidden doors, stretching into the imagination and wonder of a different world; dream worlds, written worlds, communal fabrications, be they ignorant or just- distortions of reality to fulfil one’s own ends, cached away in the corners of the mind to be played with at ones leisure.’ Susan gave a slightly louder groan, tattoos (now apparent to be lines of type) twisting and contorting along her body as she clutched her head, seemingly racked with pain. Grimacing, she forced her shaking hands down to the keyboard, rattling against the keys in a frantic manner, nose pressed against the screen as she willed herself on to write more, to finish;
‘The idea of creating worlds with the mere presence of a thought seems quite fantastic; – too fantastic. Humans can form these worlds, blossoming from the depths of their imaginations, but they are not tangible. They remain, wholly unreachable, within the confines of the aforementioned imagination. Another person or millions of other people might enter this world momentarily, through a shared ideal or an engrossing story’ – She let out a shrieking, high pitched howl of pain, her unearthly tattoos spreading upon her skin like fire over paper as she clawed at her skull, trying to rip out her very brain… yet still writing with one scratched, shaking hand-
‘Yet they cannot be a real part of it, a real, solid part, just as that world cannot become a real or solid part within our own. Then again, who are we to determine what real or solid is? Or where our world stops, and imagination takes over?’
With that final question, Susan could do nothing but stop. Stop writing. Stop thinking. Stop staring at the screen and screaming. Perhaps above all, she stopped breathing.
It was all over the papers the next day.
So far the police had cobbled together an only slightly possible, yet very sorry scenario;
Susan O’Collins, esteemed fantasy author, had been found unwashed, half starved, black with ink and completely comatose in the unkempt mess of her flat in west London, surrounded by a menagerie of volatile, almost mythical objects that had not yet responded positively to any form of forensics or testing.
She seemed, although everyone agreed it was preposterous to even think it, being as she was such an inspirational, well rounded person; she seemed to have given over her entire life to finishing a novel, not leaving her darkened office space for neither food nor water. Her obsession was etched upon her skin, whole paragraphs from her novel permanently inscribed upon every possible surface-she was painful to touch, each tattoo a fiery line of agony to anyone that attempted contact.
It was believed she had sat in her own filth, desperately scribing possibly the most intense, gritty, ethereal saga of all time; a tale of betrayal and of death, of dark, unworldly forces and gruesome monsters battling for dominance in a war stricken country- unfortunately, it remained unfinished. Susan, already regarded as definitively dead by the literary high society, was amidst her last hurrah- copies of her unfinished work leaked by a corrupt police officer were reaching in excess of 2 million dollars in black market auctions. It was almost a shame she was not there to witness it. Susan herself was not definitively dead however, not dead at all; she lay (tattoos still writhing upon her skin) inebriated and firmly strapped to a hospital bed, in a top secret experimental ward hundreds of miles away from both her now ransacked flat and confiscated laptop.
Ah, physics. The human belief that both space and time are such easy concepts to understand is foiled once again; for Susan was further away from her flat than it was humanly possible to be; she was closer to her story than the nurses anxiously treating her could ever comprehend.
A soft carpet of moss cushioned the curve of Susan’s cheek, the earthy scent of the forest filling her nostrils with a rich, comforting aroma. She groaned slightly, eyes still pressed tight shut- Her entire body ached a dull throbbing ache, as if she had been thrown from a high building and had just awoken, crumpled upon the pavement. Except she was not lying upon a pavement. Or her laptop screen, which in the recent months had become both her work place and pillow. Peeling open her tired eyes Susan stared blearily at the sight directly in front of her- the forest floor, up close as if under a microscope, every pine needle and fallen leaf magnified to a huge size in its proximity. She could even see the sprites, minuscule things, their pin prick eyes staring up into her hazel ones. Susan gave a muffled snort of laughter- sprites, just like in the forest of Carbonel. An imaginary forest she had written out of thin air. With a start, Susan heaved herself over, shifting her leaden limbs so she was now lying face up, presented with the forests’ cavernous, arching canopy; yes it was faint, barely visible in the powder blue of the sky- the silvery outline of the three moons. Three moons.
Susan gave a short wail of disbelief, staring now at her fingers, chained, like her entire being, in typed lines – the fateful worlds stared back at her, accusingly ‘-Three moons hung, sentient, over the densely wooded hills of Carbonel- Even as it was, ravaged with war and infested with displaced, nomadic savages, it still retained some shred of ethereal beauty-’
“look ‘ere!“ a harsh voice rasped over her train of thoughts, breaking the silence she had not noticed was there- Ah. This was not a fantasy. This was not some exhilarating novel; her own villainous characters had found her and she herself had sealed her fate, writing what would happen next.