25 April 2013

Creative Writing Sample for Uni

I recently applied to a Creative Writing degree in England, and they asked me to send a sample of my work. I chose this one. It's out of context a little, so just keep in mind that this is part of a longer, more complex draft (120 pages).

We visited Simon every day since the accident happened. Everyone started calling it an accident so I conformed. Even though I was next to sure she didn’t accidentally fall on those scissors with her radial artery.
One day, when I was ten, I was waiting for the tube with my then-male-caretaker. I never called them ‘dad’; it just didn’t feel right. Anyway, we were on the platform and it seemed to me as if the tracks were a little too accessible to the general public. I was wondering why there were no railings; anyone could just stumble and fall right before the car pulled in. As the wind started picking up and the rails began to shudder under a combination of metallic weight and speed, I felt my blood rushing – if I jumped right then and there, would it be quick and painless or would my body just grind along, pieces of me falling off until the car would eventually come to a halt and I would be trapped in underground limbo for eternity? Or, at least, until someone decided to scrape me off the hot tracks. I was ten. Ten. Ten year olds shouldn’t have thoughts like these.
I had replaced my coffeshop visits with hospital visits. I felt a weird responsibility for Simon now – as if my presence there had anything to do with her waking up.  She had fallen into this deep sleep that nobody wanted to categorize as a ‘coma’, even though it was on everyone’s tongues. But one day, one day she did wake up. It so happened that I was on my watch-Simon-sleep shift, so I witnessed the event.
“Good morning,” I told her.
            No reply.
            “You and your kingdom slept for quite some time there,” I went on.
            “Did you kiss me awake?” she asked after a while, her voice husky and dry.
            “Why of course,” I lied. “I’m the prince, nice to finally meet you. We thought you’d never wake up.”
            “I had the loveliest dream,” she said. “There was a beautiful boy, and he hugged me. But I couldn’t quite figure out who he was. So I didn’t… I didn’t want to wake up. Not until I knew. But he never told me who he was. I… I need to go back,” her voice was a little panicked, as she pressed her eyelids together and tried to force herself back into the oblivion of sleep.
            “It doesn’t work that way you know.”
            She was endearing, really.
            “Now stop acting all silly. Your parents will want to know you’re awake.”
            “No…” her eyes suddenly flew open. “Please don’t.”
            “They’ll find out eventually, you know. You can’t play Sleeping Beauty forever. Even she woke up in the end.”
            “In the end…” she repeated. “Is it the end, though?”
            “Not that I know of.”
            “Then why should I have to wake up?”
            I had no answer to that. Fragile and unstable she might be, but stupid she was not. I had grown to like her, in a weird sort of way… That was my problem. I either cared too little or I cared too much.
            One day, when I was seven, I went to the seaside with my then-caretakers. I knew how to swim but had never seen so much water before. I was scared to go in. They took me on one of those rental boats, to show me that there was nothing to be afraid of. The jellyfish are innocent creatures, they said. There are no sharks here, they said. All I could think about was sinking and ending up at the bottom of the sea, where all the fish with big teeth and no eyes wait patiently for drowned people. I have no love for deep, almost static waters. I prefer the quick, shallow ones. I guess that pretty much defines me as a person. 
            The next day, she looked a bit better. I had reading to do for my Old English class and I was incredibly behind, what with tending to coma patients and all, so I had brought Beowulf with me. Her face lit up when she saw the book. “Is it in original?” she asked. “I’m not that fluent in Anglo-Saxon,” I replied. “Oh. So it’s translated.” “Yeah.” “Read to me?” “Okay.”
            “Attend!” I started, completely in character. “We have heard of the thriving of the throne of Denmark, how the folk-kings flourished in former days.”
            We spent that afternoon taking turns in reciting, trying to surpass each other in style and drama.
            “I’ll say, you’re quite the bard, Sir Andrew,” she clapped delightedly as I closed the book.
            “Ah, please milady, I am no Sir. I have no sword.”
            “But your tongue is sharp.”
            “Not enough to be a weapon,” I played along.
            “I hear tongue-fighting is quite pleasurable.”
            Was she flirting with me?
            “I fought many a match, but none satisfying enough.”
            “Maybe I’ll challenge you to a duel one day,” she smirked.
            “I might consider that offer.”
            She was most definitely flirting with me. I didn’t know how to feel about that. Broken things danced around other broken things in a crazy attempt to fix each other. I guess that’s what we were doing. Trying to fix each other.
            That same day I went to the cafĂ© for the first time in a week.
            Our greetings varied from meeting to meeting. The last time I saw her it was “Milord” and “Wench”.
            “Long time no see.”
            “Were you busy?” I sensed a hint of tension in her voice.
            “Yeah, you could say that. Can I get a coffee please? Oh, and some company. Some company would be nice.”
            She smiled over her shoulder and disappeared behind the kitchen doors. This was insane. What was I doing? First of all, I didn’t even know her name. Secondly, I hadn’t really talked to her much, not even during my once daily visits. Thirdly, a twisted girl with suicidal tendencies might or might not like me, despite obvious impediments. What. Was. I. Doing. I pulled out my tattered notebook and opened it at random. The page fate chose bore the many marks of erasing and furious rewriting, something I was in the habit of doing quite often. Of course, I could’ve easily chosen technology over pen and paper, but where was the pleasure in backspacing?
            She sat down opposite of me after having placed two big mugs of coffee on the table.
            “Oh, whipped cream,” I exclaimed. “Special occasion?”
            “My favourite customer is back,” she shrugged.
            “Your only customer, from the looks of it.” The place was empty once again. I honestly wondered how they kept it going, without any clients to bring money in.
            “Oh don’t flatter yourself; there are plenty of people who love this place. They just have a different schedule from you, that’s all.”
            I seriously doubted that. The whipped cream now floated in chunks in the still steaming coffee. I phased out for a moment but then my eyes refocused firmly on her. “What’s your name?”
            “A little late for introductions, don’t you think?”
            The maple tree next to our window was almost bare now, a few leaves stubbornly dangling from the top branches. Mid-November always came with strong winds.
            “Mine is Andrew.” I focused on one particular leaf. The one that always looked like it was about to fall but never quite did. I wondered if that was what Simon felt like. A perpetual state of about to but never quite.
            “Mine is Mira.”
            “Pleased to finally make your acquaintance, Mira.” She took the hand I extended over the table and shook it. “Likewise, Andrew.”
            “Please, call me Drew.”
            “So, Drew, tell me something about you.”
            “Like what?” I took a sip of the coffee. It was so delicious I almost forgot I hadn’t had proper coffee in what was way too long, judging by my coffee-drinking standards.
            “Like what your last name is, for example.”
            “I’ll tell if you tell,” I grinned, taking another sip.
            “Deal. You first.”
            “Rivers. Andrew Rivers.” She looked as if I just told her she had won the lottery. “Your turn.”
            “Murray. Mira Murray.”
            “Quite the alliteration you got going on there.”
            “Oh, wait till you see the symbolism,” she laughed.
            “I’m sure it’s incredible.”
            “Better hidden than yours, that’s for sure.”
            When she smiled, her entire face transformed. Her deep-green eyes sparkled and crinkled at the edges, her cheeks dimpled, and her lips somehow became fuller, despite all the stretching smiling involved. I had studied her many a time, while writing at my table by the window. I had paragraphs dedicated to the way she looked, classified in moods and times of day. Mira was beautiful and, most of all, didn’t seem broken in any way. That was a little disconcerting. How did you approach something that was perfect?
            “Say, are you musical in any way?”
            “Me? Oh no. No way.”
            “Aw, that’s a pity. I had such high hopes for you.”
            “Sorry to disappoint.”
            “Oh no, it’s fine. You write. That’s more than enough.”
            She got up and walked to the back of the room, signaling me to join her. Once there, she grabbed a heavy drape from what I thought was a weird table and revealed a shiny black piano. Sitting down and opening the case, she flexed her fingers. “I hoped to find someone to play with,” she said, sliding her index finger over the keys.
            “Should I play something for you?”
            I grabbed the nearest chair and sat down, folding my hands in my lap.
            “Very well then.”
            What happened next was nothing short of magic, as her fingers swept the keys with such fluid grace I half-thought she was a mermaid washed ashore. All I could do was stare in amazement and wonder if her voice was even half as good as her piano playing. When she was done, I asked what the song was. She smiled from the corner of her mouth.
"A River Flows in You."
I bit my lip, trying my hardest not to make a bad joke and ruin the moment.
            Getting up, she regarded me with a half-smirk, perfectly aware of her musical superiority.
            “Your turn.”
            “I thought I just told you I can’t play any-”
            “No. Your turn. Show me what you wrote.”
            I had to get out of this fast. It wasn’t like she could take the notebook from me. The notebook I guarded better than my wallet, the notebook that was now… conveniently lying on the table that she was heading towards. Shit. I took inhuman leaps across the room, slamming it shut moments before she reached it. She shot me a side-glance.
            “Why’d you do that for?”
            “Matters of national security,” I nodded gravely and slid the notebook back in my bag.
            “Are you one of those people?”
            “Who are these those people you are talking about?”
            “You know… those people. Who don’t show their work to anybody. You scared I might judge?” Before I could even sketch a response she went on, “I’m just curious, that’s all.” I might have seemed unconvinced. Maybe because I was. I wasn’t in the habit of showing off. Or showing at all, as a matter of fact. “You’re always scribbling in that thing…” she said, a dreamy look on her face. I wondered if I should tell her that some of the poems were about her. But then again, the other ones were about this other girl, and let’s just say that the percentage wouldn’t really favour her. Then again, I could always play it safe and show her one of the many short stories I had begun but never finished, most of which were set in a badly-constructed dystopian universe of my making. But then again again, those were kind of shit, so why would I? I judged my work more harshly than anyone else, I didn’t need to add to that. Once you decided you only wanted to write for yourself, there was no more pressure. You sat down and you just sort of let it happen. It was kind of like breathing – you did it to survive.
            “Can I see?” Simon had asked one afternoon, while I was scribbling in my notebook thinking she was asleep.
            “No,” I replied, closing it and smiling at her.
            “Stop that, it’s scary.”
            “Fair enough. I’ll just stare at you angrily from now on. Is this better?” I was aiming for the get-off-my-lawn look. She started laughing. “You’re silly,” she said. “Not as silly as you if you think I’ll share my most intimate thoughts with undeserving mortals.” “A mortal I may be,” she lifted her arms that had various tubes coming out of them, “but undeserving I am not.” She caught my hesitation by the neck and played its strings. “Please. Can I see?” I sighed and ripped out a page, handing it to her. “Here. Keep it. It’s about you anyway.” I didn’t like looking at people while they were reading my stuff. If they seemed unimpressed, I was hurt; if they seemed excited, I never believed them. It was a lose-lose situation. So I turned around, pretending I was really interested in the painting of a hot-dog that was hanging on the white wall opposite to her.
            “She walks on needles,” she started.
            “Stop it.”
            “Fragile blades that almost fail her-”
            “Can’t you just read it silently like any other normal person?”
            “And quiver over a sea of red.”
            I sighed. Fine. Recite my blasted poem. Make me want to puke. That’s fine by me.
            “You’ll fall in if you’re not careful, they said
            You’ll fall and drown. She didn’t listen.
            She kept walking, every step a paper cut
            from pages from her favourite books.
            She was always walking as if on needles.
Almost falling but never quite.”
            Then there was silence. I didn’t even turn around or ask her if she liked it. I just grabbed my things and left the room, shutting the door quietly behind me. I had no idea what she did with the poem afterwards and I didn’t even care that much altogether – all I wanted was to get away from the blood flushing my cheeks. Note to self: you can’t run away from yourself.
            One Christmas, the one which coincided with me turning thirteen, I got a book of poems as a present. My angsty pre-pubescent self denied its existence at first, and then reluctantly accepted the fact that it was as good a gift as any. Always one gift, even though I was born on the 24th of December. Who cared about Andrew and his silly birthday, right? The presents I got were courtesy of Jesus being born, not Andrew. I didn’t want two presents. I wanted people to say ‘Happy Birthday’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’. I wanted a bike, but got a book. One couldn’t ride a book to school, but one could ride a book down the yellow brick road, beyond the secret garden and straight to Neverland. I went down that road the Christmas I turned thirteen, and never really came back.

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