The Spider’s Song

 

Photo by Tuesday Hathor

The vibration told her that a visitor was calling. The strand that pulled signalled the direction and she quickly scrambled across her webbed tapestry. Sure enough, another fly was entangled and struggling to escape. And, sensing its host’s presence, it struggled and screamed even more.

She rounded about her panicking guest and calmly tried to reassure it. ‘I’m sorry, little fly. I have to devour you for that is my lot in life. But I will be gentle, my friend. I promise.’ To steady its quivering body, she began to wrap the fly in her own silk, while singing the lullaby she always sang to comfort her prey.

Be still my little friend

Don’t you cry

Let me nurse you now

My little fly.

Be silent now

Don’t you weep

The day is closing

Time to sleep.

Even within its silk corset, her guest continued to struggle in vain. She gently crawled around to the back of its head, with the soothing sound of ‘Shhhhhh, now.’ Her fangs penetrated and the venom entered like a mother’s milk, while she continued to hum her song. Why do they fear this so? She pondered to herself. My husbands all loved it.

Withdrawing her fangs, she said ‘There. That was not so bad, was it. And now you shall never again feel any pain, any fear. Never starve, never be hunted. You will join the others who came here, within me. And there you will be at peace.’

The struggling stopped and she backed away, watching as her guest stiffened with paralysis, its insides beginning to change. ‘Soon, my little friend,’ she gently soothed. ‘Soon.’

Barry McCann

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The Reaper’s Wind by Barry McCann

At night, Grandem used to say “Listen to that wind. Listen carefully now for sound of ‘oofs trotting in distance of wind. It blow from Jinny Lane and the ‘oofs belong to the ‘eadless ‘orseman, out on ’is rounds, seeking naughty childer who don’t take to their cribs when told. Listen and beware, but don’t fancy peeking. ‘Cos if you peek, ‘e’ll know. And ‘e’ll come galloping for you. And you may ‘ide in your crib, but ‘e’ll find you, and ‘e’ll take your ‘ead. And ‘e’ll take it back to hang from ‘is tree along with others ‘e’s taken. And they all swing in the Reaper’s wind.So listen to the ‘oofs, Jenet.” Then she’d tap out time with her fist on top of my head. “And when clip clop turns clipity clop… clipity clop turns clipity, clipity clop, then be knowing that some wretched infant peeked and will forfeit ‘ead for its trouble.”

Queer turn of events that thirty years on, I’m in gaol for witchcraft. Why did I take it up after what it did for them? After what I did to them? I fancy Grandem steered me into it, even from ‘er grave. And getting caught is revenge for the words I gave away at Assizes. So wheel’s turned and I’m in spot they were. But wont enough for Grandem. Fancy she will send ‘orseman to do ‘angman’s job. ‘E’ll take my ‘ead, and hang it from tree. And there, in Reaper’s wind, it’ll swing … and swing … and swing.

First broadcast on BBC Radio Cumbria’s Kevin Fernihough show on 20 August 2012. Dedicated to the victims of the 1612 Lancashire Witch trials.

The Night Caller

 

‘And you are listening to the Halloween edition of late show with Neil on BBC Radio Cumbria. And that was The Police with “So Lonely”, or, as I used to sing it, “Sue Lawley.” If you have just joined us for the witching hour, we are talking spooky stories. Have you any supernatural experiences to chill our blood with? Call in with your stories.’ The presenter looked at his monitor to read the latest message from his producer, Janet. ‘And we have someone on the line called Lisa who, apparently, is desperate to talk to me. Hello Lisa.’

‘Please, help me. I’ve been taken. I’m trapped!’

‘Sorry?’ Neil replied, taken rather aback. ‘I’m trapped. Don’t know where,’ the woman continued. ‘Was on my way home in Barrow. Someone hit me on the back of the head. Never saw them. Just woke up here. Its so dark. I can’t see. But still got my mobile, thank God.’ Neil was not sure what to make of the call or what to do, but instinct told him to continue. ‘What’s your full name?’

‘Lisa Goodchild.’

‘Why don’t you phone the police.’

‘Tried to dial 999 but it is so dark. Hit a key and it dialled you. I used to ring your station a lot, your number’s in my address book.’ Neil was becoming suspicious that this was a sick Halloween joke and signalled his producer on the other side of the studio window to cut the call. But Janet shook her head and indicated to go into a record. ‘Okay, Lisa. Stay calm. We are going to put you on hold a second.’ As the opening bars sounded, Janet almost burst into the studio. ‘Lisa in Barrow!’ She announced. ‘When I used to do the breakfast show, she was a regular caller. I recognised the voice!’ Neil got straight back on the line. ’Lisa, have you any clue were you might be.’

‘I don’t know. It’s so dark in here. Cold brick walls. I…’ She then gasped. ‘There’s someone in here. Oh, God! There’s someone in here with me. He’s coming closer. Oh, God, please help!’ And with that, the line went dead. Neil looked at his producer, ashen faced and uttering ‘I really hope that was a hoax.’

The police were at the studio within the early hours of morning. Two officers listened in to the recording of Lisa’s words and checked the mobile number it came from on the call record. They then sat Neil down to inform him of what they knew. ‘Lisa Goodchild was taken while on her way home from work. Her body was found some hours later, dumped. A mobile phone was found on her and the number matches the one your call came from.’

‘Well, of course.’ Said Neil. The constable continued ’You don’t understand, sir. The phone company were informed to put a permanent block on that number so no one can access it. Nor can it ever be re assigned to another user.’

‘Well, that makes sense.’ Neil confirmed. The officer continued ‘But there is one thing that doesn’t make sense. The kidnap and murder of Lisa Goodchild took place two years ago.’ Neil froze as he added ‘On Halloween night, in fact.’

(Originally written & broadcast on BBC Radio Cumbria, Kevin Fernihough show, 31 October 2011)

Honing Creative Skills

The next stage is to explore your creative imagination further and begin exploring language, imagery and other techniques of creative writing. For this, there are some exercises you can try.

The first is called Discover Your Continent. Imagine a door in your home, or library or walled garden. Anywhere. Close your eyes and visualise the door. Try writing a description of it. Then imagine going through the door and visualise the first three things you see. The colours, the smells, any noises in the distance. Write about those. Then imagine going further into this environment and describe what else is there and how it feels. Try to complete 10 sentences or, in the case of a poem, 10 lines. Then describe meeting someone, maybe someone you know. What do they say? What do you say? Devote another 10 sentences or lines to this. Then put away for a few days, maybe longer, and go back with a fresh pair of eyes. Hopefully, you will be able to revise this raw material into a story or poem.

Another exercise is one I call Grow Your Own. Go to a shelf full of books, fiction or poetry, and choose a volume at random. Then just as randomly open the book and put your finger down on a page. Your finger should have landed on a word. Write that word down, along with the three words preceding it and the three following. You then have a seven word phrase. Using this as your opening phrase, continue writing on for the next five minutes. Don’t stop and don’t think, just keep writing. When finished, read through it forwards and then backwards, word for word. Underline any phrase or phrases that stand out to you. The phrase should make a kind of sense, or have inner sense. Now write something containing the phrase or phrases and, hopefully, a fuller piece will grow out of them.

A more disciplined exercise is writing a piece of Flash Fiction. The popular definition of flash fiction is a piece of prose that does not exceed 1000 words. This format is currently very popular on internet writing sites and examples can be seen on such locations. They tend to take the form of anecdotes or recorded conversation. I would suggest starting with 50 words or less. Try writing about the area you live within that word count; words and short phrases that sum up the area to you. For example, using this approach, I tried a short poem about Blackpool which goes like this:

Blackpool.

Officially birthed

In Victoriana

1876

Gestated

Since the first hamlet

1700s

Perhaps

Earlier than that

Somewhere

Black & Pool

Dubh & Linn

In Nordic Irish

Dubh Linn. Sound familiar?

You will often amaze yourself how less can work out as more.

Getting Started

The page is an open space. Your space, where anything is possible because you call the shots. There is no constraint here, only the scope of your imagination. And this is a scope that is ever evolving. Writers are not just born, they are made. And continue to be made through life experiences and how these shape our creative imagination.

So this is where to begin. With a blank page and a pen. Simple as that. Start jotting down any thought you may have, no matter how random. Each random thought you have written is potentially the seed of a story, poem or article; whichever genre you feel comfortable in writing, or adventurous in exploring.

However, you may still find yourself stuck for ideas. But there are ideas all around you, just waiting to be plucked from the air. So try these as a starter. A voyage around your bedroom. A family secret. A family event. Your last holiday. Your first day at school. The possibilities are endless. And you don’t have to constrain yourself by being entirely factual. If your imagination can embellish the facts with more colour, then let it. That is what creative writing is about. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Get Writing!

Welcome to Writing Without Tears, the blogsite of creative writing. Nevermore than now has writing become so popular and the age of the internet has nurtured new genres of the written word, such as flash fiction. Writing Without Tears aims to share tips and ideas on creative writing, as well as examples of finished written pieces. So if you have ever fancied taking up the quill and being J. K. Rowling…Or Harold Robbins if that takes your fancy, then this will hopefully be the site for you. So, get writing!