Sunday, 20 April 2008

First Published Story

Thought I'd put up my first ever published short story. I wrote it way back when I was 19 for Creative Studies at uni, and Peeping Tom published it in issue #28. I'm still pretty proud of it.
Peeping Tom was a great little magazine. It published new writers as well as the established; Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Gallagher, Mark Chadbourn, Brian Lumley and Guy N Smith all appeared at some time or other. In fact, 'The Sea and the Statues' was voted by Peeping Tom readers as the 4th best story of that year - cool!

Anyway, enjoy!!

The Sea and the Statues

Harriet sat in the corner in her favourite chair.
“Sing to me, Danielle, sing to me,” she said. Danielle put Drummy to bed. The clock on the wall chimed seven.
“Mummy, Drummy can’t get to sleep.”
“Drummy will sleep. Come over and sing to me.”
Danielle sighed and stamped her little foot before falling to Harriet’s feet. She took hold of her mother’s hand.
“What shall I sing to you, mummy?”
Harriet could see Danielle, but it was different to what Danielle looked like. In her mind she had perfect round blue eyes and beautiful blond hair. “Anything you like.”
So Danielle sang her favourite song and both voice and sea merged into one harmonious sound.
Once Danielle had finished, the child let go of her mother’s hand and gazed up at her room. “I wonder if Drummy can dream. Like I can.”
“Isn’t he asleep yet?”
“No. He’s sitting in bed listening to the sea. Mummy, do dreams come true?”
“Sometimes. What is it you dream, Danielle?”
The girl paused, and then paced the room. She kept glaring up at the clock. Finally, she spoke. “I dream Drummy is alive. That he can talk back to me and we can play hopscotch on the beach. Mummy, do you think there are other people out there?”
“Of course there are. Someday I’m sure you’ll meet somebody. What’s the time?”
“Somebody not a statue?”
“Is it gone seven?” Harriet didn’t think about the statues too much. She had grown to accept them.
“Not yet.”
“I don’t believe you, young lady. Come on, let’s get you to bed. Drummy needs the company.”

The morning was golden and clear. Slants of sunshine cut through the crystal panes and cast Drummy in a warm glow. The puppet sat lifeless on the cabinet, smiling at no-one in particular.
Danielle was sitting at the table stirring her cereal in her milk, staring at Drummy. She winked at him and spooned herself some food.

And the day grew like any other day and Danielle took her mother out across the beach. She pushed Harriet along in her wheelchair. Harriet say quite content, enjoying the sun’s warmth on her skin and the sound of the lazy waves. She smiled to herself.
“Is the sun bright this morning?”
Danielle looked up as she pushed the wheelchair. “Yes, mummy. There isn’t a single cloud in the sky!”
“Oh dear. Then you can’t play your favourite game today.”
“Oh wait! I can see one. It looks like … it looks like our house by the sea. I can see the slanting roof…and if I look hard enough, the wind chimes through my bedroom window.”
“Once, when mummy had her sight and you hadn’t even been born, I used to lie on the fields and make pictures with the clouds…”
“Maybe you’ll see again one day.”
Slowly, Harriet turned her head. It was the only part of her body she could move. “You’re changing direction.”
“I had to, mummy. There was a statue in the way.”
“A pretty statue?”
“A young boy. He’s got ever such a pretty face and long locks of hair. I wonder if he ever lived. Do you think that’s what happens to your body, mummy, once you go to heaven? Does it turn into a statue?”
Harriet just laughed.

Just of late, the statues had been building up; new ones were appearing all the time. Each one always caught a glimpse of Danielle before Danielle caught a glimpse of them.
The wind picked up and the lazy waves began to roar. Danielle put a blanket around her mother. “Shall we go now, mummy?”
“Yes, dear. The wind is cold and the sea is restless.”
“Good. I’m missing Drummy.”
A bout of melancholia momentarily hung over Harriet. It was triggered by her usual twinges of guilt. Perhaps Harriet should not have brought up the child by the sea; perhaps she could have been mingled with others. No. It would have been hard.
Danielle giggled. “That new cloud looks like a snake with its tongue poking out.”
“You and your strange imagination. Come on, let’s hurry. There might be a storm. How quickly the weather changes.”
The child steered her mother around statues and saw the house was in sight.
She stopped.
There was a pause. The wind screamed and howled, cold on Harriet’s face. She sensed something wasn’t right.
“What’s wrong? Why have we stopped?”
“Hush, mummy! In the distance I can see someone … I can see him walking about!”
“What does he look like?”
“Ssh! He’s coming closer. Oh mummy, what shall I do?” The wind blew harder and Harriet shivered.
The stranger walked closer and he lifted his head. Danielle smiled at him. For Harriet, the period of waiting was agonizing.
Then: “Danielle! Who is he?”
“Oh mummy, I was wrong. It was just another statue.” Her disappointment sounded close to despair. Slowly, they started moving again. They made their way back to the house in total silence.

That afternoon Danielle played with Drummy until she got bored. Then she prepared tea, careful not to cut herself whilst chopping the vegetables, and they ate in front of the fire. When the clock chimed seven, Danielle tucked Drummy into bed and helped Harriet from her chair onto the settee. She kissed her goodnight.
“Don’t forget to call if you need anything,” she said.
“I won’t, angel,” replied Harriet.
Danielle ascended the wooden steps and lay on her bed. The window was open and the wind whistled in and stroked the wind chimes.
She was feeling better.
“Goodnight Drummy,” she said, and kissed her doll. Then she rolled over and played with the snakes in her hair until she fell asleep.

Copyright 1999 Paul Edwards


Dan Edwards said...

I've always liked this story. Good atmosphere, good twist. Good job!

Paul Edwards said...

Thanks Dan! Like most of my stories it's far too short, but I'm working on that! Currently trying to write longer things, and am getting there... You doing much writing these days??