Seven years after commencing my studies, I am due to graduate with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from the Open University next summer.
As well as a short course science module (Galaxies, stars and planets: S177), my final work toward my degree will be A363: Advanced Creative Writing. It’s recommended that students start a blog to record some of the work they produce in the course, and this was a large part of the motivation for maninthesand.com.
The module opened on a discussion of genre, and the first short piece of writing I produced was in response to the instruction to write in continuation of the following (provided) paragraph of prose:
The church clock strikes eight, so those villagers who are awake know without checking that it is six. A cock crows. A body lies across the doorstep of a church, a line of crumb-carrying ants marches across the fedora covering his face. There is a serene, momentary quiet after the chimes cease. A figure glides past the church wall, before the silence is cracked by a baby crying.
A list of suggested titles was presented and students were asked to write with the genre suggested by the title they chose in mind. I wrote the following under the title:
The Life History of Guillermo Brown
Then the scene before me shifts and I’m viewing the sky from below. Shock at the instantaneous change in perspective makes me gasp and there’s silence once more. A high-sided grey canyon encloses my vision from all sides. The same bright expanse I looked down from within before now appears above it, searing white. All around is warm.
Suddenly a shadow descends as an enormous dark shape fills my view from above. Instinctively my hand moves to shield my eyes from the light so as to perceive some identifying detail in the massive black expanse.
That’s when I notice my injuries. Both of my arms are heavy with swelling. My hands are pudgy pink bulbs and my sausage-like fingers sprout from them at uncomfortable angles, each one concealing a tiny bright fingernail at the end of their pillowy length, like a brass tack in a freshly upholstered sofa.
In shock and fear of my grotesque appearance I vocalise a tiny, reedy warble that seems to instantly dry and constrict my throat. I make to clear it, but my cough too is muted to the same type of thin, wispy half-noise. I shift slightly in the hope of stretching out the kink in my windpipe, or larynx, or diaphragm or whatever it may be. Moving my torso provides a deeply unpleasant yet strangely familiar sensation and with it the unwelcome knowledge that I’m wearing a soiled nappy.
The next moment sends a chill of fear to the core of my being as three things dawn on me;
I am a baby.
I am lying inside a pram lined with grey corduroy.
The enormous shape above me is my father’s face.