I like to consider my ongoing writing a work of fantasy. Which, technically speaking, I suppose it is. But lately I find myself wondering if it’s really weird (or fantastical) enough for my chosen genre. Certainly there are plenty of “other world” elements but believe me it’s no The Left Hand of Darkness of Ursula K. Le Guin fame.
I came across a book dedicated to helping authors create imaginative fiction aptly named Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer. I’ve decided to work through the exercises in the book to see if it will help unleash my inner creative freak and ultimately enliven my story. The first challenge was to write a story about the below image.
Well here goes, I hope you enjoy!
Writing Challenge 1 (Wonderbook)
Montague Creek was always in a foul mood. He began life as a happy, carefree lad growing up in the countryside with his mother and aunt. Some whispered that they were witches, but Montague knew better. They were just eccentric widows who preferred to live simply and possessed a vast respect for Mother Earth and all her creatures.
Theirs was a quiet life. Montague was home schooled and didn’t have much need of travel. His entertainment was found in the forests and streams of his youth. Here he ran free, his imagination preparing him for the inspiring world that he just knew lay beyond his childhood home.
All childhoods come to an end and Montague’s was no exception. At eighteen he was shipped off to the city to attend University supported by monies he never knew his mother had. She had saved her last penny to ensure Montague was able to attain higher education so that he would be able to leave the forest and make his life elsewhere, if he should choose to do so.
At first Montague very much enjoyed his new surroundings. City life was full of glamor and excitement, with indulgences on every corner. Temptation became overwhelming for innocent Montague, and he spent all his funds for University before ever completing his degree. While the harsh reality of the world crushed down upon him, Montague never once considered going back to his humble roots. City life showed him how pitiable his upbringing was and he would do whatever it took to remain in this sophisticated world.
Montague demonstrated a knack for numbers during his time at University. He was able to secure a modestly paying job at a luxury department store soon after dropping out of school. Month after month, year after year, Montague balanced the store accounts. He was bombarded with the excesses of socialites on a daily basis – the furs and leathers, the glittering jewels, and the shiny new purses. Why should he be denied such pleasures? Over time Montague grew bitter and disenchanted with his lowly station in life.
Montague’s only joy in the store came from the two caged parrots that greeted customers with insults as they entered the store. The silly patrons! The parrots were such a novelty they ignored the insults hurled in their direction. They thought the birds were telling jokes but Montague knew that the parrots only told the truth.
One evening when Montague was working late he decided to let the birds out of their cage. They squawked excitedly and immediately flew to the back of the store where a large indoor koi pond emptied into a river outside of the store.
Montague wandered over to the koi pond following the flight of the parrots. This part of the store was dark, lit only by the moonlight streaming through the large bay window that overlooked the outdoor stone patio and the river below. He was reminded of the ponds and streams of his youth. Where has all the magic in the world gone?
Almost as if in response to his musings the two parrots flapped down onto Montague’s shoulders. To his great delight, the parrots began to chant.
“King Koi, King Koi, King Koi.”
Montague was surprised to see ripples at the very back of the koi pond. I must be dreaming, he thought to himself. A large wave was slowly moving towards where he stood, with the two parrots chirping on his shoulders. Was that a shadow moving under the water?
A large gush of water shot up from the pond and drenched Montague from head to toe. The parrots flew to the rafters where they continued to chant, King Koi, King Koi.
When Montague rubbed the water clear from his eyes he was stunned to find an enormous koi fish standing upright before him. How could such a creature find it’s way into the store pond? It had a huge and silly looking head, slick and thick body, and was somehow perched upright on his tail. The fish spread its enormous fins and began to sing. It was a soothing sound, deep and melodic, like the sound of waves underwater. Montague began to feel drowsy; surely I am dreaming he thought once again.
A scream from the parrots jolted Montague out of his daze. The last thing he remembered seeing was the fish’s huge mouth opening and the body crouching low, as if the creature was preparing to jump.