Creative writing excerpts from The Writers’ College students

 

The following unedited snippets of creative writing come from students on our Short Story Writing Courses, Novel Courses, Scriptwriting and the Basics of Creative Writing Courses.
There were hundreds of great pieces to choose from, so we closed our eyes and randomly selected excerpts from our list of favourites. Enjoy!

 

Basics of Creative Writing Course – Studying with Helen Brain

Extract: from a scene by Sigrid Birk

My boyfriend is examining the one hundredth desk in IKEA: he’s very thorough. He doesn’t want a chair that squeaks and the drawers must open fluidly and be large enough for all his papers and his giant metal ruler. The metal ruler in fact seems to have sabotaged the last ninety-nine desks, as the ruler won’t fit. I ask him about the use of this ruler at desk number 52, and then about its emotional value at desk 80, but he just grunts.

I see my boyfriend at the next desk, pale skin, determined mouth, bright eyes that scream intelligence. He opens the drawers slowly and inspects them inside by touching the bottom and the sides, as if he were reading them in Braille.

I wish he wanted to feel me like those drawers. I sigh. He’s not like that. It is all about deeper things with him, true friendship and all the knowledge I am gaining about important things in life thanks to our conversations. I don’t always pay attention when he’s speaking, though. I just stare into his eyes trying to look seductive and wonder when he will want to have sex with me again. He has such beautiful eyes.

“This place is shit.” He says. “I’m not going to find anything here.” He looks at the desk with disgust. He has a way of making one feel with just a look that he’s been let down, and I feel that if the desk could, it would apologise.

 

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Alex Smith

Extract: from a novel by Gareth Ward

Russet ironwork columns spiralled skywards supporting the Corn Market’s unique and much acclaimed flurohydrous roof. Created by the eccentric inventor Nimrod Barm, a turquoise aqueous solution swirled between two ironglass sheets providing an ever-changing vista.

Sin meandered through the market, soaking up the atmosphere. The smells of science wafted from the booths, the sulphurous results of chemical reactions hanging in the air like a pungent perfume. He pushed into a crowd gathered around Phileas Pines Technological Timepieces, the press of warm bodies a fleeting moment of companionship. Soft velvet and wool brushed his bare arms, the expensive fabric’s touch exquisite compared to the rough sackcloth of his own rags.

From the booth Phileas Pines held forth. “Ladies and Gentleman, witness the chronological magnificence of our new ‘Radiant-Active’ watches. Using only the finest uranium these luminous masterpieces are to die for.”

Sin jostled past a ruddy-faced punter in a tweed jacket and he sensed a promising bulge from the jacket’s inner pocket. The world quietened, drowned out by his quickened pulse. Time slowed; something Phileas Pines would have told him was impossible. Sin slid his hand under the jacket’s lapel, smooth silk caressing his palm. His fingers touched cool metal, sensing the shape of the fob watch, exploring for a securing chain or pin. None found, he grasped his prize and eased his hand clear. The bustle of the market returned. He thrust the watch into his pocket and darted away.

 

 

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Andrew Salomon

Extract: from a novel by Abdussabur Kirke

“Stop!” comes a shout. “Police! We’ve caught your colleagues…”.

Then I jump off a low wall into the river. Under the water it’s brown and cold and silent.

But I have to come up. Something is hurting my arm. I call out, swallowing oily, soily water. There’s so much splashing. Then out of the water comes a dark, fanged muzzle and it bites my face and rips off some of my eyebrow. I grab at that hairy muscular snapping thing and it grabs me back ten times harder driving twenty ivory nails into my hand.

“I give up!” I shout.

“Leave him! Leave him!”

The water is smooth again and I’m standing in mud. My shoes are lost. Two black seals are swimming gracefully to the bank powered by their tails. When they clamber out they shake off the water.

Six or so human figures are standing on the low riverside wall against the skyline; I cannot see their faces. They’re wearing items on their belts, two have other dogs straining leashes. Warm blood is in my mouth. Then one of the figures speaks in a kind commanding voice:

“Come in now, we’ll not hurt you as long as you don’t fight. Come on. It’s over. Come.”

So I drag myself up through the mud and commit myself to their mercy and justice.

 

 

Skryf ‘n roman kursus – Studying with Wilna  Adriaanse

Extract: from a novel by Jo Nel

Dit is nie so seer die beelde wat hom ontstel nie. Die donker beelde kry hy al vir maande: Mevrou Malgas. Die tienjarige Elden Bruintjies. Nosipho Boniswa. Vandag is dit Yolinda Booysen. White trash. Dom gesig. Grimering oral. Tande vrot. Drie huilende snotneuskinders in die wagkamer.

“Gaan jy my inspuit? Ek háát tandartse. Julle is die mees terribleste mense op aarde.”

Die naald wat tussen haar oë tref en buig. Die blink vlekkelose staal tandartsspuit wat die skedel hard tref. Bloed. Sy hand wat weer oplig en ondertoe kap. Haar oë groot. Haar skok eers stom. Kop wat spartel onder sy linkerhand. Dan die gille. Harder houe. Bloed op sy handskoene. Op sy gesig. Versterk sy greep. Druk hard af teen die stoel. Nog harder houe. Harder, harder, hárder. Dan stilte. Hemelse fokken stilte.

Nee, dit is die sagte klemming van sy vingers wat hom vandag ontstel. Die doelbewuste bedwang. En die moontlikheid van stilte.

 

Short Story Writing Course – Studying with Ginny Swart

Extract: by Elvira Tadevosyan

Kevin hadn’t heard from  Mitch since last night and he was beginning to hope that he had changed his mind and called the whole thing off. He had never done something like this before, or at least ‘planned’ to. He sat on end of the cold bed and placed his face beneath his sweaty palms. It was seven in the evening and he still had one hour to think about what he was about to do. He knew he wasn’t ready. He thought of a mother bird throwing its baby off a cliff to teach it how to fly. In this case, he was the baby bird, and Mitch was the merciless Mommy bird. Not that his nature allowed for any motherly associations.

He couldn’t back out now. He knew what he had to do to make this problem from the past go away. He opened the drawer of the old dressing table in his room and pulled out a sharp, shiny object. He placed it in his front pocket. It felt uncomfortable. The last time he had carried around a weapon ended up being the biggest mistake he ever made. A very small part of him felt better knowing that the man was old and lonely, that he no longer had his job at that Bakery. He knew that doing this meant freedom for himself and freedom from Mitch.

Kevin heard a knock on the front door of his little cottage, and headed outside. Mitch was waiting for him. They greeted each other with a nod and both headed towards Mitch’s beat up old Chevy.  They got in and sat for a few brief moments of silence.

“We can’t mess this up today. I need you to grow a pair, Kevin. You look pale as a ghost.” Mitch spat out coldly.

“I won’t mess up.” He responded sheepishly.

“You have to understand there are no second chances. We need him out.–

Write a Novel Course – Studying with David Jester

Extract: by Monica Serban

It is pouring outside, cats and dogs style. I love that expression, although its original meaning has long washed out. Nowadays, the four legged creatures are the first to look for shelter when their sensitive muzzles get a whiff of stormy air. Even though you might see a vagrant dog now and again, drowning his fleas in a puddle of diluted mud, don’t expect to see a cat engaging in such crude behavior.

While humans are desperately running for cover, those sneaky felines have already found a cozy, dry spot and are licking themselves pretty.

There is an exception to any rule, and one very rainy day I was lucky enough to witness it: a rain-drenched cat, dark slate grey fur cleaved in spiky, dripping clumps, waiting outside my neighbor’s house.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Sonny Whitelaw

Extract from a novel by Ann Wickens

Lord Eth-Gradon did not look up as Damon stepped into the room. The only sound was the rustle of paper as he read. The light from the candles reflected off the ring he wore, but his official circlet teetered on a stack of papers. Faryn perched in the corner behind his lord, his writing slate balanced on his stomach. His clothes, always neat, were rumpled and greasy. He tried to stifle a yawn.

Damon swallowed. “You wanted to see me?”

“Sit.” His father looked up, gesturing to a chair.

Pulling it over to the table, Damon sat and watched his father break another seal. As usual, his gaze moved up to the portrait that hung on the wall.

The woman stared down at him with grey eyes, her lips curved in a smile, her face surrounded by dark hair the same colour as his. She was not beautiful, but her smile was appealing, her eyes kind. His mother had been twenty, younger than he was now, when she had vanished from their lives. Often he searched his memory, saddened that he could find nothing of her, not her voice, the smell of her or the feel of her touch. The only thing he had was this image.

The sapphire in the signet ring flashed in the candlelight as his father sat back. “That piddling bastard Pravus knew we couldn’t hold him and he sent most of his force to the river banks. Gargoth’s balls, we lost too damn many last night.” He rubbed his unshaven cheek. “Somehow he knows our bloody tactics.”

“What? How could he?” Why did he feel as if his father was blaming him?

His father’s face clouded, neck and cheeks flushed.

“Do you think he has a man in our castle?” Damon added.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Alex Smith

Extract: ‘Contaminant’ by Natasha Bannerman

Sasolburg was beautiful at night, Jacob thought, watching the flares burn like giant birthday candles against the inky blackness of the sky. Being perched on top of the cold storage tank gave him an unrestricted view of the industrial plants which surrounded him and stretched into the distance. Clouds of steam, rising from the cooling towers, diffused the glow from hundreds of lights into softness, giving the plants an almost ethereal quality. Jacob considered that the darkness allowed even the harshest of environments to hide its less than pretty side. Pity it couldn’t do anything about the smells, he thought, wrinkling his nose as a pungent whiff of some or other noxious chemical drifted to him on the breeze.

He preferred working night shift it was always a lot less hectic than days, with the added benefit of no obnoxious plant manager hanging over your shoulder watching your every move. At night he would sometimes get the opportunity to escape outside for a while. He hated being stuck in the control room staring at numbers on a computer screen for an entire shift. He was a physical, hands-on type of guy and he preferred being out on the plant getting a feel for how it was running. Stuck in a control room you couldn’t hear the whine of a motor working too hard or the hiss of escaping air indicating a leak. Next to him his two-way radio buzzed to life.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Alex Smith

Extract: Jacques Theron’s novel ‘Orfiel’

I found what was left of Orfiel’s body swinging languidly from a gnarled branch. The leather noose creaked rhythmically, eerily; his neck twisted at an unnatural angle. Those pensive eyes stared out before him lifeless, but not without an expression of peace. His skin was ivory white, drained of all blood. Both arms and the right leg had been ripped from his torso. Only bloody sockets remained, the blood, darkened with time, running down his sides. The limbs were not on the ground nearby.

I should have begged him not to make the journey alone, was all I could think as I stood – horrified – before his dangling corpse.

The low-hanging sun painted the land in the last swathe of rose-coloured light. Blackness would engulf the heavens and I knew I was vulnerable, for the forest crones rampaged in the shadows of night.

I could not leave his body. Not like that. I was too heartbroken to believe that the butchered figure in front of me was really Orfiel. But I could not leave him swinging. I cut the leather belt knotted around his neck. His body fell, a heavy thud on the carpet of leaves soaked with his blood.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Alex Smith

Extract: Salma Haq’s novel with working title ‘Not for Oneself but for All’

After Yusuf was sentenced, Imran felt numb as events reeled in his mind, slotting into gaps. Then anger took over. Anger at his ignorance and at his complacency over his pious and studious son. He stopped going to work. He barely left the house, sustaining himself on tea and an occasional biscuit. His stamina diminished and with it his anger dwindled. Weakness led to tears; copious, obese drops emptying his soul and eroding his faith. And then came self-pity, which was inescapably followed by the reality of life. He knew that if he stopped now, he would shatter; he needed to hold together the mosaic of his life. He needed to get up every morning. He needed to go to school. This was to be his therapy. The ritual, the routine of it all kept him secure. For this he was grateful.

He had travelled the road to teaching reluctantly, but once there, he was happy. He liked the vibrancy, the challenges, and the exchanges with his students. He marvelled at the changes in attitudes of the children over the years. The openly racist taunts of the eighties had changed into more subtle and irregular teasing, mixed race children were more common, girls were more ambitious, consumerism had increased, and discipline had slumped. Mohicans had been flicked, then curled, then waved, then highlighted, then straightened and then curled again. Trousers had flared, then tightened, then turned, then ripped. And he was in the middle of it all.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Alex Smith

Extract: ‘Family History: The Boy in Black’ by AJ Neilson

The first rays of dawn broke behind the farmhouse, birthplace to four generations of Neilsons. Wonderful reds and pinks accompanied the emerging shades of blue. Sitting on the dewy grass, John tried to bring to mind his mother’s description of the flora, the fauna, and the quirks of the people, of their valley.

His gaze fell to small purple-leafed flowers by the hedge:  ‘Violets … common dog violets,’ he said uncertainly. The dawn chorus piped up from the woodland. He listened intently: blackbirds, blackcaps, finches—don’t know which kind. Is that a linnet or a lark? The soft pulse of cooing pigeons provided a clearly interpretable and familiar backdrop. The knowledge his mother had tried to impart was going. At least the words were fading. But sitting in their picnic spot beneath the pinky-blue sky—that’s what she would have called it—the rhythm and tone of her voice was still vivid. He could hear Charles laugh and see Mother smile as they sat here together and watched Rebecca find her feet for the first time. Mother never lived to see Martha walk, and he couldn’t recall anybody else taking much notice. Even here, looking down over their valley, the memory of her face was now hazy; only her smile was in sharp focus. How long until that too was gone? Tears flowed soundlessly down his cheeks, their tracks leaving a visible trace through the grime of the night. Their warmth, and origins, testimony to his coldness.

It would be the last time John would cry for other people: for his mother, and for the son she would have had him become. Smoke was beginning to rise from the whitewashed cottages which dappled the lower slopes. John stood up; it was time for his last day of farming. Turning for one last view of the panorama he plucked a violet for his lapel—just as she might have done—and returned home.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Fiona Ingram

Extract: From a novel instalment written by Tineka Vieira

Ida remembered the first time she had done something sinister, if you could even call it that. She’d gone out to get Cathy, her colleague at Interesting Snacks, some lunch. Interesting Snacks had been her first employer and the place that had launched her career.

Cathy had been her senior and one of the most pedantic individuals she had ever met. Not only was Cathy constantly peering over her thin framed glasses to glare at Ida’s computer monitor, inferring that Ida was up to no good, she also spoke to Ida with such condescension. Ida disliked Cathy immensely, which made it all the more fair to set her up when the opportunity arose.

“Cathy, I need to step out quickly to buy some lunch.”

“Of course you do,” commented Cathy, not looking up from her computer screen. “As the one with time for lunch, I’m sure you won’t mind picking me up something to eat?”

Ida had stepped out to a local deli and was about to pick up two pastrami sandwiches when she noticed a sandwich that had fallen between the fridge and a rack of potato chips. The sandwich looked like it was at least a day old and presumably had been unrefrigerated since the previous day. Ida picked it up and was about to take it to the manager when a thought crossed her mind. Cathy had a huge presentation to the management team tomorrow, most of which Ida had spent sleepless nights putting together. Ida had thought about what would happen if Cathy was ill – would the meeting be cancelled or would there be the opportunity for her to step up and fill in? Even though the sandwich had no trace of cold left in it, she concluded that she didn’t really know how long the sandwich had been there so chances were good that Cathy would be fine. And if Cathy wasn’t fine, at least Ida would have the opportunity to put her name out there. She took the sandwich, added lashings of dressing and gave it to Cathy, who was too busy stressing about the presentation to notice anything was wrong with it.

Cathy was sick the next day and Ida saw it as fate. She was meant to do that presentation to the management team and to be recognized for all her hard work. Ida still felt that it could have gone either way and it was just proof that she never let anyone take credit for work that she had done. Unfortunately, Cathy didn’t fare so well in the end; the management team had not been understanding about her calling in sick. Ida, of course, not only filled in but she went one step further and admitted that she had also eaten the same pastrami sandwich from the deli and, even though she felt terrible, she knew how much the presentation meant to the company. Even now recalling the memory of the event, Ida felt no regret. The feeling of standing up in front of the management team and taking control, playing the audience like the puppets they were, had given Ida the feeling of supremacy, a feeling that she could sense now deep in her being.

That single moment of decision between a bad sandwich and a good one had taught Ida to rely on fate, on her gut feelings and, even though she had aided fate, fate, overall, had prevailed. Fate had always been in her favour, until this moment as she stood in the street alone and abandoned. A bodiless soul. The chaos that had surrounded her had dissipated and she now stood on the sidewalk, staring at the spot where her body had been, while the last of the lingering spectators left the scene. Even the litter of recyclables seemed to move away from her until the streets were completely deserted.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Fiona Ingram

Extract: From a novel instalment written by Feroza van der Merwe

She blended and she brewed and selected the best with which to bless them.

Interest in the lottery reverberated throughout the spirit realm. It had been a while since most of them had been actively involved in earthly events. Some guardians had given up the close watch and retreated to the spirit realm to observe from afar.

“A spirit lottery, you say. What would I have to give of myself?” asked a sceptical tree nymph.

“It’s more than just a lottery, Hildee. We would give the best of ourselves to participate. Compatibility will be very important for the recipe to blend effectively,” replied a kindly water nymph.

With the veil lifting, Atlas’s mind was as clear as the crystal spring water flowing in the Valley of Ro. For the first time, he could feel the rock that he had become a part of for infinity separate from himself. He felt the creatures scurrying along the peaks and the insects moving in and out of the crevices.

Rheiea was up early as usual. She enjoyed the solitude and peace that came with the latter part of the night bleeding into the early morning. She hummed as she opened the door to welcome the day. Rheiea would miss the little house and the large family that it contained. She pushed her wooden boat into the water and peered into the depths of the lake, marvelling at the little fish trying to escape her net. The calm surface broke as she dipped her fingers into the cool liquid. A hand reached out to her. She grasped the hand without hesitation. The two opposing bodies tugged and Rheiea in the boat tumbled into Rheiea in the water and they became one.

With each falling star, heaven and earth fell further out of alignment. The earth heaved and spluttered, protesting; the ground split and the oceans groaned. Dense thunderheads of pink and blue raged above a stormy mountain.

Atlas felt water beneath his feet. He could feel his feet. As he flexed his wrist, the spine of seventeen peaks flexed in reply.

She has always been there in the void. She watched while creation unfolded, while wars were fought and nations fell. She was there through it all. Watching and waiting. Watching and creating in the void. Things had changed much in the aeons that had passed. She had evolved and moved beyond chaos. She was no longer only a womb of darkness.

Rheiea opened her eyes and saw beyond the velvety darkness. She felt weightless and strangely satiated. The afternoon had passed swiftly. She tethered the boat and walked back to her house with the money from the fish neatly tucked into her pocket.

“Rheiiiiiiiii,” screamed Madika as she rushed toward her. “You’re all shimmery. Why do you look all shiny? That is a really pretty bangle.”

Rheiea removed the intricately threaded gold and platinum snake from her wrist and handed it to her seven-year-old sister. If you looked closely enough, you would find its partner adorning her left ankle. The bracelet fervently coiled itself around Madika’s tiny wrist as if it belonged there.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Fiona Ingram

Extract: From a novel instalment written by Nick Prinsloo

Ga’el couldn’t handle the silence any longer. With a string of cuss words that would have made a fourteenth century pleasure worker feel dirty, he sprang to his feet and started pacing the small cabin.

“Where’d you go, Hag?” he asked. “Are you trying to punish me? ’Cause it’s working. I feel properly chastised.”

Silence.

What now?

            “Fern? Please? Say something? Anything?”

Nothing.

Ga’el hurried over to the water room where he kept a piece of reflective metal. Taking a flint from his pocket, he lit a lantern and soon had enough light to work with. Using the reflection in the metal, he looked over his shoulder. The tattoo was still there. He tried not to look at the tattoo too often; it made him remember what he had done all those centuries ago. But now he was worried. Living with one’s curse for as long as he had … it had become an addiction.

He tried to recall what life had been like before the curse. He couldn’t. The hag and her strange menagerie had become his family.

What in the lost names of the seventeen dead gods is she doing?

“Mistress Fern? Witch? Where are you?”

Something must be wrong.

He checked the mirror again. Fern was still there, tattooed on his back where she always was. And she looked as she always did, hunched over, a shrivelled crone perpetually smiling as if she was laughing at him. Her silver hair was tied into the same severe bun that always pulled at her eyebrows, giving the impression that she had just been startled.

Why are you so quiet? You never shut up, not even when I’m asleep?

But now, silence.

“Please speak to me. You’re being cruel. Mistress Fern.”

Ga’el pulled up the leg of his pants and slapped the growling wolf that lived on his thigh. “Bear. Hey, Bear. Wake up. Bear? Please? Come on, I need help.”

In response, the ink on his skin started swirling. Ga’el clenched his teeth. It felt like the skin was being peeled from his body.

“What?” asked the huge black wolf, now standing in front of him. “Are we being attacked?”

“Oh, thank the gods,” breathed Ga’el. “Listen, Bear, Mistress Fern has stopped talking to me. Can you find out if she’s all right?”

Bear’s lips peeled back in a rictus. Ga’el couldn’t help noticing how sharp the wolf’s teeth were. Bear growled in a deep, rumbling sound that made Ga’el shiver.

“Mistress Fern is in a trance right now. She did this all the time before you messed things up. Be patient, human.”

With that the beast became ink on skin and nothing Ga’el did would make Bear return.

Eventually, he took the wolf’s advice. He lay down on his cot, closed his eyes and tried to sleep. But, sleep was evasive. Something big was about to happen. Something big and bad.

Then—just as he began to succumb to exhaustion—he felt a new sensation: the tattoo on his back was swirling. Mistress Fern had never left his skin before.

This can’t be good.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Fiona Ingram

Extract: From a novel instalment written by Marine Fourie

Eric heard shouts coming from below. He looked down and saw people staring and pointing; guards were ushering people from the courtyard as the guards armed themselves.

Eric scowled and said, “I don’t have time for this.”

“I hope you weren’t expecting them to just let you walk in and see the king,” Nadia pointed out. Eric was aware of Nadia’s arms wrapped around him.

Is it really a good idea to bring her along? Not that she gave me much of a choice.

“No, but did they have to arm themselves? Slowly, Zio. Let’s not give them any more reason to attack us.” He nudged the beast groundwards. The mighty flapping of Zio’s wings was comforting and successfully drowned out the commander’s orders.

Zio’s paws thudded heavily on the stones and then the griffin crouched down. Eric swung his leg over Zio’s back and slid off the griffin, landing much harder than he anticipated. Nadia followed suit.

Eric was sore from the flight, but still tried to stand as proud as he could. Nadia was no different. The setting sun passed over the large towers of the castle, casting monstrous shadows. If he were home now, the library would be filled with warmth. Here in the courtyard of the palace, he was facing down pointed spears, sharpened swords and notched arrows.

“I need to see the king,” Eric said in a firm voice.

“It is customary to introduce oneself before making demands.”

The sound of a stern voice parted the guards. Justice Nikolai. The man had a menacing presence. Dressed in a black military uniform with six gold circles stitched to his right cuff, he smoothed his greying hair back with his left hand while his right tightly clutched the cane supporting his weight. His intimidating gaze matched the stern expression carved into the mask covering the right side of his face. Angry red scars were visible under its edges.

“I know who you are; the blue jacket too big to be your own, the five silver rings adorning your cuff, the griffin, the messy hair from your travel here, and half a wedding suit. Why are you here, Lord Blackburn?” Nikolai’s eyes narrowed. “Is it revenge or information? Be careful with your answer, and even more careful if you choose the path of the dishonest.”

Eric’s throat was dry. “Information,” he croaked.

Eric heard the shuffling of feet as the soldiers glanced surreptitiously at one man with three gold circles on his cuff. His grey hair was neatly tied back. He had bright blue eyes and a thin grey beard running along his chin.

“Your orders, Justice?” the man asked.

“Captain, please remove any weapons from Lord Blackburn. If he resists then his intentions are clear.” Justice Nikolai’s gaze remained on Eric.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Andrew Salomon

Extract: From a novel instalment written by Stephanie Brown

Behind them a braying roar. A signal from one creature to its companions. Their quarry had taken flight. The trees blurred past in eerie shadows as they ran. Aderyn keeping her sister’s white shift in view as she followed, her breathing hoarse and ragged as her legs carried her. There was a quarry nearby; their father often paid his dues there in mining. How far had they run? Were they close?

She turned her head to look, to gain some sense of where she was and saw men running either side of them. Her heart leapt to her throat. She watched through a patch of moonlight in the trees as a near-naked man in hinged chest armour and fur loincloth ran through the trees a few meters beside her. His short sword banged against his leg as his legs strained. The man held her eyes long enough to snarl at her, before throwing his head back in a roar and flinging himself on all fours. His legs stretching and contracting, changing shape as his kneecaps changed place. His hands balled into fists as he ran on all fours. The man disappeared back into shadow, but she could hear his breathing now, coming in rapid snorts. On all fours he would be faster. They all would be.

Literary Short Fiction Course – Studying with Andrew Salomon

Extract: From a story written by Petrus Kruger

“He’s a real menace, Charly, like Dennis the Menace,” Mrs. Winkerton said to her husband as they lay in a slightly rickety bed in their over-expensive apartment. It wasn’t exactly that smart, but it was lofty for the Winkerton’s income class.

“But, my Queen…” Mr. Winkerton had moved away from “my Princess” when Mrs. Winkerton felt that at forty, she had become too old to be a princess any longer.

“It really is true, Charly. He pushed that red-haired boy for no reason, right from behind. The red-haired boy didn’t even have a chance to defend himself.”

“Queen, I understand that makes him a trouble-maker, perhaps one with discipline issues, but you said yourself that he doesn’t ever make a mess in the restrooms or smoke behind the chapel or let mice out among the girls during choir practice. That would be menacing. I know Larry Brown and he’s doing the best he can with that boy. Being a backyard mechanic and paying for Liverpool Lutheran Academy takes some doing. Perhaps the kids tease him.”

“I know they do, Charly. I’ve seen that, but they tease him because he pushes them. Why doesn’t he just realize that he will be more loved if he is less violent?”

“Is he really, Queen? I thought you said he just does some pushing and this time was a little rough. That doesn’t sound like outright violence. And maybe he pushes kids around because he wants attention. I know what that feels like. I was a bit of a bully myself when I was in school, but I wasn’t menacing.”

“Yes, I know. You still pushed me in primary school.”

“I what?”

“Yes, you pushed me in primary school, because I kicked a soccer ball into the back of your legs during recess.”

“I don’t even remember that, but you see, I turned out okay.”

“Only because your dad married again.”

“And that brought some love into our house. That made all the difference. And perhaps that’s what little Larry Brown needs. Perhaps we should make a point of being kind to him and showing him some real Christian love.”

And so the Winkertons spent the night on their rickety bed, hatching a plan, until they fell asleep.

Write a Novel Course – Studying with Andrew Salomon

Extract: From a novel instalment written by Meggan McCarthy

I began wondering why my parents were both home so early when my mother’s “One day I’ll just leave the whole lot of you. You’ll all die without me!” howled through the open window. The familiar jolt of fear surged through my tiny conductor-like ribcage that could barely control the current.

My brother, weighed down with a school bag almost bigger than himself, was chewing the shards of his nails. He looked up at me for an answer: “What should we do?” I, being only a head taller than him, with my missing front tooth and blue sherbet-stained mouth, had to make a mature decision.

I felt my spine spasm into a debilitating paralysis. If we went inside now, they could turn their anger on us, or worse, use us as leverage in the argument—when you’re desperate to shift the blame, you’ll latch onto anything. I cringed as I imagined us standing there between them, incapacitated by the loud words and feeling as insignificant as air.

But if we stayed outside and waited for them to calm down, we’d get into trouble for coming home late and that would spark a different inferno.

Right then I loathed my stupid parents, and I loathed myself for loathing them.

“I think we should go inside,” I said while staring firmly at the ground.

“No, Evangeline, let’s wait, they too busy fighting to know we’re not home,” he pleaded, the little crease between his dark eyebrows becoming deeper and his blue eyes misting up.

Skryf-‘n-roman kursus; Studieleier Wilna Adriaanse

Uittreksel deur Ilze Dijkstra

Hy waai vir oulaas uit die motorvenster toe hy wegry. Sy kyk hom agterna soos sy motor deur die verkeer vleg en verdwyn. Sy ril toe ’n gevoel van verlatenheid soos ‘n koue donker kombers om haar vou. Sy voel alleen tussen die pendelaars wat oor die plein voor die stasie stroom. Die refleksie van die buisligte uit die stasiegebou laat die mense almal siek lyk. Sy sluit aan by die massa en voel net so siek soos hulle lyk. Binne die stasiegebou gaan staan sy in die lang tou voor die kaartjie kiosk. Dit gaan verbasend vinnig en met haar kaartjie in die hand stap sy weer uit na die plein voor die stasie. Die koue reuk van uitlaatgasse hang in die lug. Sy staar peinsend na die karre wat almal aan die verkeerde kant van die straat ry asof Terrance se Citroën enige oomblik weer gaan verskyn. Die reuse silhouet van die Orleans katedraal verkleur van donker na grys-pienk soos die dag breek. Sy weet dit sou vir hom ook mooi gewees het en draai weg. Sy stap om die blok en kry ‘n straatkafeetjie. Dis die geur van koffie en varsgebakte viennoiserie wat haar aandag getrek het, nog voor sy eers die kafee gesien het. Die eienaar groet met ‘n vrolike “Bonjour Madame!”

Basiese Kreatiewe Skryfkursus; Studieleier Wilna Adriaanse

Uittreksel deur Maryke Deist

Niekie en haar boetie Stefan speel met karretjies onder die groot ou doringboom op die werf. Hulle het net na brekfis begin paaie en landerye maak, bome geplant en ‘n dorpie en plase uitgelê. Haar bene is al moeg gehurk en sy is bly toe sy oom Soois se kenmerkende grt-grtok!-grt-grtok! op die los gruis hoor aankom. Sy kyk op. Hy’t ‘n leë streepsak en ‘n sekel by hom wat hy onder sy linkerarm vasknyp, duidelik op pad om te gaan lusern sny vir die koeie. Keiser, wat vroeg-vroeg al die skadu van die boom opgesoek het, swaai sy stert.

“Kan ek saamkom, oom?” vra sy hard dat hy kan hoor.

“Ja. Sê vi’ jou ma. Ik willie lat sy worrie nie. Of kwaad issie,” kom dit stomp, so in die loop. “Ik wag by ‘ie sloot.”

“Kom jy ook, Boetie?”

Stefan skud sy kop. En sy is heimlik bly, want sy is nogal jaloers op tyd saam met oom Soois.

Sy draf agter hom aan nadat sy vir haar ma gesê het – of eintlik, sommer deur die sifdeur by die kombuis geskree het – en sy kry hom by die leisloot waar hy wag. Hy staan oudergewoonte met homself en praat, maar sy kon nog nooit uitmaak wat nie. Toe hy haar sien, bly hy stil. Die leisloot loop van die dam skuins onderkant die huis na die groentetuin wat so vyftig meter verder is. Partykeer skuur Sanna potte langs die sloot, maar vandag is daar nie water in nie. Die stukkie paadjie anderkant die sloot is weerskante dig bebos. Hier sê hy net:

“Kyk wa’ jy trap.” Elke keer. Die hekkie self is ‘n bekslaner, te styf vir haar om oop te maak. Oom Soois sit sy sekel en streepsak neer, maak die hek oop en hink deur. Daarvandaan dra sy die sekel en die sak. As sy so agter hom loop, wonder sy altyd oor daai linkervoet.

Skryf-‘n-roman kursus; Studieleier Wilna Adriaanse

Uittreksel deur Riaan Marshall

Hy loop om-en-om in die kryt en hou toesig oor elke deel van die gym.

“Lig jou hande Gert, daai peerbal gaan jou stukkend slaan! Eddie seun, twee vinnige linkers en ’n right hook op die hart en bring jou linker direk terug, anders kry jy die harthou! Jy’s te regop Lukas, buk bietjie vorentoe en beweeg jou bo-lyf saam met jou hou, dan het jy meer punch . . . “ weergalm oom Ig se stem soos ’n generaal s’n tussendeur die houe wat ontplof teen die slaansak, die ritmiese doef-kedoef-kedoef van die peerbal en die tik-tik-tik van die springtou. “Jou rondte Eddie. Draai nou hotklou, slaan reguit regters en linker uppercuts. Sy maag is heeltyd oop.” Oom Ig druk Eddie se mondskerm terug en die nat spons nog ’n keer op sy nek toe die klok lui.

“Seconds out, round two,” klink die hoofbeoordelaar se stem.

Jasper se bonkige figuur is dadelik voor Eddie, en windmeulhoue tref hom oral. Eddie hou sy handskoene voor sy gesig en elmboë voor sy maag; daar waar mens punte score en waar dit seermaak. Jasper val Eddie vas en slaan hom met mening op sy niere. Die ref kom tussenbeide.

“Break! Red you’re hitting behind the back, first warning. Box!”

Jasper se asem blaas en sy hande hang laag. Hy swaai sy bolyf uitdagend en Eddie skiet een, twee en drie reguit regters op Jasper se neus. Toe hy sy hande lig om te keer, haak Eddie hom vol in die maag. Jasper se gesig word wit en Eddie plant haakhoue weerskante van sy kop. Jasper se teenhoue is ver mis en na nóg ’n uppercut in sy maag struikel hy agtertoe. Sy hande val langs sy sye. Die ref kom tussenbeide.

Three people talk about a murder at the factory – by Janette Stratton (Short Story Writing for Magazines Course)

First, the secretary.

To: Alice Abrahams

From: Sylvia Abrahams

Subject: Keep this to yourself

Alice, Something really terrible has happened here today. Mr Griffin is dead. And I found him. Oh, it was awful. He was just lying there. I shook him and shouted at him. But he didn’t move. He was all floppy and soggy, like a huge rag doll.

I was so scared that I just started screaming and screaming, and everyone came running. But no one else cares. Not like I do. In fact I think they’re glad he’s dead.

I phoned 999. And now everyone’s here. Police. Ambulance. Lots of men in white coveralls. They’re like bugs, on their hands and knees, crawling over everything.

It’s awful to think that while I was at lunch, Mr Griffin was dying in here all by himself. I feel terrible about it. I’m sure I’ll have nightmares.

And the police want to talk to me. I don’t know what I’ll say. I wish you were here to hold my hand. You make me braver.

I’ll probably be late home. Can you cover for me? I don’t want mum to know yet. She’ll only freak out and charge down here and I couldn’t bear it. Please just lie if you have to.

Hugs and hugs

Syl

Then the policeman in charge of the investigation mutters to himself

My first day in charge and this is what I get, a man dead on his warehouse floor, without a mark on him. It looks to me like something medical, a heart attack or stroke. But everyone seems to have hated him, and Simon, the SOC boss, has ‘a feeling in his water,’ so we’re treating it as a suspicious death.

Sod Simon’s bloody water.

His water has a team of 10 men wasting their time, clambering around this huge warehouse, looking for evidence. It’s one of those 19th century monstrosities – wheels and chains and unidentifiable bits of metal hanging everywhere. More like a torture chamber than a factory.

I hear rumblings that the business is in trouble, and I’m not surprised. The place is a relic.

I’ve spent my afternoon interviewing a procession of surly uncommunicative men who are all trying and failing to hide their relief that Graham Griffin is dead. The only person who admits to liking him, is his secretary, and she’s all of 18. Not exactly a reliable witness. Even his wife could hardly manage a tear when we told her. If the man was murdered, it was a damn clever job. And, any one of a hundred people could have done it.

On the bright side; if I can solve this one, I can solve anything.

Finally, the factory manager who calls his wife

Hello love. It’s me, Andre. I just wanted to let you know that I might be a bit late home tonight. There’s been an accident at work.

No, no. I’m fine. Sorry to frighten you, love. All the lads are fine too.

It’s Graham Griffin. He’s dead. Yes, dead. Just lying there on the workshop floor. Poor sod. No one knows what happened.

The lass from the office found him when she came in from lunch.

Yes, she’s pretty cut up about it. Sobbing away in the office, she is.

There’s no accounting for taste. He was as nasty to her as he was to everyone else.

Well, it’s true. He was a real piece of work and I won’t miss him. No point lying about it.

Yes, the police are here. They’re nosing around all over the place, trying to decide if somebody offed him I suppose. I won’t lie to them either. They’ll hear soon enough that we were at loggerheads over the layoffs. If I come over all sad and sorry, they’ll only wonder what I’m up to.

It’s okay love. I know you’re just looking out for me.

Don’t worry. I’ll be home as soon as I can.

Excerpt from Quarantine – by Michel van Eck (Short Story Writing for Magazines Course)

‘Did you hear that?’ Jack asked.

‘I don’t hear anything.’

‘Exactly,’ Jack said.

The wind sliced through the forest canopy, leaves rustled and the pines creaked. Everything seemed normal, except there were no birds, no crickets, and no beetles that Jack could hear. There was nothing. There wasn’t a sound except the trees and low howl of the wind. ‘It’s too quiet. This place is giving me the heebee jeebees.’

Jack gingerly put one foot in front of the other, aiming the barrel of his R5-assault rifle in the front of him as they made their way deeper into the forest. The trail ahead of him was rough, overgrown with underbrush and littered with moss in various shades of green He slipped, his boots gripped at the last moment and he recovered his footing. He continued down the path until it faded into the forest floor and there was no track left to follow.

‘What now?’ Danny asked. ‘The hikers could’ve gone any way.’

Jack looked to his left and then to his right. Danny was right, the hikers could be anywhere. The forest looked all the same from where he stood. If it wasn’t for the sun peering through the canopy, Jack wouldn’t have known in which direction they were going. It was then that something caught his attention.

He frowned, moving forward. It was concealed by yellow pine needles and shadows of the fading day. What is that?  He took another step forward and the whiff of rotting flesh hit his nostrils and made him gag. He pressed his gloved hand over his nose, but the smell permeated through it. Death. He had never gotten used to that smell.

Writing excerpt by Kelvin Jaffs (Short Story Writing for Magazines Course)

Yes, a normal person, a person who wakes at six in the morning waiting for the alarm to go off, a person who loves someone unconditionally, a person who doesn’t waste their money.

I mean, this person isn’t normal, he writes his work in his office fuelled by Rock n Roll, we can almost hear howling and growling, for God’s sake man he’s the wild man of Borneo.

He comes into the office with his curly hair down to his shoulders, his boots are worn out, he looks like he’s just come back from Woodstock, starry-eyed and a little optimistic.

He looks at me like a wild beast laying in the sun but with a peaceful demeanor, I can’t work out where he comes from: the north, the south, the east, the west. I know he once wrote for an underground music magazine in Amsterdam after graduating from university, but that’s all I know.

He tends to come into the office at any time he likes, doing whatever he likes, listening to whatever he likes, he’s an irresponsible man, a barbarian, one of those free-thinking poets.

His wife comes in once in a while carrying their baby in her arms, looks around the office as if she’s never seen one before, smiles at me then disappears around the corner. She kind of reminds me of an old 1950’s French actress, smooth but edgy, cool but neurotic, beautiful but hazy, she definitely fills the room like the queen of the gypsies, with a little baby in her arms.

Excerpt from ‘The Swarm’ – by Susan Green (Literary Short Fiction Course)

The marriage was over. I delivered my valedictorian speech to him in the morning, just after he had punched my daughter in the stomach for not passing the butter when she was told. You could call that punch the straw.

Coincidentally it was the day the bees got the wanderlust. They arrived on a fence near the house and arranged themselves into rows like maniacal toothy grimaces. He wanted to gather the swarm and return them to the hives. Rather than put on the proper gear, he went ahead and performed the job in his overalls.

I was busy packing the children’s things when he rushed into the house like a rampaging beast with the swarm following. He had a thick ginger beard, which I once had marvelled at. Today, dozens of bees were caught in it, stinging him. His face was already as swollen as a summer melon. He was yelling at me get the fucking bees out of my beard. I wasn’t sure how because he was running around the lounge followed by angry bees and the dog barking at his heels. He kicked her and she scuttled into the corner.

“Don’t just stand there, help me!” he shouted. “Get a knife. Flick them off with a knife.”

I went to the drawer and got out a large carving knife, yelling back at him, “Sit down, I can’t reach you.”

He sat, eyes half closed, doped out by so many stings. His head flopped back and he arranged it so that I could get at the bees and begin flicking them off.

There I stood over him, with the knife at his throat.

Excerpt from ‘Ten Days’ – by Arun Jeram (Literary Short Fiction Course)

It had been ten days since Margret went into hospital. What had started as a routine check-up had quickly deteriorated into a bed-side vigil. By then, the plaques that had been taking over my wife’s body were attacking her nerves.

Not able to speak, I could only watch as the grimace on her face deepened. We had faced difficult times before — my greying hair was a growing testament to that. But the strands that now lay strewn on the bed sheets were from a worry of a different kind. There was nothing left to do now but to wait.

Like waiting for a plane to depart, sitting in a hospital affords you time. The same amount of time outside of this building would be filled with productive tasks. Planning my week, cleaning my car, or doing something that I thought had to be done. All of that seemed trivial now. More than trivial: none of it had any relevance anymore.

The room was white but poorly lit, and if all the lights weren’t on, my aged eyes had trouble reading my book. Not that I cared much for reading at a time like this. My thoughts stretched to my old students who were now adjusting to a new teacher. It had been my job to teach them about the world. What was fact, what was once fact but now fiction, and what we didn’t know. I wondered if my replacement would have the same commitment to the truth.

I thought I heard Margret groan, and I looked up, startled. But she hadn’t moved.

As a kid I thought I knew everything – at least most things that were worth knowing – but no amount of knowledge gained over the many decades could help me understand what she now felt. Was there anything that I truly knew?

“Excuse me, Mr Irving,” the nurse said. “We need this room for the next thirty minutes.”

“Oh…okay. Should I get out of your way?”

“Maybe it’s best if you don’t go too far.”

“Don’t worry.” I got up to leave. “I’ll only be downstairs. I should probably get a coffee; I think it’s going to be a long night.”

Sitting by myself in the empty cafeteria, I nearly spilt the contents of my polystyrene cup when he spoke.

“Excuse me, mister, do you mind if I join you?” I turned around to see a boy in his early twenties. “You look familiar,” I said, “were you in one of my classes?”

He shook his head. “It’s just so quiet and lonely around here, and I could do with some company. And from the looks of it, you could do with some as well.”

As he sat, I couldn’t help but admire his long brown hair. I’m sure I had a just as impressive mane at his age. I wanted to tell him to take care of it otherwise it would end up shrivelled and thinning, like mine.

“Who are you here for?” asked the boy.

“My wife–she’s upstairs.” I didn’t feel a need to ask him the same question. We sat there for a few minutes without talking.

“So what kind of teacher are you then?” he said, finally breaking the silence.

“I used to teach science—I retired this year.”

“Oh wow.” The boy seemed impressed. “I bet you know all kinds of things.”

“Funny you should say that. I was just sitting here trying to think of everything that I know. I mean, know to be completely true, without any doubt.”

“And?”

“I’m not sure I know of any.”

“Really? Isn’t that what science is all about? That’s what they told us at school.”

“We get told a lot of things,” I said.

Excerpt from ‘Giraffe’ – by Tania Terblanche (Literary Short Fiction Course)

“Mr Erasmus?” I yelled, knocking on the door of number nine. No response but the faint sound of horse racing on TV. I banged harder.

“Mr Erasmus, it’s Angie from number twenty five?”

Something rustled inside, and then a creaking sound like someone had just stood up from a rocking chair. It took ages before the door finally opened to reveal the old guy’s face. His trousers were held up by navy-blue suspenders, but he always seemed to be shrugging like someone wading through a swamp – as if expecting the pants to fall down at any minute anyway.

“Mr Erasmus, I’m really sorry to bother you, but… Well there’s a giraffe in my garden,” I said and laughed expectantly.

He blinked a few times, as if trying to wipe away the milky films over his old eyes. He scratched at a haphazardly shaven spot on his chin.

“We don’t allow pets,” he mumbled.

“No, I know that. It just… appeared! Could you maybe come have a look? I’m kind of in a hurry,” I said, glancing at my watch. My parents would be coming in four hours.

He eyed me suspiciously, his lips quivering as if he had also helped himself to something in my garden. Or maybe he was just looking for his teeth in there.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said and retreated back into his lair of old magazines and yesterday’s soup.

Excerpt from ‘Lepidoptera’ – by Tania Terblanche (Literary Short Fiction Course)

I tiptoed through to the living room. The huge cage loomed there. You could hear the hundreds of violet wings fluttering desperately.

Each butterfly had mounted over its feelers a silver muzzle. Was that a needle at the end? Their hairy yellow trunks were barely visible under the malevolent gleam. I coughed.

“Who’s there?” I said. “What have you done with my butterflies?” Something creaked upstairs. Then a soft giggle.

His butterflies,” someone whispered. I jerked around. A girl was floating towards me – you couldn’t see her feet under that long dress. And there was a turban in her hand. Where had I seen her before?

“Who… who are you?” I said and took a slow step back. A single tear rolled down her face. Her eyes were sunken, her hair falling out in patches with red welts on the bare skin. The butterflies started banging their snouts against the rusted bars of the cage.

“You really don’t remember?” she said. I almost had to read her lips. Her eyes floated up to a point above me.

Excerpt from ‘Into Darkness’ – by Hayley Barrett (Write a Novel Course)

“Alexandra Spencer, how do you plead? Guilty, or not guilty?”

The Judge’s voice rang out through the silence, his microphone giving a high-pitched squeal of disgust at the volume of his voice.

In a semi circle around the fire, their features partially illuminated by the dying embers, six sets of eyes stared at me. They were certain what I was going to say. They expected me to plead guilty. Everyone always did, whether guilty or not. I could almost read their minds—hurry up, so we can climb back into our beds.

I lifted my chin defiantly and passed my eyes over each face, stopping finally at the Judge.

“Not guilty,” I said, my voice echoing into the night.

In unison, a thousand gasps sounded around the amphitheatre, but before anyone could utter a word, the Judge yelled, “Silence!” His voice reverberated through the speakers. I looked out at the audience with contempt. My father’s private view was that most of the people of New Phoenix were little better than villagers. The fact they were here at three in the morning, watching my trial, proved it. They wanted to see a ballot draw, a once in a lifetime opportunity. But they weren’t going to see one tonight. This trial would never get that far.

I wondered where Marcus was sitting. I knew he was out there somewhere, but with most people sharing their seat with a friend, it was next to impossible to make out faces in the dim light.

“You are aware,” said the Judge dryly, “as per the city law, that a plea of not guilty will carry a harsher penalty should you be found guilty, than a guilty plea.”

I nodded, knowing that should I be found not guilty, as I was certain I would be, I’d still be better off. Besides, I didn’t have any choice. Marcus had told me this was the only way.

“Very well.”

The Judge turned toward the five people seated around the fire.

“Council of Leaders, you have heard all the evidence. You must now make your decision.”

Excerpt from ‘Belgrade Railway Station’ – by Dajana Little (Write a Novel Course)

The train station was busy despite the early hour. The information board displayed the first train arriving at 06h45 and the first departure scheduled for 07h25. Heavy snow that fell during the night had obviously impacted the time order of the train traffic. Even in the best weather conditions punctuality was not the strongest aspect of the railway service.

In the waiting room two cleaners moved around with an air of utter desolation while their mops left a greyish trail on floor-tiles that long ago used to be ochre. Metallic banks were all occupied and the air was filled with a musty odour of wet cloths and boots. With every opening of the only door to the waiting room, a gleeful ramble of cold would make those sitting or lying on the benches closest to the door pull their coats and caps tighter.

As the waiting room got fuller, the cleaners fiercely moved the mops over the floor catching the passengers’ luggage, shoes and occasionally even bottom of someone’s trousers. While some would grumble asking the cleaners to be more careful, others would just move a little away from flying mops trying to preserve as much of warmth as possible.  And cleaners, unmoved, continued their mopping.

Mila walked in slowly and looked around the waiting room for a place to put down a heavy suitcase she was pulling, avoiding the murky stares accusing her of letting iciness in. Dim light falling from the ceiling lamps, half of which were not turned on, did not make it an easy task to find a free space in the crowded waiting room.

Mila proceeded to the far corner on the left side of the room and let the suitcase handle out of her grip with a deep sigh. Her hands were aching from lifting and pulling the case along the uneven cobbled pavement to the station and trying to avoid dirty slush sprayed by passing vehicles. Her back was also sore from leaning to one or the other side as she changed hands while pulling the suitcase.

Uittreksel: ‘Die Silinder’ – deur Juan Botha (Gevorderde ‘Skryf-‘n-roman’ kursus)

Gavin draf oor die pad en stap by die polisiekantoor in.  Knip sy oë vir die helder neonligte en dit neem hom ‘n oomblik of wat om daaraan gewoond te raak.  Sien dan eers die toonbank waaragter ‘n fris geboude, bles polisieman sit.  ‘n Groot stapel lêers lê aan sy linkerkant, langs ‘n wit koffiebeker.  We’re all born bald, Baby is in skuins, vet gedrukte letters daarop geskryf, bokant ‘n prentjie van ‘n baba.

Daar is ‘n kort ry voor die toonbank en hy val agter in.  Hy bekyk die binnekant van die gebou. Buiten die vrou met ‘n grys poniestert, ‘n kort entjie agter die bles polisieman, is daar nie veel ander mense nie. Net ‘n polisieman wat naby die deur sit.

Die vrou met die poniestert het skaars die telefoon neergesit, toe lui hy weer.  Haar skril stem trek tot waar hy staan. Hard en duidelik en hy probeer dit uitsny terwyl hy wag.

Dit voel soos ‘n ewigheid voor hy eindelik beweeg en toe hy weer kyk, is hy tweede van voor. Dit lyk of die poniestert-konstabel haar telefoon vir ‘n handradio verruil het.  Klink of sy sagter daaroor praat as oor die telefoon.  Vreemd.  Dan lig haar stem en hy hoor ‘n deel van haar gesprek wat hom laat frons.  Dit klink of daar iewers aksie is.

“…verdagte het van die tik-huis af weggejaag in ‘n wit of beige Corsa.  Volgens die registrasienommer behoort die kar aan ‘n Adriaan Van der Westhuizen.”

Hy lag amper.  Hoe toevallig. Dis dieselfde naam as sy oorlede pa.  Dit prikkel sy nuuskierigheid verder en hy draai sy kop effens om beter te hoor.

“Wag ‘n bietjie.  Rekords sê die eienaar is oorlede.  Die laaste adres, 67 Tarentaal singel, Durbanville.”

Hy sluk.  Daar moet ‘n fout wees.  67 Tarentaal singel is sý adres.  Wat het sy alles gesê?  Iets van ‘n tik-huis?  Onmoontlik!  Hy drink skaars. “Nee,” ruk die vrou se stem hom uit sy skok.  “Die arrestasie bevel het sopas deurgekom.  Ja.  HK.”  Sy kyk op.  Haar blik val reg op hom.  Asof hulle hom nét daar wil vaspen.  Hy voel hoe die bloed in sy gesig opstoot.  Hoe die gevoel uit sy bene verdwyn.  Meteens voel dit of almal in die gebou vir hom kyk.  Is dit een van daai drome waar die vreemdste goed met jou gebeur?  In daai geval, is dit wragtig tyd om wakker te word.  Hy knyp sy bobeen, vir ingeval.  Niks gebeur nie.

Finale Toneel – deur Riaan Marshall (Basiese Kreatiewe skryfkursus)

Die Ford Escort brul deur Republiekweg. My vriend Léon se ouboet is met sewe-dae pas uit die army en het ons by die skool kom kry. Van hier waar ek ingedruk op die agtersitplek  langs sy army balsak sit,sien ek hoe Christos se kafee verbyflits. Dan vlieg ons om die hoek, links-op in Van Deventerstraat.

Randgate is ’n werkersbuurt aan die buitewyke van Randfontein. Die erwe hier is klein en die huise is bykans op die sypaadjie gebou. Party dateer uit die veertigerjare en mens stap van die sypaadjie direk op die voorstoep, dan die voorhuis links en die hoofslaapkamer regs. Ons huis is ’n nuwerwetse platdak.

“Dankie Matewis, laai my sommer voor die Oosthuizens af, dis die huis net voor ons s’n,” skree ek  bo die donderende laaste note van Hotel California. Dit klink of die Eagles uit die kattebak sing! Die Ford se neus duik af en die bande skree soos Matewis rem.

“Dankie!” Ek wurm myself by die passasierskant uit, agter Léon verby. My skoolsak is op my rug en die skoenboks soos ’n rugbybal onder my arm.

“Moerse plesier pêl!” Matewis se handdruk voel soos ’n knyptang.

Die Oosthuizens is met vakansie en ek stap sommer by hulle erf in, spring oor die heining en deur my kamervenster. Ek hoor hoe Matewis se Ford derde rat haal nog voor die stopstraat; dan skree die bande weer. Binne-in die boks voel ek aan die sagte leer en skiet die boks dan diep onder my bed in.

My mond is droog en ek gaan gooi vir my ’n Coke in die kombuis. Mable se kos ruik heerlik; ’n mengsel van kaneel en gebraaide boerewors hang in die lug. My maag grom.

Die gebrul van die Ford Escort het Mable laat wakker word waar sy indut. Haar middagete is altyd  so teen eenuur gereed, en dan wag sy op die agterdeurtrappie in die son. Die skoolbus se dieselenjin dreun ook nou in die verte weg, en die stemme van kinders kom nader in die straat soos hulle mekaar groet en skerts. Mable staan op en kom die kombuis binne. Sy skrik toe sy my sien.

“Is jy nou soos Father Christmas wat deur die chimney in ’n huis inkom?” Haar groot lyf skud soos sy lag.

“Mêddagete!” roep sy oomblikke later en klingel die etensklokkie. Ek hoor hoe Suzette die voordeur oopmaak, en ek loop vinnig eetkamer toe, enduik vir die stoel in die warm son . Die koel windjie druk die kantgordyn boeppens na binne. Buite ritsel die herfsblare. Dis ’n heerlike April-middag op die Hoëveld.

Excerpt from a work in progress by Angelos Troizis (Write a Novel Course)

Outside a bohemian café on Long Street, under a green canopy and by a small brass table, sits Bernard Bloch, alone, twitchily pretending to read today’s paper. A drizzle has wet the ground and now the air is cold and moist. His coffee, untouched, goes cold too while he takes hurried sips from his half-jack of whisky, kept in the inside pocket of his long coat. He glances over his shoulder to see if the waitresses are looking. They are not.

Excerpt from an assignment – by Michele van Eck (Write a Novel Course)

Kira bolted upright and took a haggard breath. She squeezed her eyes shut waiting for her heart to calm. Slowly the screams faded into the recesses of her mind and she felt as if she could breathe again. It was a dream – just a dream. But it was more than that. It was memories. The head doctors tried to justify it but they couldn’t. These memories were the type that no pills or counselling could cure. She ran her hand through her hair. She could not remember the last time she slept.

Excerpt from an assignment – by Gustav Puchert (Write a Novel Course)

It was seven years ago. Reba was in her second year of college and her best friend, Jemma, had talked her into going parachute jumping with her. The first time she saw Deek Torrance was during the ground training class for the inevitable jump from a perfectly serviceable aeroplane. His eyes were bluer than an Arkansas summer sky and combined with the dimples in his cheeks when he smiled at you, it was enough to chase the feelings of absolute dread from Reba’s mind. That was until they were all sitting at 10,000 feet and Reba was clinging to Deek Torrance’s powerful arms crying and begging him not to make her jump!

Excerpt from a work in progress by Grant Sieff (Write a Novel Course)

At home, Ben yanked off his tie, ruthlessly shedding the adorned skin that stood for his bank persona. The top two buttons of his Hugo Boss silk shirt popped off their pricy threads as he freed himself from the compromising deceit.  Normally meticulous, Ben left his suited self crumpled on the floor.  He trampled over his clothes for good measure, driven to re-costume into running togs. He had to get out and pound the promenade, punishing the elements as they punished him, cleansing him, and infusing his core.  Desperate to reframe before depression set in.

Just as he reached his front door, Ben’s iPhone called out to him with Jen’s personal ringtone.  No-one else would have received even a flicker of consideration, but Ben needed Jen, now more than ever.

Excerpt from a work in progress by Brian Greaves (Write a Novel Course)

Lucien’s brother, though younger, was much stronger. Something Lucien was often made aware of. After all the times he had been awoken by him, he thought he would have become accustomed to the ritual flick on the ear – though evidently not.

Lucien threw off his covers and dragged his feet over the bedside and straight into his waiting boots. He rubbed his throbbing ear hoping the pain would abate. He was fully dressed – something the boys were accustomed to. Eon was already waiting with a glass of water in hand.

“Thank you.” Lucien said, taking it from him. He had a sip and tossed the rest in his own face to wake himself up. He dried his dark, dripping mop of hair and unshaven face on his dull, two-tone bedding while reaching under his pillow for his short sword. He fastened it in the small of his back as Eon was checking his bow and quiver.

Excerpt from a work in progress by Frank Vos (Write a Novel Course)

When the lights in the house behind the bar went out, Wisaka moved to the church grounds, sniffed the air and listened carefully. No other villagers had chosen to roam about with or without dogs or bicycles.  Graves from villagers of old days past filled these grounds that surrounded the church almost entirely. Since it was a Catholic church steeped in tradition, the graves were adorned by a large variety of impressive tombstones, each of which carried engravings that expressed the grief of those left behind. Most of the dates carved into the sand stone and granite markers went all the way back to the middle ages. On others, time had made the carvings simply unreadable.

As any graveyard in the middle of the night, the atmosphere was serene. The air was filled with many smells, mostly soft florals and earthy, but if your imagination took the better of you, less pleasant odours seemed to rise from the younger graves.

Ilse van der Merwe se manuskrip, Belhar speel af in die sestiger jare op die Vrystaatse platteland. Vir die nuwe sendeling op ’n klein dorpie is dit gou duidelik dat alles nie so rustig is soos dit aanvanklik lyk nie. Daar word vanuit ’n interessante hoek gekyk na die rasseverhoudings gedurende daardie jare.

Ilse van Der Merwe: Belhar  (Skryf ‘n roman kursus)

 “Ek is oppad om hospitaalbesoek te gaan doen.  Ek kom sommer daar by jou aan dan spaar dit jou die trippie.”

‘n Paar minute later klap die voorhekkie.  Pollie bring vir Johan deur na die studeerkamer.

“Tee vir jou, Johan?”  Wessel beduie vir Pollie om nog ‘n koppie te bring.  “Het jy al ontbyt gehad, jy moet Pollie se krummelpap met biltong proe.”

“Ek is reg.  Dankie, nou net geëet.”  Hy kom sit op een van die stoele voor die lessenaar en maak keel skoon.

“En waaroor die vroeë oproep?  Ek hoop nie daar is iets fout nie?”  Wessel staan op om die tee te skink en sit sy pyp in die asbakkie neer.

“Nee, maar het jy al met Giep gepraat?” “Gaan dit oor die lyk?” “Ja, ek – ” “Wessel, ons het mos hieroor gepraat.  Gee nou in hemelsnaam vir Paul kans om sy werk te doen.”

“Dan weet jy nie?  Daar is gister ‘n liggaam op Giep se grond gekry.”  Johan sit sy koppie versigtig neer.

“Nog ‘n liggaam?”  Hy vryf sy hande en en sit vooroor.  “Wat bedoel jy nog ‘n liggaam?  Nee, nou is ek heeltemal verward.  Het hulle Frans Mokoena se liggaam gevind?”

“Wel, dis nog nie duidelik nie.  Ek veronderstel die polisie sal die liggaam probeer identifiseer.  Giep en Kerneels sê dit lyk nie of dit Frans kan wees nie.  Frans se pa lyk onseker.”

“Ja, jy het nou nooit vir Frans geken nie.  So, jy kan nie help nie.” “Johan, die probleem is, die lyk is so ver ontbind.  Ek weet nie of dit gaan moontlik wees om ‘n positiewe identifikasie te doen nie.”

“Hoe het hulle die lyk gekry?”

“Ons het die lyk gekry nadat ‘n toordokter ‘n uitwyssing aan Frans se ouers gemaak het.”

“Waarmee hou jy jou op, my vriend?  Uitwyssings deur ‘n sangoma?”

Juan Botha is besig met die Gevorderde Skryf-ʼn-roman kursus en vorder baie goed. Hy skryf ʼn spanningsverhaal en ons hoop sy manuskrip sal vir publikasie aanvaar word. Dit behoort  veral goeie aanklank te vind by die jeug en sal ʼn welkome toevoeging tot daardie mark wees. 

Juan Botha: Die silinder

“Maak oop.”  Basson se stem is dringend aan die ander kant.  Hy trek dadelik die handvatsel af en sy vlieg die vertrek binne en druk die deur weer dadelik agter haar toe.

“Three down.  Two to go,” sê sy uitasem.  Haar kort, rooi hare is deurmekaar en daar is nou sweet teen haar nek en voorkop.

“Ek het net twee skote gehoor?”

“Dit was hulle,” sê sy met ‘n halwe glimlag.  Sy lig die pistool op.  “Die goed is net vir ingeval.  Ek het nie ‘n clue wie hulle is nie maar as hulle undercover polisie is, is ek in groter moeilikheid as jy as ek een doodskiet.” Sy kyk weer na die portret.  “Dis jammer ons kan nie nog ammo kry nie.  Dan het ek hier ‘n stand gemaak en het ek gesê dit was self defence.”  Sy loer weer vinnig na die skerm.

“Oukei.  Dan moet ons maar ‘n ander plan maak.”  Sy stap deur toe, pluk dit oop en loer vinnig uit.  “Kom!” beveel sy sonder om terug te kyk.  “Ons moet nou wegkom voor nog mense kom.”

Hy aarsel.  “Jy het gesê daar’s nog twee, behalwe die twee by die hek?”

Sy knik.  “Sal met hulle deal as ek moet.  Bly net by my.”  Sy leun vorentoe en neem die pistool uit sy hand.  “Gee.  Jy maak my senuweeagtig.”  Sy verdwyn om die draai en sonder enige wapen of ander idees, is hy gedwing om die vertrek se veiligheid te verlaat. Hy skrik toe hy die man aan die punt van die gang naby die ingangsportaal sien lê en gee ‘n halwe sprong. “Toemaar, hy is nie dood nie.  Maar hy sal nie nou pla nie.” paai sy.  Dan kyk sy vinnig op.  “Ek dink die ander twee is dalk eers terug kar toe om nog ammo te kry.”  Sy glimlag weer.  “Hulle het duidelik nie gedink hulle gaan resistance kry nie.  As ons wil uitkom, is nóú die tyd.  Kom!

Aniel Botha het vanjaar die Skryf-‘n-roman kursus met lof geslaag. Sy is ‘n baie goeie skrywer en het reeds ‘n digbundel uitgegee. Hierdie verhaal van haar behoort beslis ook op die boekrakke.

Aniel Botha: Sophia  (Skryf ‘n roman kursus)

 

Teen die Maandagoggend van die groot afspraak is Sofia se motor  steeds nie gereed nie. Kan dit waarlik so lank neem om ‘n enkele venster te vervang? ‘n Mens sal sweer die glas word op Mars vervaardig. Sy stuur ‘n SMS vir Jean-Pierre, maar hy kan haar ook nie kom oplaai nie, omdat hy dringend by die winkel benodig word – een of ander apokaliptiese krisis wat veroorsaak is deur ‘n aflewering van verkeerde kleur lampskerms – kadmiumrooi in plaas van karmosynrooi.  Die beste wat hy kan doen, is om haar in die stad te ontmoet. Daar is nie ‘n manier dat sy die afspraak nou uitstel of kanselleer nie – sy sál vir Wihan Smit vanmiddag drieuur by die Vinyard-hotel sien, kom wat wil. Publieke vervoer, kom sy gou agter, is ‘n ingewikkelde besigheid. Daar is nie ‘n enkele treinstasie in die hele Durbanville nie en sy kan ook nie ‘n bus kry wat tussen tienuur in die oggend en twee-uur in die middag direk van Durbanville af stad toe loop nie. Dit lyk asof haar beste opsie gaan wees om ‘n bus of taxi te neem tot by Bellville-stasie en van daar af die trein tot in die stad. Busse en taxi’s was vir haar tot dusver net struikelblokke op die pad wat haar bestuurstaak verder gekompliseer het. Nooit het sy gedroom dat die dag sou kom wat sy bínne-in een van hulle sit nie. Maar dit is veral die gedagte aan ‘n treinrit wat haar ontsenu. Die enigste trein waarop sy nog gery het, was ‘n plesiertreintjie in ‘n pretpark toe sy vyf was. En as sy reg onthou, het sy ná die tyd oor haar ma se nuwe vakansieskoene opgegooi. Maar nou stap sy, met haar handsak styf onder haar arm geknyp en haar pepersproei byderhand, na die naaste bushalte. Dit reën gelukkig nie, maar dit voel asof die wind dwarsdeur haar waai. Sy bind haar jas stywer om haar lyf om die snydende koue buite te hou en daarmee saam sommer ook die ewe geniepsige vrese. Teen die tyd dat sy by die halte kom, het die wind behoorlik met haar klaargespeel. Haar stewels is vol modderige grond waarvan sy probeer ontslae raak deur haar voete hard op die sypaadjie te stamp. Sy is seker dat sy soos ‘n voëlverskrikker lyk. Selfbewus probeer sy haar hare met die hand gladstryk. Oomblikke later arriveer die Golden Arrow bus.

“Bellville,” skyn dit in oranje letters op ‘n swart skermp aan die voorkant van die bus. Daar is nog heelwat oop sitplekke. Sofia gaan sit agterrond langs ‘n venster wat met ‘n was kan doen. Sy beveg die impuls om die vlootblou vinielsitplek met ‘n tissue af te vee voordat sy gaan sit. ‘n Groot swart vrou met ‘n bottelgroen melton beret, denimromp en spierwit tekkies kom sit uitasem langs haar.

“Joe-joe-joe!” sê sy en dan iets in Xhosa. Sy ruik na StaSoft. Die meeste van die ander passasiers in die bus is swart vroue in kleurvolle uitrustings en kopdoeke. Waarskynlik halfdag-huishulpe wat nou op pad is om hulle eie huise te gaan versorg en vir hulle eie gesinne te gaan kosmaak. Hulle klets kliphard in Xhosa. Heen en weer, soos ping-pong balletjies, trek die klapgeluide deur die bus. Al wat Sofia verstaan, is “hayi” en “yebo”. Sy weet nie of sy so lekker sou lag en gesels as sy die hele oggend lank iemand anders se huis moes skrop nie. Veral nie as sy dan weer die helfte van haar dag se inkomste aan onbetroubare publieke vervoer moes bestee om by die huis te kom nie. Tussen die gesels deur, sing sommige van hulle gospel-liedere. Weer word sy getref deur daardie skuldgevoel wat sy saam met haar middelklas-status geërf het. Sy neem haar voor om meer blymoedig te wees.

Haar nuutgevonde blymoedigheid word egter sommer vinnig op die proef gestel wanneer hulle by Bellville-stasie arriveer. Die plek is beslis nie bevorderlik vir ‘n vrolike stemming nie. Dit is vuil, lelik, lawaaierig. Die sypaadjies is oortrek met vullis. Leë koeldrankblikkies, lekkergoedpapiere, chipspakkies en plastieksakke waai die wêreld vol. Sy klim huiwerig uit die bus. Voordat sy kans het om haarself in dié kras nuwe omgewing te oriënteer, word sy deur ‘n krioelende massa mense ingesluk. Hulle skuur langs haar verby, steek reg voor haar voete vas, stu haar voort van agter terwyl sy probeer om ‘n weg na die kaartjieskantoor te baan. Sy klem haar handsak nog stywer vas. Iemand blaas ‘n wolk sigaretrook in haar rigting. Dit vermeng met die reuk van ou sweet en urine wat reeds die lug versadig. Sy probeer hard om nie soos ‘n verskrikte dier te lyk nie – sy wil nie hê die sakkerollers en messtekers, wat ongetwyfeld hier rondhang, moet dink dat sy ‘n maklike teiken is nie.

By die kaartjieskantoor koop sy ‘n eenrigtingkaartjie stad toe. Dan vind sy stadig, maar seker, haar weg na die perron, sterk onder die indruk van die verwaarlosing en verval om haar. ‘n Klomp stukke vaal lap wat eens op ‘n tyd kledingstukke en beddegoed was, hang oor die stasieheining gedrapeer. Oorkant die stasie is ‘n nagskuiling en ‘n brug wat waarskynlik dien as onderdak vir dié wat nie gelukkig genoeg is om in die skuiling plek te kry nie. Twee bergies, duidelik stormdronk of vol gom, is besig om vloekend en skellend oor ‘n stukkende kombers te stry. Langs hulle lê ‘n derde een, skynbaar onbewus van al die aktiwiteit rondom hom, besig om ‘n tydskrif wat hy iewers in die hande gekry het, deur te blaai. Sy vermoed eers dat dit pornografie is, maar wanneer sy nader kom, sien sy dit is ‘n ou uitgawe van die Finesse. Iewers speel iemand kliphard popmusiek oor ‘n stereo. Op die maat van Beoncé stap sy deur ‘n duikweg, wat skerp na Jays Fluid ruik, tot op die perron.

Jacqueline Moran writes an emotional conversation between father and daughter (Short Story Writing Course)

“Larena, love.”

“Dad, why didn’t you tell me?” He sighed. I hoped he felt bad. Was that wrong? This could be the last time we spoke.  I didn’t want to be angry at him, but I was.

“I didn’t want you to worry.  It’s only a small thing.”

“Small thing?  Dad, it’s cancer.  Why didn’t you tell me?  I need to know what’s going on with you.  I love you.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m so sorry love.  I should have told you.”

A large wet drop dribbled down my chin.  I couldn’t utter a word, choking back a sob.

“’Rena?  Don’t cry, love.  It’s going to be alright.”

I tried to stifled a cry, but it came out as an ugly moaning wail.

“Larena,”  His voice was quiet, kind.  “Don’t do this to yourself.  It was better that you didn’t know, we didn’t want to upset you.  Not with your research, it’s important.”

“Not as important as you.  I didn’t know you were sick.  I want to be there with you, I don’t want you to be by yourself.”

“I won’t be on my own.  Your mum’s coming back in the morning.” “How big is it?” “What did your mother say?” “Not much, just that you have more surgery in the morning.” “It’s been this way for a while, love.  It’s… there’s a lot.  We’ve been treating it for a while, but nothing’s made it go away.”

“A while?  How long have you been having it treated?”

“Eighteen months.” “Eighteen months!  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Making you worry wouldn’t have made it any different; I’d still be having surgery tomorrow.  Think of your scholarship, do you think that would have happened if you’ve been worrying about me. I’ve lived a long life, and I haven’t always done it well.  You are God’s gift to me.”

Shaking, all I could do was weep without words. “Don’t cry.  Come up next week, we’ll spend the weekend together.”

“I love you, dad.”

“I know you do, love.  And I love you, very much.” Silence.  Both of us quiet, but together.

Petronel Geyser writes about a suspected crime at a retirement home… (Short Story Writing Course)

“Mrs Brown, I see you are turning 80 tomorrow, congratulations .”

Susan put the first page of the police report down on the desk in front of her and surveyed the tiny lady sitting across from her.  She was wearing her best Sunday dress and clutching a square bag in her wrinkled hands.

“Thank you Sergeant, but you can call me Martha. I have been blessed with good health, a child like you will understand that someday.” She looked Susan straight in the eyes. This woman’s gaze could let grown men whimper and cry.

“Ok Martha, I’m going to have to write down your formal complaint in this statement. Please give me the details of the alleged crime?” Susan bent down over the report with her pen ready.

“Those people at the Sunshine Home are up to something. Something illegal.  John, Albert, Frank, Rosie, the lot of them.” Martha sat back as if she just revealed the names of a terrorist organisation.  She nodded her head knowingly and pointed in the direction of the report.

“There, write that down.” I hope this isn’t going to be one of those complaints.

“What exactly are they doing?” Susan put the pen down on the desk, folded her arms over her uniform and frowned. “It started last week Thursday. I could see them forming little groups behind my back and exchanging whispers.  At first I thought I am imagining things, but then I kept my eye on them…” She tapped her nose with her bent forefinger. “I would go sit on the bench in front of the home in the afternoons.  From there I have a nice view over the grounds and the sun can bake my feet under my knee blanket.  I pretend to take an afternoon nap, but I peek at them from under my eyelids.” She smiled sideways at Susan whilst nodding. “So I saw the pattern.  John, who has a car and is still allowed to drive, would casually walk to his car and wait in the passenger seat.  Rosie would then walk across the lawn with that embroidered basket of hers.  She always hides that alley cat of hers in the thing, so she is a practised smuggler.”

“Yes, I see,” Susan smiled. “Well, Frank would be the lookout.  He would stand on the lawn and pretend to study the flowers.  That dentist has never done a day’s gardening in his life!” She tapped her finger on the desk in front of her.

“Ok,” Susan put a serious face over her ever widening smile. “So Rosie and John would lurk behind the car and stuff things into that basket of hers. Frank would be keeping an eye on me, seeing that I am the only other person around to witness their atrocities.  They would then all bundle into the kitchen with Albert waiting for them to close the door.”

“And what do you think they are doing in the kitchen?” Susan asked.

Martha threw her hands in the air. “Making drugs, of course.”

Heather Walden experiences a bush fire but is rescued by a water-bombing  helicopter  (Short Story Writing Course)

“No Titan, stop, stop! No run!”  And with the command fresh in the dog’s ears she took the first step.  The dark night raged over her head and heat sucked at her skin.  Thick hot air swirled around them.  And a fear more tremendous than she could have ever imagined, gripped at Amber’s belly. “Please someone, someone, somewhere, help me, help me and Titan now.“  She pleaded aloud.  It was many years since her mother had taught them prayers. With eyes smarting she searched for what she thought would be north.  But the fire was eating at the pathway. Frantically she scanned backwards and forwards.  Her head nodded one way and then the other.  There was no obvious opening to be seen. The red wall had grown higher and Amber had no idea which way to go. “Oh Mumma,” she cried aloud,  “Mumma can you help us?  Please Mumma, please…” It was then, that she heard it.  Interrupting her plea. A loud, thump, thump, thump.  Followed by a huge swish, splat, crackle.  Water filled the air.  The hotness sparked back yelling in protest..The noise was frightening.  And the small ball of fluff tucked so safely in her shirted wriggled with all his might.  Plonk, from her shirt and he was gone.  His short legs running hard at the small opening that had miraculously appeared on her right.  “Stop Titan, stop!” she yelled after the dog.  “Titan wait boy!”  But he wasn’t stopping.  Not this time.  And in a flash Amber was after him.  Carefully picking her way through the narrow space the pup had headed for.  Her eyes hunted amongst the smoke-thickened air.  Titan was hidden but not his yap. “Woof, woof.” With quick feet she reached him.  Smudged dirty face waiting. “Woof, woof.”  A gigantic relief surged into her. “Oh baby I thought I’d lost you.” Moments later her legs were pumping again.  Pounding forth.  Crunching twigs broke under her runners.  Further and further they went until her lungs ached.  Hungering for an easier pace.  For a few seconds she slowed.  But with the smell of fire still rushing into her nostrils, now, wasn’t time to stop.  With several more hundred metres behind, she eased her pace.  At the same time searching the landscape.  Hoping to recognize at least something though she didn’t know what.  Nothing except fire reddened tree.  Angry tears crossed her cheeks for the umpteenth time.  Desperation was catching her flight.  More seconds, turned into minutes.  Her muscles were twisted.  Sore from dodging the hot- breathed flames. “Surely we must be almost there… soon…” “Oh Titan, we must be lost!” The tiny frightened whimper pinged at her heart. If it wasn’t for the pup she might have stopped completely. Thud, thud, she’d heard that noise before.  Confusion blocked her senses.  Thud, thud, thud,  it went again.  Followed by the noise of a great swishing and then a wet splashing.. Lights shone down upon her.  Titan whimpered.  Afraid, he began to wriggle. “Amber, oh Amber, thank goodness you’re safe.”

‘Wooden Hills’ – By Andy Evans (Excerpt from piece written in the Literary Short and Flash Fiction Course)

I take a deep breath. My breathing is slower now. I creep up the Wooden Hills. Those words again. Stirring memories in me. Deep memories. I’m careful to keep my distance from the railing, careful not to step on one of the steps that creak, which would give my position away. For one wild moment, I think about running as fast as I can to the top of the stairs, but that would be silly. If I did that, I know the monster would be waiting for me around the corner. I can imagine those horrible eyes, the thick fur, and the teeth. A wide mouth, full of sharp spikes and blood. All this would happen in a split second and I’d have nowhere to run. What a stupid idea! I reach the corner and peer around it: still no sign of the monster. But I’m not out of danger yet. There are still so many places it could be. I pull up level with the landing. There are more shadows. Three doors are slightly open (there’s nothing freakier than a door that’s slightly open). It’s the perfect place for a monster to lie in wait. And when it attacks, there’s no warning, no creak, nothing … no time to react. There are five steps left. Grabbing the handrail, I edge forward. Is my escape route still clear? Is the monster creeping up behind me? Or will the attack come from above? I take another step. I forget this is the step that creaks … Time slips, slows down. I’m falling down the Wooden Hills, but it’s another staircase, in an earlier house, at an earlier time. I wait for the pain to assault me, to rip through me, as I fall. I watch as the steps, the teeth, grow larger and closer. Nothing there to break my fall. Surely, death has me this time, and what, I wonder, will the pain feel like?

Excerpt from a scene by Brett Shand (Basics of Creative Writing Course)

András came from the windows and sat down beside Angela. He picked up his bow and tapped it on his music stand. “Time to go to work again” he called. “Tomas … Hakeem.” He looked around and waited until he was sure they were all settled “Bar sixty-three please. We’ll try the triplets a little slower.” They played. Then as the music began to run Angela’s thoughts began to run as well. She did not need to be in this God forsaken country. The others would not have minded if she had said she needed a break; they had been travelling for almost six months and they were she knew, as sick of hotel rooms as she was. And that was of course, why she had come. But, dear God, this place frightened her. Her military father had called especially to underscore the need for Americans to be cautious and watchful. She could not remember the last time her father had called her on tour. He had just made it worse, which was about normal for her father. It was all so foreign, she could not even read the damn signs and those lizards or whatever they were, running along the walls. Then the muezzin from the mosque nearby begin to call the azan.  Angela stumbled. A missed entrance, a bungled note. They all stopped in surprise and looked at her. Angela stood and said “How do you expect me to play with that all that singing outside.” “It is not singing.” Hakeem looked at her. “He speaks of the greatness of God. A good thing to be reminded of, perhaps?” Angela sat down and looked around at them.

Excerpt from Chapter Two of China – a novel in progress by Mark Scheepers (Write a Novel Course)

“Shit!” “What?” China looked over at Spider and realised immediately what was up. “Cops. What do we do?” They were standing in front of Christ the King Anglican Church in Hamilton street, waiting to meet a guy who had promised Spider a Blackberry for 100 bucks. The police van had come down Harmony street. They weren’t doing anything wrong and had nothing on them but they could be picked up all the same. In the township on any given day it was a coin toss whether just hanging out with friends would get you thrown in jail. “Nothing.” Spider didn’t make eye contact with him. That was strange for him. China had only been working the block with him for a week but he knew he was jumpy. This guy was being way too cool for his liking. He watched the police van slowly snake past them. He recognised one of the officers; he was in Mouse’s pocket. He wouldn’t worry with them. The other guy looked new. He wasn’t even paying attention to his surroundings. The van made its way to the end of the block and then turned around. The headlights flashed a moment before Spider bolted. He took off running down Harmony street towards Slovo Park informal settlement, a few meters behind Spider. The closer they got the more pungent the smell of raw sewerage and the lingering smell of wood and paraffin fire became. The settlement had nearly burnt to the ground recently. He knew better than to keep up with Spider. It was every man for himself.

Excerpt from a work in progress by Lerato Motsoaledi

This democracy was a limitless well of generosity. It flung Mr Nkosi’s glory to the finish line faster than he could fathom. Promoting so many he had no room to revel in his success. Small boys, some of them looking younger than Sifiso, became his big bosses. No doubt they were gulping breast milk while he queued for buses at daybreak. Now they headed the salary queue, earning more money than he thought was possible. While shaking hands of factory royals. They threw words like fast-tracking around when speaking about these youngsters. Like they were cars on a race track. Maybe their fancy sports cars reminded people of racing cars. He wished he was born much later. So he could at least sit in Mr Blignaut’s old office overlooking the imposing buildings lining the beach front. Other times he was proud of them and said their success was his too. He found solace knowing that his offsprings would too dine at the fast-tracking table. Especially Nozipho who never let anything pass her by. But this democracy was a moody eighteen year-old. Sometimes it gloated about its epic feats. Other times it recoiled into a foetal position as it bewailed its incurable woes. When this happened, some said it was better in the past. He dragged his feet to the hall. His eyes set on a seat in the last row. To shield himself from meeting fanatics whose attendance records could earn them awards.

The Writers' College

The Maybe and the Camp – by Kevin Blignaut (Advanced Creative Writing Course)

A gust of wind curled around the huge boulder and the flames flattened. The wood was dry and the camp fire soon crackled again in the desert night. Brogan unfolded his arms and flipped up the hood on his jacket, tucking his chin into his chest; then he shifted to rest his bare feet closer to the blaze. His socks hung on a branch nearby, as they had every night for the past week. The fire would exorcize the damp, but was powerless against their increasing stiffness and smell. He stared into his pot of instant mash and soya mince bubbling on the fire. His wife, Helen, had laughed at him when she bought it, saying “I think you will struggle to digest this after all the fine cuisine of the boardroom you’ve grown used to”. He had meant to buy the food himself, but he couldn’t get away from the office. He had expected an objection to his weeklong sojourn, especially with only a month until their first child, a girl, was born. But after eight years of marriage, she still surprised him. “You have choices to make Brog, I’m with you whatever, but unless you make the choices you will always hold someone else accountable. And I don’t want that someone to be me, or our daughter. Go… explore…think… but decide.” He looked across at the scuffed brown hiking boots placed at the entrance to his tent. He hadn’t used them in over five years, since before he started working at the management consultancy. He hadn’t done many things in that time. Well that wasn’t the whole truth, especially if you considered his latest performance evaluation. It contained comments like, “goes from strength to strength”, “unquestionable dedication” and “the sky is the limit, although even that probably won’t stop him.” Before he had left on his holiday a senior partner had called him in and said, “I see a bright future for you with us Brogan, I’ve been chatting to the other partners and we all agree you will go far. Keep up the good work.” But that was exactly the problem, he didn’t know if he wanted to. He had made the plan five years ago. They knew he had to put in these hours to accomplish it. But then why was he questioning whether he was doing the right thing?

Harry meets Charon on a boat ride in Barry Ger’s story (Short Story for Magazines Course)

“I’m saved,” Harry thought when he spotted the rowing boat. It was only about a few metres away from him but the dense fog and trees that blanketed the riverbank rendered it almost invisible. He just needed to draw its occupant’s attention somehow. “Hey, hey!” he hollered, scrambling over the verge and down the slope of the bank. “Wait up!” He waved his arms furiously. It worked. The small, rickety vessel halted and changed course towards Harry. As it approached, he was able to observe it and the figure aboard more clearly. The boat seemed to be a cross between the gondolas Harry had seen on a holiday in Venice and those punts he used to sail on during his university days. Whatever it was, it badly needed a paint job. Its captain, a grizzled, rake-thin old man, was similarly worse for wear. He was leaning against the prow, clutching a long wooden oar which he now plunged into the mud as an anchor.

An excerpt of writing from Tanya Halse (Short Story for Magazines Course)

But he does feel a bit bad after nights like last night. The proverbial black-out as they call it. Not knowing exactly who he was with, or what was said. Lots of drugs had done the rounds. He did not mean for the night to turn out like that. In fact he had been tired when he arrived home and was planning an early night until Joe and his clan pitched up. He liked Joe a lot. Maybe Joe was a lot younger than him, but he could relate to Joe, saw himself in Joe. He was trying to take Joe under his wing and guide him not to make the same mistakes as he had done, but that seemed to be biting him in the ass. More often than not, Dan ended up smoking Joe’s joints as well as anything else that Joe’s mates’s had brought along, just to wake up feeling like a haggard old man. At 35, that is what he was heading towards.

Angelos Troizis, Write a Novel Course

He turns around and walks into Ari’s restaurant It is almost empty except for an old man sitting behind a small table at the back watching him like an octopus behind a rock. The place smells of cockroach disinfectant. Florescent lights bright and white tangle from the ceiling reminding Bernard of a hospital ward. On the second floor, behind a steel door is his ‘Stalingrad’. A fat face, round and red, smiles from the glass peek window behind the door. Bernard wonders whether in this battle he will be the Germans or the Russians. The door opens wide and he walks in the room thinking that inStalingradeverybody lost. “Ten big ones, buy-in.” “I got it,” says Bernard. “Yeah but we don’t allow thieves,” says the fat man with an insane smirk in his face, his eyes look empty, dark, and dead. Bernard keeps quite. The door has been opened for him and he is already inside the dim lighted card room. “Just joking, just joking. Have a sit. Phew. Drinking a little bit?” “A little bit,” says Bernard.. “Want another?” “Yeah I’ll have a glass. Whisky. Straight.” “Okay,” says the fat man and, then, turning towards one of his goons, “Give this crippled thieving malaka his drink.”

Erika Frouws – Advanced Novel Course

Ant nodded. “And you want me to do what, exactly?” “Well, I want you to lead them, obviously. I know that you don’t want people to know, but it’s clear that you cannot get hurt or die, so you will be fearless in battle. A true leader that they can all look up to.” Ant shook his head. “But I’ll simply be leading them to their deaths. I don’t have any military training. Maduma rumbled laughter. “No matter. We are bound to lose a few. We are doing our best now to improve the lives of these orphans, but it is likely that a few of them will die for the cause.” Ant turned to Maduma. “And what, exactly, is the cause?” “Why it’s simple. We need to establish a new government for our country. We need a government that can build things, that can get us to start moving forward again. The virus outbreak has passed. We need to get things under control again. “ Ant frowned. “A noble ideal, but why do you need an army to do this? Especially an army of children?” Maduma extended his hand and placed it on Ant’s shoulder. “Let’s go back to my house and talk there. Dasha Colchek said you might need some convincing, but we really want you on our side.” “Dasha Colchek?”

Grant Sieff – Write a Novel Course

‘Do  you have to, Bob? It’s your second and you haven’t been home an hour.’ Bob glared at Wendy, Tanqueray bottle in hand. ‘Do you have any bloody idea what I’ve been through today?’ Bloodshot eyes swirled up to the generously elevated ceilings before his gin bottle steadied on the triple shot being sloshed over the ice and into the beer glass. ‘Ben James is out to destroy me with his fancy strategy and the CEO’s blessing. I’ve worked for Rob Kartovsky for 25 years, and this is all the bloody thanks I get. He supports some young naive Turk who knows bugger-all about banking. That, plus I work my fingers  to the bone keeping us in Constantia-style while you play bloody bridge all day. Do you have any idea, woman, what it costs to keep up the charade of all this?’ Everything in Wendy narrowed and tensed. Lips pursed,  jaw clenched, eyes like slits, readying herself for a contained but devastating come-back. Poise and good breeding weren’t about to be undone by the stinking slob of a man that Bob had become. It was one thing for clear judgment to have been clouded by the intoxication of romance, but how could her sober father and picky mother have been charmed senseless by that garrulous, excessive young banker, despite his working class roots. Bloody Bob must have talked banking, money and big deals to her father. Damn convincingly too, given the glib liar that she had discovered her husband to be. As for her mother…

Ralph Peterson (Basics of Creative Writing Course: excerpt from final assignment)

Jeff paced the lobby of the animal clinic. The receptionist stepped out from behind the sliding door after a while. She lifted a plastic envelope containing a bottle, a needle and a syringe, and laid it on the counter. “That’ll be one hundred and fifty,” the stocky woman said. “Have you ever done this before?” “No, I haven’t.” Jeff wondered where he should have tranquilised a dog before. “Take the injection―” the receptionist mimed the injection― “and connect the needle. Fill the syringe, and tap it―” she tapped with her finger― “to loosen the bubbles. You know the skin at the back of the neck?” Jeff wasn’t sure he wanted to know more. “Lift it, and inject there―” she showed with her hand― “just under the skin.” Jeff stood still a moment. “I want to ask: is this drug now going to knock the dog out properly? Because the pills you gave me earlier didn’t work at all. I’ve got to drive with it for an hour (I’m moving to Willow Park today) and, like I said, it’s a dangerous dog, it’s attacked a number of people. I don’t want it waking up in the car and killing me.” “He shouldn’t wake up. But if he does, he’ll be too―” she looked for the word― “Drowsy,” said Jeff. “Yes, too drowsy to want to do anything.” “Shouldn’t wake up”? “But if he does“? Jeff sighed. “How long does the drug last?” “About two hours.” About“? And only two hours? “That doesn’t give me much time. Can’t you give me something stronger?” “The thing is, you’ve already given him pills. You can’t give an animal too much, because you can harm it.” Jeff thought for a second. “And the vet’s still unavailable?” “He’s still in surgery. He should be out by five. I’m sure he’ll come out in an emergency, though. Even if it’s after-hours.” Jeff gripped the bag. “Thank you.” He looked at the package lying on his passenger seat as he drove home. His dog had looked like a ball of wool with legs that night four years ago, when he’d given it to his daughter for Christmas. It had made the two-year-old girl laugh, the way it had wrestled with the ribbon he’d gotten a florist to tie round its neck. His wife had named it “Leo” because of its bushy mane.

Haylea Silverwood (Basics of Creative Writing: excerpt from the final assignment)

Hannah peered down at the waves crashing against the cliff then back up at the castle set precariously on its peak. “They couldn’t have chosen a more convenient location?” Henry, who was snuggled down somewhere under her scarf, snorted. The constant rain and harsh lashings of the sea had made every surface slick and green tinged. The crumbling track looked near impossible to climb. “And you are entirely sure we need a Merlin?” A sharp pair of claws dug into the tender flesh of her neck. Hannah yelped and started trotting up the path. “You’re lucky I’m a cat person,” she grumbled under her breath. “You’re lucky I’m a human person,” he retorted. “Wake me when you get to something you can’t cross.” It didn’t take long; there was a huge chunk of path missing around the third bend. Henry scoffed, and with Hannah struggling to hold a cat-sized umbrella in place, hacked into the puzzle system through a terminal hidden under a sword in a stone to cancel it. This cut out all the ridiculous heroics but still left Hannah with a long jog in the rain. She was glad for William’s coat, which kept out the worst of the weather and seemed to have some sort of in-built heater. Despite the help Hannah was a gasping panting wreck by the time she got to the top. A  shadow in a three-piece suit sat knitting in a small patch of clement weather by the gate. He gave Hannah a disapproving look (which must have been difficult without eyes) and lowered the drawbridge. Three steps into the courtyard and the rain gave way to a balmy spring day. Hannah blinked for a moment then shucked the coat and tried to wring out her hair. Henry yawned and jumped from his perch to clean his paws.

Fiona Coward (Basics of Creative Writing Course: extract from the final assignment)

It was late afternoon before Ab stirred. The effort of cleansing the big stone house of its poisonous energies had drained him and he was loathe to leave the sustaining embrace of his oak tree. “I’ve got to force the last of the negative energy from the child’s room and then work on the rest of the house. It’s all I can do until I’m sure about what James needs from me.” As he entered the house, he heard James rattling around in the kitchen and decided to go straight up to the boy’s room to carry on where he had left off. He sat on the floor again and began the process of pushing away the vestiges of the horror perpetrated in the room. He deepened his focus and streamed light, love and peace into the slowly responding space. There was a loud crash and Ab was startled back into the present. He heard it again and rushed down the stairs. James had flung open the patio doors and was lurching out onto the flagstones. He almost tripped over an uneven section and started giggling. Ab stared. “What’s wrong with him, what’s he doing?” James was talking to himself in a loud voice but his words blurred into each other. “Loser, schmooser, you are the empty man, empty, empty empty.” His voice rose and fell and he started giggling again. “Whatcha going to do now, empty man? Drown in the river like mum and dad? Or maybe I should dig a hole in the garden and fall in?” He propped himself against the balustrade and peered groggily out over the gardens. “Pretty gardens, so pretty but I don’t like them.” His loud voice became sing song and he crooned the names of the long ago memorised plants. “Azalea, roses, jasmine, pela…pelagon…oh something. See James, you can’t remember, cos you’re empty,” he sang and then stumbled down the stone stairs into the garden. Ab gaped as he watched his precious charge behaving so oddly. He was terrified that James had finally gone mad. He stared wildly around looking for inspiration when his eyes fell on the empty whiskey bottle. “Oh for goodness sake. He’s drunk. Rip roaring drunk! The man who never lets go is now singing and shouting and falling all over the place.” Ab couldn’t help himself, he started to laugh. He watched James’s erratic progress and laughed even harder. If the man didn’t fall into a rose bush or crash into a tree, it was probably the best thing for him right now, a total letting go.

Guenter Prinesdom (Basics of Creative Writing Course: extract from the final assignment)

Asa pedalled up a hill. The sun beat down on him and the smell of dust and hay filled his nostrils. How he hated this life. How he hated his father, when he called him a failure, a wimp. He pushed into the pedals a little harder. How he hated his brother for bullying him, and his mother for having died too soon, leaving him stranded in a world where he had to fight to survive. Hunched over the handlebar, he thrust his weight into both wheels. If he could just escape his family, the fights, the fear. If he could just forget. And forget he did. After a few slopes, he already felt like riding waves. And what waves they were: rolling along for as far as he could see, chequered with fields of green and yellow. Never once pressing the brakes, he bolted down and floated, trees blurring past him, and shouted, “I am free!” He saved the highest hill until last. There, upon the crest, he waited and listened. The air was thick with the song of crickets. His eyes shining, he kicked his feet off the ground. He rolled on, faster and faster, bouncing and pitching as he hurtled down the hill, ploughing up clouds of dust from under the wheels.

Pam Ferla (Excerpt from a Short Story Course assignment)

He was more like a dwarf than a man, square shaped with chunky legs and a shiny bald head that looked too big for his body. He had beady black eyes that seemed to go a shade paler when he spoke, as if the energy from his eyes was sucked in to his voice box. He wore a brown Chairman Mao suit, something Mabel had insisted on. She didn’t want a nude wandering about the house. “He’s a little unnerving,” she thought as she sat on the sofa watching him ironing Colin’s office shirt. He worked with precision, sharp creases down the sleeves and no wrinkles on the collar corners. He hummed cheerfully as he worked. Of course, Colin had selected the tune, so appropriate for the day. Hum-hum-hum-hum-hum-huuuum (happy birthday to you). Her husband had also selected the tone of voice, soft yet servile, and when Marcus said “Yes, maadam,” Mabel felt a shivering thrill down her fat arms. “It’s like having a real servant,” she giggled gleefully. “Oh, I can’t wait to show you off to the croquet club girls when they come round for afternoon tea.” Today was her 55th birthday and she’d made a special effort with her baking. “Now I just need to buy a good wine, something that will impress,” she told Marcus. “Just wait till snooty Jean watches you passing the cake around. And when Marg sees you she will be speechless, for a change.” Mabel was a size 18 brunette with frizzy permed hair and a kind chubby face. She yearned for acceptance in the posh neighbourhood. In an effort to make friends she had recently joined the Uppermarsh Ladies Croquet Club and after a couple of  glasses of wine at the club she’d invited the girls to her birthday afternoon tea. “I’m getting a very special gift from my husband,” she’d told them. “Come to my birthday and you’ll see it.” Now that gift was busy getting through a pile of ironing. “Marcus, when you’ve finished that shirt I want you to empty the dishwasher.” “Yes, maadam,” said Marcus as he whirred around and hung the shirt on a coat hanger. “Ironing finished, maadam. I will now empty the dishwasher.” Last night, when she’d first talked to the robot, she’d felt a bit silly. But now she was getting used to giving him orders. It was empowering.  What a dear Colin was to give her such a unique gift.

Sally Ann Fisher (Excerpt from a Short Story Course assignment)

As she sat in her armchair in front of the dying fire, Isabella clenched her fists. Alone in the house, she looked across to the heavily curtained windows, the rich, red brocade long since faded to the colour of that dull, sad, washed out pink so often favoured by old women. As her body strained to detect the sound again, Isabella absentmindedly wondered if she too would eventually succumb to the lure of the faded pink cardigan. God forbid. There it was again. Closer, bolder.  She wasn’t scared; she was filled with rage. What else would she have to do to ensure there was absolute silence when the night dark descended? She had arranged to have the perimeter of the house completely stripped of any sort of garden. She wanted nothing to feel it had a claim on her house, or her attention. Not a bird, not a rodent, not a neighbourhood cat – and certainly no human being; especially a human being.  Isabella Gordon had not had a meaningful conversation with another person in almost five years. She had always been particular with whom she shared her time and her thoughts, but now she shared them with no-one. Well, there was Dan, but those stilted, awkward exchanges of words didn’t really count as connection. Far from it. They were painful for both parties. She kept them to a minimum. At 45, Isabella Gordon was a beautiful woman, sharp and quick witted. She daily smirked at the irony of that. What point being quick-witted when the only witnesses to that were the walls and furniture she moved around each day? It amused her anyway. Never vain about her looks, she did admire her intellect. She carried herself with a grace that couldn’t be taught. She moved as if there was a mist around her she was determined not to disturb. Each long legged step so languidly rhythmic. All so at odds with her rather caustic sense of humour and stilted attempts at friendships.  She had not one drop of empathy in her body. But who needed empathy when one had one’s own glorious intellect? Isabella reached for the candlestick on the side table to the right of her chair. She slowly lifted it onto her lap, reassured by the weight and coolness of the family heirloom. Heavy enough to cause injury, cold enough to keep her focused on what she would do next.

Ayesha Ally (Excerpt from a Short Story Course assignment)

Sarah is flying now. There is nothing between her and the clouds and she feels that she could fly forever, but then, she is falling. Gravity is impatient and she cannot breathe. She hears scratching. Her eyelids fly open. Before she knows it, she is running. She runs until she finds herself outside her bedroom window. It is hard to spot him in the darkness but when he turns to acknowledge her presence his black eyes hold hers and his skin is ash. He turns to walk away. “Stop,” Sarah’s voice is echoing through the howl of the wind and hard rain. He does not turn, but he stops moving. “You need as many of these as you can get ma’am. Protects you, from things unwelcome in these parts.” He is pointing at something, and Sarah is trying hard to see but the rain is blurring her sight. Eventually, everything is clear and there, at the lowest part of the concrete wall is a line of crosses carved deep into it. Suddenly her heart is all that she can hear. “Stay away from my son. You stay away from him or I swear -,” Sarah looks up. He is gone. No. Sarah’s legs are pulling her forward even though she feels numb. She is leaping over fallen trees and she is stepping in puddles of mud. She pauses at the sight of a half open door. There is a frame on the wall. The man in it is young, he is pale, and his eyes… oh his eyes. It is him. An old lady appears. She is using a walking stick. Her white hair is a neat bun. “Can I help you, child?” Sarah is pointing at the frame. “That man, who is he? Please ma’am, I need to find him.” The old lady is no longer smiling, her eyes turn cold. “That’s my boy. He ain’t here no more. They killed him for his faith.”

Extract from The Tenth Wave by Corlette Grobler (Write a Novel Course)

He was not ready to return to the dungeons and he was certainly done with ‘the rack’ which seldom stood idle in the cages below. It was usually placed near their entrance, where the light was most and men could see the suffering. Dirty hands would stretch out toward the victim to bid him God’s peace while long, mournful wails witnessed his strapping – supine – to the frame. Then, as soon as the wretched man’s wrists and ankles were fastened, the notary would proceed with the questions to which the answers were desired. Edward was put to the rack in this way but his frame proved too tall for the carnivorous beast of the Vatican dungeons. A day later, an older, sturdier rack was rolled in. It was soiled with blood and excrement when they strapped him to it and the notary bared a callous smile while he cleared a rotting limb from the ropes. He tossed it, jaded, down the dark corridor behind him. ‘You will like this one,’ he taunted, ‘this one comes from the tower.’ It was an older, sturdier model indeed. But it was different too. On this rack was no bed. Consequently, Edward was strapped to ropes on the floor amid the rotting smells of decay, excrement, blood and vomit that had been washed from their dungeon the day before. They hoisted him by pulling at his ankles and wrists, winding the rope around the crossbars at his head and feet. The pain was agony. He gasped for breath and swore he heard loud popping noises of snapping cartilage. They were sounds the men in the dungeon knew well – sounds they had often heard when the first victims were stretched. A sudden jerk of the wooden handle yanked the ropes around his arms and ankles even tauter: ‘ – you heard the king say that he wanted riddance of his meddlesome priest?’ Silence deafened him while the ropes pulled dastardly on his arms. Pain shot through his breast, belly, arms and hands and he was almost certain that all the blood in his body had burst out at his fingers’ ends. Then the ropes relaxed and his blood rushed back. A distant voice urged him to answer. He nodded ‘yes’ while his senses returned. He could hear again. ‘- speak up Edward.’ ‘Yes!’ he yelled, ‘Yes!’

Excerpt from Janette Stratton’s final assignment (Basics of Creative Writing Course)

Professor Lambton followed Teri as closely as he dared. He could see her wonderful hair moving in time with his breath and smell her shampoo. Murmuring “Behold, thou art fair,” to himself, he leaned even closer. Too close. He knocked her backpack and she staggered. He tried to catch her by the elbows, but she was already out of reach, flowing down the stairs in a fluid, loose-limbed rush that he couldn’t hope to emulate. He fancied himself in good shape but he had never been an athletic man, preferring intellectual pursuits to sporting ones. He persevered though, drawn on by her hair and the glimpses he caught of her hips swinging down the stairs. By the time they reached the ground floor he was blowing hard and could feel runnels of sweat on his cheeks and neck. He was wearing one of his good shirts, the one with the snaking blue paisley pattern, and he hoped the colours would conceal any clammy patches. Teri hurried on outside, forcing him to rush after her. “Teri, wait. I just want to talk to you about your last essay. You make some fascinating points about Shakespeare’s sexuality and I thought we might discuss them over coffee at my place. It’ll be warmer there.” “Thanks for the offer Professor, but I have to go. I’m meeting friends.” Teri peered around her. He wondered what she could find so interesting about the courtyard. All he saw was the concrete barbarism of the Arts building, the grey paving stones that some philistine of an architect had thought would enliven the courtyard, and a few benches that no one ever used because of the winds funnelling around the Arts building. Even the water feature was predominantly concrete. Teri bumped up against the stone of the fountain’s edge and paused. Lambton stepped towards her and patted her arm. “Teri,” he said in the orotund voice he usually saved for reading poetry aloud, “I want to talk to you.” It wasn’t the place he would have chosen to make his declaration. It was too ugly, too exposed, too liable to interruption from some student or other. But he knew that he might not get a better opportunity.

By Kerryn Campion (Scriptwriting Course)

Beginning Title fades to black There is no visual yet, but the audio is that of a distant, jeering, and tauntingly eager crowd. The black fades into the visual. The camera hovers over a massive symbol that is glowing through a marble floor. Two pairs of sandaled feet stand on either side of the symbol. A throat is cleared high above one of the pairs of sandals: And whosoever bears this symbol shall end all suffering, shall end all strife and be the saviour to us all. The visual fades to black again, the crowd continues with its jeers and taunts. The foreground audio is that of a number of authoritative, echoing footsteps, a key is placed into a gate. The black fades into the visual. The camera is extremely low to the ground; a pair of boots enters through a heavy gate into a filthy cell. The camera zooms past the boots to three pairs of naked, dirty feet all connected to each other by heavy chains. The feet stand unsteadily and are led out the cell by the boots. Switch to the feet of a running child, the camera pans slowly up his body, but only to his hands. There is a soiled envelope in his right hand. Switch back the shuffling chained feet being led over muddy cobblestones by the menacing boots. The jeering is becoming increasingly louder. Switch to the running child. His breathing is becoming ragged and is full of emotion. He pushes on through the long sharp grass. The boots are now standing to attention along the front of the wooden platform as the six grubby feet shakily ascend the creaky wooden steps. Large stained boots move towards the first pair of feet, and then to the next, and then to the next, performing tasks above the view of the camera shot. The child is running up a hill, his breathing full of fatigue and desperation, he pushes to the top of the hill. All the while the sounds of the mob increase as he nears the apex. The stained boots come into view; a grunt of effort comes from their owner as they take the stance of exertion. The dirty, naked feet fall through the platform. They twitch at first, but then just swing lifelessly. A cry escapes the child as he drops to his knees. Ending Title fades to black

By Shelley Kirton (Short Story Writing Assignment)

The air in the hair salon is heavy with a perfumed, chemical smell. Sophia takes a seat, puts her handbag down then flips through the magazines. She has a choice; an out-of-date Woman’s Weekly or Hairstyles for Today, dated six months prior; also somewhat tardy she thinks. She opts for the Woman’s Weekly. “Would you like a cup of tea? Coffee?” Angela, on reception, asks. She is wearing an odd assembly of short black garments one on top of the other and her hair is deeply black and silver-tipped.   Her slim legs are bare and her feet are sheathed in spike-heeled boots; Sophia wonders how she manages to trit-trot around all day in them. She is youthfully beautiful. “No, thanks, I’m fine,” she answers, hoping that whoever did Angela’s hair is not going to do hers. “OK then, Jenine won’t be too long now.” Angela resumes her position behind the reception desk. Sophia reads, glances up at the stylists, sees snips of clients’ hair falling in wispy swathes on the floor. Angela comes and sweeps an efficient broom-full of this debris behind a door that reveals glimpses of a table strewn with cups and the remnants of a birthday cake; several candles remain poised on a small slice that oozes cream. Sophia continues reading: a grandmother announces her love for her grandson and they are having a baby. Really? She feels ill. Reaches for the Hairstyles magazine instead.  Sophia’s hair is difficult and she has despaired of it, always. She’s never had the sort of hair that swishes, and envies those who do. She wonders if Jenine will today bring about the miracle that will see her with swishable locks. Knows that she won’t. Can’t. “Ready for you now”. Angela flicks a midnight-blue and silver cape around Sophia’s shoulders and secures it with a zippy Velcro flourish. “Jenine will be with you in a moment. Sure you don’t want a cuppa? Water?” “No, thank you”. Sophia takes off her glasses and earrings, puts them on the shelf in front of her and next to the jars of shampoo and conditioner that are stacked neatly to her left and intended for her purchase. She remembers when she went to the hairdresser just for a haircut but now she is importuned to buy ‘product’ and additional ‘services’ and sundry ‘treatments’.   Too many choices she thinks. She is tired of making choices, decisions. She is perhaps just tired. It’s all been very difficult lately. Jenine arrives in a twirl of black tulle and sequins. She looks as though she is going to the theatre rather than to do my hair, thinks Sophia. Why do hairdressers wear such extraordinary black clothing? All the same, she envies them their apparent carefree insouciance. “How’re you today”? enquires Jenine. “Colour and a trim, right?” “Fine, yes, thank you”. Sophia wears her hair in a tidy but undistinguished way. She is not a flamboyant woman. Jenine looks at Sophia and again at her hair and wonders aloud if she couldn’t just style it a little more this time, just to strengthen the line a little? And the colour, wouldn’t Sophia like it just a little more daring? Just a little. Sophia looks at herself in the mirror, sees that she looks tired, all over, not just her hair that has become too long for her face. She feels, well, a bit reckless, a bit giddy in the moment. Why not? Yes, she’ll be daring. For a change.

Tina Kitching unveils the thoughts of a pole dancer (Short Story Writing Assignment)

I see them at my feet. Howling – a pack of hungry wolves through the smoky mist, that is my stage. Every night. As I step into the spotlight. I lose sight as my eyeballs adjust to the brightness. I feel them drooling for my naked flesh. I meet their eyes, just as they’re about to tear my costume to shreds: flashes of pink. Their claws paw into me as they make their deposits. But it is here that I become their master. It is here that I tame them, that I whip them with my leathery lingerie. It is here where I am in control, and my centre of gravity – a pole. The alpha she-wolf. If you look hard enough, you can see my reflection in the bloody Marys, sloshing around in their hungry open mouths. It’s dirty. I drip from their teeth in the black of the back. Bleeding on the glass tables, drenched in their spit and fibres from their Armani-suits. Drop by drop, down their hairy chins. Every night is the same. I dance for the wolves. I strip for the wolves. I drag one to my cave in this forsaken oasis of my being.

Christie Williams reflects ‘On Love and Loss’ (Short Story Writing Assignment)

The bus rounds the corner of Glouston Street far too quickly. I brace myself with one arm against the seat in front of me. My stomach rumbles. I haven’t eaten since yesterday, not since… I try not to think about last night as the images come flickering through in broken pieces. Each memory cuts me with its serrated edges and I wince in pain as I feel my heart begin to break all over again. Her voice begins to replay itself again for what feels like the hundredth time this morning. I just don’t love you anymore. I take a deep breath in. It’s time to move on. I try to distract myself with what’s outside the window. Francois is my future now. It doesn’t work. Goodbye, Tom. They met through me. Francois was the visiting French teacher at the private school up the hill. The kind of school so posh they could afford to fly in their language teachers for a more ‘authentic experience’. Anna and I took him out to dinner one night. It was a favour to the said school’s principal who was an old mate of mine. We ended up becoming close friends and Anna and I would catch up with him at the local pub a couple of days a week. Francois and I would share work stories and Anna would have us in stitches with some hilarious tale… I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window. I look half awake and the heavy bags under my eyes aren’t doing me any favours. We were supposed to be getting married this summer. She even had the dress already picked out. First thing she did was buy that damn dress. I should’ve known then that she was more interested in the wedding than the actual marriage. I feel like a pimply sixteen year old getting his heart broken for the first time all over again. The bus has come to a stop. It’s raining and there’s been an accident up ahead. The road is blocked. We wait for what seems like ages. I should have called in sick today. It’s not too late to change my mind, I tell myself. Just get off and take another bus home. But I can’t do that to my students. Final exams are approaching and they’re already stressing over them. Up ahead the ambulance has arrived. A siren in the background is still screeching but I hardly notice. The driver gives up and we veer off into a detour. The more I think about the whole thing the more I begin to hate Anna. I sit there finding new things to despise about her: The way she flicks little bits of food onto the mirror when she’s flossing; the way she laughs at nothing when she’s had too much to drink; the way she flirts with everyone. I try to convince myself she wasn’t that great after all.

An excerpt from a piece by Kay Wilson (Short Story Writing Assignment) He looked up from his book. Jean’s hair glowed. The late afternoon sun had struck the back of her head turning the thick auburn curls into a vibrant halo. Her dark eyes smiled at Dave. At first, that was all he could see, against the deepening orange brightness of the sun in his eyes. Dave stared at her. Something was different. Yes, the small face was very familiar, the pointy nose he knew well, the quirky painted-on eyebrows in their place, but, something was different. He looked more closely, then turned away so quickly that his body jerked and his book fell to the ground. “How dare she.” he thought. “How dare she just come here without warning me. That’s not fair.” As he bent down to pick up the book he felt a quick burst of shame at his reaction. Dave stood and looked down at Jean. She smiled at him again. ‘It’s a bit of a shock the first time,” she said. Her wide smile twisted the misshapen side of her cheek. The taught and ragged new skin, that surrounded the edges of a scar, stood out raw and white. “I never was much of a looker anyway.” Jean shrugged. “They’re going to fix it you know. They’re doing plastic surgery when this has healed a bit more.” Dave felt ill. He wanted to run. He wanted to be back in a place where there were no scars on brave faces. “I didn’t visit you,” said Dave. “I tried but they wouldn’t let me in.” He hesitated, and then said bitterly. “They thought it was me. The police I mean. They came in to the library and took me in for questioning.” “I know.” Jean shook her head. “I told them it wasn’t you. He was taller and heavier. I couldn’t see much to start with because he jumped me from behind. I fell down and rolled over and there he was, like a mad gorilla standing over me.” She bent her head. “I can’t forget his eyes… Dark eyes, glaring at me, like black holes in his face except he didn’t have a face, just a scarf and a hoody and eyes.” Jean spoke quietly. “The police are still looking for him you know. He’s still out there, waiting for things to die down before he attacks someone else.”

Chelsea Haith, Short Story Course, Assignment 1 Later I sit down at my desk, seeing not the empty table top but a desk ruled by the laws of organized chaos and covered in manuscripts and notes from a life I recall was once mine. The rain has broken and a steady pattering taps across the roof. I look around me. I do not want to leave this place. This study is my sanctuary, this house my home. I love the quirky clock, the smell of aged wood and the corrugated iron roof that allows the rain to lull me to sleep. Should I give this up for a job I enjoyed and a city life I knew? I shake my head. No, it’s not that. Could I give up the life that was over and weave my own anew; effectively start over? The rain becomes a downpour and drums heavily upon the roof. I watch it wash down through the leaves of the tree outside and remember the invitations, the dinners, lunches, parties and meetings that I’d declined. I remember too the long nights in the weeks after the funeral when I’d cried in grief and then out of relief and shame. I remember the year past and realize that while I’ve spent a year dealing with my loss and finishing up what was left of my husband’s life, I’ve avoided this last step, remembering him. The memories come. Harold had loved the rain. It had rained that night, angrily pounding on the roof. I was angry too, as I so often was then. Late in the evening he called quietly for me. His voice was as weak as his body and I’d had to bend close to him to hear the words. “The last… of… the,” an unsteady breath, “morphine.” I remember my heart sinking and rising as I nodded, knowing what he was asking me.

Yael Barham- Smith, Short Story Course Assignment 5 “What’s going on, Rob? You expecting someone?” “What?” asked Rob. The heavy footsteps came back into the room. “There are two plates set out in the kitchen, Rob,” Anna heard the rough voice say. “Who are they for?” “Umm… er, no one, I just thought maybe you guys were hungry.” Rob sounded strained. “And what’s with the heart made of strawberries?” the rough voice asked. Anna gasped remembering how she had decorated the plates for Rob. “I bet you’ve got someone coming over,” the rough voice accused. “I’ve told you before about keeping this secret. If someone finds out about this, I’ll…” the voice stopped and Anna strained to hear. “What’s this?” the rough voice came again, but this time it was quieter. Anna could hear the deadly anger in it. “Oh, that?” Rob’s voice shook. There was a pause. “That’s just my girlfriend’s bag. She left it here when she came over last time.” “Really? Only I don’t remember seeing it earlier” “Maybe you missed it and …” “You know what I think? I think you’ve got your little whore stashed here, haven’t you?” “No. No! I don’t! There’s no one here.” “I don’t believe you.” “Bill, please, I swear, there’s no one else here.” “So you won’t mind if I look in there.” “Bill!” Anna sprang back from the door. She looked around desperately for somewhere to hide. The room was too small. The door crashed open and a huge man loomed in the doorway. Anna backed away but her legs bumped against the bed and she fell heavily on the mattress. The man strode across to her and grabbed her hair, dragging her to her feet. “Well, what do we have here?” he sneered.

Tina Kitching reveals the dark side of the MacDonalds meat supply. (Short Story Writing Course) Later that evening, Dave waited in front of McDonalds. He checked his watch ten times when he didn’t see her. “Pssst… Dave, come in through the back door by the kitchen.” He walked around the building and shoved down the handlebar of the back door. It was a bit tight. “Maureen?” It was too dark to see anything. “I’m here. Follow my voice.” He fell over something heavy on the floor and bumped his head on pans that were hanging from the ceiling. She led him into the back of the kitchen. There was a passage. “Come down the stairs.” “I can’t see anything. What stairs?” “Wait a while until your eyes adjust then.” The place had a rotten smell. It definitely wasn’t old food. Maybe something raw. “I .. eh .. I don’t like this. It’s weird.” “Fine, I’ll come get you, you big mole. Wait there.” “Fine.” His head was throbbing from the pans. “Hey Dave, sorry about that.” She threw herself into his arms and hugged him. She also smelled rotten. “Let’s just lock up and leave. It’s creepy and I want to go home.” Her hands stroked up and down his back. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Dave.” He could feel her nails steadily scratching his back.

Patti Smith deals with a stolen wallet. (Short Story Writing Course) It’s when I’m third back from the counter that I spot it and now I know why today is so special: it’s a wallet on the floor hard up against the kickplate. I’m mesmerised by it and can’t understand why nobody else has noticed it. It’s bright red, for goodness sake, how hard can it be? I casually look around, taking in the surroundings. I might look dopey but guess what? When it comes to money, I’m no slouch. The people at the front have moved away with their burgers and I edge further forwards. Still no-one has spotted it, so when I move up to the front I drop my shoulder suddenly so Ichabod is thrown off balance. He’s used to this trick so he screams and leaps onto the table behind me. While the people in the queue behind me try to catch him, I lean down and scoop up the wallet in one easy movement. I’m so good at this that even if you had been watching you still wouldn’t have seen it. By the time I place my order Icky is back on my shoulder and we find a seat outside in the sun to share our burger. A quick check to make sure no-one is looking and I open up the wallet to see what I’ve scored. Hmm, not much. Credit cards, absolutely no use at all, unless I’m ordering on line, and as I don’t have a computer or even a cell phone, they’re no use to me.

Kirti Ranchod… a young boy deals with the death his brother. (Short Story Writing Course) “I know that Sean’s death has been hard for you. We’ve just been so caught up in our misery that we forget to comfort you. I’m sorry for that.” “It’s okay, Dad, I understand. I can see what it’s done to you and Mum.” “If you need help, you need to let us know. I guess, though, today has shown us that you do.” His Dad ruffled his hair, like he used to when he was five. “Your Mum told me a little about your conversation earlier. None of us will ever understand why this happened. I know that telling you not to feel guilty won’t help. I think all of us feel it – all the things we should have and could have done, all the ‘What ifs’. We can’t change any of it, though.” “But Dad, I was his big brother. I should have been nicer! I remember telling him that he was too ugly to date Nicole, and that he was just so stupid, he should give up trying to play chess!” He replayed these scenes every nightas he tried to go to sleep, hoping that he could somehow change what had been said. “Did you do nothing nice for Sean, at all, Robert?” “No, Dad. I can’t think of a single thing. I’ve been trying for months to figure out if I did anything to make him happy. I’ve got nothing! Nothing!” “I know that you always let him have the front seat if he wanted it. You always knew which flavour of ice cream to get for him, and you let him wear your favourite T-Shirts.”

Final assignment by Bianca Wright (Basics of Creative Writing Course) Dimitria giggled as Koos kissed her nose. His lips moved up to her eyes and then back down to her mouth. He tasted like Doritos and Coke. Lately, all of their arguments had evolved into passionate make-out sessions – and tonight had been no different. She had shooed her mother and father out of the door as soon as closing time had announced itself on her father’s old clock, and promised to do all the cashing-up herself. Koos had arrived as soon as Maria and Stavros crunched out of the parking lot out back – parking down the street so that nobody saw him arrive. “Mmm … all this arguing has its benefits.” Dimitria smiled between kisses. “You need to tell them, Demi – we need to start making plans.” Koos relaxed his grip around her waist and opened his eyes to look at her. Her pale yellow sundress glimmered in the moonlight that shone through the slats on the windows like a detective’s torch. He loosened one hand to untie her curly pony-tail and gently twisted a few strands around his index finger. Her hair was soft and smelt like conditioner. “I will, Koos.” Dimitria pulled him closer. “Soon.”

Final assignment by Yvonne Erasmus (Basics of Creative Writing Course) Where is Pat, Dale wondered. Could it take so long to get a drink? Dale felt alone and anxious without her at his side. He threw a quick glance at the door to see if he could spot her, but could only see strangers standing around in the corridor. He smelled the stale cigarette smoke sticking to their jackets as they came back into the courtroom. Dale was afraid to look around, but he could hear the whispering behind him. What did these people care, he thought, feeling anger pushing up from the pit of his stomach. These vultures would go back home, and he might lose everything. As the sun shone down on his face he had forgotten for a moment where they were heading and why. But now, the warmth and welcome of the summer sun did not reach the inside of the courtroom. A fluorescent light in the middle of the room was twitching, throwing intermittent shadows in the corners. Dale looked at his watch. It was one o’clock exactly. He knew he was supposed to be hungry, but how could he be when all he felt was numb.

Juanne de Abreu, Short Story Course Assignment 1 He stands there moving the jasmine bushes, beating them slightly with a stick. The smell bursts through the cracked open window. A familiar smell and the comfort of memories rush through the soul, in the blink of an eye. Frosty tipped shivers dance up and down my skin thinking back to times when he was not just a dark figure in the garden. It’s fairly dark outside yet his eyes are clearly staring up towards me. Who is the hunter and who the hunted? I cannot let him inside! I cannot let him inside. I have to get rid of him quickly. He is not welcome here…he has this burly chest covered in soft hair? And strong arms? He is a total Adonis! Maybe I’ll just go outside and hear what he wants. It’s been six years since the first time we met. The first flirtatious bump into each other on the dance floor and the first “Can I buy you a drink?” Few words were uttered that night. The music vibrated my veins and he swayed his hips into mine. Staring into the colours of a fire, with its blend of red and orange, white and blue, is staring into his eyes, the colours flicker and blend so effortlessly. Nothing else exists except the amazing blue colour pallet. But he knows not to come here. He knows never to contact me. With a cigarette in his mouth he lights it and the bright flash of fire confirms it’s him.

Jane Scobie, Short Story Course “Can I take Dad’s new car?” his face brightening, imagining a detour to his girlfriend’s house on the way. “No,” replied Alison, holding out the keys to her aging hatchback. “Aww c’mon Mum, Dad’s new car is awesome. The sound system is sick.” Towering over his mother, Robert put his arm around her shoulder and bestowed his most endearing smile. “Aren’t I your favourite son and aren’t you the best mother in the whole world?” Alison smiled despite herself. Placing some cash, her keys and empty pastry case packaging in his hand she said “You are my ONLY son, you can take my car or walk. You choose, but you had better be back in 20 minutes and make sure you get the same brand.” “You don’t have a car,” said Robert with a wry smile, “It’s a motorised shopping trolley, my skateboard has more grunt. What are you trying to do to my rep?” “19 minutes. Goodbye Robert”, said Alison dismissively. Robert expelled an exaggerated huff and shuffled off, resigned to his mission. ……. Alison busily set to finishing her food preparations and was pleasantly surprised when Robert duly returned with the correct pastry cases. She was just commending him on his good timing when Lucy stormed into the room. “Robert! How dare you,” she punched her brother in the arm. “You hacked into my Facebook page.” Robert couldn’t resist a jibe at his sister’s recent gothic makeover. “Hey MORTICIA,” he chuckled as he rubbed his arm, “I didn’t HACK into it, maybe you left it open? You’ve no proof it was me, you need to be more security conscious. Anyone could have done it.” he smirked. “You changed my status to single and wrote on my wall that Steve dumped me because I have halitosis!” She lunged again at her brother. “Whoa! Back off sis,” Robert flapped his hand in front of his face, “you seriously have bad breath.” “You shit for brains arsewipe -” “Cut it out you two,” called Alison from the kitchen. “Your Dad will be here with his boss any minute. Lucy, watch your language.”

Tessa Ainsbury, Short Story Course Assignment 6 I only ever read about this place in the news. I normally drive past it. Today I drive into it, navigating my way past a myriad of pedestrians, buses and taxis. As I trudge up the hill towards the entrance, I contemplate the building. It is a sprawling medical metropolis; a mismatched marriage of old and new architecture situated at the foot of a magnificent mountain. The effect is discordant. I equate it to a slum in the middle of a picturesque painting. Outpatients, the sign above a grubby swing-door proclaims. I smile wryly. I am a patient alright, and I am “out”, in a manner of speaking. Too poor to afford a battery of expensive tests, and too rich to access State assistance. I am a taxpayer on medical aid, and, in this instance, totally screwed. So I’m here to try to my luck. I look like a frightened blowfish, swollen and prickly. I have cut out every conceivable allergen, and am living on air and over-the-counter medication. My employer has stopped sending prospective clients to me. Colleagues avoid me. I have no significant other, and won’t get one at this rate. I am Quasimodo, and desperate to fix it. Through the swing-doors, and into a dark and doleful corridor. It looks funereal; meagre shafts of sunlight penetrate smudged windows creating dark shadows on mustardy yellow walls. The bright and sunny day is banished from this place. I have stepped into a different world of muted gloom.  

David Hamilton, Short Story Course Assignment 1 Rose had started keeping a knife close to her bed. She reached out and gripped the handle tightly, drawing comfort from its weight. “Who’s there?” she called. She tried to make her voice sound commanding but it quavered just a little. She drew back the curtain and looked out into the black. For long moments there was nothing. Then a large shape sprang into view, filling up the window. Rose screamed and dropped the knife. The shape paced back and forth on the windowsill, then sat and regarded her with two huge yellow eyes. Her heart beat a fast rhythm in her chest and she sucked in a big breath as the fright faded away. She opened the window and the big cat jumped in onto her bed. It padded around, clawed the covers and sat down. It was jet black, its fur seemed to drink the light in. Its eyes were bright and reflective. It watched her for a few seconds, then slowly closed them. Rose put out a hand and ran it down the cats back. It was soft, cold on the outside from the night but warm from body heat closer to the skin. It began to purr. She felt its ribs as she stroked it, it was lean despite its size. “You must be hungry, poor thing,” she said. “I think I’ve got some tuna around here somewhere,” she said, searching the pantry, “Dan doesn’t like it so we never eat it. Aha.” She pulled out a blue can with a faded label. “Expired six months years ago but that won’t bother you will it?” The cat rubbed its head against her legs, purring loudly. An excerpt from the novel ‘Conspiracy’ by Hazel Carlstein, from the Advanced Novel-Writing Course. Chapter 29. Deidre lies next to Simon, sniffing. She can smell the strong camphor odour of the Vicks Vapour Rub, a thick daub on her chest and throat. She swallows to pop her ears and her throat is so sore and tender that it feels as if she has scraped her skin across an unplastered brick wall. She reaches towards the tissue box and pulls out a wad of tissues and blows her nose, raw and red. She hears the agitated rise and fall of a siren and the rolling sound of tyres on tar and a soft scraping sound. She lies, unmoving. A swirling sound of an aeroplane circling in the distance blocks out the sounds outside on the steps or at the window. Her eyes dart from side to side. The shadow on the ceiling is like a gigantic tarantula. The body next to her in the bed snores. A car door is closed. She lifts her head from her pillow. “Simon.” A soft crackling sound drifts towards her. Something falls down; a thump outside. “Simon! Wake up!” and she digs him in his side, below his ribs. He rolls over. “What? What the hell is going on, Deidre? I’m trying to sleep.” “There’s a noise; someone’s around outside.” “There’re always noises outside, Deidre,” but Simon gets up and walks around the flat, checking the doors and windows. He returns to the bed and he tosses and turns trying to get comfortable again and erase from his mind the scribbles of concern. Now he listens and he watches Deidre, the mole on the side of her neck rising and falling with her laboured breaths. He hears nothing unusual and his head falls backwards and he sleeps. As Deidre opens the door of the flat the next morning, the wind cuts through her scarf and thick black coat and she screams, “Oh my god! Oh my god! What is this on the mat, Simon?” And she bobs up and down, shaking her gloved hands, as she steps back into the lounge. “Take it away! Take it away, Simon.” Simon looks down at the tiny staring, unseeing eyes. They are as unmoving as black pearls, set in the fox-like face. He sees the small clawed feet and the wings, like stiff, thick plastic, that encase the frozen body. There is a hook on the end of each wing. The nose is pointed and the blood from the mouth is congealed. The chest with brown fur and the shoulders with white tufts of hair are broad; the body of the bat surprisingly large. Simon fetches a Checkers packet and picks up the dead bat. The note is under the body, DON”T CARRY ON! Dried blood has stained the mat. He pulls a tissue from his pocket and picks up the note and places it on the table inside his flat, determined to bag it and send it for analysis. Then he walks down the stairs to the outside bins and throws the bat away. He looks over his shoulder and he walks around the block of flats and behind the concrete pillars of the parking bays. The morning air is freezing. He thinks about the note but he can only feel his father’s thick hand swiping his ear and he can only remember his father’s voice from so long ago, “Hau, you must be the most stubborn child God ever made.” And Simon knows that he won’t stop, at least not yet.

Final Assignment by Daniel Andrews, Basics of Creative Writing Course John pushed the car door shut and leaned back on the bonnet, taking deep breaths as the latest wave of pain faded from his chest. ‘Damn feeble body,’ he grumbled to himself. Checking his gold Rolex, he saw it was only two o’clock and cursed under his breath the hours of lost work this afternoon’s sick leave would cost him. Stress, he thought, that was what was afflicting him, and keeping his fling with Angela, the new secretary, secret was stressing him more than usual. ‘Damn it!’ he cursed, ruing the day that his business partner, Marty, had gone against his advice and hired that tart. John was sure that Marty had been lured by her copious cleavage of silicon which her push up bra thrust out the top of her shirt and her scandalous thigh length skirts, but ironically it had been him that had ended up in her clutches. Now she was threatening to tell his wife unless he paid her off. That one night was the single most regretful incident of his life, ‘God, don’t let Sarah find out,’ he prayed, thinking again how devastated he would be if Sarah had cheated on him. Putting past mistakes out of his mind, he turned up the collar of his business shirt against the cold and wiped the mist from his glasses before sizing up the path to his house. Firstly, a dash over the curb and footpath, both covered in a carpet of red and gold leaves still wet from last night’s rain. Second, through the old iron gate and up the drive lined with oaks on either side, and finally, through the front door of his splendid two storey white house, where a warm fire would be waiting and his wife would be able take him to the doctor.

Final Assignment by Kara Netzler, Basics of Creative Writing Course Marcus couldn’t work out what was going on. Josh had instructed him to meet with him behind the school gymnasium at 3.35pm on the dot. It was now 3.40pm, Marcus was there, Josh was there, and also there… their entire class. No one said a word. Perhaps they didn’t want to compete with the howling of the wind swirling around them. Marcus shivered as it snaked its way down the back of his neck and beneath his shirt. C/mon Marcus shake it off. It’s just a bit of wind, no biggie… What’s Josh waiting for? Everyone’s here. He’s such a drama queen. Maybe he wants us to pass out from the stench of that cheap ‘deodorant’ he insists on wearing. Yeah that’ll be it. Marcus would never have the guts to say any of this aloud – he wasn’t scared of Josh, he knew he could take him down if he had to. He was scared of the repercussions that such action would have on his image. There was nothing more important to him than that. What else is there? The location seemed odd to Marcus. What was the significance of meeting behind the school gym? Marcus looked around, taking in the imposing barriers around him – the concrete block wall of the gymnasium, the line of tall trees so dense that you couldn’t see through them to know what was on the other side, and the high barbed wired fence; not to mention the bodies of the children who had formed a tight semi-circle around him. Ordinarily Marcus would have counted each and every one of them as his friend or at least someone he could have a laugh with; looking at their faces today though Marcus could see only their obvious indifference towards him. Today they were uncompromising and a force to be reckoned with. It dawned on Marcus that if he had to make a quick getaway for whatever reason, he would be hard pressed to do so.

By Shelley Blignaut (Short Story Writing Course: Module Three Assignment) “Robert Anderson, what were you thinking?” Anne said as she ran her trembling fingers over the dent in the car. “Is it that noticeable, Mom? Maybe he won’t even see it; it’s on the passenger’s side door and he’s either hung-over or trashed when he walks out of the house, he can’t even see straight.” Anne’s eyes widened in fear as she looked around in panic. “Ssshh, Rob, the neighbours are already suspicious, the last thing we need are more social workers poking their heads around here, remember how your father reacted the last time” Robert jerked his head away as if some imaginary hand had slapped him. A moment later he turned his face back to her, now etched in determination. “Yeah, and that’s never gonna happen again, Mom. If he ever lays a finger on you, I swear I’ll…” “Okay Rob. Let’s just calm down.” Rob put his fists down and breathed out heavily. The thickness of the night hung around them and he suddenly realised what he had done: he had given the monster inside his father a reason to rear its head. He had made his mother vulnerable again as he knew she would take the fall for him. How could he have been so stupid? Anne must have seen the despair in his eyes, “We are going to handle this without your father’s temper flaring up.” She walk toward him and gripped his defeated shoulders, she lowered her voice and said steadily, “We both need to have the same story, with the exact same facts to make it sound believable” Robert could see she was petrified; even though she was trying to keep it together, he could feel her hands shaking as she held him. “Mom, I am so sorry. I’m such a dumbass for getting us into this; it’s just with starting this new school and all, I was just trying to cut it with the other guys. They all drive their dad’s wheels and I couldn’t pitch up on my bike, all of them would have been like ‘Who’s that loser who can’t drive yet?” Anne dropped his gaze and let herself smile a little. For one brief moment she felt like this was normal, this is how it should be, her teenage son apologising for something stupid he did, explaining the need to fit in, succumbing to peer pressure. And she allowed herself to think about what should happen. She should ground him of course, a month would be fair, and then he would work shifts at the video store down the road to pay for the panel beating of the car. He would moan and curse and hate her for a week, but he would learn valuable character-shaping lessons. But this was not a normal family and she hated her husband for that. She could take the beatings and verbal abuse, but to rob her of these opportunities to be a mother was inexcusable….

The Character – by Venisa Chinnasamy (Short Story Writing Course: Module Eight Assignment) My name is Mpho-Sanna but Madam calls me Sanna. She says it’s easier on her tongue. I hope someday to build up enough courage to insist she calls me by my full name. As I hear the cars zooming past our chugging bus. I realize I’ll be late for work again. Eish, this life is not easy. I cringe at the cold creeping through the crack in the windowpane and penetrating my arthritic joints. Although the corrugated iron sheeting of my shack is also not weatherproof, I’ve not yet adapted to the Johannesburg winter. I hear the rest of the passengers on the bus, all domestic workers like me, boisterously making jokes at the expense of their employers. Usually I join in. I’m a pro at mimicking Madame Naidoo’s shrills. This morning I need the time to sulk. I am at my wits end with my fifteen-year-old son, Vusi. He has stolen the entire contents of my coffee tin. I have been saving to buy a brick house for the last five years. It is my dream to own a house like the one father built. Tears prick my eyes. I refuse to cry. Crying won’t help me. To come up with a plan to get the money to pay Thuli’s school fees is what I must reserve my energy for. Except for bus fare for the rest of the week, I don’t have a cent. I still find it difficult to believe that boy spent two thousand, five hundred and fifty rand on shoes, and clothes. I pull at the threads straying from of seams of my only set of work clothes, curl them around my forefinger, and snap them out. This outfit has deteriorated way beyond my skills as a seamstress. I admit I’m an angry woman but I have grounds to be. After one and a half decades, I still feel the rejection of my father. He died without forgiving me for running away from home at sixteen. Both Vusi and Thuli’s fathers have abandoned me. No wonder Vusi behaves so badly. His father is a worthless drunkard. Now, Thuli’s father leaves me in the lurch again by reneging on his promise to pay her school fees. The final straw is Vusi demolishing my hard-earned savings. I try to stop moping and think about something pleasant. Thinking about Thuli always makes me smile. My nine-year-old is an easy child to please, always pleasant, taking pleasure in the simple things in life. She seldom complains.

Busiswe Chaane (Short Story Writing Course: Module Five Assignment) “Let’s go, we’re getting late,” Amanda called out as she opened the door to the garage. “Bertha, Molly, where are you? It’s way past half-past.” “Whose lunch is that on the table?” Amanda was back from the garage to try and herd the girls into the car before the traffic gridlocked. “Bertha? Where’s your lunch?” “No, I’ve got mine in my bag, Mum. Bagsy sitting in front,” said Bertha quickly. Amanda shot her twin a look but said nothing. The girls threw their bags into the boot. Amanda reversed out of the gate and out of the complex. “Mum, did you see Aunt Priscilla driving in just now? “ Molly asked from the small seats at the back of the four-wheel drive MPV as they edged into the busy intersection. “She waved at you.” “No, I didn’t,” replied Amanda, “but I’ll be seeing her and Aunt Moira at coffee later. How I hate this morning scramble. I’m going to take the back road today.” “Thanks, Mum!” Molly smiled as her mother stopped outside the school. She blew her mother a kiss and ran to catch up with Bertha, who was already talking to a group of boys at the school gate. Amanda smiled back and swung out of the school car park. Minutes later, she was passing the rotund lollipop lady at the busy intersection with the new mall, and she smirked to herself as she nipped in front of a slow-moving hatchback and a taxi as she made for the slip road to the motorway. She reached across and selected her favourite CD of the moment and sighed slightly as she thought of where she was going. As she settled back into her seat and looked at the road ahead, she could see a figure up ahead, a woman, it looked like, standing under a small thorn tree. Her right arm was stretched out, the thumb up as she peered anxiously into each passing car. Amanda had enough time to think about her response before she drew level with her. On a normal day she wouldn’t even have noticed a hitchhiker. But today seemed a little different. Amanda didn’t know why, but she felt strangely dislocated from her surroundings, from her everyday chores and school runs, her usual suburban preoccupations. Amanda started as she realised that she was reducing rather than increasing speed to join the motorway. She realised she had automatically checked her rear-view mirror, signalled to the left and was stopping, yards from the lone figure who was indeed a woman, in well-used army fatigues. “Where are you headed?” Amanda asked, opening the passenger-side window. The woman, with short, brown hair wore no makeup or earrings, her sunburnt face and neck were liberally lined, evidence of well-travelled skin. “I’m trying to get to the bus station, madam, on the other side of the motorway. Just looking for a ride… y’know.” The woman talked with a drawl; Amanda couldn’t place her accent. “I’m going that way,” she heard herself say, “ I’ll drop you.”…. Laurel Watt (Short Story Writing Course: Module One Assignment) There it was again. The scratching, rustling sound in the darkness, just outside the window. And it definitely wasn’t a branch this time. Dan had cut that back last week. It’s probably that darned cat again, thought Maggie. Just that morning she had seen its muddy paw-prints on her kitchen window sill and across the counter. The few dinner scraps that Maggie had left out had disappeared. Not that she disliked cats. But this was his cat. Ever since Jim O’Connor had taken up residence in the garden cottage, he had been a thorn in Maggie’s side. She had been against having a tenant from the start. That had been Dan’s idea. “Mom,” he had called from his office, “my boss is looking for a place for his elderly father. I suggested the cottage. What do you think?” “Perhaps I should keep it as a guest cottage. For when Pete and Nicky come to visit,” she had suggested. Pete and Nicky had lived in the cottage after their marriage. Maggie had enjoyed having Nicky around. That was before Pete’s promotion, which meant relocating to Australia. “Mom, Pete and Nicky only moved to Melbourne six months ago. It’s going to be a long time before they can afford to fly back to visit.” “Besides,” he continued, “It would be good to have someone to keep an eye on things around there.” “And just what good do you think that geriatric can be?” She had asked once she met the man. “Don’t be so nasty, Mom. He’s 74 but he’s very fit and alert for his age.” Alert enough, for sure! Maggie thought later. Doesn’t he have anything better to do with himself other than check on my every move? Shortly after he moved in he had popped over one evening. To borrow some sugar was his excuse. She was busy in the kitchen when he knocked on the kitchen door. “You really ought to keep this security door locked,” he had said. “We wouldn’t want a pretty, young lady like you coming to any harm.” Pretty young lady, indeed! How dare he be so patronizing. He may be old enough to be my father but I am no spring chicken. Maggie was indignant. “Thank you for your concern, Mister O’Connor, but I’ve managed to survive quite well in the five years since my husband died,” she’d snapped. The Aquarium – by Riaan Fourie (Short Story Writing Course: Starter to Module Two Assignment) “BLIND-DATES are dangerous and desperate,” said the voice on the phone to Marissa. “That’s what you lecture me whenever I go on them. You’re turning into a bit of a hypocrite in your old age, aren’t you?” And that she was, Marissa conceded to Julia. She had met Harry through a dating site she began to use two years after the divorce. Up until now she had thought the idea of meeting any of the men frequenting the site, to be sufficiently silly to prevent her from ever feeling the urge to do so. “So, you’re meeting him at the Aquarium?” asked Julia. “I just found parking, yeah. I’m walking to the entrance now.” “I can lend some experienced lady-wisdom here, can’t I? This is important: if you don’t like him after the first five minutes, it is perfectly acceptable to say: ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ and simply walk away. In which case you call me and we do coffee.” Ian Fraser Short Story Course: First Assignment She silently slid out from the duvet and put a wrap around her shoulders. She went slowly to the window and listened intently. It was very still, not even a breeze. But she felt the presence of a person outside. Slowly she twitched the curtain to peer out. Suddenly it opened. A hand pulled the curtain and a face – a man’s face – was in front of her. She could see that he hadn’t shaved; she could smell that he hadn’t washed. Stale breath and body odour assaulted her nostrils. She couldn’t immediately see what colour he was. Black? White? Something in between. Did it matter? He had on a cap and she was aware that he was in uniform. Khaki. Couldn’t be police. He spoke. “Don’t speak or scream. Please. I am not going to hurt you.” An educated voice. How could a burglar say “Please?” He had a gun in his hand. “What’s that for, then?” She asked, amazed at her own calmness. He gave a half-smile. He was clearly relieved that she hadn’t reacted badly. “There’s nothing in it.” he said. “Here you are. You take it.” And he turned the barrel toward himself and handed her the handle. She took it mindlessly, looked at it briefly and looked back at him, a little comforted by the gun in her hand. “Who are you? What do you want here?” “I’m not here to cause trouble or pain.” he said. “But before I talk to you I must be sure that you won’t raise an alarm. Can I talk you on that basis?” Extraordinary, she thought. Here I am, accosted outside my bedroom window at one o’clock in the morning by an armed intruder and yet I’m being calmed by his words and presence. I must be dreaming. But she knew that this was real and she must keep her cool. Deborah Dingemans Short Story Course: Sixth Assignment She was elegant and quite beautiful in an unusual sort of way, yet she could not look more out of place in the Olde Worlde Bookstore that Ben passed on his way to work every day. He had noticed the stranger there, thinking that she could be a new sales assistant, but word on the street was that the owner, Marcel, was planning to retire and had handed over the reins to his niece who had arrived from France. This piece of news was from Rob, who owned the coffee stand on the corner. As people picked up their caffeine rush for the morning, news and views were added as a side-order, free to anyone who listened. Anything that happened in the neighourhood, old or new, never went past Rob unnoticed, who peppered it with his own brand of cynicism. While pretending to look at the interesting book display, Ben studied her, thinking that she looked like one of those exotic books where one wondered whether the cover was sometimes more enticing than the story it held inside, although something about the way she moved, made him doubt that theory. Maybe she was more like one of the treasures that was brought into his antique store to be appraised by a proud owner, who was filled with wonder when Ben discovered a significant marking on the piece, turning it from beautiful to rare. Louise Nell Short Story Course: First Assignment Anthony had insisted that the tree be felled completely: chopped down, uprooted and burnt, and Carol had complied at first. Yet, on the day that the workmen came she’d unexpectedly stood her ground, very apologetically explaining that there had been some mistake about the size of the job. They had left taking only the centre branch with them, their large truck looking somehow sad with the single trunk bouncing oddly as they drove away. Later, she’d tried to explain to Anthony that it wasn’t the fault of the tree. It should not be punished for someone else’s mistake, for Dan’s mistake. They’d found him together, wedged into the tree, half-hidden in the early morning light. It was summer and they had gone for their morning walk around the reservoir, picking up the day’s newspaper from the tiny greengrocer on the way home. Dan strapped to the tree with his leather belt, his blue misshapen face staring down at them. “Why Dan, why?” Much later, after the ambulance and the police had gone she’d sat outside on the veranda with Anthony. Earl Grey tea in tiny fine bone china cups, her pale hands folded carefully on her lap. That afternoon seemed to last forever, rolling into days, weeks and months of quiet contemplation. Her clothes seemed to grow threadbare and baggier, losing their shape. Anthony postponed going to university and decided to take a gap year at home, tending their vegetable patch and olive grove. They talked less, and yet understood each other so much better than before, both relishing the quiet comfort. Andrea Fedder Basics of Creative Writing Course: Final Scene Excerpt I’m curled up in the sunlight when Ryan’s girl comes tumbling into the room, collapsing onto the bed. I try in vain to block her out and focus on the heat of the sun on my fur. But the calm is already broken. Acknowledging this, I permit one eye to assess the scene beside me. Samantha appears to be completely empty. Her limbs just lie where the collision with bed left them, arms splayed out, knees bent up and toppled to one side, her head faces the other way. She lies contorted like abandoned prey. She gives in to the bed beneath her, sinking into the layers of white linen. The sheets must still smell of their intimacy and I look on as she presses her nose into the creases, reliving the past. I sit up, discarding any hope of a nap and wrap my tail around, positioning my front paws for a long comfortable sit. She inhales deeply, the rhythm of her inhale, jagged and fragile. Righting her body, she bears up to the ceiling. Arms still spread like wings; Sam closes her eyes and awaits the hot tears to leak out. Permitting just a few she tolerates the lapse in control and then she sniffs them back harshly. I watch as teardrop runs its course and falls from her cheek to stain the sheets below. I heard them arguing in the shower earlier, interrupting my fish paste dreams. Moments later the purring of Ryan’s bike alerted me that something more serious was afoot. This bundle of heartache that lies before me now must be the aftermath of all that sorrow. Anton Nahman Basics of Creative Writing Course: Final Scene Excerpt “Good luck, Riaan!” “Kick some ass out there tomorrow!” “We love you, Riaan!” Riaan and I are making our way towards science class for the last lesson of the day. As usual for a Friday afternoon before a big game, we’re greeted by the adoring cheers of fellow students, who call out to us and pat us on the back as we make our way through the corridors, wishing us well for the game. At least, wishing Riaan and the rest of the starting fifteen well for the game. And, just beyond the throng, Wendy Jackson hurrying to class, oblivious to the commotion, but blushing slightly as she catches sight of Riaan. As I watch her walk past, her blonde hair pulled back in a pony-tail, except for a single loose strand over her face, I can’t help but wish I could trade places with the books she holds close to her chest, that it was me pressed up tight against her body. “You’ll get your chance,” Riaan whispers as we make our way into the classroom, waking me from my reverie. Portion of a novel, by Ami van Zyl Write a Novel Course It wasn’t weird that mom was on the phone, she was always on the phone – the prayer groups called, the Parent’s Organisation at school, my teachers, sometimes dad from work, the strange voices that try to sell you money for when you’re dead, mom is always running to the phone, smelling of soap and coffee. But she never gets angry on the phone, not even at wrong numbers or people selling things, she says ‘sorry’ or ‘no thank you’ or ‘I’m afraid you’re mistaken’, but never ‘that can’t be right’, ‘are you serious?’, ‘what right do you think you have?’ and ‘please, please, never – do not ever call again.’ That’s why I lifted myself from the carpet and followed her, so quietly she couldn’t even notice. I even tried not to breathe, to hold all the air I would need behind my salty-sea-bottom-bruise ribs. I stepped with the toes of my socks barely brushing the floor. I held my elbows to my sides with my arms dangling like heavy wings, like I was an owl tired from hunting all night, pulling in my feathers to hide me from the light. ‘Theo, really. Don’t do this now.’ The smell of soap and coffee stepped further away, to the bookshelf, and I let the caged air out of my lungs. It tasted weird coming from so deep, and I got a bit lost in that, so I missed mom leave for her room. She’d taken a few of the fullest books with her, all with green and cream and pink and cheerful yellow covers. The sticky notes in mom’s books always look so sad to me, even though they are the happy colours of a really bright circus. The way they hang at their tips, it’s like they could be the petals of a dry old flower. I didn’t know what to do with myself, now that mom had gone to her room. I thought about phoning dad, but that wouldn’t be good. I thought so long about what to do that my feet started tingling and getting all hot and cold and my knees became hard to move. Portion of novel by Ashley Symes Write a Novel Course Edgar’s relation to the corner landing remains his own affair. And he understands quite well that this ritual glance towards the corner and its window connects to some shuttered aspect of himself, to something unacknowledged, something he hasn’t as yet put his finger on. But will one day, when he has time to trawl his consciousness, his memories, his associations, all the unsorted clutter that by default accumulate as a person deals with the top layer of daily life and processes matters in a rational and productive fashion. One day he will certainly sit in the chair and mull over this particular question. But: “Don’t just sit there and ruminate!” Josie would bellow at him in the thick of an argument. “For god’s sake give me a reaction, before another year passes.” On another occasion, she shrieked: “I am not a subject for analysis. I am a human being. I want your response, just as one person to another.” And threw her hairbrush, leaving an irremediable dent in the plasterwork, and burst into furious tears, and hurtled into the bathroom and slammed the door. Of course, Edgar cannot sort through this jumble now. Right now he has climbed the stairs on a Monday morning and is about to enter upon the official business of his day. Final Scene – by Ariella Caira (Basics of Creative Writing) The wet road glistened under the streetlight as Tyler, Chris and Katie sped home from the club. Although the streets were quiet, Tyler’s Alfa Spider was not. The roar of its engine combined with the heavy house music Tyler was pumping through the subwoofers would warn anyone of their approach from kilometers off. Chris, squashed in the back seat, dropped his head between his knees and told himself to ‘breathe’. The speed, noise and heady smell of old leather, Katie’s perfume and the smoke from the club were starting to push his car sickness to a whole new level. Throwing up in Ty’s car and most of all, in Katie’s presence, would be the ultimate in ‘uncool.’ Tyler, still hyped from the night of partying, sat forward in his seat and thumped the steering wheel in time to the music. “Hey babes,” he shouted to Katie sitting in the passenger’s seat. She folded her arms tightly over her chest and turned away from him. Tyler pushed harder on the accelerator. “C’mon lady,” he said squeezing her thigh. She pulled her leg away. Again Tyler had embarrassed them by getting into a bar fight which in turn had seen them all getting kicked out of the club. “C’mon babe, don’t ignore me. That dick deserved it, besides he punched me first!” Tyler tried again, rubbing the ruddy bruise on his cheek, slurring a little as he spoke. “He was staring at your ass the whole night. Can you blame me for wanting to protect your assets?” Katie rolled her eyes and looked out of the window. Tyler grinned then, “Excuse the pun.” Chris raised his head in time to see Katie clenching her jaw, her fingers grippng her arms tighter. She had every right to be upset. Ty had embarrassed her too many times to count and she and Chris always had to clean up after him. Final Scene – by Krpasha Govindasamy (Basics of Creative Writing) Ella slid off the bed, leaving behind an amorphous lump of duvet. Her body cast a slender shadow against the curtains as she curled her toes into the hairy bed spread crumpled at the foot of the bed. She stared at the letter on the dresser-table hardly believing that it was real. He was gone, taken, lost to her. She was on her own again. She put on her robe, the purple silk cool and soft against her skin, sat down and read the letter for the third time that day. The smell of jasmine oil mingled with the humidity of the room made her head throb. ‘Dear Ella. Thank you for your letter. I am sorry for not writing sooner. I am well. This place is so beautiful – there are Black-eyed Susans everywhere. I am happy and content here with my friend. Ella, I think I have fallen in love with her. I don’t know how else to say this but I want to be with her wholeheartedly, really. I don’t know what else to say… Please, take care of yourself. Much love, Bruno.’ She turned the page over. The clock blinked 3:10AM as the flickering candlelight played off the gold-rimmed pages of Milton’s Paradise Lost lying open on her bookshelf. ‘Yeah, indeed.’ Her whisper seemed loud in the silence of the morning. She shut her eyes for a moment gripping her pen, savouring the moment before the words scratched themselves into the paper to reveal all she could not say to herself. As she began to scribble hunched over the page, the frowns on her face slowly faded. She hesitated, her back stiffening. It was happening more and more. She was seeing the characters within her own setting. They seemed to have jumped out of her head and into her world. Final Scene – by Aimee Fouche (Basics of Creative Writing) “Jamie, don’t fall asleep, Honey. What else can you tell me?” Mum asked. He was stretched out on the cool slate tiles, moving his bare legs only when the tiles beneath them weren’t cool anymore. He didn’t answer. His mum knew the answer, he already told her a gazillion times. Mr. Bunny was the only friend he played with today. If Mr. Bunny hadn’t carried him to the table, he wouldn’t even have blown out the candles on his Spiderman cake! And as Mr Bunny didn’t eat any cake, neither did Jamie. His eyes felt heavy, and itchy, but he kept them on Mum while she packed colourful plates into the dishwasher. She looked very disappointed when she saw the state of the house. Jamie also sighed looking at Niknaks crushed on the floor, brown handprints on the white cupboards and sweets wrappers all over. Luckily he was grown up by now. He wished Mum would stop inviting younger kids to his parties. They were cry-babies, and messy and not very smart. Mum grabbed a wet cloth and started wiping and picking up, stepping over his body. “Jamie! I’m going to clean outside, coming along?” asked Mum as she opened the glass doors to the garden. “No, Mum. I’m still angry with Basil for stealing the Easter eggs from my hide. He’s a bad dog!” Jamie kept staring at Mum while she was collecting dishes from outside. She took big steps over balls, lego blocks and stuffed toys. She passed the hideout where he and Mr. Bunny found their ‘Bunny-brother-gang’ and planned an attack after Sam intruded with a water gun. Their flag was still hanging there; a Spiderman napkin dangling from a twig. A sudden noise came from the scullery. Jamie has always hated the scullery. It was dark and eerie. His heart was pounding in his chest. He opened his mouth to call Mum, but stopped short when remembering the talk he had with Mr. Bunny earlier. He was now a big boy. He felt strong when Mr. Bunny told him that he was ‘cleverer and braverer than all the other kids’. He could do this himself! So, he tiptoed towards the scullery, stopped at the door and peered through the opening at the wall. From the messy hair and hanging shoulders, he was relieved to recognise Dad. Dad was mumbling, stuffing things into the cupboard and being clumsy. Mum always said that Dad was as clumsy as a Chinese elephant. Jamie didn’t want Dad to think he was scared, so he quietly returned to his spot on the tiles and pretended to sleep. Scriptwriting Assignment focusing on dialogue – by Stanley Denga Lizzy. Baby I need to talk to you. Abel. (He yawns) What time is it? Lizzy. Midnight Abel. Can’t this wait? Lizzy. No, it can’t. (Abel wakes up) Lizzy. Baby I am so sorry about earlier, I didn’t meant to hurt you, I’m truly sorry, please forgive me. (She starts crying) Abel. But baby you always apologize and repeat the same thing time and time again. This thing has to stop. Lizzy. I know my love, from now on things will change, and I promise you. I don’t want to lose you. Abel. So what happens if you don’t change? Then what? I won’t take it any longer, if you keep on working and spending too much time at your office, I will leave this house. You are putting me in an impossible situation; you can’t carry on like this Lizzy. Lizzy (She continues crying) Lizzy. I promise baby. Abel. It’s ok baby, stop crying please. (They hug each other.) Lizzy. There is something else I want to tell you. Abel. What is it baby? Lizzy. I’m (Pause) Lizzy takes a deep breath. Abel. You are what, baby? The suspense is killing me. Lizzy. Ok, please hold my hand (Abel holds Lizzy’s hand) Lizzy. I wasn’t feeling well today at work, so I went to see my doctor; he took a couple of tests and then told me that I’m pregnant. Abel. You are what? Lizzy. We are pregnant Abel. Are you sure, baby? Lizzy. I am sure, baby, I tested positive. Abel. I don’t get it baby; I thought you were on the pill, that’s what we agreed on. Lizzy So what are you telling me, are you telling me you don’t want the baby? Huh? Tell me? Abel. What I’m saying to you is why didn’t you take the pill? Lizzy. I forgot. Abel. How can you forget something like that? Baby, I told you, what are we going to do? (Lizzy starts crying) Lizzy. I thought you wanted to marry me and have kids with me. Abel. I do baby, baby it’s just that… Lizzy. It’s just that what? Abel. You know how my father was; he abused my mother, he used to kick her in the face, I was exposed to all of that torturing, and he left. Baby, I’m just scared. (Lizzy moves closer to Abel and touches his face) Lizzy. Don’t be scared baby; you are going to be a good father. Abel. How do you know? Lizzy. I just know my love. (They hold and kiss) Abel. I hope it’s a girl who will be as beautiful as her mother. Lizzy. I love you. Abel. I love you too my queen. Short Story Writing Assignment – by Patti Smith The blood was pounding in her ears, but she crept behind the leather wingback chair and risked a peek around the edge of the shabby brocaded curtain. She stifled a scream. There was something down there! She could see it on the lawn, beside a pile of loose earth it had dug out from the flower bed under her window! In the moonlight the shape was distorted, the shifting shadows blurring its outline, making it difficult for her to gauge its size under the baggy clothing. She ducked back into the room again when it lifted its head to look up at the window, but she got enough of a look at the face to make her stifle a scream once more. The long tangled hair under the cap had come loose and was hanging down, partly concealing one eye, the other eye socket gleaming faintly in the starlight. The heavily bearded face hid his mouth, but not the dark outline of the jagged scar across his nose, stopping just above his lip. Short Story Writing Assignment – by Cornelia Booysens I walk onto the bus and take a seat right at the back. The worn leather seat makes a squeaking noise as I shift to get comfortable. I’m not too keen on long bus rides, but I know that once I get off I’ll be climbing onto a train for an even longer journey. A journey that could end in disaster. I’m actually praying that the bus breaks down. The seat in front of me is riddled with cracks. I catch myself, realizing that I’ve been staring at it for god knows how long. I glance outside the window on my right, watching the autumn leaves fall, and I imagine being one of those dead leaves on the ground. Now the nerves are acting up again. My stomach is doing back flips and I quietly curse myself for letting the situation get to me. I remind myself that I am a soldier now. Unwillingly drafted to aid in the war effort, but a soldier nonetheless. I sigh, my breath fogging up the window. Short Story Assignment – by Tessa Ainsbury Daniel had not wanted the high wall, or the electric fence, when they moved in. “There is a greater probability of criminals harming you behind closed walls – how would the neighbours know you were in trouble, Becks?” But Becky was cautious about everything. Thus far her caution had paid off. At school, she had worked diligently at all her subjects. Extramural activities like drama afforded genuine enjoyment, sport less so. All aspects were carefully managed to ensure a sparkling testimonial and University bursary. Yes, there were gaps. No social life, for a start. Becky was a social misfit. Dances were a nightmare. Camps even worse. It did not matter, though. Becky always looked to the future. University was a cinch. Unlike her peers, she started, and finished, her sensible commerce degree. She allowed herself to have a steady relationship with a nice, reliable man, who was three years older and a varsity senior. A couple of stable friendships formed. Becky always carried an air of disapproval about her, however, earning her the nickname “Mary Poppins”. She had no pregnancy scares, no drunken parties, and no heartbreak. Barbara Gengan: Short Story Writing Course “So, are you a regular?” Kamini asked in between bites as she licked the mustard from the sides of her sandwich. This was delicious and exactly what she needed. With a flick of her wrist she tossed the crumpled foil wrap into the waste bin across from them. “Am I a regular what?” Byron questioned, a little surprised. “Are you a regular park bench day dreamer?” she asked, smiling. “No, mostly I’m a quiet reader. And sometimes I just like to observe people.” He added quickly and continued reading. He wasn’t in the mood for chatting and was anxious to finish the chapter. Kamini checked her wrist watch and changed her position on the bench. She was almost facing the stranger but not too openly. To her left a Frangipani tree was in bloom and the white flowers had fallen on the grass in what seemed like a circular pattern. The smell was intoxicating and she drank in its fragrance. From the corner of her eye she could see that he kept looking at her and each time she’d look his way he’d quickly bury himself in his book. She couldn’t tell whether he was shy or nervous or both. He seemed tall, even though he was seated and looked in good shape too. He was dressed casually in a white tee shirt and dark blue jeans and trainers. He didn’t look suspicious though and not bad looking either. “So, you’re an Architect?” She continued. “Now, that must be a very interesting. What inspires you and who’s your favourite?” Kamini couldn’t help herself. She was used to initiating conversations and didn’t think she was being forward. Byron’s head swung around and he was about to say something but stopped. How could she possibly know? Have they met before? “I am at heart.” He said quietly. He lost his place on the page and closed the book. Tshegofatso Leeu: Short Story Writing Course “Today has confirmed that working for that office is no fun. You are judged according to your job title. People only give you respect when you have so many degrees.” Maria started complaining to her husband the moment she dropped the vegetables on the kitchen floor. She had just arrived at home a little after 20h00 because of the Soweto taxi strike. “What is it now, my dear. Was John at it again?” Oupa asked as he knew that John gave his common law wife serious hell on a daily basis “No, it is his side-kick, Sally. Gina nearly broke her leg when she tripped over Sally’s bag she had left lying haphazardly on the floor I was busy mopping. I had just asked her nicely to remove it while the floor dried, which she did not. Unfortunately her tea spilled on John’s magazine that she had taken without his permission. Now she insists that Gina has to replace it. Oupa tell me, where on earth does Sally expect Gina to dig up the money when she knows they pay their staff so little?” Oupa just sighed. He did not know what to say. Helena McLeod: Write a Novel Course I opened my eyes, realised I was still alive, and closed them again quickly. The bedroom looked the same as when Bob had inhabited it with me. Yellowing walls from the nicotine and smoke, sagging velveteen curtains, some attractive watercolours of flowers, and of course my desk. My whole being ached for Bob: the coward hadn’t even come to see me yet. A week had passed since the accident – everyone pussyfooted around the word suicide attempt. I’d been brought from the hospital last night. If I was stronger would I try and do the terrible deed again – perhaps fall onto a blade? Knowing my luck I’d push myself off the bed and end ass side up. I’d like to go out without the comedy. I like to make people laugh, but I want my death to have drama. ‘Alright mum?’ Eric placed a cup of steaming tea on the bedside table. He was growing into a spotty geek, awkward like Bob, with his stumbling height and the same rugged good looks once he lost the puppy fat. ‘Thanks, Eric my love.’ He took my hand and squeezed it. ‘I missed you, Mum. You’re not going anywhere again are you?’ His face was stone serious. It took me quite by surprise, I didn’t realise he cared. I smiled. ‘At least failure on the death front allows me to see you kids again.’ He stared at me in alarm: I had mentioned the taboo word, death. And I realised that I had borne several delicate souls. I lifted my chin, drew myself upright, concealing the pain it cost me and put on my haughtiest impression of Queen Elizabeth. ‘One has realised a mistake was conducted which left the populace disheartened. One has considered the errors of One’s ways and will seek to rectify them in the future.’ Eric usually loved Queenie. He burst into laughter and sobs at the same time, wrapped his long arms around me and stuffed his soggy nose against my neck. ‘I love you, Mum.’ Veronica Williams: Short Story Writing Course It was still too early and for once she had nothing much to do. Her research on the DNA of Geissorhiza aspera was going smoothly. She wasn’t going out tonight. There was silence in the flat and she realized that the clinking of crockery from the kitchen had stopped. Giles was probably in his room too, reading up on Mister Muscle and the Evolution of Physical Conditioning, she thought tartly. Tonight was a good night to read “Pride and Prejudice” for the fifteenth time. She’d read it the first time when Grandmother Delysia gave her a copy on her fifteenth birthday. Now she could forget Giles Tennant and immerse herself in the pride and prejudice of Mister Darcy and his Elizabeth. “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever marry.” “Good for you, Miss Bennet. Show him who’s boss,” Marge muttered as she turned a page. “Giles is not your Mr Darcy’s agterent anyway. He does have a sour face. Funny how I’ve never heard him laugh out loud. Even his smile looked like something stung him in the rear. She struggled to keep her drooping eyes open. Damn, she was more tired than she thought. She saw Mister Darcy in his great coat and severe looking face. It changed into Giles’ face, same coat and stern face. Lady Catherine de Burgh: “Tell me, once and for all, are you engaged to him?” Who, Giles? Who’d want to marry old pickle-faced Giles Tennant? Then Mister Darcy spoke to Elizabeth: “What did you say of me that I did not deserve? My behaviour to you at the time merited the severest reproof.” “In short,” Marge murmured through the fog of sleep, “you were truly disgusting to me…” Marge woke up with a groan, a thick head and a sharp pain that shot through her collarbone. Pride and Prejudice lay on the floor and she lay on top of the bedding. She gazed myopically at her wristwatch. “Oh…crap!” She had sudden images of the March Hare running past Alice with no time to say hello and goodbye. “Identity Stolen” by Theresa de Beer (Writing Coach Course, Module 7) My identity was never actively stolen – at least not in the conventional sense. No one took my identity number and masqueraded as me. No one pinched my credit card and embezzled my money. No one went about pretending to have my hair, my eye colour, my particular collection of personality traits. It was more subtle and less overtly criminal than that. The thieves were legion and they were pervasive: in my home, in the media, in school, in society, in my head…. The larceny followed a measured progression: A small corner of independence and eccentricity appropriated and replaced with obedience and conventionality to please a domineering mother. A splinter of vivacity and individuality quashed in the face of an indifferent father. A budding intellectualism and creativity poached in the face of a brilliant and adored younger brother. A strong will and assertiveness plundered by a vindictive grandmother. Confidence and charisma became casualties of a confusing and judgmental world. Self-belief and free thought fell victim to a conventional and systematic world. Yet, despite the wicked actions of these insidious perpetrators, there was one archfiend, one truly abominable felon, the worst offender, the one who chipped away incessantly and sold off bits of my soul to the highest bidder: me. I cheated myself of all these things, traded them off to survive, to be accepted, to be loved. I shed my individuality, one piece at a time, so that I wouldn’t be unique, wouldn’t draw attention, wouldn’t be ridiculed, wouldn’t be different. Consequently, my identity was leeched away and I existed as a tiny trembling creature in a seemingly dull grey world. Gradually, as I grew older and more into a sense of my own power as an adult, I became wholly cognisant of what I had lost. I would see parts of myself in others: my eclectic dress sense worn by a bohemian girl on the Paris subway; my brushstrokes in a breathtaking oil on canvas by a gifted artist; my words, my thoughts echoing from the pages of a novel; my journeys lived by others less fearful; my passion alive in the eyes of lovers. I envied these vibrant, alive people who could so wholly immerse themselves in the world yet remain apart as sparkling facets of colour scattered in the dross of human existence. I craved that. I yearned to live without fear; to live with grace and happiness and freedom. I ached to exist without boundaries and shame. I wanted to take everything the world had to offer and return it a hundredfold. I wished to dance and paint and love and travel…. I longed to live. Tentatively, I began to step away from the life I had rejected. I recognised what I had lost and I grieved for all that would never be. I took with me what I felt I could salvage: my values, the extraordinary beliefs that had filtered into my awareness, the emerging potential I felt bubbling inside me and enough optimism to float the world. Steadily I began to forge a new identity, accruing new attributes and moulding them to what I had already gained. I investigated new ways of being and accumulated those I liked and discarded those I did not. Slowly, steadily I began to emerge. Writing Dialogue Exercise by Lisl McLachlan Write a Novel Course, Module 7 Man: “Bafana Banafa! Let’s party! Are you going out, man? Let’s get off this train and go out.” Girlfriend: “I said you can stay here. I’m going home. I’m tired and the vuvuzelas give me a headache. Do what you want. I really don’t – ” Man: “But then you’ll be pissed tomorrow.” Girlfriend: “You’re irritating me.” Man: “What’s new?” Girlfriend: “Why isn’t the train moving? You’d think someone would come and tell us what’s going on.” Man: “Why don’t you fix it then?” Girlfriend: “Stop being such a dick, please.” Man: “I’m just having fun… Hey, boytjie! Were you at the stadium?” Friend: “Boytjie, boytjie! It was amazing! Hi, Sandra.” Man: “Sandy, he’s talking to you.” Girlfriend: “Hi, Mike. Did you enjoy the game?” Friend: “It feels like I’ve been on this fucking train for more than an hour. What time is it?” Girlfriend: “Wynberg.” Friend: “That’s not what I asked… Good answer, anyway.” Cover Blurb by Penny Lorimer Write a Novel Course, Module 10 Introducing Nix Mniki: maverick tracking agent, whose formidable Xhosa mother demands that she use her detection talents to find her childhood nemesis, Boniswa – otherwise known as “Picture Perfect Girl” – Nix obediently travels to the Eastern Cape to pick up the trail, secretly hoping to uncover clues about her own, unknown family. Boniswa has vanished from the rural school where she is principal, but most staff members deny she’s missing. An unattended mobile and car tell a different story and Nix, under the guise of writing a feature piece on the once-famous school for a Sunday newspaper, attempts to uncover the truth. The poverty of the school community is eye-opening for a dedicated urbanite and Nix finds herself increasingly emotionally involved in an unfolding tragedy. She begins to uncover the truth about Boniswa’s disappearance, and, during her parallel investigation, learns more about her own family than she ever suspected… Text instalment by Penny Lorimer Write a Novel Course, Module 12 I moved back to the school gate and crouched down under the tree, feeling along the root until I found the journal. I heard a crunching and froze on my haunches, my eyes on the school. A dark figure holding a dim torch shuffled around a corner of the admin building. God, I’d just made it. The figure sat itself down on the front steps and I saw the flare of a match. Shit! My thighs and calves were killing me and I was dying to pee by the time he’d finished his unbelievably leisurely cigarette; I hate smoking. I was also growing increasingly nervous about the coming light. The first rooster had been answered by his fellows and any moment now the wild birds would join the dawn chorus. I was grateful it wasn’t mid-summer and I had a slightly longer period of darkness to hide me. I had just felt something crawling up my leg under my jeans and was withholding a whimper when the damn man cleared his throat, got to his feet again and moved back around to the back of the building. I straightened up too quickly and did a short, silent, frantic little dance, slapping and shaking my leg. When I could not longer feel the tickle I grabbed the journal and hot-footed it – in a strange kind of racing tip-toe – down the road to my car. As I ran, I heard the dogs start barking again – this time with more intention. When I eventually reached my car, I wrenched the key out of my pocket, clicked the open button and fell inside. I closed the door quickly and, without taking off my bag or putting on my seatbelt, started the car and pulled away back towards town, switching on the headlamps as I left. The seatbelt reminder scolded me. I took one look back up the road in my rearview mirror, but it and the surrounding villages were black and silent still. Around the first bend, I stopped again, opened the door, swung my legs onto the ground, tugged off my boot, unzipped my jeans and peeled them off the insect-invaded leg. In the spill from the interior light I saw an innocuous brown beetle falling onto the dirt road onto its back. I had imagined at least a small and deadly centipede. It lay still as I put my leg back into my jeans and replaced my boot. Then its limbs began waving. I used the toe of my boot to help it flip itself upright, closed the car door again, unslung my bag, put my seatbelt on and began the slow, careful trip back to Spencerville, clenching my bladder and gritting my teeth at every bump. Excerpt from Conspiracy by Hazel Carlstein Write a Novel Course, Module 12 Martha sits on the narrow bench that stands near the front door of the Butshingis’ home. It is a pine bench with carved ends. It is not a very long bench and as Martha sits with her arms outstretched sideways, she can hold both ends of the bench. She looks towards the sand road hoping to see scuffs of dust and the solitary figure of an old man. She sways from side to side, the wooden bench moving in unison, the joints of its legs worn and loose. No matter how long and hard she looks, no figure enters the landscape. When the afternoon has cooled, Martha walks along the road Joseph should have followed home, peering as far as she can to either side of the dusty road, checking that no crumpled body lies in the grass. She knocks on a few doors and shouts across to a few people passing her, asking if anyone has seen Joseph Butshingi, if anyone has seen anything. When the last of the grey light has been stained black, she turns around and returns home, stepping alone into the cool darkness of her four-roomed house. She is a tall, thin woman with high cheekbones and a light brown complexion that, once again in her life, has turned to a grey pallor. For 38 years of married life, she has always known (or thought she has known) where her husband has been. But now Joseph has vanished. Somewhere between the home of the Church leader and their small brick house, Joseph has disappeared as if an ancestral spirit has swooped down and swept him away. Sudden stabbing pain courses through Martha’s big toes; she has walked too far today. With her hands cradling her head, Martha sits staring at Joseph’s chair, the one that he has always sat in every night of their married life, the one with the permanent creases and the faded cushion. When the candle has burnt to nothingness and Joseph is still away, she takes herself to the silent bed and she tries to sleep. No jagged edges of sound slice through her head, no inhaling grunts or exhaling sighs or coughs rattle around the room. Martha turns onto one side, then the other and then back again. Then she lies on her back, fixing her eyes on the beam above her head. She hears the soft creaking sounds of night. Sleep finally comes to Martha together with muddled images: benches set out in rows behind a back door, two laughing children, a Happy 60th Mama banner, pots of mutton and mieliepap, school children in classrooms, Joseph reading out details of gifts, thick blankets and crockery, Thabo at university, dancing and singing and clapping, and Joseph with pots of beer and friends shaking hands and … The frenetic barking of a dog, probably far away, drifts into Martha’s consciousness. She wakes to see the morning unfurling like the pointed petals of the pink Day Waterlily. Her sense of calm is shattered by the loud beating on her front door. Her feet skim over the cold floor and she fumbles with the locks. Then she opens the front door and looks out. Her neighbour stands on the red step. Excerpt by Hannah Green Short Story Course, Assignment 6 “I really think you should slow down.” Jenny tried to give him one of her patent reprimanding stares but Mike shrugged it off. The first feelers of anger were creeping in to replace his irritation. He added a little more pressure to the accelerator, revelling in the feel of power in his control. As the three lanes narrowed into two, Mike spied a pair of taillights up ahead. He paid no heed. “Well, you’re not the one driving, Jenny. Get your licence and then you can comment.” Mike knew it was a childish remark, but he wouldn’t let her have the last word. He was surprised when Jenny didn’t reply with some or other snide remark. He glanced at her again. She sat tight-lipped in the passenger seat. He felt a tiny twinge of guilt: the weekend wasn’t going as planned and they weren’t even there yet. “I just want to overtake him before it gets to one lane. Otherwise who knows how long we’ll be stuck behind them.” Mike pushed the accelerator much harder this time and the car shot forward. The car ahead of them was close enough now for Mike’s headlights to illuminate it. “Humpf.” Mike was struck with a sudden sense of déjà vu. It was an old red station wagon. Even the number plate looked familiar. “What?” Jenny looked as if she were trying hard not shout at him for the speed he was driving at. “That car… It looks familiar.” “Oh.” Three lanes had become two as concrete barriers stood sentinel over the construction. Mike kept the car cruising well over the speed limit. He could see Jenny shifting uncomfortably in her seat; he knew that she was itching to say something. But Mike was too concerned with the puzzle of the car in front of him to pay much attention to Jenny’s sulking. “Ja… I’m sure we’ve seen it somewhere before.” They were close behind the car now. Mike had about two hundred metres before the road narrowed into one lane. He ignored the déjà vu and floored the accelerator. The engine whined and roared. Come on! Come on! Mike desperately wanted to get in front of the other car. He willed his car to gain more speed. Almost there… Mike was nearly in line with the other car. Can’t this guy see what I’m trying to do? Mike tried to see into the other car, but he was only in line with back half of the car and couldn’t see the driver. Oh shit, I’m not going to make it. Excerpt by Helen Yuretich (Short Story Course, Assignment 1) Blumin’ possum. What time is it? The old woman stretched a wrinkled hand out to find the clock, and the glass containing her husband’s teeth tumbled to the floor. Damnation. She found the clock. 5.37am; it would soon be light. She sat up stiffly and carefully lowered her legs to the floor. “Hey, old man.” She turned and poked a stiff finger into her husband’s back. “Time to put the jug on and there’s a marauder outside.” He grunted and turned over. “Well,” she continued, “I’ll just go and sort him out then. If I’m mugged and murdered don’t blame yourself for lying in bed and letting an old woman do your work. Just say, ‘She was a good woman,’ and get on with your life.” Her husband pulled the blankets over his head. “Cover your legs. If he’s a young fella I don’t want you putting him off his breakfast.” “Old man, put your teeth in,” she said. “I can’t understand a word you’re saying. And by the way, they’re under the bed.” The old woman shuffled across the bedroom and down the hall. In the kitchen she filled the jug – might as well make him a cuppa for once – then she opened the back door and smiled. After all these years she still thanked God every morning for the rolling hills and unspoilt beauty of the countryside, right here on their doorstep. “Million-dollar view”, Stan said, silly old fool, as if you could put a price on it. The sky was tinged with pink and the air was night fresh and cool. Another fine day in paradise. She stepped out onto the back porch, then moved slowly round the side of the house. “Okay, who’s a-rustlin’ out here then?” A pile of leaves had blown up against some old timber. “Oh, not a rat, please don’t be a rat.” Cautiously she toed the leaves, pushing them round with her bare foot until, there it was, a nest. She leant forward as far as she dared, using the side of the house for support. Four baby hedgehogs. “Well, hello! It’s your mama I’ve been hearing, is it? Aren’t you just the cutest, ugliest little things? I hope your mama is out right now finding you some big fat slugs for breakfast; those ones who come and eat my lettuces would be the ones to choose.” And with a chuckle she covered them up again as best she could and went to make a pot of tea. The old couple sat in their rocking chairs with the morning sun blessing their faces. A cup of tea at dawn had been a ritual as long as they could remember and on these pale summer mornings, they wouldn’t have changed their porch for breakfast on the QE2. “There’s a hedgehog nest under the bedroom window,” she told him. “Four babies.” “Vermin.” “Not vermin, old man, slug busters. I think I’ll get them some cat food. I’d like them to stay around.” “Full of fleas,” he grumbled. “Apparently,” she said, “and you’re a bit of an old fleabag yourself, so you should know.” Excerpt by Varsha Patel (Short Story Course, Assignment 8) My name? My name doesn’t matter. And before you ask about my age, I’ll tell you. My bones creak like a cabinet door with a rusty hinge when I climb the steps of this wreck of a bus. I’ll tell you that I’m old enough to smell the burnt morning air and regret the loss of my green hills. All the same, I know that even the sun-fires cannot kill the mighty Fynbos. The Erica, Protea and Reed are faithful soldier-consorts to the mountains. They battle the wind. They battle the dry soil. Their life is one long battle to breathe. They live and die by the ash. My death was a long time ago, you see. I pull a cigarette from a near-empty box of Dunhill’s in my shirt pocket. I roll it in between my thick crooked fingers. These days, you hear a lot of talk about dreams. They say that dreams are powerful. They say that the universe is alive. And all of its atoms rearrange themselves to help you realise your purpose. The world’s modern Bible pushers and enlightened Oprahs, they all say that your dreams can come true. They say a lot of things. I light up and I inhale. Strong menthol soothes the dry desert of my bronchi. The contraction of even those muscles hurts. But I’ll tell you the truth about dreams. The one thing that they can do is fuck up your life and fuck it up good. I’m talking like a Saturday-night drunken brawl with blood, broken bones and necks, shattered beer bottles, splintered furniture, and your ass in jail with a permanent criminal record stamped on it. Are you getting what I mean? Dreams get like a drug. A drug that is so intense and potent and toxic that you cannot imagine any other life for yourself without it coming true. So you keep on planning and plodding and hoping. You believe against everything logical and rational that your time, it’s coming, until… Until you get it in your thick skull that this is it. The only real dreams are the nightmares you live. The truth that your hopes are lies permeates your soul, first like a finger-curl of hot air, then like a thrusting fist of smoke. You realise that everything that you hold as true and valuable is nothing but burnt rubble. That’s when you know that you are forever fucked. So what do you do? You focus on anything or anyone around you – just so you don’t have to zoom in on yourself. And you notice your kid. And through the eye-stinging blur of your life, you feel it. Small as he is, he’s got that same desire in his gut. Even so, the reproach in the protective hunch of his shoulders says that he’s going to be different; he’s not going to be like you. And that intimate defiance frightens you. But you preach to yourself. You say, you’ve got to light that match, you’ve got to ignite the dormant wood in him. Then his spark can rekindle, resuscitate your dead hope. And that fragile hope circles your strong fear. Like two boxers, each is waiting to throw the first punch. You settle into your job. You pay the bills. You give the kid a chance. You tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing, the fatherly thing. With some relief and gratitude, you turn away from your dreams, to his. And then on that random Thursday morning at three o’clock when the world has abandoned you for sleep, you find yourself looking at a place that feels so unfamiliar that it’s almost alien. This internal landscape is black with charred pieces of you; the Godly green has vanished. How can something good come from this? Your boy, you fear, is doomed. Nothing feels right. And you curse all dreams. Then your alarm buzzes. It’s time to get up, to fold the laundry, rush to work, upturn a tin of beans in a plate for supper, working days on a loop. Tomorrow is my fiftieth birthday. I’ve survived fifty loops, you could say. And I’ve lived five years more than my miserable sod of a father did. And as it turns out, thirty years more than my kid did. Excerpt from “Swan Song in the Jungle” by Trish Nicholson (Short Story Course) Rescue arrived in the shape of a thin young man in a threadbare tee-shirt, drooping shorts, and rubber mission sandals. He introduced himself as Steven, a fellow Brit. but in agriculture, and led me to a very beaten up, red Suzuki. We loaded my luggage, just two suitcases – I had learned to travel light over the years. A trunk would follow, with any luck. Steven apologised for the fact that the car battery had died long ago – no spare parts – but there were plenty of eager hands to push us. My accommodation was enchanting. A simple wooden house raised up on posts, the veranda over-looked the town and the palm-fringed bay. The hills that backed this exotic scene, dressed in rich jungle green, donned a cloak of moody purple by the evening. The house was the same as others in Vanimo but it was new and fully furnished in simple, comfortable furniture that invited use rather than protection. My office was a different matter. A single sweeping glance was enough. One corner of an old wooden desk was propped up on a couple of beer crates, two yawning sockets longed for drawers, and a backless chair cowered against a deeply dented filing cabinet that looked as if had been run over by a heavy vehicle – perhaps it had. There was no telephone, and apart from a peeling bamboo table in the corner, that was it. I have to admit to a moment of panic. Not regret, no, certainly not that. It was a sudden, and unwelcome, resurgence of entrenched perspectives on work output, targets, performance. Excerpt by Nabila Abdulla (Short Story Course, Assignment 8) When I walked towards him, he stood up to greet me with a kiss on the cheek. I had the satisfaction of seeing his face register shock and then pleasure as he looked at me with open admiration. He pulled out my chair for me and said, “I don’t think there’s a word in the dictionary to describe how good you look.” Despite being charmed by his praise, I sat down and looked at him with amusement. “I see you’re starting early with the lines tonight.” “It’s not a line, just the truth,” he replied smoothly, handing me a menu and opening his own. “It’s not a sin to compliment a beautiful woman.” As he looked over the menu I couldn’t help but notice how good he looked too. In dark jeans, a deep blue shirt and suit jacket, Nick looked elegant and relaxed. I noticed that his voice had changed too, as he spoke with a slight British twang in his voice. It made him even more devastatingly attractive. We placed our order for the main meals when the salad came. I watched Nick take out his olives and exchange them with my green peppers, a vegetable that he remembered I didn’t like. I couldn’t help but laugh. It seemed like old habits did die hard. Nick looked at me questioningly. “Something’s funny?” “You still don’t like olives?” He gave me a bland look. “After what happened to me? Of course not.” I laughed even harder. Nick had once choked on an olive when we were together. I’d had to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre on him and Nick was very appreciative. So much so that we re-enacted the scene later that night… only it ended in a more pleasurable way. I blushed at the memory and looked at Nick. Seeing the heat in his eyes, I knew he was remembering it too. Excerpt by Nicki Hill (Short Story Course, Assignment 8) The familiar scenery flashes by as the Monday morning bus thunders its way through the traffic. It strikes me that the layered birthday cake balancing in its large white box on my knees is a representation of my life. Today I am 35, hiding disappointments and failures under layers of humour and between folds of sugar-coated promises. The cake is beautifully decorated with thick luminous-coloured icing covering all the imperfections. That’s me, perfectly imperfect. Another pint for Richard over here! 35 on Monday and still very single. Come on boys, whose up to a little birthday bet, a boys’ challenge with squeaky clean Richard on his birthday? I am a forensics investigator at Jones and Jones Attorneys and Investigations; I am also a partner in the firm. Single, living in a fully paid-up state-of-the-art penthouse in what seems like the perfect bachelor existence. The firm is sprinkled with few female support staff, but the firm is testosterone territory. No female emotional reactions, no tears when cases are lost or clients have been caught out bending the truth to suit their pockets or their story. After hours, however, it’s a different story. When the professionalism of the role is filed away deep within the hallowed halls of justice, these men, my colleagues, become dramatic and dangerous “boys”. Alcohol and boys’ club mentality give licence to toilet humour and behaviour that I have found audience humour in but until now have dared not be part of. Excerpt by Brenda Jubber (Short Story Course, Assignment 4) Mom did ask me if I wanted to come. She said my granddad is dying and there would be machines and pipes and things. I wanted to see him for real so I said it’s okay. But it’s scary. The machine pumping his chest up and down like that, with a pipe down his throat. I want to run out of here but I must be brave like Mom told me. I once asked Mom why I didn’t have a granddad. She said it was because he lost his heart to money. When I asked how, she told me to stop asking questions. I asked Mom on the way to the hospital why money can’t fix his heart now. She said it was too late for that. I hope not. I want to touch him and talk to him. I ask Mom if I can. She nods. I take his hand that isn’t all bandaged with pipes. “Hello Granddad. I’m Michael. Please don’t die. Get better so you can teach me to make money. Mom says you’re good at that. I’d like to be good at it too ’cause I don’t get too much pocket money.” Hey, I think he just winked at me.

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