Sunday, 19 June 2016

You can never go back...

More personal archaeology from me today: I found the first piece of flash fiction I ever wrote hiding on a memory stick in the bottom of my drawer. I recognise that it's not as good as I thought at the time, but it raises an interesting quandary,

Do I fix this story?

On the one hand, I'm much better at writing now - hundreds of hours of frustrating effort will do that for you. You'll have your own opinions reading it below, but personally, I have two major criticisms:

1) The number of adverbs I've used would give Steven King a heart attack. I count over 20 and the whole piece is only 700 words long!

2) The atmosphere gets so laboured that it spoils the ending (you'll see what I mean).

So...there are a few good bits in it, but overall it's not great. A typical first effort, I guess.

Do I fix this story then?

I could. The adverbs could go for starters, but the structure is wrong - like I said in point 2. I suspect that no amount of effort will make it good and certainly none will ever make it saleable.

If I dug up an old, clumsily made pot, would I break it up and try to remake it because we can do better now? No. I'll let this story lie, I think. I can always look back at it and look at how far I've come, that all those hundreds of hours have actually had an effect.

The Conductor

The Conductor, dressed in his favourite shabby dark coat, slowly ascended the steps of his podium and surveyed his orchestra, who were illuminated by the brilliant midday sunlight pouring majestically into the room. Squashed into the dusty hall of the Miskatonic Orchestral Hall were his team: the string section, the brass section, the wind section and the percussionists. Throughout the bent old figure’s tenure, they had been argumentative and sloppy, resisting everything that he had tried to do but now, finally, they no longer argued and instead were a harmonious whole. He cast an evaluative eye over the assembled instruments. They all seemed to be in excellent condition; something that he had only recently been able to boast.

The Conductor turned and faced his audience. Their silence filled the space as they waited for the performance to begin; confident that yet again the Conductor would eke out another outstanding performance from his newly quiescent orchestra. The bent, elderly figure ran his withered fingers through his off-white hair and bowed stiffly.

Without waiting for any applause, he turned back to his orchestra. He tapped his baton twice on his podium. It echoed as loudly as pistol shots in the utter quiet. The small man nodded with significance at the cello section. With an energetic flourish of his baton entirely out of keeping with his decrepit physique, the Conductor began the concert. The recital was excellent: exactly how the piece had sounded in his mind – played with passion, conviction and confidence. His eyes welled with tears at the sublime beauty as the music ebbed and flowed, surged and whispered around his frail form.

At the conclusion of the piece, the Conductor wiped the corner of his coat sleeve across his damp eyes. In previous months, the orchestra might have mocked him for such an emotional indulgence, but no longer. The Conductor turned to his audience, bowed once more and limped down the stairs and through a recessed door at the side of the stage, eager to find his lunch.

Unfortunately, the electrical supply to the ovens in the cafeteria had failed, so the Conductor had to satisfy his hunger with some simple canned meat. Although the poor food was a little frustrating, he had been able to reach the counter without having to fight through hordes of well-wishing audience members and got his repast with the minimum of fuss. Usually, the lunch attendants provided a snide comment or two along with his meal, but they hadn’t bothered him like that for weeks now.

The lights in the cafeteria were similarly affected by the power failure, so the Conductor chose to consume his meat in a little park nearby. The summer wind gusted through the trees and the faint rustling noises only highlighted how quiet the city was today. The Conductor sighed in satisfaction. Although the years since the death of his wife had been very hard and people had used his emotional weakness to be extremely unkind to him, finally life was looking very good; his fortunes were in the ascendant. Even the timing of today’s concert was such a blessing. He’d repeatedly pleaded with the Director of the Miskatonic to move the timings of concerts from late evenings to midday, a performance time that his declining stamina could accommodate, but had been rudely rebuffed each time with contemptuous comments about revenues and senility. Now that the Director no longer raised those objections, the recitals had been moved to a midday slot without complaint from members of the orchestra or public.

The Conductor conscientiously placed his rubbish in the bin and ambled leisurely around the pond in the park, smiling in half amusement at the quacking of the ducks as they squabbled over this and that. Very few people ever visited the park but recently it had been deserted. The Conductor didn’t mind; the company of others did not improve his experience of his park.

He drove home from the Miskatonic Orchestral Hall in his little car and sighed in satisfaction because, despite the number of cars on the road, he encountered very little trouble with traffic and reached his little house in record time.

The little old man sat in on the beach in his garden, smelled the perfume of roses in bloom and sighed in satisfaction once again.

Ever since mutated influenza had wiped out every other member of humanity but him, life had been very good indeed.

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