We’re delighted to present two extracts from the 2019- 2020 Rathbones Folio Mentees – Nidaa Raoof mentored by Lucy Caldwell and Mariamah Davey mentored by Sharlene Teo. The Rathbones Folio Mentorships 2019 – 2020, run in association with First Story and supported by Arts Council England, paired the mentors and mentees for a year of one-on-one talent development, where mentees worked on creative writing portfolios which they read from at a public showcase event.
Short fiction and Poetry
The story of the seven apocalypses.
Heavy pale smoke filled the sky. Misty mountains skimmed the tips of his wings with their height. The sound of children screaming rattled in his ears. Smoke found his lungs. He flew higher to avoid the intoxication. The smoke wouldn’t allow him to escape. He searched for a new home, whilst barely able to carry his weight any longer. Nowhere to rest and nothing to eat. This must be the end. The arrogance of others had killed their home. Every chance of saving the planet was wasted with their mistakes. Now they must all pay.
Her lilac wellies crushed the snowflakes into footprints of ice. The frozen winds tickled her nose. She could feel every mocking laugh of the cold pressing on her cheeks. The smell of smoke flew through the air, intoxicating her lungs. She ran towards the mountains. Her heart skipped a beat, perhaps even two. Her body stuck to the ground with fear. She couldn’t blink. Her mind was all that was able to work, but even that was a little broken. And yet her mind chose to follow the screams that were buried inside the flames between the peaks of the mountains. This was the power of nature’s revenge, that it could call people to their own death.
New York’s stars were shining in the sky for the last night. Humans had become blinded by hatred and arrogance. They first began by tearing the earth apart and all that existed in it. Brick by brick it was torn into pieces. They then turned on each other. The Earth was not broken enough for them. So they decided to remove comfort and happiness from each other as well as their own.
The wet smell of leaves, mud and blood lingered in the fog. He could not smell the petrol from the passing cars. The candy floss across the street. Or the sweat from the basketball court. He remembered none of it. Only the way his mother screamed in agony. Only how his father shouted with fear at the gunshots.
All he remembered was the trigger of the gun being pulled, the smell of cigarettes and mint pressed into the wool of the man’s coat and the yellow tape. He didn’t remember how quickly he ran. All he remembered was that yellow and black police tape, drawn across either side of the bridge like ribbon. The only way he believed he could forget would be to kill. To kill and avenge his parents. To kill and be exactly the same as they rest of them.
The rose sun oozed into the purple sky. The water held the sky’s reflection like a mirror. He needed to leave. He couldn’t take the risk of being found. His baby sister was left in the tent, in the hope of being captured with mercy. Perhaps captured by the sun instead of a traitor.
He, however, could not take that risk. He’d be killed without mercy for sure. He had lived for several years in ignorance and pride.
It wasn’t his fault for what they did to him. The world had changed him. He had no control – the only thing he was at fault for was leaving his sister to be taken. He hoped the Earth would take her instead of the murderers roaming their land. The planet’s animals were dying its people were killing each other and the Earth itself turned to lie on its front and stab itself in the back.
Walking. Walking with heavy steps. As though the ghosts from our past were stuck to our boots. We could hear them. The daemons. The crawling slithers under the soil. They jumped from tree to tree. The echoes from their whispers mocked the birds. Every pebble and leaf shook with fear like never felt before. The swaying branches hung over Earth’s skin, casting shadows on the ice floor. ‘Will anything remain?’ asked the soldier. ‘Or will the daemons have taken me before anyone would miss me?’
He heard the footsteps and turned back. Ready to be saved. But the footsteps weren’t those of a hero or even a human. The daemons had found him instead. He ran in search of an echo just like he did at war. But the only human echo he heard was from his screams. So he ran to the creation which allowed him to breathe – the trees in the rainforest. This was the last of them. The lungs of the earth were as good as dead. The trees were alone. Clumped together in a group. Him standing with them wasn’t enough hope. The chainsaws sat in thousands of trucks. Machines. Monsters.
This would be the end. He did not leave them. If they died, so would he. So why not suffer with them. And die together.
He climbed the most wonderful of the trees he could find. His heart was drawn to the top like a magnet. The roaring chainsaws hammered into the bodies of trees. With this tree, he fell. With the last tree, he died.
Gentle sunlit rays embraced the blissful peach sea of warmth. Sapphire clouds of darkness lingered above the thunder-struck waves, beaming with lightning. The melting sky kissed what was left of the land goodbye, leaving peculiarity as foreign dust amongst its shadows. Every soul became lost in the Earth’s nightmares and the trees one by one stopped casting their cool shade on the ground. Every atom was lifeless. The planet was ready to die again tonight, but the people were not – only this time the sun would be gone forever.
I have also selected my favourite postcard stories which are most personal to me:
The enchanted grove.
The summer sun sat in the candy blue sky, its warmth made a peach nest around itself and the clouds. The birds whispered to the leaves and they rustled at the touch of her feet. She felt every breath of fog and every tickle from the howling wind. Whenever she visited, she felt as though she was in an enchanted forest. A forest with the ability to hold her happiness and remind her to sm:)e when she felt down.
A broken tyre swing hanging from the trees. A hobbit’s door at the bottom of an oak tree. Helicopter leaves hidden in the glimmering grass. This was home.
Glowing eyes. Burning warmth of the sun resting on her face.
Hair down. An inspiring breeze brushing through it.
She was home.
Alice lost her way to wonderland
The amber leaves settled where the sun tickled the horizon. The whispering winds brushed the branches’ elbows. Autumn knew Alice wasn’t far from magic. There was frost freezing her nose and a breeze blowing under her dress.
Alice ran. She ran as far as she could. Quickly and quietly. Autumn’s presence wasn’t far, and neither was its power. From the rage she carried in every step, Alice skid across the glistening leaves.
A force like no other held her down. But this wasn’t mother nature’s act. It squeezed her ankle tighter than the rope around her heart and pulled her down. Only this time it wasn’t the white rabbit. It drew her into a vertical tunnel of mist. Blood lined the walls of her throat and the mist had stolen the warmth form her lungs.
Alice had reached the ground. Only this time it was to meet her death. Death screamed her name with anger. Never again could she visit wonderland again. Never again could she see the only family who loved her. She had lost her wonderland.
A sanctuary of hope
Running. Running was all she could do to be herself. It was the only way she could hide. Inside the city’s crowd of screams, shouting and stress she became lost. So she reminded herself of what she could do. Run or stop?
Her heart pounded faster and faster as she bolted from the world like lightning. With the mindset of nowhere to go or hide, she was losing all hope. Running past cars, heavy roads and swaying branches. Running past the pressure. Running away from her worries. She soon found hope. Hidden between the loud buildings and and busy roads she stumbled.
Stumbled across a sanctuary. A sanctuary of hope. She had never seen a place of beauty like this before, yet it was here all along. Stonebridge – her new place of hope. A home with animals and kind people. A home which showed her where true happiness lay. Another family. Another forever home.
I decided with Lucy to create a public instagram page to share my writing, after being inspired by Nayyirah Waheed, an Instagram poet. I was challenged to post one poem every day for a month. Here are a selection of my favourites:
Short fiction: Excerpt from ‘Afterlife’
Mary hiked through the forest, minding her step through the fallen autumn leaves. She pulled the dark hooded cloak tighter around her as a familiar breeze hit her once again. Brushing her hair back into her hood. She met eyes with Solomon. His eyes were so much brighter than her own, but then again, Crions usually did have bright yellow eyes and Solomon was no exception.
Mary ran her fingers through his dark fur. This would usually be declared a death wish, but Mary found comfort in the warmth and protection Solomon gave her. She pondered her next steps. She had recently learned of a group that called themselves ‘The Cortex’, yet another force sworn to stop her. The Akuji was still her most feared enemy, so far anyway. She had seen the damage The Akuji caused first-hand. Her thoughts flashed back to her mother, and her best friend. The ones she couldn’t save.
She laid eyes on Solomon through a teary glaze and noticed his ears perk up. It was almost as if his muscle mass grew slightly as he reared back onto his hind legs, ready to fight. Mary stood deadly quiet. She knew Solomon. He had a keen sense for danger. She listened carefully. Taking slow steady breaths. Then a blood-curdling scream erupted in the forest. Solomon took off in the direction, leaving Mary for the dust. She chased the Crion, running as fast as her little legs could take her.
When she finally caught up with him, he saw it there. Standing silently. The Akuji. Its hood already lowered meant it already had an influencer insight. Yet the Akuji was never seen without its wooden mask. There was no hope for the prey, but that didn’t mean Mary wouldn’t try. She spotted the man bleeding against a tree. The Akuji had its undying attention on the man. He must be an influencer, the Akuji didn’t hunt normal humans. He scrambled to his feet, crying and pleading. The Akuji didn’t bat an eye. Solomon jumped towards it, latching onto its leg, great teeth-baring into its flesh. Yet no blood came from the Akuji. It lifted its leg and slammed Solomon against the tree detaching him from its leg.
Mary cried out to Solomon, yet there was no response.
Although the Akuji’s mouth couldn’t be seen, the look in its blue eyes showed… emotion. She didn’t think the Akuji could feel emotion, but it wasn’t joy, or anger… but pain. She slowly, carefully approached the Akuji. This was a foolish move, she knew this. The Akuji didn’t move, it just watched her approach. Mary, inches away from the Akuji, made eye contact and whispered hesitantly,
It snarled under its mask, as if the question repulsed it. Its eyes flashed and a swift hand swiped her face, knocking her back a few feet from it and the influencer. She fell back knocking her head against a rock. Blood knotted her hair. As she scrambled to her feet, holding her head she watched in horror as yet another influencer became a victim to The Akuji.
It sliced open the man’s throat as he shook against the tree, desperately clenching his fatal wound. The Akuji lifted him, threw him over its shoulder and slammed him against the tree impaling him on a sharpened branch and left him hanging, bleeding out onto the roots of the tree. Mary swallowed her sickness as she smelt the coppery tang of blood in the air. She crept over to Solomon who seemed to be just coming around. She gently stroked his head which quivered in fear and pain. She looked back and saw The Akuji watching her. She did not understand why it had not tried to kill her. She was an influencer, yet it never hunted her. It had many opportunities to kill her yet it never did. She glanced back at the body that hung, dripping the last traces of life on the ground. She watched as the leaves began to change. They turned the same colour as his blood.
Mary stood, followed by Solomon and glanced back at the Akuji one last time. It had done its job. There was nothing she could do. She turned away and began walking. Defeated once again.
A trembling voice came from behind her.
‘Mary…’ it whimpered ‘I’m sorry’.
Mary’s eyes widened in shock. She turned and glared at him, scanning for anyone else who could’ve possibly uttered her name. There was no one. Did the Akuji just speak her name?