Here was the challenge: Ray Bradbury, author of 11 novels, busted his writer’s block by creating lists of nouns — the basic building blocks of sentences, paragraphs, short stories, novels, flash fiction, memoir, and poems. My “mission” was to create a list of at least 10 nouns and write a new piece (paragraph, a story, flash fiction, a poem, a memoir) that included at least 5 of them.
I had never noticed them before, speaking to one another across the room, sharing an urgent and incessant secret. Apart from the silence, the two clocks ticked, but not in unison. When one ticked, the other tocked, and it reminded me of a heartbeat. I could feel my own heartbeat speeding up as the muscles in my neck tensed and I felt a cold breeze on the nape of my neck. This room was once a place of happiness and laughter, but all too soon, the children had left me, and only the walls could remember their voices.
The room darkened and my gaze turned to the window. I could see the clouds gathering on the horizon, a tumultuous wall of black and white like the wings of a fallen angel. Thunder rumbled in the distance, heralding an intense storm, and I could see in the silhouette of the old willow, that the wind was starting to race ahead of the storm, like a woman gathering her skirts to run. How odd! It wasn’t raining outside yet, but my cheeks were wet. I knew I should be turning on a light, stoking a fire, seeking out candles in preparation before the storm raged, but I am an old lady. I have weathered many storms before. Instead, I preferred to sit in silence, listening to the heart of the clocks beat around me.
A skeletal twig grates across the old glass pane, like an animal testing a secret doorway to gain entrance. And still the sky grew blacker, a portent of destruction. No cloud was distinguishable from another. Thunder shook house, and I marvelled that the ground wasn’t just opening up to swallow it whole. The clawing branch had become insistent that it must gain entry before the rain, until the shrieking of the wind, drowned it out. But it wasn’t the wind that shrieked; it was the thin voice of an old lady wailing toward the heavens. And all the while, above the din, the clocks ceaselessly shouted their surreptitious affairs.
I’m not a fiction writer, but I decided to take a chance. What happens next in the story is up to you. Feel free to share your ideas!
To see more writers who tackled this week’s challenge, click here.