Writing 101: Day 12. Dark Clouds on the (virtual) Horizon

Day Twelve: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

We don’t write in a bubble — we write in the world, and what we say is influenced by our experiences. Today, take a cue from something you’ve overheard and write a post inspired by a real-life conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction.

Take time to listen — to what you hear around you, or what your memories stir up.

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

– Ernest Hemingway

Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

At its most basic, foreshadowing gives readers a roadmap to what will happen later in your post — a subtle detail planted in the back of a reader’s mind, like a telling piece of dialogue or a strategic mention of an object that hints at what’s to come. When an author tells us there are dark clouds on the horizon, we know something negative will happen soon.

This doesn’t mean your post has to have a Shocking! Twist! à la The Usual Suspects or Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, “The Lottery.” It just means you’ll give readers some clues as you go — a sense of what will happen next, information that might be important later, or a detail that you’ll explain in your conclusion.

We’re ready to go wherever you want to lead us.

Okay, so this a bit of a cheat, using a story from my Blanche Street Tales, but it fits in with the theme and went down a storm at The Brighton Festival last year as part of Tin Can Stories. So here it is:

Sugar Almonds: Based on true events.

“Come on”, said Juliet, tugging at Robert’s arm, “this looks fun!”
The pair grinned with delight at the sight in front of them. Unlike the modern funfairs that ran on the outskirts of town the rides here were more traditional: a carousel, ghost-train and ferris-wheel reaching up high above the trees.
Wandering around the various ‘try your luck stalls,’ Juliet thought that the evening could not get any better, even though Robert had failed to win her a goldfish.
After having a wonderful ride on the carousel the two walked to the far end of the funfair and saw a tent standing all on its own. On closer inspection they saw the tent belonged to, “Romany Rose Lee: Fortune-Teller to the Stars.”
Juliet peered through the beaded curtains covering the doorway and saw an old woman sitting behind a large round table, covered with a green cloth.
Juliet grabbed hold of Robert’s hand as the old woman gestured for them to enter her tent.
With her red headscarf tied tightly across her head, four inch, gold loop earrings and a face full of tramlines, ‘The old woman was really getting into her role,’ thought Robert.
“Cross my palm with silver,” said the old woman, her bony hand reaching across the table. Robert in turn dug into his pocket for change only for the old woman to cough and add, “Or a five pound note will do.”
Tucking the money in her bra-strap the old woman handed Juliet a set of tarot cards to shuffle. She then stroked Juliet’s hand as she took the cards back from her, smiled, then began to place them out in front of her and said, “You’re in love, you’ll have children, one, two, three, four!”
Juliet smiled at Robert, but then turned to see a look of true gravity on the old woman’s face as she continued, “Alas my dear before the night is finished you will experience a horror like never before.”
Juliet fled the tent with the old woman’s cackling laugh sharp in her ears.
Robert ran after his true love and whispered, “I love you.”
As they made their way back through the fair, Juliet saw just how rusty and unstable the ferris-wheel seats looked. The yells from the ghost-train made her quicken her step until they were back in the safety of the brightly lit food stalls.
Still a little shaken, Juliet turned to Robert and said, “What did she mean, I’ll experience a horror like never before?”
Looking at the rolling hot dogs, Robert smiled, “It’s all part of her act, they all say that.” Squeezing her hand, Robert added, “Come on, let’s get something to eat.”
Robert ordered a hotdog with onions, while Juliet settled for a candy-floss. Still a little shaken, Juliet asked if they could go home. Robert smiled, “Of course we can”
Not wanting the night to end too soon, Robert led Juliet through a tunnel of trees that gradually blocked out the moonlight. A shiver ran down Juliet’s spine, as the words of the old gypsy ran through her head, “Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”
Her mind then added a long cackling laugh, “hahahahhaha” for extra effect.
Glancing up at the branches, Juliet saw claws ready to pull her up into their clutches away from her love, never to be seen again. She wanted to tell Robert, but deep down she knew she was just being silly. Robert was right, it was just part of the old woman’s act.
Taking a bite of her candy-floss, Juliet even allowed herself to giggle at how childish she had been to believe such nonsense. Rolling the sugar clump around her mouth, she bit down hard and mumbled, “That’s odd.”
Robert was too busy munching on his hotdog to hear what she’d said, and so she carried on. Juliet bit down on the crispy shells entwined within the sugar strands and savoured the bitter almond taste that squirted across her lips and tongue.
Having finished his snack, Robert stuck his mustard slicked tongue in Juliet’s ear and whispered, “I fancy something sweet.”
Pulling away, Juliet squealed, “This is far too nice, I’m keeping it all for myself.”
With that she scooped up a huge wad of floss and pressed it into her mouth, biting down on the crispy shell, savouring the bitter almond taste.
As she did so the branches of the trees parted and the glimmers of moonlight shone down.
Powerless to move, Juliet opened her mouth and released a long, silent, scream.
Unable to help himself, Robert let out a roar of laughter as he stared at what Juliet had thought had been crispy almond shells. For there cocooned amongst the sugary strands where bugs of all sizes, desperately wiggling but unable to get free. Tears rolled down Robert’s face when he spotted a half bitten carcass, its bitter yellow innards dribbling through the pink sugar strands.
As for Juliet? Her screams echoed into the night as the words of the old gypsy woman’s rang in her ears, “Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”

Sugar Almonds

Sugar Almonds

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