I wrote this last year, about a book of writing challenges, and at the end I said I would share the story. Here’s the background and then the story:
I’ve just acquired a book with suggestions for writing – not that I’m ever short of ideas, but I thought it would be interesting to challenge myself with given topics and subjects rather than my own. It’s called ‘The Very Short Story Starter’ and it’s really an array of prompts for flash fiction – which is something I find very difficult. It’s by John Gillard, and two days ago I opened it at random and had a go. Could I contain myself and write a complete something on the two given pages, and what’s more of a challenge – would I be able to write legibly enough to read it!
The random page I opened suggested writing about ‘The road less travelled…’ inspired by a Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken‘. Gosh! That took some thinking about especially as the image which sprang into my mind was of a traveller in a wood meeting a fork in the track – I think it was an illustration I remembered of this very poem. Because it seemed a little clichéed somehow, I tried to think of a different subject… and for some reason my mind went to a true story which happened to a friend.
My friend had been on holiday on her own in a very remote place. She’s a great walker and outdoor person, and after dinner at the place she was staying, she wandered out for an evening stroll even though it was getting dark. For some ridiculous reason (she says so herself) she decided to walk round a headland – a challenging walk at the best of times as it’s not a proper path. There was an onshore wind and it began to spit with rain and she realised that it wasn’t going to be a pleasant evening stroll after all. Should she turn back? No, dammit, she wanted a walk, she’d speed up, get round the headland back to the hotel and then sit by the fire and have a warming drink.
The onshore wind became a gale and she realised, dripping wet, cold, and beginning to be nervous, that she should have turned back a while ago – now it was further to return than to continue, even though the narrow path had narrowed and the rain was becoming a deluge. She tried not to think about the ridiculous sandals she was wearing, the most stupid item of footwear for any sort of walk, let alone along a precipitous rocky path on the edge of the sea..
At last she realised that although almost blinded by the water streaming down her face, she could see lights in the distance… a false relief, these were the lights of the town across the bay. She had slipped, she had stumbled, she had fallen to her knees, she could barely feel her feet and although she had by now rounded the point she realised, the wind’s direction had swung round.
Eventually she realised she was walking on mud and stones not pebbles and rocks, and before long she was walking between hedges and through fields, and eventually, exhausted, she arrived back at her accommodation… A road less travelled, yes indeed…
I used this story and wrote it slightly differently, but that was my first challenge in the book!
The Road Less Travelled
“Don’t go that way – you get a better view this way!”
I went that way; I don’t know why I was so awkward, I just felt contrary. I was wearing the wrong shoes, had only a small backpack and a light sweater, stupid really, but I was in that sort of mood. It was difficult from the start, the path was full of bumpy rocks and stones, uncomfortable to walk on and it led between big boulders so although I could hear the sea, I couldn’t see it.
The path turned so although I was still climbing I was going back on myself and seemed to be heading away from the sea. I could see dull, sunless fields, between harvest and autumn sowing so they were just a dull, dun colour between the faded brambles, the leaves of the hedges having lost their green but not yet gained their gold.
The path turned again and I was struggling now with the incline. It was narrow and nettles intruded.
Should I turn back? No!
I pressed on and I was led down back among rocks but at last i could see the sea, a dull, slate colour, as moody as me.
It was a scramble now, using my hands to steady myself as I descended – was this really the right way?
The path, such as it was seemed to end, but then I realised there was a way forward, the rocky wall on the left was shiny as people had hugged it ging round, above the precipitous drop. Stupid, stupid, turn back. But no, I made it round the corner and came face to face with a woman.
She was clanking with mountaineering gear and had a hard hat.
“You might do better to turn back! she advised, telling me it was mighty narrow as it rounded the headland. She was hearty and jolly with frizzy hair and reminded me of someone who’d bullied me at school. I assured her I was fine and then had to engage in an embarrassing embrace as we contrived to pass each other.
My stupid shoes slipped and slid and i crept along as an onshore wind drove the driving rain into my face. I was almost blinded by it and so cold. My sweater was sodden and so was my backpack. My feet went from under me and there was a heart-stopping tumble backwards then safely on my bottom. I inched forward, not daring to stand up or turn round. I could hardly see but then I realised I was not sitting on rocks but on bumpy, sandy ground and the wind was against my back.
I can tell you, I was more than pleased to see those dull fields, now a rich red, painted by rain.