Collaborative Story

Follow us each week as we post one or more ‘episodes’ of our collaborative story written by ten writers from this year’s MA Creative Writing cohort. This will build each week so eventually by the end of October or thereabouts, the whole complete story can be seen on our website.
‘Round Robin’ novels were invented in the 19th century, and later became a tradition particularly in science fiction.  We have followed in the footsteps of this tradition by writing our own ‘Round Robin’ short story.
This has been undertaken as a fun writing exercise which we have arranged between ourselves.  Each of us has taken a turn to write a piece of the story (up to 100 words at a time).  One of us began the story and then sent it on to the next person to write the next section and so on.  Once it had gone through the group, we did another round and wrote up to another 100 words each, completing a story that was a little over 2,000 words in length.
We had no idea how this story would develop but it has Nottingham references, a touch of fantasy sci fi, and a protagonist called Harmony Horatia.
We hope you enjoy reading it each week. Maybe you’d like to have a go with your friends and family?  You never know where that first sentence will lead.

Here’s some suggested openings to get you going.

It was on a hot sunny day that I met the dog running backwards.
I didn’t mean to do it, it just happened.
On Monday morning the sky turned blood red.
The eyes in the photograph were following me again.
Twenty-four hours and seven seconds is a long time at the bottom of the ocean especially when….

Uncertain Truths

by
NTU 2021 Cohort of the MA in Creative Writing
A Collaborative Work, edited by Alison Goodchild

It was a bright cold day in October and the clocks had gone forward instead of back. Inside grey walled Room 13, Pendulum Apartments in Nottingham, Person 13666 (formerly Harmony Horatia) heard her doppelganger arrive home from the office and snatch up a crumpled ashen envelope from the doormat. Everyone had a doppelganger now and only they were permitted to leave their homes. Doppelganger 1752 had been created in a lab and one week ago Person 13666 had been forced to sign for her. [AC] 

1752 entered the room clutching the envelope, the number 13666 clearly written on it.  Harmony (as she still preferred to call herself) hadn’t got used to living with someone who looked like her – well almost. They had somehow missed the scar under the chin. She also hadn’t got used to her doppelganger reading her post. 1752 flopped onto the sofa. Harmony leant over and tapped the envelope.

‘Aren’t you going to open it?’ 

On the sideboard the gold clock left to Harmony by her grandfather started to strike. One, two, three, four, five, seven. It had stopped striking six when her grandfather died. Her grandfather had been clever at mending clocks when he was alive. He was also clever at designing AI programmes and teaching her to sing. [AG]

1752 studied the envelope, turning it over and over as if it were a coin to be flipped. After a sly glance at Harmony’s face, 1752 began to peel the flap open. Excruciatingly slowly.

From within, 1752 drew a purple sheet of paper. It enclosed a small, pressed flower which Harmony recognised as a blue forget-me-not. 1752 shrugged and passed the envelope and its contents to Harmony as she rose from the sofa.

‘Boring,’ it scowled and went into the kitchen.

Harmony opened the paper with shaking hands. Just a single line of handwritten script.

‘Beware of the woman bearing gifts.’ [CR]

‘It’s right. It is boring,’ Harmony thought before tossing the paper and envelope onto the sideboard.

She’d give the sender some points for presentation but nothing more than that. Anyone could cook up a fancy looking letter but if they wanted to get her attention, they needed to try harder than a flower and a single random sentence.

Some part of her had hoped her ‘friends’ had finally come through, but the reality turned out to be disappointing. If this is all they could come up with then she’d been wasting her time from the start. [DO]

The sirens bellowed. Though Harmony’s grandfather had set the clock two minutes fast to prepare, the marking of the daily roll call was no less torturous. The doppelgangers would line the streets in numerical order to verify that their person was in their apartment. Harmony heard 1752 opening the door.

‘You have to get them here,’ her grandfather had told her, jabbing at his neck. ‘Quickly.  Precisely.’

Harmony ran into the hallway. ‘Need to go,’ said 1752. Harmony took a breath and elbowed it in the throat. Its eyes flickered from side-to-side. She elbowed it again and the doppelganger was still. [JC]

In the time it was still, Harmony was outside. She closed the door behind her. She kept her eyes forward, staring ahead as the patrol came marching down Upper Parliament Street. An Official sat in an open topped car at the centre of the parade, calling out to each doppelganger in turn. Harmony listened to their responses, preparing to copy the standard reply. She could only hope that 1752 would stay inside. [JP]

Harmony crossed her fingers behind her back, not confident she had copied the cadence precisely. The Official paused and glared at her, its probing eyes scanning her up and down. Then it called to 1753 and moved on. After the call, Harmony found herself moving down the street alongside the other doubles, silent except for the sound of gravel underfoot, heading for the buses parked nearby.

‘Wait, stop her!’

The doubles turned back towards the street. 1752 was stumbling out of Pendulum Apartments, its hand rubbing its bruised throat.

‘Don’t let her get away!’ (KW)

The doppelgangers turned to face Harmony with haunting synchronicity. 1752 approached with arms outstretched. Harmony pushed it to the ground and barged through the others to clamber onto the bus, kicking at the clawing hands trapped in the doors as they tried to close.  With the bus secure, she climbed up off the floor and knelt on a seat to stare out of the window.  A sea of unblinking eyes stared back at her. Harmony moved slightly to the right and all eyes followed in uniformity. They appeared to be sharing one consciousness or perhaps controlled, but by who? (LS)


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