When you learn how to write

When learning how to write, I didn’t do it the right way. I started with flowery words and I just wrote from the heart without knowing what made a story.
Though, honestly, that’s probably the only way to start because the basics are boring. It would be like school all over again and you’d drop the pen as fast as you picked it up because there’s no teacher yelling at your back.
In any case, because I lacked the basics I abandoned my stories because something stopped me from finishing, my heart wasn’t enough. I wrote several unfinished novels until I decided ‘enough was enough’ and I would finish a project no matter the outcome.
I did pretty good like this, I wrote a couple of bad short stories and I didn’t fret too much that they were bad because at least they were fun to write. And I would never return to them and ‘fix’ them because they are part of my journey and I wouldn’t want to hide it.
But, as I turn towards the basics of storytelling, I feel like my writing has become dull. I wrote simply, very simply, almost barebones, just so that I could finish something. Finishing rather than abandoning, until I understood the medium and my way of doing things.
I’ll continue to crank out bad stories until I have the confidence to write like I did before, without guides or rules, completely trusting myself and my abilities.
Ignorance is bliss, but unfortunately, I’m not ignorant anymore!

My Relationship with Backstory

Many of the stories I make have a long-ass backstory. At first I thought it was the main character that needed an indepth backstory, but that’s not true at all. He should have some baggage, sure, but the history shouldn’t necessarily be explored. All characters deserves a past, so we as writers know what we are writing about, so the characters words and actions speaks true. However, some plot important characters need a more indepth look.

For instance, the MC comes to an island (for one reason or another). There’s a woman there alone. We must know what she’s doing there. This is easy if there’s just one life to explore, thus just one story, but in fantasy, it often spawns generations. She’s a witch, she has been on the island for hundreds of years, and before her, there was another witch, which had also lived there for untold generations. Suddenly I have another book, or at least another short story to explore.

If one should show this backstory is another matter entirely, but how detailed should such stories be? I know I work in waves, like, every iteration becomes more and more complex and I try my hardest not to write anything that hasn’t anything to do with the plot before the plot is finished. It’s after that I start adding descriptions, scenes and dialogue. Needless to say, it becomes pretty meaty even with my best attempts, and then there is no problem making it into a proper story.

The reader shouldn’t have a problem understanding the Main story without the backstory and should only serve to bring life to it. But what if one presented the backstory afterwards, kinda like an annex? It seems to me it would be such a shame to hide the backstory I’ve worked so hard on.


Thank you for reading.

If you would like to read some of my stories you can find my latest one HERE!

The Secrets in the Attic – Short Story

A boy walked aimlessly down a hall. Voices of the adults disappeared in the endless corridors of the large house, becoming distant as he went. The old man, who lived in the house, didn’t care to lighten all of it and he probably didn’t use more than a third. The boy glanced from side to side, looking at strange paintings on the walls and flowers that had died and withered a long time ago. And the deeper he went, the darker and muskier the smells became. He’d never been to his grandfather’s house before, he barely knew he had one. His parents never talked about him and they had never told him why. But one day, the old man had a heart attack and suddenly the old man was whisked into existence… But it was all the same to him, his grandfather was very old and talked strangely. Thankfully, his grandfather allowed him to explore the house, so the old man wasn’t all bad. As he came to the end of the corridor, he followed a set of stairs, to the third floor, where there was a locked door. He peeked inside the keyhole but it was too dark to see anything. This made him all the more curious and he hurried down the stairs to the kitchen where the adults were. He stopped half way and tightened his collar and then headed inside. They were all drinking tea and all the excitement from before drained as he entered. There was his mother who had pink hair and a small frame compared to his father, who was tall but skinny. They sat straight with tired looks that brightened a bit when he entered. To his left there was his grandfather who slumped in his chair. He was clean shaven, though the hair on his head grew past his shoulders he was completely bald on top. The boy felt his eyes on him. “What is it, my boy?” The old man said. “Found something?”

“There’s a door to the attic that’s locked. May I look inside?”

“Sure, sure,” he said and dug into his pocket but hesitated. “That is, if it’s okay by your father.”

The boy looked at his father who nodded slowly. His mouth was a thin line and he rarely smiled so it was hard to tell what he was thinking. “You may,” he said.

“Thank you, father,” the boy said and bowed lightly. He received the key and headed out as quickly as he could. It was suffocating when adults were together… He loosened the collar again and headed upstairs. The door creaked open and the light from the hallway lighted the room a little. There were boxes and boxes everywhere, covered in drapes. He looked around and noticed a small source of light behind some velvet sheets and he pulled it down. Dust spurt around and tickled his nose, but there was now light and he could look clearly around the attic. It was filled with stuff and he stared at it all, excitedly. There could be anything buried in here, he thought, and began searching. Most of the things he found were regular stuff, mostly clothes, tools, and tableware. But sometimes he found something strange which he wasn’t sure what they were for, and he put them aside and dug for more. He found a pocket watch, nothing special, then he found a gold encrusted pen. Now that’s more like it! After a while, he couldn’t stand the itchiness in his nose as he stirred the dust around and he decided to take his treasure downstairs. The adults were outside when he found them, smoking. He hated smoke because it made his eyes water but he approached them and poured the contents of his bag over a table. “What have you got there, boy?” the old man said with a smile.

“Fredric!” His mother snapped.

Stunned, he found his collar was loose and he quickly tightened it. “That’s better,” she said and leaned back and drank her tea.

The old man dug into the pile and was very happy to see these old things that had once been very useful but had no use anymore, either because they had invented something better or it had gone out of fashion. The old man stopped for a moment when he got to the pen. “It’s gold, isn’t it?” said Fredric.

The old man examined it. “It’s gold alright, but I can’t remember where it came from.”

“Do you remember everything you owned, father?”

The old man looked askance at his son. “I suppose not,” he said and put the pen back in the pile.

“Can I keep it?” Fredric asked.

The old man smiled. “Sure, why not? Take the watch too, get some use out of it.”

“Thanks grandpa,” he said with a smile and sat in the corner and waited as the adults talked. They didn’t stay for long and when they got home, Fredric went to the kitchen and polished the pen until it shone. “Can I bring it to school?” He asked his mother.

“It’s not proper to boast,” she said.

“Yes, mother,” he said and pocketed it and headed upstairs. “Goodnight, mom. Goodnight dad,” he said and stood by the door to his room. Before entering, he pinched a needle that was stuck at the door frame and a thud came from inside. A rope hung in front of him with a large sandbag attached to it on the floor. He propped the trap back into place and closed the door. He skipped over several wires that stretched across the floor, and before he undressed and went to bed, he tapped the wooden frame of the bed three times and then crawled under the blanket, sleeping soundly soon after.

***

He went to school the next day. His clothes oppressed him, it was hard to move and the collar pressed up against his chin. His clothes were very expensive too, black and sophisticated, not at all like a schoolboy of 12, but that of a grown gentleman. It was how his parents wanted him to be, to be as far above the rest as he could be. His father even took away all his children’s stories when he turned 10, even his favourite one about the gnomes and humans who lived side by side. He remembered it clearly: the gnomes made magical things to aid the humans, but over time, the gnomes grew weary of being treated like slaves and they took back their magic from the humans and disappeared, bringing in an age of darkness until humanity brought themselves back with their own kind of magic of cogs and machinery. There are other tales about the gnomes but his father was insistent that he only read this particular one, or other’s like it. Fredric didn’t rightly know why.

On his way to school, he took the long way around, avoiding the houses of his classmates. He’d memorised them all and he knew which route they took. He walked between small dilapidated houses, and the tiny roads between them, where the grass had grown through the pavement, roads nobody cared about. For some reason he liked those roads, they seemed almost like lost ruins, but most of all, he liked it because he was alone. He’d tried to make friends once. His father never approved any of them and only belittled them because they were not good enough for his son. People stopped coming then, and after a while, Fredric stopped trying. Finally, he came out on the big road. He walked behind the school at the football yard which was empty so early in the day. There was only one or two who saw him (…)


© Christopher Stamfors

Continue reading the story over Here!

Fortune In the Mire – Short Story

The night was quiet; the moon was full. It was a sleepy town with some old buildings dotted around, some as old as several hundred years! Little had happened here, somehow avoiding the disasters of time and progress. But that didn’t mean it held no secrets… Everyone was asleep, but there was one figure lurking on the rooftop. He moved slowly, darkly, as dark as one could manage despite the moon casting his silhouette on the dark blue sky. He could be quite easily seen if one were to look, but there was nobody to see him for all was a sleep. The roof plates wobbled dangerously as he moved forward, making his way to the next window and he huddled up to it. He brought out a crowbar and buried the iron into the dry old wood. It cracked and he opened the window stealthily. The weight of him made the floor creak, each step somehow becoming louder. He took a breath, brought out a flashlight and an old book and read it softly to himself. “Though it will be some time until I return to this place, I decided to hide the map in the cupboard on the second floor, the one in the main hall. The first layer of the drawer was easy to break and nobody would guess that something was hidden inside. I hope that I will return to it soon. I do not trust the captain and his men to honour their promise.”

He smirked and looked around. There was a cupboard down the hall and he opened the drawer. The old wood squealed when he pulled it open and he hesitated, seeming much louder in the night where sound carried far. He broke the first layer, revealing a secret compartment. He dug his hand into the dark and felt the coarseness of paper. A wide grin grew upon his face.

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You should be afraid of the unknown because you don’t know if it’s dangerous or not, at least in a primal sense. But for others who wants to go further they must take risks and challenge the unknown


Nobody reads my tweets so I might just as well post my sayings here when they come to me, stupid or not.

I’m lazy, and so are you! Probably…

When writing, I’d much rather ignore a problem, hoping that it would solve itself, rather than tackle it head on. That is not to say I won’t do it eventually, but I’ve found it better to do it sooner rather than later…

For instance, if I write a story, I must always ask the question why; why did this happen? How does this affect the rest of the story?

When I try to answer these questions I discover new things about the plot, interesting and cool things that I would otherwise glance over. It’s not hard to spot these problems either, because you would FEEL that something is wrong, that something is missing. That’s why I believe stories exist independent from us and that we are just here to find them, I mean, otherwise you wouldn’t feel bad about skipping.

That’s why I think it’s important to be very selective when you pick what you want to work with, because when the story is vague in your head, there will be A LOT of work to find the missing pieces. But then again, therein lies the charm, the less you know the more there is to discover and I love to discover new shit.

Maybe if I sharpen my tools a bit it won’t be so difficult.

Remembrance – Very Short Story

Forewords:

There’s a war going on in my mind, in everyone’s minds, really. It’s a war between yourself and the outside world. If we entertain the idea that you have never been exposed to the world (meaning others opinions) how different would your own thoughts be? That is not to say hearing about others thoughts are bad, I think it’s more about society at large that decides what is good or bad. Again, that’s not always a bad thing, and really, it’s an unavoidable battle unless you are literally Buddha and have reach a state of utter detachment from everything wordly… What was my point again?

I guess the war in our minds, at least for creatives, is what to create: should the story be (1) what I want it to be or (2) what it should be, or already is? Because I believe stories exist independent from us and that they are there to be found rather than created. Sometimes a story isn’t what others would like them to be, and you have to change it, but that demands so much of you that sometimes you don’t want to. You have found this story (wherever stories are found) and you cannot toss it away, and at the same time, it cannot be made into something that it’s not, at least I can’t. Perhaps I can make still, even if it’s bad? Just to get it out of my mind…


“Honey, are you sure this is the right way?”

“Yes, yes, it should be right around the corner.”

“But, look, the road has stopped. You are driving on dirt!”

“We are supposed to… It’s a short cut, alright!”

She looked over at her boyfriend who kept his eyes on the road while glancing on a map that rested over the steering-wheel. The car swayed back and forth like a ship on the uneven ground; and the further they went, the more the forest enclosed them and the road disappeared in the undergrowth.

“Honey, please…”

“Okay, maybe we are lost, but I can’t turn around now. There must be a roundabout somewhere…”

She did not argue at that. The branches scraped against the car as they drove on. The man winced every time the branches dug into the coloring, creating white streaks of blemishes on his fancy red car. But there was nothing he could do and backing up would almost be worse at this point. Finally, the trees opened up and a big dirt field, half covered in patches of grass, spread out before them. There were half collapsed fences that enclosed it and it looked to them as an old abandoned parking lot. They stopped on the cleanest patch of dirt and the man threw himself out of the car. He whimpered pathetically as he inspected the damage.

“Fucking hell,” he said. “We just had to go out and see nature, didn’t we?

“Oh please, don’t pin this on me. It’s not my fault you can’t read the map.”

The man grumbled, knowing by experience arguing never lead him anywhere. Even if he won, she would find a way to sour his victory, not that the damage on the car would go away anyhow, or payed for… “Where are we, anyway?”

She looked around and saw benches dotted around, all small and half crumbled. There was some sort of platform in the distance, but it was hard to see what it was exactly. As she looked, she saw somebody wave in the distance. “There’s somebody over there,” she said. “A couple?”

“I think there is. They seem to wave us over… should we?”

The woman shrugged and gathered their picnic basket and headed to them. They were very old. They had their own picnic spread out on the table they sat on and they smiled at the young couple as they approached.

“Well, isn’t that nice,” the old woman said. “I thought this place had all but been forgotten.”

“Well, we found it by accident… I’m James, btw. This is Lillie.”

They shook hands. “I’m Kay and this is my husband Gore,” the old woman said. Gore didn’t move. His body seemed stiff as a board but his eyes were clear and aware. He made a dry exhale as if in greeting.

“Would you like to sit down?” The old lady said.

The young couple looked at each other and decided to share their meal with them.

“There must have been a lot of people here at one point,” Lillie said.

“Oh yes. At one point there were hundreds. Last year we were three couples but now it’s only us that ever comes.”

James and Lillie looked at each other.

“Oh, nothing special happened here,” she said airily. “People used to come and dance, that’s all. We actually met here, Gore and I. Remember how you danced to impress me, dear?”

A smile crept up on the old man and exhaled like a broken vacuum cleaner on it’s last breath.

“Yes, you bumped half the people off stage until you had it all for yourself, hee hee. You were quite bad at it too, I’d never laughed so hard in my life”

Again, the old man exhaled with a smile.

“Yes, I knew that I loved you too then… But oh, listen to us ramble on. What about you? Are u married?

“N… No, we didn’t see the point,” Lillie said.

The old woman smiled sadly. “That’s a shame… It’s a beautiful thing, making the promise. It might be unfashionable these days, but I think there’s nothing more important in life than find a life partner.”

They were silent for a while soaking in the sun. “Well, we should be going,” the old woman said. “I’m glad we met you. I was very sad before you came, you know. That this place would be forgotten. But now I can be rest assured that at least two people in this world will know of this place, for a little bit.”

They watched the old couple go. When they were gone, James turned to his girlfriend. “You don’t want to get married, do you?”

“Hmph, not with you,” she said and munched on a sandwich and let the quiet sink in, the leaves rustling in the wind above, never gracing them. “We should come back here next year,” she said.

“Yes… Yes we should,” James agreed.


© Christopher Stamfors

The Unspoken Contract – Short Story

When I was but a toddler, I remember stumbling down a dark hall. I don’t recall how I had escaped from my caregiver, or what drove me to explore, but I had learned how to walk and I was determined to see what was at the other end. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if it’s my memory or if the caregiver told me this story later in life… In either case, this is how I first met my father and it would be the closest I’d ever see him smile.

We lived in a large house; more rooms than anyone would ever need, but it was ancient, and it was ours. Our family had lived within those walls since forever, and would continue to do so, forever. I remember how I leaned against the wall to keep my legs steady. It was a revelation to me as it enabled me to walk longer than I had previous. But as I marvelled at the speed I was moving, something obstructed my path. A door opened a few feet in front of me and a stranger came out. He had huge frown plastered on his face; his eyes were shadowed and deep; his chin was clean shaven and tidy. He didn’t notice me right away and looked around the hallway before he closed the door behind him. Our eyes met and his mouth quirked. Both of us just stared until someone came rushing down the hall towards us. His mouth turned into a frown again and a young lady picked me up. I don’t recall her name or what she looked like, but she bowed apologetically and hurried down the hall with me on her shoulder, hissing something at me. My father spun around and I saw him disappear around the corner – and thus he was out of my memory, for another couple of years.

I didn’t know what a parent was. They said I had a father, but the word had no meaning to me, for all I ever felt was that he was a stranger, at least until I learned what a father and son was supposed to be like and I wanted that relationship too. Mother had died on my birth and I think father blamed me for her death, though, he never said so outright. Even so, a child loves their parents, no matter what. An innate instinct in all animals, for a child cannot survive without their parents, at least, that is how I saw things. How else can I explain the yearning I felt for a stranger’s love?

My first attempt was to seek his approval by drawing a picture that I remember being very proud of. I didn’t hesitate to run straight to my father’s study to show it to him. The office was empty when I came and it took a fair amount of willpower to enter it. He had never expressly told me I was forbidden to go inside, in fact, he hadn’t expressly told me anything. The office was tidy and there were shelves with books from wall to wall. There were some papers scattered around. I placed my drawing on top of the papers and hurried out of there as fast as I could. I waited several days for a response. It never came.

However, I wasn’t deterred. The drawing wasn’t good enough, I told myself, and I endeavoured to make another. My grandmother, (who was also was my tutor,) encouraged me to show my next drawing and I went back. But this time, the door was locked. I wondered if I should wait for him, but the mere thought of standing face to face with my father made me queasy and I instead slid the drawing under the door and disappeared. I did this a couple of times before I gave up. Maybe he didn’t like drawings? He certainly didn’t like mine…

My grandmother was my only light, in those days. She gave me everything that a parent should. She was attentive to my needs and she gave me her unconditional love. Besides both being my parent and tutor, she would often tell me stories, and there was one particular story that would change me for years to come: I remember it being a cold night. The house was quiet and everyone was huddling wherever there was a fireplace. Me and grandmother sat alone in the parlour, wrapped in blankets as the last sparks from the fire settled into ember. She had been talking for a while, but I hadn’t been listening. The disappointment was still fresh in my mind. Eventually, she noticed my mind’s absence and wondered what was wrong. I asked her. “Why does father not love me?”

Even then I saw that she wanted nothing more then to tell me he did, but she couldn’t, because it wasn’t true. Instead, she glanced up on the wall, where an old sword hung above the fireplace. She lifted me up on her knee. “You know who this belonged to?” She said and pointed at the blade.

Strangely, I hadn’t noticed it before, being a mere six or seven years old I was not tall enough to see it unless pointed out to me. I shook my head. She told me that it once belonged to a great man; an ancestor to our family that lived hundreds of years ago. His name was Hall and he lived in a time when a race called Goblins pestered the land. “Ugly little creatures,” she said. “They enjoy making life difficult for people, but Hall was a brave soul and he would stand up to their tyranny. He and two loyal servants went after the Goblins that lived in the dark forest to the west. For two days they were gone and only Hall came back alive. He would not speak of what had happened in the woods, but he didn’t have to, for the Goblins didn’t bother the people anymore and they haven’t ever since. Hall became a hero and they say that as long as a Wholehart lives on this land, the Goblins would not dare to leave their forest to bother people again.”

I imagined my eyes gleamed then. I felt pride of my ancestor and I said. “Do you think father would be proud of me if I became as brave as Hall?”

Grandmother smiled softly. “I’m sure he would.”

Nothing else was on my mind, then. I wanted to be brave and strong, like Hall, and I headed to the nearby grove to pick out a stick that was about my size. I swung it wildly, like a blade, and without direction. I would see clearly, in my mind, the Goblins fall before me, until they fled back into their forest. I was a master. I knew I wasn’t really, but I become stronger, and could swing it for longer, and hit it harder each time. It was only a matter of time before I would make my father proud, I told myself. But swinging a stick around wasn’t enough, I needed to grab my father’s attention, so I made sure to practise as closely to my father’s office window as I could. If he ever looked out, he would see me for I made sure he was there when I trained. But the window never opened, nor did I see any shadow looming that would indicate that he was there, watching. After almost a month, I grew tired of swinging the stick around and I began to feel stupid doing so. I didn’t see myself as a master anymore, and all I saw was a child playing. I needed the real thing, to prove that I was worthy. That evening, when I was sure everyone was busy preparing for supper, I snuck inside to the parlour where the blade hung. I stared at it. It was so shiny and I stood in awe, knowing who it had belonged to.

To climb the fireplace was easy, it was another matter to lift it off the frame. I made careful not to touch the sword’s edge, but as I fiddled with it, a maid saw me and pulled me down to the floor. She scolded me, telling me I could’ve got hurt. But I didn’t care what she said. She saw my indifference and dragged me off towards grandmother, the only one, beside my father, I really cared about. The maid smiled as she saw the terror in my eyes as she dragged me away. Grandmother was busy talking to another maid and when she learned what had happened, she didn’t shout, she didn’t have to, I already felt ashamed. With just one look she could make me regret anything because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I promised not to do it again and when I went to bed, that night, I laid awake, thinking up another scheme to get my father’s attention.


This is but a first taste of a longer short story which you can continue reading for free over HERE

© Christopher Stamfors

I’m afraid to keep writing

After many attempts at writing stories, I have found that I am not capable of writing as a pantser. Though the words flow through me once I get started, I need a solid plot to get me through to the end; otherwise I’ll write and rewrite and never finish anything. But how do you discover the plot?
With my stories, I discover it through writing, I have a vague idea (or a solid one) and then I put characters in that world. Everything is very hazy at first, I cannot picture the scenery or much of anything, only character action which I suppose is the definition of plot? As I write, things become clearer and I can start from the beginning and try again, the story builds upon itself after every attempt. But as I do this, the amount I write becomes longer and longer the closer I get to a finished story while not seeing the end of it because you cannot be sure it won’t take a sudden turn along the way. Because of this, I have become fearful of even starting because I know that most will not end up in the final product. I was hoping plot would fix this, that I didn’t have to make so many changes if the plot was solid from the beginning, but even the plot changes as I discover things along the way.
Perhaps I just choose stories with too vague of an idea or maybe I jump into the story too early, hoping it will make sense in the end… I’m just very confused and can’t seem to learn what I need to do to finish something. Perhaps I just need to stop trying to write novels on vague ideas…

Hephaestus Sanctuary – Short Story

A door opened and a man stepped out, squinting at the sun. The day was clear and he let the sun fully engross him. It had been a long winter, he thought as he went out to inspect the field. Much of the snow had melted, but the ground was still hard. It would be another month before he could sow the seed for this year’s harvest. He glanced up at the mountain that was tall in the distance. It was still covered in white but he knew (as sure as spring would come) that they would come knocking on his door.

And so the people tilled their land and sowed their seeds. The harvest was good and the air was mild. The farmer went to bed early, knowing that tomorrow, they would come. And he was right, for later the next evening, a tall man knocked on their door. He wore a black cloak and a sombre expression. The farmer knew they weren’t much for talking and went to business. They exchanged food for silver. The stranger raised a large sack, filled with various animal produce, over his shoulders and was gone. The farmer stood by the doorstep and watched the stranger lumber away, carrying much more than any normal man ought to. He didn’t think of them during the winter, he didn’t like to, because they were not men, they couldn’t be. A cold breeze caressed his forehead. The summer was at an end and it would be another year before they descended the mountain.

**

In a small, dimly lit room, she was staring at a fire. The flames engulfed the pot that hung over it and she waited for it to settle before she’d pour water into it. She was not used to sitting alone, and her mind drifted away. She was reminded of her husband, sitting next to her, being silly and making the time fly by. The fire settled into a hearth and she poured the ingredients into the boiling water, tasted it, and waited.

She knew nothing of what was happening outside:

The sun had almost set, casting purple twilight over the horizon. Men in dark hoods wandered between the houses, disappearing and reappearing as they became invisible in the shade.  There were several of them, dashing ghostly from wall to wall, some standing like a sentry, watching the horizon. On the southern end of the village, one of those Sentry’s kept his eyes peeled, when a figure emerged from the horizon. Snow, that had collected on his cloak, crumbled as he dashed towards the stranger:

The stranger was a weary soul. Each step felt like a ton as his feet were buried knee deep in the snow and he did not notice when two dark hooded men emerged in front of him. They seemed to tower over him as he himself stooped to keep the wind from his eyes. “Are you lost, friend?” One of the Sentries asked in a dark sort of way.

Was he lost or had he found the right place? He wasn’t sure. The only thing he knew was that something drew him, something burning inside him that forced him to go on. The stranger glanced up at them and saw that half their faces were covered by a hood, their left and right eye respectively. When they saw his face, their one eye widened as if transfixed by his appearances. But nothing else revealed what they were thinking as their expressions remained cold and neutral. The stranger touched his face, wondering if there was something wrong with him when he realised he could not picture what he looked like. After a moment, the dark hooded men collected themselves and gently placed their hands on his shoulders, urging him to follow them to a small cabin where he could rest. But the burning did not allow him to rest. Feeling close to his goal, he quickened his step, but the two black figures lurched on him and grabbed him by the shoulders, insisting that he cooperate.

They pinned him down, and his chest burned more brightly, glowing in bright red and orange through his clothes. His weariness melted away and with new found strength, he broke free from their grip and rushed towards the village. The Sentries didn’t hesitate and drew their weapons. Beams of light zoomed through the air, hitting the walls on the houses, harmlessly melting the ice and snow that caked on the walls. They all missed and it seemed like the stranger would get away when he felt a pain through his ankle and he collapsed around the corner of a house. But when they came to collect him, he was gone.

Do you remember the woman from before? She had heard the commotion and she looked out to see what it was about. It was almost night now, only a slither of light still remained in the sky and it took a moment before she realised a stranger sprawled on her doorstep, half covered in snow. She stared at him for a while, conflicted. She wanted to help him, but what if he was dangerous? He squirmed in the snow. Her heart could not bear see him suffer and she opened the door and dragged him inside. Black liquid streaked on the floor from his ankle which she patched with linen as best she could. His clothes were soaked and she undressed him, wrapping him in blankets near the fire. For a moment, everything was still as she gazed down at the stranger on the floor. She noticed how his face was in perfect symmetry; his chin was strong and his hair curly and yellow. Everything about him was perfect and she thought he must be a god. She felt her cheeks flush and she forced herself to look away. Maybe this was a bad idea? He was a stranger and they were sure to come looking for him. What would they do if they found him here? As she contemplated her choices, there was loud knocking on the door that made her wince.

One of the dark hooded men stood on the other side, asking if she’d seen any strangers pass by? The woman glanced at her neighbours houses and saw that they were knocking on all the doors. She realised they had no idea where the stranger had gone and that they did not suspect her. “I haven’t seen anything,” she said and the hooded man nodded, thanking her for her cooperation and went away. Now, you might find it strange that they didn’t search her home? But you must realise, this sort of thing had never happened before. They did not question the villagers loyalty and they certainly did not expect it to be broken by a kind heart and a beautiful face.

When the door closed, she pressed herself against it. Her heart was at her throat and she breathed heavily. She had never lied before, but now that she had, there was no turning back. The stranger did not wake up that night, nor the following morning. The feast, that she had prepared for, came and went, and during all this time, she could think of nothing else but the stranger. But one night, when she was asleep, she heard bustling downstairs. She rushed down and saw the stranger rummaging through her drawers. He was completely naked and in any other situation, she’d look away, but now, she simply stared. His limbs were in perfect symmetry… and his muscles… He was perfection! Except for the bandaid on his left ankle. It took a moment before she became aware that she was staring and she quickly looked away and covered her face with her hand. “I’m sorry!” She shrieked.

He stood there, silently observing her. “Where are my clothes?” He said.

She pointed to a coffin next to the cupboard. When he was dressed, he turned and said. “Thank you.”

Silently, she turned to meet his eyes. It was the first time she’d looked directly into them and somehow she could not draw her gaze away. He observed her too, for a moment, when he suddenly hissed and clenched his teeth, moving his hand towards his chest. “I must go,” he said and turned towards the door.

“Wait!” she said, placing her hand on his, hindering him from turning the doorknob. He glanced down at her hand, noticing she was missing her ring finger. She removed her hand as if burned by his gaze and hid it behind her back. She didn’t know why she did so; she had never felt ashamed about her missing finger, but seeing the perfection that was this man… She wanted to hide it. “I— They are still after you, you know. They’ll catch you if you leave,” she said.

But the stranger just looked at her vacantly and made another effort to leave. “You can’t!” she shrieked and embraced him around the waist. She didn’t know what had come over her. Why was it so hard to let this man go? She didn’t know, but, for whatever reason, she knew that if she let him leave, she’d never see him again and the thought alone made her tremble. The stranger did not resist her at first, but as she refused to let go, and the burning in his chest became stronger, he tried to force her off. Then, it all stopped. All the energy that had gathered within him drained and he collapsed on the floor. She held onto him, still, and he fell into her lap. For a while, he didn’t open his eyes, but when he did, it was as if he saw the world for the first time. His mind was clear and the urgency was gone. He noticed how pleasantly the room smelled of firewood; how the furniture was half-moon shaped to accommodate the rounded walls; how her front teeth peaked behind her lips; and how her soft breasts pressed against him.

They didn’t move from that spot for a very long time. Only at dawn, when the light shone through the windows, did it revive them. She was the first to rise. She held out her hand and led him upstairs to her bedroom. They spent all day in that bed, and only the next morning, did they finally talk: She felt his chest rise and fall and she thought there was nothing in this world that could make her get out of bed. A pang of guilt clenched her hand, scratching the stranger’s skin over his stomach. What would her husband think if he knew? How would she feel in his situation?

“Is something wrong?” the stranger asked.

She glanced up at him and their eyes met. Somehow seeing them made the guilt wash away. He was a god, she was sure of it, only a deity could make somebody feel this good. She sat up and locked her hands together and took a breath. “I have a husband,” she said.

There was no reaction from him, which surprised her. “He… He was buried in an avalanche a month back.”

“I’m sorry,” he said and placed his hand on hers.

She held it and caressed his hand with her thumbs. “Don’t be, he’ll return, eventually.”

His eyes grew wide. “Excuse me?”

“The Maker will get him back to me, when he’s ready.”

Her whole body quivered and she stared down her hands. How would he react to this? Would he leave her, or… would she make her leave her husband? Her cheeks flushed at the thought, both embarrassed and guilty for thinking it. But the stranger’s mind was somewhere else. He was seeing back to a time when he was still searching the world. He’d seen people die. He’d seen people buried or burnet when their bodies won’t carry them anymore. He’d seen people crying over the dead because they knew they would never see them again. The dead do not return, he was certain.

When no answer came, she tried to lead the conversation elsewhere. “A— Are you going to tell me about yourself?”

Broken from his revery, he blinked.

“Where do you come from?” She asked.

“I’m… I’m not sure,” he said, gravely.

“You don’t remember?”

“I…” He tried to recall, but all he could see was him walking, climbing, swimming; sometimes alone, sometimes with a group, but he was always moving, searching. “I don’t know… I have never considered it before…”

She looked at him, quizzically.

“It’s like I have never existed until now,” he said and placed his hand over his heart. He couldn’t feel it and he smiled. “It’s thanks to you,” he said and turned to her. “It must be… I wanna know more about myself, about you and this world.” Her heart skipped as he beamed at her. To make another person this happy…. She’d almost forgotten what it felt like. In her head, she decided that she’d do anything to help this man. “Do you at least remember your name?” she asked.

He shook his head.

She laid her head back on his chest. “Don’t worry. We will find out, together.”

He drew his finger through her black silky hair and thought of nothing when he asked. “What do you call yourself?”

“Jessica.”


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© Christopher Stamfors

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