Hunted (‘The forest was awake’ Assignment Piece)

The forest was awake to greet her even as the sun began to set. The trees sang and cheered an echo of forgotten language that whispers to people who listen. Behind her the city was dipped in gold. With no time for one last look, she takes a deep breath and dives into the trees.

Of the thousands of eyes in the city the pair that belonging to the old woman not unlike the willows of the forest, are the only ones to see her go. She doesn’t much think about another girl running off into the night, her thoughts wonder back to the rat that had been chewing up her nice cushions, the ones her nephew had given her last-

In the forest the news passes quickly from leave to leave as the woman struggles her way over the net of roots on the forest floor. She seemed to be heading in a certain direction, sure of the way even through the quickening gloom stepping around the mushroom camps pitched in the damp of the last rain, guy ropes of spider silk.

The water and dank air leech away the sweat and grim of a city day from her leathered skin and open her lungs again.

Quickly the light shifts from pale gold to bloodied amber caught amongst the trees. From time to time she would catch the caress of the light filtering through the levels of the trees above her, erasing the lines from her face.

The cloudiness in her eyes faded in this softer light that was far away from the sharp reflections of metal and stinging bright stone. As it gets darker the dusk begins to leak into her hair, a teasing breeze making it fuller as she walks on.

She moves faster now, as she slips further and further into the forest slipping into the skin of a creature more comfortable under cover than on the harsh street. The ground is softer here. None of that jarring with every step.

Now she can run.

It was a good thing her feet were becoming surer and more steady because the men are closer now. There is the sound of a dog barking in the thickening dark.  Far on her left was the muggy light of a fire and now that she was heading that way she could see the outline of the three men moving round it. The flickering light stretched their shadows out into the trees and they seemed to shift restlessly with the flames like they are clawing their way into the woods.

Soon a man got up and broke away from the rest. She pads her way towards him, waiting until he is far enough from the group. His reason for leaving is obvious when the sweet sharp smell of piss reaches her.  Skirting close to the ground and painted in the dark gloom she moves until she waits unnoticed between him and the other men.

He doesn’t even get past the frightened expression before she tears into his throat. He eventually settles into his death mask.

His blood is slick on her body; her hair clotted with it and dead leaves as she swings round to the fire again. From this distance it looks like a setting sun fighting to give of just a little more light. It is this flashing in her clear eyes that gives one of the men reason to pause, just for a second, in the middle of his vigil but it’s enough warning for him to reach for the knife they used to skin dinner.

But it’s his companion she leaps on first. The two of them are knocked out of range of the light in their primal struggle. It is over just as quickly as the first man and his blood is fast pouring into the lush ground.

When she steps out again into the firelight the final man is still armed with his hasty weapon. On two feet she looks at him, eyes shining with tears, gesturing wildly between her own bloodied self and the tree line. His hand slackens on the knife as he tracks the blood up her breasts and to her reddened mouth.

She smiles.

Self Reflective Piece

A lot of the inspiration for my work came from the journey I make to university. I prefer to walk through the Waters of Leith Walkway because it never fails to make me feel like I am walking into an entirely different landscape.  I remembered the chapter from The Creative Writing Coursebook called Training the Eye in which Julia Bell suggests ‘when you write, take time to draw a few quick verbal sketches’.[1]  I began to do this every time I walked through the Walkway and used some of the descriptions I came up with in this piece.

The contrast between nature and urban environments was something that I also wanted to investigate in this piece and not just describe. However as I was writing it I became caught up in my characters journey and her motivations. I was discussing with a flatmate my intentions to have her change as the story progressed but the ending with her as a murderous monster was not one I saw coming. I did however enjoy subverting the idea of a woman running from pursuers to the woman in my story become the hunter.  It reminded me of the re-worked fairytales in the The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and I remembered in my reading around that text an article by Mary Kaiser touched upon the idea; ‘Nakedness becomes a kind of costume as well’.[2]

I attempted to lean more towards a Gothic element towards the end of the work but still tried to include Romantic elements. I feel like this links into what Peter Barry mentions in his discussions of the high modernist movement; ‘the blurring of the distinctions between genres, so that novels tend to become more lyrical and poetic’.[3] That poetic aspect is something I attempted to portray in my imagery and I believe that it would be an interesting exercise to see how the piece could work as a poem.

[1] Julia Bell, ‘Training the Eye’ in, The Creative Writing Coursebook, (London: Macmillan, 2001), pp.20-43, p.21.

[2] Mary Kaiser, ‘Fairy tale as sexual allegory: intertextuality in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber’ in,  The Review of Contemporary Fiction. Vol. 14.3 (Fall 1994) p30.

[3] Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2009) p.79.

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