As always I was looking through some of my old writing from university and I found another piece that I wanted to share with you all.
This piece entitled ‘Lilac’ was written around halfway through my second year of university in preparation for the short story we had to submit as our main piece of coursework. Ultimately I did not stick with this story, in fact I went through several different ideas until I found one that I connected with fairly last minute. However, I did produce several drafts of this story through feedback sessions with some of my peers and I’m not unhappy with how it turned out.
Set in an apocalyptic environment, this dystopian short sees the supposed last man on earth walking towards a field of flowers that stretches out as far as the eye can see. The natural landscape contrasts with the destruction around him, and can in ways be a metaphor for the light at the end of the tunnel that is often associated with death.
If he is dead of course.
I never like to strictly state what the story represents because different people see different things, and sometimes what you read on the surface is exactly what it is. That is why I don’t specify whether the girl at the end is real, or his imagination, or maybe even the work of robotics. Why is there a field of healthy flowers in an apocalyptic environment? Are they real or artificial?
All I care about is whether those of you reading it feel like you get something from the story, whether or not you can connect to it. As always I appreciate any and all feedback from people because even though a lot of this writing that I share on here was written a year or two ago, I always benefit from hearing how others think I could improve my work.
After all, is a great writer really that great if no reader enjoys his work? That probably could have been worded better…
Somewhere in the distance a church bell rung. Twelve chimes hung still in the air, and in his head the echo of a siren’s song.
Only now had his breath found him again. He’d woken up searching, chasing the sun on the horizon in wild desperation. No idea why. He’d been running on autopilot, imagining the world around him as the road gave way to dirt. A thousand lives once standing strong, now locked in the ground as ashes. They’d passed him as he moved on foot. The ghosts of the wasteland. In his wake they dropped to their knees, offering gifts of lilac to the last man; the heir to the world.
A sadness had washed his cheeks in remembrance of them and of the world. He’d fallen into the embrace of his own arms and soldiered on, letting the wind run its fingers through his hair like his mother used to. All those Saturday nights in watching movies together because there was no-one else to watch them with her, and he’d never once complained. Not to her. Now she was just like the others; the dead amongst the living. Her corpse was a ghostly presence by his side, cold hand on his shoulder as he found what he’d been looking for.
It was like a dream, but the ground beneath his feet was real enough. Before him the Earth wandered towards the shore, the rainbows of the sky shattered along its path. Tulips and roses, violets and posies, stretched between the forests of the East and the West. It was a no man’s land untouched by humanity’s bitter end. It was the picture of a memory, one he’d not seen in the flesh for ten years.
Things had been simple then; the burden of the world not yet his to carry. In his hand he’d held another, and he’d followed her smile for hours. She’d led him to roses in the shade of the East, and in their craze she’d pushed him down. Back then they had buckled beneath his weight, a bed of broken roses at the hands of their love. That history was but a echo now. In their place the flowers grew strong, more beautiful and perfect than before. All of them, from East to West. The path he’d walked before left no trace.
The field was where they’d spent their first time together. She’d held him like a mother would her new-born and whispered sweet promises he held with him still. The hours there had passed like months, and yet still he had no name to know her by. He simply thought of her as Lilac, her favourite of all that grew in the field. They had flowered better than most this year.
But now what? In his dreams he remembered she’d been here. In the heat of the sun she’d searched for him, tulips in hand, with that smile on her face. He’d woken, dazed, following a memory lost from his mind until now. Yet on the horizon she did not walk with desire for him. His landscape was empty, melting beneath the burning sun.
He walked on, towards the East where the dying Oaks brought shade. Nature may have outlived humanity but even that had begun to crumble. The flowers had already lost their scent, even if their colours had remained. The world was fading away and he stood as its final witness, though he too would perish before the end.
He was snapped from a daydream, a woman’s voice calling out from behind. Her voice was soft in the wind, yet there was something mechanical to it. Hollow. He tried to look but she refused him. “You mustn’t.”
“It’s you,” he declared, “I know it’s you, you can’t deny me.” But the breeze against his neck held him still.
Ahead the tulips caught his eye, their colour a harsh red like the lipstick she’d worn that one day. He clutched at them, tugged hard until they broke free from the ground. Their roots snapped from the dirt, like broken wires, and he offered them to her behind his back.
“You held these last night, you brought them to me. Let me return the favour?”
Her laugh, breathy, echoed across the field. He couldn’t be sure this wasn’t the dream all over again.
“Please, just take them-“
“Hush.” That laugh again, like a whisper through the trees. His grip on the flowers loosened until he felt the new breeze against his open palm.
“Do you like them?”
“Darling, if only you knew.” Her breath was hot against his skin, her words tracing a path down his neck. He leant back into her touch but no hands caught his fall. He noticed the sun beginning its descent to the West yet he felt no burn in his eyes. No figure blocked his sight but he felt himself shadowed. All that stood before him were the tulips, wilted and grey in the hands of a ghost.