14 Oct

Like Water Cuts Through Earth by Simon Flower

Every month, NWS members are invited to respond to a writing prompt in 500 words or less. We love to celebrate the immense talent and creativity in our community by featuring the work of one writer on our blog. This month, our prompt was inspired by our collaboration with Nottz Garden Project: gardens and green spaces.

Simon Flower submitted a piece of work called Like Water Cuts Through Earth. This is a gorgeously evocative piece that draws parallels between the power of nature and of perseverance. We absolutely loved the rich descriptions and the incredible sense of character and place that Simon managed to evoke in so few words; it was masterfully done and made for a very moving and profound read.

Of his piece, Simon says, “This piece was inspired by my own experience a couple of years ago. I was dealing with unexplained stomach pains and I had a few months of doctors appointments that led nowhere. I went to stay with my parents for a while, and I found that taking walks to the nearby river in the evening seemed to help. Whether it was the calming environment or the exercise, or purely placebo, I don’t know. But it was a beautiful, peaceful spot and I ended up going as much for that as for the relief.

Writing about these walks intrigued me as a way to celebrate the theme of the prompt, but also because of the interaction between the two tones this story would carry. I think it can be hard to fit a lot of dimension into microfiction, and especially with a prompt that I felt needed such a focus on setting, this was a way of packing in character and motivation that harmonised with the prompt whilst also providing a flash of something different and unexpected. The contrast in tone between the descriptions of the riverside and the medical talk gave texture and darkness to the piece that kept it interesting to me. And as I began to talk about navigating the confusing, branching paths of the river, I was surprised at how easily this thematic resolution of perseverance then presented itself to tie everything back together.”

A huge thank you to Simon for sharing his words.

Like Water Cuts Through Earth

The bugs were getting bigger, with the weather warming. Every day, as I hit the point where the road turns to dirt like the tarmac wouldn’t take, I counted more buzzing around me. It was early summer, the sun streaking long and gold across the evening sky, and pointing directly down the hill.

It had been Mum’s suggestion, the first time. Why don’t you go for a walk? See if that does anything? I’d scoffed, because why would it? But obviously I still went, because the fuck else is there? It’s not like the doctors had been any help.

I could hear ducks as I reached the bottom, and the river rushing full and fast. From here, the houses are just dots on the horizon. In an instant you’re miles from anywhere, even though you’re not at all. The whole valley, wild grass, crops and all, appearing like a rift in the city’s fabric. Like it’s sliced up its gut, without so much as a warning.

I’d been feeling alright today. Not one of my worst. Still, I’d struggled with lunch. I just had no appetite anymore. That had them thinking maybe gastritis, but the antacids they gave me didn’t do anything. They did another round of tests.

I wandered through the big barley field, to the planks over the nearest dyke. There are a million dykes and drains splitting off the main river, so you can’t just walk along the bank. Some have fjords, but a lot don’t. You end up with all these branching paths, each one capable of sending you miles off-course.

It kept me occupied, at least. There was a field of horses a mile down the bank, and in a month I still hadn’t made it. Today I crossed the bridge at the badger den and took the nearside bank to a dyke chocked with bullrushes. I followed its snaking path toward the neighbouring village. I could see the spire of the church my dad was christened in poking above the trees.

The dyke ended at a sugar beet field. It had a rich, earthy smell I didn’t expect. I could continue around to rejoin the river, but I was getting tired and I had another blood test early tomorrow. I stopped to rest. Earlier in the week I’d seen an oak tree standing tall in an otherwise empty field. On another day, I’d fallen in nettles and come away full of stings. I’d disturbed a couple kissing in a wheat field. I’d seen the tail of a fox as it darted for the undergrowth.

But still no horses. Despite everything, you wouldn’t think it would be so difficult just to get where you’re trying to go. To push your way through, like water cuts through earth. But I found the walking helped. I turned westward, the sun streaming its last, and thought it might shine a little longer tomorrow. And I might go, if not all the way, just that little bit further again.

Image by Annie Warren

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