The Hiking Writer and Speculative Fiction

The Hiking Writer and Speculative Fiction

By Sara Codair

Even though a majority of my stories are speculative in some way, they are often inspired by reality. Sometimes it’s a question begging for an answer, sometimes it’s a piece of news too dark to keep inside me, and often, the seed for the story was found somewhere on a hiking trail.

On Labor Day weekend of 2016, my spouse and I went on a hike in New Hampshire’s Belknap Range. I hate crowds, and the parking lots for the better-known trails were overflowing onto the road. Thankfully, we had done our research and located a more “off the beaten path” trail.

The directions took us down a handful of side roads, the last of which wasn’t paved. I thought we hit a dead end and were in someone’s driveway when Adam rounded a corner and pulled into a tiny dirt parking lot with a trailhead.

Happy that we found a way to avoid mobs of tourists, we checked our gear, traded out sandals for boots and started walking up a steep, rocky fire road.

“I’m not sure any fire truck could actually drive on this,” said Adam.

His words were like a horn starting a race. As the hill got steeper, my legs and lungs burned with effort, and my mind was running, making up histories for the road and stories that could happen on it.

DSC_0147When we reached the secluded mountain pond at the top of the road, my mind was racing faster than my pulse. This lake would be a perfect home for a wizard in a fantasy novel, a hide out for the demon hunters in my YA novel, a good hike for my parents to do with their puppy, and a place to pump water if a flock of phoenix’s or an angry mother earth started a forest fire.

We took a break. Adam consulted his map while I devoured cookies and made up stories. The next part of the trail was a loop, but I was too lost in imagination to pick which way we would do it, so he choose, and soon, we were making our way up Mack Mountain.

Just shy of the summit, we reached a scenic overlooked where two trails merged. A large cairn, painted in the colors of the trail blazes, marked it. For some reason, there was a fork balanced atop the cairn, and there was literally a keyhole on the fork’s handle.

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My mind went crazy, and by the time we were done the hike, I had mentally written a complete story. After a swim and dinner, when I finally got home, I sat down and wrote my first draft. Over the next few months, it endured a cycle of revision, rejection, shortening and expansion. Finally, it found a home on Theme of Absence.

Stories, no matter how realistic or surreal, are everywhere. We just have to keep our minds, hearts, and eyes open, so that when we find them, we can catch them.

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Here is an excerpt from my story, “At The Fork.” Just click on it if you want to read more – it is hyperlinked to Theme of Absence.

The way to the alternate world isn’t through a wardrobe, rabbit hole or a non-existent train platform. You won’t get carried to it by a tornado or by falling through the “gap” you must mind when using the London Tube.

©2017 Sara Codair

Dystopian Gardens / Micro-Fiction:Lying in the Dirt

I’ve noticed that whenever a writing prompt leads me to some kind of dystopian or post-apocalyptic story, there is always nature or garden imagery. It happened with the prompt that inspired me to a story that grew into “Necromantic Buzz.” It happened with a piece of flash fiction that was published in Burning Waters Magazine, and  happened again in this week’s cracked flash competition. My story didn’t win, but it was an honorable mention.

I’m starting to think this is my way of smothering fear with hope. The political turmoil and climate problems make me fear some kind of societal upset or end of the world as we know it is coming. I’ve placed my hope for the future in nature’s resilience, and in local, sustainable food.

While the following story isn’t directly about food or an apocalypse, it is packed with garden imagery and hints at some kind of corporatism
gone wrong.

Micro-Fiction:Lying in the Dirt

By Sara Codair

“You lied to me?” Carrots hung from Donn’s hands like the flop over ears of a pathetic puppy. “Why lie about that?”

Susie shrugged, watching the way Donn’s fingers curled around the carrots. His nails dug through the dirt and pierced the bright orange beneath. His eyes widened. He pursed his lips.

“I just couldn’t disappoint you.”

“Well, you did.” Donn looked at the red boxes brimming with carrot tops, the cucumbers climbing a white trellis and tomatoes bursting out of their cages. “If you told me, I could’ve helped.”

“How?” Susie looked down the driveway, where the bank men were coming to take the keys, the house, and its contents.

“I have a few secrets of my own.”

He placed the carrots on the potting table, picked up a shovel, and zigzagged through the labyrinth-like garden to a spot where nothing was growing. He dug. The bank man came with his suit and guns.

“Sir and madam, you must vacate the property.”

Donn laughed and kept digging.

The man crossed his arms. “Unless you can produce 200,000 Cred in the next 60 seconds, you are leaving.”

“Give me five minutes and I’ll give you 250,000.”

He watched as Donn dug until he hit a wooden box, brushed it off, opened it, and pulled out stacks of green bills. “Now, what is the conversion rate for old USD these days?”

The man gulped. “This morning, a single was fetching a 1,000 on the market.”

Donn handed a banded stack to the to man. “Here are 20 for your bank, and 5 to keep. Get off my property. I’ll expect the deed tomorrow.”

The man scurried off. Donn glared at Susie. “Next time you have problems, tell me.”

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A win on Cracked Flash with “Survival 101”

Cracked Flash’s writing prompts have been part of my weekly writing routine on and off for about a year now. Over the summer, I had stopped writing for them because I was judging. They had a brief hiatus in the fall. When they started up, it took me a few weeks to work in back into the routine. The few pieces I wrote were political rants pretending to be stories. Last week, I wrote a real story, and it won.

Here is it:

Survival 101

By Sara Codair

“Try a different one.” Joe frowned as the wriggling worm fell into the bucket of dirt.

I arched my eyebrows. “A worm is a worm.”

“The fat ones are juicier and slower. Easier to hook, more likely to attract fish.”

I sighed. “I don’t even like fish.”

“Would you rather eat the worm?”

“I’d rather eat nuts berries.” I gazed at the sun glistening on deep blue, vibrant leaves with orange-tinted tips and wispy seeds forming atop grass.

“Those’ll be hard to come by next month.” Joe dug weathered fingers into the bucket, pulling out a short worm barely able to wriggle, and handed it to me. “You want to survive, don’t you?”

“I used to be vegan.” My stomach wriggled like the obese worm, half-heartedly threatening to eject raspberries.

Joe’s laughter shook the remains of his shrunken belly. “Just hook the damned worm.”

Despite its protest, my stomach knew food was hard to come by, and held the berries while I jabbed the rusty, barbed metal into the worm, scrunching it like I was forcing a new curtain onto an old rod.

“That’s the spirit. Plant your feet and cast like I showed you.”

I obeyed. My tortured worm plopped into the shimmery blue. I watched the ripples grow as they approached shore. “What now?”

“Now we wait.” Joe lowered his raisen-like body onto a silvery rock. “We wait and we pray.”

I nodded, but remained standing. Winged-insects flittered across the water close to shore. A water-strider fell victim to a frog blending his body with a rotten log. A dragon fly landed on my nose, its wings tickling a smile out of my face. The last scientist I met said the human population might never recover. Nature, though, was doing just fine.

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See the original post here: http://crackedflash.blogspot.com/2017/02/year-2-week-25-results.html#comment-form

Passing Storm Clouds

Instead of writing yesterday afternoon, I spent a good amount time just just standing outside, watching and photographing clouds as they moved in over the lake. There appeared to be fronts colliding in front of my eyes. I wanted to write a poem about it, but have yet even begin to find the words to truely capture what I saw, so perhaps, this is an occasion where images need to tell the story. I don’t think my photos truely do it justice, but they will suffice until I find the right words.

These pictures were taken after the darkest cloud had passed over us. They were much prettier when they were past me instead of approaching or above me. Like I usually do, I am seeing a metaphor between these and my writing. I received about 13 rejections this week, but this morning, the Flash Fiction Press accepted one of my stories. Rejections can be like dark storm clouds, but they always pass, leaving something beautiful in their wake.