Friday, September 21, 2012

Swanmaiden's Blues Pt 1

Note: this was an attempt at writing a modern fantasy short story I made several attempts at in 2010 and 2011. It took forever, I revised every sentence three or four times. I gave up in resignation. It's overwritten and cheaply melodramatic.

But looking back at it now, it's not all-together terrible, so I'm going to post it as is as a spur to myself in the run-up to National Novel Writing Month. Any constructive criticism gratefully accepted.

Thanks for reading. :-)

The Swan works in the Lounge, a small distressed black-box bar on Berwick Street where they play their music so glass-rattlingly loud she has to lip-read the customers' orders. That's fine with her. The Swan isn't one for small talk, and the volume and defiance of early twenty-first century rock 'n roll innoculates her against her own private pain.

Others would disappear from view, but she believes in hiding in plain sight. So the Swan fits in, like she's done before; she adds a few piercings and more black to her wardrobe; dyes her hair a deep orange-red; listens to the right music; learns the difference between true and false metal. She wears an Angel Dust or Great Annihilator T-shirt when she wants to make a private joke.

She takes a grim pride in her excellence as a bartender - she's done this job in a hundred different places – a marketable skill for the frequently mobile. Most evenings, the Swan can catch the rythym of the work, a simple 4/4 beat which takes you from punter to punter … and repeat until cigarette break and closing time. Or Judgement Day, for all she cares sometimes.

At the bar, that fools gold crucible, surrounded by warm bodies and cold noise, the Swan can reach for a place where she can forget herself.

But then there's a night like tonight, when she can't reach it. Much too much on her mind to reduce interaction to transaction. All the Swan can do is focus on getting through to the end of her shift in one piece.

Snatching a break around eleven, she escapes from the Lounge out back. The night air saps barheat, offering barearm goosebumps in exchange. Propped against the wall, the Swan sparks a cigarette and closes her eyes, though she knows what waits in the scarlet and lightning-flash memory world behind them.


  1. This is really, really cool, Tim. You use some great contrasts (Others would disappear from view, but she believes in hiding in plain sight.) and unexpected turns of phrase (Berwick Street where they play their music so glass-rattlingly loud she has to lip-read the customers' orders. That's fine with her.). Also, some of your observations about people and sensations are really accurate/spot on (barearm goosebumps, learns the difference between true and false metal).
    The last line and ending is rather enigmatic. What is it exactly that you are getting at, or is it that you are simply showing a slice of the alienation of this character and how difficult it is to read people, and what's really going on inside their minds and how they feel?
    I like the third paragraph too...ooh, so much to say! I'm reminded a bit of Bladerunner and experiences when I have felt alone in bars...this seems to depict singleness quite well, I think!
    By the way, 'the Swan' is an interesting name. Very in keeping with pubs (so many pubs are called that, aren't they?!) and yet somewhat out of sync or poignant in terms of the character herself. Is she peaceful, gliding through life (as I imagine swans doing) or is it a point that at heart she is this, nature, wanting something effortless and meaningful and in tune with the 'real' her, but living and trapped in an artificial world, where she has to hide behind her metal T-shirts and logos?
    My only small point with regard to grammar, is that I think there should be a comma after Berwick Street. I hope this feedback is useful! Keep going, it's really worthwhile stuff!

  2. Thanks Gergana - the feedback is very much appreicated.

    Hopefully the succeeding parts give the reader a sense of where The Swan character is coming from. It's intended - in as far as it's intended to be anything - as a study in alienation. You're spot on there.