I have been privileged to contribute to two Evocation events this year, where original stories and guitar music, evoked by a painting or photograph , are performed to an audience.
Reading my fictional story of the boys in the 1895 painting ‘The drums of the Fore and Aft. (Edward Matthew Hale 1852-1924) at Leeds Art Gallery June 2018.
In September 2018 I was involved in a micro commission by Ilkley Literature festival featuring, again original writing by members of Writing on the Wharfe, music by Samuel Moore and Photography by Robert Hamilton.
This is my four minute story inspired by the reversed reflection photograph of Ilkley Tarn.
Nell had loved visiting the tarn since she was a little girl, enchanted by the magic within its Winter waters. Her brother, Tom, laughed at her ‘imaginings’ as he called them; never keeping still for long enough to see what she saw.
The first time it happened Nell was gazing across the water. Tom at the other side, pulling faces. To make him laugh she turned around, bent over to look at him upside down, through her legs but was mesmerised by the radiating reflections.
Upside down it became a different world.
In the stillness, Nell caught sight of a shifting shadow, then another. Keeping still she concentrated on the shapes moving closer.
There were so many, whirling darkly under the surface. Nell couldn’t make out any features but was certain they were people.
Feeling dizzy after being upside-down for so long she stumbled closer to the water’s edge, closer to the under-water figures who, having noticed her stopped moving; all except one.
A sudden splash sent ripples across the water’s surface.
Tom’s stone had broken the stillness and the bright upturned underwater face had gone.
Nell told Tom of the underwater people and how to see them. He flipped himself upside-down and took a brief look but saw nothing.
‘Sometimes, Tommy, you just need to believe.’ She said.
But Tom didn’t want to believe. He wanted his tea.
As Nell turned to follow Tom she saw a man crouched by the water’s edge. He held out his hands and arrows of reflected low sun pointed from the water towards him. Nell shielded her eyes as the light became bright; she squinted but couldn’t see the man.
As the light faded, she saw he was gone. In his place, two boys, launching a small wooden boat into the tarn, dragging it through the water on string.
Tom returned, interrupting her confusion.
‘Come on Nell, I’ll get in trouble if I go home without you. Let’s race.’
Tom set off along the path and Nell began to chase him, head down she didn’t notice the approaching man until they collided causing him to drop something.
A small, wet photograph fell to Nell’s feet. She returned it, noticing it was quite old. A picture of two boys at this tarn with a toy boat.
‘That’s me with my brother’ the man said.
‘I come here on his birthday to recall the fun we had. A special place for special memories.’
Remembering not to talk to strangers Nell ran, catching Tom quickly.
As Nell aged the figures she sought in the tarn appeared only as formless shadows. Perhaps it was ‘imaginings’ after all, although she never stopped looking.
Decades later; on the first anniversary of her brother Tom’s death, Nell woke before first light, heavy with sadness. Her mind replayed words she heard many years ago.
‘A special place for special memories.’
In the early morning light Nell stood at the tarn’s edge. Skeletal trees cast shadows on the water, whispering.
Feeling slightly foolish, she turned her back to the water, bent over and looked through her legs as she had done as a child.
As the shadows within the water moved towards her, she overbalanced and found herself sat at the water’s edge arms outstretched. The face from years ago looked out at Nell, opened its mouth allowing bright water to rise and hover.
Nell stood to find she was a child again.
‘Come on Nell, let’s race’ she heard.
Reflected in shimmering light she saw the cheeky boyhood face of her brother Tom and began to chase him.
As clouds gathered to cover the sun the enchantment ended. Nell became aware of the cold path beneath her and hastily got to her feet.
‘Imaginings’ she muttered and turned to go just as a stone broke the water’s surface.