Saturday, 6 September 2014

A little bit of flash - 'Puzzle Piece'

This little bit of flash is my 'homework' for NIBS next week: we were challenged to find a painting with at least one person in it and write either a conversation between the characters in the painting or between the character and yourself.

And then a friend, Sophie Jonas-Hill (amazingly talented artist, dressmaker and author, among other things) posted this picture on facebook.

It's called 'Puzzle Piece' and is a digitally painted creation of Charlie Terrell. (Mr Terrell, if you see this - I did try to track you down to ask if I could post this in the Scribbles, 'cos you can't understand the flash without the picture... Hope you don't mind that I have.) The original is even better than this little pic - click here to go to Charlie's website, where there are more amazing characters to be found. Anyway, it reminded me of how Sophie looked the first time I met her in York. Not nude, obviously... but see what I mean?


I decided that the woman in 'Puzzle Piece' was the character I was going to have a conversation with. Except it morphed and grew and wasn't ME having the convo, but a whole new character. What you're about to read may just be the seed of an idea for a new book...


'Puzzle Piece'

"Please, won't you cover yourself?" I'm trying hard not to see, but I can see everything. I am used to strangers in my father's house and have seen many things in my time, but this...

My father's latest guest leans against the table, testing the effect of her nakedness. "Why?" she asks.

" is not our custom to expose ourselves." I indicate my own, shapeless gown. Worn by every respectable young woman on my homeworld.

"I have nothing to hide."

Gods, but I wish that were true. My eyes drop to the floor. Calm, Katia. You have dealt with worse. Remember the four-armed Gradat diplomat Father brought home when you were ten? This guest isn't anywhere near as frightening as that. She's humanoid for a start. Just like you.

She's nothing like you! my brain screams. If you had her courage, her self-assurance, her beauty...your life would be so different.

When I find the courage to lift my gaze, she's watching me with eyes as green as the jewels resting on her forehead. Is she measuring me? Against what standard? A spark of anger flares briefly in my chest before it dies. Will she find me lacking? Like so many others?

Her eyes look deep into me, probing, seeking... Blink, Katia! Break the spell! Focus instead on the lines drawn across her golden skin, on the coloured fragments dotted randomly between them. My fingers twitch. Keen, it seems, to trace those myriad patterns.

"Are they...painted?" I ask.

A shake of her head, which sets the black-green feathers at her throat and in her hair fluttering.

"Inked, then?" A ripple of imagined pain runs through me at the thought of hours spent suffering at the hands of the tattooist.

Another shake. I could swear those feathers are alive.

She runs a finger along her flank. "We are created this way. At birth, our skins are empty, like yours."
Is that a statement of fact, or condemnation? I'm not sure. Before I can respond, she continues. "They develop over time, writing our destinies in their patterns. The reading of the destinies is a privilege granted to very few of my people."

"Can you? Read them, I mean?"

This time she nods and almost smiles. "I can."

I feel myself frowning and make a conscious effort to smooth out the lines. It's a habit borne from years of Father snapping 'Katia! You look like an old woman. Smile!' But I am puzzled. And suddenly, inexplicably, afraid. "Why has my father invited you here? We don't have lines for you to read."

Again that look: measuring me. "Because I can read futures without lines."

"You're going to read my father's future?" The tears that never seem to be far away nowadays stick in my throat. Does he really need an off-worlder to tell us what we already know? That he is going to die - soon - of the creeping weakness? How many more times will he need to hear it before he accepts it?

"No," this guest with the patterned skin whispers. "Katia, I have come to read yours."


  1. Loved it, and i certainly think it's the start of something, my first thought was 'what happens next?' I love the idea also, of the patterns emerging on their skin over time - my daughter thought that getting tattoos are part of growing older and told me she hoped hers would be yellow as it's her favourite colour, which this reminded me of. Do keep writing it, SXX