A Stranger Comes to Town

BHASVIC Students hard at work!

In week 6, Bethan Roberts challenged BHASVIC students to write a piece based on the idea that ‘there are only two possible plots. One is A Stranger Comes to Town. The other is A Hero Leaves Town.’

Bethan said: ‘If you think about it, most stories are kick-started by someone facing something new, something that changes their world. In My Policeman, it’s the arrival of Patrick at Tom and Marion’s house (which you could describe as a stranger coming to town).’

The challenge for students was to use all their senses to create an environment and then imagine who was in that setting, what they were doing and what would happen if another character was introduced.

Here are two fantastic pieces of work which each create a distinct atmosphere, setting and characters with a healthy dose of tension and suspense!

This piece is by TH:

At the top of the hill the castle squatted, a monstrous stone toad silhouetted against the moon. Beneath it the moat lurked, inky and silent, waiting to swallow up anyone who dared approach the fortress uninvited.

A rustle sounded in the thicket of reeds and a screech cut through the night’s heavy silence as a crow spiralled up from the bushes, feathers glinting like an array of dark knives in the moonlight.

A sumptuous crimson cloth stretched from end to end of the long narrow table. A cough from the shadowy seat at its head immediately commanded the focus of the room’s assembly, thirty backs straightened and thirty minds snapped to attention.

A pale withered finger extended from the cloak of darkness at the end of the table and hovered a moment before jabbing with a sudden vicious force towards a sandy haired man sat at his right.

The movement was that of a viper striking its prey, and the man flinched, the blood draining from his face.

Bethan commented : I like the spookiness of this piece…. I’m intrigued by the ‘cloak of darkness’ from which the finger emerges…is this a person? Or a spirit or spectral presence of some sort?

And here’s a piece from TW

This city reeks like a goddamn oil spill. It spreads across the sky — black, sticky, tar-like, clouded by light pollution and smog — oozes thick down brick buildings and rickety stairwells, runs like long, slow fingers down greasy window-panes. It wells in the drains. Cuts through the grime. The city ascends, shadows itself, lit sick yellow-green by aching street-lamps; high-rises cut upwards like ugly grey teeth through a concrete gum. Nights here are humid, muggy, the heat pooling low and damp, cooking the streets in their filth. Reluctant days squeeze open and shut. And always, always, the rain: heavy, constant, relentless, the city locked in a perpetual state of wet rot. It sinks alleys in mud. Makes the black streets shine, like oil. Oil. 

Officer Huxley grimaces as I drop into a crouch, my long coat spilling across the cobbled sidewalk. The body is starkly white. Fresh, though — if the hot wet blood inching its way under the sole of my boot is any indicator. 

‘I’m here, I’m here— Hell, 52nd was gridlocked—‘ I jerk my head upwards and sigh through my teeth as Officer Sullivan emerges from the street, turns down the alley with an almost flourish. In typical Sullivan fashion, he is late — and, in typical Sullivan fashion, judging by the coffee cup in his right hand, he is lying. 

‘No witnesses. No leads,’ Huxley lists off, eyeing Sullivan with some kind of aversion. Huxley is aged, experienced, ever-professional, his mouth pulled down into a permanent thin grim line. Sullivan is, in the words of his own wife, an acquired taste. He’s proud. Lives every day like a goddamn movie. 

His gaze settles on the body, like he’s only just noticed it, and he recoils violently. ‘Christ!’

‘Yeah. A mob killing, you reckon, Warren?’ Huxley turns to me. 

 ‘That nice jacket must’ve cost a pretty penny.’ I stand up, running my hands down my coat. ‘Could be. There was ID in his wallet, but I don’t recognise the name from any database. It’s Angelo—‘

‘Angelo Ricci,’ chimes Sullivan, bug-eyed. He swallows, hard.

‘Yeah.’ I frown. ‘How the hell’d you know that, Sulley?’ 

Sullivan seems genuinely aghast, the colour drained from his face behind his young hands. In the light of the alley, he looks green. Sickly. ‘Christ,’ he chokes out again.

Bethan commented: This is hugely impressive work. Full of atmosphere, rich in detail, an intriguing narrative, and so stylish, too. The bit I really loved was the detail about Sullivan’s coffee making him a liar!

What amazing writing which certainly rose to the challenge set by Bethan and had us eagerly waiting to see what happens next!

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