We are fragments of time, and the universe. The bodies we inhabit, like trees, sand, pebbles, wind, and oceans, are passages. We walk through them until the end bell tolls for us, and we melt into susurrations and echoes, and tears, its salt our souls.
We once lived here, you and I, in this rectangular box placed deep in the valley. These surrounding hills grew on us, and it appeared as though we sank further into the ground. The stars knew our names, and the birds inserted them into the verses of their morning chants. Our footsteps are written here, in these sands. The stones may remember which are yours and mine. Does God know we owned here once with our kisses and the music we made with our thighs? Why are we suddenly strangers in a place that stood in our names? Why do pots clatter in the room we kept empty, and dogs bark in a yard that formerly brimmed with our silences? Do the newcomers smell us? Something has to hint to them the kind of people we were – your finger stamps on our room wall, the melted candle wax that caked on the staircase, the broken glass pane of the living room window. Do you think they smell our fear the morning those robbers accosted us, or our anxiety the day we saw a cut on my shin?
Did our laughter die with us, or does it ring in the indistinct sounds they hear?
#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. Frances' bittersweet story of memories, old homes and our place in the cosmos, won. Here she sheds some light on her writing journey and what she's reading at the moment.
This is the third time your story has won a #WriterPrompt. What do you attribute your flash fiction success to?
FRANCES: In 2015 when I first learned of #WriiterPrompt, I thought I knew quite a lot about writing. Two years down the line, I have worked harder than I remember, staying up late nights just to read up what every writer in my library has to say. Yet, isn't it strange that I have found out that I know so little? I write these things because they are the best expressions of how I feel at that moment, without even knowing if they would be commended. Maybe it is the wide reading (which I think every writer should be doing) that moves my flash fiction forward. Maybe it is the realization that I know nothing, the further I delve into knowledge. Maybe it is both.
Which book, if any, have you recently read that captured your heart and why?
FRANCES: A book, Damage, by Josephine Hart, a dead author. She prised apart the details of the human mind and human nature. She accessed depths of man than she was allowed to. Let me give you an excerpt from the first page.
“There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. Those who are lucky enough to find it ease like water over a stone, onto its fluid contours, and are home. Some find it in the place of their birth; others may leave a seaside town, parched, and find themselves refreshed in the desert. There are those born in rolling countryside who are really only at ease in the intense and busy loneliness of the city. For some, the search is for the imprint of another; a child or a mother, a grandfather or a brother, a lover, a husband, a wife, or a foe. We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved or unloved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without ever feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself and we slip at last into place.”
I do not know who else begins a story like this, but Josephine Hart does.
Can you tell us something about your writing world?
FRANCES: I read more than I write. The aphorism 'write always' is not for me. Some rules and a certain "right way" of being a writer do not exist in my realm. I also think rejections are great. I look out for them. I still have a lot of work to do, so the rejections are awesome reminders of that.
Frances Ogamba is a writer, poet and graduate of Foreign Languages and Literary Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Frances is bilingual (English and French) and has run a Master's degree programme in Professional Translation at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She was selected for the 2016 Writivism Mentorship.
Interview by Catherine Shepherd