Ice-cubes rattle, teeth chatter;
Pain cannot be pushed past.
Heart hurts more than any aches.
The empty seat a mocking reminder.
This pilgrimage proved pointless.
Dogged by darkness for the full 874 miles,
Dust and dirt hide nothing.
Numbness swells, oblivion closing in.
Decision made, your happiness for mine.
When I helped you take that last sip,
And slip from this world.
Frustration set in pretty quickly with this postcode stimuli. The reoccurring memory of John O’ Groats – having never been there – was of an irritating Facebook fundraising campaign instigated by an old school acquaintance.
While I enjoy cycling (the suggested theme of the campaign) and commute this way, the whole concept of a cycling holiday revolving around John O’ Groats revived this school trip/university challenge idea. I decided to focus on the physical aspects of cycling instead, the inner feeling: endorphins, aches and pains, the bittersweet experience. That I could relate to.
This is where the first draft really helped. I had an incline of a story that got trapped in the physicality of cycling. There were hints of deeper layers, but they did not shine through enough. It reeked of confusion and indecision.
A few queries from my editor, and a sunny camping trip, helped me to re-assess the piece and cut a lot of the pointless physical description. Instead, it crystallised these to introduce the narrator, and focus on his mindset. Finally I managed the balance between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ the story – Although 62 words didn’t feel enough for this one; perhaps I’m sensing the stirrings of a short story…