The winning Entry
The Beechmore Team would like to thank everyone who took the time to write pieces on 'Perspective'. We have seen a huge number of applications this year and we are truly grateful to be able to see glimpses into people’s thoughts and lives.
This year’s winners really gripped us with the issues raised within their pieces and impressed us with the elegance of their delivery.
In second place we have 'What is your story' by Wendy Garnier. She gives us a perspective of an internal self reaching for actualisation.
In first place we have 'The Four Rules of Immortality' by Jay Westhead. He writes from the perspective of his patron and touches on the aspirational rules on how we are supposed to live.
We have decided to publish both writings this year and would like to congratulate our winners.
The Four Rules of Immortality
By Jay Westhead
Life was returning to normal, as it always did after a plague. For awhile people held their loved ones tight, telling themselves that nothing else mattered and promising to never again neglect their families and friends.
It was true that those things were important. It was the first thing John had learned as an immortal. The first rule of immortality: Find people to love who love you back. They were what bound you to this world. They were your roots. It was hard to care about living if you had nobody to share your life with.
They were wrong about the other part though. It had only been a week since the plague had moved on, and as John walked he heard the tunes of raucous tavern-goers and late-night workers on the cold evening air.
This was no bad thing. In fact, this was the second rule of immortality: Life is for living. Your roots kept you grounded, but you needed your own life too. Your own skills, passions and interests. Afterall, if a tree did nothing but tend its roots it would have no time to grow.
John’s roots had been here once, when he had been Ulfberht, the blacksmith, and the saint King Edward had sat on the throne. Back then he had met a voraciously intelligent brewster. She had been kind and wise with penetrating blue eyes, and they had soon married, living together for 37 years and having a horde of children before illness took her. He had left for the continent soon after, but, as he had discovered from the locals, his line had survived his departure. His fame as a smith of great skill had left his descendants with a surname, so it hadn’t been hard to trace the remaining members of the Smith family.
John passed through the gates and out of the town, eventually stopping in front of a flower-covered mound just outside the town’s walls. Somewhere in the earth-covered pit, amongst the cremated remains of the plague’s other victims, were the charred bones of Richard and Eda Smith, buried alongside their 4 children, Richard, William, Henry and Alice. He had never met them, but they were the final echoes of his relationship with a remarkable woman.
He grabbed a handful of seeds from his pouch and scattered them over the mound. This was the third rule of immortality: Remember tradition. Celebrate births and marriages. Mourn deaths. Tradition made the world simple again, helping to process emotions in complicated times.
Eventually, he sighed and turned back towards town, wondering, as he passed through the gates, whether he had time to drink to the memory of his lost wife and family before the curfew bells rang.
‘Sir,’ came a pitiful voice, ‘do you have a coin to spare please sir?’
John stopped and looked down at the girl who had stepped out of an alley in front of him. There were always more street urchins after a plague. Children with no surviving relatives often became beggars, and whilst he gave what he could he couldn’t help them all.
Most didn’t last long. They couldn’t deal with the cold or drum up enough pity to get the coin they needed for food. But that wouldn’t be the case with this girl. She had smeared her face with dirt, and her clothes had been deliberately torn. She even held herself in a way that suggested a limp, a masterful stroke in the art of being pitiful. What he noticed besides the signs of her intelligence, however, were her penetrating blue eyes, and he couldn’t help but wonder. Afterall, much was misremembered in the confusion of a plague.
‘Where are your parents?’ he said.
‘They’re dead, sir,’ she said, tears welling in her eyes. ‘The plague took them, but God had other plans for me.’
‘I’m sorry. What were their names?’
The girl sniffed. ‘Richard and Eda, sir. And I had three brothers. Richard, Henry and the baby William.’
Relief hit him and he knelt down.
‘You’re Alice, aren’t you?’ he said.
Alice’s eyes widened, but then she frowned, inspecting him properly for the first time.
‘You don’t know me,’ he said. ‘I’m a distant relation. I came here to see if your family had survived the plague. I’m happy to see you alive Alice.’
John wasn’t surprised that Alice looked uncertain. She would have had a rough time on the streets, and it would be awhile before she trusted people again. What happened next had to be her decision.
‘I’m going to give you a choice,’ he said, pulling a bag of coins from his belt. ‘If you want, you can take these coins and go. They’ll feed you and get you a warm place to sleep for the next few months.’ He held the coins out to her, and her breath caught, but she didn’t reach for them.
‘What’s the other option?’
‘The other option is for you to come and live with me and my family on the continent. We’ll look after you and teach you all you need to know to become a proper young woman. You’ll have a family and a future again.’
He saw the light of hope flicker in the back of her eyes, but she still glared at him suspiciously.
‘Why?’ she said.
‘Because family is important. You need new roots and a new life, and I don’t want to leave any member of my family on the streets. I would like to help you. Will you let me?’
She still looked warily at him, but eventually she nodded.
‘I would like that, sir,’ she said.
‘Come on then. We’ll get you a hot meal and a warm bed at the inn.’
She began to walk alongside him but kept her distance, and it was clear she didn’t fully trust him. That was fine. It was a step in the right direction, and that, afterall, was the fourth rule of immortality: Keep moving forwards.
What is Your Story
By Wendy Garnier
My mother is the first country i was born in.
her words the first voice to shape my language.
followed by my father, family, friends, partners, teachers, society—
narratives build, stories told,
expectations, aspirations, limitations to hold
of what i
i want to be like water,
a third space
between past mistakes
and future worst case,
beneath the surface
of what if, what not, and not good enough.
do your words travel far?
a ripple in the water that keeps on moving.
how do you talk to yourself?
which words spill, fill, flood your head,
when you lay at night
awake in bed.
is it a good story, and do you tell it often?
thoughts crash like waves;
a surge, an urge, a tide you ride,
endless stream of contemplation.
don’t let self-invalidation put a limitation on your imagination.
i want to put gravity in these words:
what if there is no one true, fixed story?
last summer of the decade,
i took my failures and my mistakes
and carried them to the sea.
stripped bare on the shoreline,
waves lapping at my feet:
rolling, roaring, rushing over,
until i was way into the deep.
the taste of salt on my lips;
i must have cried oceans.
gave into, fade into,
layers of silk swaying pace.
there was nothing
holding back the water
and i figured, this
should be my thinking space.
can you imagine
a shoreless ocean?
start a discussion with your deepest self.
lay down your words,
fold them open.
words play. play with words.
what is a old life story, belief, label, echo of a voice, nagging thought,
you want to let go off?
keep looking and looking
for a new perspective,
an alternative narration.
water dances, uninterruptedly,
drifting from one place to another destination.
a river doesn’t run a straight line.
re-claim, re-shape, re-define
write with great flexibility.
get your voice out, so loud!
each word an ocean of possibility.
so, tell me… what is your story?
THE WINNing ENTRY IN 2020
FROM THE TEAM: One Day at a Time is a stunningly brave and raw piece of writing. It confronts what is, for most people, the unimaginable reality of life in a prison with such humanity and grit that you can’t help but read it and feel both horror and deep empathy for everyone involved. We created this competition in the hope of finding writers who were willing to tackle difficult, sensitive subject material from their personal experience with creativity and courage, and that is exactly what Alex South has done.