One Thursday per month, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from the multitalented Holly Corfield Carr.
‘Fog’ was published in Ambit #309.
A soft seam opened out. It shone painfully in the wet air. It seemed to come from the ground itself; red pools of it welled up from the long-forgotten soil. It spread slowly outwards from the brutal spatter of your foot prints, tracing your nightly pace around the garden. You had taken to walking the small perimeter of our back garden, dragging at the glowing, red pulse in your cupped hands, clapping at the cold so that a slender tower of smoke and breath would rise up and fold itself into the night. You walked where I could see you, where I could see you call your brother.
I was trying to write a resignation letter when I wrote ‘Fog’. Or perhaps it was a poem. Either way, I was trying to write something curt and slant and ticket-shaped. Something to run away with.
This gave the story its momentum and took away its destination. This was to be a story about leaving and what is left behind in the process of moving away. From what you have made. From the left hand margin. The letter became a poem became a long story became a longer story. I started to spread out and so did the writing.
And while I was writing some strange things happened.
I was walking with my mum and sister over snowy fields and we got lost in a wild fog. A complete whiteout. It was disorientating, a slowly terrifying event. The white ground and the white air and white wall we disappeared into if we walked too far ahead was suddenly everything we could see. And when I stared too long, thinking I could see a car or another lost hiker trying to find the road, I saw red. A splash of blood in the snow. The longer we looked the more colours flashed in and out of the white and it was just our eyes playing tricks on us, desperate to pick something out from the uninterrupted white. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the red in the snow and what my body had felt when it thought it had known what it had seen.
And when I got back, the only thing that felt as total and terrifying was the middle of the night, that very particular darkness and the doubt that comes with planning to run away and break everything and the story started to come together.
I started to read about artificial cloud formation, salted fish and, strangest of all, watermelon snow, a bright red algae that grows in pockets of melting snow. And so I buried a bucketful of bloated fish in the middle of the story and watched what leaked out: memories of finding a shrink-wrapped sheep’s head in the freezer section at the supermarket, a family holiday north of the Arctic circle to a town called Bleik where the sun didn’t set and unforecasted storm winds were so high our tent was torn open, and something about Patsy Cline’s voice as she sings Walkin’ After Midnight.
Not everything I researched went in, though those stray ideas might still have arrived sideways into the writing that became a story about two people leaving their rented house with a car full of shared objects and unshared memories and one botched, homemade rakfisk. There’s a line in Cline’s song “I walk for miles along the highway, well that’s just my way of saying I love you” that follows the story and the couple along the road out of town, cutting in and out of their speech. Writing like this helped me think about the substitutes we put in place of love or, perhaps, more devastatingly, our words for love.
So I kept the story and wrote the letter too. And then I ran away.
Read ‘Fog’ here.