Maansi Kalyan is a soon-to-be second year English student, a serial tweeter and book addict – and creative-writing is one of her favourite hobbies. Maansi also runs an anonymous blog in her spare time (you’ll never know…). You can read her online blog, www.wanderlustfulness.blogspot.com or find her on Twitter, @sam3di_
Hey Maansi! When did you first develop an interest in creative writing?
I think I was around 5 when I developed an interest in creative-writing. I’ve been reading novels since I was tiny, and in primary school was really encouraged by teachers to expand my vocabulary and think outside the box. As I started progressing from book to book, the thought that I could maybe mimic these stories and create something of my own became stronger. It started off as quite academic – writing stories for SATs papers and homework – and then became something I’d do when mum turned the television off and when I needed entertaining during car journeys.
Who are your go-to writers for inspiration?
I don’t really have any go-to writers! I think I take a bit of every writer’s style from every book I’ve come across – I’ll start writing and then use a word or comparison I may have seen in the past that I really had liked. If I had to choose though, I guess I’d say that J. K. Rowling is one that has a prominent presence in my mind always. J. R. R. Tolkien too – his books on Middle Earth are inspirational, so far from reality and yet so close to it at the same time!
How do you generate an idea for a story?
I tend to get a few ideas from things that really have an impact on me – it could be a news story, for example, or a Tumblr post or, even a conversation I have with a friend. Anything that makes me think ‘what if’ is a stimulus! To be honest, though, I can’t really pinpoint a solid thing that always gets me writing. I am indeed one of those people who just randomly materialises a plot out of nowhere, or wakes up at 3am with a brilliant idea.
“46 years, 38 days.”
Lara looked at the phrase tattooed on her dad’s wrist as he handed her a mug of coffee – the deep black of the figures emblazoned on his right arm standing out against his pale skin – and a sense of relief shrouded her trivial morning thoughts. He still had time before they came for him – a very long time, in fact.
His eyes caught her own before he quickly glanced away, as though her father had walked in on her breaking her curfew again and was pretending not to notice. In reality, he knew what she had been looking at just seconds before. He knew she had been checking his personal ‘countdown timer’, making sure that yesterday’s paperwork or an absence from work last Tuesday hadn’t reduced the number of remaining days he had left, or worse: years. The retraction of his gaze had been both to save her from embarrassment, and to protect himself from any fear. Matthew Hollings knew his daughter’s eyes all too well, and solving what they had to say about the expiry of his humanity would cause him a great deal of pain.
No. It was better not to know when it was coming, when they were coming. It was better to live in ignorance, to avoid the inevitable pain, than to live in fear of what was to come. Though it was illegal to tell anyone of their day, Lara’s reaction would speak an immeasurable amount to him. So he would look away, as he did every time she was met with the mark, and allow herself a few moments to compose herself, to put an artificial mask of indifference over her true emotion.
Lara cleared her throat and proceeded to take a swig of coffee nonchalantly to smooth the tenseness that had arisen that June morning.
“No, Lara wa-”
She spat out the liquid as it scalded her mouth, coffee spluttering all over the marble worktops as she regained her composure.
“I warned you about how hot it was!”
“Obviously not well enough,” she managed to amusingly muster in between coughs.
“Right, don’t you have a job to get to?”
“I – oh my God, is that the time already?”
She staggered up, knocking her mug to the floor in the process. She cursed under her breath as it broke into an array of minuscule pieces, the liquid within it running free onto the ebony floor.
“No it’s okay, I’ve got it, just get going,” her dad with a sigh, as she picked up her ragged bag from the chair beside her and ran to the door.
“Oh, and Lara?” he called out from the kitchen as she took a step out into the early heat of the summer sun.
“Try not to get twenty years docked off your allotted time, won’t you?”
Lara’s lips curled into a faint smile as she took one last look at him, but as she turned away they couldn’t help but frown. Her father had meant those words as a little jibe at her recklessness, but she couldn’t overlook the fear that was behind them. A controlled fear, a distant fear, but still a fear.
The place was rank with it. It was something that everyone seemed to bear in a non-discreet way, but something that was nonetheless present in every being that she passed.
The government deemed the world to be ‘democratic’, to be ‘free’ and ‘at peace’, but was anyone really free knowing that somewhere, there were people with a command over their deaths? “The population has to be controlled,” they had initially said, “it is only fair to do so by giving everyone an allotted time to live,” they had reasoned. Conscious minds were therefore given a lifespan before they were disposed of, another mind ready to assume a physical form…and then, when bodies had eventually started protesting, the points system was introduced – an addition to your lifespan if you had done something exceptional, time seized from you if you had done something unacceptable.
With a disease-free world being established and hardly any deaths, the leaders were celebrated for their initiative. Many had refused to see the reality of the situation: that the free were no longer free. That they were now living for the government rather than alongside it.
Everyone had an engraving of the time they had left on the earth, a pitch black etching present on the wrist. All could see it, but the person themselves, and it was forbidden to tell an individual the numbers that were present on them. They claimed it was to be humane, but Lara knew it was held in place so that they wouldn’t run when it came for them. After all, was this entire procedure at all ‘humane’? She had seen the neutrality her father’s face displayed, but knew of the dormant worry that he always managed to put away whenever he was around his daughter. Lara longed to tell him that he was fine, but she knew of the consequences. Her mouth was permanently muzzled by the authorities.
Mothers scared their children into eating their peas and brushing their teeth by saying they’d lose three years if they didn’t; wives screamed at their husbands, telling them to “do one, and lose a decade while you’re at it” in a fit of rage. Living had itself become the nightmare, not the death that was to follow.
Lara signalled for the bus and took a step back as it hurtled to her stop, opening its doors tattily.
She allowed the old man beside her to climb onto it first, and he nodded in appreciation as he dug into his pockets and brought out some old coins. His frail hands shook as he fumbled with the change, and he sighed in frustration as he dropped a few onto the floor. Lara helped him pick the copper circles off of the floor, handing the few back to him as the driver tutted with impatient.
“Thank you, young lady. I…”
His weary eyes enlarged as he stood facing Lara, transfixed onto her naked wrist.
He looked up at Lara with an expression of one would have plastered on during the wake of a funeral, a solemn face that seemed to aged him even more than he already was.
“What is it?”
“…what did you do?”
“I – excuse me?”
“What did you do?”
“I don’t understand, what are you trying to-”
He edged closer, so that his lips were mere millimetres from Lara’s ear. Her heart was thumping dangerously, as though it was trying to resist what she now knew would be coming imminently.