Title: William Ottoway’s Utopia
Author: Christopher Griffith
Genre: Short Stories
‘Come, Manou, this is superstitious clap.’ So William Ottoway dismisses the fears of his island’s priest, for the maturity of modern society has utterly and surely extinguished any sense, or indeed notion, of the supernatural…
‘I can’t believe how happy I am all of a sudden.’ Rick feels euphoric, a joy as unnatural in its intensity as the terrible dejection bipolar sufferers endure on flip side of this chronic and cruel disorder.
‘But I hate parties, Carol, you know that.’ Emily is not in the mood for socialising, nor has she ever felt like celebrating under her store manager’s employ. Plus, how can you have a party when someone keeps stealing all the champagne?!
‘I was immortal and omnipotent. Nothing could harm me. Nothing.’ Saman couldn’t be more wrong. Look, there’s the god of war Thrackan about to hurl a stone into his forehead. Who will have the last laugh though?
‘But of free will. Don’t we own choice?’ This paradox really bothers Will Shakespeare and he’s not about to resolve it either, if only for the keen distraction on other topic made by Sir Walter Raleigh and one Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe.
William Ottoway’s Utopia – Chapter 1
Stunning blue-green admixture belying division inherent in ruling species its territories.
The image lessens in size.
We are drawing back, out that the picture which moments before seemed real now shown to be fraudulent, framed by parameters of a vast television set.
This is High Screen.
Its authority absolute.
Its influence profound.
Its demands incessant.
Before it, clearing, habitation occupied by smaller television screens.
No, a hundred.
Each running subject material obscene, perversion violating taboos honoured by generations previous.
And there, look there, people (Utopians).
In positions of worship.
Under obeisance to all didactic that flows from the screens.
And still we draw further back from habitation.
To beach and then sea.
That it stretches like azure carpet, unruffled by turbulence of tide, blue sky bending back to horizon where a mass of islands studs the water, forming giant archipelago.
Small ship upon the sea, to which we now draw.
Narrowing, focusing upon its captain tending rigging at bow.
Sudden scream from below decks brings him there.
He bursts into a cabin.
Andrew, his voyager, writhes around, fighting the air above him.
Captain pinions his arms.
‘Wake up! Wake up!’
Andrew’s eyes shoot open, his stare vehement.
‘He is coming. His brother is here.’
Crewmen fill the doorway behind, crossing themselves vigorously.
‘Get out!’ yells the Captain. ‘You must leave my vessel.’
‘Have we far to go?’
Cry sounds from above decks.
Climbs to the bow.
‘What is it? What’s wrong?’
Captain takes binoculars from crewman and puts them to his eyes.
Andrew strains, but can see, a figure swimming off to starboard.
‘He’s in no distress.’
‘But for the sharks. Intercept him.’
Shout from the stern now.
Crewmen haul a body up and over the side there.
The man is shark-bitten but alive.
Taken below for attendance.
Studies the injured.
Gaunt and bedraggled.
Piercing blue eyes on a sudden boring into Andrew’s very soul.
The man grips him with bony hand.
‘Thank you. Thank you for coming.’
‘Who is he, swimming out to sea?’
Low moan escapes him.
Captain bursts in, pulls open the curtain covering the cabin’s porthole.
Blue-white waves spill onto glittering beaches, canopy of emerald leaves spread over trees running round edge of endless sand.
Ship’s anchor is weighed.
Small rowing boat lowered for Andrew.
‘You have one hour. We set sail then.’
Andrew rows, heckles rising on his neck as he nears land.
Runs boat aground.
Enters first break in trees.
Rough track leading away into the forest.
Sun’s rays slant gracefully.
Natural peace broken only by melodious chirrup of birds.
Object lying half-hidden in the grass.
Andrew uncovers an antique television.
Buttons marked one to eight running down its side.
He notices footprints.
Signs of order.
A larger clearing.
Television screens littering its landscape.
All showing identical motion picture.
Point of light explodes.
At prominence, High Screen shows still.
Man’s gradual rise from ape heritage.
Utopians are kneeling before it in homage.
Arms aloft in worship.
One notices Andrew.
Rage contorts her features.
‘The blasphemer! The blasphemer is come!’
Clearing irrupts into life.
They give chase.
Andrew races back through the jungle.
Emerges on beach.
Rows frantically out to sea.
Utopians flood into the water after him.
Desperately claw at the sides of his vessel.
He clatters the oars against them.
Somehow, he is free.
Chase, though, is given still.
Andrew yells at the Captain.
He is hauled up the side.
Utopians clamber thereon.
Repelled by crew.
Boat moves away.
Scream from below decks.
‘You tend him.’
Andrew rushes to the cabin.
The rescued is apoplectic.
‘Manou! You can’t leave him. They’ll tear him to pieces.’
Captain appears in doorway.
‘I’m sure they already have.’
The fellow beckons Andrew towards him.
Bids turn him over.
Great whip marks streak his back.
Terrible, deep red gashes lacerate the skin.
‘How do you come by them?
‘He who you see in your sleep. I had to reveal my mind.’
‘Subliminal messaging helps us care for one another. It is meant to unify.’
‘Why me, though?’
‘You sought community. My Utopia.’
‘Tell me of it.’
Boat steams on.
Circumnavigating, not leaving the island behind.
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I’d always done well in English at school, and without the first clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life I decided to play to this strength of mine and applied to study English at university!
In addition, I had always found English Language something of a bind (too dry and analytical for me, I concluded sagely…) so the course I settled on was straight English Literature; of course, the professional study of poetry and prose proved also to be dry and analytical so that one day early in my second year I found myself in the university library writing the opening paragraph of what would become my first novel - Saman’s Revenge.
Strangely, this new urge to create instead of critically analysing texts coincided with a descent into mental ill health, serious enough condition that I was forced to convalesce at home where I found time enough to finish writing Saman’s Revenge; and from that point on, the creative well within me simply would not stop springing and spurting forth new characters with new stories to tell.
Over the next couple of years I wrote three more full-length novels, Rick With A View, William Ottoway’s Utopia and then what at the time I concluded was my masterpiece. This last, however, completely emptied my reserves of energy, its effort draining that very well I had naively thought would always flow freely, leaving me at completion to cling on to the one element I had always found easy to produce in my composition – dialogue.
I had started writing poetry at the same time as prose, much of it acting as therapy to help heal my illness, so I took this medicine of mine and alongside it began to write stage plays, surmising naively that this would be a more comfortable task, an easy job to ascend the mountain top of none other than one William Shakespeare! But I would have to read too, I realised, the oxygen of books and more formidable tomes allowing me to gain wisdom and intellect enough to reach that very same peak.
Under such delusion, I returned to university – surely it was no coincidence that a glut of talented writers I had been reading about had all taken the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, and if that course was necessary possession to reach the heights my hero had then I would have to apply for and hopefully gain place upon it, even if I lived a hundred miles away and would still have to work my day job to make ends meet?!
Somehow, I managed it. I didn’t score highly on my units but I passed, just as I had been disappointed not to rate better in my undergraduate effort, but I had now been to two strong universities (the other one Bristol), I was still reading widely, I had written four novels, and the poetry I produced continued to regularly burst over the banks of my subconscious. Now was the time, I knew, that I would make my name as the next famous playwright; so I gave up writing plays and returned to scripting novels!
And here’s the thing – without the illogicality of that decision, there would be no Break Out The Bubbly!! or Young Shakespeare in this collection, for it was these two full-length novels I proceeded to compose before making decision to convert them, along with the first three novels I had written, into short stories. And the rest, as they say, is present. I had done with the novel that had almost had done with me, taking the remaining five which due to my erratic wanderings in writing were now mix of prose, poetry and play, shaping and editing them into the collection I present to you here.
I hope this information goes some way towards explaining the rather unique writing style you will find in the stories, ranging from short, bare sentences to more substantial prose paragraphs; it may take some getting used to as you read through, but I can assure you that there is method behind it and I have thought deeply not just about every story included here but about every sentence, phrase and indeed word within their worlds. My training at Bristol and UEA taught me to pay attention so whilst the length of time I have been writing, some twenty years, instructed me likewise but from different angle, most acutely through the words of those characters who speak to each other, and you, in these pages!
Christopher's author website can be found at:
And his blog is over at:
This latter contains much musing on his own poetry, a sort of bizarre, critical self-examination! Do please contact him should you wish to discuss any aspect of this writing of his which he inspects there.
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