Wednesday 21 December 2016

Day 21: The Sabbath by Christopher Bowles

What gave you the idea for your Baubles story?

I’ve actually just finished rereading an old favourite of mine, ‘The Lollipop Shoes’ by Joanne Harris – one of the main characters is an identity thief.  When I first heard the theme, I interpreted Baubles as keepsakes, and immediately wanted to create something in a similar vein.  I toyed with the idea of a charm bracelet, with the life of each person the protagonist impersonated becoming a different trinket, but as usual, my stories tend to run away by themselves and take a decidedly darker turn; so I ended up with The Sabbath as it is now…  ...a story about death and money.

How would you describe your normal style of writing?

Whimsical.  I like to write stories and pieces that change direction quite suddenly.  I find it not only keeps the readers on their toes, but also me!  I’m also quite a dark writer; as a significant amount of my work comes out very melancholic, and I feel I’ve started playing to that strength.
I’m also very inspired by mythology, which would explain the use of the Greek Sirens in my Snowflake story, and the protagonist in this year’s entry.

Have you published other material?

I had my very first publication in last year’s Snowflakes anthology, and I’m currently working on a collection of flash fiction (tentatively) titled Spectrum.
I’m a regular performer at Salford-based poetry night Evidently,  ( who recently published their 2016 anthology, which I was delighted to be included in; They also regularly update YouTube with their open-mic sessions, so I can be seen entertaining the virtual masses there too.  I’ve also had poetry and artwork accepted into four chapbooks by the feminist collective Stirred Poetry ( - under the themes ‘Found Poetry’, ‘A Forest’, ‘Monsters’, and ‘Winter’.

When I’m not writing poetry or short stories, I’m also developing plays for my theatre company (  Our debut show MOUTH won the award for ‘Best Spoken Word’ in the Greater Manchester Fringe 2015; and our sophomore project AUTOPSY received critical acclaim.  Alongside both of these projects, I’ve been working alongside the Honour Choir ( as resident spoken word artist, having been commissioned to write monologues and performance pieces for events commemorating the first world war.

Do you have a writing routine?

Not as such, no.  I find inspiration strikes at very odd and inopportune times.  I try to carry a notebook and pen with me at all times, and use a few different smartphone apps to take notes and draft stories and poems in.  Other than that, I just try and keep myself topped up with coffee…

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

The bus.  (I’m a multi-tasker.)  Either that, or propped up in bed with as many blankets as I can wrap around me without compromising my ability to type.

Tell us something quirky about you.

I’m currently on a mission to collect, watch and rank all 55 of the Disney Classics on DVD.  I’m currently only on about 12; and my top three are (in order) The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, and Wreck-It Ralph.


An extract from The Sabbath




I held her hand for a long time.

The bedside table was sparsely decorated to give the illusion of warmth. A small vase of fake flowers, with an ornamental spray of dried grass added as an afterthought. In a misguided effort to invoke a sense of flair and interior design, a few magazines had also been artfully arranged in a fan.
But the rest of the room was tellingly bare. The wardrobe had been emptied days before, when the prognosis was delivered. Racks of bulky clothing, systematically removed by over-efficient nurses wearing kind masks and pressed aprons.

As far as hospices went, it was fairly cheery. There was a painted, smiling sun surrounded by laughing clouds on the far wall – a mural that should have been uplifting, but simply stung of ignorance.
Her breathing grew shallow, and I leaned in to brush a withered curl away from her forehead. She seemed so tiny in that big bed. A frail china doll floating in a hypoallergenic ocean. She coughed meekly, her eyes flittering open like tiny birds. But they weren’t really seeing anything. Not anymore.


She rolled over, nestled her head into the pillow and watched me through glazed eyes. Her brow furrowed, and her hand clenched mine. Fingers tracing the lines in my palm, like a gypsy child at a fair, I half-expected her to tell my fortune. To prophesy how happy I’d be if I’d only believe. That the name of my soulmate began with a ‘G’.

But instead she took a sharp breath, and crept her hands up my arm, pulling herself upright. She reached out, and wafted her delicate fingers in the air.

You’re not my Daddy… Are you?”

No. A barely perceptible shake of the head.
She nodded to herself, and moved her arm closer to me, trying to feel her way blindly. I let her touch my face. I let her grip my cheeks with both of her hands, and mould me like a lump of clay.

You have a funny face. Are you old?”

I nodded passively.

My name’s Erin… What’s yours?”

I let the question hang in the air. It billowed out in heavy rolling clouds like smog. She frowned.

Don’t you have one?… That’s just silly. Everyone needs a name. It’s how you know who you are…”
I couldn’t help but smile at her precociousness. She turned her attention to the quilt, playing with the edge of the material with a fixed expression. She was certainly a determined young lady, and clearly wiser than anyone gave her credit. Eventually she looked back up at me.

Why are you here? Nobody’s supposed to visit me. I’m sick.”

I’m here to help.

Tell me about the best day of your life.

Her eyes widened, and she broke into a beaming grin. And she began to tell me about her birthday. How her father had built her a tiny table and four stools that hurt her legs when she sat on them, but made her glow inside. Making him sit down opposite her, passing teacups between the two of them. How Patches, the one-eyed raggedy teddy bear was misbehaving and wouldn’t be allowed to have tea that day. And the moment her cake was revealed, with eight candles that she blew out in one proud puff.

It tasted of butter-cream frosting and rich, sticky, plum jam.

The extinguished candles smelled of acrid smoke and sweet wax.

Her father smelt of sweat and vanilla essence.

And as she spoke, her eyes were lit so wonderfully, so vividly. She could barely keep up with her words – they seemed to spill out of her of their own accord. I tucked her back in, and stroked her hair, pausing to remove a stray barrette – a small, silver sleeper clip.

I watched her sleep, and after the breath left her body, I held her hand for a long time.


The street was alive. It pounded like a tight-skinned drum.

The city never seemed so vibrant. Everything was like music. A parade of marching feet, spinning wheels, and the bass-line of strumming exhausts.

But I remained seated on the small metal bench. Head slightly bowed underneath my hood, perched in front of the timetable like a hunched-over crow. The only picture of stillness in an otherwise busy scene.


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