It came from Maud Woolf

It came from Maud Woolf

Maud Woolf’s story “The Stranding” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 18 June 2021. Metaphorosis

I grew up in a small Scottish coastal village, much like the one in “The Stranding”. While it was a bustling tourist spot in summer, in winter the place became bleak and abandoned. The only bus to town came infrequently and my friends and I spent most of our time rambling around by the beach and in the fields nearby. Driven by boredom we went swimming in large rockpools and tried, mostly without success, to light small fires from the driftwood. Once, we crawled on our bellies through the large storm drain that ran under the town, but this experience was frightening and never repeated.

Living near the beach you see a lot of things washed up with the tide. Most of these things were already dead, but one September twenty-seven live pilot whales beached themselves on the rocky coast that ran between our village and the next. My friend and I took a bus to see them, talking so much we became breathless and bouncing in our seats in anticipation. We had never seen a live whale before, not even as distant lumps between the waves. We weren’t the only ones excited; the bus was crowded and most of us got off at the same stop. Not much happened in the countryside and this felt like an event. I won’t say too much about what we saw, only that of the twenty-seven whales stranded, only ten made it back to the water. The bus ride home was silent.

Although it affected me at the time, I filed this memory away and had almost forgotten about it completely until quite recently. During the first UK lockdown, I was living in Bristol and spent most of my time taking long, solitary walks. I remember thinking how strange it was to see nothing but empty streets but also how strangely familiar the experience was. An idea started creeping in, or, to be more accurate, an image. Two kids walking through a silent village in the snow. Setting out to find something.

Details like what it was they were hoping to find and why the streets were empty came later, but that initial image is still crystal clear in my head, even now. I couldn’t write about the whales, and I didn’t want to write about the pandemic. I wrote “The Stranding” instead and that, I think, was a pretty good alternative to both.

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