Rainy Day in Paris is the first free short story that I would like to share with you. It is far from being my best writing. In fact, it was one of the first short stories I wrote as an adult!
Even though I was majoring in Psychology for my undergraduate BSc, I was allowed to choose two elective modules. I could have picked something more academic, or further psychology modules, but my love of writing made my choice for me. And an opportunity presented itself that was too good to pass up.
Which is how I found myself sitting in a classroom at Northampton University, studying Creative Writing under the tutelage of published author and The Guardian columnist Alan Smith. His skills, experience and insights helped shape my own writing for years to come. Unfortunately for him, this meant he had to read (and grade) my early short stories, poetry and other writing assignments, as he attempted to hone my skills as a writer. And now those stories are presented here as free short stories.
In fact what seemed like relatively insignificant choices for my two elective modules ended up having quite a large impact on my life. The second elective I chose was Managing Money (a business and finance course) for which I was awarded an A, was top of my module, and won a Finance and Business Award from PQ Magazine. More importantly, it taught me how to manage money from a business perspective.
The much more fun choice though was my Creative Writing module, where I actually met one of my closest friends at University, who I ended up travelling the world quite a bit with (hi Michaela), as well as having lots of fun university parties!!
It taught me the basics of being an author, which I would then practice in my short stories every year for the rest of my life so far. And Rainy Day in Paris was one of the very first writing assignments that I handed in for that module. I hadn’t wrote a full story since I was a child, so it was also quite an emotional waking of a childhood desire to create stories, finally being realised.
It hasn’t been edited or changed since the day I handed it in. It’s a reflection of where I started as a writer, something that people don’t often see, all the countless hours of writing that goes on in the background, before you produce your polished stories.
So here it is, a free short story from many years ago, in all its unedited glory. Enjoy!!
(P.S. Think I got a B+ for it!)
It was a rainy day. The most rain Paris had seen fall in living memory. The cobbled streets were awash with the sound of falling water, the hard rain driving down with cruel intent. The cleansing had begun. The cracks in the cobbles had filled and flowed and formed as one, threatening to consume the entire road, the streets becoming rivers. A wave of people passed by, a flotilla of brightly coloured umbrellas above their heads, each commenting on the unnatural shower, unaware of the danger that their feet now splashed through. The book had said it would be this way. A secret tome foretelling of his coming. The priest had spoken little of him, the terror that took hold in the final minutes turning his words to riddled nonsense. It was then that I had swore to stop him. The priest produced a book from his robes and thrust it into my hands, his last action upon this earth. The fate of the world now lay in my palms.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The priest, Aradius, was from the Air Alliance, a secretive sect whose duty was to watch for the signs of his return. A chance meeting in London had been the beginning of our friendship. When Aradius died another high priest was to be chosen from their number and the book passed on to them. I was not one of them. The Brotherhood of Water, followers of him, had struck in the night, murdering all except Aradius himself who escaped the slaughter through old passages beneath the church. By the time he reached me his health had declined rapidly. I made him comfortable but he did not last the night. With a puzzled mind and heavy heart I sat down and began to read.
The book, Aquaridon, told of great battles past, when the world of man was at war with the people of the sea. Intricate pictures depicted the enemy, slender creatures of humanoid form with rippling scales covering their bodies, webbing uniting their fingers as one and the flaps of gills protruding from their necks. Their aquatic army was lead by Neptune, lord of the sea, a great hulk of a creature who towered over all around him, commanding respect; they worshipped him as a God.
The war had been raging for nearly a year, with great casualties on both sides, when Judaius, the cunning leader of the army of man, finally trapped Neptune and his warriors. Judaius had a small band of men retreat to the heart of the great island city of Atlantis, tricking the sea army to pursue. The men were slaughtered but their sacrifice was not in vain as Judaius had moved the rest his army to surround the creatures. With no retreat possible to their watery home the creatures were no match for the army of man who carved their way through them, trying to reach Neptune. But in the final minutes a great tragedy occurred. Neptune, seeing his army falling around him, prayed to the mystical Gods of the sea. They answered. Neptune held aloft his mighty trident and with a vow of vengeance upon his lips smashed it deep into the earth. A thunderous sound erupted on impact, halting the fighting as all turned to see gaping cracks emerge from where the trident had struck. The ground began to shake as the cracks became wider, spreading quickly, toppling buildings, swallowing all in their path. The war was over.
The creatures had been defeated but at a great cost. Many lives had been lost and the once great city of Atlantis had been turned to rubble before disappearing beneath the waves. A handful of men survived, escaping the destruction through luck alone as they were on the fringe of the battle when the trident struck. None were sure of Neptune’s fate as at the moment of impact a great cloud of dust had surrounded his form and when it cleared he was no longer there. Standing on the shore they vowed to keep watch over the sea, looking for signs of his return. The Air Alliance was born. Their story and predictions told in a tome, Aquaridon.
At first I studied the book religiously, keeping my promise to Aradius, expecting something to happen right away. But as the years passed the book went to the back of the shelf and the back of my mind, until a peculiar weather anomaly occurred in Paris. It had rained Starfish. It was the first sign. Immediately I travelled to Paris to observe this phenomenon for myself. The starfish were gone but the rain had persisted. According to the book on the eleventh night a bolt of lightning would mark the spot of Neptune’s return and on the twelfth day of rain the world of man would once again be at war with the creatures of the sea. That was today.
I could not sleep. I watched the Paris skyline from my hotel room. On the stroke of midnight a blinding flash lit up the city. He was coming. Thanking my mother’s insistence on French lessons as a child I got a taxi to the place the lightning had struck, an inconspicuous lamppost on a central Paris road. I waited in a doorway. Night passed and dawn broke. The hour of reckoning was near at hand. I clutched the weapon in my pocket; a golden shard of trident, found on the sand when Atlantis had sank.
The book had said noon. I watched the lamppost. Something was happening. A fine watery mist, barely noticeable at first, began to swirl around the lamppost. I moved closer. I could feel the spray across my face as the mist began to grow until it was over twelve feet tall and twisting in a violent fashion. Almost time. I held the shard in my hand. Was there something there? A light? Yes, there was definitely something shining, taking form. I had planned this moment in my mind since I received the book. With all the courage and strength I could muster I thrust the shard deep into the light. It hit something soft. A faint cry echoed from the lamppost, a high-pitched gargle confirming a strike. I let go. The mist whipped around me fiercely, accusingly, knocking me to the floor. Then it was gone. It was over. I sat there in disbelief. I had done it.
“Are you okay sir? That’s a nasty fall you took there,” enquired a passer by who had stopped to give me a hand up.
“Yes, I’m quite alright thank you,” I replied, a smile forming.
“You’re not from around here are you? It’s this damned weather, been like this for days you know, looks like it’s finally letting up though,” he added. I looked around. The rain had eased off to barely a drizzle. I laughed.
“Well, good day to you sir,” said the stranger and with that he was on his way. I let out a chuckle and bid him farewell. Indeed it was a good day, though I alone knew just how good a day it truly was. To everyone else it was just another rainy day in Paris.
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Aaron Mullins (@DrAaronMullins) is an award winning, internationally published psychologist and Amazon bestselling author. Aaron has over 15 years experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. He started Birdtree Books Publishing where he worked as Editor-in-Chief, partnered with World Reader Charity and taught Academic Writing at Coventry University. Aaron’s book How to Write Fiction: A Creative Writing Guide for Authors has become a staple reference book for writers and those interested in a publishing career. Find out more.