New Writers Awards 2017: Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
Elisabeth Ingram Wallace studied Creative Writing at Glasgow University, supported by a Dewar Arts Award. She has spent the last decade working around Britain as a production designer, advert art director, and prop-maker for children’s TV. She’s made dancing bricks, giant emus, a dog’s birthday cake, and whole trees out of loo rolls.
While working in the North of England, she lived near a rotting urban shopping precinct, a lot like the grim brutalist developments she knew as a kid growing up in the Midlands. The despair and strange humour of these places now inspires ‘The Precinct’, an apocalyptic short fiction series full of fragmented time-bomb tales of precinct life.
Elisabeth’s writing achievements include a Distinction in her MLitt, several flash fiction and short story prizes, and publication in anthologies. She also ran a short story prize in Glasgow. Her first story for ‘The Precinct’ was a prizewinner in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards, and she will be using the New Writers Award to complete the collection in 2017.
The baby came early, screaming
Davina clocked Harold the second he was born. She slapped his arse and shoved her wrist-watch in his mouth. He sucked the tinny heartbeat, silenced. 'I understand you,' she said. 'You just need more time.'
By six months old, he had twenty-six manual alarm clocks, four digital time-pieces, and a free-standing grandfather clock which he slept in like a crib. The days pounded. The flat pulsated. Davina slept in the bathtub like each night was a hurricane warning.
Each time Harold cried, Davina gave him a new watch, or let him touch the numbers on her iPhone. Then the wailing began again.
'What’s wrong Harold?'
But Harold just sobbed, his big hands in his mouth. The hands were from a 1919 train station clock. Czechoslovakian, solid bronze. She’d bought them off eBay.
'You’re too small a number to explain. Maybe when you’re one, or two. Then you can tell me what’s wrong.'
She played him ‘Hammer Time’. She read him ‘The Hours’. At night the clocks glowed neon, and crawled round the room with their slow worming glow.
They listened to the woman on the phone-line tell them the Greenwich Mean Time, over and over, and the time was always different, except for twice a day.
That’s where Davina got the idea. To stop all the clocks, before time consumed them. 'Then you’ll be right. Not wrong. At least twice a day.'
Davina killed the iPhone in the washing machine, on Cottons, ninety degrees. She unplugged alarm clocks, removed batteries from watches, pulled pendulums from carriages.
From the grandfather’s belly, Harold kicked, howled and emptied. Davina had morning sickness, all over again.
"I am astonished. Thank you."