Pictory series – A lesson on love

Here’s how it works.

You’ll get 100 -120 words to play with – and a photo to draw your inspiration from. The deadline will be about 2 weeks away – but for that word count, you will feel like you can even be done tonight. At least that’s what you’ll think.

First glance at the picture and the ideas will already start flowing.

Then you will remember Honeyed memories – the kick ass story that kicked off the Pictory series – and suddenly all those ideas will not be good enough. Nothing will match up. You’ll try to psych yourself up.  You’ll even remind yourself that perhaps you’re actually uber-cool – that’s why they chose you, yes? FAIL!

In the days that follow, you will look at that photo more times than you look at your significant other. Half the time, it will just stare back unmoved, like it couldn’t be bothered that you need to tell its story.

Then there will be that one time when you will stare at that photo and it will light up and love you right back. And it will speak to you and inspire conflicted love stories with happy endings – and especially the happy endings because you’re a sucker for such.

And when you stare at that photo some more, it will inspire you to write something beautiful.

Here’s the thing.

When you have about a hundred words to tell a story, and have it be half as good as Honeyed Memories, then you learn to shut the voices in your head.

You learn to say only what is important, just when and where it matters most.

You cannot be boring. You cannot be wordy. You cannot use a word that the story can do without.

You learn to shut up. You learn to take back your words without feeling like you wasted your time. You learn to start afresh some more, if there’s a chance it will be better this time.

Sometimes it will feel like a lesson on love – Because, like Honeyed memories, your story will do things to people’s emotions that they cannot quite explain.


You can read the short stories I wrote below (previously published by Kimani Wandaka and by Story Zetu)

Photos by Kimani Wandaka.


 “Five times –


 Every fortnight, for about a year, my therapist and I would play chess in her cozy, dainty office. I would wonder if she knew how it felt to scrub a kind of filth that never washed away – but we hardly spoke so I didn’t ask.

One day she asked if they were five – the guys who assaulted me.

I asked her how she had known.

She said I always queened my pawns on the sixth move, never fifth.

So I asked her how long it would be before I showered and felt clean again. She said it would be a multiple of five.

Ten years later, I stopped trying to scrub. Maybe my kind of filth couldn’t wash away.


Sexy Back


His was the first moustache I liked on a man. I kept staring – wondering what made it so likeable.

I was going under the knife in about half an hour, and he was fastening the straps on my robe when he saw the scar all over my back. He asked about the civil war.

 I tried to be brief.

“They shot on sight, so we ducked and hang under the truck just in time. My baby brother lay on my chest with my back on the ground until the border. Everyone else died”

I wondered if it was ugly.

He said it was the sexiest scar he had ever seen – then fastened the anaesthesia mask before I could blush.


Dark places


 I could tell that he was dead inside the moment our eyes locked.

He was pale and cold to the touch and his lips were cracked. When he turned away, as if in shame, I saw the patterned bruises all over his neck and my heart sank.

That night, when it was just the two of us, he asked me if I knew how it felt to see darkness where others saw light. He said he was in a really dark place.

 I told him that I would be his light if he let me.

Just a short while later, I felt a certain darkness come over me.

I wonder if he took my light with him when he died.


 Pictory – flash fiction series by Ngartia and Kimani Wandaka where a short story and picture speak of and from each other.

Honeyed memories by Ngartia- one of the most profound short stories I read last year.

Photos are by Kimani Wandaka.


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