Taking place across all 33 of London’s library services from February to June 2022, City of Stories Home celebrates libraries as the place to make and share stories in our local communities.
London writers Amer Anwar, Natasha Brown, Jarred McGinnis, Caleb Azumah Nelson, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, Ruth Goldsmith, Iqbal Hussain and S. Niroshini have written stories on the theme of home to inspire Londoners to get creative and write their own story.
Dearly Loved by S. Niroshini
A graveyard is a place of dreaming.
And in between the overgrown moss and lichen of Highgate Cemetery, the dead-folk of Swain’s Lane spin dreams for the living each night. The work makes the air, here in the afterlife, sweet. It smells of lavender and freshly-made lemonade. It is love-work, the warp and weft of memories turning into dreams as light reflects from the emerald-green foliage of the cemetery forest. It is impossible to hear anything over the din of chatter and laughter as the dead-folk work. It is through dreams, the dead try and tell the living the single most important thing they need to know in life.
If only anyone listened.
It is a frosty February evening and I sit next to my headstone. I gather tufts of memory from my satchel to spin my grand-daughter dreams. She arrives to the world of the living in eight days and I hope she listens to what the dead have to say. The dreams are as soft as marshmallow and fly through the air like the whip of a ship’s sail. I have waited so long for this moment.
I remember the day I arrived at the cemetery. I don’t know how I died but the first thing I noticed was how cool and damp it was, full of ivy. The second thing I felt was love.
In loving memory.
To my beloved.
It was a place of love.
My own headstone has a simple inscription. Miss Anusha Alfonso, died 1872. It says nothing of my life. How I had travelled the world, a young woman who had been one of the greatest playwrights to arrive in London. It doesn’t of course include the smaller, intimate details; how I had many lovers, how I loved dandelions.
Only someone who truly cares about you will ever remember something like that.
The graveyard became a place where a woman like me could finally rest undisturbed. My mama used to say to me you can sleep when you’re dead and oh don’t I rest just perfectly now.
Ever notice how much sleep is like death?
Come. Help me spin dreams for my granddaughter. I need to move fast now. She has arrived early.
I’m not sure I’m ready for this moment but oh there she is asleep at the hospital on Pond Street. Healthy set of lungs on her. Hush now, hush. She is terrified of this transition to life from death. I wish she knew the great secret that the dead know, that life and death are the same. I lean down near her cot.
Everything is going to be fine, baby girl. We’re always going home, always going into the arms of those who love us.
The dreams blow through her. Her eyes flutter as images of great beauty and love soothe her cries. She curls her little brown fist and falls asleep. Her breath is as soft as the fuzz of a dandelion.
About S. Niroshini
S. Niroshini received a London Writer’s Award in the literary fiction category in 2019 and won Third Prize in the Poetry London Prize 2020. Her pamphlet ‘Darling Girl’ was released in 2021.
Get involved with City of Stories Home
Read all the short stories and get top tips on writing a short story at: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/cityofstorieshome
Sign up for a free online creative writing workshop at: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/city-of-stories-home-workshops
Enter your story to the competition with the opportunity to be published in the City of Stories Home Anthology, be part of masterclasses and read your story at a celebration event at your local library: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/city-of-stories-home-competition
City of Stories Home is run by London Libraries in partnership with Spread the Word and is supported by Arts Council England and Cockayne Grants for the Arts.
Published 12 January 2022