Here’s a beginning for a short story. It might even turn into a novel.

My name is Brunnhilde. Last week our family’s house was destroyed by a volcano. My father said that he would never move to Reykjavik – “city of sin” he called it, just as if it were Sodom or Gomorrha (see? I know about these places, even though I’m just a fisherman’s daughter! You think we don’t have books here in the village? I’ve read all the Sagas, plus I know all about my namesake and I can tell you I was well-named! But I’m getting ahead of myself.) Volcanoes aren’t as bad as you think. Mostly we know when they’re going to happen, so all the fishing boats are standing by: we had all our stuff packed for days. Of course you can’t take furniture and my mother wept over the pine table and dresser which had been brought over the sea from Norway and had been, so she said, in our family for generations – though I think they only came from my grandmother. She was always saying things like that.  Anyway, as soon as the first seismic shocks were felt, we all had to leave. We were bundled onto boats, quick as you like, and I nearly missed the spectacle because I had to look after Johannes who kept getting away from me. He didn’t want to leave and kept trying to jump ship. Five is too young to understand.

Have you ever seen your house destroyed? Even if you have: even if it has been bulldozed because it was too old or bombed in the war or flooded out because of global warming (see how up-to-date I am?) I bet you’ve never seen anything like this. A huge fiery rocket explodes out of the sea, like an enormous dragon, and suddenly your house is in its mouth, its roof ripped off, the walls being devoured by tongues of flame. I was so excited I forgot to be upset; I forgot it was our house I was watching – it could have been a film. (Yes, of course I know what films are! You think we don’t have TV?) It was only later, when we had been a few days at my aunt’s house in Reykjavik, that it dawned on me: our house, our street, our whole village, was gone for ever.

That’s what life is like for us. One minute you are living on the earth; the next, you are swallowed up in fire and water. We are salamanders. We are fish. We are Icelanders.

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