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Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company!
Weekly Short Story Contests
> Week 191 (November 29-December 5) Stories. Topic: A Second Chance
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(last edited Nov 29, 2013 01:38AM)
Nov 29, 2013 01:36AM
You have until December 5th to post a story and on December 6th and 7th we'll vote for which one we thought was best.
Please post directly into the topic and not a link. Please don't use a story previously used in this group.
Your story should be ONLY 300-3,500 words long.
REMEMBER! A short story is NOT a scene. It MUST have a BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END.
The topic this week is:
A Second Chance
*Thanks to Kyra for the suggestion*
The rules are pretty loose. You could write a story about anything that has to do with the subject. I do not care, but it must relate to the story somehow.
Nov 29, 2013 04:58AM
When They Came Knocking
Harper's mind was smothered with thoughts, bouncing here, there, combining to create one whole picture. Bursts of colour spread everywhere, patterns formed, images came to life. The scene was vivid and vibrant, colourful light glowing with pride.
Suddenly there was a loud noise, looming above the joy and placidity, the brilliance and elation. It was a pounding, growing louder and louder, clearer and clearer...bloodcurdling and hair-raising.
Darkness consumed the vibrancy, spreading over the colours, swallowing it up, dispersing fear and anxiety.
Harper jolted awake, sitting up from the covers, her hair knotted and spreading around her face, sweat dripping from her forehead, her breath sharp and shaky. Harper drew a deep breath, swallowing and lifting her head back. Her eyes stared at the ceiling. She closed her eyes for a second, and reopened them.
The pounding...was so clear, so fearful, so...there. Harper thought it over and over again, and suddenly it was truly there. She heard it with her own ears, a pounding on the from door, urgent and angry.
Harper's heart rate increased, her breathing became faster. Who could it be at this time of night? An intruder, possibly?
Slowly and cautiously, Harper clambered out of bed, slipping her feet into her warm slippers. Suddenly there was a great crash, a splintering of food and a clanking of metal. Harper froze.
A light passed through, seeping up the staircase and into her room. Then light was gone, travelling on through to the next room. Her parents' room.
Harper held her breath, slowly creeping out onto the landing. There came a thud, rushing footsteps, rustling, her mother's scream. A gunshot.
Harper gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. Tears brimmed, threatening to boil over.
"No! No, no, no! No, not Mum! Please, no!" Harper fell against the wall, sobbing, tears gushing down her face. This couldn't be happening. She was dreaming. Nothing this quick and evil could happen.
Yes it could.
There was a yell, her father's yell. "Jillian! No! You horrible men!"
More yells, rustling, grunting. One more gunshot; a gasp of agony.
"No..." Harper whispered. This was impossible. "No! Dad! Not you too! Oh Mum, oh Dad! No..."
Harper sank to the floor, burying her face into her legs, tears streaming from her cheeks and onto her nightgown.
There were more footsteps, getting closer and closer. A torchlight. A gunshot.
Nov 29, 2013 11:32AM
Guess what, guys. It's synopsis time! My story this week will be called "King of Irony" and it goes like this:
Luke Mason, Battered Bully
Chris Murdoch, Surgeon
Shelly Murdoch, Chris’s Daughter
PROMPT CONFORMITY: Luke wants a second chance at life.
SYNOPSIS: Luke has been admitted to the hospital for life-threatening injuries and Chris is in charge of his surgery. Chris doesn’t want to perform the surgery on Luke since he’s the one bullying his daughter in school. Instead of being his usual intimidating self, Luke pleads with Chris to operate on him since it’s a life or death situation.
(last edited Nov 29, 2013 12:20PM)
Nov 29, 2013 12:16PM
Shock Him To Life
Word Count: 560
His heart had stopped. The electrocardiogram on the AED had flatlined, echoing the lifelessness Kat had found upon checking for the boy's pulse.
“Press to shock,” the machine stated, “Press to shock.”
“CLEAR!” Kat bellowed as she leaned back on her haunches, jamming down the button on the Automated External Defibrillator. The teen boy's body jerked as the shock was delivered to his heart. Kat hastily felt for a pulse in his neck.
“Nothing,” she reported to her partner. Some days she hated being a paramedic. Others, she loved it. But this was not one of those days. Silently as she resumed CPR, her partner giving two rescue breaths every five seconds, Kat wondered what the boy had overdosed on to cause his heart to stop beating, and she wondered why.
“Analyzing,” the AED's mechanical voice, calm in the most chaotic situations, chimed up. “. . .press to shock.” It repeated, causing dread to fill Kat's being. Still no pulse, still no response.
After delivering the second shock, Kat somewhat hopelessly pressed two fingers against the boy's carotid artery. She expected no pulse, that she had lost him. But to her surprise, the artery pulsated beneath her fingers. “We've got a pulse!” She exclaimed, turning to the screen of the AED. An ECG of the boy's heartbeat appeared, showing that it had returned to a normal, albeit slow, rhythm.
“Let's get some drugs in him, see if we can get a response.” Her partner grabbed a syringe and filled it from a vial of medicine to raise the teen boy from his drug-induced stupor.
The syringe sank into a vein on the boy's arm and everyone in the room—the two paramedics and his mother—held their breath. Kat watched the AED spike as closely as a hawk watches a mouse. If it dropped slower, or his heart gave out, she wondered at their ability to save him.
The beeping picked up the pace and the recovery wave on the ECG shortened. Sparing a quick glance to the boy's face, Kat grinned. “He's pulling out of it!” She exclaimed jubilantly, watching as his eyes fluttered open and took in his surroundings.
Kat closed up the AED, removing the pad's from the boy's chest as her partner coaxed him up and into a sitting position. “I need you to tell me what you took, son,” he said gently.
“I didn't take anything,” the boy refused at first, his voice soft. He felt the eyes of all three people in the room boring into him. “I took a couple narcotics. . .” He muttered, ashamed.
“Was it your first time?” Kat asked, packing up the drug box and putting the used syringe into a red biohazard bag.
“Yeah,” their teenage victim replied as Kat began taking another set of vitals. “Some friend's told me to. . .”
Kat jotted down the boy's heart and respiration rate before standing. “We're gonna give you a ride to the hospital to make sure that you're okay.” She allowed her partner to help the boy stand and get a jacket on. Kat turned to the mother.
“Thank you,” the woman took Kat's hands in hers, looking up into the paramedic's eyes. “Thank you for giving him a second chance at life.”
Nov 29, 2013 02:06PM
Nice work so far! Garrison, I am looking forward to the moral dilemma your character will be working through. Should be an interesting read.
Nov 29, 2013 02:48PM
AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: King of Irony
WORD COUNT: 1,535
RATING: PG for mild language and bullying references
“Read me the summary on this one,” said Dr. Chris Murdoch, the head surgeon at Green Cross Hospital. The one to answer his question was a young blue scrubs-clad nurse with a clipboard in hand. She said, “His name is Luke Mason. He’s 16 years old and he was admitted earlier today due to neck trauma he sustained in school. There’s a fracture along the C3 and C4 vertebrae and if he doesn’t get the emergency surgery he needs, he could be paralyzed for life. There’s something else you need to know about him, Dr. Murdoch. He got these neck injuries from your daughter Shelly. Luke was bullying her to the point where she had to fight back, so she hit him in the neck with a keyboard.”
“I see,” said Chris as he stroked his thin black beard. He had the look of a venerable sage with his black horseshoe hair, thick rimmed glasses, stocky build, and of course, the white lab coat. His sagely descriptor would be put to the test as he took the clipboard from the nurse’s hands and stomped into Luke Mason’s room.
Luke was at one point a star football player in high school. One wouldn’t know that from his pathetic appearance as he lied in bed with a plastic brace around his neck and a blue hospital gown around his numb body. Chris looked at this sickly individual with disdain as he took a seat at the end of Luke’s bed.
After a while of staring down the teary-eyed bully, Chris said, “Here’s the deal, kid. I’m in charge of your surgery. The hospital is grossly understaffed, so I have to be the one who bears the burden. There’s just one problem: you’ve been bullying my daughter since she became a freshman at that sorry excuse for a high school you go to. You’ve sent her disgusting text messages, you’ve punched her in the stomach, and you call her names whenever you pass her in the hallway. So now here’s the million dollar question, Mr. Luke Mason: why in the hell should I perform life-saving surgery on the spoiled little boy who ruined my daughter’s life?”
Instead of being an intimidating brute, Luke’s eyes were watering with salty pathos. He couldn’t even look his own surgeon in his own brutal eyes to give him an answer. There was deafening silence between the two of them for a while until Luke finally mustered the power to say, “I’m sorry, Dr. Murdoch. I’m sorry!”
Chris sarcastically said, “Aw, isn’t that sweet? Aren’t you just a cute little honey child. The only question I have now is why didn’t you say those words to Shelly when she needed to hear them the most? Now all she hears in her head is the insults you hurled at her and the laughter of the students who watched you do what you did!”
Luke continued to play the role of sad sap when he said, “Please, Dr. Murdoch! I’m going to be paralyzed! Didn’t that nurse tell you that already?! You can’t do this to me, doctor!” Chris paused for a while before bursting into laughter and saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, the King of Irony has spoken! He’s actually saying that somebody can’t treat him badly when he himself does that to other people!”
Luke said, “You could lose your job over this, man! Don’t you care?!” Chris said, “And you could have lost your job as a student at the high school with all the shit you’ve pulled! But did anybody punish you for your sins? No, they didn’t! They just sat their asses on swiveling chairs and pushed pencils around all day long! If I lose my job here at Green Cross Hospital, that’s okay, because I can just get hired at a more reputable place! Hell, I might even make more money!”
“Actually, Dr. Murdoch, it’s not that easy,” said the nurse from earlier, who was now standing in the doorway with her arms folded. Chris turned back to Luke and said, “Give me a moment.” before getting up and meeting the nurse outside. He told her, “What the hell are you thinking right now?” The nurse asked him, “Isn’t that what I should be saying to you right now, Dr. Murdoch? Are you so spiteful that you’re willing to lose your license over this? It won’t be as easy as applying at another hospital. This could mean the end of your career!”
Chris said, “Did you not read that medical chart yourself and say that this Luke Mason asshole was bullying my daughter Shelly? Why should I do him any favors by saving his life? By performing surgery on him, I’m stabbing my own daughter in the back.” The nurse said, “You’re stabbing your own daughter in the back by NOT performing the surgery on Luke Mason. Besides, where are you going to work after you lose your license? The gas station? The mini-mart? Applebee’s?”
Chris could do nothing but sigh and fold his arms against his chest. The nurse put her gentle hand on his shoulder and said, “Listen, I’m not excusing anything this boy did to Shelly. Nobody is. But if you sacrifice your career just to spite this kid, then that means you won’t have anymore income to support your family. And no income means you’ll live on the streets. I don’t think that’s what Shelly wants.”
At this point in the conversation, Chris had a lot of contemplation to do as he breathed angrily through his wide nose. After a while of difficult decision making, Chris turned around and kicked the door open to Luke’s room. Luke continued to lay on the bed looking frightened and sorrowful at the same time.
The viciously angry doctor slowly walked to the edge of Luke’s bed and stared him down with furrowed eyebrows and clinched teeth. He said, “I’ll do your surgery, kid. With any luck, you’ll be able to walk again in as little as two weeks, maybe just one at best. I’m not doing this because I have any love for a sociopath like you. I’m doing it because Shelly is a good girl and she deserves better than to be homeless.”
Luke smiled through his tears and said, “Thank you, thank you so much, Dr. Murdoch!” Chris said, “Don’t get too excited, kid. I’m basically giving you a second chance at life by doing this surgery. If you fuck up this second chance, I will haunt you for the rest of your life. I will make your life a living hell. It’ll be me sending those text messages to you and punching you where it counts. You get a free pass this time, Luke. After that, there are no more chances. Do you understand?!”
Three weeks had passed since Luke Mason’s lifesaving surgery. The juggernaut of a man was back to full strength and was playing football once again with his teammates. Shelly Murdoch had also returned to school with a clean bill of health after serving a lengthy suspension for her debilitating keyboard shot. It would only be a matter of time before Luke and Shelly passed each other in the hallway. One day, they did.
Shelly held her books to her chest as she walked down the hallway toward the lunchroom. She had the look of a nervous wreck since this is usually when she had her bully encounter. Her arms were shaking and her eyes were shooting glances everywhere in anticipation for this deadly moment. And there he was wearing his crimson jersey and blue jeans, Luke Mason.
As he stood in front of her, the size difference couldn’t be any more apparent between himself and Shelly. He was this ogre-like giant and she was this tiny woman. Shelly looked into his eyes and took a big gulp as he approached her. But this time, Luke wasn’t going to rough her up like he normally did. Instead, tears welled up in the jock’s eyes once again as he dropped to his knees and lovingly hugged his former victim.
After a while of crying into Shelly’s blouse, Luke said, “I’m sorry, Shelly! I’m so sorry! I won’t do it again! Ever!” It took a while for the reality to sink in, but Shelly was a good enough person to accept his sorrowful apology. She wrapped one arm around his head and whispered to him, “I forgive you.”
Just like any encounter between Shelly and Luke, there were other students and teachers gathered around the scene. Shelly began to feel awkward at receiving their stares, but the weird feeling disappeared when the bystanders actually began clapping and cheering instead of egging Luke on. Shelly had tears in her own eyes as she was actually being praised for forgiving Luke Mason after all he had done to her. There were even other students and teachers who surrounded her and Luke for a group hug. Love and forgiveness never felt so warm.
In the midst of this special moment of kindness, Shelly found it within herself to silently say these words to her father, who was working himself dry at the Green Cross Hospital: “Thank you, daddy!”
Nov 30, 2013 07:11PM
You painted a very vivid and powerful scene. It was very good.
My only suggestion is that you vary your sentence structure. Rather than have so many lists of descriptions, maybe break them into separate sentences. I think that it would be a lot easier to digest if you drew out your introduction (the part with the nightmare) a little longer.
Nov 30, 2013 07:14PM
Good job. Very well written. You obviously know what you're talking about and I love how you incorporated it into the story. Well done.
(last edited Nov 30, 2013 07:29PM)
Nov 30, 2013 07:22PM
Such a beautiful and touching story. Very elegance and heartwarming. There were a few typos and minor errors. Some parts seemed a bit rushed (like Dr. Murdoch's thought processes) but otherwise, you did a wonderful job. I look forward to reading more of your entries in the future.
(last edited Nov 30, 2013 07:33PM)
Nov 30, 2013 07:28PM
Feedback welcome and desired!
Eric smiled nervously at the camera and waited for the flash. After, he waited in line with his mother.
This is it
, he thought.
The day I’ve waited my life for.
Today he would have true freedom. The ability to go wherever he pleased, whenever he wanted. His first real step into manhood can in the form of a little rectangle of plastic: a driver’s license.
This moment was even more important than his graduation. More important than even his doctorate degree. Eric could now go to work on his own, without his mom dropping him off every day like a toddler at preschool. His coworkers would no longer see him as a child. From this moment on, they would consider him an equal.
, he would finally be able to make a friend. All he was asking for-all he was praying for- was one. Just one.
His sixteenth birthday was an enormous milestone; his boss understood this and gave him two weeks’ vacation so he could spend the time with his family. Excluding when his mother drove him to work every morning, Eric had been working so much overtime that he hadn’t really seen either or his parents or any of his siblings in over a month.
NASA was currently working on building a new rover to send to Mars and the project had kept Eric busy for months. But now the designs had been finalized and Eric would now take a break from work. When he decided to be an aerospace engineer, Eric hadn’t known that it would be so time consuming.
Of course, he loved the work. But there were certainly days he wished that he could just be a kid. Eric had already lost much of his childhood rushing through high school and college. He’d spent so much time studying for his Ph.D. that he’d missed a lot of things normal teenagers and tweens did.
He’d like to be able to say that it was because he had been so passionate about engineering and rockets and space that he just couldn’t wait to get started. But sadly, that was only partially true. Eric had always been an awkward child. He’d never been very good at making friends. Often, children at his schools would avoid him at best, beat him up at worst. When the latter happened, he would hide in his teacher’s classroom during recess and study. He got so far ahead that he was able to skip a grade. And another. And another. And another.
With every skipped grade, Eric was given another chance at a social life, another chance to fit in. He’d been given more second chances than he deserved and none ever worked out. Though the rational part of his mind told him that it would never work, he held on to the hope that each new start would be the one that he needed. When they didn’t, he just skipped another grade, convinced that if he just kept going, he would eventually find the place that he belonged.
But now he’d run out of second chances.
There were no more grades for him to skip.
He was a friendless child-prodigy that was constantly surrounded by adults that he could never relate to. Many of them had children older than him. What was he supposed to talk about with them? Eric would always be an outcast. The only place he’d ever felt welcome was home.
But even now, he found it hard to be there. His older brother was graduating high school this year and many of his friends were often at their house, doing… whatever it was that normal kids did.
He couldn’t stand the looks they gave him. The whispers that followed him through the house.
Eric had lost the one place that had been his.
But now he had freedom. He’d already bought a new car. He would be able to go wherever he wanted. He’d be able to drive and drive until he found a place that wanted him.
Surely such a place existed.
Well, this had worked out
, Eric thought bitterly. A new car. A new license. A new
. That’s what was supposed to happen. Like in movies. He would drive around town and some pretty girl would wink at him. He would pull over and she would get in. Then they would drive off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
Eric knew how ridiculous the fantasy had been, but he couldn’t help but imagine it.
Nothing of the sort had happened.
He’d driven around town, but no one had even given him a second glance. He hadn’t even seen anyone his age wandering about.
, he thought to himself.
It’s a school day. They’re all in school.
Eventually, he just pulled into a park, got out of his convertible, and climbed the oak in the middle of the field.
Feeling pathetic and hating himself, he pulled out his only loyal companions: a sketchpad and a pen. Eric vented his ire by sketching blueprints of war planes. He’d already sold many of his designs to the U.S. military and had been paid handsomely for them.
The angry lines of the plane gave him comfort. So did the weapons that he was designing for the plane. He was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t realize someone had sat beneath his tree until she began to cry.
He caught himself before he fell out of his perch. Steadying himself, he watched her for a while. Her shoulders shook with her breathless sobs. Silent and careful, Eric made his way back onto the ground. He sat beside her and, when she did not acknowledge him for a few minutes, gingerly touched her shoulder.
“Are you alright?”
The girl jumped away and raised her arms as if expecting an attack. There were bruises along her arms and shoulders.
“Hey, I’m not going to hurt you,” Eric assured her gently. “What’s your name?”
Her almond shaped eyes peeked through her pencil straight, raven hair. They were a pale jade color, which was uncommon with Asian ethnicities. They seemed haunted, fearful. “Hyun Kim.”
“I’m Eric. Why are you crying, Hyun?”
She did not answer.
“I do not know you,” she said bluntly. Her words were monotone and flat, like someone who was not familiar with the language. “My
instructed me that I should not speak with foreign people.”
?” I asked, pronouncing the strange word
. “What is that?”
“Well, I already introduced myself. I’m Eric.”
Hyun looked uncertain.
“Why were you crying, before?”
She did not answer.
Eric tried a new tactic. “How long have you lived in America?”
Eric raised his eyebrows. Her English was impressive for such a short time. “Where did you live before?”
“Korea?” He was surprised. If he had had to guess, he would have said Vietnam, or maybe Japan. “Why did you come to America?”
It must have come out wrong, because Hyun suddenly tensed and her eyes welled with a new torrent of tears. She began to stand. “I know that your people do not want me or my kind here, but I will not leave merely because I am unwelcome. It is my right to be here, as is yours.” She turned to leave.
“Wait! I didn’t mean it that way!” Eric caught her arm. “I’m glad that you’re here,” he whispered.
Hyun began to cry a different kind of tears. “No one has welcomed me to this country since I arrived.”
“I’m very sorry for that, Hyun.” Eric hugged her hesitantly. “Maybe I can give you a welcome party to make up for it?”
“I would like that very much, Eric” she said, trying out his name. “Thank you for not hitting me like the others.”
Rage burned in his chest. He would
let anyone her again. “I’m going to protect you, Hyun. You’re going to be safe now.”
“Thank you,” she repeated, looking down at their clasped hands shyly. Eric expected her to pull away, but instead,
. He beamed back at her.
Something broken in his soul snapped back into its proper place and he felt hope for the first time in years. One of his second chances had actually paid off for once. Looking into Hyun’s rich malachite eyes, he saw that she felt the same hope that he now did.
They’d both been given another chance today.
Nov 30, 2013 08:47PM
First of all, Angie, I want to say thank you for your wonderful and honest evaluation of my work. I'll make those improvements in future works. Secondly, your own story is very touching. I can somewhat relate to this since I don't have many friends myself. It's good to know that Eric finally found a place for his broken heart. Thanks for writing that. :)
Nov 30, 2013 09:07PM
*hugs* It's nice to know that there are other lonely people too. I've always been an outcast myself. I really only have one person I truly consider a friend.
Nov 30, 2013 09:08PM
That is such a sweet story, Angie- loved it :)
, Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei"
Dec 01, 2013 10:04AM
I have a feeling I will be reading some great stories soon... :D
plus I hope I will get on the ball and write some in the near future.
Dec 01, 2013 12:44PM
Happy writing, CJ!
Dec 01, 2013 03:46PM
This topic is awesome!! Thanks for using my suggestion. Now I'm definitely obligated to participate this week– hopefully I'll be able to match the competition here.
A few notes on the entries so far:
GAB, your story is awesome. Lots of action in a small amount of space. It seemed a little bit confusing, but the writing was plenty engaging. My only recommendation is to try moving the story a little bit slower next time, and give the reader time to process what you are telling them.
Jun, your story was amazing!! I loved your application of knowledge to the story. It was realistic, easy to follow, and the mood was spot-on. I would have liked a little bit more background information on the boy, since I didn't feel particularly connected to him, but that's more of a personal desire than a writing problem.
Garrison, I loved your story! It was emotionally engaging, and the writing style a was perfect. I thought Chris Murdoch's character was a little
temperamental (he came across to me as borderline insane), but if that's the reaction you were looking for, then good job.
Angie, your story was
I enjoyed it so much! The writing style was flawless, the characters were interesting, and the plot made sense to me. I thought the scene where he met Hyun was a little rushed, but in a short story, you get a lot of those moments.
Great job, everyone!!
Dec 01, 2013 03:50PM
Thanks for the notes, Kyra! I always appreciate the encouragement and fair critique. :)
Dec 01, 2013 04:48PM
Thank you for the feedback Kyra!
Dec 01, 2013 05:22PM
Thanks for the comments guys!
Garrison, I really liked your story. Lots of good medical details to make it realistic. Nice work!
Dec 01, 2013 06:03PM
No problem! XD Your guys' stories are fantastic! Keep up the great work!!
Dec 01, 2013 07:57PM
Thanks, Jun! :)
Dec 02, 2013 03:44AM
Suddenly I saw her, standing their, motionless, staring at me, willing me to come to closer.
Blood trickled from black, open wounds, from her mouth, from her nose, from her fingers. Her skin was white, covered in purple bruises, dirty and bloodied. A white, lace dress hung limp on her body, bloodstained, muddy and damp. Black, wet, knotted hair fell over her face and down her back, partly hiding her fully black, shining eyes and purple mouth. Her nails had grown impossibly long, as sharp as knives at the end.
Suddenly she lifted her hands, her nails pointing straight at my chest, at my heart. She opened her mouth slowly, revealing penetrative teeth, sharp enough to impale a human head.
"No going home, no going back," she chanted, her voice deep and raspy. "No going home, no going back. No going home, no going back. Your nightmare is real, your eyes at working. I am walking, I am crawling. I will seize you, I will kill you. No going home, no going back."
I was entranced, unaware of her sly movements. Suddenly she was upon me, her nails digging into my skin, her teeth sinking into my flesh. I screamed, blood gushing from my wounds. She shook me, she strangled me, she stabbed me. She wouldn't let go.
I writhed in agony, willing have liberty from her grasp, from her attack. She hung on like mould on tiles, unable to be shaken off.
Again and again she jabbed my skin, bit my flesh. I screamed, I screamed, I screamed. No going home, no going back. No going home, no going back...
I flung upwards from the covers, sweat pouring down my face, my pillow damp, the room dark. I gasped for air, panting and closing my eyes, holding my head back. It was over, it was over.
I opened my eyes, and noticed a piece of dirty paper floating from the ceiling. A few words were scrabbled onto the paper, nearly impossible to read.
I strained my eyes in the darkness, and read the words out loud.
"No going home, no going back." My eyes widened, and I looked up.
Her. It was her. Blocking the doorway, her eyes narrowed, her teeth presented.
"No going home, no going back..."
(last edited Dec 02, 2013 04:50PM)
Dec 02, 2013 04:49PM
The Gray Gardens Experiment
By Felix J. Nickolas
It once stood as a marker of accomplishment in a small town that once felt pride. Now the red brick building of the Gray Gardens Institute of Alternative Learning sat decrepit among the thistle weeds that slowly enveloped it; the property owner, Cathryn Glasswell, having discontinued any type of maintenance several months before.
Cathryn now stood at the edge of the grounds by an iron gate that at one time opened and closed automatically. She waited for the arrival of a Mr. Lukas Ricci who had expressed interest in a newspaper advertisement Cathryn posted about the selling of Gray Gardens. Cathryn dropped the cigarette butt from between her boney fingers and stamped it out with the crushingly pointed toe of her high heel. Crumpling the empty paper cigarette case in to a frayed leather purse filled with old receipts, forgotten tubes of mascara, and an apple core the was nearly mulch, Cathryn Glasswell moved to push open the iron gates to allow entrance to Lukas Ricci’s car. The man and the car sat idling and watching on the other side. She struggled for a moment or two as the vines held tight to the gate as though they didn’t wish to allow any visitors, but the grip was soon broken, and the terrible sound of iron against rusty iron ground the air and the gate was pushed open.
They greeted each other with stiff courtesy, and walked in silence up steps covered in dead needles of thorny weeds, that led to the front entrance.
“It’s a most impressive place considering the asking price Mrs. Glasswell.” Lukas Ricci said as he admired the beauty of the red brick building’s grand hall, muted by dust. “I understand that this was once an institute of some kind?”
Cathryn was annoyed with the question. What did it matter if had been an institute or not? “Yes, it was.” She lowered her voice to a mumble: “but now it’s just an old building I want to wash my hands of.” Cathryn lost her ability to see the beauty in the grand hall. To her, the dust didn’t hide what had once been admirable, but magnified what had always been deviant.
“Fascinating.” Lukas Ricci wiped the dust off the glass of a trophy case, but found the case empty. “What kind of institute?”
“An institute of learning.” Cathryn said, attempting to make her dislike of the subject obvious. The thought of recovering a cigarette from her purse came to the forefront of her mind, but she quickly remembered, the case was empty.
Her disinterest was not lost on Lukas, but his curiosity forced a final, cautious question. “Do you mind if I asked why the institute closed down?”
Cathryn indulged in a heavy sigh. Her annoyance seemed to give way to old thoughts. “It is a complicated story Mr. Ricci. I hope you understand that I don’t much like talking about the past. Especially a past like this one.” Cathryn said the last sentence quietly to herself, but Lukas Ricci heard it clear enough. He carefully observed the woman as she drifted through her secret memories, like dandelion thistles blown about by the wind. He imagined she had once been very beautiful.
Lukas Ricci was in town on other business apart from his interest in Grey Gardens, and was staying in a small hotel with cozy rooms and outdated wallpaper that boasted the same floral printing as the pillow cases on the narrow beds. The hotel was just across the way from the old institute and as (Lukas believed in neither fate nor luck) would have it, his room’s one window had an excellent view of the weed encrusted grounds. He stood looking out that window, contemplating. He wondered why information about the history of Gray Gardens had been so difficult to obtain. He found no newspaper articles that held any worthwhile information, nor had anyone in town been willing to discuss Gray Gardens in depth. In a final attempt to satiate his curiosity, he asked the hotel manager about it; and in an answer that threw dead wood on the fire of his curiosity, the hotel manager responded: “I’d rather not remember the Gray Garden’s experiment.”
Lukas pondered the word. Like trees casting shadows in the night, he began to conjure up a whole series of unclear images. He tried to make the images tangible in his mind, but when the imagination is denied the necessary pieces to see reality, it must resort to distortions.
His imagination was soon distracted by a second sun set. He saw a strange glow, magnified by the twilight of a vanishing sun, from behind the red brick building; a glow that gave a haunting life to the shadow of the building and its towering thistle weeds. Unable to contain his curiosity, Lukas Ricci put a coat over his pajamas and left his hotel room in search of the source of the glow.
He walked round the side of the building, toward the source of the glow, and began to feel a heat. As he came closer to the final corner that stood between him and the light, the heat grew stronger; he knew what he would find.
On the other side of the red brick building were stacks of boxes filled with files from many years ago and unfamiliar textbooks that spilled onto the ground; but it was the fire Lukas Ricci noticed first. There in a dirt clearing behind the institute was a great and consuming fire, fed by a hunched and dirty man who had all the charm and warmth of vast field of poison ivy. Lukas watched in confusion as the man carelessly tossed box after box into the chaotic dance of the flames.
“Mr. Ricci, I didn’t expect you were coming back this evening.” Cathryn came up from behind him, carrying yet another box of files and textbooks. Her stare was sharp and unwelcoming.
“What's going on here?” Lukas asked with an unsteady voice.
Cathryn set the box among the others like it. “I’m cleaning the place out. I was going to call you first thing tomorrow morning, but I’ve found another buyer.”
“Someone else has bought Gray Gardens?”
“You didn’t think you were the only one who responded to my ad, did you Mr. Ricci?”
His imagination drew him back to the flames. “Why are you burning all of these books and papers? Shouldn’t you be saving it all?”
She was startled by the question. “Why should I do that?”
Lukas thought a moment. “I don’t know. Isn’t it important?”
Cathryn Glasswell looked at Lukas Ricci for a moment in silence. Sympathies rose up from within her. She could see the man meant no harm, but was only curious for discovery; like she had once been. “I’ll be frank with you Mr. Ricci: The institute was a project of mine, a very experimental project, but something that I believed in. I had hoped that the success of that project would, not only help me realize my own vision and dreams, but also be eternally beneficial to this town. Academically, economically, simply beneficial in every way. Unfortunately Gray Gardens was a failure. I often fear that I have caused irreparable damage to this town.” Her gaze was caught, and consumed by the dance of the fire. “These textbooks, all this paperwork, they’re only a reminder of that failure; souvenirs from a past no one wishes to remember.”
“But what happened here Mrs. Glasswell?” Lukas was surprised at the sense of urgency in his voice.
She broke her gaze from the cleansing fire, and looked at him with a sense of completion and renewal. “I can’t imagine why that matters now.”
The next morning, Lukas decided to pay Gray Gardens one last visit. He looked with curiosity at the building with faded red bricks, wondering: what had it once been? A light breeze moved over the institute, stirring the dead needles, crumpling them into dust. He noticed an unusually large thistle weed peering from around the corner of the building. It seemed to sway with disapproval at his presence. He decided it was time to go.
Close to year after his encounter with Cathryn Glasswell and her property, Lukas Ricci came across a newspaper article about the mysterious place. After a great deal of renovation, the Gray Gardens Institute of Alternative Learning was open for enrollment. The name struck Lukas as very odd, and upon further reading discovered that the woman who bought the property was the founder of a new, very experimental type of ... of what? Education? The article wasn’t entirely clear. Gray Gardens was to be the first of what would hopefully be many schools like it. Lukas examined the picture of the new owner. She was a woman of exquisite beauty, who carried a fine leather purse, and wore shiny high heels that seemed to pinch rather harshly at the toe. She was no one he knew, but she conjured up a fractured remembrance. “Strange.” Lukas Ricci thought to himself. “I’d all but forgotten about Gray Gardens.”
(last edited Dec 02, 2013 05:04PM)
Dec 02, 2013 05:01PM
Great work. You've improved bunches this week. But as before, you might want to change up your sentence structure. You seem to favor lots of long sentences with lists of description. In and of themselves, they're well written, but after so many in a row, it makes your writing seem much longer than it is.
Her. It was her.
Blocking the doorway, her eyes narrowed, her teeth presented.
This line was very good. It stuck out to me a lot because of those two short sentences. If you did this a little more often in your writing, it would make it a lot stronger and would help you build the suspense that would complement your story line.
You have some very captivating ideas but your structure detracts from it somewhat. A way to keep yourself from doing that is by adding action sentences/phrases in between description.
Your imagery is wonderful, but the way you present it makes it feel a bit like sensory overload. A rule my English teacher often used was the
: Three things in a list adds rhythm without being so long as to be monotonous.
Dec 02, 2013 05:16PM
That was wonderful. Your piece was well written and elegant.
I have only two comments. You repeat a few words in close succession. It wasn't a big issue; very minor and only slightly noticeable. An easy fix.
Also, the transition from Mr. Ricci's conversation with Cathryn was very abrupt. I wasn't able to follow it and it confused me; I had to go back and reread to understand what had happened.
But otherwise, it was incredibly eloquent. Your use of imagery is impressive and strong. Your tone was so consistent and well executed that as I imagined it in my head, the forlorn old building seemed to be cast in gray, almost like an old movie.
Dec 03, 2013 01:20AM
Thx a lot (this isn't sarcastic) for the advice. I will surely take it into consideration and remember it. It has helped a lot. Thank you :)
(last edited Dec 03, 2013 12:05PM)
Dec 03, 2013 08:22AM
Title: Road to Redemption
Word count: 1,792
Synopsis: A police task force pursues a clever and sadistic serial killer.This is my first submission to this site and is the beginning story to a string of other stories involving these characters.
That was all Alistair could think of. He wasn’t thinking back to the fact that he had killed over fifty people over the last three years. That didn’t matter anymore. He wasn’t thinking into the future because that depended very highly on how fast he could keep moving and at which point his exhausted and emaciated body gave out on him. His mind was more inwardly focused as he sprinted as best he could through the dark forest.
I did it. Win or lose, I did it. I’m the Hennisfield Butcher.
The sound of shouting and dogs barking brought him out of his thoughts. No, he couldn’t give up and be taken alive. Even creeping around the worst parts of the city by day and finding a place to sleep at night where he was least likely to be found by police or a fellow criminal was better than spending the rest of his life in a cell on death row and being publicly outed as the Butcher. Or was it? A slight wave of dizziness almost knocked him off balance as he darted around a tree. He should have really planned out the food thing better before for going on the run. He couldn’t readily recall the last whole meal he’d had.
His foot hooked a tree root and sent him sprawling. For a second he was aware only of the pain lancing up his right arm as he landed almost solely on it. For several seconds he lay stunned, unthinking. Instinctively he took all weight off his arm by rolling onto his back and clutched it to his chest. Then the effect of the shock and pain wore off, and he opened his eyes with every intention of getting back up. “Dammit.” Was his only reaction.
Three police officers were looking down at him silently. A self-conscious though had never crossed his mind during what he had called their ‘game’. But now he was suddenly aware of his ragged filthy clothing and stringy, unwashed hair. He was freshly covered in mud from falling and had various scrapes and scratches from falling, running and climbing. He hadn’t attempted any form of bathing in some time.
He opened his mouth to give one last scathing insult and was surprised when all that came out was a dry, barking cough. His head swam. Alistair was vaguely aware of someone speaking and the feeling of being lifted, then nothing.
Forty-eight hours later Alistair was standing in a white, clean cell watching one of the officers from the special bureau that had been sent to catch him walk away with the keys. He had been checked out by a doctor and aside from being beaten up a little and starving, he was fine. The bumps and bruises were treated with bandages and antiseptic; the starvation was remedied with nutritious if not awesome hospital food. He’d even had a shower. Now he was clear to be just another guy charged with serial killing. He looked up and around the cell. He knew that there had to be cameras watching his every move from the high ceiling. But the weight of the two year chase and everything he’d endured and now his capture and likely death sentence was too much. Alistair Maddow, the terrifying Hennisfield Butcher, a sadistic psychopath, lay down on the small padded bed of the cell and started crying.
“Could anyone please explain why the monster we just caught is sobbing all over his pillow?” Vincent Gills asked. He was the head of the Hennisfield Butcher case and had feelings of hatred mixed with disgust for Alistair. Currently he was in the main viewing room for the cells with two of his officers from the Bureau that had been appointed to solve the case. Simon Brinkley shrugged. “Exhaustion. Fear for himself. Shame over getting caught.” He specialized in psychological matters and spent the better part of the past three years trying figure out the killer. It seemed strange to be looking at him at last. Anna Glenn, his colleague, nodded. “And not a scrap of guilt for what he’s done.” Gills considered them for a moment before walking away. “I have a phone call to make.”
Alistair had cried himself into a deep, dreamless sleep. Since his capture he had gotten what seemed to be the best sleep of his life. Not even the very real threat of impending doom bothered his rest. It wasn’t until the noisy door to the cell opened that he was aware of anything. He woke quickly and got his bearings, sitting up as his memory flooded him with the events of the past two days. Two people stood before him. One was a man about his own age with blond, carefully cropped hair. He stared with wide eyes at Alistair and said nothing. Alistair thought maybe he was one of the ones from the forest. Bureau material, then. The other was older, meaner looking. He had no hair at all and stared at Alistair like he meant to slug him.
The mean one spoke. “My name is Vincent Gills. I’m the head of the team put on the Hennisfield Butcher case. Pleased to make your acquaintance. ” He didn’t sound pleased. He nodded to the younger one. It took the blond a moment to notice that all focus had shifted to him. He cleared his throat nervously and spoke with a false air of confidence at Alistair's level gaze. “I’m Simon Brinkley, an officer working for the bureau under Director Gills. As you know, the police forces throughout the country have noticed a steep increase in crime.” Alistair blinked, but said nothing. “So,” the officer continued. “we have worked to make the penalties for crimes such as murder much higher, reintroducing execution methods such as the electric chair.”
Alistair couldn’t figure out anything from that information and kept his mouth shut, nodding slightly. Of course he knew that. It was all over the news. “Well,” Simon shifted uncomfortably but went on. “The Bureau we work for-” “The Bureau,” Gills butted in loudly. Alistair couldn’t stop himself from jumping along with Simon. “Needs resources. People who understand monsters such as yourself. And sometimes when you need to catch a psycho, you need a psycho.” He had somehow migrated a little closer to Alistair's seat while talking. The killer moved back a little. “Okay?” He questioned. Simon raised a hand. “What Director Gills is trying to say is, the Bureau normally executes murderers, such as yourself. But when one of found to be…” He gestured vaguely. “
, sometimes arrangements are made so that that intelligence, however it was used in the past, might be of service for…good.”
“We’re offering you a choice, and life instead of death.” Gills clarified. “You can tell us to leave and we will. You’ll be charged formally as the Hennisfield Butcher and your face will be on every news network on the air. Everyone will know. Your family and friends will know. And you’re finally put to death, however it’s done, their pain will be far worse than yours.” He paused. Alistair tried to keep his face neutral, but mentioning his family had bothered him. he had always made sure that they were kept far from his deeds. His own death would be an inconvenience in comparison to hurting them.
“Or,” Gills took a deep breath. “You can cooperate. You can join us, under surveillance until we can trust you. You’ll work with us to catch your fellow criminals. The pay is more than fair, benefits include health insurance and not having to see your family in the viewing area of your execution chamber. What do you say?” It was Alistair's turn to speak. His mouth a dry and he gave speaking a couple of unsuccessful tries. The Bureau employing criminals. He wondered if perhaps it was trick, or maybe he was in the hospital in a coma and dreaming. “Are you serious?” He squeaked pitifully. “It’s this or the chair. Take your pick.”
“I-I’ll take it.” He stammered without hesitation. Gills nodded. “Good boy. We’ll get your paperwork arranged and pick you up later. Welcome to the Bureau.” “Uh, thanks.” Alistair held out his hand. Neither of them moved to shake it. He let it fall as they turned their backs and left the cell, locking it behind them.
One week after his capture, Alistair Maddow walked into the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, affectionately known by the public as the Bureau. He was escorted by three agents who had met him at the door. They headed straight to his destination with no time to or way of exploring the building. No one trusted him.
Fine by them,
I wouldn’t trust me either.
He looked down at his right leg at a small, water proof and nigh-indestructible ankle bracelet that would keep tabs on him for a while. Well, covered by his pant leg but he knew it was there.
Finally the small group exited an elevator and came into a large room with desks and computers everywhere. Some desks were occupied by people, some weren’t. They passed them all and went further through a door into a smaller room. Alistair recognized Gills and Simon. Another woman with shoulder-length reddish hair stood near them.
“Maddow.” Gills greeted him cheerlessly. “Hey.” He made himself smile. Gills gestured to Simon. “This is agent Brinkley as you know.” Alistair nodded, appreciated the fear still shown clearly on the man’s face. Gills turned to the woman. “This is agent Anna Glenn. “ She seemed less afraid. Simon would be more fun. “They both worked on your case. The four of us in this room are officially the only people who know you, Alistair Maddow, as the Hennisfield Butcher. To everyone else, you’re a new agent.” The conversation that followed was brief. The case was closed. The crimes of the Butcher had been pinned on another person who was guilty of conspiring to detonate a bomb in public. He would be executed and the Butcher would be put to rest permanently. It struck Alistair as efficient, but a little cruel. He liked it. Also, he was to start immediately. The ankle bracelet stayed for at least a month, and to Simon’s dismay he was appointed to visit Alistair from time to time.
I’m being studied.
Alistair realized. He said nothing.
Gills ended their talk with one question. “Do you understand everything?” “I do.” He answered with a simple nod. “Good.” Gills retrieved a bundle of black cloth from a table top. He opened it to reveal a badge bearing the title “Agt. Alistair Maddow”. He reached out and took it. “Welcome to the team.”
(last edited Dec 03, 2013 03:52PM)
Dec 03, 2013 03:47PM
I'm new to the short stories......The word count is 2788.. but I think it'll take two posts.. Is that okay?
Dec 03, 2013 03:50PM
300-3,500, Billie Joe. More if you're feeling saucy.
Dec 03, 2013 03:53PM
Dec 03, 2013 03:54PM
by Billie Jo Moore
Tap, tap, tap.
I look around--again--because I can't stand the sound of her foot tapping on the ground anymore. Maybe I can find something that'll catch my eye to take my mind off that stupid tapping sound emanating from her perfectly fit black ballet flats.
Tap, tap, tap.
I shoot daggers her way but she seems oblivious. The noise of the toe of her shoe hitting the ground is echoing down the hospital hallways and it's making me crazy.
Tap, tap ,tap.
I swear if I hear that shoe hit the ground
one more time--
"Would you stop that?!" I yell, frustrated. My outburst shocks her and a few medical personnel glance my way, confusion evident on their faces, "
" I snap at them and they tentatively look away. Every once in a while I get a scared look thrown my way but I ignore them and glance over at the short blonde to my right.
She stops the tapping but now it's eerily quiet, save the sound of the beeping machines in the rooms down the hall.
"Hiya." Her voice is sweet and high-pitched.
It's difficult to be mad when she has a voice like that.
I compose my feelings and glance over at her swiftly, furrowing my brows. Her hair is up in a ponytail, showing off her reflective sliver cross necklace. From the angle I'm sitting, the light coming through the window reflects off the necklace and shines in my eyes. I move a little to the right and she grabs the silver cross absentmindedly, turning it over and over in a pattern only known to her.
"Hi," I reply after a moment. I realized I was staring at her like a freak before remembering she actually said something, "Do I know you?" I stare at the petite blonde a few feet in front of me, utterly annoyed and confused. The tapping sound is still in my head, I
can't get it out
. I'm too nervous. I need to see my sister.
"No, but I bet you
to." She replies, smiling cheekily. I bark a laugh--
if you could call it that
--and turn to look down the hall again.
"What do you want?" I try sounding menacing but it sounds forced and fake.
Either way, you'd think with the way I'm talking to her she'd leave, right?
"I just wanted to say hi. Why, what's so wrong with that?" Her country accent irks my nerves but her cloudy green, emerald eyes are dazzling. When she tries to sound sweet it's not the same. I liked her voice from earlier, not this wanna-be flirtatious tone. It's annoying. When she opens her mouth to speak again I narrow my eyes. Either she doesn't notice, she doesn't care, or I'm not as intimidating as I'd like to think I am. She continues in a squeaky tone, "What's your name, handsome?"
She really can't flirt, can she?
, I think to myself. Out loud I ask, "Why do you care?"
"Just making small talk is all." She replies, a little less enthusiastically. I glance at her from the corner of my eye and when she seems genuinely curious to know, I just shrug.
"Oh. Well I'm Millie. Millie Montgomery. You don't have to tell me your name, it's okay. I understand. I get that alot." She leans across the small plaid couch and extends her hand. After a short moment I reach forward and take it.
"Zach. Zach Mason."
"Is it short for Zachary?"
"No." When I don't elaborate she understands and leans back, crossing her right leg over her left.
." She drags out the word and faces forward like me. Her foot doesn't start the tapping again but she shakes her leg, bobbing it up and down. I try blocking it out of the corner of my eye but I still catch the movement, sadly. It's so distracting I can't even think straight.
What if Lilly's results are worse than I thought?
I won't be able to handle that. I'm waiting in the lobby for the result from her fall. Dad lost his temper--
. I tried to step in the way, take the blow so he wouldn't hurt her, but he didn't even look at me. She was his target. And once he gets his eyes on a target, he won't back down until he knows he's done damage. And it seems pushing her down the stairs does a lot of damage to a 9 year olds body. I squeeze my eyes shut, try to block out the look on her face, the sound of her scream, the cracking noises from her innocent fragile body as it hit each step and the cry ripped from her throat as she landed at the bottom.
She hit every step.
All 16 steps
. Almost every time something popped or cracked or made her cry out in pain. The image is still fresh in my mind, the sound of her calling my name for help and knowing I couldn't stop the impact. The truth is a scary thing. Scary and painful.
What if she would've di--NO.
I can't even say it. I need to know she's okay.
Gahh. I need to see her. I can't just sit here doing NOTHING
. I stand abruptly and when I try to walk past Millie, she grasps my arm tightly. I glare down at her.
"What?" I snap harshly and she slightly cringes but doesn't let go.
"Where are you going?" her voice quivers slightly and the scared look I see in her eyes softens my glare, making me sit back down. "I-I mean.. You don't have to.. You can g--"
"I'm fine. I just need to be patient."
"Where were you going to go?"
"To check on Lilly, my sister," She kept her hand on my wrist when I sat back down so I look down at the contact. She has a golden emerald ring on her ring finger that matches her eyes. When she notices I'm looking at her hand currently still on my wrist she gently starts letting go. Roses bloom on her cheek, directly below her high, prominant cheekbones.
"No," I grip her hand to keep it on my arm and slowly I look up to meet her eyes, "Please. Don't let go." She nods slowly and places her hand on my wrist again. The blush on her rosy cheeks grows and she stares at the ground by our feet.
I don't know why but I like that contact. I need it, as scary as that thought is. But I do. I need to know someone is here when I'm hurting. I need someone to root me to where I am.
"What happened to her?" As I stare into her eyes and think about what I should tell this stranger I see concern in her emerald eyes. That makes me wonder.
"What brings you here? What is a girl like you doing in this hospital alone?" I answer, completely dodging her question from before.
"My parents are gone. They left me when I was little. I know they had a reason but whenever I think about it it brings pain to my chest. Right here." She brings her free hand up and places it over her heart. "Ya know, that place your heart is supposed to be? Well yeah, isn't that supposed to be filled with love? If it is I'm still waiting. Right now it's just empty and full of pain at the same time." I turn my hand over slightly and she glances at me from the corner of her eyes. Slowly, coustiously, I place my fingers between hers and grip her hand. She doesn't pull away and she smiles again. I like her smile. Before I get carried away with my thoughts I remember the statement she said moments before and I sigh thoughtfully.
"I wouldn't know what being loved feels like. I only know all I have is my sister. And I need to protect her. She's all I have close to me. I don't trust anyone else." I keep my eyes averted, looking at our feet like she did moments before. I feel her sqeeze my hand slightly and I relax for a second realizing, I do have someone. Right now, in the middle of this hospital. For the first time I have somebody to keep me on the ground where I am and where I should be.
From the way we are sitting her legs are close to mine, our knees touching. She's shorter than me, probably 5'4". I'm 6'2" so I have some height on her. When she's sitting all the way back, her feet make it halfway to the ground and stop there whereas mine reach the floor, flat. The only time she reaches the floor with both feet is when she's scooted so close to the edge you wonder if she'll fall. That's how she's sitting now. Still bobbing her leg.
Up and down, up and down.
"Maybe that can change," Her voice halts my train of thought and I look up at the sincerity I hear in her voice. When I meet her eyes she moves her hand from being intertwined with my fingers to my cheek, stroking my cheek in a small circle.
"Yeah. Maybe." My voice comes out small and shaky and I turn away. She drops her hand to her side, awkwardly. But it's still so hard, I can't get close to anyone, I have to protect my sister and I don't want to have to worry about someone else's safety too. So I can't be soft, even now, I have to be mean. I turn my voice harsh and mumble. "You never told me why you're here."
"True." When she doesn't say anything more I turn to face her, sitting cross-legged and sliently I grab her hands. She turns away again and looks anywhere but at me. Her rejection softens my demeanor and I know this is a hard subject for her.
"Why are you here?" I ask in a very soft voice. She takes a deep breath and let's it out slowly. When she turns to face me I realize how tired she looks, how pale her face is, her sunken cheeks and bags under her eyes, even her blonde hair is thinner than it should be.
"Yeah. When you take a good look at me you notice, don't you? My eyes, my hair, my sickly complexion." She turns away and pulls her hands back on her lap. Shaking her head sadly she asks, "When you look at it all clearly, it's revolting, isn't it?"
"Look at me." I shake my head as she turns slightly to take in my appearance. "It's not revolting, it's part of you, of who you are. All your slight imperfections make you perfectly you. Only you can be Millie Montgomery. Only you can be you. No matter how much you wish, hope, dream of it, no one can live the life you were born to have. It's yours to make and create and you can make good decisions or the bad ones, either way, you choose. Not anyone else. But what you do with that opportunity to live your life is up to you and only you. Don't waste life wishing you were someone else because I bet there's at least one person wishing they were you."
"No one would want to be me. I live here, ya know? In this hospital. Yeah, I live here. By myself. The nurses are practically my parents," When she sees the shock on my face she offers me a sad, small smile, "I was diagnosed with cancer at age 5. It's be 12 years, two weeks, and six days. They say I'll get better. They say I'm stronger than most, but when there's no where to go and no one waiting to see if I get better, what's the point, ya know?""
"Almost. In three months I will be. On the 9th of September. If I live that long."
"I have no doubt you will. Maybe now you'll have something to live for." I state tentatively.
"Oh yeah? And what's that?" She replies in a smart tone. I smile at her and look away again, swallowing hard. My black hair falls into my deep blue eyes and I stare at the tiled white floor below our feet.
"Never mind, Millie." I glance away shyly. She grips my chin and pushes my face to look at her again.
"I'm messing with you, Zach." I look at her with hope in my eyes as she sighs. When she starts talking again I hear the pain in her voice, "The last time I saw my parents I was 7. At first they'd come every day to see if I was getting better. That turned into twice a week. Then to twice a month. When it came to the only coming twice a year I just told them to stop coming. They didn't care if I got better. By the time I was in the hospital for a year they already had another daughter.
"Her name is Ellie Mae Montgomery. She's healthy, alive, and
'the most adorable baby girl ever!'
" When she sees my skeptical look she says, "That's what I heard them say when she was born." I nod as if saying "oh." she looks out the window and traces the paths of the raindrops rolling down the glass. "After I heard that, the next time they came I told them they had a new daughter so they could just stop coming. And so that's exactly what they did. Ya know, they actually looked relieved." (...)
Dec 03, 2013 03:56PM
(Pitiful Strangers continued...)
She shakes her head and wipes her eyes gingerly.
"I'm..I don't know what to say. I wish we would've met sooner. Maybe we would've known what love feels like."
"Maybe we still can. This doesn't have to stop here." She stares into my eyes with a hopeful look.
"I don't know."
"Thank you." Hearing her say thank you shocks me. Not really anyone says that to me.
"Not saying sorry. Everyone says sorry but they did nothing wrong. It's only pity. I don't want people's pity and sympathy. They're only going to stay in my life for a short while and than leave anyway. No point in getting attached."
As she stops talking a familiar woman in a lab coat that goes by the name Sally Greenwood walks up to me, "Zach Mason?"
Standing up I say, "That's me."
"You can go see your sister now. She's conscious."
"Thank you." She walks away and I start walking to Lilly's room. I pause when I hear a familiar tap tap taping sound from behind me. I spin around and jog back over to the couch I just got up from, taking Millie's hand.
"Millie. Would you like to meet my sister?"
"What?" I smile at how innocent her big round emerald eyes look as she stares at me, shocked.
"Would you like to meet Lilly? She's why I'm here. She's been hurt by someone who's only supposed to love you. I tried to protect her but that's very hard when you have no idea when said person will explode on us again. So I repeat; would you like to meet Lilly?" She nods excitingly and offers me a grin so wide I can't help but flick my gaze to her lips and back. She notices and looks away shyly.
"Maybe we should go then." She suggests. I nod as she stands.
"Shall we?" I hold my arm out and she loops her arm through mine, giggling cutely.
"So maybe getting attached isn't too bad." She whispers, looking to the ground.
"Yeah. Maybe not."
As we walk, arm in arm, to Lilly's room I explain parts of my life to her and even though we don't know how long Millie will live, I don't want her to live her last months alone. She promises to be there for me and I pinky promise to be there for her until the end.
Butterfly's form in my stomach and for the first time I have a glimpse of hope that maybe, just maybe, not all people are bad.
And maybe, just maybe, I have an new opportunity to know what that forbidden, magical force called
Dec 03, 2013 04:09PM
That was an exceptional debut! You have a very firm understanding of the personalities of your characters and that really comes across in your writing.
You excel at conveying emotion. I especially love how in your first paragraph, you use run-on sentences to convey Maddow's panic to the reader.
Your plot and characters are very well-developed so I think that you're ready to start experimenting with other forms of punctuation: i.e. hyphens, parentheses, dashes, colons, semicolons, etc. It would change your sentence structure without detracting from your writing style. (I love the way you use sentence length and fluency to add emotion. I'll have to try that in the future.) However, your sentence structure in the beginning is a bit predictable.
It goes a bit like:
[Action] and [action]. [Action] and [description]. [Action] and [action].
Those other punctuation marks will allow you to say the same content and emotions, but in the way that doesn't seem like a formula.
Also, I notice that your paragraphs are either long or medium length. Varying the length of your text blocks will help you build suspense (such as in the chase scene). There's a natural pause that comes at when the reader reaches the end of the paragraph and I think that you would be able to incorporate that in your writing very well. Like:
That was all Alistair could think of. He wasn’t thinking back to the fact that he had killed over fifty people over the last three years. That didn’t matter anymore. He wasn’t thinking into the future because that depended very highly on how fast he could keep moving and at which point his exhausted and emaciated body gave out on him. His mind was more inwardly...
Or-depending on how it's used-it can also be used to convey a disoriented thought process
He opened his mouth to give one last scathing insult and was surprised when all that came out was a dry, barking cough.
His head swam.
Alistair was vaguely aware of someone speaking and the feeling of being lifted.
I hope that helped. And it's wonderful to have you participating now :)
(last edited Dec 03, 2013 04:21PM)
Dec 03, 2013 04:17PM
GAB: Only one quick thing (and you should get a third opinion on this as it might be only me): “Darkness consumed the vibrancy, spreading over the colours, swallowing it up, dispersing fear and anxiety.”
Because the darkness comes so quickly, almost like an attack, my mind automatically thought of “dispersing” to mean vanquish, instead of to spread widely, the way you meant it.
Also, the opening paragraph is intriguing and I’d be curious to know what Harper was thinking about.
JUN: I love a bit of medical drama, but there was one small distraction in this story: “‘Let's get some drugs in him, see if we can get a response.’ Her partner grabbed a syringe and filled it from a vial of medicine to raise the teen boy from his drug-induced stupor.”
The partner saying “Let’s get some drugs in him” to raise the boy from a “drug-induced stupor” sounds contradictory. Simply changing out one of the “drug(s)” for something else would solve this.
GARRISON: I agree that Dr. Murdoch comes across a little temperamental. His level of anger certainly is believable (as I’m sure a father in a like situation would tell us), but it may help his character if he built to this anger.
ANGIE: Firstly, thank you for reading and reviewing my piece.
My only suggestion for your story would be to extend Hyun’s transition from fearing Eric to accepting his kindness. Like when Eric offers to throw her a welcoming party; it’s a big moment and as I reader I'd like to see more of what it means to the characters.
ADRIAN: This was a very nice “episode one”. Only two things struck me as odd.
“He stammered without hesitation.” I had to stop and wonder if this was possible. I suppose it is, but I think this sentence could be stronger. Also, one month strikes me as a very short amount of time for required use of the ankle bracelet. I won’t say you should change it, but as a reader, I would expect it to be addressed in further detail in a later episode.
Well done everybody. If I may say so, I have no clear distinction of which story to vote for.
Dec 03, 2013 04:28PM
That was great! I loved how natural your dialogue was. It ebbed and flowed in a subtle way that really strengthened your writing.
But what I really loved was how...
your characters were. Zach's thoughts, on their own, seemed very genuine.
However, Zach struck me as a bit bipolar. I know that that's very common in short stories, given the length and all, but I think that it would help him seem a little more stable if you made his mood shifts a little more subtle and less volatile.
But otherwise, your piece was beautifully written and I really loved it. Good job!
Dec 03, 2013 04:32PM
Angie. Thank you.
This hasn't really been edited and I guess he was bipolar because I was bipolar with what to make him. Mean or nice, soft or hard. I didn't have a clue where it was heading but hey, there's a first for everything. In a way it was a rough draft, could definitely use some touching up.
Thank you for reading it and giving an opinion.
(last edited Dec 03, 2013 04:34PM)
Dec 03, 2013 04:34PM
I agree with Felix's comment about "stammering hesitantly". It did strike me as a bit of a strange oxymoron.
Thank you for your feedback! I never would have caught that.
(last edited Dec 03, 2013 04:37PM)
Dec 03, 2013 04:36PM
Angie wrote: "Adrian:
That was an exceptional debut! You have a very firm understanding of the personalities of your characters and that really comes across in your writing.
You excel at conveying emotion. I..."
Thanks a lot for the input! I do need to play with the formatting more, I was afraid of taking up too much somehow and kind of bunched it up. I'll try to be a little more varied in the future.
Dec 03, 2013 04:39PM
You're welcome. I love the way you've presented Zach. His character is under a lot of stress and grief and his uncertainty makes his character more relatable. I just thought that it would help him seem more realistic if you found a way of transitioning between his shifts.
I wish I could give you a suggestion as to
to do that, but seeing as I struggle with the same thing, I can't. However, as soon as I figure out a solution, you'll be the first to know. :)
Dec 03, 2013 04:43PM
You're very welcome, Adrian :)
Dec 03, 2013 04:45PM
Thank you so much Angie. I can't wait! In a way he seems torn between being the good guy and being the cold-hearted guy.
I don't know but it was interesting and fun to write. Haha
Dec 03, 2013 05:14PM
I appreciate your honesty as well as your sensitivity, Felix. Thank you so much for the critique. :)
Dec 03, 2013 09:05PM
Title: "Paris Under The Moon"
Author: Gary Garcia
Comments are appreciated!
It was the rat that ran past her head that disturbed her. It was the excruciating pain that kept her awake. In the living room, her mother was passed out, naked, next to a man whom she had never met. Alanna Johnson looked out the window of the dilapidated house and saw the moon hanging high and mighty in the sky. It taunted her, like so many people throughout her life, as the pain coursed through her arms, legs, neck, chest, and deep within her veins. In her hands she gripped a business card for a man she did not know. It was three in the morning on a Sunday, Alanna was fifteen and she was going into labor.
Miles away, in the city of Milwaukee, Dalvan Dane worked. He typed away at his computer by candlelight. He weaved words, metaphors and symbols throughout a novel he had crafted over the past year. If finished, it would be his sixth full-length book. He had received praise from friends, family, and many in his writer’s group, and it gave him hope that this one would actually be published.
Dalvan was nearing thirty and had been a writer since birth. It didn’t pay the bills, but it was his lifestyle. His wife, resting in their bedroom, could hear the keys “tap, tap, tap,” each morning before he left for work. It was cute when they met, his dream of being a writer, but as the relationship became tense, as the bills became larger and sent in later, his dream became an embarrassment to her.
Dalvan saw the glowing moon outside his window. He knew that it would take just one great story to pull them from the struggle of every day life. Dalvan continued to push through the onslaught of distraction and disturbance to work on his story. His eyes, drained and cracked red, stretched as the words came across the screen. He felt the tickle of excitement as he hit on piercing and significant points in his piece, when his phone rang.
“Yes, this is Dalvan. She’s there now? She has no previous case with us? I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Alanna Johnson cried in pain. The ambulance was swift and she had reached her room within an hour of her first heavy contractions. Her mother paced and erupted in drunken, drug-addled, hysterics as the medical personnel attended to her daughter. Alanna felt her insides shred as though they were rubbed against Satan’s personal cheese grater. While the young woman cried and hollered, her doctor arrived and checked her vital signs. She reviewed Alanna’s chart and eyed it with little concern.
“I’ll be back in ten minutes to check on you,” the doctor explained.
Alanna gripped the man’s card. She had already made the call before the ambulance arrived. She left a message and urged them to rush. In the pale white room, the young caramel skinned girl began to fear the worst. The pain was increasing and her heart beat at a pace she had never experienced before. She felt short of breath and could hear only muffled instructions from the medical team. Her mother was asked to exit the room.
“Has the father been contacted,” asked a nurse.
“He’s in jail,” Alanna cried, before losing her hearing again.
“Any other members of his family that intend to come,” asked the nurse again.
Alanna heard her words, but she struggled to muster a response. Her eyes were straining. She saw outside the window the winter moon watching her again. The sky was a haunting shade of dark blue, like a painting she had once seen in a book. She imagined that the colors, the peacefulness of the moon, the heavy clouds floating by like titanic whales in the night sky, were how it would be like on a cool winter’s night in Paris. She had always loved Paris and wanted it for herself. She knew it was a fairytale though; she had never even left the city. She viewed the night sky outside her window; the words of her staff muffled more and more as she drowned deeper into a sea of pain.
Dalvan Dane struggled to pull himself away from his desk. He was on a flow that he had hit a handful of times before, but it would all have to wait. Dalvan crept into the bedroom and searched for some clothes.
“What are you doing,” his wife asked, half asleep.
“I just got a call for a case. Gotta go now,” he responded.
“I thought you didn’t have any cases pending this weekend?”
“I’m sorry honey. There are always cases pending. Emergency intake. They got the call about an hour ago. I have to go.”
“You’re always having to…” her words dripped away into nothing, like the last bits of a leaky faucet.
“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Dalvan promised.
Alanna woke from her dream of Paris to the panic of her hospital room. Her doctor was back and barking orders to the other members of the team. Alanna felt that that she had over a hundred eyes watching her, calling her name, and manipulating machines and instruments all around her like some fiendish orchestra of torture.
“She’s coming to,” someone yelled, their faces all were covered in masks.
“Alanna, are you back with us? You were out. We need to move fast. Alanna, I need you to be calm. I need you to breathe. I need you to keep your eyes on the doctor behind me.”
Alanna saw another masked person; blue eyed and blonde haired, wave at her in attempt to get her attention. The woman had soft eyes that emitted a strong comfort. Alanna kept her eyes on the woman. It was a brief moment of calm until she realized that the pain was still with her, but they were not asking her to push. They were not asking her to breathe the way she was taught. She took deep breaths, but they were not timed and they were not paced.
“We need to make the incision now,” called a voice.
Alanna saw another unidentified object exchange hands. She saw blood on the gloves of a masked person and she felt the coolness of metal against her body. The baby would be taken out of her within minutes. Alanna tried to focus on the soft-eyed woman in green scrubs. She tried to ignore the pain. The sounds around her created a stressed and complex symphony in her head. The teen tried to focus on it and add words to the beats and tones of the song. She grimaced as an influx of pain coursed through her body; she labored a smile as she heard the crying of the child, and the words, “Congratulations, Alanna”.
He arrived to the front desk with a bag, a computer, and his hair as disheveled as the homeless men outside. Dalvan pulled out his identification card and provided his business card as well. He knew the desk clerk, who grinned and looked up at the frantic young man.
“Who you looking for this early, Dalvan,” asked the burly desk clerk.
“Alanna Johnson, new case, she just came in,” Dalvan replied.
“Third floor. Room 313. And Dalvan, XYZ,” the clerk replied with a grin.
Dalvan looked down and adjusted himself before placing his identification badge on his belt and raced through the hall to the elevator. He reached the third floor in haste.
“Hello, I’m Dalvan Dane from Child Protective Welfare. We received a call quickly after contractions. I’m here to speak with Alanna Johnson,” he addressed the nursing desk.
The woman at the nursing desk looked at her computer screen. She smacked some gum in her mouth and raised one eye to Dalvan.
“Who called you? We don’t have no case for CPW,” the woman said.
“The mother, Alanna. She called CPW. Now, get me her doctor immediately or I’ll notify the state department that you’re obstructing a referred case,” Dalvan spoke with concise determination.
He was escorted to the conference room where a group of nurses and doctors in scrubs and lab coats all spoke at the same time. They were discussing other in-labor patients.
Dalvan looked around and raised his identification card. A soft-eyed woman with blonde hair spotted him. She waved to get his attention.
“Are you here for the baby girl Johnson,” she asked.
Dalvan nodded. Although he had been through this many times, the doctors never remembered him. The woman took him to the pre-natal unit where the infant rested.
“The baby is fine. She came out with little complications. The mom is struggling. She didn’t want to hold the baby or even name it,” the woman explained.
Dalvan listened as they walked through the floor towards the place that the baby girl rested. He heard other mothers, many of them in their teens, going through the same life-altering experience as Alanna Johnson.
“Here she is. Do you think that the family will want to step in and raise her,” the woman asked.
Dalvan saw the baby girl. She was no longer sleeping, but staring, wide-eyed directly at him. He watched her wiggle around and sway. He was gripped by the color of her eyes, a very sharp amethyst. He was mesmerized.
“Her eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like that in my life,” Dalvan said.
The woman smiled and nodded. She looked upon the baby with Dalvan and admired the child’s eyes for a moment before slinking her way back towards the chaos of the labor unit.
Dalvan opened up his notepad. He turned on his computer and ran Alanna’s name through the database. She had little experience with the CPW. He went to her room. Before entering he was eyed by an emaciated, ill-dressed woman, who was scratching at her arms, bitten by bedbugs or lice, and smelling of cheap brandy.
“Who you going to see,” she asked.
“I’m here to meet with Alanna Johnson. This is her room, 313, correct?”
(last edited Dec 04, 2013 01:54PM)
Dec 03, 2013 09:12PM
"Paris Under The Moon" con'td
“You here to tell us about the assistance checks? We’ll need more assistance with the baby in the house.”
Dalvan ignored her question. He entered the room where he saw Alanna, the fifteen-year-old mother, resting in her bed.
“Ms. Johnson, I’m Dalvan Dane. I’m here from CPW. We received a call, from, um, from you. You called minutes after your first contractions. You said that you needed someone to come and, hmmm, ‘take’ your baby. Is that correct?”
Alanna looked over at Dalvan. She smiled and nodded her head. Her grin never dissipated. She showed an overwhelming feeling of relief and optimism.
“Have you ever been to Paris, Mr. Dane?”
“I’ve never been, my wife has though. She loves it.”
Alanna smiled. She continued to look at the burning sun. She continued to grin. Her eyes were stretched with hope.
“Ms. Johnson. I’m going to review some information on my database. Can you give me your mother’s name, please?”
Alanna provided him the name. She provided Dalvan the name of her father, deceased, as well as the many uncles and aunts she had throughout the county. Alanna told Dalvan about the life she had with her mother around. She told Dalvan that she was used to subsisting on very little. She wept when she remembered her brother, also deceased. And she spoke with ferocity when she emphasized that her mother should not have custody of anyone, even her own self.
At the end of the extensive interview, Alanna’s mother entered the room. She had fallen asleep in the waiting area, and was surprised to see Dalvan still there.
“What you tellin’ him, Alanna?”
The girl hesitated to respond. Her smile dissipated. She showed fear.
“Mrs. Crenshaw, you’re Alanna’s mother?”
She nodded in response.
“It appears that were are in a dire situation at this point. Your daughter, who is very bright and pleasant, has decided to forfeit her paternal rights. She has also informed me that, due to some incidents in your past, including but not limited to; drug and alcohol abuse and dependency, as well as an incident in which you lost one of your own children due to a co-sleeping death and were incarcerated for over a period of three years, that your rights to the child are also forfeited. The family could possibly have an opportunity to take paternal rights over the child, but as it is the request of the birth mother at this point, the child will be detained by me, and we will seek a safe and appropriate home for the child.”
The wreck of a woman shot Dalvan a look of scorn. She did the same to her daughter. She paced in fury as she struggled to express herself in words.
“How you gonna make me lose my grand-baby because of some stupid thing that girl said? She don’t know how to even read!”
Alanna’s mother began to pace more. She smacked her fist against the palm of her other hand as she released expletive after expletive. Dalvan pulled out the detainment form and had Alanna provide her signature. He provided it to her mother as well.
“Mrs. Crenshaw, it is in the baby’s and your daughter’s best interest to sign this document and allow the process to go on as necessary. I hope that you understand that you have a responsibility to your own daughter, who has made a drastic and mature choice, to sign this and allow us to provide the child a home that will be suitable and safe.”
Alanna’s mother reached for the pen and signed it without looking at either Dalvan or her daughter. Dalvan Dane put the document into his bag and tucked it away with the rest of the paperwork. He nodded at Mrs. Crenshaw and walked to Alanna’s bed to say goodbye.
“They told me you haven’t chosen to name the baby, Alanna. We need to do that before we take custody of her. Is there anything that you would like to choose at this time?”
“I don’t want to do that, Mista Dane. I I can’t take care of her, I’d mess it up. So I shouldn’t name her either, I’d probably mess that up too.”
Dalvan struggled to contain the welling in his throat. The girl lacked an appropriate education. She lacked a compassionate mother or father, but he sensed that her future was bright. He saw the clock, he had to move swiftly and get the child out of the hospital before any minds changed. He wished very much for Monday to come so he could file an alert for the squalid living conditions that Alanna had to deal with each day.
“I’ll think of something for you then, Ms. Johnson. Rest well. And please, don’t hesitate to call should you need anything.”
Dalvan Dane left the hospital with a child in his car. He drove fifty miles north to the foster care unit in Mequon, a first-rate facility with caring and educated doctors that made the ones in the city seem like full-fledged dolts.
Winter in Wisconsin is harsh. The sun sits up for just a few hours where the citizens can move throughout the town in the full glow of the daylight. Dalvan completed his paperwork. He filed the petition for adoption. He went through all the necessary checks and balances of the case and signed off on the child’s current custody as being the state. When he was finished, the sun had set.
He drove home with a heavy heart as his thoughts transitioned from the baby, who was provided a second chance, to the young girl who still needed one. He hoped to get the alert out immediately, but with the girl in the hospital, she would be safe for at least one night.
Dalvan reached his home and dropped his bag and computer with a heavy “thud” that comes from a long day’s work. He poured himself a glass of juice, and walked around. The apartment was quiet. The heat was off. No dinner had been made. On the kitchen table, he found a note.
I hope that you can find the time to attend to this note, as I know you hate to drag yourself away from your writing. I have some regret in informing you of this via letter, but when I speak to you in person, it is as though your mind is wandering elsewhere. Those silly characters and stories that you write each day, I’m sure. Anyway, I must go. I cannot go on with this life anymore. I am tired. I am sad. And I am unfulfilled in this relationship. I must find something that is worthwhile to me and engulf myself in it. I must find hope and I must find love. And to find those things, I must lose you. I am sorry for this, and I hope you can forgive yourself for causing me such pain.
Dalvan dropped into the kitchen chair like a sack of coal. He would be there for the next twenty years. He re-read the letter over and over throughout the night and as the moon hung high and the titanic clouds drifted in the night sky, he chose to ingrain the words into his mind; for safe keeping.
Dalvan Dane saw them filing all the way down the block. They were antsy and excited. Seventeen years had passed since he finished it. Within their hands, they held it. There were stacks of it all over his table. There was a banner outside that raved about it. There was a poster with his face on it that told them to come and get it. His book was published.
The line was thick and they all took time to ask him questions. Some gripped his hand with clammy palms. Others struggled words and smiled from ear to ear. Many had extra copies that they wanted signed for loved ones and friends and they all had comments.
“I loved every word. You are brilliant!”
“It was like you followed my whole life and wrote it into a story!”
“I don’t know what I would do without this book!”
He did as he always had done throughout the book tour. He blushed with embarrassment, showed great appreciation. He took pictures with them and he gave them the best advice he could on writing, “Just write everyday. Don’t ever quit.”
The line of faces was never-ending. The faces became less distinct. That is when he saw her. She had high cheekbones; she had vibrant, curly hair and dressed in high designer fashion.
“Hello, Mr. Dane. I loved your story.”
She did not recognize him. His pen name was, D.H. Dane. He chose not to address their past.
“Oh, why thank you! And what was your favorite part?”
“Well, I read it during my medical residency, so, when your character decides to change his life and reach his goals no matter what, that hit home. I knew that I could push through just like he did.”
“And you finished, I assume?”
“Wonderful! So, to whom should I make this out?”
The woman gave him her name. He wrote her a succinct message.
She thanked him for the autograph and went on her way. Dalvan continued on with his signatures until the last person had come through and the bookstore neared its closing.
After a handful of thanks and well wishes, Dalvan Dane gathered his things together and made his way to exit. The store clerk called to him just before leaving.
“Excuse me, Mr. Dane! I’m sorry to bother you, but a woman brought this over to me earlier in the day and I forgot about it. I sincerely apologize. She said that you dropped it. She said it must be your daughter.” The clerk held up a photograph for Dalvan.
As a cupid’s arrow drives into the heart with such impact, Dalvan felt it drive into him when he laid eyes on the picture. A stunning, healthy teenager with high cheekbones, a full smile, and one distinguishing characteristic, sharp purple eyes that shined like amethyst.
Dalvan took the picture from the clerk’s hand and thanked him. He turned it over and smiled at the writing.
“Paris O’Neal. 17 years old.
Her parents sent this earlier in the year. She'll be graduating soon.
Thank you for our second chance, Mr. Dane.
With great admiration and gratitude, Dr. Alanna Johnson.”
(last edited Dec 04, 2013 03:41PM)
Dec 04, 2013 03:39PM
XD I woke up this morning and went, "Oh, crap, I only have a hundred words in my story." So I came home and typed as quickly as possible, and this is the (rather terrifying) result. It seems this has been happening to me more and more lately.
But, hey, why not try, right? So, here's my story this week. Enjoy.
To Kill Me
Author: Kyra Z.
3,549 words, all feedback and criticism welcomed! (Yeah, I know it's long. Sorry about that.)
When my eyelids finally fluttered open, it took me a moment to figure out what was wrong.
Looking back on things, it should have been totally obvious. For one thing, the room I was sleeping in was not my own. The walls were not seashell pink, they were lime green, and instead of being littered with my familiar movie posters, they were decorated with pictures of an unfamiliar family. A single whiteboard sat on the wall across from me, blood-red writing scrawled across its pale surface. The desk underneath it was, surprisingly, very clean, which was the exact opposite of what I expected of a desk. Even the bed was different. It was made of some kind of light brown wood, and had purple sheets neatly tucked at the corners. I hastily kicked off the covers– even my pajamas were not my own. I was wearing a large gray t-shirt that hung off my left shoulder, and red plaid sweatpants.
But strangely enough, I did not even register my surroundings. Maybe it was because I was still half-asleep, maybe it was because of my blinding headache. Whatever it was, I didn’t have enough time to think about where I was.
I closed my eyes and took a shuddering breath, running my hands through my hair. To my surprise, it was tucked up into a neat little ponytail. That was odd. I almost never wore my hair up.
An insistent feeling nagged me, nipping at the back of my mind, making me cautious.
Something is wrong
, I realized.
Well, kudos to me for figuring that one out. I was squatting on a stranger’s bed, in an unfamiliar room, wearing clothes who came from God-knows-where, and the best that I could figure out was that
something was wrong.
Great job, Elaine.
Disconnected images flashed on the backs of my closed eyelids, and I struggled to make them all out.
A dark street. Abandoned shops lining the road, a junkyard to the right. Six guys and three girls in front of me, and four boys behind. The boys behind me are wearing red; the kids in front of me all have blue armbands. I’m holding something, something cold and metal. It’s lighter than I thought it’d be. It’s–
I gasped and my eyes flew open, searching the room around me in a panic. I half-fell, half-slid out of the bed, stumbling towards the door on shaky legs.
I have to get out of here. Something is wrong.
I opened the door, promptly running into a small blonde girl running past my door.
“Umph!” She toppled to the floor, lying dazed on the ground for several seconds.
I gasped and bent over her. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you! You were just coming around the corner and I–”
She grinned up at me lazily. “S’alright, Lanie.”
I froze, my hands hovering in midair over her head. My blood roared in my ears, drowning out the world, making it seem surreal.
How does she know my name? “Lanie” has to be short for “Elaine,” right?
“What?” I whispered, squinting down at the little girl.
Her carefree smiled faded, replaced by a confused frown. Her cheeks were rounded and almost chubby, her long blonde hair tangled and uncontrollable. Her blue eyes were clear and serene, full of laughter and childhood. She looked like such a peaceful little thing. “What?” she parroted back at me.
I lowered my hands, my gaze skimming over her creamy skin, her messy blonde hair, her pale lips, and realized she was strangely familiar. “Who are you?” I asked her, cutting down to the root of the problem.
Her eyes widened. “Are you playing, Lanie?” she asked feebly. I stood and stumbled down the hallway. “Lanie!” she called after me, but I didn’t look back.
The walls were painted dark brown, and were smooth to the touch. I kept one hand against the wall for guidance until I reached a short staircase, narrow and wooden, cradled by close walls on either side.
I thought feebly.
Stairs are good. They go down. They go towards exits.
What the hell is wrong with me?
I stumbled down the stairs, one hand on each wall, my toes tapping each step multiple times before daring to set my weight on it. I still felt weak, weak from pain and cold and hunger. Weak from–
I lift the thing in my hand, the small metal thing. It’s a gun. One of the girls wearing a blue armband screams, and they all start coming. I pull the trigger blindly. The bang is deafening.
I can’t see anything anymore. The world is a blur. My ears are ringing. I can’t move. I try to speak. My lips won’t form sounds. Help me. Help me. Help–
“Lanie? Are you okay?”
I promptly ran into a plump blonde woman at the bottom of the steps, my face smashing uncomfortably into her shoulder. I shook my head, trying to clear it of the fuzzy images.
“Where am I?” I croaked, my hands shaking.
The blonde woman frowned. “Lanie, what’s wrong?”
I narrowed my eyes, trying to adjust my blurry vision. The woman wasn’t fat, but she was a little chubby, her features smooth and rounded where there should have been angles. She was wearing a bright blue sundress, and her blonde hair cascaded down her back in small ringlets. Her lips were pressed together, her eyebrows slanted and worried.
She was staring at me anxiously.
“I’m fine,” I stammered.
No, I’m not. Help me.
“I just need to find my home. Where am I?”
The blonde woman took a stumbling step towards me, lifting her hands as though to touch my cheek. “Lanie,” she whispered, her eyes haunted.
I flinched away from her hands, lifting my arms as though to defend myself. My heart, thudding in my chest, drowned out al other sounds.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw the small blonde girl cautiously descending the stairs. Her pale blue eyes, much like the blonde woman’s, were wide and frightened. “Lanie,” she whispered, slowly approaching me to tug on my sleeve. “Are you alright?”
I stared down at her, uncomprehending. She looked so familiar. The creamy skin, the messy gold hair, the pale lips. Who did she look like?
I realized, with sudden understanding.
She looks like me.
I shrank against the wall, pulling my knees to my chest. I could see the woman turning, saying something to her daughter, but I couldn’t hear the words. The little girl nodded and dashed away, a blur of white and yellow. I buried my head in my hands and took deep, shaky breaths.
Who are these people?
Why do they look like me?
Dec 04, 2013 03:40PM
To Kill Me (cont.)
I slowly raised myself to my elbows. My head spun; it was difficult to make out the people around me, a blur of red and blue clothing.
A blurry figure approached me. Not wearing red, I noticed. Rolling to one side, I fumbled around on the ground, my fingers scraping the pavement, searching for my only weapon. My one salvation.
“The deal was no guns,” a gruff voice said. I choked back a sob of terror and continued to search for my weapon.
Where is it? Where did I drop it?
“Fortunately,” the voice said, “we’re not much for rules, either.”
My hands froze over the pavement. A small whimper escaped me. Someone to my left screamed, a low, guttural sound. “Elaine!” they cried out. Footsteps thundered on the pavement, coming towards me.
A single sound, louder than life, roaring over the filthy streets. The last sound I ever heard.
“I don’t understand,” I said feebly.
The doctor patted me on the shoulder solemnly. “It’s fine, Elaine,” he said soothingly, adjusting his thick glasses. “Amnesia often accompanies head injuries. Just last week, you were hit by a car, and taken into the hospital. You were released, with a lucky few injuries, but we did not expect you to lose your memory. Fortunately, our tests say that this is the only result of your injury. The rest of your brain is perfectly fine.”
I stared at the doctor, without really seeing him. He was slight and wiry, and his closely cropped hair hang around his ears in small brown strands. His fingers were perpetually moving, and the corners of his mouth wrinkled into two deep depression when he smiled.
I did not like him.
“So, those people out there,” I said shakily. “They’re my family? The house I woke up in; that’s my house?”
He blinked at me, his brown eyes magnified by thick lenses. “I realize this is a lot to take in,” he acknowledged me, and I suppressed laughter.
That’s an understatement.
“But hopefully, with a little bit of therapy, you’ll be able to regain your full memories.”
I fiddled with the edge of my hospital gown. “I have memories of me doing something in an alley,” I confessed, watching him hopefully. I may not have liked him, but he was the expert. If anyone could tell me what my visions meant, it was him. “There were two other groups of people with me. One wearing red, the other blue. I had a gun.” The word–
– felt too heavy in my mouth, dragging down my tongue when I tried to speak. “Someone took it from me and shot me.”
Because, now I understand that, yes, that’s what they did. That gruff voice had picked up my gun, while I was weak and injured and confused, and it had shot me.
I shouldn’t be alive. Why am I alive? Who are these people that they say I should know?
“It sounds like a gang fight,” the doctor mused, adjusting his glasses again. “Probably not an actual memory. Our records tell us that you’re a model student at your school, with straight A’s and an excellent behavioral record, and your mother claims that you’re a very polite and respectful girl. More likely, you’re remembering a favorite movie you used to watch, or possibly an old dream you had before your amnesia.”
I finally focused on his face as he spoke, smiling giddily, nodding emphatically.
He honestly believes what he’s saying,
I realized with disgust.
“Should I go get your mother?” the doctor asked.
“No,” I responded, a little too forcefully. “Just…give me a moment. Alone.” He nodded and scampered from the room, the door clicking shut behind him.
I studied my right hand with a newfound fascination. I clenched into a fist, then relaxed my muscles and let my fingers spread. Clenched them. Released them.
This hand had held a gun.
I wasn’t sure how I could be certain, but I was positive that my memories were not of a movie, or I dream. I had died. I’d been shot in the back of the head, my brains probably scattered on the street, my eyes frozen and lifeless.
This was what came after death, then. An alternate reality. Kind of like a second life, with a new family, new friends, new
. And what about all these people? Had they all died, too, died and forgotten their past lives?
No, I didn’t think so. They seemed so content, so normal. I alone knew that I had died and come back to life, by some miracle. This was my unique problem.
I lay quietly on the bench, clothed in a paper hospital gown, fiddling with the ends of my golden hair. Gold hair. Like my father’s, not my mother’s.
The more I lay here, the more fragments from my old life resurfaced. My old mother had been a thin, raven-haired lady, my father a lean blonde man. She had the most wonderful eyes, and he the most beautiful smile. But I never told them, not once. I was the rebellious teenager, the one who didn’t listen, the one who ditched school and smoked in the bathroom with her friends.
And then I’d died for it.
I gulped down my tears, shoved away the burning sensation behind my eyelids. Wherever I decided to go from here, one thing was certain– there was no going back. It was too late to fix my mistakes. They were buried deep, deep in the past, the one place I could not go now.
When I fell asleep that night, I found myself back on the corner of the street where I had died.
My heart pounded in my chest, and my palms shook. I took a deep breath and stuffed my hands in my pocket, trying not to look around, not to see where I was, not to remember.
Just a dream. This is all just a dream. Not real.
Voices wafted down the streets, and my breath caught. I’d heard those same voices before, in a different time, in a different life.
The gangs were here.
Keeping my head down, I turned, and I started to stride away, forcing myself to move as quickly as possible without running. Just a dream. It was just a dream.
The first shot went off. The shot I’d fired. My own hand started to tingle, as though I had just fired the gun again myself. More people started to shout, more shots echoed up and down the streets.
In seconds now, I would die again.
I was walking away from the gang fight, but suddenly, I found myself standing directly in front of the two groups of teenagers. There was smoke, and blood, and ugly faces rising out of the smoke to pummel one another, to grind each other to the ground. I shrank away, my voice suddenly leaving me. I scanned the crowd, half hoping to see myself, half praying that I wouldn’t be there.
There I was, in the midst of the battle, blindly patting the ground for my gun, tears sparkling on my cheeks, cutting through the layer of grime coating my skin.
The boy behind me grinned and lifted the gun, aiming casually at my head. Someone else saw, a boy from my own gang.
, I remembered, heart ready to burst.
His name was Roger. We went out a few times.
“Elaine,” he shrilled, reaching one hand towards me. The other me, the past me, froze on the ground, her body stiffening suddenly. The moment I had figured out where my gun had gone.
I looked away, and the gun went off.
I expected the dream to end there, but it didn’t. Instead, I continued to stare at one of the old shops lining the town, a squat wooden building with peeling white paint, and a faded poster of a nineties movie star in the window.
I will not turn around
, I promised myself.
I won’t look over at the others. I won’t look at my dead corpse, cooling on the streets, with a bloody hole in my head.
Silence seemed to grip the street, crushing us all in its giant fist as I breathed in, and out, and in again. The silence didn’t break for another three long breaths, and then–
“You killed her.” Roger’s voice was low and accusing, trembling with anger. “She’s dead now, and you killed her!”
“She was going to shoot one of us,” the other boy snapped. Shivers shook m spine, and I winced. The voice of my killer, the last voice I’d heard. “You’re well aware that guns aren’t allowed. And yet she brought one.”
“She was scared,” Roger cried out, and a few voices, ones I didn’t recognize, rose in protest. “For God’s sake, you were coming right at her, she was just scared! You saw her squirming on the ground, completely helpless, and you went and shot her anyways!”
“He enjoyed it, too!” This new voice is a faintly familiar one. Josie. She worked at the Burger King downtown. We weren’t close, but we were friends. “I saw you smiling there, Tony! You held up the gun, and then you
. And then you pulled the trigger.”
More shouting, from both of the gangs now. Accusing one another, insults flying through the air. I knew the way these things went; any second now, they would start to deal more blows. And maybe there would even be a second death tonight.
“Wait.” This final voice, I knew. Mark. He was popular in my own gang. He never even looked at me twice, but we had a bond of mutual respect for one another. Now that I was dead, I could only imagine what he had to say about me. “This is really how you want to solve this? With even more fighting? Even more deaths?”
The silence stretched on. “We won’t forget this,” Mark continued, growing in confidence. “Not now, not ever. You’ve murdered one of our own. But we can’t avenge Elaine like this. She was too good for us to remember her this way, throwing blind punches in the dark. You all just wait; we will get you, one day. But not like this.”
Dec 04, 2013 03:41PM
To Kill Me (cont.)
As Mark spoke, the white wooden slowly grew blurrier and blurrier. Now, as he finished, I realized that I was crying, my chest shaking with barely concealed sobs.
Why can’t they just make peace? Why are they still fighting?
“You just wait,” Mark said again, then knelt by my body. His words were quiet, barely more than a whisper, but I could hear them from all the way at the corner of the street. They rang in my ears, and they filled my head with their echoes.
“Elaine, I’m sorry you went out this way. I know you didn’t want to. But maybe this is an opportunity. Maybe you’ll get a second chance at this later. You could start from scratch; you could have a mother like you wanted, one who doesn’t throw you out of the house at night when she’s fighting with your dad. You could have a little brother or sister, one with your eyes and your smile. You mentioned having a little brother or sister would be nice, didn’t you?”
I had to cover my mouth with my hand to keep from crying out. I understood now. This had really happened. Mark had said these words, leaning over my cold, dead body. I wasn’t quite sure now, but he had done this, somehow. He’d given me life again.
“Maybe you’ll get to try again at life.” There was laughter in his voice, his syllables dripping with irony. “Maybe you’ll get your second chance. God knows you deserved it.”
I did the thing I had just promised not to do: I looked over at the small crowd.
A ring had gathered around Mark, but now it started to disperse. The ring of teenagers filed away, in small clusters, muttering to one another in humbled tones. Mark leaned down to place a light kiss on my forehead, then stood, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and strode away.
My blonde hair spilled over my face, concealing the bullet wound. I lay slightly on my side, with one hand stretched across the pavement, as though reaching for help. My eyes were lifeless, my skin turned a blueish-white hue. A cry of alarm worked its way to my lips, but I swallowed it down.
I get another chance.
A chance to make things right, to live the life I wished that I had. And Mark had somehow, unknowingly, weaved this web of new possibility for me.
Thank you, Mark. I owe you more than my life.
I smiled through my tears and lifted my gaze away from my corpse, my eyes wandering up towards the midnight skies, dotted with hundreds of glistening stars. This new life of mine didn’t make sense, not in the slightest, but it was still life, and that was enough for now. And maybe one day, I’d come to understand what had happened.
The stars blended together, the pavement faded from under my feet, and I finally woke up.
Dec 04, 2013 09:33PM
I just have to say that the longer I'm in this group, the more I'm impressed with just how deep a short story can be and your piece certainly drove that home for me.
I thought all of your characters complemented each other very well. The only thing I'm still unsure of is why his wife was significant to the story. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how well you wrote it, but it's just left me wondering.
On one hand, she adds another dimension to the plot, but I can't see how it ties in to the rest of it. She leaves him because she's lonely and unsatisfied with their marriage. The note and his reaction to it was a nice touch. But the whole conflict about his relationship just seemed unresolved to me. He was heartbroken and seems to miss her, but I don't understand what you're trying to say.
I'm not sure if I just missed a thematic point in the story or what.
Also, your transitions were a bit hard to follow. One paragraph, it was from Dalvan's POV, the next it was Alana's. I'd appreciate if you could make those changes a little clearer so that they're easier to understand.
Great job on this entry!
(Gah! Just when I think I know who I'm going to vote for this week, another person submits an amazing entry! All of you talented writers are really making me indecisive!)
Dec 05, 2013 08:15AM
I think I wrote in the issue with the wife as a bit of an insight into Dalvan's life and the fact that despite his efforts to help others and give them their "second chance" things were somewhat falling apart within his own life and he, unfortunately, does not receive the same type of help or opportunity for a second chance with her.
I could probably develop it more with a re-write or eliminate it all together, I haven't decided yet.
There is some fluff in there that I can eliminate and likely improve the transitions.
Thanks again for your critique.
Dec 06, 2013 07:35AM
GAB, I’m working on the polls. You’re allowed to post only one story per contest, so I’m listing the first one you posted.
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