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Writer's Corner -- August/September 2010


toythatkills
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Word: NO

This is either a great word, or will be a disaster!

Remember the rules:

1. One thousand words or less. A few more won't hurt anybody.

2. The deadline is the end of September, if anyone wants to go back to one a month I'll edit the thread! Stories/poems/scripts are all welcome.

3. Vote by the 5th of October.

4. Criticisms are welcome, but please keep it in the nature of the corner.

5. Have a go! The Word is only a guide, use it as you will.

6. Good luck!

ENJOY.

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No

"N - O spells No!" giggled Caroline. "N - O spells no!"

"Yes, thank you Caroline" said Mr Tooger. He placed his hand on the small girl’s back, easing her away from the door and into the classroom. He nodded and smiled at the other children as they skipped, pranced, danced and slid into the class.

"No running Timothy!" he raised his voice and a flat hand, as if a policeman directing traffic, as a small boy with loose laces skidded down the corridor. No sign of her yet.

"Mr Tooger! Mr Tooger!" said a small voice. Mr Tooger looked away from the now walking Timothy and down to the smallest child in his class, Anthony.

"Yes Anthony?" he smiled.

"Will we be watching Shrek today?"

"No, not today."

He still hadn’t seen her.

"Awwww" drawled Anthony.

"That was only because it was raining yesterday."

"Pleeeeeeease"

"No. In you go you’re blocking the doorway"

And then, there she was. Mr Tooger’s heart sank, the child of teacher’s nightmares had just rounded the corridor and was already looking about herself with a cheerful mischief. So she wasn’t still ill then. Dammit.

"Come along Gloria" he raised his hand at her and gestured for her to hurry. She ignored him. The slight smile on her face, grew to a grin and she tapped a single finger against her lips, as if contemplating what to have for tea.

"Gloria!" all the other children had filed into the classroom by now. Only Gloria was hanging back. "Come on now."

She looked round at him, smiled and rubbed either side of her nose with her index and middle fingers spread. Do I call her up on it? Thought Mr Tooger, she obviously thinks she’s being ever so careful and witty, making a V sign at me, as if I didn’t realise. Or should I just ignore it? Not give her the satisfaction.

"Come on then, you’re holding everyone up."

"I’m holding me up Mr Todger."

"Which is holding me up and the rest of the class, hurry up please."

"No."

"Now Gloria, can you remember the talk we had with your mummy?"

"My mummy thinks you talk funny."

"That’s not what I asked." And also answers another of the questions I’ve had spinning round my head, thought Mr Tooger; ones like how does a small child learn to act so insolently? "We agreed that you would do as you are told and would avoid the word...?"

"The word...?" mimicked Gloria.

"No."

"Yes"

"Yes"

"No"

"Now, come into the classroom and take your place."

"No"

Mr Tooger’s face tightened and his temperature rose. Gloria sensed it and ducked into the classroom saying "I mean no I am not supposed to say no. Yes?"

She skipped to her chair but Natalie Jenkins was leaning across it. "Move!" she shouted. And jabbed Natalie with her finger.

Natalie jumped back like she’d been shocked and Gloria sat down, Mr Tooger closed the door slowly and sighed, life was always so much more difficult with Gloria in the classroom, roll on July.

He caught snippets of Gloria and Natalie’s conversation over the hub-bub of general classroom chit-chat and Ben making an airplane noise.

" - shouldn’t poke - "

" - poke you if I want - "

"- horrible -"

" - not -"

And then, before Mr Tooger could intervene, Gloria had a hold of Natalie’s hair and had pulled her from her chair.

"Don’t argue with me!" she screamed at Natalie.

"Gloria! No!" shouted Mr Tooger and raced over to intervene. "That is not acceptable behaviour! Outside right now!"

"But you just told me to get in!" she said, letting go of Natalie’s hair and turning to face him.

"That was before you pulled Natalie’s hair, now you’ll go and explain what you did to the headmistress!"

"No" said Gloria glumly and sat back into her chair, arms folded and head down.

"Gloria, you will do as you are told or you will be just getting yourself in even bigger trouble."

"No!" screamed Gloria at a red-faced Mr Tooger. "You can’t tell me what to do!"

"I’m your teacher and I can"

"You don’t matter!"

"I’ll be the judge of that young lady, now out of your chair and out to see Mrs Bath."

She thumped the table and refused to budge "No! I hate you!"

"Gloria you WILL do as you are told."

"You can’t tell me what to do!"

"I just did!"

"You’re not my father!"

"Even your mum doesn’t know who your father is!" Mr Tooger yelled at her "If she had have known she was pregnant in the first place I doubt she’d have kept you! And your dad could be one of hundreds!"

"No" whimpered Gloria tears in her eyes. "It’s not true!"

But Mr Tooger had snapped, he’d been pushed too far already, in the weeks and months prior to this incident by her insolent cheek, constant back-biting and disobedience. He leaned in close to her starting quietly then raising to a crescendo "Your dad didn’t want you, your mum doesn’t want you and you are not wanted" he slapped the table

"in,"

SLAP

"This,"

SLAP

"Classroom!"

"NOOOO!" she screamed back at him and his hand shot out - an instinctive primitive reaction to a small aggressor - and caught her hard across the face. She slumped sideward off the chair and landed on her hands and knees, with her back to him. She started sobbing.

Mr Tooger stood with his arm outstretched, quivering, how could he have done such a thing? His conscious roared at him, she’s only six! It’s not her fault that her mum’s a bitch!

She looked up at him, still on her knees, a small trickle of blood on her already swelling lip.

"Thanks dad" she spat, then collapsed in a sobbing heap. Mr Tooger turned his back, walked out the room, out of the school and down the road, cursing the name of Gloria and Gloria’s mum.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey everyone. Long time no see.

She’d denied me for the last time, that whore, that cunt. Who does she think she is? If she’s Miss High and Mighty - what does that make me?

You don’t deny me, lady. You never turn me down.

So I bought a worm and slipped it in her ear as she dreamt. I stand outside, night time, moonlight, dogs barking far away and cats mewling three doors over. They sing together and the sound cuts through me, piano wire stripping my flesh, biting my bones. The torturous duet charms the worm deeper, I imagine.

Upon reaching its destination its tail stops swimming, its nucleus dissolves, and it delivers the payload I’ve programmed into it. Seek and destroy, rooting deep into the hypothalamus, the amygdala, snaking every which way until it finds the word, the very concept I find so abhorrent. It explodes and wipes it from her memory, and as she sleeps her slumbering brain plasters over the gap in her vocabulary.

She’ll never turn me down again.

* * *

She lay beneath me, totally at ease, not a struggle in her muscles, not a cry upon her lips. When I spoke her name she said “Yes?” and ‘yes’ was what I wanted to hear. But still, she bled around me, she bled on the sheets, and when I stood I wiped myself on whatever rag was closest, casting it into the bathroom in a pique of regret. I couldn’t stand to see her so I sent her home, naked beneath her skirt, not wanting to ask her if she wanted to stay the night as I had so many times before because this time she’d give me the answer I’d always wanted to hear and this time I couldn’t bear to hear it.

The next morning I find her bloodied panties on my bathroom floor. I’d kicked her out in a fit of shame; this reminder causes it to bubble hotly around the back of my neck. I look in the mirror, glaring, looking neither as sordid or as sinister as I feel and bellow “It’s not rape if she can’t say no!” but I know I’m lying. I splash water on my face, stuff the knickers in the bin and shave, but the guilt doesn’t fade.

The shame trails me like stink follows a skunk. I see it mirrored on face of everyone I speak to, everyone I meet. What’s wrong? Why do you look like that? What have you done?

For three days it follows and the stink grows worse until I can hardly breathe. I wrench her underwear from the bin and burn it outside, and as the smoke stings my eyes and the stench singes my nostrils I realise I only have one option left to me.

So I buy a worm.

* * *

We’ve lived together for nine years. I asked her to marry me; she said yes. I asked her if she wanted to have children; she said yes. We called our daughter Kara because I asked her if she liked the name and she said yes.

When she was five Kara found a drawer of our sex toys, took one out and used it to paint the wall. so I hit her. My wife came into the room to see why Kara was screaming but she didn’t stop me; she watched and waited until my arm grew tired. Once I’d finished Kara looked up at me teary-eyed, nursing a broken arm and looking afraid. When I looked at my wife I saw she was also crying, that she too looked afraid, and then I was afraid. What if she told the police? What if they arrested me?

So I bought three worms - one for Kara, one for my wife, and one for me - so none of us would ever be afraid again.

* * *

We’re holidaying by the beach. We’re on a clifftop path, just the three of us and the seagulls. I’m pushing Kara in her wheelchair and she’s chattering about how Devon dared her to jump from the fourth floor and how everyone told her she couldn’t do it but she did it anyway, and now they all think she’s either crazy or stupid. “I think you’re very brave,” my wife says in a thin, faraway voice.

“You should have seen me!” says Kara. “I flew! I mean, I flew straight down, but it was pretty great. And then I poked at the bits of shin I could see through my skin and it hurt, like, SO much. and Marcy Dempsey was sick everywhere. But it was pretty great.”

I push her to the edge of cliff and she leans over, grabbing a pebble off the ground to toss it to the beach below.

“I bet I could jump all the way down there,” she says. “I bet I could jump all the way out to the sea. If I could jump, I mean.”

I peer over the edge. It’s a shingle beach, but they often are in this part of the country. There’s a seaweed tidemark half the way up it, and a couple of holidaymakers sitting below that eating sandwiches from Tupperware. The sea’s a long way out and I know she couldn’t make it even if her legs worked. All the same I say: “I bet you could, too. You could jump anywhere you wanted to.”

“What about you, dad?” She turns her head, eyes lighting up. “And mum? What if we all jumped? All three of us.”

And for some reason this sounds like a good idea. The kind of thing a family should do when on holiday.

“What do you think?” I ask my wife. “Do you want to jump?”

She smiles, and it’s the happiest I’ve seen her for a long time. “Yes,” she says. Simply. Lovingly.

I grip the handles of Kara’s chair, ready to push and jump at the same time. “Are you ready?” I say, smiling myself now, happy almost to the point of laughter.

“We’re ready,” they say, and I hear it in their voices too, like there’s so much happiness inside them it can’t help but worm its way out.

“Well then. On the count of three. One! Two!”

“Free,” says my wife.

We jump.

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  • 2 weeks later...
“This is going to be a problem.”

“What?”

“I’m just reading over these specs. They’re pretty damn good for the 19th century, and I don’t know how much better they’d be if it wasn’t for us.”

“So? It’s just another ship.”

“No, no it isn’t. This is what I’m saying. Sinking the ship, and making it look like an accident, is going to be virtually impossible. The ship is pretty much unsinkable as designed.”

“Come on. Seriously?”

“Seriously. It’s these bulkheads. There’s sixteen, and they go from the keel right up to the main deck. The whole point is that it can survive fairly extensive holing. You’d have to puncture half the length of the ship to sink it. Short of a meteorite impact, or several hundred tons of explosive freight just happening to detonate - no, Alyson - I can’t see it happening.”

“That’s an imagination failure. There’s got to be some way of doing it. Any methane hydrate deposits we can use down there? Use gas from the seabed to kill the buoyancy?”

“Are you kidding me? Not just engineering an underwater landslide in an area we don’t even know contains hydrates - or canyons, for that matter - but positioning and timing it so the methane reaches the surface at precisely the same time as a ship passing two miles overhead, that we don’t control the navigation of? What’s your next idea? Fill the ship up with water from a hosepipe?

Yeah, we can travel through time. But let’s be sensible about this. Even if we somehow evaporate the hull below the waterline some asshole is going to find the wreck, do their archaeology doodads and find out. It’s got to sink by accident, and I can’t think of any accident or freak event that would sink it. I think we’re going to have to alter the design. Get rid of, or change these bulkheads.”

“But what are -- I don’t even -- that’s an operation all by itself.”

“Yeah, maybe. Augment the White Star CEO, get him to push for some changes in the name of luxury or something. I’m going to have to have a word with the DA guys - I don’t think their plan is going to work. We could be switching command recklessness for design flaws. Maybe both.”

“So now we’re talking – what? Introducing design problems and setting up a crash that exploits them? What’s your plan for doing that?”

“In absence of war? Icebergs, kid. Icebergs.”

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Inspired I guess mostly by watching Office Space for the first time yesterday, a story of workplace morning etiquette.

Q&A

.. then, does that mean it's actually loneliness we find and I have it backwards? One must be the base state.. Is loneliness the absence of love, or is love the absence of loneliness? One being the vessel which the other contains? Seems logical enough. Dandel would know. Maybe I just-

A sudden PLINK! PLINK!-HUMMMMM from the tube lighting above Graham's desk snapped him out of his thoughts with an abrupt touch. Blinking open his eyes, he nudged his mouse with his elbow to rid his screen of the company screensaver. He cleared his throat. Ready.

Klup. Klup. Klup. Heavy-heeled footsteps approaching from behind. Joan's gravel-scrape voice: "Mornin' Graham." She passed him and moved to her desk, opposite his.

"Hi -" Eye contact. Polite smile. "- hi Joan."

"Shouldn't sit in the dark Graham, bad for your posture that is." Joan draped her jacket on the back of her chair and leaned over to the open window that overlooked this corner of the office. She slid it closed and the HUMMMMM, no longer contending with the outside, took centre-stage. The heel of her hand left a mark on the glass, a mark just visible against the leaves outside that were rocking back and forth. "Mind if I close this? Bit blowy out."

Her hair looks different. Colour, or cut? Not sure, but it doesn't suit her. Looks out of place. More tanned than last week too. Fake, from a bottle?

Still stood, Joan glanced at her watch - a string of sparkles that strangled her wrist - and picked up a mug from her desk. She raised it to her nose. The cursory morning sniff. Seemingly satisfied, she reached out and took the lift-cord of the window's venetian blind. Giving it a tug, her arm moved erratically this way and that as she endeavoured to disengage the cord lock. "Enough time for a brew before work starts I think. You want one Graham?" The discoloured slats dropped down with a shearing clatter.

"I'm fine, no. Tha-" "Is Christine not in yet? No, her bag's not there. I'll make her one too. Back in a sec'."

Klup. Klup. Klup. Klup. Klup.

Oh Dandel..

Graham logged into his system profile and scanned the work queues. Opened his support tabs in sequence. Adjusted the size and position of the pop-up preview pane, just so.

And all the while,

What happened Dandel? Where did you go? It's been a year now since that night and still I'm none the wiser. I lay with you in the near-dark, your smile so knowing. I couldn't read you then and I can't read you now. I asked you. I looked you in the eyes and asked you if you were okay, and you smiled. I asked you if it was good, and you smiled. What were you saying to me Dandel? You closed your eyes and your smile remained and I kissed your hair. Were you saying we should sleep? When I then asked you if.. asked you if you thought you could ever gift me your heart, for me to nurture and protect, your eyes stayed closed. But you did smile. I did see you smile, I'm sure. I asked you if you thought you could ever accept my own heart, to take into your care alongside that other part of me you'd taken that night. Where did you go Dandel? I slept for half a day and I woke to find you gone. I gave you my heart that night, afterwards, as you slept. I placed all of it on your brow, a dozen times and more. Each time more gentle and true than the last. I know you didn't agree to take it. Not in words. But I thought your smile was you saying.. Dandel, all this time and not an hour has gone by that I've not gone over those smiles. What hap-

"Good morning Graham!"

Christine's shrill voice gave Graham a start, though his flinch went unnoticed by her. He coughed and was about to reply but Christine had already moved on. "Joan in? Ah, yep, there's her bag. I hope she's got the kettle on." She eased herself into her chair, dabbing at her forehead with a sleeve. "Bit hot in here isn't it Graham. Be a sweet and pop the air-con on for me will you dear."

Was that a question?

"Sure." Graham rose and walked over to the wall upon which hung the large metal casing, sagging beneath the ceiling panels. He flicked the power and a dry, dusty chill slipped down his back and trickled down his throat. The HUMMMMM of the lights was mostly - though not entirely - blanketed out by the machine's subdued whining drone.

"Thank you my love," Christine trilled, "that's much better! Well, start of a new week, eh? Roll on friday, ha ha!"

Graham mustered up an affected smile and and afforded her an audible "heh" through his closed mouth. He returned to his desk.

"Well then. So -" Oh please no. "- how was your weekend Graham?" Christine looked at him briefly as she asked her question, her eyes wide but empty, then returned her attention to her desk.

Dandel, I hate this. I hate that question. What do I do with it? You understood. I'm certain you understood. That night, the night you approached me, you smiled as you took me in with your eyes. And you asked me a question, "are you okay?" and I guess I knew, inexplicably, unprecedentedly, that it was sincere. That you were sincere. For the first time in my life, that night I answered that question honestly. You sat me down and asked me more and I felt able to reply and you listened and you read me and I believe, I truly believe, that you understood me. So.. why just you? Why just you. Why not here with this person. Should I answer her honestly? Does she really want to know about my weekend, good or bad? My brain says no, that she doesn't want an honest answer, not really, not if it has any darkness, any absence of light. My brain says she just wants to fill silence, the absence of polite chat, with no actual wish to know what things I thought and did, think and do, want and question. And my heart, my heart says nothing Dandel. My heart is mute, an absence of answers. An absent heart.

"Graham, hellooo? You okay? I said how was your weekend?"

Graham looked up from his work queues and his support programs and his preview pane. He cleared his throat.

"Sorry. It was.. it was fine, Christine. Thanks."

Bit of a crappy title. A darn sight better than my first idea though: LEFT DANDELING. face<->palm

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd really like to go back to one a month but I'm not sure anyone else will... :(

Not ideal, but what if the person starting the thread chooses two words, then you can choose which one you write for, or you write something for both. It's almost as good as one a month...

So, No.

“I don’t want to.”

“You never want to. Whenever I say we should do something or go somewhere or meet someone you just say you don’t want to.”

“That’s not even true, what about-”

“What about last week when I said we should go see Claire’s new baby?”

“It’s just a baby, they all look the same anyway, we’ll say it’s cute even though it’s not and then we’ll go when it starts crying. Anyway, that was just one time and you know Chris was coming round to-”

“Chris Chris Chris.”

“Yes, Chris, what, I’m not allowed friends now? I have to go and see your friend and her child she had with God knows who because she certainly doesn’t and I’m not allowed to see my own friends? Haze. Hazel, look, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“You’re right, you shouldn’t. I’m going out.”

“Hazel. Where are you-”

And that was the last thing I ever said to her. No “I love you,” no “I’ll miss you,” and certainly no “drive safely.” Not that it would have made any difference. I sat down on the sofa to work out how I was going to make this right again because I knew full well it was me that was in the wrong here. Would it have been so difficult to see Chris another time so we could go and see Claire’s baby? Or when she invited me to drinks with her friends from work would it have been that hard to say yes? All I did instead was watch repeats of Top Gear.

Of course, what I’d just said was the worst thing of all of it, I don’t know what I was thinking. It wasn’t Claire’s fault what had happened and, God, I’m an idiot. And I knew Hazel was right, most of all, and she knew she was right, and this argument that we have every other week always ends the same bloody way, she storms off somewhere and I feel like an idiot because I know she’s right and I vow next time that I’ll agree to stuff instead.

If I’d done that, she’d never have gone out. But she did, and while I was sitting down in our house, she was in our car getting smashed into by a couple of fourteen year old boys in a stolen Vauxhall. She hadn’t even made it three streets away and it was close enough for me to hear the sirens when they came, even if I had no idea why they came. She didn’t make it to the hospital anyway.

When there was a knock at the door at eight I’d already been frantically ringing around her friends, family, work, anyone that might have seen her and I hung up on Alice. There’d been no sign but she’d left angry and it was understandable that she’d want to keep her distance and now she’d forgotten her keys but she was here so I could apologise and that’s what mattered. I’d already apologised to Claire for not seeing her last week and when she said that Hazel wasn’t there, I said we’d pop round tomorrow to see her and Chelsea. Hazel would like that, and it’d show that I was trying.

“Hazel?” But it was man on the other side of the door, who cleared his throat before speaking.

“Mr Haddon?”

“Yeah.” Then he tells me he’s D.I. something or other and to be honest I don’t even remember because everything that happens next is still a blur. I remember going to the hospital and sitting in a room somewhere but I can’t remember if they told me then that she was gone or whether he told me on the doorstep and I knew anyway.

I went to see her and everything was metal and grey. If you’re still alive you get white but once you’re gone they don’t care anymore and I couldn’t deal with seeing her like that. I told him I couldn’t deal with it and he told me there was plenty of time and someone else would be able to identify her and we should go back to room.

Identify her. Like she wasn’t even a person any more. She didn’t have a life, or feelings, she just had a name and that’s it. Then she’d get downgraded from a name into a number when they needed traffic accident statistics. That’s all she was any more and that’s all they wanted. That and answers, apparently one of the kids died as well which is no more than he deserved but it needed to be investigated anyway.

What state of mind was she in when she left? Had she been drinking? As if it was her fault! As if I could talk about it.

I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t ready to talk about it and left, somehow managing to find my way home and I sat down in the same place I realised then I must’ve been sitting in when she was dying.

I don’t say it any more. If someone wants to go somewhere, I say yes. I’m careful about a lot of things I say now. Claire was brilliant when I was trying to cope with everything that had happened and whenever she leaves now I make sure I tell her I love her. I might not get another chance.

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Dammit TTK. That's twice in a row now that I've felt confident in which story I was going to choose only to have you swoop in with a blinder at the eleventh hour and mess it all up. :)

I'll make a choice and drop a vote down tonight or tomorrow at the latest.

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Not easy!

Archie's tale left me wanting more, always a good sign, and Danster's build-up to a Bad Event was nicely done. Bastion's too, though his didn't stick around nor pull any punches, ha. I'd decided though that I was going to nominate Campfire's horrible piece, as them's some trippily powerful scenes he created. But then TTK came along with his excellent knack for dialogue and tight, well-paced narrative that led somewhere satisfyingly sad. Talented scoundrel. So yeah, not easy.

I'm going to stick with my gut though and give Campfire_Burning my nod this time. Something just deeply unsettling about it. Can't say I had fun reading it, nor rereading it just now, but there's something rather pervasive about it that I think deserves my vote.

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Well done chaps, a decent amount of entries this time round.

I liked them all, even bastion's (was that a pastiche or something else...?) but my vote goes to Campfire.

Roll on next month.

What do people think of the two words idea?

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I crave closure.

(I don't have an issue with the two words thing at all - that said, I don't think it's necessary either. :) I'm kinda hoping we get a hallowe'en-ish theme to play with though, so if it doubles the chances of that occurring then hell bells yes'lls, I'm all for it.)

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I crave closure.

(I don't have an issue with the two words thing at all - that said, I don't think it's necessary either. :)I'm kinda hoping we get a hallowe'en-ish theme to play with though, so if it doubles the chances of that occurring then hell bells yes'lls, I'm all for it.)

oooh yes.

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