First, the news. I’ve decided, in the new year, to make a slight change to my writing habits. I’ll be spending my writing time editing my previous shorts and beginning to plot out a few long-form tales. As such, I’ll be posting a new short exercise/story just once a month, on or before the last Sunday of each month. I hope you’ll all keep checking back in, and I will probably post fragments or chapters of some of the longer works without warning.
Thank you again for reading these exercises, and for passing it on to your friends (or enemies). A special thanks to those who’ve been commenting and giving me feedback, especially the negative feedback. You continue to keep me honest.
To keep the tap on, I’m sharing with you two oddities that I wrote before I began the weekly story project.
First, is a rewritten and rephrased version of the very first horror story I wrote, “The Hole in the Wall.” While I like certain elements of it, including a just slightly tweaked climax that adds some extra menace to the proceedings, much of it, including an mid-story verb tense change, falls flat. I wrote this right after I finished “Up”, very early in my evolution, and it shows. I haven’t touched it since I began writing in earnest.
But, I thought it might prove of interest.
Second is a mere fragment, the beginning of something longer that I may or may not revisit. It began as an idea for a screenplay that I began to write out in prose, but I’ve not gone back to the idea. I haven’t looked at it since I wrote it around the same time as the second draft of “The Hole in the Wall”, and again, I can’t think of a better place to air it out.
Starfall (A Fragment)
The night the satellites fall, I am sprawled on the lawn of the home where I grew up, drinking my father’s oldest bottle of scotch. The air in the valley suburbs is crystal clear and my eyes water as I trace the shapes of familiar constellations I haven’t seen in years of city life. Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Minor, the Pleiades. I fill my head with their mythic names, displacing the lingering tangle of wills, advanced health care directives and death certificates.
The scotch is as smoky and warm as the night is clear and cold, and it infuriates me to see that my father has never opened it, never even tasted it. The dog eared book on his nightstand will never be finished; a stack of rented films will never be seen. My throat burns now as it tightens and my eyes sting; I suck in a cool draft of night air.
The first streak of light cuts through the haze of my regret and clears my mind. The next comes only moments later and I grinned in childlike delight as the frequency increased, the sky now crisscrossed with luminous arcs, enthralling and captivating me.
A few minutes later the first dull thumps roll across the valley floor. Deep tremors, rolling through the earth as much as in the air, pass beneath my feet, rattling the windows and shuddering in my lungs. The falling stars continue to streak, each one now punctuated with an impact.
Disoriented panic and bile rise in my gorge as I stand on uncertain legs, and scan the horizon. The first of the fires are burning now, and columns of smoke are lit by the bright tangles of their tendrils. I watch as little blossoms of fire bloom and grow into thick vines of fire and smoke.
I stare for long moments in disbelief at the flaming sentinels that flare on the horizon, when gradually I become aware of a new noise; a deep bass hum, a melodic drone counter point to the rhythmic explosions.
At first it is warbling at the edge of my hearing insistently, but it changes, quickly. It seems to solidify in my ears like a tentacle, a hard and solid instrument of sound and I feel a sharp bite of pain throughout my head, as it wriggles deep into my skull. It shuts out the fire and concussions and cold grass on my bare feet, and my world withdraws into one bright, hot spasm.
Then it is gone, and the noise evaporates into a gentle electric sigh that seems to crackle and dissipate from the very air. In its passing, the streetlights flicker and go silently dead. The house behind me is dark. A thousand ambient hums from radios, televisions, refrigerators, and light bulbs dissipate in that moment. Without the sudden silence in the gentle sea of background noise, the steady impacts around grow louder. The fires burn brighter in the sudden blackness.
My face is wet; I raise my hand to my nose and it comes away sticky and warm. The heat in my blood from the scotch and sorrow are flooding out now, displaced by cold panic and fright. My mobile phone has leapt into my hand, promising some sort of clarity, a tenuous connection to the news, an emergency broadcast, or another person; some way for me to dissect and categorize what is happening, but it is leaden and dead.
Already the smoke is blotting the sky. I see the constellations that moments ago provided me with a sense of cool order and stability. They are vanishing behind the red veil of burning farmlands and particulate clouds. This is the last time I will see them. This is the last time I will see the sky. I know this now with sinking dread.
My mind is spinning in rusty circles, and I can formulate no plan, can articulate no goal, and can not identify even a direction to run in. I am lost and alone in a rain of falling stars.