Slipping Away

The room was silent, except for the sound of ticking. Martin wished it would stop. It only served to remind him how much time he had lost, and how precious little he had left.

He picked up the ornate silver pen on his desk and let it rest on his finger tips. It had been a gift from an old friend whose face he could no longer remember. Martin’s name was etched onto the lid. Someone truly special must have given it to him, but whoever it was had been swallowed up by time.

Memories no longer existed in Martin’s mind. All he had were objects. Gifts and souvenirs that served as empty reminders of a forgotten past. And then there was the damned ticking.

It had been years since Martin owned a clock or a timepiece of any kind. His walls and his wrist were bare, yet the ticking persisted. It would drive him to madness soon, if it hadn’t already. He couldn’t recall a day without the ticking, or even any time that he had spent outside the room. Was it his sanctuary, or his prison? There was hardly a difference between the two anymore.

Growing ever restless, Martin opened up the notebook sitting in front of him and began to write, letting the weight of the pen guide his fingers across the page. The sound of metal scratching against paper was a welcome respite from the ticking. He savored the sound, reveled in it.

After what could have been hours or mere minutes, Martin put the pen down and leaned back in his chair. It was done. His mind would not survive the room, he knew that much. But whatever thoughts he had, whatever fleeting memories blinked dimly in the darkening expanses of his mind, would live on. He could ensure that much at least.

Sighing with relief, Martin closed his eyes.

The ticking stopped.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 8: Collaboration

There were two writing prompts today. The first was to write a story involving conflict. The other was to write a story that contained the following: a black-and-white cat, a pot of gold, hair curlers, a terrible storm, a chess game, and a cow. I decided to combine them.

“Twas a dark and stormy night.”

“Really? That’s what you came up with. The old ‘stormy night’ opening. That’s how you plan to start your story.”

“Ugh. Fine then. ‘There was a terrible storm brewing -‘”

“Did you major in clichés? Is that what’s going on here? We’re sitting down to write the World’s Most Trite Tale?!”

“Well I don’t see you making any suggestions.”

“We need to think outside the box.”

“Bravo. What an innovative plan. Did you write your thesis on Meaningless Phraseology?”

“Shut up. At least I have a plan.”

“Which really gets us no closer to a story.”

“What story are we writing anyway?

“Haven’t we been over this? It’s a murder mystery with splashes of horror!”

“That’s ridiculous. What we want is a fantasy comedy.”

“What?! Nonsense! We’re doing a horror mystery, just like I had in mind!”

“No, we’re doing a mystery comedy.”

“That’s just….fine. Tell you what. You tell your story and I’ll tell mine, and we’ll see which one’s better.”

“Fine. It’s a waste of time, though, as it’ll definitely be mine.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Go on then. What’s the deal with your story?”

“Well, we know it takes place on a stormy night. Because I just said it did. I don’t care how cliché it is. It’s going to have a storm. A big one!”

“Alright, fine. We have a storm. And then what happens?”

“There’s a murder.”

“Oh – come on – really?! A murder on a stormy night? That’s Murder Mystery 101, man! That’s pretty much the only thing that happens on stormy nights!”

“Will you just let me get on with the story?”

“I don’t even – fine. Continue with your Tale of Unbelievable Triteness.”

“There’s a terrible storm raging. Rain is falling from the skies like bullets from God’s machine gun.”

“What the – ”

“Lightning streaks across the night, accompanied by booming thunder. The heavens themselves are at war! And amidst this epic battle of the gods, one small mortal has a dark purpose to fulfill. A purpose that ends in….MURDER!”

“Well that’s certainly the loopiest description of a stormy night I’ve ever heard, I’ll give you that. So this guy, or girl, wants to kill someone. Is it a rich old widow? Or an eccentric professor? Oh, let me guess…before dying, the professor spells out the identity of his killer using a series of cryptic clues that must be deciphered over the course of 500 pages!”

“Would you like to make a contribution that doesn’t involve just taking up space?”

“Very well then. Let me show you how it’s done.”

“Oh, please do.”

“Hmmph. Now, there is a murder that takes place in this tale – ”

“You just stole that from me! And after all of your complaining!”

“Look, I’m not writing about a murder on a ‘dark and stormy night’ with divine machine guns, alright?” Fantasy comedies can have murder too.”

“Oh, of course they can. Alright, so your murder story is completely different from mine. Let’s hear it.”

“For starters, the victim’s name is Belvedere Thimblegardner, billionaire and collector of unique artifacts. On a trip to Ireland the previous year, he had been on the lookout for supernatural trinkets and came across a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Belvedere added it to his collection without a second thought. Leprechaun gold? Now that was something to hang onto. And who knows, it might even aid him in capturing an actual leprechaun to put in his menagerie!”

“Leprechauns. Yeesh. Ok.”

“Anyway, the owner of the pot is a leprechaun by the name of Finnwick Paddywick, who is understandably distraught at losing his gold. Leprechauns rely on their gold, you see, because it brings them luck.”

“I thought that was four leaf clovers.”

“Yes…four leaf clovers…AND gold. The gold enhances the power of the clover, so without the gold, the clover is mostly useless.”

“That seems like a needlessly complicated system. Why can’t he just want the gold because it’s gold?”

“Because that’s not how it works!”

“Why don’t you figure that out while I continue with my story. In a derelict apartment block nestled in a part of the city that never really seen better days, murder most foul has been committed. The victim is one Hans Fezmueller, the building landlord. He’s been stabbed to death while watching TV, his crimson blood staining his dirty white T-shirt and his green couch. There are no other traces of blood, no bloody footprints or fingerprints, and no murder weapon to be found. No disturbance at all. Well, not quite. The window of his apartment is open, and underneath the window sill is one single clue: a broken pink hair curler.”

“A hair curler? So he was killed by a disgruntled housewife?”

“Well, we don’t know that. That’s the mystery.”

“It’s a housewife, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes, but it’s the investigation that’s the real story.”

“Hmm, fascinating, yes. Belvedere Thimblegardner lies dead in his gargantuan mansion.”

“Oh, so we’re going back to your story now?”

“He appears to have been beaten by some sort of blunt object. A golden scepter lies nearby, a relic from a Hungarian vacation. It’s covered in blood. Belvedere is lying on the floor by two lavish couches facing each other. Between them, an unfinished game of chess. However, the white king has been knocked over. Detective Mooweather is most puzzled by this unusual scene.”

“Detective Mooweather?”

“He’s a cow.”

“Your detective’s a cow?!”

“Yes. Clarence Mooweather, Cow Sleuth. And his trusty sidekick, Professor Rufflebaum.”

“And what’s he, a sheep?”

“A cat, actually. A black and white cat with mismatched eyes.”

“Huh. That’s actually not bad. Animal detectives.”

“Yes, animal detectives! I told you my story would be great!”

“It’s got potential, I suppose. So who’s the killer? The leprechaun?”

“No! That’d be too obvious. It’s..uh..well, I haven’t really gotten that far, to be honest.”

“Can the killer be a ghost?”

“What?”

“Yeah, the ghost of a disgruntled housewife. Perhaps a former Mrs. Thimblegardner…who was a literal gold digger!”

“And what would a ghost want with gold?”

“Luck, of course. Maybe it’s a misguided attempt to change her luck and resurrect herself.”

“Gold isn’t really a time travel device, you know.”

“Couldn’t it be?”

“Hmmm. Well, I guess. Maybe we’re onto something here.”

“I know, right? We’ve got a horror-mystery-fantasy-comedy!”

“Why not throw in some romance while we’re at it?”

“Don’t you dare!”

“Relax, it was just a joke.”

Malcolm smiled. After months of agonizing over what story to write, his ideas had come together at last. He quickly started typing before his mind erupted into chaos again.

The Scribe

I do love a good riddle. This should be an easy one, me thinks.

He is a teller of stories,

Spinning tales of the fantastical and the familiar.

He is a messenger and a teacher,

Prophet and preacher,

But his words are not his own.

Everyone commands his services,

From the highest king to the lowest worker,

Spreading their messages with his blood.

They are cruel to him,

Twisting his neck,

Beating his head,

Or removing it entirely.

Whatever it takes to make the blood flow,

To write the stories that need to be told.

And when the deed is done, they heal him.

Make him whole once more and lock him away.

Until he is needed again.

Until another tale needs telling.

Rest Stops

For the past couple of months, the story engine has been chugging along steadily, plowing through stories every day without stopping. But every engine needs a rest now and then.

I’ve decided to make Fridays tech-free, setting my computer and gadgets aside to enjoy the outside world, and perhaps find inspiration for new tales to tell. So as of yesterday, there will be no posts on Friday.

It’s occurred to me of late that the quality of my stories has been suffering as I rush to post something for the day. Taking a day off will give me a chance to plan out posts for the week, or at least the next couple of days.

However, the door to the Reading Room is always open. Feel free to browse through the archives on Friday and discover older stories locked away in the vault.

Frightful

“Why does it have to be a dark and stormy night?”

“Atmosphere, son. This is a horror story, after all.”

“What happens if we turn off the storm generator?”

“We did. Once.”

“And?”

“We ended up living in a romance novel.”

“Oh god…”

“There are horrors no man should experience.”