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Winter Contest (Prose) – Public Transportation

 
 
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  #1  
Old 11-09-2011, 02:52 AM
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Default Winter Contest (Prose) – Public Transportation


The theme for the coming season is Public Transportation, so set pen to paper and show us what can happen on a bus or train, in a taxi or on the plane, not to forget the ferry and rickshaw and any other mode of transportation.


* * *

Entries:

Members are allowed one entry in the prose contest. (You are welcome to enter our poetry contest as well.) Prose entries should be submitted as posts to this thread. The competition is open to all members of Writer’s Beat, including staff.

Members are requested to refrain from commenting on entries in this posting thread. Please use the Winter Contest Comment thread instead. That thread will remain open throughout the posting period and afterwards, and members are encouraged to let entrants know what they thought of their entries.

Word Limits:

Prose: 2,000 words Maximum

Edits:

Once an entry has been submitted, it cannot be altered. Any work that is edited after it has been entered will be disqualified. If you feel you need to make a small alteration (a misplaced comma, a spelling error), contact a member of staff. If we feel your request is reasonable, we will make the correction on your behalf.

Close Date:

23rd December 2010, 12 midnight GMT

Judging:

Winners will be selected by means of a public vote, so you, the members of Writer’s Beat, will choose the winners.

After the closing date, a voting thread will be posted. Voting will commence on the 24th of December and close on the 30th of December 2010, 12 midnight GMT.


* * *

Recognition:

The winning entries will be considered for publication in Writer's Beat Quarterly, subject to the approval of the editors. To increase your chances of getting published (whether you win or not), make sure your document is as error-free as possible!

Also, the member (or tying members) with the most votes will get to suggest the next contest theme!


* * *


If you have any questions about the contest, contact a staff member and we will happily answer them for you. Now sharpen your pencils, fill up your inkwells and get writing. Good Luck!

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Last edited by Tau; 11-10-2011 at 03:14 AM..
  #2  
Old 12-07-2011, 05:14 AM
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Default Hell Before Heaven - 1681 words

The morning didn’t start well. Sometime during the night my phone – and alarm – decided to die, thus not waking me at the allotted time. Waking frazzled and hurriedly trying to get kids ready for school did little to improve my mood, neither did poking myself in the eye with my mascara wand. Leaving five minutes late we ran for the bus, only for it to pull away, meaning we had to wait in the bitter winter wind for the next one. My mood was murderous, my sleep had been plighted with dreams of my ex, the morning hadn’t got off to the best of starts and now I was being subjected to my kids’ whinging because they were going to be late for school.

“Oh do shut up! There’s not much I can do about it, is there? And if you had all got dressed and eaten your breakfast when you were told, then we might have made that bus.”

“Sorry mum, we won’t do it again,” Jack, my four-year-old said with adorable sweetness.

I felt bad, I knew it wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t fair I was taking my irritation out on them. I beckoned them over to me for a hug, thinking about how much I adored each of my three little angels, and the massive mug of hot chocolate I’d enjoy once I’d dropped them off and got some shopping. A bus soon arrived and we reached our next stop in record time. I looked at the time on my – newly charged – phone and saw that we had made it in time to catch the late bus, which would get the kids to school roughly two minutes after they opened the gates. I didn’t count that as late. I began to relax, things seemed to be looking up.

The kids complained about waiting, the cold and being late but once again I told them there was little I could do about any of those things except hold them tight so we all kept warm. The late bus didn’t arrive, I started panicking. The kids had never been late to school before and despite my blasé attitude towards the matter, I hated tardiness, especially my own. People were always looking for an excuse to badmouth you when you were a single mum to three kids under seven. My daily mission – one of them at least – was to make sure they never had anything to criticise me about.

I felt a wave of relief when I saw our bus, they’d definitely be late but it could have been a lot worse. I was grateful for the warmth of the bus, so were the kids I think, though we were packed in like sardines. I willed the bus to hurry up, for every red light to turn green, but as we hit the big roundabout we came to a standstill. I cursed under my breath, other passengers vocalised their annoyance louder but just as colourful. I glared at most of them, some had the good grace to look sheepish before turning away from me and the kids.

“Oh mum what are we going to do?” Kasey, my five-year-old whined.

I gave her a gentle smile as I smoothed her hair, wondering why I was having such bad karma today. I didn’t want to get stressed again, but my mug of hot chocolate kept moving further and further away. I just wanted to snuggle up at home and not have to deal with the impending drama I knew my kids would inflict upon me and our fellow passengers.

“I don’t know darling. It’s just a little traffic jam, we’ll get moving in a minute.”

“Miss Parsons is going to tell me off,” Jack said worriedly, his little face looking close to tears.
He loved Miss Parsons very much and hated to disappoint her, just like I loved all my kids and despised letting them down. I wished there was something I could have done just then to make things better but there wasn’t, except to hug him tightly and kiss his chilled red nose.

“No she won’t and if she does, tell me okay sweetie?”

“Mum the queue is long,” Sarah, my six-year-old informed me sulkily.

I looked out of the window and saw she was right, about forty cars were stood still in front of the bus. I heard fellow passengers begging the driver to open the doors, but he refused them, citing health & safety. Bleeding health & safety, I thought, it gets cited for everything nowadays, making living that much harder. I began to feel my stress levels rising as the kids continued whinging, accompanied by other schoolchildren on the bus.

“Look everyone is in the same boat, we’re all going to be late okay? So please stop complaining,” I said harassed, pulling a tissue from my pocket to mop Jack’s tears away with.

The driver finally gave in to pressure – or maybe an instruction from his superiors – and opened the doors. I didn’t really want to go back into the cold, or to walk, but anything was better than standing still and listening to the collective moaning of children. Jumping off with kids in tow I had another decision to make, left or right. Going left would mean we could catch a different bus that avoided the traffic but dropped us five minutes from school. Going right meant walking down to the next bus stop where hopefully an alternative bus would pick us up.

We went right and after a lot of whinging, being blown about, and seven minutes, made it to the next stop where thankfully we got another bus. Frozen to the bone, I already saw cold medicine and sick children in the not so distant future. The journey seemed to take forever, all my energy seemed to have left me and I no longer cared if they made it to school or not, I just wanted my bed. I felt I’d done a full day’s work instead of just the school run by the time we reached our destination.

The kids were half an hour late, but it turned out so were about half of all the pupils. There had been a fatal car crash, I learnt, in the town centre. The knock on effect had affected all adjoining towns and no one could get anywhere by road. I groaned as I realised more walking would have to be done to reach the town centre, which was closer than home.

Sat in the cafe with a steaming cup of coffee I witnessed the traffic gradually return to normal as the police cleared the debris and ambulances took away the injured and dead. I shivered as I looked at the wind blowing through the scantily leafed trees, it looked freezing out there. Tiredly I got to my feet and ventured out to get the shopping needed for dinner. It didn’t surprise me when I got a trolley with wonky wheels, it seemed to fit in with the day I was having. I even managed a little titter at the absurdity of the day until one of my shopping bags split down the high street.

Scurrying after runaway tins I was not pleased to see my ex across the road notice my misfortune. I was less amused when he came strolling over to my rescue.

“Allow me to help,” Derek said crouching down.

“That’s very kind, but unnecessary. I’m fine on my own,” I replied tightly, grabbing a packet close to him.

He sighed. “I know you are, never met anyone finer.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I spat, looking at him as he got to his feet.

“Nothing,” he said calmly. I scoffed, shaking my head as I returned to the retrieval of my shopping. “I don’t know why I bother!”

“Neither do I!” I yelled at his retreating back, feeling heat reach my face before it warmed the rest of my frozen body.

Laden with overloaded bags and now furious with Derek and myself, I decided not to run for the bus. Sitting on the upper deck when another arrived, I began actively not thinking about Derek and instead dreaming once again about my hot chocolate, being curled up on the sofa under a fleece blanket... Mmm, I couldn’t wait.

A jolt brought me out of my dream alarmed. The bus had collided with another one! I rolled my eyes as I thought about how unlucky I had been today, particularly with buses. Getting off I shivered as the cold seeped into me instantly. People were crowded around the buses, surveying the damage. I glanced over someone’s shoulder and saw the back bumper of one lying in the road, I imagined the front of the other had some damage too. Boarding another bus I discovered I had misplaced my bus pass, I felt like crying!

“Look I had it when I got on the bus that crashed, surely you can just let me on? I don’t see why I should have to pay again anyway. I didn’t want to get off here.”

The driver waved me on, though he looked dubious about it. Throughout the journey I wondered what was going to happen next. I got my answer when I heard thunder and the heavens opened. Being in a rush this morning I naturally had forgotten my umbrella, I was going to get soaked walking home from the bus stop. I actually thought the Fates were being kind to me when the rain stopped before I reached my stop. Little did I know what lay around the corner.

Struggling with the shopping – which I swear was lighter twenty minutes ago – I had my home in sight when a bus decided – at speed – to go through a massive puddle the storm had left. Soaked from the waist down I gave in to the tears and blubbered all the way home. Derek was there waiting with flowers and open arms, which I gladly fell into. The morning end well, snuggled up with hot chocolate and Derek.
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Hope for the best, expect the worst, accept whatever happens
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  #3  
Old 12-09-2011, 09:58 AM
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  #4  
Old 12-11-2011, 08:32 AM
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Default Looking back




I’ll always remember the first time I saw the tall man in the grey suite.

‘I need your cooperation’, he said.

Everyone appeared surprised, especially the man in the brown overcoat sitting at the front of the bus. He looked the kind of man that takes care of things; you know the type, a hero.

‘Together we can do it,’ the grey-suited man said, waving his arms, pointing at the brown overcoat man. ‘This crime will not go unpunished, not if I can do anything about it.’

Our hero, didn’t seem to respond to the ranting, the waving arms, why should he, wasn’t he the type who always manages to save the day, solve the crime, win the girl. How could we have been so wrong?

Before the last words had left old grey suite’s mouth, the gun appeared, out of nowhere, held steady in the hand of our . . . hero.

Gasps escaped, and like a flock of birds will always reunite; we all scattered to form a neat group at the end of the bus. A local bus it was, the one-o’clock running from Market Square to Red Lion Lane. My nerves couldn’t stand the pressure, I’m not too young, not too young at all being ninety-one and lucky to be still standing. And, why is that? Due I always say to my intake of antioxidant, a long word, and with such a difficult meaning to absorb but, I ‘m told if I take my vitamin C or E or beta carotene to protect my body cells (told you, didn’t I, a young ninety-one I am) I escape the damaging effects of oxidant. I don’t really understand all that but I feel really well inside, and outside of course, rosy cheeked and my hair, well I love the flame red colour that Marjorie said was so essential to upkeep my ever-young appearance.

Shame then, that old brown overcoat pointed his gun at me. My eyes aren’t too good, and I didn’t recognise him, I’d left me best 3 D glasses at home. It was Marjorie calling out, ‘Jim, Jim Doubleday, just as the shot rang out that I knew who he was. No hero then, anything but, although five minutes ago I’d thought him one.

Well, at that first shot, cooperation it was. Old brown overcoat disappeared beneath all the passengers as they charged at him, knocked the gun from his hand, and eventually tied him to a front seat.

Why? Why had he done it, fired that first shot?

‘For love,’ he said later. Had been carrying a torch for me, he said, couldn’t resist my flame red hair. If he couldn’t have me . . . nobody would.

Well I never, wish I could thank Marjorie, it was her idea to boost my love life, and she was right – all that fuss over my lovely flame red hair. Shame she caught that bullet. Shame she won’t be here to do my roots next Wednesday when I’ve a date with the grey suite – by the way, his name’s Jeff.
  #5  
Old 12-17-2011, 12:21 PM
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THE ROOT OF EVIL

George and I held the doors of the limousine open for the bereaved family – two middle-aged ladies and a gentleman. Then I got behind the wheel and my colleague climbed in beside me.

We’re not out-and-out baddies but, to liven the funeral runs up a bit, we leave the privacy window behind our heads open slightly. Nobody notices or, if they do, they don’t say. Most of the passengers sit there like wax-work dummies, others comment that the deceased had had a good innings. Our lot talked about potatoes.

"Are you two sisters going to say a few words about your Dad? He was the best father-in-law a man could wish for, he’d do anything for anyone. Bit like my Jess here. Take potatoes for example."

"Potatoes? What are you talking about, Harry?"

"What I’m not talking about, Amelia, is your ordinary King Edward’s. Jess uses cassava....

He said the word in the tone an upper class rich person would say ‘caviar’. Mind you, when the will’s read, he and the sisters will be rich people if the large detached house we’ve just driven away from is anything to go by.

...They’re difficult to peel, Jess doesn’t like them and yet she goes to the trouble of making meals for me."

"It’s no trouble."

"Now, I wouldn’t dream of criticising, dear, because, Lord knows, I can’t even boil an egg, but I do think they need cooking for a few minutes more."

I glanced in the rearview mirror and Jess was fuming. Amelia broke the silence with a whimper which Harry took as a life-line.

"Take no notice of me, girls, don’t know what I’m sayin’. But, I’ll tell you this, that Dundee cake you made, Amelia, was superb. I had a piece before the car came."

I drove through the high gates of the crematorium with visions of my old gran in my mind. She used to make Dundee cake – a rich fruit cake covered in almonds.

"That’s for after the funeral, Harry," said Amelia, but there was no anger in her voice. "I’ve got a loose button on my jacket, I’ll have to snap it off in case I lose it."

"I’ve got a sewing kit in my bag," said Jess. "Plenty of black cotton. Slip your jacket off."

Harry’s wife made a quick repair as I pulled in at the centre chapel. When George and I opened the limousine doors, Amelia had all her buttons intact.

I think his father-in-law’s imminent send-off was beginning to affect Harry. I could tell his breathing was fast and his face had gone cherry-red.

"Are you all right, sir?"

"I... I’ll be OK."

I caught a whiff of almonds on his breath. Not surprising since he’d had a piece of Dundee cake but, the strange thing was, they smelled bitter.
* * *

I followed the hearse, a floral ‘H’ adorned the coffin. I’d told my wife about Harry’s bitter almond breath and she said it was like something out of Agatha Christie and was a sign of cyanide poisoning. I looked up at the mirror.

I can’t believe Amelia’s a murderer. A potential mass murderer at that – the cake was for ‘after the funeral’. But we haven’t heard about any multiple deaths so I guess she destroyed the evidence.

Now she’d had got rid of her brother-in-law there’d be more inheritance for her and Jess.

I checked Amelia again and then gave a gasp – she’d got a dagger! Surely she wasn’t going to murder her own sister in the back of the funeral car! It turned out that she wasn’t. She took an envelope out of her bag and used what I had thought was a dagger to open it.

I don’t think the letter was important but, from the way Amelia tried to hold it at arm’s length, I could tell she had poor eyesight. Jess must have known that, which was why she sewed the button on Amelia’s jacket.

Apart from a momentary scare, the journey was uneventful. There was one thing, though. I saw a notice outside a supermarket telling of a reduction in the price of frozen ready-peeled cassava pieces.

* * *

Amelia fell down the stairs! I heard George offering his condolences to Jess on the unfortunate accident. If I hadn’t seen that sign about cassava I’d have thought it was an accident as well. But it puzzled me why Jess would struggle using a potato-peeler on what I’ve learnt is called cassava root when it is possible to buy already peeled pieces, which may have been cooked before freezing. And this cooking or, shall we say, undercooking is the issue here. Harry said the meals needed cooking longer.

More significant is the fact that Jess didn’t have any. Significant, that is, since the Internet told me that undercooked cassava root is a source of cyanide poisoning.

And what about Amelia falling down the stairs? Could it have been an accident? Not when you remember Jess had ‘plenty of black cotton’ and knew her sister couldn’t see well.

There’s also the quiet smile of triumph on the face of our passenger.
 
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  #6  
Old 12-23-2011, 01:21 PM
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Lament for A Cabbie

I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a writer. Not much of a decent one; my English instructor at the Academy always used to sneer at my prose, used to wave my meticulously handwritten essays and poems about the classroom for all of the supposedly prim ladies of Brooklyn’s finest school for the young, the rich, and the jealous.
My grammar was flawless. My penmanship was far superior to even my instructors. Many a time, my instructor in History would display my essays and theories not to box my ego across the ears, but to use it as a weapon to beat entire classes’ perceived perfections into sullen silence. This didn’t earn me many friends, but it proved I could write. I could tell a story.
But for so long, after the balls and the galas and the house parties of New York society, I had nothing to put pen to paper for. My life was extravagant, but was it worth boxing other’s egos about poetically? A Depression had gripped New York. After the Crash, I considered myself lucky to own a home, let alone a Cadillac.
The Depression. I am losing my focus, and yet I am quite where I should be. To repent, to truly ask for forgiveness, I must ride out my shame, my grief, my loneliness, gripping this typewriter with irony in my head and grief searing my heart.
I must interject throughout this re-telling, but it is necessary, dear reader. For you to understand my unforgivable actions and my sinful joy, you must bear with me. I have born worse than your impatience.

“Wattya doin’?”
The jet black Ford screeched against the snow-soaked curb, it’s gearshift rattling audibly.
“Hold up two lanes of traffic, why don’t ya?’
I yanked my wheel hard left, motoring around the back end of the Ford; it’s front lay across Broadway Avenue’s midnight vista. The back had blocked the entire sidewalk, and a gaggle of fur-coated pedestrians in gloves and silk scarves were waving and bellowing at the driver to move.
As soon as my rear lights lit up the front, I stamped the pedal and lost myself in the school of traffic.
Weaving through downtown traffic, I slipped into the sea of taxis and followed suit, tailgating obsessively and honking in unison with the unshaven, dirty-faced moonshine swilling staple of New York life; the cabbie.
My bleary eyes shifted from the road to my cheap wind-up dangling off the rearview. 9:06 pm. Twenty-six customers had flagged me down. I had thirteen dollars jingling in my pocket. It drew a smile; I’d be paying the rent not on time, but early. Early. My cab was paying off, I had rent, food and a roof. I’d been blessed. My fingers brushed the thumb-sized crucifix hanging from the mirror. I’d been truly blessed. What more could I ask for?
Her.
The lights changed and I stamped on the gas, shivering in the ice-cold draft through the radiator. Snow slid across my windshield in vast sheets, and I couldn’t see the sky. My headlights barely picked up the road, let alone what lay beyond.
9:15. My lights drifted across huddles of humanity; bums, shopkeepers, kids, rich folks. A show must have ended; a small flotilla of taxis were loitering at the curb and blocking all lanes. I managed to gun the engine and shoot past through the opposite lane.
She was usually here.
My heart filled the cabin with the tempo. I found myself mashing the wheel cover with two fingers. Under my cap and ratty scarf, my face was burning.
Out of the misty gloom and the riot of downtown, a fur-coated woman stood at the curb, hand to her hooded face, arm clutching a handbag.
It was her.
I had taken care to wait for the nine o’clock taxi, like all nights. He had taken care to wait for me.
I yanked my hack over the curb, between two elegantly painted matte-black sedans. No showing off. Not even for my love. There was a job to do, and I would do it well.
She rapped on the windows, and I unlatched the back door. She slid her handbag across the back and clambered over the seat, managing to look both ladylike and dignified while doing it.
Even crawling on her hands and knees across a cab bench, she was beautiful.
Even through his muffler, through his hood and the filthy cap staining his ears, he was picture-perfect. Right down to the hair, the lashes.
I smiled, tipped my cap, and held out a half-gloved hand.
“Where to, ma’am?”
I knew her answer. It was nice hearing it from that melodic voice, those rich, warm lips. That voice, tuned to perfection, laced with subtle enunciation and elegance.
I gave him the customary answer. Hearing that polished drawl sent shivers down my spine. I could barely choke out my response. I nearly stepped out. I almost gave in.
I will not.
“West and 33rd, if you please.”
I will not.
“Very good, ma’am. That’ll be two dollars.”
This is my penance.
She slipped the crisp bills between my palms, I released the clutch, and we were off.
Between the sedans, across a section of snowed-in road and we were out of the worst. I always cut my routes short; saves the customer’s cash, and give me time to find more. For some reason, the long winding roads of Third Avenue were drawing me in. It was awfully beautiful with the gusts against the studios, cinemas and theatres. I barely noticed and scarcely cared.
“Cold night, ma’am?”
“Freezing” she murmured under her breath, staring at the snow patterns sweeping the roadway.
Or was she staring at me?
He had thinned out. There were new worry lines across his once-eloquent mouth. Were they worry lines or new smile lines? Upon contemplation, I knew they were the latter.
“I can believe it, ma’am. I’ve been caged inside this hack all day, and even with the heater full blast, it’s a miracle I’m not frozen stiffer than a Suit.”
I kept the banter flowing; my dispatcher always told me I could get decent work as a butcher. Apparently I can talk the legs off an entire herd.
Still, there was that haunted, distant look in her eye.
“What’s your name, cabbie?”
My elbows seized. I nearly killed us both. Trucks were barreling down Third with no traction and no brakes.
My name. She was asking for my name.
“Uhh….Joseph Morrison, ma’am.”
Joseph Morrison the Third. Articulate, contrite, and extremely arrogant. He was at the epicenter of a grand web, a web surrounding the wealthiest men in the world of commerce of the wealthiest nation this Earth had ever known-the United States of America.
I jammed my cap across my cheeks to hide the blushing. She was asking my name!
“Is there a problem, Mr. Morrison?”
“Please, ma’am. Call me Joe.”
He was a knife-sharp man, born to fight in international economic jousts; for land, bonds, stock. He was nimble with numbers. Cash flowed from between his fingers.
I stashed the money aside. More rent money. Everything was playing through my fingers tonight.
What more could a cabbie ask for?
“Joe, then. Is there a problem?”
“None at all, ma’am. My fingers are frozen from the drive. It’s been a long day.”
“How long?”
“Fifteen hours, ma’am” I answered stoically.
He was so…..matter of fact, so nonchalant about his work. He had been on the road since six o’clock that morning. He had been staining his brow with honest sweat.
He is worse than I imagined.
Adrenaline seeped through my digits.
“Fifteen hours? Is this routine?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Are there jobs you can apply for that require you to labor for less than fifteen hours a day?”
“Possibly, ma’am.” My foot slammed the brake, nearly launching the woman’s handbag through the window.
I was waiting for that. My handbag alone could feed him for an entire month. It was a test of character.
“Ma’am!” I caught her handbag with one remaining hand just as it ricocheted across the windscreen, the star-like studs cracking off the glass, leaving cracks in both my windshield and my wallet.
“Oh, sir! I apologize! It just slipped out of my-“
“It’s alright ma’am.” I sighed, counting up the damages in my head.
My hand tightened on the wheel. I’d lose every penny I’d earned today. I’d lose every single fucking dime I’d made, while this fucking Dame, who was playing with me, playing with me like some damn poodle of hers….
Why did it matter? I’d get the money another day. She wasn’t going to leave, not by my harsh words. I loved her.
And so, I forgave her.
He was known for his rages. Over brandy and fine china, he’d rant and rave at businessmen, at politicians, at factory bosses with arms flailing like windmills and glass shattering like a parlour version of the Somme. He simply could not accept failure. It is the curse of one who can see every move ever made on the board, and be forced to play by proxy.
He was violent. He was abusive. He was sick.
I could only watch.
He was my husband.
“How do you like your job, Mr Morrison?”
I scratched my neck, embarrassed.
“”Well, ma’am, it suits me fine. It’s a good job, ferrying rich folks like yourself around.”
“Really? What do you find so glamorous about freezing in a cabin for fifteen hours?”
My teeth clenched. Her voice had an odd uptake at the end, as if she regretted asking somewhere in the middle of doing so.
It was funny to see him scratch his head at that. He wasn’t lying. He absolutely loved his career.
It was gut-wrenching to see the scar, once again, streaking across the back of his skull.
“It’s a job I do, and it’s a job I do well. Don’t you dare patronize me for it!”
I nearly jumped the curb once more with my fury. Through the rearview window, her gloved fingertips brushed her lips, a sigh of terror escaped them. Terror, or sadness?
That blue-eyed red-hazed stare was all too familiar.
The Jersey Manor Ball, nineteen twenty six, had been our last outing together. I’d accompanied him through the extravagant double doors of the manor, past the bankers from Russia, and across the threshold. My eyes were still bruised from the night before. My stomach still ached.
What a monster. What a sick monster.
The cab screeched to a halt outside a looming set of black, crumbling buildings. West and 33rd Street.
“Get out.”
“Mr. Morris-“
“I said GET OUT!”
I threw her handbag into the snow. She tumbled out of the seat a moment a moment later. Her furs stretched across the sidewalk, leaving her bright red dress scattered across her elegant limbs and the freezing tarmac.
He was in one of his old moods.
“I don’t need your jibes about a job that barely earns me the rent!”
I was in a new one. I’d had enough. I’d had quite enough with his moods. So had half the world’s investors. They were slowly going bankrupt because of his tantrums. In hindsight, he reminds me quite a lot of a rising political star within Germany- Hitler?
“I’m sorry”
“No! No you’re not! Every time I drive you, you give me this sympathetic gaze! As if I’m mental! I’ve had enough! Get out!”
Hiring a man was easy enough. Hiring one that wouldn’t miss proved to be harder.
She scrambled to her feet, eyes wide. People stopped along the frozen sidewalk, watching her retreat.
He hit. My husband survived. And now he lives as a cabbie, not remembering his past life.
Strange. My act of vengeance changed his personality completely.
And yet I miss him.
Thus ends chapter one. My confession has been made in print, within the hallowed pages of a bestseller.
I am free.
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  #7  
Old 12-23-2011, 03:00 PM
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The Border

Jason, you’re not alone.

I awoke on the train just as the sun breached the horizon in spectacular explosion of orange and pink over a barren landscape. The voice of the conductor told us we were miles from the border and the final stop was minutes ahead. The speaker above me played a song that I cannot recall the name of, but my dad played it for hours on end until the needle broke on the record player.

I stared out the window at the barren landscape for only a few moments before I had the feeling I was being watched. I glanced up to see a young girl in a red pea-coat kicking her feet back and forth staring directly at me.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hello,” I said with a smirk, “have I been asleep long?”

“No, only for a couple of minutes.”

I adjusted my own coat, sat up, and looked around the train. Empty, not a soul to be seen. My chest felt tight, hard to breathe. I pressed my ribs.

“I’m Jason, what’s your name?”

“Cassandra. My name is Cassandra, I’m nine.”

“Well Cassandra,” I outstretched my hand, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.” She didn’t shake my hand, only laughed and looked down at her coat. “Where are your parents?”

“I’m going to meet them on the other side of the Border.”

“You know Cassandra, it’s funny, but I don’t remember—”

“Where you’re going?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Well, do you know where you are?” she asked looking out the window.

Your father came by today—

I followed her gaze out the window and the full moon shone softly on the dense forest as eucalyptus trees stood bare. Frost crept around the window.

“I think I’ve been here before, a long time ago,” I said and placed my had on the cold window trying to look off into the distance. I could make out a small fire burning between the gaps in the trees. “My dad and I used to camp here on the weekends when I was smaller.”

I looked back at Cassandra who was still looking outside.

“Do you know what’s sad about trains?” She asked.

“No, what’s sad about trains?”

“They are stuck. They are only allowed to go one place. You can’t change the direction of a train like a plane or a car.”

“Well someone has to plan where they go, but you’re right can’t change direction.”

The song above was playing on repeat.

You have her, Jason, the one woman—

A door slid open behind me and hot air rushed in from the outside. The sound of music burst through and it made it sound as if a there was an entire party I was missing in a train car back. Cassandra went back to picking at her red coat once the door had shut.

A sudden pain in my chest caused me to hunch over and let out a small yelp. It was as if it was all my lungs could manage.

I looked up at Cassandra who just stared at me.

And then the pain was gone.

“Jason, are you okay?” A woman asked putting a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to find Jessica in her beautiful wedding dress.

“We aren’t supposed to see each other yet,” I said recovering from the pain in my chest.

“I know but I just had to see you. I need to tell you something.”

“It can’t wait until after the wedding? You look spectacular, by the way.”

“Jason,” Cassandra said interrupting clearly annoyed, “you need to focus. We don’t have a lot of time. The Border is coming. Everything comes around.”

I looked at Cassandra and then out the window at the placid water in the harbor. Boats rocked back and forth as the clouds contemplated rain.

“What did you need to tell me?” I asked Rachel but I looked back too late as she walked down the aisle with the long tail of her wedding dress in tow.

“Where were you before this, Jason?” Cassandra asked playing with her hair.

“What do you mean? I was on this train.”

“No, before the train. Where were you?”

“I was,” and tried to reach back and think where I had been, “I was sleeping and then I woke up.” Everything became very silent and I couldn’t hear the noises of the train any longer. All I could hear was the song above me, which wasn’t just playing on repeat, but the only part repeating was the chorus. The chorus was the only portion of the song I could remember.

I don’t understand why—

Again, I looked out the window to try to trigger some memory, but all I saw was nothing. An inescapable black void.

“Think, Jason, where were you before this train?” Cassandra demanded in the only way a nine year old girl could. It was cute.

“You have something, right there,” She said pointing to the corner of her mouth.

I sent my tongue to investigate. It was warm, metallic. Blood. My eyes grew wide.

And then the pain came again, but this time it lasted much longer. It felt as if I was being crushed by an invisible vise. My chest began to cave in and I could feel each ribs crack. The sound of snapping was so loud Cassandra winced.

“Help me!” I screamed.

“I can’t help you. You have to do this on your own, or it will happen again,” she said calmly.

Trying to stand up I felt my legs fail beneath me, and then, as if I was submerged underwater, all the air was gone. I gasped for breath but it failed me too. Another rib cracked.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I managed to strain.

Cassandra leaned forward and put one hand on my shoulder, “You’ve done this to yourself silly.”

Air rushed back into by body again and all pain was gone. It was as it were.

“Who are you? No nine year old girl talks—”

“That shouldn’t be the question you’re asking.”

“Why not?”

“Because not unlike the Ouroboros, Jason, that question will inevitably lead back to itself.”

“What game is this? I don’t know you.”

“Not this again. You’re running out of time, Jason. The border is not far off.”

I looked out the window. The small town we were going through was quiet. Every house had its lights on and every car in the driveway was the same as the last. Each house looked as if it was a transplant suburban home from another golden age.

“I know this place.” I said pressing my hand against the window.

“Why?” Cassandra asked.

“Because I built it when I was a child, we’re on my train set. We’re about to pass the post office,” I said pointing ahead as little red lights of the crossing sign flashed on and off. “How is this possible, why are we on my train set?”

“How long do you think you’ve been on this train?”

“I awoke only a couple minutes ago.”

“How many times have you been waking up here? How many times have you asked me these same questions? And where were you while you were sleeping?”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember. I can only remember this train.”

“What else do you remember? You have to hurry Jason, the border.”

“I remember waking up and then seeing you, and then I don’t know.”

“What else?” Cassandra screamed.

“Jessica. I remember Jessica,” I finally snapped out with a flash of her in the wedding dress.

“Who is Jessica?”

“I don’t know. She was in a wedding dress.”

“Is she your wife?”

Jessica is awake now—

I looked out the window of the train And then I remembered everything. I watched as we walked down the aisle. Through the window I saw how we exchanged our vows and then kissed under the weeping willows. I felt the warm air on my face.

I tried to close my eyes, but every time I did I found myself staring out the window again. A vicious cycle of consciousness in which I could not escape what I knew I would see.

We drank so much at the reception. Danced. Sang. Getting late.

I watched as she and I stumbled back to our car. I fumbled for the keys as slept leaning against the hood. I watched as my own hands slipped from the steering wheel.

The sound of metal smashing, curling, twisting against the guardrail was all to visceral. Only a moment of screaming before, through the window, the black void returned.

“I remember now,” I said placing my hand on the window, “I’m dead.”

“No, not yet; there is still work to be done, Jason. You have two options. You can get off the train at the border, or not. That’s your choice.” she said.
I slid from my seat and dropped to the floor of the train.

“I can’t live with myself after this, I hurt her. Is she okay? Is she alive? Why are you doing this to me?” I asked sobbing, clawing at Cassandra’s red coat. I looked at the window again and saw only the twisted smoking remains of the car.

“We all make mistakes eventually, Jason. It isn’t whether you regret what you’ve done, but how you act in the aftermath. It’s the strength to emerge that makes you who you are; not the inward self-loathing. This doesn’t have to be the end for you.”

“Can I go back? Can I change it? Please!” I begged pulling on her small coat. She only looked at me with pitiful eyes.

The song above continued to play the repeating chorus. The only words I knew.

“No, Jason, you can’t change that, but you can change you. All you have to do is get off this train when we stop at the border.”

“You keep talking about the border, what border?”

“It’s your last chance. Your mind is sort of in a balancing act between one state and another, the choice you make at the border—to leave or to stay—upsets that balance.”

“I don’t deserve to get better. I’m not ready.”

The train began to slow and I braced myself as we lurched forward. We were entering the train station I made from balsawood that I hand-painted. The red trim of the building was peeling.

The train continued to slow, as if the conductor was pumping the brakes, before coming to an abrupt stop.

Cassandra hopped off her seat and sat down next to me as I continued to look out the window.

Putting her hand on my shoulder she said, “What you don’t deserve, is believing that you can’t make yourself or her happy ever again.”

“What if I fail?”

“Well then you will have failed together.”

We just want you back, son.

I stood up using the chair as a brace. Immediately the pain in my chest returned and I cried out in pain. I collapsed into the aisle of the train car and turned toward the closest door to the exit. I could taste the blood pooling in the back of my throat as my chest felt as if it was imploding upon itself again.

Staggering, I gripped the headrest of each chair as I stumbled to get off the train. Each step more painful than the last. I turned to look back toward Cassandra who was now standing in the aisle staring at me as I pitifully made my way toward the exit.

“Who are you?” I asked coughing blood.

“We’ll be seeing each other again.”

I turned to the door attempting to walk but my legs wouldn’t move. The steps off the train were only a few feet in front of me. I grabbed onto whatever I could and heaved myself toward the door, falling forward out of the train.
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Last edited by Lost Traveler; 12-23-2011 at 03:46 PM.. Reason: Fixing small formatting issues.
 

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