200 Words at a Time: The Conclusion

Oookay, so I kinda went over 200 words.  Quite a bit over.  Doh!

But here’s my final contribution to the 200 Words at a Time challenge by Chuck Wendig.  You can find other great 1000 word collaborations at his challenge post!

Part 1, by Ashley:

He had already looked in the frozen section. From there, he rushed past people toward the front of the store, past the pharmacy.

“Anthony,” he yelled in a panic.

At the end of the aisle, he looked frantically around the corner. Shoppers shuffled with their items and queued for purchase.

Joe parted the people with his hands and maneuvered down the row of checkout lines. The lottery machines usually held Anthony’s interest.

Each step, he squinted toward the machines, hoping to see the top of Anthony’s head appear. An elderly woman drove a motorized cart in his path and he stopped just before knocking himself into the metal basket.

A rush of warmth filled him. His stomach lurched.

“Anthony,” he yelled in frustration.

The woman in the cart looked up at him calmly.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m in the way, aren’t I?”

“Yes, actually,” he said, his gaze darting from the machines to the cart.

He grabbed the front end of the cart and pulled it back, so he could quickly scramble around. As he approached the machines, he saw there was no small boy staring up at them and checking the flaps for freebies.

“Anthony,” he yelled again, this time not as loud and much more desperately.

He looked to the doors, then back into the aisles of the store. A man in a red vest worn by the store employees approached him.

“Sir, is your son missing?”

Joe looked at the concerned brow line of the employee.


Part  2, by Tony Taylor:

“Yes, yes he is.”

Joe’s eyes darted around the aisle full of shocked and concerned faces.  He began to feel light-headed.

The man in the red vest turned to another store employee standing next to him.

“Get to the front of the store.  Tell Julie that we need to lock the store-down ASAP.  Tell her we have a missing child.  She’ll call the police.  Let me deal with the static.”

The employee immediately headed to the front of the store.

Joe was feeling his legs begin to weaken. The man noticed immediately and put his arm around Joe.

“Sir, I know that this is difficult, but we are going to find your son.  Can you walk?”

“I think so,” Joe replied.

“We’ll get to the front office, I’m sure that the police will be here any moment.”

The scattered murmurs from the people gathered vibrated inside of Joe’s head.

“Mr. Miers!”

A blonde woman in a store vest quickly approached Joe and the man.  Moving along side of her was another woman who looked to be a store customer.

“Julie, are the police on their way?” Miers asked.

“I think we should move this to the back of the store,” Julie responded.

Miers and Joe both stopped walking.

“Did you find my son?”

The female customer now standing next to Julie stepped forward and put her arm around Joe.

“This is Kathy Cardona,” Julie said softly.  “This is his wife.”

The woman looked up at Miers.

“There is no missing boy,” she said.  “Our son died six months ago.”


Part 3, by Josée De Angelis:

“What? Are you insane?” Joe looked at Kathy. “And who are you anyway? Look, I don’t know who she is, but I really need to find my son so if you don’t mind…” Joe said, turning from them and starting to look around again.

“Joe, wait,” Kathy said, following him.

Julie and Miers stood there, dumbfounded.

“Joe, stop,” Kathy yelled, reaching for Joe’s arm.

Swinging around to her, Joe said: “I don’t know you. Leave me alone. I really need to find my son. If you want, you can help. He’s about so high” Joe reached his hand at chest level, “has blond hair and he’s wearing a GI-Joe T-shirt _”

“Stop it, Joe. You’re scaring me. Did you take your meds this morning?”

“What meds? What are you talking about?”

Suddenly, Joe’s hands started trembling and his eyes lost focus. He started remembering things in flashes.

A lake. Sounds of tires screeching on pavement. Anthony screaming from the back seat. A broken windshield. An airbag in his face. “Mr. Ward, everything will be alright,” said a woman. “We’ll take your son in custody. Agent Porter will meet you at the hospital for debriefing. Don’t say anything to anyone until you speak to Agent Porter. Do you understand?” Joe remembered nodding to the woman he now remembered as Agent Manning. The woman who just told the store’s employees she was Kathy, his wife.


Part 4, by Lynna Landstreet:

“Think, honey,” urged Agent Manning, carefully feigning a look of anguished concern. “Remember the accident? The hospital? You had a head injury, and Anthony –” she paused for a practiced sob. “– Anthony didn’t make it. I know it’s been hard, but you need to remember.” She gave the word the precise stress needed to reinforce the post-hypnotic suggestion. This had better work, she thought. He shouldn’t be experiencing even partial memory leaks, not this soon. Hopefully the situation could still be contained…

He blinked slowly, the look of wary suspicion fading, replaced by recognition, and guilt. “K-Kathy?” he whispered. “What did I –?” He looked around at the store staff, the curious customers. “Oh god, it happened again, didn’t it? I’m so sorry!”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s OK, sweetheart, I’ll take you home.”

Outside, she glanced up the street to see if her backup was close. They’d need to examine him again, make sure the blocks were holding… But something slammed into the back of her head, stunning her.

When she regained her senses, she was pressed up against the brick wall of an alley, arms twisted painfully behind her back. “I remember everything,” Joe hissed. “Now where’s my son?”


And now, the conclusion….

“Joe.  Mr. Ward. Just give me a moment–”

Joe yanked Agent Manning’s arm up farther, jamming her up against the brick. “I don’t want any more of your bullshit!  Take me to him!”

Manning cried out sharply.  “I can’t! And you know that. Mr. Ward–” She cried out again as her cheekbone cracked against the alley wall.  “Mr. Ward, listen to me!  Anthony is safe.  I swear to you.  But you know you can’t see him. You know that.  Just think! Think!  Please!

The note of desperation in her voice almost stopped him.  But Joe was too angry, too desperate himself.  He shoved her again, snapping her hard into the brick wall; there was a wet, ugly crack. He watched her eyes roll back in her head as she slid to the alley floor.

“No,” he screamed.  He crouched over, grabbing fistfuls of her blazer and trying to shake her awake.  “No! Where is he? You have to tell me!  Where’s Anthony.  Where is my son!

For a moment her glazed eyes focused on him and he felt a new surge of hope.  Her lips moved.  He leaned closer to hear what she had to say.

“Safe,” she whispered.  “Safe from you.”

She went limp under his hands, beyond his reach, her secrets carried with her. He stared at her, filled with such anger that for a moment he raised his fists to smash her face, and then the rest of the memories came back: snatching Anthony from the Senator’s house–his wife’s house–because that bitch wouldn’t give him visitation rights, not even one day.  The cops showing up way faster than he expected, Anthony screaming at him from the backseat, screaming Please Daddy I wanna go home! The pavement slick with rain and the car going into that uncontrolled spin, the approach of the lamppost at a terrifying speed.  The hospital, his wife’s cold face, her stupid fucking words: “Please, do whatever you can to help him.  To make him forget all this.  You people conditioned him to be like this. You people and your ‘spy training.’  You made him crazy. Fix it.” The restraints on his arms, the screaming, the raging words that were his own: “I’m not crazy!  I deserve to see him!  Let me see him!  Give me my son!”

Joe sagged over Agent Manning’s corpse, clutching his head.  He felt the warm trickle of something on his cheeks.  Touched them, to find blood.  More from his nose.  The sight of it made him laugh, and then he couldn’t stop laughing.

He staggered to his feet.  Wandered into the darkening night.

Anthony, he had to find him.

Had to find his son.

 

Story Sketch: Bayjer

This is really a story sketch of Bayjer, Anli and Ellius, I think. But we’ll call it Bayjer’s for now, since it’s his POV.

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BAYJER

“I’ve never seen a witch take so much tafil!” Anli frowned as she raised her cup. Her eyes never strayed from Ellius, who was huddled in the far corner of the tavern, over a twist of paper filled with the red dust. He stared at the dust like he did not know what to do with it, though Bayjer had seen him take the stuff before.

“How would you know?” Bayjer asked. “There aren’t any Ingfakuti witches.”

“There are a few,” Anli said, her delicate features turning dark. “But most of them are dead, yes. That’s the best you can do with the corpse-eaters.”

“You’re in a foul mood tonight. But I understand most witches like them fresher than that.”

Bayjer smirked as Anli made a warding sign. Across the room, Ellius had tapped the tafil into a bowl of rice porridge. The odd look of confusion was fading, giving way to something almost… greedy. Bayjer looked away. He felt suddenly uneasy, and took a long drink.

“But you’re right,” he said to Anli, as she refilled his cup and then her own. “I’ve sold the doses before. He’s got nearly three there. And yesterday he took two more.”

“And still he looks wasted. A witch on that much tafil should be glutted and fat. Something is wrong with him. Taiver should end our association with him.”

Bayjer ran his fingers through his short beard. “I won’t say you’re wrong, my lady, but I trust Taiver’s instincts.”

“Even Taiver makes mistakes,” Anli said.

Ellius used his spoon for only the first two swallows of porridge; after that, he simply picked up the bowl and bolted its contents, as if he were a starving man. Bayjer watched his adam’s apple bobbing rapidly as he swallowed. When the bowl was emptied, Ellius licked the rim and the insides, oblivious to the curious stares of those watching. Then he stared into the bowl as if he might refill it by will alone.

Bayjer tugged on his beard and shifted restlessly. “I’ll talk to Taiver,” he said, and then rose. “Come on, let’s go, Anli.”

Her grateful look unnerved him.

Story Sketch: Ellius

As fun as it is to doodle the characters, this is going to be a novel or novella, so I’ve started “word sketching” as well. I’ve decided to try to go through all the characters, writing a short piece about each. As an exercise, I’m also going to post them here, just for fun. These’ll probably be spontaneous and raw, unedited, so I can’t promise they’ll be good… but, they’re sketches— good isn’t the point. Finding, learning, experimenting, building for later… that’s hopefully what I’ll be doing.

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ELLIUS

The stories of the Vessian witches are the stuff of nightmares: gaunt figures in tattered robes and bits of armor, with ravenous eyes and ferocious appetites, unstoppable forces of nature. One lone witch of Vess, they say, could wipe out entire battallions with raging rivers of fire, dissolving the corpses of their victims into slurry they magically consume them for power. To even speak to one is to invite death to sup on your blood and bones.

Strange, then, to think that Ellius is one of them.

He is still, and quiet, and his appetites are private. The only hint of the mad hunger reputed of his kind is in the leanness of his face and body, and the rare, faint flash of some secret desperation in his eyes. Though he is tall and broad of shoulder, he has less strength than would be expected of a man of his size; it takes him and Anli both to wrest the heavy crates of cargo onto the back of the cart. His laugh is soft and restrained—at least, the only laugh Taiver has heard him utter—and seems to hide as many secrets as the rest of him.

His smile is not common, and more often a grimace, which is why for Taiver it is an irresistible challenge to tease it out.

Taiver jokes and jabs; he worries at Ellius like a dog with a stubborn piece of sinew. He is intrigued, and then he is more; too late he realizes he has been consumed by his own curiosity.

Drifting, floating

I have a lot of story starts that go nowhere. For instance, I jotted this down, but there isn’t really a point.

He is an old man now. Old enough, anyway, that his hair is now mostly grey, his face a deeply craggy terrain. Sometimes he thinks that the years passed so quickly–though he isn’t sure how that can be, when the days crawled past, a tedious war against boredom. He sat in his toll booth, day in, day out, and he planned for better things, and the moments went by, 50 cents at a time, then a dollar, then a dollar fifty.

In his head he has been many things. A cop. A truck driver. A farmer. A sculptor. On rare occasion, an investments broker, sharp in his suit and tie, with clever remarks for the equally sharp women he imagines he would consort with.

I’d never heard of this market before but a friend tweeted about it, and I love the idea of it . A magazine for Scifi/fantasy + another genre? LOVE! And the next genres are Superheroes, sidekicks, and villains? SUPER LOVE! If I could get my writing act together…