Sunday, May 22, 2011

Flash Fiction: This Night

I was honored to read this story at the annual Oxford Writing Festival at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on March 26, 2012.

Alone is Not Lonely - Digital Calligraphy by Sky Sloderbeck

This Night

Inspired by the song “This Night” by Black Lab.

The rain was heavy, but without an accompanying wind, it fell straight down in sheets. Thick drops drummed on the worn leather of his duster and cowboy hat. The sound was loud, but not loud enough to drown out his labored breathing. His head bowed in sorrow and the gun dangled from his lanky fingers, only a whisper of a breeze away from falling from his hand.

The body lay twenty paces from him in a pool of water that was rapidly turning red. He did not have to look to know that there was no longer life in it. His aim had been true and when the bullet is silver, there is no coming back.

A flash of lightning brightened the sky in an accusatory manner. Reflections in the water at his feet revealed the nearby church that loomed over him and the angel perched on the steeple who had been the sole witness to the horror performed in its presence. The gun dropped from his hand and he fell numbly to his knees with a pained gasp.

The ghosts of some of those he had ended under her tutelage haunted him on that lonely street: He had silenced Michael’s infectious laugh; he had dimmed Denise’s sparkling eyes; he had proven Richard’s endearing optimism false; and he had halted Tessa’s sharp intellect. Every victim had a name. Every victim had a face.  Every victim had a personality. Every victim had been his.

He raised his head slowly, woodenly, and blinked away the raindrops that filled his eyes.  The body was changing now, as he knew it would. He had known for weeks that the end would be like this, and she had never even suspected. The kills were for her, all of them, especially this last one. He had pulled the trigger to free her from her own madness, more than to free him from her.

Crawling on hands and knees to her, he knelt reverently at her side.  He brushed her long blonde hair, dyed dark by the rain and the night, from her face and bent down to kiss her forehead. She was naked now, but he didn’t cover her; he knew that she wouldn’t have wanted that. She was glorious in her half-wolf, half-female form, and more glorious in her human form, even in death.

She had made him who he was. She had delivered him to the coven so that he could be reborn to the night. “We will be the Adam and Eve of our races,” she had proclaimed.  The truth was that they had both become Cain, killing their brothers, human or otherwise. He succumbed to her madness, reveling in the bloodshed and in pleasing her. She was his Lady Macbeth, his Pandora, his Lilith. She was his drug; her offered blood made him even more drunk on her.

There were things he had done, things he regretted. He blamed her when his conscience became too much to bear. As she stood apart from him in the street, he knew that to end the killing, he had to kill the one he loved. As the rain poured down he wept for them both, and she came to him with a smile on her wolfish face.

He pulled the trigger.

She was dead and her heart was now as his. It was not beating. It was still.  But only he lived on.

The scent of her blood stirred that familiar hunger in him, but he ignored it. He remained there, cradling her head in his hands and mourning her as the skies wept and the angel witnessed.

Perhaps now, he could find peace.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writing Prompt: I'll never let go, Jack

From's The Daily Post entry from 3 May 2011 titled "Change the end of any famous story, true or fiction":
Change the end of any famous story, true or fiction. Perhaps Darth Vader isn’t Luke’s father. Or maybe Nixon was never elected president. Pick any story, true or fiction, from the real world or a book or movie, and change the last few pages or moments of the story.
Think about an ending that has always bothered you or you thought could have been better. Now is your chance to fix it.

James Cameron's Titanic

The Sinking of the Titanic by Aidan Sloderbeck
This scene has always bothered me, not only because the "never let go" line is cheesy, but because she actually does let him go (to sink into the ocean in that dramatic way), and that is quite hypocritical.  Well, I decided to fix this scene. Enjoy.    

The water was frigid, but they had both made it to the surface. Jack tugged on Rose's life vest, yelling over the din of the scared and the dying, "Just keep swimming!" As they swam, they passed those who drowned, but had risen back to the surface of the midnight ocean by the bulky white life vests they wore. Jack spotted a large, ornately carved mahogany board in the water ahead of them, likely the headboard from a bed in a first-class cabin, and he steered her towards it, feeling a ray of hope for their survival.

Jack guided his charge, weighed down by her ornate gown and graced with lips that were blue from the icy cold of the unforgiving sea, on to the board. It bobbed precariously, threatening to toss her back into the water, but with Jack's help Rose was finally safe on the board and out of the murderously cold water. As he attempted to follow her up on the makeshift raft, the board teetered and suddenly gave way, rising up in the air from the added weight and dumping them both back unceremoniously into the water.

Panicked, Jack again frantically pushed Rose on the board before swimming around to the head of it and gripping her hands. "You'll be alright now," he uttered in a gasping breath.

One of the crewmen who had went down with the boat was nearby, and he started to blow his whistle, piercing the sound of the distraught passengers. Jack and Rose watched him, shivering, until Jack murmured, "The boat's coming back for us, Rose. Hold on just a little bit longer." He nodded at her, attempting to remain optimistic, even as he felt that the boats would not return, or at least not return in time to save the others in the water, including himself.

Jack knew that if he remained in the water much longer, hypothermia would kill him, but he knew that as long as Rose remained out of the water, she had a better chance to survive the cold until the boats returned. His first thought was one of resignation and even contentment, knowing that the woman he loved would be safe; this thought alone was one that nearly took the will the fight for his own life from him, but something inside of him flared as the clamoring din began to soften as Death claimed victim after victim. Jack decided to fight.

Kissing Rose's hands, he pried himself loose from her, determined to use the last bit of strength he had left to save himself. He shushed her, quieting her frantic whispers to stay with her as he promised to return, and then swam over to where the dead bobbed on the water. With a quiet growl of a war cry, he managed to rip lose the first vest, securing it to himself as he watched its former occupant slip under the water's surface. He then removed another vest, and another, until he had six vests in total. He laced them all together and towed them back to the pseudo-raft, fighting the stinging, needle-like pain of the water and his body's constant demands for rest.  He could not rest now, or he would certainly die.

When he reached the raft, he clung to it, holding it steady as he instructed Rose, "Rose, I need you to turn carefully. I know you're cold and tired, but you have to do this for me." He took her hands, swimming around the edge of the board with the vests floating out behind him like a white tail and getting her situated on the board so there would be enough room for them both.

"Now, when I climb up, the board may try to flip again, Rose.  I need you to lean into the part that is rising and try to use your weight to keep it down."

Rose was so cold, her teeth chattered loudly as she stuttered, "Y-y-yes," and then the braced herself for Jack's attempt.  He shoved the six life vests under the end of the board opposite Rose to buoy it and then moved towards the middle of the board.  He glanced at her and nodded, ready to start his attempt, and then pulled himself from the water.  The board rocked precariously, but with Rose's weight at one end and the vests holding up the board at the other, he was able to pull himself from the bitterly cold grasp of the ocean.

He spent the next few minutes gently guiding them both back to Rose's original position on the board, pressed tightly together to share what warmth they both had left. The vests which were still under the board helped keep them out of the water, and their bodies pressed together helped offer comfort.
Jack hugged Rose tightly to him and murmured in her ear, "We'll make it through this, Rose. Never let go of that."

Her blue lips met his in a shivering kiss and she whispered, "I'll never let go, Jack."  As if to prove this, she tightened her arms around him, clinging to him.

Later, both Jack and Rose were rescued. Rose found the Heart of the Ocean in her pocket. They sold it and lived like a king and queen - but without any fear of an untimely beheading - until they both died old and happy together.

The End

Exercise: Now it's your turn! Share your creation in the comments.