Using the same prompts as Jenni's story (fog, the distant sound of laughter, suspicion, surprise)
It was a cold, miserable day and Sinead was late. Late for work, late with her rent, late to the party of life. Her friends all seemed to be moving on, settling down, finding some kind of meaning in life. Sinead was standing still.
At 37 she felt she had finally mastered the role of being a twenty-something. She had flatmates she got on with, she wasn’t dependent on her parents any more, and she had settled in a job she didn’t hate. Her credit card bills wiped out most of what was left of her pay cheque after rent, but that was OK. She was staying afloat.
Sadly it seemed like she was floating in the shallow end.
Fog curled around her legs as she walked slowly through the park. Somewhere a little kid was laughing, lost in the grey mist. No doubt the kid’s proud mother was adjusting her pilates friendly running shoes and beaming with a pride Sinead’s biological clock was getting ever closer to denying her forever. Still, they could get 60 year olds to have babies these days, couldn’t they?
Maybe it was all too much? Maybe she should give up on the whole thing and admit that she was a square peg in a round world. She just didn’t fit. Never had, never would.
She didn’t hear the child’s approach but she felt he impact distinctly as the rampaging toddler collided with her legs, knocking her to the ground. Staring up at the still standing youngster Sinead saw his lip wobble slightly, his eyes begin to tear up. The mother was nowhere to be seen, lost in the fog.
Sinead fought down the urge to panic, smiled at the child and laughed.
Roy wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and exhaled slowly as he stood at the edge of the kerb looking up at the old Wallerston clothing factory. The building was a long, broad wooden structure with tiny windows high up in the walls. On one side of the building an old tarmac parking lot was now overgrown with weeds, tendrils poking up through the faded surface and wrapping around the partially collapsed chainlink fences. To the other side the broken remnants of an old cheese factory slumped like an old skeleton against the late afternoon sky. Between these barren neighbours the old clothing factory looked almost respectable, despite the many holes in its wooden cladding.
Roy had a letter in his hand. This was not unusual, Roy being a mail delivery worker, but he’d never had to deliver a letter to this building before. He passed it every day on his route but he’d always thought it was abandoned. He pushed his bicycle up the kerb and headed up the cracked path toward the doors. As he neared the building weeds gave way to dust, the shadow of the factory choking the life out of the ground. Roy kicked out the stand on his bike and balanced it at the bottom of the steps. He looked over his shoulder quickly, checked that the street was empty, and climbed the steps.
He’d expected to find a mail slot in the building’s front door, or perhaps a mailbox, but the dilapidated wooden doors hung slightly ajar on their hinges and there was nowhere to put the letter. A paler patch on the wall indicated where a mailbox had once hung. Shrugging to himself Roy pushed on the door gently and it swung open. It was cool in the shade of the building, so Roy wasn’t in a hurry. He stepped into the dimly lit interior of the old clothing factory and looked around. There were old machines covered in dust, rotten fabric in piles, and a row of mannequins all staring towards the door. Their blank faces looked somehow sad in the silence of the large building.
“Hello?” Roy called out, the letter held out in front of him. “Anyone here?”
For a moment there was only silence, then a voice called out from somewhere inside the building. “Down in the basement, please.”
It was a gentle voice, with a slight European accent. Roy was surprised to find anyone in the building but he had a job to do, an envelope to deliver. He pushed past the first row of mannequins and walked between two bulky steam-press machines. A trap door stood open in the middle of the floor with stairs leading down.
“I have a letter for you, Mr Alucard?” he called out, reading the name off the envelope as he tentatively stepped down onto the top step.
“That’s great, my friend. Please bring it down,” replied the smooth voice.
Roy smiled and felt himself relax. Something about the voice was so cultured, so friendly that he found it impossible to be nervous when he heard it. He bounded down the stairs like a Labrador returning a stick to its owner, full of enthusiasm.
At the bottom of the stairs a man stood in the shadows, his eyes glinting slightly. He was dressed in elegant evening dress, as if he were ready to attend the opera or a state ball. He reached out a white gloved hand and took the envelope without speaking.
“Have you been here long?” Roy asked to break the silence. “I always thought this place was empty.”
“It has felt empty, until now,” the man replied. He smiled, showing pearly white teeth. His canines were abnormally long, wickedly sharp. “But I need not be alone any more.”
The man dropped the letter, unopened, and fixed his eyes on Roy’s. He raised a hand dramatically like a stage magician mesmerising his assistant and let out a quiet hissing sound. Roy smiled blissfully and began to sway gently in time with the man’s hand movements.
“Do not worry my child, it will be over quickly and you too will be a creature of the night,” the man reassured Roy as he stepped forward and bit into his neck.
Roy smiled to himself and patted the mailbag at his side. He’d been right. Alucard was a vampire. It had been risky coming here, but it was going to pay off after all. He ripped the bottle of holy water out of his bag and tipped it over Alucard’s head, tearing himself away from the vampire’s iron grip. Smoke began to pour from Alucard’s head as he flailed and screamed, and Roy grabbed the wooden stake from his bag.
“Why? I would have shown you the night as you had never seen it!” the vampire screamed.
“Whatever sucker,” Roy replied, lunging forward and plunging the stake into the vampire’s heart. “I don’t want to be a postal worker forever. I’m turning monster hunter, freelance.”
Roy was talking to a pile of ash now, but that didn’t stop him.
“I can collect a small fortune for these.”
He bent down and picked up two fangs from the pile of ash, popped them into his pocket. The letter, a lure in Alucard’s own handwriting, could be left as a warning to any other creepy crawlies.
You don’t mess with The Postman.
Questions: 1. How is a spooky atmosphere built up in this story? 2. What language techniques are used? 3. Is there anything surprising about the ending? 4. What do we learn about Roy in this story? 5. What do we learn about Alucard? Is he a stereotype? 6. How could this story have been made better?
Hmmm - it's been a while since I updated. The last week has been quite busy in one way or another. Debbie has been fighting off a yukky head cold. Lots of blocked nose, sore throat, feeling unwell horribleness. Dominic had his first cold this week too, though not 'til several days after Debbie's started. It could be the same cold but if it is Dom's wee body fought it off a lot faster as he was only sniffly for a couple of days.
He had his 15 month jabs on Friday so I took the day off to stay home and help out. The worst part of the jabs was probably the waiting around. Dom might not agree with that statement but he seemed to recover from the needles quite quickly, but was forced to wait about 30 minutes before and 25 minutes after and got quite frustrated that we weren't letting him race out the door and romp around in the sunshine.
He's started letting go of support, and even took a couple of steps towards me yesterday no-hands, so once again we're thinking walking's not too far away. We've been thinking that for at least 4 months now though :-)
Our house is currently slightly tidier than usual as we had visitors yesterday. We're going to try to keep it tidy as my folks are coming down next weekend! Should be awesome.
We took the camera to the park yesterday to see if we could get a fwe photos of Dom feeding ducks but the ducks were too lazy to get out of the water and a bunch of pushy seagulls ended up swarming the place and nicking half the food. So we'll try again another time :-)
I managed to sneak away during my non-contact and go to Dom's gym class again today. It's awesome fun and they have some really cool aparatus there for the kids to play on. The massive pit'o'foam was once again a popular attraction for young Dom, and I spent a tiring few minutes clambering around and bouncing on foam before exhaustion overcame me.
There are a few cool photos which will probably be posted in the near future, but here's one I particularly like as it shows off my new look rather well (and is a cute pic of the boy too):
[side note - I got my first agent-rejection email today! A whole new world of rejection awaits]
Your task is as follows. You need a watch or timekeeping device of some kind, as you are required to write one sentence a minute. The first word of each sentence is given to you. I have put the words in a comment, spaced out so you can’t see them all at once. Just scroll down to the next word at the end of each minute. The goal is to try to craft something coherent, in spite of the sometimes odd sentence starters. This task takes 14 minutes (there are 14 words)
It is permissible to add to the end of a word, but not the beginning. So and can become Andrew or sat can become Saturday, but promise cannot become compromise.
Open the comments, begin your first sentence with the first word you see. After a minute take a look at the second word, write a sentence which follows on from your first sentence and begins with that second word and so on...
My story It was a warm day and John was excited about his new hat. Was it really only a month since he’d been given it? A lot had happened in the past month and although the hat still felt new, John was not convinced that he did. Bright light stabbed into his eyes as he strolled past the show windows and he winced, pulling the hat down further and cursing the excesses of the night before. Cold shivers ran down his arms as he remembered the crazy night, the needles, the powder, the laughter and warmth that had evaporated with the dawn. Daylight had dissolved the bonds he’d felt with those other needle users, for their company was strictly a nighttime deal.
In retrospect, joining a knitting circle whose members were serious sugar junkies had been a weird idea. April had suggested it and John hadn’t been able to resist, even if she was going to keep her nan company. Andrew had laughed when he said he was going, but April had squeezed his hand and melted his reservations. The smile she shared with him and the closeness he felt helped him to suppress the voice in the back of his head that screamed out that knitting was for girls.
Clocks were chiming six as John finally reached his apartment building, his knitted hat keeping his head warm. Were there any better hats in the world, John wondered as he squared his shoulders and prepared himself to endure the mocking comments of his flatmates once more. Striking his hand on the door he waited for his flatmate to let him in, his own keys lost in a sugar haze somewhere.
Thirteen classes to go, enough to knit a mad sweater.
You have exactly 10 minutes to write a story based on the following ingredients (supplied by my Y11 students). You must include at least two of the following things in your story.
Person: A man having a mid-life crisis Place: Zimbabwe Weather: A lightning storm Time: 10pm
The pressure of being the head safari guide in a crumbling park weighed heavily on Randolph McMillan as he eased his tired frame into the front seat of his jeep. The dust on the bonnet swirled lazily in the gentle breeze as the engine choked into life. The jeep was tired - as tired as Randolph was.
A giraffe loped past the jeep as Randolph fought the gear lever, crunching it into first. He remembered bitterly how the sight of the creature had moved him when he began work here, was saddened by the heaviness of his heart. Nothing could move him now.
The rutted dirt road jostled him as he made his way towards the park’s front gates. No tourist had passed through those gates in weeks – not since the last outbreak of violence in the capital. Randolph knew that he would be leaving Zimbabwe soon, if he could summon the will to pack his meager belongings and get a ticket out.
He considered lighting a cigarette – there was an old pack in the glove box – but thought better of it. That was a last, desperate tactic and he would put it off as long as he could. It had been three years since he had given up and even his current numbness with an undercurrent of despair was not enough to drive him back to that habit.
A kid I taught a fwe years ago has sent me an email saying he's sick of formulaic CG fest movies and wondered if I had any recommendations for films with a bit more substance. He's probably 17, could be turning 18 later this year. So far I've got:
Kiss kiss, bang bang Iron Giant Into the Mouth of Madness Blade Runner Existenz The Dark Crystal Donnie Darko Angel Heart Drunken Master II City of Lost Children Amelie 28 Weeks Later Hard Boiled Mystery Men Tropic Thunder Forgetting Sarah Marshall Withnail and I 12 Monkeys Strange Days (R18) Lock Stock and 2 SMoking Barrels Snatch (R18) The Man with 2 Brains Ravenous O Brother Where Art Thou
I have spoken in two school assemblies so far about shaving my head next week. The first was a Y9 assembly so most of the students have never met me. I teach one Y9 class, but there are 11 or 12 Y9 classes.
The kids listened very politely and seemed mildly bemused until I pulled out my secret weapon - unleashing the full effect of my hair. Once the locks were out the kids warmed to the idea of the spectacle of the hair being removed. A few kids expressed an interest in getting a ticket for the raffle to be the person holding the shaver.
Year 11 assembly was this morning and I took a little less time (it being after the bell for period one and me having a class to get back to), but the response was a lot better. I've taught Y9 and Y10 classes and have had contact with a lot of the kids in Y11 in one form or another, so there were quite a few familiar faces in the crowd. Again they listened politely and well to my initial spiel, but once the hair was down and I revealed that I was going to shave my head there was a fair bit of a buzz in the auditorium. A polite, still happy to listen buzz, but a buzz nonetheless. I ended my explanation with "So that's next Wednesday, in here, bring along a gold coin and see me lose this lovely, lovely hair. Choice."
They gave me a round of applause :-)
It has significantly boosted my optimism that I might reach the $500 fundraising threshold and get a cool t-shirt. I'm already up to $30 :-)
I have decided to shave my head ext week as a Leukemia fundraiser :-)
I will be shaving my head at school, with a video camera hooked up to a projector for juicy closeups, charging gold coin entry to come along and watch, and hopefully with a band to warm up what I hope will be a crowd. I've got some organising to do by Wednesday!