Sunday, May 1, 2011

Practice 1, Revised

So here's my revision of the first practice. I added or altered a lot of the material. I tried to add a bit more to the story, add some feeling in the characters. Overall I tried to make it less dry.

Everything was going well on the flight. I had a window seat with no one beside me. The flight attendant even gave me an extra pillow. How nice of her. But the seats were still uncomfortable and I’ll be in the air a lot longer before we land; 6 more hours to go. We’d only been in the air 3 hours, scheduled to land at 5 AM. Way too damn early.

Looking out an airplane’s window at cruising altitude flying over the Southwest in the dead of night is not a very stimulating experience. I have better things to do than to stare out at the dark. Eyes drooping, I slip into a haze, thinking about the past and if I will have a future. I remember what I’ve left behind and what I hope I can go back to. This trip is important. I need to be rested for it.

“Where’d the guy go that was sitting here?”

I started from my daze and looked toward the voice. Standing in the aisle was a guy, late thirties, bald with a serious weight problem. He was looking in my direction, eyebrows arched, sweat pouring down his unshaven face. He looked like he hadn’t slept for days. I know the feeling. I rubbed my eyes and took a deep breath, gathering my thoughts. Why was he bothering me?

I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. What did you say?”

“I said ‘Where’d the guy go that was sitting here?’ Well, where’d he go?”

This guy looked liked trouble and I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to him. All I wanted was to get a bit of rest before we landed. With the schedule I was keeping today I’d be hitting the ground running. I won’t have the chance to close my eyes again for nineteen or twenty hours. One of the cons of my job-no sleep ever.

“Look guy”, I replied “I don’t know who was sitting there. I thought I saw someone earlier but I’m not sure. Ask the flight attendant.”

“I did ask the flight attendant and he doesn’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.”

This guy was testy with me and all I did was tell him that I didn’t know who was sitting there. I did know that I was very tired and going to be pretty bad off if I didn’t catch at least a bit of a nap. Whatever this guy’s problem was, it has nothing to do with me. And also, I didn’t care.

“Easy there, fella. I’ve been sleeping most of the flight, which is something that I want to get back to doing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be attempting to do just that again.”

I begin closing my eyes, shutting out the noise and light of the cabin. Trying to sleep at 36,000 feet with a bunch of strangers around you being annoyingly loud is bad enough. Having one of those strangers come up to you and ask a stupid question knowing that you are trying to sleep is something else entirely.

“Hey!” the fat man shouted, “I’m fucking talking to you.”

I slowly opened my eyes and turned toward the aisle. There, still standing by the empty seat, was the stranger. He was visibly upset now. His formerly pale face had turned a shade not far off from the red commonly seen on a beet, visible capillaries added to the darkened shade. His brows were furrowed, eyes blazing. His teeth were clenched through slightly parted lips. I could see the rise and fall of his chest, pumping like an over-worked bellows. This guy was seriously pissed off and was looking like he wanted to take it out on me.

Don’t you turn away from me! I asked you a simple fucking question, so answer it. Who the fuck was sitting here?”

I put up my hands and try to remain as calm as possible. With the possibility of violence from this guy I did not want to be here. I was stuck in a window seat, barely able to move my legs more than a few inches forward and back. Defending myself if he decided to come over the seats at me would have been a problem. I was completely screwed. Time to try and talk him down.

“Easy man, there’s no need for this.” Isn’t there supposed to be an air marshal on every flight these days to deal with problems like this? Isn’t that way the big hiring push was in the news a few years ago? Where the hell was he and why hadn’t he taken this crazy out yet? “I haven’t seen anyone in that seat all flight. There isn’t anyone sitting there. If you tell me what the problem is I may be able to help.

“Bullshit!” the wacko said. “I saw someone here. There WAS someone here. You had to have seen him. I recognized him. You have to tell me who he was and where he went.”

“Look, I don’t know who was sitting there. I didn’t see anyone. You sure that you have the right seat. Maybe you’re thinking of the one of the others further down the aisle?”

“No, he was here” he said. There was an immediate change to the stranger. He started looking less angry and more confused. The color left his face and went back to his natural shade of too pale. His brows were still furrowed, but they shifted from anger to concentration. “He has to be here, I saw him. I saw him right here.”

Now this guy had my attention. He was clearly upset about something. He truly believed that someone had been sitting there, someone that he knew. Or someone that he thought he recognized. And that’s when the marshal showed up.

“Is there a problem here, sir?” the marshal asked the stranger.

The stranger looked dumbly at the marshal. “He’s on this plane, I know he is. He has to be, because I saw him here. He was right here” the guy said as he gestured toward the empty seat.

“Who was here, sir? Who are you looking for?” The marshal put his hand around the guy’s shaking right bicep, ready to restrain him if necessary. The flight attendant must have told him about the outburst and he was ready, taking no chances. The guy wasn’t angry with me before, I see that now. He was terrified. The way he was quivering I was amazed he could even stand.

“He was.” The stranger looked pleadingly in the marshal’s eyes. “You have to help me find him, he’s here.” Getting frantic now, “He’s on this plane; you have to find him and arrest him!”

“Arrest who, sir? Who are you talking about? What are you talking about?

Seeing this exchange sends a chill down my spine. I know what he’s going to say before he says it. It’s my job to know things first, to know fact before anyone else does. I see where this is headed and wish I’d taken the later flight. Or at least a different seat.

The stranger, tears welling in his eyes, looked from the marshal to me, and back again, his shoulders slumped. All I could see in front of me was a broken man, one that had obviously lost everything. I couldn’t be angry at this man, not seeing him that way. Looking at the marshal I could tell he thought the same way.

“Sir, sit here, tell me what this is about.”

The heavy-set man looked at the aisle seat in front of him. Resignedly, the man collapsed into the seat causing it to bump against the legs of the passenger behind.

“Hey! Watch it, that hurt.”

He didn’t hear, I don’t think he was aware of anything happening at that point.

“I’m Marshal Brice, what’s your name sir?”

The man looked at the marshal, eyes empty. “Huh?”

“Sir, what is your name?” the marshal repeated.

“Dylan. Sam Dylan. I’m from Colorado. I’m heading to California to see my sister. To…”

The man’s eyes go vacant again, all the energy drained out of them.

“Mr. Dylan?” The marshal tried getting the guys attention but failed. Placing a hand on his shoulder the marshal gently shakes him. “Mr. Dylan!” more forcefully now. “Mr. Dylan, you mentioned a man, a man that you recognized. Who was this man and why do I need to arrest him?”

“Hmm?” replied Dylan, coming back to the land of the present. “What?”

“Who was the man and why do I have to arrest him?” asked the marshal again.

“He is…” Mr. Dylan began. Then he looks deeply in the marshal’s eyes, his sight filled with nothing but pain and anguish. “The guy I’m looking for-the guy I saw sitting here…He killed my wife. Two days ago. And he’s somewhere on this plane.”

Well, so much for me getting any sleep on this flight.

I added about 400 words to this story going from 1060 words to 1500. Just adding words to try and make the story better won't work. You have to add the right words to accomplish that.

Practice 2

I’m walking down the hallway. It’s dark, smelling of rotting trash and mildew. Further along the hallway are doors, several on each side and all are closed. Most of the doors are dark; a few have a pale, sickly light escaping from beneath them. I come upon a pair of doors, one on the left, one on the right. I try the knob on the door to the left, it turns freely but the door remains closed. I try pushing harder thinking that the moisture in this dank place has caused the wood frame to swell. No luck, the door is still wedged firmly shut. Frustrated, I throw my shoulder into the door. The only thing I accomplish is to cause my already aching shoulder to scream in pain. The right door is the same, it won’t budge. The doors aren’t locked but something is causing them to remain closed.

I hear a muffled crash behind me and turn toward the sound. That is the way I came and I know there are no windows there. A crash again, more distinct this time. I walk slowly down the hall, cautious of every step and straining to hear every noise. But there are no further sounds to hear. There is a door on the right, one that I don’t remember seeing before. This is where the sounds originated. Behind this door could be the answer that I’m looking for.

I lean toward the door, turning my head to the left as I listen for any more sounds. There are none. Straightening back up I again look at the door. It is made of wood and painted the deep red shade of fresh blood. On the door is a symbol made of a shining silver metal, meticulously made and perfectly finished. I can see myself reflected off of it. The symbol is a horizontally oriented dagger with a rose vertically behind it. I don’t know what it means but seeing the symbol fills my heart with dread and anxiety. As I reach for the door I feel a chill reach my spine causing me to shake violently for a couple of seconds. The shakes stop as I withdraw my hand.

There’s nothing there, stop being a baby. Suck it up and just open the damn thing. Hell, this one probably won’t open either.

Encouraging words, but I don’t believe myself. I am afraid; something evil is behind this portal. I don’t want to open this door but I must know. I hesitatingly reach my right hand toward the knob, pausing halfway. There are no shakes this time. I reach the knob. Taking a deep breath I attempt to turn it. But the knob won’t move. Placing my left hand on the knob with my right I try again. Straining, I feel a slight give, the knob emitting a screech that sets my teeth on edge. It’s as if a build-up of rust has started breaking free. I alternate the direction the knob is turned, gaining a little more motion and with each attempt. Finally, the screech stops and a loud click from the knob. There is a pop as the door is freed from it’s frame.

I look at the door. I can see that sickly light around the whole of the door now, through the gap that releasing the door from the frame has created. Breathing deeply I close my eyes.

All this way. All the loss and here it is. Do it for them.

I reach my right hand out to the door. Placing my hand upon it I pause. It has to be done. I breathe deeply one more time and shove the door all the way open.

And that's it for practice 2. I know what I have to work on and I will come back to this one after a bit more experimenting. And more practice, of course.