Yesterday was bad, creatively speaking. I had time, I had projects, I had opportunity, but I produced nothing.
As a response, I sat down this morning, when I had no time, and wrote this piece:
Brian scratched idly at the fading letter D on his keyboard. The paragraph on the screen seemed to pulse gently in time with the flashing cursor, mocking him with its brevity.
Three times he began a fresh sentence, and three times he deleted the words before they were completed. He sighed again, the millionth since he began that morning’s avoidance of work, and re-read the paragraph.
It didn’t feel like a paragraph, didn’t look like one to him. When he read it, he saw the bustling street, the rain-soaked pavements reflecting the bright lights of the cafes and shops along the road. He could hear the hum of traffic and smell the sour tang of a city alive with the early evening, but the pavements were empty. There was no one there because Brian didn’t have a clue who the story was about. He didn’t know if his protagonist was a man or a woman, didn’t know if they were even in this scene. Perhaps this story, whatever it was, should begin with the antagonist, the villain. Perhaps the villain had chosen the busy street to….to… To what? Plant a bomb? Release a virus? Rob a bank?
With his mind’s eye, Brian scanned the street, seeing a furtive figure dash out from a café, moments before a tsunami of vivid orange fire burst through the windows and bathed the street, consuming cars and peppering the walkways with glass fragments. Car alarms would shriek into the night like startled…pigeons…who…
“Pigeons.” muttered Brian in disgust. “Like pigeons, for god’s sake!”
For a moment, his tired and abused brain showed him a flock of cars, startled by the explosion, taking wing into the night sky, wheeling in perfect formation, their doors flapping anxiously as they struggled to gain height. He seriously considered it. Would it count as magical realism? Was there a metaphor there, in cars flying?
Brian sullenly reminded himself that, when using a metaphor in fiction, it’s usually best to understand what it means yourself, rather than figuring it out after you’ve written it. He returned to his contemplation of the city street, once more quiet and undamaged. Somewhere, behind one of those bright but opaque windows, his protagonist was hiding. Not waiting, hiding.
They knew, the smug, irritating bastard! They knew he needed them to come out, to walk a path for him, to show him the story, and they weren’t going to do it. They were sat, perhaps sipping at a damn latte, scanning idly through the day’s paper, determined to wait him out. They could sense, he was sure, the prickle at the corners of his eyes, the ache in his shoulders and that pain in the sole of his foot that told him he’d been sitting too long. Any minute now he would have to give it up, admit there was no progress to be made and stand up. They’d have won. They’d have escaped. And he would have nothing.
Brian scowled at the screen. His rotated his shoulders, stamped his foot. One last time he stretched out his fingers and began a fresh paragraph.
“The occupants of the city felt it first as a sick, swooping in the pit of the stomach, like when a train pulls away unexpectedly. Those with experience glanced up, catching the eyes of friends and strangers. They framed the words ‘Did you feel that?’, the innate human response to the first rumblings of an earthquake. But the words were snatched away by the second shock, the real shock as the mantle of the planet flexed and rumbled. The people were flung to the ground, and had no time to do more than scream as the building folded around them, on top of them. The earthquake ground on, shifting the piles of rubble, extinguishing a few fires that had leapt up and starting dozens more. Car alarms honked unnoticed amidst the screaming of the concrete and metal, the wails of the dying and the hiss of water and gas.
Though the aftershocks rumbled on for hours, no city remained to bear witness to them.”
Brian closed the quotes and tapped Enter a couple of times. He re-read his vengeance, seeing the destruction anew, killing the hidden characters a second and third time, burying them in the rubble of their hiding places. Then he stood, stretched, and went to put the coffee on.