June 14, 2011

Waking the Writing Monster

A thousand words on the theme Waking the Writing Monster. That's all B. Nagel asked for. Surely, if I can do it (and I did, below), you can, too. Post yours to your blog (or in my comments if you don't have a blog, but seriously, why don't you have a blog if you're going to be writing a thousand words in response to a blog-based writing prompt), then comment here and on B. Nagel's site with the link. I can't wait to read yours.

If you read this story, leave a comment. Even if it's just to say, "I read it." You don't have to be witty or pithy or sublimely erudite or whatever. Just let me know you came.

Then come back this weekend, when you'll get to listen to me do a truly over-the-top melodramatic reading of this story. It's gonna be fun.

UPDATE: B. Nagel has the roster of those who played. Play along! Even though the deadline has passed, let us know if you write & post something.

The Wind Cries Mary

I never imagined the thwump of a desk clerk’s dispassionate stamp could be so electric.

Six years. Six years I’ve wormed my way through courtrooms, slimed through the seedy lives of distant relatives, and sifted through the midnight dirt of forgotten, overgrown plots. All to win the legal right to force my distant relations to give me the finger.

The middle finger. Of my third cousin, six times removed: Mary Shelley.

The parts are assembled. The solar panels are on line and capacitors at full charge; I can tell because my iPod fills the lab with the raw guitar riffs of Hendrix. I wonder what my Artist will think of Purple Haze when I drop the switch.

The bones are true, but I’ve taken creative license with the flesh. I had planned to use whatever fresh meat came my way, but advances in cloning not yet legal back in the States are proving ... fruitful. It was a simple matter once I thought it through--wait tables at a few writers’ conferences, swab the used cutlery. Voila! Instant Genius! Just add agar.

Such excursions have brought me the biceps of Stephen King, the hair of Dave Barry, the heart of Garrison Keillor, and the jowls of Evil Editor. Or, more accurately, have given my Artist those physical attributes.

The rest, stuffed between the bones and leathery skin of the legends, is flesh taken from med school cadavers at ten dollars a body. I don’t know who the poor souls were, but they all died in delightfully violent ways after desperately hard lives. Thus the restraints you see on the body.

I hobble on my crutch across the room, humming with silent electricity. The acute bite of my missing toe, attached to the Artist only minutes ago, gives me sweet elation. My creation, the greatest author ever, soon will rise from my operating table.

The cameras roll, and my sweaty hand grips the switch. Tight chest, quivering breath, weak knees. I pull with the weight of my entire life, yanking the handle from its cradle and smashing it to the circuit. Lights flicker, sparks fly from the transformers, and electricity arcs across terminals for effect only. It’s all very dramatic, to be sold for a lot of money to The History Channel. I’ve already sent in my proposal for the screenplay. I will insist that I be played by Matt Damon. Or Colin Firth. Either is fine.

I relinquish the switch, drop my crutch, and thump-drag myself to the side of the table. I fight the urge to touch his skin and feel the warmth and life filling him. There are also three million volts filling him. Soon--ten point six seconds exactly--the buzzing and lightning subside, and the lights warm to a smooth fluorescence.

I pant in the way I probably would if I had just made love to a beautiful woman. My forehead is slick with sweat, and my jaw trembles. I’ve never been so nervous.

There!

A flutter of Chaucer’s eyelid! And a tremor in the left forefinger of Cervantes! I run my fingers along the rugged thigh of Melville, Hawthorne’s knee, Beatrix Potter’s shapely shinbone. All the way to my toe. I imagine wiggling it on the end of my own foot, and it quivers where it now lives, then curls along with the toes that walked that road less traveled through that yellow wood.

O! My heart thumps, my blood boils within me.

It’s alive!

I revel only a moment and shake myself back to my duties. I loose the restraints and shuffle to the desk. Quill, pen, paper, typewriter all sit ready to receive the combined genius of my Artist.

It convulses. The blood has begun pumping, oxygen is flowing. Oh, it’s glorious! His head lolls left, right. His mouth opens. A groan rises into the lab, harmonizing with psychedelic guitar riffs.

It sits up.

It swings its legs around, off the table, thumps to the floor. Wobbly, it swoons around until its blank gaze lands on me with lightless eyes. It considers me for a full minute. Can it see me? Does it recognize its creator?

I put my hands out, then sweep them to the desk with its beckoning tools. “For you,” I declare. “All for you!”

The creature surveys the implements. A perplexed frown darkens its brow. “Aaarrrghah,” it growls, and stumbles to the desk. With one deafening swipe, it crashes the assembly to the floor.

In despair, I cry, “But you must write! Do you not want to write?” Assembled before me are the greatest writers that ever graced the planet. I do not understand.

“ARREEGHH,” it spits at me. “Asshole.” The creature looks clumsily for an exit, then pushes past me to stumble to the door. “I need a drink.”

Barging through the door, it pauses long enough to glare at me one final time. The finger of my third cousin six times removed, rises slowly, backed by Hemingway’s toothy grin.

The Writing Monster, now awoken, shuffles away to Cap’n Salty’s corner bar.

Stunned, all I can do is retrieve the fallen implements and set them back on the desk. My missing toe throbs in agony as I stare at the blank page, mocking me from the platen of the ancient manual typewriter.

Almost against my will, I right the fallen chair and sit. My fingers hover over the keys. One click, then another. Soon my fingers fly as fast as the machine can handle.

I have swept up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life, but those lives that lived are dead.

The wind gusts through my open window, billows the curtains, and whispers all their names in my ear. As the breeze passes on into the night, it whispers one final name.

Mine.

9 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oh. Well done!

I had non-fiction in mind from the prompt. Your take is brilliant. (Of course)

B. Nagel said...

*claps*
And for a last minute idea, too.
Good stuff, old bean.

Peter Dudley said...

Sarah: Thank you! I love the word brilliant, especially when it's applied to my writing. :-)

B., thanks for providing the prompt. "Last minute idea," yeah, but I'd been letting the prompt simmer for a long time. As with most good design, the waste basket was littered with discarded ideas before I landed on this one. The only reason this survived the cut was that I had run out of time. :-)

Donna Hole said...

OMG; this is brilliant. So much fun to read. I think my "Art" may enjoy a brief session with your Monster in motivating his artist. I'm sure his life theme would be:

"All to win the legal right to force my distant relations to give me the finger."

If there was a prize for this exercise you'd win, hands down. I'll give you a shoutout on my next "Flybys and Shoutout's" post (possibly this Friday). This deserves much more readership :)

..........dhole

Peter Dudley said...

Donna, you can come over any time! Thanks for the extreme praise. Can't wait to read yours! I am only now (very late) getting some time from my "by day" life as a mild-mannered working guy, so I apologize I haven't yet been round. But I will. Promise.

creativeintrospection said...

Must agree- this is brilliant. Love the Frankenstein approach to the writing monster. But mostly, the capturing- no, the creating! of mood, character, pace...the diction...yes, brilliant.

Peter Dudley said...

creativeintrospection: Thank you for reading it, and for the extremely kind words!

Loren Eaton said...

It was a simple matter once I thought it through--wait tables at a few writers’ conferences, swab the used cutlery. Voila! Instant Genius! Just add agar.

Pure gold, sir, especially that last sentence. I also found "Cap’n Salty’s corner bar" appropriately Hemmingway-esque. Fun and well done.

Sylvia said...

I loved this, what a great take on the prompt. My life is a bit chaotic right now - work plus writing excitement plus unexpectedly moving house. So although I planned to do both the writing prompt and the voice thingie, I'm falling over myself trying to keep up with everything at the moment.

Hopefully next time. :(