The Beauty of Shitty First Drafts

1st draft

When I began writing the manuscript for my novel, I didn’t know how to go about it. I had a concept and knew what the opening scene would be, but that was all. So I tried to take a common-sense approach.

You obviously need characters for any story, so I created a list of names and their relationship to the main character. You also need a plot, so I roughed out an outline that consisted of chapter numbers and the general theme of each chapter. This step took awhile because if this outline was going to be my roadmap, I actually had to think the story through.

Writing the opening prologue was a piece of cake because, big surprise, the main character has MS, and the prologue is a dramatization of the day MS first introduced itself to me. But then the process came to a screeching halt. Like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor trailer, I stared back and forth between the computer screen, the keyboard, and the outline. I didn’t know how or where to tell the story that was in my head. Fortunately, I remembered something K told me about a piece of advice she attributed to an article she read about the novelist Ann Lamott.

To paraphrase Lamott, the key to writing a story is to complete a shitty first draft (our words), one where you don’t worry about the words, how it flows, if it is free of spelling or grammatical errors, or anything like that. Just get the words down first, and worry about that other stuff later.

That little nugget freed me from my insecurity and saved time, the end result of which was a complete manuscript that exceeded 140,000 words. What I found intriguing and ironic about the process is that many chapters I assumed would be the most difficult to write were often very easy, and those I assumed would just flow were the most difficult.

The most important thing was to write without a conscience. I followed Lamott’s advice to a T, and would recommend that anyone who gets stuck on a project to do the same. Just be prepared for what you’ll see when that shitty first draft is done

What I saw was god-awful: spelling and grammar mistakes galore, sentences, and sometimes complete paragraphs, that didn’t make any sense. Going back and editing this swill was painstaking, frustrating, laborious, and I wound up doing it more times than I care to remember before sharing it with my editor. It was a humbling experience.

What didn’t change, however, was the core of the story, and when you have that, you have everything. Anybody can make the words sing, but there is no music unless you create the notes. In my case, the core didn’t change much from the first writing to what was probably the twentieth. I lost count after a while.

Why so many re-writes? First of all, it took forever to catch everything that needed fixing. After every re-edit, I re-read the manuscript and always found stuff I missed the previous time. Once I got to the point where I thought it was good enough to share with my editor, it came back with a lot of red ink and recommended changes. Each time I completed the edits I agreed with, it would come back again with more suggestions. On and on it went like that until we were both happy with the manuscript.

The most difficult challenge was to pare the text down to less than 100,000 words, because my editor believed any author’s inaugural work should be 100,000 words or less. Who was I to argue? And I must admit, there was a lot of fluff. The final product was much cleaner and tighter than what I started with.

Ultimately, the manuscript was done, and I compared the process to what I thought being pregnant must feel like. In the beginning, you are excited, thrilled and enthusiastic beyond belief,  but nine months later,  you’re uncomfortable, sick and tired of lugging the weight around, and just want it to be over and done.

I whole-heartedly embrace the shitty first draft philosophy. It’s a practice I have since followed with everything I write, including this blog. I encourage anyone to stop being critical and get the idea out first because if you self edit while writing or stop in mid-stream to look at what you’ve written, you can lose your train of thought, not to mention getting frustrated as hell.

Better to save your frustration for later after everything is done. That way, you at least have a complete text to mold and shape.

 

 

 

 

Tell the Story Challenge

Story challenge

The incomparable Susan Richardson passed me the baton in this challenge, which asks the writer to create a story around a picture the previous author has selected. I’m always game for these types of assignments, primarily because it is often difficult to get the creative juices flowing every week, and having something like this provides a ready-made subject matter. Plus, I love a challenge!

I also love Susan’s work, and what she produced for this challenge is exceptional. I have passed the baton to her on a number of occasions for different challenges of this nature, so I’m sure this is her way of reciprocating. I actually welcomed it, until I saw her picture, that is. Talk about a WTF moment. My first thought was, “Sue, I thought you were my friend,” but as I stared at it for a few minutes, what I would write became obvious. What follows is a longer piece than what you normally find in this space, but I hope you like it.

My name is Aimee. I was given to Sarah when she was a toddler, and have been with her ever since.

From the beginning, my home was on the nightstand next to where she slept, where I watched over her at night, and made sure she stayed safe. Around the time she turned five, Sarah began to lovingly brush my hair every night before her Mom came in to read her a bedtime story. During these intimate moments, Sarah told me about her day, and over time I knew all of her hopes, dreams and fears. If she had a nightmare the previous night, Sarah would plead with me to keep the monsters away. How cute it that?

We drifted apart a bit once Sarah hit puberty. She’d occasionally brush my hair and confide in me, but for the most part, I stayed on the night table next to her bed, keeping vigil over her and her room.

Her father, who was in the military, moved frequently. I moved with them, and remained a fixture next to her bed in each new location. I went to college with her, in addition to the various apartments she lived in following graduation. While our relationship evolved over the years, we have always been a team.

Sarah began to confide in me more once she began dating. As she became older, I was witness to the moment she lost her virginity, and every occasion she allowed someone to share her bed. I was witness to her transformation from an insecure, awkward teen to an assertive, confident woman.

I knew everything she thought and felt about her intimate acquaintences, and saw her heart get broken a couple of times. I wanted to murder the bastards who hurt her, but Sarah was resilient, had a healthy self-esteem, and always rebounded farily quickly.

So even though our relationship evolved, I was content. I mean, she wasn’t a kid anymore, and most people would have either discarded me a long time ago or packed me away in some anonymous, forgotten box. The fact that she didn’t demonstrated she still cared. So did the fact that she still smiled at me on occasion, always made sure that I wasn’t covered in dust, and that my place on her nightstand was clean and free of debris. She was still my person, and I was happy with the way things were. Until she met Matt, that is.

Matt was the keeper, unfortunately. He was a strikingly handsome guy with a body that looked like it was carved from marble. Sarah fell head over heels for him, and I couldn’t say I blamed her. Besides his looks, he was kind, thoughful, and had a wicked sense of humor that made her laugh. Hell, it even made me want to laugh on occasion. But I thought there was more to Matt than what met the eye.

You see, Matt always had a very high opinion of himself. He also liked to party, and was a different cat when he drank. At least I thought so. While he never laid a hand on Sarah, he could become short and irritable. His humor became more biting and mean-spirited, and I sensed a temper and darkness lurking below his surface. It worried me.

My issues began when he moved in with his dog, a chocolate lab named Belle. For some reason, Belle thought I was her personal play-toy. She’d frequently sneak into the bedroom, and knock me off the nightstand with her nose. Sometimes she would bat me around the room with her paw, sometimes she would grab me by the hair, and toss me around the room, which I hated. I drew the line at becoming her chew toy however. On a few occasions I had to discretely maneuver my way out of her mouth in a way that didn’t attract suspicion when she tried to gnaw on me. I do have some abilities, you see, but until then never had the need or desire to use them.

But Belle remained a problem. What I hated more than anything is when, usually after I extricated myself from her mouth, she would slobber all over me. Sarah didn’t like that either. She’d find me all wet and nasty on the bedroom floor, clean me up, then complain to Matt about keeping Belle out of the bedroom. Matt seemed irritated that Sarah cared more for a “stupid doll” than his dog, and half-heartedly complied. These events didn’t happen as frequently, but they did continue.  I was getting fed up about the entire situation and decided to do something about it the next time Belle bothered me.

One afternoon when Sarah was jogging, Matt absent-mindedly left the bedroom door ajar. I could hear Belle bounding up the stairs, and prepared myself. She pushed the door open with her nose, then looked around before entering, as if she knew she was on the verge of being a “bad dog” if she was caught. The urge to abuse me outweighed any potential repercussion, however, and in she came.

Belle made a bee-line to the nightstand, knocked me onto the floor, and started batting me around. Normally I would stay put like an inanimate object, but this time I rolled across the floor towards the bed, hoping to find sanctuary beneath it. But I’m not very big, and could not move as fast as that beast, who intercepted me before I could reach my destination. My unexpected movement apparently added an element of excitement to the game, and she grabbed me in her mouth with more gusto than usual and threw me high into the air. Fortunately, I had a soft landing on their bed, but Belle jumped onto the bed, grabbed me in her mouth again, and flung me harder. I flew across the room,  hit the wall hard, and bounced against something hard on the way down before hitting the floor again.  It hurt like hell, and I was disoriented.

Belle was feeling it though, and let out one loud bark as she came after me. Grabbing me in her mouth, she started treating me like a chew toy. By now I was mad as hell, and needed to let her know who was boss.  So as Belle was holding me in her paws and gnawing on my head, I quickly hopped into her mouth and forced my way into the back of her throat.

That got her attention. She was stunned, whined loudly, shook her head violently from side to side, and knocked a chair over as she wobbled about the room, making a hell of a racket in the process. I felt her fear, and couldn’t help but smile. Matt must have heard the racket because he raced upstairs to see what was going on. When he arrived at the scene and saw Belle’s dilemma, he stuck his hand in her mouth to retrieve whatever was choking her. I wanted that dog dead, however, and bit one of his fingers as hard as I could, hoping he would let go.

Matt screamed but hung on, and with a forceful yank, was able to dislodge me after prying Belle’s mouth open with his other hand. Belle ran from the room like she was shot out of a cannon and never bothered me again, so I at least accomplished something on that front.

But Matt? His forearm were scraped by Belle’s teeth from when he gave that one final pull, but that isn’t what confused him. Instead, he gaped at the hole on the side of his right index finger, directly below the knuckle.  It was bleeding a lot, but apparently not enough to require stiches, and a chunk of skin was missing. Matt glanced back and forth between the finger and me, with an incredulous look on his face. His eyes told him one thing, but they also told him I don’t have a mouth, so how in the world could I have bitten him? He pondered this for a long time.

Matt never said a word to Sarah that I am aware of,  but I think he understood there was more to me than meets the eye. After cleaning me up, he moved me from the night stand to the top of a bookcase on the opposite side of the bedroom, and turned me so that I was looking out a window. Sarah put me back on my rightful place later that evening. He threw a suspicious glance my way as they were getting ready for bed, but said nothing, and that was the end of it. For a while, anyway.

Much to my dismay, they married, less than a year later, and bought a house before their first anniversary. As they were moving in, Matt conveniently forgot to unpack me, and put the box I was stashed in into the guest bedroom closet.  Sarah, who was pregnant at the time and was more interested in getting the nursery prepared, didn’t notice. I don’t know exactly how long I was imprisoned in that dark tomb, but I missed the duration of Sarah’s pregnancy and the birth of their child.

I was depressed, and felt forgotten and abandoned. My person was gone, but I stayed put because I knew that if I ever made an appearance, Matt would get rid of me.

But something troubling was happening to the marriage. I don’t know what triggered the problem, but they began to argue constantly, and the baby cried a lot more than it used to. Sometimes the arguments got so loud I could hear them downstairs from the my closet prison. I was concerned, to say the least, but what could I do?

Last week, one of their arguments spilled into the guest bedroom, and after a period of shouting and name calling, I heard a sharp slapping sound, followed by someone crumpling to the floor. I knew it was Sarah because she was sobbing uncontrollably as Matt stormed out of the room. A rage began to well inside me. My person was in trouble and had no one to help her.

Imagine Matt’s surprise the following morning when, as he opened the medicine cabinet to get his shaving cream, he saw me glaring at him. My eyes had literally turned wide and red, like glowing charcoal embers. It looked like  he was going to have a heart attack. It’s a pity he didn’t.

Shaken to his core, Matt marched me downstairs, and I soon found myself mingling with food scraps and other slimy, smelly shit in kitchen garbage container under the sink. I tried my best to bite him during the journey downstairs, but held me by the hair, not letting me get near him. I guess he remembered the incident with Belle. Then he pulled the garbage bag out, tied it up and deposited it in the big green container they keep outside for he next day’s pick-up.

I’m sure he thinks I’m history, but unfortunately for him, I can do a lot more than bite.

I easily escaped from my smelly grave and have been planning and keeping a low profile ever since. Once I made the decision, I found a discreet spot on one of the family room end tables that is tucked in the corner next to a sofa, and hid there.

Sarah is upstairs with the baby now, and won’t be coming downstairs any time soon. She is a sad, broken husk of her former self, and her bruises haven’t faded completely.  But they will heal, and so will her soul, once I get rid of that motherfucker.

Matt, you see, has a habit having a drink or two (sometimes three) during the evening, after which he usually lies down to watch television before passing out. When his drunken eyes close tonight, they won’t reopen. My dilemma is I how it’s going to happen.

It would be better for Sarah if it looks like he died in his sleep. There would be less questions that way, and she doesn’t need any more trauma in her life. But I selfishly want that prick to suffer.

Decisions, decisions.

Now it is my turn to pass this off to three folks you need to discover. Tom, (Tom Marches On) who I am sure is licking his Super Bowl wounds and needs a diversion, Billy (aka Superman) and Jane, (The Natural Calamity version), you’re up. Good luck with this picture. I am looking forward to reading what you can come up with.

Woods

Shit Happens

happens

A short post today as I got off to a late start this week and won’t have much time over the weekend to write.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and learned of an event that just occurred in their life that could have long term implications, most of which aren’t great, and it got me to thinking.

We get inundated by the marketing apparatus in this world that portray images of health, wealth, fun and carefree, easy lifestyles. Depictions of hardships, struggles and sadness are in the minority. After all, that stuff is a downer and doesn’t sell. It’s easy to get sucked into the delusion that we are either doing something wrong if our realities don’t match up with what these ads show us, or give us the impression that what they show us is attainable if we only tried harder.

If it were all that easy.

The truth is life isn’t that simple, and shit does happen. Some of us either need bigger shovels or use the one we have more than others, which isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and everyone needs hip boots. These issues can become potholes on life’s super freeway, and it’s how we deal with these events that define us.

Take me, for instance. I’m an optimist by nature, a glass-half-full kind of guy. I think  I have had it infinitely easier than most in my life. For instance, I have never had to deal with the loss of a child, a life-threatening illness, or had to struggle financially. I’ve always been well fed, had a roof over my house, a loving family and support system, had an excellent education and a successful career.

Having said that, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Not even close. MS is the most obvious because I write about it, and is near the top of my shit happens list, but it is not at the top of that list.  There have been a host of other situations and scenarios that I have had to deal with, and continue to deal with, that are not fun. Some of these events have put a tremendous emotional strain on my family. Their fallout remains, and probably always will.

I would have easily traded getting MS instead of having to endure certain events in my life, but we never get to make those choices.

Nobody escapes this world unscathed. Just because an individual or a family has appeared to be blessed with good luck and have never had to struggle, don’t buy it. All it means is they hide it better than others. Not everyone wants to talk about their personal travails, preferring to instead to share the good in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Do any of you truly know anyone whose lives have been constant sunshine?

Experience has taught me that life is like being on a life raft in a vast ocean. Sometimes the seas are calm, or you have a fun ride on a wave that is pushing your forward into a good situation. Sometimes you are caught in an storm with relentless giant swales that come crashing down upon you, threatening to submerge you and everyone on board. All you can do is hang on for dear life, try not to drown, and hope the storm passes soon. With practice, maybe you learn how to navigate the swells better.

You also hope that the rogue waves, the monsters that come out of nowhere, catch you completely off guard and are the most dangerous and toughest to negotiate, rarely occur.

If you know someone who is going through a tough time, reach out to them. The simplest thing, like letting them know you are thinking about them and rooting for them can make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

Mortality

mortality

My aunt suffered a stroke a little over a week ago, a bad one.  I didn’t get a chance to speak with her before Christmas. Strike that. I had every chance in the world, but did not make it a priority. I was busy, and rationalized (in hindsight, of course) that I’d call when things settled down after my trip to Florida. So I felt compelled to actually see her to say goodbye, tell her how much I love her, and thank her for being a wonderful Aunt.

I wasn’t looking forward to the trip because my cousin warned me about her condition. I knew she would be conscious and uncommunicative, but it was worse than that. I have no idea if she knew who was there or what was being said. She looked at me, but it was more like she looked through me, staring blankly into space. I just happened to be in her line of sight.

She showed the obvious signs of a stroke, kept picking at her blankets, the institutional garment she wore, mumbled constantly and looked much older than her 90 years. A  vibrant, engaging, funny and lovely woman was sadly reduced to this. Part of me felt like a voyeur, and all of me felt guilty for being there because I am sure she would not want people to see her in that condition.

Unless it is by our own hands, we never get to choose how we exit this life. Our final scene can often be so undignified, and that is was bothered me the most about seeing her that way. It would have been better if she was unconscious. She would have looked like she was resting comfortably, at peace, and more like the woman I knew and loved.

I drove away from that visit thinking about aging and our mortality. You’d have thought these musings would have occurred when my parents passed away within five months of one another in 2015, but that wasn’t the case.

Both had lived good, long and healthy lives. Dad was 96 and Mom 92. They were both mentally sharp as tacks through the end and both passed quickly. Dad had a massive stroke and was placed in hospice care. We kept a constant vigil around his bed for three full days. On the fourth day everyone who had taken turns watching over him spent the night at their houses, which is when he slipped away. I am sure it was because he never wanted people to fuss over him, so he waited until every was gone.

Mom had a cerebral hemorrhage and died within hours. She was living in an assisted living facility at the time, and K and her Mom had just spent the afternoon with her. She notified friends she was having dinner with that she felt funny and was seeing double, and they had someone escort her to the nurse when it happened. I’m told she slumped in her chair in front of the nurse, completely unconscious.

The assisted living facility called while I was out having dinner with Nidan. It didn’t sound ominous, but then a call from the ER doctor at the hospital she was taken to came, and that changed everything. We ended dinner immediately and I drove Nidan home, then rushed to the hospital, not really knowing what to expect. When I saw her in the emergency room, I instantly knew she was gone, even though she was still breathing. It was a shock and broke my heart, but after a spasm of heavy sobbing, I made some calls.

Unlike Dad,  she didn’t want to be alone when she slipped to the other side. It took a little over ninety minutes for K, Nidan, my brother and his wife, and a few others to gather in her room, and shortly after we were all there it looked like she might not be breathing. She wasn’t.

I was and still am grateful that my parents fears of a painful, lingering demise where they were an emotional and financial burden to their kids never materialized. I should be so lucky.

I grieved for the loss of my parents loss but was not devastated. After all, who wouldn’t sign up for the life they had and the way their lives ended?  But I was so busy with making funeral preparations for Dad, helping Mom move then watching after her in the interim, then handling her sudden and unexpected death, that the idea of aging and dying never occurred to me.

I think the reason it has now is because my Dad came from a large family of nine. I was really close to most of his brothers and sisters, having hung out at their houses as a kid in addition to summer vacations at the beach. Those times were so fun, carefree and innocent, and the memories are wonderful.

When my Aunt passes, which should be fairly soon considering she is on morphine and was placed at a hospice level of care, only one Aunt will remain. She is the baby of the family at 88, and is not in the greatest of health either. The end of the line is very near in terms of my Dad’s siblings. Once that occurs, the book will close on a significant chapter of my life, and my childhood will officially die with it.

I thought I felt that way in 2015, but the truth is I felt more like an orphan when my parents passed. It was weird knowing that the people who nurtured me, taught me, loved me unconditionally and shepherded me into successful adulthood were gone. The void was unimaginable, and the loss hurt. But I didn’t think about the stuff I am thinking about now, and think that’s because when my Aunts pass, the last remaining vestiges of those carefree years will be gone. I will become the adult for the generations to come, and one day, the roles will be reversed. I will be the one saying sayonara, and my nieces and nephews will be mourning me. Perhaps some of them will feel what I am feeling now.

I’m not fearful or morose, but have become introspective. How will my end of life scenario unfold, not only in terms of the how but the when? I’m turning 60 in a couple of months, which is not ancient by any means. But I have been on the downhill side of life expectancy for a while now, and have no idea how or if MS will hasten that fateful day or prolong the process. I certainly hope not because, perhaps not so ironically, I have the same fear my parents had about becoming an emotional and financial burden on my surviving family.

Mom and Dad were blessed with longevity, independence, and good physical/mental health. Is it too much ask that this not skip a generation? And while I’m at it, can the end be quick and painless, as it was for them? Hopefully the genes I’ve inherited will help make that happen.

I hope this hasn’t been too morbid, but don’t all of us think of these things at one time or another? I certainly plan on being around a while, and would love to able to celebrate my 100th birthday. I’m looking forward to my retirement years, playing with grandchildren and spoiling them rotten. I’m looking forward to an empty nest that I can enjoy with my lovely bride of thirty one years, and hope we can both thrive during the sunsets of our lives. We’ve earned that.

For now, however, another somber funeral is probably days away. The family will close ranks and all the cousins I grew up and hung out with as a kid will assemble with their families. Afterwards, we’ll laugh and rehash good memories, lament for the umpteenth time that it’s a shame we only get together for these types of occasions, and vow to change that. Who knows? Maybe this time it will actually happen.

Then we will return to our respective lives, and time will march on. The musings I’ve shared will also fade, but perhaps not completely vanish, and I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Maybe it will help me appreciate life more than being afflicted with MS has, and help me embrace every remaining day I have without sweating the small stuff I am still prone to do on occasion.

After all, I’m not a spring chicken anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Hunt – Part 8

alien

Superman has tagged me for something different today, which is a good thing because I didn’t have a clue concerning a subject to write about. Instead, my mission is to  add to a story originally started by Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith; it’s like a kind of blogging relay race apparently. This is the story so far……

Teresa’s Part:

Anne and Gladys waved as the men left for their hunt. When they were out of sight, they both laughed knowing full well that none would have the heart to really shoot anything. They liked a boy’s day out as much as they liked a girl’s day in.

“So,” Fred said as they passed the gate into his family’s hunting grounds. “What do you think the girls are up to today?”

Alec laughed. “Talking about us, what else?”

Sam nodded. “Yep.”

As they walked through the fields into the tree line, the dogs’ ears’ picked up. Boy whimpered and cowered close to Fred’s legs. Toby’s fur stood on edge as he stared into the woods and growled.

“Easy there,” Alec said, trying to calm him.

Sam kneeled and unzipped his gun as quietly as possible. Suddenly, both dogs were on alert as a …

Morpethroad wrote:

small, bespectacled man stepped through the bushes. The dogs were going berserk by now straining at their leashes. It was clear the dogs sensed a danger the men did not see.

The man walking towards them was squinting as he approached as he had the sun in his eyes.

“Good afternoon,” he said as he drew near, “your dogs won’t bite will they? I do have a fear of them.”

Sam stood with his gun in his hands unsure of what he was seeing and hearing. The place they were in was a piece of rugged bushland, no one lived there because it was the family’s hunting grounds and it was considered unsafe to even camp on the land for any reason at all.

Fred was trying his best to hold onto his dog, and Alec held firm on Toby’s collar. Once the small man came within a few feet of the hunting party, they could see…

Pensitivity101 continues:

he was holding something in a plastic bag.

Fred lost his grip and Boy lunged at the man who dropped the bag on the ground and threw his arms up to protect his face.

Fred was afraid they would have to shoot the dog but Boy wasn’t interested in the man at all, just the bag, which he snatched up and obediently brought back to his master.

The little man was shaking with fear as Sam reached out his hand to help him up.

“You realise you’re trespassing don’t you?” he said.

The man straightened his glasses and collected himself.

“I’m sorry about that, but we’d received a repor….”

“We? Who is we? And what are you doing here? You could have been shot!”

Fred had taken the bag out of Boy’s mouth and stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Guys? I think you need to look at this.”

Sadje’s contribution:

Sam and Alec stepped forward to take a look at what was in the bag. Fred’s hand, clutching the bag, was trembling. The bag contained a severed hand, the digits were shaped like a claw. But it was like no human hand they had ever seen. It was like it belonged to someone very big and skinny.

“Whe…, Ahm….Where did you find this?” Alec uttered the question through vocal cords which were refusing to cooperate. Sam and Fred were looking askance at the stranger. The whole situation had taken on a nightmarish quality.

The man, again made an attempt to introduce himself. “I am Bennett, from The Agency of Alien Detection, TAAD. We received the alien activity signals from this area and a party has been investigating the situation. This is part of the remains we were able to recover. Do you have any information regarding this?”

The three men stared at him with gapping mouth and glazed looks. Who in their right mind would believe this man. But the evidence was in their hands.

Sam took the bag from Fred and was going to examine it closely when…

Cheryl added:

…when the bag’s contents started moving. The claw-like severed hand was scratching at the plastic bag. Sam dropped it like a hot potato! The boys started to freak out and started to whimper. The spectacled man even stepped back. “Oh my,” Bennett stuttered, “I thought it was, uh, uh, dead!”

Sam kept his gun at the ready. There was no way this “thing” was going to hurt the boys. Bennett fumbled nervously in his pocket to retrieve what looked like a cell phone, but was actually a communicator to the rest of the landing crew. His face seemed to change shape a bit and he started to adjust his hair. Sam looked at the little man with more than just curiosity. Who was this guy, really?

This was Fandango’s contribution

“Do not touch that bag!” Bennett, who was no longer a small, bespectacled, unimposing man, shouted. He had suddenly grown taller. His skin took on a shiny, reddish tone and his hands took on the same claw-like shape of the severed hand in the bag. The three men stepped back and even the two dogs stopped barking and cowered.

“What are you?” Alec asked. “you definitely are not human.”

“No,” Bennett admitted, “I am not. My companion and I were sent here from our home planet to explore your planet. Our mission was peaceful. Our intent was merely to collect air and mineral samples. We intended no harm. But then we encountered a hostile group of creatures who jumped my companion. I’m ashamed to say that I ran for cover, while these creatures devoured my companion. All that was left of him was the hand that I put in the bag. But he is apparently beginning the regeneration process.”

“Creatures? What kind of creatures?” Sam asked.

“Similar to those,” Bennett said, pointing to the two dogs, “but larger and much more viscous.”

“Wolves,” Fred said.

Sam raised his rifle and aimed it at the alien. “Sam, what are you doing?” Alec shouted.

Suddenly…

Now over to me:

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

“Looks like there’s a storm coming” said Alec “Perhaps it was thunder we heard”

He turned to look at Sam who had resumed his position; stock still with his gun aimed at Bennett’s head

“That wasn’t thunder, was it Mr Bennett?” Sam said quietly

“Sam! Please put down your gun, there’s no need for threats, Mr Bennett has explained that he has no beef with us, he’s just doing some research”

Alec was surprised at his friend’s behaviour especially as Boy and Toby were no longer agitated but laying peacefully at their feet. In his experience dogs were far better attuned to sense danger than any human.

“And you believe him do you?” Sam was absolutely rigid and he spoke from the corner of his mouth through clenched teeth as though in mortal terror or suppressed anger, Alec couldn’t be sure which.

“Yes I believe him Sam now put the gun down for God’s sake before some gets hurt”

Alec was becoming genuinely concerned, they were both hunters but he knew from long experience that Sam was not a violent man. He stepped forward to try to placate his friend and persuade him to drop his weapon.= but just then the sky darkened and………..

Superman’s (Billy Mac) contribution:

They were slammed to the ground by a sudden, swirling and violent thrust of downward pressure. The trees bent outwards in futile surrender as they were pelted by leaves and underbrush. The noise was deafening. The dogs, unable to stand, yelped as they crawled towards the outskirts of the clearing. Sam, having lost his tenuous grip on the shotgun, helplessly watched as it was flung beyond his sight. He found himself being tossed around on the forest floor as he tried to find something to hold onto. He cried out to Alec who was frantically hugging the base of a tree at least 20 feet away.

“Alec! What the ever loving f&*k is going on?!” He shouted. As the words left his mouth he knew that the cacophony around him had drowned him out.

Alec, instead of futilely trying to shout over the deafening noise waved his right arm, his left clinging to the tree base, caught Sam’s attention and frantically pointed upwards, jabbing at the forest ceiling.

Suddenly branches and debris began raining down upon them and both men cowered under the onslaught. Sam forced himself to look up. Squinting and covering his eyes with one hand he could see a large object slowly lowering itself into the clearing, effortlessly forcing aside the trees that dared block its descent.

The heat was overwhelming, Sam could only presume it was exhaust.

But from what?

He scrambled to escape the clearing. Alec, with a sudden burst of brevity let go of the tree and did a military crawl to join his friend. Once he reached Sam they locked arms and watched what they could only presume was Bennett’s ride home finish it’s descent.

My two cents:

Ending its descent before touching down, the craft hovered several feet above the ground. The cacophony of sound, which was deafening as the alien ship forced its way into the clearing, was gone. The woods was eerily silent, as if aware of a malignant presence that it did not want to disturb. The symphony of birds, insects, and the other creatures that inhabited the grounds had vanished. Even the sound of water cascading down the brooks and streams that crisscrossed their route could not be detected. If not for the sound of their heavy breathing, Sam and Alec might have thought they were struck deaf.

The air was calm and still, but somehow felt alive, pulsating with a vibration and energy that was palpable. Sam wiped what he thought was perspiration beading the side of his face, and was alarmed when he saw blood on his hands. Turning to his partner, his eyes widened as he witnessed blood seeping from Alec’s ears and nose. Gently elbowing his friend’s bicep to get his attention, Sam pointed to Alec’s face and then his own. As Alec rubbed the space between his nose and upper lip, Sam heard Alec moan “What the hell?”, but Alec’s lips did not move. Confused, Sam hoped this was a nightmare he would soon wake from when he heard Alec respond “This is no nightmare, Sam. Can you hear my thoughts? I sure as hell can hear yours.”

Sam nodded. He didn’t question their sudden telepathic capabilities, instinctively knowing the alien presence somehow enabled it. Perhaps it was best under the circumstances that they could communicate in this manner, and not draw attention to themselves by making noise with their voices.

“We have to get out of here,” Sam heard Alec think, pointing to Sam’s face. The drops of  blood from Sam’s ears and nose had developed into a trickle. Sam saw Alec grimace when he felt his own eyes suddenly tear, and knew it wasn’t tears emerging from his eyes.

The men resumed their military crawl to get as far away from this place as they could without being detected. Moving backwards in this fashion so they would not lose sight of what was in front of them, the air around them suddenly became heavy. Their bodies became immobile, seemingly tethered to the leaf covered terrain, as if an invisible lead blanket enveloped them.

“Christ!” Alec heard Sam think, and was about to reply when a sound that was similar to the opening of an enormous vault pierced the silence. As a sliver of blinding light emerged from the ship, Sam reflexively turned his eyes away from it, and saw leaves, wooden debris and a several mice, chipmunks and a handful of other small rodents get sucked towards the ship, as if caught in a vortex of gravity.

The men felt their bodies become caught in that vortex and become involuntarily drawn towards the ship. Fortunately two large oaks were in their path, and stopped their momentum. They shielded their eyes from the light that was no longer an emerging sliver, but a floodlight of sun-like intensity that enveloped the entire scene.

Bennett, who had transformed into his natural form, approached the ship and appeared to be communicating with something neither Sam or Alec could see. Their blood turned cold when Bennett raised his arm, turned his body and extended a long, bony finger from his claw-like hand and pointed in their direction.

“Oh shit!” both men thought in unison.

 

I pass the baton Susan @ Stories From The Edge of Blindness take it to from here. Susan, I know this may not be in your wheelhouse, but I’d love do see with what you can do with it.

This is what you need to do next:

1. Copy the story as you receive it.
2. Add to the story in some fashion.
3. Either tag another person to contribute to the story or finish the story yourself.
4. Please use FTS as a tag so Teresa can find it or link back to part 1.
5. Have Fun!

Revisiting My 2018 Resolutions

2018 resolutions

One of my last posts of 2017 was a declaration of resolutions for the upcoming new year. Now that 2018 is in the books, I thought it would be interesting to see what those resolutions were (there was only one that I remembered) and how I did. What I discovered was a mixed bag: some complete successes and utter failures. Here are the results:

Get my book published:  The book isn’t published, but it is in the process of being submitted to various publishers. This campaign started later in the year than I anticipated, but at least the word is out and folks are taking a look at it. Hopefully 2019 will be the year.

Break ground on a new house or be in the process of remodeling an existing one: If you follow this blog, you know that ground has been broken and the foundation is in. Unless something catastrophic occurs, we should be moved in by summer. We nailed this one!

Be ten pounds lighter: Um……not even close. I can say that I did get to that point at one time during the year, but got tired of the struggle of dieting and said the hell with it. My motivation now is to not count every single morsel I put in my mouth, and try not to exceed a certain weight. It has worked so far, but, in all honesty, I am not going to get near a scale until after Ground Hog’s Day.

My MS symptoms will remain confined to one limb: Put this one in the success column. I can’t say I had a lot to do with this. Maybe I can thank my neurologist, or chalk it up to sheer luck. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Post every week to this blog: I had reservations about this one, but I managed not only to accomplish this task, but posted more than once a week on a handful of occasions. There were a couple of times where I had writer’s block, and thought this might be the week I falter, but it never happened. Another success!

Finish the manuscript of Novel #2: Not only did I not finish it, I barely wrote anything at all. I did noodle around with it in the beginning of the year, but I was more focused on doing everything I needed to do on the social media front to help support the novel I did write, in addition to posting to this blog. Those are lame excuses, however, because if I want to do something and am motivated to do it, it gets done. I get a big, fat F on this one.

Drink less: I was never a heavy drinker, but listed this because it would help with my weight, and because I didn’t think it was good for my MS. I never consciously thought about it during the year, but did reduce my alcohol consumption. In all candor, I think part of the reason I was able to do this was because of my new MS medicine, which has suppressed the desire for alcohol. After all, why ruin a good buzz? I’m not sure if this is cheating, but I’ll call this one a success.

Use the word “fuck” less: Didn’t happen. Enough said. It’s such a versatile word, and rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. This one was probably doomed from the beginning.

Eat Better: I wasn’t eating all that badly to start. I thought I would eliminate a few fats from my diet, keeping my weight loss goal in mind, but that fell by the wayside when I said to hell with dieting. So I’m not eating “better”, but I’m not eating any worse either, so call this one is a wash.

Get more sleep: That didn’t come close to happening. Old habits are hard to break, I’m afraid. A definite failure.

So out of these ten resolutions, four were achieved in their totality, four were colossal failures, one was partial failure and one was a wash. I guess that’s par for the course.