strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Week 28 is upon us and, in true fashion, I wrote a thing. Typical me.

The topic was the Copernican principle which, if you don't want to go look it up, is a basic tenet of cosmology that states that the Earth is not the center of the universe. That's it at its most basic form. I read some more into it and, as a fan of metaphors, came up with much prettier ways of explaining it.

Which I hope I kind of hinted at with this week's entry, The Center Does Not Hold. But, who knows. I thought it was a perfect vehicle for Alice and Travesty, though it was hard to pull the story out of them.

You know the drill - if you dug it, kick me a vote here.

There's other stuff to read there, also, and you might enjoy other people's takes on the topic. The topic as a whole, can go a very deeply philosophical route if you let it.

Duuuuuude.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
“What do we do now?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I think we’re supposed to do something amazing. I thought it was just me, but maybe it’s both of us.”

“Do you think it’s God?” Her head turned towards him as she asked the question.

He turned his head towards her, dipping his forehead to touch hers. “No, I really don’t think so. I don’t think it’s the other guy either, for what it’s worth. I really don’t think I believe in that kind of shit.”

He felt her smile. “Yeah, I don’t think I do, either. Then what, do you think?”

“I really don’t know, Alice. Maybe we’re not supposed to know. Or maybe we have to find out.”

“Together?”

“Yeah.”


* * * * *

The world did not revolve around them at this singular point in time, of course. She still had a husband to attend to and he still had his own daily matters to manage. Well, rent was due, anyway. He hadn't planned on paying it this month - after all, he'd intended to have thrown himself in front of a train by this point. Since it looked like that might not be happening, it was probably appropriate to make sure he stopped off and ensured that the roof would remain over his head for at least the time being.

They paused in front of his apartment door before parting ways.

"You'll be back?" he asked her.

"Yes," she replied. She looked directly into his eyes as she said it. "I just need to check in on my husband. Make sure he gets checked out and heads home. I might need to drive him there, I don't know."

They did not kiss goodbye. They didn't even touch before she turned around and walked towards her car. He watched her hair sway against her back, the morning light catching on the lighter strands. He put up a hand to wave as she left, but she did not look back.

He didn't know if she'd actually be back.

He dropped off the rent check at the mailbox and was headed back towards his apartment when he stopped in his tracks. The air around him seemed to constrict a bit, as though he were in the middle of something larger than he could fathom. His chest felt heavy and it became hard to breathe. He looked around wildly for a place where he could be alone. Stepping around a corner of an apartment building, he was out of immediate lines of sight.

He dropped to his knees, planted his palms on the ground and pressed his forehead to the dirt.

His eyes were closed and he tried to focus on regulating his breathing.

He was having a rough go of it.

The weight of the last 24 hours seemed to have come crashing down on him. Alice, the shared vision…it all seemed too much to manage through anymore. When it was just him, at least, he could accept that it was just a dream – some psychosis that had manifested inside of him and him alone. If they’d shared it, though – if Alice had been able to be there with him and see almost the same things…well, that made it real, right?

“Mister, you all right?”

The voice came from one of the neighborhood kids. He lifted his head and nodded. “I’m good. Just needed a breather.” Shakily, he got to his feet. The kid peered at him and another kid came around the first, craning his neck to get a better look.

"Get outta here," he grumbled at the kids. They took off snickering something about him being drunk.

He righted himself as best he could, his head still swimming a bit, but his breathing mostly back to normal. If it could be shared, then it could be real. If it was real, why were her eyes so like Alice's?

He felt a little like he might throw up.

Instead, he put one foot in front of the other and started walking. He didn't have a destination in mind, but he thought that the act of walking might help calm his nerves. Step, breathe, step, breathe. He concentrated on the sound his feet made as they slapped against the pavement. Step, breathe, step, breathe.

He was starting to feel mostly like a human again when he found himself in front of the public library. An employee was unlocking the doors and waved at him.

If it can be shared, it might be real, he thought again.

And if it's real, he surmised, there must be a record of it.

He stepped into the library.

* * * * *

After a few hours pouring over the most recent newspapers and then another couple of hours hunched over the microfiche, he could find nothing. There were plenty of reports of women and their children dying, but nothing so specific as a woman run down by a train while holding an infant.

Disappointed, he found himself back on the pavement making his way home. He supposed that she'd might've come back by now. He wondered how long she'd been waiting. The placement of the sun in the sky suggested that it was nearly five o'clock. He squinted - the sun was bright this afternoon.

Her car was not in the parking lot when he returned to his apartment. A religious tract was rolled up between the doorknob and the doorjamb - he flicked it out and unrolled it.

"AMAZING DAYS!" it screamed at him in garishly bright font. "FAITH IS THE WAY!"

He sighed. Was it another sign? He let himself into the apartment and crumpled the tract into a ball. He doubted it at first, then looked at the wad of paper in his hand. Stranger things had been happening. He threw the paper to the ground and went into the kitchen and opened a can of soup to put on the stove.

By the time the soup had been eaten - and three beers consumed, one piece of toast devoured, and his hand bandaged from where the soup tin had cut him - the light was fading from the sky. Summer was starting to give way to autumn and the longer, lighter days would not last much longer.

She still had not returned.

With each disappearing ray of light, a little more of the magic from the previous evening faded.

By the time it was full dark, he was convinced that it had been nothing more than another dream.

He sat at the table, head in his hands, and wept.

When he was done, he dried his eyes. He tightened his shoelaces. He opened the apartment door and walked away. His feet knew the direction to go - he did not need to tell them.

The train tracks were not far away.

This train was on a different schedule. They wouldn't be expecting a disappearing man.

Maybe this time he wouldn't disappear.

No moment was meant to be the center, after all.

There was nothing special here.

Just him. Just a train.

And just a deal he made with a dream.


Thank the stars for my best friend and neighbor and struggling writer sympathizer. I had no idea where to go with Alice and Travesty this go 'round, just that this topic was meant for their story - she pulled me out of a real funk last night and gave this a little more direction than I'd been able to glean out of it. If you need to know more about these characters, go check out my entries from Season 8 and this one and this one from Season 9.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
The town had not been picked over in the same manner that they'd seen other towns on their travels. There weren't many biters, either, which lead them both to wonder if the town's citizens had evacuated before many of them had turned. Regardless, while they had to put down a few on their way down the main street, it was a pleasant surprise to find a place not entirely gutted.

He was out scouting for a suitable shelter for the evening while she rummaged around in what must've been some kind of small town electronics store. There was no more power for those kinds of frivolties anymore, of course, but it was nice to find some batteries or flashlights scattered about. They rarely split up like this and she hoped that they hadn't been lulled into a false sense of security. There were many quiet moments between the two of them, but it was rare to have a quiet moment all to herself. She didn't know how much she liked it. She preferred his company to being alone.

In a backroom of the building, she found what must've been the employee breakroom. Picking up a particularly sturdy-looking chair, she casually smashed it through the glass of a vending machine. It had been one of those refrigerated jobs once - shilling terrible sandwiches and microwaved burritos alongside yogurt and Lunchables. The stench of rotted food hit her nostrils like a freight train, but she didn't mind. There were bottles of water and sports drink in there, the kinds of things that didn't go bad without electricity to keep them cool.

Tucking the supplies into her pack, she looked around. There was a small CD player on a side table. Walking towards it, she realized how much she'd missed music. Aside from the songs she tried to sing from memory or an errant melody floating through her head, it had been ages since she'd heard music played over speakers.

Idly, she wandered over to the payer and flicked open the disc cover. Her eyes lit on the selection. She turned the player around and was pleased to find that it had the option to be used with batteries. She yanked out the useless power cord, pulled up the handle and took it with her. On the way out of the store building, she grabbed a couple packages of D-cell batteries and stuffed them into her pack as well.

She could see him coming up the street and she threw up a hand to wave to him. He waved back and pointed towards the supermarket. They'd cleared it earlier in the day, but hadn't gathered supplies from it yet. She gave him a thumbs up and pointed to the minimart that she was next to. She wanted to find more water - that was her job. His was canned goods and medications.

The minimart was a little more picked over than other places in town. She happily grabbed a few candy bars, the first she'd seen in a couple of weeks. She filled her pack with bottled water and some hand warmers, then headed behind the counter. Above the cash register was a cigarette display. Most of the slots were empty, but lo - a single pack of menthols. She reached on her tiptoes to yank it down. It had been months since her last cigarette. These would be like a delicacy.

Returning from around the counter, she put her pack down on the floor and set the CD player down on the counter. She rummaged in her pack for a handful of batteries, which she plugged into the back of the player. The player thrummed to life nicely and she pressed a few buttons to get it to the right track. Forgetting the outside world for a moment, she packed the cigarettes on her palm, pulled away the cellophane wrapping and pulled out a single stick. She stuck a hand in her pants pocket and pulled out the refillable lighter that she carried with her.

Inhale, exhale. She coughed a bit and the taste was the slightest bit stale, but it was heaven. Leaning against the counter, she jostled the CD player and the song skipped a bit, but kept playing on, a tune from a dead age coming back to hit her in the face with nostalgia.

But I've got to think twice
Before I give my heart away
And I know all the games you play
Because I play them too


Before she really knew it, she was dancing along.

And then, she was singing along, the cigarette dangling from her fingertips.

The sun was setting outside. Her feet moved deftly around a fallen store display. She didn't hear him come up to the open store doorway and she was lucky it was just him and not a biter.

Oh but I
Need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
And when that love comes down
Without devotion
Well it takes a strong man baby
But I'm showing you the door


He leaned against the doorway and watched her, lost in dance and song from another time. The song was silly and trivial, but it was like a ghost shooting across the plains of their landscape. He smiled. She hadn't noticed him yet.

He took a few steps inside, scooped her around the middle and joined her.

Her cigarette smoke wafted around them, scenting the evening air.

Before this river
Becomes an ocean
Before you throw my heart back on the floor
Oh baby I reconsider
My foolish notion
Well I need someone to hold me
But I'll wait for something more


They held to each other tightly.

The music would not last, but this moment would.

Yes I've got to have faith

The sun set behind them.




I, of course, do not own the song "Faith". George Michael gets all the credit for that. It is my hope that Alice and Travesty will be back next week - in the meantime, you get a little more from my biter story arc previously seen here, and here.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
The 20th floor began their evacuation calmly and quietly. There was some murmuring among them, mostly speculation as to whether or not this was a drill. They'd just had a drill three weeks ago, hadn't they? This had just been the braying noise of the alarm - usually there was a computerized voice that came over the loudspeaker as well. No matter, it seemed. The evacuation, drill or not, carried out as normal. Some had left their coats at their desk, others their purses. She'd grabbed hers, mostly so she had her phone on her to bide the time once they got to the rally point. Four floors down, then wait for the all-clear. She always thought that was a little ridiculous - if this were a real emergency, wouldn't they evacuate all the way outside?

The 20th floor fire warden was two people behind her on the stairs as they reached the 19th floor. They merged with the employees there that were streaming out the door.

"Did you know about this, Larry?" someone asked him.

He shook his head under the orange floor warden hat he was supposed to wear during these exercises. "Nope. If it's a drill, it's not a scheduled one."

"That happen often?"

"Sometimes. They want to see how we'd do in a real emergency."

"Hey, it got me out of a conference call with those assholes in L.A., so I don't care!"

There was some lighthearted snickering as the man brayed in laughter. She poked her co-worker in front of her. They were halfway between the 19th and 18th floors.

"Hey, what's your plan for lunch?"

Her co-worker didn't look back. "I don't know. Did you bring anything?"

"Naw," she replied. "I meant to, but I got up late. I was thinking about heading to the teriyaki place downstairs."

"I brought some leftovers from last night's dinner, but I don't think I want to eat them. Maybe I'll go with you."

They had reached the 18th floor, where they merged again with others that were streaming out of that exit door. From somewhere down the stairwell, they heard shouting. Not loud, kind of muffled, but loud noises nonetheless.

"What the hell do you think that is?" someone from the 18th floor asked. She shrugged. Larry, the 20th floor warden, raised his hands in the air unknowingly.

Halfway between the 18th and the 17th floors, the shouting below them got louder. The people around her became louder, everyone wondering if there really was an emergency somewhere. She felt her heart speed up a notch. They were one floor away from their rally point. She wanted to get there faster, but the crowd in the stairs had swelled and it was hard to go too quickly.

She never did think it was a good idea evacuating everyone down only one of the stairwells. Why didn't they use the other one also?

At the 17th floor, they merged again with other employees leaving their desks for the stairs. "Something's happening," someone from the 17th said. "The alarm wouldn't turn off. It just kept going."

She poked her co-worker again. "What do you think that means?" she asked.

"I don't know, but it sounds weird. Probably just a malfunction."

She fished her cell out of her purse as they descended from the 17th floor to the 16th, their destination. There was no signal in the stairwell, but there would be in the hallway. She was eight people back from the first 20th floor employee that tried the door at 16.

"It's locked!" she shouted, a hint of panic in her voice.

"Did you swipe your badge?" someone further back asked.

"Of course!"

She got closer and tried her own badge on the same door. It beeped once, but the color did not change from red to green. The door remained electronically locked.

Larry passed by her as he continued down the stairs. "Continue down to the 15th, folks! We'll congregate there!"

The shouting became louder still, seemingly getting louder. It was compounded by someone below them that had reached the 15th floor early.

"This one's locked, too! What the hell, man?!"

"Down to 14!" Larry barked.

That's where she was, between the 15th and the 14th, when chaos ripped through the group.

The screaming horde was pushing their way up the stairs while they were trying to make their way down. She was shoved to against the wall, one stair below the landing. Her co-worker ahead of her was struggling to keep her footing. She reached an arm out and they held onto each other, their arms straining against the surge of people.

"Go!" she heard. "They're coming!" "Run!" "Get out of the way!"

"Stop! Stop!" she heard Larry shout. "We can all go the ways we want, just everyone stay calm!"

"Don't go down there!" someone shouted as they stepped on her foot and jabbing an elbow into her side. "They're coming!"

"The doors are locked!" she heard from some that had made it up to the higher floors. "Why are all the doors locked?!"

"Who's coming?!" someone shouted from a floor below her. The stream of people didn't stop. She saw some from her floor start to drop below the horizon of bodies streaming up the stairs. It was getting harder to hold onto her co-workers arm.

The lights flickered and a scream rose. She wasn't sure where it began, but it seemed to roll across the entire group. She remembered a time on an airplane when some heavy turbulence had caused people to scream - she knew instinctively that she was okay, but her anxiety level had risen based on the crowd's reaction. She felt the same thing happening now.

A strange sound came from below them. A moaning? Screams and shouts mingled in with the sound, the din of a few hundred people trying to go up or go down this damned stairwell. She shook her head to try to clear the haze. Which way should she go?

A heavy body hit her own, knocking the breath from her chest. She instinctively let go of her co-worker's arm as the heavy-framed man crushed her against the wall. She heard her co-worker scream her name first and then she just began to scream. The man pressed against her was sweaty and hot. He breathed heavily. She wondered if he was having a heart attack.

She wondered if she'd die here.

Another surge pushed upwards against her and the body crushing her released and fell. He took down a few of the evacuees on his way. She watched blankly as people began to stream forward over them.

They made odd crunching noises, she would remember later.

Her co-worker was gone.

Larry was gone.

The screams were louder.

And the moaning sound, it had gotten louder.

Up or down? The daze back, she looked each way.

There was something coming up the stairs.

There were people coming up the stairs.

The exits above them were locked.

Trying not to think too hard about her decision, she launched herself off the wall and in the opposite direction of the sea of humanity that was making its way towards...towards what? She didn't believe that any of the floors they'd just left from were accessible anymore, unless someone had left one of the doors open on their way into the stairwell. There might've been enough time for that to happen, but she didn't want to chance the possibility that it hadn't happened.

She tried not to think about the things that crunched under feet.

And she tried not to look at the teeth that flashed when she reached the 11th floor.



Uh, oh! What happened?! Where are Travesty and Alice, you ask? Well, I couldn't make their story fit into this week's topic, "Crabs in a Barrel". So I didn't try to cram them into it. Instead, I elaborated a bit more on the story I started fleshing (ha! get it? ) out earlier in LCI, There's a Title Here Somewhere. So, you know, enjoy.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
He didn't know what had possessed him to kiss her. From the moment her hand was on his cheek, though, he needed to feel more of her.

He also didn't know what had happened next. She had responded and softened against his lips, then her hands had gripped his arms. She went rigid, screamed and let go of him, hitting the carpet with a speed he could not match.

He dropped to his knees beside her, her breathing fast and ragged, her eyes fluttering madly.

"Alice," he called. He put his hand on her cheek. "Alice, what's wrong?" When she didn't respond, he contemplated calling for an ambulance. Her eyes began to open, though, and her hand flashed up to grip his.

"Why won't she move?"

"Alice, who?"

"The lady with the baby. Why won't she get out of the way?"


* * * * *

After a few moments, Alice had sat up on the floor, crossed her legs in front of her and cradled her head in her hands. He didn’t quite know what to do in response, so he sat in front of her with his palms on his knees. It was quiet for a long time, just the sounds of their breaths between and the occasional shout from one of the neighboring apartments. A siren wailed far in the distance before it faded back to nothingness. Alice’s eyes remained closed.

Breath in.

Breath out.

Breath in.

Breath out.

“Alice?”

“I feel like I’m underwater. Like I’m drunk.”

Her eyes did not open.

“Are you okay?”

“No, but I will be.”

A flutter.

Breath in.

Breath out.

“Alice?”

“What?”

“What did you see?”

Breath in.

Breath out.

“I saw a woman holding a baby. She stood in front of an oncoming train and she wouldn’t move. She just…she just stood there.”

Breath in.

Breath out.

“I dreamed about that woman.”

“I know. I don’t know how, but I know. I know this is your vision, not mine.”

Alice’s eyes opened and he noticed for the first time that they were a soft, rich brown. They looked back at him, staring hard.

“It was you in front of the train the other night, wasn’t it?”

That was how he wound up telling her everything. About how his wife had died, about the friends that had started to fade away, about the dreams and the trains and the push on his back. They had stayed there on the floor, the world darkening around them, neither of them moving to turn on a light. Their eyes adjusted to the lack of light and he could make her out clearly as he spoke.

In turn, she told him about her husband – the man she’d intended to leave behind before his encounter on the train tracks. She told him about the fading light of their marriage and her hard-accepted admission to herself about her continued love for him.

Eventually, they steered the conversation back towards the situation before them. Travesty looked at his hands, palms turned upwards.

“Do you think it works no matter how we touch?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. You pushed me out of the way at the gas station and nothing like this happened then.”

He nodded. “That’s right. Want to try anyway?” He held up his palm.

She smiled and put hers up as well, pressing it against his. His brain registered the softness of her skin. Goosebumps rose on his forearms and he was glad for the dark.

Otherwise, nothing happened.

She laced her fingers between his and they clasped hands. Still nothing. He looked up from their entwined hands. Before he could say anything, she reached out and took his other hand in the same manner. The result remained the same. He saw her brow furrow.

“Do you think…,” he started to ask.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I do think. But let’s hold on this time.”

“Are you sure?”

“No. But let’s try anyway.”

“We really don’t have to.”

“I want to.” Her voice was forceful.

They leaned forward at the same time, hands still connected.

Their lips touched softly at first, then, like her voice, more forceful. There was nothing between them besides their mouths on each other’s. The goosebumps rose again as they enveloped each other.

Then they weren’t there, on his apartment floor, anymore.

The first feeling was like his heart had been ripped from his chest. He struggled to find a breath, feeling as though his throat were clawing its way out of his flesh. Then he felt her hands still gripping his, her head back and her eyes closed tight. Her mouth was wide open like his, gasping for air.

When he found he could focus beyond the two of them, he realized that they were on the edge of the train tracks. The woman was there like he’d always dreamed, but something was different.

The baby was crying.

His hands tightened on hers, afraid to let go. The baby had never cried before. Not in all the nights he’d dreamed of this.

The train was screaming towards her.

He opened his mouth to shout at her. “Move!” he wanted to scream.

She turned around before he could say anything, though.

“Go,” she said.

And then the light bore down and everything went black.

He welcomed the darkness.

* * * * *

They came to back on the floor, holding hands. The room was still in darkness, but a faint light seemed to be growing in the sky outside.

“Travesty?”

“Alice?”

“Are you okay?”

“I think so.”

“Was that the same as your dream?”

“No. The baby was crying.”

“That didn’t happen before?”

“No. Never.”

“Was anything else different?”

“No,” he lied. “Did…did you see her face?”

“No. She didn’t look at me. Did she look at you?”

“No,” he lied again.

“Why is this happening? Why do you think?”

“I don’t know. Before, I thought…well, I just thought I was going crazy.”

“And now?”

He smirked in the darkness.

“Now I’m not alone in this, right? You’re here now.”

There was a pause. “Yeah,” she replied finally. “I am now. I’m here now.”

He squeezed her hand. Her hand was shaking. He realized that hers was, too.

“What do we do now?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I think we’re supposed to do something amazing. I thought it was just me, but maybe it’s both of us.”

“Do you think it’s God?” Her head turned towards him as she asked the question.

He turned his head towards her, dipping his forehead to touch hers. “No, I really don’t think so. I don’t think it’s the other guy either, for what it’s worth. I really don’t think I believe in that kind of shit.”

He felt her smile. “Yeah, I don’t think I do, either. Then what, do you think?”

“I really don’t know, Alice. Maybe we’re not supposed to know. Or maybe we have to find out.”

“Together?”

“Yeah.”

They laid there for a while longer, the room lighting on their faces as the sun rose higher in the sky.

When the first rays hit his face, he closed his eyes and tried to forget.

He tried to erase the image of the woman’s face from his mind.

The woman with rich, brown eyes, just like hers.


A long, long time ago, back in a strange place called LJ Idol Season 8, I started a writing exercise around a crazy little bit of inspiration I had once. This is not the first bit about Alice and Travesty and I'm pleased to get a chance to write more about them. I apologize if you're feeling a bit out of the loop on this one - if you want to read more about The Guy and the Train and That Chick He Saved, check out my entries from Season 8 and my last entry from Season 9's Last Chance Idol for a little more context.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
The Last Chance Idol topic this past week was "We're all in the gutter" and I posted my entry,It's a Travesty, Alice yesterday afternoon.

Did you remember the previous posts about Alice and Travesty? I know I was kind of dredging on that one, but I felt I owed it to them to revisit what little story I had written about them. If I manage to stick in it another week, I might write some more about them. Or I might head back to my little post-apocalyptic vignette and give that some more detail and texture.

If you liked what I wrote, make sure you head on over here and toss me a vote. The contestants with the top five highest vote counts are eligible to join the main competition - and those with the four lowest vote counts will be eliminated!

Let's do dis.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
It wasn't hard to find someone by the first name of Travesty in the city. It wasn't exactly common. There was a business center at the motel her husband was staying at, but the name gave it more credit than it deserved. There was one very ancient desktop computer and she'd been surprised to find out that not only did it have internet access, but that dialup still existed in some parts of the country. After waiting for the pages to load, Google had eventually given her the information she'd been looking for.

She saw him leave his apartment the next day, as the afternoon light was fading to the glow of a summer's twilight. She debated following him, but thought twice of it. Instead, she sat in her sedan and watched him until he faded from sight.

She wasn't sure why she hadn't been able to stop thinking about him. Sure, he'd pushed her out of the way of harm, but there was something else. Something stronger.

Her knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel in front of her.

Like she'd known him before.

But before what or when or who...well, that was the question, now wasn't it?


* * * * *

He’d returned an hour later. He was disheveled, she could see that. He was looking around wildly, as though someone might be following him, and then dipped into his apartment. Someone was following him, she supposed. She was.

She put her head on the steering wheel and tried to decide on her next move. She’d been trying to decide that since she'd seen him leave - what would she do if and when he returned? Now he was here and she had no better plans than before. Which was, to say, that she had absolutely no plan. How do you walk up to someone and tell them, "Hi, thanks for saving me from copious amounts of bodily harm. Also, do you feel something weird between us? Like we know each other, but we don't?"

While he was away, she'd heard the train whistle in the distance and she'd been a bit shaken. She'd seen her husband once since she'd been here, for about an hour. He hadn't looked her in the eye and he'd been pretty drunk, to be honest. He'd been huddled in the motel bed, his head barely peeking above the covers. Her husband was a large man, husky in his build and tall as the day was long, so this position made his feet stick out comically of the end of the bed. She'd tried to talk to him, but he had only mumbled in response...if he responded at all. His co-workers said that he only had another day at the motel on the company dime, then he'd have to foot the bill himself or head home.

They had a look in their eyes that let her know that they believed that he was no longer in shock. Now he was just annoying them.

She lifted her head and rested her chin on the steering wheel instead. What do to now? She closed her eyes and exhaled deeply before opening them again. The wind kicked up and an errant bit of advertisement blew onto her windshield. "DO SOMETHING AMAZING EVERYDAY!" it screamed at her as it fluttered erratically under the windshield wiper. Then the wind picked up again and it blew away. She watched it's path with an indifferent eye - it eventually wound up stuck in someone's gutter.

"Whatever," she muttered. She pulled the keys out of the ignition, grabbed her purse from the passenger side seat and got out of the car. It was now or never. The streetlights were starting to turn on and the sky was growing darker - if she didn't go up to his door now, she'd lose her nerve. She'd go back to the shitty motel where he husband was drinking away his sorrows, she'd pack his things and they'd drive back together. And she'd stay. She'd probably stay.

She didn't know if knocking on this stranger's door would change that or not, but she got the feeling that it might.

At his door, she paused. The apartment on the other side seemed silent. There were no lights on that she could tell. She placed the palm of her hand on the door and spread her fingers wide, one last hesitation before rapping her knuckles on the cheap wood beneath her hand. Before she could, though, she heard a rustle at her feet, as though someone were on the other side of the door, at the floor.

"Hello?" she called timidly.

There came a shuffle at the sound of her voice and an audible gasp from the same direction.

"Who are you? What do you want?"

This derailed her momentarily. "I'm Alice. And I don't know what I want. I don't even know why I'm here. I found you, though. Can I come in?"

The silence on the other side of the door descended again. After what seemed like a million minutes, she could hear him rising from his seat on the floor. He rattled around with the locks on the door and then they were standing face to face.

He wasn't much younger than her, she realized, placing him in his late twenties to early thirties. His face was not lined with age or stress, though it held a sadness buried in its depths that was common with those that have lost something. She knew that look. She saw it in the mirror most mornings.

He didn't say a word as she stepped inside. He flicked a lamp on and closed the door behind them. She wrung her hands nervously in front of her. Her sundress felt flimsy and transparent and she wished for a sweater. It wasn't that she felt naked in front of him, but she felt like he could see through her somehow - inside her, maybe. His eyes lit on her in an unnervingly familiar way and she forced herself to return his gaze.

"I know you," she said finally, breaking the eerie silence between them both.

"I know," he said. "I know you, too."

She let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. "God, I'm really fucking glad that I'm not the only one feeling that. I was starting to think I was going a little crazy."

He laughed, an honest laugh that he even seemed surprised at. "It's okay," he said as he ran a hand through his hair. She noticed that his hand shook a bit. "I don't know how I know you, but I do," he said.

"I know the feeling."

"Did you grow up around here?"

"No," she replied. "I live about six hours from here. I've never been here in my life. I was lost when I stopped at that gas station. I was going to ask for directions." She stuck a strand of hair around her finger and twisted it.

"And I've lived here my whole life. Never even traveled out of state. We'd planned to move, but...," he paused, looking down at his hands. "It just didn't happen."

"We?" she asked.

"My...my wife. She's dead."

She let go of the strand of hair and wrapped her arms around herself. "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry."

He shrugged. "I figured that's why things had been crazy lately. Everyone told me I needed to move on, that I was dwelling on it too much. Then the dreams came and then the trains and then you."

"The trains?" The word had sent a shiver up her spine.

"Yeah. I don't want to talk about it, really."

"Okay."

They stared at each other again, a palpable electricity flowing between them. She had a desperate need to touch him, as though her palms had a mind of their own. She wrapped her arms tighter around herself, her hands balled into fists at her sides, as though she could force the feeling out of them. Finally, she realized she could resist no longer.

"I know things are weird right now," she said, "and I know that we're, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers. I just...can I touch your face?"

He didn't seem surprised and just stepped closer to her, nodding. She could feel his breath on her forehead. She could smell him, a faint scent of old lumber clinging to his clothing. Looking up at him (she gauged him to be a good six inches taller than her five-foot-seven frame), she reached her hand out and placed it on his cheek.

The result was almost instantaneous. His mouth was quickly on hers and she responded fervently, but within moments she was overwhelmed not only with the taste of him.

The vision screamed across her landscape, like a locomotive gone terrifyingly out of control.

She screamed and dropped to the floor.

* * * * *

He didn't know what had possessed him to kiss her. From the moment her hand was on his cheek, though, he needed to feel more of her.

He also didn't know what had happened next. She had responded and softened against his lips, then her hands had gripped his arms. She went rigid, screamed and let go of him, hitting the carpet with a speed he could not match.

He dropped to his knees beside her, her breathing fast and ragged, her eyes fluttering madly.

"Alice," he called. He put his hand on her cheek. "Alice, what's wrong?" When she didn't respond, he contemplated calling for an ambulance. Her eyes began to open, though, and her hand flashed up to grip his.

"Why won't she move?"

"Alice, who?"

"The lady with the baby? Why won't she get out of the way?"


A long, long time ago, back in a strange place called LJ Idol Season 8, I started a writing exercise around a crazy little bit of inspiration I had once. This is not the first bit about Alice and Travesty; I don't know if it will be the last, but it has been interesting to revisit them and poke a little more life into this story. I apologize if you're feeling a bit out of the loop on this one - if you want to read more about The Guy and the Train and That Chick He Saved, check out my entries from Season 8 for a little more context. And who knows, if I stick around, maybe more of the story will start to write itself.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
So this week's Last Chance Idol topic was "Crossing All the T's" and I posted my entry,Financial Irresponsibility and Really Random Anectdotes today.

There's no Easter Egg this time and I'm disappointed in all of you for not finding the last one. I'm not telling either. Y'all should've figured this thing out already.

If you liked what I wrote, make sure you head on over here and toss me a vote. The contestants with the top five highest vote counts are eligible to join the main competition - and those with the three lowest vote counts will be eliminated!

I still want in, you guyse.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
The Last Chance Idol topic was "In the Garden" and I posted my entry,There's a Title Here Somewhere today.

There's an Easter Egg in my entry. Did you find it?

And, of course, make sure you head on over here and toss me a vote. The contestants with the top five highest vote counts are eligible to join the main competition! Lemme in! I want in!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
It had not been her intent to go this far south. She had been lost at first, when they'd been separated. Her bearings had been rattled by what they'd been through; her mental geography had abandoned her. Walking somewhat aimlessly had kept her out of harm's way for now, but it wouldn't last for much longer. Her senses began to emerge from what seemed like an endless fog and she started the process of assessing herself and her surroundings.

Nothing seemed broken or even too bent. She was slick with sweat, her hair matted against her forehead. That was understandable, given the pace she'd been keeping. Her feet were screaming at her, which was also understandable, and her lower back had been certainly been in better shape. There was blood on her clothing, of course, but none of it appeared to be her own. And she smelled. Horribly. She smelled like she'd rolled around in the dead, which wasn't too terribly far from the truth.

Tenderly, she put a hand to her forehead. Her head was throbbing fit to split and she'd lost her pack somewhere in the fray, so there was no ibuprofen to be had. She'd have to manage through that, but she considered it a small price to pay considering she was still standing and breathing and alive.

Heaving a great sigh, she looked up at the sky. She wondered if he'd made it out. She thought he might have, but it hadn't been a very winnable situation from his position. The last she'd felt of him had been his hand on her back, shoving her out of the crowd. The last she'd heard had been his voice, raspy and out of breath, telling her sternly to run. The last she'd seen of him was his head dipping below the horizon of the approaching melee.

Empty. That was how she felt now. Like she had nothing left to give. If she was wounded, it wasn't something she could fix with bandages.

Gradually, a light rain began to fall almost like a mist. The sky was growing dimmer, also; she'd need to find basic necessities soon. She sighed again, then squared her shoulders and set off in the direction she'd been heading before. She was in a brushy, wooded area, it seemed. A worn trail was at her feet, the earth tramped flat by what could possibly be centuries of foot traffic. The brush was taking back parts of the trail here and there, a testament to the last three months of turmoil. Nature was clawing its way back to dominance, she reflected as she kicked a particularly prickly vine out of her way.

About three weeks ago, they'd been camped near a small town that had been gutted. The landscape had proved safe enough that, for a few brief days, they'd been able to build a large campfire instead of relying on their dwindling supply of drugstore hand warmers. They'd spoken quietly to each other, remembering things and people lost. Regret was a constant in their hearts, always wrapping its roughened fingers around their souls and gripping tight. Regret led to sorrow, which was more like a vine that crept under the blanket at night, weaving between their entangled legs and threatening to root them to the ground.

Rarely did they have time like they had had on those nights, though. The tales of sorrow led to stories of better times, and the stories of better times led to intellectual debate on the fate of the world around them. He believed that order could be restored and would be, soon. She was less optimistic, but clung to his hopes for fear of letting him see the hopelessness in her eyes. Gardens would blossom again, he'd told her as he'd draped an arm lazily around her shoulders and pulled her close. Gardens would blossom and the carnage would end and they'd feel safe at night again. They'd be able to set their weapons down and not concern themselves with making it through another day.

Death had a way of ruining plans, though, didn't it?

Especially when you figured that once upon a time in a world far, far away, she'd been a married woman with a daughter and a dog and a mortgage. She'd planted her own garden, full of life and movement. Ballet on Tuesdays, flute on Thursdays, book club on Fridays, crockpot dinners on Saturdays. Rock shows when she felt like it. Knitting when she felt like it. Laying in bed against the warmth of her husband. Holding her daughter by the hand as they crossed the street. One by one, each of those mundane normalcies had died little deaths. All that remained was her exposed core by the end...and the emergence of a man she'd nearly forgotten, saving her from a death certain to come from sheer, heartwrenching loneliness.

Now, she continued on the path, a hint of light stabbing through light grey clouds. The mist still fell, though the dying day's sun glinted off where the moisture had collected on the ground foliage. In the distance ahead of her, she spied a small shelter - possibly an abandoned hunting cabin. In the distance behind her, though, she heard the telltale sound of footfalls too unmindful to be human...or at least not the kind of human she wanted to meet here. Regardless of the origin, danger had not let her be for long. She bent her head and began to run again.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I know it's late, but I got a favor to ask you.

Wanna vote for me?

This week's topic was "traveling travesty", which actually gave me inspiration for the name of my main character (something I had struggled with for TWO YEARS), and also inspired "The Continuance of Amazing".

There's some voting go on for this kind of thing, I hear. If you liked my entry, feel free to pop on over and slip me a vote, why don'tcha?

Tribe 1, near the bottom since it's alphabetical - same as last week.

And check out everything else there, if you want. There's some gems!



Ohhhhh yeahhhh, I promised some kind of backstory into how this came to be, right?

Well, there was this thing in the middle of the woods in Oregon a couple summers ago. Over the course of an evening, I found myself alone in my tent after eating too many "jelly beans". I either hallucinated or had some kind of vision quest right there in my tent with the glow stick I'd broken open and drawn on myself with - either way, I ended up having this really chilling vision of a woman standing in the light of an oncoming train, holding a swaddled infant in her arms.

Wicked shit, that is.

From there, this kind of developed.

And that's all I'm giving you for now. You want more (and more of my character/plot/story development and random fuckery), I'll need to stay in it for another week. Or get eliminated this week, at which point I'll just post an entire diatribe about writing and the difference between writing fiction and storytelling and all about the plight of the clothespins and why I can't find that huge bag of them that I just bought.

I digress. It's sleepytime. Peace and chicken grease, bitches.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
"What did you say?"

The woman looked at him closely. "I said, 'that was amazing'."

The dust was beginning to settle around them. He could taste it on his tongue, a sort of old lumber musk. He thought hazily of the flyer that he'd dropped back inside his apartment, just before coming over here.

"DO SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!"

"BE SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!"

"Bupkis," he whispered to himself. He was aware that the woman's eyes were on him, not leaving. He grunted something unintelligible and then pivoted quickly on his heel, attempting to rocket himself back towards home.

"Wait!" the woman called out after him. "Don't go! Not without at least telling me your name! How will I be able to thank you?"

Her voice gave him pause and he stopped abruptly in his tracks. He looked at the sky, then down at his shoes, worn from his nightly travels across town.

"Travesty," he replied. "My name is Travesty. But no one believes me so they just call me Travis."

And then he kept walking, the chaotic scene enveloping around him.

* * * * *

He meditated it on it that night. He didn't know if he'd intended to meditate, really, but he supposed that's what had ended up happening. His belly still empty, growling with hunger, he'd set himself down in the middle of his living room floor. Cross-legged and in the dark.

He figured that ought to work.

He didn't know what question he needed to have answered.

He didn't know if he even wanted to know the answer.

He sat there for hours, the light changing around him as the night turned to day and then to afternoon. He slept at some point, but he vaguely recalled it or how long it had been. Sometime during his time there on the living room floor, though, a light breeze had kicked up. It had blown the advertisement back towards him.

In fact, it had blown it right to his feet.

"DO SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!"

"BE SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!"

The thing was, though - he already had done something amazing today. The woman had confirmed it. Hell, she'd even said it.

Therefore, there was nothing stopping him from completing his primary objective.

His resolve returned, he stood from his spot on the floor and stretched. It wasn't long before he was ready to step out the door. When he did, though, another flyer fluttered in after him.

"DO SOMETHING AMAZING EVERYDAY!" this one screamed at him. He smirked.

"Too late," he said to the flyer, kicking it into his apartment.

* * * * *

It wasn't hard to find someone by the first name of Travesty in the city. It wasn't exactly common. There was a business center at the motel her husband was staying at, but the name gave it more credit than it deserved. There was one very ancient desktop computer and she'd been surprised to find out that not only did it have internet access, but that dialup still existed in some parts of the country. After waiting for the pages to load, Google had eventually given her the information she'd been looking for.

She saw him leave his apartment the next day, as the afternoon light was fading to the glow of a summer's twilight. She debated following him, but thought twice of it. Instead, she sat in her sedan and watched him until he faded from sight.

She wasn't sure why she hadn't been able to stop thinking about him. Sure, he'd pushed out of the way of harm, but there was something else. Something stronger.

Her knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel in front of her.

Like she'd known him before.

But before what or when or who...well, that was the question, now wasn't it?




Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
You know you love me.

Well, at least you know you love my stories.

This week's topic was "bupkis", which I tried my best to incorporate into my piece, "The Emergence of Amazing".

If I stick around another week or so, I'll explain where I got the idea for this whole thing. I suppose if you want that to happen, you're going to have to go vote for me, now aren't you?

Tribe 1, near the bottom since it's alphabetical.

And check out everything else there, if you want. There's some gems!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
He didn't stop running until he reached his street. Then, the better part of his brains took over and reminded him that his neighbors might get suspicious if they saw him sprinting to and into his own apartment. He slowed down his pace until he reached his apartment door, on the ground floor of a four-plex that his landlord had called "antique". He'd called it "ancient" later when describing it to friends, but the truth of the matter was that it was cheap, it was cozy and it was theirs.

His hand was frozen on the key, just having been slid home in the lock, thoughts of those old friends rushing back to his mind. They'd all faded away, too, but whose fault had that been? Had it been his? Had it been hers? How long had it been, anyway? He sighed and shook his head to scatter the memories. He supposed it didn't matter. Besides, he had more pressing matters to attend to.

First and foremost: What the fuck?

Closing the door behind him, he slid to the ground with his back to the door. He'd left a window open and the curtain there blew in with the light breeze and rustled up against the wall. Even the children outside had stopped their shrieking. There was silence around him, enough that he thought he could hear his upstairs neighbor's voice talking on the telephone, ordering a pizza.

At least, he thought it was a pizza. Distracted, he listened a bit closer for a moment, then shook his head again.

He'd honestly felt the push at his back as he'd stood waiting for the train to take him on to the great hereafter. Then he'd stumbled over his own feet, tumbling to the ground beside the tracks again. Again, in that brief moment right at the end, he'd seen the conductor of the train with the look of shock on his face. He'd registered, briefly, that it was a different engineer than the night before.

He pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them close to him, resting his chin on his knees. He tried to still his mind, just to think clearly, but it was difficult. He had so many questions that he was pretty sure that no one would be able to answer. Who was there left to talk to? Furthermore, who the hell would believe him? Finally, he just sighed and closed his eyes.

When he woke, he wasn't sure how long he'd slept. It was dark outside, though, and he could hear the faint hum of his neighbor's television, playing one of the late shows. His body ached from having slept in such a strange position, all curled up in front of the door. He stood and stretched and listened as his stomach grumbled. He hadn't eaten all day and, suddenly, he was famished.

He tugged on the grey striped hoodie he'd left on the couch by the door. Patting his pockets to determine that he did have his wallet on him (why did he need it if he was going to go stand in front of an oncoming train, he'd asked himself many times), he turned and opened the front door. When he did, something that had been rolled into a tube and tucked beside the door knob and the door frame fluttered to the ground. He bent and picked it up, unrolling it to see what advertisement he'd been hit with this time.

A smiling woman beamed back at him from the black-and-white photocopied ad. She was bent into a yoga position and the business name at the bottom of the page seemed to indicate that was the exact purpose of this ad.

"DO SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!" the ad screamed at the top of the page. "BE SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!" it read at the bottom. In the middle of the page, in slightly smaller font, it read, "Be more than you think you're worth - be a yoga hero!"

"Well, that's a load of bupkis," he muttered to himself and tossed the advertisement back into his apartment. It seemed a little overboard for a yoga course plug - kind of like the screaming radio ads for the monster truck rallies he remembered from his youth.

Giving the flyer no more thought, he closed the door behind him and headed down the darkened street, his shadow trailing long behind him in the glare of the streetlights.

* * * * *

She still wasn't entirely sure where she was. This city was too big for her. She'd pulled into a gas station not more than twenty minutes ago, hoping she could get her bearings, but she was still unsure of where exactly the motel was where her husband was holed up.

She'd been prepared to leave him. She'd packed the children up and sent them off to their grandmother's. They'd be there until the end of summer, picking berries and catching fireflies. While they were gone, she'd been able to envision herself packing their rooms, packing the living room, packing the moving truck. They'd stay there with her parents for a little while and then head on out on their own.

Now she was here, though, in this unfamiliar city and without any idea the address of the motel and only a vague telling of the name. Her husband's co-workers had called her to tell her of his "breakdown" and asked her to come fetch him. She wondered if this would change her plans, if she would be able to still be strong enough to leave.

She also felt partially responsible for his meltdown. If she hadn't texted him to tell him that they were leaving, would he have been going through this? What if he'd had an accident with the train? She'd never been good at calculating when he'd be stopping and where, so she was always making mistakes like this.

She sighed and decided to try asking for help from the convenience store cashier. She opened the door of her old sedan (with its faint smell of spilled juices over years past) and got out, stretching her arms above her head. Across the parking lot, a man in a striped jacket was walking towards the convenience store as well. When she bent her arms back down to her sides, the man stopped in mid-stride.

He seemed to be staring at her.

She was about to avert her eyes from him, head into the convenience store and ask the man behind the counter if he knew where the half-of-a-name-motel was, when she heard the tires squealing. She heard shouting. She thought she saw the man in the striped jacket start running.

All told, she was pretty much confused out of her mind until she hit the ground with the man in the striped jacket on top of her. The sound of screeching metal continued on and the air seemed to fill with a brown, dusty, smelly smoke.

She didn't realize that she was cursing (and loudly, at that) until the noise abated and the man pulled himself off of her and then offered a hand to assist her up.

"What happened?" she asked him.

"Crazy driver," he replied, seeming a little out of breath. "Drove right into the damn building." He paused, taking a moment to really look at her. "Are you okay?"

Dazed, she looked down at herself. "I guess so. That was amazing."

The man blinked - once, then twice.

He was silent.




Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
In fact, you knew this post was coming, right? You knew voting time was around the corner and you were like, shoot, I hope [livejournal.com profile] strryeyedgrrl puts up the voting reminder soon!

Well, here I am to save the day.

This week's topic was "Inconceivable" and I continued with foray back into the land of fiction with an entry I titled, Of Dreams & Bottle Caps.

If you liked it, please let me know with your vote. I'm in Tribe One, right at the start of the polls.

And, of course, read, read, read. There's some good stuff over there.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
He woke the next afternoon, drenched in sweat. His experience the previous evening had left him inexplicably exhausted - well, perhaps it wasn't inexplicable, considering he'd managed to sprint the entire length of the city back to his apartment. Still, though, he'd felt...spent. He could barely recall collapsing onto his bed, but he must have because here he was on top of the quilt that his mother had given him when he'd moved out on his own at 19.

He'd been dreaming again, the dreams more vivid and fierce than those in the past. This time, he could see the detail of the train bearing down on the woman and child; he could see the colors of the blanket that covered the boy, yellow and white checked. He could almost very nearly hear her deep, expectant breath inward as the locomotive raced toward her steady, relentless form.

He sat up on the edge of the bed, his clothing crumpled from having been slept in. He reflected to himself that he certainly hadn't made any efforts to dress nicely for his own demise, what with the condition of his jeans and t-shirt. He brushed at a grass stain on his left knee even though he knew that merely swiping at it would do no good. He supposed he ought to wash them, but then decided it wasn't worth it.

He was going back.

The intensity of the dream had led to a renewed sense of determination. All the way home, his feet slapping in a soothing rhythm on the pavement, he'd decided that the botched attempt had been some kind of sign. He'd felt it on his back, at the final moment as he looked the train dead in the face.

He'd felt the hand.

He wasn't a religious man. He had no quarrel with God and he was no atheist, but he certainly couldn't be called a man of faith. He was simply a man - and religion, or other supernatural or metaphysical beliefs held no weight on him.

Still, though. He'd felt it.

It had shoved him (quite roughly, he remembered) out of the way of the oncoming train, so close at the time that he could have reached out and touched the hot steel of it, had been able to see the shocked face of the engineer. Right as he'd thought the moment was about to arrive, he'd instead been tumbling off the tracks and into the brush.

So, he'd figured that was it - he'd given it a chance and nothing had come of it. Time to cut his losses and move on, right?

The dream had changed his mind.

He'd go back.

He spent the rest of the afternoon in the apartment that still sometimes smelled of her, even though he knew that was just an illusion. It had been many years since he'd last heard from her, even more since she'd been here. Still, sometimes he thought he could pick up the scent of her Marlboros and the the Love's Baby Soft that she sometimes wore to try to mask the smell from her mother.

He made coffee, but he didn't drink it.

He looked at the food in his fridge, but he didn't eat it.

He turned on the television, but he didn't watch it.

He lay down on the couch to nap, but instead he stared at the ceiling where countless bottle caps were arranged into a crooked daisy. Over time, some of them had fallen to the floor and he'd sometimes accidentally suck them up in the vacuum cleaner. The basic shape remained, though, the daisy's center growing darker over the years as the water damage had seeped in.

Outside, the neighbor children shrieked, but he didn't hear them.

He stared blankly upwards at the bottle cap daisy until a tinny alarm from his bedside clock announced the time. Before he rose, he wondered if the bottle caps could stay there forever, if they would come look at them and wonder about their impact on his psyche. He shook his head as he stood. They were just bottle caps, nothing more. He reached up and plucked one down. It had been from a decent beer, an expensive brand that they'd only buy on special occasions or when the paychecks had good overtime pay on them. He rolled it around his fingers for a bit before shoving it into his pocket.

Maybe it would bring him good luck tonight, he thought, as he shuffled to the bedroom to turn off the alarm.

It was an hour walk from his apartment to the train tracks. He'd stopped at a mini-mart to see if they had the expensive beer available (they didn't), so he was a little late when he finally arrived to the same place he'd stood the night before. He wondered if the same engineer would be in the locomotive tonight.

It was silent around him for a few minutes.

The whistle of the train in the distance caught his attention.

One foot in front of the other.

He measured his steps evenly as he grew closer to the tracks.

At the same time, the locomotive grew ever nearer.

The horn brayed. He could see that there was a new engineer tonight, but this new man made the same o-face as the last had.

He stepped in front of the engine and let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

Like the woman in his dream, he was resolute.

* * * * *

As he came into town, he drew long and hard on the train whistle.

He'd only taken this shift because yesterday's engineer was so shaken up by what had happened that he'd refused to report for duty. Word had it that he was holed in some motel room across town, being fed whiskey by his fellow men.

He'd heard what had happened, had heard whispers that they thought he might've imagined it. He was under a lot of stress at home, with his wife leaving him and taking the kids. There was talk they'd send him out on a leave of absence to clear his head. After all, you couldn't do this job if you weren't somewhat right in the head.

He leaned over and spat into the tin can at his feet. The chewing tobacco made a satisfying "ting" noise as it hit. When he raised his head, he felt the color drain from his face.

It was then that he supposed that the ol' boy from last night hadn't been quite out of his mind after all. Here was the same man, quite possibly wearing the same damn clothes, standing in quite possibly the same damn place as before. It was hard to tell from this vantage point, but he was pretty sure the dude was smiling with his eyes closed.

Then he wasn't there anymore.

He was too busy bringing the train to a stop and making the appropriate calls that he didn't get a chance to see where the man had gone.

He had a feeling that they'd be feeding him whiskey tonight, too.

* * * * *

It was grass again. Pebbles, digging into his cheek.

A space between his shoulder blades hurt, as if someone had shoved him hard.

"Inconceivable," he whispered before he pushed himself up off the ground.

Once again, he ran.




Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Not much time, but you know the drill.

This week's topic was "What does narcissism have to do with me?"

I ran with that and wrote a continuation of my fiction project, titled Run, Narcissist, Run.

If you liked it (or hated it, fiction isn't for everyone in this battle), let your vote be your voice..

And, always, read the other amazing stuff that's out there right now.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
"You're a narcissistic bastard." Her words had been intended to be light, but he could hear the rough edges around them.

"What's your point?"

"Just that."

"I don't think you know what that word means."

"Are you calling me stupid?" She crossed her arms across her chest, which he noticed was quite fetching when she wasn't wearing her bra.

He chuckled, shaking his head. "Not quite," he replied. "But I think for your birthday this year, you're getting a dictionary."

She stomped her foot, her habit when angered. "Stop that."

"You started it. Remember, I brought you flowers and made dinner. Then you called me a bastard."

"You did all of that for yourself. You did it to make yourself feel better."

"Feel better for what? Can't a guy just do something nice for the girl he loves without being accused of something?"

She frowned, her thick blond bangs getting stuck in her eyelashes as she looked up at him.

"You know why," she replied, sighing. She stuck her hand into the pocket of her housedress, an ugly floral thing that her mother had given her last Christmas, and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. He handed her the plastic yellow Bic lighter from the counter he was leaning on. He hated that dress and so did she - that's why she wore it, to be ironic. She liked what her friends thought of it. She didn't care that he thought it was ugly.

She lit her cigarette and inhaled it briefly, her eyes never leaving his face. "You know why," she said again.

He did know why, but he wasn't willing to let her win. Not this time.

"Suppose you illustrate the story for me a little."

She huffed out a haze of smoked and sat down angrily on the chair at the kitchen table. He picked an empty soda can off the counter and pushed it towards her, a makeshift ashtray. She knew he hated it when she smoked in his apartment. That's why she was doing it now and that's why he was happy to accommodate - if he got angry, she'd win.

"You were late last night."

"I told you I would be."

"Not that late."

"I never gave you a specific time."

"You're never that late."

"There's a first time for everything."

"My mother was furious."

"She had no need to be. You should've explained to her that I'd be late."

"You were three hours late."

"I never said when I'd be there. We've been through this already." He flexed his arms behind him and leaned against the cupboard. She glared at him from behind those enormously thick bangs.

"You didn't even apologize."

"I didn't think I needed to. I told you I'd be late."

"I think you did it on purpose." She dropped the half-finished cigarette into the soda can, where it extinguished on the leftover Dr. Pepper with a satisfying hiss.

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

She stomped her foot again. "You're impossible!" she growled.

He smiled and reached out to take her by the arm. She resisted a little, out of anger, as he pulled her close to him. He could smell the cigarette smoke on her hair, wafting on the strands as they shifted with her movement. With her leaning against him, he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"I know," he said. "So what're you going to do about it?"

Before she could answer, he silenced her mouth with his lips.

* * * * *

When he landed on the other side of the tracks, the train's whistle seemed to be screaming at him from another world. In his mind, in that final moment, he'd had her on his mind - the smell of Marlboros and her dumb, ugly, floral housedress. He hadn't meant that, to be thinking of her then.

Then again, things here weren't exactly working out according to plan.

She began to fade then, another vision from another time, far away and gone. Untouchable.

Instead, he was face down in the grass, sharp pebbles digging into his knees and his forehead. Immediately, he wondered if he'd cut his face badly. It wasn't a rational thought, but it was his first. His second was that she might've been right about the narcissistic jab.

His third thought, the most lucid of them all, was to wonder what exactly had happened.

Behind him, the train continued to scream to its stop and somewhere in the distance, sirens began to take up the call.

He did the only thing he was good at: He ran.






Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Once more, with feeling, fiends friends!

(It's only week two, folks - don't get tired of clicking those shiny shiny buttons yet!)

This week's LJ Idol prompt was "Three Little Words". I ran with that and wrote a piece that I called Maybe Next Time.

I suppose you all might be wondering about my choice of fiction-writing this season. It was most definitely a conscious choice, one I made before the season began. I'll get into the whys and hows and the "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING"s sometime later - for now, just enjoy the ride, 'kay?

So, if you liked this week's piece, please head over to the community and vote like you've never voted before. I'm, for some reason, in Tribe 9 (nobody knows why but Gary), near the bottom. You should also vote for some of my friends and stuff, 'cause they're cool, but you should check out some of the other entries since it's all mostly amazing right now.

Oh! And you'll need to be a member of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol in order to vote this time around. It's really worth it and besides, if you've been on my friends list long enough, you're probably already a member. It's free to join and the perks are endless!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
"I love you."

Those were the words his wife had said to him two evenings ago, as he'd kissed her goodbye. He'd stepped out of their brightly lit, warm home into the dwindling twilight of a late summer evening. Faint stars were beginning to poke out starkly against the darkening sky above him and he looked up at them and sighed, feeling his shoulders sag slightly under an invisibly weight.

His wife's lips had been soft under his, the coarse bristle of his whiskers scratching red patches into her pale skin as he nuzzled her neck. "I'll miss you," he'd said in response to her fervent embrace. She had held him tighter in a way that felt strange to him, as though she were afraid he would disappear from between her fingertips.

She followed him to his pickup truck, a grey thing that he'd gotten for a reasonable price back when they'd first gotten married. He supposed it might be time to think about upgrading (he was making enough money these days, after all), but he enjoyed this truck and the memories that came with it. He could remember trips to the drive-in, the two of them settled into the bed of the truck, blankets piled around them while the movie's soundtrack crackled through the beat-up stock speakers. He could feel the softness of her hand in his as she held it across the bed seat, while they rumbled across country roads that neither of them knew.

They had been young, once. He supposed they were still young now, although their faces had aged with time and circumstance. The truck was no longer a practical vehicle for their family consisting of themselves, three children, two cats and eight goldfish. He could see one of the cats now, lazing indifferently beneath the front left tire of the pickup. As he approached, he shooed the cat away and it skittered across the paved driveway towards the house.

Inside the truck, it had been dirty, his boots kicking up layers of dust that no detailing could fully eliminate. His bag sat on the seat next to him, the place where once his wife had sat on those long trips into nowhere, when they had taken adventures into the countryside because...well, because they could. He smoothed the empty space in the middle, where the seat cover always bunched up, and then turned to look at his wife as she stood next to the open window.

"Come home safe," she said.

"I always do," he replied with a wry smile, the kind that lifted from the corners of his lips in the way that he knew she liked. She did not smile back, but her eyes lighted briefly and he knew that she knew that smile would always be just for her.

That had been two evenings ago, though, and now, as the scenery of another nameless city whizzed past him in a blur of green and brown and all matters grey, she felt very far away. He was another day out from his destination and three days out from returning home. What kind of home he'd be returning to, he didn't know. He had the strange sensation that his world was all wrong right now, that up had been turned into down and light into dark. At points, he felt like his feet were not quite on the floor beneath him, as though he weren't able to ground himself. He felt a little like dying, if he were being truly honest with himself.

He'd received her text message last night, after a stop in a town so small that it didn't even have a name. He'd had to read it more than once to fully grasp its meaning.

"We leave tomorrow."

It had been coming for a long time, but he'd been trying to pretend that things would get better, that this too would pass. He'd thought they'd been communicating better, that he'd said more of the words that she wanted to hear, that he'd been more attentive with the children. He knew then, after seeing the words come across the screen, that her embrace that night had been one of goodbye, not of longing for him to stay. She may be more resolute in her decision, but he could still tell that it broke her heart...perhaps even moreso than it was currently breaking his.

He returned his attention to the task at hand. He was coming into another city, its landscape no different than the others. In this place, though, he knew he would have a watcher. In his years as a locomotive engineer, he had encountered many watchers - the people who sat along the tracks to watch the trains go by. In one place, an old man sat on a folding chair and waved. In another, there was always a black sedan parked facing the tracks and young man would be laying on the hood and windshield, smoking a cigarette. There was another town where the tracks passed close to homes and he'd watched a young girl grow up over the course of ten years, standing on her back porch to give a peace sign to the engineer as the locomotive sped past.

In this city, though (and he knew it was a city from the distant skyline of highrises and bright lights), a man had stood in the grassy field along the tracks nearly every night for the last six months. He never waved or jumped up and down as some others often did. Instead, he just stood there, watching the train pass him. He thought that the man might feel as lonely as he did tonight.

Despite his best efforts, his thoughts pulled him back to memories of his wife. As the locomotive sped into the city, he was thinking about the way her hair caught the sun's reflection. He had always loved the way it shifted around her neck, catching in the clasp of her necklace, a simple gold chain and pendant that he'd given her on their fifth wedding anniversary while she was large with their second child. His mind was there, not on the tracks in front of him, as the train grew closer to the place where the man had been waiting for him.

Not entirely focused on the scene unfolding in front of him, he barely realized that the man was much closer to the tracks than he had ever been in the past. The whistle had been blown many times (he'd at least had half a mind to make sure that went off properly) as they'd entered the city limits, but the man didn't seem to notice. Or, for that matter, care. Instead, as the train approached steadily, the man stepped onto the tracks and, from his vantage point, seemed to stare directly into the oncoming lights.

"Oh no, please," he said under his breath as he began the preparations to stop the train. The horn sounded plaintively across the landscape around them and he looked up, hoping that the man had gotten out of the way in time.

The man was still there, the train bearing down on him at a speed that could not be stopped no matter how much he willed it. It seemed to happen in slow motion.

He wouldn't write about this in his reports later.

The man was there: steadfast, unbending. Ready.

Then, as though a great gust of wind had come up out of the field around him, the man was seemingly shoved off the tracks, tumbling across the pebbles and the dirt and the long grass. He wasn't a superstitious man, but he could swear that it was nearly like a hand had sent the man flying off of the tracks. A tremendous, invisible hand.

He'd had to turn his attention away and, when he was able to exit the locomotive, the man was gone.

Somewhere, he heard sirens. Growing closer.

The evening wind whispered around his ears.

"I'll be damned."

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