20 April 2013 - 12:00 pm

Writers’ Asylum: Challenge #2

I want you to picture an ordinary man with an ordinary job. I want you to give him a name.

Where does he work? What does he do for a living? Does he get along with his co-workers? How does he feel about his work? What do people at his work think about him? How does he dress for his job?

Now I want you to take him home. There are pictures of his family on the wall. Who is in the pictures? How old are the photos? Where are those people right now? Are they still in his life? Are they in the house right now? What is the first thing he does when he gets home from work?

You have an idea of his usual day. Now, something is going terribly wrong for him. Something shatters his world in a way that he is not prepared to handle in a healthy way. Something inside him snaps and the focus of his rage is his workplace. What has happened to him? What is driving him to such rage? Is it one thing, or a confluence of many factors? What is the thing that turns bend to break?

He goes to get a weapon. What is it? Where is it? It is one he has on hand? Is it the first thing he comes across? Does he take the time to go and buy one, to prepare himself for what he needs to do? What does it look like, feel like? Has he used it or something like it before, for any purpose?

He takes that weapon and walks into his workplace, intending to use it. Does he have a target in mind? Does it matter to him? Who is the first person he comes across and what does he do?

The title of this challenge is Massacre. Tell this man’s story from the point of view of the weapon he takes to work that day.

Next up: Challenge #3

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  1. Talitha Kalago says:

    “We’ll need a DNA sample.”
    “Yes of course.”
    He says it, before it the implication of what they are saying sinks in. They want his DNA, because they want to know if he raped his baby girl. The rage that follows fills his mouth with bile, but he forces himself to swallow it. He is sure this is standard procedure, but the effort to remain calm sets his hands to shaking. He squeezes them between his knees.
    “You don’t think Harold did it?” Emily’s voice is almost hysterical, an indignant shriek that is far too loud for the sullen, stuffy room.
    “When a child of this age is involved, we always try and get samples from all the male relatives,” Officer Lane says. She is pale and pretty, more like a school teacher than a police officer. Her partner is Asian and wearing an absurdly expensive tie. They are both quiet and keep making placating hand gestures, but their sympathy is false. They’re already jaded to pregnant thirteen year olds. Already uninterested in their too-red premature babies in humidicribs.
    His granddaughter. Cut out of his little daughter, Rosey, who asked for my little ponies for Christmas, even though she knew she was too old for such toys. Rosey who has an iPhone. Rosey, who like her mother and him, had passed the puppy fat stage into the regular fat stage. So chubby that a little red person had managed to grow inside her and all his wife had done, all either of them had done, was switched to diet soda for a week.
    He wipes his hands on his slacks. His work slacks, which are too tight. The sweat is starting to build in his arm pits and around his balls. He is sitting in a sticky puddle of sweat. His shirt is sticking to his back. Everything is too hot.
    “I don’t mind,” he says, trying to mollify his wife. “Standard procedure. I have nothing to hide. Nothing to.”
    Inexplicably, his wife begins to cry, straight into her hands, like she’s a painting. Officer Lane hands her two tissues and Emily cups them in her palms, sobbing into them. Every part of her jiggles.
    “We didn’t know,” Harold has said it before. Many times. To the doctors, to the nurses, to the police when they first arrived.
    “She’s a chubby girl. We didn’t realize. Well, you don’t think do you? You don’t think that. She was eating a lot. All the time. Sometimes all I’d hear her say was ‘I’m hungry’. Between work and commuting, I’d only see her in the evenings. We watched Game of Thrones. Do you watch Game of Thrones? Before dinner she’d call to her mum ‘I’m hungry’, they we’d eat dinner. Usually we’d have seconds, you know. Then desert. She’d say ‘I’m hungry’ again. Usually she’d just have some cereal.”
    “No one is judging you,” It was the Asian detective this time. “We just want to establish who the father is, so we know how to proceed.”
    Harold looked at him surprised. “Who to arrest, you mean.”
    “Not necessarily.”
    “But, she’s thirteen.”
    “The father might be too.”
    “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?”
    “No. She’s not popular at school.”
    “Do any of her friends have brothers?”
    He didn’t answer, dumbfounded. He didn’t know Rosey’s friends. He had seen them once or twice, coming or going. They all looked the same to him. He was always glad when they left the house, because their music was loud and they were loud and too often he upset them without knowing what he had said or done to do so. There was nothing for an older man to like about teenage girls—which was partly why his daughter’s rape left him so baffled. Who would want her? How could anyone find a thirteen year old, male or female, fat or thin, attractive? Rosey had always been tentatively pleasing to him at a distance, where he could be proud of her grades and pleased she was happy. Up close, teenagers were horrible. Demanding money, crying at nothing, raging a second later. They were like talking honey badgers, always unpredictable and usually vicious.
    “Sadie has a brother,” Emily said, her tears stopping as quickly as they had started. “And his friends are always there. They have a band. He’s fifteen. Sixteen. He will go to jail, right?”
    “Not if-“
    The scream started all at once. There was a confused pause. A moment of uncertain hesitation as they all waited for an explanation. Then both police were on their feet, stumbling over the cheap hospital chairs into the corridor. Harold turned to see and then the corridor outside was flooded with bodies. There was a great gout of blood, like and overflowing sink, and Officer Lane was torn into three.
    “Harold. Harold!” Emily was screaming and he lumbered to his feet. He was surprised he could move so fast, without the usual ache and shuffle his weight limited him to.
    He reached the door as the Asian detective was struggling to get back in, but in the corridor the mass of people had him. Doctors and nurses and people in hospital gowns, tearing and biting, mad and gibbering.
    “No!” he said and Harold shut the door in his face. He couldn’t remember his name.
    He turned the lock then pressed his bulk against it as the bodies beat on the door from the other side. There was screaming, horrible gurgling and the thick red paste began to leak under the door.
    For ten minutes it lasted, impossibly loud. Then it was silent and they could hear the pack moving up the corridor, more screams, a shot, then the screaming of a fire alarm.
    Officer Lane’s lower half was in the room, leaking shit and green fluids that pooled thickly in the blood. Harold couched down and retrieved her gun.
    “What are you doing?” Emily had been screaming the whole time, and now her voice was so hoarse he didn’t recognize it.
    “Rosey,” he said. “She’s down the hall. I have to get her. I have to get the baby too.”

    April 20th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

  2. Daniel says:

    870 words, so about 130 short, but I ended it at the Coles deli with the line ‘it looks like meat is on the shopping list’.

    It’s probably rubbish, like first drafts are.


    Suddenly I am aware of what I am for the first time. I am the spirit inside the katana on Jeff’s wall. I feel Jeff’s hands holding my handle so tightly it makes his knuckles pale, the blood thumping through his veins, under the skin. The rage of a thousand fires burns in him and I taste it, savour it, bathe in it. He doesn’t rest tonight; I won’t let him. He holds me, hatred intense, and I feel all the fury in him, directed at his colleagues.
    He wants to be seen, heard. He wants them to pay for the way they humiliated him with that joke. He wants their respect. He puts me down, out in the lounge room with the pictures of his parents, the photos ghosts yet only a year old, the only proof he had family of his own, that he was loved… once. She left him right as he needed her most. After his parents died, she was his only lifeline, the only person who loved him. Loved. Past verb. No longer.
    Who would cares about a lowly retail worker stacking shelves at Coles? Not the customers. Not his asshole supervisor. I feel Jeff’s fingers strangle me when he thinks of Ian. How he passed Jeff up for promotion to have his way with the beautiful new girl. Blonde, toned, blue eyes, perfect face, and that body… she doesn’t even know what she’s doing, no competence whatsoever. But that doesn’t matter; she’s obviously sleeping with him, the slimy arrogant dick. She bats an eyelash and she gets fancy clothes, dinners, promotion. Jeff loses his parents in a car crash, his girlfriend gets pregnant to a guy named Mark who has a different girl every week, and he needs a promotion to pay off the one-room apartment. He’s shown Ian that he’s capable, competent and deserving a raise. Ian gives it to Stacy for sucking his dick. Jeff comes home drunker than usual, angry and alone. Cheated out of what he deserves by a girl who takes thirty photos every time she goes to the bathroom.
    Jeff visited Supanova last year while his parents were still alive. Something drew him to the Japanese katana seller’s stand. Something about the blades on display, even if they’re just replicas. He runs his fingers over the hilts, asks if he can try one. The shop owner lets him. Jeff selects me from between a blue handled one with lightning bolts on the guard and a yellow handled one with flowers. He sees me, the one with the cross-hatching, and picks me up carefully. He tests me, swishes me experimentally. He likes swords. Game of Thrones opened him up to fantasy, and from there it was a simple step to Japanese pop culture thanks to the co-worker he went to Supanova with.
    Jeff buys me for $300 and puts me in the boot of his car, dark and enclosed. I like it there. After a while the car stops and he takes me out, carries me through his house, past his family who look at him like he’s just gotten a new toy, and into the back yard where he shadow-fights with me in hand. I thrill at the movement, the slashing, the gashing. He picks me up and plays with me for an hour every evening after work. Slowly I become more sentient as self-awareness gradually develops in me. Then I am aware, of myself, of him, but mostly, of his simmering anger.
    He’s ready. Monday morning, he picks me up and takes me to work with him. Security warns him once, then set the tasers on him. One of them he bats aside with a very well-timed flick of my blade, the other sticks in his chest and makes him convulse, dropping me to clatter on the pavement. Despite the danger, people are gathering around to watch the spectacle. But Jeff is already down, lying on the floor, current running through his body. He twitches in pain.
    The other security guard bends to check Jeff’s pulse. Jeff comes to, grabs me and slashes. I practically dance across the guard’s chest, spilling crimson all down the white uniform. The other security guard radios for backup. Jeff springs back up, rips the taser out and proceeds to slash the guard’s throat mid-sentence. The guard gargles as he chokes on his own blood and falls to the ground. Through it all, I can hear music.
    I notice finally that everyone at the store is running, screaming, or standing paralysed in pure shock. These are the easiest targets. Jeff advances on them first and stabs each of them in turn, my blade digging so satisfyingly into weak flesh that gives under the slightest pressure. I come away each time with a fresh coat of blood that drips to the floor and makes the already smooth floor slippery. Jeff goes down once or twice on the pools of blood but gets quickly back up and then goes on the hunt for more elusive prey. He heads to the deli, holding me tightly at his side, and I feel his blood burning.
    It looks like meat is on the shopping list.

    April 20th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

  3. Mel says:

    Great pieces, both of them! Very rich and evocative, and quite different. Awesome work. 🙂

    I am thoroughly amused that they have in common a liking of Game of Thrones. Clearly this show is inspiring!

    Keep up the writing; can’t wait to

    April 20th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

  4. Dave says:

    Oh god, here we go…

    Alistair was bored.

    Hanging out in the underworld with the same old demons every day got rather tiresome, and he longed for the day when he would be summoned to the daylight world again by some poor sap who knowingly or unknowingly would invite him into their lives for a little mindless mayhem. This was why he had gone to the trouble of spreading flyers around occult shops, graffittiing his name on subway walls, and tenement halls.

    He was strolling down the avenues of the succubi, thinking about a roll in the inferno with his favourite, Morticia, when he heard a whisper on the wind, and something plucked at his left elbow’s bone spikes like an insistent official trying to draw his attention. Then the whisper became louder, more insistent this time. Yesss, he hissed. It was definitely a summons. Finally the words spoken by the foolhardy mortal coalesced into a shimmering silver doorway in the air in front of him, and a loop of power shot out to touch his chest.
    “This is going to be fun!” He cried to no one in particular, because fuck dignity, that was the point of being a demon. He sprinted through the doorway, and found himself in an extremely small bathroom stall, facing off with a weedy little man who looked barely strong enough to throw a paperweight. He was balding, and wore a ill fitting suit. He was looking extremely nervous.

    Alistair sighed, he was probably going to have to take the conversation lead on this one. “Why have you summoned me, mortal?” He allowed his bellowing voice to seethe with faux anger on the last word. He had a reputation to maintain, and mortals always kind of expected it from your average demon. If it got about that he was actually happy to be summoned out of the mundane existence of the underworld, then his whole reputation would be pissed up against the wall.

    The little man, Alistair guessed he was some sort of accountant or bureaucratic underling, twitched nervously. “Are… are you Alistair?” He was fucking up the pronunciation now, Alistair liked to style his name with a long A as in air at the end.

    “Obviously!” He boomed. He took a few leaping steps forward. “Why have you summoned me into this… this…” he struggled for the proper level of derision. “This abomination of a bathroom.” It was the best he could do on short notice.
    “Well, uh, I need some revenge dealt out, and uh, I uh, well I saw your flyer at the uh Games Workshop when I went there to play D&D a while ago, and I thought. “Now there’s an idea, and it seemed crazy at the time, but then this thing came up, and well, here we are.” He was babbling, bt then most of them did.

    “Revenge you say?” Alistair hemmed, turning the words over on his lips. “Now what would a pathetic little weakling mortal like you know about revenge? I am Alistair, the king of hell!” Which wasn’t actually true, there was no actual king of hell as such, the underworld tended to be more of a loosely-organised anarchic society than any kind of formalised government, but mortals didn’t know that.

    “Well, you see, I know that I really need some on my bosses here at work. They uh, they fired me from my job, and if I don’t get my vengeance here right now, I’ll never get another chance.”

    “I see, and why did you get yourself fired?” Alistair drew himself up to his full height, looming ominously over the little man.

    “No, you’ve got It all wrong, I didn’t… well, it wasn’t my fault, not really.” He gulped. “My bosses are greedy, and one of them embezzled some money from the company, and I found out about it. I’m an accountant you see. Well, when I did the right thing and reported it to them, they just laughed in my face, told me to get out and never come back.”

    “Greed…” Alistair hissed. “Almost as tasty to me as revenge, but not quite.” His long tongue slithered out over his facial horns and waggled suggestively.

    “Okay then. Uhm.” The little man ran his finger around his collar, and loosened his tie a little. “So what do we do from here then?”

    Alistair clashed his fists together, making a jarring cracking sound that was almost deafening in the confined space. Little man yelped and covered his ears. “This is the purpose which you have brought me forth from the underworld?”


    “I will accept the souls of these corrupt mortals of whom you have spoken as rightful payment in return for my services. Is there anything else you require?” This could prove to be fun after all. There was nothing he liked better than slaying fat cats by the fistful.

    “No… uhm… well do you think that you could give me some money? I mean, I just lost my job and stuff, and after this I’ll probably need to get out of the country.” He stammered.
    Alistair shook his head. “No, what you are after is a greed demon, or maybe a wish demon. They might be more willing to help you out, but remember, there is always going to be a price to pay.” He waved away any further protests. “No, I will not tell you any of their names or how to summon them, that is something you will have to figure out for yourself.” He lazily trailed a fighting claw over the little man’s chest, settling on the sinfully ugly, and probably expensive tie. With a flick of his wrist, he undid the tie, and held it up.

    “Yes, this is a suitable weapon. Now where are these fatcats you want to be rid of.”

    The poor little man was shaking in his boots from being so close to Alistair. He glarped and finally managed to point out the door. “Out… out there, and down the hall. They’re probably sitting around a big arse table laughing about the whole thing right now.”

    One bound and Alistair was through the door. He landed heavily with a tremendous crash, deliberately designed to put the fear of demon into whoever might be out there listening. There was a long hallway, which ran through a series of cubicles before finishing with a solid oak door at the end. That was his target.

    He stalked down the hallway, raking his claws against the walls, eliciting squeaks of terror from corporate minions behind them.

    These were not his concern, unless he wasn’t entirely satiated by the fatties in the board room, and desired some sort of after dinner mint. He saw flashes of terrified mortals ducking behind computers, and fainting dead away as he passed. This was good, this was the proper response, not that snivelling accountant’s simpering passive-aggressive demon summoning.

    As he reached the oak door, he let out a ear-shattering bellow of triumph. Several pieces of cheap plaster fell from the ceiling around him. He balled a fist and smashed it through the panelling of the door. There were indignant voices from within the room, and he withdrew his fist and aimed a baleful yellow eye into the new peephole he had created. There were five men and a women inside, cowering against the far wall.

    He was about to tear the door down and start stomping arses when an idea struck him. With a wave of his hand he transformed his appearance into that of the weedy little accountant. His own shape didn’t really fit well into the form, and he tended to bulge out around the edges, and his claw-filled hands stuck out from the sleeves of the suit.

    April 20th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

  5. Anne J Romano says:

    I’m a little surprised Joe’s taking me to work today. He never takes me to work, hell he barely takes me out at all. What’s really strange is that he’s carrying me, naked for the world to see. Usually, if he take me anywhere, I’m not allowed out of my cage until we’re at our special place.

    Joe’s wife doesn’t like me. She yells at Joe whenever he picks up my cage to take me to our special place, I think that’s why Joe takes me to our special place so often – to escape her and her yelling.

    She always yells at Joe, nothing is ever good enough for her. She’s an ungrateful bitch. Joe works long hours to give her everything she wants even if she doesn’t really need it and it is still never enough.

    You’d think Joe would have been grateful to come home and find the bitch gone but he was gutted. I’ve never heard Joe scream or swear like that before – I heard him clear as bell from my cage in Joe’s home office. I couldn’t imagine what had happened to make him make those noises.

    Joe had always been a quite, almost timid man. Hard to be anything else with the harpy from hell as your wife I guess. He had eventually come up to his office, sobbing hysterically about how she’d left him and had taken everything with her except his clothes, a couch, the microwave, the fridge and me.

    He had gotten eerily calm when he opened my cage and saw that I was still there. I don’t think he expected me to be, though why the bitch would have taken me I couldn’t even begin to fathom. She hates me and I hate her. The only good thing to come of her being in Joe’s life was that we got to spend many hours each week in our special place, just the two of us.

    But I digress, or do I? I guess without her around Joe knows he can spend more time with me and not just at our special place. Though I’m not sure why Joe would need me at his work. He works in an office building and there couldn’t be any need for me to be there with him. But I am happy to be with Joe and out of my cage. I am especially happy that she isn’t going to be there when we get home.

    Poor Joe, he barely has a chance to toe off his shoes before she starts at him for coming home late, even though he called her at lunch time to tell her he wouldn’t be home in time for dinner. It will be strange for the house to be quiet with just me and Joe, but I think we’ll both adjust quickly.

    Joe will soon realise how much better off he is without her, she was always so mean to Joe. I don’t think anyone could have ever earned enough money for the way she spent it. It’s not like she every did anything around the house. I might have been locked up all day but I heard other voices around the house regularly and I had heard Joe muttering about the price of the weekly clean being increased.

    What a bitch, Joe loved her so dearly and did everything he could to make her happy but it was never enough for her. Not like me, I am happy to spend any time with Joe that I can. He is so kind to me, he keeps me clean and dry even if he does lock me away when we’re not at our special place. I guess I understand though, I think it’s because Joe doesn’t want anyone else to have me.

    Which is another reason I am so surprised to be at work with Joe, he’s never shown me to anyone before. Well except for her but that was to explain what my cage was and why she should never touch it. Suited me just fine, bloody bitch would have gotten me dirty and not cared about the all the time Joe put into keeping me clean and pretty.

    Joe is showing me off to his colleagues now. There’s a man in a dark blue uniform and he’s talking to his shoulder, what a bizarre thing to do. Shoulders can’t talk, can they? Joe’s shoulders don’t talk or at least they don’t talk to me. I wonder if they don’t like me, but that can’t be right. Joe loves me and his shoulders are part of him so they must love me too and they would talk to me if they could.

    Clearly the man in the dark blue uniform is an idiot or crazy. There seem to be a lot of men here, the rest of them are wearing suits like Joe’s, they’re even similar colours to the ones Joe wears.

    Oh wait, there’s a lady. She’s also wearing a suit but with a skirt instead of pants, it’s quite a pretty suit, a lovely pale blue it really does stand out amongst all the blacks and greys. I think the lady is crying, the poor dear. Clearly the crazy man has upset her by talking at his shoulder. Joe will protect her, he’s a good man and very considerate of others. He’ll make sure the crazy man doesn’t hurt anyone.

    I’m being squeezed, Joe wants me to talk! Oh this is truly a remarkable day, Joe never lets me talk to people even at our special place. I shout hello at the crazy man, even though he’s crazy I should still be polite to him, Joe would expect me to be polite to all of his colleagues. He never says anything bad about his colleagues, well there is one man at his work that Joe isn’t particularly fond of.

    Joe’s boss is a bit of a bastard, well that’s what Joe says sometimes when he’s come home especially late and the bitch has finished yelling at him. I wonder if Joe will introduce me to this boss, I’m not sure I want to meet the boss as I may not be able to be polite to someone who is mean to Joe.

    The pretty lady is screaming, I wonder what the crazy man has done now. Joe is squeezing me again, he must want me to reassure the pretty lady. I make a retort and she stops screaming.

    Joe is squeezing me almost too fast for me to keep up, I spit out eleven more greetings at Joe’s command.

    How strange. Joe’s colleagues are lying down now, even the crazy man that I spoke to first is crumpled on the floor. Joe is muttering utter his breath about how they all deserved it and if they were going to take everything from him he would take everything from them. I don’t really understand what he’s talking about. Deserved what? Why are these people lying down on the job?

    No wonder Joe is always working so late, he must be the only one who does anything thing is this place. Poor Joe, to have to put up with lazy people at work and at home, I’m surprised he’s not more stressed and upset. He really is an amazing man, it’s why I love him so much.

    He’s squeezing me again but there’s no one left to talk to, except….

    April 25th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

  6. Mel says:

    I love the feel and voice of this one. Such a happy gun! And the ending is just delicious. Beautifully done.

    April 29th, 2013 at 3:37 pm