20 April 2013 - 1:00 pm

Writers’ Asylum: Challenge #3

Picture an adult. Male or female? Single or married? How does he or she spend most days: a job, a profession, a career, or something else? What is this person’s favourite hobby?

Now picture someone in this character’s life; a person who is very important to them. It might be a lover, a child, a parent, a sibling, or a best friend. This doesn’t have to be the only person that the character loves but love is involved, whether anyone has admitted it or not. It can be any kind of love: it’s a deep attachment. Who is this person? They have had trials through the years, and they are still close and connected. What makes the bond between them so strong? Is the person aware of your character’s feelings? Is the character aware?

Today, something awful happens. This person is ripped from your character’s life, with no warning and quite irrevocably. They are not simply out of sight: your character will never see or hear from this person again. It is not a happy ending to anyone’s story. It happens right in front of your character and he or she is unable to stop it. What happened to take this person away? It might be an accident, a mistake, or something more sinister. Does your character try to intervene? Why isn’t he or she successful?

Where is your character when it’s over?

The title of this challenge is Loss. Start from the moment it’s all over and tell us how he or she reacts. Avoid cliché and melodrama. This is the story of what happens after your character’s heart has been ripped out.

Next up: Challenge #4

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  1. Talitha Kalago says:

    The screaming of alarms went dead quiet suddenly as the power inexplicably died. There were still car alarms wailing, but they were distant. Streets away. Overhead the sound of the planes was fading for a third time and the air was full of smoke and a thick, choking dust borne from vaporize concrete.
    She passed a car. Inside someone was screaming, but she couldn’t see them because the roof was crushed under a pile of bricks and steel girders that had once been a wall.
    A woman was sitting in the gutter. She was wearing a violet skirt and matching jacket. Her black stockings were laddered and one purple shoe sat beside her,
    “Do you have a phone? Excuse me, do you have a phone?” she called as Denny passed, but Deny did not have a phone and so she kept going.
    One of the traffic lights had collapsed into the middle of the intersection. Down the street, across from the office words, a team of people were trying to move rubble. Something came away and then a man was hoisting out a child into the light—five or six and coated white as if they had been dipped in flour. They were coughing, struggling. In their wake, others helped a woman to her feet. She was crying, hysterical, and her face was brown and white, matted with thick knots and ropes of blood, congealed into jelly.
    Denny had to brace her hands on the traffic light pole to climb over it and she left the rescuers barking orders and saving lives.
    A man in an SVU with a wide eyed teenage girl was yelling into his phone.
    “Planes dropping bombs. The buildings have all come down. NO DON’T COME HERE! Go to Jackie’s. Go to Jackie’s. We’re trapped by fallen buildings, but the- NO NO NO, THE PLANES ARE COMING BACK!”
    Denny wasn’t sure if they would. Maybe three times was enough. Or maybe he was right and they would come again. She didn’t know if she was safer here or safer where she was going. Maybe they would pass back over and this time it would be Denny who died. Maybe if she stayed still, she would be safe? But for how long? Maybe troops would come, but would they be from here or there? Where was ‘there’?
    The blasts had gone on for ages. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Going on and on, slowly getting louder as her hearing had come back, then quieter as they got further away. The devastation must go for miles. She had seen documentaries about the tsunami in Indonesia, then the other one in Japan.
    It would take days before aid arrived. It could take weeks. In some places, aid never came. People died waiting. If she wanted to be inside tonight, if she wanted dinner or a drink, she was going to have to keep walking. Out of the city maybe. She would look for good Samaritans, or word of shelters. Someone would take her in or a bus would come taking survivors to a mall or hall or school.
    That made sense and it was logical.
    But that wasn’t why she was walking. She was walking because if she stopped or looked down. She would see what was in her hands. And she couldn’t look down. Anywhere but down.
    She passed a woman screaming. Not crying, but screaming, rocking back and forth with a dead man in her lap. She was holding his head, her arms and chest slick with what remained of him. He was still holding his briefcase. Hand closed stubbornly around it.
    “Hey. Hey!”
    She could hear a man coming up behind her, but she didn’t stop. He grabbed her shoulder. Spun her. There was blood in a trail down his eyebrow and cheek.
    “Don’t go that way,” he said.
    She stared and he shook her. “Not that way.”
    “Why?” she didn’t recognize her own voice and started to look around, to see who had spoken.
    “Road’s blocked on Westbend. You can’t get through. You’re going west? West, right?” he pointed, back toward the screaming woman and her dead man. “Go around past Collie, then follow Teafleaf to the park. Tealeaf drive, okay? The footbridge is open. It’s the only way across the river. You know where it is? You know?”
    She nodded numbly and he let her go, jogging toward the woman. It was only now he’d released her, she realized her shoulder hurt where he’d grabbed it. He’d been squeezing it much too hard.
    She went back, then had to climb over rubble to go down Collie Road. At the end of the street, she could see more people on Teafleaf drive. Three people—two men and a woman—were carrying another man on a stretched made from a surf board. They had tied him on and blood was trickling off the bottom, splattering onto the road between their feet.
    For a moment, she thought she saw him in the crush. A flash of red hair, that goofy bomber jacket. She brightened and stood up straight, stumbling forward a few steps in eagerness. But it wasn’t him. It wasn’t ever going to be him.
    She stilled. To her left, a sagging roof collapsed and a cloud of dust enveloped her.
    She looked down at the wallet in her hand. The batman wallet. On the back was a clear sleeve and in it, was his ID. Grinning and stupid, effortlessly happy. He was always happy and she never was, not unless he was there.
    She wiped away the dust, coughing. His girlfriend hadn’t liked her hanging around, but she had tolerated it, because Denny wasn’t pretty or funny. She wasn’t anything good unless he was there, and he’d always made everything all right.
    He’d been right there, and smiling, when the planes had passed over the first time. And like a photo, that moment was still clear in her mind. Both of them in their white and green school uniforms. His tie loose and falling off. The taste of her strawberry milk electric in the way all food was when he was there.
    She sat down, the tartan catholic school skirt riding up past her knees. On Tealeaf drive, no one saw her. From the south, the sound of engines and the planes came back again.

    April 20th, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Beautiful and heartbreaking. Great job!

    April 20th, 2013 at 2:12 pm