Antidote

Reise nach Innen ~Journey inside

Chapter 1 (Updated 6/27/22)

It began the way most things do – with a stab to the heart. Dying that day
wasn’t on my agenda. Not to say I wasn’t depressed. Of course I was… Yet,
I’d somehow accepted that living small was safe. It was comfortable, familiar. It
kept my disappointments to a minimum. If I cried sometimes, randomly, well,
that was part of it. It was my life and I had no serious intentions of leaving
it.

They said the attacker was lucky – a stab to the heart is hard to do. I knew
that because I heard the conversation of the crowd that had gathered around my
cooling body. Apparently, the ribs are a pretty good defense against things
seeking to pierce the heart. Evolution or God… Our bodies seem to have a
bit of wisdom when it comes to survival.

Floating above the circus of co-workers and rescue personnel, I noticed one
individual who seemed calmer than the rest. Joyful. There was something
soothing and grounded about him. I guess I glided over, because suddenly there
he was, staring at me with piercing green eyes. Gray wisps of hair seemed to
dance from his eyebrows and a crooked smile highlighted his somewhat crooked
nose.

“Fergal O’Hara,” he said as he tipped a flat tweed hat. “Nice
to meet you.”

Feeling a little off guard because in no way did my random after-death
musings ever lead me to consider anything Irish, I gaped. “Are you
here for me?”

“That’s right, my dear. Are you ready? We’ve got a nice warm body
waiting. I wanted to give you a chance to get used to your new state,
but…” He tilted his head. “You seem like a fast learner. Shall
we go?”

Me a quick learner? The most I’d done since finishing community college was
tread water in a job way below my abilities but that paid the rent. Barely. I
was the 40-something living in McLoser Villas and sliding into Prozac and
YouTube videos of rescued puppies.

As a medical receptionist at a podiatry office, I aspired to showing up. I
had a quote from The Office TV show taped on the bottom of my stapler that
pretty much summed up my feelings to a T. “I’ve always subscribed to the idea
that if you really want to impress your boss, you go in there and you do
mediocre work, halfheartedly.” Thanks, Jim. You get it.

In fact, the most exciting thing to happen at work was dying in front of it.
Apparently, my employer’s wife thought I was “the tart” who was banging her husband,
Dr. Donald Dong (his real name, I kid you not). My auburn hair was the one
thing I had in common with Dr. Dong’s mistress according to a sobbing Mrs. Dong
as they dragged her away from me. Her rage refused to see the other details
that didn’t match and, well, there I lie on the cracked sidewalk in front of our
office’s smudged glass doors.

“What do you mean you have a nice warm body waiting? I just left a
perfectly functioning warm body… Don’t I attend some kind of after-death review?
Or get bathed in healing crystal energy or something?” I’d watched enough
B movies to figure that one out.

Fergal rubbed his jaw. “That’s not the way it works. At least for you. You’ve
got a different assignment that needs your immediate attention. Now my dear,
shall we see what it’s all about?”

Suddenly I felt cold. “Is there no going back?” I turned towards
my body. Sure it wasn’t perfect. There was a bit of a squishy middle, my roots
were growing out (why couldn’t I have died with fresh highlights?!), and yeah, my
love life was a work in progress (I had just signed up on Match.com. Kill me
now. Oh wait…), but it was my life. I wasn’t done, not by a long shot.

Just the thought of starting over again was overwhelming. “I’m not
ready for a new life! I’m just getting it together in this one!”

“Darlin,” he said as he leaned close to me, “You want the
antidote to your life? A way to fill the hole gaping in your chest? Do
you even see the metaphor of your death?”

He had me there. Even I had to admit that I’d lost my way and was going
nowhere fast. Hence the depression and a freezer full of Chunky Monkey ice
cream. When I was young, I had dreams. I wanted to study medicine. Or be an
elementary school teacher. Or even a philosopher. Everything seemed so
exciting. Instead, I somehow found myself working in a run-down office with posters
of bunions, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails.

Yeah, I wasn’t setting the world on fire this go ‘round. “Okay, Fergal.
I’m willing…”

“That’s all that’s required.” He gave me that crooked smile again
and something in me relaxed. Death isn’t so bad I thought.

And then I felt a thousand volts coursing through my new body and the smell
of ozone.

 

……

(This is part of a new novel idea, using the writing prompt from Sunday Scribblings, “antidote.”)

Photo by Alice Popcorn

Basic Scene Elements

I thought it was a good time to review some essential writing basics.  This is good info for the fiction writer, but any writer could benefit,  especially from number 4,  Pulse.

The following is from “The Scene Book:  A primer for the fiction writer” by Sandra Scofield.

Four Basic Scene Elements

1.  Every scene has event and emotion.

2.  Every scene has a function.

3.  Every scene has a structure.

4.  Every scene has a pulse.  (from April:   this is a crucial piece of scene writing I had never heard described before… and is too awesome to ignore…)

1.  In a scene, there is event and emotion.  In a scene, characters do things (act and react) that “add up” meaningfully; and they feel things (have emotional and intellectual responses to the action).

2.  Every scene has a function in the narrative.  There is a reason the passage is rendered in detail rather than summarized.  There is a reason why it appears where it does in the sequence of events.  It accomplishes something for the story.  It changes something.  It makes now different from the past.

3.  Every scene has a structure:  a beginning, middle, and end.  An alternative way to think of the scene structure is this :  There is a situation at the beginning, a line of action, and then there is a new situation at the end.  Thus, the scene establishes each of these three parts.

4.  Every scene has a pulse.  Some vibrancy in the story makes the scene live on the page and makes it matter to the reader.  Look for it, dig for it, massage it, burn incense to it if you must.  Without it, your scene is a whimper.

Let me make the subtle distinction between the pulse and tension.  Pulse is emotional, an attitude, a state of desire or need.  Tension is built from action; it arises from pulse, but it must be created through conflict, whereas pulse is a kind of “steady state,” awaiting the trigger to escalate it.

So for example, let’s say I want more than anything to be a writer. I neglect other aspects of my life, my relationships, to make time for my writing.  I eat fast food and never go to the movies.  That ambition is the pulse.  Finally there’s a big argument (a scene) with my lover, who says if I’m not going to be more available to him, he’s going to move out and find someone who is.  Now there’s tension.

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Perhaps in the next week or so I might post a scene for review… this is good stuff.

A Perfect Swap

To kick things off in a new direction, I’m posting a short work of fiction.  I’m going back to my roots, people!   Normally I would put this in my Writing Prompts page, but thought I’d buck convention and give you a sample of what might be there in the future.  This prompt had to do with some kind of exchange, a kind of tit for tat.  My goal was to use the prompt in an unexpected way.

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Daryl lay prone on a dirty twin mattress, arms splayed out to the side. Soured milk, half-eaten yogurt, and rancid deli meat lay forgotten on a worn table.  Like Pick Up Sticks scattered across the room, the other occupants registered euphoria to barely met desperation.

Angry welts could be seen lining both of Daryl’s pale arms through the weak afternoon sun. Sandy blond hair curled gently around his ear, caressing the latest bruise on his neck. He had been tripping for about an hour when his body’s lack of oxygen forced him wide awake. Gasping, he grabbed for his throat, eyes dilating. Within in moments he started convulsing, his lips looking like a child who had eaten too many blueberries.

Turning away from some new customers, Bruce pocketed his money and walked toward the room’s only mattress. Looking down, he folded his arms across his chest and kicked Daryl in the gut. The guy was going down, he’d seen it a dozen times before. It wasn’t Daryl’s death that bothered him so much as losing a good customer; that as well as it happening in his place.

“Damn,” he said.  “Amber – we’re going to need to roll. Grab the dope and wipe the place down. I mean ALL of it. I don’t want a single print left anywhere, capiche?”

Amber looked over, nodded, and started packing the syringes first. Her pale fingers looked exotic in the gloom, like a new species of spider.  Just as she was about to leave, she noticed a shiny gold Cross pen in Daryl’s shirt pocket. Grabbing it, she swapped the abused, bitten Bic she normally carried in its place. Patting his still warm chest, she hummed and turned out the light before she left.