Archive for April, 2008
Originally, this assignment was limited to a 9 page maximum and needed to show setting, internal and external conflict, and a bunch of other stuff.
Anyway, I need to do a revision of it by next Tuesday, the revision can have as many pages as I want. There is a notable lack of internal conflict in this story, among other flaws. To all of my readers, I’d like as much input from you on improvements as possible. I know the ending is wonky, so suggestions there are very appreciated.
Note: Anne Marie’s name and likeness are used, but her powers and goals are very different. Consider this “fanon” as far as she’s concerned.
Thanks very much for your help, guys.
by Andrew Blatt
Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m psychic. I can’t say I blame them. In fact, I’m always a little suspicious of people who do believe me right off the bat. That said, I’m being 100% serious when I say that’s what I am.
Not professionally, of course. I’ve never met a genuine psychic who made money from his or her “gift.” Unlike some of the frauds, I can find my own car in a parking lot. Most of my clairvoyance, though, is the ability to see my immediate future. I know you’re thinking that that sounds great, but it’s not. See, to go along with that little edge, I have terrible luck. So when I stare into the infinite maw of Probability, all I see is how much my life is going to suck in about five minutes.
I seem to have forgotten to introduce myself. My name is Gregory Hallen. As I’ve mentioned I’m a psychic by nature, though not by profession. I’m pretty much always between jobs, a side effect of the bad luck. Doesn’t bother me too much, though. I can always see what’ll give me the best results during an interview, so getting new jobs isn’t much of a problem.
When you’re psychic, seeing things like ghosts isn’t supposed to be a big deal. Somehow, I never quite got to that point. I think that the restless dead make me uncomfortable because they throw off my predictions. I can’t read anything about the future when ghosts are involved. Once you get used to a life with no surprises, even if that life isn’t all that great, surprises start to make you very uncomfortable.
Which is why I’m never quite as happy to see my dad as one might expect.
“Hello, Greg.” My old man’s voice is slow and melancholy. Not because he’s dead, though. He’s sounded like that for as long as I can remember.
I jump slightly in my chair, then put down my paper and turn to face my father.
“Hi, Dad. What can I do for you today?”
These visits are starting to get out of hand. Before, it was unusual for me to encounter a ghost more than once every two or three years. Even after Dad died, he would just drop in twice a year; once on my birthday, once on his. Simple, little things. But this is the third time Dad’s been here this month.
But he shrugs it off like it’s nothing. “Just wanted to see how you’re doing, Greg. I worry about you a lot. I worry about your mom, too, but she can’t see me.”
Uh oh. Looks like Dad’s going to work himself into a ramble if I don’t do something.
“Look, Dad, something must be up. You’ve visited me more in these few weeks than you have in all the rest of the four years since you died. I know you. You don’t get that sentimental. And you know that you being around tends to gum up the one single talent I have.”
Dad’s trapped. Everything I’ve just said is pretty much spot on, so there’s no use in him arguing it. He sighs and looks at me with an unfamiliar expression. After a moment, I realize that it’s pride.
“I always knew you were smarter than we gave you credit for,” he says to me. Great. That makes me feel just wonderful.
“Right, whatever.” This is becoming irritating. “Look, Dad, if this is something I can help with, tell me. If not, you need to let me get back to my life. Birthdays are still fine, but you can’t just hang around the living all the time. We’re both supposed to be moving on.”
Dad shifts uncomfortably. He hasn’t really changed any of his mannerisms since his death. It’s somewhat unnerving. People are supposed to be different after they die.
“I just wanted to make sure you were safe. There’s been some sort of plague or something. Something is killing psychics and no one can tell what it is.”
Something killing psychics? That seems strange. “But,” say, frowning. “Wouldn’t we be able to see it coming? That’s kinda what we do. My life’s kinda shitty, but I’m not usually in any sort of mortal danger.”
My dad grimaces. “That’s the problem. Whatever it is, it’s striking without warning. I guess I just want to tell you to be careful. Don’t rely too much on your ‘gift.’ Keep your eyes open in the present, too.”
As much as I hate to admit it, his frequent visits have been forcing me to ease off reliance on reading the future. Whether he realizes this or not is a matter of speculation. Still, I’m glad he decided to warn me.
“Thanks Dad. I’ll keep on my toes.”
“Love you, Greg,” he say as he fades from view.
Funny, he rarely said that when he was alive.
The futures I can see slowly become relevant again. The thing about my clairvoyance is that it doesn’t stop when I’m dealing with ghosts. If that were the case, I’d still know when they were around from the “blackout.” Instead, timelines and futures with the ghosts in them just never show up.
That’s when it hits me.
This malevolent presence hunting down psychics, it must be ghostly in nature. It’s the only thing that really fits. And Dad probably knew that, but couldn’t tell me. There seem to be a lot of very strange and arbitrary rules governing the behavior of the dead, one of which seems to be a restriction against telling any living being what exactly the rules are.
Right. Sorry about that. I seem to have inherited my father’s legendary ability to ramble ever since I hit my thirties. So where were we? Right, my potentially looming death.
So far I’m betting it’s another ghost, obviously a malevolent one. Though to be honest, I’ve never heard of a ghost outright killing anyone, which always led me to believe that they couldn’t. The number of murders who would prefer not to be stopped by death is not a small number, let me tell you. But I’ve faced down the spirits of serial killers and saints alike, finding them equally unable to touch me.
This is turning out to be a great day so far.
I do know someone who might be able to help me solve this little mystery. After all, that’s what she does. So I take the bus downtown and end up at the offices of one Miss Anne Marie Thompson, private investigator.
I raise my hand to knock on her door, but am interrupted by Anne Marie’s voice.
“Come on in, Greg.”
Did I mention she’s a psychic, too? I know what you’re thinking. But we’re the only two in this town. It’s only natural that we’d know each other, right?
I open the door and close it behind me. Anne Marie’s office is small and sparse. Three sets of filing cabinets, a desk, and two chairs are the only furnishings she has. The air in here is think and smells heavily of nicotine. Sitting behind the desk is Anne Marie herself, smoking a cigarette.
At thirty-two, Anne Marie is quite a looker. She is, like me, average height. Her dad was a boxer, so she learned and used his training regimen, which keeps her in shape and ready to kick the ass of the punks she usually ends up chasing down. She keeps her dirty-blonde hair just short of shoulder length. You’d think two thirty-something, single psychics would have hooked up at some point, right? You’d be right, though that was a while ago. Back when we were still twenty-somethings.
“So, Greg,” she says, blowing blue smoke into the ceiling fan. “What brings you to me today?”
Interaction between two psychics has an effect similar to, yet totally different from, interaction with ghosts. Similar in that our talents will be largely useless in our interactions with each other. Different in that I can see futures with Anne Marie in them, they’re just fuzzy and constantly shifting. It’s much less unsettling.
“I got a visit from my Dad today,” I say, dropping into the seat across from her and placing my feet on the desk. “He had some rather downer news for me.”
“Just so we’re clear, this is your dead dad we’re talking about, right?” She’s got the same apathetic edge to her voice as always. But her eyes tell me she’s interested despite the act.
“Yes, my dead dad.”
“Okay, so what was this news?”
I take down my feet and lean in, resting my elbows on the desk. “He says there’s been a slew of psychic killings lately. That none of them saw it coming. Heard anything about it?”
Anne Marie shakes her head. “I’ve been out of town the last couple of weeks. I read about a couple of deaths, but I didn’t think it was anything connected. Any ideas who’s responsible?”
“I was thinking a ghost, actually.”
She frowns. “That’d fit the bill nicely, except I don’t know of any way a ghost could kill someone. And the couple of deaths I did hear about sounded pretty gruesome.”
I shrug. “I figure that’s your job. You’re the investigator. Do you think you can do a bit of digging? It’d be in your best interests, too.”
Another long drag on the cigarette. “Yeah, I’ll look into it. It’s a pretty small crowd we’re dealing with, so I should know something by evening. I’ll call you around six.”
With my hand on the doorknob I turn back to Anne Marie. “Hey, be careful, okay?”
She smiles at me. “You too, Greg.”
And with that, I’m gone. While I’m in town I collect my unemployment check then head home to wait for Anne Marie’s call.
The phone rings at 6:14. I pick it up on the first ring.
“Greg? It’s Anne Marie.”
“Did you manage to dig up anything useful?”
“I’ve got a few leads, yeah. And I think I have a good idea of who our mysterious
psychic-killer is. Can you meet me at that old warehouse on the south side of town? Do you know which one I’m talking about?”
“The one that closed down in ’93?”
“That’s the one.”
“Sure. When do you want me to be there?”
“Head on over now. I’ll meet you there.” Click.
And that’s the end of that conversation. I pull on a coat and head out. The warehouse is close enough for me to walk. Besides, it’s a pretty nice night and I could use the exercise.
When I get there, Anne Marie is outside, waiting for me. She tosses me a flashlight.
“You’re going to need that. The power’s been off in there for quite a long time.”
I nod and she leads the way into the old warehouse.
“So Anne Marie, what do you expect to find here?” I look around the warehouse, moving my flashlight along the walls and ceiling, turning my body around slowly. When I turn back to face Anne Marie, I find myself staring down the business end of a revolver.
“I expected to find answers.”
The future becomes staticky and unreadable. Each decision that Anne Marie or I considers alters the possible futures. The end result is like watching pay-per-view channels that you haven’t paid for. The pictures are distorted and scrambled.
So I stop reading the future. The sudden clarity of Anne Marie’s second sight disorients her just enough for me to duck behind a huge cable spool, left over from better days of this warehouse’s operation. I start to comb the threads of time as soon as I’m hidden, effectively jamming both Anne Marie and I.
“Why are you doing this, Anne Marie?” I run from one spool to the next, staying low and fast. Anne Marie squeezes off two shots, the second one just barely missing my right foot..
“We’re not meant to be, Greg!” The frustration and pain in her voice is completely different from the casual savoir-faire that she usually projects.
“What do you mean?” Another mad dash for a piece of broken and rusted industrial machinery. Another two shots, this time both of them going wild.
“This so-called ‘gift’ has never helped anyone. It’s brought both of us hardship and bad luck. The best we can manage to do is take advantage of other people with it. It’s been the same for every other psychic I’ve talked to. We’re a cancer on the world, Greg. I’ve decided to be the chemo.”
She’s raving. I don’t know what got her to this point, but there doesn’t seem to be any bringing her back. She is right about one thing, though. We psychics have terrible luck. And two psychics in one place is a recipe for tragic improbabilities. I glance above Anne-Marie. Through the gloom and shadows I can make out the shape of an old iron beam hanging from a rusted chain suspended on a old, broken down crane right above her. And I know what’s going to happen.
The future suddenly crystallizes for both of us. There’s no static because there’s only one path to be taken.
The chain snaps. The sound of the beam hitting the ground is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Its magnitude only serves to accentuate and reinforce the finality entailed by its fall.
I get up and brush the dust off of coat. I make my way over to the beam, picking up my abandoned flashlight on the way. There’s no sign of Anne Marie whatsoever. I shake my head and walk out into the pleasant air of the night. I always manage to have the wrong response to really serious events. This is no exception. For all my wanting to feel remorse, sadness, anything really, I can only manage one thought.
Looks like there’s only one psychic in town now.2 comments
I’ve decided to actually do some outlining for Solomon, since long-term survival of a story is one of my primary problems. In the meantime, I’ve written two versions of the prologue for Liar, the book manuscript I’m working on. Only one of them appears here. The following story is also posted on the Blogger site, but I don’t know how many of you check that. I should be able to do some outlining for Solomon this week, hopefully getting the next chapter posted by Sunday.
Side note, if any of you guys are WordPress Wizards and could tell me how to get a “previous/next in this category” button for my posts set up, that’d be great. Otherwise I’m going to have to start doing some serious reorganization of the site to make it more new-user friendly. This will probably involve each story getting its own subdomain. That would be a lot of work for me. Anyway, get back to me on that if you have any ideas.
by Andrew Blatt
My name is Allan and I’m a liar.
I remember the first time I told a lie. What it was is irrelevant, the important part is the feeling. It was a rush, sweeter and more profound than any sensation or drug I’ve experienced before or since. And like any drug, it’s never been quite as good as that first time. And yet I was still hooked.
Enough of that, now that it’s established that I’m a liar, you know the most important thing about me. And that’s that I’ll lie to you. Don’t worry, I’m convincing and I’ll try to be entertaining.
Anyway, her name was Emily and she was beautiful. She was in high school, I was in college. I majored in English. Not great for job prospects, but great for dating a certain kind of high school girl. Guys who are English majors are good with words. Most of my male peers were liars like me, though none quite of my caliber.
Now, let’s play a game of spot the lie:
It’s a full moon on a mild Indiana night in late May. Two moonlit silhouettes—one man-shaped, one girl-shaped—make their way through a sparsely wooded park. The trees here are thin enough to let in the moonbeams, but thick enough to hide the two of them from the prying eyes of Parks Department Security.
She stops him and looks up at him, tears in her eyes.
“I have something I need to say.” She chokes on her words, hesitates.
He knows what she wants to say, what she should say. She’s finally decided to take the advice of her friends and parents. To free herself from this older boy, whose intentions, they say, cannot be wholly pure.
And he knows how to stop her.
“If you don’t mind, I’ve got something on my mind, too.” He smiles at her nervously in the silver light of the moon. His façade is perfect.
The relief she feels is immediately visible on her face. Maybe he’ll want to break it off first? She’s young, unused to such difficult emotional decisions. Breaking up is easier to think about than to do.
“I know it hasn’t been too long since we’ve been together.” Punctuate the comment with a pause, a deep breath. “But I can’t pretend any longer.” Another beat, let her anticipation build.
“I love you.”
And now their positions are reversed. She’s hooked, instantly. She’ll stand by him right up until he discards her. And when he does, she’ll be left feeling jaded, cynical, and used.
Did you find it?
Those of you who guessed “I love you” receive one point. Those of you who thought the whole story was a fabrication receive ten points. Those of you who realize that nothing I say is wholly fact or fiction, you win.
I’m trying to change, though. Not because I feel guilty, but because I don’t. I’ve hurt so many people. I’ve broken hearts and ruined friendships, and never felt any guilt or shame.
Like any drug, after a while, the high gets further from you. After a while you do it because you have to, not because you want to.
So I’m getting help. I’ve started therapy. That’s what all this is. I’m supposed to write down how my problem has affected and shaped my life. My doctor says this journal will be a map of my road to recovery. I think she’s full of shit, but I’m paying to see her, so it’d be pretty stupid of me to just ignore her suggestions.
She says I can lie in here as long as I tell the truth eventually, but that once something’s in here, I can’t change it. I guess we’ll see how it works out.