Monday, November 06, 2006

White Rooms, Part 1 (Serial Fiction, Thriller)

(It's been quite a while since I've done a serial short story, so I thought I'd try my hand at a thriller. We'll see how it goes. Also, as a quick update on the podcasting front, I am nailing down some equipment issues, and shoulld be ready to forge ahead soon. I'll be contacting the brave volunteers shortly! Any others?)

"White Rooms"
by Jason Evans

Modern Day Philadelphia
Tuesday, 5:57 P.M.

      The rumble of a departing train shook the platform and pulled swirling air down the tunnel. A man, designated MT1023, sat staring at his hands. The thump of the wheels traveled the metal legs of the bench and quivered in the corners of his newspaper.
      A mother with hair falling from barrettes settled next to him on the bench. Her pretty face was flushed, but she managed to smile at her little boy. She arranged her shopping bags around her feet while the child hopped. MT1023 scowled.
      The child looked young. Maybe four. He seemed sweet, with shining blue eyes and curly blond hair. He looked up at MT1023's peat-colored skin and wiry black hair. His mother showed no open signs, but her leg hovered at the edge of the bench. Not an inch closer to MT1023 than necessary.
      Sad. Very sad.
      MT1023's eyes flicked to the child. Disgust shivered in his face, as if he lusted to obliterate everything the child represented.
      The train snaked around a bend, and the air settled. In four more minutes, MT1023 would be departing. He looked up. His eyes darted around. As if he sensed he were being watched.

Tuesday, 6:48 P.M.

      A yellow car coasted down the road, then slowed. It turned into a driveway flanked by barberry bushes. Brake lights splashed on the driveway as the automatic garage door rose. MT1023 pulled his car into the shadows. The backing lights flicked, then the door started down.
      Rectangular light from the kitchen window stretched deep into the backyard. In the view of a pair of binoculars, MT1023 appeared in the doorway. His wife smiled, but continued her march around the kitchen. A steaming plate was set at his chair, and he sat. He did not smile. He forked the food without raising his head.
      Later, electric blue flickered on the curtains. His wife tuned the television to the usual programs, while his internet connection skipped among Middle Eastern servers. Rivers of graceful script pulsed back and forth like a heartbeat. Then, the lights flicked off and reemerged upstairs. For a time, the internet connection remained.

Wednesday, 3:12 A.M.

      The houses were silent. A few spotlights chipped away the night, but no one was awake to see.
      Feet scratched across the shingles. MT1023's window fogged with a billow of breath. The strides on the roof stopped. A sound grated against the glass.
      A car eased up the road and backed into the driveway. Four figures swept into MT1023's cut window and surrounded his lonely bed. Still outside, the fifth signalled the car and watched.
      MT1023's eyes shot open. They cut the scream before he could inhale. With blinding white pain, his arms were twisted behind his back. The force of it rolled him. Loop after loop of duct tape squeezed him. The fist in his hair let go, and he smacked into the pillow.
      A blow socked into his kidneys. He convulsed.
      As his back arched and muscles shook, the zipper of a body bag sizzled in the quiet. They picked him up and slid him in. Before resealing it, a syringe emptied into MT1023's neck.
      The bag struggled as it was lowered to the trunk of the waiting car. By the time the lid latched and the car crept off, the motion drained away.


mermaid said...

MT 1023...sound like a machine man who can barely feel beyond the disgust of his existence. But he is still as real as flesh, and his pain is visceral.

I can sense the pain as a metaphor to knock something back into him. Hmmmm....

anne frasier said...

oooh, very nice, jason!!

not sure you were aiming for science fiction, but it has that feel to me. i love it! haven't read a good sci-fi in years!!

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling that it could be SF thriller also. You will probably fool us or have. Smile

Bernita said...

He sleeps alone?
Would mention the binoculars earlier in the second passage, so the POV switch doesn't confuse.
Good stuff, Jason, deserves expansion.

Susan Abraham said...

Oh, Jason, I was so excited on coming here to see that you were writing a thriller. Will be checking your posts more avidly than I already do.
You're excellent with structure, sounding really at home with it.
For me at the moment, it got chilling towards the end.
More, please...

normiekins said...

keep it!.....

..."the zipper of the body bag sizzled in the quiet..." what an eerie description....

Shesawriter said...

Man, Jason, you've got a wonderful gift for description. I was right there on that platform. Beautiful.


JLB said...

Certainly leaves me asking a lot of questions! I am curious to read more in your next installment.

As for the podcast... you've piqued my interest. I'd be happy to join in if you're still seeking volunteers.

Wilf said...

I really like the detail of your descriptions too. THis is taut and sparely told - I want to know about MT1023 but I don't like him. Well written, Jason.

Fran Piper said...

As usual, Jason, you write something and I'm there, in your scenes. Such vivid writing...

I had some problems with the POV here, which bounced me out of the story a couple of times. The first paragraph seems, overall, to be using the POV of the watcher (who thinks that the little boy seems sweet, and comments on the sadness of the scene). But earlier, we seem to be in MT1023's POV (who else would know that the thump of the wheels traveled up the legs of the bench?) - unless the watcher is sitting on the bench with him, but then I think that MT1023 would be reacting to him/her. Again, near the end, "the lust to obliterate everything the child represented" seems to be in MT1023's POV again. The second paragraph is a lot smoother, though the binoculars threw me for a moment (I imagined him stepping out of giant binoculars, but perhaps that's just my literal mind). The third paragraph seems to change POV again - omniscient? Can't find the watcher in there any more.

Minor issues, though. I enjoyed this a lot, and I'm looking forward to more!

Anonymous said...

Mermaid, intriguing observations! We'll see how they play out.

Anne, I guess this might be construed as a kind of sci-fi. Let me know what you think about genre as it progresses.

Steve, me? Fool you? Never. :D

Bernita, yes, he sleeps alone. I should make that more clear. As for the POV question, I'll respond to both your points and Fran's below. :)

Susan, I so appreciate your excitement! It helps motivate me. And thank you for the feedback. :)

Normiekins, this one is going to be a challenge for me, but I'm going to enjoy it.

Tanya, thanks for the feedback! :)

JLB, I'd love to have you participate in the podcasting! Now I'm trying to eliminate some pesky line noise. As soon as I solve that, I'm good to go.

Addy, thank you for the kind words. :) Yes, this fellow is a bit distasteful.

Fran and Bernita, you have hit upon the challenge I've given myself in this piece. I'm writing it in third person with an undisclosed "watcher" as the POV, and it's not easy, lol! I didn't intend any POV shifts in the piece. Instead, what you're sensing are places where I failed to pull it off. I've gone back and tried to fix some of these spots.

The "watcher's" position in relation to the action changes, so the final paragraphs aren't meant to be a shift, the watcher is just very close to the kidnappers.

anne said...

Funny that wilf doesn't like MT1023: it feels like I want to like him but I'm pretty sure he doesn't like me. Not sure that makes sense. Ah well, proceed, don't mind me... ;)

Sam said...

Okay, I'm hooked! Don't keep us waiting long!

Joni said...

As always, can't wait for the next installment. I really admire your ability to create unlikable protaganists. A talent.

beadinggalinMS said...

I too will be anxiously waiting for the next installment.
I am not for sure why my blog keeps crashing your computer. I had another person tell me the same thing. I can't figure it out. If anyone knows what I should do let me know.

Saaleha said...

I loved the turns of phrase, zipper sizzled,rivers of graceful script...some real gems here. I can't wait to read the next installment

Anonymous said...

Anne, that makes perfect sense! It's so fascinating how these nuances actually come across.

Sam, thanks! The next installment should be up on Friday.

Joni, I like trying to walk the line between unlikeable and likeable. It's even more fun to push back and forth over the line!

Beady, I'm not sure what's causing the crash, but it seems to have something to do with jpegs being loaded. The initial text is fine, then the pictures freeze up. Maybe it's a background/banner picture or something.

Saaleha, thank for the feeback! Glad to have you along. :)

angel said...

"gripping" is an understatement... i'm hooked!