Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Westinghoused," Part 6

(In the late 1800’s, the battle between two competing electric technologies, AC and DC currents, turned brutal. For Thomas Edison, it was a life and death struggle. This is a fictionalized version of true events in history. If you're just joining us, you can start at Part 1.)

Auburn Prison
Auburn, New York

August 6, 1890

His feet crunched on the rounded stones of the lake shore.

In the pure morning light, he bent to examine them. Some were bricks pounded smooth, and pieces of minerals speckled the deep red clay. Others stones he held up. They drank the light with a milky translucence.

Lake waves tipped onto shore while he collected. The water was shivery and clear.

After a while, his mother called him. The rest of the family were waiting.

On the stiff, grey blanket of his cot, a plate of chicken, potatoes, and fresh green beans went cold. He nibbled a few crumbs of the breading. It tasted good, even though it was breakfast time. It wasn't so different from his mother's food that day by the lake in Germany.

What was the name of the lake? He couldn't remember.

Lake Erie had stones like that. Its waters were vast. Smoke from Buffalo's factories disappeared far on the red horizon.

Footsteps entered the long hall. They stepped in unison.

Long strides.

Despite his nausea, he didn't have the energy to push away the plate. Time was cresting, ready to wave-roll over him in a white torrent. He fought, trying to drag against the motion, but it wouldn't stop. It wouldn't stop.

Two guards stood. The middle one unlocked the cell.

No one spoke.

A shadow of himself considered fighting, but he was far too tired.

Warmth matted the hair on the top of his head, and they shaved him while he dozed.

Someone was speaking. Maybe a prayer. He toweled himself clean and combed the ragged ring of hair remaining.

He walked, joining the strides in the long hallway, and the grip of the guards lifted him.

On to Part 7.
Back to Part 5.


Verilion said...

I know I keep saying this, but I'm very much enjoying this. It's really interesting how each small bit creates suspense within itself, yet there is this overarching feel that there will be an electric (pun intended (; ) ending.

mermaid said...

'A shadow of himself considered fighting, but he was far too tired.'

Surreal and real. A good writer knows his characters intimately, sometimes so well that the reader wonders...

"...and the grip of the guards lifted him."

I'm not sure if you meant he was lifted by human contact after a long isolation, but I like the ambiguity of that line. It makes me want to know what he will be lifted to in the next part, the chair or something/somewhere else.

LiVEwiRe said...

I had actually wondered about that line, too. I often like to have lines like that interspersed as it leaves a certain amount of interpretation up to the reader. I always end up leaning forward, on the edge of my seat!

The Quoibler said...


Well, it's official. I've been Westinghoused.

Last night, I awoke from a very vivid dream involving a stage play in which a gal with long, dark hair got her head shaven in anticipation of her going to the electric chair. It was quite realistic and I couldn't watch it (even though I think I was the director...)

Coincidence? I think not.

My only question is the line where you say there were two guards, then you say "the middle one..." Were there originally three guards in an earlier draft?

Great work, Jason!


Anonymous said...

Verilion, thanks. :) In this medium, I think it's essential for serial stories to have that little "lean" at the end. Sometimes I pour on the suspense, and sometimes I leave it more subtle.

Mermaid, it's so nice to hear your feedback on my perception of characters. I've done a lot of observing and delving in real life, and I try to reflect some of that in these stories. **As for the line you question, I do like that it has a duality for you. It wasn't intentional on my part. I just wasn't clear enough.

Livewire, it was one of those fortunate mistakes. :) However, they do tend to happen a good bit in my writing, since I often try to be subtle. Sometimes, I'm TOO subtle.

Angelique, oh my. That's too cool! Well, not for the gal with long, dark hair. **I can see where that line can be confusing. What I meant was that two guards are standing still (at attention) while a third, in the middle, unlocks the door. I always appreciate this kind of feedback!!

angel said...

dude... very intense...