Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Beginning 358

“They never try to get out during the day,” Mr. Cerberus said, lighting a cigarette.

“Um, sir? I’m not a big fan of cigarette smoke. Could you put that out, please?” Kate asked, smiling sweetly.

Mr. Cerberus didn’t smile back. “Still my house,” he said.

Kate nodded, not knowing what to say. Suddenly the kitchen seemed smaller.

“As I was saying,” he said, in a tone of voice that suggested he’d been rudely interrupted. “They never try to get out during the day. The day is when they come to you, in fact. New ones, that is.”


“Yes, really. It’s during the night you have to watch.”

“When am I supposed to sleep?”

“Oh, you’ll get some. I suggest sleeping during the day, late morning, perhaps. Make it in your room so you couldn’t tell the difference. It’s imperative that you keep guard at night. Most of those that get out tend to be harmless, but there’s no telling that until the damage has already been done.

Kate shrugged. She guessed she could figure out a schedule that would work. It's not like there were many other choices in this town, and with her financial problems to deal with, at least the price was right. One thing was certain, though: this was going to be the last time she used Craigslist to find an apartment.

Opening: freddie.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Three of them tried to escape during her first night. Kate suspected they were testing her because she was the new girl. She was well-practiced, however, at hitting people in the head with a mallet; she'd grown up with four brothers.

Mr. Cerberus had mentioned that new ones would come to you during the day, and sure enough, the doorbell rang late in the morning. Kate answered it with the mallet hidden behind her back.

Two young men stood on the porch, dressed in matching outfits: black trousers, short-sleeved white oxford shirts, and black ties.

"Ma'am, we'd like to talk to you about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior."

"That sounds fascinating," Kate said, following the script Mr. Cerberus had given her. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me all about it over lemonade."

They never saw the mallet coming. Kate dumped them in the pit with the others. In most cities such extreme measures wouldn't be necessary, but this was Salt Lake City.


It was the third night that they got out.

Kate had no idea how it happened. A sleeping pill in her soup, perhaps, but it didn't matter how they did it. The point was, they got out. By the time Kate woke up the following morning with the grain of the wooden table imprinted on her cheek the headlines were everywhere and so were the photos. Lindsay, drunk behind the wheel. Paris, drunk behind thew wheel. Britney, drunk behind the wheel and with no underwear.

That was the end of the Cerberus Rehab Centre.


"Is that one of them there?" said Kate, pointing to the six-foot python worming its way through the doggie door.

"Dammitall!" said Mr. Cerberus, as he grabbed the python by the tail and tried to pull it back into the kitchen. "Give me a hand, want you?"

Kate clapped her hands together ceremoniously.

"Very funny," he said. "Help me."

"Put out the cigarette, first."

"Are you serious? What about the children in the neighborhood? Don't you care about the children who'll be swallowed if Fuzzy gets away?"

Kate tapped her foot emphatically as Mr. Cerebrus struggled with the python.

"Nazi!" said Mr. Cerebrus as he spat out the cigarette.

Kate stamped out the cigarette and took a butcher's knife out of the knife safe on the counter. She opened the door enough to get her arm out.

"Here's for the children, Mr. Cerebrus." Kate cleanly separated the python's head from its body. "I don't think this nanny position is quite right from me," she said, as she stepped over the python and through the fence gate.

--Bill Highsmith

God, Kate thought, I knew becoming a live-in nurse would be bad, but ... She cursed her student loans as Cerberus's overweight wife Malevioletia padded through the kitchen in her pajamas.

A gigantic ripping sound came from Malevioletia as she farted for what must have been the tenth time since Kate arrived. Like the rest, a blank, thankfully.

"Tonight, like every night, we're having chili for dinner," Ceberus said. "Come on, I'll show you how to smell-proof your bedroom."


"I didn't know being an editor could be so dangerous," Kate said.

"Just remember to keep your door locked."

"Um, thanks Mr. Cerebus. Any other security precautions I should be aware of?"

"Don't mention the word 'Weredingo.' It seems to be a secret code. It sets them crazy."

--Church Lady

...until the damage has already been done." He lit another cigarette and stuck it in his second mouth.

Kate waved a hand in front of her face. The smoke was getting thick.

He lit a third cigarette for his third mouth. “Some of them can cause quit a bit of damage.”

Kate started choking. She got down on the floor.

“What’s with you?” Mr. Cerberus asked. “Not like you need to breathe, girl. Being dead does have its advantages.”


Evil Editor said...

Good dialogue. "Still my house" and "the kitchen seemed smaller" indicate that she's buying or renting, but her "duties" indicate she's being hired, as they don't leave her any free time. Perhaps it's a combination: free rent in return for whatever?

Mr. C's tone changes a bit in his last speech. Previously he didn't smile back, wouldn't put out his cigarette, acted like she'd rudely interrupted him. In the end he seems to have become helpful. Maybe he would be more curt, something like:

“Daytime, late morning. In your room so you couldn’t tell the difference." He drew on his cigarette. "Never at night. Most of them that get out are harmless, but there’s no telling that till the damage has been done."

Lightsmith said...

I found this opening confusing. It's fine to be mysterious about what "they" refers to, but that technique isn't pulled off properly here. I wasn't intrigued so much as just annoyed.

As a reader I require a little more scene-setting than this. Even though it's mentioned that they're in a kitchen in a house, I got the impression of two disembodied voices in a featureless void.

Instead of "They never try to get out during the day," I'd prefer the sentence phrased as "They only try to get out at night."

In the second paragraph, Kate's dialogue sounds bitchy. It doesn't mesh with "smiling sweetly."

I liked McKoala's continuation.

iago said...

“Still my house,"

Yeah, I didn't quite know what to make of that; like, why wouldn't it be his house? But Suddenly the kitchen seemed smaller... I assumed was to orient us to where they were located, and to indicate that his attitude made the situation feel more oppressive.

he said, in a tone of voice that suggested he’d been rudely interrupted.

There might be a quicker way of saying that. By the time I've figured out how he said it, I've forgotten what he said. Anyway, wouldn't be "Still my house" that would have the tone, that being the first thing he says after being interrupted?

Make it in your room so you couldn’t tell the difference.

I had to think about that one to figure out that it meant -- I think -- make the room dark so she won't know it's not still night.

I'd personally like a tad more clarity on who she is (staff / renter / what?) and why she's there, to get grounded.

These minor nits aside, Cerberus seems an interesting character; Kate I'm not sure about yet. I do want to read on and find out what she has to keep watch over. Interesting.

Robin S. said...

I got the feeling that Kate was an investigator of some sort, and she was on a kind of stakeout. Is that right?

Wanting to know who "they" are hooked me just fine.

The only change I'd make is to take the words "perhaps" and "imperative" and turn them into "maybe" and "real important" (I know it should be really, but maybe HE doesn't know it) - unless I'm reading Cerberus incorrectly.

I'd read on.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked a lot of this, but it was too coy. We need to be just a tiny bit more in on the situation. Is she the guardian of this place, like a Hell Mouth or something? Or is it mundane? It sounded fantastical.

The line, "Still my house" resonates.

Bernita said...

Language is a little fuzzy in places.
Think EE's right. Make his comments more abrupt.
I definitely would read more. I like the lurky-lurky.

Phoenix said...

I found myself focusing on the dialog tags in this snippet.

For me, "said" and "asked" go unnoticed unless they're accompanied by action, then they stick out. I like to see one of the other, but not both. But could be just a style thing.

For example:
Kate asked, smiling sweetly. --> Kate smiled sweetly.

"As I was saying," he said, in a tone of voice that suggested he’d been rudely interrupted. [comma, not a period here] --> "As I was saying--" his pointed tone brooked no further interruptions "--they..."

However, "As I was saying" seems to carry the tone without specifically having to interrupt the dialog to mention it at all.

Not sure the second repetition of "They never try to get out during the day" is needed. Or at least not verbatim. Maybe something like, "Day is safe. Day is when they come to you, in fact."

jjdebenedictis said...

I really liked this. I would read on. This is fantasy and Mr. Cerberus is guarding souls? Kate's about to take over? Sounds like fun; I'm hooked.

The writing is very solid also.

freddie said...

writtenwyrdd and jjdebenedictis nailed this. Yes, this is fantasy, and Mr. Cerberus is a guardian of hell - he keeps the souls from getting out. (Kind of like the dog from the Greek myths.)

Or kept, I should say. Mr. Cerberus is getting fired, and Kate's taking over his job. (She really, really needs a job.)

The most frequent complaint I get from beta readers is that I don't give enough info. The story is there (usually), but there needs more detail about the world the characters inhabit. I definitely need to do more world-building before I write any more of the story, I think.

At any rate, I appreciate all the comments, and I loved all of the continuations! They all made me laugh!

Lightsmith said...

The most frequent complaint I get from beta readers is that I don't give enough info. The story is there (usually), but there needs more detail about the world the characters inhabit.

That's essentially what I was trying to say. Hearing your premise in greater detail, it sounds like a strong one with a lot of possibilities. Good luck!