Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Beginning 949

The house at the end of the street stood alone. The paint was gray and peeling, the shutters rundown, the grass unkempt. Flowers didn't bloom there, nor did trees bear fruit. The birds made no nests, the bees no hives. Durango Agonistes was pasted to his mailbox above the unfortunate street number 666. I rarely saw him, nearly the perfect neighbor by some accounts, but he kept the kid's baseballs and footballs when they fell behind his wrought iron fence.

A month before the astronomers spotted the comet, I knocked on his door. "Mister Agonistes, You took Billy and Bobby's ball again."

"No I didn't. Go away," he yelled from behind the door.

"But I saw you take it. Just give it to me. The kids didn't intend to throw it in your yard, you know." I knocked again.

"No I don't know that." He opened the front door with the ball in hand, eyes flashing anger, and clenched teeth. He was twenty years younger than I imagined with broad shoulders, black hair, and a muscular, knotted forehead. I stood speechless and quizzical.

"Keep your kids in your yard not the street." He slammed the door.

* * *

Twelve years after the astronomers spotted the comet, it was all over the news. I would've known that face anywhere. Durango Agonistes stared out at me from every newspaper and every TV station. That same black hair, now flecked with gray, that same forehead, still inexplicably tied in a knot.

Everyone wanted to know how it had happened. Everyone wanted to know what started it all; how could a man like him do something like this? But he wasn't talking. Durango Agonistes just sat back and celebrated the mega-IPO of the Agonistes Ball Company and smiled, perhaps for the first time ever.

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

And the very next week, Durango was arrested for manufacturing meth in his basement.

--T.K. Marnell

Fair enough, I thought as I sauntered back up the path to the road. After all, Billy and Bobby had intended to throw the ball in Durango's yard. Stupid kids. Not my kids, as it happens, but I did intend to keep them in my yard. They were done throwing balls though...

You see? It is always the one you least expect.


For a moment I stood there, uncertain of what to do. Just then I spotted Frank, out on our driveway, washing the minivan with the boys. He looked twenty years older than his age--beer belly, bald spot, pants four sizes too small cinched tightly around his hips.

I knew, right then, what I must do. Removing the scrunchie, I tossed my hair. With a quick move the top three buttons of my blouse came undone. Thank God I'd worn my shorts.

I knocked again. He answered, quickly apprizing me.

"I'm sorry for the confusion," I said, "but those aren't my boys. I'm just the lady who helps Frank out once in a while."

"Really." I saw that gleam in his eyes. "Why don't you come in and we can discuss this?"

"Thank you," I said, followin him inside. Let Frank watch his damned kids for a while. I had some more ...important things to do.

It helps to be neighborly.


Evil Editor said...

You say "I rarely saw him, nearly the perfect neighbor by some accounts" but I think you mean "I rarely saw him, which some would say made him the perfect neighbor."

You say you rarely saw him, but later that he was 20 years younger than you imagined, which suggests you never saw him.

The astronomers/comet line comes out of nowhere and seems to go nowhere. As if you think we know what you're talking about. Actually, a catchy opening line would be: A month before the astronomers spotted the comet, I knocked on the door of Durango Agonistes. But either way, the reader probably expects you to make the connection between the comet and Durango ASAP.

Chicory said...

I like this opening, but I agree that the comet comes out of nowhere. From the sound of the first paragraph, I expect a haunted house story.

Dave Fragments said...

Did anyone else notice the ten year discrepancy?

Jeepers creepers, what an ooops that is.

Evil Editor said...

Ah, the ten-tear discrepancy. You claim he looked 20 years younger, when it was actually 30 years. No, didn't notice.

Kid's should be kids'.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

No, but if the poor guy was pasted to his mailbox, why did you never see him? Did you politely avert your eyes from such a dismal sight?

Dave Fragments said...

I'm going to use your first line but right now, life intrudes on my writing.

Durango is far older than he looks and that comet is bringing the Old Gods of the Mythos to earth.

I'm trying to write a Cthulhu story. Those are hard stories to compose.

More later.

Dave Fragments said...

"pasted to his mailbox"

ouch, ouch - (way too literal)

Laurie said...

I thought he was pasted to his mailbox at first, too.

Otherwise, this is interesting. Comets bringing Old Gods are also interesting. You're giving out the right creepy vibes so far. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

I assume the comet lands in Durango's yard, and he keeps that too.

I thought the rundown house with the mysterious occupant at the end of the street is something of a well-worn trope, but also assume that's known and intentional?

As with most unusual names, I tripped a couple of times over Agonistes (not to say people shouldn't have unusual names).

I'd read on, at the very least to get a sense of where this is headed.

khazar-khum said...

Anon--what's wrong with Agonistes? Why is it 'stranger' than DiGiorno, Lewanski, Watanabe or Snodgrass?

I was more concerned about someone with muscles in his forehead.

Anonymous said...

Kept reading it as Agnostics. Thought this was a religious tract.

Dave Fragments said...

Sometimes when I am writing a story, the opening isn't working. So I leave it and work my way through the rest of the story to the end. I find that the time and thought processes involved in finishing the story helps me to work the problems out or the opening.

This time, the problem rises from different ideas for the story. I first thought about making the hero Cain (of the Biblical Cain and Abel). I've used Cain before. He is hated by the very atoms of his being for the CURSE and creation itself will not let Cain die. However, since this is suppose to be a Cthulhu Mythos story, having two very powerful characters like that do battle would overwhelm the story. But the artifact of Cain - the mailbox with 666 - hung around.

I thought a better solution was to make Durango Agonistes into a Cassandra, an oracle, a prophet of what was about to happen. His character would create the doom, doom, doom chant of the atrocities that the comet brings to earth. However Cassandra-like characters, because they are blessed with foresight or spout prophecies, are blessed by whatever gods are out there. They are touched by power and given special status.

As much as there were the Old Gods of the Mythos and the Elder Gods who dwelt before them, there is another power that will step in to save mankind from the return of the likes of Cthulhu, the Soggoths, Dagon, the Dreamlands, and the rest of the old horrors. Those are the dread ones who take pleasure in torture, death, and blood.

The channel of that power will be Durango and the instruments who will wield it will be the narrator and his sons.

Something interrupted my thoughts. I'll have to come back to this later tonight.

Dave Fragments said...

I wish real life would quit interfering with my writing.

Agonistes stays.

WIKIPEDIA SAYS: The word Agonistes found as an epithet following a person's name, means “the struggler” or “the combatant.” It is most often an allusion to John Milton’s 1671 verse tragedy Samson Agonistes, which recounts the end of Samson's life, when he is a blind captive of the Philistines, described as being “Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves”. The struggle that Samson Agonistes centres upon is the effort of Samson to renew his faith in God’s support. E. H. Visiak wrote a study of Milton titled Milton Agonistes.

EE and the blog...
I also have found that putting an opening on EE's blog forces me to step away from it. The advice is good and the effort to answer the questions makes me think about the story.

Now I have to go and do some work in revising the opening.

T.K. Marnell said...

Aww, sad. My continuation wasn't chosen. And I spent whole minutes on that single sentence, too :p

But seriously, people. If you ever move next door to a shabby house which living things avoid, with withering plants near the building, whose owners are almost always shut up inside, be wary. If your family members start to get sick, the property smells of ammonia or paint thinner, or there are a lot of visitors late at night, there's a possibility you're living next to a meth lab. The process releases a lot of toxic byproducts into the air.

Preparedness lessons aside, this opening doesn't flow very naturally. The characters are behaving more like TV actors than real people. The protagonist isn't even trying to be friendly or showing any nervousness at all to be approaching a weird man he's never met. If Durango took the ball again, i.e. this is a common occurrence, "I" would have spoken to Durango before and wouldn't be surprised by his appearance. It's also strange and rather antagonistic to knock on a door repeatedly while you're speaking to the occupant directly on the other side. Really, if you're pounding like that and yelling at someone you barely know, who may well be occupied with something more pressing than the immediate return of a lost football, you shouldn't be shocked and confused when they get angry.

I would identify more with the protagonist, and be more afraid of Durango, if the anger seemed to come out of nowhere. If "I" rang politely and made an attempt to socialize with the reclusive neighbor, but was rebuffed without rhyme or reason, "I" would have more justification to be quizzical.

Dave Fragments said...

I would identify more with the protagonist, and be more afraid of Durango, if the anger seemed to come out of nowhere.

That's something I want to happen in the story.
The narrator will be the hero along with his sons.

As for the flow of the opening, I think I realized that subconsciously and that's why I sent it to EE.