Friday, April 11, 2008

New Beginning 484

“None of you will of course mind dying. You got better places to be than this spiritual shit-hole, and you’ve been waiting for me to come for quite a long time, I suspect. If you don’t mind me saying, I’d be thanking me for what I plan to do. They claim when you get there, angels will be waiting, and eternal bliss will be the reward for your cowering servitude.”

The hair should have suggested much, but was contradictory. It shone like a worn nickel and had lost the dark brown tone years ago. Now it was fully silver and grown far out and pulled into a single mass and held unified by a rubber band. It was a long and simple ponytail- the token symbolism of a recognizable social process. When you walked behind this man named Malcolm, you thought you knew something about him.

Except this hair and the deep cuts of wrinkles that bracketed his mouth and demarcated his kind and habitual smile contradicted the two hand-guns visibly tucked into his waist-band and the menacing shotgun he held in his thin and lengthy arms.

As for the chicken costume, we figured it was some kind of exoskeleton. When a guy appears out of nowhere and starts barking orders directly into your brain, you don't ask questions--even if he is dressed like a dork.

We followed him into the temple, hypnotised by the rhythmic FLOP FLOP FLOP of his big yellow feet. The domed ceiling whirred with CCTV lenses and we took it in turns not to walk next to him just in case they were webcams.

I looked around the room, unsure what to do. There is a protocol for this kind of thing, but this man defied all protocol. "Who's first?" he asked.

I heard the shuffle of feet, but no one spoke. Eyes locked on Malcolm's eyes; what should have been repellant was electric.

His gaze fell on me and his blue-eyed stare was cold. "You, boy." He was yards away, but I felt his breath on my neck and it was cold; it raised bumps like chicken skin. "You first. Why are you here?"

My mouth was dry, but I had practiced for this, rehearsed the words in my mind--over and over. I met his gaze. "Sir, I want to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken because..."

Opening: Scott from Oregon.....Continuation: WO/Iago/Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Well done. That the narrator knows the fully silver hair was previously dark brown indicates that he/she saw Malcolm in the past, yet I get the opposite impression. If this is their first-ever encounter, what's the POV?

Anonymous said...

Scott, this is good. I've always liked the way you write...

...dave conifer

Whirlochre said...

My guess about the hair is that the current silvery sheen still shows hints of youthful colour.

Nonetheless, like EE, I'm confused as to whether the narrator has seen Malcolm before. It hinges on this line:

When you walked behind this man named Malcolm, you thought you knew something about him.

If Malc is a figure of legend, this could be the narrator acknowledging some aspect of a persona he/she has heard about. I've never met Tom Cruise, but if I walked behind him I'm pretty sure I'd be able to see over the top of his head.

If this is the case, it's a trip-up line. If not - I'm not sure what it means.

That said, I think this is an opening with lots of promise and I definitely want to find out more about the narrator - not to mention Malc.

I'm enjoying these new Marvel Team-Up style continuations btw.

Scott from Oregon said...


Ummm, since this is from a short story about a man who takes on the role of God in a church, I'd have to claim omniscient, wouldn't I?

Evil Editor said...

It feels like it's in the POV of one of the people Malcolm is speaking to in paragraph 1. But I see no reason it can't be omniscient.

Robin S. said...

Good writing, Scott. I like it that I had to wait and work for the meaning behind Malcolm's contradictory hair. The payoff was worth it.

That combo continuation was a scream- the payoff there - the KFC interview. Ha!

writtenwyrdd said...

I like the voice of this but found it difficult to visualise it clearly in spots. Ever read The Preacher (comic series)? I kept thinking of the art inthat series when I read this.

That initial dialog pretty much sets the scene as to what is happening, but the shift to the hair description confused me, because the next paragraph also focused on hair and wrinkles, stealing the impact of that first pargraph.

I do think this is good, just not quite there yet.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I, too, got lost in the transition with the hair and had to stop short and reread what I had just read. It was almost like I could read the first paragraph and then had to take a sip of water to clear my palate before reading the rest. Otherwise - very nice!

And freaking unreal continuation!

Xenith said...

(Early morning grumpy warning)

Good narrative voice, very distinctive.

Too many ands though. I like my ands, I like to string them together in long chains, but a little of that can go a long way, esp. when different things are being connected. In that last paragraph, we get (hair & wrinkle), (bracketing his mouth & demarcating his--) (kind & habitual) Different levels of connection (does that makes sense?). So I go back to sort them out and then hit (contradicting). So I have to stop and work out what this is referring too. It's a little confusing by this point, and it's only halfway through the sentence. A comma or two? Less words?

Back in the second sentence, what he? is saying doesn't make sense. Is it supposed to? (How is the hair is contradictory? What social progress? Silver & nickel in the same description is jarring, you know :) If it's not supposed to make sense, then you're making the opening particulary dense (i.e. harder to get into).

Kanani said...

I got lost in his physical description in the lead up to the gun in his hand.

Just a question.... are there any movements you can give to this guy as he's talking?

I agree with Xenith. Go through, read this aloud and see if there are any words you can cut out to make it move just a tad faster.

EB said...

How is hair contradictory? Or, rather, I fail to see the contradiction in your description. A guy wearing a gray ponytail symbolizes a social standing or statement or position. But process? I'm unclear on that. I gather you're trying to say just by walking behind him and seeing the ponytail you make certain assumptions...yet if there's a contradiction to those assumptions, I haven't picked up on it. Just because he's got a pair of guns in his belt? Do you mean to repeat "contradicted" with the smile? And, since I'm picking nits here, "demarcated" the smile from what? The rest of his face? That implies that if the wrinkles didn't cut into either side of his mouth, the smile would be oozing all over the place.

talpianna said...

I posted a comment here but it also vanished. It was that most of the "worn nickels" that have passed through my sticky little paws haven't been at all shiny; they've been quite dull.