Sunday, March 18, 2012


Earlier this year I made a feeble attempt to participate in Nanowrimo. I did not finish, but here's an excerpt from the unfinished story. This is neither edited nor formatted. I do not claim to be writer.

Chapter One
Day One Forty-Four (144)
He places the plastic box of micro cassettes onto the table. Opens it. He places the recorder on the table and presses the eject button with his index finger. He removes one micro cassette from the package and inserts it into the tape recorder. Next to the the tape recorder he placed a worn copy of a paperback science fiction novel. The front cover was torn down the center. He walked to the counter and took a yellowed coffee cup off the hook above the sink. He poured a cup of coffee. Three sugars, no cream. He carried the cup back to the table and placed it beside the book. The only light in the room is coming through a small frosted window above the white door. He opens the book and begins to read.

Deactivated robots lined the walls of the Aerobarn, it had been nearly 15 years since they’d been in service on the Crone TEN. The robots were used to maintain and fly the great balloon during the war with Planet 4. Jason had known about the Aerobarn since he was a boy, it was located a mile or so from his parent’s farm.

He looks away from the book the novel and takes a sip of coffee. If we were there we’d see his eyes look towards the white door and up to the window. We didn’t notice earlier, but the window has a crack that matches the tear on the cover of the novel that sits on the table. This has no significance.

He takes another sip of coffee. He looks at the cuffs of his shirt, they are unbuttoned. Using his weak hand he tries to button one of the cuffs, only to realize that the outside button is missing. Using the other button will make the cuffs too tight. He lets out a frustrated breath and his eyes return to the window. He picks up his cup and pours what remains into the sink. He then heads to the white door patting his front pocket to make sure he has his keys. They’re there. He reaches the door. He is going to exit the room.

At this point we should name our character. We want to identify with this man. The man takes his hand from the knob and turns back to the table. He picks up the recorder and slides the battery cover off the back placing it carefully on top of the novel. We see that glued to the battery cover is a label, the kind from one of those label makers that people get from the department store. The things that only see the floor just before the holidays. The label says “Property of Markland.” Markland goes to the drawer beside the stove, moving his hand through the collection of old keys, binder clips, paper clips, thumbtacks, electrical tape, masking tape, scotch tape he grabs two triple A batteries and pulls them out. He puts the new batteries into the recorder, replaces the cover and places the recorder into his pocket. Markland leaves the room. It takes him 47 steps from his apartment door to the curb outside his building.

Once outside the building Markland walks three blocks east. He compulsively checks his pocket for his keys and the tape recorder. At the corner of Bird St. and Breakstone Ave. he takes a seat on the bus bench. He checks his pockets again. 13 minutes later, Markland is always early for fear of missing the bus, the small city transport bus arrives. He boards and deposits the $3.25 fair for the ride to the County Seat Mall. Markland choose the seat furthest from any other passenger. He checks his pocket. Over the hum of the diesel engine he begins to hear two gentlemen in the front of the bus conversing. Markland pulls the tape recorder from his pocket, presses record/play and slides it into his sleeve. The men were talking about a local homeless woman. Apparently the city had closed the parklet she was sleeping in. They wanted to turn it into a Welcome Center for tourists. Man A, the older of the two, long black coat, mustache, sunken eyes, pock marked cheeks, etc, etc, was arguing that the REAL reason the city had closed the parklet was to kick Marnee out of her corner. While Man B, brown beard, purple baseball cap, hooded sweatshirt, jeans, glasses contended that the city was just trying to make everything nice and neat to increase tourism.
“Street people are not nice and neat.”

Man A rolled his eyes and turned to the window. Markland slid the recorder into his hand and pressed the stop button. No other words were spoken between the men. The only sound was the engine of the minibus as it chugged up the hill to the mall.

Markland leaves the minibus, keeping his fixed on his own feet. He entered the mall near the movie theaters, Cinema 6. He had little interest in the films being shown, but he spent several minutes inspecting the poster for each movie. The first poster was a black and white. There were no words, only half a woman’s face, and a portion of her neck and shoulder. When he reached the final poster he again slid the recorder out of his pocket and held it close to his outer thigh. He walked down the the theater wing of the mall by the shuttered craft store, the old fast food place that thought it’d be ideal to sell baked potatoes and nothing else. Then the dermatologist’s office. Markland always wondered why anyone would visit a dermatologist in the shopping mall. At the end of the theater wing there was a small area of children’s rides, just past that there was a kiosk selling personalized engravings on picture frames, flasks, and other brick-a-brack. Next to the kiosk there were a series of gunmetal gray benches. This is where Markland would spend the next 3 or 4 hours. He kept the recorder hidden under his hand and whenever he’d hear shoppers approaching that were engaged in conversation he’d press record.

6:15 PM. Markland sits outside the theater waiting for the minibus. He’s filled up both sides of the 60 minute microcassette with snippets of conversation. The buss pulls up and 10 or 11 students from the local college step off. Markland rides the bus home. The recorder returned to his pocket. Normally, he’d try to save some tape for the bus ride home, but so many people had wandered by him at the mall today that he’d lost track. If something interesting, if something important happened on the bus he’d have to remember it on his own. He kept the fingers of his left hand crossed the entire ride home. The only thing he heard that he wished he could’ve captured was an elderly woman reading a bit of bible verse.

The bus stopped at the corner of Bird and Breakstone. Markland walked back to his building, his hand continually patting the outside of his pocket making sure his keys were still there. They were.

We see the cracked window over the white door. We’re always with Markland, watching, waiting. There’s a number on the door and a letter. They’re both askew. The number is 8, the letter is R. Apartment 8R? When the building was first built what we’re seeing was all one apartment. With space downtown at a premium the building was renovated int he 1960’s and apartment 8 was split into two aparments 8F, and 8R. Markland’s apartment was originally an kitchen, a pantry, and sitting room. The pantry is now a small bathroom, the sitting room a bedroom, and the kitchen a multipurpose room. Markland had an apartment stove and a minifridge. In the center of the room was the table. It’s dark now, and upon entering the apartment we see the only light is still the light from the hall that shines through the frosted glass above the door. Markland slides his hand of the greasy wall until his fingers reach the switch and flick the light on. The original fixtures have been replaced with hard, cold, cheap flourescent light. These lights always give Markland a headache. It’s the fast flicker. On/off/on/off/on/off 60 times per second. Markland sets the recorder down on the table, removes the tape, and using a black magic marker writes the date on the cassette. He then slides the tape into his pocket. He picks up the novel and walks to the bedroom. He begins to read.

Jason looked at the robots with a sense of awe. Nobody made things as intricate as these anymore. The robot’s copper sheath had turned blue green while sitting unused in the Aerobarn. The one at the end of the line had it’s left arm hanging from the shoulder socket by some sort of wire or connector.

The Aerobarn was supposed to a secure area, off limits to anyone not associated with The Defense. The Defense controlled most of Jason’s village now. The group was set up by soldiers that deserted and some of the more impressionable youth from the other farms. The Defense kept the Aerobarn locked and under guard. They wanted to repair the Crone 10’s crew and use them to work around the village. Unfortunately for The Defense they were foot soldiers, they’d all tested weak in robotics aptitude and had been put on the front line. Jason was able to gain entry to Aerobarn through an underground tunnel that runs from a shed on his parents farm to the barn. He didn’t think his parents knew about the tunnel and neither did The Defense. Tonight he’d brought with him some tools with him to see if he could repair one of the robots.

He looked up and down the line, there were 12 in all and two of them were larger than the rest. He choose the one that seemed to have the least damage. The robot was around 6 feet tall, about Jason’s height, but it was incredibly heavy. It soon became apparent that Jason was not going to be able to move the robot to gain access to its internal control panel. The robots were fixed to the wall of the Aerobarn via electromagnet, if Jason could find the switch, maybe the robots would slump forward and he’d be able to reach the control panel. He remembered a bank of switches located near the service entrance to the Aerobarn, the problem was that near the doors were the most likely place for The Defense to have installed their infamous trip wires. One wrong step and Jason would be anihilated by an antimatter charge. He decided he’d have to come back another time to find the switch that would release the robots from the electromagnet.

Markland tosses the book aside and removes the tape from his pocket. He opens a desk drawer filled with small cassette tapes, microcassettes, the kinds people used in answering machines before the digital age. He tosses today’s tape in the drawer, turns back to the bed and pauses. “Shit,” he thinks. “I’ve gotta check the drawer and make sure all my tapes are there.” Markland begins to pull the tapes out one by one and placing them on the desktop. He lays them out in rows 12 across, by the time he is finished he has 12 columns and 12 rows. One hundred and fourty-four cassettes. This is his calendar. He’s recorded one tape a day for the last one hundred and fourty-four days. They’re all there. One hundred and fourty-four hours of tape. He was almost done. Almost done.

Markland stared at the matrix of cassettes from the edge of his bed. Fifty-two more. Fifty-two more days and the matrix, the calendar would be complete. Fourteen by fourteen. Two weeks across by two weeks down. He grabbed his Polaroid camera from the corner of the desk and snapped a picture of the the tapes. In black magic marker he wrote 12 X 12 in the margin at the bottom. We now look past Markland, and see that behind his single bed there are several Polaroids tacked to the wall. 1 X1, 2X2 , 3X3, 4X4, you get the idea. He took the 12 X 12 photo and tacked it to the wall with the others.

It was going on 7:30 now. Markland needed to eat. His head is in his hand as he sits on the end of the bed. He rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands. In the kitchen the flourescent light still blinks on and off 60 times a second. Markland moves towards the fridge slowly. He’s quite aware that there’s nothing in there, but 12 cans of Diet Coke, a box of take-out chinese, a fifth of Canadian Mist, and half a gallon of expired milk. He opens the fridge and peeks in. Closes it. Goes to the cabinets above the small stove. Opens them. A can of green beans, a can of tomato paste, a box of macaroni. He walks back to the fridge and looks in again, back to the cupboard, back to the fridge, back to the cupboard, it is now 8:15. Markland closes the fridge and looks at the purple cow magnet holding an advertisement for pizza to his fridge. He orders a pizza, some bread sticks, and 2 dipping sauces. With the coupon the meal will cost $19.88. If he starts counting the change now he’ll have the money ready by the time dinner arrives. He keeps a large jar next to the mini fridge. It’s not really jar, it’s one of the those big plastic cheeseball containers, the kind you get at the super store, the blue and orange label was still attached. The word MONEY was written across the front in black magic marker. Markland reached his hand through the mouth of the jar and pulled out a hand full of change. He repeated this for or five times and began to sort the coins on the linoleum. He laid out a row of fourteen quarters. $3.50 cents. He stacked a quarter on each of the fourteen. $7.00. Out of quarters. Next he stacked dimes, ten dimes high, he laid them out. Only seven stacks. $14.00. Next nickles. He began stacking the nickles in piles twenty nickles high, three stacks. He placed them next to the stacks of dimes. $17.00. Now pennies. Markland needed two hundred and eighty-eight pennies. He began stacking pennies in piles of seventy-two high. He lays out four piles. Two rows of 14, $19.88. Markland picked up the remain change and stuffed it back into the jar. He then went to a cupboard over the sink a took out a plastic cup. He placed his stacks of change, one at a time, into the plastic cup. The voice over the intercom says “hello?” Markland wasn’t sure how long the person had been buzzing. It must be the pizza. Without speaking Markland buzzed the caller up.

The delivery man cursed under his breath when Markland took the pizza order and handed him the cup full of change and shut the door in his face. For fourteen minutes the pizza man stood at the door, the cup of change in one hand, the other pounding on Markland’s door, then without really knowing why he gave in and drove back to the store with the cup of change.
Markland placed the pizza box on table, opened it and began to eat. The place must've screwed up, there should've been twelve slices, instead there were fourteen.

After eating most of the pizza and half of the bread sticks Markland went back to the bed room and slid the matrix of tapes back into the desk drawer. Now that he was almost done he’d have to figure out some way to transfer them. He removed his clothes and climbed into bed and then she came. Markland opened his eyes and standing before him was a beautiful woman with large, round, breasts. She was nude, he noticed her pubic hair was neatly trimmed like it always was. She’d been coming to him night after night, at least several times a week for the past one hundred and fourty-four days. As always the woman crawled onto the bed and positioned herself atop Markland. She bent her head a neck towards the ceiling, she was everything Markland wanted in woman. Then things began to get strange. A seam appeared to open under the woman’s left breast and from this seam crab apples began to fall out one by one as if something were pushing them. A seam opened under the right breast and a stream of winged insects like nothing Markland had ever seen began to crawl out in rows of four. The insects marched towards the woman’s pelvis, and once there crawled back inside her. She bent forward to kiss Markland like she’d done so many other nights, but this time a small brown mouse climbed out of her mouth, his little paw delicately scratching Markland’s upper lip. Markland tried to shew the mouse away to no avail. The creature crawled up his cheek to the right eye, it’s face staring directly into Markland’s expanding pupil.

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