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Bad Day

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Old 10-22-2017, 03:18 AM
Elenita (Offline)
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written for a writing prompt about the subway. Does the narrative build well? How does the reader feel towards the character?

Bad Day

Christopher Joesph Brent hated taking the subway. Not because of having to stand in line to buy a ticket or because of the wait between each train or the fact that it stopped every three minutes at each station. What he hated about taking the subway was the people, people all around him like malaria in a jungle or bodies at a morgue. And contrary to what they say he couldn’t just block them out anymore than wearing headphones would keep the mosquitoes away from his blood or reading a book would keep away the smell of corpses.

The only reason why he was entering hell today was because the devil had won. His car had been totaled the night before by a drunk driver and he considered himself unfortunate enough to have walked away alive. The police had used the word “lucky” over and over again like a chorus in a gospel choir, and all he had wanted to do was to punch that word off their mouths and scream at them that that car, that piece of fucked up metal now getting towed away to the dump had been his father’s car, the only memory of him that Christopher allowed himself to carry for the past ten years.

The 9:02 train came in, dragging it’s feet and whining at the brakes. Christopher watched the tracks disappear underneath the belly of the train and he thought of blood and brain matter splattered against the metal bars. The image made him smile inside a little, his shoulders relaxing slightly as he stepped into the train.

As soon as he was inside he scanned the car for a corner seat. It would mean one less person to sit beside. But of course luck was against him and the only available seat was in the middle of the row, the one spot that everyone avoided because they knew it was a sinkhole with no ladder. He hesitated, weighing up the options: he could continue standing, a target for every passing eye, or he could take the seat and close his eyes and at least pretend that no one was there. He surrendered to the latter.

The minute he let his eyelids fall he heard the sound, the note that always made him want to slice off his ears, the soundtrack of his nightmares. He kept his eyes shut and focused on the darkness in front of him, like he’d practiced before, and tried to fill his mind with other sounds. The sound of a gun going off in the back of his mouth. Usually that one worked but the sound came again, louder, from right next to him.

He opened his eyes and glared at the baby who laughed again, the baby with round eyes twinkling wickedly as he flapped his chubby arms in the air, triumphant. He wriggled back and forth on his mother’s lap and bobbed his thumb up, as if to congratulate himself on the successful torture. His fat bald head rotated and stared right at Christopher, a wet dripping toothless grin creeping across his squishy cheeks. The mother bent low and kissed the top of his head, rewarding her little minion with pecks of affection.

Christopher redirected his glower to her as she raised her head, her hair whipping across his shoulder as she turned, proud and defiant, her diamond earrings glinting cold and hard.

Cecelia would have hated those earrings. He shut his eyes again, trying to slam the door on the name he let slip in his mind. But he had always agreed with her, he never liked diamond or pearl jewelry. She was such an earring fanatic, it was easy to surprise her with little presents; she would go crazy over a pair of silver snowflake earrings or even a simple pair of gold hoops. She always delighted in the smallest things: a new coffee mug, her favorite song playing in a store, a discount on Cool Ranch Doritos. She was one of those sunflowers that almost turned her face from the sun. The only shadow in their lives had been the baby.

His chest subconsciously released when the woman and her spawn got up at the next station, but just when he thought he had snagged a little thread of hope he realized he had actually grabbed the tail of a snake. The next person who took the vacant space beside him seemed to want to curl against his side and squeeze the life out of him. The old woman’s sleeve grated against his arm as she wriggled from side to side arranging her plastic bag of groceries. Her beady eyes stared at the gauze on his cheek, the only trophy he had walked away from the accident last night. She coiled in place, lurching with every turn of the train. Even as her eyes drifted shut he could feel her gaze crawling towards him, her hand sliding dangerously close to his knee. A hand that was creased and distorted with age, each wrinkle another chapter of her story waiting to be peeled off and read, a story scarred by decades of life and time biting into each other’s heels.

Christopher looked away. He had read that story before, a story prematurely tattooed onto his father’s hand as the cells in his body betrayed him. A story that was contagious and infected his mother, her soul shriveling inside with every year she spent watching her husband die.

He scrunched his eyes shut, wishing on a shooting star that wasn’t there that his mind would fall into a permanent sleep, but the man standing into front of him was texting loudly, so loud Christopher could almost hear the words being sent over the internet. He didn’t even have to open his eyes to see the man clawing the screen frantically, his nose snarling up in frustration, his upper lip lifting to reveal the fangs ready to pounce on the next incoming message. Christopher opened one eye to confirm his suspicions, the man was hunched over the phone, eyes twitching as he tore into the flesh, ready for the fresh blood of his next victim.

And then, as if the noise of his text argument wasn’t bad enough, the man switched to a phone call, cupping his hand over his mouth to keep the incriminating details in. Words like drops of blood slipped out, words telling the woman on the other end of the line that he really couldn’t come this weekend, he had to go out of town for work again, again, yes again, I didn’t want for it to happen again but--he dropped his voice to a whisper, digging his teeth into the receiver, but it is what it is, again.

Christopher’s jaw started to ache with the sentences piling inside, pushing against his tongue and the roof of his mouth. He want to tell the man to go see his woman that week, whoever she was, because he never knew when he might come home to policemen standing in his house with an invitation to go down to the station to identify a body, as if it was a viewing of a new art piece at the museum. And they’ll tell him that that person on the slab is his girl but he knows that isn’t true because his girl is a living human being, he was just on the phone and she was bitching about why he couldn’t come home, she isn’t a dead thing, there must a mistake. And then he’ll spend the rest of his miserable life wishing that he was that mistake on the slab, not her, never her.

The prospect of Christopher getting off the subway with his sanity disappeared when the row across from him filled with a family, father, mother, and two children all brandishing pitchforks and smelling of brimstone. He let his eyelids bow in defeat, searching through his mind for some dynamite to blow his head, and he remembered his “safe place”, a word his therapist had said over and over like a jingle that comes over the radio during every commercial break. He exhaled cautiously and stepped into the scene: the color yellow too bright to be good, with shades of orange and hints of red. Black smoke like burnt cotton candy puffing up everywhere. The air uncomfortably warm, the kind of temperature that burns down forests. The ground swaying to the rhythm of the walls collapsing. And then the sound--but then the screams. That was the part he didn’t like about the scene. He couldn’t picture an explosion without subconsciously hearing the human shrieks, when all he wanted was the satisfying din of oblivion and destruction.

But the screams always messed up his scene, in his ears reminding him of what he hated: people, people everywhere running some reason, alarms wailing far too late, the air getting too thick to move down the esophagus. He started gasping, gagging, his lungs strained and his eyes popped open just in time to see the explosion of fire, throwing his body aside as it burst the car apart. And then came the part he always waited for, the part where he release the long-held-in sigh of relief: the whole world went dark.






The darkness lifted, like it always did when he woke up and the fucking light came in. He opened his eyes and blinked through the smoke still hanging over the rubble sprawled everywhere. Flames flickered among the debris, the chaos of voices and sirens hurting his ears. He squinted at the bodies limping and falling over each other, floundering between the fire trucks and ambulances flanking both sides of what used to be the subway train.

He put a hand over his heart, just to make sure. Fuck. He was still alive.



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Old 10-22-2017, 07:06 AM
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That seemed like a really bad day, poor guy, he cannot catch a break!

When I started reading I really disliked the main character, he seemed whiny and I felt like he could complain about anything and everything no matter when and when he was. But I think he grew on me by the end, he's clearly had some difficult times and is entitled to have a bad day (week, year, decade). When I was done reading the annoyance was mostly gone and I felt sorry for the guy. It reads like a beginning to a Fight Club-like story, where the protagonist struggles with life and then something extraordinary happens and he's never the same again.

I noticed few typos and minor syntax issues, but the thing that bothered me was the use of 'fucking' in the last part: 'The darkness lifted, like it always did when he woke up and the fucking light came in.'. It feels forced and unnatural, especially that you don't really use that word throughout the story apart from 'that piece of fucked up metal' (which I think is totally fine in the context). Just a suggestion.

I think the narrative builds fine, I wouldn't mind reading some more about the guy, his backstory might have been interesting.
All in all, good job.
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Old 10-22-2017, 08:20 AM
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His full name isn't necessary. First sentence. Either cut out both middle and last names or just the middle. It messed me up.

Another thing. We are chemically wired to think babies are cute. It releases dopamine into our body, making us feel good. This guy obviously is messed up, so maybe a rant about childhood innocence? his absolute hate for laughter and smiling seems uncalled for.

Other than that, this is very good. It really captures the mindset of a very angry person. I would know.
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Old 10-22-2017, 11:22 AM
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"...perhaps I'd use more of a run on sentence myself..." went the goblin seeing how he'd write it

Christopher Joesph Brent had always hated taking the subway, no not because of having to stand in line to buy the ticket, nor because of the wait between trains, nor even the fact that the train stopped three minutes at each and every station too, no what he really hated about taking the subway was just the people, yes people all around him he felt like so many mosquitoes in a jungle or corpses in a morgue, where contrary to what one might think then he couldn’t just block them out of his mind anymore than wearing his headphones could keep those mosquitoes from his blood or that reading something would halt the smell of those corpses, simply it didn't and there he was now.

"...well my logic is that the run on sentence builds up the lines..." smiled the goblin, where neither was with nor like either was with or, but that just how humans used that syntax there and was no detraction form the work that had pleased him enough to have him commenting, even if he knew that his own way of writing went headlong against those writing rules, smiling "...I guess once you know how to "write it right" is when it's time to "write it wrong", well that's my excuse at least, otherwise you'd guess my age correctly..."

Last edited by fleamailman; 10-22-2017 at 12:39 PM..
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Old 10-22-2017, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by pralina View Post
That seemed like a really bad day, poor guy, he cannot catch a break!

When I started reading I really disliked the main character, he seemed whiny and I felt like he could complain about anything and everything no matter when and when he was. But I think he grew on me by the end, he's clearly had some difficult times and is entitled to have a bad day (week, year, decade). When I was done reading the annoyance was mostly gone and I felt sorry for the guy. It reads like a beginning to a Fight Club-like story, where the protagonist struggles with life and then something extraordinary happens and he's never the same again.

I noticed few typos and minor syntax issues, but the thing that bothered me was the use of 'fucking' in the last part: 'The darkness lifted, like it always did when he woke up and the fucking light came in.'. It feels forced and unnatural, especially that you don't really use that word throughout the story apart from 'that piece of fucked up metal' (which I think is totally fine in the context). Just a suggestion.

I think the narrative builds fine, I wouldn't mind reading some more about the guy, his backstory might have been interesting.
All in all, good job.
That's exactly what I hoped for, that a character who seems to be just be complaining about everything would grow on the reader. Thanks for your comments and suggestion. I actually wrote a novel for this character with a backstory like the one hinted at here, it's good to know that it would be of interest to someone
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Old 10-22-2017, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by fleamailman View Post
"...perhaps I'd use more of a run on sentence myself..." went the goblin seeing how he'd write it

Christopher Joesph Brent had always hated taking the subway, no not because of having to stand in line to buy the ticket, nor because of the wait between trains, nor even the fact that the train stopped three minutes at each and every station too, no what he really hated about taking the subway was just the people, yes people all around him he felt like so many mosquitoes in a jungle or corpses in a morgue, where contrary to what one might think then he couldn’t just block them out of his mind anymore than wearing his headphones could keep those mosquitoes from his blood or that reading something would halt the smell of those corpses, simply it didn't and there he was now.

"...well my logic is that the run on sentence builds up the lines..." smiled the goblin, where neither was with nor like either was with or, but that just how humans used that syntax there and was no detraction form the work that had pleased him enough to have him commenting, even if he knew that his own way of writing went headlong against those writing rules, smiling "...I guess once you know how to "write it right" is when it's time to "write it wrong", well that's my excuse at least, otherwise you'd guess my age correctly..."
I just love your style, even if I have to reread your comments to make sure I get it, it's so freaking brilliant!
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Old 10-22-2017, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Lockette View Post
His full name isn't necessary. First sentence. Either cut out both middle and last names or just the middle. It messed me up.

Another thing. We are chemically wired to think babies are cute. It releases dopamine into our body, making us feel good. This guy obviously is messed up, so maybe a rant about childhood innocence? his absolute hate for laughter and smiling seems uncalled for.

Other than that, this is very good. It really captures the mindset of a very angry person. I would know.
Ah his hate for the baby comes from his personal loss, when it says " The only shadow in their lives had been the baby."
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Old 10-23-2017, 12:04 PM
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I loved this story, it raised so many questions. I like your use of his full name it really put an emphasis on Chris and made him the star of the story.
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