My writing group does an activity from time to time where we look at a random list of words and then pick 2-5 words from the list to inspire a 1 hour writing prompt. The idea is to have a beginning, middle, and end to our story. The first time we did the activity I ended up with a short story called “Acidic Ink” which is currently out on submission for publication. The entry below did not shape up quite as well but it was sure fun to write. A huge thanks to Drew Gerken over at drewgerken.com who organized the events and provided the random lists of words. You can read his excellent entry here: www.drewgerken.com/fiction-friday-mistman-vagabond/.
The words I chose from the random list were journey, pancake, wine, and subway.
With those words in mind I am happy to share with you The Sunset Journey of Bartleby Brandt.
There was a shrill whistle – I was awake and I couldn’t breathe. Pinholes of light stabbed at my eyes through a burlap world. I shook my head trying to remove the sack but it was tightly cinched below my chin. I shook my whole body trying to get free and then I heard the laughter. It stopped me cold.
Panicking, I shook my head again but it was useless. Impulsive reactions strained at my wrists as I tried to reach up and pull away the barrier but this was just as futile as trying to shake it off. My arms hurt but didn’t move. After another fit for freedom, I gave up.
The laughter subsided and then I heard a buttery man’s voice say “you don’t need to struggle Mr. Brandt. If you say pretty please I will have the sack removed from your head.”
I gritted my teeth and, in the yellow darkness, I closed my eyes against the pain. The back of my head felt sticky. I took a deep breath. I was scared. I couldn’t be stoic, I was scared out of my mind. I took another deep breath and then strained with all my strength against the cords which held me captive in the chair.
“Ah ah ah,” I heard the voice say. “You need to say pretty please.”
I stopped and tried to focus on cues beyond my vision. I felt us moving. My chair was unstable on the floor even though all 4 legs made solid contact. The clickety clack of a train rumbled through my ears. We must be in a railroad car, and we were moving. I rolled my head around in a sudden, frantic motion trying to see anything recognizable in the blur. “Take this off my head,” I said trying to sound brave.
“You didn’t say pretty please” said the oily voice.
I cursed and spat out “Pretty please”.
“See, that wasn’t so hard” he crooned.
I felt a hand around my neck and then there was a brief tightening of the cord tying the bag around my neck. I coughed as it cut off circulation before it finally relaxed and a man pulled the sack off of my head.
The sudden light and the burlap tugging at the wound on the back of my head caused me to wince. I blinked and ground my teeth together even tighter.
Fortunately, my eyes quickly adjusted to the dusty light of the railroad car. The entire situation was decked out in satin, white and purple, pinned to the walls in a stylish studded fashion.
The world blurred by us outside the windows of the rapidly moving train car. In front of me was a table and across the table was a man, corpulent in a gold inlaid vest. A golden chain hung across his chest in parallel to his sardonic smile.
“Swain! How dare you,” I said. “Assaulting and kidnapping a marshal are both federal offenses. You’re going to hang for this one.”
“Oh dear, I hope not,” he drawled, turning his attention to the plate in front of him. “You and I both know these are the least of my crimes.” The plate was concentrically covered by golden hot cakes, half of the dish having already disappeared down his capacious gullet.
I glared at him while he used silver utensils to cut another large mouthful of the fluffy meal and unhinge his jaw to receive it.
Around the half masticated food he said “you’ve been getting a little too close to my operation”.
The sight disgusted me. “I wasn’t alone. It’s only a matter of time before you are found and I am freed.” I tried to sound threatening but his expression didn’t change.
“I know” he said as he chewed. “Your partner had the bad fortune of waking up before you did Mr. Brandt. I believe we left her body somewhere between Mackinac Station and Housetown Village.”
“You’re bluffing” I said fighting back the moisture stinging my eyes.
“Am I?” He said as he reached for a crystal chalice of deep purple liquid.
My fury had begun to supersede my fear. “You’re lying!”
“Don’t worry Mr. Brandt. She didn’t talk.” He lifted a white handkerchief to his mouth and dabbed at the waxy corners. “I think my boys are glad she didn’t. It was more…fun.” He looked at me with an incredibly serious expression but I noticed his ‘boys’ shifting weight and turning dirty smirks to the ground.
I shook violently in my chair and kicked out at the table, causing his wine to spill on the white linen tablecloth. He blinked and then looked down at his meal again, a twitch playing at the corner of his eye. In a blur of motion he flipped the knife in his hand and drove it through the tablecloth and into the wood of the table. “HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW” he screamed.