Through the darkness of this endless abyss
Raucous silence is my only companion as I walk
Beyond cold sinuous shadows and frigid hearts
Hundreds of greedy eyes stare without looking
Thousands of tired mouths talk without saying
Millions of intimate hearts love without emotion
Long I weathered the wintery emotion,
Turning inward toward my own abyss.
The stars twinkle down while saying
That perhaps I should endure a longer walk
And take the time to ponder the moment, looking
Deep to find the desires of my heart of hearts.
But should we be listening to our hearts
While external voices play with our emotion?
Do I dare to leap without looking?
Take others words forward and jump into that abyss?
I can’t, because I know it’s into fire I walk
Dreaming of the falsehoods I know they are saying.
But what’s exactly in the words they are saying?
Is it for me to believe they have just hearts?
Why is it that these ones shouldn’t walk
To the edge, brimming with the same emotion
So that they may plunge into that black abyss
While I stand there unmoved and looking?
But why would it be me caring or looking?
Should I be taking a stand saying
That they nor anyone else should sail into the abyss
That everyone should look deep into their hearts
For the love that they need to bear their emotion
And if must needs, we can even take their arm and walk.
No, it isn’t for me to take that walk
Because it isn’t me staring without looking,
Nor am I the one spending love with emotion,
Nor do I talk to without saying,
Nor do I add one more to their black hearts,
Nor do I wish for them to seize that abyss.
I live to love me irrespective of them looking and saying
That there are true emotions in their heart of hearts.
The only problem is I can’t walk away from this abyss.
Another day, another cliché, Glenn thought as he stepped out of his cubicle to get more coffee.
He wasn’t just tired, he was also sick. Sick in the way that people who are tired of their lives feel when sick of everything. His thoughts were a convoluted mess of stress and frustration over social dysfunction. He was nothing, he felt like nothing, and yet, he tried. Oh, he tried.
What’s a man to do, he wondered.
“Hey, Julie,” he said as he passed her desk. She ignored him. They always do. Was he not handsome enough? Was he not smart or wealthy enough? He didn’t know, and they never told him. So, it was; so, it shall be.
As he walked past the window, he looked out at the world. Being on the first floor, he could see everyone heading everywhere but going nowhere. These familiar faces of working class people trod by to find meaning in their meaningless lives. This one wants a new car, so he steals from the poor. This one wants to get ahead in the word, so she puts the ‘V’ in V-neck.
That’s when he saw the blur, and he felt the thump when it hit the ground. The plate glass shook as chunks painted the window. Some people ran up while the blood seeped from the man’s shattered skull. A few screamed and ran away from the image of his jagged bones slicing through his skin revealing large gaping wounds.
Glenn started laughing because he realized the man was Bryan from the copy room. He’d only met the man a couple of times when the main printers went down, but he always seemed like a happy person. Glenn could only guess as much, though, because even Bryan thought he was too good for him. However, that’s not what made Glenn want to laugh. It was because even with his face lumpy like a beaten pillow and the patches purple, yellow, and red, Bryan still had that same stupid smirk. What made it even sillier was one eye looked to the sky while the other bloodied one looked off down the street. Veritable googly eyes.
He heard Julie scream as she ran toward the doors, presumably to weep over her fallen fuck. Glenn merely shrugged his shoulders, and looked up at the nearby building, which was almost identical in height.
“Phew, that’s a long fall, eh, guys?”
No one answered him, but they joined him at the window. He looked around, and none of them seemed interested in the splattered body on the concrete. Instead, they looked up at the sky as black clouds thicker and darker than soot appeared. Once the sun was gone, the world went dark. Flashes of golden lightning brightened the night, and a howling wind started to blow.
Glenn backed away from the window knowing that something was wrong. He bumped into frank, who said, “My God, what’s going on?”
A woman’s scream pierced the stillness of that office, but it was no ordinary scream. It sounded as though spliced with another ear-shattering scream. Glenn looked at the north side of the building and saw Julie retching near the doorway. The overhead fluorescents were still nice and strong, and he watched her spew blood onto the floor. A man from a nearby cubical ran to her aid, but she pushed him away with unreal strength.
As the Good Samaritan crashed into a shelf full of binders, a long, tapered spider-like leg shot out of Julie’s shoulder. A spray of blood spackled the nearby wall while another shot from her other shoulder. Her arms dangled and bounced freely as if waving the crowd of terrified onlookers. An unreal scream echoed through the office again, and four more six-foot legs shot from her body. Her skin bulged and spread until it ripped in several places revealing her muscles. Her head snapped as it turned around to face the crowd of screaming people. Black ooze dripped from her frothing mouth while her once cherry-blonde hair was now a springy tar dripping from her skull.
The giant creature started to move through the office. It stabbed Alex through his chest with one leg, and with another impaled Lauren through her mouth and out the back of her neck. It dragged their twitching bodies through the office as it continued to attack people.
Glenn hid behind a cubical and looked through the window. Different shapes of mutilated monsters moved through the streets ripping people apart as they went, hunting people down one-by-one. He fished his phone from his pocket and struggled to unlock it. When it finally allowed him to dial out, Julie screamed from above him. He looked up at the unhinged jaw of the woman he secretly adored but could never have, and she lunged at his face with those razor sharp teeth. The last thing he saw was black.
Every year, hundreds of people come together to battle each other in a challenge of skill for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge (among other contests they host). The challenge isn’t easy (for some) because it forces fresh writers or writers who aren’t yet comfortable with the craft to write outside what they normally write.
If you’re not familiar with it, you can check visit the official website, but I’ll give you a quick rundown for those that aren’t. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee (around $45) and joined the contest, you wait until the challenge begins (usually January). When the first round (of three) begins, NYC breaks the writers up into several groups of about 30 per group, and give each group a set of rules they must play by. Here’s an example from 2015:
Genre: Action / Adventure
Subject: An Invention
Character: A Flight Attendant
What this means is that each writer in group #19 (I was included in this group) must write a short story that adheres to these rules. The story must be action/adventure, the subject of the story must include an invention of some kind, and one of the characters in the story must be a flight attendant (or once was a flight attendant). It must be 2500 words or less, and stick to the formatting (or risk 10% penalty to your score, the other 90% is on style, how close you stuck to your subject, genre, etc).
The biggest complaint from writers I hear is that people are writing outside their “comfort zone” apparently. I don’t often agree with this terminology since what they really mean is they never wrote that subject before and don’t know how to do it (for some reason). In my opinion, all writers should be able to write all subjects. You don’t hear a long jumper complaining when he has to do triple jumps? Do you? Well, I don’t really know if you would… I didn’t when I was in Track & Field because jumping is jumping—you can do it, you just need to master the different style. Similarly, writers can write anything, they just need to master it. Remember, just because one hasn’t mastered a subject doesn’t mean they can’t write something that passes for that subject.
If any of you are familiar with my books or stories, you know that I typically write horror or suspense. So, I could have said that getting Action/Adventure as my genre was “out of my comfort zone” as people like to say, but really, writing is well within my comfort zone and I set out to tackle it with that exact attitude.
My advice to anyone that joins this challenge is to think of all of it within your means as a writer, and tackle it as the long jumper will tackle triple jumping. It’s all the same thing. Go that way, and you can’t go wrong.
The next two rules aren’t a problem once you get passed that ugly three-headed genre. Now, all you have to do is think up a subject that involves an invention with a character who is a flight attendant. Even if you’ve only just started writing, you should still be able to come up with something. It’s all about imagination and making it work for you. If you don’t have an imagination, then you have no business writing creatively. That said, I’ll bet all of you reading this have an imagination, and therefore, you have the means to spend 2.5 minutes dreaming up a solid idea involving an invention and a flight attendant.
These are my ideas for my group:
Action/Adventure: Set in a pyramid, Indiana Jones style (What can I say? I’m nostalgic like that heh-heh-heh)
An Invention: The story centers around a stolen artifact that the ancient Egyptians invented called the Sun of Ra, which was a power source similar to a battery (which has a real world counterpart without the fancy name)
A Flight Attendant: My main character was a flight attendant, one that wanted to see the world, but like her father, couldn’t stay away from a more adventurous lifestyle.
That’s it! The rest is just filling the blanks up to a maximum of 2500 words, which is probably the hardest part for some writers. Sometime later, I’ll go over ways you can trim your story so you can come in under 2500 words and fit more of the necessary stuff into it to ensure you have everything fleshed out properly (like plot stuff).
Feel free to head on over to my Facebook page or Twitter to yell at my face if you have other ways of doing it! Good luck!
Sometimes I sit at the beach listening to the ocean’s whisper
And watch the tangerine coast burn away into sooty blackness
Peppered with winking stars. Ghosts of my past infect my thoughts,
And they brew a storm of memories forcing me to reflect on moments
In this abandoned and long since forgotten life that’s no longer
Graced with green meadows. It’s there, where color seems to drain
And leaves the world black and white with pale shades of
Beige, that I wonder why the great author of the book of life
Chose me to follow this path of paper-thin truths wrapped in
A tuxedo of lies. Oh, I know it’s the staple of humanity to feel
As if the crushing melancholy is all there is despite the orange
Blaze burning rich in our hearts, but how can we ignore these feelings
That are as cold and thick as yogurt? I spent so much time researching,
Spending hours and days and weeks tapping away on my computer,
But all I found was the same thing Ronnie once told me: you cannot hide
From the life you created. If that’s true, then I can never unbury myself
And escape this unreasonable ponderance. I close my eyes and try to find
Happiness, but the memories continue to grind and crunch my icy soul.
Tears leap from my eyes because even they know the darkness that lies
Within me. Before too long, the sun peeks over the horizon, and I look
At the beach where the water ebbs leaving the creamy sand to
Glisten in that early morning light. Another day gone, another night of
Torment, and another day comes. When will it all end?