Tuesday, June 30, 2009

1,000 Words for Charity - Nicky

Title: The Captain
Three words provided: zombie, martini, dirigible
Word count: 1,000
Fun fact: I pictured this as an animated short and attempted to write it as one.

Scene: The control room of the dirigible Righteous Liberty. The air is filled with the low hum of electrical equipment, emanating from the various polished brass dashboards arrayed in the background, and black swivel chairs have been placed strategically around the room. White fluffy clouds are visible through a floor-to-ceiling window at the right side of the camera frame.

In the foreground a zombie, facing the camera, is sitting with his feet resting on the bottom of a large, wooden steering wheel with a captain’s hat perched jauntily on his head. Black, straggly hair is bursting from underneath the crimson cap with a large gold star emblazoned on its front. The zombie has a martini glass in one hand and a microphone in the other.

Into the microphone: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a message from your newly… appointed captain, Zoltin Papp.

Zoltin pauses to sip his martini. A wan smile flickers across his face but vanishes before he places the glass on a metal ledge to his right and continues.

I realize that my rise from janitor to captain is unprecedented but I can assure you all that I am, if anything, overqualified for my new position. This thing practically flies itself, really. But enough about that; I have a few things I would like to take care of before I allow you to return to your afternoon festivities.

To begin, I would like to address the unpleasant rumors I’ve heard recently that our previous captain, Sir Tobias Wagner, had a head full of rocks. I would like to assure you all that…

The camera zooms out to find a man wearing a black captain‘s uniform seated on the floor, slumped against Zoltin‘s chair. The top of his head has been ripped open, his chin is resting on his chest, and his tongue is lying heavily upon his bottom lip.

Zoltin leans over and dips two fingers into the dead captain’s skull. He brings the fingers, covered with a dark viscous fluid, to his pale lips and sucks noisily without bothering to move the microphone away from his face.

… this is entirely untrue.

I would also like to take this opportunity to dispel some of the unfortunate… misconceptions circulating the ship about folks such as myself. Firstly, we are not the slow, dragging our feet everywhere we go, arms outstretched all the time types we have been made out to be.

He pauses to prod the captain with a bare foot.

Just ask old Toby here how fast I can be.

Secondly, we are not mindless, ravenous creatures, always hunting for more food. One body can sustain us for three or four days - a week if it is particularly corpulent. I think now is as good a time as any to remind you good folks that the all-you-can-eat buffet is now open 24 hours on deck three.

Zoltin plucks the aviator sunglasses sitting crookedly on Captain Wagner’s nose and places them reverently on his own face. Moments later he takes them off and flicks them off screen with a look of complete disdain.

Finally, as for the idea that we are poor public speakers: well… given my tendency to ramble on, I think the less said concerning that the better, don’t you? “Brains… brains…”? I mean, really now – that’s insensitive and insulting.

Before continuing on, may I ask the control room crew to please return to their stations? There are an awful lot of poorly labelled buttons down here and my curiosity is starting to get the better of me.

Zoltin pulls a cigar from Wagner’s shirt pocket and bites the end off, his uneven, red stained teeth revealed to the camera ever so briefly. He spits the piece onto Wagner’s lap and produces a book of matches from his own shirt pocket. After successfully lighting the cigar he lets it hang out of the left corner of his mouth and returns to his address.

Actually, while I’m at it – a quick note to Tomas, the head bartender. My glass is getting dangerously low right now and I’m still quite parched. Would you get… Johnny to bring me another? He’s a smart young fellow, good head on his shoulders. Two olives this time. Thanks.

I’d like to remind everyone that it has now been five short days since we set sail from Boston and we are still on schedule to arrive in two weeks at our final destination: Paris, The City of Lights.

He places two fingers into Wagner’s skull and stirs them in a lazy circle while staring absent-mindedly out a window which is off screen to his left.

I want the good travelers aboard this airship to be on their best behavior during our visit to this magical city. Try not to embarrass your good country more than your military, government, and previous tourists already have, alright? If word gets back to me about any obnoxious behavior, the offenders will not be stepping back on board my ship – except, perhaps, to be used as sustenance for yours truly.

A door opens along the back wall and control room crew members, dressed in matching pale brown shorts and button-up short-sleeve shirts, begin to slip back into the room one by one. They press their backs against the window and inch their way to their work stations, a mix of revulsion and terror on their faces.

In closing, thank you all for your undivided attention and I look forward to a comfortable, safe voyage for almost all of you. This is your new captain, Zoltin Papp, signing off.

As the screen begins to fade to black, Zoltin looks to his right, a wide smile splits his face in half, and his eyes glow with a dark hunger.

Ah, Johnny, perfect timing! Have a seat, won’t you? I have no earthly idea how these wonderful concoctions are made and I’d love to… pick your brain… on the matter.

The screen goes black and the credits begin to roll.

Monday, June 22, 2009

1,000 Words for Charity - Greg

Title: The Gallery
"Three" words provided: Red5 First-Date EmmaB
Word count: 1,000 again
Might be useful: to read Tagged first. Just kidding, I know it's super long. But the below would make a heck of a lot more sense to you if you did.

“I like this one,” Emma says as she pauses to study a smoky skyline, all greys and blacks and reds. A quick glance at the label tells me that it’s another piece by Greg “Archimedes” Benito, an extremely talented street artist that tags his pieces with random math notations. After a few seconds I spot two pedestrians contorting to form an aleph symbol. “The city could be lit by fire or a sunrise or... whatever I want it to be.”

We’re in the Shady Waters Art Gallery and, since it’s two hours after closing, we have the place entirely to ourselves. I’d had to promise the owner, Kirsten Beamer, positive reviews of her next three exhibits in order to get the key for tonight. Journalistic integrity at its finest, I know.

I nod and smile, just like I did in response to her last three comments, and we continue our limping progress down the hall. God, why can’t I think of anything to say?

This was a huge mistake. I should have just left this as the perfect, unattainable dream of a relationship – the reality is proving to be a crushing disappointment. I can’t believe how awkward this feels. You would think that after all we’ve been through together a first date would be easy. Instead it’s more like Wilkerson, Grozny, and Joel are our tour guides and they keep pointing out our shortcomings.

We stop in unison to stare at a canvas covered in a kaleidoscope of colors that hint at a hidden image. It’s a little bit like staring at one of those cheap stereogram paintings you can get at the dollar store – if you look at it long enough you either see a picture or you get a migraine. I always seem to get the latter.

“Want to make a bet what it’s supposed to be?” I ask, aiming for playful and landing on stilted.

“Sorry, I already cheated,” she says with a smile I would label shy on another woman. On Emma I’d say it’s captivating. She points to the small white card next to the painting and reads, “Architeuthis in heat – version nineteen.”

“A horny giant squid looking for some action? I’d love to see the previous attempts at capturing such a... magnificent spectacle.” Emma gives a little laugh that lifts my spirits and we continue, walking a little closer now. I catch a whiff of her perfume and breathe it in deeply; it’s light and inviting, with a hint of... caramel? I like it.

We’re in the final hallway now and sweat is beginning to gather in uncomfortable places. In unpleasant contrast, my mouth is getting dryer and dryer. As we pass the second to last painting without stopping I open my mouth once, twice, three times but no words are able to escape safely.

“It’s strange being here, with all that madness behind us,” she says as she slows to gaze at the final painting in the hallway. My nerves ease as her focus remains on the swirling clouds of green and yellow hovering above a brick factory. She hasn’t noticed the flickering coming from around the corner yet and, ridiculously, I can’t stop myself from thinking there is still time to turn back. “It’s hard to know what’s real anymore. Was that the dream and this the reality? Or are we sleeping now, only to wake at any time to gun shots and terror gripping our insides?”

Once again I can think of no fitting response, but this time it feels more appropriate somehow. I want to reach out and take her in my arms, to give her comfort and security, but my arms remain dangling at my sides, useless.

“Jeremy, I know you didn’t ask for any part of it,” she says as we approach the end of the hallway, “but I just wanted to tell you that...”

Emma falls silent as we come around the corner and enter the final room on the tour. My chest constricts painfully as I try to discreetly monitor her reaction. I know it’s nonsense but I can’t help feeling this is the critical moment for us. I stand teetering at the precipice and wait for her to push me over or grab my hand and pull me to her safety.

There is only one painting in the candlelit room, covering most of the wall which faces us. On the left edge Q sits at a computer, the electronic green light revealing his grim smile. On the far right a handcuffed Wilkerson is getting shoved off canvas by yours truly – my face is mostly hidden by shadow but the red numeral five on my jacket sleeve erases any doubt about my identity. Slightly to the right of center Puppy is drawing something in chalk on the ground beside her fallen father, her face and expression obscured by her cascading hair.

And standing center stage, one foot placed triumphantly on Grozny’s chest, is the enigmatic Emma B. Her face radiates satisfaction and the entire scene is lit by the brilliant flames of her hair. I open my mouth to explain that I left Joel out of the painting because I didn’t want to ruin it, but the realization that putting that belief to words would have the same effect clamps my mouth shut.

The silence draws out, deepens, and changes colors but I’m unable to make sense of it. I swallow nervously and wonder if there’s something that should be said that I’m completely missing.

But then Emma’s hand finds mine, she rests her head on my shoulder, and all the pain, all the stress, all the tension of the past few weeks melts away in a soft warm glow. We stand like that, side by side, hand in hand, until the candles flicker once, twice, and then go out, returning us to the darkness we have become so accustomed to.

This time, though, the dark feels warm and safe and peaceful. It feels like home.

Monday, June 15, 2009

1,000 Words For Charity - Mom & Dad

Title: The Gift of Fire
Three words provided: love, understanding, thoughtfulness.
Word count: 1,000 on the dot.

On a chilly Saturday in the town of Corner Bay there was a great disturbance that to you I shall now convey. I do hope you’re sitting comfortably? Good, let us get the story underway.

“I don’t understand how this can be!” cried Thomas the fire breathing donkey.

The flames shooting from his mouth, you see, were something that had just developed recently. For all his life Thomas had been just a plain donkey, but since his third birthday admission to his house was only be fee (three dollars a visit, with roasted marshmallows thrown in for free!).

“My poor, poor Thomas, my dear,” said his mother Shelly St. Cyr. “We’ll go to the doctor and get you fixed up, don’t fear!”

On the way to the doctor several passersby were seared but they were kind enough to take it in good cheer. After all it was plain to see, it was really quite clear, that the poor donkey’s apologies were completely sincere. Thomas wanted nothing more than to just disappear.

“It’s okay my love, you don’t have to hide,” his mother told him with arms open wide. “You know that I’ll always be with you, right by your side – I won’t be content until these flames subside!”

“Thanks mom but I just feel so bad!” Thomas replied with eyes so sad. “I just melted the only Sunday dress Miss Ginger ever had!”

“It’s okay, I’ll just knit her another,” he was told by his doting mother. “And between you and me – I might also make one for her brother!”

At this Thomas let loose a fiery laugh - which almost caused the nearby Mrs. Moobell to have her calf! So Thomas and his momma hurried on before someone was burned in half.

They managed to arrive at the doctor’s office without further ado – aside from lighting a bonfire or two. The receptionist (Delilah the shrew) looked up from her copy of True Gossip View and asked, “What can I do for you?”

“Well, there’s a slight problem with my son,” Shelly replied as she wiped from her brow some perspiration. “His breath is so hot it has become a sensation – everywhere we go there’s a conflagration!”

“I can’t say I’ve seen that before!” Delilah said, no longer looking the least bit bored. “Grannies who fell, old men that snored, shore! But by this I’m totally floored! Come along, come along, the doctor will see you in moments and not two seconds more!”

In smoky silence they waited in the examination room, Thomas doing his best not to ignite the straw broom. He knew that in such a small space a fire would be their doom – the whole building would explode with a resounding ka-boom!

“How are you doing today?” inquired the good Doctor Savay as he came through the doorway. He wore big glasses, his long hair was in a state of disarray and, as he was a horse, it was most natural for him to be chewing on hay.

“Oh, put your snack away!” Thomas shouted in dismay. “Please, please, won’t you do as I say?”

The doctor complied with a gentle shrug before giving his mane a thoughtful tug. “So what is wrong, young fellow – have you caught a nasty flu bug? Or perhaps your hide was bruised by a big strong hug? A chipped hoof from a hole you dug?”

“No, no, it’s none of those things! No more can I talk, no more can I sing - each breath that I take comes with smoke rings!”

Doctor Savay was deeply confused and yes, to be honest, more than a little amused. His expression changed little when together by a flaming hiccup his two favourite pens were fused.

“Oh my goodness, a donkey that breathes fire! If I didn’t see it myself I’d call you a liar! But my dear Thomas, the situation is not so dire; lift your head up and hold it higher.”

“But I leave behind me a trail of destruction! No matter what I do I can’t seem to stop this combustion – can’t you help me end all this disruption?”

“My dear boy you have been given a gift! Can’t you see how you could give people’s spirits a lift? Your negative perception just needs a little bit of a shift!”

“Mom, let’s give this doc a pass – he doesn’t care that my breath can melt glass. You know me mom, I hate to be crass – but he thinks this a gift and I say it’s a pain in the -”

“Thomas, don’t be rude! Listen to what he has to say and lose the attitude.”

“It’s alright Shelly,” the doctor said with a laugh that shook his belly. “I can understand if Thomas thinks my brain is made of jelly. He’s not the only one – so does my wife Kelly!”

“Well doc, let’s hear it. Why should I celebrate this condition, rather than fear it?”

“You just have to think of how much better life can be! You’ll have fire with you at all times – no more dragging a barbeque so heavy. No more using matches – you’ll save millions of trees! Don’t think of how much more difficult it is for Me – think of the good you can do for We!”

“Wow doc, you’re right – this I can understand!” Thomas cried out while gratefully shaking his hand. “I’ve got so much to do, so much to plan! I’ll go get started right now by lighting a fire for Stan the homeless man!”

With that Thomas left the office at full speed – no longer giving his own worries the least bit heed. He raced all over town, helping those in need – of a light, of a fire, of any heat indeed. Getting rid of Old Man Timber’s weeds was only one of his many heroic deeds.

And to this very day you’ll find dear Thomas the fire breathing donkey helping everyone in sight – and of course he does it all for free.