Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Third Prompt

It has been suggested to me that, as an exercise to warm up the creative juices, each day before I sit down to work in my current work in progress I should spend fifteen minutes writing in a "stream of consciousness" manner on a given prompt.

What this means is ... find a writing prompt, set a timer, write whatever comes to mind based on that writing prompt within the time allotted. Don't worry about editing and you go. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Just write it and allow your creativity to flow.

(I should mention, this type of "by the seat of my pants" writing is the complete opposite from how I normally work. I am a very strict and rigid outliner.)

So ... this is my plan for the winter of 2016-2017. Each day before I go to work on my work in progress, I will select a prompt at random and write whatever comes to mind. I won't edit, I won't worry about typos, grammar or punctuation. I'll just write.

Then I'll post what I write here.

It promises to be an interesting exercise. So without further ado, here is today's prompt:

A man has a terrifying dream in which he is being sawn in half. He wakes to find himself in the Indian Ocean, naked and clinging to a door; a hotel keycard is clenched in his teeth. Write what happens next.

You never think about the thirst when you hear stories of people stranded at sea. Your brain seems to slide over the fact you can't drink the water in the ocean. Something to do with osmosis in the stomach lining and intestines. Who would've thought drinking water would lead to dehydration. So here I sit, blistering in the noonday sun, rows of grand canyons stripe my lips, my eyes gummed closed. My dick shriveled and blistered like some aging, diseased porn star.

The two hours since I woke were spent hiding, floating in the water under the door ... my only salvation ... hiding from the sun. Staying in the shade. That was when the first fin appeared. You worry about never being able to get back up on such a small surface again. You worry your weight will just capsize the door and you'll be stuck in the water. Do it under the threat of a pain-searing death and see what you're capable of.

Looking back, maybe a shark attack would have been better. Faster, anyway, than exposure. They bump the bottom of the door sometimes. Try to kick me loose, bounce me into the water so they can have their snack. Bet they can smell me. The rot already forming before I'm dead.

I think, what if I can sharpen the edge of this keycard, turn it into a knife. Maybe hack away pieces of the closest shark, but the keycard bends. It's not strong enough.

There's no land in sight. No ships or boats. Nothing but me on this fucking door and the sharks. Sometimes I hallucinate. Hear voices coming from the water, from under the door where the sharks are. Like they're calling to me, maybe asking each other where I've gone. Making a plan for how to "get me."

Before this. Before the ocean and the door and the sharks. Before the stench of death settled upon me I'd checked into a room. That much I remember. Not a lot else, but the room ... the cheap wall painting screwed into the drywall, the green carpet. Not green like a pine needle, more like the green of an avocado cut thirty minutes ago, going brown. The matching toilet and sink. The lemon meringue wall tiles in the bathroom. Psychedelic colors.

There's that voice again. "Where'd he go?" And the other voice, "Check the door." And a bump and my body bounces an inch and hits again. Hallucinations must mean I'm getting close. Close to death. Close to giving the sharks a tasty meal.

Who knows how long I've been out here like this.

Then there's a beep. Electronic. High pitched. Like a tuning pipe, but short. Beep. Just once. Looking around there's no one there. No boats.

--- TIMES UP --- (but I'm going to finish my thought)

You'd've heard the diesel roar of their engines before you heard any kind of electronic beep. Then it happens again. Beep. And this time there's a click. Vibration shinnies its way up my arm, through my elbow, into my shoulder, straight to the base of my neck.

Looking down, the maglock on the door, the spot where the keycard goes, it's lit up. Red. Like when you put in the wrong card, or pull your card out, too fast.

Another bump from below, and this time I slide down, my legs splash in the water.

What's it matter? If I fall in, let the sharks have me? Who's going to care?


I've lived a life of structure. A life of should-be's and propriety. Why not give in to the hallucination? Why not? If I'm on my way out. Why not go out with style? Maybe it'll freak out the sharks. Give them a story to tell their shark friends at least. "Dude came right through the door like he was room service," they'll say. It'll be my little part to the shark community.

I twist the handle. Locked.

Nothing is ever easy.

The keycard slides into the hole. The red light flashes green. The handle twists again and I'm falling. Waiting for the splash and the first bite of jagged teeth. Instead arms are grabbing me, dragging me over avocado carpet, throwing me onto a bed as hard as the door had been.

Voices are talking, asking me where I've been, asking about Bridget, asking where she hid the flash drive.

Like the muse beating me on the head, I think, Sharks don't have to live in the ocean. Then I'm asking for a glass of water.

-- Since it seems like I'm the one counting ... here's 462 words before the time went off. I still find myself going back to correct typos where my fingers get out of control, going back to change a thought every once in a while, to change the way a sentence looks. I'll try not to do that going forward, but it's tough. Thanks for reading. --