Consistent writing does take the fear out of the process, the crippling perfectionism that can kill a first draft, let alone the minowwing idea that promises to grow into tasty words and yummy stories. So before I kill that metaphor entirely…here’s a quick story, minnow sized actually, written in 20 minutes on one of the most inspirational writing sites out there – 750words.com. The site tracks you keeping up writing at least 750 words a day, and it’s a good way to break through any starting nerves, any hesitation can be fought through and replaced with sweetly random connections coming together. Or, you know, a rant about how mad, irrational and crappy you’re feeling at that particular moment. Lately I’ve been doing the fiction more than the internal angst, though that’s still there. Weirdly, it’s easier to fill the 750 words remit by writing a story, than by rolling around inside your brain. Most of the time, anyway.
So, below is a rough idea taken from a random verbal prompt of: Animal, Florida, Chinchilla. To the suggester, you know who you are, and thank you. It was also loosely inspired by this quote that a fantasy writing prompt tumblr account mentioned. But as it’s something of a spoiler, I’ll quote it at the very end. So, here’s the very brief reaction to the prompt:
Animal’s theory about the guy next door
Florida roiled in oily heat. Stars above shimmered in the haze. My pal, animal, fed his pet chinchilla a fat grape and cracked open his fifth beer with me and Margaret.
“Do either of you know,” he started, wiping sweat from his brow, He was so watery I was a little amazed his shoulder tattoo didn’t run. “How many of us are currently being eaten by the monsters we think are merely imaginary?”
“What sort of a question is that?” Margaret said, “Ain’t no such thing as monsters, is there?”
“I can tell you that they do exist,” Animal said, “And they are among us, and they pick off the weakest and leave us to ponder the mystery of it all. When in fact, we should be uprooting these fuckers and taking back our humanity!” he slammed the beer down, making the chinchilla squeak and his beer to froth over the bottle mouth like a booze porno.
“You’re full of it,” Margaret said, “Your pet rat talks more sense than you do.”
“You leave Jenkins out of this,” Animal said, “All right You don’t believe me? I’ll fuckin prove it. There’s one of them living right next door, after all.”
Even I laughed at this, “Bullshit.”
“No, man, its the fuckin’ truth. Now, I’m not saying,” he puffed up a little, defensively, wiped off the sweat from his brow with a beery paw, “No, listen, the guy next door is one of these predators. I swear it.”
“So he’s what, a vampire? A werewolf?”
“Naah, that’s too simple. Whatever he is, he’s something that inspired these things. those stories. Those legends, right? But he’s not one of the top level ones. I reckon, he’s ust another bum like us. But he’s good at it.”
“What makes you think this?” Margaret said, her arms moving from folded to nearly on hips, even though she was sitting down.
“I’ve seen them. People going in. No one coming out. Strange noises at dawn. At midnight.”
“What sort of noises?” I asked.
He leaned in, the sweat rolling off his nose. “Chewing, man. Mainly chewing. But sometimes, I can hear them screaming like they’re really fuckin’ muffled, like he’s got them locked up in there.”
I leaned back, away from the sweaty drip and the sweaty stench. My beer buzz was fading fast. “Then call the fuckin’ cops, Animal. Stop talking bullshit.”
He snorted, “Yeah, right, they’d love that. One call and the higher-ups know I’m onto their kind, and then they’re coming round and I end up another missing person. Think it over, man.”
“Well, I guess you could sneak in when the guy’s out.” Margaret said after a moment, “See if he’s got anyone locked in his closet.”
Animal looked thoughtful, sucking on his beer, he wiped another waterfall of sweat from his forehead, leaned his squidgy body back into the broken sofa. “Yeah, Margie, maybe I should.”
I laughed, and dismissed that idea as nuts, and forced the subject to the friend of a friend who was caught cheating on his wife, and we sort of dropped the subject of predators right there.
But the conversation came back to me two weeks later, when we had a call from the cops to identify a body found in the room beside Animal’s. The cops had come after a commotion the night before, and discovered a corpse so messed up, that we just about recognized his nose and the tattoo on his shoulder. There were animal pawprints on the ground. Wild dogs were blamed, though no one ever saw them.
Margaret and I adopted the chinchilla, and feed it grapes in honour of Animal. And we lock our doors just a little more carefully, and keep an eye out for predators, when we’re out there, in the dark.
“Last year in the U.S. alone more than nine hundred thousand people were reported missing and not found…That’s out of three hundred million, total population. That breaks down to about one person in three hundred and twenty-five vanishing. Every year….Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it’s almost the same loss ratio experienced by herd animals on the African savannah to large predators.”
― Jim Butcher, Dead Beat