Thursday January 20th, 2011

The exercise:

Here you go: the gateway.

I'm feeling a bit worn out, so I'm just going to get to writing.


They had been standing in the afternoon sun for over an hour, each of the men studying the runes in the arch with a magnifying glass in one hand and a reference book in the other. Tilley hats protected them from the sun's rays but not the biting particles of sand the wind insisted on sending their way in a steady stream.

"They're so familiar," one muttered with a shake of his head, "yet so... foreign."

"Just when I think I've figured out a pattern," the other replied, "the next symbol throws my theory out like used toilet paper. It's bloody maddening."

They returned to their silent inspections, the rest of the dig team busying themselves with preparations for dinner a hundred feet behind them. Neither of the men felt even remotely hungry.

"This one here is repeated five times, at irregular intervals," one said a while later, a sun-darkened finger touching a symbol that was just above eye level. "Well, irregular to my eye anyway."

"And this one repeats four times," his partner said. "But look, here it continues under the arch and to the other side. I wonder if -"

The man twisted his head around to look at the opposite side of the arch, lost his balance, stumbled forward a few steps, and promptly vanished into thin air.

"Great," the man left behind said with a sigh. "Now I'll never know what he was thinking."


Greg said...

Hmm, have you been watching Stargate at all lately? ;-)
It's a very academic scene, reminds me a lot of university (barring the calmness when someone disappeared into thin air: obviously there was then a scrum for their office). The first paragraph is an excellent scene-setter and start.
[I haven't forgotten about How the Best was Won, but it'll be the weekend before I have enough time to write.]

The Gateway
"It's a gateway," said Professor Hunting. "Don't step in the duck."
Marjorie froze instantly, and looked around her. There, on the carpet, slightly to her left, was the slightly shredded carcass of a duck.
"It's undoubtedly leading somewhere," said Professor Hunting, tapping his teeth with a pen. "But why is it here?"
Here, in this case, was the front room of Yarrow Cottage. The cottage's owner, the spinster Miss Harp, was in the kitchen having hysterics into her second-best teapot.
"Is it stable?" asked Marjorie, edging the duck-corpse aside with a shoe more suited to the offices of Vogue than standing on a squelchy carpet.
"What do you mean?" Professor Hunting frowned.
"It's drawn in duck's blood on carpet. How well-drawn do these things have to be to be stable?"
"Much better than it probably is. RUN!"

Outside the cottage, a safe distance away, Marjorie and the Professor watched as the cottage folded itself up very small, leaving behind a cloud of brick dust and some broken china.
"The second-best teapot," said Marjorie flatly.

Zhongming said...

The gateway (Continuation from the snowy woods)

Memo of day fourteen, 08.09pm Tuesday, 3rd Feb 2000.

I walked with a lamp which I picked up from the entrance. The putrid smell makes it almost hard to breathe properly. I’m a little nervous and scared walking in such secret passageway with no map. It’s damn unfamiliar and I can’t concentrate because of the bad odor. As I walked a little further in, I heard a “hiss” sound from my back. I turned around, my eyes wide open and I start to run for my life! And I think its king copra slithering on the floor. I couldn’t hide my fear for snakes and so I make a turn and sprint as fast as I could. By the time I notice where I’m heading to, I found myself in the gateway of “Skull Head”! I was trapped with the snake right behind me! What should I do? Should I try to climb over the walls? Or should I fight the snake with my bare fist? There isn’t any time left for me to be decisive! I released my heavy backpack and used it as a stepping stone to increase my chances of jumping over the walls. My hands hooked to the top and I pulled as hard as I could!

Anonymous said...

I hear you on exhaustion - it is one of those days when you just have to show up at the page.

I love how gateway connotes something sci-fi. Both Marc and Greg, liked what you did. As Greg said, Marc's feels like a beginning. Greg - yours feels complete.

@Zhongming - enjoy your serial, it's a fun throwback to pulps.

Here's mine - a few comments on the writing process for me today. 100% practice here, boy did I struggle, didnt think I would have anything interesting to write and in the middle, had no idea where I was going. Just had to set the timer and be done. That being said, there is something in there that I have found, will take some massaging/editing to get it out. One other comment - I first thought you said getaway not gateway. Thought about a repressed couple on a tropical getaway during my morning shower.

Here is some practice -

I pressed my hand against the cold metal. A shiver ran through my body, feeling the death caused by this once brilliant entranceway. Too much fighting left the gate neglected. Few were left to make the pilgrimage, and fewer would be invited inside.

Legend had it that all still had a chance to enter, but most did not care. Perhaps I could break in. But, there are no door handles, and the sheer face of the gate would be impossible to scale. I stared up, some said it was eleven feet tall, but to me, there appeared to be no end to it.

What would I find on the other side? What did I expect to find? Peace? Happiness? Seventy virgins? The more I looked at the gate, the more it looked like an impenetrable rock face, losing any signs of luster. Why had I come to enter in the first place? Like always, the questions became overwhelming. The gate appeared to blend in with the background. I could no longer see it.

I pressed my hand against the wall again. So cold, but then, for an instant, I felt a slight bit of warmth. It wasn’t just any sensation. It enveloped my body, relaxing me, freeing me. Then, just as it came, it was gone. I looked at the blank wall, unable to see a way in. I turned around, deciding it would be too difficult to try.

Heather said...

This is what you get when I am trying to not ignore my guests while writing. In other words, don't expect too much.

On another note, Marc, it seems I might be driving the 'safety car' for the men's bike trip in July. The current plan is to drive through Canada until they get to Seattle. If we end up in the area, I'll look for you at the Farmer's Market.

I sat in the little bistro sipping my Peppermint Mocha Latte. Outside, the snow was falling thick and wet on the sidewalks, awnings, and street. Three little boys burst through one of the entry doors of the brown stone apartment building across the street. They began pushing snow into piles with what appeared to be shovels. Long wooden sticks, rounded at the top and sanded to a smooth finish, were pushed into bright red, orange, and green scoops.

I reached down and picked up the Palm Recorder I brought with me. Holding it firmly in my palm, I began transmitting my observations. The older boy was certainly in charge. I watched as he stood on top of a particularly high snow bank and pointed to the eventual locations of the snow piles. The youngest boy was diligent. No matter the directions, he worked until the task was completed and then asked for another. They were a good pairing. But it was the middle child that caught my attention.

He stood quietly off to the side observing the other two. After a few minutes, he would approach one boy or the other, his face close to theirs. I watched fog shaped words float between the two. Then the boy he was speaking to would walk away. I wondered what he would say to them. Nothing ever seemed to change. Almost nothing. Sometimes he would help shovel or stand on the snow bank, but otherwise he'd stand off to the side.

I continued to watch for another half an hour before the boys went back inside. Finishing my Latte, I put the palm recorder away and left a tip on the table. I walked through the Employee Only door and slid through the gateway.

Marc said...

Greg - no, but it might have been in my thoughts while I was writing...

Fun take on the prompt :)

Zhongming - the action and tension are really picking up! Great job :)

Dumbricht - really enjoyed your take, and was very happy to see you sharing some thoughts on the process. Definitely felt familiar, as many days I don't know where my writing is going until it arrives, it seems.

Heather - if you are anywhere remotely close, let me know! That would be very cool :D

Wonderfully intriguing and mysterious piece. That middle child has captured my imagination as well.