Monday January 30th, 2017

The exercise:

I think it's about time we return to the Continuation Prompt. So pick up the story from where the previous writer left it and carry it forward (or sideways or backward, I suppose) for a while.

Kat had an online class this afternoon, so I took both of the boys to soccer class. Miles and I sat in the stands while Max did his thing on the gym floor with the rest of the kids. He did really great on his own, while Miles cheered him on. When he wasn't playing with one of the other soccer player's younger sibling.

Fingers crossed swimming lessons go equally well tomorrow.


Timothy looked up from the textbook he was studying behind the counter of the coffee shop and was surprised to see that the sun was preparing to rise above the horizon. He slipped a napkin between the pages to mark his place before shutting it, then grabbed the shop keys from beside the till. He was glad that there were no layabouts to kick out this time as he locked the front door.

He lingered at the door, watching the neighbouring shops shut up for the day and the stragglers in the streets heading for home. Everyone looked so exhausted. Not for the first time, and likely not the last, Timothy wondered if it was all worth it.

Leaving his textbook untouched, he moved to the rear of the shop and began cleaning up the kitchen. After putting the dried plates in their designated cupboards he decided to double check that the back door was locked. It was something he had become in the habit of doing after the unsettling incident with the outsider the previous week. Sure, the door had been safely locked, and the man had arrived much later in the day, but Timothy was not interested in taking any chances. Not any more.

Finding comfort in the bolted door, he returned to his closing duties. But it wasn't long before he was interrupted by a knock on the back door. It was heavy and insistent and it filled him with fear.

"Who is it?" he finally managed.

"Open the damned door, Timothy!" Celeste, the owner of the shop, shouted. "I need coffee."

"What happened to your key?" Timothy asked, pausing with his fingers inches from the lock. Something told him to make sure before allowing anyone entry to his sanctuary. He knew it was likely just fear speaking, but he listened anyway.

"Dropped it, got pickpocketed, left it at home... who knows?" Celeste said, obviously growing annoyed at the delay. "Who can say anything for sure anymore? This is Gardenvale, after all."


morganna said...

Timothy frowned. It sure sounded like Celeste, and it wasn't unusual for her to forget something important, but something seemed off.

"Come around to the front, Celeste. I just mopped the floor in here." It was a little lie, the floor was almost dry, but he didn't want to open that door. The bars were down over the front window now, but he could look out through them or the window in the door to make sure it was really only Celeste before he opened the door.

"Ugh. Okay. I'll come around front, but you better let me in then." He could hear her exasperated sigh through the thick door.

He hurried through the back room and through the coffee shop at the front. At the front door, he stood on tiptoe to see through the high window. There was Celeste, as promised, looking fine, but she wasn't alone.

Greg said...

@Morganna: Great work; I like particularly how you've kept Celeste's voice perfectly and the way Timothy finds to get Celeste to where he can see her. A nice increase in tension there at the end as well, and you leave me with plenty of ideas of how to go on!

@Marc: Sounds like football is definitely good these days, so good luck with the swimming!
Thank-you for the return to Gardenvale! I had a feeling we might be back there about half-way through -- you dropped enough clues for me to figure them out, which was rather gratifying. There are a lot of nice details in here: the napkin as bookmark (done that!), the sense of exhaustion in the town, and the omnipresent feeling of dread that permeates everything Timothy does. It's quite immersive. I also quite liked the detail that there are layabouts in Gardenvale, but much, much earlier in the day than we might expect. Something odd is going on here....

"Who's that with you, Celeste?" he shouted. The woman next to Celeste looked identical to her and he was sure that Celeste had never mentioned having a twin sister. He dropped down from his toes, his feet aching slightly, and then bobbed back up, trying to see more clearly. The woman next to Celeste looked annoyed, and Celeste looked furious. He couldn't see her hands but he knew that they'd be bunching into fists.
"Timothy! Open the door now. I own this shop and I want to drink my coffee! Introductions can wait till later."
Timothy's hands went reluctantly to his keys, his fingers fumbling them as though they rejected the idea of opening the door as well. As he finally got the right one Celeste spoke again, her voice quieter but more urgent.
"Tim, hurry up please. There's a stranger at the top of the street."
His hand started pounding in his chest and sweat sprang out on his forehead as the memory of yesterday returned with full force. Even though the key was now slippery in his sweat-slicked hands he fumbled it into the lock, undid the top and bottom bolts and released the three chains. He heaved on the door and it swung ponderously inwards, and after a moment Celeste and her double came through. All three of them set to closing and locking the door again, and only when it was all done did the sense of terror subside.
"Second stranger in two days," said Celeste. She sounded tense. "Where are they all coming from? Timothy, this is Daphne, Daphne this is Timothy. Did you clean up the coffee machine already?"
Timothy nodded. "I haven't put the cleaning fluid in yet," he said. "I had the floor in here to do still."
Celeste and Daphne looked at the floor at the same time, and they both made a little moue of disappointment.
"Slow," said Celeste. "Still, I suppose I get the coffee faster. Come on."
She and Daphne went first, and Timothy hesitated a moment, then turned his textbook over so that the title on the cover rested against the table surface. He instinctively felt that Dopplegangers: psychology and biology might not be the right thing to be found to be reading at the moment.

Marc said...

Morganna - that's a great little continuation, with a perfect cliffhanger for Greg to continue. Great work!

Greg - I thought you might not only like a return to Gardenvale, but also a chance to play there :)

Thanks for the kind words on mine, yet again.

I like what you've done with the place, and am especially pleased that you returned to the textbook there at the end. I'd intended for Timothy to be reading something... subversive, I suppose is one way of putting it... but I certainly didn't expect it to be what you made of it!

Some interesting developments all around, and I feel like we might be coming back this way sooner or later to see what's going on.