Writing? Schizophrenia? There’s a Difference?

May 14, 2009

. . . with apologies to oddnari, who has already heard this

I met the neatest character the other night! I have no idea who he is, what story he’s meant to be attached with, or if I have anything else to build him into.

He literally showed up as he was dying. I noted that it was somewhat counterproductive to appear, and then die on a writer, to which he replied that dying was not precisely his plan, either. He had a point.

Don’t you love random characters who sass back at you? A few things I managed to find out–he is either a thief, or a spy (I suspect that he’s a thief who has glamorized himself with illusions of espionage), he’s contemporary (since when do I write _anything_ contemporary?), and he’s incredibly particular–arguing with me about diction and voice all through this little piece.

Still, I thought it was an interesting enough experience to post. Enjoy!



His fingers scrambled with the door latch.  He watched them, increasingly panicked as they tried to find purchase against the jamb.  They were numb, and slick with blood, and his mind was vaguely ashamed that his clever fingers were betraying him at the last.  Another wave of pain, and the clever fingers stopped their desperate scratching and trailed down the wall.  Obligingly, the wall drifted closer as they did.

No, wait. That made no sense.  He looked carefully at the wall.  Slowly, the fabric of his shirt came into view.  Then the slump of his shoulder.

Ahh, that was it.  It was him.  He was falling.  Slumping.  Sliding down the stationary wall.  Perspective.  Station A leaving the train, but it looked like Station B was drifting backwards.

That was wrong, too.

He closed his eyes and tried to take a breath.  It gurgled, like dirty water in a clogged drain.  He’d heard of death rattles before, in fantastic stories where the hero eventually conquered all and only the villain died.  Maybe that’s why they called it a rattle—a little piddling thing, a toy to amuse an infant–one more indignity to heap on the dead and dying.  Mockery in the final moments, after a lifetime of malingering and trifling crimes like the villains had in the movies.  Horse rustling and train robbing and such.


Yes, trains.  Train A, leaving the station, its advance casting Train B into an apparent retrograde motion.  Einstein.  Relativity.  E=mc2.

He wondered if everyone spent their last moments searching for Einstein, quibbling with themselves about inspecific word choice.  He probably shouldn’t read too much into it.  Thinking about physics didn’t trump the basic failure of dying itself—and that failure was likely to prey on his mind for the rest of his life.

He tried to smile at that.  Tried hard.  Fancied himself being the kind of man that could die with a smile, but he couldn’t make it work.  Couldn’t get the muscles to contract, couldn’t feel his lips.  Couldn’t even tell if his cheeks were still there.

It hurt.  God, it hurt.  Felt like every breath hit a concrete floor ‘bout halfway down.  Something else they didn’t tell you—that your diaphragm would go solid when you died, would manage to sit heavy on your stomach and choke you all at once.

‘Course, if he couldn’t feel his face, maybe he’d pulled it off.  Maybe they’d find him slumped up against this wall and sticky-cold with a smug little smirk, letting them know he’d pulled one more, had a last one over on ‘em before he was gone.  Yeah.  He’d believe it that way.  Believe he’d won.

He choked a little, felt his hands jerk.  Couldn’t see his fingers.  Didn’t much want to, his clever fingers.

Not clever enough.

Yeah. He’d just figure he went out smiling.


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