Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Fourth - On the Train

So we continue. This is yesterday's prompt, offsetting me by exactly one day.

In terms of process that's good for me because it gives me a day to ponder and reflect, then an hour the next morning i which to write.

So, without further ado:

"On the Train"

You knew it was a magic pen. Don't give us any of that nonsense pretending that you didn't. The old man selling it on the streetcorner was clearly too well dressed, too healthy to be a typical ne'er do well down on his luck, and... you've never quite admitted it, even to yourself, but you have something special about you. You could always see when someone has something special about them, when they're perhaps touched by something from outside the world. A flicker? A shimmer? Nothing like that. It's just that some people appear -- more solid. More real to you. So from him you bought the pen.

It's a heavy thing, but you've always had large hands. It's old, made of some kind of bone or horn material worn smooth from decades of handling. It's tipped, of course, with a gold nib, inkstained by still with a comfortable flex. Who had written with that instrument? WHat had they written? You always wonder when you acquire an old pen, this time you remember double.

You knew it was a magic pen. You still knew when you write the few lines about the old man on the sidewalk:

He takes a nibble from the sidewalk, the ragged-edged cardboard spread before him a marketstall with no doors, bric-a-brac carefully arrayed, aligned perfectly with the sacred flow of traffic. Dreadlocks spill around his face, a rough halo crowning skin faded to the color of urban dust.

Not much yet, but it's a start, will be part of something bigger. It always will be.

Were this a fairy tale, he'd be gone when you walk passed his spot the  the next day, his role in the story over. As it's not a fairy tale,  he's still there, but less. The solidity has faded. You tell yourself it wasn't there, that it was a mistake, but you know better. It was there, it now isn't.

No matter. You're a creature of habit, one of many who write and scribble on the anonymous commuter rail. There are the sleepers, the newspaper-readers, and - like you - the writers. Not many, but one woman catches your eye. A youngish Asian woman holding a ballpoint pen in bright-red nailed fingers, scribbling something in a notebook in her lap. It's not creepy to look and look twice if you're gather material, is it? This is, after all, what you do.

On silvergrey patched blue vinyl seat
she lights, glowing rectangle flat on
her lap, redpainted nails dance as fingers
clutching the stylus make tiny gyrations, as if
self-ministering and old-time cure for madness.
Write and erase, write
and erase, write
and erase
write and
a tiny tremor of joy ripples
through her whole body.
I look away from the upturned
corner of her lips, leaving her
in the afterglow.

You're rather fond of that one. The next day, in the same car,  is the same woman with the same red-painted nails. She doesn't look magical the way your second sight sometimes shows. She seems, if anything, faded. Less real. And so you write on someone else.

And so it goes, until you find yourself in a car full of what look to be ordinary commuters to anyone but you but are, in fact, desiccated husks, of increasingly blank slates where human bodies once were.

Seeing the world like this sickens you just a bit, but you know what to do.

You draw a fresh load of ink into your magical horn pen and sit down to write your memoir.

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