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Writer's Corner Feb 2012 - Isolated

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Short month, short storys, why not?


1. In theory: entries should be one thousand words or less. In practice: whatever you like

2. The deadline for posting your stories and poems is the end of Feb.

3. The deadline for your votes is midnight on the fifth of March.

4. Criticisms are welcome, but please keep it in the nature of the corner.

5. Have a go; and have fun!

One word, on its own:


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Quick and dirty for this short month....


It’s getting colder now. I guess the suit’s battery is cutting some of the more vital processes before giving up the ghost entirely. Oxygen recycling would be the last, I guess, just after water gathering. Checking through the menu of the suit’s error reporting, I can see that the various problems have been grouped into easy sections. Entertainment? Ha! Oh shame I cannot slowly starve and freeze to death whilst listening to Radio fucking GaGa.

I tried turning myself towards the planet but the small thrusters have gone and no matter how much I wriggle, I don’t seem to be able to flip myself over. Will I still be alive when I re-enter? God I hope not, don’t fancy falling to my death, even in Mars’ low gravity.

How could they do this to me?

The stars are wheeling slowly about, spiral-like, hypnotic. I shake my head as I glance back at the suit’s menu system. Beacon? Unknown. What does that mean? Unknown? Does it mean it is there, working but the suit doesn’t know if it is? Or did the fuckers rip out the beacon before opening the airlock?

I suppose there’s always a chance that I won’t re-enter. Maybe they dropped me in orbit and I’ll be swinging around Mars for millennia. Or until one of the mining-ships blasts me apart, thinking I’m an asteroid or some shit. For fuck’s sake! The bastards!

Will I be able to see earth? Maybe if I think about Sally long enough she’ll alert the authorities, then they could send a vessel up from Annex A, try looking for me.... the proverbial needle in a haystack... more like the pebble in the ocean... or the man in a suit orbiting a mostly unpopulated planet...

Okay, so there’s a tinkling noise now. Sounds almost like my message alert notification, but it’s garbled or a lower key or something. Can I record? Could I record a message? Beam it out...

"Sally, hi it’s me, if you’re seeing this message then, you know... I’m probably totally dead."

How long have I got to record? There goes that tinkling noise again, uh-

"It was pirates I’m afraid, they’ve struck again! I know I said it was a one in three-thousand odd chance but hey-hoo someone’s gotta win the lottery and it’s a lot lower stats than that... Sophisticated bastards though... got the sneak on little ole me, I didn’t even have chance to set off the alarm before they’d choked me off."

How had they done that? Must have hacked my computer earlier than I realised, had they been following me?

"I think maybe they’d seen me at the port, they must land at Annex A, that’s where most of the truckers land, they must have followed me! If the police ask, I was carrying...."

Why am I talking about this shit....if she sees thi, she doesn;t want a fuckign itenary.

"Forget that, they’ll know at Mars what I had. I love you Sally. Never told you did I? Only because I didn’t want you to miss me, when I went away. The three year round trip is probably too much for most but.... this last one would have had us minted for decades. Dammit! The complete bastards!"

I can feel the tears pricking my face. Hold it together man!

"So, uh, yup I love you but I’m gone now. Find yourself someone new, I hope you have, if you ever get this message. I’ll beam it at earth, something, SETI maybe, will pick it up. They always track recurring radio signals. I’m Jack Alison, the captain of Mercilous Descent, reg number A-S-Twelve D-A-P. Signing off."

So that’s that. How long will this suit keep me warm I wonder? Need to override the suit battery parameters, make sure my message is sent. I’ll put it on repeat.... Aw for fuck’s sake, the damn transmitter is Unknown...

Why would they do that? Why would they rip out my transmitter? The total bastards!

So that’s it then. I’m here, nobody is going to find me, nobody will even look for me until the next check-in, which’d be tomorrow. And even then they might be able to spoof me. In which case the first anyone would know is when the Merc gets back without me. Or it deviates to fucking Australia or somewhere, somewhere they can get the goods unloaded for sell, without too many questions being asked.

I’ll check the vitals again, sustain twelve days, coma ten more. Death will be in twenty-two days. And counting. I could scream I suppose, scream and rant and bash my knees and elbows against the stiffened core of my suit, wriggle my wrists till I make them bleed?

Wish I could listen to GaGa. Fucking pirates.

The biggest problem, is still being alive.

Water’s almost gone now, I can feel the weight of it when I suck at the nipple.

"Hard to breathe, still got power, a little bit, probably run out while I record...."

Ah shit! Bastard! That’s that then. I am totally and utterly alone. Until I die.

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Have not written anything for Writer's Corner for ages. Thank you Danster for sending me a message about the ebook.

It is not about isolation but the fight against isolation...

No more lonely murmur in the dark.

Listen! The echoling voices of crickets and larks.

Willows resist the tempest's sneers,

And dance into the gusty winds.

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Bill sat in his car, parked by the edge of the woods, out on the western outskirts of the city. The afternoon light was still strong, but it was nearly four and sunset wasn’t far away. Bill stared out into the trees, into the darkness that lay beyond the limbs and branches. When he was a child he used to have nightmares about that place- he find himself there in dreams, his legs like iron, unable to run, aware of the eyes in the forest watching him, waiting for their moment. Sometimes the dream would extend and he’d become aware of strange shapes, hands reaching out to him, the tearing of his clothes, things bearing down upon him.

He used to sleep with the light on- did all the way up until he late twenties when he met Lisa and she teased him about it so much he finally forced himself to sleep in the dark. He’d tried to tell about those dreams once, when they driving past the forest, on their way to visit her grandmother in hospital. She didn’t seem to understand why the woods would worry anyone so much, seem irritated at him even bringing up. He told her to look again, to notice how dark it seemed to be beyond that first line of trees. She said he noticed too much, and then she turned the radio on, signaling the end of the conversation.

A sharp rapping on the passenger window drew his attention back to the road. Collins stood there, pale skin, worn tracksuit top, staring into the car. Bill leant over, unwound the window. Collins grunted a greeting. He held up a yellow plastic bag, gave Bill a questioning look. Bill reached for the wad of money in his pocket, handed it over to Collins. Collins sniffed as he counted it, shrugged, then gingerly leant in, placed the yellow plastic bag on the passenger seat.

“Right then,” he said, turning, walking off. He picked up his bicycle from the side of the road and away, never looking back. Bill sat there for a moment, turning his eyes towards the woods again. It took a few minutes for his hands to stop shaking.

* * * * *

He didn't go straight home. He drove to the industrial park, just before the turn onto the motorway. He parked outside the McDonalds, went inside, ordered a coffee from the vacant server behind the counter. He made his way to a table by the window, sat there, hands pressed around the plastic cup, the heat burning it’s way through. He took the lid off it, glanced down at the liquid, the steam rising off it. It was too hot to drink.

Bill looked over to this left, where a middle aged woman in stretched leggings sat, poking morosely through a mix of french fries and ketchup. She rooting through them, like she’d misplaced something important. There was a child with her, running round the table, hyperactive, ketchup smeared across his faded blue t-shirt. The woman ignored the child, more concerned with the mystery of the chips.

Beyond them he could see a young couple hunched over in the corner, late teens. The girl was crying about something. The guy kept muttering at her- "C'mon, not here, for Chrissakes," trying to keep his voice low but his irritation making the volume spike enough for Bill to hear. The girl was pretty but looked tired, her blonde hair dirty and greasy, she kept having to brush it out her eyes. She made repeated attempts to take his hand, but he wouldn’t let her. Eventually the guy stood up, apparently in disgust, and left. The girl sat there, looking like the world was ending.

She lifted her head up, saw Bill looking at her. He gave her a supportive smile. She didn't smile back.

Bill stared out the window and kept staring until the darkness came over town, and the lights went on outside, and he could see his own reflection staring back at him. Then he went to the bathroom and threw up, twice. The coffee remained untouched.

* * * * *

He got to his house, parked the car. He sat there for a long time, wishing he could feel something more, like this was a significant moment that was going to change his life forever. But he couldn't find the energy to feel anything. Just worn out, faded, like he was still sitting there at that formica table, under the harsh McDonalds lights, and it was his reflection that had gotten up and driven home. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting in the car. Maybe an hour now.

Reaching over to the passenger seat, he took it out the yellow plastic bag. He got out the car, walked up the steps to the front door. He'd told her he was going to north for a sales conference, that he'd phone her from the hotel. He let himself in, stood in his hallway for a moment, unable to shake the sensation that this wasn’t his home, that he was somewhere else now. Somewhere strange.

He walked up the stairs to the bedroom, pushed open the door. They were sleeping. He didn't recognise the man next to her, didn't supposed it mattered. He put one bullet into him, two into her.

Maybe they cried out in pain, but he wasn't sure. He didn't seem to notice. Just as he didn't seem to notice the gun not feeling heavy anymore as he walked downstairs. Just as he didn't seem to notice the cries of his neighbours, lights going on up and down the street as he went and sat out on the front steps, lit a cigarette. Just as he didn't seem to notice the flashing lights and sirens five minutes later when they pulled up outside. He just didn't seem to notice anything anymore.
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You will be the cause of their eventual destruction.

It will not be your fault.

One morning you will wake up and you will not be there any more. You will go downstairs and your husband will be sitting at the table like he used to do every morning, and opposite him will be your son whose name is Jimmy or Johnny or Jamie or Chris, and neither of them will notice that you have arrived. You will perform your morning rituals, you will watch as he performs some of them for you. He will ask your son if he is ready for school. He will usher him out of the door at half past eight and will hope that he gets there on time. He will pour himself a glass of whiskey and will look at his watch. It will be time for work. He will leave the glass on the table and you will shout at him and tell him to put it in the sink but he has already left without a word and is on his way to work.

At work they will notice that he has been drinking.

They will send him home.

He will arrive home and you won’t have done anything. There is nothing you could have done. The glass will be where he left it, and he will pick it up before even removing his coat. He will finish the bottle of whiskey and begin another. If there is not another he will drive to the shop to find one. He will come back a few minutes later, or he won’t.

He will walk through the door, already drinking, he could not wait.

When your son comes home from school he will run upstairs to his bedroom and close the door. He will move a chest of drawers behind it so that the handle can’t be pulled downwards and the door can’t be opened from outside. He will exclude you. He won’t know. He will stay there until morning. He won’t come down for dinner. He won’t expect it any more. If he needs the toilet he will wait until your husband is sleeping it off. You husband will never sleep it off.

On another morning you will wake up and you still will not be there. It will be colder. You will go downstairs and they will be sitting there. Perhaps your son will be in the chair you used to sit in. He will mention your name and you will turn to him. Your husband will turn to him too and will they both look down in silence.

You will not be coming back.

The son (is he yours any more?) will go to school and won’t come home until late. Your husband (who else would have him?) won’t go to work any more. One day Jimmy or Johnny or Jamie or Chris won’t come home from school and your husband won’t notice. The next morning he will call for him and you will be standing next to him in silence because you will know he is not coming down. Your husband will wave his hand towards the ether and pour himself a drink.

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Sorry! I was looking after poorly 3 year old yesterday, otherwise I would have had my vote in.

I would have voted for you Toys, so am happy to call it a draw and let you choose next month's word?

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Actually, would anyone be interested in Script Frenzy? Runs next month (so the writer's corner would be for this month and next) and the aim is to write a 100-page script. It's actually not as daunting as it sounds, it's only around 3 pages a day and that's really nothing with the way scripts are formatted. It's really bloody satisfying to know you've written an entire film (even if it did turn out a bit silly.)

Anyway, the writer's corner could just be to submit a 1,000ish word portion of script, but it'd be cool if some people wanted to commit to writing a whole thing. S'always funner with other people writing too. But yeah, could just write a 1,000 word very short film if you don't want to do a full thing, for the purposes of the corner.

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