Alright so I hope everyone had an exciting New Year's Eve! I spent mine moving from California/Georgia up to Maryland ... that's about as exciting as it sounds. A lot of marathon driving, but I arrived safe and today is the second day I've been able to write without being rushed for time! So I figured, why not whip out another "Writer Igniter" prompt! Now if you don't remember, or didn't see, what Writer Igniter is, it's this cool little site I found that gives you a few ideas to start a story up. You can check it out: here.
Alright so I spun the wheel and here is the prompting I got:
Character: Delivery Truck Driver
Situation: Arranged Marriage
Prop: <<I actually started writing too quickly with just the other three points in mind and blanked on the prop! Oops!>>
Setting: A city on the coast.
Now keep in mind the piece below is unedited, so don't judge too harshly for grammar or spelling!
I'd be happy to see any prompts you undertake as well, post them in the comments below! Let me know what you think!
The air brakes hissed a defiant challenge—or perhaps the final wails of death, given the shoddy maintenance schedule these vehicles underwent—as they gradually brought the freight hauler to a stop. He narrowly edged the bumper of the hauler out over a cautionary line, and glanced either way at the intersection. Why the stop? Traffic had grown conspicuously scarce. What should’ve been streets packed end to end with cars and sight seeing vehicles was now a scarce wasteland. Hank half expected at any moment for two gunslingers to emerge from the nearby bar--club, there wasn’t a bar in sight—doors and holler draw!
Come to mention it, the traffic wasn’t the only scarce thing here. There were no pedestrians milling around either. No shoppers in the cafe, or boutique windows. The only sign of other life was a sailboat cutting a course across the glittering waters of the bay over to his right.
“Oh, there’s that.” Hank noticed a gathering up on an outdoor gallery of a second-floor building. One of those clubs where ritzy, sparkling decor and bright flashing lights would draw in the crowds by night. Twenty or so people milled about beneath umbrellas and clothed tables. Three young, clean-shaven men leaned against the glass railing that looked out over the intersection and stared Hank down.
His skin crawled. Come on light. The damn thing wasn’t turning green. He would just run it this time. What was the saying? No cop, no stop? He let his foot off the break, expecting to hear the squeal of the releasing brakes as the wheels began to roll forth once more.
A series of erratic warning beeps sounded from the console. “What now?” Hank swore, setting the vehicle to park. The engine temperature had dropped to the little snowflake icon.
Hank glanced up at where the three men were.
They were gone. He shot glances in every direction. Not seeing them turned around up with the others. His throat caught as the corner door to the club on the street level opened up, the frosted glass parting to show the three men striding confidently toward him. They looked like federal agents in their sharply tailored gray suits. Perhaps they were. The subtle rumble of the engine died.
“There’s no way.” Hank started, “no way.” The black asphault of the street was glazing over with a crystalline sheen of white frost. The frost advanced before the men like an ever-expanding carpet of white. The immediate center of the carpet nearest them was a smooth velvet, out toward the extremetiest of the literal ice path large stallagmites of ice jutted upward like spearpoints toward the sky, a protective barrier to ward off any newcomers.
“Enough gawkin’ you goof.” Hank fussed with the keys, turning the vehicle on and off to try and revive the engine. It wasn’t working. “What the fuck!” Hank slammed the steering wheel. Frost was creeping up over the red hood of the cab, invading the glass like a never-ending tide. The hair on the back of Hank’s neck stood on end, goose flesh creeping down his arms and the cab’s temperature dropped.
“G-god help me.” Hank shivered despite his best efforts.
Lock the doors. That’s it.
At least he would be safe in the cab. Reuter Industries protected their drivers with bullet-proof glass and armored doors. He never thought he’d need it but was glad to have it.
The three men reached the vehicle. Through a break in the frost he saw them break away to either side of the cab. One to the right, one in front, and the other strolled his way around to the driver’s side door.
Hank jumped as the man tapped on the driver’s side window and waited patiently, staring up at him with unblinking … solid blue eyes. His black hair was trimmed neatly at the sides, a military cut of some degree. No doubt he was like a guard. His skin was a fine porcelain, lips a slightly discolored purple … as if he had been starved for air. Overall the man had more angles and edges than the icy daggers beside the path, a face of all planes and facets. No curves.
“What!” Hank demanded.
“Lower your window!” The man said, cupping his hands around his mouth in an effort to direct the voice better through the glass. “Just a crack even.”
“I don’t see wh—” to Hank’s surprise the window lowered. He quickly tore his finger from the switch. An inch was more than enough, a slipstream of icy air cutting any warmth that had remained. The cold froze to his bones.
“That’s a mighty odd manner of dress for a wedding.” The man pointed.
Hank raised his eyebrows in confusion. “W-what?” His teeth clattered.
Alright, so for the third Workshop Wednesday I ... sort of realized these could also fall under my writing prompt challenges that I have a few of on the website, I found this awesome site tool called "Writer Igniter" ... you can find it here. Pretty much, it provides you with a: Character, Situation, Prop, and Setting. You can click shuffle to produce new results.
So I'm going to go with the what seems to be the default for my first whirl with Writer Igniter:
Character: Taxi Driver
Situation: Gets a Cryptic Letter
Prop: Lucky Penny
Setting: Rainy/Stormy avenue.
I've already had some thoughts on what to do, but haven't done too much of any real planning. The hardest part for me right now is coming up with a situation that can be seen as "cryptic". Mainly because this depends on the view of the character--in this case a taxi driver, whom I've decided isn't exactly on the up-and-up.
Frank Jefferson brought his cab to a stop beneath one of the city's many oak trees that lined the curbs, penned in by a crooked fence made of dented and battered patina bars. He let out a deep sigh, feeling his chest deflate beneath the pull of the seat belt. It had been three days since he and his team of chemists had found themselves suddenly out of a job. In desperation, he had taken up a job as a cab driver to cover the never ending flow of bills.
It was a slow night, perhaps he should've vied for Uber instead ... or Lyft. The trends killing the cab companies. He was a chemist, a rather successful one at that, but as silly as it sounded the implications and perceived complexities of the mobile applications needed or know-how to make that work seemed a more daunting task than just dragging a city cab around.
Bills. Endless bills. Frank's eyes fixed on the baronial envelope he'd found slipped under the mat on his doorstep and propped between his windshield and the dashboard. His name and address hand written. The flow and lean to the letters too quirky to be the usual form-filled, mass-printed fare. There was no address ... no stamps. He didn't want to open it. He didn't want to find another bill he'd forgotten to pay, or had to ask for an extension on. Another blow to his financial well being, another blow to his pride.
The envelope stared back. A tug on Frank's subconscious, a strange attraction to the letter ... the bill ... whatever exactly it was, wanted to be opened. It, doesn't looked terrible. Frank considered. He pulled his hand back. When had he started to reach out for the envelope?
"Maybe it's Renee, maybe she wanted to apologize?" Frank proposed to himself, "she always did like the handwritten letter approach ... the cute, slightly amateur prose you'd get from a high school poetry club. No. No it isn't." He went quiet once more. It wasn't her writing.
Frank pulled his eyes from the envelope. From the tattered little corners, the slight tears at the very edges.
The black street beyond, soaked from an evening of thunderstorms, glistened with yellow patches of light cast by streetlamps overhead. Despite the rain, Frank insisted on keeping his windows cracked a few inches. Enough to hear the soothing patter of raindrops falling from the eaves of the nearby apartments and storefronts, the gushing water through the storm drain, and the smell of petrichor and ozone. Petrichor Frank thought, mulling over the term, recalling small articles read during his scientific studies. Petrichor, the scent stemming from a pair of chemical reactions--plant oils and actinomycetes.
He reached down to the center console, fumbling around blindly at the second cup holder that sat just behind the one which held an old starbucks cup, one he would reuse at times for the little discount they offered on refills. Its contents were long-past warm, the scent of the bitter liquid as dead and cold as the street was now.
His fingers found what he'd been looking for. With a bit of effort he scraped up a little corroded penny. He thumbed Lincoln's worn profile. The penny itself was old, 1937. Old enough to where the tail-side of the coin had: ONE CENT declared once boldly, now not so much, across its center.
It was his lucky penny. The penny his dad had handed him after getting back from Europe at the end of the war. He'd been just sixteen then. It was a lifetime ago.
A calm washed over him, subduing a growing unease that had been pressing down on him since he'd stopped and fixated once more on the letter up on his dash. It had to be lucky to survive up to now, to survive decades of historic turmoils--world wars, depressions, who knows what else. To make it from 1937 to 2018 was pretty remarkable, for what many considered to be an unremarkable piece of coinage.
"Man up Frank." His fingers closed around the penny. With a sharp inhale he reached out with his free hand and grabbed the stupid little envelope, then dropped the penny back to its safe-spot in the second cup holder. "Man up. It's just a letter."
A light pattering of steady rain resumed on his windshield, somewhere in the distance the roll of thunder reverberated through the city streets.
"Do it. Just do it." he couldn't help but hear those words in the voice of that one kid from the Transformers movie, a snippet of video that had gone viral or whatever the term was now, that one of the younger guys had shown him.
He hooked his finger beneath a loose fold until the flap pulled tightly on the adhesive and strips of scotch tape that had been placed at half-inch intervals along the seam. Someone's very ... obsessive. Frank started to tug at the flap, his hesitant tugs growing more confident, more encouraged as seconds past.
The envelope tore loudly in the confines of the cab. A thunderous rip to challenge the stormy skies beyond, and interrupt the lonely whine of a siren that slipped through the gap in the windows.
He pulled a sheet of legal pad out, free from its confines. The yellow lined paper had been folded in three, exactly measured as to not allow one end to overlap onto the other.
Read it. Was that his own thought? It seemed a rather aggressive demand.
Read it now. His fingers obeyed, unfolding the letter before any intentional mental thought to do so had occurred. Light.
He focused on the unfolded letter, reaching up to jab the interior cab lighting. It bathed the driver's seat in a weak light. But it was enough.
Frank, the letter began simply enough. It was only a paragraph at a quick glance. He kept on. As you know, the time for all things is sholskl lkms. What? He did a quick double-take. Sure enough the words descended into a rather mindless, incoherent babble. A purposeful babble, sets of the random letters spaced out with a distinct order, but with no sense or legitimate wording behind them. Oijsl kskw an wksi owlaks hjijjkn. What is th-- BEHIND.
"What?" Frank tossed the letter down in his lap. Not daring to look at it again, a feeling of dread poured over him. Ominous dread. Sudden gibberish, and then BEHIND. He looked in his rear-view mirror, the glare from the overhead lamp making it pointless. Blinding him to anything in the backseat, or out the back window. "You're being ridiculous. Getting frightened over nothing." Frank said, his words barely audible beneath his breath. His heart had begun racing in those last few seconds.
The letter, now swallowed by the shadows between his legs, had folded in on itself a bit.
He reached for it. Fingers trembling. As he lifted the letter up his eyes caught a glimpse of the final word. The lone, bold word.
Frank's head jerked up, ears twitching at the sound of a deafening roar, something bestial.
He dropped the letter, jabbing out the overhead lamp.
His breaths were quick. His eyes fell to the rear-view mirror once more.
Glowing red eyes stared back.
Twink pinpricks of menacing, demonic light.
I will do my best to be posting new content every Wednesday. Tentatively dubbed "Workshop Wednesday" I will relatively unedited practice pieces I create to work on certain aspects of the writing craft. Bear in mind military service and training schedules are unpredictable and may be cause for the occasional late post.
In the future I plan to have a set schedule for posting about other writing-related things, or topics in my interest field such as Table Top War Gaming and Video Games.
Thank you for your support and feedback!
Matthew Taylor was born February 13, 1991 in Simi Valley, California. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands, where he served as treasurer and briefly President of one of the campus's two political clubs. While earning his degree he continued to write and hone his craft, eventually releasing an initial few short stories on Kindle.