Friday, August 2, 2013

First Line Challenge

So there's this writing magazine called "The First Line" and they hold a competition where they provide the first line of a story and you write the rest. They do one for each season. I wrote a story for their Fall competition. The deadline to submit was August first. Guess who forgot to submit it? So I'm going to post it here instead.

First Line Challenge (There must have been thousands standing in the rain that day.)"

There must have been thousands standing in the rain that day. Of course, it started as a nice day. A few clouds in the sky, then, gradually, as more and more clouds began to gather strange things started to occur.

Mary Lockwood, the pastor's wife, was in the library, scanning the shelves for the latest AJ Tennent novel when she straightened up and went outside. Robbie Brown was biking to the baseball diamond when he dismounted and walked the opposite direction towards town hall, leaving his shiny, blue bicycle lying on the sidewalk. Drew Edwards, the mayor's assistant stood up in the middle of a budget meeting and walked outside.

If you'd been standing just past the town border, say on Williams Hill, looking through a pair of binoculars you would have thought the whole town was affected. Up close it was easy to tell the difference between those who were compelled to go and those who were just following along, out of concern or curiosity.

Those in the first group were walking slowly but purposefully towards town hall, not stopping for anything including oncoming traffic, reacting only to obstacles like doors or stairs. Their eyes were dull and once outside they traveled like salmon swimming upstream, relying on instinct to get them to town hall.

Those in the second group were noisy, some people calling out to their loved ones with fear, others asking each other what they thought was happening. They moved in starts and fits, attempting to stop those who walked on.

They stopped trying after what happened to Becky Lurna. At first she tried to stop him by blocking his path, but he walked around her with no reaction. She became more determined, stepping into his path once more. When he started to move to the right, slowly and deliberately, she shifted to her left, blocking his path. He paused, then started moving left. Again, she mirrored him. It was when he tried going right again only to be blocked by her once more, that he picked her up and threw her to the side.

Word spread quickly through the crowd, the rumbling voices mimicking the thunder in the distance. People made a point to stop trying to physically block the walkers. Instead they walked alongside, making passionate pleas to their families and friends.

Gradually the crowd flowed onto the lawn in front of town hall, arriving as the last of the clouds gathered, filling any gaps the sun had tried to peek through. Horace Spector, the mayor, had his staff direct onlookers off to the side, separating them from the mob.

Everyone was holding their breath, some eager, some nervous, wondering what would happen next.
That was when the skies opened, drenching the crowd in an ongoing sheet of rain. The bystanders huddled togther, some shrieking, others swearing while the others simply looked up to the sky.

Dottie Marsh was the first to notice the blood. At first it merely trickled out the noses of those who stood still as a statue. As it began to gush more heavily the townspeople began to approach their loved ones, pressing clothes to their faces to staunch the bleeding.

Their hands were pushed away. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed as they began to bleed more heavily, blood gushing out of not only their noses, but also their ears and eyes. Mothers continued to try and push through to their children, but were held back by the other onlookers, who ignored their wails and protests, muttering things like "you can't help them" and "you'll only make it worse".

The dark sky lit up as a bolt of lightning hit town hall, followed immediately by a deafening boom.

All of the bloodied townspeople fell to the ground, along with several of the onlookers. Only the onlookers stood back up a few moments later.

All told, the town's population went down by about three percent, just a few hundred people. Yet there must have been thousands standing in the rain that day.

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