Sam 1 [en]

[fr] Exercice d'écriture: personnage Sam.

The adventure begins.

She doesn’t know Sam yet. She just knows his name. She’s not sure if she’ll like him or not. She’s afraid of making him too likable, too cliché, too unidimensional. She realizes that if she makes him too cliché or perfect, he will not be likeable. You see, she’s stuck already.

Sam is roughly her age, in his mid-thirties. The jeans and t-shirts he wears make him look like he still believes he is seventeen. He has a job, though — not a very exciting one, but a stable one. His life is outside of work, with his friends. They go out for drinks on week-ends, play video games, watch football matches.

He met a girl he liked at The Great Escape the other night. Said like that, it sounds like an exceptional event, but it isn’t. He meets plenty of girls he likes, and has plenty of fun with them, but it’s usually short-lived. He hasn’t had anyone stable in his life since he and Greta broke up. He figures he still needs time.

She thinks Sam sounds pretty normal and boring so far. She remembers that stories are about putting normal people in extraordinary situations, and seeing how they react. Like a scientific experiment. She wonders what she could do with Sam.

Shove him through one of Dan Simmons’ Brane holes, straight into another universe? She thinks that’s a little radical. Baby steps, baby steps.

Maybe to start off, she could have him arrive at The Great Escape, hoping to see that girl again, but the bar has disappeared. Disappeared, as in “never existed” for anybody but him. That’s not a new idea, she knows, but it would allow her to see how Sam reacts.

Let’s do it.

So, Sam heads out into town like every week-end, and parks his car somewhere behind the cathedral. He’s got a car, and he’s a confident driver. She gives him a car because she thinks it makes him a little more grown-up. And also, chances are a 30-something living in Lausanne with a stable job and no family to feed will have one. The car also tells us he’s probably not a green activist. The truth is he’s pragmatic, like most people: he’s got a nagging concern about the environment, but he also wants his freedom and his quality of life. He’d go for a solar car if they existed (provided it didn’t cost twice the price of a normal one).

She’s starting to feel curious about Sam now. She realizes that she’s actually looking forward to learning more about him. She’s aware it might not make for fascinating reading, but she can see herself typing through the night to satisfy her curiosity. She might even start liking him.

As she gets ready for much more typing, she notices that she actually knows more about Sam than what she initially thought. For example, he’s not that good with domestic stuff. She doesn’t know why yet, but his flat is a bit in a mess at all times (though still functional) and he’s pretty crap and shopping for groceries, so he eats out quite a lot. Another thing she knows now is that although most of his friends assume that Sam’s proper name is Samuel, it’s in fact Samson. He finds his name a bit ridiculous (the biblical references and all that) so he keeps the information under wraps as much as he can.

She’s aware that if she was really trying to write a story, she wouldn’t be dumping those random facts about Sam like that for her readers, but she would be a little more subtle, letting them emerge from Sam’s interaction with the world and people around him. For now, though, she’s satisfied with the rather dry police-description of her nascent character.

So, back to the story. Sam finds a parking spot behind the cathedral — it’s a little walk away from his favorite hang-out, but he actually enjoys the fresh air on the way. He makes his way briskly down the steps to the little square next to Palais de Rumine, and heads for the bar. He absent-mindedly registers that the usual signs indicating tonight’s match and menu are not out as usual, but most of all, he’s disturbed by the absence of people clustering around the door.

At this point, she thinks she should probably go and check out The Great Escape on a Friday or Saturday evening, to make sure she’s not saying stupid things about the place, as it actually exists. She might do that sometime next week — one of her friends goes there quite regularly, it could be an opportunity.

Well, assuming she hasn’t got it all wrong, Sam arrives in front of what looks like a closed bar, when it should be open. (As she doesn’t have the bar handy, she checks online: it’s open every evening.) Sam has never seen it closed except a few times in the morning — like many similar places, it’s open all week, every day. (She’s looking up reviews on TripAdvisor, now. This almost feels like proper research. She decides to set aside the bar for the moment and concentrate on Sam again.)

So, Sam arrives in front of a closed door when he was expecting to find his usual favorite bar a-buzz with his friends and other strangers. He walks to the door, his legs chugging numbly beneath him, his mind floating uncomfortably somewhere between “bad joke” and “am I losing it”.

He tries the door. He can see it’s closed, but he tries it all the same. He looks around the little square: he doesn’t see anybody looking lost or confused because their usual bar isn’t open. He doesn’t see anybody, actually: the square is empty.

She’s starting to feel taken in by the story she’s writing. She feels a bit bad for Sam. She put him there, after all. But it was the only way she could think of to get to know him better. But she wants to know what’s going to happen next, and the only way to know is to let it write itself.

Sam is definitely confused. He checks the time, checks the date, tries the door again. As he’s trying the handle, a sinking feeling  as he glances at the building tells him more is wrong then he initially thought: the name of the bar has disappeared from the building — and from the door, too, now that he actually looks.

Something very wrong must have happened for it to close overnight (or rather, overday). And why wouldn’t anybody have told him?

He calls up Roger.

“What on earth happened to The Great?”
“Hey, Sam! The great what?”
“The Great. It’s closed. The signs are even gone from the building.”
“What are you talking about? You’re not making any sense. Oh, and when are you getting here? Sophie asked if you’d be there tonight.” Sam can hear the “nudge nudge, wink wink” in Roger’s voice when he mentions the girl from the other night.
“Oh, er…” Sam’s confusion has just gone up a notch. “I’m coming. Where are you?”
“Captain Cook! Where else? Are you OK? Come on over!”

Roger hangs up. Sam looks around again, and heads up the stairs to the Captain Cook, wondering if he is losing his grip on reality.

She stops here, and wonders if this kind of little adventure really tells her something about Sam. Wouldn’t pretty much anybody react like that? She’ll have to put other characters through this kind of exercise: make them face the disappearance of their favorite hang-out. Maybe they won’t all react the same.

But first she has to take Sam a little further. She has second thoughts about the brief phone call with Roger. Shouldn’t Sam have insisted a bit more? That dialogue makes it look like Sam readily accepts that Roger has no idea what he’s talking about. Hell, if she called up one of her friends with such an odd disappearance and the friend reacted like Roger, she would be calling the friend back instead of stumbling towards the next bar.

Maybe Roger has a history of being slightly inebriated, busy with girls, and generally not very coherent on the phone when he’s out drinking bear in a full noisy pub. That must be what Sam thought. He’s still confused, but he hasn’t yet figured out that he’s the only one to have noticed The Great’s disappearance (or escape, haha). So, he’s on his way to the Cook, confident that he’ll get some explanation from Roger once he gets there. He’s in for a nasty surprise.

Roger thinks Sam is playing some kind of joke on him. He reacts as if he’d never even heard of The Great Escape, or any kind of bar on the little square halfway down the stairs. Roger’s on his third or fourth pint, which doesn’t help Sam try and get his point across. He asks a couple of other people about The Great and gets confused looks and lots of question marks.

In an attempt to refrain from questioning his sanity, he decides to wash away his growing discomfort with something slightly stronger than usual and chats up Sophie (who confirms they met in the very same bar earlier that week, and gives him a puzzled look when he tries to talk about The Great’s disappearance).

She’s really getting into the story now. She’s going to have to make up for her tea-totalling habits with some “academic” research on alcoholic beverage consumption on normal Lausanne Saturday nights.

Sam drinks a little more than usual and follows Sophie to her place not far from the bar — not that he needs more drinking than usual to go and have some Saturday night fun with a cute girl picked up in a bar. Before picking up his car to go home in the pre-dawn haze of too much smoke, alcohol, and meaningless sex, he drops by The Great again to make sure it really is closed (“escaped”, he says to himself).

His mind is working, at least that much. There is no open bar where he remembers The Great Escape.

He drives home, collapses into his half-made bed — he must remember to change the sheets one of these days — and dozes straight off, hoping that The Great’s escape will have straightened itself out by morning, one way or another.

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The fridge did its best [en]

The fridge did its best to keep its humans happy. Fresh vegetables and snacks, juicy meat and sweet wine.

With the years it started failing, but did its best. Kicks of frustration denting its door and bruising its character.

Weary, broken, and frustrated, it poisoned them all one sunny morning.

This is a 50-word short story. Read more by me on CTTS or by others too on Facebook.

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From Essay to Fiction [en]

[fr] Exercice d'écriture: une aventure à la recherche de personnages pour porter ses histoires.

It’s an adventure. The adventure of a mind bubbling with ideas and things to say and write. The adventure of a mind which would like to bubble with fiction that makes people dream big things, and read on in wonder at the worlds created.

But all she can come up with are disasters and worst-case scenarios. And she wonders: do people want to read about all that will go wrong? Should she give in to the dystopian fantasies her mind produces on a daily basis?

She’s not that sure about the dystopia bit, either. Because on the flip side, she has hope, hope so huge and solid that it smothers everything else. Beyond all reasonable hope, she hopes, and imagines things working out against all odds.

She has imagination.

What she lacks is characters. She needs characters to fall in love with and to pull her along through her stories.

Her adventure will be the adventure of conjuring up characters to carry her stories.

She will delve in herself and those around her, clumsily at first, cobbling together patchworks which will barely stand on their two feet. But with practice and patience she will grow nimble, and her characters will breathe life and love. They will dance through her worlds under sunlight and starlight, singing the stories their lives will weave.

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The crow yelled at the cat [en]

The crow yelled at the cat and flapped its wings. The feline retreated.

The next day, two cats. The crow crowed louder and flapped her wings faster. Her mate swooped down and nipped a kitty tail.

Third day, three felines: not a chance for the outnumbered crows, their babies eaten.

This is a 50-word short story. Read more by me on CTTS or by others too on Facebook.

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Wrong Place, Wrong Time [en]

[fr] Un autre récit de rêve -- double, celui-ci. Je suis navrée, mais ça sort toujours en anglais...

A dream.

I have a gift for ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, think of the day Obama broke our beautiful lake in half by blowing up a huge bomb under it. I was in Saint-Tryphon, the lovely town at the end of the lake, and watched as the water ran out of it through the crack, as swimmers tried to reach the shore, and as the first rows of buildings in Saint-Tryphon toppled over in slow motion under the afternoon sun to come and lie down in the receding water.

We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out our boats, which were moored in mid-air, lowering them so that they would be back in the water again.

At some point I fled. I ran through Saint-Tryphon, watching the wobbly buildings by the shore and praying that the people would get out before they fell. I climbed into the mountains, found an abandoned village, and spread the word. “The lake is draining itself!” Nobody really believed me.

Obama had smilingly assured me that the lake would stop bleeding out sometime in the evening, and that everything would be back to normal in a few days. He didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with what he had done. I was just horrified.

Or another time, shortly after that, I had taken a trip to some middle-eastern country just in time to witness the explosion of a nuclear device under the sea near the coast. I saw birds fall out of the sky as they feebly tried to fly away. Why I was alive, I just couldn’t understand. A car with two military stopped and picked me up. We went to the command centre where for some reason, most of my luggage was waiting for me. There were some nice people there, but it was out of question to let me go back home.

I swallowed an iodine pill, and wondered why on earth we all had to be exposed to so much radiation. My life doesn’t always make sense to me, as you can see.

I was relieved to meet Cecil in the command centre. He was a friend of mine, and we plotted our escape together. Julie, one of the assistants, would come with us — she was a nice girl and also felt that she had nothing to do there, that her life was supposed to take another path. The trouble was packing (we had many belongings) and finding a way out of the country (that was Cecil’s job, being in a position of authority).

Amongst my most precious belongings was some jewellery, and a set of teeth (I know this sounds funny, but they were ivory and polished, and worth quite a lot in those days), as well as some pearls. Trying to get everything to fit in bags and boxes was a nightmare, especially as we couldn’t afford to have the other people in the command centre figuring out that we were going to make a run for it. They must have, because we even got comments on the size of our boxes, but they pretended nothing was wrong. Maybe they hoped it would go away if they didn’t confront it.

So we packed, and repacked, and repacked, and as days went by I became more and more anxious about leaving. We almost managed, once. Robert took us out to his helicopter. There were four of us, but Cecil was nowhere to be found. I was a bit worried, because Robert was completely loyal to those in charge, and I really wondered what the deal was with him taking us away. Maybe he was actually going to take us to a reeducation camp or a prison, and all our precious belongings would be taken away from us.

We never knew, because as he was fuelling up, he never passed the DUI test — and the helicopter was not up to standards either. I heaved a sigh of relief as we returned to the base, but went to bed certain that we had been found out and absolutely had to leave the very next day.

It didn’t happen the next day, or the one after that. It was agonizing. Cecil disappeared, after a long phone call to his family where I heard him tell his son he loved him very much. The day after that, Simon came up to me and gruffly told me that I was leaving, that Cecil had left instructions, and that he was my driver. Simon was not happy about it, but followed orders. I initially expressed surprise but decided to go along with it.

He scowled at me while I put my big box and bag in the boot of his tiny car. I climbed in, and we drove off. I didn’t need a Geiger counter to tell me how radioactive we were, and I hoped that we would not set off any alarms at the airport. I already had too much luggage and getting on board without attracting attention was going to be a tight squeeze.

As you can see, I made it out in one piece. I had to leave some of my things behind, but the precious teeth and pearls travelled in my jeans pocket (you know how TSA are with precious items in checked-in luggage: they just tend to disappear). I went through long and painful anti-radiation treatment, and thankfully today’s medical technology is keeping at bay all the cancers I should have developed as a result of such important exposure.

What was going through the minds of those people at the time, it really beats me.

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Political Nightmare [en]

[fr] Récit de cauchemar.

A dream.

In a few hours from now, they are going to come and make our heads roll. The new government of New York City, with which we have worked for many months to ease the transition, is officially going to step into power — and we, as the old city government, have to disappear.

I don’t want to die! I knew nothing of this when I joined the task force. I’m not even an American citizen! When they say a career in politics is brief but glorious, how was I to know it would be so literal?

President Obama is here, fondly recounting his memories of making the heads of his previous local government roll. There is obviously something very important about the heads rolling well once they have been cut off.

I protest, my voice calls out in despair “I’m a Swiss citizen! I shouldn’t even be here!” but nobody seems to hear, nobody seems to perceive my anguish, and everything just goes on.

It does occur to me that Obama is still alive, but I’m not sure what to make of it.

They have paraded us through the city, half-drugged, half in a daze. I hope beyond hope that some miracle is going to save me, but everything seems perfectly orchestrated to lead me to my demise.

This is a nightmare. Literally.

I want to wake up.

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Small Black Flies [en]

Small black flies invaded the office, before taking over the whole city. It got so bad you had to wear a mask to avoid breathing them in. They formed a fine black film over everything, including your skin.

People went mad.

One day, all the flies died. It was over.

This is a 50-word short story. Read more by me on CTTS or by others too on Facebook.

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Inner Swamp [en]

Lucy hasn’t been tending her inner swamp lately. It’s starting to overflow, dripping from her eyes and ears. She knows the swamp monster is feeding on the gloom and growing each day.

With Patrick, she sets off on an inner journey to kill the beast.

They prevail, but remain forever joined.

This is a 50-word short story. Read more by me on CTTS or by others too on Facebook.

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Ville de brume [fr]

Le brouillard est en train de tomber. Vite, avant que la ville ne change complètement. C’est embêtant, ces bâtiments qui se déplacent en cachette.

Cette fois, il me faudra deux jours pour retrouver ma maison parmi les rues sauvages de ma ville de brume. Je crois que je vais déménager.

Ceci est une mini-nouvelle en 50 mots. Lisez-en d’autres de moi sur CTTSousur Facebook, par d’autres que moi.

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Sandy's clothes insisted on moving around [en]

Sandy’s clothes insisted on moving around in her cupboard. Nobody believed her. She even put cameras in her bedroom to prove that she wasn’t sleepwalking.

She fell in love with John, whose clothes misbehaved similarly.

The clothes were enchanted by their cupboards. The young couple learned to harness their magic.

This is a 50-word short story. Read more by me on CTTS or by others too on Facebook.

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