Saturday, May 1, 2010

Last Lines Blogfest

These are the last lines of a roughly 7000 word short story where I played with switching POVs. It's my entry in Lilah's Last Lines Blogfest. Go here to check out the other entries and have a happy weekend.

You stretch and shift and reach for her in the dark. Your eyes snap open; the sheets are cool beneath your hand. Pushing up on an elbow, you listen hard in the silence.

You leverage yourself upright, swing your legs around. Your feet hit the floor and you push off the bed; long strides march you across the room to the crib.

It’s empty.

Glacial cold crawls out of your gut, climbs up and into in your chest; makes it hard to breathe.

Two silenced clicks split the stillness, and you’re moving before the muted sound of two quick thumps in succession, snagging the Berretta as you edge out of the room and into the hallway.

You almost trip over the first body and your hands come up, palms out as the pistol swings to target you.

“Where’s the baby?” Raw words tear at your throat, explode in the silence.

“Down the hall.” Her voice is low and harsh; a fierce whisper as she drops her weapon, reaches over to check for a pulse on the other body.

You stand in the dark and the silence and look at the woman you love.

And you hope.

“We have to go.”

She looks up at you through the tops of bright, brittle eyes set deep in the shadows of her perfect, pale face.

Biting down on her lip as she flows to her feet and stands, she doesn’t say a word as she pushes past you into the bedroom.

************************

You shrug the flight bag higher on your shoulder as you bounce on the balls of your feet, sharp eyes scanning the length of the dim hallway.

In less than an hour the first red-orange brush strokes of the sun will be rising over the foothills, waking the city, and you want to be gone.

The door snicks open beside you and she slips out, baby on her hip, shadowed figure behind her.

She steps to your side and the old woman’s eyes slide over you as gnarled fingers come up to cup her face.

“Be safe.”

She smiles and turns, shifts the baby more comfortably on her hip as she walks down the hall.

The door snicks closed behind you as you follow, catch up to her.

You slide your arm over her shoulders and she doesn’t pull away.

47 comments:

  1. I love this - I was so sure the two bodies were his baby and wife, and so happy to find them still alive! Your writing is fantastic.

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  2. The scene itself is wonderful, but I'm not sure about 2nd person, even with you writing it.

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  3. Wow, this is very powerful stuff. I have to admit it took me a few lines to get into the second person but it's quite riveting once you've adjusted.

    Have a great weekend!

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  4. I really like this too. Excellent writing.
    Nice job!

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  5. Excellent excerpt! I like the idea of brush strokes for the sun and brittle eyes. I've never heard those words used in that way.

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  6. I'm speechless, this is wonderful. The imagery, the tension, the ebb and flow, this is truly marvellous.

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  7. Susan, thanks. I’m glad that worked for you. :)

    Stu, you’re right. Second person isn’t common and doesn’t work for everyone or everything. It’s a question of personal and stylistic preference as well as the tone and feel of the story being told. Thanks for reading even though it isn’t your thing. :)

    Hi, Talli. Yeah, you’re right. It does take a bit of getting used to and it is intense. Have a great weekend yourself. :)

    Christine, thanks. Happy reading and weekend to you. :)

    Aubrie, thank you for the kind words about mine. I’ve been working on the whole showing thing so I’m glad that worked for you. :)

    Sam, thank you for your very generous response. I’m a big fan of imagery and have worked on making my writing more visual, if that makes sense. I’m very glad that and the rhythm work for you. :)

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  8. I enjoy the images like glacial cold, raw words, the door snicks open...

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  9. Excellent writing sarahjayne, loved it!

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  10. I had to read it twice because I was confused the first time. I don't know if it was the 2nd person POV or because I just woke up. :)

    There was great tension here though and some great descriptive words. And I definitely have questions? Who are they, who did they just kill? why do they have to leave? I love when a piece fosters questions, it gives me a reason to read more.

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  11. Quite intriguing and mysterious. The second person instead of making me feel closer to the character gives it a kind of distance--that's interesting.

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  12. Very nice last line. It shows and tells of change. Reading in second person makes me pause to read closer. Intriguing. And of course I want to read more.

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  13. I like the second person, but at the beginning of this section there are too many 'you's. Maybe figure out how to cut those. Really stunning and intriguing.

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  14. Paul, thanks. From your blog, I thought you might. You seem very visually oriented. :)

    Anne, I’m LMAO! Best response ever. :)

    Jen, thanks. I’m glad you did. :)

    Charity, thanks so much for the kind words. Second person can be disorienting, especially before that first cup of coffee. :) And I like when a piece asks questions I want answered, too.

    Tricia, that is an interesting response. I’ll have to look at it that way.

    Lynn, thank you very much. I’m glad it worked for you. :)

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  15. Great tension in the scenes. I'm not usually a fan of present tense, but you made it work here. Wonderful job.

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  16. Present tense and second person that is a challenge. The distance between the characters and between the reader too was unusual. I thought your actual last line was beautiful.

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  17. nice. i've never read 2nd person pov, but you pulled it off nicely.

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  18. Excellent scenes. I was definitely pulled into them. Second person? I think it loses some immediacy over first or third, but that's my opinion.

    The actual last line was wonderful.

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  19. Great writing. Not sure about 2nd person. Being a woman, I immediately thought "you" was a woman, too. Threw me off a little. But the scene is well done - mysterious, a little frightening, intriguing.

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  20. Excellent job. A bit jarring when it started with "You" but that faded quickly with the intense scene.

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  21. I love it. It really sucked me in! I'm not sure about the 2nd person - I'm kind of torn between like/dislike. As the others said, It gets easier as we read more of it. Great job! :-)

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  22. The tension and action are great, but I, too, stumbled several times over the second person usage. But certainly would be looking for more!

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  23. Wow, this is a very tense scene. Second person is interesting; I don't read a lot of it, but if we're given enough information as readers, it can work.

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  24. Visceral tension and stunning imagery. And I LOVE the second person, I thought it was intriguing. What really stood out for me, though, was the rhythm of the piece. You write so beautifully!

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  25. Amie, thanks. :)

    Mary, thank you. I’m glad you think this worked. :)

    Elaine, yeah, it was the challenge. Navigating the space between the two characters was the story, and they are negotiating a lot of shared history between them. And thanks for that last line.

    Hi, Amy. Thanks. :)

    Michelle, thank you so much. :)

    Ann, thanks. I’m glad it worked for you. :)

    Kristie, thanks. It’s hard coming in at the end without having names to give you a clue. :)

    Catherine, thanks for the kind words. I’m glad it got easier. :)

    Shannon and Bryan, thank you both much. It really is a personal/style choice and depends on the tone you want the piece to have. It doesn’t work sometimes, but I’m glad it got easier for you both. :)

    Shelley, thank you. It can work indeed. At least I think so. :)

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  26. I'm not sure what is going on, but I definitely want to find out. Very intriguing.

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  27. Tense situation. But I'm afraid an agent or publisher would feel you needlessly distance the reader by using 2nd person. Just a thought. Until we are in the Stephen King category, we have to concern ourselves with inticing both agents and publishers.

    But you drew me right in and your way of description and dialogue were mesmerizing. Roland

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  28. LOL... I'm with Mary... I was a little lost... Maybe cos I didn't read the entire story but it was so intriguing that I want to get into the story.

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  29. Ah, I love it. You really succeed in both keeping things fresh, and showing-not-telling. Admirable and intoxicating writing.

    And even though I'm among the throngs who aren't fans of second-person narrative, I can't blame you for giving it a shot (no pun intended). In any event, the writing is lovely. Well done.

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  30. That was interesting! I don't think I've read 2nd person before, but you get major kudos for even attempting it!. It took me a moment to realize what POV it was, but I liked it. Great ending, and thanks so much for participating!

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  31. Powerful scene. The tension is palpable.

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  32. I normally find 2nd person distracting, but the sudden rush of fear and the action drew me right in. Great job.

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  33. Few people can write 2nd person well. Count yourself among them. Excellent work with the suspense and tension. There is a lot of story here to be discovered, and the characters are so vivid.

    Intriguing.

    ........dhole

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  34. VR, thanks so much for kind, generous words. I’m glad it all worked for you. And make sure you check my blog on Monday. There's something there for you. :)

    Mary and F and M, I’m sorry you were lost, but I’m thrilled that you kept reading and ending up wanting more. That’s one of the nicest things you can say to a writer. :)

    Roland, hee! Thanks for your concern, but this piece was never intended to see the light of day in any official query or publication process. It, like a lot of other things I’ve written, was done to experiment with/improve my tools as a writer. It’s a way for me to hone my craft with elements of imagery, POV, and flow. I’m aware of agents and publishers rules, so I never imagined any publisher or agent ever seeing it. And that’s ok. It is what it is and I’m glad you found something worth liking in it. :)

    Hanna, Lilah and Raquel, thanks so much for giving it a chance. I appreciate it.

    lakeviewer, thank you very much.

    Donna, thanks so much. And you’re right. There is a lot more story in the preceding 7000 words. :)

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  35. Not that I always have to be the dissenter, but I liked the 2nd person POV. I thought the tension was excellent. It is tough to throw us into the middle (or end) of a situation and have us catch up on the emotion but you did it beautifully! I'd love to read the rest.

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  36. I think everyone has already said most of what I was going to say :~) I loved the tension and actually really love the 2nd person POV. WOW. This works so well!

    Happy Sunday :~)

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  37. Love both of these! I like the last one A LOT!

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  38. Sarahjayne--I thought the 2nd person was an engaging choice and you made it work for you. Nicely done!

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  39. sarahjayne, I too, had to read it twice. The first time, last night half asleep, I didn't quite grasp it. Today, I get that there is a whole story and history that comes to fruition in the close. I love your last line. It indicates that a healing has taken place between the man and woman and I like that. Nicely done!

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  40. Wow. This got my heart beating. I am not a writer but I love to read good fiction. You are really good.

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  41. 2nd person is difficult. I commend you here. I've never even tried to do 2nd person. I think it can be pretty powerful when pulled off.

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  42. Really polished writing here--thank you for sharing! I'm impressed.

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  43. A little late to the...party, but I hope it's still ok ;-)

    Having had the privilege of reading, and appreciating, the whole story - and the pleasure of revisiting its ending - there was no bafflement for me, I had my...bearings, so to speak.

    Yet that didn't change the appreciation for the way that even a snippet from your work can plant itself in front of you and take you inside the picture, make you feel and see the characters, and *care* about them, and their fate. I saw that from several of the replies, and it's a tribute to your work, your craft.

    *clapping madly* Well done!

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  44. Not much else to say that hasn't been said, but I'll say it anyways :)

    I don't think I've read anything written in 2nd person like this. Very intriguing. Strong language and vivid images. I liked it.

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  45. I know , I know...I'm LATE. I'm catching up from a couple busy weeks.

    I HAD to comment--this is excellent, SJS!!
    I am not a fan of 2nd person, but you pulled it off superbly! And I AM a fan of trying new things, experimenting and stretching our writing skills. This piece earns you a standing ovation from me, my friend. Well done.

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