Here is the first paragraph of an old short story of mine (also included here in full) I invite you to write the next paragraph in the comments section below and I will add it. Then the next person writes the next paragraph and so on until, hopefully, we have a completed collaboratively written story.
Please don't be shy, do join in.
SDDowns March 1998:
The guy drove in silence, a grim look of determination set upon his face. In the trunk of the metallic red rental car he drove there was a man curled up into a ball like a baby. His eyes bulged with fear, his hands taped together with half a roll of brown parcel tape; his feet were taped together with the other half. The police uniform that he wore was soaked with perspiration. It had been a long journey for him to get this far, and he was pretty certain that once the car got to its final destination the person driving it was going to kill him. Or at the very least, try.
Kill or be killed: the ancient, inexorable axiom as unavoidable as a freight train on a fast track. He felt the car accelerate and serve. Unsurprisingly, the driver was in a hell of a hurry, and he figured they must be halfway up the M5 by now. By his reckoning, he had just over 30 minutes to come up with a plan of escape, or else, he’d have to face The Huntsman in his lair. At that point, the driver, in strict adherence to the gang’s dark tenets, and obliged to uphold a code of honour over 40 years in construct, was going to blow his brains out. To prove his allegiance, the driver would commit the execution in front of their leader; that’s how it was done, how it was always done. But, if the tape came off and he got an opportunity to speak, one word, just one miserable fucking word, then the tables would turn. He knew The Hunter understood quid pro quo, that was at the core of his business practices; he also knew that tucked under the driver’s dirty fingernails there was blood, the blood of an innocent, coagulating like shame.
Random Brethren 16/04/2012:
He tensed his wrists against the tape, concentrating all his energy, but his actions were fruitless – the tape remained strong, unyielding. He cast his eyes around the interior of the trunk, looking for something sharp, ANYTHING sharp… nothing. Part of him hoped that his sweat would loosen the tape, but he knew it was impossible. There appeared to be no escape. Maybe, he thought to himself, maybe death isn’t so bad. Oblivion is, after all, preferable to this hell hole.. But that wasn’t right. There had to be some justice, someone had to stop The Huntsman and his sick organisation. Otherwise, his would just be one body in the massacre they left in their wake.
He couldn’t get the gag from his mouth to bite at the tape and his wrists were too tightly bound to get any kind of leverage. It looked like the tape was there to stay. He needed other options. He wiggled until he managed to kick off one shoe. The shoe itself tumbled off somewhere in the shadows, but it was the use of his toes he wanted. Gripping with his foot like a clumsy hand, he pulled at the edge of the lining carpet that shielded the tail lights. If he could just get through and kick the light cluster out into the road, perhaps he could attract some attention.
“It is usually at this point I wake up, Doctor, ” James stated, anxiously glancing at the guy for affirmation that he was not completely, unredeemably nuts. But this could be a bit opportunistic, considering his current surroundings: white peeling paint; chip-board laminated furniture with nice rounded corners (padded too, to avoid any injuries); two simple, pastel-blue chairs, at a distance so neither could reach each other, but close enough to give the air of friendship, familiarity; topped-off by a serene, twilight landscape, blue-tacked to the wall. An amazing achievement of effort to put someone at ease whilst achieving exactly the opposite. He wasn’t meant to be here, surely the Doctor could tell that. It was all a terrible mistake. People like him didn’t wind up in places like this. This was a place for the disjointed, maladjusted, abused, ignored or just plain weird.
"In this dream, and you recognise that it is a dream…" The Doctor paused to flip through his notes, finding what he was looking for he nodded to himself and continued, "In this dream James, are you the man driving the car with the man in the boot; or are you the man in the boot?"
This was the awkward bit, James looked down at the floor, concentrating on the bolt head that was driven into the floor, through the bracket, that was attached to his chair holding it down. "I'm both." He said it quietly and despite the jangle of the chains holding him to the chair James knew that they'd both heard it.
"Both?" The Doctor did a good job of hiding the shout of 'Eureka!' that had no doubt jumped into his mind, he even managed to continue like this was a normal conversation and he was just curious, "At the same time or alternately?"
"I'm not mad." James looked up from the floor and locked eyes with the Doctor determined to sear the truth of what he said into him through shear will power, "I'm not mad. I know it's a dream."
The Doctor smiled a pacifying smile; but James caught his glance over to the mirrored one-way window.
"Look, I know how it looks, if I could just explain…"
"Yes, I think it's time we hit this straight on." The Doctor cut in, he was still mildly smiling but his voice had changed, "Tell me about the little girl." He looked to his notes again, "Polly. Where is she James? Where is Polly?"
James’s eyes widened, derangement crept slowly over his face, the mere mention of the girls name inducing a disoriented trance. The doctor allowed several minutes to pass, watching, observing, then prompting gently.
‘The girl James… the girl?’
‘Is she real?’ James whispered; his words coated in manic trepidation.
The doctor shuffled uncomfortably in his chair, he recognised a psychopath when he saw one and this was the first sign that James might too. A miss-step here could cause irreparable damage to the progress made; he chose his words carefully.
‘I’m not sure James; you’re the master of this particular destiny. We’ll only know if she’s real if you can help us find her.’ The doctor paused, ‘Can you do that James, can you lead us to Polly?’
Before James could answer, there was a knock at the door.
The visitor, a man in a crumpled suit with heavy bags under his eyes, directed his interruption at the doctor,
‘There’s been some developments, we need to brief you.’
James knew this would happen, just as it did eight years ago with Jenny, 'It’s forever in my mind, but where is my mind; I can’t find it as easily as I once could, yes I’m seeking. Seeking. But… oh, where the hell is it?'
James woke up with a start. His body covered in sweat. The sheet stuck to him like a sweet wrapper. 'Not that bloody doctor dream again. And who the duck was Polly?' He didn’t even know a Polly. He tried to sit up but the restraining straps stopped any such movement. What was it all about? There was a sharp rap at the door, more for show than courtesy, and a man walked purposely in. He wore a crumpled suit and had dark rings under his eyes. “The Doc wants to see you now. It’s time for your session. Behave yourself – I don’t want any of your funny business.”
Random Brethren 12/05/2012
James closed his eyes and laughed. This one was definitely the dream, of course. Or nightmare, really. He wasn’t looking forward to it, being probed, being talked at rather than to, being discussed like a slab of meat that had turned green rather than brown on cooking, but he knew it was just a dream. It made more sense, now, actually. He’d always woken up as a series of dreams, each one giving him more awareness than the last. Strange, yes, but strange dreams happened to everyone, right? Some people dreamed in black and white, some people didn’t dream at all, some people dreamed up complex and pointless plots for some sort of crossover movie, and some people… well, some people dreamed in layers.
Hold on, said a voice in the back of his mind, the voice of fear. How d’you know that this isn’t reality? That you just think it’s a dream, and that’s why the people talk over you?
James shivered in fear. Of course it wasn’t that, right? People always come up with worrying scenarios for themselves. And even if James was insane… he was quite sane for an insane person. Reasoning things out. The only real fear he had, the only thing that would, in any case, have made him insane, is the fear of being insane.
“Ah, it looks like he’s woken up now,” said the Doctor, walking in. He took out a thermometer and stuck it into James’ mouth, and then said, in a loud, cheery voice, “hello James! How are you today?”
“You’ve strapped me to a bloody table, you moron,” James tried to say around the thermometer. “How do you think I am?”
The Doctor stepped back, surprised. He turned around, and said to whoever was on the other side of the one way mirror, “did you get that? It talked! Coherent English, too!”
“Could you take this thermometer out of my mouth, please?” muttered James. “I can’t see why you’re doing this to me. I’m a normal human, you could just ask if you want to know about me.”
The Doctor stared at James in surprise, and, after some consideration, took the thermometer out of his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “We didn’t expect you to wake up for some time, we didn’t even expect you’d be able to reason. You’d been slipping in and out of semiconsciousness for weeks now… the thing is, James… the thing is… you’re not human. You only started looking human a few days ago. Don’t you remember anything? We found you crashed in Utah in April?”
James’ eyes widened. “But I’m English! I’ve never even been to Utah!”
The Doctor sat down on a chair in the room, staring at James with incredibly old and weary eyes. “No, James. You’ve always been in Utah. You’ve never been to England before. You’ve never even heard of England. How are you getting all of this information?”
James laughed again, “Ah ha, Doug; you just walked in in my dream too.”
“Oh really? What was I this time James?” he said walking closer with his usual happy swagger.
“A doctor.” James lowered his head back on to the flat green mattress and stared at the ceiling.
“And was I wearing anything other than this old crumpled suit?” The words were spoken in the same tone they always were, patronising but friendly.
“No, you were wearing that suit.” he avoided eye contact with Doug and continued to stare pointlessly at the white ceiling.
“Yeah I thought not, lets get those straps off you” He unbuckled James' arms first, then started on the two holding down his legs.
“What does the Doctor want with me?” James said as he sat up on the bed rubbing his wrists.
“Same as usual James, he wants to know where Polly is.”
James jumped from his bed, anger filling his face, the veins in his neck strained as he growled “I don’t know where she is and I don’t know who she is! Why wont anyone believe me?”
Doug took note of the change in James and ignored the smell and feel of his breathe as it brushed his face, “Listen here James, I’ve been kind to your ass so far. You can either return the favour or things are gonna get a lot worse for you. Now back off, take a deep breath and turn around.”
Making more enemies was not smart and Doug was nice to him. James turned around and placed his hands behind his back, almost immediately feeling the cold steel of the hand cuffs connecting with his skin.
“Now walk.” James felt a soft but forceful push in his back.
The doctor took a different tack with him. This time he was strapped into a stiff backed, metal chair with the doc sat opposite, knees almost touching his. He could almost taste the doctors stale breath of bourbon and cigarettes. The doctor took a deep breathe, almost a sigh really. James knew it was all part of the man’s act, like the doctor’s coat.
” Listen, let me make this simple for you. No more games,” he said in a matter of fact voice, glancing momentarily towards Doug who stood by the door.
“You know Polly. You helped create Polly. We’ve been through your lab. We’ve read your notes. We know all about you, Professor. You either give the location or we give you pain. What’s it gonna be?”
James sat stunned. He was a Professor? He created this Polly? He couldn’t remember a damn thing.
His throat went dry as the doctor leant forward, ” Time up, Prof. No more stalling. Doug, get the water and the battery – it’s time for some persuading.”
The drugs that had been clouding his mind, leaving him confused about what was reality and what was a dream, receded as the electricity flowed into him. Only the real world could contain this pain, for the first time in an eternity James knew that what he thought was happening to him really was happening, that he was experiencing the real world. He didn't like it, and in that moment of clarity he devised his escape. His training surfaced from deep within him, he quickly assessed the situation and made multiple plans, each one assessed and ordered into the probability of its success until he settled on his course of action. His primary mission objective was to recover, or failing that destroy, "Polly"; to achieve his goal first he needed to extract himself from the current situation. The 'Doctor' was attending to his machine; Doug was by the door but looking away. James kept his body still and with the confidence and skill of only someone who has practiced it a thousand times he slipped his right hand out of the strap holding, Houdini couldn't have done it better.
In a blur of motion, James reached to unlash his ankle bindings. Before either of his captors could react, he had the wire frame mattress he was tied to raised in front of him like a shield. With silent determination, and a surety of success, James charged towards the doctor. Doug was slow to react, which was perfectly according to plan. Doug rushed to protect the doctor. James slammed the mattress into both of them with all of might. Then he lifted it and slammed again, and again, rocking the doctor’s head into the stone floor. The struggle tipped the bucket of water and soaked all of them. With perfect execution, James removed his other hand from the bindings and rolled towards the battery. He grabbed both of the cable clamps and fixed them carefully on the mattress.
Half paralyzed screams filled the room. James’ attention had already moved on from the twitching bodies. They knew just how long a person could take that shock. The Doctor was skilled and removed the clamps just in time. James did not. He rushed through the rickety wooden door and stopped short.
He was in some sort of facility. There were people in business suits milling all about. Some of them were armed. Some of them were focusing on him with smiles on their faces.
“One hundred and twelve days!” A fat man with a beard and mischievous smile shouted at him. “Over three months. Our agent was put to Hellish breaking points and unnerving interrogation that few have the stomach to even administer.” He was talking to others around him now. “Not once did our agent divulge a mote of his mission, much less even a hint towards his employers or the Administration. And to top it all off, he managed to overcome his captors and more than likely could have made it to an extraction point from there. Now, are there any further doubts about his ability to do this job?”
The suits were staring in excitement, like they had just brought up a winning horse.
The fatigue, pain, delirium and ever present drugs could not distract James from his rage.
James really wondered, 'how long can this last, this crazy play station game, if it is, why am I so angry, will reality ever come into my mind again, I know nothing is certain and if it was, would I know?'
“Time to wake up, Mr. Jameson. I’m afraid the time you've paid for on the simulator has come to an end,” said a sullen, suited lady who just seemed to appear to his right. Was this just more mind games from the agency?
James peered closely at her face trying to see if there was any feint outline to her image, as if she had been pasted into the scene. But there was nothing. She was either real or too skillfully pasted – either way, was she telling the truth?
“Mr. Jameson,” she addressed him impatiently, ” Your credits have run out. As you are quite aware it is up to you to release yourself from this reality due to the sims safety features. Now kindly do so.”
He looked at her blankly. He couldn’t remember any release procedure.
“God, I hate this job,” she muttered, “I’m always getting stuck with the simnewb with reality issues. Whose stupid idea was it to give control to the players.”
“I can hear you,” James stated bluntly.
“Well, that’s a start.”
Still feeling groggy from all the mind-altering drugs they used to help trick your brain into believing the simulator, James stumbled away from the games arcade. He couldn't believe his credits had run out just as it seemed he'd beaten the infamous level 5. Oh, the early levels were all fun and games, running about shooting big guns and seducing sexy women but level 5 was where it got serious. Once you completed level 5, the secret service training, that was when the game really started, or at least so James had been led to believe. Despite the drug fuelled vaguely drunk feeling James knew exactly what he had to do now. He had to do whatever it took to get more credits so he could continue his game; but how exactly was a homeless, penniless, friendless, bum supposed to earn any credits in this post apocalyptic 2050 New London town? Without even thinking about it, James headed towards the Street Fighter arena's in the Korea-Town district.
Double or die the rules, the chance to make millions. Plastic as his state of mind his body responded, slumping. Pithy retort failed him, briefly, as mesmerised by fazing saucers, drawn by Sciorg’s razor eyes, he floundered. Brain mush for breakfast, James was toast. To follow slurping at fresh kill cavity, Sciorg intended to re enforce his status as Alien Master by snapping James in two.
Roland Petrov 02/05/2013
The Chef intervened. Snapping in two was an unheard of culinary practice, even here in Korea Town, and he wasn’t about to let it happen on his watch. His watch. Yes, that alien timepiece indicated that it was time for brain mush on toast, but the latest specimen from the Street Fighter arena was, at the moment, brainless.
Your paragraph goes here:
The guy drove in silence, a grim look of determination on his face. In the trunk of the metallic blue Jaguar there was a man, curled up in fetal position. His eyes bulged with fear; his hands and feet were bound with brown parcel tape. The police uniform he was wearing was soaked through with perspiration. It had been a long journey but he was pretty sure that the next time the car stopped someone was going to kill him. Or, at least try.
He'd been in the job for over ten years now, ever since he'd left the army. The skills of a sniper aren't that easily transferred into civilian life. He had thought about law enforcement but, eventually, contract killer had won out. The police uniform was a useful tool though. He had been contracted to kill some pretty mean people, some you might even call 'evil'. It had never looked this bad for him though. He had liked to imagine he would make it to retirement, make enough money and then just disappear and live on a beach somewhere until he died of old age, well past his 100th year.
Occasionally he had fantasized about a big budget Hollywood style final fight sequence with some old arch-enemy but that was never likely to happen. Everyone he had been contracted to kill had been killed; there was no getting back at him after that. And they were all mean, maybe even 'evil' people, so he slept all right at night with that in mind.
He'd killed people in the army, they were the enemy and it was what he was supposed to do. He liked to think that in his career as a hit man he'd managed to wipe out a few more of 'the enemy'. Drug dealers, murderers, rapists, fraudulent creeps that the cops were never going to catch, thieves, psychos, every type of scum you could think of. Other contract killers were the best assignments. Taking out a competitor wasn't just a challenge; it made good business sense too. Every fellow professional you took out, word got around and your paydays went up. And, of course, it had the added excitement that you were taking on a professional, someone who was expecting it, was prepared for it. Always a thrill.
The job had drawbacks, of course. Sometimes, occasionally, someone would try to kill you. He'd always been well prepared for that, he'd always managed to turn bad situations around. Until now that was. He had no idea who the guy driving was. He must be an out of Towner, maybe even foreign; he hadn't recognized him, his features or his style but he had been quick, well prepared and successful. Laying in the trunk the hit man wondered who it was that had decided it was time to get rid of him.
The guy driving may have had a grim look of determination set on his face but inside his mind was swirling, awash with whirling thoughts. He zigged and zagged from one thought to another. Where to take the killer. How to kill the killer. How to dispose of the killer's body and not get caught. He kept coming back to how to kill him. He didn't want to keep the killer alive for a long time; he'd seen enough movies to know that would end up with him in trouble and the killer getting away. No, this would be quick.
The guy also wanted to find the perfect words to say. He'd seen a movie once where one of the characters had a set speech that they rolled out every time they thought they were about to get the killer of their loved one. It was a good film; he seemed to remember the actor who played 'Columbo' was in it, though he wasn't the one with the big speech. The guy imagined himself with a shiny, tanned, Rambo like body firing a machine gun screaming, "This is for my wife, that's for my sister, and this one's from me!" cheesy movie crap.
For a millisecond, a half bemused smile replaced the guy's look of grim determination. Just for a millisecond. He had to keep that determined look. He had to think about the next few hours, what he was going to do and how he was going to do it. How to communicate to the killer in the trunk why he was getting killed, make him see that what he had done was wrong. It was hard, to think too hard in that direction led to a million pictures of the woman the guy loved, all of them being eclipsed by one large one of her dying, pain and surprise etched on her face. If the guy thought of that he would realise that his life was ruined, his wife dead and if he started to think like that then he might just curl up into a ball; cry and shoot himself dead instead of the killer. The guy couldn't let that happen, he had to sort out the killer first. The guy held onto his grim look of determination and drove.
"It wasn't personal. I don't decide who gets killed. People pay me money, I kill who they tell me to kill."
"You're a contract killer?"
"Yeah. Look, I don't get paid the large sums of money I get paid to kill people for no reason. The people I kill, they're the bad guys. The way I see it, I'm the good guy here."
"Argh! Just… Just, SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
The conversation wasn't going how the guy had hoped at all. He had wanted to stand and speak in a reasonable manner, make the killer see that he was a killer, a bad guy, make him realise that he was wrong. But it wasn't working, the killer was calmer than the guy, he seemed to be making out that the guy's wife was some sort of evil and that the killer was a hero or something. And now the guy had lost his cool and had started shouting.
"Come on man. She was a politician. A big guy; lots of influence, lots of control. She must have been into some bad shit for me to be called in. And the amount of money I was getting paid…"
"ARGH! Right. That's it…" BANG "…You…" BANG "…Fucker…" BANG "…You killing, bad…" BANG BANG BANG
The gunshots drowned out his tirade of swearing until the gun clicked empty. The guy had been prepared for lots of blood. He'd expected a big red mess, but this was much darker and messier. A couple of the shots had missed but most had hit what the guy had been aiming for, the killer’s legs and lower body. His groin. His dick.
The killer’s right thigh had a big hole in it holding a deep pool of blood and bits of shattered bone. His left foot looked like it wasn't attached to his leg anymore and the place where the killer should have had a dick didn't have anything left in it anymore. The guy crouched close to the killer’s head, reloading his gun. The killer was surprisingly quiet, just emitting little groans through jagged breathing.
The guy put his face right next to the killer's, smelling all the blood, sweat, shit and fear, "Now." He rasped through gritted teeth, "You listen." The guy was insane with anger but desperate to communicate in a clear and concise manner, which was difficult through grinding teeth. The guy made a conscious effort to relax his jaw muscles before he shattered a tooth. "My wife was a good woman. She was clean, a nice all round goody. YOU'RE WRONG!" the shout blurted out of him and then he continued in a more controlled manner, "You killed a sweet, innocent, young lady today. All your other kills may have been creeps, even the devil himself for all I know, but today… You killed an angel."
The guy's face set into a grim look of determination as he stared into the killer’s eyes, and without another word he lifted the gun up, pointed it at the killer’s head and pulled the trigger.
I wrote the opening paragraph in March of 1998 when I was at university, the full 3 page short story that followed it then was published in my Hall magazine the "Elvyn News" and is included here as the part titled "The Guy Drove (Original (award winning) Short Story)". It won a short story competition and I recieved a £10 voucher for a local fried chicken outlet. I'm not sure how many other people entered that competition to be honest…
In 2006 I put the paragraph on a website that I’d made and asked for people to write the next paragraph and thus it started a second life as my Web-Site Story. I briefly tried to continue that story here but quickly realised it made much more sense to create a completely new 100% Jottify version and so here we are.
I'm hoping that with all the creative people here on Jottify we'll be able to come up with something new and interesting as the 2012 Jottify version, it's looking pretty good so far…
Keep it coming