Who wants to have some fun?
Let’s write a chain story!
I propose a short novel entitled ‘The Mark’.
Monica Larsen, an unmarried thirty-ish attorney from Bayshore, Wisconsin has died on the highway, her car struck by a farm tire falling off a service truck.
The afterlife is nothing like what she expected.
I’ve written Chapter 1, appended below.
My thinking is that each succeeding chapter should come in between 1,000 and 1,500 words. Beyond that, the Internet is silent on how this sort of activity should be operated.
Here’s my plan:
- Each author will determine who writes the following chapter(s) based on a submitted story proposal or outline. This means there will only be one thread to the story.
- You can write more than one chapter, but let’s try to keep the activity open.
- Each chapter will be published here and on the author’s website.
- Every author retains IP rights to the chapter(s) they write.
- If we do something wonderful, we’ll have to figure out what that means, if and when it happens.
Do you want me to edit Chapter 1 for a smooth transition to your chapter? I can do that.
If I get takers, I’ll build a section on my WordPress site for the story.
Let’s get started.
Monica Larsen walked in darkness. The only light she witnessed came from herself.
Am I glowing?
It was the first time she noticed it. Wisps of fog curled around her ankles. A nice touch, she thought. Spooky.
Leather scraped against bare thighs. She recognized the garment as a Tunica, worn by Roman soldiers in the time of Christ.
How did I know what it’s called?
Her hand brushed the pommel of a short sword — a Gladius — at her waist. The grip was slick with condensation. Monica envisioned drawing from the scabbard, only to have the weapon slip from her grasp. She spoke into thick air. “Whoever is doing this, it’s less funny by the second.”
She fixed a doorway in her mind’s eye, now countless steps past. There had been a border, decorated in a language she didn’t recognize.
Probably said ‘Abandon hope, ye who enter’. Why did I wander away from the others?
She flexed her wings, considered taking flight, but hesitated. She would lose sight of the ground and there were no other points of reference. Then what?
Monica felt a bout of panic coming on. She tugged at a coarse leather strap spanning her left shoulder, securing hammered bronze sheet front and back.
Am I really an Angel?
She shook her wings. They seemed authentic enough.
Her hand touched a nametag, stuck to the breastplate of her armor, and peeled it off. It said “Hello, I’m __”. Monica was in cursive, as if written with a Sharpie. They all laughed about it, the newly arrived, confused by their predicament. An artifact of the previous life, a man in her group suggested, meant to be familiar, comforting. Monica was not comforted. It seemed like a cruel joke. She folded the label until she couldn’t bend it anymore and let it drop from her fingers.
She walked on until she tripped, almost fell, staggered upright and realized what was in her path.
She heard a rumble in the near distance, spied a headlight approaching. “Oh my God, are you kidding me?”
One hand went to her mouth. “Sorry.” Monica stepped off the railbed and waited, strangely calmed by the sheer kitsch of it all. She muttered to the One she hoped was listening, half penitent, the other half defiant. “It’s cliché, but I’m not as scared as I was. So thank you, I guess.”
A light rail transit engine with a faded paint job lumbered out of the mist. It rolled leisurely past, slow enough for her to take a good look.
The operator’s booth was unoccupied. There was only one coach in tow.
And now it’s creepy again.
Monica stood on tiptoes as the train squeaked to a stop. The interior was well-lit, windows too high off the ground to see if there were passengers on board.
The center door hissed open. A perforated platform unfolded.
Monica looked left and right. “What? Do you expect me to get on? I don’t think I am.”
She waited, cold seeping through sandals, bare toes starting to hurt. The train rolled forward a few inches, and stopped again.
The percussive report from airbrakes made her want to jump back. Instead, she leapt forward, shouting out a change of heart. “Wait! I’m coming.”
Fingers wrapped around a boarding handle. Two more steps and she was through the door.
The interior was shabby but clean. Her chest fluttered at the sight of a lone passenger near the back. He was a petite gentleman, slender, clean shaven with black, shiny hair combed straight back, dressed impeccably in what might have been a designer suit, a dark purple tie and crisp white shirt. He wiggled his fingers at her. “Hello. Are you Monica?”
“Yes.” Wild, carelessly formed thoughts leapt unbidden to her tongue. “Why don’t you have wings?”
He looked at his hands, countenance blurred with grief. “They were … taken from me.”
Monica brought shoulders forward, embarrassed. “I shouldn’t have asked.” She curled wings around as though to hide in them, and spoke to the matter that reason and doctrine dictated she should be most afraid of in the moment.
“I hope you won’t tell me your name is Lucifer. That would be upsetting for me right now.”
He returned a thin smile. “You might say I have good news and bad news. Repentance has won my release from the abyss. The good news is: I can promise that your journey does not lead there.”
Monica felt sick. Her legs trembled. She steadied herself against seats on either side. Words followed in gasps. “Then why are you here, if not to take me to Hell?”
“I dreamed of a woman dressed like a Roman soldier and then I woke on a train.” He shrugged. “I imagine we’re to be given an assignment, but I have no idea what it might be.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Eh. Neither do I.” He shook his head. “You seem to have frightened yourself with this gloomy setting. Perhaps later I can teach you to master your feelings.”
Monica’s mood roller-coastered. She had a sensation that her emotions might indeed be under control, but not by her. She waved a hand in the air. “Isn’t this your doing?”
“No. You’re dominant in this place. I would prefer …” His end of the car became extravagantly modern. Day overcame night. They traveled through verdant hills, but only for a moment.
As the tableau faded, she looked away. “That’s not what I expected from you.”
His eyes sought hers. “I was never the monster you think I am.”
The man rose to his feet with graceful elegance. “I must leave, but someone will join you later, I’m sure of it.”
He tugged at a sleeve to show a bracelet of ornately engraved gold billet encircling his wrist. “I might look different the next time you see me. You’ll know me by this. Farewell.”
The train lurched to a stop. Monica waited and then ran to the window, expecting to spy some hideous landmark where the Devil might choose to disembark a train, but it was pitch black outside. Harsh words came to her lips. Anguish consumed her spirit. Her legs grew too weary to hold her any longer.
It took practice to fold wings in a way that allowed her to sit. The train clacked on, rocking from side to side, and she was, eventually, lulled to sleep.
Monica woke with breath trapped in her airway, eyes dry and sticky. She raised a hand to her face — there was a bracelet tattooed around her left wrist. She had seen one just like it, a short time before, made of gold, worn by an Angel who had been cast out of Heaven.
Her skin wasn’t sore, giving rise to the hope that it wasn’t permanent. She rubbed at it with her thumb.
But the Mark was there to stay.
Nice intro. I like the font, too – what’s it called?
Thanks … The headings are Fondamento