The Future is… well, Lots of Unfinished Novel Ideas It Seems

14 Mar

Guess who has a new novel premise idea? Sarah Spradlin. What a surprise.

Oh, and how did that last novel idea of yours go, Sarah?

Insert suspicious coughing. Anyway.

My new novel premise is based around a time-traveling guardian who, instead of going after all the evil baddies of the world, travels back in time and embeds himself within whatever societal group a future villain or should-have-been heroes. Here is the premise debut short-story.

Start Here

Some people begin with “Once upon a time,” others with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Now, I’m not the best storyteller, and, quite consequently, I tend to trust beginnings to other people— people like you. Come to think of it, I always do. It was sorta-kinda-mostly in the job description. Which is fine by me. Unlike what one of your long ago scholars thought, the end doesn’t justify the means, and, more often than not, it’s the beginning that determines the end. And that makes beginnings very, very important to people like you and people like me.

Here we are. Day 1. 5 P.M. A tall, ten-story building. Unfinished because funding fell through a few years ago. It’s falling apart, really. No walls, just your basic cast-concrete flooring that makes you feel nervous to be anywhere near it. No matter how much rebar they stick into those ten-ton slabs, I’ve always felt uncomfortable standing underneath them.

You’re at the top, of course, where no one is supposed to find you. Blue-collar outfit to attract the ladies at your new college. You are, of course, the brightest kid from your tiny, Tennessee school where moonshining is pretty much legal and post-secondary education is more frowned upon than the government. Got into the University on a full-ride scholarship that you lost a couple months ago because of bad grades.  It’s raining today, too. Hardly the most picturesque place to begin. But, then again, I don’t choose that for you.

“Don’t pull that trigger.” I should have been winded from my jog up the cracking, bad-for-the-gray-haired-senior-type sort of stairs, but the exhilaration of this moment overcomes that. It crosses my mind that I’m getting too old for this, but I push it away without another thought. Timing here is crucial.

It is dark, and you don’t know me. You don’t know why I am here. It’s okay. I’d be alarmed, too, if I were in your shoes.

I meet your eyes, and I see that you are afraid. You’re a little nervous—a couple of unsure thoughts bristle and rear their heads in the back of your mind, but still you’re consumed by that deceptively euphoric, adrenal high. They always are before they pull the trigger. So cliché, this end you’ve chosen for yourself. It’s all here: the gun, the sweat, nature’s cinematic background music playing behind us. Boom, badabum, badabum, badabum.

You thought that you could escape—that no one would know. That no one would see. Yet here I am, dashing all your plans of self-destruction in the blink of a tired, weathered eye. Meaning my eyes, if you were wondering.

“Who are you?” No thanks, just a question. How courteous of you.

“A friend who’s telling you to stop.” I take a step forward and place my hands over yours, pulling the gun away gently. You’re whisked back to the way that little, grandma-like lady held your hands after service one day and whispered, “You’ll do just fine, just fine, I think.” The week before you left for college had been a big one, it seems.

“But I don’t know you.” Of course you don’t! That is the point here. Gotta make things mysterious and what not. I’ve heard people like that. Makes for good TV.

“You don’t have to know me,” I say as I meet your eyes and point the gun at the ceiling. I pull the trigger myself. It shatters the silence, and dust sprays like an explosive burst from one of those dollar-store sprinklers from your smear of a childhood. Concrete shrapnel flies and a flurry of curse words and flailing arms tell me you’re not so sure that my intentions are innocent after all.

“You’re gonna kill us!” No, no. I’m quite confident the concrete will not topple down over us. I did plan this myself. Stop freaking out. In fact, considering the rather unoriginal few moments preceding this, I had imagined you would’ve appreciated the semi-climactic turn of events. I’ve found here recently that I tend to imagine things wrong a lot.

“Alright… Why do you care? This was my choice.” Your statement comes off more like it’s a cliché DTR set-up question for a date than a I’d-like-to-know-why-the-friendly-neighborhood-psycho-is-suddenly-interested-in-saving-my-life sort of question.

As usual, though, I’m not phased. I’ve heard enough bad questions to formulate a few good, all-or-nothing answers. “No. No, this is the choice you allowed your depression to make for you. This is the choice you allowed your failure to make for you. This is the choice you let Defeat pick off the aisle ‘Worst Choices You’ll Make in Your Life.’ Get the picture, kid?”

“No! No! It is my choice!” You’re crying, but I don’t relent. It’s not my job to be sympathetic. It’s my job to keep you from blowing your brains out and making a lot more of a mess of this than you already have.

“Is it? Is it really your choice? What will this stop? Do you think it all ends after everything fades to black? Do you think it’s all that simple? Do you?” I holler at you. You shouldn’t have chosen such a desolate place. I always yell when I have the chance to.

“I don’t know!” You’re yelling back, but you’re beginning to understand. “Just let me end this!” Screaming, as a side note, is quite an exhilarating and subsequently liberating pastime.

“It’s funny.” I’m laughing a little, maybe crying a little, too. A flash as lightning rips the fabric between heaven and earth; the light of the above shining through for one brilliant moment before darkness consumes us again. It’s always a battle against the darkness isn’t it? The choking, smothering, loathing, spluttering darkness. Thunder roars like a wounded lion. The rain billows and blows. We’re getting wet. “They always say that,” I said with a few, short nods. “They imagine that this is the end. But really, it’s the beginning. It’s your beginning.”

“I don’t understand.” You wrinkle your eyebrows, and I shrug in reply.

“You’ve got a life ahead of yourself, kid. But here, take the gun. There’s still another bullet in there. You still have a chance to do what every dark, depressed fiber of your being wants you to do.” I toss the gun back to you. You catch it. Your hands aren’t shaking anymore.

“This was going to be simple,” you say, looking at the gun and then at me, “I don’t even know who you are.”

“But you don’t have to, do you? Go home. Go home to your family who loves you, to your sister who adores you, to your best friend who has been texting you for the past half hour. Buzz, buzz, buzz, kid. You know you’ve got great ideas, tenderfoot. Ideas that could make a real difference in this world of ours.”

“How—how do you know about that?”

“Me? I don’t know anything. I don’t matter. You want to know what does matter? What you decide to do with that gun in your hand.”

You fall silent again. Ah, these rhetorical questions always seem to shut them up.

“What are you going to choose?” I ask again. “Both your options lead into the unknown.”

You look at me one more time before you walk to the edge. The driving rain soaks you. Drip, drop, drip. Washing it all away. I smile and turn away, already knowing your choice and watching out of the corner of my eye as you let the gun slip from your hand. You’ll watch it spiral to the ground, watch it crash into the earth below, and I’ll make my getaway, substituting the appropriate cinematic sound effects to make things exciting.

By the time you turn around, I’m already gone. And you’ll wonder for the rest of your life if I was even ever there at all.

“To your new beginning,” I murmur, smiling grimly and holding up an imaginary toast to the gray monstrosity that you had chosen to be your end. I stand there for only a few moments before turning away and disappearing into the sheets of driving rain.

I am, perhaps, one of the most influential and powerful people you will ever meet, and yet you will only ever know me by a name that is not my own. It is a great burden to be the guardian of your world. I was chosen for it, you see. We all are. Guardians— that’s what I like to think of us as. Assuming there are others. I don’t know for sure. It makes me feel less alone to assume so, so I do.

I’ve also found there is a lot to be said of the power of words. After all, that’s most of what I do. Talk to people. Sometimes they listen to me, sometimes they don’t. I know your destiny, I know your fate. And I will find the one decision that you see as the end.  Sometimes its drugs, sometimes its porn. Other times its things like apathy. Like laziness. You’d be surprised at how much a difference those two words can make when practiced for a lifetime.

The roots of the problems of this world aren’t in the villains of today. They’re in the kids of yesterday who made several wrong turns—enough to alter who they are. Forever twisted in a nightmare that never should have been theirs. Your superheroes go around killing bad guys and shooting up the infamous doomsday factories themselves: lairs, hangouts, whatever. But me? Nah, I don’t like killing. Take a look at the roots of the biggest baddies. Now imagine you can go back and change something. You’d be surprised at how many wars you can stop that way. I like stopping wars. But I’m not important. I’m not the character everyone remembers. You are.

Always remember, kid, it’s your choice.

Start here.

What do you think? Silly idea that needs some work, or something you would read? Let me know in the comments!

race (1)

Cover for “Start Here.” from Sarah’s Figment page

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2 Responses to “The Future is… well, Lots of Unfinished Novel Ideas It Seems”

  1. brookenicolenorris March 15, 2014 at 9:51 AM #

    Once again, I cannot wait to read more of this! By the way, thanks for keeping the blog alive, Sarah! lol, my ideas are so scattered that often I have nothing to write about.

    • Sarah Spradlin March 15, 2014 at 10:27 AM #

      Haha! I ended up with a little spare time yesterday, so I decided to post some fun stuff 🙂 Glad you like the idea! I actually think this may be a good one for us to write together. Because… as I was typing this, I just got a massive burst of inspiration… oh. my. goodnes…

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