Thursday, September 29, 2011

"It tolls for thee"

An early morning experiment in writing bad fiction, complete with the most overused and cliche 6-word opener of all time. Trigger warning for violence and suicide.

"It tolls for thee"


It was a dark and stormy noon as the distant bell tower finished its last stroke. He did not know where it was; it could be as far as Downtown or Needham, or perhaps the Mattapan church belt. It did not seem to matter which church it was anymore; after days of frustrating searching, he found that no bells within two miles could possibly play that pounding low song, haunted parody of a melody.

It was a deep sound channel, man, the hemp-soaked young man at the record store drawled to him. Like in the ocean, you know? Four years of “audio engineering” and he never learned to be professional. But the glorified roadie was all too correct. The tiny house at 38 Thorndike, it seemed, was just in the wrong place. Sound from that distant tower bounced off exactly from the wrong roofs and walls, combining at this improbable node and turning his modestly decorated living room into a hellish echo chamber fourteen times a day. On the hour, every hour, seven in the morning to eight at night, came that unearthly ringing. It stayed in his ears constantly, until he could barely tell whether it was real or imagined. Day or night, sun or rain, it was there.

Any sane man would have moved. Brought buyers in at half-past the hour and bought a house a few streets away. It was not that he was not physically strong enough; he was not yet a very old man. But this house was also the house where his wife had been. He was a practical man and did not believe in such things as ghosts, and yet he knew she was there. She was there in his head, in his memories. On at the threshold could he conjure the feeling of her tender lips; only in the cramped bedroom would her lusty smile surface in his brain. No, to leave this house would be to leave her – for the final time.

The ringing in his ears subsides for a moment, and he contemplates going outside for the first time in a week. If he could put her aside for an hour, then perhaps he could clear his head and-

And that that exact moment, the hedonistic thug on the other side of the thin clapboard wall chooses to power on his heavily distorted amplifier. His reaction is measured yet automatic, as if he has been mentally preparing for years. He reaches into an empty drawer and retrieves an ancient revolver. It is surprisingly heavy in his hands. He is unfamiliar with the heft; he has not touched except twice a year to blue the steel. From a yellowed cardboard box in the back of another drawer, he pulls out six small bullets a places them one at a time into their chambers. Click. Spin. Click. Spin. He knows exactly what will happen. In a few minutes, the hooligan will get bored of creating obnoxious screeches, and he will go to the corner store. He will walk down the sidewalk, directly in front of the man’s house. The man practices aiming, firing, turning the gun upwards. He spins the cylinder and stifles a laugh: he’s playing Russian Roulette with bullets in every chamber.

The low tones begin. It is one o’clock.

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