We all fancy ourselves writers of some variety, and I fancy myself a wanna-be fiction writer. So, I am going to post, in multiple parts, some of my fiction endeavors. The first series was a “novel” I attempted to write in 2004. It proved a couple of things to me: one, I predicted the market correctly and was right to have wanted to publish a novel about a vampire “love story” (hello, Stephanie Meyer – though mine was going in a MUCH different direction than her high school drama fest); second, it was silly to want to create some unique “piece of literature.” I have pretty much abandoned it because, /1/ it is far too pretentious in the description department, /2/ I didn’t know where I was going, I just started writing (works for some, but apparently not me), /3/ it has become clear that I was trying to show off (still hurts to say that one). So, since I believe in community and exposing your work to criticism, I offer this series as an opportunity to better all of our writing endeavors, because, frankly, when I train my eye to help iron out other people’s mistakes I become better at it myself.
I should say two other things. First, I apologize to James. He is probably experiencing some sort of conniption right now, hoping he had seen the last of this long ago. Second, while your compliments will not be rejected (I have to take my raging ego into consideration after all, If I don’t feed him – how will he continue to grow?), I am posting this to generate criticism. Tear it up, take it apart, I have already left it for dead and I am hoping to find some element of it to salvage.
Smoke plumed in the air and a small orange flame pierced the shroud of a dank night. Its illumination revealed the symmetry and proportion of a well-bred face. Like a beacon, the cigar’s ember surged as the cloud grew and billowed round a hard, pallid countenance. His eyes were striking, and now ascended as they drank in the gothic monument before him. St. Patrick’s Cathedral had long invoked a sense of awe and reflection in everyone who gazed upon it. But he viewed it with disenchanted eyes and any inspiration he may have once held was fleeting. The smoke clung to his hair and shoulders urging him back to the darkness as he abruptly passed through a streetlight and crossed 51st Street. Quickly, quietly, he moved forward into the ambient light of St. Patrick’s illuminated walls.
The cathedral’s spires once reached toward heaven pointing to an awesome and enabling god. Now their cold stone facades impudently compete with temples erected to a more gratifying dominus. Massive, dark monstrosities, in smooth glass and impenetrable steel, tower over the cathedral with unseen spires pointing not upward, but inward, magnifying a more insidious deity. They congregate in a skyline of monetary exaltation that leaves New York’s sacred places forgotten and insignificant. Solicitously, St. Patrick’s patrons have politely bumped past one another in the nave of this refuge, clamoring to gain an audience with the Almighty. Night after night, they grope in vain supplication and morbid self-abasement – impotent and fearful.
Lucius, not wanting to lurk exposed at the foot of this cross, avoided entry at the front door and stole toward the shadows of the cathedral’s west side. He crept backward into the darkness and sought cover from the drizzle. With the cool masonry at his back, he kept a keen eye on the Fifth Avenue traffic and waited patiently for his quarry to exit the monolith. Cars crept past, apparitions sloshing along in the evening’s pallor. He watched them file by like rats with noses thrust in the air on the scent of some acrid carcass. Their pilots, driven by instinct, longed to capitalize on the financial misfortunes of life, gorging themselves upon the misfortune of some wretched soul. As he mused, footfalls in the antechamber pricked his senses and inclined his regard to Patrick’s heavy door. After all of this time, the search was finally over.
Father McCree pushed past the door out onto Fifth and shuddered under the autumn night’s breath. McCree felt the oppressiveness envelope him in its uncaring embrace prompting him to huddle his overcoat round his ample body. A shock of white hair was quickly capped under a weary fedora. His face was bright, but marred by a veiny bulbous nose. Obtrusive as it was, it threatened no detraction from his active, overgrown brows. He was many years past the prime of his life but still quick of wit and quite perceptive. A heavy saunter carried the good priest out of the doorway. In spite of his alert mind, he would have missed those piercing amber eyes glinting in the veiled corner of the entryway, if not for the pungent waft of cigar trailing to the left.
McCree looked over and gasped as an impressive figure emerged from the blackness. He peered up over his nose at the looming creature swathed in an oxford gray suit made of silk. Lucius freed the cigar clamped between his teeth with his thumb and middle finger and released a billow of white smoke that strayed out of his mouth and rose past his nose. It undulated up over angular cheeks and danced around raven strands of long, wavy hair. He pitched the stub to the gutter, and it flipped and rolled in an array of sparks. McCree, thankful for a distraction from those terrible golden eyes, watched it settle and hiss in a puddle.
“I am sorry if I alarmed you, Father.” Lucius nodded his head in nominal respect.
McCree faltered and fumbled for words. “Indeed, you gave me quite the start. No matter though, no harm done.” His voice was rough after many years of rousing homilies, but still rang cordial.
“I regret troubling you at this hour, but I find myself in dire need of your assistance. In fact, it seems really by luck that I have found you.”
The priest was transfixed by the stranger’s presence. Lucius’s voice seemed more a presence in his mind than a tickle in his ear; the tone and caliber of which sang out to him like an orchestral movement, a mournful, autumnal chorus of cellos poured smooth and sweet over the priest’s ears.
McCree felt himself assenting though his intuition screamed from the back of his consciousness defying this siren’s song. His impulses demanded that he plug his hairy ears with his fingers and run screaming. Yet his reason, assuring his safety, won over doubt; and the outsider’s voice allayed his fear. Even if it were the young hours of the morning, he felt compelled to acquiesce to the stranger’s appeal.
“My son, I have sworn duty to the cross and to the church and I will hear your confession,” he said, straightening his posture as he turned hoping to retreat back within the refuge of Patrick’s walls.
“Yes, well, I don’t believe we’ll have any of that tonight, thank you,” Lucius sneered.
“My purpose is merely to have a piece of your mind.” His eyes sparkled and McCree shuddered again. “My name,” he said presenting his hand “is Lucius.”
“A pleasure, I assure you.” McCree offered in feigned confidence, failing to reciprocate with his own name, but shaking Lucius’ hand nonetheless.
The priest squirmed in the hard, sinewy grip of the stranger. He tried to halt the gesture, only to be disappointed by a prodigious strength that steadfastly held him in place, then altered his course. Much to his chagrin, after a small scuffle that sent his hat sailing, McCree found himself spun around to face the walkway.
“Why don’t we take a little stroll?” Lucius smiled wryly, and he led the priest down Fifth Avenue to 51st Street. They crossed Fifth Avenue at the intersection and started toward the Hudson River. All around them, buildings loomed, blocking the starry night while casting ominous shadows. And as the evening waned, the mist grew to a dense fog that lurked in the alleys, creeping out to the streets gaining boldness as it grew.
The outsider led the priest by half a stride. Vigorously, they strode past Broadway and then Eighth Avenue. The river drew ever closer. In a rare display, the city had grown dormant. Even the dependable deluge of traffic had subsided. The night pressed in on them, stalking them like a hunter. The street lights hummed a mournful liturgy, their radiance dulled under the oppression of the fog. The priest’s footsteps were the only sound; they echoed in his ears and filled the vacant street.
“McCree isn’t it?” Lucius inquired. The good Father froze in his tracks, but had no time to react before the back of his arm, replete with flesh, ached with the cruelty of Lucius’s grip. The physical warning was followed by a sharp command, “Keep moving!”
“I arrived in New York only hours ago. How could you possibly know my name?” The priest’s mind raced, searching a lifetime of faces until finally he came to an alarming conclusion. “Who sent you?” He demanded. His activities were supposed to be kept in the strictest confidence. If Lucius had followed him to New York, then he must learn who sent him.
If we can generate a fair bit of dialogue on this, then I will continue to post and would love to see you guys post material in a similar state of abandonment.