Welcome to the sample chapter for my untitled story. This is by no means a finished product, and is still subject to edits and revisions, but it gives you a brief taste of what I am working on. This is how I set up my world, introduce my main character, and describe my own fights with writer's block in literary form. Also, I have to say, I kinda wish I had Jennifer's writing set up sometimes... Just saying. Enjoy!
A cold rain fell against the window, a gentle tintinnabulation keeping time like a demented watch. The room was empty, devoid of almost all life, and possessing only a scant few pieces of furniture. Without anyone around to break up the quiet of the room, the noise was like a symphony worthy of one of the masters. A lone woman sat on the window seat, the lone occupant of the large room staring out through her reflection at the street below.
A veritable sea of umbrellas streamed along undaunted on the sidewalks below, cars flying past like sharks in the ocean. Even the torrential downpour couldn't halt the flow of life in the city. While life continued unabated, Jennifer sat there, only able to observe from her lofty perch. The rain fit her mood, and the slight scowl that she wore only seemed to confirm that.
She reluctantly slid off of the window seat, and sat back down at her computer. She stared at the blinking cursor on the screen and sighed, as her head slammed into the keyboard. Three hours of staring at the blank document, and all she wanted to do was to go out and run through the city streets. Half formed ideas floated in her head, fragments of glorious stories that refused to grow and thrive. Horrible fetal ideas that, like so many others before them, were most likely doomed to a slow death languishing in her brain.
She purposely ignored the framed photo lying face down on the desk next to her laptop. To the casual observer, it would look like she didn't notice it. A more skilled observer would notice the pained look in her face every time her eyes got even close to it. They would notice the barely held back tears. More importantly, they would see the seething anger she kept bottled up inside.
She tapped absently at keys, randomly inserting letters into the blank document, hoping that with a little luck, random button presses might spark the dying embers of inspiration. Hoping to avoid another stillborn story attempt, her button presses had a sort of frantic energy to them. She needed something, and she needed it soon. After her first literary brainchild had become a sleeper hit, pressure had mounted. It seemed that the publisher was on the phone nagging her on a daily basis, wondering when the follow-up will be ready. Jennifer was never one to work well when placed under pressure, and the added pressure from the publisher was only helping to further stunt her creativity.
She screamed at the screen, and shut her laptop. Another day filled to overflowing with writer's block. She briefly pondered throwing open her window, and letting the deluge outside her window take her. Sanity prevailed, and she grabbed her legal pad, and a handful of pencils, returned to the window seat, and began idly sketching. She had found with her last book, that a little random doodling was often just the thing to jump start her addled creativity. It was like a Rorschach test, she'd stare down at the random assortment of lines, and ideas would pop into her head like magic.
She doodled like she was back in college, listening to a particularly boring lecture. Loops and whorls, intersecting with straight lines, crisscrossing in ever more elaborate patterns. The pencil flew over the page, her eyes barely even glancing down. She allowed her hand and arm to operate without the allowing her mind to pay attention. She wanted to have no idea what was on the page until she was absolutely ready. Instead of watching what she was doodling, she once more stared out through her reflection. Her brown eyes looked wistfully up toward the dark gray clouds, as her free hand trailed through her long brown tresses. She bit her lower lip as she sat their deep in thought.
The sound of her pencil tip snapping roused her from her reverie, and she allowed herself to finally look down at the paper. Her eyes scanned the graphite lines, looking for patterns in the random markings. She cocked a single eyebrow, as she looked at the yellow paper. “Hmm. It looks like a rabbit, how very peculiar...”
The grandfather clock in the corner of the room began to chime, reminding Jennifer that it was three in the afternoon. She gasped and looked up from her doodling, “I'm late!”
She jumped off the window seat, tossing aside her legal pad and broken pencil. As she dashed through the apartment, grabbing her umbrella and purse, her stockinged feet slid dangerously across the hardwood floors, more than once sending her tumbling into a wall. She gazed at the clock, watching as treacherous minutes passed, cursing quietly to herself as she slid into her shoes. With barely a thought to even lock the door, she bolted out the door, and down the steps, spiraling down four stories to the ground floor. She stepped out the lobby door, and raised her umbrella beneath the small awning. Almost immediately, a strong gust of wind blew in, and her umbrella inverted ripping the cloth, and snapping a few of the metal support arms. Tossing the useless contrivance of metal and cloth into a trash bin next to the door, she held her purse over her head, and began her mad dash for the subway entrance half of a block away.
By the time she had descended the stairs, and passed the turnstile, her red dress was soaked through, and her hair was matted to her head. She cursed her luck as she got to the platform just as the train started to speed off. She collapsed onto a nearby bench, barely managing to suppress the urge to scream. It was going to be another 10 minutes before the next train came by, and then nearly 30 more minutes to her stop. By her estimates, she was going to be at least 15 minutes late, and the lawyers would not let her hear the end of it.
She looked over at the disheveled lump of cloth and filth that shared the bench with her. The creature was an amorphous shape, buried beneath what looked to be years of filth. Looking at it, she could not tell if it was male, or female. The smell emanating from the shape caused her nose to wrinkle in disgust. A part of her was tempted to leave the bench, but the shape appeared to be sleeping, and despite the smell, Jennifer was not eager to lose her seat. Besides, she told herself that she was going to need to save her strength for the hell that she was heading into. On top of the lateness, she now looked like a wet cat, and there was absolutely no hope of getting dry in time. It was just another thing that was going to look bad in the eyes of the lawyers.
She watched people passing, mothers carting their children around, afternoon business people rushing off to a business lunch or whatever it was they did. The afternoon ebb and flow of the city offered up a fascinating cross-section of the populace. Her mind made mental notes on the faces that passed, seeing them all as potential fodder for a future character. She chuckled as she pictured the frail, waif of a girl with an explosion of freckles on her face as some powerful warrior woman in the next book she wrote. Perhaps that portly fellow with a shirt three sizes too small could be some evil king.
She was pondering these things, when the pile next to her moved. Startled, she fell backward off the bench and crashed into a passing student with his face buried in his tablet computer. The student fell into a mother pulling her kids along toward the escalator. One person crashing into the next in the crowded station, the resultant domino effect resulted in a number of profanities, apologies, and shouts of surprise. Looking up sheepishly, Jennifer craned her neck, in time to watch the final piece in the human chain reaction fall off the platform, and on to the tracks. She let out a gasp, as she rushed across the station, completely forgetting about her purse as she jumped down to the tracks.
“Sir?” She shook the limp form, trying to get a response. “Sir, wake up! We have to get off the tracks before...”
Her thoughts were cut short, by the sound of a train barreling down the tunnel toward her. She whipped her head in the direction of the sound, to see the light of an oncoming train coming around the bend, and seemingly flying at her. She looped her arms under the man’s shoulders, and tried to drag him up toward the platform, but only managed to get him to the side of the tracks. He was too heavy for her to lift and time was running out, there was no way she was going to get the man up before the train came by. She looked up beseechingly at the platform, and saw a gaggle of onlookers, most with their cellphones out, taking pictures, or videos, or posting some stupid shit to Facebook. Rage filled her as she watched them doing nothing.
“Could one of you worthless wastes of skin get your lazy asses over here and give me a hand?” She shouted at the gawkers, the anger she felt boiling inside her lending her words a vehemence that she did not fully intend. Fortunately it got the job done, and a small handful of people put away their phones long enough to help her get the man up to the platform. They laid his unmoving form down on the ground, as a woman came pushing her way through the crowd. The noise of the oncoming train was too loud for Jennifer to make out what the woman was saying, but it looked like she knew the man.
The train roared at her, a mighty beast come to devour the heroic maiden. She tried desperately to pull herself back up onto the platform, her fingernails scraping against the tiles. She looked over again; the train dominated her vision, filling the world with the light coming from its cyclopean eye. Time seemed to slow down to an impossibly slow crawl. Every movement felt as if the very air itself had turned to molasses. Her heel caught in the track, as she tried to push herself up. The seconds on the wall clock appeared to have stopped. It was as if time itself conspired against her, turning seconds into hours. Each heartbeat seemed to drag on, blood no longer flowing through her veins, but rather oozing, creeping along through her glacially slow.
With a final mighty tug, she managed to pull herself up, just as the speeding train whipped past her into the station, the hot breath of its passing washing over her. She didn’t even notice that she had last a shoe to the ordeal, the heel stuck to the rails, and likely obliterated by the passing train. The smell of the station floor reminiscent of the hobo she had so recently shared a bench with. The smell combined with her recent near-death experience was a little more than her body was prepared to handle. Her stomach promptly responded by adding more odors to the mélange of smells, emptying its contents violently all over the floor in front of her.
She stayed there for a moment on her hands and knees, breathing heavily as she choked back the urge to retch even more. She fought to regain her composure, listening to the morbid crowd of onlookers hastily stashing their phones, and shuffling onto their trains or up the escalators. Only one or two stopped to check if she was alright, one clapped her on the back and called her a hero before rushing away. The woman she had seen run through the crowd was the only person that remained behind with the man who she had inadvertently nearly killed, and then consequently saved.
Once her stomach had settled to the point that she felt she could move, she crawled the few feet over to the woman who remained behind. “How… How is he?” Her voice came out in a hoarse croak, the words feeling foreign in her mouth.
The young woman looked up from the man briefly, “He'll survive. It looks like he just passed out.” She smiled weakly at Jennifer, and stroked the man’s hair gently. “I don't know whether to call what you did incredibly brave, or insanely stupid.”
Jennifer nodded her head and looked up at the large digital clock on the wall. She sighed softly, noticing that she still had a few minutes before her train arrived. She looked back over at the man she saved, and the woman looking after him. “Do you think you'll be OK until help arrives? I have a very important meeting I need to get to, and if I miss this next train, I'll....”
"Go ahead, we'll be fine.” The woman’s smile widened a bit, “It's good to see there are still some decent people out there who actually give a damn about others. But... I didn't catch your name, Miss...” She let her words trail off, clearly expecting some form of answer.
Jennifer got to her feet, and tried to wipe the worst of the grease and grime off of her dress. She only managed to spread it around, leaving black finger streaks down her hips. “Allan. Jennifer Allan. I’d offer my hand, but well…” She showed her blackened palms, and wiggled them a bit.
The woman's eyes went big. “I thought I recognized you! You wrote 'The Haunted Legend'!” The woman hastily got to her feet pulling a tattered paperback from her purse, the back emblazoned with an old headshot Jennifer had gotten from a friend as a favor years ago. It was barely recognizable, but a keen-eyed observer would see the resemblance in short order. “I've read this book like a thousand times! For a fantasy novel, it is...”
The woman paused and put her hands over her mouth. “Sorry. I'm rambling. You have places to be. I'm sorry. Go. Thanks again for saving my brother.”
Jennifer gave the woman a smile and a quick nod. “Come by Townsend Books tomorrow at 2 ... I'm having a signing. I'll tell the people at the door to be expecting you. Do you think your brother will be able to make it?”
The woman nodded, and Jennifer continued, after a quick glance at the clock again. “What names should I give them?”
“Michelle and Benny”
Jennifer offered Michelle a final smile, as she turned to head back to wait for her train. “Well Michelle, it was a pleasure meeting you. I hope to see you and Benny tomorrow afternoon.”
Jennifer hurried back to the bench where that filthy vagrant had started this horrible chain of events. The bench was empty, her purse was gone, and she finally noticed that she had managed to lose a shoe. She stared in disbelief down at the empty bench. Her stomach dropping like a lead balloon, and she once again felt the need to empty her stomach.
“Son of a bitch!” Her shout filled the air, and several passers-by stopped to look at her. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
An old woman gave Jennifer a death glare, as she clamped her hands over her grandchild's ears, and marched him away. Jennifer frantically searched the area around the bench, hoping maybe her purse had just gotten knocked over, perhaps shuffled under the bench in the commotion. However as the seconds ticked away, and she heard her train approaching, she lost hope.
In the last seconds before the train closed its doors, a wet, filthy, and utterly defeated Jennifer Allan entered the train, and slumped down into a nearby seat. She stared down at her feet and finally noticed the missing shoe. As the train sped off, Jennifer shook her head and choked back tears as she muttered under her breath.