I need beta? readers, I think. My local newspaper is having a small short story contest because Sherman Alexie is coming to the college to speak. The guidelines are:
Write a 500-700 word short story following the comedic, yet therapeutic theme.
I only found out about this contest two days ago and while I have a passing knowledge of Sherman Alexie I had not read any more than small excerpts of his works until yesterday when I found one of his stories, “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”, on The New Yorker’s website.
I think I understand what the “comedic, yet therapeutic theme” means but I’m not sure if I’ve actually got it. I need someone to read over what I’ve written and tell me if I’m hitting the mark or not.
The deadline is Monday at 5pm but I’m working from morning till late afternoon, so the latest I will be able to work on my story is tomorrow evening before I go to sleep. Because I only have until tomorrow to finish editing it, I would need a response from readers within the day to be of any help to me.
Message me with your email and I will send you a copy of the story asap within the next 30 minutes or when I wake up Sunday and asap during the day.
I took a different route through the neighborhood before crossing over the highway and making my way north to the superstore. Outfitted much the same way as yesterday, except this time I had the flashlight and bat I had scavenged.
I walked cautiously through the deserted urban setting, bat out and ready, looking for movement and listening for any sound other than birds. I stopped occasionally to look all around me. Yesterday’s ‘encounter’ had brought home the reality of the situation to me. There were things out there that would kill me if I didn’t kill them first or avoid them.
Luck was with me and I made it to the superstore without incident. I slid the door open, slipped inside, and closed the door behind me. One of the inner doors was open a few inches. Had I left it like that? I thought I had closed it all the way. Maybe I hadn’t. I remember pushing it closed until it stopped moving. Maybe it had snagged on something and not closed all the way and I hadn’t noticed. I pushed against the door and it slid closed easily. So, I had closed it yesterday but today it was partly open. Someone else had been there or might still be there.
I have an idea for a story about a trans woman who is a supervillain.
Back story: before transitioning she was a genius gadgeteer/mad scientist who mostly robbed banks in power armor and toyed with the idea of taking over a city to retire to one day. Through years of introspection she realized she was a woman. So, she pulled one last job and vanished from her old villainous life to transition and start a new life. Three years into her new life, she’s living full time as a woman while working a minimum wage retail job to keep busy and to maintain her remaining nest egg, half of which she spent setting up her new life and transitioning. It’s a boring tedious life compared to what she used to do. Then an old villain friend happens across her at work, which leads her back into the supervillain life.
So, does this sound interesting?
In the morning:
“They didn’t take anything?”
“Not that I can see,” Dad answered. Looking around the cramped storage unit I had to agree. The drawers in Grandma’s dresser had been pulled out, several boxes were open, and most of the toys from my old toy chest were strewn about but everything seemed to still be there.
“What about my collectables?”
“You mean your doll collection?” he asked with a smile.
“Action figures,” I said having heard his jokes before.
“Yeah they’re still here. A little tossed around but still here.”
“Why break in if you’re not going to steal anything?”
“Our unit wasn’t the only one broken into last night. Twelve other units had their locks cut but nothing stolen.”
“Not really. The manager was telling me this happens a lot. Storage units get broken into but nothing gets stolen. Twelve is more than usual but it happens.”
“It’s still weird to break in and not steal anything.”
“Probably just kids with nothing else to do.”
“I don’t know it looks like they were looking for something.”
The previous night:
“You find it?”
“Nope, ‘nother false lead.”
“We only have until the equinox to find it or…”
“End of the world, I know. We’ll find the artifact before that happens.”
“Yeah we have to. Ok let’s go.”
They bump into each other. Her purse spills out on the floor. His glasses fall and he lets them. He can pluck bullets from the air but he can not catch his glasses. She drops down to scoop everything back in her purse and hands his glasses up to him.
He takes them from her hand, holds them, looks at them, does not put them on. The fastest man on Earth hesitates. He wants her to look up. He wants her to see him.
He waits for her to look up. And waits.
An eternity passes and he puts on his glasses.
It stumbles from the impact. She freezes for a second, watching it regain its balance. It lunges at her. She raises her bat high and brings the bat down on its head. Its head cracks and crunches but it doesn’t fall. It staggers for a second again but renews it’s single minded attack. She swings again to knock it off balance one more time before running away. She runs behind the apartment building. Behind her she the shuffle thump of it following her. She is breathing hard. Looking back she sees it stumbling along faster than a person missing a foot should be able.
The mirror is fogged from her shower. A shower that has washed her body clean but not her mind. She’s a new person, fresh from the pod but with memories of half a dozen deaths. It’s her job, her vocation, to die for her people. Killer, savior, murderer, peace keeper, slayer of sons and daughters… soldier. She is all these things and none.
The shape she sees through the fog is more her own than her actual refection. This isn’t her body. Her body doesn’t even exist anymore. G.I. Jane they call this body type. Strong, durable, fast like it was built for combat. It was built for combat. Designed, coded, and grown just for combat. Its features tweaked just enough to distinguish her from all the others. No one would fail to recognize her as a clone soldier though.
Her body is new. Clean. Fresh. Unscarred. So unlike her memories. She will fix that soon enough.
She considers the number on her shoulder, a seven. Tattooed on after her ‘birth’. It’s supposed to be an honor. Recognition of her value. Recognition that she was worth another body. To her it’s a brand. A way for them to remind she lives by their will. She cuts across one way than the other. Crosshatching it to oblivion.
There are many cuts she must make to remake this body into her own. She does the easy one first. Quick, in one motion, from her eyebrow back to the hairline. Blood flows down. It blinds her in one eye. She tastes it as it reaches her lips. This one is just a reminder of a fight that did not but should have killed her.
Now for the harder ones. She remembers. Her hand presses against the place in her that had once, one time, held life. This body would never, could never, do the same. She remembered the joy and the aches as it quickened within her. She remembered the first kicks and then the stillness. So, still. She had fretted for a day before her doctor had confirmed her fears and made arrangements. There were complications and explanations. In the end she understood there would be no next time. No second try.
She cried and raged against the pain in her heart. The emptiness that spread through her like cancer until she could no longer feel anything. And that hurt even more. She took a knife to her skin to ease the pain.
Randomly crisscrossing cutting deep in her skin. She cuts into and writes in pain and blood on half her inner arm from the wrist down . Pain and blood. So much pain that only blood could quiet the dulling roar of it. That night she had been in a frenzy before the blood had calmed her and the pain in her arm had overwhelmed the pain in her heart. She, now, cuts straight parallel lines beneath the mess below her wrist. Five lines and a half. She hadn’t needed the sixth. She had finished. She had beaten back the pain. It wasn’t the last time she had cut but it was the most visible. These were the cuts that had defined her, reminded her, grounded her in her body. Now they were on this body.
She makes just a few more cuts on the other wrist. Another reminder, this one of despair that did not kill her but should have. Finished now, she feels complete and whole.
Wiping the fog from the mirror, she sees a refection of herself carved in this body’s skin. She sees herself.
Easing the outer doors open enough to squeeze out, I stepped out of the store, while keeping an eye on the car I thought I had seen movement behind. I crouched down, baseball bat clenched in both hands at the ready. Staring at the car, I wondered if I could leave without whatever I had, or had not, seen noticing me. Would it be better to make noise and see if anything happened? Should I try to sneak up on the car? My knees began to ache from crouching to long. A fight with a zombie was not something I wanted. Any action that might lead to a fight was out. That left sneaking away.
First, I had to close the sliding doors to the store. It would be bad if one or more zombies wandered inside. Picking flashlight up off the ground, I clipped it to a belt loop with the attached carbine. Slipping my bat between the duffel and the small of my back, I turned around and pulled the doors shut. For those couple of minutes my back was turned to the parking lot I imagined a horde bearing down on me. Glancing over my shoulder dispelled those fears until I once again looked away. With the doors closed, I pulled the bat out and began walking away from the suspect car, while keeping it in view.
A few hundred feet ahead, a superstore loomed over a mostly deserted parking lot. I stopped at the highway between Andy’s convenience store and the superstore, suddenly aware of how silent the world had become. Tires on pavement, engines purring or growling or sputtering, music fading in and out, the occasional car horn and yelled curse word. Instead there was only the chirping of birds and rustling leaves.
I was lucky that first day. Half a dozen times during the short walk I caught myself walking blindly forward, oblivious to everything around me. It was the silence that lolled me into complacency. Without the sounds of people to cue me into alertness, I tuned out the world and walked along as if I didn’t have a care in the world. After a minute, I would remember the world had changed and panic looking around for threats. If anything had found me on that first day, I would have been easy pickings. Nothing did and I made it to the superstore’s doors without anything happening.