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Writers Corner: Books, Stories & Poems
Writers Corner: Books, Stories & Poems

Writer's Block and Other Ramblings

ssroomani IF-Rockerz
ssroomani
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Posted: 05 May 2011 at 10:42pm | IP Logged

I am new to this forum.   I came to know about this section on IF after I participated in the tell-a-story contest recently.  I had participated in another short story contest a few months back, but then it did not register that there was such a section on IF!  Smile


I am not basically a fiction writer but the contest by NJ was so interesting, I had to participate!   In fact, I wrote 3 stories on the excerpt #3 and made my daughter read all of them and she selected the second story I had written, "The Sixth Victim," for submission.    Thanks to all who read, liked, and voted for the story!  Hug


On request of my friends here to whom I mentioned after the results were announced that I had actually written 3 stories on same excerpt, I am posting those 2 stories as well.   All 3 began the same way with the same text, but the endings are all different.  Embarrassed


Please give your feedback as it will help me, specifically because I do not usually write fiction! Tongue   But now I am really tempted to try my hand at it in all seriousness!  


I shall try and keep this thread alive by adding more of my writing here...for feedback so that I become a better writer!  




Edited by ssroomani - 05 May 2011 at 10:52pm

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Posted: 05 May 2011 at 10:47pm | IP Logged

This was the first story I wrote around the excerpt #3.


WRITER'S BLOCK

 

I was terrified.  The eyes behind the mask stared at me intently.  Were they angry at me because I had found the owner of the eyes in this particular situation?  Was I going to be the next victim?  I was hypnotized by those eyes and found myself sinking into oblivion.  The dark descended on me and enveloped me like a comfy, snug blanket.

 

When I woke up again, I found myself on a couch in some place which was not familiar to me. I struggled to sit up, and a man in the room helped me up and asked me if I was feeling okay.  I stared at him, who was this now?  I didn't know and somehow didn't want to know.

 

The man introduced himself as Inspector Graham of Scotland Yard.  "Are you well enough to answer a few questions, Ms. Smith?" he asked me. 

 

"Questions?  I haven't done anything wrong and how did I land up here?"

 

"We found you unconscious near the bushes at the western gate of the town cemetery.  There has been a murder and you were found a little away from the body of the victim.  It is possible you were a witness to the act.  Do you remember anything that might help us?"

 

"How do you know my name?  I have never seen you before," I asked, rather stupidly as I realized.

 

"Obviously, from the contents of your handbag, Ms. Smith. We had to identify you in some way."

 

I tried to remember what had happened.  Slowly it came back to me.  I was walking along the rather lonely shady road which went around the cemetery wall.  I had been working late, all night in fact on my thesis, in the library which was just a few meters away from the town cemetery.  I was not a nervous person by nature and was used to the road, but today, I was jittery and felt as if someone was walking over my grave.  I increased my pace and then as I rounded the curve in the road and came to the gate of the cemetery, my eyes widened in horror.  A masked and cloaked figure was kneeling near the gate and his hand was raised.  The hand held a knife which glittered in the starlight.  In front of my horrified gaze, he brought it down on a body that was lying on the ground repeatedly in a frenzied manner. I must have made a sound though I did not hear myself scream because suddenly the kneeling figure turned his head and looked at me.  The face was masked and had slits for the eyes which burned coldly into my face.  They were a cold steel gray and as they stared into mine they darkened…or was it the darkness descending on me?  I did not remember anymore.

 

I repeated this to the Inspector stumbling and stammering and shivering as I went over the memory again.  He offered me a glass of water and listened to me patiently with an encouraging "yes?" or "continue, Ms. Smith" to help me along.  I came to the end of my narrative and sank back on the sofa feeling drained of all energy.

 

"Could you give a description of the man, Ms. Smith?  Our police artist can sketch the person from your description.  Would you give it a try?"

 

"I didn't see him at all.  He was masked and cloaked and there was nothing I could see of him to describe!" I protested.

 

"Describe whatever you saw Ms. Smith.  Describe the mask, the cloak, whatever you can remember.  You would be surprised at how any little thing may help in identifying the person."

 

He got up and made a call.  Another man in police uniform came into the room with sketching materials in hand.  He set up an easel and then turned to me.  I stared at him wondering how I was going to get through this.  He looked at me impassively with a tiny smile on his face and asked me whether I was ready.

 

"He was masked.  I don't know what his face is like except the eyes.  He was also wearing a long cloak that fell on the ground as he knelt there.  I don't know whether he was fat, thin, or medium built.  I don't know if it was a he or a she!  I don't know anything!"  My voice rose in pitch as panic surged through me.

 

He held out the glass of water.  "Please Ms. Smith, try and control yourself.  You are safe here.  You say you saw his eyes. What color were they?"  His eyes bore into mine intently as he watched my face.

 

I stared at him in stupefied silence.

 

"Tell me more about the eyes." 

 

Passing me the glass of water, he pressed me for details, without a trace of urgency or haste. It wasn't a gesture of concern, because coming from him, it was like a receptionist's smile - something he was boringly and obligingly accustomed to doing, as part of his job. 

I wasn't mindful enough of his lack of sympathy, just right then. Quite thankfully instead, I drank in a large gulp of the chilled water. Then I took in a deep breath, and closed my eyes to remember what I would have given anything to forget - the sight of those eyes through the face mask ... The translucent hazel that turned to steel when they narrowed to focus upon ... 

 

My own eyes fell open with a start, a shudder passing through my spine. He sat looking at me intently, and the very distant comprehending part of my mind held onto the subconscious former belief - it wasn't out of concern, but routine. He was being merely patient with me, a crucial witness to this fifth murder case in the neighborhood that had kept their hands full here at Scotland Yard, this entire awful week of rainy afternoons. In this weatherly respect, today was no different. 

 

"They were cold," I whispered. My voice had refused to come full volume ever since the incident early this morning, sometime before the inset of dawn. 

 

"Blue?"

 

"Nuances of grey ... they turned dark ... very dark when he ... when ... " I inhaled sharply and ran a hand forcefully through the tangled mess of my long tresses. If I'd survived the sight of that ruthless stabbing, surely, I could survive speaking it out loud ... ?

 

"I see." 

 

Any other day, any other time, this man would have driven me over the edge. Why here I was, at all my nerves' end, and all he offer me was an 'I see'  ... ? Sure! He could see nothing at all. Nothing! Unknowingly, I had worked myself into something of a breathlessness. Unknowingly also I was scowling deeply, staring or rather glaring at him. Perhaps he sensed it, for he met my eye, interrupting his professional strokes on the canvas, sketching the murder suspect.

 

"Are you alright?" 

There it was, the water glass yet again, raised up for me. I wanted to scream the obvious 'no, I'm not!' right into his face; instead I held back and re gathered my dissipating composure. I did however reject his attempt to drown my extreme discomfiture with mere cold water - what was I, a flushing system? 

 

"They were quite like yours," I told him bluntly staring into his eyes, and momentarily, the revelation of my own words shocked even me. 

 

He stared at me impassively with no reaction on his face to my sudden outburst.  "Really, Ms. Smith? " he asked.  "Did they look like mine?  That makes it easier to sketch."  He made a few more strokes on the canvas and then turned to me.  "Like this?" he asked, pointing to the eyes behind the mask on the canvas.


I stared at the canvas.  Panic was overtaking me again.  The eyes stared into my face, and as I watched, they darkened and then I sank into oblivion once more.


When I woke up, I found myself at home in bed.   I was soaked in sweat and the sheet and pillow beneath me felt damp.  I sat up shivering.  The small alarm clock next to my bed and the open window told me that it was morning.  Sunlight flooded through the sheer curtains which were moving lazily in the slight breeze.   It would probably soon turn dark and damp with rain as had been happening in the past week in the afternoon, but right now, the day was bright and it helped me calm down.


Had it all been a dream?  I did work at the library, but I was not writing any thesis.  I was an aspiring writer who wanted to have a best seller published but so far had found no takers for my ideas.  I earned a living working at the library during the day and then writing small pieces in my spare time, some of which did make it to the newspapers or magazines.   It helped but did not satisfy me.  I wanted to have a book published, a book that would be the talk of the town!  But it looked like I was going through a writer's block because I had no new flashes of inspiration to make me want to put the thoughts into words.


I decided to get out of bed.  It was a Saturday and I had the day off from my library job.  Perhaps, inspiration would come today, I told myself, as I went about my chores and then fixed breakfast.  As I made my way through the toast and marmalade, I looked over the newspaper.  As I was cursorily flipping the pages, a headline suddenly caught my eye.  "Serial murders solved!  Killer arrested! "  I quickly read through the report that followed.   In a town about 50 miles from here, there had been murders of young girls out at night alone, four murders to be precise.  The police had been working overtime to solve the case, and apparently the murderer had been apprehended as he was stalking his fifth victim.  The girl this time had managed to escape and give a description to the police which had helped to nab the culprit.  I was stunned at the coincidence.  I had dreamed of something similar, and there was this report in the paper.  Was this a sign?  As I stared at the photograph of the murderer, I felt the first thrill of inspiration.  Yes, this was it!  Now I knew why I had the dream (or rather nightmare)!  It was all part of a pattern, the pattern which would make me a writer.  As characters and plots rushed through my mind, I abandoned the breakfast and opened my laptop.  "This is it," I told myself and smiled broadly.  My writer's block had vanished.



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Posted: 05 May 2011 at 10:52pm | IP Logged


This is the 3rd story I made up around the same excerpt, #3.


THE EYES

 

I was terrified.  The eyes behind the mask stared at me intently.  Were they angry at me because I had found the owner of the eyes in this particular situation?  Was I going to be the next victim?  I was hypnotized by those eyes and found myself sinking into oblivion.  The dark descended on me and enveloped me like a comfy, snug blanket.

 

When I woke up again, I found myself on a couch in some place which was not familiar to me. I struggled to sit up, and a man in the room helped me up and asked me if I was feeling okay.  I stared at him, who was this now?  I didn't know and somehow didn't want to know.

 

The man introduced himself as Inspector Graham of Scotland Yard.  "Are you well enough to answer a few questions, Ms. Smith?" he asked me. 

 

"Questions?  I haven't done anything wrong and how did I land up here?"

 

"We found you unconscious near the bushes at the western gate of the town cemetery.  There has been a murder and you were found a little away from the body of the victim.  It is possible you were a witness to the act.  Do you remember anything that might help us?"

 

"How do you know my name?  I have never seen you before," I asked, rather stupidly as I realized.

 

"Obviously, from the contents of your handbag, Ms. Smith. We had to identify you in some way."

 

I tried to remember what had happened.  Slowly it came back to me.  I was walking along the rather lonely shady road which went around the cemetery wall.  I had been working late, all night in fact on my thesis, in the library which was just a few meters away from the town cemetery.  I was not a nervous person by nature and was used to the road, but today, I was jittery and felt as if someone was walking over my grave.  I increased my pace and then as I rounded the curve in the road and came to the gate of the cemetery, my eyes widened in horror.  A masked and cloaked figure was kneeling near the gate and his hand was raised.  The hand held a knife which glittered in the starlight.  In front of my horrified gaze, he brought it down on a body that was lying on the ground repeatedly in a frenzied manner. I must have made a sound though I did not hear myself scream because suddenly the kneeling figure turned his head and looked at me.  The face was masked and had slits for the eyes which burned coldly into my face.  They were a cold steel gray and as they stared into mine they darkened…or was it the darkness descending on me?  I did not remember anymore.

 

I repeated this to the Inspector stumbling and stammering and shivering as I went over the memory again.  He offered me a glass of water and listened to me patiently with an encouraging "yes?" or "continue, Ms. Smith" to help me along.  I came to the end of my narrative and sank back on the sofa feeling drained of all energy.

 

"Could you give a description of the man, Ms. Smith?  Our police artist can sketch the person from your description.  Would you give it a try?"

 

"I didn't see him at all.  He was masked and cloaked and there was nothing I could see of him to describe!" I protested.

 

"Describe whatever you saw Ms. Smith.  Describe the mask, the cloak, whatever you can remember.  You would be surprised at how any little thing may help in identifying the person."

 

He got up and made a call.  Another man in police uniform came into the room with sketching materials in hand.  He set up an easel and then turned to me.  I stared at him wondering how I was going to get through this.  He looked at me impassively with a tiny smile on his face and asked me whether I was ready.

 

"He was masked.  I don't know what his face is like except the eyes.  He was also wearing a long cloak that fell on the ground as he knelt there.  I don't know whether he was fat, thin, or medium built.  I don't know if it was a he or a she!  I don't know anything!"  My voice rose in pitch as panic surged through me.

 

He held out the glass of water.  "Please Ms. Smith, try and control yourself.  You are safe here.  You say you saw his eyes. What color were they?"  His eyes bore into mine intently as he watched my face.

 

I stared at him in stupefied silence.

 

DING DONG!   Susan jumped.  "Must be the pizza delivery man," she muttered to herself as she put the book down and got up from the sofa where she had curled up.  Her husband was away on a business trip and she was alone at home.  During such times, Susan felt too lazy to cook and many times ended up ordering something from the pizza store.  She knew it was not good for her, but though she made up her mind many times to stop her unhealthy eating habits, she never succeeded in putting it into practice.

 

Susan opened the door and took in the pizza and paid the delivery boy.  "Thank you, ma'am," he said and turned away.  As he was walking away, he looked back at her and she was startled.  His eyes looked just like those of the murderer in her book, cold, steely, and as she watched she felt they were darkening.  She hastily closed the door and locked it.  She leaned against the door and drew a sharp breath.  "Really, Susan, grow up now," she chided herself as she walked to the dining table with the pizza.

 

After finishing the pizza, Susan returned to her book again.  She was a voracious reader though most of her reading was crime thrillers and sizzling romances.  She curled up on the sofa and started to read once more. 

 

"Tell me more about the eyes." 

 

Passing me the glass of water, he pressed me for details, without a trace of urgency or haste. It wasn't a gesture of concern, because coming from him, it was like a receptionist's smile - something he was boringly and obligingly accustomed to doing, as part of his job. 

I wasn't mindful enough of his lack of sympathy, just right then. Quite thankfully instead, I drank in a large gulp of the chilled water. Then I took in a deep breath, and closed my eyes to remember what I would have given anything to forget - the sight of those eyes through the face mask ... The translucent hazel that turned to steel when they narrowed to focus upon ... 

 

My own eyes fell open with a start, a shudder passing through my spine. He sat looking at me intently, and the very distant comprehending part of my mind held onto the subconscious former belief - it wasn't out of concern, but routine. He was being merely patient with me, a crucial witness to this fifth murder case in the neighborhood that had kept their hands full here at Scotland Yard, this entire awful week of rainy afternoons. In this weatherly respect, today was no different. 

 

"They were cold," I whispered. My voice had refused to come full volume ever since the incident early this morning, sometime before the inset of dawn. 

 

"Blue?"

 

"Nuances of grey ... they turned dark ... very dark when he ... when ... " I inhaled sharply and ran a hand forcefully through the tangled mess of my long tresses. If I'd survived the sight of that ruthless stabbing, surely, I could survive speaking it out loud ... ?

 

"I see." 

 

Any other day, any other time, this man would have driven me over the edge. Why here I was, at all my nerves' end, and all he offer me was an 'I see'  ... ? Sure! He could see nothing at all. Nothing! Unknowingly, I had worked myself into something of a breathlessness. Unknowingly also, I was scowling deeply, staring, or rather glaring at him. Perhaps he sensed it, for he met my eye, interrupting his professional strokes on the canvas, sketching the murder suspect.

 

"Are you alright?" 

There it was, the water glass yet again, raised up for me. I wanted to scream the obvious 'no, I'm not!' right into his face; instead I held back and re gathered my dissipating composure. I did, however, reject his attempt to drown my extreme discomfiture with mere cold water - what was I, a flushing system? 

 

"They were quite like yours," I told him bluntly staring into his eyes, and momentarily, the revelation of my own words shocked even me. 

 

CRASH!  Susan was startled and just managed to stifle a scream.  What was that noise, it seemed to come from the kitchen.   She sat up on the sofa and wondered what she should do.  She felt a cold shiver down her spine and then shook herself.  "Come on, girl," she told herself.  She slowly got up from the sofa and walked toward the kitchen.  On the way, she picked up a heavy vase that was on a side table and tiptoed toward the kitchen doorway which was open.  She paused at the doorway and peeped into the kitchen.  The lights were off and it was pitch dark.  She could not make out anything.  As she screwed up her eyes to see better, she suddenly saw a pair of glowing eyes staring back at her.  They were cold steely gray, and as she watched in horror, they seemed to darken.  With a sudden reflex action, Susan snapped on the light switch just inside the doorway and looked towards the eyes.   Then she collapsed on the floor laughing hysterically.

The cat stared at her disdainfully and lowered its head and closed its eyes as it licked the milk spilled on the counter from the overturned jug.

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Thinker_Belle--jiya--spln

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Posted: 06 May 2011 at 12:46am | IP Logged

@Shobha - Thanks for posting both the stories. They were both pretty interesting, but I'm with your daughter, coz the 6th victim was the best amongst the three! (She must be proud, coz it won the award!)

The second best is "The Eyes"  I liked how you built the tension and then dissipated it into humorous end!  That Susan sounds an awful lot like me.. ROFL I've lost the count on the number of times i was spooked by something trivial while reading a thriller or watching a scary movie (which is my hobby Tongue).
 
"Writer's Block" comes last.. not because it was any less intereting than the others, but because I kindof didn't get the ending.. is she a kind of clairvoyant of some sort? She dreams up the actual events happening and decides to write a book on it? Or its just a co incidence that she dreams the same event that actually happened?
Its a bit ambiguous.. the ending..
 
I loved reading all three, though!  Thanks for posting them! hope to read a lot more of your writings!
 
Tanu.

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ssroomani

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Posted: 06 May 2011 at 12:53am | IP Logged


Thank you, Tanu!   I hope to write more fiction now...but whatever I write, fiction or not,  I will add here!

Smile

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Posted: 13 May 2011 at 3:46am | IP Logged


Found it at last...the only other story I have written, for a contest on Book Talk section sometime in October 2010.

THE INCIDENT

 

Shalini stood on the tiny balcony of her flat and looked up at the sky.  She was deep in thought, and though the weather was pleasant and there was a riot of colors on the ground below, she was oblivious to it.  She was thinking of how her life had changed in the last 2 months since marriage.

 

Shalini was the only daughter of her parents and they were a middle class family.  She was bubbly cheerful girl, loved by all those who knew here until "the incident" happened.  She was studying in first year of college then and one day stayed late in the library to finish some notes.  On her way back home, there was a sudden blackout and she tripped and fell.  She hit her head and fainted and when she woke, she found herself being carried by someone in his arms.  She struggled but was overpowered and sank into unconsciousness again.  When she awoke, she found herself back in her bed at home with her mother weeping by her side.  All she was aware of was pain, a pain that tore through her body and that pain changed her life.  Her parents lodged a complaint at the local police station, but the culprit was never found.

 

Shalini gave up going to college after "the incident."  People pointed fingers at her and laughed behind her back.  Mothers would not allow their daughters to be friends with her, and her old friends avoided her willingly or unwillingly.  Shalini's parents decided the best way to cope with the "shame" was to leave the place, and they moved to another town a few hundred kilometers away.  But "the incident" followed them and raised its head whenever a marriage proposal came for Shalini.  Every single proposal that came fell through, and her mother shed tears at night into her pillow.  Shalini took everything stoically; she remained silent and unemotional all the time.

 

This state of affairs continued until Rajiv's proposal was brought by the next door neighbor, Gopal Mama.  Gopal Mama said that Rajiv had seen Shalini at the temple and had fallen for her and wanted to marry her.  He knew Rajiv's family well; they were from the town close to where Shalini's family had been staying when "the incident" took place.  Shalini's parents were apprehensive when they heard that, but this time surprisingly nothing untoward happened.  Whether any stories reached Rajiv and his mother (his father was no more), the talks progressed and the wedding was arranged.  It was a simple wedding with only the close family present as per Rajiv's wishes.  Rajiv worked in a private company in a big town, and Shalini accompanied him to his small flat after the wedding.

 

All this passed through Shalini's mind and scenes from the past flashed in front of her eyes.  She had been very timid and shy, but Rajiv had been very patient with her.  He was always looking out for things to do to make her happy.  Shalini found gifts in unexpected places like a pair of silver anklets under the coffee mug, a rose on her pillow, etc.  He took her out on weekends to the beach and they walked on the sands in companionable silence.  He was a very attentive and loving husband, and soon Shalini found that she too had fallen in love with her new husband. 

 

As weeks went by, Shalini found herself wondering what would happen if her husband came to know about "the incident."  Would he love her as much as he did now?  Would he be angry that she had deceived him?  As her doubts grew, she became silent and withdrawn, so much so that Rajiv noticed and asked her what she was bothering her.  She brushed it aside saying she was having a headache or that she was missing her parents or some such excuse.  But the worry gnawed at the back of her mind, and finally Shalini decided that come what may, she would have to tell her husband the truth.

 

When Rajiv came home from work that day, Shalini was waiting for him.  After he had changed and had tea and snacks, she told him that she wanted to tell him something important. 

 

"I want to you to listen to me without interrupting me, Rajiv," she said.  She told him about "the incident" and then said, "I am sorry that we kept the truth from you before marriage.  If you feel cheated and want your freedom from me, I am willing.  But I want you to know that I love you very much, and my conscience would not allow me to keep you in the dark after all the love you have showered on me."  There were tears in her eyes as she finished.

 

Rajiv looked at her steadily in silence.  Shalini wondered what he was thinking.  Was he angry?  He didn't look angry.  She was puzzled and waited for him to speak, her tears slowly spilling out of her eyes.

 

Rajiv got up and walked towards Shalini.  He put his hands on her shoulders and said, "Now I want you to listen to a story.  There was this boy who was staying in his uncle's house for a few days while his parents were away from home.  He had been passing time with his 2 cousins, and the 3 boys had managed to lay hands on a few bottles of beer.  They had made merry in a shed in the fields and were returning home when there was a blackout.  The boy got separated from his cousins and stumbled along the road trying to find his way home.  He came upon a young girl who had fallen and hurt her head and who was unconscious.  The alcohol inside him and his teenage hormone rush made him do what he would never have done in his right senses."

 

Shalini stared at her husband in shock.  She stuttered, "What?  How??", but Rajiv hushed her and said, "Let me complete my story.  This boy when he came to his senses later realized what he had done.  He was horrified at himself and ashamed.  But he was scared to own up at that time and returned to his own home without anyone suspecting him.  But as he grew into manhood, his conscience would not let him bury the past.  He decided that he would find the girl he had wronged and make her his wife and atone for his sin.  He hunted her down and found that she was not married yet and heard of the family's suffering because of the shame.  He confessed his sin to his mother and told her that he wanted to marry the girl and make it right for her.  His mother, although initially shocked at her son's crime, agreed wholeheartedly and the marriage took place."

 

Rajiv looked into Shalini's eyes and said, "You know now who the boy is, don't you?  I married you because I had spoiled your life and wanted to atone for my sin, but in the process, I have fallen in love with you.  I admire your courage in telling me your past, Shalu, when you had no idea how I might react.  Did you never wonder how our wedding took place without any problems while every other proposal failed?" 

 

Shalini stared at him speechless with shock.  She felt the room go round and round and her eyes rolled up in her head.  Rajiv caught her in his arms as she slumped and lifted her up.  As Shalini passed the boundary from consciousness to oblivion, the last thought in her mind was…. "The same arms, the same arms………."  Her face sank on his shoulder as he carried her to the bedroom.



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Posted: 13 May 2011 at 10:09pm | IP Logged
Oh yeah, I remember this story!!  Actually, you wrote it when Dil Se Diya Vachan was about to begin, didn't you? Wink
 
I like how the story is short but sweet. The romance is very very subtle.. I wish you'd elongated a bit.  I liked Rajeev, and wish I could've known him better.. err, through the story, I mean..Big smile
Again, the ending... you are so good at keeping it open for interpretation Shobs.  Tell me did she forgive him in the end or was she shocked and horrified at what he'd done?Confused
 
I  love happy endings, and therefore I choose to believe she forgave him and they lived happily ever after.  Because otherwise, its not  "The End" of the story. And thats my opinion.
 
 
Loved all your stories...Keep them coming Shobs!
 
 
 

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ssroomani

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Posted: 07 July 2011 at 11:27pm | IP Logged

I am adding 2 of my prize winning stories here...from an earlier contest and from the latest one...this is just so that I have all my writing in one thread...Embarrassed

The story which got me 2 prizes in the Tell a Story Day contest...

THE SIXTH VICTIM


I was terrified.  The eyes behind the mask stared at me intently.  Were they angry because I had found the owner of the eyes in this particular situation?  Was I going to be the next victim?  I was hypnotized by those eyes and found myself sinking into oblivion.  The dark descended on me and enveloped me like a comfy, snug blanket.


When I woke up again, I found myself on a couch in some place which was not familiar to me. I struggled to sit up, and a man in the room helped me up and asked me if I was feeling okay.  I stared at him, who was this now?  I didn't know and somehow didn't want to know.

 

The man introduced himself as Inspector Graham of Scotland Yard.  "Are you well enough to answer a few questions, Ms. Smith?" he asked me. 

 

"Questions?  I haven't done anything wrong and how did I land up here?"

 

"We found you unconscious near the bushes at the western gate of the town cemetery.  There has been a murder and you were found a little away from the body of the victim.  It is possible you were a witness to the act.  Do you remember anything that might help us?"

 

"How do you know my name?  I have never seen you before," I asked, rather stupidly as I realised.

 

"Obviously, from the contents of your handbag, Ms. Smith. We had to identify you in some way."

 

I tried to remember what had happened.  Slowly it came back to me.  I was walking along the rather lonely shady road which went around the cemetery wall.  I had been working late, all night in fact on my thesis, at the library which was just a few meters away from the town cemetery.  I was not a nervous person by nature and was used to the road, but today, I was jittery and felt as if someone was walking over my grave.  I increased my pace and then as I rounded the curve in the road and came to the gate of the cemetery, my eyes widened in horror.  A masked and cloaked figure was kneeling near the gate and the hand was raised.  The hand held a knife which glittered in the starlight.  In front of my horrified gaze, he brought it down on a body that was lying on the ground, repeatedly in a frenzied manner. I must have made a sound though I did not hear myself scream because suddenly the kneeling figure turned his head and looked at me.  The face was masked and had slits for the eyes which burned coldly into my face.  They were a cold translucent hazel which turned steely grey and as they stared into mine, they darkened, or was it the darkness descending on me?  I did not remember anymore.


I repeated this to the Inspector stumbling and stammering and shivering as I went over the memory again.  He offered me a glass of water and listened to me patiently with an encouraging "yes?" or "continue, Ms. Smith" to help me along.  I came to the end of my narrative and sank back on the sofa feeling drained of all energy.

 

"Could you give a description of the man, Ms. Smith?  Our police artist can sketch the person from your description.  Would you give it a try?"

 

"I didn't see him at all.  He was masked and cloaked and there was nothing I could see of him to describe!" I protested.

 

"Describe whatever you saw Ms. Smith.  Describe the mask, the cloak, whatever you can remember.  You would be surprised at how any little thing might help in identifying the person."

 

He got up and made a call.  Another man in police uniform came into the room with sketching materials in hand.  He set up an easel and then turned to me.  I stared at him wondering how I was going to get through this.  He looked at me impassively with a tiny smile on his face and asked me whether I was ready.

 

"He was masked.  I don't know what his face is like except the eyes.  He was also wearing a long cloak that fell on the ground as he knelt there.  I don't know whether he was fat, thin, or medium built.  I don't even know if it was a he or a she!  I don't know anything!"  My voice rose in pitch as panic surged through me.

 

He held out the glass of water.  "Please Ms. Smith, try and control yourself.  You are safe here.  You say you saw his eyes. What colour were they?"  His eyes bore into mine intently as he watched my face.

 

I stared at him in stupefied silence.

 

"Tell me more about the eyes." 

 

Passing me the glass of water, he pressed me for details, without a trace of urgency or haste. It wasn't a gesture of concern, because coming from him, it was like a receptionist's smile - something he was boringly and obligingly accustomed to doing, as part of his job. 

I wasn't mindful enough of his lack of sympathy, just right then. Quite thankfully instead, I drank in a large gulp of the chilled water. Then I took in a deep breath, and closed my eyes to remember what I would have given anything to forget - the sight of those eyes through the face mask ... The translucent hazel that turned to steel when they narrowed to focus upon'  

 

My own eyes fell open with a start, a shudder passing through my spine. He sat looking at me intently, and the very distant comprehending part of my mind held onto the subconscious former belief - it wasn't out of concern, but routine. He was being merely patient with me, a crucial witness to this fifth murder case in the neighbourhood that had kept their hands full here at Scotland Yard, this entire awful week of rainy afternoons. In this weatherly respect, today was no different. 

 

"They were cold," I whispered. My voice had refused to come full volume ever since the incident early this morning, sometime before the inset of dawn. 

 

"Blue?"

 

"Nuances of grey ... they turned dark ... very dark when he ... when ... " I inhaled sharply and ran a hand forcefully through the tangled mess of my long tresses. If I'd survived the sight of that ruthless stabbing, surely, I could survive speaking it out loud ... ?

 

"I see." 

 

Any other day, any other time, this man would have driven me over the edge. Why here I was, at all my nerves' end, and all he offer me was an 'I see'  ... ? Sure! He could see nothing at all. Nothing! Unknowingly, I had worked myself into something of a breathlessness. Unknowingly also, I was scowling deeply, staring or rather glaring at him. Perhaps he sensed it, for he met my eye, interrupting his professional strokes on the canvas, sketching the murder suspect.


"Are you alright?" 

There it was, the water glass yet again, raised up for me. I wanted to scream the obvious 'no, I'm not!' right into his face; instead I held back and re gathered my dissipating composure. I did, however, reject his attempt to drown my extreme discomfiture with mere cold water - what was I, a flushing system? 

 

"They were quite like yours," I told him bluntly staring into his eyes, and momentarily, the revelation of my own words shocked even me. 


He stared at me impassively with no reaction on his face to my sudden outburst.  "Really, Ms. Smith? " he asked, staring intently at me.   He made a few more strokes on the canvas and then turned to me.  "Like this?" he asked, pointing to the eyes behind the mask on the canvas.


I stared at the canvas.  Panic was overtaking me again.  The eyes stared into my face, and as I watched, they seemed to darken, and I sank into oblivion again.


I came to with water being splashed on my face.  Inspector Graham was leaning over me.  "Are you better now?" he asked and helped me up.  "We will send you home now, Ms. Smith.  We will need to question you again, but we will do that tomorrow when you have recovered from your fright.  Please do not leave town and be available for enquiries anytime.  Would you like a policeman posted at your apartments?"  he asked.


I declined.  I lived alone but I was used to it.  I got up from the sofa, and he escorted me out to the car which was to take me home.


At home, I straight away went to bed.  I had dreams of cold steely grey eyes following me and spent a disturbed night.  When I woke up, I was soaked in sweat and the sheet and pillow beneath me felt damp.   I sat up shivering.  The small alarm clock next to my bed showed 8:45 and the open window told me that it was morning.  Sunlight flooded through the sheer curtains which were moving lazily in the slight breeze.   It would probably soon turn dark and damp with rain as had been happening in the past week in the afternoon, but right now, the day was bright and it helped me calm down.


I decided to get out of bed.  I had to be at the library by 10 a.m. where I had an appointment with my professor.  I got up and fixed breakfast.  I was still jittery from my experience the night before and wondered whether the whole of it had been a dream or not.  As I was dressing, the telephone rang.  It was Inspector Graham.  He wished me good morning and asked me if I was okay.  He again reminded me to be available for further questioning as necessary and that I should not leave town for any reason.  As I put down the receiver, I was shivering again.


My day at the library went more or less as usual although my professor did pull me up for inattention a few times.  I found it hard to concentrate, and my mind kept wandering, going over the events of that night.  I somehow managed to get through my work and decided to call it a day by 7 p.m.  I was feeling tired and drained and decided to go home and go to bed early. 


As I walked down the familiar road, I felt fear rising in me.  Was it safe to walk alone along this path?  But what else could I do?  I had no car and always walked to and from the library every day.  I gathered up courage and took the road around the cemetery.  I suddenly had this strange feeling that I was being followed.  Were those footsteps behind me?  Was that a twig that cracked?  I started walking faster fighting down the rising panic.  As I went around the curve in the road towards the gate of the cemetery, I heard a distinct footfall behind me.  I turned sharply and was stunned to see the police artist standing just a few meters away from me.  He was staring intently at me, and then started walking slowly towards me.  His eyes bore into mine and they looked just like those eyes, cold steely grey, and as I stared into them, they slowly darkened.  Was I going to be the sixth victim?  I opened my mouth to scream, and then there were sudden lights all around and voices.  I heard Inspector Graham say, "You are under arrest, Ms. Smith. "  He went on to give the standard warnings but I did not hear any more.  I was surrounded and handcuffed and marched to the police car.   As I neared the car, I caught sight of my face in the rear view mirror and jumped.  Cold steel grey eyes stared back at me, and as I watched terrified, they slowly darkened and I screamed.


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