Alex J. Cavanaugh that provides authors with an avenue to share their doubts and concerns (without fear of appearing foolish or weak), and to offer one another assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Every first Wednesday of the month we gather to connect with one another and share our insecurities.
I've been working on a story lately, one that I originally wrote as a novella, later revamped as a magazine-length short story, and am now revisiting as a novella once again. Over the course of my obsessive edits I've shifted the POV, added/removed characters, and even changed the identity of a primary character. It's an interesting exercise, and thought I'd share the opening scene from each, just to see if you, as readers, have a preference.
Three, maybe four, floors later, the elevator shudders and rocks. It groans, as if fighting against something in its way.
Kate instinctively moves away from the fat bastard to her left. She slips a tissue from inside her blouse and uses it to grab a hold of the rail. It never crosses her mind that they might get stuck, or injured in a fall. She simply doesn’t want to stumble into the mountain of lard, the grubby little secretary, or the geek with the cheese stains. The guy working the door – Steve, she thought he’d said – might be worth a tumble, but she would let him come to her.
The lights flicker.
Something squeals. Mechanical at first, it gave way to an ear-piercing scream, matched by an all-too-human wail as the new guy throws himself at the doors. “No! Don’t like this! Want to get—“
The lights dim. Something outside the elevator howls in protest.
Her hands are beginning to sweat. Dinner is churning uncomfortably in the greasy pit of her stomach. She seriously considers using both hands to hold on, just in case.
Bare hands, even, if need be.
The elevator comes to a sudden, jarring halt. Feet leave the floor. Bodies tumble every which way. Flesh bounces off flesh, into the walls, and off flesh again.
Fortunately, with her scant hundred and seven pounds stretched across a six-foot frame, she doesn’t present much of a target. In the blind eternity of the moment, she feels somebody’s arm sideswipe her breast. A stray foot glances across her polished, Italian leather pump. A metal zipper scratches the back of her hand as somebody’s crotch slams into it, pinning her arm against the rail.
She loses her purse in the confusion and immediately lunges for the floor.
That is probably all that saves her from the rolling tide of flesh that washes past her head instead into it. It swamps one of the other passengers. Judging from the muffled, wordless howls coming from beneath, it is likely the nerdy little freak.
A few seconds later, and it’s all over.
Kate pushes herself up off the floor. She’s broken a nail – there was fifty bucks wasted – and her hair must be an absolute mess. In the dim, flickering light, she can see a streak of orange across the cuff of her jacket, and another on the back of her hand. Somebody was going to pay for this mess, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be her. The rough framework of a lawsuit is already sketching itself in the back of her mind by the time she regains her feet.
“Are you okay?” Steve looks a little worse for wear, but seems to be managing fine. There is a trickle of blood on the knuckles of his right hand, but at least he had kept his bodily fluids to himself.
“Yes. Thank you.”
The girl kneeling beside her giggles. “I think we’d better help him.” She actually giggled. “He may not survive for long down there.”
“Ugh.” Simply impossible. Kate steps back from the jumble of bodies and watches as Steve and the other girl work to free the skinny little nerd. Utterly disgusting. She doesn’t have anything against physical exertion itself – she does a thousand calories on the cross-trainer every morning – but there is a time and place for everything. Sweat belonged at the fitness club. Either that, or in the sheets of a lover’s bed. In either case, it certainly has no place beneath a silk blouse or a finely tailored Farczagoni suit jacket.
The lights cease their flickering, but they are certainly dimmer than before.
The elevator shuddered and rocked. It groaned, as if fighting against something in its descent. I stared at the shadowy, distorted reflections doing their best not to stare back at me from the polished steel doors. From what I could see, nobody else had noticed the irregularities of our descent.
Stephen was deliberately avoiding me. He was standing as far away as the cramped space would allow, staring at the ceiling. That was okay. He’d be forced to acknowledge me soon enough.
I had no idea who the fat bastard with the cheese-doodle stained hands was, but I figured the centre of the elevator was the best place for him, at least in terms of balance. He was muttering something to himself and chewing on his bottom lip. Oh . . . and, for some reason, he kept his back to the doors. I half expected him to pull a knife on me.
So far, he hadn’t even made eye contact.
Kate, the skinny bitch in the opposite corner, I knew very well. She, as much as Stephen, was the reason I was here. The reason everything that was set to happen, had to happen. Oh, she could pretend as if she didn’t have a care in the world, play the game of ignoring me, as if we hadn’t met a dozen times before. She knew damn well why we were here.
We passed the nineteenth floor. I stepped casually away from them all – or as much as the cramped confines of the elevator would allow. I slipped a tissue from inside my blouse and used it to grab a hold of the rail. Between the methadone clinic, the legal aid office, and two call centers in the building, far too many unsavory people had ridden the elevator today.
The lights flickered.
The sound was mechanical at first. It gave way to an ear-piercing squeal, matched seconds later by an all-too-human wail.
The fat bastard was moving.
He threw himself at the doors. “No! Don’t like this! Want to get—“
The lights dimmed. Something outside the elevator howled in protest.
My hands were beginning to sweat. I seriously considered using both hands to hold on, just in case. Bare hands, even, if need be.
The floor fell out from under my feet. The elevator came to a sudden, jarring halt. Bodies tumbled all over. Flesh bounced off flesh, into the walls, and off flesh again. Fortunately, with my hundred and twenty-eight pounds stretched across a six foot frame, I didn’t present much of a target. In the blind eternity of the moment, I felt somebody’s arm sideswipe my breast. A stray foot glanced across my polished, black leather pumps. A metal zipper scratched the back of my hand as somebody’s crotch slammed into it, pinning my wrist awkwardly against the rail.
I lost my purse in the confusion and immediately lunged for the floor.
That was probably all that saved me from the rolling tide of flesh that rolled over my head. Instead of dragging me under, it swamped one of the other passengers. Judging from the muffled, wordless howls coming from beneath, it was likely Kate.
I really hoped it was Kate.
A few seconds later, and it was over.
“Damn.” I pushed myself up off the floor. I’d broken a nail – there was fifty bucks wasted. My hair must have been an absolute mess. In the dim, flickering light, I could see a streak of powdered cheese across the cuff of my jacket, and another on the back of my hand.
“Are you okay?” Stephen looked a little worse for wear, but seemed to be managing fine. There was a trickle of blood on the knuckles of his right hand, but at least he’d kept his bodily fluids to himself. He still was doing his best not to look at me, though.
“Yes.” I spat the words out. “No thanks to you.”
The lights ceased their flickering, but they were certainly dimmer than before.