Does he live, or does he die?
I have been working on a manuscript that started out as a challenge from Stephen King’s On Writing. He outlined a concept of a story and told us to see what you can do with it in six pages. Well, I have never been one to put limitation my imagination, so I now currently stand at Ten pages.
However, I can’t make up my mind where to go from here. As this is just an exercise, I thought, why not see what people want? So this is the first story ever, where you (the reader) get to decide what happened in the story. The first thing you get to choose is weather Barry lives or dies.
So here is what I have written. Leave your comments and preference on where the story goes from here. The majority goes, so make sure you have your say.
Barry scooped Nelly up in a bear hug. He hated leaving her at parties. However, he hated being the only man in the room even more. He wouldn’t leave if Nelly wasn’t comfortable with it, but she was growing up so fast. To look at her, you would never think that in her short nine years of life that she had been through more than most adults face in a lifetime.
Realising that he still held Nelly captive, Barry loosened his hold just enough to kissed her rosy cheek.
“See you later squirt,” he said and watched with parental pride as she skipped off down the hall way and out of sight.
“She’ll be fine, I promise.”
He looked up to face Cheryl. Her kind eyes assuring him that Nelly would be taken care of.
“I know,” he replied. His voice failed to hide the anticipation he felt.
“You’re more than welcome to stay?”
“No. It’s ok, Nelly is fine. Besides I promised myself a little T.V man time. None of this Hannah Montana rubbish I’ve been forced into watching lately. Oh, I nearly forgot, my mobile is on the blink. I dropped it in water so if you need me, call me on this number,” he said as he handed Cheryl a piece of scrap paper with his home number on it.
“Thanks Barry, though I already have all your numbers.” She made no effort to hide her sympathetic smile as she spoke.
He knew he was being over protective and although she would never say it, he could hear it in her tone just the same. Feeling slightly embarrassed now he answered. “I know. I’m doing it again. Sorry.” The smile she gave him in return was full of understanding. Cheryl had turned out to be a very good friend. It has taken years for him to trust another woman, but she had earned her trust by supporting Nelly so much. It’s not easy on any child to lose their mother at such a young age, but to have one locked away. Well that’s something entirely different. Nelly has come through it and weather he liked to admit it or not, that is largely down to the support Nelly got from Cheryl and her daughter Emily.
“I’ll be back about 6:30 to collect her.”
“No problem, I’ll see you then.”
“See you later,” he replied and headed up the garden path towards his car.
On his drive home, Barry forced himself not to think about the past. He put the radio on and Adel’s ‘Someone like you’ flooded his ears. Needing something a little more upbeat he flicked on the cd. Kings of Leon ‘Sex is on Fire’ started up and Barry reached for the volume. This was exactly what he needed to start his man time.
The clock on the dashboard illuminated the time. Ten to four he noted and then turned his attention to the sky. A brilliant blue, matched with a blazing sun that made you feel good. No exceptions. The slight breeze kept the air moving and brought relief from the heat. Definitely beer garden weather, Barry thought. His mind contemplated this as he turned into his tree lined street. The trees were too small to provide shade from the sun, unless you were an ant of course.
A row of bright red brick houses stood proud and inviting. He wasn’t sure about the house when he first bought it, though now it appealed to him. The quietness of the street, no nosy neighbours and a garden big enough to grow vegetables and still have room for Nelly to play.
Barry brought the car to a stop outside his house. As he got out of the car and stretched. The fabulous weather made up his mind. Definitely a beer in the garden and then he would walk back to Cheryl’s to collect Nelly.
As he walked up the garden path a bee buzzed in his ear, then darted off towards the hanging basket Nelly had planted some pansies in. Their vibrant colours seemed to shine even more in the sunlight. Together with the sweet smell of the honeysuckle climbing up the wall Barry felt welcome.
He unlocked the door and stepped over the threshold. The coolness inside the house made his skin goose bump. The quietness was deafening, the house cold and lifeless. Barry looked around, something wasn’t right, but he didn’t know what. After a few seconds of mentally placing everything that should be in the hall he assured himself that it was just because Nelly wasn’t with him. He set his keys on the side and headed into the front room.
Once again he scouted the room quickly. Thankfully everything seemed in order so he forced himself to relax. The beer he promised himself called out and he headed into the kitchen to grab one from the fridge. After locating the backdoor key, he walked out onto the patio, selected a sun lounger in the direct sun and sat down. He unbuttoned the top few buttons on his shirt and rolled up his sleeves and then sat back to take his first sip. Pure gold, smooth and cool. He swallowed long gulps as the liquid hit the back of his throat, quenching a need as desperate as rain in a dry season.
He forced himself to stop. He didn’t want to finish the bottle in one, even though he knew he could. He rested his head against the back of the lounger and looked over the back garden at the woods. Various birds were nesting in the trees, he and Nelly had spent many hours watching them through binoculars. He loved listening to them sing. Their music calmed him, even in his more restless moods.
The beer bottle was back at his lips, his head bent back to drain the last dregs. He closed his eyes and let the sun warm his face as the beer ran through his veins making his body come alive. He knew if he sat there for much longer, he would fall asleep. Without the alarm on his phone to wake him in time to collect Nelly, Barry decided it would be best to move.
As he stepped back into the kitchen, the uneasy feeling that greeted him at the front door returned. Only this time it was much stronger. He stepped with caution, placing his beer bottle on the counter, and headed towards the entrance hall. Then he smelt it. There was no mistaking the scent he had lived with for eight years. Eternity, the only perfume she ever wore. But it didn’t make sense. Heather was locked away.
The floor board at the top of the stairs creaked. He didn’t have to look up to know that someone was there. His heart pounded hard and fast, echoing in his ears. He must have been holding his breath because the entrance hall seemed to be closing in on him as more footfalls slowly descended the staircase. He closed his eyes praying to god that he was mistaken. Did I fall asleep in the garden? Is this a dream?
Her laugh was harsh and fully of pity. He knew this was no dream.
“Is that anyway to greet your wife?”
He didn’t want to open his eyes. He couldn’t open his eyes. That would make it all real. His mind told him to run, screaming the front door, run, get out. His body betrayed him. It was as if his feet were set in cement.
“Look at me you bastard!”
Why he did what she demanded he didn’t know. Perhaps some part of him wanted to see her in the flesh, to prove this was really happening. At least that way he could be sure he hadn’t finally cracked up. Or maybe just because he had always done as she demanded. The physical attack on him seemed to hurt less when he co-operated.
He saw her feet first. Small black heal shoes and bare legs. His eyes travelled up slowly taking in her black skirt and white shirt. She stepped closer to him, her scent violating his nostrils. He hesitated before lifting his head higher to look at her face. She looked well considering how sick she was. Her once short brown hair was now long and glossy. Her skin once pale now healthy. If he didn’t know her so well, even he would second guess that it was Heather standing in front of him. However, her eyes told a very different story. They were cold, calculating and capable of stopping you dead with just a look.
With every step forward she made, Barry took one back. No words spoken as he was locked in her stare. It was getting harder for him to breath. The sight of fright in his eyes bringing her pleasure as a sick smile spread across her thin lips. She backed him against the wall and stepped closer still. The entrance hall closed in on him even more as she stepped right up to him.
“Boo,” she said followed by her demeaning cackle. That was the last thing Barry remembered as darkness consumed him and he dropped to the floor.
Heather moved fast as she dragged Barry into the dining room. It had been a while since she had the pleasure of doing this and he was heavier than she remembered. It didn’t stop her. She had been preparing for this day for years, both physically and mentally. She was ready and the time was right. Her only concern was the lack of her daughter.
As she hoisted Barry up onto the dining room chair he stirred, indicating he was coming round. With one quick blow to the back of his neck he went out cold again. It amazed her how good she had got at putting him out like that. It had taken years of practise she thought, as she worked fast to tie his arms behind his back. She used a think rope and draped it around his neck, then tied each end to the bounds at his wrists. Satisfied that if he tried to struggle with his hands, the rope round his neck was tight enough to restrict his breathing, she moved on to bind his feet to the chair legs. Now she had to wait for him to wake up.
Heather pulled another chair to sit right in front of him. She ran her hands up his thighs, surprised by the strength she could feel. He had great legs she remembered. Satisfaction warmed her heart with the realisation that she was going to get what she wanted. Even though his head hung low, somewhere deep down she knew that he wouldn’t put up a fight. Her hand reached for his hair and her fingers tangled themselves in his silk as she lifted his head up. He always looked so peaceful with his eyes closed. The sight of him like that now tugged straight at her heart. She had to make him understand that everything she did was because she loved him so much. Surely he could understand that?
She leant in and kissed his lips lightly. He didn’t respond. Anger instantly replaced any tenderness she was feeling and she rose to her feet. The back of her hand connected with his cheek bone with a satisfying sound. He jolted, but not enough to wake him fully. She used her other hand to mirror the action on the other side of his face. He woke this time. His mumbled outcry was music to her ears. She wanted him to hurt as much as she did. She watched him as he struggled in his seat, trying to free his arms. As soon as the rope tightened round his neck, he stopped. Pleased with her restraints she connected with the side of his face again.
“Stop, please stop.” The tears fell silently down his face as the realisation of his living nightmare hit full force. “What do you want? Please just stop.” He lifted his head up to look at her. The pleasure of his pain smeared across her face.
“Now now, Barry, have you forgotten the rules? We don’t beg and plead. It’s a sign of weakness. Or are you out of practise?”
He swallowed hard at her question. If he answered her honestly, she would give him a good beating just to get him used to it again. If he lied and said no, she’d beat him just as much to see what he could handle.“Can’t we just talk?” His question surprised her
just as much as it did him. This was the kind of response he gave Nelly all the time.
“Talk, hu. Years we were together Barry, I tried to talk to you, but you never listened. It was always about your work or what Nelly wanted, never mind what I needed. You shut me out and then had me locked up, but now you want to talk?”
She back handed him again, this time connecting with his lip. Red crimson seeped from the small split, and something inside Barry snapped. He licked the blood and looked up at her. No longer afraid of being physically hurt, he just stared at her with equally cold eyes.
For years he had asked himself what he had done wrong to deserve the beats. He even accepted her justification and always tried to be a better husband to her. After all, it was his fault! She had convinced him so many times.
It was only with that last whack that he realised he had done nothing to antagonise her or cause her to react this way. This was who she really was. The mascaraed he had fallen in love with all those years ago was just that, and nothing more. She was never going to change back.
Barry processed these thoughts, still glaring at her. She couldn’t hurt him anymore, not emotionally. Physically, well while he was tied up like this yes, but his bruises would heal. He found strength in his contemplation and he was going to use it to survive.
A clicking sound make him look up to find himself staring into the barrel of some kind of pistol.
“I told you when we first met that I don’t like coming second.” She said. Her tone was full of resentment. “The second that little bitch was born that’s all you cared about. I didn’t matter anymore.”
“That’s not true!” He shouted, panic at the sight of a gun clearly evident in his voice.
“Save it Barry, I’m not interested. On our wedding day, you made a vow to forsake all others, all others.”
“She’s just a child,” he sobbed. Any hope of survival he had a moment ago were gone.
A defining bang resonated in his ears. There is no mistaking a gun shot, even if you have never fired one. Barry’s eyes were squeezed tightly closed waiting for the pain to come. It didn’t. Did she miss?
He heard her sick hysterical laugh and then opened his eyes.
“Ha ha ha, you looked so scared.”
She was in control again and he knew she understood that just as much as he did. She stepped toward him, waving the pistol in her hand carelessly. When she reached the chair she put the gun to the side of his temple, slowly tracing it down the side of his face. “I want you to put me first Barry.”
Her tone was serious and it scared the shit out of him. “What do you want me to do?”
“Show me that you love me, Barry,” she said, as she straddled his legs and sat on his lap.
He was stuck. His hands and neck tied, legs bound. He couldn’t move before she added her weight to him. She could do anything she wanted to him. He had no escape.
Then her lips kissed the side of his lip, the gun still planted at the other side of his head. He got the message loud and clear.
He tried to kiss her back. Tried to pretend it was what he wanted so she would leave him alone. But he fooled no-one. Silent tears fell from his eyes. He squeezed them tight in a vein effort to stop them, but she had already sensed his lack of participation.
“Look at me!” Heather demanded, and Barry reluctantly opened his eyes. Her face was up close to his. Her eyes wide with rage. “You don’t love me!”
It was a statement, not a question as Barry saw the realisation flash in her eyes. He couldn’t answer. He was afraid to. The gun was still in her hand, pointing at the side of his head. A new level of fear rushed through him. His body temperature dropped. Goosebumps crawled all over his skin. He wet himself.
She didn’t smile at his evident fear like she would normally. There were no further hits as he expected, waiting for him to beg her to stop before she relented. Heather got off his lap and stood on her feet in front of him. The pistol rose up in her hands as she took aim at his head.
Barry couldn’t take his eyes off her. He couldn’t even bring himself to close them. It wouldn’t stop her. He accepted that. All these years fighting. Years spent trying to build a life for Nelly. For it to all come down to this. He should have known she would kill him eventually.
The safety catch clicked off. He knew this was it. His only regret was that Nelly wasn’t there to die with him. He closed his eyes and prayed to God that Nelly would never have to see her mother again.
The gun fired, echoing in his ears. He held his breath, waiting for the pain.
So there it is. I hope you enjoyed the first part. Now to decide on what happens next.
a) Does she shoot him and the story then takes her as the main character, or…
b) Does she shoot herself and the story then continues on his mental recovery, or
c) Does she shoot him but fail to kill him, and escape out the back door. The story then continues with his recovery and the hunt for Heather?
You decide so get voting now. Leave a comment below with your choice, or any alternatives you can think of. Remember, the majority wins.