Monday, January 24, 2011

A Million Lifetimes on the Street: A Short Story

*28DLA was started as a venue to explore film. One of the most important features of filmmaking is writing and here I (Michael Allen) would like to present to you one of my first short stories. This prose is in the genre of a thriller and hopefully you will enjoy the writing. If not, leave a critique, as I have done for hundreds of others:)

**This short story is for enjoyment only and not to be reproduced. See the full copyright for 28DLA here: 28DLA Copyright.

Setting: 10 years in the future, another recession. Takes place in New York City.

Characters: One junkie-beggar, his ex-girlfriend, a female antagonist and a scheming facilitator.

Moral message: Do not give pity, but tough love.

Act I Scene I

Narrator: You see them on every street corner, in major urban centers. They sit on the sidewalk or walk through traffic begging for your hard earned dollars. They are usually young, healthy and full of a morose energy that begs for your pity, or you sympathy. Some give until their hearts are empty. Others do their best to ignore their sorrowful looks.

Of course, they come from bad homes full of divorce, conflict, sexual abuse and neglect. But are they all like that? Our hero, really a mock-hero, is sitting in an alcove, within an abandoned doorway. The smell of urine that permeates the air is long since forgotten by his nose and through his eyes readers can see that those walking by are his customers (even though he is selling nothing).

The dirt on his face has not been washed away in order to create a deliberately sad picture - a greasy haired vision. His tales of a broken home are one that would twist your heart in two, as his foster home showed him horrors the likes of which cannot be spoken here.

However, every hero needs something to press up against, a challenge if you will. So, here we will enter a character who brings our struggling hero to the deepest parts of himself.

Setting: A man approaches our young beggar and states:

Businessman: Hi bud. How are you doing?

Beggar: Not so good. It is getting cold out.

Businessman: True that. Why don’t you come work at my shop for a bit and get warm? I might even have a couple ducats for you.

Beggar: You mean cabbage, right?

Businessman: Yes.

Beggar: Okay, let us go, but no funny stuff, ok?

Businessman: (laughs) No funny stuff.

Setting: Both characters head off down the street, as night descends.

Act I Scene II

Narrator: Now, our businessman is not the so-called villain, but one who facilitates our hero’s journey. He gets him moving on a path where difficult decisions must be made. He will also introduce our troubled friend to a contemptuous character here and a desirous creature there. For heroes require challenges.

Here, we will give our beggar a name to pull at your heartstrings. His name is Will and he has spent the last 7 years of his last twenty-five living on the streets. For even on the streets there is less pain than living with a woman, a foster mother who sees you only as a paycheck.

Will: I finished sweeping up the back and I have crossed off everything on this list. Can I have some of that money now?

Businessman: Why? So you can go shoot it up?

Will: No, so I can get something to eat. I am starving.

Businessman: I bet you make more hustling on the streets than I do all day. But here you go.

Setting: The finely dressed man reaches into a mini-fridge and pulls out some bagels and cream cheese.

Businessman: Enjoy (with a sneering smile).

Will: Thanks. What is your name anyways?

Businessman: Scott and if you are in the mood to make some good money, I have an errand for you. It is mildly dangerous, though.

Will: What is it?

Scott: I need you to take this ephedra to a female friend of mine.

Will: What? To cook Meth? Forget it.

Scott: What she does with it is none of my business. Do you want to make $40 or not?

Will: Yes, I guess (hesitantly). Where is it?

Scott: It is out back and here is the address. You can have the money when you get back and have Sam call me, after you deliver the package. She is the one you are delivering to.

Setting: Will heads out back to pick up the boxes.

Act I Scene III

Narrator: Now not all villains are big, bold and full of vitriol. Some are petite, alluring and full of devilish plans, the likes of which could make the devil blush. This is one such character who has also spent time on the streets. Her interactions with exploitative men and the gentle, sometimes stronger tug of drugs left her with a cold, black heart. There is no room for sympathy, nor regret on the streets.

This is Sam. She goes by the name Cookie, on the streets. Her ways of developing Crystal Meth for the dealers is well known by her customers, but less so by law enforcement. Her cold heart has sunk many a stooling pigeon in the local harbour. Yet, maybe our new character Will can melt some of the ice that has hardened around her heart.

Will: Hey. I have your order from Scott in this bag (he points at a large cloth bag on the floor).

Sam: Good. Take it down those stairs in the back and do not go sniffing around. Put the boxes next to the wall at the bottom of those stairs. I want to see you back up here in two minutes. Got it (sternly)?

Will: Yes, I got it (with an eyeroll). What, or who do you have down there? The Queen of Sheba or Ariadne?

Sam: Aria…who? Just get going?

Setting: Will shuffles off and descends down some metal stairs to a darkened basement. At the bottom of the stairs, Will hears some scuffling from behind a door. He puts the boxes down and walks up to the door, as a greenish glow filters from below the door’s jam.

Narrator: On every hero or heroine’s journey there must be an inner or outer conflict, which will raise our hero up, or let him be forgotten forever in the past. What Will is about to see will pull at the deepest parts of himself and leave him with a moral choice.

Will: What the…?

Setting: Through a door slide at head height, Will peers through and sees over a dozen men and women chained to a table. They are moving powders around, checking temperatures on metal basins, and weighing various liquids. They are naked, except for some sparse, stained underwear and the looks on their faces is one of despair.

Act II Scene II

Setting: A camera has turned on behind Will. A red light flashes recording Will’s movements, unbeknownst to him.

Will is still staring into the room and his eyes lock on a young woman, who is also looking at him. There is a recognition.

Will: Sarah…

Setting: Will tugs at the door, but it is locked. Will looks upstairs and climbs back up.

Will: The boxes are down there, now.

Sam: Good. Now, hit the road!

Will: One last thing, Scott wants you to call him when you received the shipment.

Sam: Fine. Now, move along (she makes a walking gesture with her fingers).

Will: He insisted that I wait until you called.

Sam: This is ridiculous.

Setting: Sam reaches for her cell phone and begins pushing numbers. While distracted Will moves behind her and picks up the large LCD monitor from behind Sam. He is about to drop it on her, when there is a sound from behind.

Will sees, over his right shoulder, a large black man entering the warehouse. The black man sees Will and he begins to move as quickly as he can in Will’s direction. Will flings the monitor in Sam’s basic direction, but he only hits her shoulder due to the distraction.

Sam: Aaahhh!

Setting: She drops her phone and she falls to the floor. Beneath her dress she reaches for a small tazer, but Will is on her first. He removes the tazer from her hand and points it at the large black beast, who is about to show Will what a human pancake looks like. Will pulls the trigger and there is an electrical charge sent racing through the wire. The large man falls, twitches on the ground and is then still.

Sam: What do you think you are doing?

Will: You have one of my friends trapped in your little drug dungeon downstairs and I want her out!

Sam: Is that all? Take the keys they are in my desk (she groans).

Setting: Will opens the desk and retrieves a skeleton key from inside a drawer. He turns back around and rearms his tazer.

Sam: What are you…

Setting: She is hit with the tazer, spasms and is then motionless (Will looks satisfied).

Act II Scene III

Narrator: Omnia vincit amor – love conquers all! This is what Virgil would have people believe and this longing for desire can lift us up from despair, pity, the longing for sympathy to our best selves. Thankfully, for those trapped in the basement below, love has created a remembrance in Will, for something other than the pain of his past. It has reminded him of a present love, from the streets. Another tragic soul, who helped Will survive his first years alone. Now, is his chance to repay that debt and for him to find a deeper, less cold part of himself.

Setting: Will rushes down the stairs, with the key in his hand and he turns the lock quickly. Inside, everyone at the tables turn around to see Will’s desperate figure. There are looks of confusion, hope, excitement and one of mildly rekindled passion, or joy.

Sarah: Will!

Will: I am going to get you out of here.

Sarah: Thank God! I have been down here for weeks.

Will: There you go. Help me with the others (Will unlocks Sarah and looks at the others).

Setting: Both characters work their way through the chains and there is a steady stream of previously exploited refugees making their way out of the dungeon and into the upstairs light. When they are done both Sarah and Will look at the Crystal Meth product on the table and with a knowing, slightly pained look they grab a bag of the powdered substance and they put it in Will’s jacket.

Narrator: No one said these were unflawed characters.

Sarah: Good, let us get out of here.

Setting: Both Sarah and Will climb the stairs and as they reach the top, Sam is just moving herself onto all fours.

Sam: Breath your last, for I will find you Will (she says from a prone position. She is like a wounded lioness gathering her former pride)!

Setting: Her eyes are full of betrayal and fire. The deepest parts of herself are completely corrupted. Sam’s strength and goodness have long been forgotten on the hard streets, where innocence is only a value to be traded for.

Will: Come on. We will worry about her later (Will grabs Sarah’s arm).

Setting: Sarah spits on her and Sam makes one feeble lunge in retaliation. She collapses again.

Will: Let us go.

Act III Scene I

Narrator: Life is good for Sarah and Will for a little while. Their intoxicating treasures bring some fortune, food, and unragged clothing for a time, but every action has an equal and just as powerful reaction. For Sarah and Will, Sam’s revenge might not come today, but likely tomorrow. The beastlike natures of people is not something irrepressible and Sarah and Will will have to live a life of hiding. But, this is not the life of heroes, nor of heroines.

Setting: A repeated setting, where Scott works from. He is seen exiting his store, locking up and heading to a nice sports car. Will appears behind him, with a baseball bat. He swings and Scott falls. Will holds the baseball bat to Scott’s throat.

Will: Helping create human slaves should be a capital offence. What do you think of that Scott?

Setting: Scott is groggy, but he manages to shake his head.

Will: If I see you helping Sam ever again, you can kiss your life good-bye. Do you understand me?

Setting: Scott nods.

Will: Good, now give me those keys (Will holds out his hand).

Setting: Scott passes over his keys and both Sarah and Will speed out of the driveway.

Act III Scene II

Narrator: Now for a moral dilemma.

Sarah: She deserves to die, for what she did to me and the others.

Will: We cannot do this. To kill her brings us down to her level.

Sarah: By letting her live we are sentencing ourselves to die. You know what happens to those who screw over Cookie and I do not want to live looking over my shoulder.

Will: I have heard the rumours. I have got a plan. Let us turn the tables, so to speak.

Setting: Will races his new car down a strip of asphalt. Sam aka Cookie is just putting the keys into her own car, when she is clipped by a vehicle. She stumbles and falls. Will stops the car and picks Sam up. She gets a comfortable spot in the trunk.

Later, Sam wakes up in a windowless room and she is chained to a table. In front of her are all the ingredients and devices necessary for production of Crystal Meth. Sam looks dazed.

Will: Time, to do what you do best Cookie. Make us some money.

Setting: Sarah is smiling, for she now has her revenge. Sam looks apprehensive, as all her vicious work to break away from the streets have come back to haunt her. There is a flash of anguish and a definite look of recognition. She has been here before.

Narrator: No one said that this would be a perfect love story, nor that Will would rise to true heroic fashion. The modern world is one which rewards vileness, while forgetting that love is the greatest attainment. This story has tried to remind you to find those parts of yourself that are frozen or forgotten, so that you might find love for yourself and others.

You might just see a hidden part of yourself in those begging on the streets and remember that their plight or experiences are not known by you and that people deserve understanding, some pity, sympathy, and an open-heart. For an open heart is a courageous one!

Titles which influenced this story:

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