Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Write...Edit....Publish....September 2014 : Changing Faces



It's time for the Write...Edit...Publish... challenge hosted by Denise Covey, where she invites us to write/respond to a monthly prompt. This month's prompt is Changing Faces.  The details are



FLASH FICTION, POETRY, NON-FICTION, ARTWORK, PHOTOS
OPEN TO ALL
  1. SUBMIT your name to the list below NOW or direct link from Sept 24-26 AEST or until linky closes (Earlier entries receive more comments)
  2. CREATE your entry according to the monthly theme - SEPTEMBER - CHANGING FACES.
  3. EDIT your entry until it sparkles.
  4. PUBLISH your entry on your blog on the dates shown, stating feedback preferences.
  5. READ other entries, giving feedback as requested.
Open to all genres - Fiction works can be - Adult, YA, MG. All entries maximum 1,000 words.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT WHEN LINKING UP. 
Email Denise if you have more questions:
den.covey@gmail.com








You wake up, look in the bathroom mirror, and a different face looks back at you.



My entry is a flash, an excerpt from a much longer story.




Spills



The water felt unusually cold in Pratik’s cupped hands, and even colder against his shut eyelids.  He quickly found the towel, and as he emerged from the folds, his eyes fell on the mirror.   The shock was unnerving, though this was not the first time.  He dabbed his face again, and scrutinised it closely.


The changes were subtle - his eyebrows arched now at a minutely different angle, his earlobes sat flatter against his head, his lips were narrower, the jaws a shade wider, and the stubble on it a darker chestnut. He looked down at his hands, the veins were corded, the skin flaky, the fingertips squat, squarer nails, and rough.  The forearm shorter somehow, bulkier than his; limbs of an older person, older than his twenty-eight years.  He looked back into the mirror, and shuddered.  The eyes were the most frightening of all, a different person looked out of them and back at him, ruthlessly cruel eyes, without a shred of compassion or humour. Just like a serial killer's, he thought wryly.  


He came out and sent a text to his boss, working was not an option today. Panchali was still asleep, she smiled in some dream as he looked at her and wondered how to break it to her - this sickness in his brain. She sensed his presence and half woke, reached out for his hand, and clasping it, smiled wider and went back to sleep.  He had planned to talk about their future this coming weekend, but now - he sighed, sat next to her and tried to untangle his thoughts.  Perhaps this part of his life was better witnessed first-hand rather than heard narrated?   


He woke her gently and told her, there was no time for details, just broad outlines of what to expect.   Her sleepy eyes flared wide in surprise but then became attentive as he spoke, his words urgent and slightly incoherent.  She shut her eyes and listened, touched him as he talked, ran her fingers along his jaw, traced the curve of his ears and eyebrows with her index.  The rigor started even as his words petered away. 


Still with her eyes closed she kissed him lightly and said, “Your voice is just the same, did you know?”


“Will you stay?”


“Of course,” she threw back the covers and rose, a swift fluid dancer’s movement like a swan taking flight.  “I'll get some coffee.”


***


He lay on the bed, shivering uncontrollably with his eyes open, conscious but unseeing.  The tinkle of spoons from the kitchen slowly faded.  The sounds of the city coming awake outside - the auto-rickshaws shuttling the first commuters, the loud airhorn of a bus, three notes of a conch at a neighbour’s shrine, tram and temple bells – all receded and regrouped into sounds of a different time and place. 


It was quieter, only the lap-lap of water licking banks, punctuated occasionally by the faraway rhythmic slap of oars pulling away from a pier.   The lane was half as narrow as the canal it bordered, the cobbles slippery with rain fallen earlier.  Sparse lamps and shafts of light from the odd window shimmered, reflected in the oily waters, but lost the battle against darkness.  He walked quickly, primordial rage and hate roiling inside him, walked so as to leave the torment behind.   Was it his fault that he was made this way, misshapen and crooked?  He was stronger than two men, and could outperform many even with his dwarf’s hunchbacked body.  Yet no-one would give him a job.  He was a knife-thrower, reduced to a monstrosity, a butt for jokes, shunned, at most tolerated, a demeaning spectacle his only livelihood.


Four rough men stood chatting ahead, barring his way.  Pratik stopped a few feet away.  One of them turned and looked, another said, “Byata kooNjo*” and all of them guffawed.  His rage spun into a red hot fireball, and his hate was a sharp dagger twisted in his side.  He drew two knives from his waist, and threw them with unerring aim.  One of the men fell with a gurgling sound, the other screamed and toppled into the canal.  He ran and rammed his head into the next man, hitting the midriff, winding his victim and leaving him gasping for breath on the ground.   


The last man was on top of him now, both locked into combat.  He fended several blows, but could not bring his opponent down.  A deep breath and he launched into the man with his left, a powerful blow that made the fellow stumble.  In a split second he reached down and pulled the last knife, but he was caught in a melee of limbs, the winded one was up now and they were two against one.   Pratik slashed viciously and felt the knife plunge into soft flesh.  The nearest man let out an animal squeal and Pratik pulled out and half turned on his ankle and slashed upward with the knife again and felt the blade slip into flesh and the warm rush of blood over his wrist. The last man crumpled and lay in a pool of light from a street-lamp.  Pratik saw with a stab of sudden panic that it was his own face under the light, his unaltered face he saw every day in the mirror.  He moved closer, his heart thudding, but his feet scrabbled on the edge and he fell and knew only the blackness and coldness and the smell of the canal.


***


“Punch?”

“Mmm hmm?  You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine now.  Did I scare you?”

“Hah, you wish!”

“No, seriously.”

“Well, not exactly the best half hour I have had with you, but it’s okay, you didn’t kill me.”

“No, I killed somebody else.”

“What?”

“I killed men.  I was a dwarf, a monster, a psychopath.   I re-live events again.  Go back to a past life somewhere. It bothers me.  How much of that previous me spills into this one here and now?”



“Listen darling, I don't know about spills and splashes, but in this birth, you’re you.  Pratik Sinha.  And you’re mine. Don’t dare forget.”



WC - 1021
FCA

Byata kooNjo* - Hunchback 


Read the other entries here and join in:




(Submissions close in 3d 16h 18m)
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And I am celebrating the 300th post in this here blog soon, with a guest post from a very special poet/blogger many of us know - Adura Ojo.  Don't forget to check it out.




27 comments:

  1. Hi Nila - interesting twist .. about how much melds across ... I enjoyed the story line .. and thank goodness for love and understanding ..

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, glad you liked the story. Rebirth and karma... the pair of them innately a part of my culture, and love is universal of course :)

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  2. I like the suspense and the air of mystery as the story unfolded. And of course true love always redeems:) You did a great job with description in this story, Nila, as we get to know the man Pratik Sinha and what makes him tick. Your prose is as deep and scintillating as your poetry!

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    1. The end feels a little abrupt to me, but no way to make it smoother given the word count. Two entire sections chopped off, slashed/knifed, if you like ;)

      Pleased you enjoyed it nonetheless. Thanks :)

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  3. Nila, the ending was perfect for the story so far. Loved it. I'm reading 'The Dovekeepers' by Alice Hoffman at the moment, and it recalled some of the scenes with assassins' knives. You've very cleverly woven the threads of this story. What a lovely wife he has!! I'm looking forward to reading the story in its entirety when you're finished.

    Thank you as always for your participation in the WEP blogfest!

    Denise

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    1. Thanks Denise, always a great pleasure to be at WEP, many thanks for hosting and prompts. Never done a knife thrower as a character before, a little nervous around knives :) This one draws inspiration from two of my favourite pieces of fiction one Indian and the other British. Glad you liked the ending.

      Must get that Alice Hoffman - my tbr shelf is exploding!

      Nila.

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  4. Wow! what a twist to the story..I read it one batted breath. It is always a pleasure to read your prose and poetry...

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    1. Have you seen Sonar Kella? This one is kinda based on the same concept, except it's a not a nice and innocent past life that is recalled in the current birth.
      Thanks for being here, Rik and for reading and the feedback :) Love to have you guys over at the blog!

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  5. This story had me glued to every word from the very first line. The mystery and the suspense were overpowering. But the twist at the end was the best!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the story. I found it a bit difficult to fit all the elements into the word count, the original is double the length, but happy now that it still makes sense to readers.

      Thanks much for your feedback.

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  6. Exceptional, Nila, your story grabbed me as they usually do. The emotions which come with any mental disability, or dreams which inspire fear seem very real to those with them. I would love to read the whole story if this is an excerpt.

    And very great of you to host a fellow poet. (something not in my repertoire). I only wrote poetry in my college days when I was very idealistic.

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    1. Poetry is really just a different style of joining words together imho. Idealism not a prerequisite :) And it is a bit like riding a bike you don't forget, if you have done it during college, then you probably would be able to do it again. Just give it a try and see where the words take you, it could be fun...Just saying..

      It's great having fellow poet guesting, Love every word.

      Glad you liked the story, the expanded version for my next collection of short fiction hopefully ;) Thanks for being here.

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  7. Thrilling. Great description of scenes and deep POV. I was there and felt the chill. Thank you

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  8. This was a great story. Wonderful descriptions, suspenseful, and well-written. One thing--the 2nd sentence kind of stopped me when I got to "his eyes fell on the mirror." A little rewording to fix that.

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    1. Always appreciate your specific, detailed feedback. Will try and fix that clunkiness in the final version. Many thanks.

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  9. Hi Nila
    Totally loved this. An angry dwarf in a past life and now a loving husband. I'd say not much of the dwarf continues in this man despite his fear, unless it surfaces later. I too would like to read the whole thing.
    Nancy

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    1. Hi Nancy, he doesn't know that though :) that's the whole problem, and that he's scared about what 'price' is to be paid by him and whether he's already paid for those sins or it's still due and what form it will take. Very complicated :)
      Thanks for reading, so pleased you liked it.

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  10. As an excerpt from a longer piece I had to read it several times and then it clicked and fell in to place for me, intriguing and mystifying all in the right places.

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    1. I completely get the bit about rereading several times :) thanks so much for your patience.

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  11. So interesting that a few of this group chose to include time as a dimension in their stories. I liked how this one was so visual. I was a bit confused about what was going on at first, but the end cleared that up. Thanks for sharing! and congratulations on your upcoming 300!!!! That's awesome!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. the collection for this prompt has made really intriguing reading, hasn't it? Very illuminating. Glad you enjoyed mine as well.

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  12. I think I avoided a mirror story this go around because I'm not ready to contemplate what I'd find there! :) But I do love all that I've read so far for this challenge, and yours is just as wonderful. Especially as it it is also a continuation of something larger and more intriguing. I've always wondered if we pay the price for past lives in the current! Great premise for exploration and of course for a great story, as you've shown. Can't wait to see the final version!

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    1. Ya, my feeling exactly! happy to see you here Yolanda and happy to know what that means :)

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  13. This is Donna Hole under my new guise :)

    this was nicely written Nila; intriguing characters and I loved the knife scene. The connection to past lives is awesome. Great take on the concept.

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    1. Welcome, Donna :) thanks for coming by and the link.

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