Thursday, May 20, 2010


Hello friends. Below is a story that I have written for a class assignment and I would like your opinions. Please look it over with your critical eye and leave any and all comments - I am looking for help with my writing, so don't feel like you will hurt my feelings. I am told that writers need to have very thick skin. Anyway, this story has already been graded and returned back to me, and I wanted to share it with you all for your thoughts. Thanks in advance.


“Are you prepared to die?’

The voice came from the man seated across from me on the bus, and the casual manner in which he asked me the question made me think that maybe I was hearing a random voice in my head. They have been coming back more frequently now that I no longer had a source for my medication so, to me, another random voice in my head was nothing to concern myself with.

“Are you prepared to die?”

Okay, now this was getting a little annoying, I mean having a voice inside your head is one thing but for it to keep asking you the same question over again was borderline redundant and I was not a particular fan of redundancy. Which is ironic considering what I did for a living; there was a whole lot of redundancy built into my job. I wish the voices in my head had warned me about that, it would have been very helpful. Of course they probably wouldn’t be in my head if I had a position with a company that didn’t deal with doing the exact same thing, over and over, day after day.

“Are you prepared to die?”

I must have dozed off or something because when I opened my eyes at the sound of those words, the man was seated next to me. Funny that he hadn't smelled bad from three feet away, but now with this close proximity he reeked of alcohol, cheap cologne and, was that urine? His faced looked as if it had survived a battle with a blender, the scars crisscrossed in a pattern that made me think of pick up sticks from my childhood, except for the colors, which were all either reddish purple or white, depending on how far along the healing process was, I imagine. His teeth were a nice shade of brown, yet his eyes were a remarkable green that seemed completely out of place. It fascinated me just the same.

“Are you prepared to die?”

Again with that question, which was definitely coming from his foul-smelling mouth and not the foul-tempered voices in my head. Now I needed to come up with an answer as it seemed that the bus was moving approximately an inch per hour, and my stop was still several blocks away – an eternity at the current rate. Now the voices started to ask me some serious questions and I had a choice to make, voices in my head or voices from the old smelly dude. I decided to listen to my own community to see if they had any insight into my situation.

“Whew, where did that guy climb out of a dumpster from, the local fast food joint?”

That was the voice I named Justin as in just in time for a mean and sarcastic comment. He never failed to have one.

“Maybe he’s trying to hit you up for some money. You are dressed for business today so maybe he thought he would take a chance with you.”

That was Celeste. Yes, I have a woman’s voice inside my head, doesn’t everyone? She is the practical and no-nonsense mom of the voices, always looking for why something happened and always good for some practical advice when the situation warranted. At least that is what she told me. Besides, I was dressed in one of my more expensive suits, so she really did make sense.

“I told you taking the bus wasn’t worth the risk.”

That would be Fred, my cowardly voice. He always liked to tell me that he would rather be a cowardly voice that is still a voice, than a brave voice that no longer existed.

“You are being rude.”

This voice was new. I was pretty sure that the man’s lips never moved, yet somehow I heard him. In my head.

“You can stop acting all paranoid, Charlie, and just answer my question; are you prepared to die?”

Well that pretty much made today the number one day for my craziness. Some old, drunken, decrepit man with eyes that shouldn’t be, is now in my head telling me that I am being rude and really succeeding in freaking me out.

“Who you calling decrepit? And before you jump back into that mind of yours, realize that I am following along with every conversation, so you might as well talk to me, Charlie.”

“Um, okay,” I managed weakly.

“Now isn’t this better? Talking like two civilized people on a bus, just passing the time until our stops.”

“How do you know my name?” I asked in a slightly less dazed but still weak voice.

“Your name tag.”

“What? Oh my goodness, I forgot that was there,” I tore at the paper adhesive name tag that said: "Hi, I’m Charlie." I was coming back from one of those fancy little seminars where they talk about all the features that their equipment could do that no one else’s can. Boring as all get out, but the free lunches were pretty good and you could usually sneak out at some point in the afternoon. I could still taste the roast beef on rye with a hint of dill pickle and Cheetos.
“Are you prepared to die?”

“Why do you keep asking me that? I mean is it important to you for some reason, do you have a tract that tells me all about your deity and how he/she/it will save me from eternal damnation, but only if I give you all my money and bow down to you, my poppa/granddad/father figure?”

“Are you finished?”

“Yes," I started, “I think I am. This is my stop coming up and I have to get prepared to exit the bus.”

I have seen many television shows and movies where all the action seems to stop, with the exception of a character or two, and always thought it to be a far-fetched deus ex machina that helped move the plot along without having to explain a whole lot of actions/events that occurred to get to this point. In other words, a really convenient way to get from point A to point B in a story.

Well, that just happened. Everything stopped. Except for me and.

“What is your name anyway?” I asked, wondering why it took so long to ask this of the stranger, yet not really concerned.

“Well, I have quite a few; there is Thanatos, Odin, Ankou and, of course, the Grim Reaper.”

“What? Wait? You, you are death?”

“Always knew you were a smart kid Charlie.”

“But that’s just legends, and mythology and fairy tales meant to scare kids, and…” I trailed off not knowing what else to say.

“It’s also pretty cruel. I mean what is there to be afraid of? Everyone has to die sooner or later, so making me into some kind of monster just results in, well, look at yourself.”

“Yeah, but I’m not ready to die.”

“That’s what they all say, kid.”

The End

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