1: Open page 23 of the book closest to you. Write the last sentence on a piece of paper. Using that as the opening sentence, write the first 700-1000 words of a FICTIONAL story. Have fun. Note: Even if you picked up a cookbook, you must use that sentence in a fictional story!!!
The book closest to me was Issue 109 of Granta, which is a literary magazine. The sentence I found was taken from an essay by Daniel Alarcón about book piracy in Peru. I was quite lucky; it was a sentence that you could really play around with: You see old friends, go to dozens of readings, and when you can’t stand it anymore you hide in your apartment and wait for it to be over. You can find it on page 8 of the online version of the essay. It is a very interesting read by the way, and I can recommend it to anyone.
It became quite clear early on that it was going to be a fantasy story, although it took me a couple of days to come up with the basic premise of the story. I think the idea itself is quite interesting, and I might actually reuse this idea and expand it into in a larger work in the future, possibly a short-to-medium length story. And you might notice that the number 7 comes back quite often. I only haven’t figured out yet what the exact significance of the number 7 in the story should be, but I thought it was pretty cool to add it, what with all the math behind it, which I won’t fully explain for now. 🙂
I think the story as I posted it below is still a bit ‘over the place.’ I think that is one of my biggest weaknesses: how to take the ideas and thoughts in my head and form it into something coherent. If I do expand into the future, it will probably be completely different than the current iteration (and I probably will NOT use the second-person narrative, but I just though I’ll stick with it as the sentence itself uses it).
Anyway, I hope you will enjoy the story.
You see old friends, go to dozens of readings, and when you can’t stand it anymore you hide in your apartment and wait for it to be over.
You stand before the shimmering gateway in your living room which will transport you to Shah. The gateway opens only once every seven years for the celebration of Liberation Day. It is a celebration of a liberation you helped accomplish while you fought alongside the strongest warriors of Shah to defeat the necromancer Mansu and his undead legions. So the return to Shah should be a joyous occasion, where you reminisce about the glorious battles with your old friends, join in the festivities and drink some of that magical Shahian ale, and bask in the adulation the inhabitants of Shah will bestow upon you. And it used to be joyous indeed, but that was a long time ago. That was before life dealt upon you one disappointment after another. That was when life still seemed so full of promise and possibilities. That was when you were still young.
This will be the seventh time you will return to Shah since the liberation. Forty-nine years. Has it really been that long ago? You were twenty-seven years old back then, young and vigorous, a great fighter in the prime of his life. And now you are just one week away from your seventy-seventh birthday. The last seven years especially have not been kind to your frail, aging body. You feel the impact on your ailing knees with every step you take, and the pain in your back causes you to walk stooping forward.
You feel tired and feel like going to bed instead of making the trip. But you know there are many people who are awaiting your arrival, waiting to honor you in your past accomplishments, not least your old fighting companions. You have been through so much together and have forged a strong relationship with them, and you will feel guilty if you do not show up after such a long time. The gateway can only be used by Earthlings, and is forbidden for any inhabitant of Shah, so they will have no way of knowing what has happened to you. They will believe you dead if you do not show up, and their day of celebration will instead turn into a day of mourning.
You step through the gateway, and experience the familiar feeling again as of stepping into an ice-cold shower. The sensation lasts just for a few seconds, and before you know it, you have arrived at your destination. As usual, your friends are there waiting for you, standing in pose ready to welcome you. You have never known them to be late, proof of their fondness and respect for you. You glance at them while you are on your knees, recovering from the shock of traveling through the gateway. They stand there proudly, with their young handsome faces, their strong muscled bodies, and you feel even older than your seventy-seven years. Hard to imagine you were all roughly the same age when you fought together. But time works differently on Shah than on Earth. Seven years may have passed on Earth since you last said goodbye. On Shah however, it has merely been a year. For you, forty-nine years has elapsed since the end of the war. For them, the upcoming anniversary is just their seventh.
Jonathas, the youngest of the bunch, steps forward and offers his right hand to you, but you reject his offer for help. Instead you smile at him, partly to mask your annoyance at his presumptuousness. “I may be old, but this veteran is still tough enough to stand up on his own. I do not require your help.”
He withdraws his hand and steps back. “My apologies, Tom. I did not mean any disrespect.” You put your hands on the ground and try to push yourself up, slowly, not because of the pain — that you can handle — but because you are afraid you might wince at the pain if you stand up too quickly. In the end it takes much longer than you expected; it’s getting more and more difficult to recover from the gateway, but you manage to stand up on your own. You stand up as straight as possible despite the heavy panting, and despite the pain you feel throughout your entire body. You look at your friends again, realizing that none of them have uttered a word yet except for Jonathas’ apology. They seem apprehensive, unsure of what to make of your display, afraid that they might offend you.
“Where is Quicksilver? Where is my horse?” You call out in a loud voice. “I can’t wait to ride into town and have a sip of that wonderful ale I know you have been keeping cold for me.”
Just like that, the tension broke, and they all started laughing, as if you have just told a wonderful joke. This time you accept their help in mounting Quicksilver, and you slow trotted towards town, talking and laughing all the way, as if nothing has changed.