Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 3

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#Novel365 2018 Week Two

On December 30th, 2017, all of this changed. A Queens-bound J local train derailed between the Myrtle Avenue and Kosciuszko Street stations, at least it was listed as such. The train was traveling at five miles per hour and the track running between the stations was elevated above ground so a true derailment would have resulted in a jack-knifing of the train, sending cars toppling into buildings and the street below. Since the train had just departed Myrtle Avenue it hadn’t reached its average speed of thirty miles per hour, which probably saved the lives of the train crew, the one hundred and fifty-four passengers and pedestrians below. The truth was an event occurred within the fourth car from the front that caused it to cant several degrees, lifting one side of its wheels slightly off the track.

The incident happened roughly eleven thirty in the evening, in a car that suffered mechanical issues with the doors not responding to controls. Passengers were asked to move to one of the adjoining cars as the train crew locked down the faulty car, which was preferable to taking the entire train out of service. While the latter would have resulted in fewer injuries in hindsight, the action taken meant luckily there were no fatalities within the car in question.

According to eyewitness reports, as the train was leaving the station there was a slight rocking that might not have raised any alarm had it not been for a passenger, illegally standing outside the train between the fourth and fifth cars. He claimed he was not riding between cars to urinate, despite statements from other passengers that when the man rushed back into the fifth car, his fly was undone and his right pant leg was wet. The man yanked the emergency brake cord, yelling, “It’s a bomb! We’re gonna die!” At first, the other passengers were angered by the seeming lunatic but one of them looked through the windowed door into the fourth car and confirmed, “We gotta get out of here!” This statement caused a panic as passengers pushed and shoved one another to get through the door at the other end of the car. Fear spread like wildfire throughout the train as the fifth car passengers forced their way through car after car inciting their fellow passengers with speculations of another New York City terrorist attack. Eventually, the eighth and final car was jam-packed with passengers eager to escape, who took turns trying to smash out the windows and pry open the sliding doors. The Metropolitan Transit Authority crew tried to reassure them everything was under control but it was far too late by then.

The MTA acted quickly in cutting the power of both the downtown and uptown tracks and passengers were evacuated from the train station, some having to be rescued off the tracks when they had fallen between cars during the passenger stampede. Of the one hundred and fifty-four passengers all but seventeen were sent to the hospital with injuries sustained from the panic resulting after the activation of the emergency brakes.

Despite being told of the unlikelihood of the incident being a terrorist attack when the police and fire departments arrived it was investigated as such. From the outside, the only sign of distress to the fourth subway car was the bloating on one side that pushed against the station platform which caused it to cant. The initial thought was an improperly detonated explosive device. The inside of the car told a different story. On the side facing the platform, striations ran along its entire length, floor to ceiling. One investigator reported, “It was like looking at stretch marks on a pregnant belly from the inside out.” Another investigator thought the striations looked like watermarks, as if tides over the course of years had pushed against the car wall at decreasing levels. What the investigators did not find were signs of an explosive device, evidence of human tampering or vandalism, or even traces of unusual and/or toxic chemicals or gas.

The train was taken out of service and at the train yard, engineers were at a loss to explain the condition of the fourth car but one of the engineers knew a colleague who was a theoretical physicist who was more than happy to take a look and venture a supposition. And though the visiting expert was fascinated by his own findings, the MTA was less so. Somehow, a passage from his report was leaked online in which he wrote, “The investigator who said these striations looked like watermarks was closer than he realized, only these aren’t watermarks, they’re timemarks. I’m willing to wager that the metal between these linear marks are of a different age than the metal within the marks themselves.”

It did not take long for public opinion to link this new piece of evidence to the subway shroud, but now the theories shifted from it being a monster or alien to a time machine. The shroud now claimed responsibility for train delays, subway accidents, and even missing persons who were last spotted riding the rails.

And just as before, a new series of speculation threads, fan fiction stories and memes cropped up seemingly overnight. One clever NYU film student who beat everyone to the punch created a Doctor Who-inspired web series about a time-traveling subway rider with a quantum Metrocard, who encountered the likes of Agatha Christie, Leo Tolstoy, and Leji Matsumoto while solving train-based mysteries. Shortly after, The Hollywood Reporter ran an article about the filmmaker currently being in talks with Steven Spielberg to take the show to network.

To be continued…

“Is he still at it?” you ask and my reply is, “Damn skippy!” Welcome to Week 3 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite. I still have absolutely no idea who any of the characters are, or how many there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

So, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Maurine, Maureen, Part 1

two sisters twins posing, making photo selfie, dressed same white shirt, diverse hairstyle friends, lifestyle people concept

Maurine hadn’t thought of herself as a narcissist, who would, really, unless someone went out of their way to mention the possibility, which is exactly what Shelly McIntyre did. In front of her coworkers and the rest of the staff, Shelly, her supposed office bestie (a title Maurine never laid claim to at any point in time) denounced her as a narcissist, among other things that stung a lot less, in order to step over her shame-ridden body and into a corner office promotion. Maurine hadn’t known how to reply, so she remained silent, letting the accusation register properly, which she supposed could have appeared to her superiors as an admission of guilt. Guilt? Over what? Truth of the matter was she had no idea what the word narcissist actually meant.

At home, she looked up the word online and found to qualify as a narcissist, an individual needed to possess:

  1. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity
  2. The need for admiration, and
  3. A lack of empathy

which surely did not apply to her, but she called her mother, just to be on the safe side. After the requisite pleasantries, Maurine asked the question.

“What a bizarre thing to ask,” her mother said. “Did someone tell you you were?”

Maurine didn’t feel like rehashing the events of the day, so she simplified it by answering, “Someone made an off-comment in passing and I became curious to learn if people viewed me that way, that’s all. Like, am I giving off some sort of vibe or something?”

“Well, I may not be the best person to ask…”

“Why? Are you a narcissist, too?” the words slipped passed Maurine’s lips before she could catch them.

“No,” her mother chuckled, sounding confident in her answer. Far more confident than Maurine herself felt. “I may not be objective, is what I’m trying to say. As a parent all children seemed to be filled with a grandiose sense of self-importance, which is a beast we feed, I suppose. As a young girl, did you exaggerate your achievements and talents and fantasize about unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty and ideal love? Of course you did, all children do.”

Even though she could see her mother’s point, Maurine knew this conversation was not going to lead her in the direction she needed in order to confront her office bestie in the morning. So, she thanked her mother, made her excuses for cutting the conversation short and promised that she’d call more and visit more often and would definitely make the trip down to coast the celebrate the holidays with the family this year. Most of which she knew to be a flat-out lie.

Maurine didn’t feel much like cooking or eating for that matter, so she slipped on a comfortable pair of flats and went for an evening constitutional to air out her thoughts. So lost was she in the events of the day, she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going and bumped into a person walking the opposite way. When she looked up to apologize, the words wouldn’t come. And the other person, to her surprise, was equally dumbstruck…for they looked exactly alike. Not similar in the way that people with the same hair and eye color and facial bone structure reminded you of the other person. These two women were identical. Mirror images sans glass. The only differences were the hairstyles, Maurine wore her shoulder length hair up while her twin stranger’s hair framed her face, and their outfits, roughly the same style business skirt suit but in different colors.

Maurine, still mute, slowly lifted her hand to the other woman’s face and touched it gently. The other woman hadn’t flinched but Maurine, for a split second, swore she felt her fingers on her own face. Then she was overwhelmed by the urge to kiss this woman, this stranger, so she did. She nervously pressed her lips to the woman’s mouth and it was soft and warm and somehow strangely familiar and before she knew it, her tongue was slipping into the other woman’s mouth, probing, exploring. And when her poor thrumming heart couldn’t bear the passion any longer, Maurine broke the kiss and felt instantly ashamed.

“I…I’m sorry,” Maurine said, finding that she could no longer meet the woman’s eyes. “I don’t know what came over me. I just…”

“I wanted to know what I tasted like,” the other woman said, which was exactly what Maurine was feeling. “It isn’t every day you run into your doppelgänger.” The woman extended her hand, which seemed so silly and formal after they had just frenched. “My name is Maureen, by the way.”

“This…no, this can’t be happening. I’m Maurine, that’s my name.”

Maureen dug her ID out of her clutch and held it up for Maurine to examine. Maurine laughed and presented her ID as well. “Same name, different spelling. How Twilight Zone is this?”

“The better question is how much more Twilight Zone will it get?” Maureen reached out with her thumb, wiping away the lipstick smudge around Maurine’s mouth.

Maurine returned the favor, saying, “I don’t live too far from here. Care to head back to mine for a coffee and a chat? Promise I’m not an ax murderer.”

“But what if I am?”

“You know, I think I’ll take that chance,” Maurine smiled and took the hand of a stranger who wasn’t quite so strange at all and led her home.

Over coffee, they compared life stories trying to spot as many similarities as they could to keep the fascinating coincidence of a single entity living parallel lives in the same reality alive for as long as they could and there were many. Choices that one made that the other hadn’t that took them in different directions. And when they were satisfied they were the same person that had somehow branched off to live separate lives, the conversation stopped and the pair sat on the couch until the wee hours, silent touching and exploring each other’s bodies. Neither spoke the words because it wasn’t necessary. They felt an instantaneous attraction for one another the moment their eyes met.

When they awoke the next morning, Maurine mentioned her apprehension about going to work because of Shelly’s accusation.

Maureen took the nervous woman’s face in her hands and with a look of fierce determination said, “Maybe this Shelly-person is right.”

“What?” Maurine almost said more and stopped herself because she realized it was far too early days for her to be appearing vulnerable and overly sensitive.

“What I mean is even though we just met, I believe you are special and should only associate with high-status people or institutions! You should demand excessive admiration and have a sense of entitlement that demands favorable treatment and automatic compliance for everything you do! Shelly, who I must point out was interpersonally exploitative and took advantage of your kind and trusting nature, must be placed at the very top of your To-Do list as you give as good as you’ve gotten and absolutely lack empathy when you crush her like the bug she is. In fact, you should quit your job, right now!” Maureen reached over the the nightstand and snatched up Maurine’s smartphone, shoving it at her. “Do it! Show them who’s in control of your destiny!”

“But…” Maurine started, taking the phone but not dialing. “But I need my job. I need the money.”

Maureen shook her head and laughed, “Oh, honey, no you don’t. I have more money than you can imagine and if you’ll have me, everything that’s mine is yours.”

Have her? There was nothing more that Maurine wanted than to have this magnificent woman in her life from now ’til forever more. “I…I can’t take your money like that.”

“You’re not taking anything. I’m giving it to you. You know what? Hand me your phone,” Maureen put out her hand.

“Why, what are you going to do?”

“What needs to be done,” Maureen gently plucked the phone from Maurine’s loose grip and scrolled through the contact list, stopping at the entry marked Michele McIntyre. “Shelly, I assume?”

Maurine nodded and started to object but Maureen pressed a finger against her lips as she tapped the Call button. After a moment, “Shelly? Hi, this is Maurine,” Maureen’s tone was so over the top sweet it nearly gave Maurine a toothache. “I don’t remember if I did it or not yesterday but I just wanted to congratulate you on your promotion. There is one thing I need you to know, though I absolutely forgive you for the underhanded way you backstabbed me in front of the entire company and I wish you nothing but the best, I am subject to caprices. Since we’re such office besties I wanted to advise you to keep looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life just in case I decide to change my mind and be less forgiving. Oh and don’t worry about taking any disciplinary action against me at work because I quit. Byeeeee, bitch!” Maureen tapped the End Call button and tossed the phone on the bed.

“I…that…” Maurine struggled to get the words out.

“Yes?”

“That…was…incredible!” Maurine leaned forward, throwing her arms around the smiling woman. But she broke the hug and held Maureen at arm’s length, a worried expression playing on her face. “Wait. Did you mean what you said…”

“About the money?”

“What? No! About us being together.”

Maureen took her face by the chin, “I’m yours, honey. And whether you want it or not, the money is too.” They kissed and fell back into the bed. It would be hours before they rose again.

Maurine mentioned how much she liked her house, so Maureen arranged to move in with her and despite all the odds for a love at first sight relationship lasting and remaining healthy, they were happy. Any arguments or disagreements were minuscule compared to their love and were resolved almost immediately. Both their parents had raised them not to go to bed on an argument and they both had the marvelous knack of talking things out to the minutest detail until clarity existed on both sides.

When the laws changed and same-sex marriage had been legalized in both their city and state, they both took turns in proposing to one another. Neither Maurine nor Maureen considered themselves a lesbian or bisexual because gender wasn’t an issue in their relationship. They weren’t sleeping with another woman, they were one person sleeping with themselves, a point that made its way into their wedding vows. To their surprise, Shelly showed up at the service, contrite and presenting them with the most expensive gift from their bridal registry as a peace offering.

Married life hadn’t dulled their affection for one another but a few years in, Maurine felt as if something was missing. During one of their nightly pillow talk sessions, an idea formed and turned itself into a desire which slipped passed her lips before she realized what she was saying.

“I want a baby.”

To be continued…

About Maurine, Maureen: The story began life as this sneaky tweet for a Thursday Twitter hashtag game called Tales From The End Of The World (hosted by Marc Tizura @areyouingrenin) that I banged out while I was working my day job:

https://twitter.com/Madd_Fictional/status/882982291873640448