Friday, September 30, 2011

NYC Midnight Round 2 - "A Spaceship in the Country"

The challenge for the second round of this writing competition was open/ a children's playground/ police tape

Having an open genre is tough.  Given the challenge prompts, the gut reaction is something visceral, a drama involving a loss of childhood innocence or something along those lines.   I ran away from that as fast as I could and tried to think of something unusual.   This is the result.

A Spaceship in the Country
It don't take no time at all for news to spread through this town, 'specially when it's somethin' strange as an alien spaceship landin' at the schoolyard playground.

I'm just finishin' tyin' the police tape to the corner of the swing set when I hear the rumble of trucks. God bless Grizzly Olson and his boys. In minutes, the Backwoods Militia has formed a perimeter, their huntin' rifles trained on the coal colored cone towering over the spiral slide.

The whine of a four-wheeler indicates the arrival of my brother Jessup. He don't back down to nothin'. He's had his fair share of trouble, but it times like these, ain't nobody in the entire world I'd rather have at my side.

"Evenin' sheriff. What's the news?"

"You're lookin' at it. I'm just glad it decided to show up after all the young'uns had gone to home to help with harvest."

"Amen to that."

The townsfolk are arrivin' at a steady pace now and I'm glad I set up the tape barrier. The last thing I want is to see one of these good people get hurt. Some are prayin', some are takin' pictures, and some are just talkin' in anxious whispers. But it's the nervousness I feel in the air that worries me. Jessup feels it too 'cause before I can stop him, he's under the tape and marchin' across the woodchips to the ship.

He clears his throat.

"My name's Jessup Thompson. We don't mean you no harm so long as you don't mean us none."

The salutation appears effective as little white lights start blinkin' all over the cone's surface. There's a single bright flash and when my eyes recover, I see the ugliest darn thing I've ever seen.

Three bone white legs support an equally pale bulbous torso. A long serpentine neck ends in an insect like head that's spiked with antennae. The creature steps towards Jessup and lowers its head to look him in the eye. I hear the clicks as the members of the Backwoods Militia cock their rifles. Jessup holds his ground.

The beast makes a purrin' noise and its skin flushes a light orange. Then it bows at Jessup's feet. The gathered crowd whoops and cheers.

I'm enjoying the moment when a light touch falls on my elbow. I turn and see little old Gertrude Weatherbee, the church organist.

"I heard we got a new arrival in town, it's only proper we make 'em welcome."

In her weathered hands is a tray of cookies. Jessup is pettin' the beast's neck causin' all sorts of colors to swirl in its skin. It seems harmless, so I lift the tape for her and she shuffles over to Jessup.

She offers a cookie and the alien scans it with on of its antenna, then brings it to its mouth. It glows sunflower yellow and proceeds to devour the rest of the cookie tray. The people erupt into jubilation. But when Gertrude smiles and turns to walk away, the monster's head slices through the air and it swallows her whole.

For a second there is stunned silence. Then the evenin' erupts in rifle fire. Bullets ricochet off the monkey bars. I yell for folks to take cover and proceed to empty my clip into the alien's body. Inky black liquid bursts out each of new hole we make. It's only a minute or so before the creature falls and lies in its own tar. Jessup kicks it in the head and it doesn't move. It's dead.

People linger for a while tryin' to get a sense of what just happened. Some are prayin', some are takin' pictures, and some are just talkin' in hushed whispers. I start sendin' 'em on their way, and one by one they trickle home.

Jessup helps Grizzly and the crew load the thing into a truck, and I use the police tape to tie it down. Then they're gone and the scene is quiet.

A few days later, the government has a special team on the way. While I ain't lookin' forward to dealin' with 'em, its gonna be a heck of a lot harder to tell the kids that they can't keep the new playground equipment. 

The judges thoughts
WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT - ......The voice of this character is just wonderful--it's clear, I get not only a sense of who he is currently but his background as well as what kind of town he lives in and all of his neighbors. There's also excellent execution in that there is use of the phrase at the beginning: the 'prayin, takin' pictures' line--comes back at the end. Nicely done.............The narrative voice utilizes an interesting dialect, adding a layer of intrigue to the setting. The juxtaposition of the pastoral American South with elements of science fiction is interesting..........................................................   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK - ......I felt this story could use a little bit of character/conflict/crisis/change (or lack thereof) structure, as the last line is such a kicker but I couldn't really understand why the main character would react that way. I felt I needed to see some upset earlier on about the aliens landing on this spot--the playground--so that when it comes back at the end, it makes more sense.............Other than fleshing out the narration, I wouldn't change much. The narrative voice could flow better, give more detail, etc............................…........................

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