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Cambyses
January 10th, 2011, 05:12 AM
John pulled the leather jacket tighter around him to keep the cool night air out. It felt chilly after weeks in the climate-controlled patient room; though somewhere in the back of his damaged mind he knew the El Paso night was not that cold. The jacket was not his; the hospital staff had given it to him as a parting gift. The clothes we had worn into the emergency room were thrown away long ago, soaked in blood and gore.

His memory went no farther back then that day. John remembered lying in the back of a van as someone crouched next to him and whispered that he would be ok. After hours or minutes, he didn’t know, the van had screeched to a halt. The back doors were flung open and hands seized him, placing him on a stretcher. He remembered the chatter of many voices as doctors, nurses, and the men who had brought him to the hospital followed his stretcher into the emergency room. He must have blacked out then.

What followed were brief snatches, waking moments befuddled by pain medication. A bright light, a white bed cloth. The voices of nurses speaking softly about someone; him. Faces of men, too familiar yet strange; one of which was the same man who had spoken to him in the back of the van. A doctor in a white lab coat talking to him, saying that he was a very lucky man to have survived a bullet through the brain.

Then things became a little clearer. A young nurse was checking in on him for the last time, saying that he was to be released once all of his paper work was filed. She gave him the jacket. A clerk asked how to get in contact with his family and then read the names of his parents and siblings when John couldn’t remember any family. He did not recognize any of those people. Sadly, the clerk had given up and told him to wait for a community worker who was supposed to show him to his temporary house and set up appointments with a counselor.

John was getting restless. Only a few cars passed by at this late hour; the street was deserted. He stood up and walked down the sidewalk to the corner of the street. In front of him the street disappeared south behind a residential area. Beyond the houses he could hear the sound of many cars, a highway. Something within him tugged in that direction. Without a second thought, John crossed the street and strode purposefully south despite not knowing his reason for going.

It was a short walk past the local high school and over a short bridge spanning a muddy river to a larger road. He turned right, putting the highway within site. The idling engines of cars were louder now, backed up as they were on an expressway. John could not see what was stopping them.

Two hooded men were walking along the sidewalk toward John. “Excuse me,” he said, pointing behind them. “Why are all of those cars stopped the highway?”

They looked at each other bemusedly and the laughed, a sharp cackle. “Stupid Gringo,” said one, his lip curling in disdain. “That’s la frontera. The border,” he clarified, seeing John’s confused face.

“The border with what?”

The men shook their heads. “Dis one’s ‘ad a bit to drink tonight hasn’t he,” opined the first. The second man grinned and pulled something out of his pocket. John heard a click as the switchblade sprang out of the handle.

“Toss us your wallet, Gringo, and we’ll let you get away,” sneered the man with knife.

John took a step back. “I’m not looking for trouble-”

Before he could say anything else, the two hoodlums sprang forward. Something within John kicked into gear. He reflexively pivoted onto his back foot and sent a powerful kick into the knife-wielder jaw, shattering that side of the man’s face. He crumpled to the ground with a sigh. His buddy tackled John to the pavement and reeled back to punch. He didn’t have time, John’s index and middle finger had already jabbed into both sides of the man’s neck. He too, keeled over.

John climbed to his feet and looked around. Where did I learn to do that? He didn’t know the answer. A car came around the corner, thankfully too late to witness the melee. John waited for it to go by before pocketing his assailant’s switchblade and continuing towards the border crossing.

The words Ciudad de Juarez bore into his mind, a shard of his broken memory. He suddenly remembered sitting in an office room somewhere, surrounded by familiar faces; the same ones that had born him into the hospital. There was one addition, an older man with graying hair and square-rimmed glasses. He was saying something; everyone, John included, listened intently. “You will go to Ciudad de Juarez….” The rest of the man’s speech was drowned out.

John looked ahead to the highway, lit up with the lights of a hundred cars. He would go to Ciudad de Juarez. If only he knew what for.

christianncg
January 10th, 2011, 05:35 AM
Hi, im fairly new here but i noticed the lack of surprise when he performed the moves... was he surprised? did he know he could do that already? that would be the only major thing that caught my eye. other then that it did a good job of catching my attention, and i would love to hear more. feel free to review my story, "half-breed", if you wish:)

Cambyses
January 10th, 2011, 05:54 AM
Yeah, he was supposed to be surprised though as you pointed out he doesn't act very surprised. And I commented on yours. :)

Ripka
January 10th, 2011, 06:11 AM
Very nice story. I think that this excerpt definitely has the potential to grow into something awsome! You managed to get the reader to ask important questions within the first few paragraphs, which is hard to do. Nice job!

christianncg
January 10th, 2011, 06:19 AM
:) Thank ya kindly.

Johnathanrs
January 10th, 2011, 01:54 PM
This is good, I don't comment on grammar unless it is effects the story. Everything else, excerpt wise is good to me.

Cambyses
January 10th, 2011, 02:40 PM
Thank you Ripka and Johnathanrs. If you want to comment on grammar please feel free to; every little thing helps. There were a few fragments that I put in the third paragraph purposely, though I could fix those if they aren't effective.

I just inserted two sentences immediately after the fight scene to try and convey John's surprise at his newfound ability. Do they work?

riverdog
January 12th, 2011, 09:58 PM
Here's my 2 cents on how to make your main character, John, a bit more suprised. As he's approaching the border, have him read a sign- something like "Juarez City, MX 15 miles." This sparks a fractured memory. Maybe a face, and then a name. "Maria?" "Who's Maria, and what is the connection to Juarez City?" As he's trying to work this out, the two muggers approach, notice he's obviously a bit lost and decide to try to capitalize on the sitiuation. One of the muggers grabs him from behind, the other sticks the blade in his face and demands money. Now, John's subconsious kicks in and his mysterious para-military training leaves the two muggers with limbs painfully facing odd angles. The police/border agents see the fight, and start his way, yelling for him to surrender/lay down. In a panic (he did just disable two streetwise gangsters with unknown powers) John grabs the switch blade and dashes into a nearby ally. Now, not only is his memory screwed up, but he has learned that he is leathally talented in hand to hand combat, and is on the run from the police.

In general, I'd say you've got a good start here. Just remember that the more conflict, obstacles and delimas you throw at your characters, the more white knuckled your reader will be. Thats what keeps the pages turning.

Al Carty
January 12th, 2011, 11:11 PM
The other readers have given good comments and I agree you have a good start. Are you working from a good outline? I mean, are you sure of the coming events? One thing that I always look for is, is this piece being furthered by dialogue, so that narration won't tire the reader? I'm just saying, consider dialogue. Or maybe that comes later in the piece. Good work.

Cambyses
January 16th, 2011, 05:09 PM
Thanks riverdog, I'll probably work something along those lines into another draft. Al Carty, no, this was completely spontaneous. I had just heard the news that congresswoman Giffords had been shot in the head; that a planted a seed in my mind about memory loss. And this all kind of sprung up out of nowhere. As to dialog, I try to avoid using too much of it because I am very, very bad at writing natural sounding dialog.