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MadMickyG
April 25th, 2017, 03:42 AM
I almost feel I should post this in the poetry section, as it does contain a poem.

Comments and criticisms welcome. Please enjoy.

ALL IN GOOD TIME

Dale sat on the park bench quietly, although it was anything but quiet. All around him, people had gathered to celebrate the new year, the new millennium. Although the year two thousand had been celebrated as the end of the millennium, Dale knew it didn’t actually start till two thousand and one. That was tonight, in an hour or so. Dale threw breadcrumbs to the few birds that weren’t frightened off by the revelers. Swallows, more accustomed to people than other birds, hopped about happily, eating the scraps Dale threw on the ground. It never ceased to amaze Dale that birds would be around this late at night. The only thing normally found flying around at this ungodly hour was mosquitoes.

“Such an easy life for them, isn’t it,” said a voice beside him. He jumped a little, not remembering when the old man had sat down next to him. Dale flashed a weak smile.
This has to be the oldest man alive, Dale thought. He truly looked ancient, although his voice was still deep and steady.

“Sure is,” Dale replied. “Hopping around while some poor sucker throws food to you. When you’re full, you fly home and sleep. Go on holidays when the weather gets cold. Don’t have to worry ‘bout how much it costs. Come back and make a few babies in the spring. There’s no great rush, no real time limits, not like people have anyway.”

“The names Arthur Mills by the way,” the old man added, extending his hand.

“Dale Marks,” Dale replied, reaching out to accept the old man's hand. Despite the leathery texture of the his aged skin, skin that was covered in liver spots, Dale was astonished Arthur still had a strong, firm handshake. “They may not have a perfect existence, but it beats the way people live.”

“True," Arthur said, "very true. We spend our lives getting up at eight o’clock so we can start work at nine. Get a twenty minute smoko’ break, maybe an hour lunch break if you’re lucky. The banks close at four, shops close at six, supermarkets at nine. You go home and eat dinner, and then you’re in bed by nine. Try and sleep for at least eight hours, more if you’re lucky. And that’s just society’s limits!”

“I know,” said Dale, amazed at how similar Arthur's views were to his own. In his large circle of friends, Dale didn’t know anyone who shared the same philosophical views as he did. He looked at Arthur, this old man who shared his strange viewpoint on the world.

“You can’t walk till your body is ready," Dale continued, unconsciously waving his hands around as he spoke, "can’t talk for the same reason. You learn about sex, but can’t have it till your body hits puberty. Even then, your parents don’t allow you, unless you sneak it in, no pun intended. And while all this is going on, your body secretly starts a timer. You try’n find a girl to settle down with, get married. But not too early, or your parents disown you, then who baby-sits when you want to go out? Not too late, or you can’t make the babies you want. Or you can’t play games they want to, not just because you didn’t exercise enough. You get the kids out of the house when they are old enough, as long as you survive their puberty stage. Then you can retire at fifty-five if your job was good, so you can enjoy being ‘not too old’ for a while. Try to manage one last holiday before you can’t afford it. If your job was shitty, you retire at sixty-five. Then you have to decide whether to live in the house or the retirement home, whichever is the cheapest. Then sometime between retirement and whenever, you die.”

“Pointless, isn't it?” Arthur asked.

“Exactly!” Dale exclaimed. “We run around, living by time limits set by society, our parents, employers and our bodies. For what? What do we actually achieve?” Dale laughed. There was a few minutes silence before Dale spoke.

“So anyway Arthur,” Dale said, always uncomfortable with the conversational silences, ”what brings you here on this ‘festive' night’?”

“This is where I always come to bring in the new millennium,” Arthur replied. Dale gave him a funny look.

“You sound like you’ve celebrated more than one?”

“Well, there was last year,” Arthur replied, smiling and winking at Dale. Something about the way he answered made Dale think Arthur wasn’t talking about last year. Arthur reached into his pocket, pulling out a bag of breadcrumbs. The bag was identical to the bag Dale held in his own hand.

'This is getting freaky,' Dale thought to himself, slowly putting his bag of crumbs back in his pocket.

“Well, young man," Arthur groaned as he stood slowly, the sound of his bones creaking loudly in protest, "it's nearly that time, so I must be off. Before I go though, I would like to give you something.” He began checking all his pockets, looking for something.

"It's okay," Dale said, wondering why this old man he'd just met, would offer him something. He was about to decline Arthur's gift, when the old man found what he was looking for.

“Ah, here it is,” Arthur almost shouted with a smile. "I knew it was there somewhere." When he removed his hand, he held a gold pocket watch, the most beautiful one Dale had ever seen. Even in the flickering light of torches, Dale could see it was a masterpiece. Arthur held it out to him. Dale reached up to take it, but Arthur withdrew his hand a little.

“After talking with you Dale, I believe you are the right person to pass this gift on to. I hope you can achieve what I did not. More than you know is counting on you. Do you accept this gift?” Dale looked at him funny, a little unsure of whether Arthur was right in the head. All around, people starting counting down from ten, to bring in the new year.

“TEN……..”

“Do you accept?” Arthur repeated when Dale didn't answer.

“NINE…….”

“I, ah, guess so.”

“EIGHT…..”

“Don’t guess Dale, know!”

“SEVEN….”

“You’re freakin’ me out Arthur.”

“SIX……….”

"DO YOU ACCEPT THE GIFT?”

“FIVE……..”

“ALRIGHT, I ACCEPT!”

“FOUR……”

“Are you sure?”

“THREE…..”

“Yes.”

“TWO……..”

“Good. Here.”

“ONE……..”

“Thanks.”

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!” As the clock tower struck the first of twelve chimes, a shiver went through Dale's entire body, like an electric shock. At the same time, Arthur collapsed on the ground. Dale, recovering from his ‘attack’, knelt beside the elderly man. He was about to call for help when, to Dale's complete amazement, Arthur aged rapidly before his eyes, turning to dust in less than ten seconds. Dale sat down, or fell, on the grass. Arthur's clothes slowly turned to dust also. Dale stared at the pile of dust for what seemed like forever, too stunned to move.

"What? How?" he mumbled to himself, unable to comprehend what he'd just witnessed. People passed by, looking at the weirdo sitting next to a pile of fire ash. Someone asked if he was alright, bringing Dale out of his trance. "Uh, yeah, sure," Dale replied, although he wasn't sure if he was or not. He just didn’t want anyone annoying him at the moment. After some time had passed, Dale remembered the gold watch in his hand. He looked at it. It looked old, ancient in fact. He examined it, turning it over in his hand. There was an ornately carved hourglass on the front, but nothing on the back. Dale pushed the button, curious to see the inside the watch. It popped open, revealing a watch face with black Roman numerals, a light hint of silver outlining each number. The hour, minute and seconds hands were similar in colour and design to the numbers, with a decorative arrow head at the end of each hand. Inside the front cover was a picture, a bearded young man. Dale thought the image bore a striking resemblance to Arthur. A captured image from Arthur's youth perhaps. In the image, Dale could see the eyes were bright and inquisitive, the smile was infectious, causing Dale to smile as well. He rubbed the picture with his thumb absentmindedly, scarcely able to believe Arthur had ever looked that young. As he brushed the image, a powdery substance collected at the bottom of the watch cover. Dale started to rub the whole picture, realizing the face in the picture was changing, as if the image was made of dirt, caked on the inside cover. When all the powder was rubbed off, Dale stared at a picture of his own face in disbelief. It was then his mind registered the inscription above the black and white picture. His eyes opened wide in shock as he read it.

In your hand, you hold a gift, to help find the answers you ask.
But from time long past till present day, it has proved a most arduous task.
A century times ten, you will have to search, to learn the answers you seek.
So broke bones will mend, and wounds will heal, even death will last but a week.
When the time you are given, draws to an end, but you don’t have what you look for,
As the final hour comes, you can pass it on, or the quest will be yours once more.
You best not dally, or waste even a moment, for the answers you hope to find,
For in giving this gift, it’s the thought that counts, as “THERE IS NO PRESENT LIKE THE TIME!”

F.T.

MadMickyG
April 25th, 2017, 03:54 AM
Just to let everyone know, I will curb my urges to post all my stories on here. Let's start with the 2 stories and one poem I've done and go from there I think.

Don't want to overload people. Yet. ;)

Gold Bearer
April 25th, 2017, 05:26 PM
Nice. I guessed it though. :) Very twilight zoney. I think maybe find a way to give less of a hint as to who he is.

You use the work park three time in the first sentence and a bit, I'd remove one.

"He jumped a little, not remembering when the old man sitting down next to him." Not a full sentence.

"...noting liver spots covering the skin." ...noting BUT liver spots covering the skin.

"“They may not have a perfect existence, but it beats the way people live." Missing “.

"...he just didn’t want anyone annoying him at the moment." At that moment sounds better I think, the moment is too casual.

MadMickyG
April 25th, 2017, 11:01 PM
Ah, you found more than was actually there. It wasn't Arthur's watch. He was just the custodian of it, for a very long time. :P

I did make a few minor edits to it as I entered it. Amazing how you can still miss things. :P
Will fix it up a bit.
Always thought I could expand on Arthur, have him telling a story first about him in a similar situation previously. History repeating itself in a way.

MadMickyG
April 25th, 2017, 11:17 PM
Edited, with a couple of minor changes as well.

The missing ” before was because if I copy my story and paste, it shows ”
If I type it, it shows "
I wanted them to match. :P

DATo
April 26th, 2017, 02:35 AM
Very nice. I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for sharing!

bdcharles
April 26th, 2017, 01:17 PM
Hi,

Cool story. I love body-swap weird fiction. You build up the tension well, with the whole bit about "every millennium" and the countdown. Reminded me a little bit of "The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham" by H. G. Wells. (hopefully you don't object to this comparison)

Just a couple things to be mindful of:

filtering
This is when you present much of the world and its contents as being explicitly noticed/remembered/seen/felt/decided etc by a character; eg:

“Dale Marks,” Dale replied, reaching out to accept the old mans hand. Dale felt the leatheriness of the hand he was shaking. He couldn't help but notice the liver spots covering the elderly man's skin. Despite his apparent age, Arthur still had a strong, firm handshake.

It is ok to establish who we are, whose point of view we are in and can therefore be expected to care about (which you do perfectly serviceably in paragraph 1), but too much filtering and we feel unable to shake the narrator. We are ever conscious of them and it gets in the way of experiencing the story. Watch also for overuse of the name, and learn when to use the name and when you can get by with "he". Read it back to discover the flow, which should tell you. You could write:

“Dale Marks,” he replied, reaching out to accept the old mans leathery hand. Liver spots covered the elderly man's skin and despite his apparent age, Arthur had a strong, firm handshake.



I really liked this line:

Get a twenty minute smoko’ break
"smoko". It's different, unique, sets Dale apart from the everyman. :)

Great stuff. Great voice.,

JustRob
April 26th, 2017, 03:48 PM
Nice piece with a good plot and well written to my humble mind.

My own unfinished universal trilogy on the subject of time mentions a man who lived for at least two thousand years in Tudor England, which itself didn't last that long, so there's an immediate mystery. He ended up quite mad of course (mainly because nobody read the book that he wrote about it!). I mention on my website that the first novel in the trilogy is a fairy tale, but that it continues beyond the usual ending, which normally claims that "they all lived happily ever after." How could anyone actually live happily ever after? No, English fairy tales actually have a horrifying ending, a little like yours. In a way I prefer the traditional German ending "und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute," which taxes my schooling in German but apparently translates to "and if they haven't died, then they are still alive now," which is a pretty safe statement compared to being happy "ever after".

Now the critique. You misplaced an apostrophe; check where yourself. Oh, I'm such a tease.

The past tense of the verb "bear" is "bore" not "bared" in "bared a striking resemblance". "Bared" is the past tense of "bare", which almost suggests that the person in the picture was naked and indeed strikingly so, whatever that implies.

I got lost as to who was speaking in your consecutive paragraphs uttered by Dale. I normally assume that untagged dialogue alternates between two speakers in consecutive paragraphs of a conversation but yours doesn't and in some paragraphs there are not even any clues as to who is speaking or has just spoken. I don't know what the precise conventions are on this, so you'll need the advice of someone more experienced, but as a reader I got confused by it. I can see why you split the dialogue across several paragraphs, so wouldn't suggest that you combine them into one, which would be somewhat long if you did, but it needs fixing somehow, I think.

On the whole, a good effort and well worth reading.

P.S.
I also had memories of the Late Mr. Elvesham stirred by this but you avoided going down that particular route. In fact yours is an intriguing inversion of that story.

MadMickyG
April 26th, 2017, 11:48 PM
Thanks all for the comments and critiques. I know exactly what you mean regarding the dialogue. I looked twice at it myself.

The paragraph thing is something else I saw. To me it made sense, but I wrote it.

Honestly, cant believe I had "Dale Marks," Dale said. Even I know that's overuse. *Slaps forehead.....hard.....with a brick!*

I enjoyed creating this story, thinking how original I was. I will have to look at Late Mr. Elvesham now, to compare them. Never heard of it before. :P

Will try to tidy it up, as it holds a spot as a favourite of mine. Was kind of voicing my opinion about things.
Also had a way to make it longer, but I like the shortness of it.

One question, is the countdown to midnight tension-wise enough for everyone? I hope it comes across as was intended.

bdcharles
April 27th, 2017, 05:20 AM
Yep I thought the countdown bit was very well handled.

MadMickyG
May 1st, 2017, 12:33 PM
Okay, have edited. Updated as was commented on, plus made a few changes I thought could be done.

As usual, comments and critiques welcome.

Bard_Daniel
May 2nd, 2017, 03:52 AM
Hey, yet again, MadMickyG,

I think I like this the most out of all the pieces that you've posted on here. The ending was quite good and the poem fit well. Additionally, the adjourning paragraphs were tight and crisp-- they were written well. I also felt your dialogue was sharp and expressed correctly in all the right spots.

All in all, a good work! Nice!

Thanks for sharing it!

Phil Istine
May 11th, 2017, 09:13 AM
I quite enjoyed this story. It held my attention as I wanted to know how things turned out. There were light hints in places regarding the eventual storyline, but they weren't sufficiently strong to spoil the ending. I think you achieved a reasonable balance with this.
There were minor SPAG issues that could do with tidying up.
The first couple of sentences nagged at me as I felt you could have improved upon them, but that's more about style than right/wrong. I'm afraid I'm one of those people who likes to keep adverbs to a minimum and seek a strong verb if one exists. I even write around things sometimes in order to achieve this.
Just an example (though there are probably many better ways):

"Dale sat on the park bench quietly, although it was anything but quiet. All around him, people had gathered to celebrate the new year, the new millennium."

I tried: "Dale relaxed/reclined/sat back on the park bench while all around him, people had gathered to celebrate (see in?) the new millennium."
Relax/recline/sit back implies quietness and celebrating a new millennium implies noise. The reader will insert those contrasts for themselves and you switch from telling to showing - usually regarded as a good thing. You might even have him closing his eyes and taking a deep breath of the night air :)

These are just thoughts that might (or might not) have improved the opening lines.
Hey! I'm no expert.
This was an enjoyable read and my favourite so far as I read down the "Writer of the Month" list.

MadMickyG
May 11th, 2017, 10:24 AM
Thanks Phil. I like the sound of relaxed in there actually. Going to leave if for a bit, then go back as my skills improve.

Enjoy the other stories too. :)

Penless
May 26th, 2017, 06:40 AM
Really good!

I wonder if there's a way to make the beginning just a biiit more intriging, though? There was no real mystery or suprise to hook me for me for several sentences. Being the typical ADD modern reader, the first sentence is often all I read before returning a book to the shelf, or flicking to the next thread. I appreciate the difficulty in making sitting on a bench interesting though!

Also, there were 2 logical inconsistencies: 'We spend our lives getting up at eight o’clock so we can start work at nine...and then you’re in bed by nine. Try and sleep for at least eight hours' Up at 8, bed by 9. That'd be 11 hours sleep... Unless he has a much more lavish sex life than most! You can find the other yourself ^^