View Full Version : The Waiting Room (Part One)

June 14th, 2018, 01:48 PM
I was feeling pretty good about myself as I was shown into the waiting room. Id been one of lifes high achievers so death just seemed like a new beginning to me. I was sure I could make a success of the afterlife in the same way I had in the land of the living.

The waiting room was empty as I entered. My escort bid me goodbye and closed the door quietly as she left.

Alone now, I reviewed my new surroundings. It was, what looked like, a perfect square shaped room.

The entrance Id come into the waiting room through was opposite two other doors. To the left were three small windows, circular in shape and similar in size to a ships porthole.

Against the right hand wall was a desk with two chairs either side. Above it were a number of pictures hung on the wall. Nine in total, hung in three distinct rows. It was to this side of the waiting room that I found myself drawn towards.

Two of the pictures were easily recognisable, my vintage sports car and the London Penthouse Id lived in after my last marriage ended.

The third picture took a little longer to place. It showed a picture of a digital watch with a calculator on it. It was a gift bought for me by my girlfriend, at the time, as something of a joke prior to beginning my first job as a trainee stockbroker.

It had been years since Id thought of her. She had been my first love. Thinking about it now, she might have been my only true love. Im pretty sure she was the only one who loved me despite me.

On the desk below the pictures was an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a strip of passport sized photographs.

Four were of the two of us pulling funny faces for the camera. The last showed a couple locked in a passionate embrace.

There was a short note written on the back of the strip. It read; you died yesterday but do you remember the day you stopped living?

Clearly the waiting room was trying to send me a message. It wanted me to examine the life Id had, try to get me to see where Id made mistakes. Fair enough, if this was a test to get me through to a better place then I knew how to play the game. Id been doing it for years.

Id always been an impatient man, eager to get to the next thing. Looking forwards, not back so it was a bit out of character that I hadnt just walked across the room and tried the other two doors as soon as I came in.

Putting the photographs in my shirt pocket I walked over to the doors and tried each in turn.
They were both locked. Next, I tried the door I came into the waiting room through at the other side of the room. That was now locked as well.

Moving over to the windows, I realised that I would need to stand on tip toes to look through.

The middle one seemed as good a place as any to start, although Id realise later that it wouldnt have mattered which order I looked through them. It was the waiting room that was in charge of what I would see and when. Everything had been decided long ago.

A plane could be seen through the middle window. Flying high in the blue sky on a beautiful day. It was one of the planes used for promoting events and was pulling behind it a banner with the slogan; what do you see?, how do you feel?. The word feel was underlined.

The left hand window showed a view along an ordinary residential street. After a few moments I recognised it as being the view from the bedroom Id shared with my brother while we were growing up.

Across the road was the house of my best childhood friend. At the bottom of the street was a patch of grass where wed played ball games for hours until it was time for tea.

The three of us had been inseparable. Our friend, particularly during school holidays, would often sleep on a small camp bed in our room. Wed stay up late laughing, telling ghost stories and discussing our first forays into the magical and mysterious world of girls.
I felt nothing.

It was no surprise to see what was to be found through the final window. The waiting room was playing a very sure hand. It was the body of my brother hanging from a tree.

My memory of that day was a little blurred but I was fairly sure it was the exact same scene as it was when Id discovered him all those years before.
I felt anger, but just for a moment.
I felt nothing.

A little tired now, I crossed back to the other side of the waiting room and sat at one of the desk chairs.

This was proving to be a little more difficult than I expected. Was I expected to atone for the things Id been shown? If the waiting room knew so much about me it would understand that I hadnt been at fault for these things. If anything, Id been the victim.

As I was sitting trying to work out my next move, I noticed the handle on the furthest of the two doors on the same wall begin to turn.

Momentarily frozen to my seat, all I could do was stare as the door slowly began to open.

After what seemed an age the figure of a man peered into the room and gave me a wry smile.
Hello son

That it was my father addressing me was hard to process. Not so much that it was one of my parents now standing in front of me. More that, as far as I knew, he was still alive so how did he come to be here, with me, in the waiting room?

June 15th, 2018, 05:55 PM

You have , in my humble opinion, baited a hook here and I for one would want to read on. Yes I could probably nit-pick, there are one or two sentences that I'd prefer were worded differently and maybe that's just me. I saw a play many years back about a man who'd died young, in his thirties I think and the subject matter was after-life. It made me think about my beliefs in such matters. It's all conjecture of course and we won't know for sure, if indeed a person knows ANYTHING after death, I find stories of that nature compelling.

Well done 72, write on.

June 17th, 2018, 05:53 PM
ps, I am always a fan of looking at death - the moment of death or what happens after. It is like the last great frontier that we will never have a definitive answer to, except by writing stories about what it might be like. I write about death a lot, initially without even realizing it.

I like your story. I found the use of visual aids to encourage your MC to look back on his life, to remember the people and moments that were important to him, a terrific tool. I think it would be fun to continue with this and I look forward to reading more. I LOVED that last paragraph that really sets things up for a good write. Can't wait to see what you come up with. Good job!

July 13th, 2018, 08:22 PM
It's an interesting premise so far.

My main critique is that it is very exposition-heavy.

You spend a long time describing the room in great detail, which isn't a bad thing, but you've neglected to give the reader any emotional context to it except in a few isolated situations, and then in those situations the emotional context is a bit over the top because there is nothing else more nuanced in the script (so far).

My main advice would be to stop relying so heavily on exposition, and instead focus on the emotional impact for your main character. If your reader can form an emotional connection with the main character, than his emotional impacts will be their own, and you'll have done your job as a writer.

Every sentence is valuable real estate, focus on maximizing its potential before you try and set a scene, otherwise it will ring hollow.

Overall, I enjoyed your writing, but I hope this is just a first draft.

Ralph Rotten
July 14th, 2018, 08:30 PM
Your story and writing style hold promise.
The initial description of the room and the windows was a little klunky, you may wanna add some of the narrator's impressions as he/she tells us about the room.
It also felt a little funny because everything was in such short paragraphs--almost a string of sentences. A few of those sentences really belong together in the same paragraph so the reader can focus.
Editors call these underdeveloped paragraphs.

But your writing is good, this struck me as a first pass, or lightly edited, so it'll prolly clean-up prettier than Christina Aguilera.
Keep writing, you are doing it right so far.

July 18th, 2018, 09:37 AM
I think this a great place to start from and flesh out a bit more. As previously noted the emotion gets a bit overplayed where you use it and I would either call it back and have a slightly drier piece or add some more emotional content to the description of the room.

July 22nd, 2018, 07:46 AM
Hi there,

as others have said, you've baited a great many hooks. All these photographs, the views out the window, all of them give me threads to the MC's life before death. However, he is emotionally disconnected from them. None of those hooks evoke a strong emotional response from him, which could mean several things. My gut response would be that he's a self-centred bastard, who looks to his own well-being before all else. This reaction comes from the 'game the waiting room plays' and 'fair enough, I know how this game is played'. Maybe you didn't intend this, but maybe you did, and then I congratulate you :)

Another thing I've noticed (and maybe that's the fault of posting online) is the lack of variation of length for the paragraphs. Pacing. It makes—to me—the text very repetitive to read. I almost want to skip over paragraphs, just because I was expecting more of the same. Try combining several paragraphs that have the same theme, getting them together into genuine beats.

You've a great premise here, a gem of an idea, and I also would like to read more. You've made me curious about what the MC's father fits in the solution to the riddle to get out of the 'waiting' room. Well done!

July 22nd, 2018, 11:09 AM
I think I see where you're going with this. Or I'm just projecting because I had a similar idea. Either way.

The writing is good, but choppy - it's a pacing issue. As others have said, you might need to tighten up your paragraphs, or if you're going for a more stream of consciousness, surrealist tone, chop them up further. Be careful though - you don't want it too dry or too unreadable.

Your descriptions are clear and concise, which is what you want, but a little clinical. First person perspective is a great opportunity to inject a touch of personality to your scene dressing and your narrator. Don't be afraid to color it up a little bit - one of the fun things about writing in first person is you're already inside someone's head. Makes it a lot easier to show how they're thinking and how they react to the things around them, and people rarely see things as they are.

I did notice some grammar and structural errors, but nothing so bad I'd red-ink you. All in all, I enjoyed reading it, so thanks for writing it.

July 22nd, 2018, 04:17 PM
Thanks all for your feedback. Ive a lot to learn and all this helps.