WRITING: @YouAreCarrying Literary Improv, Chapter 1

I’m pretty charmed by @YouAreCarrying, a Twitter bot that will give you a text-game style inventory if you tweet the word inventory at it. It’s like an insta-prompt, and it always gets my brain buzzing with creativity.

So, as a creative experiment, I’m going to try and write a story based on what the bot gives me, with each ‘chapter’ using the given inventory. Why not have a little fun? Think of it as literary improv…

Day One

Inventory: My boots, a letter, a violin, a costume receipt, a wooden staff, a tube, a leaflet, a green match, a package of Funny Bones.

I don’t have my costume any more, but at least I have the receipt. Which is the last thought that slips through my mind before I fall out of Triga’s window and tumble into her rough, weed-strewn lawn.

I pull myself up as my wooden staff zings by my head. Thanks, Triga. I grab it, and as I dart through the trees lining her property, I wish I’d worn clothes underneath that overheated, bulky chicken suit I’d spent the day wearing. Now I’m in my boxers, rushing through the forest with everything I own in the world in my bag. Her husband’s wounded groans fading into the morning twilight as I run, dreams of grabbing either my money or my clothes fading fast.

Part of being on the run is that you tend to travel light. If I have to leave town on a moment’s notice, the only things I’d need in the world are on my person: my staff, bound to me by magic; my violin, the last thing I have from my parents; and a letter of protection from a rich man across the country that will, if my luck holds, keep me from ending up in sixty pieces and decorating Dragon’s Pass.

That letter’s gotten me onto ships and trains free of charge across the country over the past six weeks. Even if my benefactor drops dead today, it’ll have been worth every hour I laboured trying to get it. But now, I just want to get out of the woods and get my hands on some clothes.

I know that if I go south, I’ll reach town faster… but something burning in my gut warns me off. Something’s coming. Something bad.

And, as pain flares through my arm, I realise it’s here.

I can’t see whatever’s chasing me, but I can feel it in my gut. An absence. If the sun would rise a bit faster, maybe I’d catch the telltale ripple as it bounds through the trees. My stomach grumblsd, and I find myself wishing I’d saved half of last night’s dinner for food today. Most of my pay was supposed to be in the form of the deposit on the costume upon return, a way to ensure I got around to it… that’s not happening.

I slip through the trees in the half-light, looking for some kind of escape. No time to climb, though that would be the most effective way to save myself.

My energy’s flagging, and it’s fresh to the hunt. I have maybe ninety seconds before I become lunch.

So, no climbing. The next best step? Go somewhere it can’t fit. So using my staff, I vault myself over the edge of a hill and, dropping to the sharp slope, roll down – ow, fuck, ow, ow – and pull myself into a small cave in the rock outcropping. As I pass the threshold, the edges of the cave crumble slightly as my pursuer reaches in vain. I’m alive. Mostly naked, sore all over… but alive.

For now.

The invisible beast gives a sniff and walks off, though probably not far enough to give me room to escape. The moment I exit this cave, I’m dead. With that in mind, I plan to go further in, and see if there’s a way out.

I look through my bag in the dim light available at the mouth of the cave. What have I got left? In addition to my letter, violin and useless receipt, there’s a tube of skin cream, a leaflet for the far-off Althea region, a green match, and a box of small, processed chocolate cakes with peanut butter creme inside – Funny Bones. I’d forgotten I’d grabbed them in a hurry at a big box store two weeks ago and shoved them to the bottom of my bag.

There are ten of them in the box. I get through five, desperately hungry as I am, before my stomach moans in complaint and I feel sightly dizzy from sugar consumption. At least it’s energy to burn. I store the rest of the cakes and think about what to do next.

The monster will stake out the entrance until I come out… or until one of its masters comes and decides to follow me in here.

I need to go deeper.

I pack up my bag and light the match, using its weak and flickering light to guide my steps deeper into the cave.

The further in I go, the more the cold wraps around my unprotected body. I wish, now, I’d been cautious enough to rebuff Triga’s flirtations… but if you can’t have fun, why live at all? Of course, this line of thinking has led me to walking semi-nude through a cave that may be infested with fire-ants, so, perhaps I need an attitude adjustment.

And then I come to the end of the cave. Instead of branching out or leading in another direction, the only way forward is a deep-looking pit. And with the match already looking weak, I’ll soon be in the dark entirely.

I’m not that great with plans, if I’m honest. I always think I’m smarter than I am, and generally, I survive out of luck or someone else’s charity. Or my willingness to spend six hours a day shoveling rock.

Still, I have a thought.

I kneel to the edge of the hole and set my staff across the hole. It rests there easily. Then I drop the match down the hole.

It drops down, and I fear it will land in water and vanish with a hiss, or that the hole is an endless pit I could never survive. But it thuds on a dirt floor, only about twenty feet below me.

Twenty feet. Not exactly ideal, but I have a trick that might help. If it works.

I run my fingers along the side of my staff, and the intricate carvings that match the tattoos up and down my arms, We’re bound by more than affection. We’re tied together until death… and maybe even beyond. I wasn’t exactly old enough at the time to parse the grammar in my mom’s spell when she bound it to me almost twenty years ago.

So I make sure my staff is firmly laid so that it won’t easily fall into the hole, then I slip down–

Free fall, the wind blowing across my bare skin, and for a moment I always worry that I’ve calculated wrong… but then, at ten feet down, I feel the tug and slowly stop falling. As if a phantom rope is tied around my wrist, and to my staff at the other end. As I said, bound.

Ten feet, halfway into the hole, my momentum is gone. If I can get my staff off the hole above, I’ve cut a twenty-foot drop (which could easily have broken my ankle) into two more manageable ten-foot drops. Maybe I know what I’m doing after all.

The match flickers in the sand. The wind from my fall will definitely blow it out. That’s a chance I have to take. I scrunch my body up and force as much energy up through my arm, sending it through my connection to the staff like a rope. The staff pops up, and slips down into the hole with me.

I fall. Typically I know better than to land on my feet – rolling forward to disperse the force would be smarter – but I’m falling into the unknown dark, so I just hope the dirt below will soften the fall without leaving me with a sprained ankle.

Of course, the moment I land, the match goes out and I am alone in the dark. Damnit.

I feel my way along the walls – after all, I can’t exactly sit in the dark and wait for something to come for me. Perhaps I’ll step on a trap and be done for, but at least it won’t be my pursuers that take me out.

The further I go, the flatter and cleaner the wall becomes. Instead of a set of mountain tunnels, it seems I’ve stumbled into some kind of man-made labyrinth. Fantastic.

I come to what I think is a turn, and the sound of footsteps surrounds me. I freeze – hoping the stranger will bypass me without even knowing I’m there. They are moving quite fast, after all. It’s conceivable they haven’t noticed me at all.

A cold rushes through me, and I feel a pull at my bag. As soon as the presence was there, it’s gone.

I don’t know what it took, but I have bigger wraiths to tangle. So I push on, hoping my mysterious new friend doesn’t return.

Soon enough, there is a light at the end of the hall. I make my way towards it warily.

The best things – the things that seem like they will save you at your most desperate need – are usually the things that kill you. If my life’s taught me any lesson, it’s this.

I creep forward, and I soon can see that the light comes from a large room at the end of the hall. Flamelight, too, not sunlight. I’m unsure whether I’m disappointed it’s not an escape, or relieved it’s not an entrance for my enemies.

Upon reaching the room, my eyes widen. A massive circular stone door, with precious gems embedded in concentric circles along its surface. A fat ruby, like a knob, at its centre. Winding up the height of the room – an impossible height, there was nothing of this height visible from above – a spiral of torches burning. I can’t see the ceiling, just walls going upward forever.

Shit. I’m going to assume this place is magical, because otherwise keeping those torches lit would be a pain in the ass.

I turn, and across from the door is a raised dais with a chair and a stand, waiting for a musician to play. I cross the room – I know I’m letting curiosity overcome my survival instinct and should flee this ridiculous, impossible room, but if I’m honest… how many people stumble upon sights like these?

And then I see it. On the stand is sheet music for the violin.

Because of course, I happen to stumble into a magical room that’s set up for someone to play the one instrument I coincidentally never let leave my side. Total coincidence. For fuck’s sake.

I am struck with an immediate and visceral desire to run and never look back. But I’ve been running a long time, and the most it’s got me is a few acrobatic hours in the bed of a stranger, and a lot of headaches.

So I sit down, pull out my violin.

And play.

End of Chapter One


3 responses to “WRITING: @YouAreCarrying Literary Improv, Chapter 1

  1. Kara Lalalala July 20, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    This was AWESOME! Do these all the time!

  2. Pingback: WRITING: @YouAreCarrying Literary Improv, Chapter 2 | The Diversionist

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