Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wednesday Writings # 34 - Applying Pressure

Welcome to my weekly "Wednesday Writing" post. These weekly exercises serve as motivation to ensure that I spend at least 30-60 minutes each week doing some creative writing. In the ideal week, I will write every day. But at the very least, I will do at least one writing segment which I will share here on my blog.

I intended the "wednesday writings" to be individual exercises or stories but since April, I have been continuing the same story thread and doing some general free writing using the same characters and continuing the plot. There are some definite continuity issues in the overall course of the story, but I have slowly come upon a cohesive plot (which will require significant editing of earlier editions to make them valid). You can find the entire story by clicking through the following chronological links:
  1. Morning Machinations
  2. Communication Between Friends
  3. Daydreaming Decisions
  4. Off to the Park
  5. Driven
  6. Coming Home
  7. Revealing Photographs
  8. Just a Dream?
  9. At the Tower
  10. Caught
  11. Revelations
  12. Lunchtime
  13. The Watch
  14. Visions
  15. Escape
  16. Evan (part 1)
  17. Evan (part 2)
  18. Evan (part 3)
  19. Formulating a Plan
  20. Testing the Boxes
  21. Betrayal
  22. Julie
  23. Out of Time
  24. A Problem of Paradoxes
  25. Taking Charge
  26. The Chase Begins
  27. Friends Reunited
  28. Freedom?
  29. Unraveling the Plot
  30. Motivation

Dalton's turning out to be a bit crazier than even I thought he was. I'm still having a hard time feeling the reality of the reactions of the others. But still we roll on. We're definitely approaching the end...I'm just hoping it all comes together. :)


Applying Pressure

For a few minutes the only sounds in the room were the occasional tinkling of ice as Dalton slowly drank a new glass of water and the muffled sobs as Gabby buried her head in her arms and cried on the table. Everyone mulled over Dalton's diatribe, trying to decide how to believe and what to do about it. Finally, Gabby sat back up, wiped her face with her hands and stared at Dalton.

He sat relaxed in his chair, slightly reclined, his eyes half closed. He held his glass halfway between the table and his mouth and swirled the water slowly causing the ice to clink softly against the glass. A sad smile hung on his face. His breathing was slow and deliberate. Generally he seemed unaware or unconcerned with anyone else in the room.

Gabby opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. She looked to Evan standing beside her and again opened her mouth to speak, but still nothing came. She leaned head against his chest and closed her eyes. She felt him breathe deeply before he spoke.

"Alright. Assuming there is any truth to what you're saying, I'm still unclear as to what you intend us to do about any of this. If you have discovered a method to avoid paradoxes, why don't you simply go back and save your wife and daughter? Why this elaborate scheme to involve each of us and gain our support?"

Gabby raised her head and watched as Dalton took another long drink of his water then set the glass down and returned Evan's gaze.

"It's not as simple as all that. To a certain degree, I have been able to mitigate disruptive paradoxes. I have not been able to wholly alleviate their existence. In simple cases, I have created and worked through paradoxes with no visible repercussions. In more extreme situations, I have avoided temporal instabilities but have still seen ripples caused by the paradox. However, In some of my recent interactions, I have seen evidence that tampering with the timeline which led to the creation of the time machine itself is a task which has more unpredictable behavior."

He fell silent. Everyone stared expectantly, waiting for an explanation. When none came, they each thought about his suggestion. Gabby came up with an idea.

"You mean, like how the machine stopped working this past week. When you and Evan came back in time this last time, something you did interfered with the natural events that caused us to all get together and create the machine in the first place?"

"You always were quick to piece together details Gabrielle. Yes. That is precisely the kind of behavior I'm talking about. Which leads to a bigger risk."

He fell silent again as if waiting for someone to finish his explanation. Gabby thought she understood where he was going, but decided to let him continue his narration. She'd already helped him enough and she wanted to hear his own words in order to be more able to determine his motives. For a minute she was worried he wouldn't continue. But then, resignation filled his eyes and he went on.

"It was the death of my wife and daughter that led to the financial boon creating the environment in which we could freely and extensively conduct our experiments and create the time machine. Thus, my dilemma."

With a tone of finality, Dalton leaned forward in his chair, filled his water glass and took a long slow drink. Then he leaned back and stared at the ceiling.

"You see my problem?"

Gabby stared at the others in the room. Everyone had the same pensive, confused look on their face and was in turn staring at each of the others. Gabby was shocked when Julie was the one to respond.

"Yeah. I see your problem. You're a lunatic."

Everyone stared at Julie. Carlisle muttered something under his breath. Dalton chuckled and looked at her as if to respond, but she continued.

"No. I'm serious. You're absolutely crazy. All of you are."

She waved her hand in a sweeping gesture around the room.

"We're sitting here, four of us who are supposedly moderately sane. We're listening to the ravings of a madman and considering his threats and proposals as though he has any real power over us."

She put her palms flat on the table and leaned forward to glare at Dalton as she continued.

"You've supposedly killed Carlisle and Gabby. You've destroyed Evan's love and unborn child. You kept me locked up in a closet of a room for who knows how long. And now, you have the gaul to tell us we need to help you. That only by helping you can we each be safe and free."

She stood up again and looked from face to face.

"In case you haven't noticed. We are free right now. The one who should be nervous for his future is the psychopath sitting there casually sipping his water and talking about life and death like he's God. I say we call the police. Get him arrested for arson at Carlisle's house and for kidnapping me. Once he's locked up, he obviously can't do anything else."

Gabby interrupted.

"But what about the things he's already done….in our futures? What about killing Carlisle. And….and me?"

Julie paused and looked back at her friend. The fear in Gabby's eyes was thick and heavy.

"But he hasn't done them. Not in our future. Only in his own past. Don't you see? Just like the paradoxes he created and toyed around with. He's jumped forward and backwards so much he's distorted any real sense of time. Whatever he did in the future happened in a future that no longer exists. He killed Carlisle in a future based on Carlisle's house being safe and sound and Carlisle dying in his sleep. How's that supposed to happen now that his house has been blown up and burned down? And if the future of a week from now has changed, how can you worry about a future he claims to have destroyed more than a year from now?"

Gabby shook her head and shuddered, the worry still mirrored on her face. Julie stepped forward and put her hands on Gabby's shoulders.

"Don't listen to him Gabby. I'll admit I've seen some weird things. If you'd tried to convince me that there was such a thing as a time machine, I would've laughed you off and said you'd been studying too much and needed a break. But the things I've seen tonight have really happened. Or else this is all a dream and I'm about to wake up. But regardless of what's happened and what we've seen, I don't believe in a predestined fate that can't be avoided. Just because he claims to have done these things, doesn't mean they will actually happen."

She took a step back and looked at everyone in the room.

"No future is set in stone. Our future is determined by what we do right now. Or now. Or NOW. Every instant of our life is filled with choice. And no one can take that from us."

Julie paused to take in the emphasis of her own speech. With a deep breath she considered all she'd just said. The look on her face suggested her own doubts, but as she turned and looked at Dalton, a fire of surety raged in her eyes. She picked up a glass of water and downed it in a single breath then slammed the glass on the table so hard it cracked slightly and the candlestick centerpiece fell over and rolled onto the floor.

"And now, if you'll excuse me Mr. Dalton. I am going to call the police."

She nodded her head in emphasis and then turned to go. As she did, Dalton quickly stood, his chair tipping over and noisily crashing to the floor. He clapped his hands together in a slow, drawn out applause.

"Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! An excellent speech my dear. But surely you don't intend to leave before the climax?"

Julie paused in the door and looked at him, confused. He clapping grew softer as he walked slowly around the table. Gabby alternated looking from Dalton to Julie and back again. Julie staggered and thrust her hand out to grab the door for support. She shook her head as if to gain clarity then stared at Dalton. Gabby was confused at her friend's behavior. Surely Julie wasn't so overwhelmed by Dalton as to swagger at his rebuttal.

"Your logic holds sound, dear girl, if you look at Time as a linear establishment. But you see, Time is much more fluid than all that. I've been working at this for quite a little while. More than any of you can know. What I have told you will come to pass. It HAS come to pass. And only I can stop it."

As Dalton approached, Julie took a half step backwards, tripped over her own feet and slammed her back against the door. She stood, her eyes wide in fear as she looked at Dalton. He stopped moving and held up his hands, palms facing her.

"I have spent countless days and hours observing and planning. I have watched all of this. I was prepared for your heroic actions this evening in freeing our friend Evan and duly loaded blanks into the gun you provided him. I was prepared to be threatened, beaten and dragged to this room in handcuffs and as such I taped a handcuff key underneath the table where I knew I would be sitting. And now…"

He took another step forward. Julie's breathing grew heavy and more sporadic. Gabby slowly stepped to her feet then, as Julie coughed harshly and started to slide down the wall to sit on the floor, Gabby raced to her friend's side.

"I knew that you, the outsider to our little group, would attempt to use your role as outsider to throw doubt on my proposal and bring your own mundane sense of logic to it. And in preparation, I have killed you. But to ensure that everyone is aware of the veracity of my actions, I have killed you in a way that will be quite evident to all of you that I am in control."

Dalton took another step forward and placed his hand on Gabby's shoulder. Gabby hunched over Julie who was now coughing violently and doubling over in pain. Dalton looked around the room at each of them.

"Just as this outsider has attempted to poison our group. I have poisoned her. Knowing the glass from which she would drink after her heroic tirade, I coated it with a lethal and fast acting poison. I watched the alternate possibilities a number of times. The one in which she races for the phone and dials up the police. There were quite a few alternate scenarios that played out from that action. And while most of them resulted in my own personal safety and release unharmed, they all involved far too much delay. Even with Time on my side, you surely understand my desire to be as efficient as possible."

By now, Evan was kneeling at Gabby's side, supporting Julie's neck and trying to was off the frothing saliva escaping from her mouth. Gabby's body shook in fear and anger as she held Julie and felt her convulsing, saw her eyes transition from vivid and full of fear and anger, to a vacant, glassy look. Julie's coughs slowed and in a moment, her convulsions slowed to random twitching. Gabby felt fire well up through her skin. Her muscles tightened and her mind raced. She jumped to her feet and reeled on Dalton, slamming into him, pressing him back against the table and pounding on his chest with her clenched fists. He simply laughed.

"You cannot hurt me dear Gabrielle. I am beyond your pain. I have lived it again and again."

Gabby stopped punching at him and walked back over to Julie. She knelt beside her friend. Evan had closed Julie's eyes and was dabbing her face with a napkin. They both looked over as Dalton continued.

"All of these events can become nightmares of your past. I can and will remove this pain from you. All you must do, is to help me with my own pain."

He stood tall, brushed himself off and stepped back around to his chair. Taking a seat, he rested his elbows on the table and held his hands up fingertip to fingertip creating a pyramid on which he rested his chin.

"I need you to help me bring my wife and my daughter into our own time. Into their future."

Evan pushed himself to his feet and held out a hand to help Gabby up. She shook her head and leaned over to hug Julie and hide her sobs in Julie's shoulder. Evan stepped over to the table and looked at Dalton.

"You know that taking someone into the future is impossible."

"Impossible? No no no. Not impossible. Unpredictable and dangerous, yes, but not impossible. The largest risk is to go yourself into the future. Because of the way the machines are built, you are taken through time to occupy your own body. If you proceed to a future where your body is dead, or in some imminent danger, well, the results could be rather unfortunate."

"Exactly. That's what I meant. You can't bring them into the future beyond a point at which they're already dead. They would be dead on arrival. You wouldn't be resolving your pain. You would only be recreating it."

Dalton shook his head.

"Which is precisely why I need your help. Our machine does not bring the whole individual through Time. It leaves the initial body somewhere else and lets the soul, the spirit, the essence of the person enter their body at the new position in Time. I need you to figure out why this is. To determine the limitations and to work around them so we can bring my wife and daughter through."

Carlisle gave a single chuckle and shook his head.

"Even if we manage to bring them through wholly, there's no telling if they would survive. Your daughter would still be suffering from leukemia and require full therapy. I agree with Julie. There may not be any Fate or Destiny guiding our lives, but there would still be no guarantee that she would survive therapy any better now than she did then."

Evan continued.

"Carlisle's right. What would be the point to bring them through time only to risk the same pain you've already dealt with. Furthermore, simply attempting to bring them through time will disrupt the very continuum you described earlier. Specifically, the timeline that brought about the invention of the Time Machine. Without their death, there will be no money for investment and experiments. Even if you could minimize the paradox, there's no telling what the results would be. Even if they survive and your pain is removed, the Time Machine would surely cease to function and you wouldn't be able to follow through on your guarantee to go back and undo the damage you've done to each of us."

Dalton smiled and nodded.

"For that, you will just have to trust me when I say that I have seen the future and I know how to bring it about."

He picked up his glass of water, swirled it around so the ice cubes tinkled against the glass, then he raised it forward as if in a toast.

"To the future!"

No one spoke. They all just stared silently as he brought the glass to his lips and swallowed the water down. He threw the glass against the far wall so it shattered. Then, without a word, Dalton stood and walked out of the room.


Brian Miller said...

nice chapter...have you always left those lines hanging when you do dialogue? dont remember that ..structurally i would tie that up...

Okie said...

Generally my dialog segments have been more complete/finished. I broke them apart more this time based on seeing it done in a piece I was reading for someone else...trying to add action and emotion amid the speaking itself.

logankstewart said...

Excellent addition. Very nice, indeed. And while I think many of Dalton's actions are a bit over-the-top (okay, a lot over-the-top, but still...), they fit his character perfectly. He's just cocky enough to act how he does.

Climb2Nowhere said...

I love this idea of creative writing wednesdays! I think it's good to give yourself the discipline, and I need to come up with something like that. I always get my writing done, but sometimes it stresses me out with everything else I have to do and maybe if I just set time aside consistently it would alleviate that stress.

That being said, I really like you're writing. Dalton is an interesting character. I wonder when this will all be a book....

Phoenix said...

I hate Dalton so much.

So, obviously, you're doing a great job. :)

(Seriously, I can't wait for someone to put a bullet into his head.)