Friday, August 15, 2014

Just a creative exercise

As you all have heard at length, I get a little obsessive when I'm writing, and it's difficult for me to make contact with my fellow Earthlings. ;-D  Meaning, even something as simple as writing a coherent blog feels difficult. I was going to try and put something together regarding translation, because I am having such interesting experiences going global. But... it just wouldn't come, and then this morning I had another of my crazy ideas.

What if I pulled out some random bits of story from a very old, unfinished manuscript and we did one of those exercises where everyone builds on what the previous person has written?

You can go serious or funny or whatever, but you write a paragraph or two and leave it to the next person. I wonder what we would come up with?

Let me say up front that this was written back in the day when I used to write and THEN research, which...I don't need to tell you how much of a mistake that can be if you know absolutely nothing about your topic. Which...I did not. I wasn't even sure what nationality my characters were going to be, that is clear. :-D

So here we go. Bits of an unnamed and unfinished story:

“Aren’t you Nate Martyn?  I just love your show!”

“Oh, uh…thanks.”

God.  I hated when this happened around the team.  People always thought it was my show because I was the face the public saw.  I was never so conscious of how little I really contributed until moments like these.

“It’s so smart, so well-written, so original.

“Oh, yeah, it’s a great show, Nate,” teased Charlize, elbowing me in the ribs.  I could see Bill and Travis shaking their heads with friendly mockery.  

I said, “I’m just the guy on camera.  These are the people who actually put the show together.”

But she wasn’t having any of it.  She handed out her tour book and said, “Could I have your autograph?  It would be such an honor.”

As I reluctantly took the book, I caught Johnny’s eyes.  I felt myself flushing, although he looked amused.


Bill was grinning.  “When did I ever lie to you?”

“The bay of Naples thing for one.  That bloody pack of sharks.”

“Sharks don’t travel in packs!”

“They looked like a pack to me. Or maybe a  street gang.”  I could laugh about it now, but that had been a terrifying experience.  I’d only been with the team a short while, and I really had believed I might be killed out there through someone’s carelessness or incompetence.

They all laughed at my tone.  Even Johnny’s mouth pulled into a sardonic little grin as he reached for his drink.  Todd looked mystified, and I tried to explain about the sharks that had turned up while I was supposed to be diving around some old ruins in the bay of Naples.

“But Nate was a pro,” Charlize informed Todd, her eyes dancing.  “You’ve never seen anyone so wet and scared and articulate.  And of course he always photographs like a dream.”

I grimaced at her.  “You can tell I’m shaking on camera,” I told Todd.  Then I turned to Bill.  “And how about your gentle old priest in Peru?”

Bill roared with laughter, his face taking on an apoplectic flush.  “That’s right!  That’s right.  The old boy leads Nate up to this secret temple in the hills and cold cocks him!”

Laughing with the others, I glanced Johnny’s way and caught his eyes for a split second.  Out of the blue I remembered sitting there in the twilight with the scent of sage and dust in my nostrils, and Johnny kneeling next to me, repeating, “How many fingers am I holding up, Nate?”

I grinned wryly.  That had been the first and only time I could ever remember having Johnny’s complete and undivided attention.  It had almost been worth the murderous headache I’d had for two days afterwards.



Typical of how it had always been with myself and Johnny.  He’d never taken me seriously, and no wonder.  I was always making a fool of myself in one way or another—even when it wasn’t actually my fault.  Now he was looking towards Bill who was embellishing the story—complete bullshit—but it did make for a pretty funny story.



When I’d joined the team six years ago I suppose I’d had rather a thing for Johnny.  He’d never been anything but distantly friendly to me, and I’d got over it eventually, but it took me aback to realize my feelings had been so transparent.


So there you go. The basic dynamic was that Nate was the star/host of some kind of travel show (this was back before reality shows! But I guess that's what it would be) and he was in love with his producer, Johnny.

Write us a scene and whoever gets in first, kicks off the story, and everyone embellishes from there. This is strictly for fun. Stretch your creative muscles.


  1. The memory faded away as I felt the coarse wool being wrapped around me, voices in my ear mimicking the words of comfort and solace. The cold diamond patterned aluminum flooring of the ambulance dug into my thighs, grounding me as the last dregs of the memory drained away, leaving only the harsh stare of the halogen lights and the eye searing pattern of emergency vehicle lights. Red and blue danced along my periphery, reminding me of the harsh flash of a photographer's bulb capturing more than I cared to show, flooding every shadow and crevice of my mind with their obnoxious light. Didn't matter really, the busy thrum of people around me and voices in my ears meant nothing to the incessant buzzing in my head, my mind filled with the scene before me. The headlights from the cop cars angled to bathe the alleyway in harsh detail, the hive of people swarming over the slumped figure against the filthy brick wall and in between stretches of fabric and fiber, the wooden tribal mask leered back at me. Its grinning visage gruesome against the bloody form of the poor girl it was stuck to, a thin line of blood leading from its eyes. I knew it was her, the girl from that day so long ago as I knew I had been the one to find that mask on a day equally far away. All I could see, all I could think of was that grin and how I knew it would lead to my end.

  2. A chill went through me at the memory. That day, we were looking for the Temple of the Forgotten Masks. We parachuted in a jungle, and by some stroke of luck stayed clear of the trees. The moss rushed to meet us and before I could even blink, everything was packed tight and the journey began. A young girl, machete in hand, cleared a path and guided us deeper into the jungle.

  3. A hand landed on my shoulder, and I jolted. "Hey, you all right? Sorry, I didn't mean to..."

    I looked up and locked eyes with Johnny. You don't fall into a job like mine without being a romantic, deep down. And being who I was, I'd cradled that flame I'd carried for Johnny deep down where I'd always kept the most precious of things. My father's hands, my mother's laugh, the sailing and flying over and around the world, free and endless, mostly memories all inexorably entangled with Johnny. All it took now for the flame to flicker to life was the concerned twist of his mouth.

    "I didn't mean to startle you," Johnny finished. His eyes were fathomless and solemn. "Charlize called me. Come on, let's get you out of here."

    "But the police--" I began, as Johnny peeled the shock blanket off my shoulders. His hands on me were brusque, but kind as he helped me to my feet.

    "They'll know where to find you. Come along now, Nate."

  4. It was a long way through the wet green. All was wet, particular my boxers clung uncomfortably on me. There was a lot of wildlife here. For my opinion way to many insects, which I never had seen before.
    Johnny with a grin like a Cheshire cat said: “They are only curious, the will not bite you.“

  5. As much as I wanted to explore the fiendish promise of Johnny's grin, I couldn't help thinking about that other grin. The mask. The promises of that grin were not once I wished to contemplate.
    And the girl, Machete Girl. I never knew her name.

  6. The heavy vegetation blocked much of the light, making the trail difficult to see. I couldn't see any markings to show the way, but she never hesitated. It took almost an hour of hiking in the oppressive heat to reach the ancient temple that was our destination. The producers who chose the place had obviously seen too many movies - they even had me wearing the damned hat.
    I had to admit that the place was impressive. A stone monolith rose at the end of a small clearing. It was at least 30 feet high and almost completely covered in vines, but here and there the vines parted to show carvings of fantastic-looking creatures, human and animal.

  7. The girl looked unsure, it seemed to me, that she wanted to say something. Nobody wanted to show us the way to the temple, but then Johnny had found her.

  8. "The curse of Huitzilpochtli", Machete Girl whispered into the thick jungle air. "He shall steal the sun."
    I don't believe in curses, but I couldn't prevent the shiver that ran down my spine at the look of fear in her eyes.

  9. Machete Girl, Johnny, myself and the cameraman stepped inside the temple, a dusty tunnel meandering into the dark. Shadows jumped and slithered along the walls. Not ours. Most likely, the heat was getting to me. The girl hesitated, frowned in concentration, then, eyes glazed, said, "the folk tell us the mask you want will follow you and whoever lays eyes on it in one place and forever until it can rest where it always has, at sundown." She shuddered.

    1. "Nate? Nate!"
      I had to blink my eyes twice to get rid of the image of Machete Girl and focus on the road we were traveling. I looked at Johnny. He seemed nervous. The unflappable, stoic producer of one of the most crazy travel shows in the world was nervous.
      My throat suddenly felt dry as a desert.
      "Johnny? Why didn't we wait for the police to question me?"
      Johnny pursed his lips.
      I looked around. This looked nothing like the way back to our hotel, not to the place when we left the rented trucks.
      "Where are we going?"

  10. Charlize laughter sounded phony. That was the first moment, I realized something was not okay. Really not okay!

  11. Johnny stared fixedly at the road before him. I didn't think he was going to answer me.
    "The curse", he breathed. "We have to break the curse."
    "But..." I started.
    "Trust me," he said. Have I ever steered you wrong?" Again he flashed me that grin.

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  13. "B-but," I stammered. "This whole trip was your idea!" I could hear the hysteria in my voice.
    Again Charlize laughed. False. Forced.
    "Is this about our ratings," I asked tentatively, almost hopefully.

  14. I noticed Johnny catch Charlize's eye in the rearview mirror.
    "Oh my God," I nearly shriek. "A girl has been murdered."
    "We don't know that." Johnny began.
    "What? How? What other explanation could there be? The curse?"
    All at once my head was pounding. I couldn't comprehend what was going on.
    "So," I tried again. "Where are we going?"

  15. "We are going to the archiv, to view the old Peru dvd, the uncut version." Johnnies eyes were straight on the road as he answered my question.
    I feeled nauseatic and closed my eyes. I couldn't think, but there was something...

  16. I must have been hit on the head harder than I thought because nothing was making sense. It was like I was in this car with strangers. Nothing Johnny and Charlize were doing made any kind of sense.
    And then that niggling something broke through.
    "Isn't that on the other side of the town?"

  17. Charlie made a strange choking sound from the back seat.
    "Are you ok?" I asked.
    Johnny answered in that same guttural...language?
    "What? What are you saying? You guys don't know any different languages. Is that like," I racked my rattled brain. "Klingon?"
    Charlie laughed, this time a genuine laugh. Amused.
    "Klingon is not a real language, " she finally managed. I swear there were tears in her eyes. " Oh Nate. I've always loved your sense of humor"
    I stared at her, looked back at Johnny. He was grinning again.
    "Who are you people," I finally managed to get out. "What do you want from me?"
    Johnny looked over at me. "We are taking you to our god. Have you ever been with a god, Nate? It's a great honor"
    He was chewing his lip. I found that very distracting.
    " But what about..." I lost my train of thought, glancing back at Charlize.
    Johnny whispered to me, misinterpreting my glance, "She likes to watch."

  18. My head was pounding and even the erratic movement of the vehicle threatened to empty my stomach.
    "Easy, Nate. Take a deep breath." His hand lightly traced a pattern on my forearm,.
    Still awash in pain and yes, i admit it, terror, I gulped out thru breaths," What.... exactly... happened?" My blue eyes focused on his own greyish orbs.
    Abruptly Johnny's gaze flashed sideways briefly, before meeting my own. "I don't know for sure... you.." he coughed. "well lets just get to the archive.. maybe things will be clearer then."
    "clearer?!" My voice shook, " that girl is dead.... she was wearing... a mask..."
    His hand withdrew . i felt oddly bereft without that minimal contact. " what do you think happened?"
    a gurgle of hysterical laughter escaped, " I..." i groped in my hazy memory for some event that would clarify the haze in my mind. Darkness, utter and total darkness. the kind where you could only sense your hand in front of your face without seeing it. How did I come to be in that alley ? Where had machete girl come from? Surely some one would have seen she a petite woman carrying or wearing that tribal mask. Shaking my head as tho to jar loose the dam, was a serious mistake. I groaned and nearly passed out.
    "That"s enough," Charlize commanded. Bill snorted somewhere from the seat behind me.

  19. Had I dreamt, that Johnny and Charlize were speaking in a foreign language? It was possible, it seems as if I drifted in an out sleep, or perhaps in and out unconsciousness. I looked at the road, we were on the way to the archive.

  20. "Hey Sleepy Head," Johnny said from the driver's seat.
    I remembered the look he had given me in that dream and flushed. I hoped it was too dark for him to notice.
    "We're almost there," Charlize said. "I really hope we can solve this thing. And it certainly won't hurt our ratings," she added, sounding almost like an afterthought.
    "I knew it! This is about our ratings!"

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  22. I looked up just as the headlights swept across the waffled metal doors that made up most of the façade of the near-derelict warehouse we laughingly called “The Archive”. The production company logo, originally a swirl of bold primary colors, had faded to pale pastels from too many years in the sun. Parts of the design were missing—chipped away with chunks of rust that had won their struggle for freedom from the paint.

    Charlize and Bill piled out of the van and flanked the passenger door as I turned and stepped down. They each took an arm to steady me, and I shrugged them off with a dismissive, “I’m fine!” immediately wishing I had shrugged less aggressively. Charlize dug out her keys and undid the large padlock. The jangle of the chain as she unwound it from the handles reverberated within the cavernous space behind the doors. That fading echo underlined the fact that the only other sound to be heard was a distant freeway—no one in their right mind came to the warehouse district after dark. Johnny grabbed a handle, braced his legs, and gave a mighty pull. As the door heaved into motion, metal on metal emitted an ear-shattering screech that split the silence of the night. I might have been annoyed if I hadn’t been riveted by the mesmerizing shapes of Johnny’s biceps as they undulated with his efforts to keep the door moving.

    Once we were inside, Bill flipped on the overhead fluorescents, a few of which actually lit up while others flickered on and off, creating an irritating irregular strobe effect. I glanced around the space, taking in the long rows of tables holding props and souvenirs from every corner of the globe. And a hell of a lot of dust and cobwebs. I really didn’t get why we were spending money to store all this old crap.

    By the time I made my way over to the office, which had been converted at some point to a small editing studio, Bill and Charlize were firing up equipment while Johnny ran a finger along one of the many shelves of labelled DVDs. “Peru… that was, what? Ninety-eight? Ninety-nine?”

    “Ninety-nine,” I replied. “July fourteenth.” If I lived to be a hundred, that was a date I would never forget!

    1. We interrupt this broadcast just to say that the segments are wonderful! Really enjoying this. Right from the jump it was off and running. :-)

  23. Never forget...forget? forget what? God my head was throbbing, a steady rhythm I could feel down to my toes. I couldn't get a handle on any of my fleeting thoughts, each one skittering away in the face of that godforsaken thumping!
    Wait, my eyes are closed, why were they closed again? Was I in hospital...but no, Johnny took me away didn't he? I think there was an ambulance, a piercing screech of sirens. What happened before that? I remember laughing with my colleagues and a bouncy over enthusiastic woman and then...Johnny and the South American Jungle. His gentle tone and worried dark eyes...

    Yeah, that was my name, well it was actually Nathaniel David Blah Blah Blah Martyn, my parents, love them though i do, are damn pretentious yuppies,
    There was his voice again, calling for me gently.
    Ok so not that gently, the sweet baritone was reaching up into a higher register. Was that worry? He didn't need to be worried, I was fine! Ok so maybe my brain felt like the inside of a maraca and I think that my eyes might be fused shut but...
    "Johnny?" I croaked, huh my voice seems to be malfunctioning, that won't be good for business, at least I still have my looks!
    "Oh God Nate," Johnny's voice had that slightly girlish tone to it and here i was thinking he was too good for school. "I was so worried, do you know where you are?"
    ", Nate we haven't been to Peru since the 90's. No, you're in hospital."
    Ok, so maybe I might be a bit confused.

  24. "Well, here's some good news" I just noticed Charlize in the room. Hard to notice anything else with Johnny so close. "Lupe Juarez is going to be fine."
    "Who's Lupe Juarez?" I asked.
    "The girl," Charlize said. "Your Guide for nearly a week when you were in Peru." She sounded incredulous. "You mean to tell me you don't know her name."
    "Well, she always had that machete..." I started, but then, "...wasn't she dead?"
    Both Johnny and Charlize stared at me.

  25. "It was just a Styrofoam wall, Nate." Charlize explained. "You got clipped by one of the lights, which is how you got a concussion, so...," she trailed off and started to laugh. "Oh my God, Nate! We were filming a dramatization of the Curse of the Forbidden Mask in our Peru revisited episode!" Tears were spilling from her eyes she was laughing so hard. "Oh Nate, you kill me."
    I noticed Johnny trying very hard not to laugh himself. I took a quick glance at the door to the bathroom half expecting Bobby Ewing to step out wearing nothing but a bath towel and a smile. No such luck.

  26. Josh, solo queria agradecerte por la oportunidad que les diste a traductores anonimos de permitirles traducir una de tus historias,

    soy fan tuya y se lo dificil que es leer en una lengua extranjera, asi que esta iniciativa es bien recibida gracias, gracias

  27. But then, if it was all imagined, if everything I had gone through in those moments was as unreal as they all claimed, what did that mean for me?

    Did it mean I'd also dreamed up Johnny's tighter than usual squeeze of my hand, the little flutter of his fingers on my collarbone as I came out of the shock of it. The panic that erupted into the blue irisesa staring back at me with a sharpened edge of relief as my eyelids came apart in wakefulness, relief that was punctuated with love, perhaps?

    How much of it was a fabrication resulting from a strong hit on the head, and how much was genuine? Johnny was unattainable as a cloud in a blazing summer sky, I'd always known that, his demeanor said it, his work ethics did, and his every maddening almost brush-ups against me during work said more about his appropriate man-forced distance than a wedding ring could every hope to achieve.

    It seemed childish, but I wanted it back, I wanted the disaster, the curse to be true, to be caught in the wave of potential arrest and law danger, just so I could grasp a little more of that thread of attention Johnny had preferred me with. I shook my head free of these thoughts, almost banging it on an overflowing shelf of travel novels and maps, routes and whatever else Bill liked to stuff the office with.

    Johnny must have noticed the near miss and looked my way, it was clear I wasn't myself, not laughing it off, not downplaying my role in Peru to that of the entire staff, now that I'd somehow dramatized it with injury and odd recollections.

    I closed my eyes and clenched my teeth. It was childish, completely immature, so college student stalked and manipulative, but I went for it, I projected my pain and turmoil to all of the room, hoping Johnny would offer me some type of comfort.