The First Draft
For anyone familiar with my 2019 Writer In Motion experience and story, we’re back for another year! (And what a year it’s been…)
For those unfamiliar with the process or my previous posts, you can check out an overview of Writer In Motion and my 2019 story on my Writer In Motion landing page.
The above photo is the prompt for our Writer In Motion 2020 short story, chosen by Jeni Chappelle, our editor-in-chief.
I initially thought about doing another unusual perspective story, this time from the POV (point of view) of the shack in the picture, but decided I wanted to work instead on quick multi-POV story which revolved around the setting in the picture. I didn’t know where it would take me, but I decided just to start writing and see what came. The story below is the first draft result, coming in at 1014 words.
As generally required for the first (rough) draft, I have not re-read, or polished it, though my process does involve a tiny bit of editing as I go when I see a blatant mistake or want to move around a phrase to keep my writing feeling on track.
I’ll be interested to see what everyone thinks. Feel free to comment on the story itself, and let me know what first impressions you get when looking at the prompt photo. The first draft of, The Way-Station is below.
The way station was situated on mountain ridge just below the peak, and nestled into a grove of stubby trees. The light of the setting sun cast a golden hew on its shabby face of cracked concrete, slowly being chipped away by insatiable vines. He watched it through the scope of his rifle, waiting.
She looked up toward the trail top as she caught her breath and wiped the sweat from her brow. She hoped it was up there. It was on the map, marked as a small symbol of hope. It was so hot, the sun beat down brutally against the open trail. Her mouth was parched, and she could barely swallow anymore, having run out of water ages ago. She squinted and tried to make it out. A safe harbor for the weary traveler, stockpiled with cold and water. Please let it be there, she thought. She adjusted the heavy carrier on her back, and resumed climbing.
A man sat behind a meticulously clean, white desk. It held only a monitor and a phone. Behind him an enormous window displayed a restless ocean as it stretched off to the horizon. The sun hung low in the sky and the man pressed a button on the edge of the desk to adjust the tint of the window. He wanted to see what was about to happen. He tapped twice on the phone and a man’s voice answered.
“Patience, my friend. It will be done soon,” the assassin said in a low, ominous voice.
“Why do you always say it like that?”
“‘Patience, my friend.’” The man in the office mimicked the man on the phone’s theatrical tone.
“Why do you always call me from your stupid office in a converted lighthouse on the top of a cliff like some god-damn Bond villain?” The assassin asked.
“I don’t,” protested the man in the office. He checked in the corners of the all white room and under the desk. Was the assassin watching him somehow?
“I can hear the waves.”
The man in the office stopped looking for cameras.
“Just let me do my job and stop calling me every five minutes. I’ll can you when it’s done, I always do.” The assassin hung up and readjusted his rifle scope. Target in sight.
The woman created the ridge and nearly collapsed from relief. The way station was still there. Only a little bit farther. She stumbled toward it reaching back to squeeze the small legs which hung limp from the carrier on her back. Her son had long since fallen silent. She prayed to God that he would be ok. He’d cried for so long. Hungry, thirsty, and so so hot. But she couldn’t set him down. She knew if she had she could never have gotten him back in again, and they would never have made it the rest of the way up the mountain.
“We’re nearly there, my love. Just hold on,” she whispered, as much to herself as to her baby.
The assassin watched the woman as she appeared over the mountain ridge through the scope. She was red from the sun and her knees nearly buckled several times as she made for the small, concrete shack. The small child hung limp on her back, head hanging at an awkward angle in the carrier. The man on the phone was right, as he always was. He adjusted the lens on his rifle and refocused. He was the best money could buy. A clean kill, untraceable. Sometimes he knew why his clients wanted a target killed, sometimes not, it didn’t matter. He couldn’t see why anyone would want a small child dead.
The assassin settled in for the shot, adjusting ever so slightly for the wind and distance. The woman was almost at the way station. A minute more and it would be too late. He stilled his whole body but the finger on the trigger.
The woman reached the shade of the trees.
“Just a few more steps now, baby. Hold on,” she said. The boy whimpered and stirred and she nearly sobbed with relief that he was still alive. He’d been quiet for so long she’d been secretly afraid he’d died along the way, but she couldn’t bear to check, just in case she’d been right. The stubby trees were welcome shade and a cool breeze blew over them. She could see the wooden door now. It was a decent step up off the ground to keep rodents out, but it looked solid enough. They would be safe there and the concrete looked cool and welcoming.
The assassin slowly pulled the trigger back. All…most…there…he thought.
POP POP POP the rifle’s silenced muffled the shots as the bullets left the barrel and flew toward their target.
The woman’s hand was turned the cool metal knob and pushed on the rough wood door as glass shattered on the other side. But it was too late to stop the swing of the door. She realize they’d been waiting for this this whole time. The escape, the money, all the times they’d nearly died on the way was all for nothing. Her stomach clinched, and she shut her eyes waiting for the inevitable to come.
“I’m sorry, Joshua,” she whispered. If she was going to die it should be with her baby’s name on her lips.
But the inevitable didn’t come.
Cautiously she opened one eye, then the other. On the floor lay three men, all in black, each with a shot to the head. Their blood was beginning to pool on the wooden floor boards. She looked to the left. A small glass window was broken.
“Marissa?” A young male voice spoke behind her and she whirled around.
He put his hands up, showing he was unarmed. A long bag was strapped to his back and he wore brown hiking pants and a green shirt. He held out a canteen of water.
“We haven’t met. I’m Juan, your little brother. Dad sent me to bring you home.”
I hope you enjoyed this first draft. To read more stories by participating authors, check out the Writer In Motion website, and #writerinmotion on Twitter!