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"SSC8 - Nightlight"

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Thu 25/01/07 at 17:11
Posts: 13,611
The drilling stops.

I’m lying on my back and facing the ceiling when I wake. Feet on the floor, fingers on eyelids, stumbling to the window in drowsy stupor.

They’ve gone home.

The flaps of the tent rustle on the broken concrete. A growling city, an empty road, a nightlight on the corner.

I don’t lock the door.

The café is all but deserted for three construction workers, Marion and myself. She tells me to sit up at the counter and I drag my hands down my face. Smiles.

“Trouble sleeping again, hun?”

The fluorescent jackets argue loudly among themselves at a table near the front. I look back and nod.

“Best make it a decaf, then.” She pours me a cup of the dark stuff and I let it stew a little. “Noise keeping you up?”

I half turn towards them. Then quietly, talking into the cup: “Yeah.”

“You think too much, that’s your trouble” she says, running a cloth over the counter. “You need to find a way to switch your brain off.”

I pour some down my throat and grit my teeth as it scorches through. Marion drags a chair over but I continue to stare into the cup. The murky black shines a vague reflection of the light above me.

“You still thinking about it?”

“Wouldn’t you be?”

Finally I meet her gaze. She’s looking at me with genuine concern, eyebrows obtuse, eyes widened. She’ll always be here to pull up a chair, I think to myself. Even when I should be sitting alone.

“But it’s all finished now. You were cleared.” Her words are lamenting, pleading even, until, firmly: “I think you should lay the whole thing to rest.”

A smile and a sigh is all I permit myself to answer. She could never understand because I could never tell her. Such distance is that which keeps relationships forever superficial, though still more than I should have and she endure.

Her eyes flick over to movement by the window. Chairs scraping on ceramic, limbs heaving upwards, “cheers, love” and the jackets are gone.

She turns to me, “Al-”, I cut her off:

“No, look, you’re right. Put it behind me. Move on.” I force myself up, trying to look decisive. But that expression haunts her features still – the loneliness of her ignorance. It lasts until I lay some coins on the counter and thank her.

She almost wakes up from it.

“See you tomorrow, then” she says, brightly.


I scurry across the road, through the cold, the dark, the damp. The workers are back at the tent, their jackets flicking accusing shards of light at me from underneath the streetlamp. Escaping through double doors I enter the deserted lobby.

The silence of the building rings in my ears and it’s terrifying. I navigate the stairs at pace but every passing second and every quickened step does nothing but jolt my heart and shorten my breathing. I get to my door and thank f*** I didn’t lock it.

Now in the room and I’m poised on tiptoes, holding my breath, my heart catching up, waiting, waiting for that cacophony of sound, that orchestra of noise, waiting to let myself go.

It kicks up again and smothers my mind as I’m released. Whirring machinery, screaming metal, filling my ears as they fall onto feathers.
Sun 28/01/07 at 00:11
Posts: 13,611
Funny that two of you should comment in that way because while I was writing it I actually did keep having ideas about how it could be expanded, into a longer story or a screenplay.

For example, the drilling could happen during the day, forcing this man into a sort of nocturnal lifestyle. We follow him through this guilty life and how he copes with it - the relationships he develops, the self-sabotage (e.g. not locking the door). Perhaps one relationship or incident could help him come to terms with his guilt.

Alternatively, and more ambitiously, I thought he might turn into some form of after-dark, modern day vigilante, dealing out justice to those who don't get it as a way of atoning for his own lack of punishment. However, after reading that back, I'm pretty much suggesting that he becomes Travis Bickle.

Which, obviously, has already been done to near perfection.
Sat 27/01/07 at 22:20
"Comfortably Numb"
Posts: 5,591
I agree with much of what tnc said. In some ways, I feel a little disappointed that there isn't more. On the other hand, I can understand why it ends there. (A lot like the office)
Not sure how relevant is was to the theme, however.
Sat 27/01/07 at 10:14
"Blood on my suit"
Posts: 1,387
Oh, I see what you mean, but I'm not actually examining them all too much at this stage, I'll wait until the 11th or 12th until I do that.
Fri 26/01/07 at 21:53
Posts: 13,611
It's not really feedback though, is it? I mean, what tnc wrote demonstrated that he'd read it and thought about it.

You said it had nothing to do with school, nothing much happened and it was an "art" story. You've pretty much said the same to at least three other stories I've seen.

If you don't actually consider each one separately and why you don't like them, I don't think you'll even know what you're saying in the end.

It doesn't bother me if you say you don't like it, I'm just asking for a little clarity and justification.
Fri 26/01/07 at 19:52
"Blood on my suit"
Posts: 1,387
I didn't see it that way, theres feedback there.
Fri 26/01/07 at 18:40
Posts: 5,848
I like the way it was put across, the way it was set out made it a lot easier to read.

The sense that the man in the story has done something wrong was well put across, and made me want to find out a little more both about his life and what he'd done - the first person presentation helping with that too.

It many ways it reminds me of that Edward Hopper picture, 'Nighthawks', with a bar full of people sitting there, in a way that makes the person looking at it want to know their stories.

Only slight disappointment with it was it didn't reveal that much, but then I realise the mystique of the story was more the point than actually revealing what had happened, and it needed to end on the idea of being back at the beginning again.

So yeah, good stuff
Fri 26/01/07 at 18:25
Posts: 13,611
Well it's entirely up to you how you want to judge it.

But in the threads of the actual stories, some actual feedback would be better than just dismissing them because they're not your cup of tea.
Fri 26/01/07 at 17:27
"Blood on my suit"
Posts: 1,387
I know, hence the 15th of Feb.

I'm just telling you what I want, and would prefer.
If you like, do it like that, but if someone else does one in a style I prefer more, they'll get it.
Fri 26/01/07 at 17:03
Posts: 13,611
To be fair, you are judging a short story competition.

Series take planning and commitment, you can't just knock one out in an hour or two.
Fri 26/01/07 at 14:06
"Blood on my suit"
Posts: 1,387
Yeah, exactly, thats why I want a series. Its near impossible to make a story that I'd like in one of these, thats why people put such an amount on hidden meaning in it. I don't like that.

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