Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Random plot generator story: The Dead Phone

Note: On Sunday, I used a random plot generator to come up with two characters, a setting, a situation, and character action. I invited you to use the information that I collected to write a story. Today, I wrote my story. Here it is:

Characters: A woman in her sixties, who is very wise
A woman in her fifties, who is very cruel
Setting: the story begins in a forest. It's winter, and the forest is dark and scary
Situation: Someone you thought is dead is actually alive
Character action: Your character has to resort to underhanded tactics to stay alive

It was a cold, snowy afternoon, when Jane stopped her car to take a short walk in the woods. She loved the crack on the snow beneath her boots and the feel of the crisp air on her face. Her errands were finished and her husband was away on a business trip. He had told her that he was thinking of retiring but wasn't quite ready to give up the work that had defined his life. Jane had retired two years ago. She felt that the time was right to take that step. Although she loved her career as an art teacher, she was ready for a change. She was in her mid-60s and was still healthy and she wanted to enjoy her life and her community.

Today, it was time for Jane to take a break from the busy preparations for Christmas. She had decorated her house and had baked the cookies. She invited family to the house for a Christmas dinner.  The dinner would be pot luck. Everyone would bring a dish. It was a tradition in Jane's home for everyone in the family to bring something for the Christmas dinner.

Christmas, however, was still a week away. Today was Jane's time for herself. She carried her camera and her cell phone and she walked through the woods. She was going to take pictures for paintings that she would make during the coldest part of the winter, when it was too cold to paint outdoors. Jane was unaware that her cell phone battery was nearly drained, however.

The fresh snow sparkled on the ground and glittered on the tree branches. The few remaining birds chattered and flew from tree to tree. Jane snapped picture after picture. She took many pictures, just to get that one special shot that she could use for her painting. Jane was so focused on her photography that she didn't pay attention to where she was.  Suddenly, Jane realized that she was lost in the woods. She did not panic, however. She had a cell phone and could always send a text... uh oh, what was that blinking box on the phone? Hmmm, a dead battery. Jane would still not panic. 

The trees were starting to look identical, even though there was a multitude of species, including ash, oak, maple, birch, hickory, and crab apple. The bird songs sounded a little more shrill to Jane. The phone had abruptly shut itself off, and Jane's GPS was silent. Jane relished the silence, but it was short lived.

"Hey, there," said a tall blonde woman who had once been Jane's student. Jane recalled that the woman had been an indifferent art student. The woman was wearing high heeled boots, which seemed like an odd choice in the woods. "What are you doing here?" asked the woman.

"Just out for a walk," said Jane, who did not want to admit that she had forgotten her former student's name.

"Odd place for a walk. I was out for a drive but my car broke down," the woman said. All of a sudden, Jane realized that the woman was Adela Wiggins. She had been Jane's student for a semester before she quit high school for reasons unknown to Jane. 

The tall woman caught her boot on a bunch of slippery stones and she fell hard on the ground. "Oh, shit," said the woman. "Do I know you?" she asked Jane, as she struggled to get to her feet.

"You are one of my former students," said Jane. "I was your art teacher."

"Oh, yeah, right. I barely remember that time, except for that boy that I loved. Duncan Prentice. He disappeared shortly after I got pregnant. Never saw his son. I heard that he got killed in a motorcycle accident."

"You have a son?"

"He's grown now. Bad seed. Took after his father."

"Oh," said Jane, who decided that it would be a bad idea to pry into Adela's life. Adela pulled a decrepit pack of cigarettes from her pocket. "You got a light?"

"No," said Jane. "Sorry."

"That's OK." Adela found a lighter in her pocket and lit her cigarette. She was soon surrounded by a cloud of smoke. Jane wondered how she would find her way out of the woods, without access to her cell phone. She remembered that she had parked her car and had started walking but she could no longer remember where she had parked. People called her a wise woman and said that she made prudent decisions, but, now, in the company of this strange woman, Jane did not feel wise.

"I know your husband," Adela said, shortly after stubbing out her cigarette.

"And?" Jane asked. She was starting to feel suspicious of this woman, whose eyes seemed very penetrating, almost frightening. There was something about this woman that seemed dangerous. Jane felt attracted and repelled at the same time by Adela.

"Yes. I know him well. Really well."

Jane wondered why Adela was talking like this. It seemed so unnecessary. It was more important for the two of them to find their way out of the woods than for Adela to say these things. Jane thought about her husband coming home late, saying that he had too much work and that no one could do his work as well as he. She had been in his office and knew that he really did work hard and that he hated to delegate because he didn't trust anyone else to do as good a job as he did. She was confident that her husband was a good and faithful spouse and father and grandfather. But why was she questioning him, while lost in the woods with this woman who grinned and who seemed to know something that she shouldn't know? 
Jane walked away from Adela, but Adela's laugh filled Jane's heart with anger and mistrust. She trudged down the path. The wisdom that everyone had endowed her with had evaporated in a fit of jealousy. She could see her husband, her good, faithful husband, with this woman. This woman that she didn't like, even when she was a teenager with those eyes. Those eyes that were hard and showed no feeling. Those eyes that burned holes into Jane, even though Jane was the teacher and Adela was the art student who really didn't care about art.

How long had Jane's husband known Adela?

As she was thinking and not paying attention to where she was going, she walked right into a man. A grizzled man with a graying beard and a look that seemed familiar. Duncan Prentice. She would recognize him anywhere. But... wasn't he dead? How was it that he was alive?

Jane turned around sharply. Staring at her was Adela, whose eyes seemed hollow. The gray rings around Adela's eyes appeared more frightening than they had just a few moments ago. Adela stared at Duncan. At that moment, Jane knew that she was going to die in the woods with Adela and that man who was dead and not dead at the same time. The man whose clothing smelled. The man whose laugh sounded maniacal. The man who did not utter a word. The man who fathered a child that he never knew and who disappeared, supposedly dead in a motorcycle accident that may or may not have occurred. Jane would have to do whatever it took to stay alive, if only to confront her husband with her suspicions. 



She pushed Adela hard, and Adela fell to the ground, her cell phone dropping underneath a tree covered with a thick vine. Jane grabbed the vine and then reached under the tree for the cell phone. Adela's phone was working. Jane thought that it would be easy to summon for help by using the phone but then realized that there was no signal. The phone was no good. 

Jane started running, which soon caused her to be winded because she was never an athlete and she was now in her mid-60s. Adela and Duncan followed her. Adela was still screaming, "I know your husband... I know your husband... I know your husband."

After running for what seemed like forever but was actually only a few minutes, Jane started walking. Her camera felt heavy. She had only taken a few pictures. She was no longer thinking of the paintings that she was going to make. She was thinking of her feet that were frozen and her fingertips that she could no longer feel. She was thinking of the dryness in her mouth because she couldn't remember when she last had something to drink.  She walked and she walked and she walked and, at last, she found a road, but she could no longer remember where she had parked her car. She waved down a police officer. He got out of his car and pointed his gun at her. She wondered if she had ended up in the wrong universe when she got lost in the woods and found the man who was dead and alive simultaneously. 

The cop said that a couple had been found in the woods an hour ago. There was a tall blonde and a grizzled man who looked as if he had died a long time ago. The couple was dead. Had Jane seen this couple? They had been very dangerous. Didn't Jane know this? The cop said that he was sorry but he would have to bring Jane in for questioning. He handcuffed her and put her in the police car. Jane looked out the window and she thought that she saw Adela. She heard Adela's voice: "I know your husband. I know your husband."

Jane was soon released without charges. The police said that they had no reason to hold her. Jane's husband, who had just returned from his business trip, picked her up at the police station. He asked her why she was at a police station. Had she witnessed a crime? Jane still heard Adela say, "I know your husband. I know your husband." Jane's husband drove her to the entrance to the park, where her car was still sitting. Jane drove home.

When she got to her house, she reached into her pocket and found two cell phones. One was her dead phone, which she plugged into the wall and the other was... not hers. It was Adela's. She went outside and threw it into the garbage. The cell phone was gone but that voice remained in her head. "I know your husband. I know your husband."


1 comment:

Alana said...

Spooky. I was almost beginning to think that Jane had frozen to death at some point, and perhaps she did. Maybe this is all part of an afterlife dream....

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