Saturday, December 16, 2006
China Ocean Shipping Company
At home my window overlooks the foothills of the Southern Alps. I love the view. At work, I look out on a rail yard. Right now they are loading containers onto a train of flat beds. There's a whole row of containers with "COSCO" stenciled on the side.
I Google "COSCO"; the "China Ocean Shipping Company". Their site says that "Every day, we manage the flow of cargoes, funds and information". Rail yard ... contaners ... from China ...
It was three in the morning. Sam Williams walked the rows of containers as he did six nights a week; every week. He liked nights. A man could be King of Everything at night. All these containers, the high fenced rail yard in which they stood, it was his kingdom. At nights.
Once, while wandering the alleys between the three story stacks of steel, he had tried to count the containers. But had lost track when some stupid cat had dashed out in front of him and made him start. Now he just told Elen that there were thousands of them and that the place felt like a graveyard at night.
That wasn't quite true: Graveyards were frighteningly silent at night. Once he had walked through one; the silence had sucked at his soul as though it wanted to drain the life from his body - to have him join the graveyard ghosts. Sam shuddered at the thought. Among the containers though, every footfall echoed back from the steel walls giving him an audible assurance of his substance.
Tonight there was another sound. Sam stopped. It seemed to come from high up; from one of the containers. He inched quietly down the row towards the sound; expecting to find one of the local cats. But now he could hear voices; Oriental voices. Instinctively Sam firmed his grip on the shaft of the Maglight that he carried, but the black shadow was too quick. It fell on him silently, wire slicing through his throat. Sam fell to the ground; life draining from his body.
There was more rustling before three black shadows ran from the containers and the place fell silent. As silent as a grave yard.
Monday, January 15, 2007
China Ocean Shipping Company - First person PoV
After writing the COSCO vignette, another writer suggested it might be better written from a first person point of view (PoV). Now, I have never really tried first person, so I was a little anxious as to whether I could pull it off. But, you be the judge. This was the result:
* * *
It was three o'clock; two more hours to sunrise, and I was doin' the rounds. Me footsteps were echoing off the container walls, sounding sort of gravelly-metalic like ... if you know what I mean. I liked nights. Nights were the best. A man could be in charge at nights; no one else to boss you around. Everything in that yard; the rows and rows of containers - they stack 'em three high ya know - it was all mine. At night.
Apart from the bloody cats of course. Hate the cats. I was countin' the containers one night - Elen had asked me how many there were - I'd got to about six-hundred or some'ing when some stupid cat dashed out in front of me and made me loose count. So I just told my Elen there were thousands of 'em and that the place was like a graveyard at night. I think that made her realise how important my job was.
Of course, it wasn't true ... the graveyard thing I mean. Graveyards gave me the willies. Walked through one once. God, it was quiet. Feet don't make any sound on wet grass. I tell you, it was weird; felt like the ghosts were reaching out from the graves trying to grab hold of me. Bloody scary.
Anyway, that's when I heard the sound; seemed to be coming from one of the containers further down the row. At first I thought it was another cat, so I started creeping down the row to give it a fright. But then I realised it were voices. Not English; some'ing Eastern; Japanese, Chinese, some'ing like that. Some bugger 'ad got into me yard! So I took a grip on me Maglight ready to lay into 'em ... never got the chance ... next thing I knew was this thump on me back and something cutting into me throat. That's how I ended up here.
I looked around at the others. It would have been nice if one of them had said, "poor sod", or something; but they just started laughing. Sitting there leaning against their 'eadstones laughing. The one next to me laughed so bloody hard that he fell over backwards; 'eadstone sticking right up through his chest. That's when I started laughing too.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
China Ocean Shipping Company - Second person PoV
After writing this story in third person and first person, sombody else dangled the bait for a second person version. For those who may not know, second person is often used for instruction manuals, but very rarely in fiction because it is so difficult to write convincing fiction in second person.
In second person, the voice of the author or narrator (not necessarily the same thing) addresses the reader directly. The reader is asked to become a part of the story through the use of 'you' and 'yours' rather than 's/he' 'his', 'hers' (third person) or 'I' 'me' (first person). I wasn't at all sure it was possible, but I had a go anyway. In this case, the reader is invited to become 'Sam'.
* * *
Hello, Sam. Do you remember being told that, as you die, your whole life flashes in front of you? Well, now you know how true that is. Even those last few moments - the ones that caused the flash - became part of the flash.
I know, you are still struggling with the idea, but you really did watch yourself die. That's right Sam, it wasn't a dream, and this isn't a dream either. It was all very real and you watched it unfold; Sam Williams, victim and observer.
You don't believe me? Well, you always were a skeptic Sam. Look at this gash around my throat - no you won't spew, you can't spew any more - this gash is how we died ... Oh, you don't buy that either? Then let me remind you of how it went down:
As the wire was cutting into your throat, you saw yourself; strutting around that yard like you owned the place. Banging your boots down on the gravel so hard that they made the containers rattle. ... Yes, sure, anyone could have seen that. But I tell you what, only you could know what was running through your mind Sam. "This is all mine", you thought. "My yard, my containers, at least at night." Oh yes, big-shot Sam and his rail-yard full of containers. That's right, shuffle your feet Sam. I'd be embarrassed too, well, I mean I am embarrassed; both of me.
I tell you what else you thought; you remembered that cat - the one that scared the crap out of you when you were counting the containers for Elen. Bloody hell Sam, you were going to double what you counted anyway, just to impress her. Sometimes, you're a bleedin' embarrassment to myself. Yes, of course you miss Elen; Elen and a whole bunch of other stuff that you haven't begun to realise yet.
But let's just finish with those last moments. They are, after all, classic Sam ... So, big, brave Sam heard a sound. Did that ring warning bells in your mind? Oh no, not you - Sam, Sam, The Security Man; you thought it was a cat. You thought you'd like to scare it out of one of it's nine lives. You liked bullying poor, defenseless, furry creatures. That was real big of you Sam. ... Now come on Sam, don't start blubbering on me yet, we have a lot to get through.
How long does this go on? Oh, a very long time Sam; a very, very long time. You know, you have to live with yourself Sam ... especially when you die.