The idea over at Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds this week is the Phoenix. I am sure you know it, the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes and all that. Take the idea of the Phoenix and create a story that falls into line.
This story isn’t going to fit into the normal parameters. Wait, what? What I have for you today is the first portion of the story and as a bonus the spark of the idea that this story is leading to. What will happen from here is, I will work on this story over the next week or so, all depends on how long it takes me to find the end. And then I might consider sharing the finished thing on Friday. (Maybe, it should be done before then)
Be warned, this piece will feel disjointed and maybe even a bit strange. You will not have all the information (I don’t even have all the information yet). This is to be expected. What is on display here is only the opening. You have been warned.
You know deep down you desire to be punished.
Trent lost himself to monastery life. If it could even be called that. He dropped all he came with outside the door, entered into a new world with nothing. Aspirants were given the robes of the order after the entryway.
He found himself alone in a small room, no windows to the world adorned the walls of this simple room. A bench held his robe, stiff cotton material, made for durability, not comfort. It scratched his soft pink skin when he cinched the cotton rope tie.
A tonsured man stood outside the door on the far side of the room. The same cotton robe adorned his body. Without a word he guided Trent through the halls. The silence reverberated in his ears with the soft shuffle and clomp of his feet. He had questions for his guide but knew he would not receive answers, or worse he would be scolded for the noise.
When he chose this new life he hoped the time in solitude and reflection would help him find himself. Trent had overworked and over stressed himself in his former life outside the monastery walls. Though still fresh in his life, his mind, he fought to push that old life out. A hope that he would find peace at last.
After a short walk his guide motioned for him to step into the room behind the door before them. He didn’t look at Trent, didn’t acknowledge his presence other than the gesture. He then turned and walked down the hall and out of sight.
A four legged stool sat in the center of the room. Beside it was a table with electric clippers plugged into an extension cord and a trashcan sat on the floor. He had never used clippers to cut his hair. This had been something he always went to barbers for. But there was no one here. Did they intend for him to cut his own hair?
He sat on the stool and waited. No sounds, no voices came from the hall outside the room. Still, he waited. Baggage from his old life grew and forced itself to the surface. His patience slipped away as his agitation took hold of his psyche. After a glance around the room he walked back to the door and looked up and down the hall.
“I guess they intend this for me,” he whispered. The whispered echoed in the silence, a sound that assaulted his ears.
He picked up the clippers and flipped them around in his hands looking for the switch. They jumped to life, almost out of his hands in his shock when he found it. Even without the training the concept was simple. He let the flat portion rest against his scalp and then pushed them through his hair as it fell in clumps around his feet.
When he finished, his guide returned with a broom and dustpan in his hands. Trent wanted to speak to him, scream at him, but the silence, it had a weight that kept him from speaking. He accepted the broom and dustpan, though his guide again did not look at him. He cleaned the area, swept it all into the dustpan but could see nowhere to dump it. He left it on the stool and leaned the broom against it.
Trent’s mind flashed to a different broom. One that leaned against the counter of his old apartment. She left it there, that night. Left it lying out in the kitchen instead of putting it away. He wrestled the image from his mind when he realized that the guide motioned for him to follow again.
The images came back, the sounds of the fight from that last night. It wasn’t there first but it was the one that pushed through now. The lack of conversation, lack of noise, he had nothing to protect him, no shields to hide behind and hold back the flood of memories. Memories he did not want to experience again. Memories he refused to accept.
They stopped at another door. The guide motioned for him to enter. Again he did not look at Trent, did not acknowledge him other than the direction.
The room, he assumed would be his new home. Small, he would have described it as cozy in his old life. He made a living accentuating the positive. At least that was what he called it when he came up with ad copy to sell some of the worst homes imaginable. The firm he had worked for made their fortune when they took advantage of a loop hole in the housing market. The copy he wrote for the ads helped make it all possible.
A bed, and a desk with a chair were the only furnishings in the room. Cramped quarters, but at least he had the room to himself. Would it be awkward to share a space with someone who doesn’t talk? He wondered. At least he wouldn’t have to find out.
A soft click at the door snapped him out of his reverie. He spun and pulled at the handle, locked tight. Locked in his room alone with nothing but his thoughts. In a panic he tapped at the door. No answer. He beat at the door a rhythmic pounding that filled the small room with the crash of his knocking.
The rhythmic crash like waves. Cabo at midnight on the beach, that memory flooded his mind. She was there for a time. They didn’t fight, at least for a little while. He always thought it was something about the sand and the surf, the interplay of smells and sounds, he felt free with the sand between his toes.
It didn’t last. The memory flashed in his mind and then left. Unlike the others he didn’t wrestle with it, didn’t fight it. The memory left on its own. A salty breeze lingered as he came back to the room in the monastery.
He had moved to the bed. The frame raised it off the floor but without a mattress. Straw and cloth covered by a cotton sheet lay on a wooden plank. A far cry from the pillow top mattress with warming inserts he once owned.
Her scent on the pillow, in the sheets, it filled his nose now. A ghost of who she had been. He felt her close, her warmth as they spooned. A comfort far and away from the stiff wooden board under him now.
He stretched and wiped the sleep from his eyes. When did he fall asleep? He had lost track of time in the room’s darkness. Pain in his shoulders and hips screamed at him as he attempted to stand. He felt the angry bite of circulation returning to his feet when he stood up.
A chill draught washed across the floor. Something he hadn’t noticed when he first walked through the hall. His eyes popped open as his feet registered the cold of the floor.
As his eyes adjusted to wakefulness he noticed a soft light crawl into the room from under the doorway. He lay his head to the ground in an attempt to look out into the hall but could see little more than the light.
Trent pulled at the door handle and found it was no longer locked. He wasted no time in the room. Without even a chamber pot he hoped to find a place to relieve himself. If he was lucky he might find the dining room as well.