Why Does the Cricket Cry at Midnight?

nightclawHalloween2015

Happy Halloween reading!

~*~

I stayed late to finish the Massey project. Yup, lucky me. I’d lost the coin toss… again. I could swear those partners rigged it.

It was 11:30 p.m., and the last train left at midnight. I’m not going to make it. What choice did I have but to indulge in a taxi. Those drivers! The way they zipped in and out of the most impossible traffic. I paid the fare and gave a generous tip when we arrived ten minutes early.

They announced the track number, and a rush of people ran toward me and the singular door leading to the stairs. Already standing next to the announced entrance, I was the fifth person inside. How lucky am I? With the crowd on my heels, I clambered down the stairs. For a brief moment I worried about the danger should any of these commuters trip and fall. My world would come crashing down.

This was the train’s starting point out to the Jersey suburbs, which meant I had my choice of seats. Lucky me again. I walked between cars until I found my favorite spot; the eggplant-colored benches with the extra high neck supports. They were two across, and I hoped no one would sit near me. There was a real chance of having some space for myself.

I placed my briefcase on the seat to my right and folded my heavy winter coat carefully beside it. I moved to the window and sat down, peering at the blackness of the station. I closed my eyes. Finally, some peace. It had been a long, tough day full of chatter and concentration, argument and debate.

Then I heard it. So loud in my ear it might have been a scream against the softly whooshing background noise of the train taking off. It was distinct: a cricket. Am I the only one hearing this? Start and stop. Start and stop.

Normally, an irritant like this would have been quickly sought out and destroyed. I was neither a fan of the sound nor its intermittent nature. I didn’t know when the next burst of interruption might come. It was undependable, and I didn’t like that. I couldn’t determine his location, but if that little bugger kept it up, I’d find him in no time.

Tired, I longed for bed. The cricket chirped once, as if in agreement.

The train pulled out with an unusual lurch. Every sensation seemed exaggerated. We rolled along, gathering speed. Though the noise inside the train grew with its rocking motion, the cricket outdid it by far.

A train passing in the opposite direction was completely dark inside. My heart sank a little seeing that. I wished to go all the way home without the lights going out. The night was frigid, and even a few moments without heat would mean the inconvenience of putting on my heavy coat, which I probably wouldn’t do.

I raised my head above the seat backs to have a look around the car. Surprisingly, there was only one other passenger, seated all the way in the back corner near the door to the next cabin. He had on a long black coat with the collar pulled up around his ears. A hat covered most of his face. His skin was taut against his teeth, stretching from his squared chin back through his jawline.

Dressed all in black gave him a familiar echoing ring, like something from a Sunday afternoon TV Chiller Theater. An odor of mud and moldy leaves crept down the aisle. A chill filled the train car as a shiver ran up my back. Brrrr. Shake it off. Your imagination is playing with you, William.

I wanted to call my wife earlier, but to my dismay the cell was dead. I had been too busy to phone before leaving the office, not that they encouraged long distance calls from there anyway. I hoped she would just realize it was one of those occasional late nights and not worry. She was prone to worrying. And now, I’m worried too. Get a grip. You’re just overtired.

The cricket chirped. I jumped, briefly forgetting about tall, dark, and creepy. It was the distraction I needed. There it sat, on top of my briefcase, rubbing those stalk-like legs together. It tilted its head while we observed each other. Isn’t nature weird? I would never have thought up such a creature. I wasn’t the creative type like that. I loved orderly things, plenty of sharpened pencils in the containers, folders straightened, coffee poured to a comfortable level in the mug. The simple pleasures.

Another train flew by. It was also dark inside, though this time I could see two figures by the windows. One in the back and one in the middle of the cabin. They seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. There was a slight change in the pitch of the cricket’s song. It slowed down a bit and wasn’t quite as high and energetic as it had been. I felt concern. How odd.

I leaned my head against the window and exhaled. The resultant steam left a patch where I could do as the kids did and draw some message or picture, but I chose not to.

Another train approached. It began to slow down. This time I could get a good look at it. Dark like the other trains, I again saw two figures, and in my memory they seemed identical to the last set except for where one of them was. As it slowed even further, I noticed the one figure, sitting, was shockingly familiar. The other hunched over him.

The seated man’s suit appeared identical to mine, his five-o’clock shadow visible across the darkened track. It could have been my cousin or twin, but no. I knew it was me. My own self. My whole body gave a quick, violent shudder.

The cricket let out a weak distant chirp. I wanted to check and make sure it was still safe on the seat beside me, but I dared not look away from this vision of myself, now slumped in the seat, head against the window. There was no evidence of breath steaming up the glass. What’s happening to me? Wake up now!

My heart pounded as both trains stopped. Palms sweaty, I looked at my briefcase. The cricket leapt off it and onto the back of my seat, as the man in the rear of the car rose and walked toward us. The cricket let out a loud screech. A desire to snuff out its life before something horrible happened came over me. It would be the kind thing to do. Get up! Run, William! The lights flickered, and then, only darkness.

 

Sam and Lila Try to Use Sentences Fluently

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Sentence Fluency – another important component of good writing. It goes a long way toward creating texture in paragraphs, scenes, and ultimately the entire piece. We have an innate sense of it because we hear how we speak. Dialogue in conversation makes an impact on the language centers of our brain, training them – and us – to go from talking to writing. If you click on the link at the beginning of this paragraph, you will be transported to a website that honestly, goes into just about every aspect of sentence fluency that I would wish to include were I now writing it all out for you instead of sharing someone’s link. It’s a quick read, but nicely organized and thorough, in my opinion.

We hope you will enjoy the following story tidbit. It is a first draft scene from my first NaNoWriMo novel (or National Novel Writing Month – though it’s long since gone International…).

This is pretty much the way it tore onto my computer screen at top typing speed on the day. I’m using it for four reasons today:

-Halloween last week – hope you had a good one.

-NaNoWriMo started November 1st!

-Because the below piece only had one quick look-over since its first draft emergence, perhaps there are some sentence fluency issues to revise. If you see any, please feel free to give me a heads up in a comment, should your time permit.

~*~*~

“Okay, Sir, I’ll be back in a second to let you know what we have.”

 

“Oh, and I am looking for something of a …”

 

“Deal? A lowest possible price? Yes, Sir. I’ll be back in a moment.”

 

The next minute, the little door bell went off. Where there had once been two people occupying that vast, deceiving space, there were now three. Sam turned to look, but he couldn’t see anyone. Kids, he thought.

 

But then he saw it. An old fashioned ladies’ hat, festooned with ribbon flowers and tiny bird-like statuary. All he could see was the hat, and it was moving directly toward him in a straight line. He quickly looked over to see where the manager of the shop was located, but he could no longer see him.

 

The hat continued to draw ever nearer, until it finally rounded the last counter and turned into a beautiful old woman, with a dress right out of the 1940s and lace boots to match.

 

“Hello, Sam,” she said quietly with a hint of encouragement in her voice.

 

“Hello, Ma’am. How do you know my name?”

 

“It says… right there on your shirt.” Sam glanced down, but before he could respond, she spoke again. “All right, it doesn’t say, but I don’t want you to worry. I’m here to help you.”

 

“I’m sorry?” Sam’s mind took off at a hundred miles an hour and didn’t stop, except to hear the next words from the mysterious woman.

 

“I don’t have long, but don’t worry. We WILL meet again. I wish I could tell you more…”

 

“So do I!” Sam said.

 

“Listen to me and please, Sam, for everyone’s sake – try to do as I say. You will need to go to see your landlord about that nasty structural damage spreading in your apartment. When you go, from that moment on, avoid walking within three feet of the depression. Promise me, Sam. Three feet!”

 

“What are you talking about? How would we get into the kitchen?”

 

“You’ll find a way, Sam. This is very important. Three feet is the minimum number. Before you see him, measure and draw a line. If you have to go out to eat for now, do so. By all means do not let anyone closer than that. Prepare them before you see the landlord. That’s all I’m allowed to say right now. You will need to give me $10.00 so the universe will be pleased with you.”

 

“What?” Sam spluttered. “TEN dollars? I’m in a bit of a pinch right now, and why would I want to give it to you, anyway, erm… do you have a name?”

 

“Yes, I have a name. Don’t you recognize me?”

 

“No, I don’t. And I don’t have your ten bucks either. I’m drowning with my expenses right now. You and your ‘information’ are the last things I can afford to purchase!”

 

“Don’t think of it as a purchase, Sam. It’s an offering, in truth of fact. Please, you must offer it. This is for your own good. And have no worries, you will not be struggling with money for long.”

 

Sam felt a warmth flow through him at those words, but his hackles were still raised. “I’m sorry, Ma’am. I don’t even know your name.”

 

“My name is Lila.”

 

The shock on his face must have been evident as he could feel his jaw hanging open, his eyes bulging out of their too – small sockets. “Um… you can’t be my Lila…”

 

“No, Sam. I’m your mother – in – law. I know we haven’t seen each other in many years, but I still somehow fancied that you would recognize me, especially in this outfit.” It was then that Sam recognized the hat that Lila’s mother, also named Lila Matilda, was dressed in for her funeral. He just stood there, as he was at a complete loss for words.

 

Reaching into his pocket for his wallet, his fingers fished the ten dollars out with barely a downward glance, and handed the bills to the old woman.

 

“Thank you, Sam, and good luck in the coming weeks. You will see me again, but you must make good choices for yourself! Please heed everything I said. Maybe write it down so you don’t forget?”

 

“Yeah… I mean, Yes. I’ll do that. There’s so much I want to ask…,” but halfway through the sentence old Lila had turned on her heel, walking down the aisles and out of the store the way she’d come. Still utterly shocked, he drew a blank when he turned to find the shop manager beside him.

 

“I hurried back as I heard you calling me,” he said.

 

“No, I was just talking to another customer, but she’s gone now.”

 

“Sir, I was keeping one eye on you via the security cameras in the office where the rental laptops are located. There was no one else in this shop but you and me.”

 

“What? No, she was just here a second before you came back. Didn’t you hear the bell ringing?”

 

“No, Sir. No bells.”

 

Copyright © 2014 Leslie Engel