We all need a first chance to get a story published and we've all been there. This series will be the students first steps into the writing world and I'm very honoured to be part of it.
Here are a few words from Christopher about his class.....
"Two and a half years ago, the top American University in Ecuador announced the creation of a creative writing minor. Four students signed up. Soon, the assigned Creative Writing teacher disappeared (pure happenstance, I promise) and the administrators approached me. Since then, the program has grown to a plump twenty (+) and includes students from the USA, Ecuador, Australia and France. What can I say. With venomous enthusiasm, the students have moved the administration to create more classes since the inception of Creative Writing Basics. The program now includes Script Writing, Creative Writing II, and so forth. We’ve been lucky enough to have guest speakers including Best Selling Author, Sandra Kring and one of my favorite writers, Chad Eagleton. Other notables who will be participating in January are Author and contributor Liam Sweeny and I am trying to lock in Author Brian Kaufman. We’ve also been lucky enough to receive advice and guidance from my sister, working screen writer and supervising producer for Showtime’s Shameless (USA)."
There you have it. This will be a regular feature which I'm sure you will all support. So, without further ado.....
And then he was there.
Sounds came first. From a distance a low murmur, one that grew, and swelled, and droned in his ears to a low moan. It was the sound of agony. Of pain.
Moments later his eyes open to darkness. Then, smoke. Sulfur cuts into his lungs. Around him, the trudge of footsteps; limbs and heavy feet. Bodies pushing him forward. Sweating. Panting. Moaning.
He stumbles, falls to his knees. Before him—behind him, around him—the bodies constrict, climbing on granite steps, jostling, pushing. No room to breathe. He struggles to his feet, squeezes back into the crowd. Pulls in air.
Somehow, he continues to climb.
Where am I?
His hands grip his head, fingers digging into his skull. Trying to recall an image, a reason, a moment… of how he got here. On the staircase, he stalls. Through the smoke, he squints at his watch. The second hand ticks but does not advance. Dead at 7:30.
Hands push him forward. He turns to a man on his right.
“Just keep climbing.” The man turns away.
To the woman on his left, “Do you know-”
“I know nothing.”
“It doesn’t matter what you need,” she says, her voice like ice. “Just keep climbing.”
She trudges forward, consumed by the crowd.
He looks ahead.
His navy blue suit is soaked, clinging to his skin, to the hairs on his neck. Sweat beads on his face, a burning in his bones. Hauls his legs up each granite stair. Feet swollen, blistered. Pain every step. The heat pressing him down. The weight of an anchor across his shoulders. His watch ticks. His body aches to lie down.
He keeps climbing.
“Where are we?” He grips an old man’s shoulder. “Please! What is this place? How do I get out of here?”
The old man wrenches free, strength borrowed from a younger soul. He looks up, his gaze empty. Dead.
“The only way out is up.” He lowers his gaze.
“What does that even—“
From behind, a hand clamps his mouth hard enough to smell the sweat, feel the calluses, trace the bones. A woman’s voice. “They’ll hear you!”
She lets go. He turns.
“Who are they?”
“Just climb and they’ll do you no harm.” She tries to shuffle past, but he catches her sleeve.
“Who? Why won’t you tell me?”
“Lower your voice. You’re going to get us in trouble.”
He conceals his tone, “Where are we?”
“What does it matter? We’re here.”
“How did we get here?”
She lowers her face. Her brow creases. “There is nothing before this place. Nothing that matters.”
He opens his mouth. The clap of metal on granite stops his voice. Behind him, the crowd quivers then expands. He turns.
The woman draws back, lowering her gaze, her eyes darting left to right. “I told you,” she says. “They’re coming!”
Clad in armor, two guards bang through the crowd. From several steps below, they snatch an old man. The old man moans, tries to keep climbing—his look that of an animal seconds from slaughter.
From ahead, he watches the old man, then turns and lifts his foot to climb. And trips.
The crowd pulls wide, jostles past.
He pushes up to find himself standing before the one of the guards. The crowd slows, then stops. The air is still. Chills prickle his nerves. The guard moves closer, as if to smell his fear, his armor plated helmet opening to reveal…nothing.
The moment lingers before the guard turns and descends with a hiss. Joining his partner, he drags the old man down the stairs. They disappear into the smoke.
“You are lucky,” the woman says.
The crowd presses in. He stumbles forward. “What are those things?”
“The guards,” she says, her expression telling him she would reveal no further.
“Why do they do that?”
“What does it matter?”
He pauses again, looks at her. Then peers up the endless rise of granite stairs, his lips a thin, cold line.
“What happens when you don’t have any more strength to climb?”
Her eyes search for the guards. Then, she turns to him. “You keep on climbing.”
Hours later, his navy suit jacket is wilting on his arm; shirt open, tie discarded hundreds of steps ago. A memory comes; blurry at first.
A man wearing his navy blue suit, face down at his desk, skin white as bone. His forehead is pressed against the contract he was forging, the ink still fresh. A thick, black pen has fallen from his hand.
To his right, a picture window looks out over the city night. A bullet hole has fractured the glass. Another has shattered his skull.
A clock ticks on the wall, its opulent face showing the time. 7:30
Claudia Sensi Contugi is a twenty year old Creative Writing Student from way down south. She has been writing since she was six, doodling submarine adventures. Recently, she met a Train Wreck who tore down everything she thought she knew about writing...and then stopped doodling. Claudia is a perfectionist, spending hours suffering over a sentence. She had self diagnosed OCD since age five, convulsing every time the nanny moved her dolls from their assigned spots. Most would agree that she can emasculate a man with a single look.
This is Claudia’s first published story, and she is thrilled to be part of the Offensive!