Originally, this assignment, Totally Normal Room of a Totally Normal Teenage Boy, was 948 words. I am a creative writing major, so this isn’t too shocking. When it comes to the written word, I have a lot to say. But, more often than not, revision in the writing words is cutting. Editing is a process of elimination, not addition. So to rework this assignment, I wanted to edit it. Drastically. I wanted to try to cut it in half, to select and delete 474 words, but that was a pretty high (or low) goal. I ended up cutting out around 422 words, which is a 45% cut. It was pretty brutal, but I definitely like this version better. Even looking back at the original post, why did I think nearly a thousand words was a good length.
“There is a page on Wikipedia, called Wikipedia:Random, where you can click the link and get brought to a random page on Wikipedia. For this assignment, go to the link and then click on the words Special:Random. Whatever page you get, somehow incorporate it into a short story involving whatever theme your class has…”Submitted by: Francesca Maisano
The hatch in the floor opened, and the hand pushing it up brought with it the body of a teenage boy. Standing, he put his backpack down, the old burlap of it bulging, mostly filled with cans of food, but also tubes of paint scavenged by grateful townies. Before he unpacked, he crossed his room to the record player, nudging one of the piles of clothes under his bed as he did so. The paper album cover of Schizophrenia: Cantorial Recordings Reimagined was worn near uselessness, he handled it with care. As the dissonance began, before the instruments kicked in, Hastur opened the curtains.
The sky was gray, a hint of lightest blue at the edges. In another time, the center of the sky might have been white, but here it was tainted with smoke. There was no sun, but light seeped into the landscape anyway. Hastur had come home just in time. Nothing stirred on the deserted landscape, the dusty ground harboring few plants but the odd tree or hardy grass. The vocalist began singing, and like so much of Hastur’s music, he did not know the language, but the message was clear, and it matched the desolation very well indeed.
He turned to his desk. He had been running out of a lot of colors, and today’s work would be based on whatever paint the townspeople had found. He had long divorced realism, coming to the conclusion that he could only work with what he had, and if that was a tube of bright purple, he might as well use it. The paints were covered in names he did not know, and he was about to begin swatching when the shadows on the horizon stole his attention.
His heart began to beat faster, outpacing the rhythm of the music. Opening the case under the window, his hands assembled the machine from memory. It clicked into place on the window sill, barrel pointing outward, a single black finger, a warning, but the approaching flock paid it no mind. Hastur fitted his eye into the sight.
The mess of leathery wings and scraggly hairs was difficult to discern, but as they neared, the individual creatures could be distinguished. He wanted to look away, he had seen enough bulbous faces, bony limbs, and putrefied skin, but he kept his eye unblinking, sighting which one he was going to get first, waiting for them to come within range. It didn’t take long.
He held his breath and fired in between his heartbeats. The head of the monster exploded and dropped out of sight. He could tell that the other things were crying out, their tooth-filled mouths open, but the percussion-heavy music drowned them out. He fired again and again, taking aim and picking out those in front. He counted in his head.
Hastur had killed a third of the pack before they screeched and fled. He did not fire in the hope that one day they would realize that retreat was all he wanted. He disassembled his gun and sealed the case back up. He turned back to his desk, ready to see exactly what shade phthalo blue was.