Sep 21, 2012

Dark Nights

By Shafae Saleem 

Q. Write the opening to a short story where a detailed use of setting helps the reader to appreciate the moods and thoughts of the character.

In a dark, twisting alley of Chicago, rats skittered from corner to corner as they followed the scent of rotten flesh. The smell permeated the air as Sam pushed through the garbage that blocked his path. His shock of black hair contrasted with his pale white skin and his black trench coat blended him into the surrounding darkness of the moonless night. To his hawk-like green eyes it was as bright as day, picking out each detail as he walked silently, alert and wary. Every small sound made him pause and stand as still as an owl and listen closely.

After reaching a dead end, Sam ran his hands over the wall; fingers searching for the switch he knew were there. Towards the upper left corner of the wall he spied a slight marking on a brick. He pressed on the brick and a grinding sound filled the alley as the dead end moved back to reveal an old, battered door to the left. Sam glanced back the way he came, strengthened his resolve and quietly slithered through the old door.

He stood motionless for a few moments as his eyes adjusted to the flaming torches that lit the gloomy passageway. Sighting the door across the passage he felt a rising sense of elation that threatened to overwhelm him. In his excitement he strode quickly towards the door, splashing through puddles of water he did not remove his gaze from his goal when suddenly he felt a chill go down his spine. His instincts screamed at him that there was something horribly wrong. He paused mid-stride and listened closely. All he could hear was the sound of dripping water and nothing else. Not even the sound of rats scuttling like they should have been, it was deathly quiet.

Sam pulled his trench coat back on the left side to provide easy access to his katana, which hung from its simple black scabbard. It was a beautiful piece of work; the jet-black steel folded over itself several times and made the old-fashioned way in a forge over the course of months by a master sword smith. The hilt being a pattern of crimson diamonds surrounded by ebony. Its name ‘Kokuyoseki’ meaning ‘Obsidian’ in Japanese. Sam crept up to the door avoiding puddles and keeping his hand on Kokuyoseki.

As he opened the door a crack to peer into the room he was hit by the metallic smell of blood. He gagged when he noticed the two men in the room. They were nailed to the wall facing the door and their bodies were split open from the base of the neck to their navels. The insides of their bodies were empty of organs and only the rib cage was left in their chests. Pools of blood were congealing on the ground surrounding the bodies and flies flocked to the rotting remains of his last lead to his brother. On the side there stood a table with a bucket on it which contained the missing organs.

This wasn’t what Sam was expecting. He had been tipped that these people could have told him where his brother was. He wondered aloud,

“Where have you gone, Caine?”

As he turned around he was tackled and sent flying backwards into the room. His body slammed into the table and the bucket of organs fell onto him. A large man swung a crowbar at him and Sam just managed to block it with the bucket, the clang echoing in the room. Sam fluidly got up and all in one motion drew Kokuyoseki in time to parry the flurried strikes sent at him with lethal intent. He parried each one with practiced ease and on the last one allowed the crowbar to slide across his blade. Using a flick of his wrist he sent the crowbar flying from the grasp of the man. Beaten, the man warily backed away with his palms facing outward. Sam rubbed his left hand on his neck as he pointed Kokuyoseki towards the man and snarled,

“Where is my brother? Where is Caine?”

3 comments:

Zoha said...

Wow!

Safia Baig said...

The first line completely drew me into the setting you've created. I love your choice of words in this opening scene. The merging of medieval elements in an apparently modern world is quite intriguing. You ought to be published in the Oracle!
Do let me know if I can have your work for the Creative Writing Section. :)

Farwa Haider said...

Ok, first of all, avoid using '-ing' verbs but you've done it so well that this can be ignored. I love the use of katanas here- along with its Japanese name; it sets your writing apart. You've used foreshadowing quite cleverly and have terrifically created an eerie, mysterious atmosphere. The story is extremely interesting. Most of all I love this: "His instincts screamed at him that there was something horribly wrong." Genius! Well done! =D

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