West Of The Moon

West of the Moon is the unofficial, temporary meeting ground for the members of Christendom's Guild of the Cross and the Quill. Sadly West of the Moon won't be in our future permanent web URL because a number of other selfish people already registered all permutations of the URL years ago without even consulting me. For that they shall pay.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Conclusion for "I Promise"

This is the end of the story. To answer the Fidelio's question on the last post, this is the most recent completly creative work of prose i have done in a long time. Prior to this work, most of my prose has been based off of another story ("The Hitchhiker" and "The Green Ribbon") or a song ("House Carpenter"). The only story I have written before this that came completly from my head, shear, unadulterated me, was "The Best Swimmers," which can be read on my blog, ibidthefencesitter.blogspot.com. i have named the following part, because, althought it is long and with section divisions, it is in reality one part: 'Broken Promise.' I guess you could say that the last little bit is an epilogue, but not really. It could be entitled something like 'One More Time' but that doesn't work as well.
For those of you who have seen my short movie Promise, you know the ending already. I wrote the movie before I wrote the short story, but I got so obsessed with the characters I had created, I had to find out what happened before the movie. So my brain and hand had a good talk and decided on what you have been reading, and hopefully finish reading right now. So without further ado, here is the conclusion of "I Promise."


She whispered it into the other girl’s ear. The tingle of the latest news was what they had come to hear. Word spread among the campus. He cheated and she did not know. He had done it before, and had done it once again. The girl would not give her name, the story said, but she knew that the couple was together. She begged the boy to think of the other girl, his girlfriend, but he would not hear of it. He promised he would leave his girlfriend for this girl, this anonymous girl. So she gave in, and he cheated.
It was the worst of lies, concocted by a chef like Satan himself. The worst news was that it worked.
The girlfriend was sure when she heard it for the first time. She did not believe, not for a second, that her love could burn down, that her love could do such things. She knew him, and she knew that his love was the strongest man could give, that all his being loved her and her alone. He had promised himself to her. Besides, he would never go that far with a girl.
It was now, at this point in Angela’s reasoning, that she remembered that conversation at the diner. She remembered that he had trouble in the past with girls, that he had gotten very close. What if he lied? What if, by some twisted play of fate, she had been lead to believe falsely in his chastity?
It was then that doubt slithered in, hissing in her ear that he was a bad man, a man not to be trusted, and a man not to be loved. It was from then on that her suspicions grew, her anger flared like a bonfire, and her jealousy broke from its chains and bars, bursting forth onto the stage.

The room had no light in it. It smelt of despair, of a soul crying out for help. The darkness seemed omnipresent, as if it was always a part of the room. The bugs and creatures of the night that inhabited this cavern excitedly moved about, searching for their dinner, friends, or death. The world, in their lives, was perfect.
Then the light turned on. As they scurried out of the path of two large monsters, threatening to kill mercilessly, they were silent. Inside their simple body, the instinct to become invisible kicked in. Each one, down to the smallest ant, was ready to flee and hide.
The body that walked into the room ignored these creepy-crawlers. He held in his hands a gold mine, as treasure trove of beauties that he wanted to see. He took the tape and put it into the player. The screen turned on; he turned off the light. The creatures of the dark waited, then went about their lives.
Francis sat down as the screen began showing odd shapes: a tree, some buildings, and a rock. The sound of murmurs and laughter echoed in the background. Suddenly the screen showed a couple sitting on a bench. Angela sat to the right of Francis. They looked at each other and smiled.
"Hey," said a disembodied voice from the screen. "Do something. Wave or something.
The couple in the screen shook and waved at the camera. Francis watched silently; his hand quivered over his mouth as he blinked back a tear.
"Dude, what's that on your finger," the ghost voice begged of the boy sitting on the bench.
The boy looked at his left hand; he held up the appendage and pointed to a piece of string tied around his finger.
"She's making me wear it. I'm supposed to keep it on until we're married. Then I replace it with a ring. Just to be sure."
"That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard," said the voice. "You're whipped."
Francis watched the screen. He felt his naked hand, realizing for the first time bareness of his finger. He shook his head and stood up, walked towards the screen and turned it off. The figure of the happy couple faded away into nothing.

The rain had stopped, yet the sun would not return. Everywhere the gray tint removed any hope of warmth, any hope of rebirth from the fallen rain. The ground was soggy and dirty, formed by the fresh mud mixed with the older snow; puddles had formed along the sidewalk. Some of the students who had taken refuge inside decided to come out for a conversation and a smoke. The world seemed to be waking from a deep sleep.
Francis walked out of the dorm. He didn’t really think of walking anywhere: he just wanted to walk. He needed to get her off his mind. She was gone, and he needed to get over it. So he walked, going past one of the dorms.
The he remembered.
It had been a week after they first met, and they were planning what they would be doing that weekend. They were coming back from the river, since the day had been warm, and had temporarily lost the way up the path. He had said something funny, just to keep her lighthearted, and she laughed. She laughed for him, so hard that she couldn’t walk straight. She had to lean against him to steady herself. She laughed. “You’re not so bad,” she had said, and Francis had smiled. It was the first nice thing she had ever said to him, and he held it within him for their entire relationship.
He continued walking, sighing as he walked, not straight, but rather sideways, not sure where he was going, or what he was doing.
That’s how he made it to the Commons. The doors opened and he walked in, not realizing even what he had just done. Yet somehow he turned and looked towards the piano, sitting in the corner, growing colder with each second that the warmth of human touch was deprived of it. Francis walked over and pressed some keys and sat down, playing a song that he remembered only too well.
When he finished, Francis sat at the piano trembling. That was her song, the song she loved to hear, and he played it without her. Well enough, he thought. She won’t be hearing it anymore, not that she would want to. He stood and pushed back the chair from the piano and walked out. He walked up through the two doors, swinging both open at once, more morose than angry. He walked up towards the chapel and went in, praying in the pews. He prayed for her, where she was, that she would be okay. Suddenly, he became angry at her. She left him, knowing he could not live without her. They had nearly become one. Often they prayed together in this very chapel. Yet he could not anymore. With disgust Francis left, walking down towards the other side of campus.
The puddle barely gained a ripple from his shoe as he strode through, a unconscious determination to see something older, something he could remember. There was one other place, one more place that rang hope in his heart. He uncomfortably walked past the dorm, past the dorm where she once lived, down to the glade, one green and fresh in the early Fall, now covered in disgusting lifeless death. He started at the seat, that glorious seat upon which they once lived. She had laid her head upon his lap, as they sat discussing their future, their life together. He remembered something else then, that moment he stood in the slippery filth under his shoes. That was the last time she laughed with him. She had been uncertain about school and he had tried to keep her mind off of that horrid fact. So he joked and pondered with her, discussing the future, which seemed so bright. They had sat their on that slab of wood, sure of everything. Yet now that same seat that one held them both had fallen, broken by the carelessness of others. He stared at the seat trying to forget, but he could not. He could not erase her anymore. Suddenly he turned and ran back up the hill, past the dorm, past the chapel, towards the commons.
His mind did not register any of the scenery around him. Instead, the thoughts of his proposal flashed through his mind. Yet the one that he remembered was not the real one, that one night it rained. The proposal he remembered was the one that had made her laugh, the one that had not been real, yet seemed more real to him that the actual one. Even though he did not give her the ring that day, he knew, in his thoughts, that she did not need it. She would still be his without a stupid ring.
He arrived in front of the Commons, hoping to keep going. But something told him to stop. As he looked out into the parking lot he remembered a different scene, a scene that seemed too soon and too far away at the same time. He looked out and remembered the annoying drizzle, the rain that had soaked his hair as he stood in that same parking lot with her, trying to stop the yelling, trying to stop the tears. She had pushed him away, yelling that he promised himself to her, forever. “How could you do that,” she had said. She had told him how she knew she was cheating, how she knew he had the other girl. He had approached her, trying to tell her she was wrong, that she was the only girl, but she would not listen. She had flung her ring on the ground, screaming that she wouldn’t need it, and for him to go to Hell. She had thrown his hat to the ground and stormed off to her car. He had watched her go, screaming her name, but he had not gone after her, knowing she would come back, knowing she would sit down with him and discuss the problem in a civilized manner. She had gotten in the car and driven off.
Now he once again shouted her name into the parking lot, and ran towards where they had stood in that rain in the dark. Something in his mind told him to stop, that it wasn’t worth it, that it was over, but he did not listen. He could not listen now. He stopped and stood where he had been that time ago and looked out to the street where he saw her go, where he had watched her drive off in to the night, while he had screamed her name into the darkness.
She had not answered, for her crying drowned any sound possible. She had turned sharply, picking up speed as she left the campus. She had wiped her eyes as she pulled near the town, turning along the road. She had closed her eyes as she made a turn and drove faster down the pavement, not watching her speed, not watching around her, just trying not to think of him anymore and of his lies. She had turned one last time, not looking to see what was in front or to the side or behind. She had not seen the other car until she swerved to the right, trying to regain control.
Her scream had been drowned out by the sound of her brakes squealing and the metal crunching against the railing. She had kept her eyes open and had not thought of how much she wanted him to be right. Yet as the world slowed around her she felt a pain in her heart. She had known all along he had been right. She sighed as the final moment screeched nearer. Maybe, she had thought, he will forgive me.

He walked along the road, barely noticing the flowers in his hands. The tiny memorial, a crucifix leaning on a white cloth, rose up from the hard ground. He did notice that the small ribbon he had tied on last time was still there. He smiled at this, remembering it was her favorite color. He walked closer and laid the flowers beside the small cross, attempting not to remove the sacred feel of that place. He wiped his eye as he looked down upon his handiwork. He had asked for the small cross, to help others remember her. He did not need the simple piece of wood but it helped sometimes. He had visited her grave the week before but that had not satisfied him. That was not where she had left him. It was here that she had done that deed, that deed that had torn his heart apart, allowing him to loose all will to live. He had nearly died without her. Yet everyone prayed and he was stopped at the last minute, emptying the gun into the wall, and went away. Soon he was better and went back to school. He graduated barely, even with the grade sympathy the teachers gave him. He stood on that roadside, not knowing what to do with his life. His plans were gone, and he was not ready to start new. He knelt down beside the cross, asking her for help. He stood and looked again at the cross, promising himself that he would do it for her. He smiled as he turned away from the cross, knowing that he could do it now that she was with him again.
And for the first time, in many months, he felt the sun shining on him.

3 Comments:

Blogger healthily sanguine said...

I enjoyed the story, Matt, but I felt it to be somewhat emotionally manipulative. You seem to have used a "Deus Ex Machina" of sorts to make the happy couple break up, and I found that bit to be unrealistic. I mean, relationships disintegrate because of internal problems not because someone starts a dumb rumor. Now, obviously Angela must have had some issues but you never developed that, instead making her break off the engagement and break Francis's heart seemingly out of the blue. The sweet part where Angela tells Francis, "I trust you" is belied by the conclusion, in which she trusts a vicious rumor more than her true love. In any case, I enjoyed the parts where you characterized the two and their quirky relationship (relationships SHOULD be quirky, right?). I also thought that the ending conveyed a suitable amount of hope for such a tragic story. Ok, enough of my drivel. Keep up the good work!

God bless,
Sylvia

3:45 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

I would make one suggestion, for whatever it may be worth-- there needs to be some sort of *action* that turns Francis from despair. A story, is, after all, composed of happennings.

Perhaps more elaborate description/exploration of "everyone prayed, and he was stopped at the last minute, emptying his gun against the wall"?

The passage dealing with "creatures of the dark", and the light scattering them, was especially sharp and well done.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Phantom Seraphim said...

Hey, Matt! I finally read your story!

My thoughts on it: I went into it not really knowing what to expect. I figured that it was about a promise (and probably a love story) based on the title.

I was impressed at the amount of thought that you put into this story, especially since you wrote it backwards. Writing a story backwards is not easy to do. I greatly applaude you for that.

The story starts off rather plain, but it continually gets better and better. I found that by part 2, I actually cared about the characters. You gave them life enough for me to give them a place in my imagination. On top of that, your description of the scenery was good enough to give that a Form (I'm being temporarily Platonic for the fun of it).

Oddly enough, I pictured you as the main character. I wonder why...

I agree with Sylvia. There has to be more involved in the breakup than one simple rumor, no matter how far it's circulated. The level of trust between an engaged couple would be much higher. Yes, she would cry, and she would probably be furious, but she should also give him a chance to explain himself, unless she's just one of those girls who flies off the handle upon suspected treachery by her loved one. People like that do exist...

Of course, another possibility is that the entire campus is simply festering with this rumor, and this happy couple just never got wind of it. Using Christendom as an example, it's possible, but rare. Both the guy and the girl would have at least one supportive friend to help kill the rumor, or at least warn them about this-or-that rumor going around. After all, you did seem to give them a very active social life. It's hard to believe that they would have all those friends turn on them. Not impossible to believe, just hard to believe.

*whew!*

Aside from that, I loved the story. It wasn't until after the story that I looked back and thought about any issues that I had with it, and even now, my "issues" can be very easily resolved in my mind.

I would say, from my amatuer position, that this story has very good potential to become a novel. If this ever happens, let me know, and I'll be the first person in line to buy it, unless someone else beats me there.

7:52 PM  

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