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Falling

Falling

Life is all about choices, Jim soon starts to realise this as he finds himself in a difficult situation.

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Crime / Suspense / Mystery / Thriller


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Tim Price (Australia)



"Make the choice, Jim."
"You want to take the coke or get the cash?"

At that point the choice didn't matter. Life no longer had any meaning so why would it matter what choice I made? I guess I had the choice to walk out of the room but in that moment it never occurred to me.

"Let’s do both."
"My kind of man."
Gary, the ultimate enabler.

That was a bad decision. A really bad decision. Holed up with Gary with a bag full of cash and coke seemed like a fucking holiday at the time but this was no love fest. Sweat poured down my face. How did I get here?

Six months ago I was at the highest point of my life. I was in love and she was in love with me. We were planning our marriage. Is there no greater high in life than that? Now that is true happiness. Until she cheated on me. And shit it's a long way down from that high. I don't think I've quite hit the bottom. Which is a scary thought. I think I keep thinking someone is going to catch me, so I just keep falling, in hope.

I peered through the dusty window, they were closing in. We were trapped.

Maybe I'm the only one capable of catching myself? Should I have reached out to someone? I mean I would have… but to reach out I'd have to admit and confront the truth. Sigh, the truth. Not sure I'm ready for that. I'm still not sure I can really say what happened out loud. If I do, I will have to face the facts and that is a little too hard for me right now. Guess I'll just keep falling then.

I picked the revolver up from the table.

The more I think about life the more I think the only thing worth living it for is love. If that's the case that is a mighty big emotional weight hanging around my neck. No matter how successful I am, no matter how much money I make, if I've failed in love I've failed in life. That's what it feels like when all my now married friends tell me, "I can't believe you haven't found someone yet. You deserve someone special." Thanks for the condescending advice guys it was completely fucking useless, especially now.

"Bullets?"
Gary threw me a mag. I began to load up the gun.
"You ready to do this?"
"No greater time than now, Gaz."

When people say they've hit rock bottom I'm jealous of them. At least they've hit the bottom. From that point the only way is up. What if you are in an endless free fall though? I'd always made good decisions in life. Always did the right thing. Right now my moral compass had somehow disappeared with the love I had for my ex. It was pretty easy to trace the moment I snapped, back to that heart shattering into a thousand pieces moment. I guess life has a way of doing that to you and it can get to anyone. All those celebrities, politicians and successful people who have some dark truth uncovered. I suddenly felt sorry for them. I used to look on in amazement at their press conference with their loving wife by their side. Now I could relate. I had just made the biggest mistake in my life and I didn't even know it. No press conferences for me, unless they have them in the afterlife.

"Get down, get down!" Gary yelled in his rougher than guts vernacular.
Bullets smashed through the glass, glass shards flew at me, I put my arms up and they sliced into my flesh.

As I stumbled back up to my feet I looked behind me. Gary was on the ground, bleeding out. Three or four bullets had pierced his stomach. It didn't look good.

As I watched Gary take his last few breaths I wondered how he ended up here. Maybe something happened to him that led him down this path of destruction. Life has a habit of getting you, no matter how good intentioned you are. Maybe Gary was a strong upstanding citizen and his wife had died of cancer? Maybe he had nothing to live for? So he began to live life like those around him. Take what you want and fuck the consequences. I get it. There's no guarantee that doing the right thing will leave you better off. Or maybe he was just a bad person. Scum. No, I don't think any life starts out evil. That crying baby out of the womb could be anything but surely we are moulded by our experiences and surroundings.

I dragged Gary's limp body out through the door and into the garage. Shit, dead bodies weigh a motherfucker.

One thing I'll say about life no longer having any meaning. It sure does give you a lot of confidence. I was no longer that meek mild engaged man that my fiancée grew so bored of. I grabbed Gary's gun and the next 5 minutes became a scene straight out of Bad Boys 2.

Bullets flew across the garage. A cacophony of madness. Time slowed down and I picked off my attackers one by one. I guess I played Call of Duty one too many times because I didn’t even feel the emotional impact of taking another life. Or maybe in this moment of madness I’d just forgot how to feel.

I dragged Gary into the backseat of the sedan, grabbed the bag of cash and the coke and threw it into the passenger’s seat. Jumped into the driver’s seat and put my foot down hard. It was time to get out of here.

As I drove away I looked in the mirror. Instead of being concerned about my rear vision it suddenly hit me. There it was staring at me. The truth. The truth I'd been running from this last 6 months? That I was driving away from now? Well, shit, that truth is that ultimately I was responsible for where I stood right now. Not life, not other people, no, it was me. I’d forgot to appreciate my ex, I’d closed her out, I was no longer there for her and ultimately that is why she cheated on me.

I imagined my ex sitting next to me looking at the same mirror. See people can look at the same thing and see two different things. I wonder what my fiancée would see behind us, if she looked at me now what would she think. Did she actually read that letter I left for her? Never got a response so I presume not. It was my final cry for help and it was met with silence. So here I am, answering dodgy craigslist postings, looking for quick cash and cheap thrills. Well, expensive thrills actually.

Gary said it would be clean, we take their drugs sell it to his connect, easy money. Nothing in life is ever clean, it’s messy, real messy. I should have been happy with the money but if life no longer had any meaning then why couldn’t I just take the cash and the coke? Double the fun. Now I got a dead Gary in my car, too much coke, a bag full of money and what looks like a pretty solid death wish. It hit me like a slap across the face. You’re in trouble Jim. Big, trouble. Instead of being concerned I drifted into nothingness and slowly began to close my eyes. When I opened them again the car was hurtling straight into the tree on the side of the road. This was it.

I tried to open my eyes but I was still in a daze from the crash. Thoughts rushed through my mind. Why did I ever think the choices in my life didn't matter? When I was that guy which seems a distance memory I felt good. I slept well at night. Life doesn't owe me anything for treating other humans with respect. It was only at this moment that a true sense of realisation came over me. I think it took losing myself to realise how important my own sense of self was. That is what feeds my decisions, my choices and ultimately the path of my life. I pushed the car door open and slumped to the ground. I lied there for god knows how long and then I felt another human touch my fingers and lift me up. A paramedic stood above me. I could hear police sirens in the distance.

I guess this is what it feels like to be at the bottom. Thank God.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Gritty! I almost started sweating and I felt the urge to run with him. Excellent storytelling, kudos!

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
I thought it had an undeniable harshness that I couldn't do without, but a few lines were a little too obvious. The plot, for me, was also fairly obvious and generic and I couldn't connect to it very well. I can understand how some people may want to read things along those lines though.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.