Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

  • Music:

Opening Lines for Recently Finished (or Nearly Finished) Stories.

I saw a meme go round recently to put up the openings of work in progress, but I wasn't much into that at the time. Then I read Jeff VanderMeer's openings for recently completed stories, and I thought, that's a bit more to my liking.

Of course, I've a couple of things nearing completion, including the new novel, and I thought I'd share them, too. (This is also in the aim of making me look like I'm doing more work, since writing is slow of late with the thesis academic work push, teaching, and everything else under the blue sky kind of shit going on.)

A Year in the City.

In the crowded white and grey New York Winter landscape, the widow Mrs. Mamwell received five postcards from her son in Sydney.*

* b. 1948, London, UK. Karen Mamwell's parents left England when she was seven. That first night on the huge, metal steamship, she slept in a crowded cabin beneath sea level and dreamt that she had been swallowed into the belly of a beast. She would grow into adulthood with white bones and red organs as her new friends. Upon waking, she told her mother that she would marry finger bones, for they would be able to write the words she could not to the friends that she had left behind.


"My band is not here. They've left. They've gone. That's why it's just me on the stage tonight. I'm going to try and make it work for you all anyway."

Years later, Zarina Salim Malik would write that it was these words that changed her life. It was impossible to think that at the time: the vowels of each word were slurred, mashed together, and lost within the heavy, deep bass voice that emerged from crackling speakers. But it was true. It would change her life. There was a magnetic quality that allowed the musician's voice to rise over the chinks of glass and snatches of conversation and reach her and the other fifty New Yorkers in the Annandale Bar with a tone that implied that he mattered. That they should listen. It was a tone that ignored the fact that the audience present was not there because they cared for the opening act, but because they wanted prime choice in space for the later band they had actually paid to see, and because they had a dedication to music that had nothing to do with any individual performer or act. But the voice ignored that.

The Wooden Sparrow's Labyrinth

At first, the man named Dog could not find the door to the labyrinth.

In the lush greens and browns that were filtered through a bright green light that drenched the Northern Forest, the large sun browned man with a red and black cell tattooed around his left wrist searched the trees with his thick hands. Beneath the brown bark-darker, so much darker than his tanned skin-he felt a beat: a pattern of thuds that kept in sequence from one tree to the next but which danced in and out of his palms as if it were a game. As if it were a child. As if to suggest that should he try hard enough, he might be able to catch it and learn what they were. But it was a lie: Dog had been born into flesh and, no matter how his body had been changed since the first life, the life within the hard yellow trunks was an alien thing to him, and he could not know it; and as his hands moved from one tree to the next, pressing hard against the bark, the beat against his palms, he fought down the urge to pull out the axe at his side and cut deeply into the wood.

John Wayne (As Written by a Non-American)

Autumn, New York, 1949.

John Wayne lent casually against the Empire State Building. Six foot four, with large, blunt features, he looked as if he'd been shaped by the hand of God on the day that He had forgotten His tools. He wore an expensive, but plain, dark brown suit with a simple, long sleeved, white shirt beneath it. His feet were encased in a pair of creased leather boots and the wide brimmed leather hat that he wore was sun faded, its rich brown texture leeched away by the ritual rise of the sun. Wayne wore the hat pulled low to obscure his features as he waited and watched the crowd shift and twist its elongated form around him.

Under the Red Sun.


The Surgeon arrived atop an old cart drawn by crystal-headed horses.

Mother insisted that we bury her daughter in the dirt and so we did, though we were unable to protect the barren soil she lay in.

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