One thing I realize about myself is that many people don't know I'm a writer...yes, I blog and write about life and stirrings of the soul.
But long before any of that began, I have always always written stories. Of other worlds and adventures and happenings...storytelling is in my blood - has been for as long as I can remember. Now as an upperclassman, I'm finally taking a creative writing class (I'm minoring in it), and it's as sweet and easy as breathing.
I thought I'd share the story I'm currently working on for the class: a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in New York city. It's a story of gang wars, an old ivy-covered house in Brooklyn, secret subway tunnels, a man who hides in the shadows, and how beauty is found in the ordinary. If you follow me on Pinterest, you've seen my storyboard for it.
(the song that inspired this story)
Enjoy, friends...I hope you like this other side of me.
‘Love and Hate are beasts,
and the one that grows is the one you feed.’
Years later, Alina Barra would think that it was the rain’s fault when looking back on that day. Because if it hadn’t been raining – if it had been a cool, sunny January day, her life wouldn’t have changed. She would have remained an ordinary, introverted twenty-two year old with a hunger for old books.
She wouldn’t have sighed, opened her faded navy umbrella, and peered anxiously at the swollen, grey sky framed by slim skyscrapers. Wet, cold winter days were commonplace in New York. But on that particular day, rain proved a threat to her canvas bag holding several eighth editions of Tennyson’s In Memoriam.
If it wasn’t for the rain, she wouldn’t have tucked a strand of brown hair behind her ear and decided to take a shortcut instead of her usual route back home. She wouldn’t have ended up on the corner of 23nd and 6th at the exact moment a particularly forceful gust of rain bent her umbrella backwards with a snap. She wouldn’t have ignored the “Closed for Construction” sign and ducked under the tape into the nearby subway stairs to keep the precious books dry.
She wouldn’t have been too distracted by the stupid rain dripping off her to notice that the subway platform wasn’t empty – that someone else had also ignored the sign.
That she wasn’t alone.
It would always be the rain’s fault.
“No, Iain – please!” A male voice echoed in the empty subway platform, stained with terror. Desperate, begging.
Alina paused, broken umbrella in hand. She took a cautious step forward, her boots squelching as she looked around. Water flooded the grimy brick floor; dust and neon orange construction cones lined the platform; discarded drills propped on slabs of concrete; and a thin bar of fluorescents lined the ceiling, flickering on and off.
“Help!” The voice – a man’s – screamed again, coming from below her feet. The hard smack of a fist followed by a shuddering gasp.
Against her better judgement, Alina took another step forward. She froze.
A burly middle-aged man struggled on the center of the tracks; thick rope bound him to the steel slates. Red leaked down the side of his mouth as he panted, his wild eyes fixed on a calm figure standing above him.
She couldn’t see the second person’s face, just the gleam of a white-blond buzzcut and street clothes.
“Iain, I’m telling you, I don’t know where he is! I’m on your side, I swear -”
The man with the buzzcut – Iain - crouched down, inadvertently turning towards Alina, revealing a hard mouth and a thin face in its twenties.
“Oh, I know,” Iain mocked. “Why do you think you’re here?” He stood and stepped off the track. “I like to send messages that he’ll see. And shooting – well, that’s just juvenile,” he told the man who sagged in relief. He stepped back again.
“Enjoy the non-stop to Hell.”
Alina couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but stare as the eerie, metallic shriek of the subway pierced the air – rushing, grating, howling down the tracks.
The captive man’s eyes bulged and he screamed in unison with her as the steel dragon slammed over him with a sickening rush.
Grey compartments flickered by – blurs of faces and clothing through the windows – nameless individuals with no idea of what had just happened – who had just died –
Then they were gone in a stream of silver metal, the haunting cry of wheels against tracks fading - and she was still standing.
Numb. Swaying. Empty, boneless...how was she on her feet? So cold. Was her blood gone too? Alina shut her eyes...maybe it’d been her on the track, her blood splattered thickly, her pressed thin and dead - Tennyson’s words rose in her mind, as if taunting her:
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Gravel scattered against metal and her eyes flew open.
On the other side of the tracks, ice-blue eyes stared back at her in shock; immediately, they hardened, flying around the empty platform rapidly. A sharp whistle sliced the air and shadows behind him converged and shifted, sudden shapes of broad shoulders and shaved heads stepping out of the wall behind him...no, out of what she thought had been a swirl of red and black graffiti but was actually a door...
“Get her!” Iain bellowed.
Her bag of books hit the floor.
Alina staggered back, spinning around; a scream tore from her lips as her feet slid out from under her in the traitorous puddles of water. Her knees cracked against sharp brick – get up, get up, oh God, hurry!
“Get back here!”
She scrambled up, her heart pounding in her chest painfully, grunts and soft thuds behind her as the men jumped up on the platform.
Yelling, dripping water – just make it to the stairs, so close – shrieked profanities -
“Don’t let her get away – SOMEONE GET ME A GUN!” Iain’s voice screamed, echoing off the concrete walls.
Alina’s fingers closed on the stair railing; something hard slammed into her, jerking her back. She screamed as loud as she could, kicking, punching, her brown hair mingling with tears in her eyes.
They dragged her backwards and –
An ear-splitting clap of what must have been lightning silenced everything for a moment and the florescents flickered off.
Someone pushed her down against the edge of the platform and her head exploded with sharp, searing pain.
The light flickered back on – suddenly bright and blinding, dirty sneakers moving closer to her, pain in her ribs – they were kicking her. Wet concrete biting into her cheek, yells and cat-calls, fingers grabbing at her shirt and coat, flickering lights - or was that her consciousness flickering in and out?
Alina’s head lolled to the side, her eyes slipping closed just as the shadows behind the group of feet shifted again.
Something roared and sprang forward.
Screams again – but from the men, not her...heavy thuds of fists and cries of panic. She lifted her head, trying to sit up. Someone fell on her torso, slamming her down again onto hardness. Darkness closed over her.