Here’s another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich. The point is to utilize two different view points, and the setting, to create expectation and suspense. This is part 1.
I never feel in danger walking home at night, no matter how late it is. It’s not like I have much choice—I have no car. At least it’s just a twenty-minute walk back to my apartment. My parents don’t like the idea of their daughter walking home from work at 11 o’clock with no chaperone in a big city. It’s “the big city” part that scares them—as if rape can’t happen in a small town. At least a big city can offer presence; there’s always other people around so (unless every random person biking, driving, or also walking happens to be a co-conspirator in my impending sexual violation) I feel safe. Even when I can’t see anyone, that presence is there in the background noise and the red wash of the night-sky, from all the lights.
That red wash is mesmerizing tonight—like the city was on fire, and the flames were reflecting off their own smoke. It’s really just a lot of overcast—hence why the red is so vivid now. A few cars passed while I was looking at the sky and the silhouettes of clawing tree branches. When the street was silent again, I notice something I hadn’t noticed since moving here: absence.
There are no crickets, no grasshoppers, no nothing to be heard. The lack of chirping makes the background noise just sound like an empty moan, instead of the presence of other people. I hug myself, even though I’m far from cold. It’s summer and I walk fast, so I’m feverish more than anything. Then I realize that, were someone to be watching me, I’d look vulnerable with my arms crossed like this. I uncross them, walk a little faster, and damn near fall on my face tripping on a crack in the sidewalk. These sidewalks are awful—cracks like lightning streaks cut through the cement, and even with those strikes it’s all bumpy and uneven. If the city doesn’t want to fix the sidewalk, they should at least get people to trim up their gardens so that I’m not being groped by vines and grabbed by branches for walking.
One particularly nasty tree branch always pricks at me no matter how low I duck. I struggle to get myself out from under it, and focus on that instead of what’s right in front of me. When I turn it’s already too late to do anything about what’s there: a man with a gun.
I waited for the order to climb into the trunk of a car, or to walk with him to some secluded area where he’ll . . .
“Give me your purse, bitch.”
Oh, that’s all. I hand it over, too relieved to think about the hassle of cancelling my cards or replacing my phone. Wrong person to rob, and the wrong time—I haven’t even gotten my pay-check yet.