In class, we did a writing exercise in which we were given the first few pages of a novel and told to copy them out, word for word, but to stop copying and start writing our own original ideas within the story when the mood struck us. Here is my adaptation – see if you can spot where the author’s writing stops and mine begins!
Ian shoved his hands deep in his pockets and scowled down the length of the empty subway platform. His hands were freezing, he was in a bitch of a bad mood, and he had no idea why he’d agreed to meet Coreen at her apartment. All things considered, neutral ground might have been a better idea. He shifted his scowl to the LED clock hanging from the ceiling. 12:17. Thirteen minutes to get from Eglinton West to Wilson Station, six blocks worth of bus ride, and then a three block run to Coreen’s. It couldn’t be done.
I’m going to be late. She’s going to be pissed. And there goes our chance to make up. He sighed. It had taken two hours of arguing on the phone to get her to agree to a meeting. Maintaining a relationship with Coreen might be time-consuming, but it sure as hell wasn’t boring. Lord; but the woman had a temper. . . His lips curled into a smile almost without him willing the motion; the flip side of that temper made all the effort of staying on the roller coaster worthwhile. The smile broadened. Coreen packed a lot of punch for a woman barely five foot, two.
He glanced up at the clock again.
Where the hell was the train?
Be there by 12:30 or forget it, she’s said, completely ignoring the fact that on Sunday, the Toronto Transit Commission, the ubiquitous TTC, drastically cut back on the number of trains and at this hour he’d be luck to get the last one they ran.
Looking at the bright side, when he finally got there, given the time of night and the fact that they both had an eigh o’ clock class, he’d have to stay over. He sighed. If she’ll even let me into her apartment.
He wandered down the southernmost end of the platform and peered into the tunnel. No sign of lights, but he could feel the wind against his face and that usually meant the train wasn’t far. He coughed as he turned away. It smelled like something had died down there, smelled like it did at the cottage when a mouse got between the walls and rotted.
“Big mother of a mouse,” he muttered, rubbing his fist against his nose. The stench caught in his lungs and he coughed again. It was funny the tricks the mind played, now that he was aware of it, the smell seemed to be getting stronger. He turned and shuffled back up the platform.
12:23. Well, shit, Ian thought. There was no way he’d make it in time. He briefly debated abandoning the trip altogether, and his thoughts drifted to his own apartment only a couple of blocks away, his warm bed that he could be in within minutes…
But Coreen had no intention of leaving Ian’s head. He rubbed his palms together and stared down the tunnel once more. He felt a gust of air against his face, a stronger one this time. He thought he heard a bell, but he couldn’t be sure if it wasn’t just his mind playing with him again.
Suddenly, there was an unmistakably real sound. The soft thud of footsteps could be heard coming down the steps to the platform.
Jesus, Ian thought. I thought I was the only one crazy enough to take the train on a Sunday night.
A figure appeared at the bottom of the steps, paused a moment, then slowly walked over to the edge of the platform, a few feet away. Curious as to who the stranger was, but reluctant to stare at them head on, he continually glanced over in that inconspicuous way people do when they wish to see, but not be seen.
The figure was bundled head to toe in a long winter a coat, a hat and scarf tied up around their face. Their hands were stuffed into the pockets of the coat, which looked like it had seen better days. Unable to see the stranger’s face as Ian was, he guessed it must be man, noting the broad shoulders and the way the coat was just a little too short for the figure’s tall stature.
Just as he was noticing a small hole in the corner of the man’s coat pocket, Ian was startled by the sound of the subway bell echoing around the station. Thank god, he thought. He looked up at the clock one last time. 12:27. He ‘d come too far to turn back now, he’d just have to face whatever hell Coreen threw at him for being late.
Suddenly, the station was thrown into light as the train pulled in. As it came to a stop, Ian stole one last glance at the man. His scarf had shifted a little, and in the new light, he could just glimpse the man’s rough and unshaven face before he stepped onto the train. Ian decided that at this hour, it was probably best to not get involved in any way with this man, and took a a seat at the opposite end of the car from the man.
As the station melted away behind him, Ian settled into his seat and pulled out his iPod. As he picked through various songs, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He lifted his eyes and saw the man in the shabby coat staring directly at him. He quickly averted his glance back to the screen in his hand and widened his eyes.
Jeez. He continued to see the man out of the corner of his eye, waiting for him to drop his stare, but he never did. Ian put his iPod away, and tried not to shudder. The gaze of the man across the car was unnerving.
He glanced at the map on the wall of the car. There were plenty of stop before Wilson. Surely the man would get off at one of them. But even as he thought this, Ian found himself not quite believing it.
As the train pulled into each station, no one entered their car. As far as Ian could tell, no one was even waiting on the platform. He noticed one woman get out of another car a couple of stops before Wilson. He began to get the feeling the train was deserted, save for them.
As the silver snake of the train slithered into Wilson Station, Ian stood up slowly. Sure enough, without taking his eyes off Ian, so too did the man. Ian hurriedly stepped out onto the platform and made for the stairs. As he climbing, the unmistakable sound of footsteps followed him.
As he emerged onto the street, he looked around. The intersection was strangely dead for Toronto, even on a Sunday night, and in this instance this fact was much to his displeasure. He spied the bus stop on the other side of the street and made to cross. He had only a few minutes before the last run of the night.
He could hear the man crossing the street just a few steps behind him, and was compelled for a brief instant to turn around and bitch him out, find out just what the hell his problem was. But Ian knew even in broad daylight, that was a stupid course of action. He continued on to the other side of the street, and stepped into the bus shelter. As he pretended to read the schedule, he suddenly realized that the footsteps had not followed him in! He peered around the corner of the shelter wall. There was the man, slowly shuffling down the street.. Ian breathed a sigh of relief. The whole thing had just been a weird coincidence.
He sat down on the bench in the shelter and pulled out his phone. He looked at the time. 12:44. He considered calling Coreen, contemplated trying to explain to her just how hopeless taking a train on a Sunday night is. But, trying to explain such a fact would be just as hopeless, he concluded. He slid his phone back into his pocket and waited. He would just have to deal with whatever shit Coreen was going to give him, if she even bothered.
Far more reliable than the train, the last bus pulled up right on schedule, 12:46. Ian climbed on, flashing his UofT student card, and proceeded through the bus. He was pleased to see no one else occupying it. He chose a seat in the middle of the bus, leaned back and closed his eyes. With any luck, the bus wouldn’t have to pick up anyone else and it would be an uninterrupted ride from here to his stop.
Far too soon, Ian felt the bus shudder to a stop, only a few blocks away from where he had boarded. He wondered again why so many people were electing to use public transit at this ungodly hour, then reminded himself that he too, was one of these odd people. He lifted his head to see who was getting on.
As soon as he saw the grubby coat sleeve reach out to drop some money in the till, Ian’s heart sank .How could it be? How did the get that many stops ahead of him and still wind up on the same bus? Ian looked around, as if for some form of assistance, but none came. The bus began to move again, and the man sauntered over, siting down a few seats away.
Ian was afraid to look up, anticipating the man’s disconcerting gaze. He chanced it, raising his head up, and sure enough, the two eyes sticking out between the man’s hat and scarf were rigidly fixed upon him.
This was way too creepy. It was like something out of a horror movie, Ian thought. Like this guy was some axe murdered who was just waiting for the right moment to kill him. Rationally, Ian told himself this was impossible, that that was a crazy, ridiculous thought, and yet he couldn’t shake the feeling. It was like Wes Craven was directing his night.
Ian was now seriously regretting his decision to visit Coreen. It was almost one in the morning, and even if he could get away from his new found stalker, he would face a vengeful ex-girlfriend once he did.