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Sunday night

This is the opening scene of what I hope will become my first novel. Let me know what you think.

Dan stumbled up to the bar and ordered another shot. He knew he shouldn’t be drinking at this time on a Sunday, but at this point, he didn’t care.

His parents would probably pop into the pub for a couple of quiet drinks later in the evening, but by then Dan would be long gone, his system overcome with alcohol, and crying out for sleep, or at least a good takeaway. He would amble home, eat some toast, collapse in front of the telly, and be woken by his mum shouting at him the next morning, telling him to shower before work because he “stinks to high heaven.” She would ask him where he had been all day sunday, he would say, “Church”, and she would tell him he was too smart for his own good.

I’ll probably call in sick tomorrow, thought Dan. Can’t be arsed dealing with that annoying shrew of a boss when I’m as hungover as I’m going to be. He knocked back the shot, swayed slightly, and put his hand to his mouth. The barmaid looked at him.

“Are you alright mate?”, she asked. Dan looked up, let out a loud burp, and smiled.

“Never better”, he said, and winked at her, with what he thought was roguish charm. In reality the barmaid would later finish her shift, go home to her boyfriend, and tell him that that ‘useless tosser’ had been in again, and was pissed, again.

But Dan was in no state to deal with the realities of life. He much preferred the reality he had constructed in his lager-soaked brain, where he was the charming leading man and everyone else was a minor character in his life story.

“I think you should be leaving soon”, said the barmaid. Dan frowned.
“Who the fuck’s gonna make me?”, he said.
“Oh, don’t be a dick. You’re five foot seven and weigh like ten stone. Even I could beat you up, the state you’re in now.”

Dan’s brain struggled to process this. The idea of being physically bested by a 17-year-old girl didn’t quite match his self-image as a young James Bond. Rather than face this awful fact, he simultaneously ignored the barmaid while doing exactly as she said, and walked outside.

He took a deep breath of the cold winter air, and began to stroll down the street back home. The walk took longer than usual – although he only lived half a mile away, the fact that he kept stumbling from one side of the road to the other meant he covered twice that distance.

As he finally walked down the street he had lived on all his life, a cyclist came round the corner the other way. His lycra shorts and high-vis jacket were no use to a boy walking the other way that could barely tell black from white. The cyclist crashed straight into him. They both went flying and ended up on the side of the road.

“TWAT!”, shouted the cyclist, grabbing his knee. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”Dan couldn’t answer. He was winded and in shock and felt like he was about to throw up.

“Why the fuck were you walking in the middle of the road?” said the cyclist, as he hobbled to his feet. Dan rolled over onto his side and looked at him, puzzled, and didn’t say a word.

“Arsehole.” The cyclist picked his bike up and left, still looking back angrily as Dan stayed firmly on the floor.

Suddenly Dan realised he was right – he was about to throw up. His stomach emptied itself of the copious amounts of alcohol he had drank, and Dan had to just lie there and let it happen.

When he finally had nothing left to give, he wiped his eyes and looked up, and saw a face above him.

“I heard some shouting. What are you doing down there?”, said his mum.

“I’m not sure. I think it had something to do with lycra.”

“What? Come on, get up and come inside. You can’t lie there all night.”

“Oscar Wilde said that we are all lying in the gutter, mum.”

“Oh, shut up. What are you on about?”

“We’re all lying in the gutter, Mum, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Dan smiled. His mum sighed.

“Your nose is bleeding, you’ve got vomit on your hands and you’re quoting Oscar Wilde? You need to get your priorities right, Dan.”

“I know, mum. I know.”

The pilot

This was just an idea that came into my head – I thought it might make a good opening for a war/military novel.

The pilot wiped the sweat from his brow. He was not a man normally prone to nervousness. He had undergone years of training. Millions of dollars had been spent to ensure that he was the best there was. He had suffered through rounds and rounds of interviews, background checks, psychological profiling, and interrogations, not to mention the brutal flight training and the hours spent in any number of simulators. He had gone through it all, and he was the best. But tonight, he was nervous.

His commanding officer had been clear with him: this mission could not fail. These were priority level 1 targets, and they had one shot at this. Intelligence suggested the targets would be moved in the next 12 hours. No time to recon and plan for a ground assault. No time to clear alternate plans with Washington. This had to be done now.

The pilot looked back at his instruments. He was ten miles from the target – at the speed he was travelling, that was about nintey seconds. He started to descend. Quickly he broke through the clouds and saw the lights of the capital sprawled below him. It was a beautiful sight – the city looked peaceful. It wouldn’t stay like that for long.

He took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself, and glanced down again. Thirty seconds to target. He flipped a large red switch on the dashboard.

“Missiles armed and ready.”
“Roger that, Eagle One. Two miles out.”

He continued to soar over the city, descending so he could almost make out individual cars on the streets, although that was always difficult at this speed. Luckily the majority of the skyscrapers in the city had been destroyed in the last war. He could get very close. Of course, the closer he got to the ground, the greater the cost of error. One wrong move could send him, his copilot and his $16m plane

Ten seconds. The pilot took one last glance at his instruments and plunged even closer to the ground.

“Breaking the hard deck. Prepare to fire.”

He pressed the button on the top of his joystick, and two AMRAAM missiles jumped away from underneath the wings and cruised towards the city below.

“Missiles away. TOT five seconds.” The missiles guided themselves towards the doomed building and erupted into huge fireballs beneath him. His co-pilot, sat behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and gave the thumps up sign. The radio crackled into life again.

“Good kills, Eagle One, good kills. Confirmed target building has been destroyed.”
“Roger that, Echo One. I’m coming home.”

The pilot pulled back on the joystick, and banked hard left, soaring away from the city lights and into the darkness.

Morning

Today’s prompt from The Write Practice: Write about the morning. Here’s my entry.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been a morning person. I never understand people who can leap out of bed, put on a pot of coffee and be instantly ready to face the day. For me, the lure of a cozy bed far outweighs that of a hot shower.

I love to set my alarm for 6.30, always planning to get up, go for a run, and still have time to shower and make a fruit smoothie before arriving at work early to impress the boss. And it never happens. Inevitably the snooze button is just a groggy swipe of the hand away, giving me relief from facing the reality of the day in 5 minute bursts.

When I was younger, I occasionally managed to push through these mental barriers. In high school I went through period of a couple of months where my morning routine was exactly as I described: up early, run, fruit smoothie. Even though it was mid-winter, pitch black and freezing cold, there’s something exhilarating about running that early in the morning. It gives you a feeling of superiority, pounding the pavement past houses full of lazy sleepers who can’t even be bothered to get up and experience what you do. “Poor bastards”, I would think. “I can’t believe I used to be like that.” My iPod would provide the soundtrack to my life. Morning Glory by Oasis was my powersong.

Need a little time to wake up, wake up/

Well, what’s the story morning glory/

So well, but we need a little time to wake up wake up

But the best part about running at an ungodly hour on a cold dark December morning wasn’t feeling superior to those not doing the same – it’s the unspoken bond you have with other morning runners. The upwards nod, or raise of the eyebrows, as you run past each other, or even a quick “Morning” in between breaths, there’s an understanding that you’re all part of the same group: athletes committed to a cause, no matter how early you have to go to bed the night before.

Now, lying in bed with the alarm buzzing at 7am (having snoozed six times already), I think of those people, that crazy club of morning runners, and I wish I were still part of them. I still could be, if I jump out of bed right now, put my trainers on, and go, without a second thought.

I press snooze, and turn over. Maybe in another 5 minutes.