FlashFic: The Want

He only knew that he wanted. He had wanted for such a long time he couldn’t remember what it was like to have. Briefly, he thought of all those nice words normal people used, words like “desire” and “yearning.” Years ago he passed those. Years ago when he had been normal people. The want filled him, fueled him. The want defined him.

The bus was crowded, making it easy for him to be alone. It took all his attention to block out the sounds, the smells of all those bodies. Sometimes a tentacle of odor got through his barrier, climbing into his brain and shaking it. He drew further into himself, the want beating like a pulse in his brain.

The “excuse me” was fused in time with the sudden slamming of flesh on his head. Like an explosion, that moment fired into his mind, holding it captive, held captive itself by the want. He turned and stared at her as she pushed her way out of the seat behind him. He realized she was looking at him still. What was her expression? Apologetic? Maybe that was it. After all, she said, “excuse me.”

It was hours later, that moment still frozen in his brain, he realized something. Something that might be important. The clumsy woman’s smell hadn’t made him want to puke. And the want had shifted. It was later still when this made him laugh. The sound made his eyes hurt.

The bus was crowded. He withdrew, blocking out. Glancing around, he noticed the people on the bus as though for the first time. Normal people. All around him. He tried to withdraw, but the want made him look. He wondered which bumped into him. He thought about trying to smell for her. The want grinned. When he finally made it to the apartment, he puked.

Each day, he peered a bit at the normal people. There were too many. They were everywhere. They were on the streets. In the store where he bought food and soap. They were even on his television. He liked that. He could look at them without smelling them. He looked at them without hearing them. He kept the sound off.

© 2010 Jessica Rosen

I wrote this a very long time ago and posted it as written a year or so ago. Today, I cleaned it up to make it more spare. I still think of it occasionally, envisioning the many paths the character could take. All but a precious few are horribly dark.

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22 thoughts on “FlashFic: The Want

  1. Phlegyas November 12, 2010 at 7:37 am Reply

    Oh this is so very much “me”! It’s like you followed me one day and uncovered my disgust bred by all others!
    Oh I should take measures against others uncovering me!
    Awesome basis for something that could go so many different ways! I’m loving it. Maybe, if time would allow, you could work on it in the form of a novella or … ?
    I’d love to see what you’d do with it after this little glimpse here.
    Good stuff!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm Reply

      I’ve been peeking in on you while I searched for my water bottle. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. Have thought about going further with him, but I’m not sure I want to walk those paths. Thanks!

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  2. Johanna Harness November 12, 2010 at 7:37 am Reply

    Yes–definitely dark, this one. It would be fascinating to tell the same story from the perspective of the one who bumped into him. Perhaps she hunts him? Or she scouts for those who do? Great character development.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm Reply

      That’s an intriguing idea, Johanna. I got him into my head one day and he clung there, whispering. This was about [mumblemumble] years ago and I’d written nothing of the sort. I’ve written some darkish stuff since starting with #FridayFlash. Nothing quite like this, though. It still haunts me. Thanks for your feedback, it means a lot to me.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  3. cillaclare November 12, 2010 at 7:43 am Reply

    Came over from Twitter to read – very interesting, loved the imagery of smell you used. Makes me wonder what it is that makes him ‘want’ so much.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm Reply

      Hey there, I’m glad you popped over for a read. Thank you for your comments, I appreciate it. My feeling is that what he wanted so much had been consumed by his madness, leaving only the want alive within him. Makes me shiver.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  4. brainhaze November 12, 2010 at 7:57 am Reply

    What great descriptions of isolation and the darkness it brings. That someone broke him out of his ‘haze’ and it does make your whole body and feelings rock. Great words – would love to read more about him

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm Reply

      Thanks so much. The character wouldn’t let me go. I’m so glad the elements came together for you. I’m not sure I’ll get into that head again, it was very uncomfortable. Of course, that may be exactly why I’d do it again. Hard to say.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  5. The Four Part Land November 12, 2010 at 7:58 am Reply

    A very distant character. I’m curious as to what his want is, since I can’t tell from the story. I think he’d prove an interesting (and grim), character to explore more of.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm Reply

      When I was in his head, there was no indication of an object of desire. Rather, he was so far past wanting something that only the want remained, like a separate entity within his head. I agree, he’s quite grim. I see many paths before him and don’t want to Pollyanna his world, so it would continue to be grim.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  6. michael j. solender November 12, 2010 at 8:40 am Reply

    this is a captivating write and exactly like being in his head – great pace, voice and feel. bravo.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 1:55 pm Reply

      Thank you, Michael, that’s such kind feedback. I did feel like I was in his head when I originally wrote it. For some reason, he holds a place in my head I visit all too easily. I got back into it while merely editing the piece for publication today. Switching back to my NaNo novel (historical romance) was a challenge.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  7. John Ross November 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm Reply

    Of course I immediately thought of the Character Monk, from the tv show of same name. That’s ridiculous though as Adrian Monk would never be able to take a public bus. A very interesting character. And yes, what does he want?

    More than that, I could see and feel something in the piece about how to write. How to begin to write, perhaps as an exploration of a character, a life, that seems to already exist somewhere in the either of the mind, the realm of the possible. I know I’m not getting this through as articulately as I would like. Hopefully you can glean something of what I’m clumsily trying to get to here.

    Thanks much for putting this out through twitter – it’s the first place I go now for info, input, data, ideas, interactions with different kinds of minds, as it were.

    john

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm Reply

      The correlation with Monk makes sense in that they both have OCD and contact issues. I love that you see this as an exercise in character creation. I hadn’t seen it that way, but it certainly could work. I couldn’t write that piece as first person, though. He’s even darker than I described in this little flash. Thanks so much for your feedback and encouragement.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  8. Jason Warden November 13, 2010 at 12:54 am Reply

    I’m also very interested, and yes I can only imagine dark things for his future ventures.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 13, 2010 at 11:21 pm Reply

      I remember thinking the quotation “When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks bad at you.” (Pardon if that was a paraphrase, please.) His mind was an abyss. It was disturbing how easily I slid into his head. Thanks very much.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  9. Eric J. Krause November 13, 2010 at 10:14 am Reply

    Excellent story! I like the way you built this character. Great use of senses throughout.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 13, 2010 at 11:28 pm Reply

      Thank you so much, Eric. It was important to me that he was shown as stuck in his own head while I demonstrated the level of physical awareness he had.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  10. Deanna Schrayer November 13, 2010 at 10:56 am Reply

    “The sound made his eyes hurt.” I love that line Jess. This whole story is full of sensory images, wonderful.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen November 13, 2010 at 11:31 pm Reply

      Deanna, I don’t know how you do it. You zone in on my favorite lines. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Even though I first wrote it many years ago, it’s often at the back of my mind. I’ll probably dream about him tonight. Sure hope that’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy!

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  11. Donna Carrick November 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm Reply

    Never be afraid of the dark. Well done, Jessica. Intriguing — definitely scratching the surface of a new character.

    Like

  12. flyingscribbler November 19, 2010 at 11:18 am Reply

    I really like the way you allow us to feel his internalised being. A complicated character certainly, but one with whom it is easy to sympathise. This was interesting and thought-provoking.

    Like

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