Public Order

Our eyes lock, and for an instant, I can’t breathe. I avert my gaze to the floor. Keep walking, I tell myself. Just. Keep. Walking.

I walk past. I can no longer see him, not even out the corner of my eye — my hood is up, my peripheral vision obscured. I continue and hope he has too. Blind hope.

The rain is relentless. It’s a deluge.

I shove my way into the market square, where miserable vendors sell miserable wares. The stench of fish and body odour assaults my senses, but this is nothing new. I pray I don’t see his features in the sea of strangers. I push and I am pushed as I navigate the throng of proles.

The universe answers my prayers. I scan face after face as I cut through the crowd; none of them is his.

I exit the other side of the market, and for a split second, I give in to the urge to glance over my shoulder. A hiccup in the rhythmic thud of my heart — was that him? It’s hard to tell. There are too many people. They swirl around like dust in a storm. The rain droplets blur my vision. God, I wish the rain would stop. I wipe the water from my eyes with the back of my hand. I look again, but he’s not there. He was never there. I’m paranoid. I’m not.

I press on.

The crowd thins out the further from the square I get, and I start to feel exposed. Every balcony threatens, every alleyway lurks. I sense eyes on me that aren’t there.

A drug peddler startles me from out of the shadows. He asks if I want something to numb reality, and I scream. Against my better judgement, I break into a run.

Footsteps quicken behind me. I do not look.

I run through the rain, the neon of glow of brothels and tattoo shops reflected in the puddles before me. I splash through them, glassy surfaces rippled. Dirty water sloshes up my legs, grey and cold. I pay it no mind; I’m already drenched.

I come to the T-junction and my brain shoots rapid-fire questions at itself. What if they know where I’m going? What if they know where I live? What if they’re already there?

I take the right turn and skid to my knees on the slick concrete. My arms flail and I crash into the metal barrier of a closed storefront. As my hands and feet scramble for purchase against the ground, I steal a glance around me.

There he is. He bursts out from the market crowd and knocks several people to the ground. There are screams. He runs. He has seen me.

I get up, slide and land on all fours. I stand and slip again. Get up! My mind screams. Get up! Get up!

My body cooperates. I stumble to my feet and hit the pavement at a sprint. My ankle hurts — I’ve twisted it. I try to put more of my weight on the other leg.

I can see the building already and I know it’s too close. I’ve not got enough time to lose him, but there is no other choice. Either he catches me in the street or corners me in my apartment. I’ll have time to shut the door on him if I’m lucky.

My hand gropes in my pocket for my keys. It comes up on my left. I hope the main door is open.

I can hear him close behind me. His ragged breaths. The thud of his boots.

I pull the keys free from my pocket, fumble and drop them. The metal ring skids across the floor in the rain.

The keys come to a stop under his boot.

I can see him. And I can see him. And I can see him.

“STOP,” he says, from several places at once. His cold, soulless voice scares me beyond all reasonable fear. There’s a warmth in my crotch, and I know it’s all over just as sure as I know my bladder has let itself go. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. DO NOT RESIST.” He sounds robotic, but I know he’s no android.

The march of a thousand boots fills the street. I spin in a full circle. Wherever I look, he is there. Some of him have batons. Others have cattle prods. Some have weapons at their sides but clench their empty fists with pleasure.

In seconds, I’m surrounded. I stand at the centre of the ring — the odd one out. None of him moves. He stands there as the rain falls without reprieve. The city is silent except for the roar from the heavens.

I look from face to face in the ocean of uniforms. All features the same. All expressions the same; contempt, anger, an insatiable lust for violence and pain.

I lock eyes with one. “Please,” I whimper, disgusted at myself for the way my voice sounds but unable to help it. I didn’t know I was crying, but apparently, I am. “Please,” I stammer again. Before the rest of the words have escaped my throat, I know it’s a mistake. “My daughter—”

“CITIZEN RESISTING ARREST.” Every mouth opens in unison.

And then, the rumble of thunder as a thousand police officers stampede towards me. A hurtling train of merciless muscle. Batons. Fists. Sweat. Steel-capped boots. Unflinching faces. Empty eyes.

My final moments are neither swift nor free from fear.

I do not even get a final glimpse of the night sky — he occupies every space. He pummels every inch of my puny frame. Every one of him jostles for a piece of the meat. The pain excruciates, the claustrophobia suffocates. As he grinds my skull into a fine powder, as my brain splatters the pavement like snot, my final thought: No escape.

Written for the #BlogBattle prompt: “Clone” — 1st October 2019

58 thoughts on “Public Order

  1. Gary

    Ahh, why am I looking for deja vu glitches and Mr Smith?? Fast paced Joshua and I’m seeing a thread in chase scenes here. This time it’s the clones that bite…although I’m waiting for someone to include a Star Wars reference somewhere this time. I saw Marvel mentioned in Shield so there must be an aficionado with a clone war reference waiting to happen!

    I digress, again, so near and yet so far. You might find consciousness is lost long before the brain is mulched too. I think concussion sound would possibly reverberate too stunning thinking and then, well, no thinking at all as it would be a shade late to ponder much by the time the ringing stopped.

    Not as terrible (brutal or horror) as you made out on the BB post….well, I don’t think so, but then again you already know my genres reading and writing wise so very unlikely I’d get disturbed lol.

    Excellent lead up play too. Looking for the one man and not for a second thinking there might be clonal expansion. Again many questions rise…why is she running? Why is an entire army necessary to catch her? All good thinks though…short stories well crafted leave many questions. Often that might mean it’s not quite finished with the writer too. Sequels…novella..books…

    I did have one serious question to chuck in…. what if this is future time and this is the grown up baby of Rose? Now what would be the link that caused state to be so concerned about them?

    Great story once again.

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, Gary! I had in my mind something of a blend between The Matrix, Robocop gone bad, and the claustrophobic fight scenes of The Warriors.

      Yes, as I was writing it, I thought to myself, “Another chase scene?” But I didn’t question it — inspiration had struck, and I just rolled with it. 😀

      I imagined that last thought being bounced around the brain like a ping pong ball, as our protagonist undergoes the final beating! I’m not sure how realistic that is, having (thankfully) never experienced such an event! 😉

      I know this piece wasn’t too disturbing (compared to some of the stuff that’s out there!), but as I wrote it, I felt it was a bit ‘worse’ than my standard fare — as it’s rooted a little bit in reality, as opposed to fantasy (zombies, and tree monsters, and the like). With current affairs, such as the Hong Kong protests, I thought maybe a little heads up might be the right thing to do…

      Hmm, that’d be interesting! I’d have to have a think about how the world progressed from the zombie apocalypse to a bleak dystopian society! That might actually be a really unique story. I’ll have a ponder! Maybe I’ll try and bridge the gap between these two worlds in a future BB!

      Thanks again!

      • Gary

        Definitely worked for my reading tastes and you’re well advised to not disregard inspiration too. Can’t go far wrong short story telling with a good old fashioned chase of dread!

        I’ve contemplated post zombie apocalypse dystopia a few times. Question is more about how long can a zombie exist once there nothing left to devour? What’s the biochemical process by which they arose? Plague or virus or deliberate population purge. Almost Resident Evil there! But assuming they have a finite existence before fully degrading and that pockets of humans persist then the world by then is pretty much in dystopia.

        Now I best get onto my effort!!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I know, I’ve often pondered such things with zombies. We as scientists are prone to analysing such things in a realistic manner… Have you read the book World War Z (very different to the movie) or The Zombie Survival Guide, both by Max Brooks? They take a very analytical approach, with a lot of humour, that I really enjoyed.

        Can’t wait to read yours for this month! Interesting to see where you’ll take the prompt. 🙂

      • Gary

        I try and use the science to ensure scenes get a truer feel. It can undo me though through over analysing! I’ve seen WWZ as a film, but not yet read the book. I might try that once I’ve reduced the current TBR pile. Even that’s got a logic trend to ensure diversity! I’m hoping to tackle my effort this weekend. I’m mulling ideas at present. I was intending to draw on horror, but this prompt seems to be leading elsewhere. Probably best not to fight the intuition!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I know, I often find myself trying to make everything as grounded as possible, and end up tying myself in knots. I think it’s a fine line between being realistic and going OTT. I’m still learning to strike the balance…

        Never fight intuition! 😉 Although, if my next piece turns into a chase scene again, I may have a brief battle with my instincts…

      • Gary

        Very fine line! That said it helps with world building as it tightens up the creation. Overthinking can ensure nothing’s missed. The down side is spending too much time pondering and none actually writing! Balance is the right word there!

        I’ll wager a chase scene will fight you lol. They fit short stories very well…at least yours do 😂

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Yes, balance is key! My first few full-lengths I ‘froze-up’ on occasion, as I had one or two unanswerable questions about the world and plot.

        Haha, I’m sure it’ll put up a good battle! Yeah, the speed and intensity lend themselves well to a 1,000 word limit!

      • Gary

        Ahh… my post advice a while back is push on. Forget editing, proofing and plot pondering if it’s going to cause a stall. As King says, first draft is the bones of a tale, flesh gets added when editing. NaNo doesn’t let you do anything but build bones lol.

        Actually, on form I can do 1000 to 2000 words a day. I learnt that during my first book and then NaNo. Consistency is my big flaw 🙄

      • Gary

        Therein is my own nemesis too Joshua. I form and lose habits really easily…well lose them way more efficiently lol. That hour a day is doable. I can’t offer any excuses why it isn’t there yet! Might be the Camps give a much needed assist. I know I can do a chapter a week so what the smug am I playing at????

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I know. I enter the Reedsy contest every week (~3000 words), so I know I can do the work. I just get sloppy with my main WIP. I think I need the pressure of a deadline to give me that kick up the…

      • Gary

        Gadzooks, I just realised I wasn’t following your blog! How that got missed after all this conversation is terrible!

        I think WIP,s are far more than just writing. It’s a huge undertaking and commitment if the aim is to publish. Short stories are easier by comparison so folk like us navigate to them as a procrastination excuse lol. We both know we can write consistently. In my case the habit has drifted. It’s neither mindful or stopping that inner annoyance at not doing so. Ergo Camps must feature next year! If I do them well then I’ll certainly have a go at the full NaNo then too. I think my next project is sorting this blog out. 🤔

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Haha, not a problem, Gary! Yes, I do agree. The commitment to a single idea is quite daunting — short stories can be done and dusted in a single afternoon, after which you can wash your hands and move on to the next idea. (I think this is a problem of mine, too — wanting to chase every new idea!) I’ll join you on that! Although I may still give NaNo a go this year, if only to see how well I fare since my last attempt…

      • Gary

        Hmm, that’s making me think I should have a go this year then too! Although I’m not prepared as much as in past efforts. Very true about short stories too. Except when they start congealing into another flipping book idea!

        Thing with short stories, almost by definition, is they start fast and end fast. That leaves questions to readers at both ends wondering if there’s more. I take that as a positive accolade on the piece…until I also start asking those same questions! Must learn to let them go sometimes!

        Thing with NaNo, is keep going. Think of the word count like a speed limit… it’s not a target, it’s a maximum speed. If you keep going and walk away with 30K words that’s a third of a novel. If you hit 10k and stall it’s a trial that’s said this isn’t going to work as a book. Both are win win. Some words is better than no words type of thing.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I’m not prepared at all, really. It might be a bit slapdash, but I’ve got a WIP that’s near the beginning, that I keep stalling with. Maybe NaNo will give me an insight into whether it can work or not. I’m really in love with the idea, so I hope I can make something out of it…

        I sometimes like unanswered questions in a story (sometimes, if done well, not always!) — I love thinking about a story and its characters, long after it’s over.

        That’s a very good way of thinking about NaNo. If I have a crack at it, I’ll keep that perspective in mind. Invaluable advice, Gary!

      • Gary

        I ought to throw you at the post I did after the last NaNo. It’s threaded with my thoughts and positives to take from it. Might help inspire lol. I’m in the same boat too. I have maybe 3 WIPS that need starting properly. All I know already will work too. I’ve done so much prompt backstory on them the world build is pretty advanced. That was the 60k I mentioned a while back.

        I think there’s a difference between books and short stories to re unanswered questions. Books can’t have too many unless it’s a serialisation. Some, as you say, written well can leave things open as long as the story arc is closed. Short stories though lend themselves to open ended questions. Good writing leaves tons and often leads to comments asking where the rest is! With only 1000 words to go at there’s little room for filling every detail in.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Please share a link to this post — I’d definitely like to have a look! So, you’ve done quite a lot of the work already — you can dive in to an already fleshed-out universe and just play!

        Yeah, I do agree with you there. Speaking of unanswered questions and DT on our other chat, I want to read about the fall of Gilead! Please, Mr King, could we have some more Gunslinger stories?

      • Gary

        Here’s two links to posts I wrote a while back after my experiences. Others are there, but tend to focus on me actually writing something called Black Marsh.

        Very true too! I have loads done on the base worked build and on several characters. Very daunting it seems too 😱

        And dead right on DT. So much left to tell. Have you noticed all the cross connections with other books of his too? Easy one is Callaghan from Salem’s Lot lol

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I’ll have a read of those, when I get a minute to breathe! I’ll gladly read any tips and pieces of advice before I undertake the challenge myself.

        Yes, I love how it’s all connected! Utterly brilliant. I’ve not long revisited The Talisman and Black House. Truly the work of a great mind(s).

      • Gary

        No rush, but I try and rally positives in NaNo posts!

        Have to admit I enjoyed those two as well. I’m slowly catching up on books he’s written that I seem to have overlooked. Obviously targeted anything that cross linked to DT first though! Ought to update my GoodReads reads too. I don’t think I’ve added all the King ones yet, my bad!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I’ve set aside some time today to have a read — I need to motivate myself in order to get ready! Sketch of the story is in place, with rough ideas.

        I know, I’ve read a good deal of his books, but its seems he writes faster than I can read! I don’t know how the man does it. I swear he writes in his sleep.

        I’ve been rather punctual with keeping my GoodReads updated this year. I had let it slip previously…

      • Gary

        I think you already have ergo I’ll move onto the second paragraph lol.

        Same here. I’ve just got his latest one too so that’s sitting in my TBR pile right now! I think you’ll find writing 1500 to 2000 words every day might have something to do with it too. That’s 728000 words a year… if you average, say, 100k words a book….now get your head round that one!! What the heck are we messing about at 😂

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Likewise — I’ve got his last few sitting on my shelf! The Mr Mercedes trilogy, Bazaar, Institute, and another one I still need to get around to. Outsider, I think?

        Yes, that’s quite the output. I’d love to get into such a rhythm! Who knows, maybe NaNo will give me the nudge I need?

      • Gary

        I hear you! Outsider is now waiting here too. I ought to just download the book list and tick off what I’ve read so I stop randomly grabbing titles. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

        Too right as well. Heck of a rhythm. To achieve the NaNo target though it’s exactly what writers need to hit. That said I’ll chuck in another caution. Camps let you set your own pace and through the year you can up it through habit. NaNo then becomes a real possibility to achieve. If you go in cold and do complete the word count (personal experience) you can arrive with a mental hangover. I got proper caught out first time there and it knocked me back a fair bit. Also 50k isn’t a book so don’t try to complete a novel entirely. Unless it’s more a novella lol.

        That said a NaNo will give you a nudge. It will quickly give you loads of info on time availability, give you a realistic idea of a safe daily word count that could be hit every day even outside the event plus the start of a book!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I used to have a checklist of all the ones I owned, and the ones that I “needed” for my collection. But King rapidly outpaced me with his enviable pace, and I soon got lost. I should resume the task.

        Yeah, I know what you mean — I felt that way when I first attempted it back in 2017. I’m just going to treat it as a bit of added pressure to give me that kick I need to really start working. I’ve got a small chunk of it done, the intro-y bits (~10k), so I can dive into the real meat of the story without any faff. Aiming for around 75-90k I reckon. I’ve got a good idea in my mind of the story arc, I just need to actually write it!

      • Gary

        Very true! His pace is enviable, but I guess when it’s your income source then it’s the work schedule applied to writing without having to fit it in as and when around other stuff. Starting out nowadays is really hard as there’s so many publishing platforms to get lost in. Personally I see it more as a hobby with a dose of “You never know what might happen.”

        Just keep the positive mindset. If giving it a go can sustain a daily word count of anything near 1000 then it’s a bonus. I know that’s short of the target count, but it’s still a huge step forward as a habit generator. I’m thinking both of us need that rather than hitting 50k and dropping off after!

        Sounds like you’ve got a good lead in too. Most people I know do start planning way in advance so they don’t hit it cold and get stuck with a blank screen on day one!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        You’re absolutely right. Yes, I have the same attitude as well — in today’s overcrowded market it’s hard to get noticed. I enjoy doing it — if something comes of it, then wonderful, and if not… well, at least I had fun.

        Absolutely, that’s what I’m really hoping for — something to kick-start the habit. Overcome the inertia, as mentioned in one of our other chats. 50k would be lovely, but a consistent habit after Nov would be even better!

      • Gary

        I call that keeping a level head with a pinch of optimism grounded in reality. I also think it’s probably why I procrastinate about publishing. Writing is primarily for me, if others like it then brilliant. I’m so bewildered about options going forwards it does impact the mojo, so I decided next year to just write and not dwell on that part too much. Go back to when I was productive so to speak.

        It better kick start your habit too or I’m going to enter nag phase lol

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Yes, I’ve had the same thoughts, too. Self-publishing VS traditional publishing, etc. … Can cause one to freeze up! Of course, the question doesn’t actually matter until I’ve got a fully-finished and polished product ready to sell. So, until then, I’m adopting an identical mindset: I must write and not worry get ahead of myself.

        Haha, a bit of peer pressure and guilt at the thought of not meeting my deadlines might do me good! 😀

      • Gary

        It can cause a lot of mental turmoil I agree. I have one ready, but it’s very adult in nature. Not shy in cursing and two nefarious scenes which is so not me. Bit of a one off in that scenario…you’ve encountered the core characters already in Rose.

        You’re spot on though. Stop worrying and write. Doing that will create mojo. Then what happens after can be worried about then 🤔

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Ah, are you holding off on publishing that (self or traditional) until you publish something a bit less ‘adult’? Some of my favourite books have been ones that refused to shy away from the difficult topics.

        Yes, I often get ahead of myself. Write! That’s job number one. Until that bit is done…

      • Gary

        In truth I have no rational argument to say why I’ve held off publishing it. Those that have read it have been very supportive. One female friend says it’s her go to book as she finds it cathartic. My proof reader said pulling off a female perspective as a make writer isn’t easy, but I’ve done it. Snippets I have posted here have positive feedback…albeit no swearing or nefarious!

        My own fear is it might be out of sequence. It is a stand alone, but I know it fits into a wider arena with references for those liking cross linking to another manuscript that really ought to come out first. That said, it’s not absolutely necessary.

        I also feel I’ve stagnated pondering the publishing part. I need to forget that, write then let that assist with the other head issue. A bit similar to a stuck crossword clue…put it down, come back later and the answer often leaps out….

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Those sound like absolutely glowing reviews, Gary! Perhaps you should just put it out there, and see what happens? Maybe a bit of a foreword explaining how it slots into the larger picture? Thus teasing other pieces of the puzzle to come!

        As a side-note: I’ve often worried about writing female characters as a male — I always get my partner to read my stuff, just to check! So, bravo on nailing that perspective!

        Yes, that’s a good analogy I think. Pencil in a few guesses, then come back when it’s more complete — should help in getting the right answer.

      • Gary

        When I rationalise them they are very good. The proof reader was a paid service too by a professional. You could be right re the foreword too….or maybe epilogue. Read first then see the potential fit, or refer to it from the other books as chronology steps over it.

        I actually people watch a lot too. Listening and observing interactions, body language and such like. Do that right and you find book characters all over….although when it comes to politicians it always frames up as comedic farce 🤔

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        In that case, they are almost definitely correct in their positive review of the book! I’d maybe think about putting it out there — maybe it’ll get noticed by the right people?

        Yes, I know. Trying to describe some of the current batch of politicians comes across as bad satire. Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction, as they say… Who knew that Idiocracy would turn out to be a documentary?

      • Gary

        It certainly won’t get noticed hidden on my PC! Be nice though, to have a physical product in ones hands whatever happens. Granted I have two appearances in anthologies and a few actual science papers, but a book is different territory altogether. Sound track “Shot Down in Flames” AC/DC 😂

        As for current politicos… no words fit. The infallibility syndrome in action. Talk gibberish so often they actually come to believe it’s true. Idiocracy, at work as you say. Even Spitting Image wouldn’t need to write scripts now!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Yes, I think that would be a lovely experience, to hold one’s one finished book! I’ve been named on a paper or two, but otherwise that’s it. All good accomplishments in their own right, but you are right, a book is another beast completely! Great soundtrack, too. 😉

        Indeed! I’ve found myself growing increasingly irritated with politics as a whole. I like to keep up-to-date with current affairs, but recently it’s gotten so exasperating. Well, I say ‘recently’, but…

      • Gary

        Plenty more soundtracks going on with this WIP! Some good, some fitting the mind set when characters say no to a scene.

        I think it’s been building in politics here since Tony Blair and spin doctors started appearing en masse. Along with the words “Just to be clear.” They all use them now to start a ramble that tells me they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. And now we have an ejection looming to decide which clown best fits the circus. Rock…my vote…hard place. All flipping useless IMO.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Do you find that the other art you consume influences the tone of your own work? I am certain that the music I listen to, the books I read, the movies I watch etc. all leave small fingerprints on whatever I’m currently writing!

        Haha, that’s brilliantly put. Which clown best fits the circus… I agree wholeheartedly!

      • Gary

        Absolutely! My best background film is LOTR for some reason. Dark scenes move toward FOTN waxing lyrical. Although thats not on while I actually write. Often just before and good for resetting the mind into a subtle emotive sadness ready for such scenes. You’re right though. Reading and the other things above all leave footprints. I think this is what King meant when saying if you don’t read then you don’t gain the tools to write. We’ve just expanded it from only reading to a menagerie of arts!

        As for the clowns… I have absolutely no idea how to vote this time. I’d prefer it with compulsory voting with an abstain caveat on the form. That propped up with a target number that, if reached, said all parties needed to shuffle their packs and change leaders as the electorate found you all to be dross.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Yes, fantastic films, the LotR trilogy. Jackson blended darkness and sorrow together so elegantly on the screen — really beautiful pieces of art. I think any piece of art that moves us can be shaped into a tool for later use — trying to evoke a particular feeling or emotion that we have previously experienced, in our own work. Particularly the sensations that are hard to pin down, such as kenopsia — I’ve actually found myself replaying the old Resident Evil games for this feeling. Wonderful atmospheres!

        I’m in the same boat, Gary. I’ve been applying for a postal vote, so that I can vote here in Austria — all throughout the application, I’ve been thinking about who I should vote for. I still haven’t an answer… I think your suggestion would actually be a marvelous idea! I’d be all for such a proposal!

  2. Chris Hewitt

    Nice one Joshua. I thought for a moment it was Bladerunner – Zhora’s perspective of running from Deckard, right up to the point she didn’t get shot in the back at the store. Great pace to it, love the repeated “and I can see him”. Nicely ambiguous at that point, repeating in fear or seeing multiples? Sadly my favourite bit in the whole thing, “like snot”, such a great counterpoint to the rest of the finely crafted descriptions, it gives it impact. Definitely ends like the big Agent Smith fight, but much darker with no defence.

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, Chris! I love Bladerunner — I was trying to evoke the feeling of the bustling city we see in the movie. Yeah, I was quite happy with how nasty that little description was. 😉 Thanks for taking the time to have a read! 🙂

      • floatinggold

        But I thought the prompt just got posted. Maybe I was just busy and time flew by me between me seeing the prompt and your reply.

        I hope to write something next week. Today I shared the “unremembered” piece for CarrotRanch. I’m behind. I might have to change my creative writing posts from Thursday to a different day to comply with their deadlines.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I saw the prompt get posted, wrote the piece on my phone right then and there, and posted it a few hours later when I got home. I haven’t cheated — I promise! 😀

        I look forward to reading yours. 🙂 I know, sometimes life can get a bit too busy…

  3. aebranson

    Another well executed piece (pun intended)! The imagery in this story is so vivid. I can feel the rain, smell the odors, feel pain from the concrete…. With the prompt word in mind, I initially wondered if the narrator was fleeing his own clone (more about the masculine assumption in a minute). Somebody who wanted to ‘replace’ him, perhaps? And then you did that brilliant line of “I can see him. And I can see him. And….’ That was a great lead in to our discovery there was a whole troop of them.
    In the beginning I vacillated between the character being male or female, and chose male because of the theory I mentioned above. Upon review of your story I confess feeling a bit dense because I still can’t pick up on the narrator being a woman. Men can cry and have daughters and be puny, which I suppose were supposed to be the clues about her identity? I’ll just chalk that up to thickness on my part! Loved this!

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thank you very much for your kind words — it really means a lot! Yes, I tried to keep it a bit ambiguous — keep the reader on their toes!

      Very interesting that you bring up the gender of the narrator. I tried to keep the protagonist as ‘blank’ as possible so that it could be read either way. Although, even as I tried to do this, I still had it in my mind’s eye that the character was male — so you were very astute, there! I wouldn’t want to say that anyone who felt the character was female is ‘wrong’, however.

      Thanks again! Looking forward to reading yours for this month. 🙂

  4. floatinggold

    Since I finally got around to writing and publishing mine, I was able to read your entry without worrying about becoming biased.

    A great story. Definitely suspenseful. It made me feel like I was your character in a crowded city. Paranoid. Trying to escape… something. I, too, thought the character was running away from themselves. The “And then I saw him. And then I saw him” confused me, until I realized what was really going on.

    Like you, I thought of the main character as a male, but I did notice that it could have gone either way.

    I skimmed through some of your discussion with Gary and laughed when I saw the mention of the running. I thought the exact same think as I read. You’re really good with that, though. Do you have dreams in which you are running away from something? Do you feel smothered or chased in real life? I’m starting to wonder if there is something psychologically relevant there.

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Haha, thanks very much! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, I’m going to try and buck the trend, next month! Whether I’m successful in this endeavor remains to be seen…

      Interesting — perhaps we writers have no control over our stories at all, and are simply scribbling down reflections of our own psyche?

      I’ll pop over and have a read of yours when I get the chance! I’m curious to see if you went in a similar direction — I love seeing where everyone takes the prompts, the similarities, the curve balls, etc.

      Thanks again! 🙂

      • floatinggold

        Totally! The diversity in those entries is phenomenal. I read some and think “this is similar to mine”, or “I thought about it, but chose a different route in the end”, and sometimes I go: “WHAT? Where did that come from?”.

  5. justmuddlingthroughlife

    Whew an interesting story, brutal ending but very well told. I was hoping he would get away, though from your warning I guessed that might not be the case…
    On a side note, sorry, read up… some of my short stories were written for Reedsy… I’ve never won and they are now on my blog. For now though, I’m so busy with my novel and blogs there is no time for Reedsy prompts..

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thank you very much! Perhaps I should I throw a curve-ball next BB and write something cheery and upbeat! 😉 I’ll have to pop over and have a read of your stories, when I get a breather. 🙂 I actually won the Reedsy thing twice now, which I’m still quite shocked at — there are some amazing writers and stories over there! I love participating in all these different prompts — such lovely little writing communities we’ve got, here and there. 🙂

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