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Number Eleven: A Short Fiction Story by John Hansen and Chris Mills

Chris is a writer of short fiction with an occasional poem. John is a poet who also writes short fiction. It's a good balance.

Collaboration

A Short Story Collaboration By John Hansen and Chris Mills

John and I were talking a few days ago here on HubPages and decided to write a story together. This is not the first time we have experimented with collaborative writing. Three or four years ago, John and I answered a challenge by Jennifer Arnett. The result was, Dead Birds Everywhere. That story is now published on The Creative Exiles site if you'd like to read it. John's opening part is at Dead Birds Everywhere

I follow John's lead and end with, Corvidae Corvus, Dead Birds Everywhere

In this story, called Number-Eleven, I took the lead. John followed with the heart of the story, and I wrapped it up. I will clearly mark where each of us picks up the story.

I have enjoyed working with John on these stories. This could potentially be a situation in which egos and tempers took over. But John and I have had nothing but good times working on these stories.

We are posting the entire story here on my site rather than splitting it up according to author. We believe this will allow the story to flow more naturally and will provide the reader with a more enjoyable reading experience.

A Response to Ann Carr's (Annart on HubPages) Challenge

This story is a response to Ann Carr's challenge, Choosing Vocabulary: General Advice;Specific and Diverse Adjectives; 'No!' to 'Nice'! My Challange to You.

Here is the challenge in Ann's words: :Your challenge is to come up with a brilliant description of one of the three photos at the beginning of this hub. Weave that description into a story or poem of some sort. Off you go!"

John and I sincerely hope you enjoy the story and consider doing a bit of collaborative writing with a writer friend.

The Cloister and Courtyard

Number Eleven: Part One by Chris Mills

A lone figure moved from one column to the next through the cloister, pausing at times to make sure he had not been spotted by a passing priest or gardener. Clark wiped his hands on his shirt, but it did nothing to change the fact that he had blood on them.

The nearby courtyard was alive and vibrant as the sun of noontime shined down. There were no shadows save those that were shrunken and hidden beneath the shrubs and statues. The cloister was an altogether different place. Even at this hour, it was bathed in grey tones that muted the brightness of the day, the singing of the birds, and the sounds of the city that surrounded the monastery.

Why had he fled to this place? Why not go to the police? He wasn’t a murderer. It was pure luck that he had wounded his attacker rather than having been killed himself.

Movement caught his eye. A man stumbled into the center of the cloister holding his side where blood stained his shirt. His eyes were wide open in desperation and anger. In his hand, he held the knife Clark had used to deliver the terrible wound.

Clark flattened himself against a pillar. He had been about to enter his hotel room after an early lunch in the company of the lovely woman with whom he had spent the previous night. That is when the man had attacked him with a knife in the hallway. He had managed to wrestle with the stranger and take the knife away. He surprised himself by stabbing the man in the side. Blood gushed onto his hand. He left the knife in the wound and ran.

The monastery gate had been open and Clark bolted through, looking for anyplace to hide so he could gather his wits and decide what to do next. Who was the man who had attacked him? Was it some random act, or had the man sought him out on purpose?

Pelplin Bazylika

A door stood ajar in the wall of the church just twenty feet away. But he would have to cross the cloister to get there. Clark gathered his courage and dashed across the pavement. He heard a grunt as the injured man renewed his pursuit.

Clark slipped through the opening and slammed the heavy door closed. A key protruded out of the keyhole and he turned it just as his pursuers body struck the ornately carved wood. Clark stepped away and looked around the room. He had grown up in the Catholic Church and recognized the confession booth. He entered and sat down to catch his breath.

Several minutes passed until Clark heard someone enter the stall on the other side of the screen. He could barely make out the shape of a head and shoulders. The two men sat in silence. Clark needed to know who was on the other side of the thin wall.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My name is—” Clark faltered—“My name is John Smith, and I have committed a mortal sin.”

Confession Booth or Confessional

Part Two By John Hansen

Atfer what seemed like a prolonged pause...though was probably only a few seconds...the person on the other side of the confessional spoke. "Bless you my son. How long has it been since your last confession?" asked the kindly voice with slight Irish lilt.

Oh...umm...I don't know. Maybe, 12 or 15 years. Forgive me Father, life gets in the way, you understand?" Clark stammered feeling somewhat guilty as well as anxious.

The priest cut him off, in fact starting to sound somewhat impatient, "So, tell me about this mortal sin you say you committed."

Clark recounted the unprovoked attack at the hotel, and how he had stabbed the man in self-defense. "Father, I assure you I have never deliberately harmed anyone before in my life!" he pleaded, "In fact, I wouldn't hurt a fly. I can't believe this happened."

"Are you certain you did nothing to anger someone or else cause them to hold a grudge? asked the priest. "Owe them money, maybe...or...steal their woman?" he added after a pause in a more sarcastic tone.

Clark's thoughts had been muddled until now, but the priest's last statement turned on a light bulb in his head. That was no priest on the other side of the wall.

Clark threw back the curtain in one swift movement and raced out of the booth, but before he could flee he was tackled to the ground from behind. A knife blade flashed as the bloody hand holding it raised above Clark's head.

Frantic for his life for the second time today, Clark twisted his body, making his assailant, unbalanced and grabbed his wrist. "Lord Help Me!" he yelled.

The struggling continued, but Clark felt himself weakening under the weight and fury of his attacker. Then, suddenly, there was a loud rumble. Both combatants turned their heads toward the sound...but too late! A large statue of the Virgin Mary standing at one side of the pulpit came crashing down on Clark's attacker, crushing his head like a watermelon.

In shock, Clark dragged himself from under the debris of the statue and the prone, mangled body of his attacker.

Part Three by Chris Mills

Just behind where the statue of Mary had been located, stood the woman with whom Clark had spent the previous night.

“Hello again,” said the woman.

“You saved my life.”

“I did, didn’t I?”

“You murdered a man.”

“Yes, I did.”

“In the House of God.”

“It is so.”

“Why?”

I have, up to this moment, slain ten of my ex-partners because they were not the kind of men with whom I wanted to spend my precious time.

“And their faults were…?”

“Oh, jealousy, hum-buggery, which is to say, no fun. Chauvinistic, arrogant, Insecure, and anything but a real man. They simply didn’t know what to do with a real woman. Do you?”

“Well, I put my best foot...or whatever... forward last night. But anyway, I will not be a part of a murder.

“OK, so now what.”

“I’m leaving, that’s what.”

Clark opened the door and stepped outside. Before he could close it, the woman got the last word.

“Good bye—number eleven."

Clark left the monastery glancing over his shoulder as he walked.

© 2018 Chris Mills

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