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Chapter 0.5 - A Ditch, A Lunchbox, and A Rather Infuriating Narrator

by JamesPeterson


Dead. Dying. In a ditch. Dead, dying in a ditch. How could I be dying but already dead, you might ask? Well my answer is this:

Don’t ask stupid questions.

That shall be rule number one, if you are to continue reading this recounting of one of the most pleasant experiences of my life. It was like a sweet fantasy cruise to Hawaii!

That was sarcasm, I hope you picked up on that.

Rule two, you must understand sarcasm. If you don’t, you must be so smart, and should definitely continue reading. That was a test.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m talking so much on the first page, and the answer is again simple. I like the sound of my own voice, or in this case, the look of my words. Well I suppose it is the voice, since you’d attribute a voice to these words, right? But you have no idea if I’m female, male, non-conforming, or even a human.

"G’day, I’m Miles Jones, the Aussie space turtle from… space…"

Yeah that sounded wayyy funnier in my head. Or was it your head? Who knows what’s being written anymore. However! You’re sick of me by now, and my jokes that have a lower IQ than a gerbil after a head injury, so I guess I’ll get to the thing you came for.

Why I’m in a ditch.

Now, to understand why I’m here, we have to start at the beginning.

The true genesis of this enrapturing tale.

August 12th, 2163 - London, England - A Drizzling Tuesday

“PUSH! PUSHHHHH!!!” the funny voice said. Then poof, I was there. Now, I was a small child, born approximately 32 years too late, because there was no good music anymore. But this was also detrimental in another way, in the fact that I was now going to die, because my wee little heart was colder than your mother to your new girlfriend.

(Feel free to insert a better analogy)

You might again be asking questions, perhaps relating to memory of this, or anything logical, and I already told you to shut your mind off to logic. Well, now I will. No silly common sense, pal, that’s for me to ignore and you to forget about.

Anyway, I wasn’t crying for a second, which was bad because it meant I weren’t alive. The funny man with gloves hurried me away from what I can only assume was a much better place than the cold hell I had been rudely thrust into.

There, he did everything in his power to bring me back to life, yet I wasn’t responding.

After many failed attempts, the news was broken to my loving mother, and she wept as the doctor somberly sucked on a cigar. Silly me, dying like that.

Oh, and you might have noticed something else silly. If it was 2163, wouldn’t there have been some cool technology that let me live? And why would the funny man in the gloves smoke in a health institution?

Both very idiotic inquiries, of course, yet I shall dignify them.

It was not, in fact, 2163, and was rather 1991, the cusp of a new millennium. Also, it was Ontario, Canada, and a sunny Friday. But I preferred the theme of a drizzling rain, because something about sad death and all.

So, yes, I lied. Get used to it, chum. That’s rule five, I have a very hard time extinguishing the proverbial flames on my trousers.

Now, seamless segue.

The doctor’s name was Jenine Farthing, and my mother’s name was Dr. Enrico Trest. I might’ve mixed them up, but who’s watching? Dr. Trest had never failed a pregnancy before, and this was taking its toll on him. He was rather inexperienced, but quite talented.

Is that information pertinent? Maybe.

Of course, the interesting part was that I would visit my mother that evening, and we would chat pleasantly. What happened? I don’t know, you tell me.

That Same Day - 6:32 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time

Jenine Farthing was startled from a fitful rest to a striking sight. A glowing circle, forming in the middle of her hospital room. Funky, right?

Well, it gets better.

She’s very confused, and her tear-streaked face is displaying quite a bit of shock. That only gets worse as a man steps through this small window into space-time, wearing a bowler hat, trench coat, and carrying a Hello Kitty lunchbox that looked as though it had been through a few scrapes.

“Hey mom, how’s it going?” I said, like a complete idiot. See, this is what I actually did, and since it’s past (but also future) me, I can bully myself. That's rule forty-one. Following? Splendid.

Jen raised an eyebrow, giving me that quizzical look I’d give myself in the mirror.

“I have never met you in my life, young man. Now, care to explain why you just appeared in my room like that? I’m not going to lie, it’s mildly perverted, wholly disturbing, and completely confusing. Give me a very good reason why I shouldn’t call the uh… hospital security right now!”

I gave her a small smile, “Can’t a son visit his mother right after he was born?”

Jen blinked at me.

“Ah, I have wanted this for so long, you don’t even know! Sorry to die on you, it wasn’t anyone's fault, I promise. Well, it was mine, but that’s a long story, and I don’t have much time-”

My dear mother threw a pudding cup at me.

I blinked as it hit my chest and fell to the floor, splattering.

“Hrm. Tapioca, my favorite.”

Jenine sighed heavily, “Mine too. But please tell me I’m dreaming.”

“Nope, this is 100% certified true. Although I really have some stuff to go over before GRBL finds my location and apprehends me.”

“English?”

Who could blame my mother in this situation? A strange man had appeared in her hospital room, and claimed to be her son. I would’ve stabbed him, but only cause I know it’s me. You see, we’ve had a very conflicted past, me, myself and I.

I did, however, have something very important to tell her, something that might possibly change all of history forever. Something that could potentially save countless lives! (Not true: it’s about 4,941,326,870.5 lives. The 0.5 was a particularly interesting squirrel.)

“Listen, this is going to be hard to believe but in about thirty years-”

And then I turned into a pile of ash.

Well, actually it wasn’t so fast.

Jen gasped as my skin started to flake away. I looked down at my hands in disappointment. Glowing cracks were starting to appear very quickly as my body dematerialized.

“Aw, bollocks-”

Then the strange man–who was devilishly handsome of course–had completely disappeared. The lunchbox, however, dropped to the floor with a clatter. Being a particularly calm woman, Jen did not scream. She instead hyperventilated, a much less annoying reaction, I think.

How do I know this you might wonder? Well, that seems to be a recurring question, my less than friendly friend, and I disapprove. Patience is a virtue, did you know that?

Now, back to topic, the interesting part here is that in a few rooms away, there was another woman giving birth, and her child was sadly also dead upon birth. She was not visited by a future version, however. I lied, that wasn’t too interesting.

What is actually intriguing is that both children awoke 17.34 minutes after their death, eyes glowing anime-style and mouths crying for air.

Neither of their hearts were beating, however.

Spooky, right?


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Thu Jul 21, 2022 3:07 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi there JamesPeterson! Lim here with a short review.

First Impressions
I found this chapter entertaining and fast-paced. I’m very interested by the fourth-wall-breaking style of narration that also seems to jump from one thing to another, sometimes deceiving the reader, even for a brief moment. I do find that it’s harder to make sense of a conventional premise and plot from reading this chapter at the moment, though. Like Spearmint, I did find the 'jumps' in the story a bit hard to adjust to (I had to read the chapter over twice, quite carefully). From what I can gather, it seems like the narrator is a time-travelling person who was also one of two people to be ‘born’ without a beating heart? (Or dead at birth but revived somehow without their heart working?) Their adult version went back in time to tell their mother about *something important* but didn’t actually get the chance to say it, which is a real oof.

Characters
The main character seems to be Miles the space turtle the narrator. They seem to be a confident person who likes being clever and cracking jokes. At points, they seem to swing a little to the arrogant and the abrasive side as well, for example, they think a lot of things are “idiotic inquiries”.

So, yes, I lied. Get used to it, chum.

What’s particularly interesting about them is that they are an unreliable narrator. We’re not told their name even in this chapter and know very little about what they *actually* look like other than that they want us to think they are “devilishly handsome, of course”. That certainly makes me curious and fulfils the mystery criterion for this story!
Being a particularly calm woman, Jen did not scream. She instead hyperventilated, a much less annoying reaction, I think.

On a side note, this line makes me curious about this character and why he finds screaming so irritating. Does he hear it often? From whom? Or does he just find the concept of screaming irritating?
I did, however, have something very important to tell her, something that might possibly change all of history forever. Something that could potentially save countless lives! (Not true: it’s about 4,941,326,870.5 lives. The 0.5 was a particularly interesting squirrel.)

I like that the main character’s general motivation is clear – they want to save people/ change something bad that happens in history – and yet it’s still mysterious. Why do they want to save those people? What is his “conflicted past” with himself?

Ending
Neither of their hearts were beating, however.
Spooky, right?

I’m not sure how deep you’re in with the process of writing this story, but I just wanted to say I felt like I didn’t quite expect the chapter to end right at this line? I often split up my drafts into chapters very arbitrarily (I mean, after all it’s a draft <.<), so I was wondering if this is meant to be the ‘final’ or ‘revised’ end-to-chapter 0.5. I did feel like it was a bit of an abrupt end to such a fast-paced chapter, as the phrase “Spooky, right?” gives me the impression that the narrator is about to explain what just happened –but then they don’t. That could just be me, though.

Humor
I think you got in a lot of funny jokes in this chapter. I particularly enjoyed the absurd humor of the man appearing with a Hello Kitty lunchbox. The way you describe that scene in detail also makes it extra funny as it ups the ‘drama’ of the scene. Man randomly appears in hospital room to announce he is woman’s son? Odd. Said man has a dapper outfit AND a Hello Kitty lunchbox AND the lunchbox is mysteriously battered? Hilarious. The “Hey mom, how’s it going?” is the icing on the cake.
The back-and-forth between the narrator and his mother was also high on the comedy aspect. I thought you balanced showing Jenine’s confusion and shock and her funny moments pretty well. I think in a serious story, Jenine having funny lines in a situation where she supposed to be scared might be harder to pull off, but the absurdity of the previous parts makes it easier to adjust to Jenine’s wisecracks.
My dear mother threw a pudding cup at me.
I blinked as it hit my chest and fell to the floor, splattering.
“Hrm. Tapioca, my favorite.”
Jenine sighed heavily, “Mine too. But please tell me I’m dreaming.”

I also like how the physical comedy is used to deliver a bit of characterisation and show the bond between mother and son (albeit across time and space, and without Jenine’s knowledge).

Overall
This seems to be the beginning of a fun and intriguing story. I could imagine it being a serial in a magazine or e-zine somewhere, as well as a book (some parts give me The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vibes). It leaves me wondering about who the narrator is as a person and who is the other person that was tangled up in the same supernatural happenings as him.

Hope some of this helps, and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




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Mon Jul 04, 2022 10:56 pm
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Spearmint wrote a review...



Hiya, mint here, with a review! ^-^ Sorry it took longer than I thought (roleplay month shenanigans and all), but I'm here now, and I have to say, this was definitely a neat piece to read! It isn't often that I read stories with narrators that write directly to the readers, and especially not with rather rude ones. It's interesting for sure, though I did get a bit of whiplash from the narrator switching between topics so fast. >.> Anyways, I'd be interested in reading more chapters! (Also, I'm curious about the chapter number... 0.5 is pretty unconventional, and I'm wondering if there's a reason for that?)

Alright, on to some specifics...

Well my answer is this:

Don’t ask stupid questions.

Setting the tone right from the beginning. xD I feel like this could make the reader feel intrigued or insulted, or a bit of both. Personally I found it pretty amusing, though the narrator should probably give some respect to that "stupid question," seeing as it's what all the readers likely came for. >.>

If you don’t, you must be so smart, and should definitely continue reading. That was a test.

This part made me laugh. :P I think the narrator walks a fine line between funny and frustrating, which isn't a bad thing. I just hope they have some kind of character growth, or the reader gets some insight into the reason for their personality, before they become more of a nuisance than humorous. (But who knows? It could also be possible to have them stay the same and continually find new ways to be funny. Though I think it's more likely that the novel would be more meaningful if the narrator changed in some way.)

August 12th, 2163 - London, England - A Drizzling Tuesday

This is a super small thing, but maybe you could put "Year" or something before the "2163?" Or C.E. after it or something. When I first read this part, I kinda skimmed over it because I thought it was military time without the colon or something whoops. Could just be me, but I feel like clarification is always good. ^^

...which was bad because it meant I weren’t alive.

"I wasn't alive?" :]

Silly me, dying like that.

XD I love all the dry humor in this chapter.

So, yes, I lied. Get used to it, chum. That’s rule five, I have a very hard time extinguishing the proverbial flames on my trousers.

Now, seamless segue.

I'm kind of ambivalent about all the topic changes. On the one hand, they may leave the reader feeling disoriented and without a clear idea of the story, but on the other, they feel pretty intentional and do contribute to the humor. Hmm.

She’s very confused, and her tear-streaked face is displaying quite a bit of shock. That only gets worse as a man steps through this small window into space-time, wearing a bowler hat, trench coat, and carrying a Hello Kitty lunchbox that looked as though it had been through a few scrapes.

Looks like you slipped into present tense for a bit there. >.>

That's rule forty-one. Following? Splendid.

This might be because I've been watching Pirates of the Caribbean recently, but this narrator gives me Jack Sparrow vibes. :P This also reminds me a little bit of Terry Pratchett's novels with its humor and whimsicality, but it does has a different style. (Great books, by the way, if you haven't read them.)

My dear mother threw a pudding cup at me.

Lol, I like Jenine already! Lines like this one and "The 0.5 was a particularly interesting squirrel." cracked me up. xD

Overall, I thought this was a really unique chapter. My only issue would be that it's a bit all over the place, with a hospital, a space-time portal, and various quips by the narrator in between. It doesn't really help that the narrator has a tendency to lie to spice things up. :P I definitely enjoyed reading it, though, and I hope you keep writing!
Have a fabulous day/night! =D




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Fri Jul 01, 2022 4:45 am
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Spearmint says...



That only gets worse as a man steps through this small window into space-time, wearing a bowler hat, trench coat, and carrying a Hello Kitty lunchbox that looked as though it had been through a few scrapes.

^ Love that. XDD

I will definitely give this a proper review sometime soon, but for now, just know that I thought the narrator was indeed infuriating, the lack of explanation for the ditch was even more infuriating, but I was not disappointed by the lunchbox. :P





she slept with wolves without fear, for the wolves knew there was a lion among them.
— r.m. drake