Jump-start your creativity this week: a mysterious suitcase. Strange passengers. A problem.

Here’s to a productive writing week, and winning salvos against novels and short stories (anyone else going to enter the NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest?) —


WRITING PROMPT: A Suitor for the Suitcase

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, feel free to e-mail your story to me at writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.

A man enters your subway car with a small suitcase. He places it under a seat and gets off at the next stop. You eye the “LEAVE NO PACKAGES
UNATTENEDED” sign. Another man boards the train, picks up the
suitcase, takes something out of it, and moves it down a seat. At the
next stop, he leaves and a woman enters, takes something out of it,
moves it down a seat and exits. And then another. Finally, it’s placed under your seat.

Great Creative in 2010: Tap into inspiration. Learn strategies for making time to write. Plan your own low key writing retreat. Check out 26 writing contests that can get your book published. Create a book trailer with cinematic flair. Learn Sue Grafton’s writing secrets. Click here to check the February 2010 issue of WD out!

(Image: Clker.com)

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4 thoughts on “Jump-start your creativity this week: a mysterious suitcase. Strange passengers. A problem.

  1. alton100

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  2. Martha W

    Ack, Mark… that’s just freaky *shudder*. You know, after Chucky, I didn’t own dolls for a reason.

    Zac… this just hurt. LOL.

    #########

    Emily sank onto the cold plastic seat, closed her eyes and intended to enjoy the rhythmic sway of the vintage subway car.

    She sighed, shifted in her chair and pulled the latest February 2310 edition of Writer’s Digest from her bag. The conductor made last call and she watched a good looking guy hop between the closing doors.

    He just managed to yank his Armani briefcase through before they sealed tight. He wasn’t as good-looking as Jerry, but he had his own appeal.

    Until he set the Armani on the floor.

    She almost flung herself under it to prevent the dirty floor soiling the precious leather. Emily rolled her eyes and sunk back into the article on workshops.

    Soon the car pulled into the first stop on Earth’s moon. She glanced at her watch, smiled. They were ahead of schedule.
    Polo man left.

    Emily stared at the briefcase. Just as she was about to turn it in, a different man sat in the seat directly over it. The next stop was further so she chatted with him about his impending trip to the newest honeymoon spot on Pluto.

    When they reached the transfer station on Deimos, Mars’ first moon, the man smiled at her as he picked up the case. He opened it, removed something and then slid it under the seat next to him.
    The doors opened and he rushed out.

    Emily stared after him, confused. She reached toward the briefcase but jerked back as a heavy-set woman dropped into the seat, practically on top of her hand.

    The woman, Angie, gabbed about her kids the entire way from Deimos to Phobos, the second moon. The moment the doors slid apart, she snatched the case up, opened then closed it.

    This time the case was put under the seat next to Emily. Now she didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

    Good thing. Another woman sat next to her despite the five other empty seats. Her stiff shoulders and pinched lips kept Emily quiet until they landed at the Mars station.

    Uptight lady settled the case on her lap with the hinge side to Emily. In seconds, the woman closed the lid with a thump and shoved it between Emily’s legs.

    "What the-" Emily jumped up. But the woman was gone.

    "Emily."

    She whirled around and launched herself into his arms. "Jerry."

    He smoothed her hair back, wiped away a tear. "Hey. How was your trip?"

    She pulled back, turned to the seat. The briefcase poked out from under her chair, taunting her. "Weird."

    Jerry laughed, picked up the case.

    "That’s not mine."

    "Actually, it is."

    She stared at him, uncomprehending. "What?"

    "Open it." He held it flat.

    She held his gaze another moment then flipped the locks. Cautiously, she raised the soft leather top and peered inside.

    Four words and a diamond ring winked up at her.

    "Will you marry me?" he said. "I know you like mysteries, so I thought…"

    She loved it, him. "Yes."

  3. Mark James

    You know Zac, I tried, but I couldn’t see anything in that pic for NPR’s contest . . .

    “Why don’t you open it?”

    I looked down at her. “It’s midnight. How come you’re out by yourself?”

    The train hurtled through a tunnel. Overhead lights flickered, went all black like a grave, then white light.

    We were the last ones left in the car, us and the suitcase. A man got on at Penn Station, left it under a seat. With things how they were, you couldn’t be doing that. He parked it right under the “Don’t Leave Your Stuff” sign. It could have said “Sign Up For the Terrorist Watch List. Leave Baggage On The Subway”.

    “They want you to open it,” she said.

    “How do you know what they want me to do?”

    It was like the rules were different tonight. Another guy got on at Times Square, took out a doll’s head, moved the suitcase down a seat, rode one stop to Broadway and got off.

    “They all opened it. Left it for you.” She looked around the empty car. The flickering light made her movements jerky, like she was wired together and the wire was flying apart. “I don’t see anybody else.”

    At Columbus Circle, a woman got on, opened it, took out two shiny round things, slid it under my seat, and jumped off just before the doors slammed shut.

    “You didn’t answer me. What are you doing on the Uptown #2 by yourself in the middle of the night?”

    “Visiting grandma,” she said.

    “Is that right?”

    “A long time ago, I lived in a nice suitcase.”

    Good thing she was five, six at the outside, or I’d of thought she missed her dose of happy meds. “You didn’t get all cramped up in there?”

    There was nothing for a while, just the ear crashing roar of the subway. The Seventy Ninth Street station flashed by, then we hit another tunnel and the lights went again. Out of the dark she said, “No. He made it special for me.”

    All kinds of things went through my mind. Did this kid’s dad lock her in a suitcase? Fling her down the basement stairs ? Drop her on her head? What? “You running away? Looking for a suitcase on the other side of the tracks?”

    The lights flashed on. Her blue eyes rolled up to my face. “What difference do the tracks make?”

    We barreled out of the tunnel into night time in the Bronx. The suitcase bumped my heels. “Depends on what side you’re on.”

    “Which side are you on?”

    I took a good look at her. In the streetlights flashing by outside, her face looked like a doll, a real old doll. “The side that matters,” I said. “What’s in the suitcase?”

    “Where,” she said quietly.

    “What?”

    “Open it and I can go back.” She rested her head on the metal rod between us. “I’m so tired.”

    Why I didn’t see it before? Sure. She could go back in the suitcase, cause that’s where’d she’d come from, and that’s where her kind went after the last tea party.

    I don’t know why she picked me. Maybe cause I was the last one in the last car on the midnight train. “Close your eyes,” I said.

    Locked behind her darkness, she didn’t feel me touch her plastic skin, lift her up by the neck, and slide her into the empty suitcase.

    Who says Heaven’s the same for everyone?

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