This exercise is to write a fragment of a story (500 words) written entirely in imperative commands. Source: 3 AM Epiphany
Here we go:
It’s not a unique act, but grab your bag and head for the hills. Drum your fingers on the steering wheel, swear under your breath and blink sweat from your eyes while you lament the condition of traffic getting out of the city. Keep looking skyward frequently, despite being unable to see anything. Tell your girlfriend, “Hey, I think I see it.”
Wince as she tells you to shut the fuck up, then stew in silence for the next 20 minutes until she wonders aloud if you packed dog food for Jack. Hate that dog now more than ever. You will crack your neck and fight the urge to explode. Grind your teeth and grip the wheel white-knuckle tight as if you were traveling 20 to 30 times your current speed.
You will turn on the radio to cover the sound of your molars grinding together, and discover that there is no music, only the same pre-recorded loop of civil defense directions, explaining how to survive the impact of a comet. When Cassie bursts into tears, you’ll pat her on the back, tell her it’s okay, and observe aloud that you think traffic is loosening up a bit. You won’t mention that you think you’ve gone less than a mile in the last hour.
When you stop to consider how downhill things have gone, your stomach will turn hard to the left, and you’ll watch civilization come unglued in front of your eyes. When you touch the butt of your father’s old service sidearm, it will feel like a promise in your hand — heavy and hard.
You will use that gun to defend yourself against a potential carjacking. You’ll never forget the face of the punk-ass motherfucker that breaks your window and grabs you by the neck — either before or after you pull the trigger. Tamp down a disgusted yelp as his blood, teeth, and bits of brain splash up your arm and neck. Shake as the adrenaline jag starts to wear off, and rub the burn from your eyes when you discover that blinking away the sting of cordite doesn’t really work.
The bang of the car door slamming shut will drag you back to reality, start your nerves humming again, shove you into action. Swing around, gun still in hand to discover that Cassie is no longer in the vehicle. Hurt your vocal cords screaming after her, some profanity-laden thing you’re not aware you’re thinking. Out the door and after her, dumbass. She’s not going to last five minutes out there.
Catch up to her in the scrum of people making their way forward toward the hills. Talk to her, calm her down, convince her to get back to the car, even though she’s made more progress in the last three minutes than the car has in the last half hour. Reason with her, tell her that Jack needs her. Do not gloat when her eyes soften a bit and look back toward the shitty Toyota. Tell her you won’t use the gun again and it’ll sway her, even if it isn’t true. You know it isn’t true because it’s all going to go pear-shaped soon. You can feel the electricity in the air.
Watch as your entire life dissolves. At the car, Jack has his teeth in someone gangbanger’s forearm and you will admire the hell out of the little mutt. Your rage at seeing the guy trying to steal your bottled water is compounded when he pulls out a knife and swings his free hand back to take a shot at Jack. Blank your mind as the pistol comes up, settles, blows the top off the banger’s brainpan. Feel a little giggle in your throat as the slumping body drags Jack all the way out of the car.
Wince again when Cassie slaps you — slaps you fucking hard this time. She scoops up Jack in one arm, a bottle of water in the other and turns east toward the hills and you will feel something in you die a horrible sudden death.
When the civil defense sirens go off, you’ll look to the sky and really see it this time — a cold mountain of ice coming down on you, almost as cold as the pit of your stomach, almost as hot as your rage — and you will accept your fate and know what to do.
Put two between Cassie’s shoulder blades and then put one through the roof of your mouth.
Afterword: I despise the second person POV. Not because of the difficulty in writing it, but in the reading of it. Mostly, I have a hard time suspending disbelief when reading in the second person because of the actions of the “main character” — specifically, they are frequently unlike what I would do. When I’m getting the imperative commands from the narrator, I feel pretty rebellious.
This exercise was illuminating as hell for me because the unnamed character in it behaves totally unlike I would in a disaster scenario and yet, as I went along it got easier and easier to write. I didn’t know the end until Cassie got out of the car.
All in all, am I happy with it? Eh. I wasn’t feeling this one as much, and I think it shows. Will I write in the 2nd-person again? Seems unlikely.