Portfolio III

Richard Ortega

Creative Writing

Professor Abeles

Portfolio III

            After taking this creative writing class, I have to admit, I have lost a little bit of love for writing. This semester and this course has made me look at writing a bit more technically and a bit more robotically. I doubt I will ever take more than two English classes in one semester ever again. I do enjoy writing, but after doing so much of it and constantly losing track of what needed to be done and how, I have just about had it with English as a subject. I am looking forward to a nice vacation to maybe get myself back into my writing niche. However, that does not mean my assignments cannot go undone. I have had to muster up my inner most writer and forced him to come up with whatever stories could creep up into his little mind.

I will not say that I am entirely happy with what was produced, but I will say that it was not bad work. At least in my opinion. I could not completely stop trying to do new and crazy things with my writing, so I attempted to mess around with my short stories a lot. Both took some thinking and a lot of proof reading and editing, but I think the end result is good.

I have picked two assignments. The first is Pandemic. Pandemic is a story I had thought of while working on a project for my graphic design class. We were assigned to make a logo for the upcoming Olympic Games. While doing the assignment, I realized that everyone in the world has got something invested in the games and that at least one person from everywhere in the world will make it out to which ever country the games were being held in. Apparently, the games will be held in London, England. In my short short story, I thought it would be funny to have a minimal problem have a catastrophic conclusion. It isn’t exactly a small problem, because manufacturing a virus with the intention of spreading it for financial gain is horrible, but the fact that something so small could affect everything on a global level is funny in a mad scientist kind of way. I tried messing around with the idea and I was happy with the results.

My second assignment, or my long short story, was a story that is part of a series of stories I work on here at home on my own. I tend to write a little darker and creepier type of story just because I think it is cool. I thought I could share one with the class. What started out as a dumb story about an anti-hero turned out to be the story of a man who was driven crazy because of his obsession with his ex-girl friend. The only reason I took such a turn was because I realized my audience was looking a good twist. I did not want to let them down and I don’t think that I have this semester. (I hope I am not totting my own horn).

This was my favorite of both assignments because it was one I worked on a lot. I had to change the ending more than three times to get it to where it is now. And I am still not happy with it. But that is just it, you will never really be happy with your work because it will never really be perfect. That, however, is what allows us to grow as writers and artists and that is what motivates me to keep going.

I do think that I will be taking a break from writing for a while and focusing on my drawing. But there is no way that I will not experience that urge to write a great story ever again. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone wants to tell good stories. After a break, I will be back on that saddle trying to become a better writer and a better story teller. This semester has been a real eye opener. I do hope that everyone else in the class has had an experience like my own.


            It is the summer of 2012 and Black Mesa has developed the H1-6 virus. They have ordered me to carry out a simple task. They have asked me to spread the virus worldwide through whatever means necessary. Black Mesa has provided me with all the equipment I will require and I have been given a blank check to name any price. The only requirement is that I do not ask any questions and that I get the job done. Everything else will either be explained to me or will have to be figured out on my own.

They did, however, brief me on the virus and what it was capable of. It was meant to look like any other virus. It was airborne and waterborne and it had a long incubation period. The virus gave folks infected all the symptoms of the common cold. Basically, it would go unnoticed and it would be invisible when undergoing a regular check-up. The difference, though, was that the H1-6 virus was immune to any medication other than the one specifically developed by the scientists at Black Mesa.

The virus had an increased rate of multiplication which meant that it could spread much faster than a normal virus. If left in an open field of cows with no strenuous barriers like fires, the virus could spread well over a mile within minutes.

The idea is obviously to spread a worldwide pandemic and be the only ones able to cure it. Black Mesa pharmaceutical would rake in billions if everyone managed to get sick.

There was a man with no name tag and no other method of identifying him who was administering the virus into my blood stream. He was tall, Caucasian and had an indistinguishable accent.

“After receiving the virus, you will be administered with the antidote. The antidote itself is set to wake up within forty-eight hour. You will have forty-eight hours to get yourself in the most advantageous position in order to ensure maximum virus expansion. You understand?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“You understand that we only have one shot and we are relying on you to fully take advantage of the situation. Should you fail to properly spread H1-6, your contract with Black Mesa pharmaceutical will be terminated and we will make you disappear. So, in other words, we will kill you. One, for having wasted hundreds of millions of dollars worth of research and two, we do not want to risk other companies getting their hands on you.”

“I understand.”

“As of right now, you are worth more than you could have possibly imagined. Please do not disappoint us Subject 1.”

“I will not.”

After administering the antidote, I was prompted out of the building. I was escorted out by three men in hazmat suits. I was suddenly aware that every breathe I took was spreading microscopic viruses intended to fill the pockets of the wealthy black suits behind Black Mesa.

All I was left to do was think of how exactly I could spread the virus worldwide with minimal effort. I had forty-eight hours to effectively spread it as far as possible. I thought for a while and realized it was the summer of 2012 and the Olympics were being held in London, England. What better chance could I get to have all the people from around the world in one room? Forty-eight hours would be more than enough time to get the next flight out.



Part I

After a long day of work, Mark enters the elevator of his building. He punches the number of his floor and attempts to breath as little as possible while riding up with the unmistakable smell of human urine. He looks to the floor and is not quite sure what the piles of brownish-grayish substance was spread all over the elevator. He tries not to move. No doubt it was the rest stop for a homeless. The walls are covered in graffiti. Each name was at war with the other among crazy zigzagging letters.

He reaches his floor and it comes as no surprise that the cracked walls of his thirteenth floor are covered in shadows. A group of punk teenagers and hooligans must have broken them again. Typical. It was most likely done in order to conceal a mugging. Or worse. Maybe they just did it to plain ol’ mess with the superintendent of the building.

The sounds of muffled yelling and crying from the adjacent apartments welcome him home. He thinks to himself, “What could that poor woman have done to deserve what was probably another brutal beating?”

Mark takes solace that at least he hears her crying. It is the silence that would scare him most of all.

He fumbles in his pant pockets and finds his keys. Lucky for him today, the door was not busted in. “One point for the good guys”, he mutters to himself.

Home, sweet home. Where the paint job is cracking off the walls, where his only company are the roaches, where the flickering fluorescent light bulb shows his sofa bed, 10 inch television set, and an old carpet spread across his studio apartment. It reminds him that he needs to buy another light bulb. More problems.

The house smelled heavy and rancid like when you forget to put away meat for far too long.

He moves towards his sofa and turns on the television to the news channel. A very young and very attractive reporter comes on. She says, “Police are still on the lookout for Charlie Bates, a man guilty of kidnapping, raping and brutally murdering three children several days ago. The man had picked up the children at P.S 12 posing as an uncle for the children. Police have lost custody of the assailant and have no leads on his current whereabouts. Any and all tips would be appreciated-”.

Mark turns off the television.

He walks to the bathroom and turns on the light. He makes his way to the hand wash. As he runs the water and rinses his hands, washing away the grime of a hard day’s work, he looks at himself in the mirror.

He begins to talk to his reflection on the murky mirror, “Those were just children, Charlie. Their whole lives ahead of them. Just children and you cut them short.”

Mark begins drying his hands on a cruddy towel he picked up from the bathroom rack barely attached to the wall. He then tosses the towel to the ground and begins searching the cabinet beneath his hand wash.

“Why do the scum of this city prey on the weak?” he asks. From the far end of the cabinet he pulls out a duffel bag. From the sound of it, it is heavy with tools. He stands up and takes a deep breath. “Can you tell me why, Charlie?”

He stares at the curtains covering the bathtub. He then pulls the plastic curtain to the side and reveals a man with his arms and legs bound together. His mouth was gagged and he appeared to have suffered a heavy blow to the head. There was blood stained on his clothing and there was a tear on his head still protruding blood steadily.

The man struggled to maintain focus. As he strained to concentrate his eyes on Mark, Mark was busy putting on plastic gloves. Mark crouches closer to the man lying in the tub. He looks straight into his eyes, which were now wild and blood shot, and says to him, “You, Charlie, are the evil that roams free in Metro City. You are the scum who preys on the weak and it is your wickedness that has brought pain to three innocent children and countless other lives.”

Mark pulls out a drill from his duffle bag and grads hold of a very large and rusted nail. The whirring of the drill out shouted the muffled screams of Charlie. He shut his eyes and braced for the impending pain to come. He could only imagine what death was already decided for him. Mark, with a righteous demeanor, was going to make sure he took his time. He wanted Charlie to suffer for as long as his body could take it before his last breath escaped his bloody and beaten body.

Part II

I am making my way home after work through the heavy rain. The day at P.S 12 was long and tiring one. Three children went missing over the course of a week. They were from separate classes. No one really knew where they went or with who, but the principal drilled into our heads that the teachers make sure the students went with their real parents. Some lunatic had been posing as a distant uncle or something and picking them up. Somehow, Metro City looked even sadder than usual that night.

I had to stay late today. My student’s parents hadn’t shown up for over an hour. In this city, a missing person could mean just about anything. The parent showed up, thank God, but not without smelling like rum. My guess is that the Father of Year was at some local bar and forgot to pick up his child. Hey, it could have been much worse.

The man had to show I.D and prove to us that he was indeed the girl’s father. He checked out. The school had been working with the MCPD to get any possible leads on the kidnapper. Turns out he was an escaped convict who was imprisoned for sexual assault on minors. He was a bit crazier than normal. His name was Charles Bates or something. I couldn’t really remember. On the way home, I stopped by at Mike’s Diner to get a sandwich. Any kind. It did not matter. The rain had kept all the customers away. I was the only one sitting inside.

“What are ya havin’ Mark,” asked Mike. He was a big and burly guy. He kept his mustache but never the beard. Mike was a good guy. He was a little hard on the eyes, but good nonetheless. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He has been feeding me for quite some time now.

“Ehh, give me a ham and cheese sandwich. Ketchup. Mayo. Everything on it.”

“It’ll be out in a minute. Hey, would you mind keepin’ an eye on the place for me? I gotta take a wicked piss.”

“Yeah, sure. No problem.”

Mike left for the bathroom. While he was gone I was sitting around waiting for my sandwich. I got to thinking about the missing children. I had none since I lived alone. My girl friend Sally had dumped me a while back and never looked back. She is with some good looking guy who took her away to the suburbs. Brandon, I think his name is. I bet her life is going real swell right about now. I never even got the chance to ask her to marry me. Not like she would ever go for a loser like me. Her new boyfriend was a cop. A real hero. I wonder if they have any children yet.

I began thinking about what I would do if I was one of the parents who came to pick up my child and found out he or she was missing. I would do terrible things to a person. The thought alone made my blood race. But why?

Maybe it was the actual thought of what it would feel like to have missing children. Or maybe it was the thought that I could never have some of my own since I am all alone. Maybe it’s the thought that Brandon was giving it to Sally.

“If I ever get my hands on that bastard, I swear…”, I whispered to myself.

Mike comes out from the back, “Hey, Mark, here is your sandwich. On the house”.

“Thanks. I hope you washed your hands”.

“I did, asshole.”

“Yeah, with soap this time.”

I left the Diner. On my walk home the rain came down harder. This day couldn’t get any worse. My sandwich was probably soaked by now. Great.

I live in a shithole apartment, in a crappy building, on a sickly part of town. My job doesn’t pay me nearly enough money to live down in the suburbs like precious Brandon. I got to deal with scum bags day in and day out on my way to work. The winters are particularly bad because it gets dark really early in the day. By five p.m I should be locked away in my studio apartment to avoid the worst.

I barely own anything since Sally took most of it. Almost all of it was hers anyways. I have a small sofa bed, a small television set, some food in the fridge. That is all I need.

I spend my days thinking of ways I could get Sally back. The lottery would bring me lots of needed cash, but the chances of winning that are astronomical. I could try and get a better job in Metro City. But where? Everything here is going under; everyone here is looking to lay off a couple hundred people just to stay in business. I could be a cop…I could be a hero and maybe save a few couple of people. Maybe that would bring her back.

I get home and eat my sloppy sandwich on the sofa. I’ve had a long day and turn on the television.  I don’t really watch it, but the noise keeps me company. It can get pretty boring here.

If I was a hero like that Brandon asshole, people would look up to me, people would respect me and people would love me. I would have friends call me; I would have people to hang out with. I would probably have loads of money and best of all I would have Sally back in my arms!

But how do I become a hero? The question circled in my head for the remainder of the night. I snoozed off with the sound of the 11 o’clock news playing in the background.

“-Police still have no leads on the escaped Charlie Bates.”

Last night I had a dream where I was some sort of super cop. The man from the news had been trying to break into my apartment with me still in it. He managed to break inside while I hid in the bathroom. When he was in looking through my apartment, I jumped out and attacked him. I managed to wrestle his gun away from him and performed a citizen’s arrest. Afterwards I was in City Hall receiving a medal for my courageous act of heroism. Later, Sally was in my arms apologizing for having left me before.

I woke up that morning with a loud bang at the door. Who the hell could it be this early morning anyways?

“Exterminator!” I hear him shout.

I was having the best dream ever. I get up reluctantly and sleepy eyed I shuffle to the door and open up.

“Hey, I’m the Exterminator. I’m here to spray the house down,” he says. He is wearing overalls. He looks a bit unhappy, probably because he has to work so early in the morning. Who knows.

“Come on in,” I say. “Can I help you with anything?”

“No man, I’m good,” he grunts.

“You sure? No coffee? Nothing or anything?”

“Look, Buddy. My names on the tag and I am not here to socialize. I’m here to just do my job and get the hell outta here. Now excuse me while I go in and fix this hell hole.”

“Alright, just do what you gotta do, man. No need to get so aggressive.” Asshole. I look over at his name tag to try and get a read on his name. I’ll just report his ass for being such a grump so early in the morning. I was having such a good start with the dream and all and this guy isn’t going to come and just ruin it for me.

I look at his name tag and see that it is almost falling off. I can barely read the company name. I think it says “Bob’s Delivery” on it. The name is a bit scratched up and I can barely make out the letters. I see his first name. It looks like it spells out “Charlie”. The rest is just a blur. Are the last few letters T, E and S?

How odd. What kind of Extermination service has “Delivery” written on their company name? Is this guy really an exterminator? Or is this just and old suit he is wearing?

“What did you say your name was, again?” I ask.

“I didn’t say. My name is Chuck. It is written right here on my name tag. See?” He swipes are his name tag. “Why the hell are you so interested in my name for anyways? You like me or something? I’m just here to do my job, not take you out on some date, weirdo.”

He begins spraying all over the kitchen.

“And your company name?”

“Are you serious? What is with you, man? Read the tag. It is right on here. ‘Mark’s Extermination’! Now can you let me do my job in peace? Quit sweating me.”

He showed me the tag and it said “Mark’s Extermination”. How did he change the name? This guy doesn’t seem right to me. Look at him. He is all nervous and stuff. Could he be the man everyone is looking for on the news? It can’t be. How could he end up in my apartment at seven in the morning? And why would he end up in my apartment? What is he trying to do?

“Listen man, I have got to get to work soon, so can we speed this up?” I tell him. “I work at P.S 12. I’m a teacher there and I need to be there by eight in the morning.”

“Okay,” he says. He begins to speed up his work.

Am I going crazy or is this guy really Charlie? I need to call the police somehow and have him detained or something. I can’t just let him walk out of my apartment. But I don’t have a phone. What am I going to do?

Wait a second. The bad guy is in my house. Just like in my dream. This could be my chance to stop him and become a hero. Maybe that dream was a sign from God or something. Maybe I am meant to stop him.

“Hey, you know where there is a real rodent problem? In the Bathroom. You mind taking a look in there and checking it out, Charlie?”

“Yeah, sure,” he replies. “No problem”.

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1 Comment so far

  1.   jenny abeles on December 31st, 2011

    Hi Richard. Sorry the class interfered with your desire to write—I wish you had gone into more detail about what specifically contributed to this feeling. Further description would help better me to prepare the class for the next time I teach it. I’d also be curious to know how the class has been an “eye-opener” (which is, of course, a cliché of the type I’d hoped you’d have significant horror of at this point).

    The idea behind “Pandemic” is interesting in that 24 or Mission Impossible sense, and it strikes me that the one thing that might help distinguish your story from these others is the character, Subject 1, about whom we know nothing. He is probably deranged, or at least has serious moral problems, but how did he become this way? Does he have any kind of thought process about spreading a virus that could potentially kill thousands of people beyond “I will”? Making this character interesting is the key to making this story interesting, I think.

    You have proven in your other story that you are certainly capable of coming up with complex characters. As I discussed in my last response to you, Mark is complicated, probably to the point of crazy. I like the ending—the fact that we don’t see Mark transform from sad sack to hero, wch might be difficult to pull off, and are also left wondering if he, in fact, even has the right man. The overwhelming desire to be a hero has, regardless of the exterminator’s true identity, likely turned Mark into a psycho, a terrible irony and not at all a stretch for the human animal. Terrorists, for example, consider themselves to be heroes. This is an interesting psychological place to play around with (in fiction, Richard! not in real life…).

    Since you’re taking a break from writing, let me suggest a novel I think you might like: In the Woods by Tana French.

    You’ve been serious about your writing all semester, and a helpful classroom presence, so—with only one absence—I’m happy to give you an A.

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