I took part in USyd’s Writers’ Society’s Exquisite Cadaver this semester.
Phew, that’s a lot of apostrophes in the first sentence.
What is a Cadaver? Well, first, it’s not a dead body and there’s no writer conducting an autopsy on a body. What a cadaver means in this context is basically a story where each writer contribute their own part. What happens is that the editor starts out with the beginning of the story and the next week another writer will contribute his/her part and the following week another writer contribute and so on. There are some ground rules, i.e. continuation of plot and characters mentioned must be in character. Of course, new characters can be introduced and new sub-plots can be developed etc…
So basically what you get is a story but with a mish-mash of different writing styles. Kinda like a real cadaver. Imagine the monster in Frankenstein. Its body parts came from different people, but essentially it was a functional, whole body and all hell broke loose when the scientist Frankenstein brought it to life. So that’s our cadaver, except for the all hell breaking lose part.
As for the word Exquisite, the editor decided to stick it at the front. It was the editor’s decision. So essentially the whole thing means Beautiful Corpse. Yeah…..
Anyway, I took part in the cadaver and soon it was my turn. By then, about nine writers (including the ed.) had written for the story, so just imagine the amount of pages I have to read just to get a sense of the plot, characters and situation development. And all this took place when I had to study for my Psych exam. My housemates thought I was mad when I still went ahead and wrote for the story. But a writer’s got to do what a writer’s got to do.
The story developed pretty coherently, given that nine writers contributed. However, when I got to the part where the last writer left off, I was stumped. For two reasons:
1) The last writer wrote a sort-of sex scene. Yet, no sex happened. Just lots of making out and dry humping.
2) Worse of all, the last paragraph ended: “She did none of these things.”
I stared at my laptop, wondering how the hell to continue. Should I just write the sex scene? But yet from the previous entry left by the last writer, the character, Rachel, did not want or, to put it more bluntly, was not that keen to have sex with the other character, Peter.
Hmm. So sex scene was out. I thought of writing about rape where Peter forced himself onto Rachel after she gave him blue balls. No, that would be tough to write. Then I thought about writing a scene where Rachel kicked Peter in his balls and kicked him out of her apartment, leaving him with painful, blue balls (yewch). That would be doable but it would be boring and predictable for the plot. And what the hell am I going to write after Rachel does that? Say that she went back to bed and think long and hard about the characteristics of men? I’m a guy and frankly, I’m not a good writer yet and I don’t know what women think about men. Generally.
Then I hit on a brainwave. Sure, it was an easy way out but it was sure better than writing some lame, half-assed paragraphs. The brainwave was to return the story back to the original character, the sort-of protagonist, Felix, and introduce a new character called Monet.
I managed to finish my part within 3 hours and email it to the editor. So in this post, I like to present to you, my part of the story. I’ll like to post the whole story but unfortunately it’s still under progress and its supposed to be published in the Writers’ Society’s literary journal first. So you just have to read my part for now. I’ll put up the whole story once it is done and published.
“I had this really weird dream. I dreamt that I was a prince, walking up this really tall tower, really, really tall. Probably taller than the Burj Khalifa. Anyway, I managed to walk up all the way to the top of the tower where there was a chamber.”
Felix leaned against a tree trunk and sipped iced lemon tea from the plastic bottle in his right hand. He needed alcohol but the park where they were currently taking refuge was an alcohol-free zone. Next to Felix was Monet who was sprawled on his stomach, eyeing the redhead in front of them.
“So I went into the chamber, the door wasn’t locked,” Monet continued his story, “in the chamber was this hot chick lying on a bed in the middle of the room. She was encased in some sort of glass bubble, and the only way to get to her was to crawl through this tunnel at the bottom of the bubble.”
Felix nodded absently. He fixed his gaze on the pigeons as they feasted on the breadcrumbs handed out to them by an old woman.
“I crawled through the tunnel and got into the bubble. She was beautiful, very beautiful. She woke up when she heard me entering the bubble. Her eyes, I fell in love with her eyes. I can’t remember the colour but I remembered that they were so, so, what’s that word when you fall into a trance?”
“Hypnotizing,” Felix said.
“Yeah, that’s it. Hypnotizing. So the chick got up to me and gave me a kiss. It wasn’t really a kiss, more like a brush on the lips. I still remember that kiss even after I woke up. But after the kiss, she fell down dead.”
Felix stared at the pigeons. For once, he wished he were a pigeon too. Free food, free lodging, the freedom to take a shit and piss anywhere and anytime and relationships in pigeon world were probably a lot less complicated too. Life as a pigeon was free and easy. Damn it, he wanted to be one.
“Oi, Felix, are you paying attention? Stop staring into space. Have you been listening to me?”
“Yeah, I am. You’re talking about this chick who was trapped in some bubble at the top of a tower and she fell down dead after making out with you. So what’s the point, Monet?”
“There’s no fucking point. You asked me to tell you a story to distract you from your current situation and obviously it’s not working.”
Monet pushed himself off the ground and stretched. He reached into his pocket and pull out a packet of clove cigarettes, fished one out and lit it. As he inhaled and blew out the sweet-smelling smoke, he walked around the tree, picking up his jacket, bag and hat that were scattered on the grass.
Felix remained oblivious to Monet and took another sip from the bottle. The redhead wiggled and rolled over, this time sunning her back.
“She’s pretty hot,” Monet said.
“Hey Felix, listen. You’ve been depressed and moaning about this for five fucking days. Seriously, get over it.”
Felix stared ahead. When he first heard about it, he didn’t want to believe it was true. But the next few days, he felt more and more depressed as he thought about it.
“Yeah, I’m trying to.”
“Doesn’t seems like it. Look, if Rachel fucked Peter, she fucked Peter. End of the story. So stop being depressed about something you can’t control. This thing is really fucking getting on my nerves.”
“Yeah, but I really like her.”
Monet squatted down in front of Felix. A small, squiggly line of smoke from Monet’s hand curled and wound it’s way up to his face before dispersing in the air. Felix shifted uncomfortably, both from the smoke and the sudden invasion of his personal space.
“So you like her. Okay, fine. But think about this. Rachel is perfectly normal, rational, okay probably slightly irrational but all of us are anyway, and she is human. So she had sex with someone, she’s just a normal human with a normal sexual appetite. What makes you think, that if, and that’s an if since you’re still in a fucked state, that if you get together with her, she hasn’t fucked some other guys before you?”
“Well, she’s just so reserved, I guess. I don’t even think it was possible of her having sex.”
“So,” Monet raised an eyebrow and sucked on his cigarette, “you prefer virgins?”
“No,” Felix sighed, “look, the whole point is not about Rachel having sex. The whole goddamn point is about Rachel having sex with Peter. I know Peter. You know Peter, and she having sex with Peter, it just complicates stuffs.”
“True,” Monet slowly rocked himself on the balls of his feet, “but knowing Peter, it’s probably just a bunch of shit with exaggeration. And even if it was true, just move on, there’s nothing you can do about it. Besides, there’re other girls out there.”
“But what? But what? You’ve been thinking about this all the time and has it changed anything? No. So stop fucking thinking about it. Either you do something about it, or you move on. Look, I’m late for work. Just stop thinking about this, go home, and get a beer and some sleep.”
Monet stood up and took a long drag from his cigarette before walking over to a nearby trashcan and extinguishing the butt. As he cut across the grass to reach the paved walkway, Felix called out to him.
“Hey, what’s the tall tower you were talking about? The one with the weird name?”
“The Burj Khalifa?” Monet asked.
“Yeah, that’s the one. Where’s that?”
“It’s in Dubai. It’ll be the tallest building in the world once they finish building it. Why?”
“Nothing, just curious. I thought I’ve heard it somewhere before.”
“Don’t ever think of jumping off that building. It’s going to be the most expensive suicide, if you can even afford a plane ticket to Dubai in the first place.”
Felix flipped the finger at Monet.
Yep, so that’s the part I wrote. Yes, I know I screwed the next writer. In my part, I did not give a clear mention whether Rachel had sex with Peter. It is still rumoured and frankly, even as a writer, I have no idea too. Did Rachel fucked Peter? I don’t know, ask the next five writers. Hopefully, they’ll manage to bring this story to a climax and resolution, otherwise, this story is destined to be some:
“… postmodernist no-beginning, no-ending, all-middle piece” (Words of the ed.)
So yeah, fingers crossed!
On a side note, I’ve just finished my Psychology paper today. I better damn well pass this. The exam consists 65% of the total course. Fucking exams. Still have two more papers to go.
New MVs. I’m currently in love with this talented, Irish singer called Lisa Hannigan. The first song is “Lille” while the second is “I Don’t Know”.
Damn, her voice….