Notes on “Cold Assassin”
“Cold Assassin” evolved through the course of multiple, somewhat random, modificational assignments in Mr. Ottley's high school creative writing class, and these are my notes from that process:
1. First Mr. Ottley told us to close our eyes and visualize ourselves walking through a cold, barren winter land. He mentioned a valley and a startled wolf and a few other bits I can't remember now. Then we opened our eyes and wrote about what we saw in our imagination.
It's Cold. I hate the cold. I'd probably have died out here if I wasn't wearing a snowsuit. Goggles keep the wind out of my eyes, but most of my face is unprotected.
I'm wearing snow shoes. That makes it hard to move fast, but they keep me from sinking too.
The fox on the ridge probably would have gotten the 'coon if I hadn't scared it away. As difficult as it is to find food in this kind of weather, the fox might starve.
The snow's starting to come down heavier now. I've got to get out of this. That'd be nice, out of the freezer and into the fridge. The shelter's not warmer, it's just less cold. Less wind too. It's hard to breath when the wind's blowing into your face, sweeping the air away too quickly for you to catch any.
What I wouldn't give for a snowmobile right now.
2. Next, Mr. Ottley told us to drop a finger on a random point of our papers and write about the word we landed on. My word was snow, so I wrote about a snowflake.
So gently I fall through the sky. Slowly, I fall to the ground. I land atop the others like myself, similar in the way that we are small, light, and cold, yet no two of us are identical.
I wonder what fate befalls me? Will I be trampled under feet, or used as mortar for a snowman? Will I last the duration of this winter, or will I melt away under the urination of a dog?
This is all speculation; only time will tell. Only one thing is certain: I will be reborn come next winter, just as before in winters past.
3. Again, we were told to drop a finger on a random point of our papers and write about the word we landed on. My word was similar. I thought of a weird, old Smurfs comic book I have in which one of the stories was called “Smurf of One and Smurf a Dozen of the Other.”
One is of the other, and the other is of the one. No two are alike, yet all are as one. Complexity within simplicity, yet simplicity within complexity. The pattern does not seem to repeat itself, yet underlyingly it does.
4. We went back to the first part, and we now had to incorporate finding a digital alarm clock. I picked up right where I left off on part 1.
Instead I come across a digital clock. Amazingly enough, it's still working; I can see the display flashing 12 o'clock. As I pick it up to examine it the radio-alarm goes off. Startled, I drop the clock and fall backward, having reflexively tried to jump back while the snowshoes weighed me down. The radio is playing “Rock Around the Clock.” I could use a wireless digital radio alarm clock next to my bed, so I turn it off and put it in my satchel.
5. Mr. Ottley pointed to a poster of Brazil on the wall with a large building dominating the picture. He told us to somehow incorporate being in a room on top of the building.
Add “I'm in top of the building's little room” thing.
Brainstorm: It's a post-apocalyptic winter. I have to get to the building to assassinate someone.
I then rewrote the main piece into “Winter Story: Cold Assassin.” I originally wrote it in the present tense, for which I should have been dragged out into the commons area and flogged in front of the entire school, but I had originally imagined it being presented as a comic book with the protagonist providing the narration. I later rewrote it in the past tense, and I have continued to refine and polish it a bit over the years since I first wrote it in 1997.
You can read the original version I turned in to my teacher, or skip ahead to the better, current version which is simply titled, “Cold Assassin.”