I've always had an ache in my heart to finish one, especially after trips to the local library and Barnes and Nobles, aurrounded by dozens and dozens of diverse books that moved a readership with ideas conveyed through words, rather than words and visuals which is what I'm used to.
I began writing it a year after the events of September 11th, 2001, when the War on Terror hit the heightened level its at today and reattacked it after a trip to Israel in '04 where I was warned to be careful on which bus I stepped on in fear that bombs could be lurking around every corner. Upon teturning to New York, that fear stayed with me and I was very jumpy on subways and buses, because if it was easy for a suicide bomber to get on a bus in highly secure Israel and blow it up, whats to stop one from getting on a C train, which isnt the picture of security, and sending it to train heaven?
COFFIN is the aftermath of that possibility. It's the HUMAN aftermath, focusing less on the hows, whens and technical aspects of getting a bomb on a train and blowing it up, but more on the psychological horror of a small band of passengers, waiting for someone to rescue them from Hell beneath the ground, forced to band together with individuals they only met moments ago. It's about claustrophobia, esteem, death, coping, infatuation and survival.
The novel is currently holding at 205 pages. I'm looking to get it to 4-450. I'm going to begin serializing the novel here at this journal with chapter one on Monday, the 13th. While the first 200 pages run, I'm going to aim to finish writing the entire thing.
I hope you'll join the passengers and I as we aim to rescue them from their metal coffin beneath the waters of the Hudson River, seeping in through cracks in the tunnel walls.
Time is running out and who know what we'll find together, down in the dark?
Chapters Eleven and Twelve are now available online at:
"'Goddamnmotherfucking son of an ass infested goat!'
"The five travelers in the second car glanced at Tariq Sahdad, brought to a broil of frustrated rage. They began to edge away from him with the subtlety of one giving berth to the mad. They rustled newspapers and magazines, ducking their heads from what was obviously a homeless (by his shabby dress) and addled man who did not realize the train’s cockpit was inaccessible this way. Tariq pounded and shouted, torn with twisted frustration on being blocked from his almost completed mission.
"Damn me for a fool, he thought. I cannot reach the cockpit through here."
Neil Kleid won the Xeric Grant for his novella, NINETY CANDLES, and wrote BROWNSVILLE, a graphic novel about the jewish mafia for NBM Publishing. He writes THE INTIMIDATORS for Image Comics/Shadowline, and URSA MINORS!, his pop-culture comedy series, arrives from Slave Labor in June. Weep for him at www.rantcomics.com
"In the movies, the good guys always win and the black hats end up in jail or off a building. The lead gets the girl and someone always saves Jimmy Stewart’s Wonderful Life. It’s obvious that happy endings and “always gets his man” are Hollywood contrivances built to make moviegoers and escapists feel good when they walk out that darkened room. We’re not stupid, are we? We’re intelligent folk. So, as intelligent folk, we can look past the sugar coating and “it’s just a movie” aspect of film making and explain the TECHNICAL reasons why life does not imitate the celluloid world. Forget computer generation; let’s ignore suspension of disbelief for a moment, too. We, the forward thinking pundits of our age need to realize that the biggest fraud directors pull on the gawking hordes is within the editing process. One moment we’re fleeing natives in a jet-propelled plane, snake in our lap and whip in our hand – and the next we’re wrapping up a lecture on anthropology. What happened in between? Where did that hidden time go? Another example: we’re at the local precinct, talking about picking up Lansky or Bugsy and our eyes cut across town to show us what the hood’s doing at that moment. Keen, huh?
"So let us reiterate – real life does not unfold like a screenplay. There are no jump cuts. We cannot dissolve to see what our friend is doing a block away. Real life is linear and happens as it happens without cutting ahead, somewhere else or flashing back.
"Ponder the midday PATH train for a minute. Various cars, each inhabited by diverse personalities, minds and opinions. Within a single car, one might stumble along at least fourteen to sixteen uniquely different beings, each with separate worries, goals, fears and dreams. An event might take place - it may affect each and every one of them, and be so mind-bendingly horrible that their thoughts and reactions may overlap, forming a hive mind for seconds, minutes or hours. But let us submit that no matter how similar or identical these opinions may be to a single catalyst, they could not under any circumstances be registered and catalogued at the same time.
"Silence descended on the tunnel.
"A foreboding silence that muffled the churning wheels of the great metal train. The clatter of the tracks faded into the eerie background behind unseen waiting spectators, much like an audience anticipating a pivotal moment in a stage play unfolding beneath the world. Time froze and the narrative stumbled, hushed and waiting for the explosive, inevitable end. Reality held its breath and watched as flint hit spark, stick scraped stone and man’s greatest discovery surged forward to bite its master.
"And at once, a cacophony of horrible noise clambered onstage.
Tariq Sahdad, of course, had been lied to. The bomb’s creator had sworn on his dead ancestors that nuclear devastation would shatter the device’s poor, unsuspecting recipients. Tariq, being a simple fellow, had naively believed him. Never in his mind did he stop to think about the incongruities of size, because according to television and the movies, nuclear weapons did not equal giant warheads. The explosive device in the backpack was nothing more then a run-of-the –mill bomb.
"Somewhere along the Hudson shoreline, beneath the New Jersey streets is a room. The room is not extraordinary large, nor is it amazingly flashy. In fact, the most practical adjective one could apply to the room is just that: 'practical.'
"A space no larger than most public restrooms, the room contains five things: a chair, a table, two computers and a telephone. Along the back wall, a door leads to an adjoining cubicle in which one would find a toilet and sink. You can imagine how small THAT room is. There is no diversionary entertainment – no television, no radio. The room’s sole occupant always needs to have his/her attention focused, ready, sharp."
"Dust littered the ground of the Five-Fifteen’s forward car. Speckles of glass and dots of blood intermingled with soot, ash and twisted metal. Several large pieces of blackened plastic wrapped around bent and broken poles — not to mention bent and broken bodies.
"At the far wall, an entire seat had been torn from its mooring and was thrown against the cockpit door. The handle was blocked by the charred remains of someone’s right arm, stuck in a way that prevented one from opening the operator’s room, as well as hinted that someone might have been trying to force their way inside."
"One of the great cult comedies of the Nineteen-Eighties was a little remembered movie called The Dream Team. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Steven Furst and Peter Boyle, the film documented the lives of a psychiatric doctor and the group of committed inmates he has been assigned to. The naïve doctor, in an effort to do something good for the group, secured tickets to a Yankee baseball game, and proceeded to drive the inmates into the city, where they all promptly got lost.
"Before that happened, they entered Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel, a long, two-way cavern stretching far beneath the waters separating New York from the areas of Hoboken, Newark and Jersey City. As the traffic sluggishly moved under the waves, Keaton’s character commented on the tunnel’s roof, saying that millions of little tiles were what held back the tons of rushing, surging waters from descending on their heads. If one of those tiles – ANY one of those tiles were to break, come loose or shift from its brother and sister tiles, the poor, doomed passengers driving through the Tunnel would be lost beneath the water and its crushing, coursing pressure."
"Annie opened her eyes and watched a single, fragile tear connect against the cabin window. The drop of water slid its way down the cracked surface and split apart, following spidery, vein-like threads that appeared in the shattered glass. She blinked twice and closed her eyes again.
"She ignored it. If she ignored the drips, they might just stop. Just as if she ignored the searing fiery pain in her left leg it may simply disappear. She remained in the shadows behind her eyelids thinking that the thudding, pounding beat along her temple sounded very much like the baseline of Queen’s We Will Rock You.
Bam-bam-BAM. Bam-bam-BAM We will, we will rock you. Bam-bam-Drip."
"If Timothy DiMarca, newborn intellectual of the PATH system, knew that at that moment several men with lights, picks and masks were making their way towards the beached corpse of the five-fifteen, he probably wouldn’t have cried.
"The door would not give, even after attempting to jimmy it with a credit card and striking its handle with the useless radio. Tim was trapped and the terrible thought drove every drop of panicked energy from his body.
"Huddled into a corner of the small cockpit, Tim’s chest wracked with hitching sobs and his eyes welled with desperate tears. It wasn’t so much that he felt horrified that he may well spend his last hours gasping for breath in this cramped, crumpled cell. Perish forbid. The one melancholy thought screeching its way across the blackboard of Tim’s mind was that he had let someone down again."
"Unconsciously, they formed a circle. The seats had endured more than they were prepared to handle and had been ripped aside. The center of the passenger car was completely cleared of debris, the accident and angle having forced it along the far door. Jeff took a look out the opposite door and tried to slide it open but caution made them sit and wait out the storm. The shaft was dark apart from the gruesome, horrible light of the flames and the long shadows flickering along the tunnel wall. No one wanted to venture out of the car and they clung to a societal notion that someone would soon arrive to rescue them. None of the other riders looked out the window, preferring to keep their gaze within their close quarters (apart from resting on the dead and dismembered). They sat with their backs to David’s grieving mother and the terrible feet dangling through the broken window. Annie drew the boy to her side, shielding him his father’s remains and Matthew took her hand, squeezing it to keep her from crying. Jeff had removed his jacket, placing it carefully over his package (which had miraculously survived the crash). He sat on Dave’s other side and forced a grin that seemed to unnerve Annie more than it set her at ease. She shook her head side-to-side, nodding at their young charge, and Jeff quickly dropped the corners of his mouth."
"Glitzy neon, flashy hotels and the cosmopolitan life attracts tourists to New York. They flock by the thousands to Times Square, Soho and to a lesser extent, Greenwich Village and the Boroughs. There’s so much to see in New York – from landmarks (Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center site) to attractions (Radio City, Rockefeller Center, Central Park) to traps (Saks, Macy’s, FAO Schwartz). They want to spend five dollars on a hot dog, twenty on a taxi and at least fifty on dinner. They want to see Ellis Island, Trump Towers and MTV Studios. They’re looking for Seinfeld on the Upper West, Woody on the Upper East and Letterman in Midtown. Tourists want the daylight of New York - postcards of the JumboTron, brown bags from Bloomingdale’s and gaudy “I Love New York” shirts that no self-respecting New Yorker would be caught dead in.
"What they don’t want, however, is New York’s twilight."
'Hey - back off, man.'
'I can’t BELIEVE you let her go!'
'What was I supposed to do? She was nuts! You saw her!'
'Stop it! STOP IT, both of you!'
"The disappearance of Mrs; Mandel had done nothing to lighten the tension in the stranded subway car. David had retreated to the back of the compartment to deal with the realization that he was for all intents and purposes an orphan. Annie and Matthew, taking it upon themselves to become surrogate 'parents,' accompanied him. Moe Pre-Med returned to Manda, Rita and Valerie, bringing them down from oncoming hysterics while Mr. Mintzer spent a great deal of his time mumbling in Hebrew. Moe explained that Mintzer was saying Tehllim or Psalms. In reality, what they were all doing was getting as far away from Jeff and Rock as they could."
"Of all the passengers in the car, it was obvious that David was having the hardest time. Father dead mere feet outside the car; mother insane and disappeared into the unknown depths. Not even thirteen and David was alone amid a group of strangers. Any other kid his age would be crying and screaming for hours. Those nearby would feel terrible and do everything they could to console him and try their best to ease him through the grief, ache and pain.
"Jeff, Annie and the rest of the stranded group felt terrible. They did everything they could to console him. They tried their best to ease him the grief, ache and pain.
"The only problem was, David wasn’t crying. In fact, David Mandel wasn’t doing much of anything."
"'…goin’ down to the well tonight, gonna drink till I get my fill…'
Cracked and dry, Tim’s reedy voice rang off the bent metal walls of the control booth. His toes tapped against the door, and periodically, he clapped along with the beat.
'…hope when I get older I don’t sit around thinkin’ about it, but I probably will…'
"He had spent the last thirty minutes running through the collected works (that he could remember, anyway) of Billy Joel and then had moved on to Jersey’s native son, the Boss. His voice was starting to give after a half-hour of solid wailing in hopes that someone might hear him.
'…sittin’ ‘round, tryin’ to recapture, a little of the glory of…'
Fifteen minutes before he began the concert, he had been wailing a different tune. His face was streaked with dried tears and his fingers stained with dry blood. He had tried prying the door screws out with his hands and battering the wall down with his shoulder. Raw, bruised and bloody, he eventually gave in. There was no escape, no way out. So he took a deep breath, sat down and started singing.
"Or maybe I’m just resting between escape attempts, he thought."
"Five circles of light progressed down the passageway, bouncing and flickering along the cavern walls. Silence reigned beneath the looming water, broken by boot heels scraping against gravel, dirt and filth. Every now and then nervous shuffling intruded upon the relative calm, the calling cards of scurrying, burrowing rats. The incandescent beams shined forward, illuminating the path before their bearers.
"The Jacks nodded to one another as they made their way towards the wreck of the five-fifteen. They had passed beyond the city shores and were now beneath the waters of the Hudson. Determined and grim, they pressed on in the velvety darkness, clearing away the curtain of unknown ten feet before them and ten feet behind. They traveled in a finite area of safety. The lights could not show them what lay past the end of their beams nor could they swivel and peer into their past— which was fine for the Jacks. Their mission lay ahead."
"Deciding to rotate a watch around David’s corner, the remaining residents of the subway car began to assess their situation. The women had each found their own level of composure – partly due to the Valium discovered within the recesses of Rita’s scuffed purse. Rock quit pacing the length of the car and was deep in thought in the corner closest to the door. Every now and then he grunted and shook his head, as if coming up with the perfect escape plan but rejecting it due to the fact that they had no ladder. Jeff and Saul Mintzer analyzed the physics involved in the crash, and the slim possibility that somewhere else along the rails, other trains had been affected. Far-fetched scenarios gleaned from too many Die Hard movies were tossed about and scrapped. Jeff, the clearest thinker of the little band, stuck to his guns in explaining that any minute now a rescue team would be breaking down the doors with crowbars. Saul, the blunt realist, called him a <i>putz</i> and explained that rescue teams probably hadn’t yet judged the crash site safe for them to approach. The sobering realization that they might be waiting for a good, long time before any help arrived from the surface sent the women into nervous hysterics. Rock pointed out the obvious oxygen and food deprivation issues and Saul waved him off, begging the big man not to shmuck around with negativity.
"'What you wanna do — sit here and wave bye-bye as our air seeps out the door? Or maybe you wanna be useful and try to focus on a way to get out, Anh?'
The large Italian’s face transformed from cheesecloth white to dull brick red so fast that Jeff thought the beefy man might be having an attack. Flashing on childhood Looney Tunes cartoons, he recalled how dangerous enraged bulls could be and gently steered his elderly companion to where Annie and Matthew were playing five-card-draw with David.