Continuing with my series on insights into the making of A Sinister Six, here is a short look at some of my thinking behind the next story in the collection:
A Snap of the Fingers
A Snap of The Fingers asks the questions ‘What would you do for a loved one?’ and ‘Would you die for them?’ As a parent myself, I thought this was a straightforward answer of ‘yes’, but then I asked a slightly more tricky question, ‘Would you kill for them?’ Tricky enough for an adult to answer, but in Snap, Ten-year-old SETH ROGERS is asked that very question by a stranger that offers to save his mother from the cancer that is killing her.
This is the story in the collection that received the most comments from the beta-readers. It was generally well received, but the feeling was that I had missed an opportunity with the ending. After much discussion, I had to agree that the end needed something a little more.
The protagonist, Seth, is a ten-year-old boy, whose mum is dying with an inoperable cancer. As you can imagine, this is hard to understand as a ten-year-old, so when he is offered a chance to save his mum by one of the nurses, it’s an offer too good to pass on, although the consequences of his actions may be too much for Seth to consider.
At the time I wrote Snap, my son was ten-years-old, and I was able to ask him ‘what would you do’ – type questions (in an age-appropriate way of course). This gave me enough material to get all the way to the ending of this story, but unable to finish it, I originally left it on a bit of a cliffhanger, which was – rightly so – identified by the beta-readers as a cop-out. They wanted resolution, so I revisited the story and came up with a much more satisfactory ending. At least for me, but you’d have to judge that for yourself.
Seth’s first encounter with the nurse who claims to be able to help his mum:
Red shifted closer to Seth until their shoulders were touching. He smelled faintly of antiseptic, like Seth had smelled in his mum’s room. It reminded him of the toilets at school; after they had been cleaned, of course. Red looked around before he spoke. He leaned over and put his lips close to Seth’s ear.
“Can I tell you a secret?” He spoke in a whisper. Seth felt the breath on his cheeks and could smell his breath. Whatever he had eaten for dinner couldn’t have been very nice. A mint wouldn’t go amiss thought Seth.
“Your mum has two days at most. Maybe three.”
“You don’t know that!” Seth slid along the wall away from Red. “You’re not a doctor.”
“No, I’m not. You got that right, partner.”
Seth got to his feet. His parents had told him not to talk to strangers; this was a hospital, and this man had a uniform on, but he was definitely strange. He decided it was time to find his dad, and he moved towards the door.
“I can help your mum, Seth.” Red remained seated. Seth stopped and turned around. “If you want that, that is.”
“What can you do? You said you weren’t a doctor.”
“Nope. Not a doctor.” He paused briefly before standing up. “But I can help your mum.”
Red held out both hands and smiled. “Cure her. Simple as that.” He placed both hands behind his back.
“Well, why can’t the others do it? Can’t you tell them what to do?” Seth may be only ten, but he was a bright ten. This didn’t ring true. He began to back away towards the door.
“I can do things they can’t. That’s it.” He flashed his smile again.
“Ok. Do it, then. Cure my mum.”
“Well, about that,” He took a step towards Seth and bent forward until their eyes were level. “I need you to do something for me in return.”
“I want you to listen to what I’m asking Seth. I want you to be clear on what you need to do for me. This isn’t something I ask of everyone, and it isn’t something that you have to do.”
“What if I don’t want to do it?”
“A good question.” Red stood and took a step back from Seth, and spread his arms again, smiling. “Nothing. That’s what happens. Nothing at all. You continue living your life, your mum continues living hers.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had come. “Well, the two days she has left, anyway.”
“I don’t believe you.” His tears had dried up, and now his fear was being replaced by anger. “How will you cure her?”
“With a snap of the fingers!” To illustrate his point, he clicked his fingers in front of Seth’s face.
“How will that help?”
“Well, let me show you…with a snap of your fingers.” He closed the distance to Seth in an instant, grabbed his right wrist and yanked him closer. Before he had a chance to protest, Red took all four fingers on Seth’s hand in his palm and squeezed.
As the first bone broke, Seth screamed, and Red shoved the fingers backwards, towards his wrist. His screams covered the snapping, but Seth felt each of his fingers break, and he pulled away. He stumbled to the floor, holding the wrist of his broken hand; each of the fingers pointed at an unlikely angle. The pain was the worst that he had ever experienced, and as he hit the floor, he threw up.
A Snap Of The Fingers is one of six darkly disturbing tales in A Sinister Six and is available now from HERE.