Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by Charles Konsor


I can see the guillotine from my window. 

Patrick’s hand moved patiently across the page.  It was strange to write slowly when he had so little time, but the night seemed to suit leisure.  The flame of his single candle did not sputter or spit, but swayed"slowly and gently.  A three quarter moon in the north sky was half hidden by the black clouds of early winter, dressing the mute rays with a hazy glow.  A thin line of smoke rose like a seductive mistress dancing above the razzed shell of a building to the north.  The canal below Patrick’s barred window moved unusually slow, hesitating between the inhale and exhale of the turning tides.  And the blade of the guillotine was nothing more than a monotonous silhouette rising above the distant Cort Marée.

One day until it drops, and now I’m the one with the shaved head. 

Again Patrick wrote slowly, pausing as he rounded out the d.  His wooden chair creaked as he shifted his weight ever so slightly, his ink stained fingers absent mindedly twirled the stem of his quill, and the smallest of smiles crept onto his lips. 

Indeed, I think I may have enjoyed this new hairstyle if not for what it meant . . . but isn’t that always the way?  We do not change until it’s already too late,” he wrote, and again he dipped the point of his quill into the black ink. 

This was the first time he had been allowed paper or quill in the last three days and this simple act"puncturing the ink’s smooth surface with the ivory tip of his quill"was rather comforting.  The familiar scratching of the quill as it glided across the page, the feel of the parchment against the side of his hand, the sticky ink which insistently found its way onto his fingers"this was all terribly familiar and it gave him a certain amount of peace.  Whenever his eyes caught sight of the printed text which covered most of the paper, however, this peace was quickly shattered: I, Patrick Darby, of sound mine and judgment, confess to the following crimes . . .

A ship’s bell rang in the distance and Patrick made an unconscious move to brush back the hair which would have hung over his eyes only a few hours ago.  Instead his fingers brushed against patches shaved to the scalp and tufts long enough to run his fingers through. 

His fingers.  He had always liked his fingers"long, slender.  They would have been perfect for playing piano, but he had never . . .  he would never play piano.

He had always given his characters long, slender fingers.  Perhaps it was his own attempt at a legacy.  Don’t all men seek legacy?

But her hands, they were small. 

Patrick shook this thought out of his head quickly, picked up his quill, and returned to the page.

. . . but as it is, the uneven crop leaves my head far too cold.  

It is a sad fact that winter comes every year.

He didn’t like being so cryptic with his writing, so abstract, but he was strangely afraid this night.  He was afraid of what he really felt and so thus far he had written nothing but abstraction.  Still, if this was to be his last testament, he must afford some honestly.  Indeed, there was probably no better time to be honest, and so he dove to the heart of it.

Why did I do it?

You may think I am a fool.  You may think me proud and arrogant.  You may think me whimsical and simple and romantic in the worst sense.  She surely thinks I’m a fool . . . and yet, it seemed the only thing to do at the time.  Indeed, I wonder who of you would have refused.  Who of you, witnessing the demise of a friend, would not step in?

And in the end"which I suppose is now"I could harbor regret.  I could regret falling in love or following my heart.  But are we not all men of passion?  We are fools, yes, but fools with heart and I will leave this world knowing that I followed my at least as much as my head, both of which have led me here.

I could regret the optimism which others have called a fault.  I could regret believing I could save him . . . but wouldn’t I have regretted it more had I chosen a different path?

Wouldn’t I?

Patrick leaned back in his chair to consider these last words.  Somewhere in the distance, however, a cell door clicked opened and he, along with every other inmate, unconsciously blinked at the foreign sound.  He had only been inside the Roche Prison for three days, but already he had learned that an open cell door was a rare thing.  It never seemed to be a good thing either, and when a second door was open Patrick leaned back over his page.  Time was short.

There once lived an old man, he wrote.  Everyday a little boy would visit that old man, begging for bread.  ‘Please sir,’ he would say.  ‘I’m hungry sir.’  But the old man could do nothing for him.  ‘I’m sorry, my boy, but I have no bread.

A third door opened.  The prisoner inside was begging for his life even before he was pulled out of the cell and dragged with the others through the hall.

The rest of the inmates crowded around their cell doors, watching as the condemned passed by their barred window.  Patrick, however, stayed seated at his small desk with his back to the door.  Outside his window the black clouds gave way for a moment and the blade of the guillotine glinted in the pale light of the moon.

The little boy would then go to a young man.  ‘Please sir,’ he would say.  ‘I’m hungry sir.’  And the young man would reply, ‘Fight for me, my boy, and I shall give you all the bread in the world.’

‘Sorry sir,’ said the boy, ‘I can not fight for you.’  But the young man did not hear him for he had already left to fight.

A fourth and final cell door was opened now, but its occupant stayed silent.  He wasn’t dragged out like the others.  Instead he walked steady and proud, his footsteps echoing through the prison.  He would be wearing his crimson waist coat Patrick knew.  He would hide his small hands behind his back and he would refuse to meet any ones stare.  Indeed, the thought made Patrick long for the stare, for one last gaze into those far away eyes.  All he had to do was get up and look through the bars of his door, but even as he heard the condemned enter the room outside his cell, Patrick stayed seated at his desk. 

The next day the little boy returned to the old man, saying again, ‘Please sir.  I’m hungry sir.’  And again the old man said, ‘I am sorry, my boy, but I have no bread.’

“You b******s will get yours soon enough,” said the first prisoner as his silent captors loaded their muskets.  His voice was low and broad and full of the kind of gusto only a large portly man could muster.  “The people will avenge us.  They will rise up and roast you cowards on spits.”

“No, you must listen, I’m not a part of this!” the second prisoner said.  “Just talk to the Konstantine, she will tell you.  She’ll tell you everything.”

And so the little boy returned to the young man.  ‘Fight for me, my boy,’ the young man said again.  And again the boy said, ‘Sorry sir, I can not fight for you.’  But the young man did not hear him.  He had already gone to fight.

“But I don’t want to,” the third prisoner said, speaking softly like a child about to cry.  “Please, you can’t do this.”

And the fourth, speaking with confidence and restrained passion"“Of more worth is one honest man to society than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.”

Four muskets were cocked.

That night the boy slept on the edge of the canal.  He half hoped he would have a bad dream and fall into the water.  He had no dream. 

“Death to the nobility, death to the konstables, death to the Konstan family, death to the Konstantine"”

A first shot stole the first prisoner’s words, replacing them with an involuntary gasp as his body fell back against the stone wall and slid slowly to the ground.

Patrick breathed faster, the air moving through his nostrils with a rushed and agitated sound.  His fingers shook as his writing became more fevered. 

On the third day he returned to the old man, but again the old man said, ‘I am sorry, my boy, but I have no bread.’

“Please, just ask her, or Brigadier Marcotte, I swear, they’ll tell you, I’m on your"”

A second shot dropped the second prisoner, but he still argued his case on the floor.  “I’m on your side, I loved her, she’ll tell you . . . she’ll tell you . . .”

And so he returned to the young man.  ‘Fight for me, my boy’ he said, ‘and I shall give you all the bread in the world.’ 

“Please sir, please.  Anything else, please . . . please . . . plea"”

And the boy said"

A third shot sounded, silencing the third prisoner’s pleas.

‘Alright sir, I will fight for you.’  The young man didn’t hear him.  He had already gone to fight.

Patrick’s jaw unconsciously tightened and his head moved closer to the table, concentrating on the tip of his quill.  And on the fourth day, the little boy found the old man dead.

“Today we may bear your whip,” the fourth prisoner said.  “And as we are no more than men, our bodies may give out, and be left alongside the road.”

‘Please sir,’ the little boy said. ‘I’m hungry sir.’  But the old man’s corpse said nothing.

“But we shall be remembered.  Our legacy will live on and the people will take up our cause.”

And so he returned again to the young man, only to find him dying in the street.

“It is we, the workers, who shall decide our own fates.  It is we, the people, who shall rule the city . . .”

‘Fight for me, my boy, and I shall give you all the bread in the world’.  The little boy watched the young man die.

“And if blood be the price of freedom . . . then I will pay it.”

Here Patrick could write no more, nor could he breathe, so he simply sat, breath bated, waiting like all the other inmates of the Roche Prison.

The fourth shot rang out and Patrick blinked.

A rather pathetic gurgle was heard coming from the fourth prisoner’s mouth.  It defiled the usual dignity of his voice and his body hit the floor with a dull, unceremonious thud.

Patrick still didn’t breathe.  He was afraid to movie. He was afraid that any small shift in his body"a breath, a twitch"might allow his emotions to free themselves.  So he stayed still, his head low to the table, his quill poised above the paper.

The first and third prisoners were already dead.  The second soon gave into his death, but the fourth fought against it.  He spit and gurgled and tried to talk, but his lungs had been pierced and his words were without breath.  Patrick, however, could guess at the words. 

“Remember.  Remember . . .”




Patrick sat on the floor just below his cell window.  He pulled his knees up to his chest and let his head rest between them.  He had always liked sitting like this, perhaps because it reminded him of being in the womb, or perhaps because it made his world smaller and more compact.  Things just didn’t seem so large and overwhelming when he was curled up. 

When he was a child and had trouble sleeping he would often curl up in a ball for comfort.  He had stopped doing it when he was eleven and he noticed how all the great men seemed to stand up tall.  On the ship over, however"when he feared both the past and the future"he had done it again.  He curled up in his hammock and let his breath warm his chest. 

Patrick wasn’t able to sit like this for very long.  Writing with his head bent over the page had made his neck stiff and so he rolled his head side to side.  He wondered if a limber neck would make the job easier for the guillotine’s blade and he smiled.

It was a sad sort of smile.  A pathetic attempt to counter the hollowness he felt.  As the gun smoke from the execution drifted into his cell and the sulfur smell tickled his nose, however, the smile faded. 

The wound on his right arm was throbbing again.  However, over the past few days he had grown accustom to the pain and so he found a certain amount of pleasure as the waves of pain climbed up to his shoulder and ran down to the tips of his fingers.  It was a patient and placid night.


Patrick let his head fall to the side so that his check rested against the cold stone wall.  The coolness of the stone was calming.  It reminded him of her hands"small, cold hands which slid up to his face as she pressed herself against him and tilted her head to kiss him.  Or the coolness of the damp grass when he used to lay his ear on the ground and listen for the ocean.  Or the cold metal of the printing press in Mr. Beringer’s house.  Or the wet snow whipping against his check while he watched an unknown w***e die in the Eisley gutter.

Patrick rose to his feet, picked up his quill, and scratched onto the page:

Why did I do it?  Because I watched a w***e freeze to death in the gutter, and no one cared.

The food chute at the bottom of Patrick’s cell door opened.

Patrick spun his head around.  They had already served dinner and it was far too early for lunch, but the food chute was definitely open.  They must have been emptying the refuse buckets early tonight.  Patrick moved to grab his buckets, but then paused.  They hadn’t shouted “Your piss and s**t if you please”, and Patrick looked back at the door.

“Hello,” a timid voice said, “Patrick.”


“It’s me.”

Patrick took a few timid steps toward the door then knelt down and peered through the food chute.  The round, bespectacled face of a man stared back at him.


© 2021 Charles Konsor

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Zak made goood points but whatever's going on with your computer, please fix it!!!
I really liked this piece and it was extremely well written. You are obviously a talented writer and this is a suspenseful, tense but extremely lyrical piece that you should be very proud of. Read over it once or twice and you will notice one or perhaps two typos. All in all, bloody brilliant!

Posted 11 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


Other than a few errors here and there, this piece is brilliantly penned. There is a depth and poignancy that fills the reader, pulls us in. That makes for a remarkable effort. And, of course, ending on that mysterious note only makes the reader want for more. Well done.

Posted 2 Years Ago

Hooked in from the very first, what an odd and unexpected start to the story. Your description is very vivid and clear although the lines dont quite flow with ease and read a little jumbled in places. Sometimes you get a little carried away with the amount of description in one go which leads to it to drag on a bit. But the description itself as i said before is absoloutly fantastic.
Consider detaching the description from the action, as you protagonist smiles i just personally think it will read better.
Character development, and the scene in which were placed is very well gone about i understand compltely the location and my imagination is flooded with a very vivd and beliveable image as your writing is very accurate.
Careful with long sentances, were they are always great to get in when done correctly, make sure you proof-read and imagine were you would naturally need to breath, try reading out load as its easy to get carried away and i find myself running out of breath while reading.
Your protagonists writing, although abstract carries just the write amount of power for effect, the dis-connected lines printing his desperation and carefully depicting his final moments. One spelling error in the first large text of his writing *followed mine
Loving the constant refrence to the guillition , i have the image of it haunting me due to your well placed repetition, it becomes such a powerful object even though at the stage i have read to it has not actually killed anyone. You know its intention and its existance is a clear symbolic representation of death.
A very interesting and dark plot , i find myself getting lost in parts as it seems a little jumbled together but the actual content of your plot the developments of not only your protoganist but the characters surrounding him. I feel its a shame we didn't get to know the prisoners that he has spent so long surrounded by but i suppose that can't be helped. I like there deaths, although i feel as someone with such obvious descriptive talent that you left them a little bare and abandoned.
For some reason your last few lines have come up javascript , so its very hard to get what is going on in the end... i will definatly be contiuning to read this.
Brilliant , creepy , i like a good dark story... brave

Posted 8 Years Ago

Hi Charles - How are you? I'm back. This is the beginning of a novel so your first paragraph must pull the reader in. Bad mistake to start with a character and descriptions together. And what is he doing? Sitting and writing. Though the second sentence could also mean reading. Not till the sentence following do we get it that he's writing. Your first line is good but what follows is unconnected. Perhaps that's what he's writing. If so, you have to clarify it and why. Patrick's story begins more interestingly than yours! But then his second sentence does not meld with the first.
Your story moves too slowly. Liven it up by telling us immeditely why he's in the cell. What crime has he committed? What does he do for a living? We are anxious to find out and you keep dawdling with what he's writing in his prison cell. Sorry, Charles, this won't get past the first reader, if you can get there at all.
I know I start my novel with description, but that's different because it is to set the time and place. I may be wrong to have done so but I think not as an historical novel needs a setting.
Of course, you know how to write and you should keep going but take a secnd look at your opening and - sorry - re-write.
Happy writing

Posted 10 Years Ago

0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

In advance of all critiques, please note a few of the following points. Don’t be offended. My comments are not a form of direct or indirect attack upon you or your ability to write. I am merely stating possible flaws in your writing from another perspective. They will be blunt and truthful. You have every right to feel that the observations put forward are not applicable to your writing, or are simply a mistake upon my assumptions. However, you should not discredit my voice as a mediocre commentary because you do not like what I have to say. Nobody enjoys criticism. However, I’m offering constructive criticism in the hopes that you will be a better writer for it and are able to visualize another perspective upon your work.

Strong. Grabs attention with an unusual statement that raises questions that the reader wants answered. However, a few sentences after could be tweaked to develop more of the story.

“Patrick’s hand moved patiently across the page.”
‘Moved’ is a vague description. It doesn’t really show how the protagonist moved, just that he did. Maybe use a more specific word like ‘slid’ instead. It gives a more concrete image and no room to doubt what he is doing. ‘Patiently’ also feels a bit awkward because ‘ly’ words can jar the reader. Maybe say that his hand hovered over the page instead?
“It was strange to write slowly when he had so little time, but the night seembed to suit leisure.” This is a strong sentence, but it could be stronger if there were no passive words (like ‘It/was/had/are/has/have/made, etc.). It could be re-worded to erase some words that it doesn’t need into something like, “With so little time, it felt odd to write slowly. Each movement stirred the still air like ripples in a pond.”

There seems to be a switching of tenses throughout the story (like ‘to write slowly’ is in present tense). Writing in past tense is less noticeably jarring to the reader, but you could write this all in present tense because it is an excellent writing style. However, switching from past tense to the present tense of the letter of events in the past feels subtly awkward. Subtly because the reader cannot quite figure out what’s odd, but the shifting is felt. Some words in the story also seem to repeat a little too often, words like ‘slow’ and ‘think’ are sprinkled throughout the story and might do good to change them so that the reader again doesn’t feel that odd sense of something off.

The protagonist is clearly characterized through his writing voice, but a more emotional reaction to the world he’s in (such as flinching at the screams of other prisoners being dragged out) would build a stronger reader empathy towards him. Maybe his heart is racing. Maybe he gulps nervously, or sweat runs down his neck. Maybe tears flow down his face and his hand shakes. Maybe he shudders.
The reader might also be drawn into the story more is one of the prisoners being taken away knows him, maybe shouts his name. Maybe the prisoner blames him, or curses him.

The story within a story idea plays very well into the rest of the events. However, there are some places where the letter just strikes the reader as a tad too repetitive, which takes away from the meaning but does add symbolism. However, saying that the boy did the same thing each time decreases suspense unless the boy perhaps asked for something different, or a different conclusion followed each time. There are great places however, where the story weaves amazingly into the plot (when ‘Four muskets were cocked’ and ‘And the boy said’). But there were a few too abrupt places two that could cause confusion, like when there’s dialogue from the prisoners and it switches to the little boy and back and the reader isn’t sure who said what.

The ending struck me as bit odd. All the suspense could’ve been built more than just recognizing someone through the door. Maybe if the protagonist got angry at this person, or started to cry, the reader might get an idea at the significance of Clius. Because otherwise, the reader has no idea who this character is and doesn’t empathize with the protagonist as much. Maybe if more details were dropped about this stranger, the reader could get a rough idea as to the role he plays in contrast to Patrick. For example, did this man throw Patrick in jail? Is he a jail guard? Is he a relative, or a friend?

Overall, this was an amazing chapter and some of the best I’ve seen. Great story, thick suspense. Good luck,

Posted 11 Years Ago

0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I really enjoyed this chapter. I thought I read this but couldnt find my review. But I've read it again so all I would like to say is hands�" words like that need to be fixed and i think you should just give one run through it to fix some words etc like check for instance should be cheek. just stuff like that but apart from that i really like it and i love the whole suspense as to what he did and the imagery is astounding. The story with the young boy and the bread mixed between Patrick and his writings is a brilliant idea. Nicley done. Very enjoyable piece of work.

Posted 11 Years Ago

Man, Charlie, this script is like a foreign language! From what I could read; which wasn't much, the story is pretty good but the text is jumbled like crazy.

Posted 11 Years Ago

0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is the first story that i have read on here. If all the other stories on here.Are just half as good then ill enjoy it here.
the iron man

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Great first chapter. Kept me interested, loved the flow and found it very descriptive and intriguing. This is a piece that I can see myself getting into and look forward to reading the next chapter. Nicely done.


Posted 11 Years Ago

0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Zak made goood points but whatever's going on with your computer, please fix it!!!
I really liked this piece and it was extremely well written. You are obviously a talented writer and this is a suspenseful, tense but extremely lyrical piece that you should be very proud of. Read over it once or twice and you will notice one or perhaps two typos. All in all, bloody brilliant!

Posted 11 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

The movement in this piece was very well written. The story of the little boy, intertwined with the deaths of the prisoners sent chills up my back! Your descripions are very well written as well.

Posted 11 Years Ago

0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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37 Reviews
Shelved in 6 Libraries
Added on February 4, 2008
Last Updated on May 18, 2021
Tags: prison, guillotine, execution, night


Charles Konsor
Charles Konsor

Portland, OR

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