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It’s been a very long time in coming, but I’m very happy to FINALLY release the third installment of my webcomic crime shorts Streelight Stories.
For this installment I have called on the artistic talents of newcomer Xavier Bermeo (find him on twitter @Xavierbermeo) and man did he not disappoint. One of the trickier aspects of creating the art for this genre is the strict 9x9 grid This Desperate City crime comics are written in. Reminiscent of silver age comic books, part of the reason these stories adhere to this format are to help produce a more noir, older feel to the tales. Selfishly, it also presents a larger canvas for storytelling on fewer pages.
Xavier did a wonderful job of sticking to these restrictions and still creating a unique and ultimately gritty interpretation of the writing.
As for the story, the Force of Mortality is a concept I ran into some time ago and wrote a short story about. The concept is striking, this idea that once you reach seven years old, the chances of you dying increase by 9% every year. Frightening, but ultimately astonishing that we all live as long as we do despite this revelation. I could never get that short story to work the way I wanted it to, and that was because it was waiting to be turned into a comic strip all along.
One quick note on formatting, Weebly, the website I use, automatically shrinks the images when I upload them. I am in the processes of working with them to adjust this, but the comic may be slightly difficult to read here. The story is also posted on the Desperate City Facebook page so feel free to read it there as well: www.facebook.com/thisdesperatecity/
Below I have also posted the final script to the comic, you’ll notice nuanced differences between this and the final pages, a product of dialogue spacing and also tweaks after seeing the final product.
I’m proud of this one guys, so please enjoy and a huge thanks to Xavier for his contributions as well!
Get it in gear,
TDC Street Light Stories #3:
Story By J. J. Sinisi & Art By: Xavier Bermeo
Panel 1: Close up of tense knuckles gripping steering wheel.
NARRATION: Sal Dobkin’s mind tallied calculations. A forty-three year old man was about 324 times more likely to die than the average seven year old.
Panel 2: Pull back a little. Looking over his shoulder, out at the windshield and the wipers swiping the rain. But the rain doesn’t exactly look like rain. Instead, they are numbers, raining in buckets.
NARRATION: The Force of Mortality.
Panel 3: Pull all the way out of the car. It eases down a suburban street, raining numbers.
NARRATION: His daughter Clara, a career woman in the field of risk management, had enumerated its precepts to him months ago.
NARRATION: Since the accident he couldn’t stop ruminating on it. It consumed him.
Panel 4: The car stops in front of a big attractive suburban house. The rain slims to little ones and zeroes, falling from the sky and fading before the ground.
NARRATION: He’d dream in the cold morning about his wife Sandra, sheathed in numbers. She was thirty seven when she passed. That wasn’t fair. His father appeared too, glasses a tilted figure eight atop his nose, a ninety year old man at his death, defying the odds.
Panel 5: Low shot from behind, out of his back pocket we see a hammer hanging to the side. Beyond that is the mail box in the background, a faded 44 on the post.
NARRATION: His dad’s number was probably even higher, given his time in the service.
Panel 6: Dark shot of Sal walking up the walkway of the house. The house is large in front of him, he is nearly a silhouette. All around him, the numbers fall like rain.
Panel 7: Sal’s feet, he walks up a little step in front of the door.
Panel 8 (and 9 combined): Glen Anderson opens the door. He’s a perfectly average middle age white guy. Receding hairline, thin but not fit, wrinkled but not old. The back of Sal’s head is visible, curly gray hair. He’s wearing a collared shirt, as is Glen. They are two normal men on a normal night.
SAL: You’re forty three right?
GLEN: What are you doing here, Sal?
SAL: Just answer the question.
GLEN: I don’t have to talk to you. You’re not even allowed to be here. That’s what the court said
Panel 1: Glen’s older wife Linda, her hair teased to an anachronistic up-do, peers over his darkened shoulder from inside the house.
LINDA: Is that him? Who is it Glen?
GLEN: It’s no one honey.
Panel 2: Close up of Glen’s feet, now facing Sal’s feet, similar perspective from before.
GLEN: What are you doing here, Sal?
SAL: We need to talk.
GLEN: No we don’t, that’s what the court is for. You’re not allowed to be here.
Panel 3: Pull back again. Looking from over the hood of Sal’s car. They are small. The rain slows.
GLEN: Sal, go home. I don’t want to call the police.
SAL: The police? Who’s the criminal here?
Panel 4: Close up of Glen, just a touch of Sal’s shoulder in the foreground. Glen looks incredulous and slightly annoyed.
GLEN: It’s called a restraining order for a reason. It’s better for everyone if we don’t have a repeat of last time.
Panel 5 & 6: Double wide panel. Flashback. A cop is holding an enraged Sal back. He’s lunging and punching Glen in the face. Glen is recoiling, blood flying from a cracked lip.
NARRATION: Last time, at the courthouse, Sal lost his composure.
NARRATION: Last time, he hadn’t thought through all of the possible outcomes. A good accountant always looks at all the numbers before making a decision.
Panel 7: Sal points a finger into Glen’s chest, a fire brewing behind stormy eyes.
SAL: One in ten thousand. You took away 9,999 other possible outcomes from her when you ran that red light.
Panel 8: Glen smacks away Sal’s hand. He’s heating up as well. The rain is just a patter, incidental numbers bending around their argument.
GLEN: You don’t think I live with that every day, you angry old fuck? You don’t think every night I go to bed I can’t feel the force of the car hitting her?
Panel 9: Very dark panel, we see nearly nothing of Sal’s face. Just enough to understand the storm has hit, this is his last bit of quiet before the explosion.
SAL: She was seven, Glen.
Panel 1 & 2: A pretty little girl riding her bike, her hair in a neat ponytail, streamers from the sides of her handle bars. Blurry but looming behind her is Glen’s SUV, the GMC logo is close enough to make us wince.
NARRATION: At seven years old, she should’ve been further from death than at any other point in her entire life.
NARRATION: Every year after birth, a person’s chance of survival increased before peaking at seven and then sliding by 9% each year after.
Panel 3: Black panel.
SAL (off panel): Jesus Christ!
NARRATION: But at seven, she should’ve been the safest she’d ever be. That’s what the damnable numbers promised.
Panel 4: Sal, looking down, eyes dark, the hammer raising in his hand.
SAL: I was a CPA for forty years, Anderson, you know that? Forty years. Numbers define me.
Panel 5: Close up of Glen’s petrified eyes.
GLEN: Honey! Call 911!
Panel 6: Silhouette of Sal brining the hammer down over his Glen’s head. Glen’s arms come up to block it, but it still connects. The rainy numbers have returned, silhouetted as well, little ones and zeroes accenting the panels.
SAL: How about 324? How about 10,000?
Panel 7: Over Sal’s arm, raised with the hammer about to bring it down over Glen’s head, Linda, Glen’s wife, stands pointing her shotgun at Sal, and therefore at us. We’re all staring down the barrel.
NARRATION: But Sal had overlooked the one thing a CPA never forgot, complete all of the calculations.
Panel 8: The blast hitting Sal in the chest, his blood and the explosion of force is all numbers, shooting in every direction.
NARRATION: If Anderson’s number was 324, then Sal’s sixty-seven years put his at 540.
NARRATION: He should have known better.
Panel 9: Sal’s body, his chest caved in with sliding numbers, slumped over Glen’s body, bleeding from the head.
NARRATION: He should’ve known the numbers would never let him get away alive.
J. J. Sinisi is a professional out of New York but spends what little free time he has strolling dark alleyways creating crime fiction. His work has appeared at Spelk Fiction, Yellow Mama, Spinetingler Magazine, Near to the Knuckle, Dead Guns Press, All Due Respect, Thuglit, Dark Corners, Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Heater, and he received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Short Story contest.