Centurion

"Drink."

Minute 1

Adrian (pedantic, overweight, stereotypically nerdy, funny), Naomi (curly-haired, mellow, organised, hard-drinking), Alex (long-haired, moody, negative, insightful) and Daniel (quiet, useful, fit, small) are already there and waiting, almost poised. Mike (good-looking, middle-sized, average, precise) is late, but as soon as he arrives, "Drink" is announced and the game begins.

"So I guess this is being started without me." Mike drips on the floor.

"You're here. Do you have beer?" probes Adrian.

Mike hefts his plastic bag from the nearest convenience store. Like him, it is quite wet. The rain started just as he set out on foot, rained on him for twenty minutes, and is just beginning to ease off now. He unwraps a scarf and hangs his coat over the other coats on the rack.

"Is that lager?" asks Adrian.

"Well, that would be pretty silly of me, wouldn't it? That would be what we call a rookie mistake." It's exactly what Mike did at last term's Centurion round, when the tradition was instituted. This year, he is carrying a much flatter ale of some description, and will probably not have to bow out due to nausea around minute thirty. "Give me a shot glass. What music is this?"

"Ani DiFranco, but there's not much more of it." reports Alex from the computer chair. It is his room. On his computer, running inside Microsoft Excel, is a rudimentary Visual Basic-based neon green countdown timer. "DRINK 1 OF 100. 0:15." Mike is running almost forty-five seconds behind the pace. That is okay. By the strict rules, he is permitted to catch up.

He pours himself one, downs it, and joins the rest in pouring a second. Tick, tick--

Minute 2

"Drink," announces Alex, nominated timekeeper, again.

Adrian is on Guinness. (Is it one N or two?) He's too young for what he has to be called a beer belly, but by the end of his degree (if he makes it, which everybody in the room almost certainly will), if he keeps up the one-shot-per-minute pace, there will be no other term for it. His mother and older sister were spotted helping him move in at the start of the year-- they are both substantially bigger than he is. He tries, intermittently, to work the weight off, and invariably runs out of steam due to changing his lifestyle in a drastic and unsustainable way. He takes to diet/training regimes in a way which hits him like a shovel to the stomach, makes him feel terrible for a week and then he quits. He comes from Newcastle-under-Lyme ("no, the other Newcastle"). His capacity for detailed knowledge of, and discussions about, comic books and comic-book-derived movies is unlimited, but because nobody can hold their own against his opinions these turn into highly one-sided impromptu lectures until the subject can be changed (which, luckily, his friends are adept at doing). Tragically, he follows characters instead of creators. When he forgets himself he corrects people's grammar. Redeeming features? He's a lovely guy. He does actually care in detail about all the people in his life and their stories too, if that analogy makes any sense. (Computer Science, incidentally.)

Minute 3

"Drink."

Naomi is the most intelligent person in the room by a wide margin. She is a voracious reader. She is the kind of person who historically got all of her homework done first thing when she got home after school. Not due to simple diligence, but because it causes an almost physical irritation for her to leave work undone and because she can do it standing on her head in minutes flat so why procrastinate? She is from the south of England. Her field of study is Law and she, like her older brother who graduated with frightening marks the year before she matriculated, will probably go on to become an incredible scary lawyer. This is if she doesn't do a Ph.D., or go to Hong Kong and write some sort of book, the latter of which is a serious possibility. (Yes, she has some Chinese.) She's the kind of person who was stamped out of that irritating "naturally great at more or less everything, including looking good" mould. There are things she's bad at: dealing with stress and conflict and the unexpected comes high up the list because it's broad-ranging; just below that is "creativity". Having obtained special dispensation, she is taking sips of Jack Daniel's instead of shots of beer.

She dislikes Adrian and can't carry on a conversation with him because despite the amount that they collectively read, they have no common ground to start from, and she hates everything he eats, and he has a freakish memory for facts about her personal life. That said, they have a number of mutual friends which means they have to sit in the same room sometimes. She is okay with this. Adrian quite likes her, but then, he quite likes everybody.

Minute 4

"Drink."

Alex (Chemical Engineering; locally-brewed Broadley Oak Finest Brew) is a good person, in spite of what most would consider an unhealthy obsession with really dark, dark movies. He a whole bunch of piercings and a long leather coat with, among many others, an ICHTHUS badge. He is highly ethical and political. He does Student Union work and protests against things. The things against which he protests are usually things his friends consider worthwhile like banks with unethical investment practices, tuition fee hikes and visiting speakers (both national and international) from undesirable political parties. Usually, but not always. In this room, he is the most computery person. He runs forums and mailing lists and some of the university's systems. He not the heaviest drinker and notably has only four bottles of Brew on hand, as compared to the recommended eight. He is clever, and his opinions are clever, but not necessarily agreeable.

He gets on with Adrian and Adrian gets on with him and they swap technical tidbits and factoids, although any attempt at a deeper philosophical discussion on Alex's part usually falls flat simply due to Adrian's lack of an opinion. He dated Naomi momentarily after they met for the first time, and neither of them are wholly clear on why that whole thing petered out at all. Alex has devoted a great deal of thought to this possibly-lost chance. Naomi, not so much.

Minute 5

"Drink."

Daniel (History; Newcastle Brown Ale) has a surprising capacity for The Sauce considering his volume and will almost certainly finish the required one hundred shots of beer first out of everybody at the informal social. He is an invariably well-prepared young man and was brought up like his father and mother to take life as it comes, be that course options, job prospects, social events, girlfriends, accommodation shenanigans, food choices at the table or drinks choices at the bar. "I'll have whatever." The boy is unflappable and seemingly impervious to stress, intimidation, deadlines, drama. Once his bedroom window got broken by a passing drunk with a brick and the Association took five days to fix it and came up with no alternate accommodation, so he lived in a sleeping bag for five days, had it fixed himself on the sixth day, and calmly sent them the bill. He runs, lifts weights, cycles (when his bike hasn't been stolen), swims, whatever is going and cheap. A born Boy Scout, in other words.

Daniel (insists on the full name) and Adrian keep each other up to date, although beyond local personal goings-on they don't have a lot of common ground. Still, there's enough going on to fill an evening at the pub, so that's no real problem. Naomi thinks Daniel is amazing and he is on the cusp of realising this. Alex and Daniel mostly talk ecology and local student politics, and occasional computer topics. They are friends.

Minute 6

"Drink."

Mike is a late, wet, mathematician with eight bottles of Broadley Oak Finer Brew, which has a different label from the Finest, a slightly lower alcohol content and (subjectively) a better taste. (It's cheap because it's local.) Mike is not as computery as his choice of study would suggest. He always wears a shirt and quite frequently a waistcoat and fedora. He is cultivating a certain university "look", and it is working, for better or worse. The music he listens to is indescribable; only very infrequently does it touch anything anybody has heard of, starting at obscure videogame soundtracks and getting bizarrer from there. He has found university liberating in its acceptance of his eccentricity. He may or may not be distilling his own beer in his room.

Mike and Adrian get on famously. There is always something new that Mike can learn from Adrian about comics and comic-derived movies, both new and old and classic. Mike is effectively Adrian's protégé, running to catch up. Mike dislikes Naomi; he thinks he's smarter than her, but their fields of expertise are are pretty much orthogonal and nobody wants to talk about mathematics instead of law. Naomi thinks Mike is a bit of a poser and his eccentricities are partially manufactured just because. Mike and Alex go into philosophy in their conversations, and also have an unexpected shared talent for darts. Mike has very little to say to Daniel and vice versa, but they can sit at the same table exchanging idle chat indefinitely which makes them friends in most books.

"So are we going to have a conversation, or just sit here and drink?" remarks Naomi.

"Quiet!" says Mike.

Ani DiFranco fades out and Nine Inch Nails fade in.

Discussion (12)

2010-11-20 23:58:32 by qntm:

1598 words. Running total is 38034 words. This was an exercise in character creation. Apologies that nothing actually happens in this story. Tomorrow, I will see if I can make these characters have a conversation without all lapsing into talking exactly like me, which is how all of my characters have historically talked.

2010-11-21 04:31:16 by Mike:

Huh. I don't know enough about alcohol to actually understand the story itself, but you did a good job with the characters. However, generally, introducing so many characters at once is not a good idea. Either the reader subconsciously skips over it and gets confused later on or (s)he spends minutes memorizing it and feels like it's too difficult a read.

2010-11-21 05:30:26 by Ben:

Agreed. I found myself referring back to the first sentence for a reminder of who was who as I read the first half of the piece. It wasn't such a problem toward the end.

2010-11-21 05:56:07 by peer:

This was totally awesome!

2010-11-22 02:38:27 by LabrynianRebel:

Well you have a point there because I started off memorizing, and then I skimmed...

2010-11-22 12:35:55 by dankuck:

Could use an illustration. I like the methodical way you approached it.

2010-11-23 20:36:39 by Dirkjan:

Yeah, putting the first-sentences adjectives (or maybe 80%) of them together with the actual paragraphs might work better (i.e. allow me to retain them). On the other hand, this is promising; much more accessible than the last five or so. Looking forward to what comes next!

2010-12-01 00:15:09 by Sean:

The paragraphs where you tie the characters together - D gets along with A, doesn't like B, and sees C around campus - helped me recap the characters as I read them, but I have to echo Ben's sentiment about reiterating the descriptions on each minute.

2010-12-01 12:45:28 by Naleh:

I actually found this quite easy to follow, which surprised me. Normally I'm particularly awful at remembering characters.

2010-12-04 02:54:53 by capitalist:

"He may or may not be distilling his own beer in his room." you do not distill beer.

2011-06-19 21:44:02 by Ant:

You can distill beer. It's just not a process for creating beer - it's for turning beer into liquor.

2020-09-15 11:45:33 by Mez:

I would love to see this developed into a stage play.

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