During my study at University Utrecht I followed the course Creative Writing at the faculty of English Literature. I wrote a couple of short stories. This one is about “creating a setting.” After reading it you should be able to describe the environment of the story like a picture. Can you?
It was past midnight, raining and the streets were poorly lit. The reflection of the yellow and brownish lampposts on the wet cobblestones were the only clue of where the sidewalk ended and the street began. A couple of the old cottages had a lamp next to the front door, but these were not bright enough to shed light on anything further then the low stone walls surrounding every garden. The street was empty, with no cars and only a couple of crappy bikes parked in front of some cottages. I could hear the dull sound of thick drops hitting roofs, leaves, grass and cobblestones in a constant rhythm, but other than that there was no sound. Not even the wind blowing, not even a rat rumbling between the garbage bins at the end of the street, not even a fat man’s snore.
Although it wasn’t warm I had my window open. I was lying on my belly on my bed, a narrow stretcher with its head pointed to the only window in my room. Leaning on my crossed forearms in the windowsill on the second floor of our cottage, I listened to the night. Like I always did when I could not sleep. The moon and stars were nowhere to be seen behind the dark and gloomy clouds full of rain. I always enjoyed the smell of rain after a warm spring day, it always smelled like… life. Like life was about to flourish in the gardens and pastures surrounding the small village. Giving us a small sign that summer was coming. Almost. I sighed at the idea of warm weather and blue skies. I looked across the street but there was nothing exciting going on. Life was certainly not flourishing right now. When I reached out to grab the handle of the window to close it, I saw something in the left corner of my eye.
A man wearing a hat, a long woollen coat and heavy boots hurried down the street, hands deep in his coat pockets. He knew where he was going, although he did not look like he was from around here. The sound of his footsteps was muffled by the rain. You had to look outside to see that there was someone out there. Yet nobody else did. I seemed to be the only one awake and witnessing what was about to happen. This misplaced man walked towards the cottage across the street and stopped. I lowered my body so only my forehead and eyes were visible through the window. The man turned, his back towards me and seemed to be staring at the house for a while. Then his hands came out of his pockets and I saw something glittering in his right hand. He did something but I could not see what he was doing. Was he lighting a cigarette? No, not in this weather. I think maybe five minutes passed before the man looked right, looked left and then turned around to look straight at my house. Fuck! I rolled off my bed and landed on the hard wooden floor with a thud. I pricked up my ears. I could have heard any movement in the house, or outside, but there was only the sound of my heart beating in my ears and the rain. When I finally calmed down I crawled back on the bed and slowly lifted my head to look over the edge of the windowsill. The man was gone. I looked up and down the street but the man was definitely gone, were did he go so quick? I looked at the house. Nothing to see. But wait, yes, there was something lying on the porch of the cottage across the street. A briefcase? I pressed my nose against the glass but I still could not see what exactly was on the porch. I was intrigued and curious, but also aware of the strangeness of the situation. Why was there a man in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, delivering a briefcase, in this village? I had to find out, I would just go outside and take a quick look. I opened the drawer in my nightstand and took out the flashlight. Quietly I walked through my room, but the wooden floor creaked and squeaked with every step I took. Again I listened if there was any movement in the house, but no one would hear the squeaking sounds over the noise of the rain. It took me two minutes to walk down the stairs, put on my raincoat and boots, before opening the frontdoor and look at the cottage across the street. My flashlight would be of no use in this heavy rain but I kept it close anyways. I ran as fast as I could and without slipping to the other side of the road to the cottage. The rain felt like someone was strumming with their fingertips on my head and I felt stupid for not taking an umbrella. I stopped in front of the porch, breathing heavily. Then I clicked on the flashlight, pointing it to my stomach. There was no light on in the cottage, but I had to be sure not to wake them up. The beam of the flashlight moved from my stomach to my shoes to the front porch and eventually the ‘briefcase.’ I could see now that the briefcase was actually a package wrapped in dark-brown plastic and being hold together with rope. There was no label on it and it was no see-through plastic. I was getting soaked in the rain and a shiver went down my spine. I knew I was not able to see what was in the package without unwrapping it, so I turned around to go back to my house. My gaze was drawn by something unsual. I was sure I closed the frontdoor, but somehow, it was open. I started doubting myself and tried to remember my exact acts as I left the house not five minutes ago, Then I got distracted by movement. I looked at my window and saw something. Maybe the rain was messing with my eyes, I rubbed them. I looked again but now I could clearly see the silhouette of a man with a hat. I closed my eyes in fear, it was not real. When I opened them I remembered and looked at the front door: I left it on a crack but now it was wide open. Maybe it was the wind. Maybe the wind pushed it open. But there was no wind. Maybe it was gravety. I looked back at my window, the silhouette had disappeared. My legs refused to move. I had to get back to the house, so I used all my inner believes to tell my legs to move. They were shaking heavily but I got them moving and I started to make way across the street. I looked back at my window. No silhouette. It must have been my imagination. I looked back at the door and my heart leapt. Something, or someone was slowly closing it…