Once and Once Only: the Finished #Litrostory

Photo by  Niek de Greef (copied from Flickr)
Photo by Niek de Greef (copied from Flickr)

Last week we ran the latest in our series of literary experiments on Twitter. We asked our followers to write a collective story, one tweet at a time. Novelist Danny Wallace (whose new novel Who Is Tom Ditto? is the current title in the Litro Book Club) wrote the first line for us, and then we handed the story over to fate… and Twitter.

As our previous literary experiments on Twitter proved, we had no idea how the story would turn out. The stories are always erratic, unpredictable, and they wind up going to some strange places indeed. Interest waxes and wanes too, and you’re never quite sure who will contribute – if anyone.

Well, the results are again in, and you can now read the finished story below. We’ve compiled the tweets in the order they were written, making the odd changes only to punctuation for the sake of clarity. Again we have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Admittedly, it opens in typically jumbled fashion, but it quickly settles into something that resembles a story. There’s a protagonist, a mystery, a love interest – and an ice cream van stocked with exploding Magnums. But we don’t want to give too much away. Here’s the story so you can judge for yourself…

Once and Once Only

Beth woke, startled, as the phone on the floor beside her rung once and once only. (@dannywallace)
‘Hold up’ she thought, rolling out of bed and pulling on her Cuban-heeled cowboy boots; ‘That’s not my phone’ (@MrDanielPrior)
‘Whose phone is that?’ Beth thought looking around the room. ‘Better yet, where am I?’ (@lflmALiar)
Though it was, thankfully for a Thursday, her bed. (@MrCoomey)
And it was a Thursday where she would change her life. (@BisonLondon)
Should she answer? The phone was still tinkling the theme from Ghostbusters, buzzing with each vibration. (@DanCoxonAuthor)
“Hello?” She said into the phone. “Beth,” an unfamiliar voice replied. “Go to the window.” (@KateHemmings)
“Has anyone ever been so far as to want to look more like Ed Balls?” (@RichardCook2)
The missed call on the screen told her it was the coded warning she had been waiting for and ultimately dreading. (@livsdad)
It couldn’t really be ‘him’, after all this time could it? The thought literally made her womb weep. (@GMHutchins)
The idea of a transport pretext was a good one. No-one could be suspicious of a bus stop rendezvous, even if it was quite remote. (@schmattt)
It wasn’t her ringtone though. It wasn’t her phone. And, wait, who was the hairy person snoring beside her? (@JessicaZiebland)
Phone in hand, she gasped at what she saw through the glass. (@Gatto_Biscollo)
She knew what to do. This was the signal she had been waiting for. (@PhilipDShepherd)
The biggest surprise being, she didn’t own a phone… She pondered… (@stevenjparkes)
Beth grabbed the keys to the jeep, pocketed the phone and pulled on her boots. (@florenzoo)
She didn’t fully understand but instinctively knew that this was the signal to begin something big. (@Mehpersonified)
An hour later in Covent Garden, she finally found the silver mime artist. Her colleague. The undercover MI5 agent, Hank Cheese. (@MrDanielPrior)
She took out the phone she brought with her. (@KirstyAitchison)
She knew gypsy tears were the only cure now. “Cry into my mouth gypsy!” She bellowed. (@DruxRoth)
Hank smiled, his face crinkling like foil. The password had been in place for years, but they’d never had to use it. Until now. (@DanCoxonAuthor)
Her eyes darted over the crowd eventually meeting Hank’s. They acknowledged each other’s existence for the first time. (@KirstyAitchison)
Hank wasn’t the only person in the area to react to the words. Beth noticed a man dressed in stripes reach into his pocket. (@Botley)
What he pulled out of that pocket and popped into a glass was both frightening and inspiring. (@dannywallace)
His dentures sank to the bottom of the glass. “We have some business to discuss.” (@Gatto_Biscollo)
She barely understood. Without teeth his sentence was a misarticulated jumble of lips and spittle. (@droneandamoeba)
But Beth and Hank understood & made their way through the crowd, a smile on their faces & excitement in their hearts. It’s time. (@ABird_1)
A set of false teeth that wouldn’t have been amiss at Aintree. (@DaveFreeman9)
But this was no ordinary crowd, every person was waiting for the cue to begin. Hank and Beth were about to get caught up in (@Mehpersonified)
something much bigger than either of them had ever imagined. The three newly acquainted colleagues were making their way to (@ABird_1)
Mecca bingo. (@jorgalbertz)
The majestic president of the Universe, Madame H stepped out of the limo and gave the Recipe Book Canon file to Beth and Hank. (@CuriosityRocks)
Beth and Hank opened the good book. Hank said “I begin to see” and Beth simply gasped when she saw the coupons. (@GarrJPRBDF)
Miraculously they were all perfectly intact, curiously they had a handwritten note on them saying ‘still valid, come find us’. (@CuriosityRocks)
Hank & Beth looked up questioningly to Madame H, only to discover she had vanished. As had the man with the dentures, what now? (@Mehpersonified)
Firstly, a hot dog stand and then on to a second hand bookshop where they were able to find the map of Torquay that they needed. (@Botley)
“We can’t go to Torquay without proper disguises,” said Hank. Beth’s eyes glanced encouragingly to a Party Superstore. (@JustineCabulong)
As they entered the fancy dress shop they see a man they recognise. He was wearing a black suit with a black bowler hat. Mr Ben. (@KirstyAitchison)
Mr. Ben locked eyes with Hank and slowly nodded, pushing a carrier bag slowly across the counter towards them with a wink. (@JustineCabulong)
In the changing rooms Beth became Victoria and Hank, David. The new Beckhams were ready for Torquay, but was it ready for them? (@Mehpersonified)
They strode up the high street, looking for the woman with the rainbow umbrella. Suddenly, they were ambushed! (@ToddMann10000)
Paparazzi everywhere! Clearly, someone hadn’t thought these disguises through. Getting to Torquay like this was going to be (@ABird_1)
a complete nightmare! Fortunately Mr Ben had included instant security incarnate spray. Now surrounded by muscle they were safe. (@Mehpersonified)
But for how long? As they approached the rendezvous point, a gunshot from a hidden sniper rang out! Hank dove to cover Beth! (@ToddMann10000)
Beth & Hank fell to the floor as the bullet ricocheted off the road nearby. They saw the umbrella at the same time… So close! (@Mehpersonified)
Suddenly a black Audi S8 pulled swiftly alongside them, the passenger door swinging open and a gloved hand beckoning them in. (@JustineCabulong)
They got to Torquay with forty minutes left. They had to find the ice cream van and disable the chime before it began playing. (@Botley)
Little did they know, the mobile ice cream business was booming in Torquay. How would they ever find the right van?! (@JustineCabulong)
“Beth, we can’t let Torquay be nuked” said Hank, “It’d be a Häagen-Dazs-aster” Hank’s puns were the worst MI5 had ever produced. (@MrDanielPrior)
Ignoring Hank, Beth frantically tried to think of what to do. As she rejected plan after plan once again she heard a phone ring. (@Mehpersonified)
The phone! She’d forgotten all about it in the excitement of the day. It didn’t belong to her, so who was ringing it? “Hello?” (@Botley)
“This is your mother,” said the voice on the other end. “What on earth are you wearing?” Beth swerved her head to look around. (@JustineCabulong)
She saw her Mum in the ice cream van. She yelled the code into her phone. Sue keyed it in to the laptop she was hunched over. (@Botley)
Smoke and a few pops and whizzes came from the van. Her mum emerged with a look of relief and carrying white chocolate Magnums. (@JustineCabulong)
“Hi Mu…” Beth began. But those heels – they weren’t the Cubans her Mum wore? “Hank, that’s not my Mum!” The Magnums dropped and (@MrDanielPrior)
exploded when they hit the ground. Hank pushed Beth behind a concrete barrier, landing on top of her… with an *accidental* kiss. (@JustineCabulong)

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