Writing Contest #19 - You stink! Submissions Only
Posted 02 August 2010 - 11:45 PM
Who: Open to all.
Deadline: August 14th 3AM Central Standard Time.
Posted 13 August 2010 - 11:56 AM
by Tyler Edwards.
It was the smell that got to me first--the acrid smoke that burns the lungs and stings the eyes. It took me right back to the bunker, to the screams of my friends and the bangs of exploding munitions, to the heat and the terror.
It had been years since I'd left the service, but that memory was always with me. Even burning something on the stove could give me flashbacks. This intense wave of hot smoke triggered a flashback stronger than most.
I'd barely made it out alive. Some would say I'd been lucky--no one else made it out at all. The recovery was long, and my burns were agonizing, but they didn't hurt so much as the knowledge that I'd left my friends to die. They gave me a medal and called me a hero just for managing not to die, but the truth was I was a coward.
Hardly realizing what I was doing, I forgot the errand I'd been on and ran down the street to the source of the smoke. It was a house fire on a side street. It didn't look to have been burning for very long, but it had already engulfed much of the structure. Someone could be heard calling for help from inside, though the cries faded even as I approached. The fire department hadn't yet arrived.
It was the bunker all over again. A change came over me, and I felt a resolution unlike anything I'd felt before. Since the bunker, life hadn't held much appeal to me, but I couldn't abide the thought of leaving people to such grizzly deaths again. The rational part of my mind faded and was replaced by a will to act, and before I knew it, I was kicking the door in.
The air inside was stinging hot, and the smoke was nearly overwhelming. Fear sent my heart racing, and I almost gave up, but something made me go on. I stayed low, coughing and trying to breath through my shirt.
I found a woman splayed on the floor of a room by the front door. Flames were starting to lick at the edge of her clothes, but she was breathing--barely. I kicked out the front window and hurled her out. I took a few breaths of fresh air and then headed deeper into the inferno to see if anyone else needed help.
Finding most of the first floor consumed, I headed up the stairs. A streak of fur, a cat, bolted by, and I scooped it up in one arm, determined not to leave any living thing behind. The terrified creature savaged my arm, but I was beyond feeling pain. I found a man--the woman's husband--collapsed on the landing. His shoes had caught fire, and the flames were spreading up his pants. I stamped them out. He was badly burned, but I knew from painful experience that his injuries would not be fatal.
I somehow managed to carry both the cat and the man into the yard. By then, my head was swimming from smoke inhalation, and I could barely stand. As I put the man down, he came to long enough to cough something that sounded like "kid."
I don't remember much after that. I've been told I went back into the house and somehow made it past the flames that had stopped the man to rescue a child, the couple's son, in an upstairs bedroom. I'm also told the fire department found me unconscious on the front lawn, badly burned and near death, beside the family I'd saved. All I can remember is the heat and the feeling of never being able to get enough oxygen.
I spent another painful few months in the hospital, once again recovering from severe burns. But this time, I didn't have the added pain of guilt and regret. Everyone in the town named me a hero after what I'd done, and this time, I'd earned the accolades. Three people were alive because of me--the firemen said they never would have survived a few more minutes in that inferno. Even the cat made it out okay; it ran away after I saved it, but some neighbours found it a week later.
No longer was I just a coward. That was worth all the pain and all the scars.
Posted 13 August 2010 - 11:36 PM
Author's Note: One guarenteed face palm, coming up.
"It was the smell that got t'me first," said the drunken man, staggering about the cobblestone as he attempted to surmount the small incline of the street. His friend pushed him forward by the small of his back, attempting to hurry the lazy pace that comes when one's perception of time has been altered by too much alcohol.
"That piggy smell," he finished after a pause.
"Piggy?" asked his friend.
"Yeah, what comes from pigs."
His friend halted, incredulous. "You wanted me fer pigs?" A squinted eye from the drunk implied that he was the crazy one.
"No! No, no. But also yes."
"I'm going back to the ship," the sober man said, adjusting his long coat and turning to leave. The drunk tried to stop him by grabbing his arm, and succeeded on the second attempt.
"No, bosun, think what comes from the pigs," he said, slurring.
"Lots of manure, just like yer head's filled with. That's why we don't keep livestock on the ship, Grippy," said the boatswain.
"But… bacon comes from pigs, too. We could have bacon."
"C'mon, you lubber. Sleep it off back home," the boatswain piloted Grippy back downhill towards the blue-green ocean that was fading to black as the sun set. They meandered through the throng of townspeople and sailors until they reached the docks, and in the twilight they boarded the great galleon Trident, walking carefully up the gangplank.
The ship's first mate approached the boatswain quickly, and Grippy wandered off unheeded.
"The Cap'n's been killed," he said bluntly, a stony look on his face.
"What?" asked the boatswain. "By who?"
The first mate said nothing, handing him a small disc with sharp points radiating outward from the center. One edge was bloodied. The boatswain's eyes narrowed.
"Ninjas," he spat with growing rage.
"Assemble what crew you can," said the first mate.
"Aye, sir," he said. He took his whistle from around his neck and blew a short trill upon it, and then walked to a bell placed amidships and rung it.
"All crew of the Trident return!" he shouted to the town, hoping he would be heard above the din of the taverns and the general rowdiness of a port town. Behind him, a small contingent of the deck crew was already forming a mob.
"You know what to do lads," he said to the crowd. "Catch that black-clothed whoreson and return him, twenty doubloons. Kill him and it's only ten. I want to string him up til his legs stop kickin'."
Below decks, Grippy was relieving his bladder haphazardly when the shadows behind him melted and coalesced into human form. With a sickening snap, he fell to the ground, dead, and the black figure became indistinguishable from the shadow once more.
The boatswain and the first mate were together on the top deck, watching over the search of the ship. Some of the crew had wished to go on land, but the boatswain knew that if their enemy had escaped the ship, it would be impossible to find him. Instead, they'd placed a heavy guard on the gangplank and managed to squeeze three men into the crow's nest to keep lookout over the upper rigging of the masts and sails.
A handful of pistols had been passed out to the crew, and the boatswain had kept four to be divided between himself and the acting captain.
"I've got the Davies, if you don't mind me sayin', sir," said the boatswain.
"Bosun, I'd be worried if you weren't scared," said the first mate.
A flicker along the mast caught the boatswain's eye. It took him a moment to quell the feeling of paranoia and convince himself he was only being cautious.
"Keep an eye out up there, lads!" he shouted to the top of the rigging.
A rope twanged with tension.
"Did you see that, bosun?" cried one of the lookouts.
"You got a pistol?" he shouted back.
"Aye, sir, but—" the man managed to shout before a black arm reached out of nowhere and pulled him from the crow's nest. He screamed as he hurtled to the deck, a scream which abruptly ended.
"Main mast spar!" shouted one of the lookouts, fumbling with his pistol before firing it. The slug embedded into the wood of the gangplank.
For a brief moment a dark figure passed before the crescent moon, partly silhouetted in a half-jumping position as he sprinted lightly across the top spar of the mast. When the figure hurtled beyond the shape of the moon, the boatswain could still make it out among the now dark sky. He fired one of his pistols, and he heard the ball lost among the tangle of ropes that governed the position of the sails. The first mate fired a wild shot that was lost in the night.
"All hands to the gangplank!" the boatswain shouted, sprinting there himself. Before he arrived, the figure leapt from the end of the top spar and onto the spar beneath it, pausing only for a second to leap to the deck of an adjacent ship, soaring over the dock and coming down hard onto the wooden deck of the small sloop.
"I can't see him!" shouted the first mate as he followed the boatswain down the dock.
"Look for the shape, not the color!" he shouted back.
"Just take my bloody pistol!" was the response as the wooden handle was shoved into his hands. The boatswain could barely see the ninja leaping from boat to dock to boat again with the grace and balance that came only with decades of training. The pirates had reached the end of the dock and now sprinted along the boardwalk, parallel to the stealthy assassin's improvised route. The boatswain fired and missed again, and then thought better of utilizing the last gun that was tucked into the back of his belt. Instead they continued pursuit, his fellow shipmates following him as they tried and failed to spot their enemy.
Eventually their quarry ran out of ships to retreat along, and only a handful of pirates had the fortitude to keep pace with their target. They ran along the final dock, and the ninja paused at the end of it in a low crouch, trapped, but still quite dangerous. He reached into his clothes and in a flash his hand arced to the side. The boatswain, more experienced with his prey than the rest of his crew, dove to the ground as the shuriken cut the air above his head with a sinister hissing, and then rose again, ignoring the cries behind him.
He was alone now, and he drew his sword with a metallic ring. Silently, the ninja drew a knife and adopted a combat pose.
The boatswain held the sword in front of him in a stance he had seen fencers use, although he was never skilled in swordplay and preferred to use bladed weapons like cleavers rather than instruments of precision. He only performed it now because it involved the inconspicuous placement of his hand behind his back.
The ninja rushed him almost too quickly to react, but the boatswain grabbed his pistol and swung it around. At this range, he could not miss, and he didn't. The black-clothed man stumbled to the side and his momentum caused his body to tumble along the wood and then into the water, and the pirate spit over the side of the docks.
"You blaggards die just the same as everyone else," he said contemptuously.
This post has been edited by Apocalypse: 13 August 2010 - 11:36 PM
"Oh, come on... be reasonable. You can't destroy everything; where would you sit?"
Posted 14 August 2010 - 03:29 PM
It was the smell that got to me first. Walking towards the beach, I felt the warm tropical breeze waft a scent across my path from the stone filled pit in the sand. Flames licked the skewered food, suspended on the grill above the stones, slowly roasting for the succulent feast we were about to share. The memory of the scent stopped me in my tracks, frozen in time; I closed my eyes at the overwhelming emotions, transporting to three years past.....
I watched Sara chattering as she cut the fresh pineapple into long spears, the juices dripping from the knife and across the back of her wrists. She was enjoying her day in the sun, friends celebrating May, the end of another year of school, and having a swim in the pool out back. Just then, she looked up at me, her amber eyes, flecked with gold, gleaming with laughter and joy, and smiled her brilliant smile, popping one of the pineapple pieces into her mouth, sharing a silent, happy moment with me in the midst of the chaos. I gazed back, loving the beauty of her spirit as much as the beauty of her face, and held out my hand for a spear of pineapple, reveling in the sweet tart scent of the fruit. It was the smell that got to me....
The late summer day boasted a clear blue sky, perfect for water games at the park, tubing the river, running from the spouts, and riding the slides. We all crowded into the round raft; ready to launch into the rapid flow, shooting white foamy water into the tunnel. I grabbed onto the rubber hand rails on the side of the raft, gripping with all my strength. Sara was directly across, eyes bright with anticipation, always ready for the next adventure. And off we went, the current relentlessly picking up as our raft slowly spun down the chute. All of the sudden, the raft whipped around, picking up speed as it circled, our bodies pushed to the outside, the spinning made swifter from the added mass. As my stomach leaped to my throat, I saw Sara, laughing out loud, reveling in the speed of our ride, her auburn hair, streaked with sun kissed strands of wheaten gold, whipping across her face. Warm does have a scent, humid and clean, it filled my senses. It was the smell that got to me.....
Standing near the edge of the highway, I stared up at the blackened trunks of the trees in my line of sight, smelling the acrid scent of the fire, recently doused, small whips of smoke drifting up into the early spring air. My mind could not fathom the recent events, though they were real and final, my heart would not accept that reality. Somehow, I found my way to the bottom of the gully, where to my surprise; I saw a patch of wildflowers, yellow, orange and brown, waving in the quiet breeze. Next to them I found the remnants of a snow cone cup. The young man at the snow cone stand had said Sara had gotten a pineapple one, with a shot of wild cherry. I grasped a poignant moment at that, our sweet Sara, being on the edge of fun with the snow cone, the feel of the flavored ice slipping down her throat. They said she would not have been aware of the next second of her life....it was so very swift in the passing. Amid the outcome of that fiery moment in time, I am given some peace from that thought. The breeze picked up again, gently stirring the flowers, and bringing me back to that moment, with scent of the fire breaking my heart. It was the smell that got to me.....
“Ma’am?” I was startled, opening my eyes to this day, once again at the tropical beach, waiting for our sunset feast by the ocean. A young man, dressed in white, held a plate of food, fresh from the grill. I smiled up at him, and nodded, not able to speak just yet. He placed the food in front of me and with a quizzical look, nodded back and went to the next patron. Glancing down at my plate, I saw the pineapple, roasted to perfection, dark grill marks giving off the scent of an open flame, the juices sweet and tart from fruit, wafting over me in the warm humid air. I looked back out towards the dancing waves, the sun streaking an amber glow across the ocean, golden rays shimmering in the air. Did I see you, Sara, just for a moment? Your laughing eyes, beautiful spirit, sweet face, dancing across my vision. I do so long to have that back. I picked up my pineapple, savoring the sweet fruit, letting it slide down the lump in my throat, as the hot tears finally rained down my face.
It was the smell that got to me at first.
Posted 15 August 2010 - 09:54 PM
EE had the most uplifting, Apoco the silliest, and Tish the most emotional. Nice range of story themes.
EE - I liked your hero and his redemption. He managed to save the whole kit-n-caboodle. I wouldn't recommend anyone going into a fire 3 times in RL but hopefully no one is looking for too much RL in their fiction.
Apoco - I like a good pirate story, I also like that the damn ninja didn't win. Your dialogue was strong and that helped your story stand out but the others stuck to first person past-tense and focused on inner dialogue, this isn't a negative on your part but the format you picked is the standard of fiction for a reason. Oh and I'm a sucker for comedy/action.
Tish - I didn't expect the sudden death in there, though I liked how you scaled the tension through your various flashbacks. Poor Sara and her snow cone. I'm not sure I would have been able to eat the pineapple, I probably would have gagged on it.
Okay, I think I'm going to go with EE because I liked this tale of redemption and it cheered up my Friday night.