The Surgery

December 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

The signs were such that a deaf, blind and dumb man could have seen them. Great billowing red and black clouds boiled and rolled over the tops of trees and oozed between elderly trunks. The smell of burning rubber and flesh was heavy, a floating devil released from the overtaxed bowels of the earth.

Johanna fell once, twice, and a third time. She could see Stuart caught under a shape-shifting black ball that burned loud and orange on his leg. The third time she fell, she started to commando crawl and it worked marvelously.

She reached Stuart and shook him. She called his name. No response. She rotated her body so her feet were facing the flame ball eating Stuart. She brought her knees to her chest then kicked with all her might.

The black stink ball seemed to roar, infuriated. It bounced away and landed at the bottom of a cluster of rocks towards the tree line. Johanna felt her heart pick up speed. She hadn’t thought of the trees catching fire. How would they escape?

Stuart moaned and it brought Johanna back to the present moment. She inspected his leg which resembled a rack of lamb, charred and lumpy. She told him he needed to wake up. He didn’t respond. She yelled in his ear and his eyes blinked up.

“Get the fuck up.” She stared right into his eyes, which grew wide in response to her words. He nodded, pulled himself to sitting, and then broke out in rib racking cough. Johanna felt her patience draining, her anxiety growing. She barked at him that she would be right back.

Instantly she was up on her feet and running. She had to weave around chunks of anonymous debris, some of which she knew had to be people. The clearing was oddly silent, only crackling and the occasional fire scream.

On reaching the northern tree line, she was greeted with green, no smoke, no visible fire. Instantly Johanna crossed herself and said a quick prayer. She turned on her heel and ran back to Stuart.

Stuart had managed to pull himself up to standing. He was turned away slightly, looking west. He seemed to have the hiccups, but when she arrived next to him she saw he was actually sobbing.  She pointed north, away from the fire. He shook his head no then pointed west. The forest went on for endless miles to the north. But the fire was spreading in a westerly direction. Already smoke was rising in small tendrils. And that was the way to civilization.  He repeated again, that the north was certain death. She smiled sadly at him and turned to go north. He grabbed a stick to assist his walking and headed west.

During the surgery, he wished he had listened to her.

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§ 3 Responses to The Surgery

  • Rivenrod says:

    Choices eh.

    A quick tale well told.

    RR

  • Dave Farmer says:

    Very good piece Evelyn. The atmosphere is very vivid and the panic and danger is thrust at the reader in heaving waves. I have a couple of points to make if you’ll indulge me.

    “Great billowing red and black clouds boiled and rolled over the tops of trees and oozed in from between elderly trunks.”

    Love this line, it really gives the sense of being trapped in a fire storm. I would word it slightly different:

    “Great billowing red and black clouds boiled and rolled over the tops of trees and oozed between the elderly trunks.”

    This makes it a bit tighter. The other point about the trees is that later on you mentioned the ball rolling toward the tree line, but it seems there are 2 tree lines, south and north. The reason why I assume there is a southern tree line is because I am imagining the two characters on a hillside. Gravity would push the ball down or as I saw it, south. Just my interpretation of it.

    Loved this line “…a floating devil released from the overtaxed bowels of the earth.” Very vivid stuff!

    “She could see Stuart and his leg were caught under an unrecognizable black ball that burned loud and orange.”

    I’d change this slightly to read:

    “She could see Stuart. His leg was caught under an unrecognizable black ball that burned loud and orange.”

    I love the description of “loud” there. The problem I had with the “…Stuart and his leg…” is that I wondered if he only had one! You could say legS of course. I’d also think about the use of “unrecognisable” as it doesn’t seem to fit, you could use “angry” or “ragged” for example.

    The character probably wouldn’t recognise it the same as you wouldn’t recognise someone’s face you’ve never seen before. However, most things in life can be considered similar to other things. Also, it might be worth mentioning what the character thinks it is – has it come from Hell? A volcano? A burning tree trunk? Let the reader know what the character thinks it is, or what the character thinks it looks like to give the reader a better sense of what’s going on around them.

    I love the description of Stuart’s leg, like a chunk of charred meat. Very good!

    Stuart’s eyes probably don’t need to become wider and WIDER. I’d say just wider, once, will get the point across.

    “…and then broke out in rib rocking coughs.”

    I’d change this to:

    “…and then broke out in a rib racking cough.”

    Using coughs plural isn’t as important as making sure the reader knows he can barely breath or that the smoke is hurting him just as much as the charred leg situation.

    Instead of telling the reader that Johanna tells Stuart she’ll be right back, use some dialogue to add urgency to the situation.

    “Wait here,” Johanna told him. She looked at the tree line. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move.”

    “On reaching the tree line to the north…”

    Tighten this up a little with:

    “On reaching the northern tree line…”

    And again with the following line, this can be tightened up:

    “She then turned on her heel and ran back to Stuart.”

    With:

    “She turned on her heel and ran back to Stuart.”

    It’s a good line though, it shows the reader that Johanna doesn’t want to hang around. She needs to get back to Stuart.

    “Stuart had managed to pull himself up to standing and was facing away from her.”

    I’d change this a fraction to:

    “Stuart had managed to pull himself up was facing west.”

    The reason being is that in the next bit he wants to head west, this reinforces the fact.

    “He shook his head no then pointed west.”

    Try this for a way of communicating Stuart’s response without dialogue:

    “He shook his head. No. With a shaking hand he pointed west.”

    I’m a big fan of dialogue but when using actions to drive a conversation forward it’s good to break things up so it’s clear to the reader.

    “But to the west where smoke was rising in small tendrils was the way to civilization.”

    Small change here to get rid of the 2 “was”:

    “But the way to civilization was to the west, where smoke rose in small tendrils.”

    Just a thought but near the start you mention billowing clouds over and through the trees, if that’s the case then wouldn’t there be more than “tendrils” at that point?

    Such changes are usually only seen by someone who didn’t do the writing. There’s a lot of excellent description here, shocking and brutal, and I’m curious to know how it happened, why there were there, and who the other people were – now charred remains.

    I thought this was a very good piece of fiction. I read it quickly the first time, the words urged me along. Second read made me think of all sorts of crazy situations that could have caused the chaos. Very good stuff indeed!!

    • Evelyn says:

      Thank you SO FUCKING MUCH for ACTUAL feedback.
      I made a bunch of changes and looked at everything you mentioned.
      This kind of stuff is welcome ANYTIME. :)

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