Alone Revisited

I wasn't too crazy about the opening for Alone so that was the first thing I worked on. I want to show the immediacy of the situation.

Old Opening:

It felt as if the weight of the world was resting on his shoulders, and in a sense, it was. A thousand feet of the earth stood between him and the sunlight above. Even with his kerchief pressed against his nose and mouth the dust that filled the air around him managed to find a way in, coating his teeth and tongue with a gritty film. He’d made the mistake of opening his eyes as he tried to assess his situation, and a piece of grit had gotten into his right eye. Though it was tiny, it felt like a pebble had become lodged beneath the lid.

Given the circumstances, he did the only thing he could do, withdraw within himself, and wait for the dust to settle. He turned off the light on his hardhat, after all, he didn’t know how long he was going to be down here, sat down and waited with his head resting on his knees.

New Opening

It happened so fast there was no time to react. One moment Pete was moving through the darkness of the mine, the small lantern affixed to his helmet lighting his path with a narrow beam of light. The next he was overwhelmed by a dense cloud of dust as the roof of the mine behind him collapsed without warning. The tons of dropping stone displaced the air so fast he was driven forward by a brief gust of wind, nearly falling to the rocky ground as he struggled to maintain his balance.

Boulders and stones tumbled to the ground behind him as he covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief in an attempt to keep the dust out. It was too late, his teeth and tongue were coated with a coarse film that turned to mud in his mouth. A piece of grit had gotten into one eye, and though it was tiny, it felt like a pebble had become lodged beneath the lid.

Given the circumstances, he did the only thing he could, withdraw within himself, and wait for the dust to settle. He turned off the light on his hardhat, after all, he didn’t know how long he was going to be down here, and sat down with his head resting on his upraised knees. As he was not the superstitious type he felt comfortable in the dark and as he waited his thoughts turned to what had happened.

They’d been getting warnings about a potential cave in for the past two weeks, if the older miners were to be believed. Gustaf was growing restless, they’d say.

Hiram Gustaf had been one of the first miners killed in Tredwell number seven affectionately dubbed The Pit. They believed it was his ghost that had been knocking on the stones as he tried to warn them of the coming danger. 

As this is a story about superstition I need to touch on that issue briefly near the beginning. It's a point  that I will expand on as I explore the conflicts in Pete's upbringing. A college educated man who spent his formative years listening to stories of tommyknockers and ghostly miners on his grandfather's knee. 

What do you think?

Did you like the old opening better?

Monday Motivation

You know, it's Monday.

Spent the biggest part of the day working on a stand up desk. Nothing elaborate, but it's functional. Need to get off my butt now that sciatica has become a part of my life.

Free Read Friday: Billy

Welcome to the start of a new short story I call Billy. He's a special little boy, how? I'm not sure yet, as the journey has just begun, but I get the feeling he's going to be very important. Wrote this last night in an hour, and just went through to correct typos this morning. Tuesday I'll be posting the updated opening of Alone, along with notes on what editing was done to bring the story to that point.

photo of gloomy forest


He heard it crashing through the dark woods around him, the sound filled with deadly intent as he turned to flee into the gloomy depths. He didn’t know which way to run as the sound of the beast hunting him came from every direction. He was trapped between the emptiness of nowhere and gloomy depths of a featureless void. He could smell its rancid breath as the slender trucks of the trees on his right slowly parted, razor sharp claws glowing in the faint light of a sliver of moon that was playing hide and seek behind the low clouds skirting along the treetops above him.

He opened his eyes, relief and disappointment battling for dominance as the featureless void of his bedroom ceiling came into view. The moonlight painted the shadows of the branches of the tree beyond his bedroom window on the wall above his bed. His gaze tracked across his room as he struggled to shake off the paralysis that held him in its grip.

It would ease up shortly and he’d be able to get up, until then he was trapped, only able to move his eyes. Like the dream the paralysis had been happening every night since his big sister, Sarah, was laid to rest several weeks earlier. He hadn’t told anyone yet what was happening to him. Not that they would listen. His parents were still wrapped up in the sorrow of his sister’s passing, going through the motions of their daily lives on auto pilot. Getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed.

They rarely spoke anymore and several times he’d found his mother standing at Sarah’s door just staring at the unmade bed, and the piles of clothes still littered across the floor. Everything had been left just like it was the day she had been rushed to the hospital. As if at any moment she would crash through the front door, slamming it behind her, before charging up the steps, taking them two at a time.

His father used to yell at her all the time about slamming the door, threatening to take it off its hinges, not that that ever made any sense. Why would you leave your front door open like that.

But what did he know, he was only six, and as the paralysis eased he threw back his covers and crossed to the door of his room where he opened it and peered across the hall to his sister’s closed door.

Was she waiting for him in there?

The night continued around him, so full of possibilities, and he was tempted to sneak across to hall a take a quick peek. But he didn’t, just as he hadn’t the night before, or the night before that, or even  before that. Every night he looked across the hall at his sister’s door, wanting to step across and find out, but fear kept him rooted in place.

Just as every night it had been the same dream, repeated over and over again. Always beginning in that small house sitting next to a babbling brook whose soft voice whispered about secret places and unknown things. The forest around the house was filled with shadowy things that slithered over and around on another in an endless dance to gods whose names had been forgotten long before man set foot upon the world. Held at bay by forces they had little understanding of.

Inside a roaring fire filled the small house with the scent of fresh pine and an embracing warmth that wrapped you in a loving manner, that made any worries seem insignificant by comparison. They sat together on a handmade rug before the leaping flames of the fire, side by side as they gazed into the dancing flames.

Every time she turned to regard him for a moment with weary eyes, to ask him a simple question for which there was no simple answer.

“Do you believe?”

To be continued!

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Postapoc Wednesday

Coming this Month in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

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Surviving in a tough situation is not always the best option; sometimes dying is much better than staying alive. The Academy showed Paladin Yaropolk what makes the world go round: pragmatism and personal gain. Restart was set in motion, but it only makes players more frantic. Now everyone plays only for himself. Yaropolk faces the same dilemma: be like all of them, or keep his humanity and be known as an odd duck. Because there is only one rule in this world: kill or be killed…

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Set in the UK in the immediate aftermath of a mysterious illness which swept the country and left millions dead, the series follows the trials facing a reluctant hero, Dan, and the group he forms around him. They must battle the elements, find sufficient supplies and equipment to survive, and protect themselves against the most destructive force on the planet: other people.

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It's been days since the terrorist attack and the nation has torn itself apart. Food and medicine are scarce and daily life has become a struggle for survival. Two survivors, thrust together in the most unlikely of circumstances, travel from Maine to Tennessee in search of family, but as they travel the scarred land they are about to discover that this attack has a far more insidious purpose than they first realized.