My entry for the Fall, Love competition with Becoming Writer and Short Fiction Break.
My entry for the Fall, Love competition with Becoming Writer and Short Fiction Break.
“It is devouring me from within, and I no longer have anything to feed it.”
Quote from a dying friend.
Unlike most monsters, this one was silent, unobtrusive, and when I least expected it, it pounced. I had no warning. No time to prepare. No army to gather for the fight ahead. In truth, there’d be a battle, but the war had already been won. The outcome decided in one foul wave of the universes wand.
Never the less, my parents and I decided to take up the offer of a maybe and perhaps. I fought back with every ounce of determined stubbornness. And with every pain filled breath, I willed the cannibalistic cells which had sprouted from the base of my spine, to die. I prayed and begged. I bargained and promised. But, it only mocked my attempts and continued its savage rampage.
It weaved its wicked tentacles around the bones of my back. Like a weed, the ever-hungry beast forced its way between my vertebrae. It crushed the nerve and drank of my life’s essence. Not satisfied, the mutated cells continued a painful campaign upwards and into my brain. Nibbling at my spleen and liver along the way. Greedily, it dug deep into every sane part of gray matter I owned and rendered me hollow and paralyzed.
I can hear the world, over there in the distance. The rattle of a trolley, the whisper of a nurse — just beyond the fog. What is left of my mind, swims to the surface of a drug drenched ocean and with a pang of regret, I realize I have lived to see another day.
Mom and dad refuse to give up. They’re convinced I’ll win the battle. But I lost months ago. A cold river of morphine rushes through my chemo-singed veins; the result of a diligent syringe driver. The drug works quick to numb my screeching nerve endings – those which are left. I’d sigh if I could, but the tube forcing oxygen into my lungs won’t allow for it.
The chilling narcotic pulls me away from the crumpled-up human I’ve become. I sink gleefully beneath a mist of oblivious relief. Only, this time, it doesn’t stop pulling. I slip… slip… slip, down a long dark corridor.
Elated, I relax, this is it!
My time has finally come.
Faster and faster, it whisks me away. I welcome death with open arms. A great whoosh and my body spits me out. I am born again, but not to life — rather as an echo of it. I look down. I can see my whole body. It is healthy and strong. I look up at the white ceiling which has become a tunnel of white light. I raise my arms toward the beacon, waiting to be drawn into it, but nothing happens. The heart monitor continues to proclaim my life in sharp, poignant beeps.
My body is still alive, but this is not living! My eyes follow a silver chord which connects my spirit to the shell of what I once was.
I lift up my head and shout, “This is not living! Why am I still here?”
A choir of voices, like a thousand chiming bells, echoes across my hospital room.
“They must first let you go.”
I follow the silver chord as it leaves my body a second and third time. The delicate strands, like fine strings of heavenly cobweb find their way to my mom and dad.
My parents sit quietly beside my bed. Mom’s tiny frame, huddled in a red jumper, faces the bed holding my limp body. There are dark rings beneath her eyes. Dad’s thick black mop has thinned and blanched, his skin no longer a healthy olive, but a tepid, spiritless grey.
Their vigil unrelenting. Waiting for the slightest hint of my miraculous recovery. They have sacrificed so much in this battle for my life. Mom even stopped painting.
“The supplies cost too much,” her justification.
I drift past the steel-framed bed which cradles my diminished form and come to stand by my parents. A sure, knowing wisdom unfolds inside me. A final gift granted.
I place a hand on each of their shoulders. The love that lies beneath their flesh reaches out, wraps itself around my fingers and solidifies the wisp which is me. Dad’s head slowly turns. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down. His pale blue eyes stretch and he stumbles out his chair. I can see the question in his eyes.
“No, dad, you’re not hallucinating.”
His hands grope for the bed rails behind him. Staring first at me, then at my dying body in the bed, then back at me.
“What is it, Clyde?” Mum asks, jolted from her silent mourning.
Unable to speak, he points. Mum looks my way and freezes.
“Sweet Jesus!” She clasps her mouth.
Unlike Dad, she slowly stands and pushes the two plastic chairs to the side. Her hand reaches toward me, shaking and unsure as she touches my face — I can feel her!
“Mum.” My voice breaks as her love for me soaks my very being.
Dad, is still unable to utter a sound, but his gaze is brimmed with hope. I reach out to take my parents hands between my own. It’s so good to feel their warmth. I stand a few moments longer allowing the glow of their love to give me strength for the next part of my journey. The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in this life, must be done now.
“You have to let me go.”
Mom shakes her head; her indigo eyes a waterfall of sadness. I grip their hands tighter.
“It’s over mum,” I nod toward the sickly husk in the bed. “It’s my time.”
With the sense of finality looming, my dad recovers his composure and grabs my shoulders in his large workman’s hands, “We can’t lose you, Rosie! Please, we are nothing without you!” His deep voice trembles in pain. A river of invisible tears stream down my cheeks. I scrape together my courage.
“Daddy, I love you, please let me go! It hurts too much to stay. You and mum will be okay without me, please don’t lose what you have. It’s the love that you share, the love that brought you two together that made me, and that same love which you must always keep. Without it, you will lose me – forever.”
Their shoulders hunch in despair, as they nod reluctantly. We share one last embrace, the three of us. Dad’s arms locked around his two girls for all of time. Mom smiles, lips quivering. Dad, without looking away from me steps back, reaches for the machine which keeps my body breathing and my blood flowing, and flicks the switch…. The finality of his action echoes through our united hearts. They slowly fade from my sight, but are never far from me. I see them sometimes, when I take a moment to glance down. It is good to know they have once again found happiness.
Never fear death, embrace it as the next step in the eternity of the soul.
The last words I ever heard her say.
I needed some reminding.
So yesterday I picked up my manuscript to do another round of edits.
It read like the day I accidently broke my mom’s favorite vase. Staring back at me was a gaping wound, a black hole if you will. A problem with my Main Character and the plot. How did I miss this? Why didn’t I see this with my other edits?
The only difference, I can fix this, the vase however….
I suppose that is why we do SO many edits and then some more. Now, it’s a huge re-write for me. It’s all a part of the learning curb, painful, but so it is.
One thing I do know and what I want to remind all of you of, is that this writing thing is hard work.
We who sit and dream and build worlds out of nothing are the makers of magic. But magic comes with a…
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I am woman hear me roar…
And scream and shout and hurt and weep and laugh and sigh.
I am woman see me …
Without your preconceived fashion magazine model’s eyes
Without your Hollywood encrypted notion of perfection
I am woman …
I hurt and bleed, I eat and pray, I beg and plead…
I am woman…
Round and soft,
Marked and stretched, proud and maternal
I am woman…
Cherish me, for,
I am your strength and I am yours forever
Do not hide me, do not break me, do not lock me away, for I alone am your salvation.
I am woman…
Your freedom and your heart
Your beginning and your end
I am woman …
Without me, you are but the weaker half of and incredible whole…
I am woman…
Hear Me Roar!
I may not be Australian by birth, but I take ANZAC day and all other days celebrating our fallen men and woman very seriously. I realised last night that I always focused on our fallen men, but there have been woman too. Woman who have sacrificed, died, fought and defended our free way of life. I dedicate this story to you, Warrior Woman. Again, this is not meant to offend, only to honor.
Sophie’s gaze ran up and down the long bronze list bolted onto the memorial. On the last tablet, not quite near the end, but close enough, she found them.
Corporal James Stewart.
Lance Corporal Cassidy Newman.
Lance Corporal Shamus Bailey Wilson.
The names on the plaque stared back at her with a cold, hard accusation.
“I should have brought you home,” her words soft as the breeze whispering off the ocean.
Retired, Royal Australian Navy Pilot, Lieutenant Sophie Murray, swallowed back the pain. It hurt to stand, but she refused to sit. It hurt to be out here where all and sundry could stare at the melted skin which was her face, but she’d not let those Digger’s down a second time.
It was an unusually hot April morning out at Beachmere ANZAC memorial. The small beachside town where three of the diggers from the 4th Battalion, who were on her Chinook helicopter, had grown up.
It had been a simple mission. Fly in, drop the troops and supplies, collect those bound for leave and fly out.
It was supposed to be a relatively safe airspace, over friendly territory – but relative had turned out to be, well, relative. She’d pulled every trick in the book, but the three RPG’s launched at once had proved an impossibility.
“Come love, the service is about to start,” Max her beloved husband and best friend urged.
It had taken months, if not years to accept he would not desert her. She didn’t deserve him. And still, after five years of rehabilitation and psychiatric assistance, it was hard to allow him to touch her, but Max stayed. His love for her swam in those big brown eyes, his loyalty unlike any she’d ever come across. She’d told him many times to leave, to find happiness somewhere else, but he’d refused.
“We made a vow, and I love you more than I love the air I breathe. To desert you would be asking me to carve open my chest and leave my beating heart on the sidewalk.”
Today, five years on, she was strong enough to attend a dawn service. To look those families in the eye and apologize for the fact she’d never brought their sons and daughter home.
The Chaplain stood at the foot of the obelisk and opened his small bible. Its black, leather cover frayed and wrinkled from years of use.
“Good morning all, today we gather here…”
Sophie’s mind drifted, like a bird floating on the warm air currents, back in time. To a place where no bible, prayer, or God had been present to save, forgive, or bring peace.
Screams echoed and failing turbines whined. An RPG had hit the tail of her CH-47. Her feet desperately worked the pedals. She leaned back using her body weight to help steer the collective throttle and cyclic as they tumbled out the sky. She’d managed to send out a single Mayday.
A sensation of complete freedom and of absolute fear invaded her insides and knocked the air from her lungs.
The fall back to earth was like watching a film frame in slow motion. Clouds of burning fuel puffing past, flailing arms, legs and gear bouncing around the inside of the Chinook. Every cell in her body reverberated, her brain shifted, blood vessels burst and bones shattered like cheap, china dinner plates flung against a wall, as the helicopter connected with the solid desert floor.
Her face burned, her left eye lost its sight, the flesh of her left arm, shredded and the bone pulverised.
Fear and pain drenched with yowling and leaking aviation fuel overwhelmed any senses not rattled by the crash. She called for help – but all the instrumentation was dead or smouldering. She dragged herself from the pilot’s seat. They had to find cover and quick. Whoever had shot them out of the sky was close by and would be here soon to make sure their mission was successful.
She and two other diggers managed to pull the injured into a cave. Her arm throbbed and the skin on her left cheek and neck, burned like a hundred bonfires on Guy Fawkes. She left a Sergeant and his shell-shocked Corporal with what supplies they could salvage and what ammunition they could save.
“You can’t go back Lieutenant, they’re dead and you’re injured.”
She ignored the Sergeant’s plea. She couldn’t leave them there, the three diggers who hadn’t survived. Everyone was to return home, whether whole, broken, or in a wooden casket; no one got left behind.
She’d pulled the first digger out of the wreck when the butt of a rifle connected with the back of her skull.
Six months she’d spent in a hole. An old dried up well in the middle of nowhere was what she got to call, bed and toilette; only dragged out with a rope when they decided it was time to question her. Fists pummelled her face, her back and her belly. Knives sliced her legs and red hot cigarette butts were pushed in to the soles of her feet – but she’d stood her ground, had given them nothing, not even when they’d used her for fun.
A digger regiment on patrol had found and rescued her.
All the pain, all the nightmares, all the clawing herself back up to the light, meant nothing. Her people had managed to rescue the survivor’s days after they’d been shot down, but not the dead. Three diggers lay buried beneath alien sands between the mangled, decomposing shell of the Chinook; all because she’d failed to bring them home.
The Chaplain closed his little black book as the sun appeared above the watery horizon across Moreton bay. A bugle player lifted his brass instrument to his lips. A man, two heads taller than her Max, came to stand beside her.
“We’ve never blamed you Lieutenant. What you sacrificed, what you gave, can never be put in words or material value. Cassidy knew this. Like me, it was her passion to serve her country. To make the world a safer place for everyone else. I honour your service and dedication, as I do hers. I might never hold my baby girl in my arms again, but, I find solace in the fact she died for us to have this,” he spread his arms to take in the beautiful day.
Sophie turned and faced the man. His black hair streaked with silver at his temples, a crew cut told her he was ex-military. His eyes as blue as the autumn sky above, drowned in his loss. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed his grief. He did not flinch as he looked down at her scared face, but smiled and placed a hand on her shoulder. She did not pull away.
The Last Post echoed from the bugle’s bell. The mournful, eerie tune surpassed the barriers of day-to-day existence. Its evocative wail pushed beyond religion, colour, class and circumstance. It was the people’s anthem, with notes which heralded the fallen. Music with which to farewell the great warriors. A tune ingrained forever in the many broken hearts, for the sacrifice made by those who died, and those forever lost.
“Today is a good day,” Sophie clasped her husband’s hand.
Max looked down at their hands and up to his wife, “Yes, it sure is.”
A short story entry; Person in a hole, Spring Writing Contest for Becoming Writer & Short fiction Break.
Well here I am. Stuck, quite literally, in a hole, in the middle of the bush.
Not just any hole, but a narrow muddy dug out, used to trap elephants.
It’s deep; almost touching the center of the earth, deep.
How’d I get here?
Poachers! Stupid ass hat poachers, bound my ankles and wrists and gagged my mouth – blagh. Then dropped me in like a sack of potatoes.
Crap! Crap! Crap!
The guys back at HQ are never going to let me live this down; if I get out of here alive that is. I’m the only female bush ranger at Kwelanga Station. I work with seven other rangers, all male and all with something to prove.
It’s a combination of chauvinism, and what I am. Grace Chandimal, a nice little mixture of Afro-Asian, please to meet you. I’d shake your hand, but I’m a little tied up and freaking my bean at the moment.
I knew Larry was up to no good. Those beady little eyes darting all over the show. Putting passwords on his office laptop. Our head ranger blew a gasket over that the other day, cited him and ordered him to remove it – which he did not.
It was pure luck I happened on him and his slimy partner. I arrived earlier than usual this morning. Caught them discussing their murder for the day.
It was bad luck that they spotted me. I pray Thabiso finds the SOS and partial co-ordinates I scribbled on his desk calendar, before they grabbed me!
So here I am, bound, gagged and left for… Brahma not dead, please I’m too young and full of sass to die, and I have a debt to pay.
Oh, yes Larry buffalo butt of the year, it’s you and me when I get out of here!
My legs are on fire! This hole was not dug for comfort. I’ve been on my feet since dawn, and it’s probably well after midday now. My bladder’s bursting and my nerves are fried.
I wriggle and jump. The only thing I succeed in doing is knocking dirt onto my face and nearly wetting my pants. I must get out of here. Larry and his marauders are planning a hit to go down at dusk.
No wonder those ass-hat poachers could evade us. Larry was feeding them our patrol routes and times – Moegoe! I can’t wait to get my hands on…
“Lokho esikwenzayo nalokho wakhe?” Two tall shadows come to stand at the edge of the hole.
A chill, races down my spine. Please decide to let me live!
“Leave her, she won’t make it to the morning.”
I know that voice, it’s Larry, I wanna bash your face in, backstabbing mamparra! Bile and anger rush up my throat and burn the back of my eyes.
“Besides, we can’t waste any more time here. It’s a long hike and we need to prepare before the target arrives.”
I scream, but the gag chokes any sound I make.
“I’ll come and cover the hole when we’re done.”
He leans over and looks down.
I can’t see his face. The sun is behind his head, his features blanketed in shadow. He spits. A glob of hot sticky saliva hits my neck and slides into my cleavage.
“The injakazi deserves to suffer. Thinks she can outsmart me?”
Shit! Shit! Shit!
I must get out of here!
The two men walk off, but not before Larry’s boot bumps a stone into the hole. It’s not large, but it’s flat and lands on my head.
I lean forward and tip my head back.
Please fall into my hands. Shakti, if you’re there, please save my ass so I may avenge every one of those innocent creatures they’ve slaughtered.
The stone slips and whaddya know! It plonks into my eager palm.
I pinch the stone between thumb and middle digit, then trace the edges with my index finger. It’s not the sharpest, but… ah, wait… yes, a nice jagged edge.
Now to get the toothy bit to slice the plastic tie down strap, binding my wrists together. It worked on Mac Gyver so it should work now, right? I twist and turn, and begin the arduous task of cutting through my bond.
It’s been forever. The sun is sitting lower in the sky and my wrists want to fall off my arms. The stone cutting thing hasn’t worked – tv lies. A cramp shoots down my arm and into my hand. The stone ends up on the ground, along with all my hope.
Don’t cry Gracie, now is not the time. Mom’s sweet encouragement echoes in my heart.
I sink onto my haunches. A light bulb moment! No, this is not the end.
I fold up like a concertina. Using my back and feet, I crab walk my way up the sides of the hole. It’s so not comfortable. It’s hard to breathe and I may wet my pants.
It’s not as easy as the telly makes it look.
The light is bright at the top and I don’t have much strength left. If this doesn’t work and I fall back in… it will be tickets for both me and the Rhino.
I reach the surface and kick hard pushing half my body onto solid ground. Quick as a flick I perform a clumsy backward somersault, landing face down on the dry bushveld dirt. The gag slips. I gasp. Red dust and grass seed stick to the roof of my mouth, blagh.
No time to waste Gracie my girl. Mom warns.
I roll onto my back. Look this way, check that way. Nothing. No wild beast, or baddies in sight. I sit up. The world swings and sways then comes to a standstill.
Right, now to get out of these blasted bonds. I slip my arms under my bum and legs. Uuurg, I’m sore and so gonna feel every inch of this adventure tomorrow, Brahma willing.
With my hands still tied, but in front of me, I pull off my boots and force a socked foot up, out of the tie down strap binding my ankles.
Gag off, boots on, I stand up.
‘Whoa, jelly legs.’
Now to wee!
Hands still bound I struggle to fasten back my belt buckle, and survey my surroundings.
A bundle of shadow catches my eye beneath a thorn tree. I stumble over.
The idiots left my gear behind. I plonk down and grab my Swiss army knife — Mac Gyver time.
I pull a blade out with my teeth and slice through the tie down strap around my wrists. Not easy.
I nick my palm.
I slip my knife into place on my belt. Lick my wound then pull my hat on and pick up my canteen. I twist off the lid and down the warm water – it’s delish. Where to now?
Please Thabiso find my SOS?
There’s Warrior Hill and over there’s the old Baobab. Okay, it’s a helluv an impossible hike back to HQ.
I try to re-call the co-ordinates I heard Larry give his lackie.
Hold it, what’s that?
Larry – I’m gonna kick his ass – is a rotten ranger. There are tracks.
I take off in a westerly direction, toward the old watering hole. That’s where they’ll be waiting for the rhino and her calf. Time is so not on my side, so I shesha.
Out of breath and foaming at the mouth like an injured buffalo, I reach the watering hole. Images of a thousand and one ways I will slice and dice every member of this poaching entourage, flash in my mind’s eye.
I glimpse the sky where the horizon cradles the sun.
Shakti, may I be on time.
The brush to my left rustles.
It’s the Rhino and her calf.
Relief trickles down my spine, but it’s not over yet.
I duck behind a buffalo thorn tree, careful not to get hooked in its wicked little barbs. It’s lush, we’ve had good rains, and my dark khaki uniform blends in well with the greens and browns of the bush.
The cow and calf mosey on by. I must find those blasted poachers. My time has run out and obviously, HQ is none the wiser!
Shucks! Shucks! Shucks!
My leopard crawl is painful and slow. But I can’t risk being spotted by either Rhino or foe. I reach a clearing closest to the water hole and lie low. The Rhino mum and bub are on the far side.
I look left and right.
Where are they?
A glint from the setting sun gives the shooter away.
With nothing left to lose, I jump to my feet and sprint, screaming all the way. Every bird, animal, lizard and beast take fright.
I dive into a rugby tackle as a crack, like thunder, splits through the air.
I land with my plentiful self on his back, reach above his head and grab at the rifle. The man huffs and rolls over laying on top of me. I lift my head and bite.
FYI… ears taste crap!
Angry voices and feet stomp toward us.
It’s now or never Gracie! Yes, mom, I know!
I bend my knee and bring it up between his legs, into his groin. The fool curls into a fetal position, letting go of the rifle.
I push off the groaning poophol and stand. Larry bursts through the bush.
I point the muzzle at his ugly face, “you low down piece of rubbish!”
His surprise fades to a smirk. I want to knock his front teeth out with a rock.
“I underestimated you,” his sneer almost pushes me over the edge.
The guy on the floor stands, wobbles, clutches his nuts and what’s left of his ear. Two more men pop through the bush. Larry orders them to take the injured man and run. In the distance, the chop, chop, chop, of blades and the rev of V8 engines announce the cavalry’s arrival.
Yus! Thabiso, you beauty!
I point the rifle to the ground and pull the trigger. A shot echoes and dust flies, “no one is going anywhere!”
Larry steps toward me. I take aim.
“You won’t shoot an unarmed man?”
A split second of doubt. I lower the rifle a few millimeters.
He takes the gap and lunges toward me. I fall backward, knocking my head as air spills from my lungs. My vision pops and fades.
He straddles me and large calloused hands slip around my neck.
Great, so this is it. My sassy ass is at an end and I failed to save the Rhino.
I see you mom. Get up! Come on Gracie, fight back! She waves me away, it’s not your time Nunu.
My brain sparks to life. I wrap my fingers around his wrists and push into the vulnerable flesh. I bend my legs and push down on my feet tilting my pelvis up. I buck the idiot off me. He flips forward. I mind my head just in time.
He eats dirt.
Ha! I got me some payback.
I twist my body and slide out from beneath him, gasping for air. My vision clears.
Larry pushes himself up.
“Oh no you don’t,” I vault to my feet and with the conviction of an angry elephant cow, I kick. My right foot connects with his rib cage. Air and spit explode from his mouth and he falls limp to the ground.
Six Rhino horns, two Elephant tusks, a Sable hide, antlers, and three leopard skins are found in a makeshift camouflaged camp of the poachers.
Will this slaughter ever end? Will the demand for what does not belong to us, ever be appeased? I do not know. But I do know this, as long as I am patrolling the bush, poachers beware!