Sunday January 30th, 2011

The exercise:

Today Kat and I are flying from Toronto to Montego Bay, Jamaica. So I thought it would be fitting for today's prompt to be: the island.

Note: I'm away on my honeymoon so this is a scheduled post.


On the first day he walked from the south coast to the north coast, through thick jungle that was brimming with the scent of exotic flowers. It took him two hours, and mosquitoes were his constant companions.

On the second day he went east to west. Even with a large hill to drag himself over it only took an hour. The mosquitoes were still glad to see him.

On the third day he traveled around the circumference of the island and the sand flies welcomed him with open jaws. Walking barefoot in soft white sand, devoid of any shelter from the sun's silent gaze, he became disoriented.

It wasn't until just before sunset when he thought he recognized his starting point, though by then every stretch of beach looked the same to him. He lay down in the sand and fell into a sleep filled with hallucinogenic visions and angry voices.

On the fourth day men in rescue boats found him and brought him back to their ship.

On the fifth day, still in the grips of the island's madness, he slaughtered them all.

On the sixth day the ship, with no one at the helm, ran aground on the island. The man began walking again.


Heather said...

Where is everyone????

Marc- Would this gentleman be on an uncharted island or one that is simply uninhabited? I do hope that you and Kat do not encounter him: on a sailboat or otherwise!


The anger, frustration, and sadness of her life mixed in with the ink as she began scrawling the words that would tell the story of her life:

"It began on the Big Island. I was merely a child; not old enough for preschool, yet too old to be called an infant. Barely a toddler. My parents walked into the cave much like they had stepped into parenthood. Blindly and with little thought of their actions. They toured, keeping me in an unsteady tow behind them. The tour guide spoke about stalagmites and stalactites. Or I assume he did. What else would one speak about on a cave tour? I wandered, the oils from my fingers killing the rocks that I touched. I wasn't concerned. They should have been.

We went on like this from crowded space to crowded space until I fell. I wanted to cry out, but the fall was long and the air seemed to float from my body to the top of the whole. I was colder and damper than I had been only moments ago. And now, I was without my parents. It was this realization, that at my young and tender age I had already lost the adults most people call parents. Not physically, but emotionally and mentally, that finally forced sound from my body. I screamed and cried, the grief over taking me.

I heard startled voices and shuffling feet. I cried harder. Please, I begged, someone save me from my own future. Please! Something large and dark fell down next to me. It scooped me up and brought me close. I could smell its rancid breath, feel it's hands wrap around the circumference of my body more than once. It pushed me higher and higher into the air as I continued to scream about my misfortunes. Having reached a plateau, I opened my eyes and looked to see if it was monster or creature that had lifted me so high.

A light shone down, casting the shadow of my body down and I saw him. My father stood below me, my slight body at the top of his reach as he tried unsuccessfully to hand me up. It was the two of us stuck in the hole. It would be the two of us repeating this pattern for the next 35 years of my life. The two of us stuck together in dark times, damp times, cool times. Always together. Him pushing me away from him and me struggling to move even further away.

He tried climbing the walls, but we only tumbled down again. We were not meant to climb out together. A few more failed attempts and he threw me. I flew away from him, excited by the freedom. Once, twice, thrice and some other strong, reassuring hands caught me. I was free. He continued to struggle, clawing and grabbing at the sheer sides of a hole he had gotten himself into. I watched without pity, but with hope and prayer.

Finally, he pulled himself out. He was more bruised than I. His clothes were filthier. He had been beaten. My mother ran to the both of us. She held me close for a moment before going back to him. I was fine and he was broken. This too would follow me throughout my life.

It was a lesson I was far too young to understand. A telling of what my life would be like for a number of years to come. A lesson I couldn't grasp then or when I fell out of the car and rolled down a gravel, but gentle slope of a volcano or stepped into a sinkhole in the ocean or twisted, twined, and chewed the uncovered ends of electric cords. Opportunities to escape and a stubbornness that made me fight through them. A stubbornness that also shaped who I was and who I am now."

She set the pen down, wanting to write more but knowing that sleep was approaching.

David said...

Comments on the poems

@zhongming - agree with Greg's comments, yours is a nice answer to mine, both tonally and structurally.

@summerfield - the first line is what makes it to me. The judge's anger runs through the other three lines.

@Greg - poems are best when they tap into a universal truth - which I feel yours does, I like the way it starts small with the little spark and then gets big.

Here's my piece for today:

The Barber hated to swim. His strokes were sloppy, too much wasted energy. It was a most inefficient mode of movement for such an efficient individual. But sometimes, like when you are escaping from an island, you have no choice.

The Barber could see the green light on the bow of the boat. He assumed Ricardo was kneeling next to it, ready to extinguish the light as soon as the Barber climbed aboard. Ricardo would then spend fifteen minutes berating the Barber for his failure in today’s mission. He would cite the planning and budget that went into the effort. He would complain about the donors’ unhappiness and would lament that this could have been their last chance. Eventually, Ricardo would slip and call The Barber by his real name, which would lead to the Barber punching him in the face for his lack of discipline. The Barber did not fault Ricardo for any of this. He knew that Ricardo just spoke like a man who had never gotten off of a boat in his life. Middle management had its own pressures, they never risked their lives, but they did risk the wrath of the bosses.

The Barber swam to the side of the boat. It was choppier than normal, making it difficult for the Barber to get ahold of the makeshift ladder. He scraped the back of his hands against the jagged barnacles before finally pulling himself up.

The boat was quiet, like always. The Barber crept up to the bow. The bright green light glowed. No Ricardo. The Barber thought he may hit him twice for this lapse. He flicked the light off. Darkness, no moon out tonight. He made his way to the bridge, wanting Ricardo to start the engine and get them the hell out of there. Empty.

He made his way down below. He knew Ricardo could make mistakes, but this is another level. He better be taking a leak. Cutting through the darkness, The Barber finds their bunks. Finds Ricardo nestled in his. He touches Ricardo, feeling his hair and face wet with an unmistakably warm liquid. He runs his hand down to Ricardo’s neck and feels the two inch gash. The Barber admires the workmanship.

It’s time to go. Ricardo could not have changed the light to green, signaling “All Clear” to The Barber. The Barber was sure he was all alone on the boat. This meant only one thing. The Barber returns to the bridge, sees the key in the ignition. He grabs a paperweight off of the table, tying a string from it to the ignition key. He precariously balances the weight at the end of the Captain’s chair. He figures the weight will fall within the next five minutes and he hoped he would be far enough away.

The Barber stood on the deck, and looked at the dark water. He could see the lights of the island in the distance. The Beard was probably celebrating over dinner, knowing he escaped death once again. The moon appears from behind the clouds. 500 yards, that is not too far. The Barber sighs, and jumps in. He loves to swim, especially in the moonlight.

David said...

Right here Heather. I'm the newest guy here, but I will be doing my best to comment on everyone's writing. I liked that Marc would do that, made me know at least one person read what I put out there.

So comment for today - both yours and Marc's are some of the deepest writing I've read in the three weeks or so I've been coming here.

My lord, I dont know how much of today's piece was personal, but it tapped into such raw emotions. The painful side of parenting. Stuck in the hole, you made me think of my 5 year old daughter - the one that has me wrapped around her finger and you scared me. Knowing the truth of the pain and struggles that can come from loving someone so deeply. Excellent work.

@Marc - that was a great little horror story. It's nearly impossible for me to think of a deserted isle without thinking of Lost, and that felt like a bit of mythology from the show. Well done, the last line was chilling.

Zhongming said...

Marc - Burr, that reminds me of "Lost" :)

Heather - that was extremely touching and miserable, excellent!

David - I love the continuous surprises, it accelerates that exciting thoughts within my mind!


The Island (Continuation from the snowy woods)

Memo of day fifteen, 07.29am Wednesday, 4rd Feb 2000.

The thoughts of hissing and sticky tongue awakes me, I was quite worn out after racing towards the gateway with king copra. I just kept running even though I was out of my breath.

The Motivation? I told myself not to stop or look back.

Before I realized what i did, i outrun the snake. Then my eyelid just feels kind of heavy as i simply collapse flat on the sandy ground, hardly any energy left. I couldn’t move an inch anymore and then i simply fall asleep.

I can’t believe what happened last night and I can’t believe that I am still alive and kicking. Best of all, I can’t believe my luck!

After that entire exciting, terrorizing aftereffect, I’m feeling a little weary of my own surviving chances but I’m not going to give up just like that. Although there’s still pretty much to sort out in this deserted island, I’m going to pull it off by saving Ronnie from all these bullshit.

Watch me!

Greg said...

@Heather: heya Heather :) I'm trying to post last these days to provide some comments on everyone's writing while Marc's away. Two weeks is too long to wait for criticism or praise!
Speaking of which, this is a fascinating piece. It's very atmospheric, and the writer's recognition that the cave incident started a pattern in her own life is nicely revealed. Normally I'd prefer to see that than be told it, but in the space you've got there's no room. It's brought out very well though. The small details that you include (the state of clothes, and how the physical state reflects the mental) really make it work.

@David: Great story. I'm intrigued by the narrator's voice, which distances the reader slightly from what's going on -- I can almost imagine the Barber breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader directly.
A small point: in your fifth paragraph you suddenly change tense from the past to the present and then back again. I think you're trying to make a point about the action, but the tense change is probably too jarring.
That said, the subtle change between the start and end of the story is superb.

@Zhongming: there's real energy in your story, I felt like the narrator was terrified of the snake. I like his persistent courage though, in the face of all the dangers he's still determined to complete his mission.

@Marc: Strangely enough, I think days four and five are the most powerful because of the brevity of detail. I sincerely hope that you don't find yourself stranded on any islands while you're out in Jamaica! But this is a nasty little vignette, made all the stronger by the innocence of the victim, I think.

Greg said...

Sorry for posting twice, but I didn't know how much I could post at once. My take on today's prompt:
The island
We moored the yacht.
Angela lowered the anchor,
And Conrad took us ashore.
Blue waves lapped all around us
On the way in, white wash behind.
Fish leapt and sparkled in the air.
Angela said she didn't care,
She thought that fish were icky.

The beach had white sands, untrodden,
Tall palm trees, gravid with fruit,
And, to our surprise,
Poisonous vines that snaked beneath
The white sands that we'd admired.
We struggled to the shade,
Short of breath, vision fading,
While the yatch bobbed merrily at sea.

Heather said...

David- I have been reading your pieces. Unfortunately I have class with the Anti-Christ of Education this semester and I have been so swamped that I have been skipping out on the comments. As far as your Barber story is concerned, it's good. Very inviting and entertaining. A little fast paced, perhaps, but I think that has more to do with the nature of responding to daily prompts. I do wonder though, does the Barber hate swimming (first paragraph) or love swimming (last paragraph)?

Zhongming- I love your character's attitude. He reminds me of an adventure hero. He comes through incredibly situations, beat and exhausted more often than not, but always willing to go on.

Greg- You have this way of slipping danger into your stories with such ease. Not only do your characters not see it coming, but I find myself looking around your figurative corners to see if I can spot it before it comes.

I also love that their is so much support from the current group.

To answer a question, my piece was both fiction and fact. I did live in Hawaii and I did fall into a hole during a cave tour that my father had to toss me out of because at 6'3", he couldn't reach far enough to hand me out. But, I was maybe 18 months old and so have no real memories of this actual event (or the other near death experiences).

Marc said...

Heather - extremely powerful writing. Fantastic work.

David - hurray, more from the Barber! Great work - the tension developed at an excellent rate.

Zhongming - very happy to see you getting back to this story arc. Loved the positive attitude at the end.

Greg - loved the take on the prompt. Great imagery, especially in the closing lines.