Wednesday January 18th, 2012

The exercise:

Going with the theme of the day, write about: the blackout.

Winter has decided to give us a proper visit, having camped out in the orchard and doing his best to blow the house down. It's currently -14, though with wind chill it's more like -25.

Thankfully it's only supposed to last a few days, as I'm already missing the more timid temperatures that have become the norm this winter.

Oh, hey, I promised duck (there are some geese in there too) pictures. Here you go:


They sat in the darkened house, together yet apart, listening to the air raid sirens echoing up and down their street. Each replayed in their heads the argument the German pilots had so rudely interrupted.

She tried to control her breathing, afraid she might pass out only to wake to find him gone.

Don't be silly. He'd never leave like that.

He stared at the ceiling, as though he were searching the skies for enemy planes. His hands clenched and then relaxed, over and over again in futile fury.

When the sirens fell silent, their neighborhood emerging untouched, neither moved to turn on the lights. Eventually she cleared her throat, preparing to speak, but he was faster.

"I'm signing up, Mom. Dean says they're not checking birth certificates anymore, so they'll let me. I can't just sit here waiting to be blown to pieces anymore."

He got up and left the room, wanting to begin packing his things immediately. She sat for a while longer before finally whispering her lonely thought to the empty room.

"But it won't bring his father back."


Greg said...

I love the pictures, you've got some gorgeous landscapes up there in your little desert :) And that is an impressive number of ducks!
Yeah, we've been hit with a cold snap too, though nowhere near as chilly as yours. The weather is being a little odd this year.
The gritty tension you've got in today's piece is quite gripping; I think the only way you could intensify it is to make the paragraphs a bit longer, so that the reader has to concetrate and is so held more tightly in the bunker. But it's really good despite that!

The blackout
She slips the blindfold on.
Soft, black, cloth folds
Raise a gentle pressure
Against eyes that once foresaw
The fall of empires and the death of kings.
Such mundane things.

She takes a breath
That shudders through her fragile frame,
Shoulders shake, her stomach quakes.
Courage that came so easily
Inside the temple walls,
Abandons her now false night falls.
She screams a little.

The blackout brings a picture:
She smells tobacco on a tall man's breath,
Sees a hand disguising death;
Red eyes stare out from a swollen face,
A scarf is thrown, it's ancient lace,
And in its folds comes blackness once again.

Anonymous said...

marc, great pix, haunting piece.
gre, waxing lyrical, brilliant!
mine is from one of my other blogs...

The Blackout
My father was a young family man during WW2. He told me a real life story about his encounter with a German soldier in the streets of his home city in what was then occupied Holland. He went out one night during the blackout to scavenge for fire wood...fence palings, branches, twigs, bits of coal... anything that would burn. A German soldier was on patrol and spotted him. 
"What are you up to there?" he said in clipped, accented Dutch. 
"I need fire wood for my family. My wife has to heat up the bottle for the baby and we are cold," answered my father honestly.
Now, you have to know that it was a great risk for a man to be out in on the streets even in the dark at that time - he could have been picked up and transported to Germany to work in their munitions factories or, at worst, he could have been shot, in which case I would not be here to repeat this story.
"Be quick about it, then," the soldier said, as he turned his back and actually guarded dad as he completed his task.

In that moment, my father knew that they had a lot in common...this man probably also had a young family at home, feeling cold, lonely and a little bit hungry too, perhaps, after all those years at war. He knew it was this man's deeper sense of humanity rising to the surface in a state of compassion that actually saved dad's life at this point in time.
My father returned the compassion by understanding the underlying picture of this soldier and his predicament, knowing that it was compassion that made him act against orders, essentially.

Now, if two people who were made enemies by their politics, as it were, could meet in the middle by using their human compassion, then doesn't that make all war, all conflict over ideology, simply futile? 

David said...

@marc - agree with Greg, that the tension could have been built a bit longer - but of course these are quick hitters. The key to the piece for me is the them of "leaving" son and father. Well done with building the mother's dread.

@greg - had to read it twice - and dont know if i want to read it a third time because i have this overall feeling of dread right now (that's two comments in a row that I've described as bringing dread - what's with blackouts).

@writebite - true story? no matter if it is or not, extremely honest and truthful. well done.

Patrolman Ronald Harris was happy to see that underwear still clung to her body. However, her torn dress lay by her side and her legs bent in unnatural directions. Alcohol bottles littered the floor. Ronald would leave it for someone else to conduct an inventory of all of the different flavors that she drank. Ronnie never touched the stuff.

His eyes examined the underwear. Still new enough to be classified as special, the type you would want someone else to see, or at least wear on the occasions that could lead to someone seeing. For patrolman Ronnie, it ensured he would be able to conduct his job professionally, not getting flustered and turning red with embarrassment, like he did when flipping through a National Geographic magazine.

Patrolman Ronald explored the apartment before he would call for back up. No sign of any other individuals presently here, or in the near past. There was spoiled food on the table and dirty dishes in the sink, neither of which came from the previous meal. Ronald found a number of balloons. No, wait, Ronnie thought those aren’t balloons, I learned about those in health class.

A groan came from the living room, prompting Ronnie to rush back, gun drawn. The underwear woman moved. She breathed. She rolled onto her side. Ronald was relieved. But then Ronnie thought about it. He knelt down beside the woman and whispered a few words to her. The woman probably could not understand the words at that moment, but they were reassuring, letting her know that he would take care of her. He would give her the life she deserved. Patrolman Ronnie took a pillow and pressed it to the woman’s face, helping her to sleep. Ronald then called for back up and waited.

Krystin Scott said...

(12:18 pm Thursday)

On a small outcropping of rock the three stood looking down at the fires below.

Darien, the smallest among them spoke first. “By count there appears to be twelve, brother. Give or take a few. That’s thirty humans if they have a full camp.”

Kaelan sighed, “Do you see no way around them?”

Darien scanned the encampments surroundings once more before replying, “Nay brother, the rivers waters run too swift to carry us along unharmed. Changing course would put us behind; we must be in Darslan by the next full moon.”

Seeing no other option the two turned to look at the third. Kaelan raised an eyebrow. “Any help you can of offer mage?” he spat in disgust.

Oliana pulled back the hood of her cloak. Her pale face and dark hair were instantly illuminated by her piercing green eyes. The side of her mouth twitched a mocking smile before she answered. “Poison?” she mused, “How about a fire? Anyone for roasted human?” she said cocking her head to the side questioningly before giggling to herself.

“Oliana!” Kaelan barked, “Enough! Should we fail in our quest death be upon your head as well. Black out the moon and provide us cover so we may pass the humans without incident, then join us ahead.”

Her confidence shaken by the boldness of Kaelan’s words, Oliana began the task at hand. Chanting in soft whispers she caused a dark mist to come forth and cover the moon in inky blackness.

The Cu Sith padded quietly down the shale embankment into the lush grass of the plain below. Their green coats hidden in the gloom of the now moonless night. Moving swiftly they traced the outskirts of the circle of tents casting huge shadows away from the firelight.

Oliana roared with maniacal laughter as she caused the mist to fade leaving the enormous hounds exposed. Men leapt from their tents at the sound, weapons in hand, they stood at the ready. As three terrifying barks reverberated through the air, Oliana disappeared.

The fight was on, the men hadn’t a chance, the harbingers of death were upon them.

morganna said...

Out in the woods
After dark, away from the city
Turn off the flashlights
Stand in the black night
Look up!
The river of milk glows in the sky

Sister Christian said...

@everybody - nice work!

@David - wow! loved yours. considering sending you a subscription to National Geographic! :)


Dazed and confused, she looked up at her flickering computer screen. What? Where? Shaking her head, trying to clear the incessant buzzing, wishing the metallic taste would subside. Damned seizure meds were clearly not doing what they were supposed to. And she was on a tight deadline, creative director bellowing orders from the office in the corner, studio designers whining about creative integrity while they sat flapping their beaks and hands over €10 camembert paninis, coders complaining that the designers were clueless about integration with the backend, suits rushing at her from all sides telling her - as if she didn't know - the client wants more bang for his buck. God knows where the copywriter had disappeared to - outside to smoke a joint, or into the loo to have another cathartic, healing cry?

I've got to get these meds fixed, she thought. I can't be on half brain, hands shaking, memory blanking, this is NOT working! Scrambling in her purse for the pill bottle, squinting her fuzzy eyes at the label...

She fired up Firefox and typed in the URL:

Ah jeeeeeeez, whaaaaa?!!!-

"SOPA/PIPA blackout"

Cathryn Leigh said...

Nice work to everyone and @sister christian he he nice turn back to the original theme of the day. Gosh was that black out annoying.


Sarah sat looking out the window, phoen still in her hand and her mother's words eching in her head, Are you sure he's only imaginary? OH course JAson was imaginary. There was no magic in this world, only in movies, in books, in dreams, and the Willows. She knocked her forehead against the window as a bright mushroom cloud blossomed in the dark sky. The Boom was not far behind it brought with it gale force wind. Clutching at her cell phone Sarah rolled under the seats as the Bus tumbled over on it's side, occupants screaming.

I will not die, I will not die, she whispered to herself, fighting to keep herself in her protected pocket. The world had gone crazy, but she had to find out.

Another flash and another boom. Not as prepared this time Sarah blacked out.

David said...

@Cathryn - you're killing me with these teases - i need to go read more chapters.

Anonymous said...

david , interesting take, kinda gruesome, and the answer to your Qu is yes it is true.
morganna, it sent shivers down my spine.
SC, a different take, fasconating how many perceptions there are of one theme.
KS, again, my favourite here...i hope there is a novel behind this prompt!
good reading folks! there are some aspiring writers here...

Anonymous said...

It was hard to keep from writing something super serious for blackout. I had about 5 ideas that were all on the darker side. Something about the absence of light, I guess....I don't know, must have used up all my articulation in writing:

It was all black in the house and it was all black out of the house. And it was going to be until the morning sun peeked back over the green hills where all of our sheep lived. It was Timothy's fault and I let him know I thought so but Papa insisted it was an accident and I should be forgiving. Yes, I supposed that was true and I wrapped my arms around him and told him it was alright. He did open the window, though, to see if the full moon was out and the wind blew out the last couple candles. And Papa said we had no more matches to relight them until he could make it to town tomorrow. We hadn't even made a fire today. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner we had only had cold food; leftover potatoes, bread, apples, and cheese. It was alright because it was summer and we didn't need any help staying warm at night. I shivered a little because that made me remember when it was winter and there hadn't been a fire. We were so cold, even all huddled together and finally Papa had brought all of the barn cats in and put them on the bed with us and even though Timothy thought they were smelly right next to our faces, we were able to fall asleep. Their purring reminded me of the way Mama used to hum when she was putting us to bed.
Still, I had been looking forward to playing games tonight and you did need a light for that. Except for our favorite story game "And Then!" which Papa and Timothy had started in on after settling down on the hearth. But I didn't feel like playing that. The candles had been out for a little bit now, and it didn't look as black as it had before. We all three knew how to get around the house in the dark from all the trips to the outhouse in the middle of the night. I walked past the table, out to the yard, and looked up at the sky. It wasn't totally black out here either. I could see the clouds moving from all the wind and a few stars here and there. The moon was definitely out here somewhere because it's light still showed enough for me to see all the bits of the farm. That seemed funny to me, that there could still be light even when you couldn't tell where it was. Inside Papa had started playing his fiddle, my very favorite song and the one we were working on, and I rushed back inside to sing along and maybe even play a bit of it myself.

Anonymous said...

OK...I promise I'll offer up comments *real soon*. I just need to find a way to do this between the other moments.


Gary rested his head on his forearms and drew deep breaths trying to urge the panic and sick feeling in his stomach to go away. Everything had been going so well. He'd worked diligently to make it happen. He'd done everything he could to make sure that every eventuality had been considered and that people were happy with the direction they were going. He'd been a real *team leader* making sure that feathers remained unruffled and had run interference when it looked like personalities were about to clash. The sheer amount of overtime he'd put in making certain that everyone was lined up and understood their responsibilities didn't bear thinking about.

He'd even gone so far as to assure the team's loved ones that nothing would go amiss. They were in good hands. When push came to shove they knew that Gary would get them home safe, they had his word on it.

Gary groaned as he felt the tears welling up in his eyes. It was just so unfair...all that planning and now it was all going to go up in smoke. Everything he has worked for, all the tweaking and pep talking and training, god the training, was out the window. They were going to lose people. It was going to be a bloodbath. And there was nothing he could do.

He lifted his head enough to see the phone on the desk in front of the dead monitor. The power company said, "A minimum of twelve hours". The raid was on and his guild was going to get slaughtered.

Marc said...

Greg - good point; I felt like something was missing and I think you nailed it.

Wonderfully creepy poem. I see where David is coming from with his mention of dread.

Writebite - love that story. Warms my heart to know it's true.

David - like Greg's, wonderfully creepy - but in a more casual, everyday kind of way that makes it all the more effective.

Krystin - ooh, there's more story to be told there! Great details and dialogue really brought the scene to life.

Morganna - lovely. Could feel the peace and serenity of the moment.

Sister Christian - great descriptions of the office and its inhabitants, and the twist to bring it back to the prompt at the end was nicely executed :)

Elor - you've got such a deep and well thought out world to play with; I'm rather jealous!

H.N. - I do find it interesting how some prompts just lead us in one general direction, no matter the specific takes on it.

Great scene. I got a good feel for your character just from being able to listen in on her thought patterns.

Grondzilla - haha, no worries. Some days I spend almost as much time replying to comments as I do on my own writing!

Haha, I was not expecting that ending at all :)

I can relate, even though I was never in a pivotal position on my raids. But there were nights when my absence meant no raid at all :)