Sunday February 1st, 2015

The exercise:

Write about: the explosion.

Still not feeling great, but definitely improving. Maybe one more good night's sleep will do the trick? Maybe?

Max spent most of this morning kicking balls around the house with his aunt, but there was a brief break to go across the street and make a snowman in the elementary school's field. Because even though yesterday there was no snow on the ground whatsoever, enough fell overnight to make that doable.

There was a bit more kicking time after lunch, then Max and I showed Sue a good portion of the videos I've taken of him over the last couple years. I'd really just intended to show her a couple, but Max kept saying 'How about... this one?' and pointing at other thumbnails. And it's kinda hard to say no to him when he gets like that.

Anyway, we had to drive Sue to the airport in Penticton mid-afternoon, so we all packed into the car to see her off. Not sure Max fully got what was happening, but Sue and I definitely did. Ah well, we'll see her again this summer.


I was away at college, almost two thousand kilometers from home, when the town I grew up in was leveled by the explosion. The news arrived on my doorstep the next morning via the national newspaper, draining the blood from my face with its grotesque headline.

Numbness. That is what I remember the most. I can barely recall boarding the train later that day. The voyage east is a blur of snow and the indistinct voices of the other passengers. Someone must have told me when it was time to get off, but I couldn't tell you who it might have been.

The train went no further than the last stop before my hometown. It was another fifty kilometers by foot and I didn't stop to consider the risks before buying provisions to stuff into my bag and continuing on.

It was cold but I don't remember feeling it. Guess I was still numb. I didn't even see the barricade the army had set up on the train tracks until I almost bumped into the guards eying my approach. They told me I could go no further, that there were still fires burning and I'd only get in the way of rescue efforts. That there was no way I could get any closer.

They obviously hadn't grown up in the area.

I backtracked until a bend in the tracks hid me from view, then set out cross-country. My food must have run out at some point, but there was plenty of snow for me to consume. The memory of climbing that final hill is crystal clear in my mind: the white puffs of breath that led me upward, the unnerving silence that had replaced the birdsong I knew so well as a child, the unpleasant smell that only grew stronger as I pushed for the peak.

I made it at last. I looked down. I must have.

But then everything goes black again.


Greg said...

Heh, you'll have to learn to say No to Max one day ;) The snowman building sounds fun. It's cold enough to snow here, but the weather is staying resolutely clear. I've not completely given up hope of snow, but it's starting to fade. The puppy hasn't seen snow yet (properly) and I'd quite like to see what he makes of it. Not a snowman, sadly :(
That's quite a bleak little tale you have with your explosion, and it definitely sounds like there's something a bit odd about it too. You've littered it with just enough hints that I'm curious to know more about what's going on, why the narrator felt the need to get back there so urgently, and what made him run out of food over just 50km and then black-out. There's definitely a longer story there waiting to be told!
And... I paid a little visit out West yesterday. I wouldn't say I've fixed any of the predicament, but it should amp up the tension a little :)

The explosion
"I really don't believe that the school needs new plumbing," said the headmaster. His voice was raspy and thin, sometimes likened to fingernails being dragged down a chalkboard. The way it tailed off at the end of his sentences made the listener think that the fingernails must have been ripped off the fingers as well, which just intensified the discomfort. "The school may not be the most... ahem, modern facility, but it is not decrepit. And I am well aware, before you speak, that you have managed to erect an Arts building, a theatre and a world-class cuisinarium, though I doubt very much that's a word, at relatively little cost, but that does not mean we need to replace our plumbing."
Miss Snippet smiled like a tiger, and rolled up her proposal. "Do we see much revenue from those additional buildings?" she asked.
"Yes," said the headmaster. "And the administrative overheads would have put a lesser man in his grave."
The door to the toilet cubicle swung silently open and the boy with the cherry bombs jumped and turned, trying to hide the miniature explosive under his jumper. When he saw that it was a girl who'd opened the door he turned red and started spluttering.
"Oh don't be stupid," said Sarah. She reached out and grabbed him by the tie. "Come on. You're never going to get anywhere with cherry bombs."
"You're in Miss Snippet's class!"
"Yes, and you're not. Nor would you ever be if you use store-bought cherry bombs." The tone of derision wasn't anything he could have described, but it made him feel substandard anyway.
"I'm coming," he said sulkily. "You don't have to drag me."
"Isn't this a bit big?"
"No. And here's another seven. One in each toilet. Drop and flush."
"The fuse'll go out."
"No. It won't. That's what the Potassium nitrate was for."
"Fertiliser. How do even remember to breathe regularly?"
"Sarah? How did you get on with that little task?"
"Fourteen recruits, ma'am!" Sarah salted smartly. Miss Snippet took a step back.
"Yes ma'am! Ma'am?" Sarah could see a look on Miss Snippet's face that wasn't quite the pride and pleasure she'd been expecting.
"Hit the fire alarm, Sarah," said Miss Snippet. "You've been much more efficient than I expected."

Greg said...

The explosions shook the building so hard that two-thirds of it collapsed. Miss Snippet, stood outside with a thoughtful look on her face, handed her proposal to the Head of the School Govenors as he walked up, and he nodded and accepted it.
"I knew you'd be prepared," he said. "Your ability to plan for contingencies means you really ought to be a governor too."
"Too busy," said Miss Snippet. "Where's the headmaster?"
"Trapped in the building," said the Head of the School Govenors. "It looks like the fire alarms were faulty over by his office."

[Sorry about the two posts, I didn't realise it was quite as long as this!]

ivybennet said...

At least Max sounds like he had fun! And I hope you feel better!

Finally saw some snow today, though it's still not much and class wasn't canceled. Oh well, fingers crossed I see more!

The Explosion:

I didn’t see the Greek fire until it was too late.
In a burst of hot flames and billowing ash that would rival Hephaestus’s forge on Olympus, the powder ignited in the midst of the agora. Among the flying drums, the vivid paints bright against the smoky backdrop, blackened bits of flesh and dirt were thrown into the air. Ringing filled my ears, drowning out all other sounds.
By-standers stood still, their mouths hanging open in silent outrage; horribly contorted sculptures frozen in their agony. I tried to yell at them to get out of the agora; we didn’t know how many more pithoi filled with Greek fire were still waiting to be lit. but like the statues of heroes that used to border the square, the surrounding people didn’t move.
I motioned frantically for the other guards to clear out the civilians and merchants. After a few seconds of hand signaling, my men went off to follow their orders. Still statues, my men had to lift some of the patrons and carry them out of the agora while others came to life, Galateas answering the call of their Pygmalions, and left on their own accord.
Confident many would see another passage of Helios’s horses, I gripped my spear and shield, taking slow steps towards the center of the blast. There had to be some traces of the ceramic pithos that would give me a clue as to what to look for. If anything else, I could at least recover a shard of pottery for examination. Hopefully someone at the Keramikos would be able to point me towards the man that made the pithos. That would at least be a start.

morganna said...

I must blow my nose

Quickly, now!
Where is a tissue?

I must blow my nose
Or there will be an ...

Marc said...

Greg - oh, I can say no. This time there was no real reason to though :)

I was loosely basing mine on the Halifax explosion in 1917. Feeling kinda tempted to go deeper into a full story with it.

Anyway. The black out was meant to be in reference to his memory, not his actual condition at the time. And I suppose I could have made it clearer that those 50kms were not over easy to navigate terrain.

Yeah, that was some good tension work. And I see that Gabe has commented on our chapters, so I shall have to keep an eye out for an addition from him as well!

Hah, so much to like about yours. The interaction between the students was my favorite part though :D

Ivybennet - thanks, and I hope you get the snow you'd like to see :)

Some really great details in this one bring the scene to life. I quite like your narrator here as well. This little snippet has left me curious to hear more!

Morganna - hah, yes. There have been more than a few of those explosions around here recently :)