Here is a piece of a short story I had written for a contest about 7 years ago, called The Beast. The Beast is about two firefighters trapped in the middle of a forest fire. One is a full time paid firefighter, the other a volunteer. It's okay if you cringe... I did a bit when I reread the entire story. *shivers at the horrors in her writing* Okay it's not really that bad, but I'm sure like myself you shake your head a few times.
The fire burned through the under brush. It moved as if it were alive. The two firefighters were cut off from the rest of their crew when the wind changed. Watching the orange glow pulse and breathe they tried to cut a trench around them. The heat was intense and the air itself felt hot as it flowed in and out of their lungs.
Jeff looked over at Gabby the young volunteer who was stuck out here with him. He was a career fireman with enough years experience to know their chances were slim to none. Still he watched her work furiously on the fire break.
Gabby knew the flames could still jump any break they could cut. She had been on enough calls to know they were in serious trouble. The only thing she could do was remember her training. She went over and over the protocols in her head. If this was the end she would have peace of mind knowing she had done all she could to save them.
The break was finished a four foot wide, one foot deep trench. The forest was filled with smoke and the roar of the orange beast coming for them. It wouldn’t be long. Sitting back to back Jeff reached into the yellow Nomax suit and pulled out the picture of his wife and daughter. “Do you have anyone at home?”
Gabby fought back the fear as she realized he, the twenty year veteran, didn’t think they were going to get out. “Just my mom and my cat.” The smoke was getting thicker and the roar louder. Gabby thought the beast had eaten most of the forest and was still hungry. Or maybe trees and wildlife were not what it craved.
A fire scene is noisy. Not because of the sirens, yelling, or engines running. The fire its self has a voice. It can whisper or scream. Sucking the air around it to breathe the beast feeds on what ever gets in its path. Its pallet isn’t picky, metal, wood, glass, plastic, flesh, it’s all food.
The fire’s voice was all they could hear sitting in their little circle. It drowned out the shouting of the other firemen trying to find a way for a rescue. The popping of pinecones and crackle of burning tree trunks sounded like cackling laughter. The beast was joyous in its destruction.
Gabby hugged her shovel and flapper the only weapons she had against her enemy. “What do you do when you’re not putting wet stuff on red stuff?”
Jeff smiled but he could hear the edge of fright in her voice. “We have a houseboat on the river. We spend a couple of days fishing. The kids love to Jet Ski. What do you do in real life part-timer?”
“I work in a flower shop but I spend a lot of time with my nose in a book. I love to read. That’s probably why I only have my mom and my cat.” They laughed not because it was funny. Laughing was the only way to dispel some of the fear with out screaming.
Suddenly a tree fell across the break line. Without a thought or word they jumped to their feet and started to push the chard log back over the line. Gabby grabbed her flapper, a large square piece of rubber on a broom handle, and began to beat at the flames around the line.
Jeff stood on the other side with a shovel throwing dirt to smother the little smoldering embers falling from the burning tree tops around them. The beast was giving birth to her children, making little clones of flame to join in its feast. It would come and gobble them up too and grow in size and strength. The beast was already huge. He looked back at Gabby as she slapped the flapper on the earth then rubbed kill the little beasts. For the moment they had won the battle.
*Whew... I survived how about you? How has my writing evolved since this literary masterpiece (kidding :)? My grammar has improved is a big one. I don't use as many useless words such as very, really, and. I believe my ability to describe a scene, to pull my reader into the story has improved. At least I hope :)
One thing that stands out for me is an issue I still have some problem with, tense switching. I drive myself and my dear Sis up a tree some days catching myself mixing past and present tense. ACK! Even though it still happens, I consider that part of my writing having grown also. Why? Because I recognize it now. I didn't to begin with. Sometimes knowing is half the battle.
I know a year from now my writing will have evolved even more because of the knowledge I gain along the way. Every story we write we learn something. It's how we grow and become the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts. Every once in a while it's a good thing to take a look into our past. Pull out an old dusty story even if it's unfinished and see what we have learned since that point.
Your turn! Go dig out something from your early writing days. Has your writing blossomed into something more beautiful than the ugly sapling you first planted?
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