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Friday, 16 March 2012

The Ride (Assessment Part 2)

So here is Part 2 of the assessment that I recently sublmitted. A tough one given the subject matter........
In 500 words, write a story or part of a story that fictionalizes something that is mentioned on the radio when you go to turn it on now. At the top of your story, state what the stimulus from the radio was. Choose a setting which you describe somewhere in your 500 words, and tell this mini-story from the narrative point of view of a man or woman (a character) whom the story directly affects. Use some dialogue in your story. Write in either the past or present tense. Try to use clear, vivid language so that your reader can see the setting and character(s). Avoid cliché.
Radio stimulus (07/03/2012) - Six British soldiers were reported as killed in southern Afghanistan when their vehicle was hit by an IED explosion.

Despite the whirring tandem rotors of the CH-47 Chinook and constant chattering over the airwaves that whistled and crackled through the crew’s headsets the silence between the members of the Medical Emergency Response Team was chilling. Six pale faces bereft of colour, emotion or being. Only the occasional movement, a solemn glance through despairing eyes or weary sigh suggested any semblance of life.
Grains of sand bounced and danced in unison on the floor of the chopper and Captain Maddox wasn’t the only one transfixed by it. Anything. Any distraction to divert from what they each knew lay ahead. The low hum of the engine. The clatter and rattle of a loose strap against the cold grey shell of the fuselage. The blips and beeps indicating a steady stream of incoming transitions and updates. Any single thing to take their attention away from the carnage that lay just a few clicks east into Kandahar.
The call had come in barely ten minutes ago and the scrambled team was already in the air. There was nothing rare about an IED interrupting the daily games of table tennis or the team’s dissection of the football back home. Chelsea sacking another manager. Some things never change but it was those things that carried the comfort of home and the protective blanket of normality across the thousands of miles of sand and to the insanity of Helmand. This time though it was the scale of things. Patching up the odd squaddie was nothing unexpected. But six. In one incident. With the noise over the radios and none of it coming from the Warrior armoured vehicle itself they all knew that his was a bad one. Corporal Thomas broke the silence.
            ‘Do you know any of them Jimmy?’
‘No mate. They only arrived three weeks back. Bloody Valentine’s Day! I’ve probably seen them around. Think one was a United fan though.’
Cpl James Stephens knew pretty much everyone passing in and out of the barracks by the team they supported. The silence resumed and heads dropped once more. Captain Maddox knew that this line of thought wasn’t going to help anyone focus on the job ahead. He interjected.
            ‘Did you get that letter off to your lad Pete?’
‘Yes sir. Second birthday next week sir. Hoping to get online, maybe even see him blow out the candles.’ Cpl Thomas had been in Afghanistan on and off since his son was born. ‘Hey did anyone go and check up on that kid we brought back yesterday?’
‘She’s going to be ok Pete. I couldn’t tell her about her brother though. A few scrapes, some patching up here and there but the nurse thinks she’ll be out within the week. She even managed a smile.’ Some days, to Maddox at least, it seemed all worthwhile.
The chopper slowed, it’s rear end bowing to kiss the earth below and as the door slid open the bright sunlight was briefly blinding before a noxious smell of burning metals and singed earth filled the cabin. The scene before them was catastrophic.

Shame (Assessment Part 1)

This was part of the assessment for a course I'm doing. The challenge was......
In 500 words, write a mini portrait of a character, in either the past or present tense. In this story, note, there needn’t be any significant plot; concentrate instead on describing both character and place, and on conveying a particular mood – and state this mood as the title of your story. (For example: Happiness: Jane had short red hair and ...).
The piece that I have written is yet to be marked, but since it's submitted I can now post it on here! I'm finding that one of the most enjoyable things about writing for tasks and instructions is the research - this bit especially......

Shame: As Mykelti screwed his eyes tightly together to shut away the world the piercing screams of his loved ones, his friends trapped in the village, his wife and four year old daughter Neisha all surrounded him, puncturing his soul and crushing his spirit. Opening them once more the screams were distant but no less real. He heart was pounding through his bare chest, his lungs on fire from the breathless sprint over to the overgrown, stench laden ditch in which he now lay covered in the red dust that fogged the air. The adrenalin, which had carried him to safety, coursed through his veins to such an extent he didn’t notice the baking heat of the midday sun on his broad, ebony back or the blood seeping from the musket round lodged in his muscular shoulder.
A gentle, loving father and husband Mykelti was also a feared Chamba hunter and his body was the perfect specimen, as if carved from the great Aso Rock of his father’s homeland, a towering monolith to the north that filled the fairytales and legends of his childhood. As strong in mind as he was in body how such a proud, strong hearted champion was now left for dead by these invading marauders it was hard to imagine. If only he’d had his spear to hand or heard their arrival, maybe then he’d have stood a chance.

Mykelti had heard of similar raids on the Yoruba to the west and Mbundo to the south but this was the first time his people had seen these armoured ghosts for real, a nightmare he never expected to come true. What shamed him most was not that this fierce, lion of a man was left helpless, unable to get back to save his companions from capture. That time would come. It was a long and arduous trek back to the coast and one he had made a thousand times before. In his brief 25 years he had climbed to a man of great standing in the village and patience was a virtue held in great esteem. The shame that overwhelmed him came as recognised the mungakan dialect of the black raiders assisting these foreign invaders. As he took a deep breath and raised himself to the top of the ditch he realised that he had even traded with them in Bali Nyonga to the north-west. The chagrin of how one people can do this to another, to their kinsmen and brothers, caused his heart to sink and an inferno of emotions swell inside him.  Tears began to stream down his face.

As the screams faded, the waft of burning buildings filled his nostrils as they crumbled to the red earth from which they’d sprung and the sun dipped towards the horizon Mykelti steadily, wearily stepped back towards the scene of utter destruction. With each stride the shame and ignomy that he earlier felt changed, warped and evolved. Each movement brought him closer to his family. Closer to revenge.