Fiction Friday – 28 September 2007

Something a little different for Fiction Friday today – hopefully this will come within the terms of the challenge for this week’s Fiction Friday, but it is also an introduction to a character who will be featuring in my NaNoWriMo work. Hope you enjoy…

This Week’s Theme: Give a virtuous character a sordid past.

He whispers a prayer in the darkness, a plea to a higher power to have mercy on all the souls in this world and the next. Except his own. He isn’t that presumptuous. His hand, runs from his forehead, down across lips still softly uttering Ave Maria, towards his stomach, then gently taps each shoulder, left then right.

With a final Amen he rises from the floor, and reverently kisses the plain wooden cross in front of him. A low bow, then he crosses the cell to his bed. He lies on his side and closes his eyes. He must sleep now, as he won’t get much sleep over the next few days. Not during the Watch…

His mind becomes quiet and still and he drifts back to a simpler time. Childhood, school, university. Friends long gone, a love long since lost. And always in the background, a man, stern, distant. To please him, he would follow him, follow in his footsteps for Queen and Country…

The world melts away, and reforms. Bright, arid, he can feel the warm desert breeze on his face. He looks around the dreamscape and sees Lucas, Peterson and the rest of the unit. Eyes alert, guns raised. He follows their eye line, and sees the bunker.

He doesn’t want to recall the bunker, but he can’t stop the explosion, the rat-a-tat-tat of weapons, and the enemy, swarming out, running for their lives, fear in their eyes. Running towards him, not away. He and his men look beyond the terrified Iraqis, to the thing they are running from. As one, they raise their guns and fire, backing away at the approaching form. The scene swims again, and reforms…

The bodies. Everywhere. Friend and foe alike. And only him, bloodied, but unharmed. The darkness surrounds him once more…

As the veil lifts, he is looking up at the stars, slumped on the street, a bottle of something vile in his hand, a singed foil and battered lighter close to hand. They help him forget, that’s his excuse. But only for a little while.

“You look like hell my boy”. Through half closed eyes he sees the figure of a man. Damn you, he thinks. All this to make you proud – this is what I’ve become. “Give me your hand. I can help you.” He focuses on the man’s face, and realises it is kinder than that of his distant tormentor. He grasps the outstretched hand, and in touching it he sees flashes, short staccato images. His unit. The beast. Blood. Fire.

His eyes snap open. Always the visions. A glance at the clock by the bed shows it is 9 am. He’s had as much sleep as he will get today, and for several days. Tonight he makes sure the visions do not come true.

Gideon swings his legs out of bed, rises, and walks towards the cross on the opposite side of the cell. Kneeling down before it, he offers a prayer for mercy on all the souls in this world and the next. And for the strength to protect them. Tonight will be the Long Watch. And he prays that he is ready.

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8 thoughts on “Fiction Friday – 28 September 2007”

  1. Glad to hear this is the lead-in to your NaNo book. If you want to do a feedback swap after NaNo (or during), I’d definitely be honored to be allowed to read and comment on your draft.

    Others have said this is powerful and tight, and it is. It gets a little confusing here and there, but I think that’s part of what you’re going for. It’s an intriguing confusion, not a confounding one, and it sounds like you’ve got a good plot steeping behind this opening.

  2. Jo – thank you, i was a little worried about this one, it all tumbled out, and I was concerned that the voice was switching, but it all seems to have come together in the end.

    Gautami – I’m my own worse critic at times – I look back on the piece and I just start picking up on things. I don’t like the bottle being in his hand coming so close to the lighter close to hand, it seems clumsy. Thank you for the confidence boost!

    Paisley – you are in luck. Give me another two months and there should be a first draft that starts off not long after Gideon wakes up…

    Ingrid – no, I haven’t ever been published. Yet. Fingers crossed, I hope one day I will be! Thank you for your comment, it really brought a big smile to my face today.

  3. pjd – thank you, I’d be delighted if you had a look when I’m done – not sure if I’m brave enough to do it during NaNo (my response to criticism is usually to hide in my cave, then spend days ruminating on it – days I won’t have during NaNo!). I did wonder if the flashes and teases would be annoying or just enough to intrigue, and I’m glad it’s been more the latter.

    Tumblewords – thank you, I’m trying to be a little tighter with this one than I usually am, as I have a tendency to babble. I haven’t developed the economy of language you have yet – only twelve words and a world of meanings in your entry!

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