Monday, March 16, 2009

Something New?

Here's something that came to me last week. Mainly just a scene. I'm not quite sure where it's going, and so far haven't figured out exactly how to advance from here. But, for what it's worth:

Razored Land

No cross. No flowers. No marker at all.

He didn’t want the grave found.

After scattering the leftover dirt from the hole he’d dug and then filled, he made a broom from a pine limb with its needles still attached to wipe away his footprints and the unnaturally smooth cuts of the shovel into the soft forest loam. Dead leaves and twigs added to the camouflage over the grave, and when he finished his work and stepped back, he thought: Nothing will find you here. And nothing will smell you either. Not the animals. Not even the Others.

At the bottom of the hole, over the lacerated body, he’d interlaced layers of fresh cut pine boughs. They made a fragrant shroud, redolent with a spring season this dead one would not see again. Over that he’d put a paving of stones.

A fragment of sound brought the man’s head up. His right hand dropped to the .357 at his hip, rough fingers curling around the worn grip. Nostrils flared. His yellow-brown eyes searched the surrounding wood. He smelled longleaf pine, and Yaupon holly, and the first blooms of the blackberry brambles. He smelled other things, new things on the earth. But these new things weren’t dangerous. And he saw only the same things he smelled, and no movement except a flutter of leaves and pine needles in the breeze that soothed his sweat.

Perhaps an acorn had fallen. Or a twig. Still, he did not relax. He never completely relaxed. Not any more. But the steel spring tension in his muscles eased slightly, and the breath slid once more into his lungs through tight-drawn lips.

The sweat had dried on his chest and back now, and he walked over to the tree where he’d hung his shirt and hat. The shirt was cotton, and had once been white. The hat was flat brimmed, of black leather. He slipped them on, then picked up the shovel and his rifle and walked away from the grave of the little girl he’d just buried.

--- end ---

So, did he kill the child? Find the child dead? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? And who are "The Others?" What do you think?
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49 comments:

Lois Karlin said...

He's a good guy. He came upon the girl and watched her die, unable to save her, too far from help. If not buried, her body would be ravaged by some evil being...or turned into a zombie. (Oh my...well, you did ask....)

Heff said...

continue, please.

Vesper said...

I love it, Charles!

I don't think he's a bad guy. He seems to hide the grave so carefully not for his own protection but for the little girl's...

The writing is great, with a wonderful poetry that in a way softens this grim scene and, at the same time, stirs it with a sense of subtle danger. Yes, more, please...

Randy Johnson said...

Yes, this needs to be finished. Give it time to develop and all will be made clear.

spyscribbler said...

I think you've dropped a lot to be curious about. I'm a big fan of multiple hooks!

You've got something that snagged me, at least!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lois Karlin, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I think you might be on to something. I have a hard time thinking of him as a bad guy.

Heff, but, but, but you're reading dude!

Vesper, thanks for the comments. I think you are on my wavelength as well.

Randy Johnson, several ideas have come to be about continuing but none have crystalized as of yet. You're right, it most likely will come.

Spyscribbler, these days I think you need multiple hooks. Glad you enjoyed.

Christina said...

Maybe I just see things good first and bad later, but I don't think he killed the child. My reasons is that the word others is ominous and he didn't want animals digging her up and chewing on her. That shows respect. Lately when I read "others" in a book, it means something not human.

I was reading this and thinking, "Wow, this is a really precise bit of work. Charles is a great writer."

Crushed said...

He leaves in an auster religious community where he is a respected elder.

But for years he has kept a mistress in the forest. With a daughter.

He has just come to the cottage and found the mother gone and the child murdered.

He has no idea what has happened.

writtenwyrdd said...

Very nice scene! But I didn't think it was a child, but one of the Others. Heh. Goes to show you how readers can assume!

Aine said...

oooh! Great start! I'm thinking he'll turn out to be a good guy-- after all, he refers to the little girl as "you" rather than "it" or "the body". And I'm guessing that there is a sci-fi or fantasy element at work here. So the "others" could be just about anything!

ARCHAVIST said...

He's the bad guy, I think.

Steve Malley said...

I think the only way to find out is to keep pecking at it. Sit real still, and try not to stare directly at the Muse shuffling up when you spot it out the corner of your eye...

G said...

Creepy.

My take would be this:

Amoral, but still has enough in him to care about what's right or wrong.

Please sir, may I have another helping?

David Cranmer said...

I say leave as is. The questions the story raises is its own reward.

Barrie said...

I can't tell whether he's good or bad. But I love a lot of ambiguity, especially at the beginning of a story. so, please, keep going. :)

laughingwolf said...

he's the dad of the wee one he just buried... the 'others' are a different species... the sound was made by their scout... lead has little effect on them, cuz only iron kills... steel but slows them down, for it contains refined iron

super write, charles... so good it is complete in itself [except for those who demand things be wrapped up]

Charles Gramlich said...

Christina, the “others” certainly suggests something alien or different to me as well. Glad you liked it.

Crushed, there does seem to be an element of an austere religion here. I notice that clearly now that you mention it.

writtenwyrdd, I think it’s good to keep the reader guessing for at least a moment or two until you confirm something. AS a reader, I always liked small surprises.

Aine, definitely an SF/fantasy element. I have a good idea what the Others are at least.

ARCHAVIST, there’s still a chance. In some ways he perhaps doesn’t know himself. Although all characters tend to think of themselves as the hero of their story, even if they are villains to the readers.

Steve Malley, I suspect my muse is armed with a knife and may cut me if I don’t keep an eye on him.

G, an anti-hero then. I’ve never written what I consider a true anti-hero but I like heroes with some of those elements. Glad you enjoyed.

David Cranmer, I like that there are still questions to answer. That’s what makes writing so much fun. The act of discovery.

Barrie, yes, I think it’s good at the beginning for the reader to be kept guessing.

laughingwolf, I will say only that this is a scenario I’ve considered. Glad you enjoyed it.

Scott said...

Charles,

I don't thnik he's 'evil'...it seems as if he's rotecting her from these 'Others'...perhaps ghouls, or a cult that has bad plans for her (or anyone's) corpse.

Please continue!

laughingwolf said...

either way, a great read... i was there :D

Erik Donald France said...

Hell, it's "the Others" that grabs me pronto. Good detail -- more wanted, indeed.

Lana Gramlich said...

The little girl worked at Burger King, where she just never, EVER could get his damned order right. I can see it now...
"How about fries with that, bitch?" He spat as he walked away.

SzélsőFa said...

Wow, I liked this piece.
I'm inclined to think that he's a good guy and The Others are not of our planet. It's set in a post-apocalyptic surrounding.
Go continue, yes, yes!

the walking man said...

The .357 was a 1934 creation of Smith and Wesson.

The un-named one is a traveler who came upon the child. she'd been abandoned by a family trying to escape from the dirt poor dust bowl.

He didn't know if it was man or animal that had made her blood run, but he suspected it to be man.

He walked away from the grave but the image of the girl wouldn't leave his mind. The rest of the story is his finding out and giving back in kind to them who did abuse the child so.

His own daughter would have been about the same age as the one he buried, had she lived.

Greg Schwartz said...

chilling scene! seems to me he didn't kill the girl, just buried her. the others are aliens maybe? or a weird cult.

are you gonna continue the story?

BernardL said...

Solid scene. I'm sure the story will reveal itself to you.

Charles Gramlich said...

Scott, ghouls is a good guess, I'd say.

laughingwolf, thankee.

Erik Donald France, yeah one does wonder a bit about them eh?

Lana Gramlich, no sweetness, the main character here is not you and thus wouldn't do what YOU would do. Cute as it is an all.

SzélsőFa, or could the others be mutants?

Mark, I love the .357 caliber. We are definitely past 1934. Good guess, but I'm not thinking dust bowl historical. Interesting, though. Taking revenge for her is an interesting motife, and one I've thought of. Lana thinks it might be too expected. I'm not sure.

Greg Schwartz, or maybe they are mutants? I do plan to continue. I've already written a bit more.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, I'm glad the scene works as is. Thanks.

Ello said...

I think it is clear he is a good guy because he buried her with a fragrant shroud and stones and had this thought to add something beautiful because she would never see it again. That makes it clear he is good and didn't kill her. Also, he is hiding her so that no one can get at her body anymore, meticulously, that means something bad is out there. The Others reference is too vague to figure out what they could be but I am very intrigued. More please!

SzélsőFa said...

Mutants, yes, here they come.

H.E.Eigler said...

I'm also thinking good guy - he didn't want her to be disturbed. If he was a bad guy why bury her at all? Maybe she was entrusted to him by her parents as they died at the hands of the others and he failed at keeping her safe. Whatever it is, I like it. A lot! Am I the only one picking up a slight western vibe? Keep going on it Charles - you have something here :D

SQT said...

I don't think he could have hurt her. The burial is careful in a way that suggests she might be related to him (like a daughter). The Others might be creatures that animate the dead or use the body in some way- which is why he doesn't want them to find her.

Miladysa said...

He's a good guy and he's going to make the bad guys pay - long time!

Miladysa said...

Maybe this is the famous Arkansas Slim...

Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, or maybe he just wants to make sure no one discovers his crime? I do think you are on the right track, though.

SzélsőFa, I'm always a sucker for mutants. I feel like one myself.

H.E.Eigler, he does seem concerned for her after her death. That would seem to be the mark of a good guy.

SQT, I've given quite a bit of thought to the relationship between the man and the dead child. There is something there. I still have to think a lot more about why the others should be kept from her.

Miladysa, I love a good revenge tale myself. He does wear Arkansas Slim's hat at least. ;)

ivan said...

Did Guy du Maupassant rise from his own grave to send you this?
Excellent style.

Travis said...

I like this. I think he's both good and bad. I don't think he killed the child, but I think he found her mangled, eased her passage to death, and then buried her so that the evil of The Others couldn't harm her anymore.

Sarah Hina said...

Since we're fans of the show, Lost, I already have The Others well grounded into my head. Definitely bad, and not to be messed with. Which must make him good.

I really enjoyed the writing here. The mystery and tension captured my attention.

Avery DeBow said...

The Others had caught his scent just before he'd reached __________. She was there, where she shouldn't have been. She was slower, weaker. He let them have her, tear at her tender flesh until they'd tired of their game and left. He then buried her remains so more Others wouldn't follow the scent back to where he was, where he needed to be...

Charles Gramlich said...

ivan, hum, I'm quite a fan of Maupassant so maybe some influence has come down through the years.

Travis, I definitly have considered the easing her passage thing.

Sarah Hina, I wanted to watch Lost but I got so far out of the loop that could never keep up. Glad you enjoyed.

Avery DeBow, hey, it sounds like you should be writing this instead of me. I like your ideas better.

Alex Moore said...

i love the attention to detail: precise yet lyrical and chock full of sensory images

jennifer said...

He is neither.

He watched her die because he didn't think he could help her. But he didn't TRY.

He buried her body out of neccessity because the Others would gain strength from her corpse. It seems on the surface to be an act of human decency, burying the body, but it was self preservation. If they don't feed, they are weak, and he can defeat them.

And he doesn't want to fight them for the entire human race but because they will go through EVERYONE until they get to him. His weakness is his selfishness and it is his strength too.

Hm? Am I completely off the mark?

Virginia Lady said...

Very nice piece, Charles. I vote for good guy, but not a paladin-type. I too had the supernatural/alien thought with the term 'Others', and they don't seem to be good guys, or maybe they like to reanimate bodies?

Someone seems to be there, even if he can't discern them, maybe an Other? with special hiding abilities?

Oh, I am intrigued.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex Moore, thanks. You've described exactly what I like to strive for. Sometimes it doesn't come easy eh?

jennifer, to tell the truth, I'm not quite sure if you're off the mark yet or not. Depends on how much of an anti-hero I want to make this guy. These are thoughts I've wondered about myself, though.

Virginia Lady, well one good thing about this piece is that it seems to have triggered a lot of thoughts in readers similar to my own. The possibility of a chameleon type other has occurred to me as well.

Avery DeBow said...

Take 'em, if you want 'em.

Although I'm more than certain you're capable of doing something a hundred times better than I.

Cloudia said...

Well done and intriguing!

Travis said...

You know, I thought on this some more. He could be evil.

It could be that The Others are the good in the story. It could be that The Others sought the child as some sort of talisman, and the guy in the story got to her first and killed her.

Perhaps the story is a race between The Others and this guy to find the special children. His task is to remove them from The Others. The Others need them for some purpose of light.

Just a contrary thought.

J. L. Krueger said...

Anti-hero works for me, but this could go in lots of directions. He could actually be something not human while the Others could be human. That would be a twist.

Great start.

Barbara Martin said...

At this point in your story I cannot say whether the character is good or bad, though he is paying attention to how well he hides the grave and to the sounds of the "Others" who may come upon him.

Excellent piece of work.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery DeBow, good ideas come from everywhere.

Cloudia, thanks.

Travis, good thoughts. I like that it's open ended at the moment.

J.L. I'm glad it's open. I haven't decided completly myself yet.

Barbara Martin, that's basically what I'm hoping for. I like to keep the audience in suspense, not knowing, until they have to.