Five Sentence Fiction: Voices and Echoes

In Fiction on June 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

He kept to the main streets (there was no point in trying to slip through now), hearing nothing but the scrape of his boots and the rush of the river and the cry of a far-off lark. He’d been six or seven the last time he’d seen this place, waist-high on his father, and it seemed he’d seen the whole place from the ground up: wagons rolling, skirts swaying, earth and sky joined in the rise of dust. His father had bought him penny candy and root beer at the apothecary, and let him sit by and listen as the old men told their dirty stories, as long as he was good and didn’t relate the stories to his mother later on.

He stopped by the old place now, its sign swinging, half off its chain, blown in the breeze: Spirits – Tobacco – Medicines.

“You best pray for the spirits, young Mr. Williams,” he heard a voice say, “’cause as far as I seen there ain’t no medicine what can cure a man of death.”

——————————————————————————-

The Story So Far…Five Sentences at a Time

The fog crept across the plain, wispy and wavering like a line of ghostly scavengers stooping low to inspect the dead. Caleb felt the dew it had deposited on his eyelids – cold, liquid coins — and awoke, sorely disappointed to find that he was still alive.

He sat up and peered through the mist. A few yards distant, the white shroud was wrapping some fortunate soul in its folds, hiding from view the open eyes and slackened mouth and hollow cheeks, making dark shapes of the bodies that lay farther afield in the grassy muck.

Theirs is the glory of war, he thought bitterly as he got to his feet, and now the task is mine alone.

The battle was a blaze in his memory, a single burst of fire, all shrapnel and blood and smoke and noise. Now all was quiet, and the dead were everywhere, some stacked and gathered, others strewn lonely in the field. Somehow the silence beat a rhythm within itself, like the memory of a heart gone still, like drums only almost struck.

Grammar’s forces had moved on, north probably, toward the river and the mill and the stores beneath Pa Conner’s shop. Caleb had glimpsed the map only in passing and only in the uncertain light of the Captain’s low-burned taper, but he had a fair idea of where the men were headed.

He pushed on, down the slope of a wet ridge, feet sliding. The sun, overripe and bursting orange, was crushed against the horizon, breaking through the clouds and smoke to the west.

The town was fewer than five miles distant, easy enough to walk by nightfall, but Caleb couldn’t be sure Grammar and his men would stop for rest, or how many men Grammar had left, even. If the company was at full strength, there would be little he could do, but a dozen men — sleeping perhaps — would be quick work for his dagger.

Quick work except for one, Caleb thought, and he quickened his pace.

Andro’s Crossing they called it, one of the first dead towns, lost in a deep raid in the early fighting. It was some fifty miles south of the line, and the raid some six months past, but the town folk had never returned and Caleb didn’t blame them.

It was a broken place, hard by the river and shaded by hills, low buildings huddled on the bank as if in fear. There were no lights in the windows, now, no smoke from the chimneys and no walkers in the street, but Caleb knew Grammar and his men wouldn’t be far. Men like Grammar were drawn to desolation like blow flies, sniffing out the ruins of human life – feeding on putrefaction – and there was no question but Andro’s Crossing was a picture of desolation, all sickness and decline.

He kept to the main streets (there was no point in trying to slip through now), hearing nothing but the scrape of his boots and the rush of the river and the cry of a far-off lark. He’d been six or seven the last time he’d seen this place, waist-high on his father, and it seemed he’d seen the whole place from the ground up: wagons rolling, skirts swaying, earth and sky joined in the rise of dust. His father had bought him penny candy and root beer at the apothecary, and let him sit by and listen as the old men told their dirty stories, as long as he was good and didn’t relate the stories to his mother later on.

He stopped by the old place now, its sign swinging, half off its chain, blown in the breeze: Spirits – Tobacco – Medicines.

“You best pray for the spirits, young Mr. Williams,” he heard a voice say, “’cause as far as I seen there ain’t no medicine what can cure a man of death.”

————————————————————————-

Five Sentence FictionThis is my response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt. This week’s prompt: MEDICINE. I was late this week, but be sure to check out all the other responses on Lillie’s blog!

As always, constructive criticism, destructive praise, and general commentary welcome below!

If you’re really in the mood to critique, I’ve got more fiction here.

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  1. Wonderful atmosphere… it has an olde-worlde charm about it. When last have I heard the word “apothecary”?

  2. Brian– What a fabulous idea of continuing the story line week after week while maintaining the five sentence limit and writing to the prompt. I love it!

    • Well I’m always a little worried what the next one will be. One of these days it’s going to be something like “MacDonalds” or “AAA batteries” and it’ll be all over haha. Glad you’re liking it so far!

  3. I’m really enjoying following this story Brian, the words have been weaved in so well…that reading the story in its entirety so far is exciting to pick out the prompt words from memory!
    Definitely keen to know what happens next!

    • Thanks, Lisa! I just felt like I kept writing these disconnected bits, so I decided I’d just go for it and post serial-style, even if it’s slow going

    • that we need to grant forgiveness to orhets (since he gave forgiveness to us), but that is soooo hard! One suggestion I will give (not that you have to take it! lol), is to make the decision to fogive (knowing that those unwanted anger/hurt feelings will still surface), and then actually start praying for that other person. Find something to thank God about for that other person, and persistantly, daily thank God for that one aspect of that person. Also, you can turn the decision into action and actually try to do something nice for the person whether you really want to or not! Well, as you said, it is easy to give advice, but very difficult to implement it into our lives. I will be praying with you as you struggle!

  4. Brian, I loved the story and especially the descriptions. I live in Nevada and just felt like you represented the setting in such a familiar way. So good.

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