Saturday, June 25, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages Workshop - June Entry #3, Rev 3

Kate Larkindale - Young Adult


The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Teetering on the edge of consciousness, wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me - what’s left of them - fighting the darkness threatening to drown me.
Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto.
My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them.
Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I
can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.

A taillight.

I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge of relief passing through me at this small achievement. It’s a taillight. But why is it there? What is there? And if that’s there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzying circles around my skull. My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring into it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.

More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the flood of brightness. All around me I see fragments glinting in the beam, tiny jewels strewn across the road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road? Ghostly music drifts in my direction. A song I know, an oldie, The Beach Boys. It makes no sense here, must be in my head. I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself onto my elbows for a better perspective. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck to my still-aching head. The heavy, metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down, I see the yellow line is smeared red.

The slamming of a car door breaks through the dull thumping in my skull, chases the music away for a moment. Footsteps scuff across the gravel, heading away from where I lie.
“I’m here!” I can’t tell if I’ve spoken aloud, or if the words are just in my head, like the unearthly jaunt of the Beach Boys song.
“Help me.”
The footsteps grow nearer. “There’s another one over here.” The voice is a woman’s. Another what? I try to form the words, but my tongue is heavy and thick, my lips uncooperative.

A face hovers over me, pale and moon-like in the unforgiving glare.
“This one’s conscious, I think.” The same voice as before. She leans closer, coffee and cigarettes on her breath. “Honey? Can you tell me your name? You’ve been in an accident, but you’re going to be just fine, okay?”
An accident? The cogs and wheels in my head speed up again, grinding together as they try to absorb the words.
“Mom?” The word is painful to form, “Dad?” Somehow I know they’ll be there.
“Is that who you’re with?” The voice is gentle, soothing even, but I sense the urgency in her tone, “Your mom and dad?”
I try to nod, not sure if my head moves or not. I’ve been in an
accident. That’s what she said. Does that mean Mom and Dad were in an accident too? Where was I before here?
“…Okay?” I ask, only the last part of the phrase making it out of my mush-filled mouth. Are they okay? That’s what I wanted to ask. Are they here? My parents? Are they okay?

The words build to a scream behind my forehead, hammering the bone with the need to escape. I’m aware of the woman’s hands coming down to hold my shoulders and realize I’m writhing on the cold blacktop, every movement awakening new hurt. A shriek rises and falls in the distance, growing nearer whoop by whoop. It’s in my head, extinguishing any music that lingers there. It stops abruptly, as if a switch has been flicked. Seconds later, flashing lights, red, white, blue, replace the sound.

Voices surround me. They’re all talking at once, the words swirling into a dull cacophony. I let myself drift in spirals on the rise and fall of their voices, the steady thud of my heartbeat an underlying rhythm to their song.

“Sweetheart?” The voice by my ear startles me. “What’s your name?
Do you know your name?”
Do I know my name? Of course I know my name. I’m not an idiot. “Lucy…”
“Okay, Lucy.” The man’s voice is soft, yet firm at the same time.
It’s a voice I can trust. A safe voice. I can’t see who’s speaking though. A white beam shines right into my eyes and he’s nothing more than a silhouette against it. “Do you feel any pain, Lucy?”
I nod again, still not sure if my head moves or not.
“Can you tell me where it hurts?”
I shake my head this time. Everything hurts. Those wavy gray lines dance across my vision again. His shadowy figure appears to melt into the darkness for a moment, then comes back into focus.
“Mom?” I ask again, certain she’s around somewhere. “Dad?” My parents must be here. We were at a wedding. Adam DeMarco’s. The grinding cogs in my skull work overtime as I try to make sense of it.
Adam DeMarco? I haven’t seen the guy since I was about eight. He was Tony’s friend. Sort of friend. Those early childhood friendships based more on who your parents choose to spend time with than any personal selection process. But Tony wasn’t there was he?

I struggle to remember. My eyes rake the ground before me, dazzled by light playing on glass. I blink. No. Tony wasn’t there. Of course not. He’s at college. Diving. Miles away. I doubt Adam missed him.
He’s older than Tony, but not that much. A couple of years, maybe.
Young to be getting married at twenty-two. Must’ve knocked the girl up…

“…We’re going to move you, Lucy.” The voice shatters my unfocused train of thought, bringing me back to the slick tarmac, damp beneath me. “Let me know if it hurts, okay?”

“‘Kay” The word sounds like slush coming out of my mouth. Worse than Mom’s mush-mouth after too much chardonnay. Someone lifts my head, wrapping something soft and firm around my neck. I remember the tightness in my lungs before, the struggle to draw breath. Panic rises in my throat, hot and poisonous. My breath quickens and I hear a strange gasping sound, a repetitive “nononononononono” coming from somewhere very close by.


  1. Hi Kate,

    At the risk of repeating myself, I think you can make this faster by making it more immediate. You're actually repeating yourself a lot and if you cut some of the redundancy, you can get us to the point we want to reach with fewer words. As an extreme example (and I'm by no means saying this is better, just that I want you to consider the import of every word!) consider the following.

    The darkness is absolute. I strain to push my lids up, but my eyes are already open. My lungs burn for air.

    I turn my head, cry out at a savage bolt of pain, teeter on the edge of consciousness, fight the darkness threatening to drown me.

    The ground is wet and greasy, reeking of gas. Pebbles skitter as I reach out. Pain pricks my fingertips. Glass, not pebbles. Small, sharp shards of glass.

    (And no, I'm not sure I'd advocate the alliteration in that last sentence, so you might try implying the shards are sharp by letting her smell the blood.)

    That's all I've got. You write beautifully, so I'm sure you'll succeed whatever you do. Just be careful not to let the beautiful words get in the way of letting us see and feel the story.

    Best of luck,


  2. As before, the prose is awesome. Lines like "The words build to a scream behind my forehead, hammering the bone with the need to escape" added a lot of beauty to the scene in spite of its chaos.

    I really liked how the heroine's understanding of the scene unfurled gradually. Not sure if that was your intent, but this gradual fact-building gave the scene an air of suspense for me.

    I wonder if Lucy might start thinking about her parents sooner, but honestly, that's a minor gripe. As it's written now, Lucy's thought processes in this scene don't come off as unrealistic to me. It's a tough line to walk, capturing her disorientation while still making the narrative coherent, but I think you've hit it out of the park!

  3. You write beautifully. You have from the beginning, but you've improved since then as well. I know it's hard to change things, but (like Martina) I really feel you would have a stronger piece if you cut down the beginning even more. Sometimes fewer words have a greater impact. Again, if she sees a taillight doesn't she know she's in the road? That sort of thing. I want to know WHO she is once you've established she's hurt and been in an accident. That's what hooks me. Maybe that's a personal preference, and that's okay. You absolutely have to do what's right for you and your story, but I feel compelled to offer my advice - take it or leave it. It's your story, always.

  4. I, too, really like your writing. It's very powerful. It could be trimmed a bit, but it's pretty compelling as is. The only thing that stopped me was when Lucy nodded and shook her head. I don't think she'd be able to. Perhaps she could try to, then moan out a yes or a no. This is a great opeing scene. Good luck with your book.

  5. I don't have much to add, except perhaps cutting down some of the adjectives. Mush and slush are sticking out in my mind, too. Try to find substitute words that describe her difficulty speaking.

    I love this. Best of luck!

  6. Thanks for all the help everyone! I so appreciate it.


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