Fire Shooting

In continuation of my Westlands theme this week, here’s my Author Aerobics exercise. This piece shows how the Westlands is a sort of bottom-rung nation.

* * * * *

THE BLACK SKY was a blanket of cold. Down below, Westians clustered together around a froggish machine, trudging across the dull white landscape slowly. It was the month of Fjerd—what day, nobody could remember. Nobody could ever remember. Sometimes the month had sixteen days, sometimes it had forty. It varied incredibly, and since Fjerd began with the last day, and counted down until it reached the end of the month, 1, it was very confusing.

Peka, standing on the edge of the group, folded her arms more tightly and shot a few searching glances about the horizon.

It was then that she spotted what she was looking out for. “Wolves!” she said loudly, above the low chatter from the group. She darted back to her kinsmen. “Up there on the slope. And they look Nestern!”

The leader of the group, Sebashten, allowed a glimmer of fear to peek out of his weathered eyes. Nestern wolves? She must be kidding; most wolves in this region were the short, wiry, Vestern kind. What would the enormous Nesterns be doing way out here? “Did you say ‘Nester,’ or ‘Western?'”

“Nestern,” said Peka, frustrated. “Four feet tall at the shoulder, I’d guess.” She turned around and pointed a gloved hand at the group of around twelve wolves under moonlight. “Coming this way, and looking hungry.”

“Jak!” Sebashten called up to the top of the machine. A young man, who had fallen asleep while sitting on top, picked up his head and looked around.

“You spotted some?” he asked, not sounding very interested.

“Yes…start the system up.”

Jak popped open a panel and fiddled with some very complicated wires and knobs. How he did it, nobody knew. The machine was old…a leftover gift from the Andorans, who seemed to be “Too good for simple machines,” like this one. Someone had used the instruction manual to start a fire years ago, and Jak was the only one who remembered how to use the fire-shooters in the monstrous structure…

“They’re coming closer, Jak!” Peka barked, picking up a little one that was pulling at her coat. She ran to the machine, climbed the ladder one-handed, and sat up on top next to Jak. She tried to figure out what it was exactly that Jak was doing.

She couldn’t.

“Come on, Jak, there’s not much time left…” Sebashten was getting worried. He took the gun off his back and pointed it at the rapidly-approaching wolves. His trigger finger twitched, as his brain was racked with memories of looking down this same barrel. Once from the wrong end. “Jak!”

BLAAAAAAAZ

An explosion of sparks and embers lit up the area, as a lone rocket streaked out of the machine toward the pack of wolves. It bounced across the frozen ground, until its internal timer went off and it erupted into myriads of sparks and flames. When the explosion had cleared, all that was left of the wolves were slightly-charred dogs running in the opposite direction.

Peka smiled and took her hands from the child’s ears. Goodness, that was loud…it was a wonder that Jak still had his hearing after all those years of fire-shooting.

“Well done, Jak,” said Sebasten. “Now, let’s get going.”

The group slowly began to crawl forward once again, as a blizzard of stray snowflakes whipped through their midst, in what little wind there was.

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20 thoughts on “Fire Shooting

  1. Honestly having a little trouble with this one. At the beginning it seems like they’re all standing around. At the end, it sounds like they were on the move when they were interrupted by the wolves. And it isn’t made clear what the significance of the wolves being “Nestern” is: is “Nestern” a place the wolves are from? Does it signify something about their size? Also not clear on what, exactly, this fireworks spewing machine is.

    Other than that, it’s good to see some of the character develop in your Westlands. It seems they have a wolf-problem here.

    • Thanks Stephen, I fixed that. 🙂

      And the fireworks-spewing machine…well, uh, I’m not exactly sure what it is either, other than an outdated tractor-like convenience.

  2. I noticed that we got to see both Sebashten and Peka’s thoughts in this piece. You transitioned between them smoothly enough for me (I’ve always chosen a single character not yet brave enough to try that). I liked the image that the wolves were slightly-charred, i.e. more frightened by the noise than actually hurt.

    • Thanks Aidan! You should try peeking into multiple characters brains, you may be surprised at how easy it is to keep the thoughts separate. 🙂

    • Thank you Janna! I don’t usually do intense scenes like this…I’m more of a mystery writer…but I guess the action writer must be in me somewhere… 🙂

  3. I really liked the scene- how the wolves approached, how you build the intensity, the dialogue and of course the colorful BLAAAZZZZ! 🙂
    And I loved this line, “The leader of the group, Sebashten, allowed a glimmer of fear to peek out of his weathered eyes.”

    • LOL, you’re the second person to like my BLAZ. 🙂 Like I said above, I’m not much of an action writer so this was not my field of profession. But it worked out I guess? 🙂

  4. I liked it. I, too, am not brave enough to use the multiple character thought thingy-majig yet. Every time I try I realize that the characters thoughts are so related, that it just gets confusing. So props on the good job you did there. I’m impressed. And I liked your BLAZZZ. very colorful. 🙂

    • Maybe you should try different getting-into-character exercises. I mean hey, in the world of writing everything goes, right? Before you write a story, do you sit down and write a whole document of character exposition? Visual description, history, medical record, beliefs, age, birthday, bla bla bla…Just something you might want to try. 🙂

      • umm… I draw pictures of my characters… even though they aren’t that good… lol
        I will try that, maybe it will work for me. We’ll see. 😀

      • FWIW, I think “drawing” pictures of your characters is a very powerful tool for getting to know them. Not the same as getting inside their heads, but useful nonetheless.

      • P.S., there was no logical reason for me to put the word “drawing” in quotes… that makes it seem like I meant that the drawing was fake, which wouldn’t make sense… so I want to clarify that’s not what I mean.

      • Stephen’s right, when you draw characters you sort of solidify what they look like in your mind’s eye. I do it, it’s worked for me to get a grip on how exactly they look, rather than they “Sort of look like…” with “Somethingish hair…” and they’re “Around this height…”

        Your mind can be rather imprecise but when you draw your characters, it’s set in stone.

      • I once GMed a D&D game where one player described his character something like “kind of tall, but not that tall. Dark hair that’s a little light. He has a serious look, but not too serious.” And so on. The description was a long series of contradictions, so we all jokingly said that he looked like a vaguely human-shaped blur.

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