Wednesday, 20 October 2021

#WEP #OCTOBER #CHALLENGE for #TheScream - My #flashfiction - 'The Child'

 Hello friends!

Two months have gone by since the last WEP. Here we are again, nearing the end of the year. 

October is our scream-fest, but it doesn't have to be if horror isn't your thing. 

Talking about horror, most of us watched in horror at the allies' retreat from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation. Images of those poor people running in front of departing aeroplanes is seared into our collective memory. 

I'm telling this story before it's completely out of date. The story of an Australian soldier who failed to understand  the challenges of going on patrol in Kandahar province, the area where the Australians were stationed.

I gleaned most of this story through research (I've written a book set in Afghanistan, as yet unpublished) and sprinkled it with a lot of imagination, thinking it suits The Scream for sure.




­­THE CHILD

 My first mission in Afghanistan. As we marched out in single file, my head thumped with the headache from hell. Ahead, the desert, pitch-black, silent. The only sound the Call to Prayer ringing across the Baluchi Valley, punctuating the silence with staccato bursts. The feral dogs joined in and soon their barking matched the cacophony of sound.

 I struggled through cool sand, so thick around my ankles it sucked at my regulation boots.

 I followed the soldier in front of me, his form a shadow in the darkness. Exhaustion threatened to overwhelm me. I’d had no sleep the night before, so terrified was I at the spectre of marching into the unfamiliar mountains and deserts of Kandahar province in one of the most treacherous countries on earth. The lead soldiers were obviously a lot fitter than I, a newly arrived recruit. I fought the sand – my knees screamed, my thighs burned, my lungs were on fire.

 I was in another world, a world where I’d been warned that nothing was as it appeared.

 Who was friend?

Who was foe?

 Making the wrong choice could result in death.

 I was on covert foot patrol with Australian and Afghan soldiers.  We were outside the wire, scaling rocky hills under the pressing weight of body armor and supplies. The altitude was an unwelcome foe. I hadn’t had time to acclimatise to the blistering temperatures.

 I tripped and fell onto my knees, thankful that the sand cushioned the fall.

 No one stopped to help me. On patrol, to stop would jeopardise the mission. I dragged my feet from the sand and hurried back to my position. No princesses here! In uniform everyone is treated the same.

 How I prayed for sunrise.

~*~

 After what seemed like hours, the lead soldier signalled with his crooked finger, pointing to our surroundings, then holding a finger to his lips. Word whispered down the line. Silence. Kuchi camps. Bedouins.

 We moved on again, soundlessly into the night, every sense screaming.

 ‘Police checkpoint’, someone whispered.

 In briefing I’d been told even if we had nothing to hide, these checkpoints were best avoided.

 No one even breathed as we crouched and duck-walked close to the ground, swinging our weapons from side to side, holding tight, hoping to elude the inevitable searchlight.

 A screech, a huge spotlight shone down on us, blinding us in white light.

­­Someone screamed ‘Drescht! (Stop!)’. We froze, startled deer, clutching weapons to our chests.

 Two policemen yelled at us in a language I didn’t understand, but the meaning was clear. They motioned us to our feet.

 We stood. Statues. I fought to control my bladder. We could be shot right where we stood.

 Our leader yelled, ‘Australians!’

 The police muttered to each other, came close, pointed weapons in our faces, checked papers, nodded, then motioned us on.

 Shaken, we headed further into the desert darkness.

 ‘The guards were skittish because just yesterday they confronted insurgents in Kakarak across the river. Shots were exchanged,’ hissed the soldier behind me.

 ‘Thanks,’ I muttered, but it didn’t comfort me. My eyes saw insurgents behind the rocks, across the river, in the mountains.

 I was weak with terror after my first date with danger. My legs collapsed. I fell out of line. Sat down in a dry gully, sucked air into my parched lungs.

 Back on my feet, I rushed to join the line again, terrified of being left behind.

                                                                   ~*~

 Sunrise.

 A glorious orange orb broke over the mountains, into the valley, and lit up the shock of green land we were heading toward, the green belt.

 In the near distance I saw a small boy, no more than six years old, shepherding his family’s goats through the pastures. He could be my son, but my little boy slept in cosy comfort, surrounded by stuffed toys and his father’s love. More children hid shyly in the doorways of simple rammed-earth homes.

 Watching. Watching. Watching.

 First stop. A meeting with the elders of the tribe. They were guarded, constantly looking to see if they were being observed. Not everyone would be happy to see them talking to Australian soldiers. They risked death for having a conversation with us. We kept it short to minimise the danger, then moved on.

 Over broken bricked walls, through crumbling aqueducts, we waded towards the village of Sorkh Morghab where coalition forces had built a school, market and medical centre. Yet, despite all our efforts, I’d been told it was hostile.

 We wandered through the village, apparently casually, weapons held across our chests, trigger fingers ready. We progressed through the market area, where men and young boys showed us their shops and tried to sell me a burqa. I was just a woman, one who needed to cover herself.

 One little boy approached me, hand outstretched. He, too, about six years old. I thought again of my son, but this little boy’s eyes reflected a man, an angry man. I shivered at the hate in those big black eyes.

 A soldier pulled me backward. ‘Step away,’ he said. ‘Nothing is as it seems.’

 I brushed him off. Reached into my pocket. Pulled out two lollies for the poor little boy. He was only a child.

 The child smiled a toothy smile, but it didn’t reach his old man eyes. He dived into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a large apple.

 We smiled at each other in what was a very easy but powerful gesture. No words needed.

 I saw the apple had gone black with age and looked rough and mouldy. It looked like a … it couldn’t be...

                                                                  ~*~

‘Nooooooooooo …’ someone screamed, a voice full of pain and regret.

 I felt the fire on my lips, the fire in my belly.

 I tasted the fire as it burned down my throat.

 I heard voices and the staccato bursts of gunfire.

 I heard the cry of a child.

 Then I heard … nothing.

  

THE END


TAGLINE: Trust is not a given. Sometimes you reach for an apple and are handed a grenade. 


WORDS: 997
FCA


Thank you for reading my entry for The Scream 

Please click on names in my sidebar to read more entries in this writing competition.

Please consider joining us for the final challenge for the year - Narcissus








Wednesday, 6 October 2021

#IWSG October post - Language choices in novels.

 Hello all! 

Welcome to the #IWSG for September! Hope your month has been awesome! I'm on a week's break after a gruelling publishing schedule. Now I've moved onto a keyword hunt using Publisher Rocket and Amazon ads with the help of Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks, but of course my laptop always travels with me!



Alex's awesome co-hosts for the October 6 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard! Try to fit in a visit if you can!

  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website to see the latest posts!!!

October 6 question - In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

I think this month's question will bring forth some good discussion. I'll keep mine short and sweet.

The question caught my eye because the language part is something I've struggled with. 

I don't use *bad* language in everyday life, but the lives of those I write about are a different matter. In Paris Dreams, I decided the two romantic leads, being in their twenties and early thirties, with no religious background, would not necessarily speak as cleanly as those of us who were threatened with having our mouths washed out with soap if we uttered a *bad* word in our parents' hearing. 

So I struggled with using a smattering of *bad* language in my novel and I feel it makes my story authentic for the circles my characters move in - fashion and art. That said, I only use 2 *bad* words - the ubiquitous "f*#k" and "b*^%$#d". Not gratuitous at all. Only one of my beta readers objected to the *bad* language. After my initial reluctance, I'm relaxed about it. So out of 102,000 words, to have about a dozen *bad* words, I can live with that. What do you think? 


How about you? Is *bad* language a no brainer for you or are you conflicted?

~*~

Want a #free Halloween read. Book 3 of my Fast and Furious Short Fiction, HALLOWEEN, is #free on an #Amazon promotion from Oct 1 - 5. Er, with time zones, I think it should be available if you hurry. Grab your copy now. 


~*~

More good news! This month's WEP October thrill fest for the Year of Art went live on October 1. Come join the fun. I'm sure we've all got something to scream about - not necessarily a horror story, maybe something tamer. What do you think? 

We love new writers, or past writers returning to give WEP another shot. Come share the fun! You've got until the 20th October to post. There is a critique prize for the winner and a chance to guest post/promote your book!