Chapter 6

Written by: Sumanda Maritz

     Marcus Reynolds, Head of the Research Station was busy calling in every rescue agency he could manage.  “Henry, the only data we’ve got at the moment is that the balloon hasn’t returned yet."

  Marshall’s wife, George,had gone to investigate in their helicopter.  The emergency beacon had activated about an hour ago and they couldn't get hold of her. " I need anything you can spare to help us search. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.” 

     Sam walked in as Marcus wrapped up the phone call. “We’ve got a problem.  There’s a serious storm blowing in from the east.  It’s going to hit sometime during the night.”  The hope Marcus had been holding onto evaporated.  The search and rescue he’d been planning was going to turn into a search and recover.  The balloon's passengers chances of survival just plummeted to almost zero.


     Dawson looked up as Alex curled into a ball with a groan. “What’s wrong?” he asked as he crawled over to her. 

Ignoring his question Alex groaned around another cramp.  Getting pregnant in her second year was stupid.  Risking the pregnancy with an adventurous trip to the icy tundra was even more stupid.  The vague cramping she’d been feeling all afternoon wasn’t hunger.  Now she was stuck with the one person she was sure she couldn’t trust in an emergency.

     “I need you to heat some ice for me.” She gasped out as she felt liquid flowing into her underwear.  “I’m having a miscarriage.”

     Dawson sat back in shock. Pregnant?  How could she be pregnant? He was so sure Marshall and Alex hadn’t gotten that far.  Unless it was that night she went on the date with that football player.  And here he was worried that Marshall was competition! Was this woman ever going to see him as more than just a classmate?  Maybe his dad was right about women being only good for one thing.

     “Quite the little tart, aren’t you?” he mumbled to himself as he bundled snow into the tin.  Just before putting it on the primus stove he jerked as Alex let out a scream.


     Marshall slowly came to.  His first impressions were of cold and spreading darkness.  Then the crash and avalanche came back to him.  But what happened to the helicopter? As he pulled himself upright he heard a voice in the distance.

     “Peter! Are you okay? Don’t move there’s a crevasse!” Shaking the last bit of grogginess from his head, he realised the voice belonged to his wife George. “Honey?  What’s going on?” He bellowed.

     “The helicopter crashed. I can’t get to you. I need you to try your radio again. The one in the helicopter is busted.” A rumble followed her words. With a high pitched scream the section of ice that George and the helicopter was resting on started to slide down the mountain. A wave of sound and debris crashed over Marshall as the broken off section plunged into the abyss.



Sumanda Maritz (SA)


Wow! Marcus may have it right about it being a search and recover mission. Great job, Sumanda. Covering all three locations and moving things along like an avalanche.
I'm sure we could bundle all this action up into an Alistair Maclean type novel and script it for a movie. The visuals are real, the characters are beleivable and the plot takes me back to the seventies and eighties. Description, action, tension, and turn the page ending - 10 out of 10. A real thrilling chapter. Smashing work, Sumanda.
Thanks guys   I really appreciate the comments.   I've got a few questions as a writer that I'm sure the other writers (and readers as well) will be able to answer for me. I've had no training in creative writing except for what I did in school, which is way too long ago to remember at all.  What I have done is read a lot from a young age. One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I started writing was to judge the pace of the story.  There's a big difference between reading and writing.  It takes ages to write something that can be read in a matter of minutes.  First question for the writers, how do you judge the flow rate on a story when writing?  Do you have any techniques that you use to keep the story from bogging down? Or that let's you add flavour to the story when you can afford it? I've also noticed that I'm prone to writing long dragging sentences.  I know good writing skills say to mix long and short sentences. Since I realised this I've actively tried to cut my sentences so that only one thought per sentence is ever present. Another writing technique I've read about is to use short choppy sentences to create suspense and to make the story faster paced.  What I'd like to know from readers (and writers) is whether you've noticed if this helps to make the story seem faster than when long sentences are used? Sorry a bit convoluted, but I'd really like your thoughts on this.   "Pull up a chair. Get some hot cocoa. This is going to take a while. I'm a fantasy author. We have trouble with the concept of brevity." Brandon Sanderson
Sumanda.  I've taken several classes and read dozens of books on writing. You'll usually find me ranting about word limits, but not keeping the sentences short. I like to say that I can spend a thousand words writing about a sneeze. I used to love long, convaluted sentences that used long, esoteric phrases. I still love using words. But I am the biggest fan of fast-paced, short sentences to create pacing and action.  Part of that comes from a lack of patience on my part. If I have to read a bunch of flowery description - at least don't pack it all into one sentence. Break it up. Or I'll skip it altogether. But that's me. I'm a dialog junkie. Judging pace is a difficult thing. I think it comes with time. (Haha!) And that's what having others read your work is for. When you're in the middle of something and deeply, emotionally tied to your characters and their story - how are you to see the flaws yourself? If you don't belong to a writer's group, might I suggest that you apply for membership to Writers Pen? It's on Facebook and is administered by our "madbrit." Send him and email at  (Oh! I'm a fantasy/scifi geek myself. Sanderson did an excellent job finishing off The Wheel of Time.)
Surmanda, reference Annette's invitation to a closed group - Writer's Pen. You will find a group of writers who are more than willing to give advice, discuss writing issues,and  critique work. The group consists of beginners to published writers and all of us hoping to be published by The Story Mint. Please send a friend request to my E mail -  Hope to hear.  
I love how you moved between all three locations - really moved the story along. And now there's a storm, a miscarriage and the helicopter wreakage disappearing into the abyss - talk about fast-paced action and cliff hangers!