Chapter 6

Written by: Jay Meeks

 

A familiar tsunami of panic and fear not felt for many years engulf my frame and rattle my thinking.   Fire surrounds me.  I am burning again.

I reach the jagged rocks jutting out of the thunderous white waters that broke Artie’s fall.  His injuries are worse than they looked from a distance.  Not only is one of his ribs broken and jutting through his flesh and shirt, blood is rapidly oozing from the back of his head onto the rock that had rendered him unconscious.

“Artie!  Can you hear me?”

Artie remains as unanimated and lifeless as a corpse.  Is he breathing?  Yes, thank God, he is breathing.  But for how long?  He is injured badly.

I suddenly realize that I am knee deep in the rapids, clinging for position against the base of the cliff that Artie fell from, and I attempt to solidify my stance on large, uneven rocks below the rushing water.

“Artie!”

Where are the others?  Will Bruce come back for us?

My foot slips down into a chasm between two sharp rocks.  I lose my balance and the river’s current, powerful as a landslide, hurls me in reverse.  A bone cracks as I am flung backwards, screaming.  Excruciating pain shoots up my leg.  The current pummels my body against rocks and I involuntarily ingest water up my nose as I writhe on my back to free my ankle.  I’m stuck!  I can’t get free!  The fire!  The pain in my ankle is so great that I feel close to blacking out.  I’m going to drown while Artie bleeds to death.

I lived through the fire!  I will live through this water!

Panicking with the realization that I am drowning, I gather every ounce of strength remaining in my battered body.  I push with my free leg and pull!  I am able to liberate my mangled foot from its watery prison.  Instantly the turbulence of the crashing current hurls my body, feet above head, down river.  Flesh scrapes several askew rocks in the process.  Screaming, I slam into a half hidden boulder sticking out of the rapids and cling for life.

“Help!  Help!”

I am now nearly seventy-five yards down river from where Artie lay unconscious and there is no way to get back to him.   My arms and face are bleeding, future scars on top of the old ones, and my entire body throbs pain.  The icy water numbs the agony of my ankle.  I reinforce my hold on the rock and scan the canyon.  I yell loudly for help.

“Bruce!  Help us!!  Bruce!  Artie is hurt bad!”

Artie is going to die if I can’t get help.  And I have never told him that I hate being a tag along, but that I love him.  

Jay Meeks (USA)

Comments

Now we have a problem. Nice work, Jay. It wouldn't be any fun if the paper umbrella didn't fall off the drink.  
Another first time serial writer. I was bowled over (scuse the pun) with this. What a wonderful piece of total 'show'. You managed to accelerate the excitement while still making us think there is a hidden mystery to unfold about the fire, and tension as Artie and Sue face an uncertain outcome to their predicament. Well done Jay. 
. . . well, you know what I was going to say - I just don't know the rules on leaving genteel speech behind here in the Mint commentary.  Take that, you unseeing oaf!  (Sorry. I have a friend who's life was put on hold for 14 years while she waited for a guy to either catch on or cast off. He chose the latter, of course. I have issues.) How fast can a rescue be mounted in a scenario like this? I have no clue, but I'm thinking only a miracle can save Artie now. Maybe he'll regain consciousness long enough to be redeemed. We're definitely at the point of no return here.  Nice scene, Jay. I would have treasured a more developed sense of the fire tragedy. I felt there were too many passive verbs - especially after that glorious opening line - that took away from the power of the scene. Same with adverbs.
Good cop, bad cop - one has to be genteel and rough at the same time. That's why this forum works. Some comments ooze treacle, others are a little rough. Still more others show preference or dislike to a certain style or change in the story. Whatever, the overall result is a well balanced view. I think all writers, readers, and teachers are doing a great job. Allez, serial 'Minties'.
I decided to wait until further along to read all the chapters and the comments. It's been an interesting ride. I always ask myself what I like about particular books/stories and why I like them. My answers don't come easily, but I think, for me at least, it is style and being able to relate to the character. I need to be in their shoes. I was reading a book on characterisation a while back, and a question was asked: When you finish and walk away from a book, what do you most remember. The answer is, of course, the character. We also remember the story and what happened, but it is the character we related to and the story that we walked in their shoes that sits with us long after. Unfortunately, serial stories will always lack great characterisation. We can build a character a little bit, but it will never be what it could be in a story written by one person. But that's ok, it just means we have to try harder on all the other aspects of story writing. When I write I get the story down first, then I go back and add more to the character until they/he/she are living and breathing. I think I remember what I was reading now, it was Stephen King on Writing. And he mentioned he builds the characters up the same way -- on the following drafts. We are only writing one chapter here so it's impossible to take characters that extra step (I'm going to keep trying, though). But without being able to go back and edit everyone else’s work you can't 'redraw' the character(s) to make them the centre piece of the story. Just a thought on the matter to share. No hidden meaning. Feel free to disagree. I just reread chapter 3, remembering that it was my favourite. I wasn't exactly sure why, so I'm just going to put it down to preferred style. It was also written very well. So are all the other chapters, but sometimes there's just something I like that I can't put my finger on.  
I couldn't agree with you more on every point. I'd love for you to be wrong on the character limitations, but in this format and 500 words, there's no way I can argue effectively. But I'm with you on that we have to try.
I agree the adverbs are sprinkled here a little too thickly but I don't think that takes away the excitement from the story. You did well. I always try to compare other chapters to my own after reading the (sorry) 'current' comments. I have yet to put myself higher, as far as well written chapter is concerned, than third place and that only happened in one serial. The rest are lower. That doesn't matter. As a writer of full length stories, writing a short is worse than trying to master tense issues. I find that I am learning a lot from everyone else and hope that in time that will show. In the meantime, practice makes perfect.
You grade yourself too harshly! I always think I'm in the top two or three. I doubt everyone agrees with that - but they'll get it right eventually. *Grins impishly*  On a serious note, I agree that Jay did a great job. But I have to say that passive verbs and reliance on adverbs makes a dent in impact to the reader. There are times when using "was" or its ilk is the only option - but it pays to exhaust all the options before settling. I don't say that just in regard to this chapter. I say it to myself every time I write a piece of fiction before I submit it for someone else to read.
"Artie is going to die if I can't get help."  I'd rather he died to add to the drama.  This is a good part of the story to lead to the next.
Thanks for saying it out loud, Ken!
It's not fair to drive the story in the direction you want it to go... I think she should drown and he gets saved by the guy on the hang glider.  Can we kill the heroine?
But we'll hope that the authors that follow have strong beliefs in what they want to see happen and can ignore us - or use us as they see fit.
I have not read one thriller yet that was any good unless there was at least one body lying around somewhere. Doesn't have to be blood but a death always heightens tension, creates action, and if the writer is on the ball, makes the reader feel sad, happy, mad, or  hatred for a villain. Mind you, the hang gliders might come in to rescue Artie - Just Kidding.
This chapter ratcheted up the pace and tension of the story in perfect proportion to what's gone on before. I am hooked. I, however, agree that the use of some adjectives don't seem to contribute. One other thing, the passage, "... unanimated and lifeless..." seems redundant and disruptive to the flow.
If I had my way the heroine would have been helicoptered off the river in Chapter four and the whole story would have taken off in a completely different direction