I told myself I would post my writing progress every time I write in the hopes to destroy the perfectionist in me and break the taboo of the first draft. This is the unedited version of FairBanks Island (Title Work-in-Progress)
The mist lay heavy on the island. It wasn’t even possible to see if there was an island, only big great blur on the ocean. He was an army man, relatively young officer compared to the other who stood next to him. The older man lighted a pipe and stared listlessly into the mist, as if he hoped for it to part or that he actually saw what was happening, he found that unlikely. After a long while of silence, the old man said. “How long have you been in service, Harry?”
“Sense the war started, sir.”
“Four years then… I heard you were very brave out there.”
“Thank you, sir…”
He recalled the battle that made him limp in one knee. He really wished he was out there on the battlefield again, but he would just be a hindrance at that hurt more than anything. Suddenly, there was a faint shriek that jittered him to the present and made him focus his eyes where the sound came, though it was impossible to know for sure, the mist distort even voices. After a while, he glanced at the old officer who stood motionless. If he felt something, he didn’t show.
“Do you think he got away?” the young officer asked. The old man didn’t bother to answer and stuck his head through the hatch by his feet. “Bring up the other one,” he said.
A man in prison uniform came out. Up until now, they had struggled as they were forced up on deck. Not this one. He was calm, almost content with his fate, he’d say, if it wasn’t for those eyes that told a different story; wide and sharp, picking up anything to his advantage. He didn’t ask questions either, not that they would give him any. They put him on a small rowboat, accompanied by three soldiers, and disappeared into the mist. “How many do you think we need to send, sir?”
“How many as it takes…”
“Is the island really that important?”
“It is… Besides, what self-respecting military man would accept defeat?”
A wise one, he thought to himself. They stood motionless and continued to peer into the mist, hearing only the paddles pierce through the calm water, too calm to be so far out in the ocean. This was a strange place… He’d do anything to be with his comrades on the battlefield again…
Banks was just 18 when he joined the war. Conscriptions were common, but the very young was mostly spared the drafting, unless the war went really bad. So far, the conscription age was 21 but Banks insisted to join the effort. How could he not? Propaganda was everywhere, spewing its patriotic rhetoric on the radio and town meetings, urging the country’s finest to join the cause. Banks father was a veteran: Lt. George Fair, was his name, and he was infamous among his peers to be ruthless to his men, but most of them also came back home alive, which couldn’t be said for most Platoons. George was a revered leader for those that knew him in the army. Those that knew him in civilian life would not say the same. Away from the frontlines, he was quiet and a loving father and husband, patient and not prone to violence even when confronted by it. It was strange how somebody could change that much in a couple of years, but then again, the battlefield was a different world entirely, something that those that had been to war knew all too well.
When Banks learned about his fathers reputation, which was much later in life because George didn’t like telling stories of his time in the trenches, Banks felt the need to prove himself. But to whom? His parents? The last thing they wanted was to see him sent off to war; to his friends? They didn’t want to go anymore than other kids, his age; to himself? Most likely, why? Even his father couldn’t figure that out. He tried to convince him every which way, telling his son in minute details what war was about, but he couldn’t see the horror that awaited him, as any that had lived their lives is the safety of their home. But banks was no fool. He knew the risks involved, as much as anyone that hadn’t been to war could know, but all his life, he has been called a coward, because frankly, he was. He was his father’s son when it came to avoiding conflict but he would run away rather than stand his ground if forced to. He hated that about himself and in his mind, he thought that he would become a man if he faced the dangers ahead. There was no turning back if he did, which was exactly why he joined, to prove that he could be just as brave as his war hero father.
But things rarely turn out the way we imagine. The first weeks on basic training was hard on him. He had trouble following basic directions, his mind had a tendency to wander, but he wasn’t weaker than anyone else and could keep up whenever they trained. He was a decent marksman too, that is, when tragedy struck. They were having a mock battle. They were running in the forest as a unit and they were to find the enemy that was targets shaped like men when one of his friend’s fell and his gun went off. He hadn’t put the safety on and the bullet went right through his other friends head, right in front of him. Blood and brain matter scattered all over him and they gave him pension for a couple of days to calm his nerves, but when he returned to training, he couldn’t, for the life of him, pull the trigger. Seeing the real effect a gun had on a person broke him. It took a fair amount of barking from the captain before he was capable of firing another shot, still, he was apprehensive and he knew he could never do that to another human being. He was a coward, after all.
Banks was at pay phone and was going to call his father to get him home. His father had always told him that if he changed his mind, he could get him out, he still held respect within the military and could pull some strings. It hurt painfully to reach that phone, but what else could he do? At the side of the phone, there was a billboard and as he waited for his father to pick up, a poster caught his eye. It called for people of special talent. It didn’t say specifically what that talent was but it said they would be sent on a special mission off the coast of Gordige, which, incidentally was far from the frontlines.. A top secret mission, it said. Banks hung up the phone, even as he heard his father answer on the other line, and noted down the time and place. He didn’t care what the mission was, if he could serve his country with little risk in seeing actual combat, he’d do anything.
The meeting was held in the office building. Three officers sat across to him and offered him a chair. They got right to it and asked all sorts of questions, mostly concerning his upbringing. One of the officers raised an eyebrow when he saw his father’s name and Banks cheeks flushed. The officer seemed hesitant to continue and Banks prayed he would not end the interview. In the end, he only asked why he wanted to attain this mission and he responded with the usual patriotic drivel that officers like them like to hear. This seemed to settle it as he was clear to join. Banks held in his joy and instead showed it on the remainder of his time in basic training. The improvement was significant, his captain thought, and Banks was sent off with his blessings. He was allowed a couple of days before he was shipped off to the island and he decided to meet his folks and share in the good news.
You can read my progress on HERE.
© Christopher Stamfors