I took a break for a couple of days while I was in London and I haven’t posted in a while even though I have been writing. It’s strange how some activities you really cannot break the chain. One day’s rest and you’ll struggle to get back… But I digress. I’m back and glad to be posting again:
Writing is a struggle, but it’s the good kind of struggle, especially if you think that every word written – no matter how bad it may seem – is a step forward towards a finished story. That’s why I think it’s so important for us that do not plan to never look back or think ahead, and always be in the present. What you have written before and what you imagine the story to become are all distractions. To manage a story you must think what the character will do next, nothing more. When a solid plot has formed, then you can work out the details. You have a finished a roadmap and now you can even deviate from it, if necessary.
That is the most difficult part of writing, to let go of you expectations and just be, just let the story happen; finding the truth. Thinking ahead is the death of a organic story
Banks woke up very early, more early than he would have, otherwise. Lillie was still asleep but the sun was cracking dawn and the mist was not as thick anymore and he decided to head out, without breakfast. He wrote her a note and apologised but said he would see her as soon as possible. He was relieved leaving the house and he felt ashamed of it. Her father must be really sick and she was all alone taking care of him. He decided he would brave his fears and visit the old man next time, no matter how he felt. It was a nice stroll back to base, they usually didn’t get up until the sun was fully visible over the horizon and that gave him at least an hour to get back, plenty of time. He had dreamt of going to war that night. He had dreamt that gun shots rained over his head and around him. His comrades had been falling in the trenches, faceless comrades, nobody he really knew had been in the dream, not that he could recall. For a moment he wondered if that what it was like for his father when he was in the war. He was glad he could do this service and yet not kill…
He came to the base and immediately he felt the atmosphere was different. The air was heavy and people sloshed and stared at him with bleary eyes. There were some faces he knew, yet, nobody greeted him. Banks felt unnerved and looked to his feet, had he done something? As he came nearer to the centre, he saw white blankets spread out across the courtyard. There were a great many of them and Banks wondered what the purpose was. When he got closer, he saw blood bleed through the fabric and he realised that all of them were people hidden underneath. Suddenly, somebody walked up to him and grabbed his collar. “Where were you?” He said.
All Banks could do was stammer and ask what had happened but it only made the man more furious. “You know perfectly well what happened, you damn coward!”
Another came up. “Easy now, maybe he really didn’t know…”
“There’s no way he didn’t hear the gun shots. This bastard stayed away purposely.”
Banks recalled the echoes and his eyes widen. Perhaps he had known and just convinced himself that it wasn’t so. Banks felt ashamed and didn’t know what to say and a small crowd surrounded him and accused him, they wanted somebody to blame. After a while, the captain came over and dispersed them, saying that it was probably for the best that Banks hadn’t been there, considering how many comrades had fallen by our own hands. Nobody argued against that and they went their different ways, some sitting by one of the unmarked bodies, mourning. Banks looked at the captain and asked, what had happened? “The enemy attacked,” he simply said and went someplace else, where he was needed. Banks simply stood and looked around. The base was a different place now, with all the dead, and sorrow a place that he was foreign to and didn’t know what to do. After a moment, he walked up to one of the bodies and lifted the blanket, there was a stranger underneath, somebody he must’ve passed many times but never spoken to. He had his throat slit. Banks pulled down the blanket as he felt eyes on him. They told he had no right to look at the dead and he scampered away. He was feeling queasy anyhow and felt like puking, but nothing came out. A horrible thought came to him and he wondered where Hjalmar was… He couldn’t have been.
Banks dashed from one side of the courtyard to the next, too ashamed to ask anyone for help, he heard his name being called behind him and Hjalmar walked up to him. Banks was so relieved that he would have collapsed on the spot. “So you came at last,” he said. “Damn lucky too or you might have been one of them on the ground.”
“What happened?” Banks asked.
Hjalmar told that they came in the night. Those bastard had been killing most people in your barracks before everyone was roused. Somebody had gone to the bathroom at night and fired a shot before he was killed. It was so damn misty that we didn’t know who was who and we were so spooked we shot at any shadow, but the enemy had already retreated by then. Banks couldn’t imagine the enemy was there Hjalmar found him and it turned out the enemy had come in the night. It was only luck that they were noticed because somebody managed to fire their gun as he was attacked. Several had their throats slit and it seemed like the enemy had escaped just as they were discovered, the causalities after that was on them. Nobody blamed those that had killed friends, except those with close relations to the victims. The entire scene got ugly and people fought a lot. Some of the frustrations and aggressions was directed at Banks, as if his presence would have changed anything. If anything, it probably saved his life. He had to explain why he hadn’t come when shots were fired and they looked strangely at him, uncertain wether to believe it or not, either way, he was labelled a coward, especially by the big guy group. But that wasn’t the worst of it, because the enemy had been able to find them, it meant that the war news was a lie. They demanded to talk to Baxter, but he was not leaving his base. It all meant to them that it would only get worse. The enemy could sneak up to them at any moment and disappear, like ghosts, indeed, some said they were, or at least, it wasn’t the enemy at all, it was the Sea Witch.
The guy who had listened to the sailor was spewing his nonsense. Few was receptive to it and they demanded to know who the Witch was and the guy hesitated before he had an epiphany. It was Lillie, he said and Banks face turned white. He furiously dismissed it but it only made it seem all the more suspicious. Maybe Banks was in cahoots with the witch? His testimony would be useless. Perhaps he was under her spell? Though far from everyone believed it, enough of them did and the base became fractured. The captain tried to bring order to the group and he increased guard duty as they had to assume that the guards were lacking. Still, Baxter refused to leave the base. Indeed, food was not prepared at all anymore and they had to cook it themselves, which only soured their mooed further. After a couple of days, Baxters voice came from the megaphone and said that there would be reinforcements coming. This made them relieved, a little, but Baxter failed to explain anything and the little relief they had was soon dissipated by their mountain of concern. It seemed that Hjalmar was his only friend and it was remarkable how he defended him even at his own expense. Banks knew Hjalmar liked being liked which made it all the more strange, but he wasn’t about to question his only friend and was glad for his aid.
© Christopher Stamfors