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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) A Vignette (Read 4,209 times)
Ken N.
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A Vignette
Dec 18th, 2010 at 3:32pm
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This scene from a story came to me a few days ago.


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Beneath a dead-bone-colored crescent moon, the sound seemed to him at first just a moan of wind, moving across the shell-shattered No Man's Land out beyond the trenches, fretting amid the unburied dead shattered and bloated with expanding putrid gases, from whom no souls would ever rise to a heaven he no longer believed existed. The soldier on guard duty shivered and coughed softly, and shifted his grip on his rifle, as the wind moaned again, a little louder. And this time he thought he heard "Robert" - his name - carried aloft on its breathy crest - and then once more!. Wary, in the darkness Robert examined his nearby comrades for signs of a poor jokester. But all of the dozen or so men in his troop were sleeping, as soldiers will between fierce engagements, slumped against the trench wall in attitudes of profound exhaustion, heads lolling, limbs askew, too prostrate with weariness even to snore but gently; but all with readied weapons near hands which twitched in the darkness.

And then the wind groaned his name again, softly, definitely from outside the trench. Definitely from the battlefield.

Robert looked at the moon, judging. He took off his doughboy helmet, then rubbed a handful of the ever-present mud in the trench across his forehead and well into his hairline. He would not be the only person on guard duty this night; and others, not friendly, would be looking his way from across the battlefield, their fingers soft upon triggers; and an unprepared soldier was a dead soldier. When he had blacked and obscured his features, Robert slowly slid himself up the trench wall until his eyes cleared the top. Through netted fingers to hide the glint of the moon in his eyes, Robert surveyed the surrounding, barely illuminated world, seeking the source left and right. The soft moan came again, and he looked rightward, to the south. There was noithing but blackness, dark shadow on dark shadow; black earth, black bodies, black night. And the moan came again; and this time he was able to look hard into the gloom, and there, about 50 or 60 yards out, he spied what seemed be a small hill; and upon the hill was a smudge of paleness which seemd to move slightly as he concentrated on it; and the moan came again, "Ro-bert ... please."

He slid back down into the trench. How many friends had this damned war already claimed? And here was one more, from the battle fought earlier in the day. Which? A comrade who knew the duty roster, a friend? Robert thought of his mother and father, of his sister, back home in Virginia, on the farm. Whoever was out there had a mother and father, and maybe sisters or brothers, and a powerful right to see them again if at all possible.

There was no real choice here, none at all. He had to risk the night and the mud and the bodies; and most of all the lead hornets which come buzzing out of the east, whose stings kill and shatter flesh and bone alike.

He retrieved his helmet and stooped beside a sleeping man. "Wayne," he whispered, and nudged him slightly. "Wayne, wake up."

The man was instantly awake, with his rifle to hand. "Bob," he acknowledged with a low hiss. "What?"

Robert whispered, "There's someone out there, Wayne. One of our guys. I can hear him. He's calling for me. For me. It's gotta be one of our guys still alive from the fight earlier. We've gotta bring him back in."

"We?" Wayne smiled tightly. "You know the rule: we can fetch him back, but only one goes. We can't lose two good men trying to save one who might not live anyway. And whoever it is, he's calling you, you say." And at that moment the wind groaned confirmation. Wayne sat more stiffly upright. "Jesus!" he said.

""Yeah," said Robert. "Okay, I'll get him. You're on guard duty til I come back." Wayne nodded his assent, and Robert slipped away to take off everything that might jingle or clank, or suck audibly at the mud of the field. He filled his pockets with long bandages and small jars of antiseptic salves. Then he prayed for a cloud to dampen the moonlight, and when his prayer was answered he eased himself out of the trench and began the slow crawl toward the pale, moaning smudge on the mound, so far away. Using even the slightest irregularities of the ground as cover, and keeping his movements small and irregular in tempo, Robert covered the intervening ground in only about 20 minutes.

As Robert drew close to the mound he could see it wasn't made of earth but instead it was a cluster of uniformed dead bodies piled all around a sprawled, slender youth more boy than man. He was clothed in rags, a shredded American uniform, all spattered with dark, either blood or mud, with a sidearm on the pile to his right. Where it showed, his flesh gleamed ghastly pale as the moon came momentarily from behind its covering cloud, then resheathed its bright scimitar blade again. Blood then. And he had lost a lot of blood.

"Ro-bert. You ... came," the shape breathed, making eye contact for the first time. Robert crawled closer. He didn't recognize the soldier, but delirium glittered the young man's eyes.

"Here, I've brought bandages and medicine... Where are you hurt?" Robert whispered, "Do I know you?" The young soldier smiled weakly, and there was fresh blood gleaming upon his lips. Internal bleeding too, thought Robert. Not good.

"I think ... here," the soldier whispered.
  
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Ken N.
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #1 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 3:40pm
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He slid his left arm across his body, weakly pointing behind his back. Robert nodded.

Here," he said, crawling closer, "Let me try to turn you over." He slid his arms beneath the soldier and began levering him to one side. The youth weighed almost nothing.

And that's when Robert felt the young soldier's arms encircle him, gripping him like a vise, pinning his own arms to his sides. He heard a serpent's hiss in his ear and jerked his head around to see fey red eyes above a gaping mouth, and a lolling, bloody tongue, and the canine teeth like curved daggers descending to his throat. Then only blackness.
  
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Book_Worm
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #2 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 3:51pm
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Very well written.
  
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Ken N.
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #3 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 4:11pm
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Book_Worm wrote on Dec 18th, 2010 at 3:51pm:
Very well written.


Thank you. But I'm really more interested in a critique of the story's central idea, which is that of a vampire using the fog of war to conceal his activities. It seems to me a natural. There's another somewhat related idea, also concerning vampire behavior, that I had somewhat prior to coming up with the idea behind this story. Unfortunately, at this point I don't believe people in this particular forum are mature enough to accept it critically as an equally adaptive, if startling, quirk of "a working vampire."
  
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Book_Worm
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #4 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 4:38pm
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Quote:
Thank you. But I'm really more interested in a critique of the story's central idea, which is that of a vampire using the fog of war to conceal his activities. It seems to me a natural. There's another somewhat related idea, also concerning vampire behavior, that I had somewhat prior to coming up with the idea behind this story. Unfortunately, at this point I don't believe people in this particular forum are mature enough to accept it critically as an equally adaptive, if startling, quirk of "a working vampire."



You should have stopped at "thank you." The rest of your diatribe just shows you're behaving like a royal snob.
« Last Edit: Dec 18th, 2010 at 4:44pm by »  
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Ken N.
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #5 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 4:54pm
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Book_Worm wrote on Dec 18th, 2010 at 4:38pm:
You should have stopped at "thank you." The rest of your diatribe just shows you're behaving like a royal snob.


I doubt that somehow, given the overreactively sour and unpleasant responses I've received elsewhere about.
  
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Mercy For All
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #6 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 7:02pm
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Quote:
Thank you. But I'm really more interested in a critique of the story's central idea, which is that of a vampire using the fog of war to conceal his activities. It seems to me a natural. There's another somewhat related idea, also concerning vampire behavior, that I had somewhat prior to coming up with the idea behind this story. Unfortunately, at this point I don't believe people in this particular forum are mature enough to accept it critically as an equally adaptive, if startling, quirk of "a working vampire."


Not sure what your looking for.  The central idea is sound.
  

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Book_Worm
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #7 - Dec 18th, 2010 at 8:22pm
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I doubt that somehow, given the overreactively sour and unpleasant responses I've received elsewhere about.


So nobody likes you work..Too bad. I liked it. I just am not fond of your foul disposition.
  
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Ken N.
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #8 - Dec 19th, 2010 at 12:20am
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Not sure what your looking for.  The central idea is sound.


That's pretty much it - an up or down comment on the central idea rather than a compliment on my writing ability.
  
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The mighty wu
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Re: A Vignette
Reply #9 - Dec 19th, 2010 at 10:49am
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That's pretty much it - an up or down comment on the central idea rather than a compliment on my writing ability.


What writing ability?
  
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