All the exercises this month were well executed, some startling in their intensity. Difficult to select the winner, but here it is: Helen’s was short, punchy, complex and utterly convincing.

Write a passage of physical action(a dance, someone is running to catch a plane, there is a fight or someone is trying to escape capture.) In order to make the action crystal clear, describe what happens as if you were filming it using only one camera that is fixed in a single place. This will help organise the action so it is easy for a reader to visualise.

Helen Webster’s Entry

The sun set inexorably in the west. Lucas ran up the rock strewn hill with long easy strides. His blood filled exhalations splattered the earth. Pumping knees and arms worked blistered feet.

Pieterse came after him, his strides not long, nor easy but he had the advantage of a gun. Pausing, he took aim. The squeeze of the trigger whisper soft, the trajectory of the bullet true. Lucas fell to the ground, orange dust rose up gently, softly, obscuring Lucas’s body like a veil. Pieterse hunkered down, patient as a dog out hunting hares.

Lucas crawled the last few metres to the crest. His eyes fixed on a point unseen, his palms torn open, his nails ripped beyond the quick, his were the actions of an automaton. Bits of dislodged shale betrayed his whereabouts but still Pieterse did not move. He waited below, so still, a fly landed on his arm, drunk with the prospect of perspiration.

Lucas gritted his teeth, stained with blood and dust. He found the crest. Sinking face down, a shuddering sigh expanded his lungs for the last time.

uMama Dearest by Lisa-Anne Julien

I looked at Mama’s face again. Her bottom jaw was lower than where it should be and so her mouth stood in the shape of a misshapen O. She blinked slowly and for the first time, I saw just how her left eyelid, heavy with a couple more folds of skin than its right counterpart, straddled her eye in a most graceless manner. I hovered parallel over her body, when, just then, her eyes gave an almost imperceptible squint and her gaze seems to dance with recognition or worse, mockery. I felt the sheet tighten under me. Looking down I saw her fingers in a slow-moving clench. She then walked her index and middle finger along the sheets, stopping only when she met my own hand with its bulging veins and white knuckles pointed upwards. Her little finger moved from side to side and inched forward until it found its counterpart on my hand. She hooked her little finger around mine, the familiarity complete. I yanked my finger away from hers. But she continued. Her right hand, with long, brittle, yellow nails, began to claw up the side of my ribbed cardigan. It traced the curve of my narrow waist, before inching towards my sacrum. Then she touched it and I understood. She felt the six inch scar across my back and caressed it.

“Oh don’t worry Mama, it’s still there,” I whispered as I turned around to give her a good view of the grotesque rising of skin and flesh that snaked across my back.

She groaned. A haunting sound that came from the depth of her belly. I hissed at her, slowly tickling my finger across her deflated abdomen, up in between her flaccid breasts, eventually letting it rest at the concave base of her jugular. I fingered her Adam’s apple in horizontal motion countless times, enjoying the smell of fear that emanated from her orifice. But I was repulsed by the softness and rubbery feel of her skin and soon both my thumbs were passing lightly over the glands beneath her chin, the pulsation thunderous in the silence of that room. I squeezed my eyes and fingers tight with equal intensity.

Red Flag by Patrick MacGaffin

Nikki is trotting her young horse around in the arena.

I stride down from the house quickly to join them. She sees me coming and takes him over some trotting poles. Red Flag seems to settle down. She takes him around the arena a few times and then pushes him into a canter before guiding him over the jump. He clears the nine hundred millimetre jump with ease. She pats him on the neck and takes him around again. Again he clears the jump easily.

She calls out, “Put it up to a metre, Dad.”

“No, you are already too high.”

She keeps the horse on the circle. “But you saw how easily he cleared the jump. Come on, Dad,” she pleads.

I stay on my side of the fence. She clears the jump, again effortlessly. She twists around in the saddle to see if I am obliging. I can’t deny the ease with which they cleared the jump. Red Flag even seems to be enjoying it and I’m anxious to get back to my work. I climb through the railings and raise the pins to the one metre mark.

“You’ll see,” she calls out as she brings the horse around again in a slow, easy gate. At the right instant she urges him forward. The horse responds.

At the last moment he hesitates, the extra few centre metres rattling his confidence. Relentlessly, mercilessly like a cyclist out of control, his momentum carries him forward. He desperately tries to right
himself but comes down on the crossbars. The impact causes him to somersault. Nikki is hurled forward. She hits the sand hard. Worse, much worse is that the big horse comes down on top of her.

The horse lies quite still. I rush forward but before I can reach him he scrambles up. Nikki’s body is like a wet rag under his flailing hooves. I fall to my knees beside her. Her helmet has fallen off and her face is covered in sand. Blood is already oozing through the bruised skin. I shout to the groom, “Phineas, call Caitlin.” My building plan becomes a non entity. My world is shattered as Nikki’s body lies there quite still.

Phineas runs to the house shouting for Caitlin. She appears moments later at the kitchen door. She sees me kneeling over Nikki and starts running to us. I shout to her, “No, call an ambulance.” She spins round and runs back to the house.

Minutes later she reappears carrying a blanket and a pillow and sprints to us. “What happened?” she cries out as she falls to her knees next to us.

“Nikki begged me to lift the jump to a metre. The extra height made Red Flag hesitate causing him to stumble and come down on the jump. His full weight landed on Nikki.” I take the pillow from Caitlin.

“Lift her head. Did you get hold of an ambulance?”

“Yes.”

Caitlin reacts with all the signs of a mother in shock. She spreads the blanket over Nikki. She gently brushes the sand off her face. She wipes the hair out of her eyes. She turns to me with an almost blank expression. “Justin, the horse is a beginner how could you put the jump up to that height?” Her voice is weak but hostile.

I try to keep my voice down. “I know that Caitlin.”

Everything about me knows that.

Kneeling there praying for movement from our daughter becomes a moment in hell. Of purgatory, a knife in my soul that I will never forget. Neither Caitlin nor I pick up Nikki’s hand to feel her pulse. Neither of us feels for the pulse on her neck. We pray.

Nikki stirs.

“Oh God…!” Caitlin murmurs.

I get up and hurl the two poles aside to make a clearing for the ambulance.

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