Monday, February 15, 2016

New Beginning 1053

The forest was on fire. Glittering flames licked at the darkness, stripping the bark from the trees and turning the leaves into ash. Inside of the great, flickering inferno was a car, its metal frame sinking under the weight of the flames.

Inside of the car was a boy.

They didn’t know, at the time. How could they have known? The firemen were busy trying to extinguish the flames, and the police were barking into their radios. From their vantage point, they could only see red, ravenous flames tearing through forest. Revealing the skeletons of the trees.

Then, everything went white. Thick, billowing smoke curled over the world, settling into lungs and forcing eyes to close.

Then, everything went black. Ash drifted down from the sky, covering whatever it could touch, forming outlines in the darkened forest.

That’s when they saw the vehicle.

The Hopemobile!

Speeding faster than Superman-themed hyperbole, belting out tunes infused with more optimism than John Lennon's undocumented excesses, casting the light of angels into the darkness as if all talk of oblivion was merely a cunning marketing trick designed to lure the ignorant into an eternal future of blissful slavery!

Driven by a PANDA!

Wearing a Beyonce-themed WIG!

Whose illuminatory zeal ejaculates hitherto undiscovered secrets of the universe — freely, and with generous abandon — in its flyaway gaiety!

To everyone, everyone in the world, irrespective of everything!

But, hey, yeah — boy still burned to death.

Fire is such a fucker that way.

Opening: Chelsea Pitcher.....Continuation: Whirlochre


Evil Editor said...

Get rid of "The forest was on fire" and "How could they have known?"

I think of "glittering" and "flickering" as adjectives for for a fire in my fireplace, not for a raging inferno of ravenous flames tearing through forest.

I doubt firemen would be trying to extinguish the flames at this point. Of course they have strategies for getting a forest fire under control, but they can't get close and there are no hydrants in forests.

The car might drop a few inches when its tires melted, but it wouldn't sink under the weight of flames.

To me, "inside the car was a boy" is the hook, but it comes a bit too early. No one even knows there's a car except the narrator, who apparently knows everything. (Of course an omniscient narrator, knowing we like specificity, would probably tell us the boy's name and age.) "That’s when they saw the vehicle." would be hook-ish if the narrator hadn't already spoiled it by telling us about the car in sentence 2.

Something like this might be better:

Ravenous flames tore through the forest, stripping bark from trees and turning leaves to ash, as thick, billowing smoke curled over the world. Then everything went black. Ash drifted down from the sky, covered anything it touched, revealing the skeletons of trees . . . and the metal frame of a car.

Inside the car was a boy.

That might be all you need if this is a story about how the boy miraculously survived. Or, if he didn't survive and it's a story about who he was and what he was doing in that car.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Then, the singed skeleton of the Subaru shuddered, shedding shoals of ash. Inside, everything was pristine, like a car sitting on a showroom floor. A floor covered in ash. Then, they saw the boy. His clothes intact. His skin bright red. A boiled boy. Steamed like a lobster.

"Damn," said the assistant director. "This shoot went bad fast. Corporate's not gonna like this."


A small, bright blue convertible with its distinctive white steering wheel and white stripes down the side. As the smoke drifted away, sunlight glinted off the car's paintwork. Despite the inferno, the car seemed untouched but for a dark, dusty shadow on the driver's seat.

"Well, I'll be..." the fire chief, said, as he wiped sweat from his forehead.

You might need another kid, but you'll never need another Kidillac.


And knew it was time to run. A zombie and his mind can be a terrible thing to combine; the light can become the darkness; a disco ball a beacon of insight; time is combined and what once was right is now hindsight; fire is now physics in flight. Smoke in the sky, run, dogs, run!

Knowing not which way to go, the brave new zombie kicked the floor and crashed into some more, firemen that is. The police were smarter; but that’s their job. The water poured through the melting door and extinguished the erupted urge to kill more, mixing with the smoke billowing black and white against the backdrop of the darkest forest ever seen with human eyes, where this renegade zombie could now see everything, no matter how bright the black light.


Then everything went purple...


davefragments said...

I think you only get one chance at that big line -- "Inside of the car was a boy."
This isn't a slow buildup to a powerful chapter ending climax, this is Kafka's “Metamorphosis.” You need to keep that structure in your mind as you write the story. Think of that revelation this early in the story as a two-by-four smacking the reader in the face. You have their attention so use it. If this is horror then make the reader shudder in fear or loathing. If this is pathos, then make the reader cry.

It seems to me that the first and third paragraphs are the same and should be consolidated. I do this same thing when I write. The images are so wonderful or dramatic that they appear in slightly different words in two or three paragraphs. That’s the case here. Move sentences around and make one good paragraph and setup the reveal of the car and the boy in a single sentence.

AA said...

I've seen a few large forest fires here in Colorado. Some forced evacuations and burned down people's homes.

If the fire is at the point where it is a raging inferno, they really aren't trying to put it out anymore, as EE pointed out. It's a matter of controlling it then. And the child is already dead. A quick Google search shows: "An average surface fire on the forest floor might have flames reaching 1 metre in height and can reach temperatures of 800°C (1,472°F) or more."

The police would be pretty far out at the perimeter, keeping lookie-loos from getting too close and/or interrupting operations, and basically coordinating things. They don't need to be underfoot. They don't have smoke masks, for one. Most fire deaths aren't caused by burns, but smoke inhalation, so being far enough away is important.

Anonymous said...

Glittering is something I think of sparklers doing, not a burning fire.

You talk abut the weight of fire an my mind starts coming up with the chemicals in plasma form and how much they would likely weigh, which is no where near enough to cause anything to sink since the density of plasma is usually less then that of gas, i.e. air. Quick internet search says it weighs about 0.3 kg per cubic meter at sea level--probably not what you want me thinking about at the beginning of your story.

I like most of the description in paragraph three.

The "everything went white" and "everything went black" don't work for me since I don't have a person/creature whom everything went white/black for.

Listen to Dave. Think about what you want your story to convey to the reader. Figure out the best way to do that. Foreshadowing in the description, the difficulty anyone has seeing anything, leading to the big reveal, whatever works best. Good Luck

Hope this helps

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Hey all! Thank you for your lovely comments. It appears I may be suffering from adjective overload. (I suspected, but now it has been confirmed). I can definitely take some out, along with some of the repetitive lines.

EE and Dave, I quite like the idea of moving the car/boy info down, so thank you for that. Dave, you always have such good advice on how to make the most impact with emotional moments.

And thank you all for the scientific details as well. I think I was just very taken with the image of the car frame sinking under the burden of the flames, but I can definitely find something better (and more realistic) to replace it.

Love all the continuations. I'm especially partial to "Then everything went purple."

Thank you again! :D

Anonymous said...

Nice opening, I'd like to know what happens to the poor kid.
I come from the corner of the world where bush fires are a yearly hazard. The advice from authorities is basically to remain inside your car if the road is not passable due to fire. Huddle under a woolen blanket and you might live. Exit the car and your chances drop dramatically. People who remain in cars tend to die from heat exhaustion rather than getting burnt to death; the vehicles tend to remain intact.
So at this stage I'm wondering why the parent left the alone child in the car.
I'm not sure why a car would not be immediately obvious to fire fighters.
As EE points out, firefighters behave differently in the country than the city given the lack of hydrants.
They might use water from a dam or river to save a house or open gates to allow stock to flee, but otherwise will try to contain the fire by removing fuel/ trees in its projected path, a few miles away from the actual fire front. They're often supported by water bombing helicopters who try to keep them safe, and to also douse any airborne embers that come their way, so that there is less chance of the fire re starting over the containment line.
At least, that's the way they do it in Aus.
Oh, if you want to add sensory detail, reports from survivors of forest fires say that the sound of an approaching firefront is overwhelming and almost deafening - like being under the path of a jet taking off.

AA said...

Anon 8:19, If you're in a car and are completely engulfed in a forest fire, you've melted at 800 degrees C. There won't be much left of your wool blanket, either.

Authorities say things like that to keep people from panicking. It's like the duck-and-cover drills in the fifties. Curling up into a ball and putting your hands over your head won't save you from an atomic bomb blast, either.

“I thought,” he said, “that if the world was going to end we were meant to lie down or put a paper bag over our head or something.”

“If you like, yes,” said Ford.

“That’s what they told us in the army,” said the man, and his eyes began the long trek back down to his whisky.

“Will that help?” asked the barman.

“No,” said Ford and gave him a friendly smile.

- Douglas Adams