Tuesday, June 08, 2010

New Beginning 757

As the woman tumbled from the heavens a riot of colours and questions chased her. Was that the rainbow spectrum of the balloon? Where was the parachute rip cord? Would life flash before her eyes?

Around 700 feet, she resigned herself to the terror of a recurring drowning nightmare she’d had as a child. Her chest tightened and the panic rose like vomit in her throat. Wake up! Wake up! Her brain screamed, but no sound came out.

600 feet…

Seconds from impact a feeling of calm spread through her. Aware of a benevolent presence, she relaxed into familiar arms, arms that lifted her. And, instead of plummeting, her body now felt as though it were gliding, or maybe she was flying.

500 feet, 400 feet, 200 feet…

The woman who faced imminent death took one last look around.

To the right, the sky was the same blue as her mother’s eyes. In the foreground, gold trimmed puffs of cloud lingered next to the most luminous reds and oranges, as if birds were shedding their colourful feathers.

To the left, the trees were dancing slowly, half lit in red organza dresses.

The woman lurched to the right, missing the trees, and plunged into the frigid water. As her entire world turned to darkness, a final thought flashed through her mind: Freedom.

* * *

After twenty minutes, 24D hadn't returned from the restroom, so Chuck turned to 24F. "Howdy. My name's Charles, but most folks call me Chuck. What's your name? I'm going to merry old England to visit my grandchildren. Have you been to England? The motherland? I went once before on a training course. I'm in sales. Insurance, mostly. You got insurance? You should. Hm? Sure, go ahead. Might be a queue..."

Opening: Dina Desveaux.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

I've spent the last hour memorizing the steps in this article: http://www.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Long-Fall.

My main goal was to learn how fast the last 700 feet of a fall would last, though without knowing the starting altitude it would be an approximation.

In any case, the part that seems most unreasonable is that in the last 200 feet she could look to the right, compose a couple similes, look to the left for some metaphoric personification, and still manage to lurch away from some trees. Avoiding trees isn't necessarily the best strategy, as the branches could slow your descent if they don't impale you, but if that is your strategy, I think you need to put it in motion a lot sooner than this woman does.

The writing was well-done, I thought.

Anonymous said...

Great cont.!!!!

Anonymous said...

The section after 200 feet made me roll my eyes. It brought the flow to a screeching halt.

Bernita said...

I really want to like this, especially because of the lovely images of birds shedding their feathers and the organza dresses.
I simply could not suspend my disbelief--a disbelief that may well be grounded entirely in ignorance--that she would be thinking/experiencing anything but sheer panic.
My impression would probably change if soon I discovered whether she fell, leaped, or was pushed.

Unknown said...

It's pretty well written. But I can't get into it because of some technical issues. The amount of time it takes to read is a lot longer than the amount of time it takes to plummet 700 feet.

Also, hitting water at what's likely terminal velocity isn't going to go well. Assuming she's still concious, which would depend on how long she's been falling, she's not going to notice the cold water. If she notices anything in that millisecond, it's going to be how damned hard water feels when hit at speed.

The "a riot of colours and questions chased her" was a bit confusing. What are the colors. I also don't think she'd wonder about her life flashing before her eyes - it either would or wouldn't. Assuming she didn't intend to jump to her death I would think the ONE thought in her head when we meet her is "Where the f*** is that rip cord?" :)

This "feels" prologue-y. Do you really need it?

Again, the writing is well done even if you are very fond of similes and such. Do some trimming of this and you should have a solid start. But be careful you don't lapse into the purple zone as the story goes on.

Evil Editor said...

One might assume the colors are the colors of the hot-air balloon she was recently in.

This article lists some rare examples of people surviving falls from way way up.


Dave Fragments said...

I read this line:
Where was the parachute rip cord?
as meaning she was dangling on the end of a parachute and that would give her the time to think all of that before landing. However, that thought seems lost on everyone else. I had a thought that it could be little more explicit that she is dangling from a parachute but then I would have read on not worrying about it. I find myself a 1/5 minority.

vkw said...

There is a psychological experience known cleverly, (I've noticed pyschologists are not clever at naming things, (study how mental illnesses were named - clue - they are all descriptions of symptoms), where was I, indeed, the phenomenon is called "sensing slow motion events.")

insert from http://www.world-science.net/othernews/071211_time.htm

Dur­ing a fright­en­ing event, a brain ar­ea called the amyg­da­la be­comes more ac­tive, he ex­plained. It lays down a sec­ondary set of mem­o­ries that go along with those nor­mally tak­en care of by oth­er parts of the brain. “In this way, fright­en­ing events are as­so­ci­at­ed with richer and dens­er mem­o­ries. And the more mem­o­ry you have of an event, the long­er you be­lieve it took,” Ea­gle­man ex­plained.

In trauma situations people's memories record faster and keener -but the brain perceives at the same speed so things appear to slow down. Pretty cool.

This opening works for me and I am grateful for this suvival mechanism. If you can process things faster in an emergency you may be able to save yourself by heading for the water.

As for the opening, didn't catch my interest, but it was well written and accurately describes a psychological even we have all experienced.


Unknown said...

I thought it might be a hot air balloon (or many of them) floating above her but then the parachute rip cord reference seemed wrong. Although, maybe you do where a parachute while flying in a hot air balloon.

150 said...

Eh. Not my thing, but it seems well-written enough. I agree with Anonymous #2 (and implore it to just pick a name already) that my suspension of disbelief kind of hit a wall when she "took one last look around." Can you even turn your head at that speed? And I'm not sure you can lurch to the right in free-fall. Where would you get the horizontal force?

It ought to be "gold-trimmed".

Stacy said...

I actually bought this in large part because of the opening scene to Rushdie's Satanic Verses. But that was fantastical in nature. I'd read on a bit to find out if this is, too.

GREAT continuation!

Joanna Hoyt said...

I liked it very much. And I could imagine wondering if my life was going to flash before my eyes if I thought I was dying. The imagery is just lovely. I wasn't sure if "Were was the parachute rip cord?" implied that she was wearing a parachute, or that she felt as though she ought to have one. I really like the last thought. The one think that distanced me was the distance count--how would she know exactly how far she has to fall? And if she doesn't know, the info seems to pull the reader further from her.

Chicory said...

Why is the falling woman nameless? Is that supposed to lend an aura of mystery? I found it a little distracting, myself.

Anonymous #2 said...

It's true that time slows down in tunnel vision, but the author didn't describe the sensation accurately.

If an oncoming truck was about to plow into you, would you turn your head and read the highway billboards?

Sephina said...

I thought this might be a dream the character was having. Given that, she may very well have the time she wouldn't have in reality.

Even so, I've been told not to start stories with dream sequences as a general rule.

I found the opening more irritating than hooky because I didn't know what was going on. Yeah, I've been told action can be a good way to start, but if it's too vague, it can upset the reader. If it is a dream, some will see that as a cheat.

That's my two cents.

_*rachel*_ said...

Who is this woman? Why is she falling? What's with the rainbow parachute that never opens? And why are there so many questions?

I think this could pare down quite nicely. Get rid of the first paragraph, and stop calling her "the woman" and say "she" (or her name) instead. Pare the imagery when she calms to something more austere and fast-paced. This has a lot of potential.

Does this have anything to do with the Iriquois and Huron versions of creation?

Anonymous said...

Author, I think there are some good comments here and I don't have anything to add that wouldn't be repetitive. Nice writing but somehow doesn't gel with the situation. I know it's presumptuous, but I've taken the liberty of re-drafting your opening based on the feedback. Obviously it's just an idea. See what you think.


Obviously you'll want to put it in your own words, but I think this gets to the gist of it. HTH, and best of luck with it.

Anonymous said...

You don't wear parachutes when hot air ballooning unless you intend to dive out of the ballon and take the fast way down. Parachutes aren't standard equipment in balloons. It's a safe sport, very quiet and still up there because you travel with the wind. Bibi

Dina said...

From the writer:

I've been in the throws of prepping for a summer course I'm teaching...
Signed in this morning and wanted to say thanks to everyone who provided feedback...

Two answers:

1. Not a dream.
2. The reason she's nameless - the woman survives the fall, but wakes from a coma with amnesia.

I'll be using the scalpel (judiciously), but the element of magic realism to this story is essential to the narrative that follows...

Thanks again,

Dina said...

P.S. Feel free to click on my name (to website) to see edits.

You'll find it under the heading Liberty Leading the People - excerpt sample page...

Happy Scribing,