Monday, February 28, 2011

New Beginning 837

The girl screamed in delirium as she lay on the white bed twisting the stiff, starched sheets under her. A stain of sweat and blood spread below her raised and shaking legs. A musky smell hung in the air as the girl struggled. Outside the rain streamed down in a torrential rush beating in a tinny, rhythm on the windows of the back room of the one-floor medical office.

Doctor Britton’s right hand slid inside the girl up to his wrist as he pushed down on her bloated stomach. She screamed again as he touched her monstrous belly. Then her lungs and strength gave up and she trailed off into ragged whimpers.

“The head is turned. Get me the forceps!” He yelled to the nurse with cropped, gray hair. She swiftly identified the instrument from the table near her and placed it in Doctor Britton’s outstretched left hand. She trembled next to him. In her 40 years as a nurse she had never seen a pregnant woman scream so hideously through the birth process. Something was wrong, terribly wrong.

She wished there were other attendants here for this birth besides herself and the doctor – and the unseen man outside who waited to finish this night for them and take this baby. She glanced at the back door where he waited. She wondered what kind of man would wait in the rain for such a job.

[Slow dissolve. Fade in on man in brown uniform waiting patiently.]

UPS: For your most difficult deliveries. Ask about our guaranteed pick-up service.

[Fade to black.]

Opening: Donna Galanti.....Continuation: Anon


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Outside, Evil Editor blinked away the rain dripping into his eyes and sighed at the screams he heard coming from the other side of the door.

Writers were so dramatic.

He was sick and tired of them taking the whole "my manuscript my baby" metaphor too far.

He checked his watch and clucked his tongue. His mind was made up. This was the last time he would accept a freshly delivered manuscript.

The writer should really keep it for a while and teach it some discipline anyway.

--Bran Flakes

"Oh my Gawd! Get me the double forceps. STAT!" the doctor yelled.
The nurse ran to fetch the instrument.

She was too old for this, a hall delivery requiring the use of the double forceps.

Too late. When the nurse returned to the gurney the two headed monster child was already out and the creepy old guy with the mutton chops was already rubbing his hands in anticipation.

"Minions, I can never get enough minions," he muttered, wheezing from excitement.

The nurse shuddered as the doctor handed the kid off to him by the feet.


Britton dropped the bloody forceps onto the sheets of newspaper lining the floor. “This is it,” he gasped. “Come on, girl—give me one big push!” His patient whimpered in response.

A moment later, it was done. “I have him. Quickly, nurse, bring me the blanket.” She pressed the scratchy wool into his hands, and he quickly wrapped the newborn. “See to her,” Britton said, nodding to the mother.

The nurse crouched by the bed, stroking the patient's sweaty brow. “There, there, girl,” she whispered. The female licked her hand, chocolate brown eyes placid now.

“Let me see it,” said the man standing behind Britton. The doctor spun, surprised. He hadn't even heard the door open.“Of—of course,” he said, offering the bundle. The man pulled the blanket aside and looked at the newborn Rottweiler. Outside, lightning split the sky.

“Perfect,” said Michael Vick. “This one will do nicely.


Evil Editor said...

P1: When someone is screaming in delirium, there's no time to remark on the color and stiffness of the bed and sheets. Save adjectives for a calmer time. Change the second "the girl" to "she." I think of a tinny rhythm as much softer than the noise I would expect from a streaming torrential rush of rain.

P2: I'd go with gave out rather than gave up.

P3: Get rid of the cropped gray hair. She's been a nurse 40 years; we don't need to be told she swiftly identified the instrument. That's like your describing a scene at the dinner table in which your spouse asks you to pass the mustard and you write: I swiftly identified the condiment. No need to describe the woman as pregnant at this point.

Anonymous said...

How old is the girl? 12?

If she's giving birth, I think she's a woman.

And yeah, this is tragically, deeply, grimly, frantically overwritten.

Anonymous said...

AWESOME continuation!

Dave Fragments said...

The only reason to mention the rain is to mention that a man waits in the rain to take the baby. The "man waiting" is unusual and that waits until the 4th paragraph.

Why do we even have to know anything in the first two paragraphs? Personally, I think all of it is extraneous. I would start with the doctor's spoken line. I like to being with dialog that focused.

You say "he yelled to the nurse with the gray, cropped hair" and to that I ask, is there another nurse in the room? If there isn't, the statement makes no sense. If there are only three people in the room then he wouldn't yell at her. He might yell but not at her.

Why do we care that an unknown nurse is in the room? We care only that this is a very difficult birth. The nurse only matters in following the baby from the mother to unknown man. She only matters if she kidnaps the baby.

Sylvia said...

My feeling is that this isn't a great place to start. I don't know who the girl is and I'm struggling to fend off visions of a cow with the description of his "hand inside up to his wrist". The nurse gets more description detail and we appear to be in her point of view, so is this our main character?

I know people say drop the reader in the middle of the action but personally, I'd like to have a little bit of set-up. The continuation was welcome light relief when I got to it.

Evil Editor said...

She also matters as a witness to the birth of the demonic child, which will later make her a target of Satan. Also because if you want to start the scene with the doctor's dialogue, he needs the nurse to say it to.

Evil Editor said...

She only matters if she kidnaps the baby.

The nurse also matters as a witness to the birth of the demonic child, which will later make her a target of Satan. Also because if you want to start the scene with the doctor's dialogue, he needs the nurse to say it to.

Dave Fragments said...

I was going to say in my original comment "Let me guess, this is the birth of a demonic child" but I stopped. I didn't want to guess this morning. I didn't want all the work the opening puts a reader through to get to the conclusion that this is a demonic birth on a rainy night.

This morning I woke to thunderstorms and torrential rains and the rain wasn't what I would call tinny or tiny. I could hear it hit the roof, hit the sides of the house, hit the windows, overflow the gutters and cascade onto the concrete walkways beneath.

That's not an iconic image of a demon baby being born. That's not even an iconic image of a hard labor and difficult birth.

What the author wants (I think) is an image like that of Max Von Sydow standing in profile under a foggy streetlamp in fog. It's here for those who don't know the image:

There's nothing that scary or foreboding in the opening other than a man in black waiting in the rain. Yes, it is a matter of concern that the delivery is hard but that could presage the birth of anyone who struggles with society.

Even if the author said something like the rain was so hard it felt like the tears of the angels crying for the fate of the earth (which is a bit overwrought as an image) I could take the opening for what it is worth. Or maybe that rainclouds hid the earth that night as a mother struggled to birth a babe conceived in the embrace of evil or conceived under a balefull moon.

This is all my feelings of the day. The story might be so different that all of this is moot.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding continuation.

batgirl said...

Just curious. Has the author given birth, or seen a birth?
I don't understand the sweat stain below her legs - if she's sweating, it would be spreading from her back and the parts of her body touching the sheets, not dripping from her legs. Presumably the blood is coming from the birth canal, so it wouldn't be under her legs either. If she's sweating blood, the nurse would be noticing that a lot more than the screaming.
Also, in the first para, the phrase 'back room' made me think this was an abortion. Might want to watch out for that interpretation.

There are some punctuation and syntax glitches that should be attended to once the superfluous words have been removed.

batgirl said...

Oh, and brill continuation!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I'm with the anonymi on the continuation. Step forth Anon-Continuator and reveal yourself!

The head is turned? If the kid's in a posterior rather than anterior position, that could require forceps, but it wouldn't require yelling on the doc's part. It's fairly common. But if the baby is still so far up the birth canal the doc's up to his wrist in her, there should still be plenty of time to twist it manually into position, and the forceps probably won't be needed.

If the head itself is turned 180 degrees a la Linda Blair, then yeah, there could be bigger issues.

Even a small clinic should have pain killers for Mom that won't affect the baby. Or else go ahead and just cut the baby out. This is a doctor and an experienced nurse, and C-sections aren't that hard. Nor do they require equipment more sophisticated than a scalpel, a few clamps and some sterile gauze.

Now if this were a single midwife at one of her first births and the baby was breeched, then yeah, I could see panic time.

Technicalities aside, I can see that you are paying attention to the writing itself. You try to bring all the senses into play, you have a slow reveal as to what's happening, you're trying to build tension and work description into the action of the scene itself. These are all good things to be thinking about and striving for! You've got the notes down; now you just have to work on the control -- on feeding in the right scene builders at the right time.

ril said...

I'm with the anonymi on the continuation. Step forth Anon-Continuator and reveal yourself!

EE deserves most of the credit...

Evil Editor said...

Not true. It's the idea that makes the continuation.

Dave Fragments said...

There's an XKCD cartoon about childbirth that looks kind of familiar once you read this opening.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I had a suspicion this was a rilcon™. Or a rileecon™. You guys make a fab team.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Ok Divine Miss Phoenix, I did the double headed minion monster baby.

Jo-Ann said...

I had thought about posting a continuation along the lines of giving birth to a cliche, but left it too late.

The born-on-a-dark-and-stormy night opening to a horror story is not exactly new, but I'd need to read more to see if you pulled it off.

Otherwise, I was struggling to see what in that scene would concern the experienced midwife. The patient's hideous screams? Nope. Screaming is a part of natural birth (unless you're a scientologist); most of us holler at the top of our lungs as we pass something the size of a watermelon. Just ask any father who's been present. I dont see how labor screams could be made to sound worse than they already are.

The symptoms that would concern a midwife include (among other things) prolonged labor with no progress, passing discoloured amniotic fluid (if it is the devil's spawn, a green fluid would be appropriate!), changes to the fetal heart rate - or losing it altogether.

Dont give up. I might have been harsh, but I was still curious about rain-guy, so I would have read on.