I was exploring some techniques in English class and got a tad bored yesterday, was also feeling in a slightly bad mood after reading some depressing news articles so I wrote a short story. I didn't plan it well, and it may be quite incongruent, and may be too focused on gore, but I like the premise and would like to submit it for an assignment in class, so I would very much appreciate someone taking some time to read it and suggest how it can be improved.
It was meant to be more historical, but as I got writing it I realised I knew nothing about the Amercian Civil War so really it's only included emplicitly.
The smell. That was the first thing to hit me. Of all the confusions and displeasures to affect themselves upon me in those days, the smell was by far the most grotesquely eager. Before my eyes could yet lend their function to me, my nose desperately warned me of the situation I was in. The air did not seem to be itself. It was thick, stagnant, and chokingly warm. The odours were violent; sweat, smoke, alcohol, powder, burning, but above all there was a horrific smell which I had never experienced before. But whilst it was strange to me, it was disconcertingly familiar, and it struck my deepest, most instinctively primal self in a truly uncomfortable way. It forced itself into your nose, and your mouth. It slugged down your throat, and not just into your stomach, it seemed to go into the very core of your being and it reminded you of what you really fear; it was the smell of rotting flesh, the smell of death itself.
I attempted to look around me to try and gain some understanding of my surroundings. I appeared to be in a hospital; there were rows of beds and dirtied oil-lamps, and figures darting from bed to bed, briefly tending to scarred shells of men in tattered grey uniforms. I was aching. I didn’t know my injuries, but there was pain. I ached all over with terrible, weary intensity, and it worsened as my consciousness returned more and more. After what I can only estimate as a couple of minutes, although it felt like a staggered eternity, I felt a sharp pain in my arm, and I could smell the faint embrace of a flower garden.
I saw Claire sitting on a bench. Her bright blue dress, and rich, flowing brunette hair radiated beauty in the Virginia sun. She seems upset, and the children approach her, as though to request that she release herself from her heartache, to put her own emotions aside, and be their mother again. I attempt to move towards her, to console her, but she looks at me, bitterly. She looks at me with the most hateful, angry eyes, staring at me, despising me. Her gaze traps me, and I cannot move from this moment, and this idyllic dream has turned into a confusing, guilt-ridden nightmare, and her unbearably resentful gaze seems to tear chunks out of my soul without me being able to resist, as though I am an infidel in the Inferno: doomed to bear an unimaginable consequence forever. The children suddenly seem to gain the same awareness of the scene as their mother, and they turn to me in seemingly perfect unison, and they scream. And the piercing noise seems to tear me out of this world and back to reality.
This time I am more present than before, and it’s far brighter than previously so I must have been unconscious for some time. I look to my right and see a man, screaming, but not just with his mouth, with his eyes too. He’s staring at me. I embarrassedly look around him, and I see a surgeon is sawing at his arm just below the shoulder whilst disturbingly apathetic nurses look on. He thrashes with unimaginable power within the confines of his leather restraints, and whilst I try to look away, the sound forces the picture into my mind, a sound that can only be identified as bone and flesh being gradually sawn through, and the stomach-wrenching snap at the very end. Then I heard a rather un-impressive “plonk” at the end. It came from my immediate right and below, so I looked down to see a pale of water, and the severed arm within it.
One of the nurses looked at me, and said something in a thick Mississippi drawl to the surgeon. I took this moment of calm and awareness to try and see my injury, and I looked down to see most of my right leg bandaged, from the knee to the ankle, wrapped thickly. As though to intercept me gaining any more knowledge of the situation a nurse rushed over a with a needle and whilst I tried to protest, as I wasn’t feeling any significant pain, at least not from my leg, she just looked at me half-pitifully, and I was gone.
I was at my parents’ home in Chesapeake and they were crying in each other’s arms, with Claire there too, and her lawyer. Sadness and disappointment seemed to echo through the grand old colonial mansion. I tentatively step forward as though to apologise to Claire, to everybody, to somehow try and make it all better, but the scene rapidly blows away and I am confronted with Elizabeth.
She smiles at me with her once-attractive devilish grin, with her pearly white teeth and smooth cheeks. She stands close to me, flicks her long, blonde hair. Smoothly, she tries to unbutton my shirt, but I push her off, furiously. She looks back, shocked, displeased. And soon her face takes a disturbing, wrathful expression, and her shape forms back into that of Claire, and she steps up on a chair, and she puts her head through a noose. And the most terrible guilt overwhelms me, and emotion grips my heart tightly, and squeezes relentlessly, and I’m on the ground, sobbing with depseration. I beg her with all my conviction, not to do it, to stay, to forgive me, and she looks at me once again, coldly, and says with an angelic apathy:
“I have to; it’s for your own good”.
And as she jumps I shriek with heart-breaking terror, and I am flung between firing cannons, ripples of musket fire, shrapnel shells tearing into helpless ranks of men, shot careering across the ground, obliterating bodies entirely, before finally being dragged back to the hospital.
I am shaking, sweating, and a nurse is whispering into my ear “We have to, we have to”. This nurse seems different, she does not speak with clinical indifference, she speaks with sadness, passion; sympathy. She is tightening a leather restraint around my left arm, and her colleagues are doing the same all around me. One nurse walks up to the bed and places something to my side - a pale of water.
I look into it, and I see myself, no longer am I staring at the sufferings and tragedies of others, I’m looking at my own punishment. A nurse pushes a tray with numerous metal instruments on it, clattering and shining in the lamplight, and stops it at the foot of the bed. A surgeon walks up to the bed and inspects the bandage on my leg, and he slowly starts to unravel it. I pathetically murmur about how it must be fine, its not giving me any pain any more, and then I’m faced with my injury, the truth. From the knee down, my right leg is a broken mass of dead, mangled tissue. Whilst all the rest of the staff is un-phased, the nurse at my left, a pretty woman of roughly my age, with hair like Claire’s, is horrified.
She takes my hand gently and stares at me with beautiful care, and I feel forgiven, as though my guilt can finally be dissolved if this ordeal is inflicted upon me, and I think of the children at home waiting to see me, with my parents at the mansion, how maybe we can be united again by our mutual tragedy, how Claire is perhaps looking down on me, and may actually feel sympathy as my torturous memories and unpleasant reflections are finally wrenched from me, forever.