The Ice God

Here we have a story from one of my writing courses.

I don’t think this one was good enough to justify further appraisal.

So it is unlikely to be appearing anywhere but here.

This is in case someone out there likes it.

 

The old man gazed into the warmth of the dull orange glow. He placed another snow sprinkled log into the centre of the heat. He huddled with pleasure, listening, as if to a symphony. To the angry hiss of evaporated moisture turning to loud cracking as the log began to catch. The slow warming sounds were like the comfort of an old clock ticking.

 

I loved the fire, the small flames dancing as the new log took; followed by the sodium glare as the embers shined even brighter than the flame. Between the heat, I would emerge; into the ice. To chop the logs as the wind battered me and my old bones moaned their tiredness.

One day the ice would chill those bones as I lay voiceless in the snow and gentle death took me without complaint. In silence, I would go down into the ice and sleep there; but for a few hours more the flames would dance and warm me. The snow-covered logs would drip in a steady rhythm onto the basalt hearth.

I would draw up the chair, wrap tight my cardigan and toast myself. The Ice God howled in anger around the hut; because I continued to live.

The last log nestled in the fiery heat and I turned again to the door. Putting on old cardigans in layers – each matted and moth-eaten, then the great-coat which wrapped them all like a spider’s cocoon of soft brown wool. Each arm sticking out like two skinny twigs poked into the side of a hastily constructed snowman, no longer able to rest wearily by my side.

It was vital I go outside fast; to sweat now would bring frostbitten death. I swung back the battered door and the first icy blast hit me immediately. A torrent of snow decorated the grey flags as I wrestled the sail-like door back into its frame. Already my face was tight beneath the shabby scarf – the Ice God sucked at my warmth – feeding on it, nourishing itself. I could feel my strength falter.

I knelt to the long axe. I pulled hard till I heard it part with a loud crack from the post against which I had laid it scant hours before. I clambered up to the stump, here were snow-buried boughs glistening in invitation.

The axe felt so heavy as I raised it high and swung. With each impact, a breath-cloud of ice gasped through gritted teeth. The Ice God settled around me. It was drinking my heat, prodding at cardigan insulation, flurrying past cold-glazed eyes.

Another heave and a shotgun snap echoed the parting of the ice-hardened bough. The blizzard’s ferocity heightened as The Ice God toyed with me, pestering me; like a cat with a dying mouse.

I stumbled; using the axe as a support; righted myself once more; my knees creaking their protest. My numbed mind begging, “rest, please rest.” I hadn’t realised how quickly The Ice God would beat me.

I wrenched the leaden axe down one last time and ice crystals scattered like sparks. At last, the bag was full. I hung its old rope handle around me like a harness and heaved. The dead weight inched forward across the slippery ground. It gained momentum as The Ice God taunted and abused me. The wind was shrieking with anger. It battered me with airborne ice particles and compressed snow peppering me as I hunched against the load.

There was no feeling in my toes; I knew that the numbness was not good; I needed to be inside now; but I would need all this wood.

I raised my right leg again – so dead weary and pushed it down assisted by my right hand. The sack slipped forwards a few inches and then gradually a few feet as I staggered, desperate.

I must not leave it here – it would freeze immovable in minutes. The doorway seemed so distant as if at the end of a long tunnel of ice and wind. I tottered again, then straining and screaming kept pulling. Fighting tiredness; battling pain I progressed. Till panting, exhausted, I collapsed inside the door.

No time for resting. I pulled myself around on my knees and dragged the wood inward; wedging the door closed behind me. It had swallowed every ounce of warmth. The small fire glinted feebly. I closed my ice-decorated lids in gratitude.

Outside the storm’s fury renewed as the ice dwindled from my eyes and consciousness returned – I must get up.

I dragged a log from the top of the sack – too exhausted still to lift it. I wedged it close beside the flame and blew gently on it, encouraging its strength, willing it to take. Till the hungry cracking noise told me the log would ignite and today I would not die.

Swiftly I pulled off the layers of gloves and then the boots. I unwrapped the cloths around my feet; massaging my angry toes, I sighed relief – nothing dead thank God. I’d avoided frostbite this time.

The shining steel of the kitchen knife sufficed to enable me to look for ice patches on my face. How old I looked already. I was lucky, this time; no real damage; I’d been too slow.

The blade ‘mirror’ revealed my whiteness, the cold lines where my face puckered. I had aged so and in such a short time. If the ice didn’t kill me the aging would – it wasn’t long now. I would welcome it when the time came. A rest from constant battle with the cold death; no one lasted for any length of time.

In the beginning, I’d resolved to record the days. James had carved a record in the chopping board. I burned it as soon as I’d found it.

Now, all that was important was the fire; it entranced me. I needed the fire; to feed it constantly and care for it lovingly like a child.

There was no time for records or writing; just the preparation to meet The Ice God again; always too soon.

Curled up in the snow they had found James, petrified by the chill. All the warmth drained from him. As if a vampire of heat had visited.

The Ice God was remorseless; no heat would be enough to satisfy him. Survival meant good insulation; a big fire and the will to keep alive; but how long and what for?

The end was near and I was glad. The fight nearly ended and it did not scare me as much as I had thought it would. The ice would turn my pale skin blue and the fear would finally disappear from my mind.

I pulled the damp clothes closer to the fire and watched them steam. I looked at the sack with concern; the wood was going fast.

I had known I was destined to die. I had borne it with pride, rebellion, and eventually acceptance. I had less time than most. Then James arrived, fearful, distrusting, young.

When one morning he wasn’t there any longer – there had been no farewells and no tears – no time. James had lasted five days.

They had dragged him out scrunched over – foetal in the snow.

The tiny flame licked slowly over the grey bark then took grip. Hungrily gnawing at the log till blackened, it started to smoke.

Some of that old rebellion was still living inside me – the stubbornness that sustained me in the long wait for punishment. Now it was almost over.

I pulled on the thickest socks. I wrapped around myself the clothing that I could uncover from all corners of the hut.

Now I appeared a great meatball of rag and thread.

I looked back briefly and imagined James here in the last moments; in the moments, I now found myself in. I threw back the door and emerged as rapidly as I was able – now barely more than a walk.

I snatched the axe and headed onwards into the snow. The wind struck with such force that I almost fell back – the draining cold pulling the strength from me. I shuddered, squared my aching shoulders then forged onwards.

The Ice Chamber boundary glowed frozen blue – certain death if I tried to cross.

The energy jumped and snapped; growing louder as I advanced. As the final strength pulled out of me, I fell forwards, buckling at the knees.

As I raised myself enough to lift the axe, The Ice God fell silent. I flailed forwards and a noise like a swarm of angry bees and a snap as the conduit earthed.

 

 

The old man fell forwards silently into the snow. The wind blew the snow politely from around the dead man’s face. Then it moved forwards beyond its cage.

The Ice God was free.

 

Beginnings pt2

Further to the earlier blog post on beginnings:

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/02/beginnings/

From different courses I have some practice exercises for beginnings.

The beginning is important to any writing so I thought this was useful to share.

This time a more popular beginning than the last.

Bear in mind that these beginnings have received healthy criticism in their time.

There are different styles of beginning the previous one was “Third Person Objective.” this one is the “First Person Main Character” beginning.

In this the main character narrates the story and will be the “I” in the text.

The first person main character is one of the most commonly used points of view.

It allows the reader to have empathy with the character as they see the world through their eyes.

Because you control the point of view you can lead the reader in a direction that you choose.

You can make them feel that they are participating or even mislead (and surprise them).

It is also easier on the author who can work with one point of view only.

Unfortunately it brings the same restrictions as a single point of view in any walk of life. You can only see through one character’s eyes. You limit yourself to their perspective (which might be biased or unreliable).

Elements that occur outside of that character’s awareness are more difficult to introduce into the story.

These beginnings will all involve my favourite character at the time of writing “Dave the Effective Detective”.

I’ve never thought of a story in which he belongs. Condemning him to appear only in these beginnings.

The First Person Main Character Beginning

“I shouldn’t have done it, oh no I shouldn’t have done. Oh, they will lock me up me up now and I’ll lose everything.

The house will go and the car and I’ll be alone and I can’t deal with being alone and where will I be then.

Oh no I shouldn’t have done it” “Yes I should, I should have done it. I shouldn’t have failed, stupid Dave, can’t even work out how to kill himself. Dave the fool, Dave the idiot. Stupid, stupid, how hard can it be Dave?

A car, a hose, a running engine, Dave, eh?”

“You’re just worthless; you knew you were, worthless oh you should never have tried it.”

In my mind, amongst the voices declaring my worthlessness, a calm and quiet voice was whispering “get a hold of yourself Dave; hold it together Dave; come on Dave you can do it.” A voice now drowned by the babble of self-accusatory tones. I can’t face Belinda; she got me here of course.

I can’t move – I can’t face the space outside that door.

Outside that door now seems so threatening it feels like a doorway to a world I no longer know, I don’t belong there.

I know that I soiled myself in the night, but I feel nothing, I do nothing. I can’t feel anything; I just listen to the voices in my head again.

“Useless Dave, hopeless Dave”

Photo Credit: robert_oosthuizen Flickr via Compfight cc

Beginnings

One of the exercises that I practiced on one of the writing courses was to create beginnings.

The beginning is important to any writing.

There are different styles of beginning this one – the “Third Person Objective.”

The Third Person Objective depends upon a narrator overlooking the proceedings (from outside the story).

This narrator having no interest in any of the characters. He can describe each without bias and has a great insight into the entire proceedings.

This is a style that is hard to do well. In fact I can’t recall reading any fiction written in this style.

One problem is: if the reader is receiving the story via a disinterested messenger it is hard for them to have sympathy for any of the characters. This can result in reduced emotional involvement in the story.

Without any attachment to the story, why keep reading?

My beginnings all involve what was my favourite character for a long time “Dave the Effective Detective”.

Unfortunately whilst I loved the character I couldn’t find a suitable story for him.

Perhaps he’ll pop up as suitable for something in the future.

The Third Person Objective Beginning

There lies our hero, as unlikely a hero as you are likely to meet. Forty, chubby, unadventurous; such is the stuff that the fates have to work with.

Right now he is slumbering, dreamless, drooling a little into his pillow. His equally chubby wife snoring loudly at his side.

But – on awakening, the story of the rest of his life will begin.

Dave Cooper an accountant with Huntchett and Spendler. (An old and quite prestigious firm).

An accountant of some respect among his peers.

Never failing to make taxation savings for his clients. Never-failing to disguise the true extent of earnings using some clever legal loophole. Never-failing to make a healthy salary.

So, how is it that Dave still drives an elderly car? How can it be that Dave has never left this three-bedroomed semi (purchased twenty years ago)?

Why are the suits, hanging in a neat row in his wardrobe, both worn and unfashionable?

Why is it that today, his fortieth birthday, he will see that his whole life has been a waste of the breath that he expended?

How can a man so respectable sit this very afternoon hunched in his car trying to end his own life?

Why should Dave, an accountant (let’s not forget) of little imagination, become a mumbling simpleton of little use to anyone.

More to the point, how does this make him the hero of our story?

 

 

See my next post on beginnings here:

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/09/beginnings-pt2/

Character

Over time I have attended various courses on writing.

These have not had any lasting effect on my ability to actually write anything.

As an after-effect of these different efforts I have various short pieces of work with no home to go to.

I can’t see that any of these will be the foundation of some best seller.

I am gambling that displaying your old work has no deleterious effects on future writing.

On that assumption I will put them out there warts and all.

On the basis that it is possible someone might get some small pleasure from reading them.

From some old writing exercise I have this short piece of writing that did not make the grade.

The idea was to describe a character. But the feedback was that the character was one-dimensional.

In fact the reflection was that he was a little shit and that this made the end satisfying to read.

I was very sympathetic to Mike and I quite liked him. In some aspects I felt an affinity with him. So it is sad that he did not make the grade as a character.

Anger

Mike gripped the Momo steering wheel, his knuckles pale. Petite hands, not like a man’s at all, slender wrists and puny forearms, which are currently in tension. So that the slim muscles are clear.

His acne scarred face reddened with aggression.

Mike barks out “Move you bastard!”

He weaves his lowered Vauxhall Nova towards the right-hand side.

The darkened purple interior vibrates in time to a huge subwoofer behind his left ear – “50 Cent”. Mike adjusts the baseball cap forwards a little and leans forwards. His nose inches from the screen; he revs his engine with a whoosh of the dump valve.

The ash from his fag is forming a scree slope down the front of his T-shirt. His clothes are market-stall “designer”; all sportswear accented with gold jewellery from Argos. Today Mike wants to look cool.

Finally, he has passed his test at the ripe old age of 18, old for a license. He would have to tell them he passed months ago. They couldn’t know he was a new car virgin.

He’d had to be nice to his god-awful parents for a whole week now. He’d finally persuaded his dad to give him the money for this real bitching car. He could tell them it was all his own work – they’d think he was cool then.

His face ape-like in concentration screwed up. With ears stuck out at right angles beneath his close-shaven hair.

He looks for even a minute gap in the traffic “Fuckin’ Wankin’ Granddad, why not fuck off and die”

He edges his lurid green front spoiler close to the boot in front and flashes the four-way headlights. His laceless trainers describe a dance on the “custom” pedals until the unbalanced car slews sideways.

He leers, “Hope that scared the old bastard!”

He wanted to arrive like a star in “2 Fast 2 Furious” in a rush, lights blazing. He wanted to impress (particularly Roz – she looked great in that pink mini skirt last week). But this idiot was holding him up. He felt his heart beat faster – he wanted to kill him in a serious way. He could imagine ripping out his still beating heart. Kicking the gagging corpse around until this feeling ran cold.

He hit the horn hard and then zigzagged out until he was parallel, nothing would stop him now.

What was this? The old guy was accelerating, fucker, he would have him. Mike plants the accelerator hard into the purple carpet. He feels the blood pumping past his calf muscle as he exerts great pressure to keep it there.

Sweat springs from his forehead as he looks ahead at the oncoming bend.

He won’t give way; this git will never take him. Every muscle in his 5’ 7” frame taut he grits his teeth. He will win this or die, the evil fucker.

The Speedo needle crawls upwards, the corner, not past yet, he won’t brake, never. He turns to give the guy the finger as the Volvo truck rounds the bend.