Various Excerpts Approximating a Life
This was the first short story I ever wrote. Below is the original version, which I used to apply for my M.A. in Novel Writing program. Luckily, it was good enough to get me admitted.
I am still very young, yet I know so much already. I know that I enjoy the sun, the breeze, and the way that they both play gently with the swaying grass in the meadow. I know that I belong to a community that cares for each other; that is there to support me. But most of all I know that I love my mother who is there to guide and protect me. Her warm, strong spirit calms me when I am afraid and encourages me to be brave, independent, and to stand on my own.
Our days are simple and full of pleasure. We spend most of our time outdoors— come rain or shine. In the close heat of the summer I welcome the cooling caress of raindrops, the relief of a billowy cloud. My favourite place to while away the time is down by the pond where I watch goslings splash about. Occasionally, when the sun gets too hot, I join them and lose myself in the gentle lapping of the water as I walk about in the shallows. The goslings were rather unsure of me the first time I dared to encroach upon their territory; but we soon became friends through our mutual enjoyment of soaking and wading.
When the sun becomes completely unbearable there is no better recourse than to take a leisurely nap in the shade of a broad-limbed tree. I close my eyes and listen to the imperious sounds of the nuthatch or the soft cooing of the mourning doves. As I drift off to sleep, I am thankful for my peaceful existence and hope that everyone is fortunate enough to experience moments like these.
Today my friends and I are frolicking about the meadow in a game of tag. The joy and freedom of the game are indescribable and my only wish is for this moment to last. The others are all older than me and take pride in their speed. They make great leaps and hops for the pure pleasure of the chase. My small stature doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game. Although the others have speed and power I have agility and strategy. They do not anticipate my crafty ways and I deke and dodge as they narrowly miss me. We run around our mothers, who seem little concerned with our boisterous antics. They are past their days of merriment and have resigned themselves to a more tranquil existence.
As the day draws to a close we all slowly, reluctantly make our way home. The softly setting sun throws shadows on the ground that alter and distort the shapes of ordinary things into something strange and fantastical. Some crows fly by overhead, spreading their wings to glide on the invisible current in the sky. What must it feel like to have the wind lift and carry you? The sudden realization that I will never know the answer to this question creates a sombre conclusion to an otherwise divine day. As I lay down to sleep, I wonder if this is how it starts — the gradual change from being young and carefree to the more sober existence of our mothers.
While strolling in the meadow today I noticed a small snake slithering through the grass. It stopped and we contemplated each other for a while. I imagine I must have looked rather large and scary to something so small and delicate. My attention was quickly drawn away when I heard the barking of a dog in the distance. The mothers all called to us, they were suddenly on edge and began to move us towards home. As the dog came closer, our pace quickened and my heart began to race. Suddenly the dog was in our midst, darting around and nipping at our legs. In the panic to get away from the sharp pain of its teeth at my heels, I was separated from my mother. A gate slammed shut behind me and the sudden realization that I was somewhere foreign and new sprung upon me. I was quite afraid until I noticed that my friends were here also. A man I hadn’t seen before began ushering us to individual huts where one by one we were chained and left to wonder at our fate. No one seemed to know what was going on or why this had happened. We cried out for our mothers and when I listened carefully I thought that I could hear them calling out to us in the distance. As the sun began to set I curled up on the floor of my hut with a heart full of sorrow, eyes full of tears, and a head full of questions.
The sun has hidden itself away today behind some very brooding and foreboding looking clouds. There has been no rain yet but the wind is strong and the electric tension in the air indicates that a storm is not far off. A sudden clap of thunder startles all of us and I wish for the safety of my mother. The gentle rumble of a storm is usually soothing and tranquil — almost like a softly sung lullaby. But this, this storm feels more like a coming fray that will end in destruction and hardship. A bolt of lightning fractures the sky striking a nearby tree and I hear someone cry out in fear. There is a sense of panic as we all rush to the safety of shelter. If only my mother was here, she would know what to do. But instead I am alone in my hut with nothing to do but hide as far away from the opening as my chains will let me and hope that it will be over quickly. I don’t know why I have been brought here. I hope that I will be allowed to go home soon.
Time has become tedious and painful. Each day is the same as I lay here, unable to move more than a few paces from the abhorred shack that tethers me to the same place hour after hour. None of us bother calling out anymore — our cries have resulted in nothing but silence. It seems that no help is to come, no rescuer to free us from the monotony and torture of being kept in this place. The muscles that used to propel me through the field in playful races and games now grow weak and cramped. The inability to really move or stretch wears, not only on my body, but on my mind as well. I suspect the others feel the same. We don’t interact much anymore; there’s no point. I hear the birds singing from time to time and my heart aches for the things I have lost. I often wonder about my mother and what she is doing. Does she know what has happened to me? Is she looking for me? Will I ever see her again? It is hard to imagine anything beyond my current endless suffering but I hold onto the idea that this can’t be it.
I hear the others moving about and making noise. A shadow falls on the opening to my hut and the man from before pokes his head in. He is reaching towards me with a large tool in his hand. I kick and struggle but I have become so weak and I am trapped with nowhere to go. His hand grabs at my ankle and he drags me towards him. My heart is racing. Why is he doing this? If only I were stronger, I could fight back. And just like that he drops my leg and backs out of the enclosure. A breeze comes in and a cold, stinging sensation draws my attention to where his hands had been. My accursed restraints have been removed and the skin where they once were is raw, red, and oozing. When I look out of my hut I see that some of the others are walking around freely. Could this be the day I’ve been waiting for? Am I finally to return home?
The sense of hope that had quickly started to build within me is crushed as I hear the barking of that same dog. The man releases the brute and he is once again tormenting us with his sharp teeth and terrible growl. We all group together for defence when a gate is opened and the dog begins to push us towards it. On the other side of the gate is a ramp leading up to the back of a large truck. One by one we climb the ramp into darkness. The heat inside is oppressive and unbearable; made worse each minute by how closely we are all packed in against each other. The door slams closed and in a few moments the truck lurches forward as we begin to move.
As the truck pulls to a stop I am jolted out of the stupor that the anguish of this journey brought upon me. In addition to the infernal heat I’ve suffered the stabs and pangs of unquenchable thirst and insatiable hunger. Still, I have fared better than others. Some were hysterical under the conditions and trampled others in their alarm and confusion. Some were injured and others never got back up. I have no way of knowing how long we were travelling or how far our abductors have taken us. As we are ushered off of the truck I am thankful for the breath of the cool night breeze and look about for any sign of water.
There doesn’t seem to be any nearby and I’m not given time to look around as several men come out of the building in front of us. They each have a long black pole clutched in their hands. One man moves to the back of our group and I hear a crackle followed closely by a scream of pain by one of my group. There’s a stampede as the others behind push the rest of us forward, terrified and trying to escape the torment that seems to come from within the black poles.
As we bottleneck through the doorway of the building I can see that there is no escape. We’re forced into a single-file line by close gates leading straight ahead. While slowly plodding along with the group to a destination that I fear will be my last, I reflect on how different the things that I know now are from those of the past. That time seems so far away and long ago that I wonder if it was ever really real. I now know what it feels like to suffer, to languish, to feel nothing but despair. I know fear and the things that it can do to you and others. But most of all I know that I will never see my mother again. I will never feel the warmth of her beside me, the reassuring comfort of her presence.
Now at the front of the line I can see the motionless bodies of those who have come before me, they seem to be in a sleep so deep that they may never awaken. I feel numb to the thought of what I realize is about the take place. Those behind me still push and jostle, unaware of what lies ahead. I close my eyes to shut out the atrocities that I have experienced and the stillness that lays before me. I feel the cold pressure of steel placed to my forehead and I refuse to let them dictate my ending. Instead, I feel the summer breeze on my face, I smell the gently waving grass, I hear the cheerful songs of the birds, and I see my mother waiting for me in the distance. She is happy that I have come back to her and with my last moment I try to convey to her just how much she has meant to me.