Jason plummeted down into the valley, dried leaves skittering along the path in the wake of his bike. It was nearing noon–he could tell by the breakfast long since evaporated from his stomach–but with the black, heavy clouds pressing down on the mountains, it was as dark as twilight.
He skidded to a stop beside Adam’s Orchard. In the absence of the wind rushing over him, he could feel the heat rising off his skin, or maybe it was the lingering summer sun rising from the cracked, packed dirt path. Dust stuck to the sweat slicked over his face and neck.
A whimper nearby.
There was Mitch, cowering under one of the trees with his arms over his head, his face stark white in the gloom. Apples from the tree littered the ground around him.
“Mitch!” Jason bellowed. “What are you doing? You wanna get struck by lightning?” Jason had read once that lightning could strike up to fifteen miles away from a storm, and this storm was right on their doorstep. When Mitch didn’t move, he yelled, “We don’t have time for this!”
But Mitch squatted there at the base of the tree, set his jaw and tightened his arms over his head so that they pressed against his ears, blocking Jason out. Jason made a noise of frustration and disgust and thought about hauling him out by force, but just then, the wind picked up.
The wind was talking. It rippled across the surface of the lake, rustled through the trees that had long since turned to husks, and whistled through the mountain passes. Goose bumps rose in waves along Jason’s summer-burnished skin.
The trill of a bicycle bell alerted him to Devon, who was flying down the lane towards him, a horde of leaves fanning out behind him as he came.
Mitch came out from under the tree and stepped up to the lane as Devon slid to a stop beside them, tossing up a cloud of dust. Jason was annoyed that Mitch hadn’t come out for him even when he pointed out the lightning thing, but came out at just the sight of Devon.
Devon was panting too hard to speak. He swallowed several times, opened his mouth–
The bells of the clock tower echoed through the mountains, and the wind stopped. All around them was still as the bells rang on.
They looked at one another, and Jason knew his eyes were just as wide as theirs.
Together, they said, “Too late.”
Hello, my darlings!
I’m so excited to share with you my response to October 1st’s prompt! If you don’t already know, I’m challenging myself to write every day for the month of October. To inspire myself, make myself accountable, and to give the opportunity for others to join me, I drew it up Instagram style. You can see the prompt list here or visit my Instagram page here.
Today’s prompt was: Orchard / cower / bicycle bell
When I read the prompt, I instantly had a location and feeling in mind, but I found myself tap-tap-tapping the page, wondering how to get started. The longer I wondered, the more I could sense fear slinking up to my shoulder.
Well that simply wouldn’t do. It’s fine to feel fear–Elizabeth Gilbert, in fact, has a very lovely section in her book Big Magic on giving fear space beside you while you work–but it’s not fine when fear starts putting its fingers and toes outside of its binding line of salt.
Quitting before I even started was not an option, so I turned what I know works for me: lists, or, in other words, an outline.
I took a pad of paper (it’s a notepad, not very big) and gave myself this rule: I can use this one piece of paper (front and back) but no more. This was to keep me from letting the piece get too big (which is a tendency of mine) and to make sure I didn’t linger too long over the nitty-gritty details of the outline.
Then I discovered that, even with a bulleted list in hand, I still wasn’t feeling it.
I’ve recently been learning how to draw, and so I gave myself time to practice drawing with the intention of this jumpstarting me into my writing. I drew how I imagined the scene unfolding at the bottom of my paper: the mountains, the lake, the orchard, the path. It worked a treat. It added some atmosphere as I started writing.
While I’m not opposed to it in general, I did not let myself revise as I wrote. Occasionally, I would realize I was going the wrong direction and scratch out a sentence and start over, but I considered that necessary to keep going. I also noticed that I was reusing words (skidded and rising), but instead of stopping and losing momentum, I made a mental note, used the words anyway, and kept going.
I did let myself go back and edit as I typed it up for this blog post.
In the end, it came out to just over 400 words, and I’m quite pleased with it!
I think I handled the details nicely and incorporated some hints about the dynamic between these three characters, as well as giving an indication of Jason’s personality.
I do think that I could have chosen more potent details to establish atmosphere, and I’m not sure about how I built it up to the moment where the bells rang, but overall, I’m happy with it. I think I’m starting the month out strong.