Monday, December 28, 2009

Hail




Ulrich positioned his leg on the lichen-covered rock.

Nothing would bend anymore. Not even the ankle.

He should examine the infection again, but now his only choice would be to cut the pants. Even if he could manage the bent knife, he couldn't afford to sacrifice more clothes.

Overhead, the strange storm had grown fast. Clouds boiled over the ridgeline and churned. The middle tightened in a slow circle. He watched it darken and bend inward. A vortex began to drill into the grey.

A roll of thunder shook him from the trance. He needed some shelter, more than trees, but under the shadows of the pines he saw only trunks and a prickly mesh of dead branches.

Above the pointed treetops, the vortex deepened. A haze curtained over the valley. Rain. Drenching rain.

Ulrich considered turning back and heading down the mountain. But as he traced a path down, something odd sizzled in the distance. Harder than wind. Like static. Or applause.

The wave of sound swept toward him, and a rain of fine hailstones danced in the greenery and pin-pricked his face. White peppered the pine-needled ground.

The hail stopped, and a deep, unpleasant thunder shook in the foundations of the mountain.

A cold fear fluttered across Ulrich's skin.

He slid off the rock and pulled himself forward. He would make for the ridge, straight up. He could shelter on the other side of the mountain. He could shield himself from the monstrous storm.

Quick machinegun fire approached.

Ulrich fought panic.

A shower of marble hail shook the branches and snapped twigs. Hot pain stung his shoulders and the back of his head. As the incline stretched upward, his hand cupped weathered rock. He broke above the tree line.

His thoughts sped through the intricacies of weather. The crossing, twisting patterns. The reasonable predictions.

He catalogued data points from the storm. Hail was formed by rain whipping up into the high atmosphere where it froze. Convections brought it down, wetting the ice, then cycled it back up to re-freeze, over and over, again and again. The stronger the convections, the bigger the hail, and that storm must be a dreadful engine.

Cracked rock cut his blisters and smeared blood where his hands pressed. His good leg worked double, but he still needed the other to anchor. Light bled from the mountain, and the lowlands draped themselves with false night.

Thunder rumbled again.

Another barrage of hail ricocheted in a chaos of white.

Less than a mile away.

No cover. Ulrich was caught, exposed. He clasped his hands behind his head and neck. Golf balls of ice shattered on boulders.

He writhed and screamed. A solid hit to the kidney. A crunching blow to the bones in his hand.

When the wave passed, he heaved himself again. But a different sound yanked his attention to the side. Like a hollow punch. A spray of ice mist hung in the distance. A white boulder rolled down the mountain. It had to be at least four feet in diameter.

While he watched, awestruck, another blur of white crunched into the ground and bounced.

Closer.

Like no normal storm could make.

The vortex in the sky towered. Like the barrel of a gun. Ulrich knew it was taking aim at him.

He clawed, yanking rocks loose. At least fifty yards before he reached top. He panted hard. His muscles trembled.

Another crash.

Even larger. Good God, even larger.

He scanned sideways. He was running out of time.

Coming down the ridgeline, another wave raced. Not golf balls this time. A chaos of ice.

No time.

To his right, a large sheet of rock jutted over a bit of darkness. It looked much too small. A nice nook for a coyote to hide, perhaps.

As the deadly hail approached, he rammed his head inside. A shower of dirt and broken stone fell into a miniature cavern beneath. He flailed and dug, wedging himself in farther.

Skull-smashing hail carpeted the mountain. The impacts resonated in the rock.

Ripping fabric, then skin, he wrenched his hips through the opening and propelled himself into the tiny cave. The awkward way he was wedged, he wasn't sure if he could climb out again.

This time, the storm's aim was true.

A colossal crash jolted the rock over him.

The force rebounded off his face and threw his head into the ground. Dust grated his eyes and choked lungs. As the hail pummeled the Earth, he couldn't even free his hands to block his ears to the horrifying sound.


(I'm sharing scenes from my novel in progress. If you find something you particularly like in these scenes, such as a mood, style, or theme, please let me know. If you find something you particularly don't like in these scene, please do the same.)

18 comments:

Terri said...

Way to build tension, Dude!
Hey... didn't he go there to die, anyway? Yet still he runs for cover. Hm, the plot thickens...
I love this piece. Brilliantly written.

Karen said...

Your eye for natural detail lends reality to the scene, and the POV fleshes out the struggle on the mountain. The tension builds with the storm. Excellent work, Jason! I'm glad to know it's a novel, so that my questions (Who is he? Why is he there? How was he hurt?) will be answered!

Bernita said...

Sweet Lord, what great description!

Jean said...

Desperate to survive nature's lashing while heading to his self-demise. He wants control... for a change?

the walking man said...

I like the scene Jason. It pulls pretty effortlessly and I was feeling the hail. Below is something that the short bit dredged from my memory.

http://www.crystalinks.com/oetzi.html

Shadow said...

that's one helluva storm. love your descriptions...

Aniket said...

I have a feeling this has much more to it than bad luck. :)

Its the same one that has Nami in it, right?

I absolutely loved the scene! Reminded me of Calypso's wrath on the black pearl.

SzélsőFa said...

it seems that you do want to kill Ulrich, or destroy hime almost completely. quite a frightening scene and good tension. I liked this excerpt a lot.

I might have misread it, but does Ulrich decides to go down at first, than changes his mind and aims to reach the top, so as to find the other sid eof the mountain? this change in his direction puzzled me at first, but a second reading will surely help me understand it better.

SzélsőFa said...

absolutely, as Aniket said. it's Nami there in the background. it's coming through effectively.

Chris Eldin said...

Jason, I really liked this. As with Szelsofa, I had some slight confusion about the direction the mc was taking, but I loved your descriptions in this piece!
I read a lot of Dean Koontz (I know, commercial fiction, but I like it!)...he does a lot with weather and parallels with the plot. He's quite an effective writer in that waiter. One of my favorite lines was something about the rain sounding like an old man spitting out his teeth. Don't know why that stuck with me.

Happy New Year to you and Aine and family!!!!
:-)

Chris Eldin said...

Waiter?! Ack, I meant "Way!" Thing 2 was talking to me while I was typing..

raine said...

Wow.
Fabulous descriptive technique here, Jason. I can feel that storm and the panic it would inspire in me.
Verra nice!

jason evans said...

Terri, needless to say, these scenes are jumping around terribly. Kind of like a Pulp Fiction feel. ;)

Karen, thanks for the feeback on the POV and the tension build! Those are such key elements to what I'm trying to do here.

Bernita, thank you! I want to keep that intensity of language despite the sparse word count.

Jean, I like your comment about control. I think many of us would react that way.

Walking Man, ha! Yes, we might have an Ice Man in the making here! Seriously, I appreciate your feedback on the pacing. That was the most delicate element here.

Shadow, it made me want to run for cover. :)

Aniket, trust your feelings.... (Wait, that was Obi Wan, right?) Actually, you are correct. This is much more than a storm. And yes, Nami is on her way to recue him!

Szelsofa, I will definitely smooth out the confusion about direction. Down would be easier, but up gives him a better chance at cover. (Nami is on her way to battle the storm.)

Chris, your comment gave me a big boost. :) I'm trying to tackle the thriller/magical realism genres with this one. I will smooth out the confusion about direction. I'm happy that the descriptions made an impression!

Raine, very cool. :) The pacing was so important to me. I wanted the built to be real and palpable.

Jean said...

p.s. I LOVE that photo!

catvibe said...

Exhilarating! Scary. I hope he gets out!

jason evans said...

Jean, thanks! Amazing what framing a photo can do (and some photoshop magic).

Catvibe, the man needs some help.

Anonymous said...

It made me want for more

jason evans said...

Anonymous, thank you for tell me!