Sunday, 18 July 2010

Blogfest of Death

Today I'm participating in the fabulous Tessa's blogfest: Death Scenes! There are tons of entries in this fest, so do click on the link and check them out!

Killing characters can be incredibly hard (or delightful, depending on who the character is), so when Tessa announced this fest, I jumped at it - I have death scenes aplenty, hard as most of them have been to write.

After much pondering (cue hair-tearing and wailing), I finally settled on a scene from a novel I wrote about three years ago, a dystopian-historical fantasy called NO DREAMS IN WHITESHIRE. While it's been put on the back-burner indefinitely, I still have a soft spot for it and its characters, and there's a scene in the story that always gets to me.


Later, I had no memory of the race to the Cross house. Vague images lingered: the chair falling over as I sprang up—the pity in Trist’s ice-blue eyes because he had already guessed and accepted what we couldn’t face—the streetlamps flickering past, a gold blur, one by one racing by as we ran, footsteps echoing against the pavement, my heart a drum roaring in my ears, too fast to allow logic through, too fast to allow anything but the wild panic and a desperate, frantic denial: no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

The house was on fire when we arrived. There were people standing around, pale faces watching the Cross home burn. Flames shot from the windows, shattering glass. People moved aside when Laila and I ran up.

Frozen in horror, I could only watch the house for what felt like an eternity, long enough for Trist to catch up to us.

I felt his hand on my shoulder, but the instant Laila started running, I broke free and I ran too, ignoring the shouts and cries of protest.

“Jake!” Trist’s voice shouted, but it sounded like I was underwater and he far beyond me with everything else I knew. “Jake, no!”

I followed Laila into the house, ignoring the burning heat that prickled my skin. Indeed, I could feel nothing except the same panic, the same cold denial. No, no, no.

We found them in the burning kitchen. Them.

“No,” I croaked, “No.”

They lay close to one another, as if they had died fighting, died trying to protect each other from a crueller force. The wounds on their bodies told me they’d fought to the bitter end. Blood stained the floor, the smell of it mingling with smoke and fire. 

Uncle William had known it was coming, he had expected the attack. I saw it in my mind, what must have happened. He’d waited in the kitchen for death, having sent his daughter and errand boy away to save them. I heard the distant knock on the door.

“Hello, Will,” I heard my father’s voice, haunting, faint, “Fancy a drink?”

And the panic, Uncle William’s panic. I felt it, heard him. “Get out, James. Get out now. I can’t have you here, you can’t be here when they come—”

“Will, what—?”

“You have to get out!”

My father hadn’t expected the attack. He lay facedown, the gash in his back telling its own story. In the swirling flames, I could swear I heard Uncle William’s howl of pain.

James! No!

I imagined him turning to look into the eyes of his best friend’s killer, his murderer. Lady Death.

Would she have apologized? Was she sorry? He had been her friend, once.

The knife would have slashed. “Sleep soundly, Will.”

And then, silence.

“No,” I howled. “No, no, no!”

But denials were useless. I saw the truth. I saw reality on the floor before me.

They lay there, side by side. William Cross and James Quin. And the agony hit me fiercer than I could have imagined, a wave so crippling I was on my knees, struggling to live, to breathe, before the truth could fully sink in. No, no, no, no, no. Somewhere close by, I could hear Laila’s cries, the pleading of a child.

“Will! Will, wake up, wake up, please wake up! Uncle James!” Her voice broke. “Dad.”


Hers, mine. Gone, gone, both of them gone.

Fire crept through the edges of the kitchen, turning the walls black. Heat crept over my skin, fiery and prickly. The smoke was beginning to touch me, beginning to choke me. I knew, with the last shred of detached reason I possessed, that I would die, that Laila would die too, if we stayed here trying to clutch the fingers of phantoms.

I staggered upright, forcing myself to breathe, forcing the pain down where I could push it away for the time being. “Laila,” I said hoarsely, “Laila, we have to get out.”

She raised her eyes and looked at me, and in them I saw something wither and die and break. William Cross’s eyes. They looked as empty as his did. I knew, with stunning clarity, that if I left her now, if I let her, allowed it, she would stay here and lie with them, disappear to where they would be.

Pain sliced through me again, fiercer and colder and harsher. “No,” I snarled, “No. Not you, too. No! I won’t. I can’t.”

She didn’t move, boneless and lifeless, lying on the floor with her head nuzzling William and her hand clutching his, like a kitten curling up into its mother. Her eyes flickered closed. It had gotten to her already. She’d sucked the smoke in. I coughed, choked on a waft of it. I knew there was very little time left.

I stooped, seized her. She lay limp in my arms, and I lifted her, held her, and staggered, through rage and pain and misery, away from the blood and the last echoes of my family. I took her outside, into the cold air, and there was Trist, his face white with fear for me. I stumbled in the street against him. Laila and I fell to the hard ground. She stirred weakly, face streaked with the soot and tears. I lay very still on the ground, and never wanted to get up again.


Any comments would be lovely!


  1. This was wonderful! You had me hooked from the very beginning and the narrator's urgency and emotions pulled me quickly along. I want to know more about this lady of death that used to be their friend!

  2. Spellbinding, Sangu. There's such vivid imagery in your piece, it had me captivated from start to finish.
    Vix xxx

  3. I second that hooked from the beginning!

  4. Aww, that was sad. :(
    Got a little lost on the part where he's imagining what happened...
    Sounds like great motivation for the rest of the novel.
    Nice job!

  5. Very well done. It was intense and urgent and emotional.

    Good job!

  6. Very emotional. Nice job!

    I agree with Andrew to the point of ... I was a little taken back by the "imagining their deaths" - considering they are in a house that is burning. But, if that haunted him after (s)he was out of the house, say watching the fire consume it... or even when (s)he laid down at night it would make for great motivation.

    But it is a great snippet, very emotional.

  7. Wow. Very powerful. There are jest enough details to describe the scene without going overboard and being corny. I like the way it's told in first person and gives a good stream of consciousness. Nice.

  8. That opening paragraph with the gold blur was fantastic. Pulled me right in. :)

  9. Your opening passage, despite it being a run-on sentence, was so wonderfully written. It did not feel clunky or slow down at any point. I agree with Lovy that that first passage pulled me in.

  10. Thank you, everyone, your comments are so encouraging and helpful!

    Andrew and Suzie, I see exactly what you mean - it is a bit of a reflective moment considering the immediacy of the scene - so thanks for pointing that out!

  11. Sad. That was really sad.

    I thought he was having some kind of vision of what happened, btw. What I wasn't quite clear on is who exactly uncle william and james were - the narrator is the errand boy? James his father? I guess that happens when you get scenes out of context ; )

    Thank you for taking part in my Blogfest and for your comment on my scene! Hope you're all moved in in your new home and everything's sorted out.


  12. Very sad, tense and full of motion. The actions start things off well and then the emotions kick in. Great job.

  13. That was intense! And even without any context I was drawn right in. Awesome writing!!!

  14. That was emotionally intense. My heart is breaking for them.


  15. Definitely reeled me in -- such intensity! Nice job, Sangu :D

  16. WOW!!!! The way you walked us through the final moments of what would have happened and teased us with the Lady Death mystery was fantastic! This brought out such strong emotions and curiosity. Excellently done.

  17. Great job at setting the tone!!! I totally digged the setting and the character were portrayed so well! :D

  18. You hooked me and kept me entranced throughout. Well done! That's not easy to do with me. =)

  19. Just excellent, excellent writing. Well done!

  20. That was intense and mesmerizing. Great job, Sangu.

    On Monday's post, I'm trying a blog experiment. I'll either entertain or go down in flames. But you can't learn to fly until you leap off the cliff. Look how well that did for Icarus!

    "To all of life there is a shadow. The shadow of sadness, doubt, despair. Still it is but an echo of a heart moving forward."

  21. I agree with what has already been said, both the positive and negative things. So I guess I'll refrain from parroting.

    Thanks for sharing!

  22. Some really good imagery here and intense description. I think you would really benefit from cutting double descriptors (IE: haunting or faint, not both) thereby strengthening the words with more punch. That's my only critique though. You have great intensity in this scene. Well done!

    Scribbler to Scribe

  23. Sangu - You captured the feel of the moment beautifully. I understood the grief.

  24. I agree that the reflection on the part of the narrator is at odds with the immediacy of the circumstances. Overall, though, good emotive scene. Well done.

  25. So sad! I am in tears! I feel so bad for families who lose their beloveds, always kills my heart. Thanks for your thoughts on my entry! ((hugs))

    PS--It's good to see that you have internet now! :)

  26. This was very interesting, and moved along very rapidly, keeping my attention. I very much felt a part of the scene. (And that sounds way more boring than it was supposed to sound. That's what I get for trying to sound smart.)

    There were a few too many "no's" for me, so that I was distracted. Other than that, it was very well down. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Oh sad :( I particularly liked the last couple of paragraphs. Very gripping and very emotional. Well told. :)

    My Blogfest of Deat entry! finally!