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12+ Violence

Burning

by Overwatchful


The camp was burning. Everything was burning. Smoke filled the air, and ash choked the ground. Sounds of gunfire and screams echoed eerily from every direction, and it was hard to figure out where he was going.

Tears smeared his dirty, blood-streaked face, the smoke making it hard to see. Was that one of the mess tents ahead? He couldn't tell.

Suddenly he was thrown to the ground by a shockwave that left his ears ringing. Dirt and debris rained down from the sky. The explosion had been close, but he couldn't make out any sounds of fighting, so as soon as it was clear, he got up and kept going. He had to find them. He would find them.

Where was he? Everything was turned inside-out and backwards. He coughed as ash scratched his throat, and tried to spit, but his mouth was as dry as a desert.

Then, he saw it. The weather-vane. It was on the ground, knocked off from its high post by a stray shot, but if it was here, then…

There. The safehouse. Surrounded by flames and ash. They were there. They had to be.

He kept walking, each step harder than the last.

Then he was looking down the stairs. The door was open already. Numbly, he went in.

Awaiting him at the bottom was a massacre.

Blood and bodies everywhere, ripped apart, burned, and broken. All… dead.

All dead.

"No…" he whispered.

He stumbled forward, eyes scanning through the carnage for any sign of them. Niera… she'd been wearing a light blue shirt. And Sena…

He couldn't remember what she'd been wearing.

His search became more desperate. They had to be here. He refused to accept anything else.

He was nearly to the back of the room before he saw it. A scrap of blue.

There she was, completely buried under a pile of broken crates, except for her head, which faced upwards.

Not moving.

"Niera…" he rasped, scrambling forward and falling to his knees beside her. He cupped her face in his hands, stroking her cheek with his thumb.

"Niera, I'm here, baby. I'm here. You're safe. Daddy's here. I'm not leaving."

There was no response.

"You're gonna be okay. I've got you. We're going to go home. You wanted to go to the park for your birthday, remember? Remember, baby?" Her face was cold and still under his hands. "My big girl, six years old… such a big girl… my big girl…"

"Sir?"

He kissed her forehead. "Please wake up, honey. Please wake up."

"Sir, there's nothing you can do for her. We have to go."

There was a hand on his shoulder, but he ignored it, staring into her unseeing eyes, searching for any sign of life.

"We have to leave now or we're gone!"

"I'm trying! He's not responding!"

"Drag him if you have to!"

He stroked her cheek again. "Niera… Niera…"

"Sorry about this, sir."

Arms began to drag him away. Desperately, he clutched at his daughter. "No. No! I'm not leaving. Niera!"

But he couldn't break away. He was dragged further and further from Niera, and he couldn't reach her, and…

She was dead.

"No, no, no, please no…" he grabbed at the arms. "Please. Help her."

"She's beyond help, sir."

Then they were up the stairs, and out of sight. He tried one last time to break away, but his captor was insistent.

Tears flowed freely down his cheeks now, and he could barely breathe for the sobs that wrenched past his lips.

They were gone. They were dead.

It was over.


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Sun Jan 29, 2023 11:34 am
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KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: This was really well done here. I think you manage to really capture the true horror of a scene of this nature and you do a really good job of it there just absolutely cutting to the very heart of it all quite powerfully. We are left with nothing to do but just feel all of the pain radiating off.

Anyway let's get right to it,

The camp was burning. Everything was burning. Smoke filled the air, and ash choked the ground. Sounds of gunfire and screams echoed eerily from every direction, and it was hard to figure out where he was going.

Tears smeared his dirty, blood-streaked face, the smoke making it hard to see. Was that one of the mess tents ahead? He couldn't tell.

Suddenly he was thrown to the ground by a shockwave that left his ears ringing. Dirt and debris rained down from the sky. The explosion had been close, but he couldn't make out any sounds of fighting, so as soon as it was clear, he got up and kept going. He had to find them. He would find them.


Oooh well we're diving straight into some powerful stuff here. That's a lovely description to get us started on here. It definitely send us right to the heat of the moment very quickly and tells us just how crazy of a situation is currently going on here.

Where was he? Everything was turned inside-out and backwards. He coughed as ash scratched his throat, and tried to spit, but his mouth was as dry as a desert.

Then, he saw it. The weather-vane. It was on the ground, knocked off from its high post by a stray shot, but if it was here, then…

There. The safehouse. Surrounded by flames and ash. They were there. They had to be.

He kept walking, each step harder than the last.


Ahh I love how much we can immediately tell from this little scene even though we barely know what's going on or the context around it. The emotions and the context is almost clear in just the way this person is trying to get to this location and how destroyed it all seems.

Then he was looking down the stairs. The door was open already. Numbly, he went in.

Awaiting him at the bottom was a massacre.

Blood and bodies everywhere, ripped apart, burned, and broken. All… dead.

All dead.

"No…" he whispered.

He stumbled forward, eyes scanning through the carnage for any sign of them. Niera… she'd been wearing a light blue shirt. And Sena…


Well that is unfortunately not the most surprising occurrence given just how it all started there but that detail of trying to remember what that person was wearing is a really nicely done one. Its a tiny thing, but its very powerful in showing how off balance and in shock this person is not to mention how desperately they're hoping these people are alive.

He couldn't remember what she'd been wearing.

His search became more desperate. They had to be here. He refused to accept anything else.

He was nearly to the back of the room before he saw it. A scrap of blue.

There she was, completely buried under a pile of broken crates, except for her head, which faced upwards.

Not moving.

"Niera…" he rasped, scrambling forward and falling to his knees beside her. He cupped her face in his hands, stroking her cheek with his thumb.


Well yup that definitely is looking like the worst case scenario here and that reaction is once again exactly what you'd expect and very powerfully done there. You're painting a very tragic scene very effectively here.

"Niera, I'm here, baby. I'm here. You're safe. Daddy's here. I'm not leaving."

There was no response.

"You're gonna be okay. I've got you. We're going to go home. You wanted to go to the park for your birthday, remember? Remember, baby?" Her face was cold and still under his hands. "My big girl, six years old… such a big girl… my big girl…"

"Sir?"

He kissed her forehead. "Please wake up, honey. Please wake up."


Oh well and here I thought it couldn't get any more painful, we find out its this person's daughter. Well there's one way to hit at the heart even more powerfully. Once again that reaction hits powerfully but it suddenly hits you just that little bit harder now.

"Sir, there's nothing you can do for her. We have to go."

There was a hand on his shoulder, but he ignored it, staring into her unseeing eyes, searching for any sign of life.

"We have to leave now or we're gone!"

"I'm trying! He's not responding!"

"Drag him if you have to!"

He stroked her cheek again. "Niera… Niera…"

"Sorry about this, sir."


Ooooh I was just about to wonder what they might to try and get this person to leave and we have our answer here. Once again I love that. This is definitely the most realistic way this person is going to actually manage to leave that place.

Arms began to drag him away. Desperately, he clutched at his daughter. "No. No! I'm not leaving. Niera!"

But he couldn't break away. He was dragged further and further from Niera, and he couldn't reach her, and…

She was dead.

"No, no, no, please no…" he grabbed at the arms. "Please. Help her."

"She's beyond help, sir."

Then they were up the stairs, and out of sight. He tried one last time to break away, but his captor was insistent.

Tears flowed freely down his cheeks now, and he could barely breathe for the sobs that wrenched past his lips.

They were gone. They were dead.

It was over.


Ahhh well, that's a powerful note to end on. Absolutely certainly crushes down on us readers as much as it does on the character there. About as tragic of a short story as one can really get especially with just how terrifying of a situation this is.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall a really powerful short story here. You manage to make it descend really powerfully from the initial run to desperate searching to that final moment when its all revealed and we see that this person has just lost what appears to be his entire family. This was really quite well done here.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Kate




Overwatchful says...


Hey @KateHardy! Long time no see! I'm glad you liked this. Thank you for leaving your review!



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Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:23 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hey there Overwatchful! Lim here with your requested review.

General Impressions

I thought the main mood of the first bit was one of disorientation. The narrator is struggling to find someone in the midst of a fire and some violent explosions. The line with the “shockwave” conveys a clearer sense of fear. Then it’s revealed that the narrator was looking for a group of people including his daughter, which makes the stakes clear. So it’s sad when we find out that they’ve all died. It feels kind of mysterious and left to the imagination where exactly the story takes place and why all this violence and death is happening.

Plot and Narration

One part of the plot that I liked was how unreliable narration was used to make the climax of the story more shocking. The main character’s point of view is kind of vague, so at first we only know that he’s looking for someone important and only later through the dialogue do we find out one of them is his daughter. The somewhat disjointed and vague descriptions, such as this ‘cut’ from the weather-vane to the safehouse hint to me that the narration is unreliable, along with the initial use of the vague reference to “them” who the main character has to find.

Then, he saw it. The weather-vane. It was on the ground, knocked off from its high post by a stray shot, but if it was here, then…
There. The safehouse.

A couple of lingering questions I had about the plot are: If Niera is this person’s daughter, who is Sena? At first I thought it might be the daughter’s friend, since he forgot what she was wearing and so may not be so close to her, but perhaps that detail was just a coincidence? Who are the people in the end who come to rescue the man? While I appreciate the mysterious aspect to the story, I feel like if a character is given a name, I’d like to know who they are. And it would also be good to have a hint as to what will happen to the main character after this – is he being taken in by some emergency services people? Fellow survivors of an apocalyptic event? That might make it a more thought-provoking place to leave off.

Setting and Imagery

As mentioned earlier, I interpret the story as having unreliable narration. So I don’t really expect to have a very clear picture of what the setting looks like, since the main character is under stress in a chaotic situation. A description like “The camp was burning. Everything was burning.” works nicely here as a start. It establishes a chaotic, dangerous atmosphere, and also shows the character’s panicked emotions using repetition.

I do find myself wishing I knew more about the context of the violence, though. The mention of gunfire in the opening paragraphs suggests there’s an attack happening on this camp, and to me “mess tents” suggests that the camp was military-owned. However, there’s also a “safehouse” which is an established building rather than a tent. So what I’m imagining here is an area where there are both civilians living in the established buildings and an army encampment outside? Is that what you were going for?

I also felt that the line “Sir?” came a bit too out of nowhere. It made me think – wait, was someone in the massacre still alive? Could that be a ghost talking? I felt like I wanted to know what direction the voice was coming from. If it’s from rescuers who ran in to get him out of there, maybe the dialogue could have a description locating the voice ‘behind’ the main character, if that makes sense.

Something I appreciate was the imagery when the father finds his daughter. It’s not too graphic, but just enough to show what happened, which allows the scene to convey the tragedy in a tasteful way. I think leaving it vague there also makes sense if it’s from the father’s point of view since at first he doesn’t accept that his daughter is dead.

Overall

I think the unreliable narration and the structure of the main reveal are the strongest parts of the story. It definitely leaves a lot up to the imagination in terms of why this is happening, but it conveys a strong emotional effect in showing the tragedy of violence.

Hope this helps – let me know if you’d like more feedback on something specific!
-Lim




Overwatchful says...


Hey @Liminality! Thank you for the great review! Yeah, I kind of moved on from Sena a little to quickly, but she is the main character's wife. Anyway thank you again! I really appreciate this feedback!



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Wed Jan 18, 2023 11:05 pm
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Dossereana wrote a review...



Hi @Overwatchful I'm here to do a quick review on your short story.

First of I really like how it started, I'm the type of person who likes to read dramatic things, even if it gives you nightmares, so this was something that I found quit interesting to read.

The camp was burning. Everything was burning. Smoke filled the air, and ash choked the ground. Sounds of gunfire and screams echoed eerily from every direction, and it was hard to figure out where he was going.


I loved how it started out, the description was just a enough to give me a good idea of what is happening and the sounds around me, so that I can imagine it all in my head.

He stumbled forward, eyes scanning through the carnage for any sign of them. Niera… she'd been wearing a light blue shirt. And Sena…

He couldn't remember what she'd been wearing.


Now here is where I get to the point, I was reading this and thinking of a mother and daughter, and normally a mother and daughter stay to gather, unless I'm wrong, but the problem for me is, we had a lot about Niera and knowing that she was dead, and there was a lot of emotion behind that, but I feel like Sena was just a quick mention over here but then we never heard about her again, and I feel like we could have gotten a bit more about that. I think that a good place to mention her could have been maybe when he was getting dragged away from Niera,

Suggestion

Tears flowed freely down his cheeks now, and he could barely breathe for the sobs that wrenched past his lips. He hadn't even been able to find Sena. What had happened to her?
Why wasn't she there, had she made it out?


This is just a suggestion, take me advise with a pinch of salt, if I was being harsh I'm really sorry that was not my intention, I really did in joy this and I hope to read more of your works.

I hope you have a great day/night witch ever side of the world your on.

@Dossereana Flying Over The Green Room And Spreading Shards Of Encouragement




Overwatchful says...


Thank you for the great review!



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Tue Jan 17, 2023 5:22 am
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HalfheartedAmateur wrote a review...



First of all, the title - "Burning"
I should've known it was about fire from the title. According to Google, burning means "on fire." I also should've known that I might be absolutely devastated by the outcome of this story. Why did I just simply skim over the title? Why did I not take the time to actually digest it? Gosh darn it.
Second of all, the context.
Now that I've read this through, I'm curious as to what had happened before to cause this. Why is everything on fire? What excerpt is this from? Context or no context this short story burned me. Although I've read similar scenarios like this, the brief but descriptive illustrations you created through the usual adjectives and words in the aftermath of a fire; it was fast-paced to the point where I got caught up in the whirlwind of it all, miserably missing the warning signs of loss and gruesome results.
Third of all, the content.
Holy moly. Jesum crow as I like to say. And oh my god. You blew my mind. The story was revealing itself at a mixed/balanced fast/slow pace that made my heart rate increase and my mouth open as everything was unfolding. I kind of want to scream at you as a reader that you can't do that to me. I mean - you can and you just did. But god dang. The gasps that I let out of my mouth.
Fourth of all, the plot twists.
WTF?! Can I just say that to begin with? Because as a reader, you got me hanging onto every word. And then you hit me with that the perspective is a freaking father. A father who has just lost his daughters. You really know how to make a reader's mouth really drop.
Fifth of all, overall.
It was super understandable and because of the pace it was going at as well as the succinct descriptiveness of it all, readers can be surprised/shocked at the twists and turns that unfold throughout the short story. I wholeheartedly am envious that I didn't write this. You did an incredible job of writing this. You are mindblowingly talented.




Overwatchful says...


Holy cow you're quick! I'm am super glad you enjoyed it (well, maybe not but you know what I mean), and thank you for the great review!




Have you met a cow or another large animal?
— Liminality