So, another fun short story challenge from Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds. This time: action. A short action tale, 1000 words, action start to finish. I’ve posted a longer version (about 2000 words) to my free short stories section, here.
Here goes, with the origin story for my Meiji Ninja character, Yumiko.
How many times have I died now?
I dodge past the first few spider-monsters, jolts of impact as I crash into them. Something tugs at my arm and I spin, slashing out with one of my energy-blades. For an instant the monster’s eggplant face is all I see, shark-fin teeth close enough to kiss, and I plunge my blade through it with a crunch.
Something hits my back and erupts from my chest: a spider-monster’s chitinous forelimb. I grit my teeth through a wave of pain, but the pain just keeps rolling higher.
Grabbing the offending spider, I stab it again and again. But I’m getting weaker. The spider floats, taking me with it, and I realise it’s dead. They’re all dead.
I activate my retrieval beacon, and sleep.
When I wake up, I’m pickled in the medical-tank again: My handlers must have found me. I wonder what the date is? As if it matters.
How long has it been since I began my training?
That day I’d put my hair in a ponytail, tied my judo gi.
The first kick caught my chin and left me looking at the roof-beams, listening to their laughter.
I flipped upright and palm-heeled my opponent’s crotch.
He sagged, eyes bulging, and I head-butted his nose flat. Face met floor, a bouncing ribbon of bloody mucus trailing from his lip. The others had to drag me off him.
Now it’s another day, another mission…
Location: ASTEROID 739; Gravity: NEGLIGIBLE (0.01 earth G); Atmosphere: NIL; Designation: MINING
My motorbike hugs the lip of a crater as I race toward the Mouther-Ship. It’s a Qing mining vessel, seven mechanical legs. It’s about one li across: half a kilometre. Like an ugly metal sphere with a mouth. And it’s not supposed to be mining our asteroid.
From up here I can also see one of my clan’s villages, a Meiji imperial outpost: metal modules and crystal domes, scattered across a ridge.
I speed toward the Mouther-Ship’s namesake: its voracious metal jaws.
The Mouther’s whirring teeth are all I see, like a personal IMAX of earthmoving death.
I drop the bike and jump…
The bike explodes on impact.
I flex my arc belt, and the tiny device creates a force-field, buffeting my own landing. I stick to the Mouther-Ship’s hull with a clunk, and it’s only a short climb to a nearby turret.
The couple of Qing soldiers there are surprised to see me. I kick them into one another and jump down a hatch headfirst.
Now inside, I deactivate my boots and jump, drifting far above the crushing apparatus. I land on a gantry, engage boots, and kick in the door to the control room. Twelve guys with spears are waiting.
I dive under the first Qing soldier and through his legs, slashing. Blood balloons around his legs in the zero gravity, like a scarlet jellyfish, then the fight is on. I slash and stab, the press of bodies slamming into me, and my feet can’t find the deck: I’m just standing on other peoples’ legs. I keep going. Grimacing faces pressed against my helmet. There’s air in here, but I’m not keen to taste it.
One of them gets far enough back to retaliate, and the first I know about it is a spear lancing my hip. It presses through and grinds along the deck, torqueing me with it. I scream and stab him through the eye. The hot suck from his socket is no more gruesome than the sound that his spear makes as I pull it out of me.
Through the morass of corpses, I spot the ship’s commander. I can’t walk, but pull myself toward him, like I’m swimming through red seaweed.
He dives down a chute, into the power core room. I float down after him, blades ready. But he’s not there, and the hatch slams behind me…
The Mouther-Ship lurches: it’s walking.
There’s no porthole to the outside, but there’s a viewport to the Ship’s central area. I can even see out through the mouth: the ashen dunes, the rocky ridge, the village coming closer.
A voice crackles through the ship’s intercom. “Sit tight. We’re going to demolish your village. You can watch.”
There’s less than a minute to act… The room heats as power flows through the core.
I have to think!
Thirty seconds. Sweat sticks the suit to my back.
Ten seconds. The village looms large outside the ship.
Steel teeth bite into the first row of greenhouses, and through my viewport comes a whirlwind of air, glass blowing like sleet. The processing machinery swings into action, and it’s hard to see specifics after that. I spot a rendered arm amid a tangle of copper wiring. A kid’s arm.
I turn and smash my fist on the power core. The glass cracks.
I whoop, and smash the hilt of my blade on top of it. Red lights, and sirens begin to wail above the grinding downstairs. The hatch opens above me but I ignore it. I slam my blade into the casing again, and it splinters, it cracks, even as a spear stabs down through my collarbone and into my chest: the commander’s, and I cough blood inside of my mask.
My knees wobble, numb. I could die again right now…
No. I’ll destroy our enemies, and be made samurai, one day I will.
I plough the commander’s face into the core, and it breaks with a bang, sucking him in, chewing him through the gap like a paper cup of blood.
Time to escape. I activate my grapple and shoot upward, popping through the command room like a champagne cork, and drag myself outside.
The explosion launches me spinning off the asteroid, and then I’m among the stars. My hair shakes loose inside the helmet. Together with the droplets of blood pattering back and forth, it’s like looking up through the branches of a cherry tree.
I activate my retrieval beacon.
That’s it, hope you enjoyed.
This was really awesome! You had me cringing more than once XD I really felt the action and gore, especially the one with the spear through the eye socket and the sucking sound D: I probably shouldn’t have read this before bed XD There are a few minor details that made me pause. I’m on my phone now so I’ll comment about it tomorrow when I’m on my computer. I hope you win! I’m glad I didn’t do this one. It was way out of my comfort zone, and other people like you do it so much better 😛
Aww Thank you, you’re the best 🙂 I should have probably put a warning on this one. It’s about as brutal as anything I’ve ever written, not cartoony like my usual stuff. That’s just her character I guess, very dark. Very driven…
I’m gonna do the bookshelf thing tomorrow by the way 😉
I thought your opening line was great actually, especially for an action scene. In one line you pulled me in and set up the scenario for this piece. I also appreciate how you just gave enough details for the scene. I don’t read or know about fantasy, but there seems to be a huge tendency to dump info on the reader, which really slows down the scene. I also liked your female protagonist, especially about her putting her hair in a ponytail. That always drives me crazy in video games. I have long hair. No way that I could fight with it, lol. Almost all of my comments are very nit-picky. Your descriptions are very good, and fitting for an action piece. Like this one, “Face met floor, a bouncing ribbon of bloody mucus trailing from his lip.” It gives the reader a vivid picture without slowing down the scene. I like your varied phrasing, and short sentences because it gave this piece a feeling of urgency.
I should preface this by saying I don’t know how to write action, so perhaps take my comments with a grain of salt 😉 Many of your descriptions were very good, like this one, “I pull this man towards me, down his spear, and stab him in the eye. The hot suck from his socket is no more gruesome than the sound that the spear makes as I pull it out of me.” That is very vivid XD Some descriptions seemed a bit confusing to me, and I go into detail about it. I think you do a great job writing women. Yumiko is definitely someone I can root for, which is important in every story. Without a likeable protagonist the story falls flat.
About this line, “I spot the herd-bot at the back, wafting gusts of sustaining gas at them. I leap towards it.”
So wafting to me is too gentle here. This is one of the definitions from Dictionary.com, ” wafting — to carry lightly and smoothly through the air or over water:” And I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to say. The herd-bot is creating this gas that enables the monsters to float?
“Something hits me in the back, and a spike of chitin erupts from my chest.”
I was confused by this line. Are you trying to say she’s impaled by a monster with an exoskeleton? When I first read this I thought she was sprouting her own chitin. I like how you followed it up with a line about her pain because that definitely sounds painful.
“Then I spot the robot again. I hurl my other sai at it. The blade plunges through, soundless, sparks erupting.”
Would this really be soundless? I have never stabbed a robot, but seems to me it would make a sound unless the robot was made of jello. You don’t have to describe every sound, but I’m having trouble imaging how this act is soundless.
“I activate my beacon, and sleep.”
No comma needed as “and sleep,” is a dependent clause. This is also where I start to get confused. She wakes up in a tank, and is she fighting the monsters in the tank? Is this actually happening, or is this like some sort of virtual reality training ground like in Crisis Core? And a beacon is a guide or a warning signal, so I’m confused about it’s use here.
“I kick them into one another, and jump down the hatch headfirst.”
No comma needed as “and jump down the hatch headfirst,” is a dependent clause. If you said, “”I kick them into one another, and I jump down the hatch headfirst.” The comma is needed because the second half of the sentence is now an independent clause meaning they could be two separate sentences. Sorry, this will be the last one I mention :$
“A cloud of blood spreads like he’s pissed the stuff. Then it’s on.”
So when I think of someone urinating it’s kind of a direct stream. There’s splatter, but the first image that comes to my mind is a stream and not a cloud of liquid.
“One of them gets far enough back to retaliate, and the first I know about it is a spear-tip lancing my hip. It presses through and grinds along the deck, torqueing me with it. Feels like I’m a balloon animal being made.”
I had trouble envisioning this. Does the spear actually impale her? Or is it just slicing through her? Balloon animal also feels a bit too happy and cheerful for this scene. If the spear impaled her hip she might have trouble walking, and there would be a lot of pain. It might make more sense to leave a gash here so she can still function. I’ve had several hip surgeries, and if the spear went through the joint she couldn’t walk. Although I’m assuming she’s human, but maybe the same rules don’t apply since this is fantasy.
“I slam my sai into the casing again, and it splinters. I crack it, even as a spear stabs down through my collarbone and into my chest. The commander. I cough blood on the inside of my mask.
My knees wobble.
I could die again now.”
I feel like this might have more impact if you put a bit more emphasis on how she’s like actively dying or how much pain she’s in. You don’t have to go into it much. It would make the scene seem more real and a bit more exciting as the reader questions whether she is going to make it.
I thought her thoughts right after this were apt. Often writers go into too much introspection and there isn’t time.
So she wakes up in the tank at the end, implying that this is a virtual simulation?
Another general issue is that there are a lot of sentences beginning with “I” I’m not at all familiar with first person POV, so I don’t know what’s acceptable here. Something like this, “I estimate I’ve got a minute.” It could easily be rephrased as, “There’s only a minute for me to act.” Some can’t be rephrased.
Sorry if this was too picky :$ Overall I thought it was great for an action scene 😀 If it wasn’t, I would have stopped reading 😛 The things I pointed out were fairly minor. I hope that you win ^^
GAH! I really, really need to work on making my shorts less confusing. I’ve gone through and fixed everything according to your suggestions. And my mum’s. We live and learn! Thank you so much for the detailed feedback. Really appreciated. Hopefully it makes a bit more sense now.
The challenges aren’t really a competition with prizes, more like a writing exercise. I just participate for the fun and practice. 🙂
It’s always a fine line between too much info or not enough. I prefer to go with less info just because unnecessary info dumps are much worse than a bit of confusion. It’s hard to tell as a writer because you know everything about the character and scene.
Short stories are fun to write. I did a bit in fanfiction, but I’m enjoying them more now 🙂 It’s good for me because I tend to include extraneous info or repetition. In a short story you can’t do that because of the pre-set word limits. I’ll keep an eye on Wendig’s challenges 🙂