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Forum > Artists & Authors > Huuurrr help
Joined: Dec 11, 2010
Post count:9747
Posted: Mar 30, 2012 03:03 AM

I know I posted this on CDE a few weeks ago, but I haven't been able to get some good criticism and I really want to improve this thing before I send it off to my teacher because I don't want her to think I'm an idiot. Just like...I don't know. Point out spelling errors, things that don't make sense, paragraphs that suck, overall know.

<i>“Give a man a match and he will be warm for ten minutes, but set him on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.”

I first heard this saying back in middle school. I don’t know where it came from or who said it, but I know I heard it and frankly, I thought it was hilarious. It made logical sense. I mean, if you give a man a match, the heat energy will warm his body until the match goes out. Set him on fire and he’ll be warm, burning hot even, until he dies, which I guess could constitute as the rest of his life. It was a bit of a morbid saying, but I was a teenage boy, and that’s what teenage boys were known for. Violent and crude jokes.

By the time I entered high school, the rebels had already started their attacks. They wanted to end democracy. At first, nobody paid much attention. They only attacked the underground base where the homeless and criminals lived, and nobody cared about them. However, they then began attacking the surface. It started in Nevada, where the main entrance and only entrance open to the public between the surface and the underground was located, and then it spread. Rebels clad in blood red headbands and loaded with shiny black guns with that famous half of a golden star design engraved onto the barrel diffused all throughout the states, leaving everyone in a panicked frenzy. Schools slowly started closing from the west coast over. Not ours, though. Our school was one of the last to close. Us being a private charter school, the staff wanted to keep us learning for as long as humanely possible, and as long as there weren’t any attacks in our state, we were good.

It took the government two whole years to validate the sending of troops to control the rebels. Until then, the men in blood roamed freely, targeting politicians but slaughtering any innocent women and children that stood in their way.

My friends and I, we never worried much about it. Every day on the news we saw newscasts reporting on the most recent rebel attacks. As the reporters stood there with her microphone, we could see the fires that had erupted, the people running and screaming, and the crying faces of children who had just lost their parents forever, and while it was sad and devastating and everything, all we could think about was “not us. That’s not going to happen to us.” It was kind of like drugs. Teens will hear all about how cigarettes give people cancer and emphysema and they can only say “not me. I’m the exception. That won’t happen to me.” Of course, then they get cancer and die. So, so much for that.

So of course, and it might have been our fault for jinxing it, the rebels attacked. They raided the town just north of us, and four months before graduation, our school shut down. Didn’t want to be liable for any students’ deaths, they said. Naturally, I was devastated. There’s this sort of hype everyone gets when they’re that close to graduating, that close to getting out of school forever and finally becoming an adult. The staff might have seen that or whatever, because they went ahead and graduated us anyways, us being in a state of emergency and whatnot, and it’s not like you do anything your last four months of being a senior anyways.

Most of my friends enlisted in the army. They wanted to be a part of the fight against the rebels. I only shrugged it off. I wasn’t worried too much. They had always been a reckless bunch, and nothing anybody said was going to stop them from joining, not even the wails from their mothers and the threats from their fathers. Keith, I remember Keith. The day he walked out of his house, his father called back and yelled “Keith, I swear to god if you sign your name on that paper, you’ll never be welcomed back home again.” Keith wrote his signature on the sign-up sheet, got into that recruiting van, and never once even looked back. I never saw him again.

Me, I studied. With the universities all closed down, some colleges had opened up online courses. Let’s just say that I earned my medical degree without ever once setting foot in an actual clinic. I wouldn’t have ever mentioned that to any of my patients, though.

So I became a doctor. I married Kimberly, that cute girl I never had the guts to talk to back in ninth grade, and a year later, Russell was born. With the rebel raids seemingly endless, the clinic was busy, and I swore to myself that Russell would never have to see this. Bring your Child to Work Day was a no-go, and if news about another attack interrupted his scheduled Bear and the Big Blue House program, I would quickly shut off the TV and send him up to his room. Some might have called me overprotective, but I don’t think I really cared as long as it was keeping my son alive.

Nearly a decade after the rebels had started attacking, we got a letter in the mail. It was the regular old census, but there was an extra few pages included. Recruitment pages. The army was looking for people. Experience people, like soldiers, scientists, and doctors. Lots of doctors. At first, I shrugged it off because there was no way in the world I was going to be leaving my wife and kid to go risk my life and patch up stupid people fighting for no particular reason whatsoever.

That evening, more news of rebel raids flooded the television. Kim and I were only watching because it was a lazy night and the remote was on the other side of the table, but after an hour or two of nothing but burning debris and charred bodies, I got sick of it. As I stood up and walked over to shut the TV off for the night, a local obituary popped up. Soldiers that had died in recent battles against the rebels, and among the list of names, one in particular caught my eye. Keith. For a moment, time stood still and nothing in the world existed except for me and Keith’s name written out in somber Arial font.

“Kim,” I said. “I’m joining the army.”

Oh sure, we cried about it. “It’s not safe,” she kept on telling me, and of course I knew it wasn’t safe. I’d be caught in the crossfire of danger more often than not, with machine guns shooting at me every which way, but by the end of the day, we both decided that it was for the best. With the universities closed down and such, there had been a decline in doctors and nurses, and something had to be done.

The hardest part about leaving was having to explain to my son that daddy had to go be a doctor somewhere else, for people who were very hurt but very far away. I don’t think he understood it much, but he took the news very well. Russell was a bright kid. Schools being closed couldn’t stop me from teaching him how to write and do math, so on the day the recruiting van drove up in front of our house, I kissed my son on the forehead and made him recite his multiplication tables before I climbed aboard the vehicle that, at that time, I thought would lead me to my impending doom.

At first, everything went smoothly. I was assigned to a base in Oregon, and from there was assigned to the clinic within that base, on account of me being inexperienced in the ways of battlefields. The only ones under my care were the soldiers that were wounded lightly enough to be able to survive a trip back to the base. I’d have to retract my earlier statement about stupid soldiers fighting for no reason, for the more I listened to them moan as I pulled glass shards out of their feet, the more I understood the situation we were in. This wasn’t just about killing off the rebels. This was about the pride of our country, the defending of our government. I had never been in complete agreement with democracy, mainly because it takes so long for things to get done, but in the end, democracy is what gives us our freedom, and we’ve been fighting for our freedom since the 1700’s. Why stop now?

One day, General Willes called me into his office. He told me that he had a new mission for me, and that because of the shortage of first-hand doctors, he was sending me straight to the battlefield. Not only that, but he was sending me to the hearth of where all the rebel attacks started. Underground Nevada. Of course I protested. Why do I need to go all the way down there? Most of the rebels had moved to the surface, and the only people in danger were the homeless and the criminals. Those who didn’t even deserve to see the light of day. Not only that, but the Underground protested our help. They always had. Well, General Willes erupted into a tornado of anger. “Mister Case,” he boomed. “You are a doctor. Those homeless are dying, and they just as much human as you are. They got human flesh and human feelings, and if it was you down there suffering and being all cold and hungry all your life and then some guys in red headbands come and shoot off your leg, you bet you’d want someone to come and save you, even if it was someone from the surface. Wouldn’t you?” He then sighed. “But no matter. You’re a doctor for our soldiers. If you’re that squeamish about them Undergrounders, you don’t got to lay a finger on them.”

I just couldn’t argue with that. I had no choice but to grab my doctoring bag and hop onto the Underground Verti-road, the elevator that takes people straight up or down the Nevada entrance, bumping shoulder to shoulder with a massive crowd of newly recruited soldiers. It was hot and sweaty and smelled like someone had just slaughtered a cow, and I was enduring this just to help the dirty specimen that never wanted out help in the first place, and I hated it.

Even before I hit rock bottom, the grotesque scent of filth and rotting flesh invaded my nostrils, overcoming the already horrid smell of the soldiers on either side of me. The elevator jerked and I found myself being thrown face first into the wall. Then I heard the sound of feet shuffling and the pressure of countless bodies slowly lifted off of me. Soon I was the only one on the elevator, and a police officer on the outside of the shaft stood there staring at me behind his 3D Ladar vision goggles. It took all my will power to get off that elevator all by myself and not scream and frantically try to pull myself up back towards the surface. No, even after being exiled to these conditions, I still had my dignity, and so I walked off calmly, trying to look like I hadn’t had a care in the world.

To say it was cold in the Underground would be a large understatement. Having been told of the climate below the surface, General Willes had prepared for me a large winter parka and a knitted gray hat, but even with that, I could already feel my teeth chattered. There was no wind in the Underground, but the draft made it feel like I had been trapped in a chronic ice chamber. At this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had seen an ice mummy lying around the streets.

The Underground was basically one long, narrow road. Every so often, usually around state borders, the road would split into two long narrow streets, but other than that, while it was spacious in length, its width could have suffocated me. It was damp, dark, and nearly crystallized water droplets dripped down from the ground nearly fifty feet above us. As I watched a drop of water fall from what the Undergrounders would call the sky, I noticed that the drop landed on top of a woman’s head. This woman, an Undergrounder most obviously, was sitting against the wall with a large, but faded shawl wrapped around her shoulders as well as two young infants that slept upon her lap. Her lips were blue and cracked and there was a rather large gash located on the side of her head that looked like it had been bleeding profusely only moments before. Beside her sat a man with a shaggy black bead, and beside him sat another man, one looking not much older than twenty. In fact, there were Undergrounders all lined up along this road, each one looking cold, hungry, and poor.

“It’s quiet,” I whispered, mainly to myself more than anyone else.

A soldier with a rather large gun a little bit behind me responded. “As compared to the raid we just got a few hours ago. I tell you, doc, in this tunnel, their screams echo in your ears forever.”

“Raid?” I asked. “I thought most of the raids had moved to the surface.”

The soldier shook his head and mounted his gun onto his opposite shoulder, probably to share the burden of its weight between both sides of his body. “So they say. I’ll admit we’ll probably get a raid at least twice a week as opposed to five like in years past. Maybe that’s what they mean.”

“How long have you been down here?”

The soldier laughed at me. “Near seven years, now. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve lived this long in this cave and I’ve managed to keep most of my sanity. Not like Oliver over there. Poor kid came just last week and he’s already yearning for a straitjacket.” He pointed over to a boy who couldn’t be any older than eighteen, shivering in a corner in a fetal position, possibly the least manly thing to do ever. I felt my heart jump at the disturbing image. Would that be me in a few days?

“Well, my name is Cedric,” the older soldier introduced himself. “And while you’re here doc, would you mind taking a look at this? Got shot just yesterday and I haven’t been able to pull the bullet out.” He rolled up his sleeve, revealing a bloody, mutilated mess. His flesh had been slashed open, dried blood blackening on his skin. Even to a doctor such as I who had seen the insides of a human heart, the sight was sickening. “Tried to remove it myself, if you already haven’t guessed, but I’m a bit clumsy. It’s all right, doesn’t hurt. I’ve got congenital insensitivity to pain or something.”

“My God! Sit down,” I ordered him, reaching into my bag and pulling out disinfectant. I had to work quickly before the wound became infected. I could pour the alcohol over his bloodied flesh and he wouldn’t even wince a bit. Any other liquid blood that might have been leaking from the wound flushed away with the alcohol, giving me a better look at the gash. I could see the bullet lodged deep within his forearm, and it took me a rather long time to remove it with my forceps without damaging any of his veins.

When all was said and done, I stitched up the mess Cedric and created and bandaged him up. Immediately, he bent his arm at the elbow and let out a sigh. “Thanks, doc.”

People must have been watching me, for before I could even tell Cedric ‘you’re welcome,’ I became hounded by the people around me, soldiers and Undergrounders alike. “A doctor? A doctor’s come to save us!” One said. “Thank the surface above, they’ve sent a doctor!” Said another. An Undergrounder, a young woman, grabbed me by the sleeve. “Doctor, save my child! She can’t feel her legs, poor thing!” “No, help me first! Doctor, when I breath, it feels like I’ve swallowed shards of glass. Oh Lord, it hurts! Help me!” Screamed an old man, crawling towards me on his hands and knees. From the corner of my eye, I could see that one woman with the shawl just sitting there, staring at me from across the road.

I didn’t know what to do. I was being touched by filthy Undergrounders that were making marks all over my coat, their frozen fingers coming into contact with my skin and chilling me to the bone. “Doctor, I’m so cold!” One woman burst into hysterics.

At that point, Cedric cocked his gun up across his shoulder and stepped in front of me. “All right, step away from the doc! He’s a soldier doctor, he’s not hear to fix your pesky little problems. All of you sit back down or by George I’ll call them rebels down and let them shoot you all!”

Well I just didn’t know what to think of that. I only stood there with my jaw wide open as all the Undergrounders retreated, some sobbing, to their spots on the wall. I didn’t know what to say. I should have thanked Cedric, but I didn’t. I felt a chill run down my spine, but I didn’t know if that was from the cold draft or the lingering touch of that woman’s hand.

I slept in the Underground base with a pile of other soldiers. There were each two to a cot, and I was stuck sharing a cot with Oliver, who it turned out wasn’t as crazy as some other guys in the bunk. By night, you could heard some soldiers howling or crying out to their mothers. Oliver, he just said nothing. He just laid there with his hands over his ears like he didn’t want to hear it. Cedric said it was to drown out the ringing sound of gunshots. Oliver always heard gunshots, even when they weren’t being fired. Just that echo of the long narrow tunnel made it all the more worse.

Cedric told me I’d get used to seeing all those Undergrounders. I never did. Every day I went out to re-bandage some soldier and I could just feel all their eyes staring at me. I could tell what they were thinking. “Why not us? Why won’t you help us?” I couldn’t even answer those questions. My manhood was telling me it was morally right to walk up over there and fix that one woman’s head. She hadn’t moved from that spot and the blood around her wound had dried to a crusty ebony. However, I didn’t help. She sat there with those infants, and when the police officer walked around to give out the daily rations, she gave most of hers to those infants. Bread and a little carton of milk. Wasn’t much, but they were homeless. This would be a feast to them.

A week after arriving at the Underground, I experienced my first raid. I was removing the splints from a soldier’s healed broken bone when the whole ground shook once, but violently. All of a sudden, Cedric grabbed my hair and slammed my face into the ground. “Everyone get down!” Everyone, soldiers and Undergrounders alike, obeyed his orders and fell facedown. A split second later, the air was rattled with the sound of guns. Machines shooting bullets above our heads at what seemed like the speed of light. “Soldiers, move out!” Cedric called. I lifted my head up and scrambled on my hands and knees into a corner as the soldiers all lifted up their guns and began shooting.

I watched one soldier drop dead, and then I saw the rebels emerge from the darkness, their bright red headbands with that half a golden star the first things to be seen. They ran in shooting wildly, as opposed to our orderly formed troops, but it seemed to work for them because more of our soldiers started falling. Undergrounders, too. I watched that woman with a shawl bend over to cover the infants. One old man got shot in the chest trying to find a safe place to hide. All over, the sounds and echoes of the violent shooting bullets started ringing in my ears. It was loud, with an intensity greater than anything I’ve ever heard. I could feel my heart racing faster and faster and I wasn’t even the one shooting.

Eventually, the rebels retreated. The sounds of guns echoed for a while even after the shooting was over, and by the time they were gone, the whole tunnel looked like the aftermath of Gettysburg. Soldier, Undergrounder, and red-banded bloodmen alike had fallen, red liquid oozing out of places all over their bodies. I had to look away to vomit.

“Clean up,” Cedric announced. With that being said, any surviving soldiers that weren’t hugging their knees crying went out to the center of the battlefield and began dragging the dead. Without even checking whether they were truly dead or simply gravely injured, they dumped the deceased one by one all in a pile in the corner of the tunnel. It began to smell of rotting flesh again.

While some soldiers mopped up the blood-stained floor, Cedric walked up to me. “Clean-up truck comes once every week to dispose of the bodies. You’ve gotta deal with it a bit until then. Now go, there’s a lot of injured for you to take care of.”

Cedric was right. It was chaos. Soldiers lay groaning and sobbing, blood pouring out of nearly every appendage one could think of. Undergrounders too, but that wasn’t my job. My job was to care for the broken soldiers.

However, for some odd reason, and even I myself don’t know why did it, but after caring for who I could, I found myself walking up to that woman. That Undergrounder with the infants. She was sitting straight up with her back against the wall and her shawl around the children again. I walked right up to her and I spoke. I spoke to an Undergrounder. “Those kids yours?”

She shook her head. “Blessed if they was, but indeed they ain’t, good doctor. These wee babies, they parents been killed in an attack a lil’ whiles back, maybe a month, maybe more, I dunno, I’ve gone and lost track of time years before.”

I nodded. And then I left and never spoke to her again. I could have helped. I could have saved her. I could have fixed that wound on her head, I could have fed those children, but I didn’t. I just went up and left.

I just dragged my feet over to the wooden bunkhouse, breathed in the horrid scent of the deceased, and fell asleep to the sounds of wailing soldiers in the dark, frozen night. Oliver never fell asleep. I head him softly crying up until I closed my eyes, and I bet he was still crying even after that.

These raids became part of my routine. Just like Cedric said, at least twice a week those rebels would march forward whooping like some wild tribe with guns and shoot down our soldiers, not caring if they got some Undergrounders too. After every raid, Oliver would crouch down and clutch his head, his entire body shaking both from the cold and from the trauma.

I remember my last night in the Underground as if it was yesterday. There had just been an attack. I had helped every single soldier I could and not a single Undergrounder, just as I’d been doing for the past something months.

That night, Oliver laid in our cot, covered in at least three blankets. He had a fever that night. I had just put a cool towel on his head. “I’m so cold, doc,” he croaked. “It’s so cold down here I can’t stand it. I’m frozen, doc. I’m frozen. So frozen. I can’t even lift my fingers, see? I can hardly even form words with my lips I’m so cold. I’ve got to get warm. I’ve got to get warm, doc, no matter what. Gimme a match, doc, and light it for me. It’s all I can do to get warm.”

Poor kid. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, so I snuck a match out from under Cedric’s cot and struck it against the box until it burst into flame. I held it out to Oliver who stuck his violently shivering arm out of the blanket to grab the match from me.

“It’s still not enough,” he lamented. “It’s never enough. It’s never going to be enough. I’ve got to get warm. No matter what. I’m going to make this fire bigger, doc. I’m getting warm tonight.”

At that point, I realized what he was about to do. “Oliver no!” I shouted at him and tried to grab the match, but at that point it was too late. Oliver had dropped the burning match straight onto the straw-stuff cot and it almost immediately ignited, with Oliver still in it. I watched that poor kid go up in flames screaming his head off the entire time his body burned, and all I did was step back in horror.

Of course the extensive heat filled the air and all the soldiers awoke to the sight of the brightly burning flame that was slowly spreading. By the time Cedric managed to hop out of bed, Oliver was long gone and the fire had began to spread to other cots. Soldiers were all in a panic, running out of the bunkhouse like little girls running from a spider. Cedric and I ran out too, just in time to see the whole bunkhouse go up in flames. From there, the fire began spreading towards the Undergrounders, catching onto the flammable blankets they had all laid out in a row across the surface of the tunnel to make it more comfortable to sleep on.

By then, everyone was screaming. Soldiers and Undergrounders began running in circles, and Cedric pulled the emergency alarm. That alarm immediately sent down the Underground Verti-road, but of course, the space was limited. Cedric and a few other soldiers began pushing the Undergrounders back. “Soldiers only,” they shouted. “Soldier first, Undergrounders last.” Of course the Undergrounders kept pushing, nobody wanting to catch on fire. The flames were quickly diffusing and absolutely nobody was doing a thing to try to stop it. Soldiers started piling into the Verti-road, and Cedric told me to go too.

I shouldn’t have gone. I should have stayed and died along with Cedric and that woman with the shawl and the infants that didn’t belong to her and every other Undergrounder there. I should have stayed, but I didn’t. No, I was too scared to even think about risking my life. I had been a coward and because of that, people were dead, both soldiers and Undergrounders.

As the Verti-road pulled up, I saw their eyes. Those eyes calling out “don’t leave us,” and “take me with you,” all requests that I chose to ignore, and because of that, I’ll never be able to get the sight of their eyes out of my head.

I retired after that. I returned home all the way to the East coast and started working in my usual clinic again. Russell had grown a year older since I had left, a year older and a year smarter. Kim had been teaching him well in my absence, up to the point of which she taught him that his daddy was a hero. She taught him that his daddy was out there risking his life to save those people, even those Undergrounders, because it was the right thing to do.

That brought my heart to an ache because it was all lies. I wasn’t a hero. Far from it, actually. I risked my life to save no one, especially the Undergrounders. In my heart I knew it was the right thing to do, and yet I did none of it.

The night I came home was a chilly winter’s. I laid by the fire, but I couldn’t exactly get warm. I thought about everything. I thought about the rebels, the attacks, the Undergrounders, about Cedric and the woman with the shawl, and I thought about Oliver. Poor, poor Oliver who wanted nothing more than to get warm. Oliver, who would have rather been warm for his entire life rather than just for ten minutes, even if his entire life lasted for just those ten minutes.

I cried. I cried and Kim comforted me, and that night I finally learned the true meaning behind the expression “Give a man a match and he will be warm for ten minutes, but set him on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.”</i>

Let's be 1905 but not 1917
Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Post count:5615
Posted: Mar 31, 2012 12:37 PM

So, so much for that.
-> So much for that.
I know what you're trying to say, but the double "Sos" make it a bit redundant.

So of course, and it might have been our fault for jinxing it, the rebels attacked.
-> Of course, and it might have been our fault for jinxing it, the rebels attacked.
I think this just flows a bit better.

I only shrugged it off.
-> I shrugged it off.
Awkward, I had to reread it a couple times because I thought you were saying "Only I shrugged it off." but that didn't make any sense either. lol

and never once even looked back. I never saw him again.
-> and didn't look back even once. I never saw him again.
Never once even looked back sounded awkward to me, and a small pet peeve of mine is when words that repeat too often.

and from there was assigned to the clinic within that base,
-> and was assigned to the clinic within that base
A bit awkward phrasing.

They got human flesh and human feelings
-> The have human flesh and human feelings
Unless this is just the way he speaks, then make that more obvious.

wanted out help in the first place
-> wanted our help in the first place

a man with a shaggy black bead
-> a man with a shaggy black beard

shook once, but violently.
I don't really get what you're trying to say here. When the ground shakes, doesn't it always interpreted as violent? Or are you trying to emphasize the intensity of the shake?

This is an amazing story Maddie. I love how you end with the beginning. I love that the main character wasn't the typical sort. He struggled between doing what he thought was right and what he thought was wrong, and lost that battle. The fact that he wasn't a valiant hero was a great way to bring in the reality of the war. Instead of portraying a hero that saved the day and wrapping it up into a nice happy ending, you showed the character of war, that not everything has a happy ending.
the hyungseok to my taejun.
Joined: Dec 11, 2010
Post count:9747
Posted: Apr 01, 2012 05:35 AM

Thanks Jamie. I'm definitely going to fix all those mistakes you pointed out. You're the best <3
Let's be 1905 but not 1917
Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Post count:5615
Posted: Apr 02, 2012 05:01 PM

No probs. It was so worth the read.
I just really love your writing style. <3
the hyungseok to my taejun.
Joined: Dec 11, 2010
Post count:9747
Posted: Apr 02, 2012 05:11 PM

Aaaw yay. A lot of people who critique my work don't like it. I end up having to change my writing a lot to fit what they like.
Let's be 1905 but not 1917
Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Post count:5615
Posted: Apr 02, 2012 05:29 PM

No, your writing style is genius. THEY'Z JUST H8RS!!
No but seriously, never change your style to please people. If anything gets changed it should be their outlook on literature. :)
the hyungseok to my taejun.
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