A Sacred Crop (Short Story) - Finish the Story Contest Week 42steemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  5 months ago  (edited)

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This is my thirteenth entry in @f3nix Finish the Story Contest. The prompt, or start of the story, was written by @gaby-crb and is highlighted below in quotation to differentiate between their work and mine. The idea of the exercise is that I finish the story, and try to do it in 500 words. This week I have managed to complete my ending in 550 words. Nearly spot on 😉

Kayla

Beginning by @gaby-crb

Kayla’s boots hit the ground. The dry earth scattered into dust clouds as she strode across the front of the house. Manny was late again.

The harsh sun beat down against her brown skin. She looked off into the distance, the heat haze sat above the plain, rippling the sight of the far off mountains.

She lifted her arm, checking her watch. The sun reflected across the scratched screen. She ran her finger over the deepest scratch. It had still worked after her accident.

A young boy came hurtling out of the front door and blindly ran straight into her. The force knocked them both to the ground.
She fell hard. Her limbs scraped against loose stones and the scorched dirt.

“What in the devil are you playing at?”

She got up quickly, patting herself off in the process.

The young boy sat still. Tears rolling down his dirty cheeks. He coughed as he struggled to breathe, the fine dust getting into his lungs.

Manny stepped onto the veranda and placed his hands on his hips. His shirt hung open and his hat tilted on his head.

Kayla shook her head at the sight of him. She had known Manny her entire life but she was always surprised to see him so relaxed at his home.

“This your boy Manny?”

“Aye, that be Thomas.”

“He make yer’ late then?”

Manny walked down the front steps and helped his son up. Thomas took the offered hand reluctantly.

Kayla chuckled to herself.

“Better bring him with us. ‘Bout time he learned the family trade.”

Manny and Thomas followed Kalya towards her truck. The truck smelled of licorice and sawdust. The engine rattled into life. Thomas slid into the centre. His eyes still pooling with tears.

Manny opened up a hip flask, taking a sip. He growled as the harsh liquid hit his throat. He passed it to Kayla, she drank as she drove across the open land.

“What them tears about then?”

She asked as she passed the flask back.

Manny laughed. “He got a clip round the ear for talking cheek to his mother, didn’t ya’ boy?”

Kayla gripped the wheel tighter as the truck bounced over the rough terrain.

“Well, that seems rightly deserved then. Ya’ don’t talk like that to your ma kid, ya’ just don’t.”

The truck swayed as the tires followed the grooves and tracks of the land. Thomas was the most affected by the force, having spent very little time in vehicles of any kind. He watched as the truck traveled through a river, unaffected by the water.

Manny lit up a cigarette and tilted his head back as he exhaled. The smoke filled the air quickly, Thomas started coughing.

“Quit it will ya manny. The kid got weak lungs or summit’?”

“He’s a weaklin’ alright.”

Manny laughed as he clapped his son on the back.

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A Sacred Crop

Ending by @raj808

The truck bounced over a rut and rumbled over the cattle grid. To Kayla’s left, low scrub land stretched to the horizon. But to her right the endless monotony gave way to a wall of tall slender stalks. There hadn’t been any cattle here for a long time.

Forlorn figures scattered fine grey dust over the tall crop of corn. Kayla pulled the truck to a stop and reached to open the door.

Manny grabbed her wrist. “Hold up a second. The boy needs a lesson.”

They both turned to stare at a wide eyed Thomas as he shrunk back into the tired old leather seat.

She laughed. “I’ve never seen a kid so timid. What’n you be a fearing Thomas? Ya pa just wants to teach yer the family business.”

Manny heaved the boy forward and cuffed him lightly about the back of the head. Then lifted him over the seats to sit up front on his knee.

“I told ya boy, yer needs to grow up sooner rather than later. There ain’t no place in this world for cowards.”

Thomas nodded up at him.

Manny flashed a quick slant of a smile at the boy. “See them workers out there.”

He pointed at the shuffling figures, wrapped close about with tattered sackcloth cloaks.

Thomas stared eyes never blinking. “Well them’s different from us... never forget that. Don’t get too close cause they attack anyone smaller than themselves.”

Thomas’ eyes glistened. “And if they get ya, they will bite.” He grabbed the boys wrist, laughing as the shaking child twitched and squirmed to get into the back of the truck.

“Ah ah ah, none of that.” Manny opened the door and the heat blasted Kayla in the face.

₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪

The corn waved in the windless heat haze. Manny grabbed his rifle from the back of the truck and slung it over his shoulder. He dragged Thomas along the rows of corn. A tall figure loomed up ahead among the cloaked and hooded.

“Gunther.”

The man turned at his name.

“Boss.”

He nodded as Manny stopped ten feet away from the man and his cloaked companions. Gunther was stick thin but wizened and hard like a desert tree.

“Go get.” He barked an order at his charges.

They shuffled away, casting wide arcs of ashen dust skyward from their black buckets.

“How far have we got?” Manny asked.

“A furlong left boss.”

“Any trouble?”

“One escapee dead from the whip. We had to make an example of him.”

Manny nodded. “I’ll take care of the corpse.”

₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪

Kayla watched the line of ‘the changed’ filling bucket after bucket with ash from the charnel pit. Thomas blinked back tears as his father dumped the corpse into a second smoldering pit.

Manny kicked the cloth aside revealing a face pocked with puss and scars.

Thomas gawped in horror. One eye was higher than the other and the mans teeth protruded where his bottom lip should have been.

Manny’s brow crinkled as he looked at his son.

“Them’s different from us, never forget. Don’t let them touch you.”

Kayla nodded as she stepped forward, pulling up her trouser leg to show the boy the withered flesh of her left foot.

© Rowan Joyce all rights reserved

The pictures used in this post are creative commons licence and were sourced from pixabay.com, please follow links 1 & 2 to credit . If you have enjoyed reading this short story, you can check out similar work on my homepage @raj808. Thank you.

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I really appreciate the MAD curation @themadcurator :) :) Thanks

Another good one. You know how to take the story from middle to finish, and make it surprising. I like that. A good skill to have.

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Cheers @blockurator I appreciate your feedback mate. When I was writing this I wanted to try and leave the twist that there was a post apocalyptic scenario happening right until the end while weaving some subtext in about how people can dissociate themselves from their fellows. It was a short word limit to try to get all that in. This is why I love constrained writing exercises like this. Also, I hadn't written any fiction in weeks so it snapped me out of my block.

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I know what you mean. Time crunch and all. Sometimes, the minutes just don't show any grace. I love reading your stuff, short or long. :-)

BTW, working on some curation rewards for @gardengnomepubs. Your feedback is always appreciated.

This is a smooth continuation of the first half, I love that first paragraph. Great development of the characters, Thomas was not the only one afraid of ‘the changed’. What caused these violent and disfigured people?

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Thanks @gaby-crb.

What caused these violent and disfigured people?

Your question makes me happy as I wanted to leave the reader with questions about the history and background of what left these 'changed' people so damaged and the people who aren't... why are they where they are who they are etc. I think it is so difficult to build solid characters, back story and plot in 500 words so I always try my best to just make sure that I build an impression of the scene/world in the finish the story and leave it open to intriguing questions that people hopefully answer themselves. Lol, always keep the audience guessing is the expression. Thanks for such a great opening! There were so many little details for me to build from; Kaylas injury, Thomas' timidness, the dusty starkness of the environment these details gave me something strong to build upon.

To answer the question, in my mind the back story was that it was a post apocalyptic world where some people had been ravaged by a genetic disease while others hadn't. Those who were left healthy preyed on those who weren't.

Very good! I really enjoyed that. The horror aspect worked really well.

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Cheers @felt.buzz I wasn't too sure of the direction I went with this at first, but it seemed to all come together at the end :)

I appreciate your feedback.

Great cover art for the second time this round. Enjoyable story to compliment.

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Thanks @cyemela glad you enjoyed the story mate :)

A great balance and constant suspense permeate your second half. The style flows naturally and I felt immersed in the scene without even realizing. I have the feeling that you wanted to opt for a different stylistic choice, diverting from a more lyric approach. Am I wrong? I loved the darkness of this episode and the final revelation about Kayla.

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You're absolutely right @bananafish

I have the feeling that you wanted to opt for a different stylistic choice, diverting from a more lyric approach. Am I wrong?

not wrong at all. I was actively going for a more matter of fact, action and dialogue orientated prose here rather than my usual cacophony of imagery ;-)

I really appreciate your feedback mate :)

Hey, @raj808!

Thank you for your contribution to the crowd. We are the Steemit project dedicated to empowering The Wisdom of Crowds. You can find more about us on our official website or whitepaper and you can support us by voting for our witness and joining our curation trail on Steemauto . We are also inviting you to join Crowdmind Discord server. Don't forget to use the #crowdmind hashtag and happy crowdsourcing!

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  ·  5 months ago (edited)

Cheers for the curation @crowdmind your support means a lot to me :)

Great project you are running :)

P.s. I shall remember to us the tag when I can in the future.

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@raj808 wow, amazing tale! I loved the suspense building. Your explanation in the comments below about the post-apocalyptic world led me to understand it more richly.

Will you write more in this world? 🙌🙌

You pulled me in on this one for sure! Such a smooth transition from where you jumped in. That's definitely a great skill to be able to take what someone else started and run with it into your own piece. I'm curious what has made "them" different, as well...😉

This post has been selected for curation by @sunravelme. It has been upvoted and will be featured in this week's Working Title post. It will also be considered for the official @minnowsupport curation post and if selected will be resteemed from the main account. Feel free to join us on Discord!

Our 43rd Edition awaits the hand of a fearless writer to complete the tale. Will you share with us an ending that only you can tell? Good luck, brave storyteller! 😎