I’m taking a writing course by Mary Robinette Kowal, Writing on the Fast Track. It’s a short story course covering basic writing topics like Point Of View (POV), description, dialogue, etc. The first two homework excercises covered using description for point of view. The maximum amount of dialogue as well as the lines we could use were fixed but we were allowed to rearrange them and remove lines and edit the lines so that they made sense in our context. The first assignement was simply that, write a story using two characters. The second was to write the same story from the other character’s point of view. Since I’m rather proud of my result, here’s the first.
Sara sat on her bed and glared at the green pasture mocking her from the dawn wall. The bare room around her did nothing to distract her from the sickening sight of goats frolicking, a home that was no more. Anika would insist on waking up to the same damn scene every damned morning as if they could go back. But of course she never actually woke up to it.
She slammed the off button for the dawn wall and nudged Anika before yanking out her wheelchair from under the bed.
“Are you all right?” Anika asked, yawning.
Sara pushed herself into the chair with a grunt and rolled the chair over to her meticulously arranged locker. Anika’s bare feet made little sucking noises as she padded off to the bathroom before they were drowned out by the sound of sheets rustling as the bed made itself. When Sara heard the toothbrush go on she let out a breath she hadn’t realized holding.
She opened the lid of her locker and automatically her eyes fell on her service weapon. She took out her fatigues in a carefully folded pile, hardly able to take her eyes off the gun. Underwear followed close behind. She reached for socks but yanked her hand away as if burned when her hand accidentally brushed against the two small boxes containing her medals. A Colonial Star Fleet Orion for courage under fire and a Colonial Star Fleet Betelgeuse for meritorious service. Sara took a deep breath and held it while she grabbed a pair of socks, threw them on the bed and only let it go after slamming the locker shut.
Anika spit out the foam just as Sara rolled into the bathroom and squeezed herself in the corner to make room for her. Even though they’d lived in this hab for months, to an outside observer it might as well have been empty. Only the mixed scent of jasmine and baby powder that somehow always followed Anika around marked it as in use.
The only traces of Sara in the whole hab were the locker and a plastic stool in the corner of the shower. Everything else that she had brought in was standard military issue, right down to the toothpaste she used. Even the few personal pictures she had were confined to her locker. She pulled the stool closer to the shower head with more grunting than strictly necessary.
“Here,” Anika said, rushing forward to help.
Sara stopped her with her arm, pushing Anika away from the shower.
“Let me help.”
“No! I have to learn to do this.”
Anika’s mouth narrowed but she said nothing. Sara couldn’t stand to look at her so she turned back to the task at hand.
In the mirror doors of the cabinet above the sink, Anika nodded and left the bathroom without saying anything. Sara closed her eyes and muttered a soft curse. Then she took a deep breath, pushed herself from the chair onto the stool, closed her eyes, and let the warm water wash over her.
Suddenly it wasn’t water raining on her but blood and torn bits of human flesh. Sara jerked back. The stool toppled over and she hit her head but she didn’t scream. Never scream. Her heart raced and she hyperventilated until she was on the verge of passing out. When she could breathe again, the taste of blood made her vomit. For a while after that she just wept silently in the corner.
Sara was sliding back onto her wheelchair when Anika came back into the bathroom, now fully dressed and immaculate in a dress uniform. Seeing her like this always made Sara want to muss her up a bit. Anika’s wild brown hair was forced back into a bun without even a strand sticking out. Her cream-coffee shaded skin stood in stark contrast against the crisp whiteness of her collar, the brass lightning insignia of CSF Intelligence gleaming in its precisely measured place.
“Your therapist called.”
“So?” Sara turned to look at her while drying herself with a towel.
“You’ll keep this appointment?”
Anika stared at her and drew a breath as if she wanted to say something but bit her lip and stayed silent.
Anika simply shook her head, kissed Sara and left.
Sara wanted to scream that she loved her but before she could force the words out, the hab door had irised shut, throwing up an impenetrable wall between them.
As she got dressed on the bed, her service weapon seemed to be singing to her from inside the locker, a siren song of peace. When she struggled to get back onto the wheelchair, it muttered like a forgotten widow, prophesying of loneliness and pain. And as she reached into her locker for her beret it cajoled her with accusations of cowardice.
Sara took the weapon from the locker and laid it on the shriveled stumps that were all that was left of her legs and stared at it. As she stared, the dawn wall grew lighter and lighter, finally making the whole room light up with artificial sunshine.
Sara sighed and rolled over to the small shelf serving as her night-stand, without even looking at the offending wake-up image. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed that something was different.
The image that filled the wall was no longer the meadow that no longer existed. It was the burned-up husk of the oak tree Sara and Anika had planted when they got married, destroyed in the same war she was. Except the tree wasn’t dead. A fragile sapling had started to grow from inside the hollowed out stump.
Slowly Sara reached out a hand to touch the dawn wall, her eyes wide and her mouth open. She caressed the curve of the shoots springing up and out of the tiny sapling, leaning forward until she was perched on the edge of her chair. The gun fell from her lap with a loud, dead thunk.
Sara’s eyes flitted from the tree to the gun and back again. She jerked back in her chair with a gasp. Then she squared her shoulders and rolled her chair out of the hab and into the world outside.