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Fireplace

one year ago
Commended by EndMaster on 9/23/2018 3:02:33 PM
Yes, it's finally done! It seems I should exile myself from something else next time, I hardly missed Discord. I don't like this story all that much, but others think it's fine, so I'm probably just being too harsh on myself. It's named Fireplace because that's the word I used as a writing prompt. I thought about a lonely woman sitting by the fireplace, and then added more and more to that, until it wasn't about a fireplace at all. But I can't think of a good title right now, so Fireplace it is! Enjoy, if you can. :) Feedback is welcome!

What a dreadful winter day. Even the wind seems miserable, howling and wailing like a soul in hell. It bashes against the walls of a small cottage with fury and zeal, and they creak and groan, but the wood is strong.

A middle aged woman sits beside the fireplace, as close to the tiny fire within as she can. A shirt is spread out on the table, three holes waiting to be mended. Her skilled hands seem to already know what to do, leaving her free to think about other things. But perhaps this is not a good thing, for her thoughts often end up wandering into the past, and nothing good can come from dwelling on it.

She misses the sunshine.

She used to adore winter as a child. She and her best friend would often climb the old oak in front of his house, hide in its branches and throw snowballs at the unsuspecting people below. Every year the ground was filled with snowmen and snow angels, and the air with children’s laughter.

She loathes it now. The beautiful white blanket is the final resting place for many people who get lost and can’t find their way to safety. Many brave men are freezing in the battlefield, as if their plight wasn’t bad enough without the cold. And if they die, their bodies will soon be covered with snow and forgotten. She hopes God will hear her prayers for spring soon.

She misses peace.

Life was never perfect. They all had to work hard, for food would not appear on a plate on its own. Some years the harvest was plentiful, but there were also times when people had to eat dirt to fill their empty belly. But at least they had peace.

Now this country is wasting precious lives for a pointless reason. What are they even fighting for? Land? Money? Can’t they just be happy with what they have? She doesn’t even know who they’re fighting, since she pays little attention to such things, but it hardly matters. The people over there are probably just as poor as those here.

And most of all, she misses him.

There is no use in being unhappy because of winter. It comes and goes every year. And the war will end sooner or later, once someone wins. It doesn’t matter who that is, she doubts anything will change. But what about her dear husband? Will he ever come home?

The shirt is finished now, and looks almost as good as new. It is the last piece of clothing she needed to fix so, having nothing else to do right now, she carries it to the trunk where the clothing is stored, and takes a letter out from the bottom of it. The writing is hard to read due to all the tears that have wet it in the past, but she remembers it well.

--------------------

My precious one,

I am going to run away. If you were here, you’d tell me not to do it, I’m sure. “It’s dangerous,” you’d say, “What if you get caught? You could get killed!” But if you were here, I’d have no reason to do it.

I was so proud to be a soldier when the war started. Proud to serve our country and protect our people. I didn’t understand why you cried so much when I was leaving; it’d just take a few months at most, and then I’d be home. What an idiot I was.

I know I should wait until the war ends and I’ll be free to go then. But I am not sure I can live that long. Many of our men have died, but only a few by the hands of the enemy. Illness, bad weather, starvation, that’s what got them. Some men were too weak to continue and took their own lives, and I fear I might become one of them if I stay here for too long.

It shouldn’t take me long. If I’m lucky, I might reach you before the letter does. After that, we can leave together and go live somewhere better. I am not yet sure where that would be, but we’ll figure it out. If I don’t come home in a month, leave without me. The money I sent you isn’t much, but it should be enough to get you started.

I’m coming home, my love. I’m coming home.

--------------------

She received that letter more than two months ago. He must be dead. But what if he isn’t? What if his trip is just taking longer because he got injured, or because of the bad weather? What if he just changed his mind and didn’t escape at all? She is just being impatient, she should wait for him. But how much longer?

A loud crash rouses her from her thoughts. She runs to the window and sees that the oak tree in front of the house has fallen, unable to withstand the snow and wind. The tree that she and her love used to climb every winter when they were children. The tree under which they were sitting when he proposed to her. The tree in which they carved their names, as a symbol of unbreakable love that nothing but death could stop. The tree is old, it’s nothing unusual that it fell, but she can’t shake the thought that it means he really is dead.

After some more hesitation, she throws the letter into the fire. She has cried over it enough, it’s time to move on. She gets dressed and puts most of what she owns in a satchel. It isn’t much, but it should do until she gets to a shop. She walks out the door with her head raised high. She’s finally doing what he would’ve wanted her to do.

She’s only been walking for a short time when she hears a strange sound behind her, coming closer and closer. She realizes far too late that it sounds like something sliding down the mountain. There is nowhere she can go but down, a precipice at each side of the path. So she runs, as fast as she can in the deep snow, her heartbeat seeming even louder than the avalanche.

But alas, fate is not on her side. She slips and falls on the snow, only managing to yell his name before she is silenced forever. Her last thought is that at least she’ll be with her dear husband again soon. She can already hear him, calling her from heaven.

--------------------

What a wonderful day. Even the wind seems cheerful, whistling a joyful song that would make even the saddest person smile. Playful and carefree, it swirls the snowflakes around in the air, making them seem as though they’re dancing.

A middle aged man is trudging up a mountain, sinking knees deep into the snow with each step. He is wearing a soldier’s uniform, the fabric thick but still not enough to protect against the biting cold. But he doesn’t mind, his hopefulness warming him better than a fire ever could. He is still far away, but he can already picture himself inside his cozy home, warming his tired body by the fireplace, with his beloved in his arms.

Soon, they won’t miss each other anymore.

He had to escape twice, first from the army and then from the enemy soldiers that captured him. But this time, nothing can stop him. Endless winter, war, famine, drought, illness ... none of that will matter once he’s with her again.

He whispers, “I’m coming home, my love. I’m coming home.”

And then he hears it, a sound so loud and majestic that one could mistake it for the God’s wrath. It’s an avalanche! So he does what any smart man would do, turns and starts running.

But soon after he hears a voice calling him, clearly terrified. Her voice! He turns once more and, without thinking, runs right into the avalanche, trying to save her when he can’t even save himself. He dies only a few meters from his home, one of many victims of the winter. But at least he is near her.

Fireplace

one year ago
Welcome back Maya! This came out really good, not sure what you were worried about. Although I know you were going for maximum feelz, it does seem like they were doomed regardless if the avalanche would've buried her in the cabin and him just outside it, and I'm guessing it couldn't have been outrun so that changes the ending to more bittersweet than 'tragic' in my reading of it.

Just a couple things that jumped out as I read:

>She doesn’t even know who they’re fighting, since she pays little attention to such things, but it hardly matters.

I'd cut this line, just because it makes her seem dumb.


The actual events ending the story are fine, it just felt a little rushed in the last couple of paragraphs (which it may have been, were you trying to wrap it up in a hurry?)

>And then he hears it, a sound so loud and majestic that one could mistake it for the God’s wrath. It’s an avalanche! So he does what any smart man would do, turns and starts running.

>But soon after he hears a voice calling him, clearly terrified. Her voice! He turns once more and, without thinking, runs right into the avalanche, trying to save her when he can’t even save himself. He dies only a few meters from his home, one of many victims of the winter. But at least he is near her.

'what any smart man would do' is a bit of unneeded jumping in from the narrator, which is the kind of thing it's best to avoid IMO because it takes you from the story a bit by reminding you it's all being described by a third party (the author). Same with 'alas, fate is not on her side' really. It's one of those lines that, if a little generic, can still be fine from first or second POV, but in third it comes from an uninvolved outsider making an observation on what's supposed to be a tense or sad moment.

The last paragraph in particular is kind of weak, mainly just because it feels like too much telling. It needs some more immediate sensory details and to be more directly from his POV. I mean there's nothing horribly wrong with it, but being literally the last lines of the story makes it stick out more.

I particularly liked the flipping of tone as each section began and of course the constant presence of snow and the changing views on it in all the events, past and present.

You've only posted a couple of short things before so it's hard to judge how your style is evolving, but this is impressive and I hope to see more from you soon.

Fireplace

one year ago
I'm sorry, I completely forgot to reply. Thank you for your help, both when I was working on the story and now when it's finished, you are amazing! They would've lived if they were both more patient, but they couldn't have known this would happen, so they were "punished" despite being innocent. Bittersweet is fine, you can understand the ending however you want. At least you didn't say it's happy because they believe in God and therefor must've gone to heaven. I don't get that logic; wouldn't every death ending be happy then, except those of bad people?

True, I guess it does make her seem more dumb than I intended. I could've used something like "since there are so many countries involved, and they switch sides far too often," which would be a bit more reasonable. But she's a simple farmer woman, we can't really blame her for not being well informed, can we?

Yeah, the endings of both POVs were rushed and half assed. I didn't quite know how to wrap it up and just wanted it finally done. I'll make sure to use less telling in the future. Thank you again, I'm really glad you liked it.

Fireplace

one year ago

I love the beginning imagery. Something that stuck out to me was the ‘strong wood’ opposed to the ‘furious, zealous wind’. The wood (from the cottage & tree) seems to symbolize the strength of the love between the man and woman. Outside factors (such as the war) attack their relationship "but the wood is strong”.

I also really enjoyed your use of contrast. You can imagine the innocent, playful nature of children getting into mischief with no real consequence. Now that they are grown-up, the laughter is replaced with loathing and the consequences are quite deadly.

The build-up and use of repetition to reach the line “And most of all, she misses him” was superb. Well done.  

The internal struggle is relatable to a lesser degree. We've all had the experience when something isn’t going according to plan and we start to imagine every awful possibility coming true. I think this is part of why I found the story enthralling. It was very easy to put yourself in their (snow)shoes.

I was captivated by the story because of the “Oh shit!” reaction it caused. The devastation hits even harder since you can see everything would have worked out if the characters didn’t do a certain action. Like mizal mentioned, they both probably would have died in the avalanche. A reunion to die together would make a happier ending (Star Wars: Rogue One), so I’m glad that didn’t happen. The heartfelt, somber mood and weather symbolism fit the story exceptionally well. The moment she pulled out the letter, I knew I’d have to break out the Kleenex box, get the ice cream, and throw on the Snuggie.

A few lines that you might want to revisit:

"The writing is hard to read due to all the tears that have wet it in the past, but she remembers it well" 

– tear-stains seem a bit cliché to me

"So he does what any smart man would do, turns and starts running.
But soon after he hears a voice calling him, clearly terrified. Her voice! He turns once more and, without thinking, runs right into the avalanche, trying to save her when he can’t even save himself"

– The use of ‘turns’ stuck out. Maybe you used it multiple times to emphasize the several switch in directions. Maybe there’s a better word to use. Maybe you like it and if so, don’t change it on my account!

Fireplace

one year ago
It's really heartwarming to learn that so many people liked this story and even found meanings in simple things that I never thought of, like your strong wood example. Especially because I wasn't really happy with it when it was finished. A part of me knows that I could post something much shittier and there'd still be some people who liked it, but that part's usually drowned out by that little imp screaming "It's not good enough! It's not good enough!" Thank you for your opinions and advice, they mean a lot to me.