View Full Version : Freedom's Cost

December 12th, 2011, 01:16 AM
Sorry for any typos. I appreciate any input anyone would like to give. I just wrote this for something to write since I was apprehensive to write anything. Just please bear in mind that this was right off the top of my head, so I didn't really work on the structuring yet.

Sunlight reflected sharply from the craggy edges of the stony peak, bathing the small form of Eric DeMarrs in dazzling, icy glare. Eddies of wind swept flurries of snow around him, tickling his nose with the quickly melting flakes that dared touch his smiling face. Absently, Eric shufffled his feet slightly, kicking up more snow to feed to the wind. He didn't care about the cold any more than he noticed the howl of the wind up the jagged face of the outcroppings below. He was focused on more important things today.

With careful deliberation he stepped to the very edge of the peak, gazing down into the valley, scanning the treeline where it met the snow. It was beautiful, he thought, but of no concern to him. He kept the scene in the back of his mind, where he imagined would be the best place for it. Looking up, his eyes focused on the horizon, hazy and distant. "Today, I will fly!" His voice was strong, though he was the only one to hear it and he knew this. It felt good to say it though. It felt good to say anything.

He closed his eyes and turned his face to the bright blue sky, sunlight filling his eyes with bright red sparkles, and spread his arms wide, palms upward, as if to catch the energy of the sun itself. Slowly he breathed, deeply filling his lungs with life, feeling the glorious radiance and power of the Earth leeching into him. His mind was calm but his blood raced as he became one with the sky and slowly, gently, began to rise up and away from the ground.

He pointed his toes downward, satisfied that he was no longer bound to the earth. Lowering his head and opening his eyes, he surveyed the treeline once more, grinning at the realization that he was truly flying. He spared a glance at his arms, now graceful wings, feathers dancing on the breeze. Lifting his legs slightly, he leaned forward and the breeze began to carry him over the edge where he stood only moments ago, nothing beneath him but the steep slopes of this unnamed peak. Emboldened by this success, he lowered his head and pitched forward more, angling himself toward the trees. Faster and faster he plunged, nearly skimming the crags and outcroppings, his wings almost aching from the effort of keeping him aloft, yet downward he flew.

He flew! It was more exhilarating that he had ever imagined! Freedom and joy seemed meaningless until this moment, but no more. He was free. He could feel the cold slipping away as he descended, but the wind was still sharp and sobering on his face. Deeply he inhaled, smelling the warming soil and the sharp scent of the pines as the heat of the morning lent their musk to the air to be stolen away by the mountain winds. Suddenly he shifted his wings, the warm air rising from the increasingly brown earth lifting him higher, he soared over the treetops close enough to hear their murmuring song, thousands of reeds in Mother Nature's symphony, playing only for the sake of the music. Today, they played for Eric DeMarrs.

Gaining some altitude, he raced alongside startled starlings as they surveyed the ground for a place to rest and peck away at things only they knew how to find. He followed an eagle, soaring slowly over precipices, letting the air currents guide their way as the eagle hunted for morsels to bring back to her nest, or so he imagined. To him the ground was a blur, but it was the sky that mattered to him. He soon caught sight of the fields of the farmers at the valley floor, green and square and teeming with life he couldn't see, and he wheeled sharply. Flapping his strengthening wings, he swooped low over the fields, whooping as loudly as he could to the tiny people in their toy tractors, pivoting this way and that to avoid their eyes, making a game of tormenting the folks that were too busy doing their chores to understand what freedom was all about.

Climbing high into the sky, he focused on the blue haze at the far end of the long highway that stretched out East. With new determination he pumped his wings as hard as he could manage, making his muscles burn as he pushed himself to the limit of his abilities, high above the highway, toward the open waters and unknown currents above the ocean. Soon, though his breath was coming in gulps, he had soared for miles, resting on the warming updrafts.

Suddenly, all that was beneath him was the dazzling blue of the ocean, glittering in the late morning sun, glorious and never ending. Gulls called out weakly as they drifted around, lazly looking for a bite to eat, so Eric descended to join them in their search. The smell of the ocean was refreshing, invigorating, and if he squinted his eyes he could see the small groups of fishing boats that so fascinated the seagulls. The updrafts from the clear blue water took a bit of getting used to, but soon he was wheeling with the gulls, trying to imitate their raucous cries.

Tears of pure joy streamed down his cheeks as he danced and played on the crisp clean air of the ocean, his heart beating so hard he could feel it. He never imagined flying could be so wonderful, so absolutely empowering, and he wept with the overwhelming perfection of it all. This was what life should be, he thought. This is all he had ever wanted, and today, it was his. So many places he could go, so much beauty to see, glorious vistas and unexplored...

"Margaret! It's quarter of three. See to your boy." Louie DeMarrs grumbled under his breath as he trundled back to his chair, a fresh can of beer in his meaty hand. "I swear woman, that boy is more burden that Jesus himself could drag." He dropped his sweaty bulk into the chair and he was lost once again in the aura of Pabst and western movies that occupied his meager mind more often than not.

Wordlessly frowning, Margaret wearily groped in the small cupboard at her knee and dragged out a small brown bottle of pills. She didn't even glance into the other room, knowing that Louie would be where he always was, stuck in his cowboy fantasies. Dreaming is for fools, she thought. Not like reality is much of an improvement. She dumped two small red and tan pills into her palm and picked up a glass of lukewarm water that was waiting on the counter. Crouching down, she expertly tucked the capsules into Eric's partially open mouth, then gingerly tipped the glass of water against his lips. satisfied he had swallowed them, as the doctor had explained every damn time they had to visit him, she dabbed the tears away from the poor boy's cheeks.
She looked the boy's wheelchair over carefully, making sure he wasn't pinched or sitting on a wrinkle, then cupped his withered hand in hers and kissed his forehead. "The pain will be gone soon, my little man. Momma's sorry she forgot. I love you, baby. I love you lots." She stood, taking a shivering breath and gritting her teeth to keep a tear out of her own eye, she pushed the wheelchair near the window so a sunbeam could fall across Eric's frail legs. She stood behind him, stroked his hair lightly and let the tears come anyway. "I love you lots," she whispered.

The ocean shimmered brightly, colorfully, as the gulls melted away into streaks of grey, their calls fading into the ticking of clocks as the sky darkened and faded into the blackness of the approaching Hell. As his wings caught fire from the screaming devils that swatted him from the sky, he squeezed his eyes shut, knowing that the nightmare would soon be upon him, as it always did. It would eventually end though, he knew. He would fly again tomorrow.

There would be freedom again tomorrow.

December 14th, 2011, 11:22 PM
Ah well, not worth a reply I suppose. If I get more time after work I'll try again.

December 15th, 2011, 12:53 AM
What a great concept! So sad, though, that he can't tell someone what the meds are doing to him. Makes me wonder what they are for...

Just getting used to giving critique, sorry if that wasn't so helpful :/

December 15th, 2011, 04:39 AM
Ah well, not worth a reply I suppose. If I get more time after work I'll try again.

No! I read it this afternoon and thought to myself, "Why the heck hasn't anyone commented?!" Then I got too busy and didn't get a chance to respond.

First, before the story... I've never liked people prefacing something they've written with, "It's not good." etc. I didn't really notice spelling or grammar issues, but when you said it, I started out looking for them. Unless it's REALLY bad, all you would have to say is that it's a rough draft.

I love the idea of this story. A tragedy of a well-meaning mother actually causing her vegetative son even more hardship. The tear that came from him in happiness was wiped away with sadness from his mother and then misinterpreted and drugged up to prevent more of them. And prevent more, they will.

It's kind of minor, but I was slightly confused at first when the story switched in and out of the boy's mind. Maybe just some ***'s between the sections or some physical barrier.

I wasn't fond of the dad being a stereotyped deadbeat. Could just be a personal thing, but I felt too much (dislike) toward the dad and I felt it pulled me away from the kid/mom, which seems to be more of the focus.

I got the impression the drugs were pain meds. Would a child in a vegetative state (or near enough) be on pain meds? I really don't know. Or if they weren't meant to be pain meds, that's how they came across to this reader.

The first 75% of the story is description of him flying, etc. It was good description, but it dragged on a little too long for me.

I felt that the switch back and forth between the mom and the kid's mind at the end was perfectly done. I understood the tragedy at just the right time - at the end of the mother's section. It made the last paragraph heart-wrenching (which is good).

I didn't get a good indication of how old the kid is. It might help if the reader had a rough idea - 8 or 16? It could be solved with a phrase in his mind that "his ten-year-old frame cut through the air," or some such thing.

If you're interested in trimming any of the first section of the boy's adventures in his mind, I would suggest trying to tighten up the descriptions. Make sure you're not using extra descriptive words that mean the same thing. Don't use adverbs to make it more flowery if it's not really necessary.
"With careful deliberation he stepped" Is deliberation ever not careful?
"his eyes focused on the horizon, hazy and distant" A horizon, by definition, is distant.
"Wordlessly frowning" If the mom doesn't speak, then the reader knows it was wordless.
"The ocean shimmered brightly, colorfully" What colors? I imagined blues and greens but maybe you meant rainbows.

I hope I didn't come across as too negative. I've gotten much more benefit from critiques of my writing that tell me things I don't want to hear than simply saying, "I love it!" Not that that sort of praise isn't nice too.. But if I read something awful, I would have no desire to offer a critique. I really enjoyed reading it and was impressed with the vast majority of it.

December 15th, 2011, 06:18 AM
I enjoyed reading this. The flying descriptions are a little wordy, 123man's suggestion of paring down words that mean the same thing and tightening it up is a good one.
The mother's description shows a person worn away with Eric's problems and care, or maybe not. Perhaps her son is a burden to her, another chore to tend to with no help.
The father is a stereotype, but I've seen a lot of men just like him so it's not an unreasonable way for him to be.
I really liked the first part where I thought it was reality and then the kid is flying and I realized everything was an illusion.
Good stuff. I didn't notice any typos, but then I was caught up in the story...

December 16th, 2011, 12:15 PM
Punnikin - Your introductory remarks caused me to abandon the piece without reading it shortly after you posted it. Good thing I came back. This is good, but you don't know how many people saw your first lines and went away without reading the story.

With the comments of 123man I concur. There would perhaps be greater impact if both parents were intelligent people who loved the child and thought they were doing right by him. Or perhaps not.

Olly Buckle
December 16th, 2011, 01:49 PM
Your introductory remarks caused me to abandon the piece without reading it I think this happens a lot, authors tend to be disparaging about their own work for a start off. As general advice I would say don't make a comment, or if you feel it really necessary put it at the end when others will read it after forming their own opinion.

December 17th, 2011, 03:14 AM
Let's see if I can cover all the bases without flooding with various quotes.

As far as being wordy is concerned, I carried the flying description overly-long for a purpose. It was to draw the reader into the flying fantasy and to "distract" the mind. I know it sounds like a strange concept, but honestly, if you could fly, would you try to make it as succint as possible when you described it to someone? I would take a beating before I gave up if it was me.

The disclaimer at the top... I could have worded it a bit better I suppose. I've started a new job recently and sometimes I just don't have the time to edit and proofread, or to reply to threads. It's the weekend so I went on a bit of a coffee bender to come back here to reply, and I have another story idea that I got from a dream I had last night. Cheesy, eh?

The abrupt switch from flying to reality was intentional, hence the interrupted description. If I'm going to twist your arm, I'm certainly not going to warn you first. Especially if I twist it for a reason. Maybe this is just my point of view, but most interruptions in my life don't come with lines of asterisks.

Ah, the good ol' deadbeat dad fallback. You're a husband and you either have no son, or one that can never "be a son to you" so to speak, so you have two choices. Be the loving, nurturing father and care for your boy as best you are able, or you can escape into a fantasy world and let someone else deal with it. Harsh, yes, black-and-white, absolutely, but as a character that will see no development beyond a grunt and a fart, as well as having a nearly pointless role, I stamped his papers and sent him packing with no fuss. Besides, I have no children of my own so I have little experience to draw from. A poor excuse, but I barely knew my own father and I'm something of a loner so most of my research was done in front of the television.

Use your imagination as to the nature of the medication. Momma said pain, so maybe that's what she was told. One thing this world doesn't lack is disreputable doctors, especially when a prescription pad is a great way to write your own paycheck and your patient certainly isn't going to protest much. I've seen many rainbows in this weary old world, and none of them ever appeared from my backside, so I have a lot of difficulty when it comes to painting them. Three cheers for the metaphor?

It never really occurred to me to give an indication of Eric's age. I suppose my mind's eye put him in the 12 year old range, but considering his physical condition and his mental acuity, you really can't assume he would be much older than that, and it would be hard to really pin an age on him. For the sake of argument, Eric DeMarrs was 12 years old at the time.

-My descriptions, my downfall, but I cannot apologize for them. Literal definitions can be set aside much of the time for the purpose of effect. Not so much when using a metaphor, but to give a sense of the spatial perception one might experience when, in this case, they start to fly on their own. The horizon being hazy and distant, simply put, was to convey that he could see it unobstructed by trees, houses, etc. Horizons aren't so far away when you can focus on them.
-Deliberation can be quite careless, really. If one is determined to do something, do they practice safe measures every time, or can you do something deliberately and recklessly? I know I can, or I'd never have broken my hand 4 times. Eric has it easy, I think.
-Margaret wordlessly frowns a lot. She isn't a mutterer like Louie, nor is she a dreamer. Her absence of an imagination, or an escape from the tensions of life, are her burden. She loves Eric as she would a perfectly healthy young boy, but her weariness has a different source. I'm sure you can conjure up a few reasons she might be frustrated. One of them is pitching a fit over the way the networks chop up a "damn straight kick-your-cowpoke-ass shootout!" with ads for hemhorroids creams and cardboardy cereals. In between belches, of course. One does not simply mute a stereotype.
-Ah, the colors of a young man's dreams. Who can lay a brush to canvas and capture all of the vivid hues that a child's dream can produce, especially after one has had narcotics introduced to his system when his poor body is simply too frail to combat the effects? Simply put, what difference does it make? I didn't indicate the temperature of Hell, or the height from which he fell, or the speed of his descent. I leave it to you, the reader, to picture this in your own mind, and in the absence of input, to imagine you're in Eric's place. One does not merely walk into Hell, my friends. You have to make your Hell before you can visit it.

Before I go... if both parents were loving, caring folks there would have been a bit of eye-rolling from an entirely different perspective. I had to make a choice so I went with the familial conflict. I wish I had some profound reasoning behind it, but Louie DeMarrs is a fat, sweaty bucket of ass. This might be why Eric is overmedicated. Louie can't be bothered to pay attention and Margaret is too trusting of the doctor. She has no reason not to distrust him, and lacks the imagination to question the motives.

All I wanted to do was write a quick short piece off the cuff to alleviate the first post jitters. The next piece I write will be longer, more fleshy, and hopefully more satisfying for you and me, as it is based on a dream, as I mentioned, and reality pokes it's damned head in a bit too. I wish it didn't in this case, and maybe you'll see why, but this will have to wait until it's written.

As an aside, I plan to use OpenOffice for word processing. Microsoft Word has never been kind to me. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know in a private message.


December 17th, 2011, 01:38 PM
Punnikin - Although a bit of adjustment in the story might be beneficial, as suggested by 123Man, the only real problem is the introduction. Why have it at all? Or, as Olly Buckle says, put it at the end if you feel compelled to make some comments about the story. When you post your next piece, best thing is to let it stand on its own.

Microsoft Word has been my word processor of choice for some years now with no problem. The rebuilding of the basic structure beginning with Word 2007 was a major step forward, allowing for greater flexibility in the formatting of pages. I've looked at Open Office, and it cannot compare, even with MS Office 2003, much less MS Office 2007 or 2010.

That said, you should know that I never use a word processor for writing. I write with Notepad when using a Windows machine, or Vim when using Linux. They are pure text editors that don't get in the way. Once the writing is done, the text is loaded into Word for formatting.

The Backward OX
December 17th, 2011, 03:12 PM
Apropos of anything of which you wish to make it apropos, a celebrated court case in England revolving around a matter of caveat emptor had a learned jurist making the observation, ‘No vendor shall be obliged to cry “Stinking Fish”’.

December 17th, 2011, 08:14 PM
And no writer should feel obliged to preface his work with an apology. It's the readers' who decide the worth of the congregated words.

December 17th, 2011, 08:33 PM
I really enjoyed the flying. Thanks for the ride. Been along time since I've flown(in dreams) As far as the parents are concerned: enough is said about them. Your ideas sufficiently carry it. JMO (just my opinion)

December 17th, 2011, 08:47 PM
Punnikin - You've explained your reasoning well in your reply. And the great part about getting feedback, is that it's up to you what you do with it. At a minimum, you get a peak into what the reader is thinking and feeling during and after reading your piece.

December 17th, 2011, 08:56 PM
Great concept, you could take it anywhere. Normally I skip descriptions; most are too wordy and take away more than they add, for me. This however drew me in and stereotypes included it hit me between the eyes. More please!

December 20th, 2011, 03:44 AM
I enjoyed the imagery very much so. I bookmarked this page for a re-read :)