Writing Prompt #3: Down the River

I started this blog a few years ago as a sort of “side project” and at the suggestion of a writing teacher who believed that all of us writing students should have one, if for nothing other than the experience of regular (or semi-regular) writing and a sort of self-publishing.

I thought that over time I would discover some sort of “blogger voice” or a niche to write in, but that didn’t happen. I still wonder what the purpose of my blog is and what I should actually write about. I don’t have a specific topic to cover or a skill to teach. I simply like to write. Perhaps it goes against my credibility as a writer that I can’t come up with anything to post.

I look at the inconsistency of my updates and wish I did post more regularly. I just don’t have much to say. Or perhaps it’s just that I don’t think the majority of the general public would care too much about some of the little things I have to say.

So this brings me back to one question: Why do I have a blog? Well, I have it because it seemed like a good practice to fall into while trying to become a professional writer. So what else should I do but write? I would love to have something thematic to follow, something specific, something to garner a bit of a readership – I’m currently so random and erratic that this will probably not be the case for me unless I change something.

I basically write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing it. So… since I began all  of this with the intent to become a better writer, I’ll return to my now long-forgotten plan to do some writing prompts. It’s been a while, so it should be fun to do one.

I recently went floating down the Illinois River, so here’s a prompt idea spawned by vacation:

  • Put your character smack dab in the middle of nature, far from civilization (or give it the illusion of distance), and in a situation to which he or she is totally unaccustomed. Now put that character in danger; give them a crisis or some kind of emergency to deal with – without aid from the civilized world.

There are many possibilities here. Since I just returned from hours on the river and I’m going back again tomorrow for two more days on the river – I’m going to put my character on the river. You can put them in the middle of the woods, a desert, a jungle – whatever floats your boat (erm – O.o – no pun intended.)

Remember!  You’re more than welcome (and encouraged!!) to post your own response in the comments and we can discuss the writing!

Meanwhile, here’s my response:

The banks were dark, the waters calm, and the sun’s heat dropped on Amber with an almost physical weight. She clutched the oar tightly in one hand and tried to adjust the towel around her shoulders with the other. Her arms were already burnt but the wet towel provided both relief and protection from further damage.

The current was steady but uncomfortably slow for Amber. It had been hours since she had last stopped and searched the banks for something to eat. She felt she had made little progress since then. She hadn’t paddled much, having already strained her muscles to get this far. She had no idea how much further she should go.

They were still following her. She caught glimpses of the strange creatures through the trees that crowded the riverbanks. She was afraid to stop and try foraging once more. She had only just barely made it back to her raft before they found her the last time. The men were unlike any men she had ever met before. They seemed more tribal to her though, even then they were unlike the tribal folk she had seen in documentaries. These men were plain wild.

They were like shadows among the trees, melting from one branch into another until there was no sign of them left. She had caught glimpses only indirectly. She had only seen the men fully when they had charged her on the banks as she was scrambling off shore.

Even now she could hear the whistling. It came from a wooden cylinder tied to a string and it made the most eerie sound when swung in a circular pattern. The whistling was following her downstream. Amber stared at the cliff face that rose up ahead of her, wondering if that wall of rock would be the end of her. She couldn’t make out a bend in the river, but she prayed it was there.

Suddenly, the whistling stopped. The whistling that had followed her relentlessly for hours was replaced with a chilling silence. Over the past hours, the constant whistling had become something of a comfort, reassuring Amber that the men were there but unlikely to attack her.

She dipped the oar back into the water and began propelling her raft forward. She tried her best to ignore the burning in her biceps and focus only on the rock blocking her way. She could turn if need be and fight the slow current. It would be strenuous but she could make it back upstream. Back upstream to where though? To the crash? To the bodies?

She paused in her rowing to consider the metal box at the back of the raft. Now that it was empty, she could toss it. That might make the raft a bit lighter. It would also leave her without any kind of container should she manage to find something to eat. She didn’t know much about nature, but they always found nuts or berries on t.v. If she found something like that, she wanted somewhere to store them, so she would have plenty to sustain her.

There was a smudge of darkness flittering around the corner of her eye. She knew they still watched her. She turned quickly but the shadows weren’t moving. She couldn’t catch the men moving through the trees. They were too quick. she decided surviving was more important than berries and hauled the metal box over the side of the raft. The splash was too quiet and then the box sank to the bottom, out of sight. She found the raft no easier to maneuver and cursed.

The raft suddenly lurched, throwing Amber forward against the little prow. The oar slipped from her fingers into the water and continued its way downstream. Amber cried out and frantically reached for the oar but her raft was no longer moving and the oar quickly faded from sight.

From the trees, Amber could hear a series of low grunts and her raft began slowly drifting towards the overgrown bank. No…not drifting, she was being pulled. There was a hook embedded in the side of the raft and attached to the hook was a length of rope that vanished into the woods. The raft was rapidly deflating around her. For a moment, she considered diving into the water and attempting to swim downstream. But Amber was a poor swimmer and where would she go anyway? The men would always be on the banks waiting for her. She wasn’t going to risk drowning…though, she didn’t know  if she wasn’t risking more by letting the men reel her in.

She coasted into the shadows of the trees just as the raft gave out and disappeared beneath the water. She stepped forward onto the rocky riverbed and stared at the bank, expecting the creatures to spring on her with spears and knives. She took a few more cautious steps forward, leaving the mass of synthetic fabric behind.

It seemed she was alone. Amber climbed up the riverbank and peered into the woods. There was nothing. And then she turned and came face to face with one of the wild men. Black mud was caked over his nose and lower-jaw. The area around his eyes was clean though his wet hair clung to the bare skin there. He pulled back his thin, cracked lips and revealed a crooked yellow grin and then suddenly, Amber felt something slam into the back of her head.

She pitched sideways into the river and felt the rocks beneath the water cutting into her elbow. Pain throbbed in her head and her vision was blurry. The water slapped her repeatedly in the face as she gasped, trying to rise above it. Something latched onto her arms and dragged her out of the water. Amber screamed and flailed her arms and legs.

Then she was struck again and all went black, the distant sound of the whistling ringing in her ears.

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