A Surprise Attack by Peter TG

Thanks to Peter for volunteering another piece of his work for our perusal.  Once again, it would be fantastic if as many as possible could read it and offer advice and comments. Over to you, Peter…

Emile reached the edge of the square; he stopped to pull his cloak tighter, scrabbling with the clasp, cursing his numb hands. Despite the bright sunshine there was barely any warmth in it’s rays, the temperature felt barely above freezing to him even here in the city centre. He could comfort himself with a brief glance at the surrounding buildings, which although they no more than inglorious ruins they were at least shelter and a meagre reminder of civilisation when compared to the conditions outside the valley. Beyond this vague comfort he had the singular thought running through his mind that London might soon be as humiliated and just as dead as this place. He smiled at the thought of the British Empire’s capital laid waste and then remembered that the Count was waiting.

Emile crossed the square, which was punctuated with broken paving slabs and coarse tufts of grass aiming for a building opposite that was in a more modest state of collapse compared to its sorry neighbours.  All six of its walls stood very nearly upright, although it was the very nearly aspect that troubled Emile, he resented the thought of potentially ending his short life buried under a pile of ancient rubble.

However the Count preferred this building to its neighbours because its central feature was a tower although it not weathered the millennia as well as its foundations. Its pinnacle was missing so the once imposing monument had now been pruned back to a rude stump; even so its top windows still provided a suitable vantage point to survey the entire city.

He quickened his step and kept his focus on his boots ostensibly to avoid tripping but also so he did not have to look up at the decrepit structure ahead. Reaching the building he stepped into its sombre interior resigned to the familiar climb upwards, which consisted of several hundred worn and broken steps.

At the top, the staircase that would have opened up into a wide suite of rooms now ended in a roof terrace bordered by shards of broken stonework. Emile mounted the last step, paused to catch his breath and re-clasp his cloak again, he had loosened it during his climb but the Count would expect him to be presented correctly and that required something resembling military smartness.

Taking a deep lungful of freezing air he stepped out of the limited cover of the stairway. There was no door to open and the terrace was empty save for a few puddles of dirty rain water and some broken shards of what Emile assumed was pottery.  The Count stood with his back to him gazing out across the city, the wind throwing his cloak out behind him in rolling jet-black waves.

The Count did not move or make any acknowledgement. Emile understood that he must to wait to be to spoken to first and hoped that he would not be made to wait too long, he was cold and tired after the climb and somewhat annoyed at having to make the trip up from the warmth of the tunnels. Moving from one foot to the other Emile tried to generate some blood flow and warmth in his stiff legs but he continued to shiver, this time the Count was going to make him wait longer than usual before he could deliver his message.

Trying to focus on something other than his discomfort the ripples in the nearest puddle caught his attention. He decided the reflection of the blue sky on its miniature surface was a pleasing one; he could even see the clouds replicated in detail. In that miniature world there was no cold just the appearance of a warm blue sky, a summer from a distant memory and home. The thought surprised and engrossed him so when the Count did approach Emile did not notice and it was only when a pair of polished boots broke the puddle’s surface he snapped out of the daydream. He looked up, straightened his posture clearing his throat ready to speak but the Count’s stare forced him to blink and look away, when the Count spoke his voice was perspicuous.

“In the future Emile people over the world will remember what they were doing when England was attacked. They will try to think of something comforting, mundane and reassuring to ease their sorrow. They will fail; their fury and their anguish will be all they have left.”

He paused.

“The British Empire dominates the world its people and industry all shackled to the hubris of the British government. They consider themselves both invincible and impregnable in their island home but we will show them that they are neither.”

Count Hans Von Bulow stared at Emile, his pale green eyes scrutinising him, his cloak fluttered up around him like a demon’s wings.

“And yet this city’s past will be our future.”

“Master?”

“Yes, Emile.”

“I came as you requested, everything is ready.”

“Indeed, and I hope you grasp the magnitude of what we are about to do?”

Emile knew he had to give the Count the answer he wanted but that was not necessarily the same as an honest one so he said nothing, unable to find the appropriate words.

“You do not comprehend it do you, this day will resonate far beyond any of the wonders we have discovered here, and yet it truly passes you by. I pity you.”

“Master, shall I give the command to start the device?”

“Yes, you should. Give the British something to consider over their morning tea.”

“Very well Master.”

Emile bowed, turned and headed back down the stairway; Count Hans Von Bulow watched him disappear into the darkness of the tower and then returned to his vantage point over the city. He closed his eyes, perched over the ruins where nothing had stirred for more than ten millennia. Soon it would be the centre of the world again, a very different world to the one he had left behind six months earlier. Opening his eyes, and exhaling slowly he gathered his unruly cloak around himself and waited for Emile to emerge from the tower’s base and stumble back cross the square.

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5 thoughts on “A Surprise Attack by Peter TG

  1. l agree with the comments above. There is some menace in The figure of the Count and a generalsense of period.

    As Martine said, try using more senses. what does cold taste like or sound like?
    l assume it is France, but I don’t know where.

    Also the pace would benefit from different lengths of sentence. Try a short, followed by a longer and then long. Currently, all the sentences follow the same rhythm and length. Kill a comma and make it a full stop.

    POV jump at the end, as Martine mentioned.

    But otherwise, I’m intrigued. feels a bit like Hellboy -the comic series rather than the films they inspired.

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  2. This is a really great start. I was drawn in and want know what happens next. I do not have any more to add to the above commend so have done a few edits of the first few paragraphs instead…

    1) it’s rays – its rays
    2) which although they no more than inglorious ruins they were at least shelter – which although they were no more than inglorious ruins
    3) the singular thought running through his mind that London might soon be as humiliated and just as dead as this place – a singular thought running through his mind – and ? humiliated for the description
    4) However the Count preferred this building to its neighbours because its central feature was a tower although it not weathered the millennia as well as its foundations – could benefit from more punctuation to flow

    There were more following, but if you are like me I tend not to notice my own edits until I’ve had a break from the writing!

    Hope this helps.

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    • Hi Sarah, thank you for the feedback, I appreciate it. Sorry it’s taken a while to reply, I have been away!

      I have to say… writing the first draft was fun… editing is darn hard work!

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  3. I like the way you’ve started with action – Emile crossing the square, lost in his troubled thoughts. It would have been nice to get a better sense of place – ie, which ruined city, or if this is a mythical city, then which part of the world. I got a good sense of the chill wind and desolate surroundings which you maintained throughout the piece and kept the illusion going, so well done.

    Clever use of narrative to suggest the period – the threat to the British Empire’s capital. Since we don’t think of Britain as an Empire any more, it automatically suggests the 1800s or earlier. You built some nice suspense when Emile was forced to wait for the Count to speak, and it hints at the man’s power over his servant. Perhaps introduce the Count’s name earlier, as Emile knows it, so there’s no reason why he can’t pass that on to the reader. Perhaps Emile has a derogatory name for the Count, which he uses in his head? This would show something of Emile’s character.

    I’d like to see more punctuation. I noted several misplaced or missing commas and sentences which needed breaking up to provide more clarity. There were also words missing/added in places, which interrupted my engagement with the story.

    I felt the writing could be tightened up, “Emile mounted the last step, paused to catch his breath and re-clasp his cloak again, he had loosened it during his climb but the Count would expect him to be presented correctly and that required something resembling military smartness”

    Tighter: At the top, Emile paused to catch his breath and re-clasp his cloak. The Count would expect him to be correctly dressed.

    Use senses to make the narrative feel more immediate: “Reaching the building he stepped into its sombre interior resigned to the familiar climb upwards, which consisted of several hundred worn and broken steps.”

    Think physical sensations: The darkness of the dank interior was a welcome reprieve from the chill wind, but only slightly – there were several hundred worn and broken steps ahead of him and his legs already ached at the thought.

    Also, consider how someone would really feel after climbing hundreds of steps. Cold? Or hot and sweaty?

    Last point to consider. You changed point of view on the final paragraph, which is usually a ‘no-no’. You can close this scene with Emile feeling the count’s gaze on him as he crosses the square, rather than taking the Count’s POV.

    In all, a good opening scene. It includes intrigue and sinister goings on. Lovely! Keep up the good work.

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    • Thank you for the comments, I am glad a feeling of the period came across, it is set in 1914 and this scene is placed in a ‘lost/mythical’ city which is the object of the story.

      There is more to the opening and I was going to edit and share that with the group next.

      I am glad you liked aspects of it which is really encouraging and I will incorporate your suggestions for improving the physicality of place, this is definitely something I need to be aware of; along with my somewhat misplaced punctuation!

      Like

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