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TG: Writers 101: Vivid Description

TG: Writers 101: Vivid Description

Show, don't tell.
Contest ended 5 years ago 10/16/2008 12:00:00 AM EDT

Contest Info

  • Cost: 2 credits
  • Jackpot: 8 credits

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First Place
# 1
By Sumax1 (Score: 7.708)
6

I’d known her all my life. She was a good friend, and possibly the only person I’d ever been able to rely on totally; yet, sitting opposite her now, I felt that this was a stranger. The light was not especially flattering, but then neither was it unduly harsh.

Before seeing her I had been in a fine mood of anticipation. My heart was light and my step lighter. The world was bright – the night was young, and so was I. The smile in my heart relayed spontaneously to my face. Life was good.

Yet now, here she sat. Her face manifested neither judgement nor surprise at my youthful inner glow. If she perceived any reflecting radiance it didn’t register.

There was something compelling about her eyes. Those dull pupils had obviously learned their lessons the hard way. Undiluted sadness harboured within them. Lines, grooved in both laughter and pain, ran like cowards from her eyelids. I noticed, too, her mouth lines, pursed in anxious tension - probably from too much stiff upper lip.

Her determined chin had started to duplicate itself, presumably as a defence to better absorb the knocks. The forehead was a massed confusion of up, down and sideways tracks, as if a demented artist had lost patience and resorted to sabotage. It seemed as if life’s disappointments clung relentlessly to her face, exhibiting a thousand sighs, and every sigh a prayer for something better.

She grew uneasy, as if aware of my savage stare, and attempted a nervous smile, which desperately sought approval. I fear I let her down. I didn’t give it. I turned my head away in embarrassment. That poor woman!

I found myself resenting her. She had robbed me of contentment. Where, now, was my fine mood? How dare she ruin it?

But she hadn’t said a word.

She was a good friend. I should do something for her. Surely there was something I could do.

The solution dawned only gradually. There was, indeed, something I could do. Smiling now – the light step recaptured – and the fine mood returning – I resolved never again to spend that much time in front of a mirror!

Word count: 359
 
Second Place
# 2
By ilovekarate (Score: 7.053)
4

The sweat dripped off Hayden’s brow as he shoveled the steamy mess of pig slop into a pile. It was a sweltering hot day, and all the pigs lay in shade up against the wall of the pen, panting. Their rotund, pink sides rhythmically rose and fell, lifting the filthy black flies with them. If a particularly bold fly was foolish enough to bite down into the flesh, the pig instantly flicked its bristly tail after the fly. The fly would then take off at the last possible second, then circling a few times and landing back on the pig again. They completed this cycle many times, each set getting slower and lazier as the sun climbed in the sky.

Hayden wanted to go back to his shack and lay down, but he knew his master would whip him fiercely if he dared to do such a thing. He muttered under his breath, and took an extra-large scoop of manure, intending to fling it hard onto the pile. Hayden was unprepared for its weight, and he slipped in the mess, landing squarely on his rump. He made a huge splatter, sending a spray of foul-smelling brown muck to all corners of the pen. The pigs hustled to their feet and ran to the other side of the wall, squealing. Bits of straw swirled around in the murky layer of water that floated on top of the muck, and blew to the other side when a gust of wind came up. Hayden groped around for the shovel, and found it sinking in a muddy puddle of manure. He used the shovel to prop himself up to his feet.

A mosquito buzzed near his ear, and landed on the back of his head. He slapped at it, and felt that the mud had slopped onto his hair, matting together the black curls. The mud gritted on his scalp as he wiped off what he could. He leaned on the shovel, and let out a sigh. Another gust of wind blew, and he looked up the hillside ahead of him. His tired brown eyes widened as he beheld a beautiful figure, proudly standing on the hilltop. Her head was held high, and her body was slim and powerful. Her warm hazel eyes blazed with a fire all their own, as if they tried to outmatch the sun and had won. Her small, neat nose was delicately placed in the middle of her face, almost like a centerpiece on a set table. She smiled as if she was at peace with the entire world, and she had to please no one but herself. Pearly white teeth gleamed in the sunlight, perfectly straight and even. The wind played with her silky, flaxen hair, which cascaded down her shoulders and onto her back. Her hair was glossy and smooth, as if it had just been washed and combed for going into town.

The beautiful head shot around, just as Hayden heard an indistinct voice calling out. Hayden followed her gaze to the bottom of the hill, where a big man had stopped his truck and was calling, “Isabella! Come down Isabella!” He was out of his truck now, waiting for her to come. Hayden guessed he was Isabella’s master. She raced down the hill, her long, graceful strides eating up the ground. The man crouched down, and Isabella leapt into his arms. The master patted her on the head, and said some kind words to her. She smiled, and they both got into to the rusty old truck, and drove away. Hayden watched the truck disappear from sight, and then he got back to his work. He wished his own master was more like that. Oh well, he thought, she was a beautiful dog anyway.

Word count: 630
 
Third Place
# 3
By ilovekarate (Score: 6.657)
4

The cobblestones flew beneath my feet as I sped down the road. The bushes that lined the cracked road flashed as I raced past, a blur to my exhausted eyes. I replayed the events of the battle back in my head.

~~~~

It had been a bloody day, with the Persians outnumbering the Athenians two to one. The sun was harsh and unforgiving, and a strong, hot wind blew off the sea. The days before the actual fighting began; we stood at a stalemate in the Plain of Marathon, a deathly silence over the armies. We had nigh a horse or an archer in sight, but we had a plan. Our leader, Miltiades, stood at the front of our ranks, the wind in his face. He held his head high, and stared down the Persian army. His armor was polished to a gleam, and every stud on his leather chaps glittered in the sunlight. He turned to us, and gave the orders. He told us to break into three legions, a middle part with two wings. The wings pulled out of the side, and started to sidle up along the Persians.

Then, the Persians attacked. They sent a hail of arrows over the phalanx in the center, trying to catch us off guard. Thanks to our scouts, with eyes sharp like eagles’, they lifted their shields in time and suffered minimal casualties. The bronze tipped arrows rattled across the shields like hailstones, and not more than ten men fell. The center legion pulled back under Miltiades’ command, and the Persians charged forward with their foot soldiers and chariots. The archers at their back put away their arrows, and I could see their swords flashing in the light as they rushed us. They pressed in, and the fight began.

I drew my cherished steel longsword, and drove it into the chest of a huge Persian soldier. His eyes glazed over with terror, and he fell at my feet. No sooner had his armor clattered on the ground; two more soldiers leaped over his body and attacked me. They swung their swords at me, but they were not fast enough. I blocked one’s blow with my shield, and sliced a gash into the other one’s arm, sending him off into the thick of battle, screaming in pain. His companion flew at me in a blind rage, and I slashed at his neck. He fell dead near the big warrior, bleeding a small river of sticky red blood. I looked to my right and left, and smiled. The wings of our army were closing in on the Persians, leaving them with nowhere to go. The air of vain confidence disappeared from the battleground as if it was frost in the sunlight, and their cold, greedy eyes were stricken with a look of utter fear. They turned to run, and were met by two legions of fresh soldiers, hungry for revenge. It was a deadly triangle, with fighting all around. The tide of the battle had been turned, and we slaughtered thousands of the Persian filth.

A lucky few escaped to their ships on the beach, and we threw torches at them long after they were out of range. We screamed triumphant victory shouts at the ships as they sped away, toward the horizon. Our proud army marched to the home city. I didn’t march. I ripped off my heavy, blood soaked platemail, and sprinted to Athens.

~~~~

I’m almost there, I can see the city at the top of the hill. The women, children, and elders are in the town square. Everything is a blur to me now, but for the destination at the top of the hill. My legs gasp for rest, but I deny them. My mind begs to sleep, but I deny it. My lungs scream for air, and I deny them too. I must proclaim the victory!

The fountain in the center of the city is erupting with sweet, cool water. I will fill my mouth with the healing liquid once I tell of the victory. The wind carries a scent from the bakery to my dirty nostrils. I can almost taste the sweet, flaky bread in my mouth. Drenched in sweat, I make it to the top of the hill. The townsfolk gather around me, penetrating me with questioning eyes. I lift my head with the complete last of my energy and shout to the heavens, “We have victory!” A dark veil forms at the edges of my vision. I crash to my knees with a sickening thud. No, I have to go eat and drink and rest! I have to live as a war hero! I have to… My vision completely blurs, and I can’t even see my hands. I collapse on the stone pavement. My breath is stolen away from me. I am dimly aware of the healer at my side, but it is too late. I am falling through…darkness.

Word count: 822
 
4
By ilovekarate (Score: 6.643)
2

Naya’ eyes fluttered open from a deep sleep, and she found herself standing on a barren, windblown ridge in a desert. She guessed she was in a dream, and took a good look at the landscape around her. It was winter, and a frigid breeze swept over the endless dunes. There was a long stretch of exposed gray rock sloping in front of her, and little grains of sand rattled as they bounced across the rough surface. Dotted sparsely across the hills of sand were straggly bushes with shriveled up leaves, and even they seemed to wish they could die and get their miserable life over with. A ridge of dark gray mountains loomed in the far distance, and the first snow of winter dusted the foothills, making them look like the ribs of some poor beast that was starving.

Naya stumbled down the slope, and stopped in the shelter of a forlorn creosote bush. A small brown she-wolf emerged from the shadows of a nearby cactus. The wolf had delicately formed ears, and a coarse brush of a tail. Her muzzle tapered to a small, neat point, flanked by stiff whiskers. She padded over and sat down near the bush, and it soon became obvious that the wolf could not see her in the dream. The she-wolf’s ears pricked up at the sound of another set of paws, these ones much heavier. Naya pushed herself farther under the bush and tried to hide, but a great wolf came trotting down the slope, his head held high. He had long, silvery-gray fur, parted by a jagged scar that ran down one of his massive shoulders. Naya remembered that the wolves could not see her in the dream, and sat up again.

The he-wolf settled himself onto the sand, and started speaking in short, angry growls and snaps, typical of the Wolf-kind’s tongue. Naya could not understand what he was saying, but from his from his tone of voice, and the way he flicked his tail, Naya conveyed that he was somewhat nervous. The she-wolf kept an emotionless scowl on her face, and Naya could see that she was not intimidated by the silver wolf.

Then the she-wolf crawled into a tunnel under the bush, and the other wolf waited outside. A twig rattled in the wind, and the big wolf’s shaggy head shot around, and stared past Naya. She studied him closely, squinting her eyes against the nippy wind. His face was covered with coarse gray hair, tinged with flecks of white. Even his dark eyes seemed proud to be given the privilege to belong to this great wolf, and were set smugly atop his rounded skull.

Soon the she-wolf emerged from the tunnel, with something dangling from her mouth. Naya leaned over to get a better look at it. It was a phoenix skull, hanging from a delicately woven thread of oxen hair. It had intricate designs carved on it, and it was polished to a perfect ivory gleam. The he-wolf bent his thick neck down, and the she-wolf placed the fragile skull over his head. Then, the two wolves lifted their narrow muzzles to the sky in unison, and let out a deep, bloodcurdling howl. The howl resounded throughout the lonely dunes, like a fierce war chant. It sounded like the voice of the dunes themselves, crying out curses to the spirits. The he-wolf turned and thundered up the slope, feeding the ferocious howl with hot steamy breaths, as if it were a fire. Naya watched him leave, and then turned back to the she-wolf, who fell silent. To Naya’ horror, the brown wolf stalked over and thrust her nose in Naya’ face. Her dull green eyes smoldered with more hatred than Naya had ever seen in her entire life, and she shrank back in fear.

“You had better get out of here, dream-seer,” she growled. Naya understood every word she said now. “Bad things happen to those who look past what they should.”

The she-wolf’s green eyes flickered in the cold starlight, and she vanished into a wispy puff of smoke. Naya blinked in shock, and coughed as the foul-smelling smoke drifted back into her face. She looked around. The wind suddenly stopped, and an eerie stillness crept over her. A sinking feeling was pulling her down to the ground, beckoning her to sleep. Perhaps if she slept in the dream, she could awaken back to the real world. Her eyes slipped shut, and after what seemed like an eternity, a warm, dark wave of dreamsleep overtook her like a gently lapping tide.

Word count: 766
 
5
By ilovekarate (Score: 6.472)
4

The sun had not yet risen from behind its veil of misty clouds as Kyata made her way to her grandfather’s hut. It was early in the morning, and the village still lay in silence. Her bare feet made not a sound as she carefully placed them on the cold, hard ground. She stepped around the remains of the fire from last night, now a white pile of lifeless ashes. A few stalks of wet grass slid past her ankles, and she shivered.

Soon she was at the door of the hut. A gentle, rasping snore echoed off the mud walls, and Kyata smiled. Ducking under the deer hide flap, she padded over to the reed bed where her grandfather slept each night. He lay peacefully, wrapped up in his gray fur blanket. Kyata looked at the warm, fluffy covering and wished she was under it. No, not today, she reminded herself, today I have a mission. She knelt at his bedside and took his old hands in hers. They were rough and gnarled, like the bark of an ancient oak tree. They had seen many seasons of wear and use, and now retired along with their master. His dark, friendly eyes slid open, and beamed a new energy into Kyata.

They crept out of the hut, and into the village. Once they were away from the other huts, Grandfather spoke up.
“Where do you have to take me so early in the morning, little one?” he queried. His voice had a playful tone, but it was cracked with age all the same.
“It’s a surprise, down by the lake. You’ll see!”

As they walked side-by-side through the forest, the trees became alive with birdsong. It reminded Kyata of long ago, when her grandfather took her on walks, in search of the Naiads. However, for as long as he searched, they always eluded his watchful eyes. As his body wore down, he could spend less and less time out in the forest, until he was finally forced to retire to the village. His mind never lost its vigor though, and he still longed to hunt for the water-people.
“I dream of them, Kyata,” he had told her many seasons ago, “I dream of the water-lady of the lake, and meeting her. I will meet her one day, Kyata.” His words lingered in her mind like snow in early spring, never wanting to melt.

Soon the two came to the thick bushes that rimmed the lake. The thick leaves were like guardians, barring the lakeshore from unwanted company. Kyata took in a deep breath, smelling the mist that shrouded the lake in shadow every morning. The water lilies had just begun blooming, and their creamy, sweet fragrance laced the air around them. She slowly released the air, letting the steam spill out of her lips and over her chin like a waterfall.
“Ready?” she asked him.
“I’ve been ready for years beyond counting,” he replied, a smile etched into his deeply wrinkled face. “Lead the way.”
Kyata grinned, and pushed the leaves aside. She stepped through the bushes, and paused, waiting for her grandfather. He carefully picked his way through the leaves, not breaking a single stem. He slowly made his way over to where Kyata stood, and sat down on a smooth black rock. Kyata turned to the lake, and pointed. His gaze trained on the lakeshore, he followed her outstretched arm upward. The lake was utterly still, and the reflection of the island in the middle of the lake was clear as a mirror. On the island, there was a quick flutter of wings, and Grandfather looked up. His brown eyes widened as he looked at the island. Perched in a clump of ferns, there sat a woman, her skin as pale white as an ermine’s chest fur. She was enveloped in wings of mist, and her trails of golden hair reached down to the mossy ground. Her long arms were flawless, and her delicate muscles flexed in anticipation.
“A Naiad,” grandfather mouthed, staring at her. Her sapphire blue eyes sparkled like creek water as she fixed them to his wondering gaze. The Naiad’s pale pink lips slid open, and she began to sing in a language Kyata had never heard. The sweet words flowed out of her mouth like honey, and set gentle ripples across the lake. The melody swirled around the two humans sitting there, bathing them in unparalleled brilliance. But the song was meant for Grandfather. It beckoned him, urging him to go somewhere. Suddenly, the sun broke through the clouds, and a golden ray struck the Naiad. As soon as it touched her, she disappeared into a airy wisp of mist. Kyata was silent, watching as the mist burned up instantly in the sun.
“Come on, Grandfather, let’s get back to the village.”

But Grandfather was already asleep, gone with the Naiad.

Word count: 818
 

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