Last week, though, I had a session that put to shame my recent writing habits. I took a late day nap, found myself waking up around bedtime, mind fresh and brimming with ideas. I sat down and forged ahead, expanding on a few paragraphs I had started and abandoned.
A thousand words later, I had a scene. Here it is. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Dmitri blinks blood out of his eyes. He attempts to roll over, trying to come to all fours so he can push himself back onto his feet, but he’s pinned and can’t move. A swirling dustcloud in the gray sky is all that is left of the obliterated building he had been standing in. Rubble had fallen all around him, burying him under layers of concrete, steel, and glass. Something pokes him in the side every time he takes a breath and his legs feel like they’re a mile away, crushed and hidden under debris, not really legs anymore, just a distant throbbing numbness.
The thought flashes in his mind:
I’m going to die from this.
This makes Dmitri angry and he makes a renewed effort to squirm out of his trap. The movement only makes pain explode in his bones, the spear in his side ripping new tears in his internal organs. The renewed warmth there, he realizes, is his own blood. He cries out, his voice barely a whisper above the shrill buzz in his ears. Explosions and thunder sound hollow in the distance, kicking up waves of particulates that continue to slap him in the face like a hot wind.
His body starts to go ice cold and his breathing becomes more ragged. Not long now, Dmitri thinks. At least it will be quick.
But then his mind drifts to his companion, an American named Monte. The two of them had been cowering at opposite ends of a heavy desk when the building disintegrated around them. A big man, bigger than Dmitri, Monte had no better chance of surviving the blast than Dmitri. He no doubt is lying a few feet away, crushed under the same rubble, dying in his own way. If he isn’t already dead.
Having no better last words, Dmitri calls out for his friend. The most likely response, he realizes, is silence, but he hopes for some sign that Monte is still there. Buried and twisted, broken and pierced, the most important thing it seems now is that he doesn’t go out alone.
After a few moments, there’s a response, Monte’s voice, muffled but close. He’s saying, “I got you. Hang on, man, I got you.” Over and over, “I got you.”
Dmitri can hear him digging, pulling debris out of the way, and then he feels a hand brushing dirt from his face and wiping blood out of his eyes. Monte’s dark face, eyes whiter than anything Dmitri has ever seen, staring down at him. His face is streaked with grime but otherwise, he looks untouched.
He says, “I got you.”
Dmitri watches him lift chunks of concrete and ceiling tile, scooping away the debris with his bare hands, relieving pressure bit by bit with each handful. Dmitri can breathe again, but each breath bubbles out through the jagged tear in his torso. Rebar, he can see now, attached to a section of roof, that first impaled him before toppling and gutting him like a fish.
His horror at the wound is matched in Monte’s eyes. Dmitri tries to say something, but his words get lost. Another try results in, “It’s bad, innit?”
“Don’t worry, man. I got you,” Monte says, his voice gentle and resolute. He frees Dmitri’s gnarled legs, stacking what is left of them into a parallel leg-shaped configuration, and he sets Dmitri’s arms, also broken, one bone sticking out at the elbow, to his sides.
Dmitri feels all of this at a distance, like he’s a remote observer experiencing the moment objectively. Monte yanks out the rebar. Blood spurts. Dmitri’s body contorts, his eyelids fluttering. It all happens over there as Dmitri watches from over here. He’s someone else now, somewhere else.
Monte’s hand closes Dmitri’s eyes and he leans down to whisper something in the dying man’s ear. The words are quiet, in a language and dialect that Dmitri’s fading mind cannot understand, but they are imbued with meaning. Dmitri can sense that, even as his consciousness drifts out of this life and into the next one, and he finds himself wanting to stick around to hear what Monte is saying. Dmitri forgets the pain, forgets the fatality of his wounds, and he listens.
And as he listens, he begins to feel a surge of warmth and light welling deep within his chest.
This is it, he thinks. This is what it feels like to die.
He takes in one final breath, and then he lets go. Darkness swallows him.
And spits him back out.
Dmitri gasps as he comes to on the rubble heap, Monte still crouched over him, dust still swirling in the sky, the battle still raging around them. Monte’s eyes are closed as if in prayer and his lips move in chant-like whispers. As if compelled by the power of Monte’s words, Dmitri’s broken body twitches as it begins to reform itself, vital organs and bones reconstituting, blood vessels splicing together, muscles finding tendons, wounds forming seams, then scars, then nothing at all.
The air tastes of blood and ash, and Dmitri is surprised he can taste it. He wiggles his toes and he feels them inside his boot. His hands clench at his sides, the elbow throbbing but no longer broken. His torn shirt flaps around the flawless skin that now covers an abdomen that had been moments before split open by a rebar knife.
Monte still hovers over him, his incantations still a mumble of nonsense, his eyes still closed.
Dmitri puts a trembling hand on his shoulder and Monte’s eyes open. Dmitri expects to see shock, considering the miracle that has just occurred, but he only sees relief.
Dmitri wipes blood out of his eyes. And then he sits up.