Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

Writing Exercise: The Gneech

the_gneech gave me a writing prompt Tuesday too, but I didn't get to it then. Here it is now!

*

At the bottom of the mineshaft, slaves toiled with picks and shovels, their faces grey with dirt and dust, prematurely aged by hard labor. They were clothed in tattered rags that failed to cover the scars of brutal beatings so many had endured. The air was bad, and made worse by the smoke of lanterns that poorly lit the cold stone walls.

A radiant figure of translucent gold stepped through the walls and into the scene. Although the newcomer seemed to glow with his own light, his radiance did not illuminate the shaft, and the slaves showed no signs of seeing him as he moved between them. He tried to touch one on the cheek, but his fingers passed through the slave. He moved further down one of the narrow passages, stepping through a slave as if one of them weren't there. Gold feet glided just above rock as he entered a larger space. It was still too cramped for the work the slave ringing it were doing. They had to swing their picks with care to avoid the support beams at the center that held up the low roof. One of the beams already bore the scar of a previous accident, and it groaned from time to time as if it were as unhappy with its lot as the slaves.

Besides one concave wall, an adolescent boy grimly swung a pickaxe too large for his skinny arms. Each blow was an effort that threatened to wrench the tool from his hand, but somehow he maintained control. The boy did not notice the translucent man as the gold figure stopped behind him, nor did the pickaxe hesitate as its swing passed through the newcomer.

A second golden figure appeared beside the first. "Matthias. You shouldn't come here." Her voice was as clear and radiant as her form, but it held a hint of sorrow.

"I know, Rialla. I can't help it. They toil and suffer so much, and for what end? To the greater glory of a monstrous Overlord." The gold man held his hand out to hover over the boy's scarred and bony back.

"This nightmare is no longer your nightmare, my friend." Rialla put her hand on Matthias's shoulder, and her touch was solid. "You cannot reach them because their mortal world is no more substantial than a dream. Wake with me, and return to Paradise."

He shrugged off her hand. "It's easy for you to say! You passed on a thousand years ago! Your son isn't still trapped in there! How can I enjoy Paradise, knowing how he suffers? When will it be his turn to 'wake'?"

Rialla turned at a noise by the entrance. "Peace, Matthias. His turn may be at hand."

A squat, sour-looking overseer in brown leathers advanced down the shaft. He cuffed one slave as he passed, snarling. "Useless lazy worms! Get to work! Faster! His Lordship needs that alithium today, and you had better find it!" He cracked the end of a long whip against the back of one slave. "Now! Or you'll taste my lash again!"

The struck man staggered, gasping, and Matthias's son took a hand from his pick to reach out and check the other's fall.

"Look to your work, cur, not him!" the overseer barked. The whip lashed out again. Matthias cried out, trying to stand between the overseer and his son. The whip flicked through him, catching the boy across his cheek. The youngster turned, too fast, trying to get his hand back on the pickaxe and bring it around to resume his work as instructed. But his grip was poor and his aim worse. As he pulled the pickaxe back, momentum dragged it higher and it collided with the support beam. Too distracted to realize what had happened, the boy hauled the pickaxe forward despite the obstacle. The beam groaned and snapped against the pressure. Above them, stone rumbled and creaked.

"You idiot! What have you done?" The overseer cracked the whip again at the boy, and he and the other slave nearby cringed back from the beam they'd been trying to prop back into place. Other slaves screamed and tried to run.

But it was too late. The weight of a hundred feet of earth and stone shuddered down on top of them as the tunnel collapsed. The lights of the lanterns winked out, crushed and suffocated. Only Rialla and Matthias remained, golden figures hovering in the earth where the tunnel had been.

One by one, other golden forms rose around them, blinking and confused. One cried out. "Papa! Papa, how are you here? What's happened?"

Matthias held out his arms to embrace the now-golden, now-tangible form of his son. "The best thing that could have, my son." He took his hand. "Come. It is time to see your true home."

*

The prompt was "write a story where the happy ending is 'everybody dies'."

If you want it in rhyming couplets, though, Gneech, you're gonna have to ask level_head
Tags: writing exercises
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