Time for the WEP challenge. This month the prompt is, 'Great Wave.' I want to thank Denise Covey for starting this group along with the lovely ladies who assist, Laura, Nila, Yolanda, and Olga. I appreciate your hard work. And now for my submission:
Descombes lifted his catch of fish and stepped from the small boat. He could
see the bonfire on top of the third hill to celebrate St. John’s Day. His friends and fellow fishermen joined him
as they trudged up the beach toward the hills.
Marram grass grew along the sand dune. By the time they
reached the third hill clay replaced the sand. The sun had slipped behind
billowing thunder clouds. René could taste the moist air as well as the smoke
from numerous contained fires.
Before him were the tall white sea cliffs of France. To his
left stretched a thick forest that climbed the bluff. On his right were more
hills and beyond that the vast ocean which connected to the channel where their
fishing boats rested on the shore.
The people of Leblanc had gathered around their cooking fires
and took the food to the tables by the bonfire. Laughter filled the air. René’s
wife, Margo stood stirring one of the pots.
He dumped the fish on a nearby table and pulled her in for a
kiss, rubbing her extended belly where the babe grew. “You are as beautiful as
you were this morning.”
“And you as charming.” Her hands rubbed his back before she
pushed him away while smiling. She cut his fish.
Leblanc held nearly seven hundred souls, all gathered for the
feast. Tomorrow, they would travel several leagues inland to their church for
St. John’s Mass.
Steam from his wife’s pot lifted over the round edge and
smelled of onion and greens. She filled her hands with the prepared fish and
dumped it all in, then wiped her hands on the apron.
“I don’t see Mayor Hugues,” René said.
“Nor will you.” Margot laughed. “Not until the feast is ready
and there is no more work to be done.”
René looked south toward the white cliffs that jutted
straight up from the village. At the top was the mayor's grand house.
Without warning, the ground rumbled and shook beneath his
feet. He righted himself and took Margot’s arm to prevent her from falling.
“What is it?” Margot asked.
The rumbling stopped for a second, then started again. A
great crack splintered the cliffs. The sound like thunder made him cover his
ears. Lifting his eyes to the precipice he saw that the cracks in it were
massive and then slabs of rock separated and fell bringing the mayor's house
with it. On impact, the rumbling noise crushed those houses too close and shot
out boulders toward his fellow villagers. Screams replaced the laughter,
several of the people were hit and flew backward toward the channel, crushed
by the boulders.
René took a step, his intent to run and help. Margot caught
his arm. “No, you can’t help.”
He remained with her and glanced at their own hut, further
from the village than the rest and far from the cliff. Thank God, his hut still
The cries of his fellows had become a blare of noise from
screams, crying, and voices yelling making it impossible to understand the
shouts. The bonfire had escaped its enclosure, setting marrow grass on fire and
a few of the villagers as well. Some rolled on the ground while other villagers
helped by using blankets to put out the flames. Still more ran down the hill
toward the sea only to fall before reaching it and die. The fire then leapt
from their bodies to spread unchecked.
The tables with food had all overturned along with the
cooking pots. The pleasant aroma of fish stew was replaced by burning flesh.
The earth heaved upward, and he pulled Margot away from her
pot. He took her hand and ran further up the hill. Away from the fire that soon
reached the place where they’d been standing.
He turned to see what she was pointing at. The ocean had
sucked backward. He could make out fish stranded on the beach. Then terror as
the water returned, the tide growing higher in seconds, overtopping the dunes.
He grabbed Margot’s hand again and they ran further up the hill toward their
hut. When he looked back, the ocean had swallowed the first two sets of hills
and the one they had been standing on was crumpling into the tidal wave. The
scent of salt swallowed the smoke from the fires, while the roar of the waves
replaced the villager's cries.
He pulled Margot down and they both rested on their knees. To
his horror, he witnessed hundreds falling into the surge. A great cry lifted
from the women who’d had the presence of mind to run with their children to
higher ground. They hugged their children close who were all screaming so that
the noise was deafening.
Rene clasped Margot close as she trembled while stillness
settled around them. Shocking in its quiet after so much noise. The only sound
that remained was that of the waves of water receding.
“What have we done to displease God?”
To that, René had no answer. They both remained on their
knees, in shock at the horrors. He became aware that Margot was shivering and
put his arms around her. She wept on his shoulder.
The storm arrived and lightning lit up the black sky. The
resounding thunder made him jerk. He hadn’t realized until now that dusk had
become night. The clouds above opened and a downpour drenched him.
“Come.” He pulled Margot to her feet.
Their hut was close and while the white cliffs had spared it,
the earthquake had not.
“Wait here.” René entered the pitch-black building and felt
for the blankets with his hands. A second rumbling made part of the roof that
still stood fall and he managed to avoid being hit. Grabbing the woolen covers,
he turned back toward the door.
“Do not worry, I am well.” He emerged from the building and
took her hand.
“Where will we go?”
This is a
deleted excerpt from my short story, The Beginning of a Legend. I changed the
protagonist to that babe growing in her belly, Arnoux. If all goes well, I will
be releasing this story along with Book 2 in The Chronicles of Gil-Lael, The
Rise of Lord Sinon, later this summer.
To read what others have submitted for this June challenge, go here.