'The Hill' by Kyle Thomas

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Robert Shafto
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'The Hill' by Kyle Thomas

Post by Robert Shafto » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:29 pm

Hey, this is a short story I wrote for my school assignment, I got 26/30 for it.

Please I would ike your opinion and even your own grading of the piece. I had to answer an exam question:

'In a form of your choice, write about the strangeness, menace or charm of the place in which you live.'

So thats how this came about. Please enjoy.


The Hill
by Kyle Thomas

Yellow fields of daisies reaching for miles, lush green grass, still sparkling from the morning shower, the waves of wind made visible by the soft pasture. The gentle horses, calmly grazing, swatting the flies off their backs with their long silken tails.

Myself, sitting on the alfresco area of our home, the sound of the water of our fishpond gently lapping, with the reflection of the sunlight off the water, making the beautiful moving pattern on the wall.

Taking in this and the amazing view, that stretches for kilometers in every direction, I am moved to a calmer state. This serenity you want to last forever, is suddenly broken by a squadron of training jets streaking over the clear sky.

Their using of our house as a flight path marker lets us see some impressive aerobatics, even though they rattle our windows and spook the horses. I move around to the front of the house, following the horses as they try to gallop away from the noise. Their hooves sounding like distant thunder.

I look past the horses, to the house across the road from us, up to the great swaying trees, obstructing my view. There is a large column of smoke rising up high into the sky. It is singular, but foreboding, with its dark smoke swirling from the wind currents.

My hears sinks, 'why didn't I see that before?' 'how far away is it?' 'what way is the wind blowing?' are amongst the hundreds of questions that I ask myself, I get scared when I cant answer them. My panic grows as the smoke rises. Its close, maybe a kilometer or two away.

I hear the sirens in the distance, 'good at least they know about it,' I think to myself. I relax slightly, standing in awe at this massive and ever changing plume.

I run indoors, as ash starts to fall. I shout through the house, echoing its emptiness, the knot in my stomach tightens. I am truly scared.

I pick up the phone and dial my father's mobile, each ring cycle making my fear more entrenched. 'have they been caught in the fire?' and other scenarios of horror run through my head.

He picks up, “Hello? We are on our way, start packing your things. Its headed our way.” I acknowledge and hang up.

I move to a window, he's right, It has become bigger and of a greater intensity. We don't have much time. I remember the grim information my father told me “If we have a fire up here, firebreaks ain't gonna do anything, its gonna move fast.”

I curse under my breath. There is now an orange tinge to everything, as well as a layer of thin smog. I shake it off, I run into my room, putting on my old cadet uniform, hat and army scarf, as well as my boots. They will give me the most protection and utility.

I think for a moment, I need to hurry. Get the valuables first, I rush through the house, gathering valuables and I start making trips to my car parked out the front. The brim if my hat blocking out the sight of the plume. Ignorance is bliss. Without even seeing it I could tell it was getting larger and more ominous.

A loud noise startles me. I look up to see another flight of aircraft, but this time they are water bombers, not people bombers. They pass and I turn to go inside, but the dog is right next to me, she is covered in a layer of ash.

I pat her down and hug her tightly, before putting her into my car. “Stay,” I say to her, I hear a whimper as I shut the door. I remember the cats, and I search frantically, finding the two usual enemies both huddled in a corner. I laugh at this sight, the knot releases slightly, even for only a moment. I put them with the dog in the car.

I have now packed what I think are the valuables, if not by price, then by sentimental value, as well as my own key possessions and clothes.

'Where the hell are they?' runs through my head, as I lookout of the window to the gate. Things have become much darker now. I go to return to packing as I see the car, it screeches to a halt. They open the gate and fly down the driveway faster than I've ever seen, coming to a skid stop in race car fashion. This reinforced my belief that time was short.

The doors opened and my family deploys, Ive seen special forces soldiers deploy slower than that! I open the door and not a word is spoken as the morbid task of leaving our home continues.

Dad places a hand on my shoulder, seeing my job with the car, almost full. I look to it, seeing the dog and cats all in a row on the ash covered window.

My sister screams after the horses as she sees them gallop away together, jumping over the fence and away from the fire. She begins to cry, I comfort her, “They will be fine, their instincts will guide them,” I say.

We move quickly and with a massive purpose. All the important things are taken and we barely look at he house as we lock its beautiful Jarrah doors behind us.

We get into our cars, me in mine, my dad in the ute and my mother in the Holden, with my sister in the back. We move off in a convoy. We are halfway to the gate when a column of emergency service vehicles thunders past, sirens and lights blaring.

Looks like they are using our house as the last line of defense. I pray for the first time, hoping for some divine intervention, or for the firefighters to win. We pass them and wave, telepathically transmitting the signal for them to save our house. They wave back, 'We'll try.'

We drive away, our emotions evident in the dual lines of wet ash below our eyes. 'Are they relief?' 'Are they sadness?' I don't know. I am numb. I drive through the ash, my wipers attempting to let me see. The only things I can see now are the tail lights of my father's ute. My only beacons in the dark.

We reach our destination after an hour of driving. My Uncles house. It is his birthday today, he hugs us all and helps us unpack.

“I left your present at home,” I say, a new round of tears forcing their way out. He simply hugs me and helps me inside. He knows this isn't the time for his usual jokes.

We all sit in the lounge room, nursing our various drinks. Still covered in ash, our faces are emotionless. My sister sneezes making a small cloud of fine dust. We all laugh for a moment before returning to silence.

We fall asleep watching one of my uncles many foreign films. I wake the following morning with a cramp in my neck. I'm the first awake. I wake the other's gently. My sister groans, she needs more sleep. My uncle and I carry her to his guest bed.

We talk for a while, watching the news for any update. We decide, Dad and I will go. We take my car on the long trip, it still covered in ash. We finally get to our street and turn in. Devastation is all we see. Fire crews are taking a rest as overnight they managed to put out the fire. We nod to them and they raise their styrophoam cups.

The suspense of the trip up to our house is almost unbearable, but I had to drive slow to avoid the fallen trees and dead wildlife. The rotten smell of burnt wood fills the car, even with the air recycling at maximum. We come up the hill, expecting the worst. Our gate is on the ground as the wood poles supporting it had been burnt away.

There is still a massive amount of smouldering wood. So it is hard for us to see. We drive onto the block, a gust of wind carries some away, also giving us a moment's view of our house. Its untouched. Maybe a little blackened, but mostly unharmed. There are a couple of firetrucks parked out the front, with another to the side.

Dad and I pull up and get out. The knot in my stomach finally eases. The house is alright. Dad puts his arm around my shoulder, and brings me close. We both sigh, then Dad goes off to talk to the firemen, taking a break. I wait by my car and make the call to mum.

“Hey, The house is still here, they stopped it,” I say hearing mum's happiness as she retells the news to my sister and Uncle. Dad gets my attention, and then points to my left. A couple more wanderers have returned home. Our horses, ragged, sooty and hungry, stumble up to me. One neighs and I hear mum gasp over the phone.

“Yes mum, they are back,” I say with a laugh, hearing mum crying over the phone. She calls one of their names, as I hold the phone out to them. They seem surprised at the voice, but respond with a happy snort.

I hang up the phone, hearing that mum is on her way up. Dad comes back to the car, “They fought with their backs to the house, this is where they broke the fire,” He explains. I walk over to the fire crew to thank them, as I'm walking I see a single shoot of green, I smile. My serenity is returning.

The end.

Dedicated to my late Grandmother.

Moderator note: Moved to 'Writer's Tavern' forum.

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