Wednesday, June 16, 2021

THE GREAT WAVE.... A WEP JUNE 2021 CHALLENGE!


 Hi All,

I hope everyone is well. Today is special because I have finally written something NEW. YAY! I have been in such reclusion from the blogosphere and the world in general. But now I am ready to resubmerge with a new flash fiction piece for the WEP!

It has been TOO long since I have written something for the WEP, and I am delighted that I can finally do so now. Thanks to all the lovely ladies of the WEP, ( Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, LG Keltner, Nilanjana Bose, and Olga Godim, and a special thanks to Nick Wilford-Judge), writers get a chance to post original flash fiction, poetry, photography, or anything creative that features the prompt: This month... the GREAT WAVE. There is still time to post for this prompt. You have until June 18th. Here is the link to the WEP.

My flash fiction was inspired by a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico several years ago. I visited the Castillo San Filip del Moro (El Morro), the fortress that was built between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries to guard San Juan Bay against pirate invasions. While exploring the fortress, I was amazed at how massive the stone fortress was, but also how cramped it was for the soldiers. I learned from the guide that almost all the soldiers were young teenage boys and very tiny to be able to fit into guard stations called, garitas. When writing my piece, I imagined myself as a scared teenage boy on guard duty in the midst of the quiet predawn night. I hope you enjoy my story, any feedback is welcome.


The Wave of a New Dawn



Another day struggles into existence. My eyes, still cloaked in darkness, pierce the midnight-blue water. Watching. Forever watching. All is silent. 


I blink to stay awake and attempt to shift my cramped body. The salty air pays a short visit but does little to relieve the overpowering stench of seaweed and sweat encased in this pillar of stone: La Garita del Diablo. Is this the price to pay to prove one’s worth? I am just barely a man: fifteen on my last birthday. A prison sentence would be more welcoming. But, this is my duty, and I shall persevere. 


Droplets of perspiration form on my temple, trickling to the inside of my collar. I wipe them away with a fraying sleeve and continue to keep watch. An ever-glowing light pierces the horizon, sprinkling the waves with twinkling stardust.


My mind wanders, and for a split second, I escape my destiny. 


A gust of wind knocks off my cap. Another gust follows. I spy the seas as heavy clouds roll across the sky, extinguishing the early morning light. 


Thunderclaps jolt me to attention. The seas rise, swelling at an alarming rate. I must not leave my post. Storms are common and often play havoc, but the massive stone walls shield the city of San Juan well. I, as the guard, must hover high above the crashing water and keep a watchful eye. The garita is my only protection, and for twenty-two months, it has served me well. 


Lighting flashes. I know what follows, and I prepare myself for the deafening boom. Yet, I remain focused, scanning the turbulent seas through one of two stone portals. My survival depends upon it. Standing this post is my only option.


Violent winds and torrential rains loom overhead, and I pull inside to shelter from the dangerous onslaught. Invisible hands clamp the side of my skull, squeezing like some medieval torture device. I scream, my voice silent in the whirl of the winds. Gripping myself hard, I attempt to close off the cacophony of sounds. If this is the end, so be it. But, then, I must leave this earth standing like a man. With difficulty, I struggle to an upright position. Never would I have dreamed of this growing up on the farm miles away from the atrocities of life at El Morro. But here I am, destined to ward off this horrific storm.


Pressing against the edge of the portal, I glance toward the open sky and freeze as an oncoming tidal wave crashes into the garita, drowning me in a salty grave…



An intense throb from the back of my head awakens me. I cough out mouthfuls of seawater and gasp for breath. The wave slammed me into the wall causing an open wound on the back of my head. Moving seems difficult, but I manage to kneel after spitting out another mouthful of seawater. Blood oozes down my neck. I tear off a shirt sleeve and tie it around my head. I cry out in agony, realizing the shirt is soaked in saltwater.


I stumble toward the portal and peer out, seeing a dull light streaming into the aqua seas. The storm has passed. Or, so I thought. But, on closer inspection, distant bands of dark clouds and rain pelt the swelling waters. Spears of lightning and rumbling thunder slowly grow closer. A second storm approaches. How on earth will I survive? Gingerly, I step to the exit doorway, hoping and praying to see another soldier, but I know I will not. It is only me against the elements.


Dehydrated, I search for my skein of water. Thankfully, it did not wash out to sea. The few drops left trickle down my throat.


I suppress thoughts of food and water. Surviving the next storm and keeping watch is what I must do. A mild breeze refreshes me as I stand in front of the portal. A glint of light temporarily blinds me. I shake my head and search the open sea. I spot it. Something in the distance glitters, and it is not the peaks of the water. I squint my eyes to focus. 


No. It can not be. It must be a mirage. 


But, is it?


For almost two years, I have seen nothing. Now…in the middle of this storm—I see a ship’s mast?


Impossible.


I shake my head again, suck in a deep breath, and lock my eyes on the same spot. Bobbing in the distance, a wooden mast sparkles in the open sea. 


Adrenaline pumps through my body. I race out of the garita and onto the fortress wall. As I stumble on the rough stones, my task is set: ring the warning bell. There is little time. The soldiers must sink the pirate ship before the storm hits. Sweat pours out of me, and I make it to the tower. But am I able to climb the tower wall? I am weak, exhausted, and my head is pounding. The bandage around my head is soaked, and blood is streaming down my neck. I can barely take another step. 


But, I must. 


This is my chance to prove to them all…




Life was certainly trying for those poor young men. I would like to share a few pictures I took of El Morro when I visited there. The Garitas certainly inspired this story.













60 comments:

  1. Fabulous story! I felt my panic rising right along with his!

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    1. Thank you, Jemi. I had to be awful times for those brave young men.

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  2. What a terrifying situation to be in. You captured the scenario and the emotions of the protagonist beautifully.
    Your post is included in this week's Roost Recommendations. I share the Roost Recommendations posts on Twitter with readers looking for their next read.
    https://ornerybookemporium.blogspot.com/2021/06/roost-recommendations-15-june-2021.html

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    1. I am honored! Thank you, OO. I am pleased you enjoyed the story.

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  3. Beautifully done. I had the privilege of visiting Old San Juan island for a year and a half (10 trips to visit my honey there). I loved walking to the El Morro. The whole area is "littered" with remnants of old stories and lives. Thanks for bringing this young man's experience to life.

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    1. Thank you, Pennie. It certainly is...Old San Juan is an amazing place and I loved exploring El Morro. I am so glad it brought back wonderful memories for you.

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  4. Powerful story, full of emotions. I felt his fear and his determination. Your hero is a brave young man.

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    1. That he is, Olga. Thank you, I am glad I was able to convey his character and emotions truthfully.

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  5. Wow, fantastic story. My family is from the Caribbean and have told me stories of violent storms and raging seas. You've captured such a moment in words. I felt like I was there with the MC, feeling his pain, fright and need to fulfill his duty. Scary. For sure the garitas lived a difficult life. Thanks for the read. Oh, thanks for the pics too.

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    1. Hi, Lenny! Nice to see you here. I am so glad you enjoyed my story and the pictures. It is very kind of you to say.

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  6. Michael, I came by last night (my time) and wanted time for your story to sink in. I love how it whirls around in waves. Tension upon tension. Your words took me into the story of this young garita ... what a difficult, dangerous life. A real hero. The pictures enhanced the story. I'm sure there're lots of stories you could write in this setting.
    And THANKS for returning to WEP after your hiatus. I hope writing this story gets your juices flowing again! We'll all be greedy for more!

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  7. Hi Denise...

    I am so glad I haven't lost my touch. It feels good to be able to pen out a story for the WEP. I need to submit more often. Not every prompt speaks to me, but this one certainly did. It has already! Knowing that I can still write something powerful and meaningful.

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    1. I think i've learned more from writing for WEP than any writing courses. That endless editing to keep it under 1,000 words for a start. And now I have countless stories I've continued to edit/rewrite and will slowly publish as short story booklets. So the time spent writing for WEP for 11 years has been fruitful for me. It keeps me writing and imagining. I hope you'll see this and write more for us greedy readers. (As I keep nagging, give me more noir!)

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    2. Thank you, Denise. I spent a good part of the day rereading the entries I submitted for Romantic Writers and the WEP. I have to admit, some of my best work. Amazing who long I have submitted works here, too. Not the full eleven years, but at least eight or so. Funny you should mention the Noir... I read the expert I had won with YEARS ago for the RW and you are right, I need to finish it. I believe I will make it my next project. Reading it and all the comments gave me a reason to want to write again. I have lost my confidence somewhere along the way, thinking I wasn't ever going have anything published. But, I don't believe that now. Not after spending countless hours today with the RW and WEP, reading my entries and the comments.

      What is the next prompt, again? Ah, yes...Freedom of Speech. Not sure HOW I could incorporate that into the Noir piece, but after a long think on it, I may come up with something.

      I was very happy and proud to win my three badges and display them with honor... as you can see, I have never taken them off my blog.

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  8. Michael! Your story is lovely. I enjoyed it. Your use of language is outstanding. You maintain your beautiful style throughout. If I suggested any changes, it would be nitpicking because you don't need to change a thing.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Thank you so much, Janie. Such a wonderful comment, I am deeply honored and touched. I am so happy you enjoyed it!

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  9. Welcome back! And what a great story to come back with. Great description of the storm and the young man's fear.

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  10. So happy to see you back! We've missed your magical prose. Loved the story, especially it's historical perspective.

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    1. How sweet...thank you, Renee! I missed you ladies as well. So glad you loved the story... yes, I actually enjoyed doing a story based in so much history.

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  11. Those descriptions of what that young man went through had me inside his body, feeling what he felt, his fear, his determination, his steadfastness. Wonderful piece of writing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kalpana! I am so glad you enjoyed the story.

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  12. Hi Michael - I'd never come across 'garitas' before - so was happy to learn about them ... as long as I'm not transported back to his days and the sort of life he had to live. Must have been awful ... excellent story telling ... and how loyal he was ... congratulations - and for your photos ... terrifying! Looking forward to more ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary! This is a first....You learning something about history from me. LOL. I always enjoy your posts so much because they are chock full of amazing historical facts! No, I don't think any of us would want to be transported back to that time as a guard. Thank you...I took at least 500 photos that day at El Morro.

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  13. Hi,
    Your story is engaging. Your descriptions drew me into the story. Welcome back.
    Shalom aleichem

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    1. Thank you, Pat. I am glad you enjoyed the story.

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  14. First of all, I am so very glad to see you back at the WEP!! Welcome back! Your writing is always riveting. This brilliant take on the prompt kept me on the edge of my seat from the start - gripping. Very atmospheric and engaging imagery, I was there right next to this brave young boy soldier, feeling his fear, panic, blood and pain.
    I wonder why the garitas were build so cramped, was it to minimise cost or was it some kind of rite of passage for the young soldiers? It's so sad that such young teenagers were allocated to duties of violence, essentially. So sad too that young boys are still being used for violence/warfare centuries later. Will we ever learn?

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    1. Thank you... nice to be back, Nila! I am happy you enjoyed it. In answer to your first question, from what the tour guide told me, the garitas were very short, only about five foot to five foot two. People, in general were short. I could barely stand inside and I am just under six foot. So for me it would be an utter nightmare. Yes, I do believe it was a right of passage. It makes sense because the Spaniards were a very structured culture. Plus, the Conquistadors were hell on earth. They tore into the new world with such violence, and pillaged everything in site.

      As for your second question. I doubt it. Society never learns from the past. Look at the nightmare we are all living in now. So sad. Such a beautiful earth. Greed and corruption will destroy it all. Sigh.

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    2. It's beyond frustrating! How we never learn from history and keep repeating all the mistakes with predictable regularity. Uff!

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  15. I'm so glad you were able to join us for WEP this month! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story for us. You painted a vivid scene with your words, and I felt for this young man in his plight. Thank you for sharing the photos as well. They're lovely!

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    1. My pleasure, LG, and I am glad you enjoyed my entry and pictures. It was such an inspiring prompt and there are so many EXCELLENT entries...Enjoy your weekend!

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  16. So glad you're back. Thanks for sharing your story. It's great. I loved how the tension kept building and then the main character had something he had to gather his strength to do. Loved the pictures too.

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    1. Thank you, Natalie! My pleasure to share. I am so glad you enjoyed it. Have a good weekend!

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  17. Great built up and amazing descriptions. I love your writing style.
    -Sonia from https://soniadogra.com

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  18. Thank you, Sonia! I am pleased you enjoyed my story.

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  19. Oh. I hope this young one survives, but fear not. Will there be any left but him in the fort to defend it or are they all swept away by that wave. So many questions arise. He turns into a 3D fiure in your telling -- and we don't even know his name.

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    1. Me, too, Charlotte. The soldiers will certainly survive because they are hunkered down inside the fortress...as for our nameless young man, he is out there facing the elements. Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed the story.

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  20. A disturbing tale of the past for sure. There is something shocking about past realities that wake us from our sheltered lives. I love how he reassures himself over and over that it is his duty and it is what he must do in order to become a man. Such a deep sense of responsibility effectively shown.

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    1. I couldn't agree more. It was disturbing at what human beings lived through to survive during their times.

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  21. Intense and gripping. Well written.
    Nancy

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  22. Loads of action and I can see how the Garitas would inspire you! Their beautiful!

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    1. Thanks, Danette. Yes, there certainly is a beauty in their design, especially how they hover over the sea.

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  23. This was great, Michael. And thanks for the image of El Morro. Great inspiration for your story.

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    1. Thank you, Lee! I'm glad you enjoyed the story and image.

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  24. A powerful piece with the young man's emotions so clearly described. Great stuff.

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  25. Oh my goodness, so dramatic! Interesting to combine the Great Wave with the garitas. I hope the boy survives!

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  26. Wonderful piece. I was so 'with' the young man that I winced as he realised his shirt was soaked in seawater...

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    1. Thank you, Jemima. Yes, I winced when I wrote that sentence. This poor young man went through so much just to carry out his duty.

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  27. What a wonderful post Michael. Have always loved your writing :)

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  28. Bravo! A piece that pulled me right in and I was right there with the young man. Loved seeing the pictures that inspired the writing. Beautiful!
    ~Jess

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  29. Wow Michael. That was breathtaking. Poor kids, but in that day, 15 was a lot older (more mature) than today. What a brave soldier he was. Really well written - and I'm sorry I'm so late reading it. I've been absent the blogs too, just can't get motivated for anything but work lately. Perhaps I could stand a watch at the garita - would almost feel relaxing.

    Good luck with all your adventures.

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  30. Michael, when it comes to atmosphere, you are the master creator!
    I enjoyed the flash piece, filled with imagery and written in your distinct atmospheric style.
    Those pics are beautiful!

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  31. Nice imageries. The story seemed open ended. The surprise of pirate ship was craftily planted. But why the reference to El Diabolo?

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    1. I used the reference to El Diablo because that is the name of the famous Garita at the fort. This young soldier was stationed in that particular Garita.

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  32. Great blog and thanks for the story beautifully written.

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