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No going back

by Ioannou 

Posted: 27 October 2003
Word Count: 1447

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No going back
Maria Ioannou

The quarry water was very cold. The sun had been bright all day, but the dark, deep water still made her shiver. She swam away from the stone she was balancing on. Fly was swimming around madly, occasionally looking over to her in the hope she might still throw him a stick to chase after. Just her and the dog. And the whole moor.

She heard voices and looked up. "I'll jump from higher up than you," shouted a boy as he came into view at the overhang on one side of the quarry. Before he had finished shouting, three other lads had caught up with him and all now stood poised on the edge of the stone wall. In the strong, late-afternoon sunlight the boys, shirt-less and strong from a summer in the outdoors, reminded Gail of the propaganda pictures of the Hitler Youth.

She shook her head sharply to throw out the sinister thought. It broke the moment, and the boys, noticing her, started shouting to her and each other again. "Swimming alone, eh?" "Want some company?" Their laughter boomed around the echoey edges of the stone. She smiled up, waved a small wave and continued her swim along her usual path - across to the edge of the quarry, to the part unreachable by foot.

It was a little patch of grass on a stone outcrop. Some summers, when it was hot and the animals got a little crazy from too much sun, a sheep would fall down and die there. But today, this summer, no such thing had happened.

She touched the edge of the grass and, with a quick turn, was back and off again to her starting point. Suddenly, a scatter of small stones hit the water to her right making her look up.

The first boy, the first one she had seen, was standing at the very edge of one of the highest ledges.

For a moment, Gail, looking up at his face, turned out towards the middle of the quarry away from his companions, thought he looked anxious.

A second later, she decided it must have been the sun making her see things all wrong, for there he was laughing again. They were all still laughing. "Come on!" "You've said you'll do it now." "No going back." "Yes, I'll do it. For sure! Not like you three," shouted the boy, defiantly.

Gail knew the view down from that ledge. She had herself sometimes stood up there. Though further back than the boy, whose feet, pale from a sunless life, were almost half over the edge.

She swam over to the other side of the quarry. Near to the rusting machinery, left to be forgotten in the water. When she climbed out and onto one of the stones, the boys again, briefly, turned their full attention to her. "Had enough already?" "Getting out to catch some rays?" Going to watch Arthur jump?"

Arthur. He was still standing, Gail noticed, in exactly the same position. As if he thought that if he moved even a little finger without planning, something might happen. One of his friends, standing behind him, moved closer and said something that Gail did not catch. Arthur turned his head slowly round, raising one arm slightly to balance himself. When he looked back to the quarry, his face was pale. Below him, he knew, just like Gail knew, that there were rocks beneath the water's surface. There were gaps too, but the darkness of the water made it hard to guess them accurately.

One of the other boys kicked a rock off the edge of the quarry, startling Arthur, and it fell fast and was lost almost immediately in the water. Fly started to swim towards the epicentre of the ripples. Wanting to catch it, to play the game. But it was another game, a familiar game, that Gail was watching unfold.

"Come on, Arthur." "You can't stand around forever." "Are you going to do it or not?" "If you don't do it now..."

Arthur put one foot behind him. Gail held her breath. The other boys too were silent.

And then Arthur leapt, up and off the ledge. In a heartbeat though, he was falling.

She heard him cry out before she registered what was happening or that he had opened his mouth. Only she could see what was happening. The others were above, leaning forward, but they could not see him. Her eyes were caught up with Arthur's as he fell. She saw the red colour streak down the quarry's side. And Arthur was gone. Underwater.

She had to move, to do something. As she stood up, Gail saw his head above the water. She heard him say "Please."

The other boys had run round by now to the main path into the quarry. Gail slid into the water. She swam, fast and unthinking, towards Arthur. He reached out an arm to her, so it was his fingers she touched first. She grabbed his hand, his wrist. He screamed out. And then Gail noticed the new colour of the water around them. Arthur noticed too. It was the last thing he noticed, and Gail realised he had fainted. In the water. She felt his whole weight as he started to sink.

Frantic now, she pulled hard on his wrist, and with her free hand stretched out to catch hold of top of his arm, near the shoulder. Why were the other boys not there? Why had they not jumped in to help?

Gail kicked with her feet, pulling Arthur. Looking up at the sky, she realised it was still daytime, that only minutes had passed.

Focusing on the blue of the sky, on the sharp silver edges of the clouds, Gail swam hard. Was she heading towards the landing stone? Her heel grazed a rock. Testing, she put her foot flat. The stone was beneath her. She felt the big, metal ring in its centre. Suddenly, the other boys were there, six hands pulling Arthur away from her. Up and out of the water.

Gail, exhausted, lent back against another stone before slowly crawling out. Arthur was lying on the path, on his back.

His friends looked at her. Waiting? "Is he breathing? Is he breathing?" Her voice was harsh. Too slowly, one of the boys nodded. "What are you doing?" she shouted, "One of you, go! Go and get someone." She was almost there, next to Arthur. She bent down. "Arthur," she said, "Arthur?"

"It's his back, miss," said one of the two boys still standing above Arthur. Gail looked at Arthur, lying on the muddy path, and saw that the mud was covered in blood. Arthur's blood. She put out her hand, touched his shoulder. "Help me turn him," she almost whispered.

Gently, the boys and Gail pulled Arthur over. Gail almost let go of his body when she caught sight of his wound. A great gash tore down his back from the base of his neck. His blood was on her hands now. "We need to stop the bleeding. We need to stop him losing blood." Gail started panicking to push her hands against the cut, trying to push the skin together. One of the boys pulled his jumper from around his waist and threw it at Gail. She pushed it onto the cut. Gail saw the sweater was red too. "Arthur?" she said, "You need to talk to him. He needs to be conscious."

The boy who owned the red jumper knelt down next to Arthur, though the other turned away. Walking off to sit down, his head in his hands. “Talk to him!” Gail shouted. Then, relenting as she looked at his scared face, she added, “Tell him about something you did together this summer.” And so he started to talk. As Gail listened, she heard the story of a bike ride out and far away from home, of a water fight in a river. The story of a boy’s summer holiday. As she listened though, she felt the blood still streaming out, and watched as Arthur’s face lost every stroke of colour.

By the time the ambulance arrived, all Arthur’s blood has seeped away. He was packed up into the back of the van, and she traveled with him to the hospital.

The sun had still not gone down when Gail left the hospital with her mother. As they drove through the winding roads, her mother carefully tooting at each blind bend, Gail realised she could not think of anything but Arthur’s eyes and his loud young voice bounding out across the water to her.

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Comments by other Members

Fearless at 07:42 on 28 October 2003  Report this post
No going back....and never forgotten.


bjlangley at 11:41 on 28 October 2003  Report this post
Maria, that's really good. Well delivered, at a decent pace. I like the way you sometimes slow it down a little with bits like:
"Some summers, when it was hot and the animals got a little crazy from too much sun, a sheep would fall down and die there."

Ioannou at 15:44 on 28 October 2003  Report this post
I wondered if it worked. I had very clear pictures in my head when I wrote it and a friend read it and said he couldn't see it. But I think I am going to put that down to his reluctant imagination! Thanks for your comments, Ben, Fearless.

Jumbo at 23:10 on 28 October 2003  Report this post

I liked this and the way you built it up, The little sinister things that left the reader uncertain as to what was going to happen, the stones being thrown at the water and then the larger boulder that was kicked off.

I wasn't sure about the line Looking up at the sky, she realised it was still daytime, that only minutes had passed.I think it threw me because there was no indication that the passage of time was an issue in the piece. Why wouldn't it still be daylight? What else was there to suggest that more than minutes had passed. As it is I don't think that line adds anything. Or have I missed something?

My only other comment would be that it ends far too quickly. The frantic attempts at first aid, and Gail's determination to keep him conscious. And five lines later it's all over! I think those final paragraphs could be rewritten to greater effect.

Hope this helps.



Ioannou at 14:19 on 30 October 2003  Report this post
You are right about the daytime paragraph, John. I think I might just cut it completely. I sort of wanted to have an abrupt end, because I wanted to leave the reader reeling. I am thinking about extending this into a longer story, where this is the kick off section. Thank you for your comments. Love, Maria.

crowspark at 22:15 on 30 December 2004  Report this post
Found this as I was browsing - a stunning piece of writing.

A simple tale beautifully told.

Very moving.


sarahclapham at 09:23 on 11 March 2005  Report this post
A wonderful stumble in the Random Read; I really enjoyed this Maria, You capture both the frantic instinct of Gail and the bumbling confusion of the boys so precisely. I was hooked and moved.


Tarbra at 16:26 on 10 November 2005  Report this post
Hi Maria
Very well paced. I thought the time section as to still daylight, was to express that she felt like time was passing more rapidly than it was, rather than there being any reason for a sudden time lapse. Maybe you could put something along the lines of everything went into slow motion and she felt as if time was flying past, it seemed to go on forever as she struggled to get him onto dry land?
I am not sure if Authur died or if he got to hospital in time? There would be no going back either way, because nobody in their right mind would do that twice!
Very good story so far, I would be interested to know what you have in mind for the next bit? I would surgest that you could place this further into the story, and use this bit as a sort of introduction section, repeating it part way through the book. Starting the book maybe at some past point in time, giving the reader more into the charactors and their relationships before this happens, they may go there for a couple of summers before the accident, maybe Authur could be trying to impress her in front of the other boys, could he have a secret crush on her? There has to be a reason that he feels the need to jump in the first place. If Authur lives there are too many directions for me to list here that the book could go in. You could turn it into a love story, a horror/thriller, were Authur could be rejected romantically by her and go off the rails,she might have a relationship with him out of sympathy, or she might really fall for him and he could go off her finding that he only had a crush and not the real thing, ect,ect. Just thought I'd give you a bit of food for thought. Have Fun, Linda

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