Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beneath Rebel Skies

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce my niece Shannyn to all of you.  She's 17 years old and will be a Junior in high school next year.  She's a voracious reader, loves to read and loves books, and also loves to write.  Her dream and goal is to become a writer, as in an author, or screenwriter, or journalist.  She's been writing for several years, and I believe she's very good at it.  I totally support her in her excellent writing, and helped her to start her own writing blog a week ago.  Here's the link to her blog Shannyn's Writing and I also have a link to it on my blog, just scroll down to find it on the right side.

Today I'm featuring part of a story Shannyn wrote in the 8th grade, or two years ago.  When I read it, I was so impressed, I wanted to put it on my blog for the rest of you to enjoy, and also to give Shannyn's excellent writing some exposure.  She's excited about her new blog and I hope she posts her writing on a current and consistent basis.  I keep reminding her that if she wants to make her dream come true, it will take hard work and dedication and self-discipline.  I believe she's up to the task.  I also believe she has the "gift" of writing, and has worked hard to develop her gift and her skills.  I'm very proud of her.  

Her story starts below.  Please enjoy and feel free to leave any comments you may have if you'd like to.  I'm sure that would thrill Shannyn.

Andersonville concentration camp, Georgia, 1863: Ice cold rain pours through the musty train cars, packed with hundreds of men, as cattle brought to the slaughter. I shiver, the soldier standing beside me has a hacking cough, can’t stop. He sounds awful, like an old man, yet he cannot be over fourteen. I myself am but sixteen, though I have seen more in my short life than most have seen in fifty years of living. The air is rank with the scent of sweat and blood. My nostrils fill with the smell, though it is not half as bad as some, it makes my stomach swim. The train comes to an abrupt stop, lurching forward and sighs as an old farmer after a hard days work. Shouts and orders can be heard. A lowly Johnny Reb yanks the door open, revealing his bearded face. “Get outta the train, you filthy yankee dogs!” His young voice penetrates the thick air, arousing all prisoners, soon to be granted their fate. The great mass of bodies moves as one, making its way out of the train.

Frozen hard ground gives way to a demonic black sky. Lightning strikes, not a mile away. Thunder gives his answer with a resounding crack, which penetrates the wind blown atmosphere. Rain drops hit my tanned skin, as rocks upon a valley floor. The formerly beautiful sound of pouring water fills the air, soaking all that inhabit South Carolina in its unforgiving vengeance. “All right, you maggots, form ranks and prepare to march!” It was the young soldier again, perhaps informing his prisoners that he intended to provide them with everything terrible and evil. The mass of bodies moves a second time, with me somewhere in the middle, smashed and forgotten amidst such numbers. The sky wreaks her havoc upon the war torn ground and its occupants as all stagger towards their God given fate.

Finally arrived at the prison; Johnny Rebs shove us through the gateway, and into the camp. I suppose I simply expected something more, perhaps tents or quarters; yet there was nothing of the sort. Instead, sparse weeds littered the ground, as bones upon and ancient battlefield. Pushing their prisoners through, the Rebels shout orders to each other and let us be for the time being. I, along with many other Yankees, fall to the mire in exhaustion.

I awake the next morning to yells and groans. Morning dew soaks the already muddy ground, making it virtually impossible to navigate, ensnaring many in its boggy grasp. Coughing and hacking prevail through all other sounds, so many of my fellow soldiers sick from wounds or disease, cursing them in battle. Still, no shelters have been erected, no nourishment provided, despite the drenching rain and howling wind. This storm is unceasing, as if God is displeased with all the liquid falls upon. I wrap my uniform closer about my body, hoping it will keep me warm from the elements. Some men attempt to start fires near the wall, despite the pigeons nests atop, with Rebs sticking their noses out, awaiting an excuse to shoot someone. Their attempts are hindered by the weather, yet they continue their effort.

I, too deeply desire warmth. I spot three men huddled together, so I join their group, hoping for warmth and companionship. “Dang Johnny Rebs, they wouln’t stick thay own soldas in this God fersakin place.” Willy complained. He was in my regiment, though I never much liked him. “Ah, shut up Willy, I’m tryin ta git some shut eye.” This man I didn’t know, he was mighty tall, I could tell that from looking at him. The third soldier didn’t make a sound, just sat there shivering, his dark eyes observing their gloomy surroundings, as a hawk on the hunt.

“Git up, yank, no time fer sleep at this hea place.” “Ohhh.” I groaned, he had kicked me in the ribs, as if I was a dog that needed discipline. “I said git up!” The Reb made a second attempt to injure me, bringing his foot back; I managed to dodge it. He cursed at me and sauntered off as I tried to adjust my eyes to the bright light. It had stormed for three days straight, never letting up. Yet today it was surprisingly hot. The bright sun hung in the sky, her eyes full and watchful as those below made their way about the earth. I wonder what she thought of our circumstance, if she cared or thought about us at all. Her gaze pierced the cloudless sky and shone upon my darkened skin. I saw the three men I had met two days before near the wall, constructing a lean to out of spare wood for reprieve from the sweltering heat. I moseyed over to them, hoping again for conversation.


Gail P said...

Well, I'm blown away. I'll mosey on over to her blog!

Ashlyn said...

I believe Shannyn has a bright future ahead of her! This sounds like the beginning of a wonderful book. A book I would READ and I'm not a reader. It does well to draw the reader in and let them feel a connection with the characters right from the beginning. A very nice piece for one, of any age!!
Hugs, Ashlyn

mammagil said...

Shesh! I was totally into the story and then it just left us hanging LOL!!!! She is great Val, me and my 8 yr old daughter just went and read her blog and left a comment!!
Oh Val are thoes beams of pride shooting out of you LOL!!!!!!!!

Helen Percy Lystra said...

Well done Shannyn

akatrix said...

Terrific! This young lady has a bright future. No doubt she has received some of her creative genius from her auntie!