Blade Song

One of my favorite creative writing exercises came from my first composition class of college. The idea was to write a two-three page sketch based on a single moment in time. The way I remember, we were told the timeframe should be no more than 30 seconds, and it should be written in present tense – parameters that stretched my creativity in a hurts-so-good sort of way. Here is a lightly edited version of that exercise, which is based off my years of fencing in high school and college.

If you try this exercise yourself, tell me how it goes, or even send it to me – I’d love to read it!

Blade Song

My eyes are locked on the bell guard of my friend’s blade. The sun hovers low on the western horizon, throwing a warm, fiery glow on everything, the light playing subtly along our sabres. The air is close, tense. Almost as tense as every nerve and muscle in my body.

Around us the hangs the damp smell of recent rain. The air is thick with water, but I barely notice. All I know is the grip of my blade, in my hand and in my mind. The game consumes me, and, for me, the world is silent. I do not hear, though the people watching our dance chatter loudly, bantering over who will win, though my heart’s pounding is nearly deafening. I don’t notice the sting of pain as a bead of sweat falls into my eye. The scent of smoke, metallic and biting, is still in my mask, the only remnant of the hit that moments before caused sparks to fly in all directions. My head still rings with its reverberations.

If I score this point, the game is mine. This faux-deadly game of physical chess, which drags out all the frustration I’ve felt today and sends it whipping down the edge of my weapon. Nowhere else do I feel this craving – the need to pursue, to win – that engulfs my mind as it does now. Nowhere else do I feel so completely myself, so completely calm, and so completely free of restraint. A fierce, raw joy at the ache in my muscles and the tired trembling in my legs makes my mind giddy.

My heart is pinned to the end of my blade. The metal lives with me, as alive as I am. Silence encases it as deeply as darkness. Through my mesh covered mask, the world is smaller, pixilated. All I can see, all I need to see, is my opponent and the blade that springs from his hand.

I fill my lungs. The score is burned in my head; the deciding point is all that remains.

 I am acutely aware of eyes on the back of my head. My instructor stands with his face turned toward me. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth as he studies my feet. Has he noticed a flaw, or is he pleased? My other friends, their jackets unzipped, stand watching or bend to gather their gloves and masks to bout again. Nearby I see the admiring faces of the girls who have stopped to watch. I know that their faces have instantly brightened with a look that says, “I wish I could do that, too.” They will forget the magic once they turn away.

 My adversary is halfway through an advance. His mask glistens slightly where countless blades have lashed away the enamel, baring the silvery metal below. A white canvas jacket, creased and dented with the memories of a thousand bouts, covers his torso; I can see his chest rising as he starts to pull the thick air into his lungs.

He finishes his advance and his sabre whips through the air with a whine. The weapon’s edge rips across my arm – almost. But I see it coming; I see it before the blade even begins to move, and I parry. With a leap from my heart, still raggedly pounding an untamed tattoo, I realize that as my blade pushes his aside he leaves an opening directly to his heart.

Only one point left –

Before the thought can sink in, before I’ve even pulled out of the parry, I know what to do. Time is no longer relevant; it stretches farther than the mind can reach, seeming to stop entirely. My arm is back to four, my favorite position, though I never told it to move, and in one fluid motion carried out by pure instinct, it thrusts toward my quarry.

My blade speaks at last, renouncing its silence as it shoves through the wet air with a hiss. Its silvery back arches from my hand and it purrs like a cat as it streaks toward my foe. My right foot leaves the hot, gray cement, which pulls at the sole of my shoe. I move forward with a confidence I don’t feel on my own, as though summoned by a silent command. My blade calls. My foot flies through the air with the sureness of a dancer, and with the last of the energy in my pent up soul I push.

The muscles in my left leg scream, but they are a pitiful moan compared to the battle cry of my blade. My foot lands squarely under me as my body falls into a text-book-perfect lunge. I see the surprise on my adversary’s face, hazy and ethereal through his mask, as he realizes his attack has been repulsed, the look of horror as his blade slides uselessly over mine.

My breath flies back up my throat. A cry of triumph that overshadows that of my sabre tears from my mouth as I gaze through the mist of my mask at the point of my blade…

It is mine.

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