Hi everyone, thank you for reading. This is the first thing I have posted here (or anywhere) and appreciate any and all criticism. I wrote this over the last few days, and have a fairly good idea where the story is going. I'm wondering a few things: how does the first person present work, and how long would you expect the whole piece to be based off the style (pace) of this opening? It is about 800 words, thanks again.
I am drowning in an ocean of time, surrounded by unbroken waves burned golden from years of shifting uneasily beneath the sun. It is here in the eastern Sahara the worn down mountains of the world accumulate as sand and labor in futility to rebuild themselves.
I too was carried here by the wind, one of four weary reporters in a government transport helicopter leading a small press convoy to Bani Walid. The city of 85 thousand is an hour southeast of the capitol Tripoli, and days worth of travel away from my perpetually vacant apartament in the suburbs of Boston. Unlike lawyers, plumbers and accountants, my current residence is not determined by "where" but "what". Right now "what" is happening in the Middle East.
Growing signs of unrest over the past week have pointed at Libya as the next domino to fall to democracy, and nearly every journalist in the region has left the dying coals of Egypt to warm themselves by a new fire. The "Arab Spring" stretched lazily over the months of June and July, and the shortening days of August seem to be obscuring a sinister truth across the border as rebel forces begin to gather. I have seen it before, peaceful revolt in the summer is turned to war by the harshness of fall.
I am seated on the far left next to David Cambell, a friend of mine working out of Cairo. We get along well enough but talking now is sensless, the noise of the rotor chops our words into pieces and sends them fluttering out into the parched air. Twenty minutes into the flight my eyes have settled on our shadow as it rolls along the dunes, flickering when it passes over each crest and easing my nerves by testifying to our distance from the earth.
A pull on my shoulder brings my attention back inside the helicopter. The hand belongs to the co-pilot and moves slowly towards the front of the cockpit. He extends a finger, my eyes follow its direction through the weathered glass to a group of stationary vehicles atop a ridge to the northwest.
Three or four cars are nestled between outcroppings of rock, they appear abandoned from our height, but even New York City looks like an ant-hill from the sky. The hand dives downward to the right in a swooping motion and I nod, checking my harness and camera bag then bracing for the pitch. As we begin to take our new path around the ridge I focus again on our shadow, growing as we descend.
Out of nothing comes the explosion. The RPG was soundless under the roar of the blades and suddenly behind me a boiling void exists where the tail had been. I look to the right; David has fallen forward, his head in his lap like a folding chair in the storage position. The earth spins rapidly and begins to pull us down.
With each turn I catch a frantic glimpse of the ground and our shadow is larger than before. It rotates, spreading across the sand trying to contort itself into any recognizeable shape. The blackness morphs into one monstrosity after another until it fills my vision, eventually it meets my eyes and I see nothing.
I float, drifting along the surface of the ground as two men pull my arms. My body creates a small wake of sand cascading to either side, a streak of crimson leading away from the smoldering corpse of the helicopter. The desert drinks greedily without thanks.
Blinded by a flash of white I can only assume I have arrived in heaven. A sheepish look upwards to meet my maker reveals only a dark haired youth of around sixteen; bronze ammunition wrapping his thin waist, a rifle slung over a bony shoulder and my Nikon D5100 cradled in his hands.
The older men holding me each have one hand under my armpits, another in front of them, thumbs up. The boy returns the camera to his face and starts to count. Panic seizes me, not from the guns or the blood or the crash but the lens. The instruments of war are nothing compared to the instruments of time.
I plan on righting all of my wrongs before dying, hoping that despite what I am now history will at least remember me as a neutral man. But the camera captures me, a photograph binding me forever in the moment. No matter how I change, this present will continue to exist in the lens. The boy is compiling proof of my sins.
I try to prepare myself, fighting the haze of the crash. Somewhere in the long forgotten depths of my memory a professor is lecturing: "The first rule of T.V. journalism is..."
Captured and dying I smile for the camera.