Under the Microscope extra: Language, Liberated

a9ea6bd5-b5ca-45c0-81a7-0c442ade0fc3

25 August 2021
|
Microscope_icon-71204.jpg Under the Microscope extra
A reader's novel opening goes under the editorial microscope

Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the October issue of Writing Magazine.

Language, Liberated, by Michael Pudney - original version

 ‘Execute.’ The Officer pulled the trigger, sparking the night sky. It punctured the forehead and burst through the back of the skull. The corpse collapsed onto the grass. The Officer shifted across to the next prisoner on her knees. 

As the Officer took aim, Roger, further along the line of prisoners, subtly glanced across at the Officer taking aim at his comrade. He counted four of them left, including his best friend, Ritchie, trembling beside him. 

   ‘Ask the question again,’ a voice in the Officer’s earpiece, loud enough for all to hear, commanded. He aimed his smoking gun at the new target’s face. 

         ‘What were you searching for?’ The Officer spat. The woman looked past the shaft of the gun, up at the officer's emotionless face. The thin glass across his left eye, relaying information to him, was illuminated by the headlights from his squad car parked a few metres behind. The beams lit past the Officer, revealing a vast field. The acres of flat land were only broken by a rocky hill a few hundred metres away. They were miles from civilisation – nobody would have heard the bullets. 

        ‘Fuck you.’ She said. 

        ‘Execute,’ came the order. The bullet left the barrel. The six other officers shuffled and groaned, irritated by the defiance of their prisoners. Some sniggered as the bodies oozed blood. The Officer moved onto the third remaining captive in the line. 

        ‘Ask the question again,’ came the instruction in his earpiece. 

        ‘What were you searching for?’ The Officer repeated. The prisoner spat on the Officer’s shoes. 

        ‘Execute.’ The bullet sprayed blood and brain onto Ritchie’s face, kneeled next to the latest victim, sparking him into a fit of fear – he was next. The gun took its aim. 

   The earpiece made its demand once more.

‘What were you searching for?’ 

    Ritchie stuttered, his throat too tangled to respond. The Officer pressed the gun nearer his face. ‘What were you searching for?’ A wet patch seeped through his baggy khaki trousers. 

‘Offer him the question one last time,’ the earpiece spoke. 

 

Language, Liberated - McCredited version

‘Execute.’

The officer pulled the trigger, flashing the scene: a line of kneeling prisoners. Six other officers standing witness.

Advertisements

The bullet entered the forehead and the skull erupted wetly behind. The corpse collapsed onto the grass.

The Officer stepped in front of the next kneeling prisoner and pointed the gun.

Further along the line, Roger was aware there was only four of them left. His best friend Ritchie trembled beside him.

‘Ask the question again,’ commanded a voice in the Officer’s earpiece.

‘What were you searching for?’ the Officer spat.

The woman looked up at the officer. The thin glass across his left eye relayed information to him but showed her only a dim reflection of kneeling and supine bodies.

‘Fuck you,’ she said.

‘Execute.’

The six other officers shuffled and groaned, irritated by the defiance of their prisoners.

The officer moved onto the next captive in line.

‘What were you searching for?’

The prisoner spat on the officer’s shoes.

‘Execute.’

Blood and brain spattered onto Ritchie’s face. He saw the officer’s shoes appear before him but daren’t look up at the gun.

‘What were you searching for?’

Ritchie tried to speak but his throat was constricted. His mouth was dry.

The Officer pressed the hot gun barrel against Ritchie’s forehead.

‘What were you searching for?’

A wet patch seeped through Ritchie’s baggy khaki trousers.

‘Ask him the question one last time,’ said the earpiece.

For the full critique, see the October issue of Writing Magazine