Reality Check – First Excerpt

I’ll be posting excerpts from my 2006 National Novel Writing Month project, Reality Check, every Thursday in November. I have comments turned off, not because I don’t want your feedback, but because I can’t afford to think about revising it at this point – I hope you understand. 🙂

Please remember, this is straight from my rough draft – I’ve done virtually no editing. 🙂 In fact, this is the first time I’ve even READ it over since 2006. It’s weird, it’s like, who the heck wrote this crap??

Oh, that would be me. 😀

You can check my current word count progress on this year’s challenge in the sidebar. Thanks for reading and KEEP WRITING!


Hooking a finger around the handle of the mug, she made her way back to the living room. She sank down into the deep sofa cushions. She felt so old. Was 30 old? She took a cautious sip of the hot brew and stared at the branches swaying in the wind. She needed to stop feeling so sorry for herself. She was healthy, she had a beautiful, intelligent baby boy, she had a nice house, albeit small, she had been promoted to art director … she … she didn’t have anyone to share it with.

She groaned and placed her mug on the end table. She was so tired. So tired of trying to balance her professional life with her personal life. Tired of worrying whether Ethan was all right at the daycare center, tired of worrying about whether a client would like their designs, tired of meeting stringent deadlines, tired of being alone.

“Stop it,” she muttered. “Quit feeling sorry for yourself. You can do this. It will get easier.” With determined resolve, she closed her depressing thoughts, her hurting heart and her tired eyes.


She awoke with a jerk. What in the world? She blinked sleepily. What had awakened her? She stared up at the ceiling, fingers of dark shadows from the tree limbs outside danced and swayed seductively with each puff of wind.

She listened. Everything was quiet. The air was heavy and still and smelled faintly of diaper rash ointment. She glanced toward the clock. A moonbeam slashed across its face – 2:53. She snuggled deeper into the couch and sighed. She really should go to bed and she would, she just needed to lie there for five more minutes.

She could feel herself succumbing to the comforting darkness again … she was falling … falling … falling into a thick, soft cushion of delicious nothingness when she smelled it.

She sat bolt upright and immediately felt dizzy and disorientated. She lifted her nose like a bloodhound catching the scent of it’s prey – yes, it was definitely smoke.

She rolled off the couch so fast she bumped her leg against the coffee table. “Shit!” She scrambled to her feet and hobbled toward the kitchen. Only as she reached the doorway, she could tell the smoke was not coming from that room. She veered away from the kitchen and turned toward the hallway. She stopped dead in her tracks.

Thick, black plumes of smoke billowed out of Ethan’s room. She would recall later how the smoke curled, coiled and rolled against the ceiling, almost caressing it with long ebony fingers of destruction. She heard a loud hissing roar, like the sound that emits from smoke stacks at a coal factory. A sharp crackle sounded and Brenna knew without a shadow of doubt that it was the sound of Ethan’s crib snapping into bits.

She screamed. The sound was ripped from the depths of her soul and disappeared into the dense blackness now rolling toward her with increasing speed.

“Ethan! Oh my God, ETHAN! ETHAN! BABY, WHERE ARE YOU?” She continued to scream as she ran toward his doorway. She kicked the door open and blinked in utter astonishment. She was staring down the throat of hell. Flames so hot they were a brilliant white were snaking their way up the walls. Bright blue wallpaper sprinkled with tiny boats began to peel, curl and slide down the walls – it looked like a waterfall, strips of liquid paper cascading down the sides and pooling onto the floors. Stuffed animals were ablaze and vaporizing before her eyes.

She continued to scream her son’s name as she attempted to enter his room. The heat was so intense she could feel her eyebrows singing. Her cheeks, lips and earlobes felt as if they were made of wax and melting onto her shoulders. She didn’t care, she had to get her son out of there.

She strained forward only to be pushed back by a wall of intense heat. She stumbled and fell back into the hallway, gasping and coughing, desperate for fresh air but frantic to rescue her son. She crawled toward the bathroom her legs unable to support her. Blood roared in her ears, her brain felt like a lump of white-hot coal in her head, searing all rational thought. When she finally reached the bathroom, she grabbed two towels and frantically soaked them under the bathtub spigot. She wrapped one around her head and carrying the other one, she staggered back toward the bedroom. She couldn’t see past the tears and sweat in her eyes. It was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe but she still moved back toward the inferno. In a small room at the back of her conscious mind she thought she heard sirens. She couldn’t stop to see if she was right. She had to save her son!

She beat back the flames now greedily licking the doorframe. A wave of nausea coursed through her body as the fire looked almost sexual in its desire to consume everything in its path. She slapped her way past the flames. She was in!

“ETHAN! OH GOD, ETHAN WHERE ARE YOU?” She thought she heard a cry, just to her right. She lifted the towel in front of her as if it would somehow push the wall of fire back to hell where it belonged. She strained to make it past the molten pillar of fire that used to be the rocking chair. The towels, now bone dry, caught fire and she was forced to drop them. Her hands were blood red and stinging but she forced the pain to the darkest regions of her consciousness. She could smell her hair burning and still she pressed forward.

She croaked out an animal cry of pain when she saw the spot the crib used to occupy – it was a pile of red, glowing kindling. Brenna sank to her knees and covered her face in her hands. She no longer cared if she lived or died, her son was gone.

Brenna’s insides felt hot and crusty. She could feel her heart desperately knocking and beating against her chest, like a bird desperate to escape it’s cage. Her lungs felt small and tight in her chest, choking and squeezing the life out of her body; her breathing became shallow. She knew it was only a matter of minutes before her clothes caught fire. She would be burned alive. She didn’t care. She deserved to die; she wasn’t there to save her son’s life. What was the point of living without him? She welcomed death.

Hell beckoned to her with open arms.

Brenna embraced it.