Claudia Barillas gets a leg up on the competition


Here comes Claudia Barillas entering our contest once again. I swear, it’s not too late, but I do have to remind you the last entries must be received by Thanksgiving day. Every author gets three chances to make the finals. Six finalists will then be given a prompt and parameters (I LOVE parameters!) to make sure we have a winner and our winner has a check for $500 by December 15th.

Here is Claudia’s entry #2.


by Claudia Barillas


He’d never felt pain like this. Not when they’d run the kid so hard for so long he’d thought his lungs would burn right through his ribcage and fall out of his chest. Not during sparring practice when he’d been slammed onto the ground so hard that it had driven out both his breath and his memory of how to draw in a new one. Not when he’d been made to do such an inhumane amount of pull-ups that he couldn’t lift his arms–but had to, for the aforementioned sparring match. This pain was deeper, at the very core of the kid’s mechanism for perceiving it. It started in his foot, were the beam had hit, passing right through his sturdy boot like radio waves. It traveled frighteningly fast yet still impossibly and agonizingly slow, through his ankle, along his calf, burning on its upward path, leaving not even the dying embers of a dull ache behind it. And all the kid could do was scream. Scream and cry and beg the doctor, the nurses, for what, he didn’t even know.

“Please! Oh, God, please!”

He hardly understood his own words, much less those shouted by the medical professionals fussing over him, trying to ask him questions. Finally something did break through to his comprehension. “Cut it off.” Now he had something to plead for.

“No!” the kid screamed, voice already raw. “No, don’t!” Yes it hurt, no he didn’t know if he could stand it much longer, but losing his leg? He struggled against the nurses, but they were many, and strong. He saw the device in the doctor’s hand–some kind of laser blade, like a guillotine–and watched with horror as it was positioned above his knee. “Please,” he forced out one more time, merely a whimper. The blade of concentrated energy dropped, bringing with it pain to rival even that which tormented him seconds before, unimaginable even with priming that great. It was too much, finally too much. His mind gave up trying to process it, his body gave up trying to handle it, and he passed out.


He woke–exhausted, still–in the hospital ward, surrounded by ill and injured soldiers, some from the very same intrusion, he was sure. How had they been breached? And so deeply? Even he hadn’t had access to the weapon that was nearly stolen, the one that had been used on him, the one that had cost him his leg.

Except, had it? Looking down the length of his body, obscured by his blanket, they seemed to both be there, though when he tried to move the one in question, nothing happened. He yanked the blanket off. It was there. And it was definitely his. There was a scorch  mark at the point of the incision, but no indication that the leg had actually been removed and replaced with a prosthesis. He prodded the limb, feeling his leg with his fingers but not his fingers with his leg. Panic swelled up inside him, and he tried, against the better judgment that told him that with a dead leg it was a terrible idea–to get out of bed. Before he could land himself in a heap on the floor, his supervisor was there.

“Hey, hey, easy kid!” the large man said, entering the ward. The hands that pushed the kid back and held him down in the bed were strong, but the actions were gentle. “Relax a second. Take a deep breath.”

The kid took said deep breath and several more before he had calmed.

“Better?” his supervisor asked. The kid nodded and the man let go, taking a seat beside the bed. “Good. Now where were you off to in such a hurry, huh?”

“My leg,” the kid said, gesturing at it. “I just–I wanted to ask someone about my leg.”

“Your leg is fine,” the man assured. “Or at least it will be, if you stay in bed and rest and let everything grow back properly.”

“G-grow back?” the kid asked. “So it…did get cut off and…?” Even if he weren’t quite so tired he’d still have trouble articulating this particular brand of confusion.

“No, your leg is your leg,” his supervisor explained. “It’s your nervous system that has to be grown back. The blast from that weapon eats away at it. If it had gotten to your spine, you would’ve been hard to fix, and if it got to your brainstem you would have been dead, so we had to sever the nerves to stop it.”

“You can grow back nerves?” the kid asked.

“We can do a lot of things that you’re not supposed to know about yet,” the man said. “Too late to worry about that now. But as for saving your leg, I swear, it’s not too late, so just relax and get healed up, all right?”

“The… the others,” the kid said. “Are they all right?”

His supervisor sighed. “We lost Midrian. Danico will be fine. She’s right over there, but she needs her rest too, so don’t bother her. And well, you saw what happened to Wres. I’m sorry, kid.”

“The guy,” the kid said, not in a state where he could properly process the two loses, though when they finally hit, they would hit hard. “Did we get the guy?”

“No,” the man said. “God, if I ever get my hands on him– But that’s an issue for me to worry about. Not you.” He stood up. “Go back to sleep if you can. Oh, and when your leg heals up, it’ll probably twitch.”






24 thoughts on “Claudia Barillas gets a leg up on the competition

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    There is a panic which draws the reader in from the very first which never really leaves. This is powerful, because the confusion and drama of the episode in hospital is like this to any patient upon such trauma and uncertainty. The helplessness of being able to control one’s own destiny makes the story very effective from uncertain beginning to abrupt ending leaving many questions as to what came both before and after. Thus the story stands alone or would serve as an insert to a larger verse.

  2. Michael Stang says:

    Chuck, the pain is written with perfect tension until he passes out. Hats off to a talented writer who seems to be unstoppable.

  3. Tiffany Monique says:

    ” It started in his foot, were the beam had hit, passing right through his sturdy boot like radio waves.”
    Dang that is a great line. Everything everyone else said so far is accurate in my book. But *that* line is like sipping hot coffee and feeling smug on a nice Fall morning.

    • Chuck Chuckerson says:

      Thank you, Tiffany! I’m glad you liked that line, because I spent some time staring at it thinking “WHAT IS A THING THAT GOES THROUGH THINGS.”

      • Tiffany Monique says:

        But that’s the best part! That necessity for something and the way that that something pops in your head. LOVE IT! That… I don’t know… that PING (that’s in my current novel, and that is the best way I can think to describe it for my character, so of course it works in real life).

  4. Mike Casper says:

    I’d LOVE to dive into your story and get all fixed up like that kid. Knee, back, eyes, memory, it’s all headed south. Thanks for a great read!

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    Great one Chuck…I could feel the pain rolling through me while reading this. Wonder if someday we’ll have technology that can fix things like this – even teeth!!!! Am so happy to read your stories again.

  6. Beverly Lucey says:

    Really well done. Supposedly pain is hard to remember, not to mention we don’t have a lot of vocabulary for it. Ache, cramps, the suspended moment when you stub your toe, knowing it’s going to hurt like hell, and then it does.

    You’ve captured so well the immediacy of the unimaginable, the threat of weapons we’ve never even thought of, and the hopes that with time, we can be much more regenerative. Wow.

    • Chuck Chuckerson says:

      I just borrow heat words, generally. Burning. Searing. Then of course there’s the way that pain undulates with your blood. Pulsing pain. Throbbing pain. Sometimes it’s a dull and spread out. Sometimes it’s more of a stabbing in a few locations. Sometimes it dies down then spikes back up. I saw a commercial for Pamprin or Midol or some other such thing where it shows a woman with a lightning strikes over her uterus, and I thought, yes, it’s exactly like that.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I wish we could go the regenerative route without going to far into weaponry, but you know people.

  7. Mac Eagan says:

    There is no doubt, Chuck, that you are an incredibly talented writer.
    Are you a fan of Star Trek (the original series), by chance? If not, please do not be offended if I say this story reminds me much of what I have heard about their episode writing. Not the cheesiness that the show is often known for – your writing is solid – but that the show was not as much science fiction as it seemed at first glance. It used the sci-fi backdrop to deal with socially relevant issues.
    In the middle of the first paragraph, you tell us the pain comes from a beam passing through his foot and the natural conclusion of that is this is a sci-fi piece. But it isn’t. It’s a war story. That is one of the things that makes this piece so good – it’s relevancy. We can all identify with “the kid” whether we personally know a wounded soldier or not. You capture the reality that is the foundation for storytelling in all genres.
    By not naming your protagonist, you allow us to see him in a uniquely personal way (personal to each reader, not personal to the character). But I also think you lose something by not giving the character a name. As they say, ‘when you name it, you get attached to it.’
    Everyone has commented on the effectiveness of your description of pain. The first time I read this story, I got sympathy pains in my leg. My right leg, to be specific. You don’t say which leg in your narrative but the description is so convincing it became specific to me.
    I have to say that I don’t think this piece does as well as a stand-alone as it would as part of a larger story. I definitely want to read more and if this were a teaser for bigger work, I would be hooked.
    Absolutely excellent writing.

    • Chuck Chuckerson says:

      Thanks for your input, Mac. Kid does have a name, but he’s appeared on this site before and I didn’t want this story to be tied to that one. (Not that anyone remember, probably, since all the old entries were lost.) I see now that that wasn’t the best decision.

      I never watched the original Star Trek. However, what you’re saying about it seems a lot like what people say about Ray Bradbury, and he’s my favorite writer, so I shall use the transitive property to say that you compared me to Ray Bradbury and take the compliment.

  8. Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    This story sure doesn’t need a leg up LOL (I’ve been hanging with Thorn too long…)

    I wonder if it’s the stem cell technology that is either loved or hated by many…or if it’s something we can’t grasp yet. Lovely job <3

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