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09 January 2012

Best Death Scenes

*Your hostess for this clash is Asst. Editor Michelle Massaro

Happy New Year!

It was a nice break, but I'm so ready to get back to business. With a new year sprawling before us, begging us to grab life by both handles, why not start out with a nice Death Clash, eh? ;)

In all seriousness, nothing makes us appreciate life more than seeing its loss. In a story, death is a powerful plot addition. Writers are often told, when you don't know what to do with a scene, try killing someone off. As a reader, when done right, a death scene grabs our hearts and squeezes, leaving us raw and eager to move forward with the surviving character. Ever since reading Aslan's death scene in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a child, I've known the emotional power of a fictional demise. And who can forget Jack Dawson slipping into the icy sea in Titanic?

So today, we are taking a look at two anonymous death scenes and voting for the one packing the most emotional punch.

Read each excerpt and cast your vote below, then come back on Friday to find out the identities of the titles. Next week, we'll take a closer look at each story and get to know the authors behind them. Two voters will win a copy of one of the books, and of course the winning title will be eligible to compete in the next annual Laurel Award in October. Big stakes, people. Big stakes.

Excerpt A

     I saw him point his gun toward Sarah. I jerked my head toward her and saw why. The unwounded security guard beside her was aiming his pistol at the helicopter.
     “No!” I yelled as loud as I could. “Don’t shoot! Let them go! Get down, Sarah!” I ran toward her as fast as I could move.
     I heard the gunshot and saw Sarah’s body jerk in sync. The guard’s pistol leaped into the air as his body bounced and fell on top of hers. I kept running toward them. The helicopter’s engine was louder as it lifted off the ground.
     Please, God, let her be okay. I knew the bullets had hit her, but I hoped the guard had taken the brunt of the blasts, saving her from serious harm. I stood over him surveying the situation when the machine gun fired again, this time from a distance, and I felt a hard slap to my right leg and knew immediately what it was. I moved the guard off Sarah and cradled her in my arms.
     There was blood everywhere, but she looked at me and smiled.
     “Thank God,” I said. “I thought…” I couldn’t say what I had thought.
     Her lips quivered, and I saw blood come out of her mouth. I pulled her closer, unable to look at her pain. When she spoke I could barely hear her.
     “At least you’re okay.” She smiled.
     “You’ll be okay, too.” I looked around for EMS. People were coming out of hiding places. I looked at one group of spectators and yelled, “We need help over here. Get EMS here now.”
     Sarah whispered again.
     I moved my ear to her mouth. “What?”
     “I’m not going to make it.”
     I leaned back to see her. “Don’t say that. Just tell me what to do. Do you need a tourniquet? What can I do? Teach me. I can do it.”
     She pulled me closer so I could hear her weakened voice. “This is God’s will. I’ll see you again when it’s your time. Until then, be happy. Find someone to love you as much as I do.”
     “No!” I screamed. I looked around. “Help us, please.” I relaxed my grip to look into her face once more. She was always beautiful, but I saw something beyond beauty.
     She smiled at me even though I knew she must be in extreme pain. “Thank you for loving me,” she said.
     I was the one who should be thanking her for loving me. I couldn’t think about that right now. There was too much blood. I had to help her. “Tell me how to fix this.”
     She coughed and cleared her throat. “Your love has fulfilled me.”
     “No, please,” I said, “don’t talk like that. You’re in shock. That’s all. We’ll get help soon.”
     “Chris,” Sarah said. “You have to let me go. I love…”
     She sank into my arms as her life left her body.
     “No! Please, God, no.”

Excerpt B

     Charlisse reached for a handkerchief to dry her tears and glanced at her father. Edward peered at her through half-open lids. “Naw, don’t be crying now, girl,” he said with difficulty. “I’m not worth your tears.”
     Charlisse dipped a cloth into a basin of water and wiped the blood from his lips. “You are still my father.”
     Edward tried to laugh but managed only a cough of blood. “And a fine father I’ve been to you, to be sure,” he sputtered. 
     “It doesn’t matter now. I love you.”
     The pirate’s eyes opened wide. He looked at Charlisse with a mixture of shock and sorrow. “You love me?” he grunted. “After I abandoned you as a babe, kidnapped you…” He coughed up more blood and took a labored breath. “Then threw you in the hold with barely anything to eat?” 
     “Now, shhh….You protected me from Kent. You stood up for me.” Charlisse dabbed the damp cloth on his head. 
     “That was the only decent thing I done in my whole life.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “That, and marry your mother.”
     Charlisse smiled.
     Edward cringed. “You’re the spittin’ image of Helena.”
     “Did you love her?”
     Edward turned away, closing his eyes. “With all my heart.” There was a long silence. His breathing became labored. “If I could just make things up to you and your mom, I would.”
     Charlisse brushed the tears from her cheek, trying to remain strong.
     He gazed at her. “I would do things so differently—so very differently,” he gasped. “You have her sweetness, her forgiveness.” He tried to smile.
     Charlisse wiped the blood dripping from his mouth. 
     “I’ve made such a mess of things,” he whispered, “such a mess of my life.”
     A thought came to Charlisse, a gentle, silent urging. “Father,” she began, “are you truly sorry for the things you’ve done?”
     “I am now.” He coughed. “Things become clear, I suppose, when you’re close to death. Oh, what a wicked man I have been, my girl!” He took a desperate gasp for air.
     “It’s not too late for you,” she said with renewed hope. “All the horrid things you’ve done can be forgiven—and forgotten--just as if you’d never done them.”  
     Edward cocked an eyebrow at her. “Naw, not for the likes of me.”
     “The Son of God came to earth and paid the price for all of our wrongdoings. All we have to do is call on His name and repent. Will you, Father? Then you can have eternal life,” she said, excitement stirring within her, “and see Mother again too!”
     Was it possible that after her father had spent years wallowing in the thick darkness of evil, his eyes could finally be opened to the truth? Was it too late, or could she penetrate the enemy’s strongholds in his mind and shine God’s love through the shroud of wickedness? Then his death wouldn’t be a good-bye. She would see him again in a far better place. Oh, Lord, please open his heart.
     Edward looked at Charlisse. A glimmer of hope sparkled in his clouded eyes. “It’s too late for me, girl. I’ve been far too evil.” He struggled with each breath. His grasp on Charlisse’s hand weakened.
     Charlisse watched as Edward’s chest heaved. His blue eyes began to lose their glimmer. With one last minute of clarity, he looked at her and said, “I love you, my sweet Charlisse.”
     She squeezed his hand—a hand that was growing cold. The inescapable pull of eternity tugged on Edward’s soul. Tears streamed down Charlisse’s face as she watched the life slowly fade from his gaze. Finally, his grip on her hand loosened. He turned and looked straight into the room, past her. His gaze remained there for a few brief seconds, and a trace of a smile appeared on his pale lips. He opened his mouth and softly uttered the words, “I see Him,” he gasped. “Jesus, I repent.” Then, with a groan and a sigh, he released his last breath, leaving this world.

Time for the tough decision. Please vote below.

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Item Reviewed: Best Death Scenes Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Massaro