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Flashfiction #37: Fear

Discussion in 'Reader's Corner' started by afgpride, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. afgpride Retired Staff

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    Theme submitted by: Stringer

    Rules:


    1. Your work must be within constraints of the theme.
    2. Of course, all themes can be interpreted in any number of ways.
    3. 500 words maximum per entry, or else the entry will be disqualified.
    4. Only post one entry per theme. The highest rated entry will choose the next theme.
    5. You may not rate/review your own work.
    6. Add a rating out of ten at the end of your "review".
    7. Be constructive/honest when criticizing a piece. No mindless flaming.
    8. You do not have to enter a flashfic to rate.
    9. If you enter and do not rate & review the other entries, your flashfic is disqualified from points.


    Dates:
    Starts Jul 9, Wednesday, ends Jul 21, Saturday. Reviews from Jul 22 to Jul 24, Tuesday.
     
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  2. shit shit is the ne plus ultra

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    It wouldn’t be an overstatement that I owe everything in my life to my master. He plucked me from obscurity and passed down an ambition higher than any in existence, and together we delved into the very fabric of life.

    It should be plainly evident then why I had to end him. These secrets unlock the greatest powers ever contrived. Only one entity could control such power, for any greater number would surely war with each other, and a war on such a scale would rip apart society and possibly even reality itself. The world is in that way an unwitting benefactor of my ambition.

    Once I set upon my course I had to be conniving in everything I did, for my master’s mind was beyond brilliance. Thus I plotted and played the act, consuming myself in the role, every word, gesture, and breath self-scrutinized and planned. The terror of being found out, of losing this grand prize by a misstep, kept me on edge every moment of everyday, and I began to embrace the feeling of dancing on the edge of a cliff. I could feel my sanity slipping away from my grasp, but I had no time to mourn the loss.

    When the day came that I plunged my knife into his chest, I was actually laughing like a madman, my face pulled taut while I screamed my endlessly rehearsed ravings. My master meanwhile looked remorsefully at his research subject, a braindead orphan boy whose body was recently made immortal.

    I asked my master if he felt guilt now, if he worried for the state of the world he had damned in his mad quest for knowledge. He looked at me with an expression I’ve seen in fevered dreams a million times since, his bloodshot eyes indifferent as if he was addressing a slow student in his final words.

    “You don’t have the ability,” he said. Then with his eyes drifting back to the boy’s body, now sad and tired, he lamented, “My research will never be complete.”

    I threw his body down in disgust. The fact it was the last insult I would hear from his lips was poor satisfaction, and I set to completing his research. I was a half step away, the secret of immortality stretched out on a slab before me, my late master’s notes all there for the plundering like a lavish dinner spread on the table and waiting just to be eaten. I remember the giddiness I felt at the upcoming task, the anticipation of being the one to finish the research. There would be my response to those words.

    And now here I am, fifty years later, on my deathbed, my body withered and ancient, looking at the same stone slab with the boy’s body still there as if in a bubble outside of time. Those words run through my brain like poison. I don’t have the ability.

    And now I wait for death to claim me, everyday in constant terror.
     
  3. Stringer ∟ v a l i a n t

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    Jean Claude was on his way home after a night out with his extended family whom he hadn’t seen in ages. It’s the happiest he had felt since his kids moved out of the house. He was a rugged man who had spent most of his adulthood trying to provide his four kids a better opportunity at life. But with them gone, his purpose now felt as empty as his ghost-quiet house.

    — ‘’Maybe I should go enjoy fireworks tonight…’’ - Jean briefly reflected, dreading the inescapable moment he’d open the lock to his door and get back to his mundane daily routines.​

    — ‘’Whatever, keep driving’’ – he said quietly, finally resigning himself.​

    That's a decision he'd soon regret. In 7 minutes and 20 seconds, Jean-Claude will die.

    A gentle autumn breeze greeted half of his wrinkled face as he came out of his Mazda Bongo, this was accompanied with the painful realization that while he's certainly been alive, he's never lived. So many years were wasted on giving weight to the world's opinions on what a man with lowly upbringings such as himself could accomplish that he actually believed them. But screw it, it wasn't too late, he thought. Taken by this sudden sense of urgency, Jean Claude rushes to his home to plan the next stage of his life. At that very moment his breathing became heavier and drudgery, but overtaken with excitement he attempts to ignore it — 4 minutes and 12 seconds left to live.

    Once inside, he promptly throws his jacket to the floor and hastens to the kitchen table. Jean barely started writing when a numbing sensation overtook his left arm, his breathing deteriorated. It felt like a Xenomorph was about to burst out of his chest. That's when it dawned on him, he was having a heart attack.

    Claude immediately phones emergency services but finds himself unable to speak. Both his panic-induced breathing and the air-starved cells his heart muscles are composed of devour every gulp of air he takes, further making it hard for him to articulate words with his drooping face. ''I don't want to die here, not like this, not now'' he continuously thought — 45 seconds left to live.

    He falls out of his chair as he tries to crawl to his neighbor for help, but his body is far too weak... in despair and in a last-ditch effort, Jean Claude lets out a soul-piercing screech that could be heard for miles. A scream that reeked of regrets and a powerful desire to live, if only for a second more.

    People nearby came out of their houses to find the source of that noise, but it was too late, Jean Claude was dead.



    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
  4. afgpride Retired Staff

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    The burning steps connecting Vorkin’s chamber to the roof of the castle were glistening with fresh coal, and the soles of his feet were already cooked to the nerve. He wondered if the pain would make him shit himself on the way to the garderobe below, or if one of the slaves tending each step would crack a laugh over it. The thought troubled him, but not for his sake; his father would flay the pour soul alive.

    “Your eminence”, they acknowledged in unison, bowing at his descent. His lanky figure was half the width of his chamber, which was so cramped it forced him to sleep standing, and his limbs outstretched the tattered robes he wore at the beginning of his hatching. The robes were unwashed, used by and reserved for the hatching prince for some thousand years, and Vorkin hated when the stench came alive from heat. His feet cursed him with a thousand daggers worth of pain, coals hissing at the touch, and it took every drop of his royal pride not to jump straight down to cold stone. He kept his pace at a normal, brisk decent down the steps, as if the pulsing shocks of agony weren’t there, and was pissing down his leg by the end of it. Thankfully, none of the slaves were amused.

    A clean hole for shitting and two buckets of icewater greeted him mercifully at the garderobe. His bowels moved instantly as he submerged his feet in them. Dusk was settling, but the gardens below kept their beauty in the dark.

    When he was done, a slave was waiting with drinking water and council.

    “Today’s dinner is wolf, your eminence”, he announced with pity, making his way to the meal cage on the opposite side of the roof. He unlocked it and then made his way to safety.

    Vorkin limped to his wooden spear and held it out in front of him, ready for a charge. The spear felt heavier than usual on his weak arms, but the weight gave him confidence at the tip. He waited for what felt like minutes, his heart beating wildly with manic bloodlust. The beast didn’t show.

    He limped toward the cage, keeping his spear pointed firm. It didn’t seem to smell him; it might’ve been sleeping. Perhaps he could kill it while it was inside, he wondered. He took a committed lunge at the pitch dark and heard a dog-like yelp before a wolf-like growl. The end of the spear was red as he wound up for additional blows. By the third one the cage flew out, colliding with his shoulder and temple, nearly knocking him out. The beast went straight at his neck, settling for his forearm during the scramble. Its teeth dug into bone. Vorkin recovered his spear with his opposite hand and tried to impale its back, but the force wasn’t strong enough, and the wolf shook it off. A slave shot an arrow at its head.

    His hatching failed.
     
  5. afgpride Retired Staff

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    @shit

    A lot of the prose you wrote can only really be understood by reading the entire story first. This isn't automatically bad, since it can have a rhetorical purpose, but in this case it's the result of imprecise/odd word choices that don't invoke the proper idea to keep the reader following. For example, "delved into the very fabric of life" is a very ambiguous phrase; it could mean philosophising, going through one's day, or - as was surely your intention - researching mortality. Maybe you were being deliberately ambiguous to keep interest and tie it into your "owe my life to my master" line, which makes sense to mirror the word "life" instead of, say, "mortality", but in doing so you sacrifice flow and clarity. The prose in general here seems to struggle between being purple and simply being formal, and I wasn't quite sold on the register, but this is all the more reason to devote entries to it and get some practice. The fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs were the shining part of your piece, the writing there was well done. As for the narrative as a whole, I thought the cliche undertones didn't pair well with the register; it came off rather bland, where you could have been more specific and had fun with the concept of immortality and turned a cliche into your unique idea. Didn't quit hit a home run for me but I think you did good to step out of your comfort zone on this one, and you probably rushed it as well.

    4/10

    @Stringer

    I really like the time gimmick you used to bring together the narrative. It works really well and is a good example of this type of stuff. Your theme (old age, regret) is a very common one, but you laid down the logistics better than I often see. For example, a lot of beginner writers (I'm a beginner myself, not saying this from a high horse but just observation) would write the "sudden realization" as something spontaneous to the main character, and it makes the narrative come off more contrived than natural. But in your piece, the realization came during a car ride home from a family gathering, which is a logical trigger point to getting a person in the position of the main character to start reflecting on their life, and ultimately getting motivation to "plan the next stage". Getting this right, which you did, allows the irony of the death to hit harder, and the overall "life is short" message to be more believable. Your prose suffered greatly from mixed tenses (would do you well to decide on the perspective of your story before you write it, because jumping between past and present can get distracting/confusing for the reader) but aside from that, it was very clean and honest which I liked. The story didn't blow me away by any means, and while clean, the prose came off fairly bland, which is why it gets a 5 from me. I really like how mindful of aesthetics you are with the formatting btw, I'm usually too lazy to format my pieces like that but it definitely improves the work.

    5/10
     
  6. shit shit is the ne plus ultra

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    @Stringer I like the countdown a lot; it's a very original idea, and it's compelling enough to center your story around. The biggest paragraph where Jean goes through his midlife crisis feels rushed and a bit jumbled. I think this would've read clearer if you cut it up a bit as there are a few points you're trying to get across in one paragraph. I like how you put the reader through the process of having a heart attack, and it reads pretty scary. The ending scream was way over the top in my opinion, especially since he couldn't catch his breath enough to speak at all a moment before. Not to mention an ending scream like that makes me think of something a cheesy horror flick would do, when your piece seemed to take itself much more seriously up til then.

    @afgpride You seemed to have fun talking about shitting and pissing. I know it was to emphasize the severity of the situation, but it came off really ridiculous, though that as well might've been your intent. I like the way the encounter with the wolf went, though I was confused when it seemed like the wolf threw its cage at the MC. There might've been some wrong words going on there, like you meant beast instead of cage, or maybe I'm misunderstanding something I shouldn't. Also the burning coal stuff seems like a separate piece from the wolf part, and I think the story would've felt a lot weightier if maybe a younger MC was just being made to kill a wolf in a cage, without all the talk of shitting. You had lots of good vivid language going on throughout.

    string 5
    afg 6
     
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  7. Stringer ∟ v a l i a n t

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    @shit — I liked the angle you chose to have the student in your tale experience fear. Both characters' motives felt nebulous at first but everything started to click towards the middle. I think the words exchanged between the master and his student are a key and critical moment in your story, I thought the delivery for that dialogue hurt the overall narrative a bit. I honestly feel like you'd have something super cool here if there was a bit of tweaking done because I like your ideas.

    4.5/10

    @afgpride — You seem to have an aptitude to make the surroundings in your stories feel alive, that's something I enjoy a lot. I was walking alongside the MC and had a vivid picture of the setting you created in my mind. The only hiccup for me is that the character's fear wasn't as tangible in the story as the environment you created. That being said your use of wording is top notch dude.

    6/10
     
  8. afgpride Retired Staff

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    afgpride - 6
    Stringer - 5
    shit - 4.25

    As usual, I'll be exempting myself from points as I don't need them. Points will be updated in the Prize Nook as follows:

    Stringer: 6 pts
    shit: 4 pts

    Congratulations to @Stringer , he gets to choose the next theme.
     
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