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The Communication

4 months ago
Commended by mizal on 3/10/2020 1:02:09 PM

This is the forum for short stories, right?  I figured I'd post this here, because on this site people are less likely to sugarcoat their opinions.  The title was picked by a friend, and I used it as a prompt.

 

The flashlight beam swept across the trees, bathing the branches in its yellow light. Kurt could see his breath, a wisp of mist mingling with the shadows of the night. Lilly stood beside him, shivering.. 

“You cold?” Kurt asked, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, “I think we’re getting close.”

“Let’s go home,” Lilly leaned into him, “We can come back in the morning, when it’s warm.”

“It might be gone by then.”

“Are you sure you even saw anything? It could’ve been someone’s headlights, or-”

A twig snapped a few feet away and they tensed. Kurt swung his flashlight towards the noise to see a man some seven feet tall, wearing a tuxedo and checking a pocket watch. He jumped when the light hit him, stumbling a little before regaining his composure.

“Erm… hi” He said, adjusting his bow tie, “You two seem a little underdressed for such an occasion.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Kurt took a step forward.

The man’s eyes grew wide, “Oh, you’re not… who I thought you were. I’ll just be going now.” He slipped behind a nearby tree. 

“Hey!” Kurt said, “What are you, some kind of government agent? A foreign spy?” 

The man didn’t reappear.

Lilly grabbed his hand. “Let it go Kurt, it’s none of our business.” 

“He knows something,” Kurt pulled away and ran to the tree, “and I’m gonna…” he trailed off. The man was nowhere to be found.

“Please,” Lilly pleaded, “I don’t-”

A strange noise filled the air; a thunderclap giving way to a howl. Green light shot into the sky about half-mile away, like a pillar of flame from the heavens themselves.

“There it is again!” cried Kurt, starting towards it. 

 Lilly stood there for a moment, mouth agape. Then, against all better judgment, she followed.

As they walked, the sound of music reached their ears. It was of a strange breed, played on instruments unlike any they’d heard before. The notes brought to mind the oddest sensations, sending jolts of electricity down the spine, and filling the nose with a sweet and spicy mix of smells. The night seemed brighter the louder it got; the trees themselves seemed to dance. 

A warmth filled the pair as they drew closer, dissolving whatever tension their bodies still held. With every note, their fear grew fainter, washed away by with a wave pure, senseless joy.

The green glow had almost faded now, but could still just be seen over the next hill. Giggling, Lilly dashed towards the light, Kurt trailing after. The moment they reached the top, they froze, stunned by what they saw. The little valley below was packed with the most outlandish of people dancing around a shimmering green pool, the full moon’s face shining on its surface. Few among them looked remotely human; some had fur, others scales, even antlers, wings and tales. 

Kurt and Lilly half ran, half stumbled down the hill. The music filled their minds, echoing through every bone, every cell, drawing them into the dance. All the world filled with color as they joined with the crowd. Gravity lost its hold; the music’s grip was stronger. They leapt through the air, twirling and spinning as the earth came undone. Clumps of dirt and stone rained from the sky, gleaming like emeralds. The stars shimmered all around, above and below, before and behind, close enough to touch. The trees wavered, rippled, growing tall and thin, short and wide, bending to the beat. There was no more sky, no more ground, just the green pool in the center of it all, growing brighter and brighter until it was all that could be seen, all that could be felt. It enveloped Kurt and Lilly, piercing them to their very hearts so that every thought dissolved in its brilliance. Then, even the light was no more.


 

The man checked his pocket watch, grimacing. There was still a lot of cleaning up to do. The sun shone high in the sky, too bright to bear for having foregone sleep the night before. 

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth it.” He muttered, “So much to put in order when things go wrong, you’d think they'd have found a way around it by now.” He glanced at the lump at his feet, covered by a blanket. “Such an important event, so poorly executed… what [i]were[/i] they thinking”

He sighed and knelt, pulling the back the sheet and staring at what lay underneath. The lifeless eyes of Kurt and Lilly gazed back. 

“So unfortunate,” he murmured, “So very unfortunate indeed…”

The Communication

4 months ago
There were a few issues with punctuation, mostly surrounding the dialogue, but the writing itself was otherwise pretty quality.

Gotta say I'm not entirely feeling the plot though. It opened up making me think it was a UFO visitation and then switched to some kind of Fae orgy, which could have been a clever misdirect. But there's these characters that aren't terribly interesting on their own and there's this Men in Black guy just kind of there, who doesn't really do anything either.

I could be misreading something I suppose but that just underlines my point, whatever the core idea was here was kind of muddled in the presentation.

Still I think it's an interesting set up, but there's definitely room for some fine tuning to improve it.

The Communication

4 months ago

I guess the style of writing I was trying might have been better for a longer work where I get to reveal bits and pieces slowly, then unveil the true nature of things at the end.  Thanks for the feedback, it was very much appreciated!

The Communication

3 months ago
You're probably right there. Short stories are actually really difficult to do because they rely on having some kind of 'aha!' moment or twist that everything has to build up to to have a strong impact. A longer work has more breathing space and obviously more time to work up to things and develop characters and other concepts.

The Communication

3 months ago

I thought it was really good! Something to work on, as Mizal hinted at, is the dialogue punctuation. What I noticed a lot is this format:

"Dialog," speech tag, "Dialogue."

That is technically incorrect. It should look like this:

"Dialogue," speech tag. "Dialogue." 

Just a swap from a comma to a period! Also, the dialogue tag always gets attached to the first quote with a comma (unless you are having the character exclaim or question), then is dropped for any others unless it is needed. I saw one where you attached the speech tag to the second quotation, leaving me to question who spoke the first time!

I thought some of your descriptions were a bit vague. Things like "a sweet and spicy mix of smells" doesn't do much. Perhaps a metaphor would help here? "Sweet and spicy mix of smells, like curry mixed with honey." Or "like the best sweet and sour chicken in the world." Other descriptions were lack luster as well, such as, "a strange breed, played in instruments unlike any they has heard before." Okay, so what it upbeat? Was it a minor key? High pitched? I can't relate to that. What is funny is that your other descriptions, like of the woods, are great!

The whole thing was a bit too vague, actually. It left me with questions, but not in the good way. I was thinking "there has to be more, that isn't a complete story! I know nothing about what happened!" For example, why are they there? What did they see? What was the event? Did everyone else die too? Etc. Mystery is good, but this just felt more like stuff was left out. Even characters were vague. Sort of like a grab bag of generic fantasy things.