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Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Little late, apologies. Good work to all participants for getting their story in on time though, that was unexpected. A couple of them were sent in quite early, I hope that won't be a matter for regret. And somehow I really figured Bondo would flake. Anyway, not identifying even whose set of stories this is, we shall retain as much anonymity as possible so you can't even take a 50% guess.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Story 1: “Home sweet home.” With a heavy sigh, Sean pulled himself out of his sky-blue car. In front of him stood his new log cabin. Since it was so far out in the woods, this was only the second time he had seen the building. With a light little shake of his head, he headed towards his new home. Sean had wanted to get away for a while to work on his book in peace, but he was starting to think that he had gone too far. “Eh, too late for regrets.” Sean had spent a few days settling in to his new environment. As isolated as his new home was, Sean was thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet. It was rather quaint to be awoken by the chirping of birds every morning. With a content sigh Sean sat at his old oaken desk. It was a masterfully crafted desk that served as the closest thing to a luxury item he currently owned. ‘Caw’ Sean was brought out of his inattentiveness as an almost supernaturally loud bird let its’ presence be known. “What the hell was that?” Sean stood and tried moving around his desk. ‘Caw’ Suddenly there was a pulse of pain as Seans’ vision briefly flashed white. Sean fell to his knees clutching his head. After his vision cleared, Sean ever so slowly lifted his head. Turning towards the window where he guessed the sound came from, he saw something rather odd. Sitting on the ledge of his window was a large crow. With a gleam of intelligence, the bird made eye contact with Sean. Once more it opened its beak. ‘Death' The last thing Sean saw before the darkness over took him was the bird shaking its’ head in apparent sadness. “Ugh, no more booze.” Sean pulled himself to his feet. He must have gone way too hard; he didn’t even remember drinking. Racking his brain, Sean tried to figure out any other reason as to why he slept on the floor the night before. Any further musings were cut off as the sudden sound of someone knocking rang out through the house. Puzzled as to who his visitor could be, Sean made his way towards his door. Taking a deep breath, he smiled lightly before opening the door. There stood a middle-aged woman holding an apple pie. Freshly baked if the smell was anything to go by. “Hey neighbor, thought I'd swing by and welcome you to our neck of the woods. So, what’s your name sonny?” Sean was not certain how she had known he had just moved in. His closest neighbor was something like twenty miles away. Brushing that aside Sean replied in as warm of a tone as he could muster. “Thanks, my name is Sean O’Neil. No middle name, guess mother was too hung over to think of one.” As soon as those words left his mouth Sean felt a strange stirring deep in his heart. It felt almost like there had been some sudden, massive shift in his world. Chalking these feelings up to his lingering hang over, Sean continued to talk. “Ah forgive me, I was rambling. Well, come on in and let’s cut into that pie. By the way what’s your name?” The woman nodded and with the ghost of a smile replied to the question. “Oh, everyone just calls me Faye.” As the woman stepped across the threshold into his house, Sean could’ve sworn he had heard a crow caw in the distance. Looking to distract himself from his growing sense of unease he asked a simple question. “So, would you like some coffee? If so any milk or sugar or anything?” The smile on the woman grew ever so slightly. “A touch of milk if you would be so kind.” With a quick nod, Sean hurried over to his kitchen to put the coffee on. While he was in the kitchen, he grabbed a knife and a couple of plates and forks. Returning in short order to the table, Seat sat everything down on the table. “So, I was thinking we could go ahead and start digging into that pie while we wait for the coffee.” Seeing the woman nod in apparent agreement, Sean cut a couple of slices out of the pie. Giving the first to his guest he sat down with the second plate. Eagerly he bit into the pie. Sean was greeted with warm, tangy juices leaking into his mouth. “Hmm, this is pretty good. Not to offend, but maybe since you used red apples, it came out a touch chewy.” Faye chuckled lightly. Sean did notice however that she wasn’t actually eating her pie. Suddenly his coffee maker beeped drawing his attention away. Quickly taking another bite of the pie, Sean stood to get the coffee. As he stood there pouring the coffee, he had a sudden thought. ‘Man, after taking another bite that pie is a bit salty.’ Sean gave a light shrug; he was no baker himself. Carefully, Sean made his way back to the table. He set the cups down before speaking. “Give me a moment, I forgot to grab something to stir with.” Faye gave a dismissive wave. “Don’t worry about it.” She then pulled a small, curved object out of the pie. For some reason it reminded Sean of the biology class he took so long ago. Faye began to stir her coffee while she spoke up once more. “Don’t worry about it, Sean.” Instantly he felt himself relax. It obviously was just some backwoods thing he hadn’t adopted yet. Sitting at the table once more, Sean spoke up. “So, how do you like life out here.” Faye seemed to be having an internal debate, but after a moment she seemed to make her mind up. “It’s good, was a lot better before your eyesore of a car was around though.” Sean started to reply to the dig but he was cut off before he could really start. “Sean, shut up. Good now look at the pie. I command you to see through the glamour. Confused Sean did as he was told. There, sitting on slab of wood was a decaying raccoon. Remembering a salty tangy taste, Sean immediately began to heave. Some voice in the back of his mind realized the poor bugger was missing a rib. Sean went to throw himself away from Faye, but got caught up on his chair. Sean landed ungracefully face down, still dry heaving. Faye let out a small chuckle. “Oh, it gets better.” Standing Faye now loomed over Sean. “You see, I hold your life in the palm of my hand. For example, Sean please halt breathing.” The moment he understood those words, Sean felt his throat close. His body was torn between trying to dry heave and gasp for air, causing his body to be wracked by spasms. Faye let out what could be best describe as a cackle before she began speaking. “You see, you already made three fatal mistakes. The biggest was giving your name. The other major one is you invited me into your home under your own power. The third was thinking sky-blue was a better color than emerald green.” It was at this point that Faye noticed her audience was dangerously blue in the face. With a put-upon sigh, Faye released Sean from his torture. “Ugh fine, Sean you may breathe again.” With a gasp Sean drew breath once more. Fearful Sean asked a question that had been tugging at the back of his mind. “Are you going to kill me?” There was a pause that lasted an uncomfortable amount of time. Finally, Faye answered his inquiry. “You know what? Since you offered me some milk for my coffee, I’ll give you a chance. It’s simple Sean. Hide from me in the forest for the next three hours and you’ll win. I’ll even give you a thirty second head start before I start chasing you. Be careful though, if I catch you, I win. Trust me, you don’t want that.” For the briefest of moments Sean could've sworn that Faye was replaced with a bat winged monstrosity. This moment was broken as Faye spoke a single word. “Go.” Faye watched as Sean tore out the front of his house. With a casual wave of her hand, two shadowy forms in the shape of hounds appeared. In a bored tone she gave a simple command. “Fetch.” As Sean was tearing through the underbrush rushing away from that monster, the sound of twin howls reached his ears. With a gasp Sean began to put on more speed. Without warning he was slammed to the ground by one of the shadowy hounds. The other hound wasn’t too far behind, as a moment later he felt a pair of very real jaws snap shut on his lower leg. A scream of pain and rage ripped its’ way from Seans’ throat. Seemingly thinking it was a game, the first hound grabbed an arm. Pulling the arm in the opposite direction of the hound latched onto Seans' leg. The time dragged by, the only sounds being the soft growling of the hounds, and the pained crying of Sean. After what felt like an eternity, Faye stepped around a tree. Upon seeing her face something in Sean snapped and he raged at the inhuman terror before him. “You cheated you fucking bitch! What happened to my head start huh?!” Sean made sure to put all his anger and pain and fear into that little outburst. Faye responded in a seemingly bored tone of voice. The lackadaisical tone quenched the fires of Seans’ rage. “No, I didn’t actually. The thing I said was that I won't come after you for thirty seconds. I never once mentioned the same thing being true of my hounds. Loopholes can be a bitch sometimes.” Any further comment was cut off as Sean whispered what was probably going to be the last question of his life. “True, but I have to know why? Why me, we haven’t even met before. So why the hell are you doing this to me?” With a grin that was nothing short of predatory, the reply from Faye came fast and easy. “Well, because I could. Who’s going to stop me, you?” Sean suddenly let out a very unhinged giggle, as the remains of his sanity left him. “Oh, of course. That makes perfect sense! I get you Faye, I truly do.” With the same predatory smile plastered on her face, Faye slowly walked towards Sean. “Now, that I’ve won, I wonder what I should do with my prize.”

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Story 2: It takes four hours to get to the small graveyard. The walk is easy, but the road is long and has been taken back by nature. I cross my arms “When you said ‘digging for treasure’, I didn’t think you meant grave robbing.” “Is there a point to digging up graves? How can it be more lucrative than robbing houses?” James leans against a tree, looking unimpressed. “You don’t have to be such a pessimist. Do you need a hug?” Taylor smirks and throws herself at James. “I’m being realistic,” He tries to fight Taylor off with a grin on his face, “Hey, stop that!” “Alright, alright. That’s enough,” As stern as he might sound, Robert is amused. He lets them drag him into the mock fight. While Rob deals with them, I take the time to look around the clearing. A chapel sits near the edge of the forest. Glass glitters on the window sills as a cool breeze rustles the tree leaves. The evening sun casts long shadows, keeping me from seeing inside the building from where I’m standing. Moss covers the tombstones and they’re irregularly spaced. I scrape the moss off of one of them; the name and anything else that had been carved in the stone has been erased by time. Some of the older markers must’ve been made of wood and rotted over the years. An angel stands on a pedestal at the other end of the clearing, watching over the graveyard. I walk between the graves, trying to not step on them, to get a better look at the statue. Her wings are spread with her hands clasped in prayer, but her head isn’t bowed. A shiver crawls down my spine when I look at her face. She had a beautiful face, but she didn’t have eyes. It looks like they’ve been carved out, and looking into them makes me uncomfortable. “How do you think Robert found this place?” “Jesus!” My hand flies up to my chest and I whip around. I didn’t hear Taylor walk up behind me, “Don’t sneak up on me like that.” “Sorry.” She hands me a shovel. “Knowing him, he probably found it on some top ten haunted graveyards list.” Taylor gives me an amused smile, “I’m glad tourists aren’t a problem. Which grave are we starting with?” “That one,” I point to a grave close to the forest’s edge, and hopefully out of the angel’s line of sight. We dig together and make small talk. After three hours of digging, the sun has fully set, and the forest is dead quiet. There’s a full moon tonight, but it’s not high enough to cast light into the grave. We have to use a flashlight to see where we’re digging. Taylor and I started switching places. the hole is too cramped for two people to work. “You’re the one that wanted to do this shit!” I peek out of the grave. Taylor looks comfortable watching James and Robert flailing their arms at each other. “How long have they been doing that?” “They’ve been at it for a little bit.” James continues yelling at Robert, “Get off your lazy ass and help!” I glance at the angel, it seems like she’s watching them. “You know,” I say. Taylor turns her attention to me, but grimaces when Robert whines about being tired, “we’re almost finished with this one. So, go help James before he decides to beat Rob to death with his shovel.” “You sure? It’s almost time for us to switch places.” “Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll yell when I’m done.” Taylor makes her way over to our friends. Robert charges past after a few minutes. His fists are clenched and he’s panting like he’s running a marathon. “Rob!” He ignores me and goes into the forest. I shrug to myself. There are more important things at the moment than trying to calm him down. It doesn’t take much more digging before my shovel breaks through the coffin lid. I pick up my flashlight and point it at the spot in front of me. The boards are rotten, and I’m surprised the coffin hasn’t collapsed under my weight yet. I chop a hole in the coffin with the shovel and toss the chunks out. A dessicated skeleton lies within. The only things of value are a simple gold ring and locket. I snap the finger off, shake the ring onto my palm, and pocket it. The head is easy to pull off with only the paper thin membrane holding it on. The locket hangs on a fine chain; I try to be as gentle with it as possible. Surely these will be worth more than the gold they’re made of. “Hey, help me get out!” James pulls me halfway out. I crawl out the rest of the way. Taylor watches us with a weird look on her face. I take the jewelry out of my pocket and hold them up to show the other two with a grin on my face. James runs a hand down his face and asks, “Where is Robert?” Taylor watches me put the jewelry back in my pocket. I frown, “He hasn’t come back yet?” “It’s been about two hours since he left. I know you followed him, but when you came back, he wasn’t with you.” She stares at the forest and mumbles, “Just thought he needed some time to cool off…” “I didn’t follow him.” They ignore me. “The bastard probably ditched us.” Taylor chews on her thumbnail, she wants to say something. “Since Robert isn’t here to supervise us,” I try to keep my voice light and playful, “We could look around in the chapel. There might be something valuable in it.” “Better than digging up graves for scraps.” James makes his way to the chapel. I try to follow him, but Taylor grabs my shirt sleeve, “I don’t understand why he’s angry. The entire time we were digging, he wouldn’t shut up about how worthless Rob is.” Taylor glances at the chapel and lowers her voice, “If he hadn’t left, I think James would’ve killed him. Let’s go before he gets pissed at us too.” We walk to the chapel together. James’ flashlight can be seen through the windows. Taylor goes in first, and I pause before following her in. The statue is watching us. I rush into the chapel, and it feels like hiding. Moonlight filters through the holes in the roof and illuminates patches on the floor. I turn on my flashlight to get a better look at the room, the light from James’ isn’t enough to get a good look. Rotten books, chunks from the pews, and wood and shingles from the roof and ceiling cover the floor. Stained pews are either knocked over, broken in half, peppered with bullet holes, or a combination of the three. James has already kicked out a trail through the debris. Taylor’s trail is much smaller in comparison. She works as far away from James as possible. I make my own path to the center of the chapel and start tossing junk out of my way. Every time I find a piece of jewelry, I glance at the other two to make sure they aren’t watching me before I shove them in my pocket. James and Taylor give up on the search. He grumbles to himself while he throws the book-shaped lumps at the remaining window panes. Taylor wanders around the chapel, phone in the air, trying to get a signal. “I’m going outside, I can’t get a signal in here.” She storms out the door and slams it behind her. James flops onto a still intact pew. It groans, but it doesn’t collapse. “You should be careful around her, Amber.” “Why?” “The bitch is jealous of you. If you were paying attention, you’d realize it.” “What the hell is wrong with you lately?” He gets up, “You want to know what’s wrong with me? I’ve had to listen to Robert whine,” it doesn’t take long for him to get in my face, “and Taylor bitch about how you always get everything she wants, and now I have to put up with you!” “Fuck you, James!” I shove him away. The door almost falls off of its hinges when I throw it open and leave. It takes a moment to find Taylor, but she’s still wandering around, trying to get a signal. She’s not paying attention when I walk up behind her and ask, “Any luck?” She drops her phone and spins around, “Christ!” She glares at me while she tries to calm down, “I can’t get anything. The service was fine earlier, but now, it’s non-existent.” She picks the phone up and shows it to me. The text had been sent but hasn’t gone through. She puts the phone back in her pocket and crosses her arms, “Why are you out here anyway?” “James is an ass.” I look at the angel, but it isn’t there anymore, “What happened to the statue?” Taylor sighs and rolls her eyes, “What statue? I would’ve noticed it earlier if there was one.” “Sorry,” It doesn’t seem like she’s screwing around and I’m not interested in arguing, “Just trying to scare you.” “Of course you are.” “Maybe we should look for Robert so we can get out of here.” She doesn’t want to look for him with me, but she agrees. Taylor assumes I know where Robert went and follows me. We wander around, that’s the only thing I can call it, for what feels like hours. Taylor breaks the silence, “I hear someone crying.” She runs before I can grab her. “Wait!” I chase after her, “I didn’t hear anything!” She stops and I almost knock her over. Taylor stands there with her hand covering her mouth. Robert’s body lies on the ground in front of us. Something clawed a hole in his chest and tore the bones out. I crouch down next to him. His heart was ripped out. I roll his body over and pull out his wallet. There’s a few hundred dollar bills, but before I can put them in my own pocket, Taylor tackles me. “I deserve that more than you,” She tries to take it from me, “I’ve known him longer than you have!” “I’m doing what he wanted us to do!” I struggle to keep the money and prevent her from strangling me, “At least we don’t have to dig him up!” She succeeds in grabbing the cash when my phone gets a notification. I let her have the victory for now and check my phone. The text Taylor thought she sent to Robert pops up. “Look,” I shove my phone in her face, “you sent that text to me instead of Robert.” She reads it and clenches her jaw, “Robert sent that to you.” “He couldn’t have sent me this because he’s dead and he left his phone in the car.” “He told you he was in love with you,” Taylor rubs her eyes. “Taylor, Rob has never told me anything like that. Can we just get James and leave?” She starts crying, “I don’t want to leave Rob here, but yeah.” We should have been lost, but it doesn’t take us long to get to the clearing. Taylor is still upset and goes to wait near the road. “James,” I yell, “We’re leaving!” He doesn’t respond. I check the edges of the clearing and the grave Taylor and I dug with no results. The chapel is the last place I check, I don’t expect him to still be in there though. With the first sweep of my flashlight, it doesn’t seem like he’s here, but some of the garbage has been knocked back into the path James made. I walk up to the front of the room to find James lying on the floor. There are bruises around his throat and his chest is in the same shape as Robert’s. “Amber, I found James!” I stumble over the garbage on my way out. “Over here!” I run to Taylor, the smell of rotting meat knocks the breath out of me, and try to pull her away. “Taylor, we need to leave.” She yanks her arm away. The thing pretending to be James asks, “Why leave, when we can find shit like this?” He holds a gem encrusted pendant up. Taylor reaches out to take it, but I smack her hand away. “Do you really need that too?!” I grab her shoulders and try to shake some sense into her, “That isn’t James!” “Fuck you!” She shoves me on the ground and snatches the necklace from its hand. It grabs her arm with clawed hands. I get up and run to the road leading out of the graveyard. I ignore her screams and run until I can’t. While I’m catching my breath, I look around and nearly cry. I’m back at the graveyard. That thing isn’t here, so I can get my money back from Taylor. Her body is a broken and twisted mess. The money falls out of her shirt when I kick her over to dig through her pockets. With her chest shredded, I consider myself lucky and walk back to the road. I laugh until I feel a pressure crushing my head. My head turns to the side, against my will, and something pops.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Only votes posted in response to this post will be counted. Remember, we have POLICE for this now!

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
That's right! There will be strict consequences for wrongfully placed messages.

Anyhow, I'm voting for the second story.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Oof, I think that either story of the second bracket wins against these two honestly. Story 1 has the decency to give me pretty decent prose and a readable story. However, where is the horror? No tension, no nothing. It's the epitome of not scary. However, the story itself is pretty enjoyable and decently paced. But it's not really horror. 

Story 2 did more of the horror stuff, but the amount of names that are thrown in at random, makes my eyes glaze. It also is the weakest story in regards to prose out of all four submitted stories. The most grating moment was when they discovered Robert's corpse. Any normal person would have fucking be traumatized and scared as hell. What did these people do? Oh just search his pockets lolol. Where is the mourning, the terror, the horror of seeing your dead friend's body? 

Story 1 was also pretty light in the portraying regular emotion and human reactions, but at least the story was easy to follow, readable and didn't make me visibly roll my eyes.

If the prompt was to write any regular short story, I would have no trouble picking story 1 over story 2. You know, after heavy thinking, I'll still go with my gut instinct. 

Story 1 wins even if it's not a horror story. 

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

My vote goes to story #2. Less because I thought it was it was masterfully written or some other nonsense. No, Story #2 won in my eyes because Story #1 shot itself in the foot. 

I was actually kinda excited reading number 1, and it low-key had the potential to be the best one of the 4, but the old woman turning out to be a fantasy witch ruined it for me. Suddenly a potential horror story is transformed into a lame fairytail that has been done a thousand times over. Surprise, surprise! The old woman was a witch all along. Now, I think everything knew the old woman was evil, but it might have been a lot scarier if the pie was a real pie, but baked out of human. Even better if the old woman was actually an old woman, just a demented one. Part of the beauty of horror stories is the turning of mundane things into scary things. The author of story 1 was so close to doing this in some part with the pie AND the old woman, but ruined it by changing both into something else entirely. 

Story two wasn't super bland, but it was predictable, and kinda unrealistic with everyone being so dumb. What saves it is its few subtle words that create some suspense. Like when the others thought Amber ran after Rob, but she didn't. That created some aspect of horror there. There were a couple of other things that created more suspense, but there was also a lot that took away from the story. Too many names. Unrealistic decisions, and an unsatisfying ending to boot. 

All of the stories were at least enjoyable to read, so I am by no means trashing on these for the lulz. They were good, and the authors should all feel good that they submitted something on time that isn't complete trash. However, in competition, I believe it is always valuable to know why one story was placed beneath another. Hence the focus on what went wrong. 

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Story #1 gets my vote.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
I vote for the 2nd story mainly because it made more sense to me than the 1st

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

I'll go for 2 here, even though I was reaching for my red pen the entire time.  I guess I was doing that for story 1, too. 

I don't know.  I thought there were a few interesting bits of prose in there, and it had a pretty decent hook; the plot itself was decent as well, as opposed to story 1, which sort of ended squib-like.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Both of these felt profoundly clunky to read, which sucked any atmosphere they could've had drier than a salt lick sucks a week-old snail. The first person of #2 was sp strange-feeling, but I'm leaving that up to the fact that I have not, since The Night Land, read anything written in first person in earnest, and I cannot be an impartial or worthy judge. 2 has my vote simply because, out of the both of them, a vague attempt at doing something creepy was at least made.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Both stories had decent concepts, and mediocre execution.  I think both could be made considerably better than they currently are with a serious round of editing and proofreading; in both stories, clunky sentence structure and pacing kept me from really being immersed.  The clunkiness was the main issue for both entries.

Story #1 explains too much, whereas story #2 doesn't explain enough.  Story #1 would be stronger leaving more of the stranger's identity and methods up to the imagination.  What we do learn about her doesn't really make sense.  She wants to... trick Sean into eating raccoon meat and then hunt him for sport?  Uh, why?  Story #2, alternatively, has too many elements that don't seem to connect.  Is the disappearing angel statue at all related to the creature that kills them?  What triggered it, the grave robbing or the chapel robbing?  Is there some supernatural element affecting the character's emotions, or are they all just naturally idiots?

Kudos to both authors, however, for a reasonably tight premise and avoiding complexity addiction.  I really think these could both be made into strong stories with a sufficiently aggressive editing round.

I'm voting for #2, not for any profound reason, I just think it was slightly better in a variety of areas.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Story 2.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
I'll vote for Story 2 as it was more intriguing than the first, though I believe the two were fairly close to one another in quality.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Story 1, not just because one of the graverobbers in story 2 was named "Rob"

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

I'll be voting for story 2.  

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Voting for story 1 here.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Commended by mizal on 11/22/2021 11:49:18 PM

Once again, I took notes while reading each story, which spiraled into a text wall for some reason. Starting with my usual disclaimer, I’m not a professional writer by any means, nor am I a seasoned reviewer. Do conduct your own research and bear in mind that not everything I say may be correct. As for potential readers, beware of spoilers galore.

Story 1

  • It isn't really obvious who is talking at the start. Also, if Sean's cabin is 'new', does 'home sweet home' really apply?

  • The story starts with too much exposition for my liking, which isn't the most interesting way to hook the reader.

  • I'll suggest balancing the telling (e.g. Sean did this, the cabin was far in the woods, etc) with showing (An expanse of twisted branches, dark green leaves and shrubbery was all he could see for miles.) I mean, that's not the best example but I suppose you get the idea.

  • You probably intended to juxtapose the initial calmness against the eventual suspenseful scenes, but it comes off as a bit bland. If you decide to write something suspense-related in the future, here's a suggestion: make the quietness eerie, or the peacefulness somewhat unnatural. Draw attention to the haunting silence or the way tranquility lulls the main character into a false sense of security. Not only would that hook the reader a bit more, but it'll match the atmosphere of the story too.

  • I would prefer a bit more build-up to the crow thing but that's just a nitpick.

  • What's with the apostrophe after 'its'? I thought it was a typo at first, but after that was repeated, I'm not sure anymore.

  • Since the bird is speaking, you may need quotation marks.

  • I like the suspense that's built upon the strange feelings the main character goes through (and him dismissing them due to his hangover).

  • Ever since the first mention of an 'apple pie', I thought I knew what was going to happen. Then the pie is described as 'salty' (just like a certain profile denouncing apples) but it turns out this was foreshadowing something else instead. Oh well.

  • Aha, the name 'Faye' (fae) actually was meaningful! I thought it was weird how the main character started blurting out personal life details but I'll chalk it up to the fae's power.

  • This story has a simple premise which ties most things together, although it doesn't stand out and isn't the most memorable. This could be fixed by having characters that are more developed, and possibly giving the villain more of a motive too. Even if she's just torturing him for fun, show us how she cackles with glee or relishes in victory.

  • I suppose the loophole part was your attempt at making the villain smart? For some reason, I expected the crow to have more impact due to how many times it was mentioned; kind of like a Chekov's gun scenario. Maybe if the crows had done the chasing, there'll be more symmetry involved in the story, and the initial parts would also be considered as foreshadowing.

Overall, I couldn't really see the horror elements, but I'm not much of a horror reader anyway so I can't really judge by that metric. In terms of the story, there were some stronger instances of suspense near the middle. Proofreading and possibly rewrites could make this concept stronger; you have interesting plot points but some parts could be executed a bit better.

Story 2

  • Interesting start, which piques my interest since I'm wondering why the main character is heading to the graveyard in the first place.

  • There's a grammatical error in the first paragraph. Not the best thing to start with, yet since that's common in these duels, I'll let it slide.

  • The commas after dialogue is usually only there if it's followed by a dialogue tag. If you're breaking up dialogue with action, I think it's grammatically correct to use a full stop instead.

  • Not sure if introducing so many characters at the same time is a good idea, especially since it isn't easy to distinguish between them based on the one-line introductions.

  • The way you take the time to ground the reader in the setting is pretty good. It makes the story more immersive and I like how the graveyard is portrayed as equal parts beautiful and eerie.

  • Look up dialogue formatting tips—it'll be helpful. Proofreading would be useful too.

  • The recurring motif of the statue, coupled with the atmospheric late-night, graveyard setting, enhances the story and the suspenseful mood.

  • Introducing the previously-nameless main character in the middle was a bit jarring and broke the immersion for a second as I wondered who 'Amber' was, but that's a minor nitpick.

  • The conflict between the main group of friends adds an extra layer to the story (and I keep wondering which of them will be the villain). Even subtle details like the lack of harmony in the group and Taylor being unable to see the statue all add to the impact of this narrative.

  • While I anticipated the murders, I was confused when you suddenly mentioned 'the thing pretending to be James'. Where does this thing come from? Aren't there only two people in the room—half-dead James and Amber? Why is the main character so nonchalant about seeing her friends die? What on Earth is happening? 

  • Maybe you suffered from a lack of words or time towards the end.

  • Then I have even more questions: just like the previous story, you brought up a recurring motif, but why was its relevance to the story never stated? And what happened with the phone message? Who killed everyone? This story seems a bit incomplete in my opinion.

  • Not sure who the smart villain is, but I might have just missed it due to being tired.

In conclusion, the metrics by which I would judge these would probably be the following: the genre, readability (basically grammatical/ spelling errors), enjoyment, and adherence to the theme. Both stories had an almost equal amount of grammatical errors, especially in relation to dialogue. While the first story fits the 'smart villain' criteria better, I felt more invested in the second story despite the unsatisfactory ending. It had more 'horror' elements too.

Therefore, my vote goes to the second story (but only by a very slim margin).

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Crow was a banshee. Some myths they transform and their cries for tell death, she was just a messagenger.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Oh I see, so it was foreshadowing the danger that would arise! Thanks for letting me know.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Also, if Sean's cabin is 'new', does 'home sweet home' really apply?

I read that phrase as him being sarcastic, as in he actually didn't like his new home. He heavily sighed right after saying it, indicating that he wasn't really in a good mood, along with pulling himself out of his car, as if he did not want to enter the house. It also said that this was "only" the second time he had seen the building, as if he had buyer's remorse. He also shook his head later on and started having second thoughts about the purchase toward the end of the paragraph, all of which suggest that he did not really have warm affection toward his new abode.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

How could I have missed that? Thanks for telling me.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

I'll vote for story #2.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
The second one had better overall writing, but I was more entertained by the first one. The second one fell flat with its characters. It's a short story, yes, but none seemed fleshed out enough for me to care or keep track of them. So my vote goes to the more simple story that didn't feel as chore-like to get through: #1. Some of that may be because it was read first, but hey, tails nevers fails.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

This was really close vote for me. The second story had stronger strengths and worse flaws (more mature writer's voice, more descriptive, but the inadequate dialogue tags and how difficult it was to keep track of who was speaking annoyed me [there were multiple times when I thought one character was speaking, but then it turned out to have been another character]), while the first story had fewer strengths and more minor flaws (effectively creepy, but immature and simplistic writing style). The tiebreaker for me was that I thought that the idea for the first story was more enjoyable, with the deliciously cruel witch, so my vote is for Story #1 by the thinnest of margins.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Voting for story number 1.

Bracketed Dueling #1

11 days ago

Story 1 didn't at any point succeed in creating a "horror" atmosphere, and the author's use of apostrophes gave me several aneurysms.

Story 2 did succeed at creating a tense atmosphere suitable for the horror genre, but the start was too slow, and the middle and end was quite disjointed plot-wise.

My vote goes to Story 1.

Bracketed Dueling #1

11 days ago
I vote for story #1.

It's missing some things I think are important for a horror story, but neither of these really created a sense of dread or had a twist. I liked the ideas in #1 though. It's hard to explain but even though he writing may not have created the exact atmosphere it was going for, there's things in there that really work if you picture them like a movie. The crow in the window or this sudden reveal of the dead raccoon, or the chase by the shadow dogs...I just liked it.

Didn't find out much about the characters, but maybe this is just the opening of the movie that's really about Sean's niece and her boyfriend driving out to check on her reclusive writer uncle after he doesn't answer his phone for a week. The car is there abandoned, and there's a decaying raccoon covered in maggots on the table...

Bracketed Dueling #1

11 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 11/23/2021 4:52:06 PM
As I posted in the second thread: you both put writing out into the world for a site full of shits to potentially pull apart. That takes guts, so you both have some small semblance of respect from me: well done!
As with my previous post I’ll keep you in the dark about my final voting decision till I’ve evaluated each story.

The first text, much like one of the texts in the secondary post, has a lot of buildup to a bit of a boring climax. As Mystic_warrior rightly stated ‘it doesn’t stand out and isn’t the most memorable’. We (as an audience) know this is a horror story, so when we meet a creepy old lady we expect her to be a hag/snow-white-esque bad guy: when this is actually what happens, it isn’t as entertaining as it could be. Horror works by using suspenseful sections of script which builds up to subvert our expectations: this story just doesn’t do that. Therefore it isn’t scary: it’s just gory. A lot of horror does this these days, so it’s understandable that anyone writing in the genre for the first time might subconsciously steal from the cheap jumpscare-riddled stuff you see everywhere else. If you want to see suspense and subversion done right I’d suggest reading ‘House Of Leaves’, it’s got a ton of examples of horror done right that you could definitely learn from.
As for things done right, there’s actually a lot of stuff here that I liked. Obviously emerald green beats any other colour, so well done for getting your hue hierarchy correct.
Jokes aside: where there is gore it’s done well, it isn’t overly described which left it up to my imagination, making it far more terrifying than if I was told by the text. The crow symbolism (one for for sorrow) along with the name ‘Faye’ was really clever: good job.

The second story is a lot like a bunch of he goosebumps books I was obsessed with as a kid: big throwbacks right there. Then again, I don’t remember Stine having so much blood in his books.
Positively: the conflict between the main characters was interesting, but you should’ve used it more. I’d have liked to see an intrigue scenario where one of them turned out to be the killer all along. Personally I feel betrayal is better than simple supernatural entities.
There are a lot of names in this story and it’s difficult to get attached to any of the characters, hell I couldn’t remember who half of them even are. That’d be fine for a bigger book where there’s more time to develop them. But this is a short story. You don’t have enough words to get in more than a pair or so of people and even then you’re going to be hard pressed to make me care for any of them.
In addition to this whatever’s going on with the graveyard is weird: is it the corpses that are killing people? The statue? The weird black thing? The sentience of the souls stuck there? Who knows, not I, the plot simply progresses.
Others have pointed it out but you’ll want to go check out how dialogue is done, since your grammar in that area wasn’t the best.

Overall this was close but I have to give my vote to story two, simply because I felt it stuck to the theme better out of them both. Well done to you both for entering something and I look forward to reading your future works.

Bracketed Dueling #1

11 days ago

This one was a close call for me because while I thought that the writing was better in the first one, the second one was more fun to read. It does leave me wondering though, what was the killer? At first I thought it was James, then I thought it was the statue, and now I'm just confused. Even though I think I enjoyed the plot of the second one a bit better, I'm going to have to give it to story number one for better writing overall. 

Bracketed Dueling #1

10 days ago

Story 1

Bracketed Dueling #1

10 days ago

Número 2 

Bracketed Dueling #1

9 days ago
It's a tough choice for me.

I think the first one fitted the villain criteria better than the second story did, but for the horror criteria I think the second story fitted it better. The second story started off better for me, but the first ended better. While I wasn't keen on the first person narrative of the second I do think i enjoyed it a bit more.

So I'm voting number 2.

Bracketed Dueling #1

9 days ago

Oh, everyone just calls me Faye.” 

 

@TheChef we need to have some words with this individual

Bracketed Dueling #1

9 days ago

It wouldn't be such an issue if tman hadn't gone and lost.  Even I had to vote against him.  

Bracketed Dueling #1

9 days ago

Damn that tman, should've been able to pull it out of his ass smh.

Bracketed Dueling #1

9 days ago
If Faye had been a lion furry, this would have gone very differently.

...I don't know whether differently in a good way or a bad way, but some way for sure.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

I'm guessing contestants are not allowed to vote?

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
They cannot, for a couple of reasons.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Mostly just because she just now said so

Bracketed Dueling #1

11 days ago

Do you know when voting will end and the next round will begin?

Bracketed Dueling #1

11 days ago
I'll let the voting run through tomorrow, but the next round will be after Thanksgiving weekend since people may be busy then.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
Story 1, not just because one of the graverobbers in story 2 was named "Rob"

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago
This is the second time I have to say this.

Your vote is currently uncounted and invalid due to the improper positioning of the post. It was specifically specified that the vote shall be registered under Mizal's post, as of now, your vote counts as commentary.

If you wish to vote on the story, please reply to the post indicated as the voting location.

Bracketed Dueling #1

12 days ago

Current Votes (In case anyone is curious how close things are)

Story #1: 11

Story #2: 13

Winner for Duel #1

9 days ago
These duelists were Lux and Tmana, and Lux just barely squeaked out a win by two votes.

Thank you both for actually turning up with a story, we can't have these events without people willing to do that. And both sets of stories really stood out as being more readable and much more on theme than the usual fare with these duels (even thigh I have a special place in my heart for the works of Corgi and Fem...) so congrats to everyone.

And oh yeah as usual both contestants go ahead and reply to this post so I can hand out commendations.

Winner for Duel #1

9 days ago
Congrats to you both, these were a good read: can’t wait for the next bracket!

Winner for Duel #1

9 days ago
Commended by mizal on 11/25/2021 12:15:09 PM

Congrats to lux.

Winner for Duel #1

6 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 11/28/2021 10:58:49 PM
Sorry for the late reply; I hope I'm not too late for that commendation. Anyway, it was a pleasure to duel with T-man, and the feedback from others is much appreciated. :)

Winner for Duel #1

6 days ago

oh boy lux

you missed a bit while you were gone

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago
@tmanaking
@bondogggle

@Lux_Inferni
@Voldy

Are you guys all good with midnight tonight till midnight the 2nd?

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago
I'm fine with it.

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

Sure. Just to clarify it has to be in by 11:59 pm on the second?

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

I don't know if I'll be able to work on it completely during the school week. I think the 2nd to the 5th would work for me. However, if it's cool with everyone else, doing it during Christmas break would be ideal for me. But if y'all don't want to wait that long, I understand.

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

You could just drop out.

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

Great advice, thank you! :D

You are so smart and talented, tman.

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago
Yeah we're not waiting till Christmas break lol.

Everyone else in this is an adult with (presumably) school or a job as well and probably other responsibilities, you can't plead high school homework unless you're Asian.

I'd make it 2nd to 5th if Tmana agreed, but now that you've revealed your weakness we know he won't even if it benefits him too.

I do plan on going with a much easier prompt this time if that helps.

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

That sounds good! Sorry for the rescheduling, I'm almost failing some of my classes and I need to bring them up by the semester. I'm excited to see the prompt!

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

Sounds like a you problem. I'm not agreeing to rescheduling.

Bracketed Dueling #1

5 days ago

Grades are temporary, CYS points are eternal.