You all entered the Agreena. Some of you successfully, some with a stumble and a faceplant.
But even the worst of you did far better than:
Who failed to enter when called and is thus SHAMED, the first casualty of my colosseum.
Winners and special mentions:
Let’s get what everyone really wants to know out of the way first. Who won? There were a fair few decent stories for the opening of the Agreena, but the following three were my favourites:
-Unnamed by @Gryphon
-Unnamed by @WizzyCat
-‘The magnificent donut’ by elad771
Special mention also goes to:
@mizal for the best story entered on the final day
@TrueParanormal for the most cohesive entry in the first week
@Winterfern14 for the most quotable story, (the best quote being “Honestly, why did you pick that ugly green?”)
@DireRyse for the best incorporation of yellow clothing
As promised I’ll be reviewing every single one of the stories, one per day, in the order that they were submitted. Helpfully the order you were tagged above is that order.
If you are looking for something to do while you wait for your story to be reviewed, may I suggest entering Corgi’s contest (https://chooseyourstory.com/forums/news-and-updates/message/28855).
@trueparanormal 's entry
Long gray streams reached across the sky and hid the moon behind a veil of vapor and darkness. The FV Malum bobbed across oddly translucent waves as the sea became harsher with each passing moment, yet the entire crew moved with purpose. They refused to be slowed by such disturbances. Hairs on the backs of their necks rose and their breath left in puffs of condensation. The captain, Dave Afton, dressed in a bright yellow slicker, barked out orders over wind that was building in its intensity.
Four figures in black wetsuits clung to the port side railing and gazed down into the backlit depths of the Pacific Ocean. A bright blue hue colored their faces and illuminated what would otherwise be a dreary scene with a mesmerizing sensation. Marcus Jones, the first mate, took a deep breath as he pushed himself away from the water and stumbled across the rolling deck towards Captain Afton, his jaw clenched and brow furrowed.
“You sure about this, Dave? The storm’s already starting to look really grim. I know you’re curious, but it’s not safe to dive,” Marcus grabbed onto Dave’s shoulder and turned him around, the lemon-shaded hood fell off the captain’s head, “Is this worth it? We don’t even know what this anomaly is.”
“We don’t have a choice, Jones. Besides, you’ve been with me for seven goddamn years. Don’t start ta question me now. This could be my only chance ta discover something extraordinary,” Afton yanked his hood back on top of his head and leaned in closer to Marcus before he resumed speaking at a normal volume, “And if we wait for this here storm ta pass there’s more than a possibility that light ain’t gonna to be there. Now get those damn rebreathers on and start yer fuckin’ swim before I simply push the lot of ya in and watch ya sink without ‘em.”
“Fine,” Marcus threw up his hands like he was surrendering, “But if we don’t come back, that’s on you.” Turning away from the captain, Jones returned to the other three men and sighed. “You lot aren’t ready for this, I’ll be honest. We’ve only dived a few times in the past couple days and none of you went more than a few feet below the surface. In any other circumstance, I’d have taken you all back home by now… but our wonderful Captain Afton has insisted on continuing to pursue this course of action and risking all our lives.”
“We’ll do our best not to screw this up, sir,” A young man with dark brown eyes and a serious demeanor looked directly at Jones and stood rigid. Next to him was a scrawny looking boy who never talked and a tall, muscular black man from the Caribbean who only spoke French.
“What’s your name?” Marcus walked up to the first volunteer and studied him for a moment. Jones knew that underneath the bright yellow bandana that this volunteer had wrapped around his head there was likely to be little hair.
“How long have you been diving, Asher?”
“Since I was a teenager, sir.”
“Then you’re with scrawny over there. Keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.” Marcus turned to the bulky man and motioned him over, hoisting one of the rebreathers up, and thrust it into his arms, “And you’re with me big guy.”
“Ne pas regarde moi come si, tu me rends nerveuse,” He responded before he effortlessly swung the amber device behind him, wearing it like a backpack.
Soon, the three volunteers and Marcus sat on the edge of the fishing vessel, their backs to the water. In the distance they could see the thickening heavy clouds’ steadily encroaching towards their dinky boat; there were no remaining options. With a quick count off from Afton, the quartet of divers fell back holding their masks in place and plunged into the beckoning light that was piercing up from the deep and leaving the violent surface above. The pressure built up around them as they descended in relative silence. Jones noticed that the water, which was normally a murky void, was ominously lit up as if to peel away the layers of mystery. Yet, the source of the illumination was mysteriously absent.
Taking a quick glance at his diving partner, Marcus noticed that everything above them seemed impossibly distant, as if they had been falling for hours instead of a minute or two. While his gaze fixated on the boat, a sharp flash of pure blue light slammed into the side of the vessel as the ocean around him grew brighter. That was something that the divers couldn’t worry about at that moment, so he turned his attention back to his diving partners. Rather than three wetsuits identical to his own, Jones finds himself staring directly into a brilliant aqua light. A high pitch ringing began on the edge of his senses as bubbles rose around him, turning the water from clear to as black as tar. The light pulsated and intense sound flooded Marcus’ eardrums. All he could do was cover his ears. His rebreather’s mask got in the way and, without a thought, he ripped it away and threw the yellow device away from him and let it sink to the sandy floor. When the light tried to envelop him, Jones thrashed backward and allowed a scream to erupt from his already burning lungs. The light faded away from him and the murky dark returned.
Now, just a moment later, his survival instinct kicks in.
Out of air and on the bottom of the ocean, Marcus begins to gag on the water and flounder about. The sound fades and he is able to move about freely. His hand slams into a hard plastic structure that lights up and temporarily blinds him. When he regains his sense of sight, he’s met with a second rebreather strapped to pure white rock. He fumbles for a moment, pulling off the barnacle encrusted mask from the rock and presses it to his face. The air is stale, but fulfilling. As he breathes in, he is smacked in the face with a faded yellow bandana. Slapping it away, he slides the rebreather on and begins to swim to the surface. Shining his flashlight around the pitch black abyss, two more rebreathers sit attached to similar smooth rocks as the first one. Marcus doesn’t have time to think.
In pure desperation, he drops the flashlight and continues his frantic rise from the depths. The water seems to be more viscous, clinging to his suit and begins to weigh him down. It claws at him in an effort to keep him within the darkness of its embrace. For a brief moment, he sees the light below him. The same small, tempting light that even now Jones finds alluring, but as the darkness presses against him with fury he is renewed with an overwhelming sense of panic. He flails, desperate to escape the call of the deep, and continues his ascent.
Knowing it's not intelligent to reach the surface too quickly, he stops and allows time to decompress. He watches the depths to ensure that nothing is following him and takes a deep and satisfying breath. However, movement attracts his attention on the outer reaches of the tar-like swirling vortex, there is a dim glow. He sees three brilliant blue silhouettes wave to him and plead for him to return. Realizing this is another trap, he presses his lips resolutely together and turns his face upwards.
The second he breaches the surface, Marcus rips his mask off and takes a deep breath of fresh air. Daylight warms his face and the serene waves give him a moment to relax and gather his bearings. The FV Malum, still there, rocks with the waves. However, the ship that floats there now starkly contrasts the one he dove off moments ago, its rotting exterior barely holding together. He swims over to the decrepit ship and scales the half broken ladder on the starboard side. Swinging onto the deck, he lands atop the skeleton of the ship. Noticing a hint of yellow out of the corner of his eye, he bends down and pulls a familiar yellow slicker, now decaying, from a sun bleached pile of perfectly preserved bones.
"You always were an egotistical old bastard weren't you, Afton," Jones whispers and walks back to portside and leans on the railing, “But that never stopped you from being one of the best captains I ever had.” He sits down on the starboard side ledge, gazing down at a man he once admired. Then, looking over his shoulder, he sees the light from beneath beginning to glow again, it’s call becoming more enticing by the minute.
“Guess it’s just you and me now,” Marcus Jones wraps himself in the slicker, “Just us and the sea.” With that thought, he let himself fall back into the blue light.
Four divers take part in a mission to investigate an anomaly in the middle of the ocean. When the dive goes wrong one of them must struggle for survival against what seems to be the sea itself.
Things I enjoyed:
-The distinct unknowableness of the monster in this story is it’s greatest strength. What does the blue light want? What is it? What does it do to those poor divers? We don’t know, it is ineffable, which is almost the point of this type of horror.
-For what little dialogue there is between the divers, we do get a decent amount of characterisation for them. One is Spanish, one is a noob ect ect. This minor worldbuilding helped sell the story for me, even when each one of them was mercilessly disposed off.
Things to improve:
-The tense switches from past tense to present tense halfway through the story, with very little explanation. It would have improved the story endlessly if it was all in one tense, or if beginning of the story was a memory/flashback or whatever. I personally think present tense all the way through would have been for the best, making the tension more palpable at the start as if the events there were happening as we read them.
-I’m not sure if ‘Dave Afton’ was an intentional Five Nights at Freddy’s reference, but you get marked down regardless. After my ‘Menlobolshevik’ occurrence, I always google names to make sure they aren’t something I’ve picked up subconsciously.
-After all that struggle, why does the POV character give up? I get that he has no option but to die, but all through the story he’s fought for life. When he’s in the best possible situation he could be in (even if that is on a half broken boat with everyone dead) why would he immediately jump back into the sea. It feels like a complete change of character from what we know so far.
-You should look into varying some of your sentence structure. Sprinkling some simple sentences in there would’ve added to the good amount of tension you’ve got built up!
Thanks for the review, Green! The monster was fun to make and conceptualize. As for the tense change, that was a stylistic choice that didn't work the way I wanted but I was lazy. And no, that wasn't a reference to Five Nights at Go Fuck Yourself Scott. How would it be?
Varying sentence structure. Thanks. Good tip, I'll work on that.
It was probably in the top five original monsters made for this competition due to it being very lovecraftesque.
The tense thing honestly didn't stick out to me on the first read, it was only when I was going back to do the reviews that I realised why the second part felt weird. Normally, for me at least, a small amount of explanation for a tense change is important, though I kind of get where you were going stylistically with it becoming more sudden and 'in the moment' when the monster appeared.
Huh I was sure Dave Afton was a character in the books. Never played past the second game so you'll have to excuse my lack of lore knowledge.
I try my best. Not always going to get all the critique right but I'm glad you found it useful.
I'm not going to dignify that with a response, read the post.
Next we have the entry by @DireRyse (I’ve slightly reformatted it here for the thread’s sake, as there were far more paragraph breaks in the original.)
This is my first entry! My therapist says it can help me with my parents’ divorce. Anyways, I moved in with my Dad to another state. I’m so nervous to start school again, but at least I start 6th grade! We moved to Milton, Arizona. I’m going to finish unpacking and go to bed. Talk to you later!
Hey again. I started school today. Everyone was super nice. My teacher’s name is Ms. Lawson. School seemed boring as always, but there was something different. In Massachusetts, we didn’t have snack time anymore, but here we have 3 snack times and a lunch. Dad says I need to eat healthy if they keep doing that. I made a friend named Samantha today. She offered me some food that looked like beef jerky, but I was already full from my own snacks. I felt bad because she looked sad after I didn’t eat it. I don’t want to eat so much I throw up! I just finished my homework, so I’m going to bed now. Bye-bye!
Sorry, I haven’t been writing in a while. I think it is finally hitting me that I won’t be seeing my Mom anymore. She might have been mean to me and Dad, but she is still my mom. I don’t think my Dad is doing much better either. He doesn’t seem like moving out here has made him any happier. I think he misses Mom too, and my therapist says that it can be hard to let go of someone you’ve spent most of your life with. I don’t really understand, but I try my best to make him happy. Actually, I think I’ll go draw him a picture. Bye!
My Dad has got worse since moving out here. It doesn’t seem like he wants to be here anymore. I don’t know if he is getting enough sleep at night because sometimes I wake up and hear him walking around. There are a lot more bottles of whiskey around than usual. I haven’t told my therapist yet because I’m afraid she will take me away from my Dad. I hope things get better for him. I wish there was something I could do.
Today in school we learned about space because some astronauts went to the moon and back. Tomorrow there is a meteor shower. Today, I tried some of Sam’s beef jerky. She said it was a town special. It wasn’t that good compared to other jerky I’ve had, but I didn’t say that to her. It made my stomach feel weird. I don’t think I’ll have any ever again.
My Dad was taken away a few days ago. Before he was taken, I would come home and he would be sitting in his chair in front of the TV. His eyes had dark bags under them. I mentioned to my therapist that he started drinking and she said that it can happen with depression, but not to worry too much. I was in school when he was taken and the Principal called me to his office. He said my Dad was really sick and needed to go to the hospital for a few nights. I told Sam and she said I could stay with her family until he feels better. I’m glad I met Sam, it seems like she’s the only one who I can talk to. Living with Sam and her family has been nice. Her parents are kind. They really like that beef jerky though. It’s served with every meal. Maybe her family are the ones who make it? I have homework to finish. I’ll write again soon.
I have been so hungry lately. I don’t know why. I’ve actually starting to eat more during our snack times. I’ve got used to the beef jerky and started to bring it for snack time. It seems like the only thing that can fill me up. I wonder how they make it. I’ll have to ask. Tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday and I still haven’t been able to see him. Sam’s parents won’t let me go to the hospital for some reason. I just wish I could give him a hug. I miss him so much.
Today was the worst day of my life. Everyone was so mean to me when I went out with Sam to the park. I don’t even know why. Was it “be mean to Sarah day”!? Not even Sam stood by my side. She was just as mean. I was pushed and bullied. They ruined my yellow dress that my Dad got me. I ran back to Sam’s house crying and I’m staying in the rest of the night. I don’t care who knocks at the door. I’m staying locked in my room. Maybe I’ll grab some snacks first.
I learned that wearing yellow has superstitious meaning here. Something about a king who wore yellow. No one told me that. I still haven’t talked to Sam since the day at the park. I wish she would apologize, but she acts like nothing happened, like I wasn’t treated so terribly. I wish I had someone to talk to. I feel so alone. I want my Dad. I miss him so much. They won’t tell me about him and now I’m really scared. I wish Sam’s parents would let me go to the hospital. Somedays, I wish I was with my Mom. Sam just called me down for dinner. I’m starving.
I met someone new today! Well, not really met, but talked to. I didn’t know Sam’s parents rented out the basement to someone. It scared me at first because I wasn’t expecting someone to talk to me through a vent in my room. He seemed nice and we spent a long time talking. He moved here a few years ago and loves it. He said he has been hearing me crying and found out what was happening from Sam’s parents. He said the same thing happened to him when he moved here. It was nice to talk to someone who knows what I’ve been through. I think he will be a better friend than Sam. I asked if he gets hungry a lot. He said he makes such good food, that everyone wants to eat it. Maybe he is the one making the beef jerky? That would explain why it’s only in this area. I’ll have to ask him when I talk to him next. I’m glad someone understands me and gets how weird this place is.
I went down to the basement the other day. I wanted to meet my friend in person. When Sam’s parents left for work, I went to the basement door and opened it. There were no lights on, so I went down slowly. When I stepped onto the actual floor, there was a squishy noise. It felt like stepping in a bunch of chewed bubble gum. Very, very gross. I kept walking and the squishy stuff covered the entire floor. I couldn’t see, but I think my friend spilled something. There was even some on the walls! I touched it and almost threw up. It was wet and sticky. I thought my hand would be stuck. I ran back upstairs because I didn’t want to get in trouble. I’ll try again tomorrow.
I want to go home. I don’t want to live here anymore. I miss my Dad. I miss my Mom. I hate this place. I went to try to find my friend today in the basement. That stuff was still all over the floor and walls. The lights didn’t work but some light came down from the upstairs. I saw something in the shadows. It looked like a giant hole, but full of teeth. I heard my friend’s voice coming from it, calling to me. I ran upstairs and closed the door behind me. I think I just heard something outside the door. It sounds like someone is hammering a picture into the wall. I just tried to open the door and it won’t open. I’m stuck in the room. I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry!
i havent been able to leave the room. im so hungry. the pain is terrible. it hurts. it hurts. it hurts. my friend keeps talking to me. he wont stop. he is hungry too. i will do anything for some food.
Dad lives with The Great Maw. That makes me happy. One day, I will live with The Great Maw too. He keeps our bellies full. Sam’s parents say that one day, everyone will live with The Great Maw. I will feed The Great Maw and help Him grow. I hope I get extra food tomorrow for being a good girl for giving His dried flesh to my therapist. Dinner time now! Bye-bye!
Meet Sarah, a young girl who moves to a different state after her parent’s divorce. When her father is taken from her she is taught the terrible truth of the town she once thought was safe.
-There is a lot of great foreshadowing in this story. Obviously you have the jerky (which is implied to be fried flesh) but there’s also things like the additional snack times and the minor social influence Sam uses to manipulate her prey into joining the religion.
-This story understands lovecraft. From the diary structure to the subtle references to the king in yellow, this entry was one of the few that made use of the mythos and its formatting. Shame there was no racism, as that would’ve sealed the deal.
-The protagonist being an innocent child is a great juxtaposition to the horror that surrounds them. There’s definitely something psychologically disturbing about such terrible things occurring so nonchalantly to a young person, good job with that.
-The transformation building up to the new year, with the final metamorphosis occurring on New Year’s Day, was a nice touch.
Things to improve:
-The main problem here is the pacing. First we move to a new location, where the pacing is slow. The pacing intensifies momentarily with the father being taken away and the yellow dress diary entries, but then slows just as quickly. Then there’s an explosion of action as suddenly, without much setup, the POV character becomes a lunatic cultist. Having the events build in severity more subtly before the final indoctrination would add a lot.
-There’s a lot going on in the story, which doesn’t really work with the short word count. I think you could likely cut the divorce storyline without losing a lot.
-The monster in this story isn’t really very original. It seems similar to Yeenaghou (from DND) or The Grand Maw (from AOS). It felt more like a plot device than an actual evil entity and its effible nature makes it slightly less scary than it could be.
Thanks for the review Green! And thanks again for judging all these stories. We all appreciate the effort you put in your feedback. I could see how the divorce line could be cut. Lovecraft loves his substance abuse, so I wanted to add it in since it is often shown in his stories. For the sake of the contest, those words could have been better used. That's usually the problem I have with a word limit. I'll keep working on it. Glad you enjoyed it though! Also, I'll be sure to add racism next time.
Third we have the entry by @estranged:
I found my cup to be empty. Dry. A burning taste on my lips reminded me of the whiskey that it once held, a remedy for the nightmare from which I could never wake. I took the bottle from where it rested. Top shelf. Well, there’s only one here; a small wet ring remained as evidence, a perfect round circle to decorate the gravestone. As soon as my cup was full, I placed the bottle back. Until next time, old friend. And the next, and the next, and the…
The grass was cold underneath me. I knew kneeling would result in grass stains, a souvenir that I could take home with me. I arrived pure and clean, not a single drop from the bottle had been spilled. My slacks were tailored and pressed, an unwrinkled shirt tucked so firmly into the waistband that a quarter would not have fit through, complemented by a deep blue tie, flirting with black. My watch was of more value than the markers of loved ones, quietly resting six feet below me.
Wealth didn’t matter now.
I wasn’t even the one who answered the door. The butler got to face a pair of policemen while I slept comfortingly in satin sheets, a sleep mask shielding my eyes from waking to flashing red and blue.
She said where she was going out that night. Her body was found in a completely different place in town. Perhaps she had her own secrets, too. Pursuing them would bring only pain. I hurted enough. But just knowing there’s another avenue of self-harm was comforting in itself. It’s there waiting for me. It’s ready to tear me open. Not today, but there’s always tomorrow, I told it.
They didn’t travel near this wing of the manor anymore. The last few that tried dodged my artillery of empty bottles; they shattered in the hallway of our home where she once walked to our bedroom, the very walls that Beth said were too plain, needed a little color. I did my best, Bethie. Spots of reddish brown now plastered the hallway where families normally hang photos of their children. Bobby’s fourteen now, just made the All-Star baseball team. What a good boy he is! Shards of glass threatened new hires who strayed this close to the master bedroom, unknowing of the house rule. I didn’t remember their names any more. And as long as I paid them handsomely—which I did—they didn't question. I cut myself on a piece of glass the other day; stepped right on the fucker with bare feet. It was a nice break from my pain. They better not sweep it up, my only shelter from the suffering besides a heavy pour.
The bottle sat on the gravestone, my kneeling body before the stony altar. My senses dulled, the phantoms slowly faded into the shadows, melding and taking on its form. If the demons come, they come. I cannot stop them either way. Let it be a swift end, an unseen assailant from the cover of darkness to send my body to the earth, lifeless and decaying like those currently underneath me. I begged for them to give me this mercy. Yet they hid and laughed. Always laughed! Beth, the set up. My torment, the punch line. So funny, abosolutely fucking hilarious ha ha HA HAHA. Take me and leave me be. Put this old dog out of his misery.
Sudden silence. My cup’s empty. I reach for the bottle resting on Beth’s gravestone.
The grass stained my slacks, my shirt became untucked. My hair, so professionally styled and combed back, became unkempt, loose strands hanging down the side of my face. The air, chilled with the night, cut through my clothing like a guillotine. The skin on my arms filled with goosebumps, the edges of my nipples became hard. A slight shake filled my body, subtle, the kind that borders between cold temperature and unadulterated anxiety. My rattling teeth were saved by the simple lowball glass, unable to be prevented on their lonesome, needing a little help from Dr. Jack Daniels: the doc is always in, and that’s a Black Label prescription for me.
It’s silent in my wing; the door is always shut, and the servants know I like it quiet.
Voices speak to me in the graveyard.
The bottle’s almost empty.
I can’t even remember where I am half the time. Preferable to being painfully aware of the lurking darkness. Please, just make it quick. Please. Anything’s better than this.
I lay in the master bedroom. The king-sized bed was left untouched, unused since we last shared it. My place was on the floor, sprawled out with a simple throw blanket meant for the sofa downstairs. Beth’s attempt to bring color and life to the place extended beyond the hallway. Now it’s just me. Just me and the fucking throw blanket with its mesmerizing pattern and design, a series of interwining shapes and colors. Color. Just like the spots of whiskey on my hallway. I lay on the floor with the blanket, wearing the stupid fucking gag t-shirt Beth bought as a joke, a plain tee with a bright yellow smiley face in the middle: the retarded grin of the Walmart smiley face. Budget Nirvana merch, she called it. Quite a shift from my Hugo Boss.
Those damn new hires never learned. I grabbed the bottle that’s always within an arm’s reach and tossed it with my entire strength. Exploding glass sang a sweet song to my ears, satisfying them, more jagged pieces for my bare feet to step on, more color to grace Beth’s halls. I heard a small yelp in accompaniment, like that of the family retriever when a toddler tugs on his tail. Pain, yelp, then it’s all over. Sign me up. Rip the bandaid. Cut the cord.
The grass is cold underneath me. I’m not in the master bedroom.
Darkness surrounds me, shadows silently stalking from grave markers and tombstones. I become aware of moisture bleeding through my slacks, morning dew deciding to place its hands on me, another symbol of a life that once walked undisturbed, loved even. Love, the thought instinctively makes my arm reach for the bottle, finding only empty air in the process. Up high, down low. Too slow, Joe! Through the blackness of night with soft blue dawn starting to roll across the sky above me, I see the color freshly painted on the wall. I see shards of glass that my servants know not to sweep, my shelter from the suffering. It decorates a figure on the grass behind me, a flowerbed of broken glass watered with booze and blood—no—not a flowerbed: a grave marked with the Black Label. Here Lies Jack Daniels. Aiding Depression Since Age 21. My eyes spot the shovel next to the body. Hope you don’t mind a little company, Bethie. They found you across town anyway. The shovel digs through the grass with ease, thrusted deeper with my freshly-polished shoe. It scrapes a rock with a chalk-like squeal. I miss you, Beth. See you soon.
After the death of their beloved, Beth, the narrator of this short story spirals into insanity. Can they find salvation in alcohol, or is it all too much for them?
I’ll admit, I didn’t like this story when I first read it. However it’s definitely grown on me after a couple of rereads, knowing where it goes in the end and realising it takes place in two time periods with the same character simultaneously definitely helped with this. Personally I would class this as the most narratively complex entry.
-This story is very lovecraftian in terms of its POV character. Not only is he an alcoholic, but he’s fraught with visions of his traumatic past. Edgy. You also do a great job of characterising the narrator, I especially liked his various turns of phrase.
-Sentence structure variation in this one is really good. It definitely had more flow in how it was structured than some of the entries I’m about to review. What you say is important, but the grammatical beats in which it is presented is equally crucial.
-Finally, and this goes with all entries reviewed thus far, there is consistently superb standard of SPAG in this story. Good work!
-The semantic field of death and execution foreshadowing the narrator’s death is a clever touch.
-The main thing I feel this story does wrong is talking around what it is talking about: it’s the ultimate exercise in ‘never tell only show’. Sometimes the audience needs an anchor of information to latch on, a baseline that they can understand. This story feels like I’ve dropped my anchor and am now fishing around for anything to latch on to. If some of the purple prose had been cut for some substantial script I could stand on to see what you were going for on my first or second readings it might’ve even got a top three spot.
-Less importantly, the yellow clothing in this one is kind of weak. I mean the only smiley face Walmart tshirt I could find is like 80% black! Lovecraft would've disapproved. Jokes about old fashioned political beliefs aside, this might've been the weakest yellow piece of clothing in the competition.
-Finally, there is almost no Lovecraftian horror in this story. The narrator isn't beset by an omnipotent antagonist, he just slumps into despair. You could argue that Beth is killed by some monster from the unknown, but we never see this. This might be the biggest issue with the story in this particular competition.
The next entry comes to us from @Darius_Conwright:
Meet my boyfriend
Ever since I had moved out of my parents’ home and been forced like any other young person into the adult world, I never liked the Holidays all that much. Buying my parents presents was something I couldn’t afford with my minimum wage job nor was I particularly fond of all the surrounding festivities in my hometown. I once confined my reluctance to come back to my mother, but she was having none of that. Even in the cold desolated train station I could already see the heat rising to her head. She would probably start ranting about how the city life had melted my bones, why my college degree in graphic design was a waste of time or what she did wrong during my teething months.
To be honest, she did not do anything wrong, though I did feel a certain apprehension for admitting this much to myself. Signing up for an art degree might not be the most intuitive choice for a color blind individual. I sighed while knowing that my parents weren’t to blame for the daily drudgery of my life. Last month however, there had been a welcome exception to this dull existence I lived in. I had met the love of my life.
A sharp flute rang through my ears and signaled to no one, but me that the last train back to Amsterdam will depart in a matter of seconds. After a brief flash of the bright yellow and blue stripes, the only evidence of its existence was a wisp of the wind and a dot that had quickly vanished into the night sky. Were it not for the moonlight illuminating the rails, I would have been swallowed by the dark void which the train left behind. Despite the freezing wind biting through my yellow coat and the two headlights moving in the distance, signaling the imminent arrival of my parents, I was not too bothered by my fate. Perhaps it was because I had noticed that this certain welcome exception had decided to come along with me.
My boyfriend had always been such a shy soul. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw him hiding away behind one of the benches near the platform. So he had managed to slip into the wagons after all. My heart fluttered by the thought that he still wanted to visit my parents’ house despite knowing that the family cat had claimed the living room as his domain. His intense fear of cats was as intense as his agoraphobia. Still, he went through the hassle of buying his own ticket and finding a seat that could accommodate him. He did all that, all for me. I honestly couldn’t wish for a better partner.
“Oh, come along now, do I have to wait here all by my lonesome?” I asked while beckoning him to come stand next to me.
He then silently crept out of his hiding place and joined my side. The corners of my lips rose when I felt him tugging at my coat’s sleeve. After spending a whole month with my sweetheart, I came to see all the different sides of him, but I always adored his small moments of timidity the most. We had met during one of my evening strolls, the night when a meteor shower lit up the starless city sky during my darkest hours. Were it not for him, I might have not been standing here today.
“Ah, it seems that my parents will soon come.”
After hearing this sound throughout my entire childhood, I knew that the opening click of the Volkswagen and the harsh clang of heels against the ground could only come from my mother. I felt my boyfriend’s grip on my sleeve slipping. Like me, he must be also brimming with nerves and anxiety. Just a mere glance of my mother’s scorn could send any person into a psychiatric ward. Although I felt a comradery with him through our shared anxiousness regarding my mother, I prevented him from wriggling out of my grasp.
We were in this together. There was no backing away now as I saw my mother running towards me. That brief flash of surprise was enough for him to slip away. I had planned to shoot the most furious glare I could muster, but my mother’s speed rivaled her ability to intimidate every living being in the vicinity. Before I knew it, I ended up in a wrestling chokehold that was supposed to resemble a hug.
“There you are. It’s always the night train with you, making your dad stay up all night worrying about you.”
“I already texted you days ago that I had an evening shift that day.”
“So tell me, where is this charming gentleman you have been talking about? Come on, let’s go bef-“
I felt my mother’s body stiffening before tightening her hold on me. Her breathing quickened as if she had just run twenty laps. At first I had thought that she might be still angry about me for not calling her an whole month, but I quickly discarded this hypothesis after I saw my mother’s expression. The whites in her eyes was fully exposed to the moonlight, her mouth was slacked open while her small gasps for air made me think that she had seen death itself. I could feel her once confident and steadfast arms trembling while she desperately kept me from moving a single inch. The suddenness of her change in demeanor should have also inspired also a great fear in me. Yes, I certainly did feel the twisting of my bowls and the dryness in my throat, but my mother’s current wellbeing laid on the forefront of my mind.
“Mom, what’s wrong? Just breathe slowly or you might pass out.”
All the sounds my mother could produce were a few loose syllables and a slather of incomprehensive muttering. My efforts to calm her down were nothing but futile attempts. In fact, my expressed worries only seemed to worsen the situation. Her arms seemed to have gained the ability squeeze all the remaining air out of my lungs.
“Mom, please, can you let me go? I cannot help you like this.”
Then, in a sudden moment of clarity, she seemed to listen to my pleads and loosened her grip. Slowly she laid one hand on my shoulder. Her eyes bore down at me as I came face to face with the manic insanity hidden behind a mere inch of her flesh. The blue of her iris bore more resemblance to the ancient seers foretelling the downfall of the whole human race than the mother who had raised me ever since I had been birthed in this world. My own eyes followed her every movement as she lifted her other arm. With a trembling hand, she pointed at the unknown darkness behind me.
“Don’t look back,” she said. “Don’t look back.”
Despite her warnings, despite my own inherit cowardice, despite all the red flags thrown at me, I went on to disobey my mother’s last order. I did look back.Behind me stood the one who I had met under the light of the fallen meteors, when the moon shone just as brightly as today, when the wind was just as hostile and unforgiving as this very night. He and I were the same peas in a pod, both exhausted by this new foreign land we had to live in, but still too stubborn to go back where we came from. Our shared experiences brought us together and the cure of loneliness we brought to each other kept us from falling apart.
“Glad to see that you are not running away from this, honey.”
I then turned to my mother who had by now collapsed into a convulsing mess and lied on the ground in a fetal position. Some foam frothed out of her mouth. I tried to get her attention by tapping her on her shoulder, but she flinched against my touch.
“I know that this is very sudden, but this is boyfriend I told you about.”
He grumbled in response while poking at my mother’s twitching body. I rolled my eyes at my boyfriend’s antics.
“No, I already told you that you cannot eat her.” He sputtered back. I covered my face with my hand and groaned. “Yes, I sadly know that her mind is gone now, but I will find a better dinner for you, okay?”
After a brief silence, he returned to my side. I could feel him lightly tugging at my sleeve, a gesture which always seemed to cure any foul mood I previously had. He was truly a panacea for my heart.
“You haven’t met my father yet, right?” I asked while humming.
My boyfriend might be a little troublesome, but he was a welcome exception to my seemly dull existence. He was indeed the love of my life.
Introducing the love of your life to your parents is never a pleasant experience, especially not when he’s a darkness-dwelling flesh-feasting nightmare!
Things I liked:
-You do a great job at characterising the people in this story. Almost everything the mother does is somewhat annoying, the idea of a struggling student with a degree their parents don’t agree with is something I think everyone has encountered in their lives and even the eldritch abomination had his own quirks.
-What little Lovecraft is sprinkled across the script is executed very well (although I express there isn’t more momentarily). The power dynamic shift is something seen in a lot of his stories, with someone who is meant to be in control (eg: the mother) becomes a whimpering mess, and for good reason. If done well: it’s scary. The twist monster is also something typical of the genre, which is another credit in this story. The foreshadowing is subtle, with the boyfriend seeming to stick to the shadows, but reading through this story for the second time you can see it was all planned from the start. I wonder what happened to those other meteorite fragments…
-Instead of ‘Lovecraftian Horror’ this felt more like ‘lovecraftian romantic comedy’. I can totally see a tv station hosting ‘my boyfriend is an eldritch abomination!’. Obviously the mother suffers from insanity, however as she is made out as a bit of a bitch it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for her when her mind is melted. This wouldn’t be a problem in general, but in this competition it causes a docking in my score.
-There are a few places where I feel the wording was a little weird.
Thanks for the review! The pointers you had were really good! Yeah, I've always had a little bit more issues with grammar, so what you've said kind of made sense. On further reading, I've perhaps made the mom too much of a dick. Oh yeah and regarding the 'my boyfriend is an eldritch abomination'. These were the exact words I penned down when I was brainstorming. Yeah, do have to admit, I was kinda chuckling when I was writing this piece. The beginning concept was pretty ridiculous overall.
But congrats to the winners!! You did a great job.
Our next entry is our first winner by @Gryphon :
It was still reasonably early at night, so I tried my hand at making conversation. “So, what’s the scariest planet you’ve ever been to?”
Captain Jamie snorted in amusement. “Trying to get a good night sleep before your first mission, I see.”
I laughed. If I was the kind of person who scared easily, I never would have been selected for an exploration team. “Come on, hit me up, there’s time.”
“Look, I have no idea what Jamie’s going to tell you, but it won’t take very long,” said Patrick. “Ideally, you don’t linger on the scary planets. The scariest planet I’ve ever been to, we arrived at in the middle of a volcanic eruption. We spent all of fifteen seconds there.”
“Hey, I asked the captain for a story, not you.”
“Oh, fine, I’ll think of something,” sighed Jamie, closing her eyes for a moment. “Alright, I’ve got one.”
“Is this the one with the giant centipedes?” asked Louisa, turning from stuffing her yellow shirt away for the night.
“Actually I don’t think I’ve told any of you about this mission before,” said Jamie.
There was a subtle shift in the room. I don’t think anyone actually moved, but Patrick turned ever so slightly towards the captain, and the conversation Ali and Paige were having slowly died away.
“This was… three or four years ago, I think,” said Jamie. “Must have been three, since I’d already been a captain for a while. My team was assigned to scan… uh… Orion-Gamma-Six, I think. Obviously this was one of the planets we got access to through the portal network, so we weren’t going to have any air support—just me and the team for thousands of light years. No reason we’d need ships nearby though, all of our previous reports had showed that this planet didn’t have any signs of life.”
“Wanna bet?” whispered Patrick, and I snickered.
“So we set up shop,” she continued. “It was pretty quiet for a while. Just us in a big empty desert with a bunch of telemetry equipment. Then, after a couple hours, the air seemed to shimmer around us, and we were standing in the middle of a forest.”
“Illusion?” asked Louisa. I was already thinking the same thing. Fully interactive holograms are relatively rare, but it wouldn’t be the first time an exploration team ran into one on a mission.
“We thought that at first,” nodded the capain. “The trees seemed fully solid, so we scanned with our equipment, but didn’t detect any unusual electromagnetic readings. They were just ordinary trees.
“Anyways, we were still puzzling over that, when things got even weirder. I look up and see this completely regular-looking guy walking towards us down the forest pathway. I think he was smiling slightly. He waved over at us, so a couple of us went up to talk to him.”
“And then he tried to eat your face?” I asked.
Jamie shook her head. “Oh, no, he was perfectly pleasant. Though it was obvious within just a few seconds of talking to him that he wasn’t actually human. He started to explain to us he’d just noticed us on the planet, and had changed the setting—and his own appearance—to make us more comfortable.” She paused for a moment. “He said that like it was nothing. Instead, he was really really curious about us—kept asking all kinds of questions about who we were, and where we were from, and how weird it was that we need to consume fluids in order to not die.”
“And you just… answered him?” I asked.
“Sure, as long as it wasn’t any question that could compromise security,” she shrugged. “He mostly interested in simple stuff, anyways. How humans interact with each other, the way the body works, how society can function with so many individuals. He was fascinated by the most mundane things. He helped us out with the telemetry, too. After he asked us what we were doing on the planet, he got our three day’s worth of research done in about five minutes.” Jamie took a swig of her water. “Then he invited us to dinner.”
“And you went?” said Louisa, raising an eyebrow.
Jamie was starting to get annoyed. “Look, you people are only suspicious because I already told you this was supposed to be a scary story. There was nothing even remotely suspicious going on at the time. We’ve met powerful shapeshifters before—we’ve even met aliens who had some degree of control over their environmental surroundings. This guy was being completely friendly and helpful with us, and was obviously extremely powerful, and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to pick up an ally against the Thoritians. You remember how tense things were three years ago.”
People were nodding around the bunk room. Things had been pretty tight for a while there.
“So we were all a little excited,” nodded Jamie. “We went back with him down the trail, to this sort of… building place. It was obvious he’d just made it up for us, like with the forest. We went inside, and he just snapped his fingers, and there was this big table with a bunch of food on it.”
“Was the food the evil part?”
“Nah, it was pretty good actually. Best citrus fruits I’ve ever had. Anyways, we finally got him to talk a bit about himself and his abilities. He didn’t really seem to know where he came from—as far as he knew, he’d always been around there. He didn’t seem to know where his abilities came from either. He seemed more surprised to learn that we didn’t have any powers like his, and started questioning us about Earth again.”
She sighed, and went on. “So, we just… told him. We answered his questions. We didn’t see any harm in it. Like I said, we were hoping to make an ally, and he wasn’t asking us anything weird. Just basic, normal, things that every basic, normal, human knows and understands about life. And while we were talking, he was getting more and more…. Well… I thought it was excited at the time, but looking back…”
Jamie trailed off for a moment before resuming.
“He got sort of quiet towards the end. It was getting kind of late, so we figured we’d turn in. He got up from the table, shook our hands, thanked us all for everything, and said that tomorrow he’d come back with us to Earth and destroy the planet.”
Ali, who’d been taking a swig of water, choked on his drink.
Jamie’s resulting laugh felt out of place. “Yeah, that was our reaction. It really came out of nowhere. We all started asking him what the hell he was talking about. Intensely, too. He just seemed puzzled by our reaction. After I got everyone else to shut up, he explained that the human existence as we’d described it sounded immoral and torturous in the extreme. He’d been trying to come up with ways to improve it at the start, but as he heard more and more, he realized there was really nothing he could do. So he thought the best thing for everyone would be if he just put us out of our misery.
“So I told him he was full of shit, obviously. I gave a rather eloquent and impassioned defense of humanity. I was proud of it, too, but it didn’t have much of an effect. He tried to explain to me that I was actually only disagreeing with him because of chemical imbalances in my physical brain, and I tried to explain to him that he was actually full of shit, but neither of us was getting through. He just gave up and said we might feel differently about it in the morning, and pointed us to the sleeping area he’d arranged, and that was that.”
Jamie was silent again for a while, and I eventually decided it had been too long for me not to say anything. “So, uh, what did you do?”
“What do you think I did?” laughed Jamie. “I got us the fuck out of there. The moment he left us to get some rest, we snuck out of the building and sprinted for the portal. There’s thousands—maybe millions—of portals across the galaxies, so I figured there was no way he could track us back to Earth.” She took another swig of her drink. “Apparently I was right, seeing as we’re all still here.”
She shrugged, leaning back in her bunk. “Anyways, there’s your story. I get that this is probably an early bed time for you, but you’ll want some good shut eye before tomorrow’s mission, so I’m calling lights out.”
After the lights dimmed, I leaned back in the bunk, thinking. In the end, I didn’t get as much sleep as I probably should have, but I doubted it would affect the mission much.
Bed time stories are meant to help you sleep, but when a space ship captain tells his crew about a past mission they are getting anything but rest.
-Firstly this is a perfect example of a more modern version of Lovecraftian horror. Second hand story telling? Check. An interesting monster with unlimited power? Check. Racism? No Czechs.
Apart from that last point, it’s a fantastic fit for both the genre and the competition.
-The banality of the story is a superb setup for the twist in how the creature suddenly decides that humanity is worthy of nothing but destruction. Audience expectations are subverted superbly. When the man first appears I knew he would be the antagonist (of sorts) but I was lulled into a state of security when everything seemed to be going well. It was only when I read that line about wanting to destroy humanity, which hits like a truck after the slow start, that the fear set in.
-Speaking of fear, this story isn’t initially scary (much like most of the genre) but has more a gnawing fear of the unknown. When will the creature come back to kill us all? It’s only a matter of time, even if there are infinite portals, till we are wiped out. It could be today; it could be ten thousand years from now. There’s a phenomenon called ‘asteroid panic’ where people are terrified that asteroids are going to hit earth at any point, but don’t know when. This is a similar sort of fear to what is in this story. Fear of the inevitable.
-Finally this story has a great hook. I know these stories are going to try and be scary and it admits that is it’s goal from the beginning, but it leaves the audience waiting in anticipation for what’s coming. ‘What’s the scariest planet you’ve ever been on’ is a cool idea for any story.
-If this was longer I’d have liked some descriptions of the world the creature created for our captain and their crew. Trees that look just slightly off, grass that doesn't crunch under your feet just right ect ect. There isn’t much description at all, so some brief setting stuff would’ve been great. Obviously you had a limited word count, however.
-You misspell 'captain' as 'capain' once.
Five more days until I get publicly shamed by my horrendous story!
Five days? How do you know it will be five days? There are four people in front of you in line, but green can do more than one a day, or less than one a day if they choose. Green could also just skip the line entirely and do random people at random times just to cause confusion.
Oh, and btw, if you didn't say anything about your story being horrendous then you would have been fine(unless your story really is that bad), but now that you have mentioned it your chances of public humiliation and it being torn apart and criticized have gone up.
Thanks for the review Green, glad you liked it! I'm pleased to hear that it worked well, there were a number of things I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pull off successfully, but based on your remarks, it looks like all of them did what they were meant to do. Thanks again for doing all these reviews!
Speaking of lovecraftian horror, you seem to be nesting each of your comments in the one before it. I shudder to think what will become of this thread.
Idk, this one didn't seem particularly horrifying or even suspenseful to me. The twist seemed pretty obvious from the repeated emphasis on the monster's questions about human society, and the fact that the captain was still alive and didn't even bother to share this story with her crew previously tells me that nothing that terrible happened in the end. Sure, maybe the monster will find Earth eventually, but that's outside the scope of the story, so it's not really a scary thought to me. It's a matter of taste, I suppose.
Our next entry comes to us from @Lux_Inferni
“The Intergalactic Archival Institute hired me to fill a hole in their historical records discovered through minor inconsistencies in a transitional period between the eras before and after. After exhausting my connections, an anonymous benefactor sent a collection of audio logs and an archive filled with flight data. Time and other means lacking explanation had corrupted most of the data.
“The archive contained the flight data of the Tarknassus, a ship lost to the void. Its flight records began during the fading of the preceding era and ended when the ship entered the void. After a period of time, the ship transmitted a distress signal with coordinates attached. I checked the Institute’s records, but found no proof of the Tarknassus’ existence. I’ve since concluded something purposefully erased the ship from history.
“I was able to discern that the captain of the recovery crew had recorded the collection of audio logs. The crew consisted of prisoners, including the captain herself, promised freedom upon the recovery of the Tarknassus, and a priest dressed in a yellow robe. She expressed her distrust of the priest and ended the log by voicing her misgivings on entering the void with a faulty navigational system. The reward, however, mattered more than anything else.
“Over a majority of the audio logs, a failure occurred in the cryostasis system and the captain woke; she assumed the failure only affected her pod. Later, she recorded conversations between herself and an echoing murmur that she called the priest. Her last audio recording of the priest was a nonsensical argument where she ultimately refused to turn the ship around. The static disappeared after this, and she didn’t mention the priest again. Complaints about migraines, nightmares, and a loneliness not entirely her own filled the remaining logs. During that time, she developed somniphobia.
“The Tarknassus’ distress signal was received at the same time the final audio log was recorded. The log was a disjointed mess; the captain’s mental state had deteriorated significantly since the previous salvaged log. As I understood it—between the missing priest, the realization that the others died in their stasis pods, and waking horrors—she attempted to describe a ‘cancer devouring the cosmic membrane.’ Another log made itself known. While it only contained that echoing static, the date coincided with the vague beginnings of the latter period.
“My findings presented an enigma, one that excited the Institute and myself. They originally thought the hole was minor, but now it resembled a gaping abyss. How could a sizeable portion of history be removed and the hole stitched together so expertly yet so poorly an archive and audio logs unravel the stitch? It wasn’t difficult to secure funding and a crew; everyone wanted something and the void whispered sweet promises to the inherent desire of more.
“The crew’s excitement faded when faced with the lightless expanse of the void. Our captain regularly worked with the Institute and assured us that she had ventured into the void multiple times. I recognized her voice, but a fog settled over my mind when I tried to remember where I’d heard it before. She led me to the bridge and entered the coordinates I gave her; the navigation system returned a routing error. Before I said anything, she entered the coordinates of a nearby space station and the same error popped up. ‘The navigation system is old,’ she said while reentering the Tarknassus’ coordinates and overriding the system.
“It’s worth noting that the edges of the Laniakea have eroded at an alarming, leaving behind a sparse field of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and blackholes. The captain slowed our ship to light speed upon entering the void, beyond the frayed edges of our home cluster. We soon discovered transmissions could neither be received nor sent out when one of the crew attempted to send a message to his family. Pulsars were rare, and soothed the crew as spacetime stretched and both clusters grew farther apart. The scientists on-board took personal offense and made pests of themselves. Tiring of the constant questions, the crew simply forced them through the airlock.
“One night, or day, the captain pulled me aside and led me to the bridge. Without a word she entered the coordinates of the nearest space station bordering the void. I glanced at our current position in space, instead of a smooth flow of numbers, a garbled mess attempted to comprehend the unnatural spacetime distortion. Another routing error occurred, but she couldn’t override it this time. Something shifted under her face as she watched me, looking for a decision. I suggested everyone go into stasis until we reached our destination. The captain explained it to the everyone as a break from the merciless boredom and isolation. Needless to say, the crew eagerly agreed. As my pod sealed, an irrational fear took root that I would never wake up again.
“In stasis, I dreamed of priests in yellow robes exiled to the void, a doomed expedition, and a necropolis eroding spacetime. Memories converged at a single point in time and refracted across eons. I woke up underwater with a migraine. Sound, sight, taste, smell, all of it a muffled echo. Non-existent conversations twisted into nonsense, ghosts twitched and stuttered through the halls, and the recycled air vibrated against the alveoli in my lungs. Disoriented, I made my way to the bridge using every surface I could find to stay upright, even the floor. A wall snapped back into place; grief and loneliness coalesced into despair and I vomited.”
An exodus of dead stars surrounds us—black dwarfs, pulsars slowed to a near stop, and emaciated blackholes—migrating to the oily necropolis-shimmer at the center, dimly lit from within. I dry heave from staring at it, an attempt to discern a distinct form. My mind squirms at the familiarity this thing feels, but we’re neither welcome nor unwelcome. It merely observes our presence. The captain puts her hand on my shoulder and startles me. “I sent a distress signal.”
A realization clicks into place and I feel compelled to ask, “What’s the name of this ship?”
“I think you know the answer to that.” She smiles sadly at me and adds, “Yellow didn’t suit you.”
The captain moves to sit in her chair to steer the ship through the field of dead stars. Should I have chosen to turn back? Would it have changed anything or would it only delay the inevitable? Did the captain or myself have a choice? It doesn’t matter because I’ve been here before, and I will be here again. As will the captain. As will everything.
This is another strong entry that’s definitely in the top 5 in my opinion. It’s very similar to Gryphon’s story in terms of setting and a somewhat second hand narrative structure. That’s all I have to say.
After finding the recordings of a previous expedition gone wrong, a man sets off to find the missing ship. But something is off, time is looping, and not everyone is who they think they are.
-I read this before bed which was a mistake. I’m not entirely sure what the nefarious force is, but the phobia you speak about is one where you dread dreaming. Luckily I wasn’t sucked up into the void and instead dreamed about other things… this time.
-What little implied world-building is in this is really good. Pulsars and the void, while seemingly similar to things seen in other sci-fi settings such as WH40k’s the warp, had your own twist upon them. Imagination is important with this kind of fiction.
-The description of the dreaming towards the end of the text was incredibly well written. It pushed this story above and beyond. I especially liked the phrase ‘stuttering ghosts’: good stuff. In a similar vein, your SPAG has no mistakes I can see.
-The twist in this one is kind of confusing and it’s the only thing I can fault the story for. Is the ship constantly searching for itself? Does the ‘void’ turn the ship and its inhabitants into the next missing group? What’s going on? Is this all a dream, with all the sleep references in the text. There’s very little foreshadowing for the POV character actually being the yellow priest, or anything else that happens at the end. I kind of came away from the text confused each time even upon my fifth look through. If you could explain your intention behind the ending I’d love to hear it, as I’m genuinely interested in where you were going with this.
@Matthaeus delivers us our next entry!
Danny was happy. Going into retirement tomorrow was the main reason. The other was the discovery about to be made. New life in the ocean, and a big creature at that. Maybe this would make him famous!
“Danny, do you copy? Come in Danny.” The little radio in his one seat sub went off with Captain Wallace’s voice. Danny sighed, finally escaping his thought process.
“I’m here Captain. Anything I should know?”
“No. Everything appears to be in order. Just keep-” The line went dead in a sudden burst. Danny looked at…before smiling. He felt an uncontrollable happiness tingling through him. He giggled, then laughed. Then everything went silent.
“Danny? Come in Danny! This is Captain Wallace, answer the radio!” Wallace stood in the control deck, near the radio worry slowly gripping him. “Joshua, trace his sub. I want everyone who can to find it.” Joshua looked over, bright yellow shirt almost blinding to see.
“Captain…we’ve already tried. Nothing came through.” Joshua spoke clearly, annoyed that Wallace kept expecting different results. Wallace glared at him before walking out to the deck.
The fresh sea air calmed his mind slightly. Soldiers kept bustling about, making sure the ship was in top condition. Danny never would turn off the comms. He also didn’t send an SOS so he wasn’t damaged. Something big must have happened. Wallace paced the deck mind trying to come up with a solution.
“Sir? I’m sure Danny is okay.” A junior soldier, Jack was his name, walked over smiling gently. Wallace opened his mouth…before a vice grip of fear grabbed him. He fell to the deck, tears streaming from his eyes. Laughter and screams echoed over the deck. He curled into a ball, rocking back and forth, a puddle of tears forming.
“Everything okay sir?” Jack looks at him, smiling gently, unbothered by the noise. Wallace chokes on a sob, unable to answer. Just as suddenly as it came, the fear vanished. Wallace wiped his eyes, slowly standing. Soldiers shake and stand as well as others seem to sober up.
“W-what the fuck happened” Wallace looks around, more fear in his heart than ever.
“I don’t know sir. I just…felt calm. Like nothing mattered.” Jack looks at him, worry etched over his face. Wallace marches back to the control deck, throwing the door open. Men slowly get up, tears on their faces.
“What did this!?” Wallace barks, walking to Joshua. Joshua looks at him, face in a rage.
“We need to stop! Something is affecting these soldiers. It’s not a wise idea to continue on.” Joshua stands to match his height.
“Bullshit. Nothing in the world could do something like that unless it was some type of disease. We need to stay and find Danny.” Wallace turns to walk away before getting thrown down with a punch.
“Sorry Captain. But something needs to be done!” Joshua stands over him, fists balled. Wallace looks at him, feeling calm knowing that Joshua will be punished on the mainland. He gets up, staring him in the eye.
“Take a fucking swing and you’ll regret it.” Wallace stares, dead calm. Joshua stares back, face going into even more rage. He falls down shaking, mouth foaming. Wallace watching, feeling nothing, as he sits down. Gunshots ring out but he doesn’t move. Joshua grabs his pistol, aiming it at his own chest pulling the trigger. The blood splatters over Wallace, the shot turns Joshua’s own bright yellow shirt into a bloody mess.
“C-captain?” A soldier stumbled into view, stomach blown open. He fell down, as Wallace just watched. He felt no sorrow, not pity, nothing but a steady calm. He felt as if he was floating. Nothing could stop how he felt.
“CAPTAIN!?” Jack yelled out, and Wallace suddenly felt as if everything came crashing back down. He looked around, soldiers lying dead with their own guns drawn. Jack was covered in blood, face full of disbelief.
“We need to leave soldier.” Wallace grabbed him walking out. Jack came with, body running on autopilot. They walked through the dark corridors, bodies everywhere. People were still seizing as they passed them. He opened the door to the main deck and was blinded by the light of thousands of suns.
A dozen rings floated in mid-air, each one inside the other, thousands of lights on them. They spun in place, over a mile long. Jack and Wallace stared at it, soundless. It kept spinning, each ring at a different speed and direction. It made no sign that it noticed them or even could see.
“‘Do not be afraid.’” Wallace said. It was the most common thing angels said in the Bible. He now understood why. They didn’t appear as beautiful people. They appeared as things humans couldn’t comprehend. Wallace fell down on both knees, unable to process everything that happened.
“S-s-sir?” Jack looked at him. Wallace didn’t answer and slowly drew his pistol. Two shots rang out. That was all that was needed to protect their minds and sanity.
This entry was a good one, but is a lot shorter than some of the others. Thus the review too is shorter as there is less to comment on.
Biblically accurate angels aren’t beautiful, as a military operation is about to find out during a naval mission.
-The extended metaphor of Joshua’s height relative to the captain’s being equivalent to the control over the situation is really well executed and rewards rereading.
-An angel is definitely an entity I didn’t expect to be the cause of the catastrophe, the twist of a being usually considered to be benevolent accidentally creating an apocalyptic event was a good one. Really everything about how the angel is written fits the genre exceedingly well. ‘It made no sign that it noticed them’ shows how uncaring the creature is which (in my opinion) is one of the most terrifying truths of the genre. Good job!
-The ending of this entry is well executed (I mean, there is one classic execution and another self-execution. What else could one wish for?). It fits with what we know of the power of the angel, while reducing the characters we’ve come to know to corpses. It’s bleak but brilliant.
As a note, these are nitpicks as this was another superb entry.
-While the effects of the angel are brilliantly described, the lead up to its reveal is sort of lacklustre. Here I’m not referring to how the narrative reveals it slowly, but the actual structure of the reveal itself. There was very little build up in the longer structure of your sentences, which I feel could have been added by having a group of simple sentences prior to your longer description paragraph. This is a common horror writing tactic I feel this story could’ve benefited from.
-Jack was never changed by the angel’s power, despite everyone else on the ship suffering from it. This is never explained, nor leads to anything, so I feel it could’ve been cut for something more interesting.
Originally i was gonna add in lines about him being relaxed and controlling his emotions. Since it just alters emotions that was the plan, but sadly i cut it. As for the sentence's thank you very much for giving me the advice. I'll try to improve off i do this again. I'm glad you enjoyers the story.
@FemaleWolverine delivers the next entry.
My mother and I had been on this island for as long as I could remember. She taught me everything I know. Whenever I asked her what was beyond the island, she always said that there was an endless sea of water and to never ask again. So, I pushed my curiosity aside and went on with my life. It was just me and mom, but we were happy. Until today. Today, my mother is dead. I always knew this day would come and do did mom. She told me what to do which was the reason why her body was wrapped in cloth and floating away on the calm water. I watched it till it disappeared from my sight.
It took a while and a lot of missed meals, but I was able to get back on my feet again. But it wasn't long before I grew tired of the repetitiveness of my days. Mom had always found a way to make every day a new experience and my time alone had given me enough boredom to rejuvenate my curiosity of what may be beyond this island.
I went into my small Hut and opened a box in the corner. It had rope, an ax, and a fishing rod. I picked the ax and rope up and went outside. Laying the rope on the soft grass, I cut down a tree and made multiple logs out of it. Using the rope, I tied the logs together to make a small raft. I used some of the leftover wood to make two oars. Satisfied with my work, I went to pick some fruit for the journey. I didn't need that much, I was only going for a little while after all. After picking the fruit, I put it in a small cloth bag. Looking up, I realized it was nighttime. I was so focused that I lost track of time. Picking up everything I got out, I put it back and went back to get the fruit.
Excitement made it hard for me to sleep that night but I managed. Waking up the next morning, I slipped on a yellow shirt and a pair of shorts, two of the very little amount of clothes I owned. I grabbed everything I needed, including the fruits and pushed the raft on the water. A few feet away from the island, I glanced back, a pang of guilt nudging me. "It's okay, it's okay. I'll be right back."
Convincing myself, I went forward. It was thrilling. I was finally away from that prison of an island! I could go wherever I wanted. Should I even go back? I shook myself, hoping to dispel the thought. I was already disobeying mom enough. After a while, I could feel sleep pulling my eyelids shut. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to wake up so early.
My eyes snapped open. I had fallen asleep. I could see the sunrays starting to fade into black. There was nothing but water around me. My search for my compass was halted by a roar. It turned to find a huge creature resembling a dragon. It's razor sharp fangs unclenched to reveal a massive eye.
Half unconscious, my sweaty hands reached for the oars I had dropped and I rowed backwards, not daring to take my eyes off it. A red beam came out of its mouth and hit me in the chest.
There was a moment of the most excruciating pain I had ever felt and then... I knew in that moment all that had been; I remembered beyond the island; I recognised where I was; And worst of all, I recognised the horrifying creature in front of me as my hands lost their grip on the oars.
In that moment, I forgot what it was that made me attempt to flee from the creature as bursts of horrifying knowledge vanished among my memories. Somehow, I managed to reach my island, leaving the creature behind.
I knew that there were, in fact, people out there. I also knew that I wasn't one of them. I stared into the water and my reflection stared back, face showing nothing razor sharp teeth stretching from ear to ear and a single eye above them. Unnaturally twisted limbs branched from a semi-amorphous body. I reached out towards the water which easily slipped through my fingers. I was never getting off this island
Pushed by the passing of her parent, a girl attempts to escape the island she was born on. However: the wider world is much more dangerous than expected.
Things I enjoyed:
-You do a pretty great job of characterising the POV character. Of course they feel a ‘pang’ of guilt after leaving the home they’ve spent their entire life in.
-A second strength of the story is the character’s motivation is relatively relatable. Wanting to explore past your home and it’s surroundings is a pretty universal experience I think.
Stuff to improve:
-There are a few SPAG mistakes here. I’ll list three and let you find the rest if you’d like to.
-The ending is rather ambiguous. What I’m assuming happens is that the POV character realises that they are actually one of the monsters that seem to live in the waters around the island, however if this is the case how have they not noticed before now? Did the beam turn them into a monster? It could also be interpreted that the monster is just waiting under the water and the POV is looking down into it, knowing she can’t escape. Anyway I have no clue what you were going for here, but I’d be interested in an explanation.
-The monster here may be the weakest and least lovecraftian of the bunch. If a single breath-beam can’t even destroy an orphan’s raft what real threat does it pose. I feel, if you’d used more of your word count instead of rushing to the end, you could’ve improved the monster’s presentation.
I see I see, interesting twist of the genre there. Don't worry about the spelling mistakes, I'm only pointing them out so you improve next time.
@stargirl gives us the next entry!
(Been a bit busy over the last two days with work and irl stuff, but Agreena reviews are now back!)
“I swear-I swear I’m not crazy!”
The huge woman loomed over me and raised an eyebrow.
“Is that so Mr. Jacobs?”
“Yes, and I can prove it to you too! Just let me tell you my story. Trust me, you’ll believe me then,” I protested.
“Go on then Mr. Jacobs,” she said in an amused voice.
Oblivious to her tone I began my tale.
“It was a perfectly fine day and the sky was devoid of clouds. We had just landed on the island-me and my crew of four other people. We had been trying to explore the island and get a bit of a sense of the landscape. It was quite an odd thing you know, for nobody had discovered the island until now.
“We were all geologists and we had just come to map the place. We had little more than food, water, pencil and paper to take notes and sketches on, and walkie talkies if we were to ever run into trouble. My comrades seemed completely at ease and enjoying the nice weather. I, however, stayed morose and sullen. It seemed an urbane enough spot, but there was only one thing keeping me from being un-troubled like the rest of my crew.
“You see, I had had this feeling ever since we departed from the dock back home that something wasn’t right. The feeling just seemed to have taken root in my head and I couldn’t shake it out. It grew and grew as if the plant of worry was sprouting the closer we got. Now it consumed me, the nerves festering in my soul. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was worried about, but it had to be a valid reason. My instincts had been right before and they would be right again.
“It was when I was moping by a rock that I first saw them. They were woods, but nothing like any other woods I had seen before. They were rotting and decaying woods. They were so thick that I couldn’t see into them, so dark that I immediately knew this was what I had been worried about.
“Now, if you were to accuse me of being crazy, this is where you would find your evidence. This is where you would say that I was wrong in the head. For, I didn’t follow my instinct or tell anyone else about it. Instead I did something only a crazy man would do. I started walking to the woods to get a better idea of what they were. I was under the delusion that I would go there, take notes on it, and then come back. Alas, that didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself walking into something that would lead people to believe I was crazy.
“When I had gotten to the edge of the woods I saw something that piqued my curiosity immediately. One of the trees had a strange carving in it. It looked almost like a bear paw, but it had long claws on it and it was shaped a bit differently. It didn’t look like any kind of creature’s print that I had ever seen before.
“I had stepped around the other side of the tree into the woods to get a better look at the tree itself. However, as soon as I put one foot in those woods I knew something was wrong with them. The ground was damp and covered in moss so it squished underneath my feet. A bit of brown, dirty water swirled out into my shoe, and the water felt 10 degrees colder than it should be. Against my better judgment I stepped all the way into the woods.
“There were a few things that I noticed immediately about the woods that I couldn’t see from the outside. It was colder here. Outside it may have been the perfect temperature, 60s, 70s, but here it was around 40 or 50. Not only was it colder in the woods, but there was about an inch or two deep layer of murky water on the ground that presented itself when you stepped on what looked like solid moss. It was dark in here as well. It was like the decaying trees soaked up all the sun and didn’t let anything else get it. The thing that really stood out to me though, was the lack of life. Normally forests and woods have plenty of life and animals and plants in them, but here the only life seemed to be me and the moss.
“Just slightly creeped out by the odd dampness and lack of life, I had been ready to go back when I spotted another carving on another tree, deeper into the forest. Do you want to know what I did? I walked over to it. Even though the tree was only about 40 yards away, it still felt like with each step I took I was breaking some rule or sacred oath. This tree's location seemed colder and more damp with a little more water on the ground.
“When I got closer to the tree I realized that it was the exact same carving that was in the other tree, no differences. It was even in the same place on the tree. Confused, and with the cold getting to me I was starting to get a headache. Just as I was about to turn back, you guessed it, I saw another one. The pressure in my head was no match for my curiosity and I walked over to this tree.
“At this point, it felt even colder and it seemed that the water was even higher, but I examined the carving anyway. My headache was starting to get worse, but a headache never killed anyone. The carving was the exact same as the other two, and now my shoes were completely soaked. My feet were freezing and my toes felt like icicles. I was ready to turn back at any moment in time. Just then I saw another carving on another tree deeper into the forest, and I followed it.
“I followed this trail of carvings for what seemed like hours, and all the while the woods seemed to get darker, damper, and overall more creepy. Finally I reached what it seemed like the trees had been leading me to this entire time. It was a huge cave that seemed to tunnel straight down into the earth. I don’t remember much of what happened next, but I’ll tell you what I can.
“I remember that I realized that I was sweating and that my bright yellow shirt was soaked. It was a cold sweat, the kind you get when you are having a bad nightmare. I remember taking it off and placing it down next to me, along with my backpack which was uncomfortable on bare skin.
“The next thing I know is that I heard a noise coming from the cave/tunnel thing. Except, it wasn’t really a noise in the sense that we believe a noise to be. It was something that I heard less with my ears and more with my mind. I know I sound crazy right now but I swear on my life it happened! I swear to god that this is all true!
“Then I saw it, a giant paw with claws as long as me. Some creature was coming out of the cave! I started sprinting out of there. I sprinted until I reached the beach where everyone else was. Gasping for air and shaking from head to toe I begged for them to all leave. Begged for them to go, to run for their lives.
“Instead of running they laughed as if I was playing one huge prank on them. When I told them it wasn’t pulling a prank, that I wasn’t crazy, they told me to show them my monster.
“Terrified and at my wits end I led them on through the woods that seemed to want to kill me. Every piece of decaying wood, every drop of water seemed to scream at me to get out. I hadn’t even realized it but I had left my shirt and my backpack with supplies at the cave.
“Finally we reached the cave. There was nothing there. Except- neither was my shirt and backpack. I tried to tell them that I couldn’t be wrong because all my stuff was gone, but they told me that an animal probably took it. I wanted to scream at them. Had they seen any animals around here?
“Just when we were leaving I spotted something, a single piece of yellow fabric with rips in it. I showed them excitedly but they just brushed it off, going with their animal theory.
“Then they turned me into you, the crazy house person. Now everyone thinks I’m crazy! Please, please believe me. Don’t you think I’m telling the truth?”
“Yeah, yeah sure,” the woman said sarcastically. “I believe you.”
On a cartography-based expedition to an unmapped island a man finds something odd in the trees.
-The second hand narrative is a staple of the genre, as is: the monster not ever being revealed, twisted terrain and mental institutions. This story fits the genre well.
-Despite it all being a recountance of the story, you do a great job of both varying sentence structure and keeping the dialogue somewhat realistic. I can totally believe someone who’s been wrongly institutionalised would speak like this.
-‘We had little more than food, water, pencil and paper’ does not make sense, because pencil is singular. If they only brought one pencil with them it should be ‘We had little more than food, water, a pencil and paper’ or if they had multiple pencils it should be ‘We had little more than food, water, pencils and paper’.
-You might want to check that the words you use make sense. You write that an uninhabited island is ‘urbane’ a word which means ‘sophisticated’. For some reason I can’t imagine an island that’s never been explored before to be ‘urbane’.
-In the dialogue there is a lot of telling instead of showing. You write in the final line ‘the woman said sarcastically’, why not ‘the woman said, rolling her eyes’ it’s the exact same idea, but let’s the audience infer her meaning rather than being told it.
Thank you for hosting this, Green! It was a really fun opportunity to try writing in a new genre and to improve my short story writing skills. I appreciate your review and all the hard work you put into reading and judging all of the stories, let alone reviewing them. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be sure to keep them in mind next time I write something.
@Abgeofriends delivers the next entry:
You slouched down In your bed one late Friday afternoon, you stared at the baby blue wallpaper as you flipped onto your side. Another long day of work had finally been over, you thought to yourself as you glanced at your watch to get a shot at the time when you spotted the collar of an amber shirt in the corner of your bedroom.
Whose shirt could that be? You forcefully gather yourself out of your bed. The sinking of your mattress was a struggle, but alas you sat up realizing that the amber shirt was nowhere in sight.
“Am I dreaming”? You muttered to yourself out of your crusted lips that buzzed with the appearance of vibration. You glance at your watch again but the time was unlegible. “what”! You say to yourself as you remember the amber shirt that was nowhere to be found. You stood on the wooden floor that lays under your bed and started your walk to the place where the shirt one stood.
As you scale ground across your room you trip, losing your glasses on the floor. You crawled across the floor trying to run your hand through the floor to feel around for the glasses when boom! A sudden sharp pain struck you leaving you passed out on the floor. The last thing you could remember was a ripe crimson color running down your legs and arms, and a loud click. As you closed your eyes It felt like you were falling. But then it was dark like if you dunked your head into a pool of tar.
Said a mysterious deep voice, you hesitated to answer but after standing up you replied,
You wondered where the voice was coming from, you looked up, down and in all directions but there was no one there. The only thing you noticed was that the ground was covered in a thick layer of slimy substance that glistened in the darkness. You keep spinning around and around trying to locate the invisible voice that called you.
By the time you're tired of spinning you kneel onto the slimy substance. It was colder that you thought but that did not matter to you as you continued to slip farther and farther into it. You land on your knees and stay there for a few minutes. You took a big breath in and a just as big one out. Just as you begin to close your eyes you spot a yellow figure, with the same yellow shirt you found in the corner of your room, except this one was a lighter shade. It’s hand covered in the brown slimy liquid that your knees are in. It’s hair covered its eyes so you could only see a small gap of its eye through it’s hair.
“Hi” It beckoned again, It took a few steps towards you. You tried to run but you could not, The brown goo had turned to wood, and the yellow shirt had turned to a darker amber shade. Your bedroom started to form back together but it was different. Your walls were a darker shade of blue.
You glanced over at the wound on your leg, It was painless. But just a scratch remained.
The man was here in your room. Your clock buzzed, but all you could hear was the whisper of death in your ears. A chill ran down your spine as the walls started to fade away leaving you in the dark room. The man seemed to form together with the brown goo that echoed throughout the cavern in which you thought you were in.
“You disobeyed me”
You took a step back as the man in a yellow shirt neared closer.
“You can’t hurt me you're just a dream”
You said as he continued to walk forward,
He said, suddenly a loud screeching sound penetrated your ears making you fall onto the ground. You let out a scream, but it was silenced by the hand of the yellow shirted man.
“Do me a favor, will you, don’t ever disobey me. If you step one toe out of line I will bring you here to kill you, am I clear?"
You forcefully shrug as the cavern goo started to dissipate into the wooden floors that hid beneath it. “Ding, Ding” scratched your alarm clock. You opened your eyes to find yourself laying on your bed. The sheets were soaked with sweat, and your pillows were soaked with tears. You glanced over at your black alarm clock, the red number beat into your head as you realized what the time was.
“That stupid yellow shirted guy can wait,”
You thought to yourself as you slipped on your slippers and sprinted from your bedroom to the kitchen. You pop two bagels into the toaster and you start to fry an egg. The cream cheese was out so butter would suffice. You run to the bathroom but on your way you notice an indentation on your leg. It was badly bruised but the bruise was amber, all you could think about was the man in your dream. You continue your walk to the bathroom when suddenly the toaster popped with your fresh bagels. After you went to the bathroom you ran over to retrieve your bagel, you slapped the egg onto your bagel and lather it with butter. You started to take a bite when your bruise pulsed.
You withered in pain, shaking as you dropped the bagel. The egg flies out and the butter drips onto the tiled floor. The bruise turned from red back to amber, you wonder if the dream you had was real. But that could wait, you needed to get to work. Your boss would be very mad if he saw what time it is.
You started to walk out of your house, but the door would not open. You turned the knob in all directions but to your avail the door stayed closed. You closed your eyes but all you could see was the scary man that was wearing a yellow shirt.
You wanted to call the police but when you started to dial them the bruise would throb.
“What can I do?”
Pacing around the house you found a knife, except this was the bagel knife. You glanced down at your leg then back up at the knife.
Was this the best idea?
You dropped the knife and continued pacing around the room, until your girlfriend walked through the door. You start to show her the bruise when she says,
“So you disobeyed the devil?”
You turn around to stare at her directly in the eyes, except her eyes were yellow and her leg was also pulsing with a yellow bruise. You turn to run but in a deep familiar voice she says,
“ Good job, now the whole world is composed of yellow eyed people. A lifelong dream of mine. I can control each and every one of them, and soon I will be able to control you”.
You reach out to take the knife off the floor but your girlfriend grabs your hand, you try to struggle but she is too strong.
“I will take you to him”
She said with her normal voice as she broke through the floor, the cavern was deserted with rings of yellow eyed people. And you were now in the center of it, the yellow shirted man was standing next to you with a yellow knife, the crowd roared. Your girlfriend disappeared into the thick of the crowd.
The crowd started counting down from three, the knife was raised and when the crowd got to one the knife penetrated the yellow man.
He killed himself?
You were so confused, but the most confusing thing was that everyone started to hug you.
They said as they lined up to hug you. “Ding-Ding” your alarm went off, you knew it was just a dream but the only thing that would prove it otherwise was a bagel spread out along the floor.
Dealing with the devil isn’t exactly a smart move, especially when he has a fashion sense that consists of a yellow t-shirt.
-Your description of the yellow eyed people in a yellow cave is somewhat disturbing. Well done on making something mundane as a yellow tshirt spiral into something far more eerie.
-The primary problem with this story is the ‘it was all a dream’ ending, even if it was implied it wasn’t actually a dream. It renders all previously established stakes, characters and horror meaningless. I would genuinely advise never doing this again in any writing, ever.
-There are a few SPAG mistakes, I’ll list three:
-In addition to the SPAG mistakes, there are a quite a few ‘run on’ sentences. These are sentences cluttered with classes that seem to go on for a long time. Try reading your sentences out loud and see if you run out of breath, if you do try dividing them into multiple sentences. This will help your writing flow better.
-This story is relatively disjointed. We switch subjects, themes and ideas quickly throughout it: sticking to one topic and not introducing so many elements will centralise your story and lead to a stronger narrative.
Thank you for the gracious review, I will surely use some of your feedback in my upcoming stories. Thank you green for hosting.
I loved every ones stories and I congratulate the winners gray and wizzy. Thank you again!
No problem, keep being enthusiastic with your writing.
@Olivesalid10 offers the next entry to the Agreena:
The sound of your footsteps echoing, the musty, putrid smell. You stop walking for just a minute, a well deserved break. Walking in complete darkness, by yourself, really works up an appetite. The only problem is, you have no food, and no water. The only things you have are your clothing and a thin yellow jacket you bought at a thrift shop just a week ago. Now, that you are… here, it seems like ages ago. You sit down for a second to think. The cold floor is shocking to the touch like the doctor’s hands. How did I get here? Where is “here?” I don’t even know where I am so how am I supposed to get out?
You stop thinking for a second, and listen. The only sound you hear is a dripping sound. Drip… Drip… Drip… Where is that sound coming from? You think to yourself. It could be some sort of pipe, but you couldn’t tell either way. It is too dark to tell. It is odd that there is dripping, because you haven’t encountered water yet. You have been walking for what feels like days, but you estimate probably about 10 hours. In all of that time you haven’t found a single damp spot, or a puddle on the ground.
You have already taken seventeen breaks, and are taking another right now. You decide you need to keep walking, there has to be a way to get out of this place. You are curious what the dripping noise is, so you decide to walk towards it. As you continue walking towards it, it progressively gets louder and louder. It went from a faint sound, a little drip… drip… drip, to a bigger plop. You can’t see the water, but you know you’re getting close. Soon the floor became damp, and the air grew moist. As you keep walking and the damp floors change into a big puddle of water. Slowly but surely, the water levels rose. How did what I thought was a drip of water, turn into a big pool of it? You wonder. The water has probably been leaking for a long time, you conclude.
After a while of wading in the water, something crunches under your shoe. Curious, you reach your hand down to the bottom of the now waist high water. Pulling the thing out, you start to feel around it, trying to feel out what it is. You discover that the item you stepped on was a flashlight. Hope runs through your veins. You click the button on the back, nothing happens. You try again, this time a little harder, still nothing. “Ugg,” you yell aloud.
You begin to wonder why there was a flashlight there in the first place. Someone must have been there before! And if someone has been here before… there is most likely a way out! You realize. With this new found hope, you decide to keep searching. You only took four steps when you stepped on something else. You picked it up, but it doesn’t feel like anything you recognize. You put it in your pants pocket, just in case it comes in handy. When you are shoulder deep in the water you run into something. Finally, you found a wall. Walking along the wall with both hands feeling along, you come across a small wooden bar. You begin to jiggle it, wondering if it would do anything. After a little loosening it popped out of the wall. Confused, you keep feeling along the wall. Only about 3 paces away, was another thing, but this time it was cold. Maybe some kind of metal, you thought. Feeling around some more, it felt as though it had a hole in the center. Not thinking twice about it, you stick the wooden stick into the hole and pull it down.
Slowly a small crack opened , and light shone through. It took a while but soon there was a big door shaped hole in the wall. The light was blinding compared to the completely dark place you just came from. The water was splashing into the newly opened area, but something was preventing it from going more than a few feet in. Some kind of clear barrier. You started towards the door when everything went black.
“Where was she? How did she find us?” a gruff voice said.
“I found her at the northern entrance, sir. I don’t know how she found us,” said another voice. Opening your eyes you see a man with Short brown hair, a blue and white suit, and a black suitcase with a leather strap. Maybe in his late 40s. Sitting next to him is a younger looking man with a dark uniform and a blue flashlight in a loop in his pants. Your head aches, and your clothes are filthy and wet, but that is the least of your problems. Your hands are cuffed behind you.
“Look she’s awake,” says the older man. Now, tell me why you were snooping around my establishment.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” you asked him.
“Stop playing dumb and tell me, why were you snooping near my establishment!” He yelled.
“I don’t know exactly. One minute I was in my house, the next, I was… Hold on, where am I?” You ask.
“That is unimportant, now tell me the truth! How did you get here? He hollered.
“I have already told you!” You shout back.
“That’s it, take her,” the man directs at the younger man.
“Are you sure that's necessary?” Asks the younger man. “She could be useful for ques-”
“I said take her!” The older man said impatiently.
The younger man stands up and walks over to you. He grabs your arm and leads you out of the room and into a hallway. Through the halfway you walked, his hand still grabbing your arm tightly. At the end of the long hallway was a door that read “keep out”. With a skull and crossbones sign. As you approach it, you become more and more nervous. Right before he throws you into the room he removes your handcuffs and tells you “good luck, you’re gonna need it.” He closes the door and locks it behind him. You don’t see anything at first, but then you see a Man standing near the corner. You can’t see his face but something catches your eye. He is holding something a shiny silver. When you look closer you realize that it is a knife. “I have been locked in a room with a crazy man with a knife,” you mutter under your breath. You search your pockets for something you could use to protect yourself with but all you find is the weird object from the pool of water outside. Now that you have light you decide to pull it out, and look it over. It was a green gem with a metal ring around it.
The man with the knife slowly started walking towards her with a creepy grin. You bang on the door, screaming.
“Let me out! Please, I'll do anything!” But nobody came to rescue you. This was your fate, you were going to die. He raised the knife, and-
You sit up in your bed, panting. Looking around you, you discovered you were home, in your bed. It was all just a bad dream. Knock, knock, knock, you hear at your bedroom door.
“Come in,” you say. Your mother opens the door.
“Why are you in bed?” She asks. “It’s only 3:00.”
“I was just tired,” you responded.
“Well, I came to give you this letter. It is addressed to you, although there is no return address.”
“Thanks mom,” you tell her as she leaves your room. You take a look at the letter, then open it. Something falls out of it, and onto your lap. It is a green gem with a metal ring around it. You jump at the sight of it. You pull out the letter and it says: I think you dropped this.
Wandering through underground tunnels while water is rising is never a good idea.
Things I liked:
-There is a good variety of sentence structure across (most of) this story.
-I mean this in the nicest way possible, but if anybody ever enters a competition I run with a story with a ‘it was all a dream… or not?!’ twist again I will SHAME them without remorse. It’s creatively bankrupt. If you need to know why, read the previous post.
-There are a few grammar errors here. I’ll list three:
-The narrative in this story is pretty directionless. First we’re wandering underground, then we get the sense of direction towards the water, but this is removed when we are captured by the men, this then comes to nothing as we are woken up. This could be improved by plotting your stories in advance, which is pretty important when you have a word count this low and can’t just go with the flow.
-There’s no yellow clothing. Nice green gem though.
I do think that there is yellow clothing. Look in the first paragraph and they say that, "The only things you have are your clothing and a thin yellow jacket you bought at a thrift shop just a week ago.".
Don't know how I missed that, maybe I'm going blind in my old age.
@elad771 brings us our second winning entry:
The Magnificent Donut
The sun radiated, and it was a very hot day for Mishel. Her auburn hair glimmered as if it was a smaller, second source of light. She didn’t mind it though. She began to even like it, after all the trips she had to take the last few months. She would never travel for the sake of traveling though. She enjoyed it of course, but that’s just pleasure mixed with her work, which always comes first in her book. She was sure that her job was important to some people regardless of the value it brought her specifically. But the truth was she just really liked to discover crucial information about the past. Just trying to imagine how life was back then, brought her some sort of de ja vu and meaning. Enough to endure Cairo’s summer sun of death, at least.
Mishel was here in Egypt all because of the breaking news, the grand discovery a few months back. The intriguing news reached her group of archeology, and she excitedly took the job. However her excitement was small compared to Ralph and Eddy’s. Her co-workers/colleagues were understandably fervent, so she let them take care of the extra bureaucratic work, leaving her with the more hands-on site supervision for the time being. They seem enthusiastic enough about it, and she still was assigned on partial field duty, so it was a win with no casualties by her book.
Her stern eyes took a long look at the digging site. The ruins did have their beauty, she admitted. Even her cold, unforgiving, morning gaze was somewhat warmed by dunes after a while. It was more than that though. The scenery attained its mysterious beauty because of the secrets it could potentially unlock, she figured.
Lost in thoughts, she didn’t notice a shadow getting close until a familiar voice followed. She unorthodoxly jumped in surprise. The voice turned into a laugh and her already heat-flushed chicks became a bit redder. Patiently waiting until the laugh died out, Mishel took a cup of coffee from the couple Eddy held. “Well devoted to the shift, I see.” He remarked.
“Nope, just lost in thought. I ordered to search more the south-east region, we found there a few things out of place last night.”
“Enough to make you jump like that, must be serious business.”
“Darn right, we found fucking different soil in there. With some metal remains, maybe remnants of tools. At the very least human influence.”
“The age is known?”
“Not yet, currently the carbon levels are being checked. But I estimate more than 10 k.”
Eddy looked excited. “seems promising. The predictions seem likely so far?”
“Yes, but we will find out soon enough.”
Eddy was starting to reply, when a series of shouts echoed from the distance. The two glanced at each other shortly, as if validating with themselves that the screams indeed came from inside the site. The shouts grew louder, now sounding more confused than before. The two rushed a few hundred meters, entering the lower region of the site, just in time to witness the unbelievable happen.
First, the light. Shaming both her hair and the sun, the purple dazzling aura was bewildering, almost whacky. It was emitted radially from a small central point, that was hard to discern due to all the ruckus. Mishel felt the adrenaline rush in her veins, she didn’t know how to respond, and to exactly what.
She was about to shout -“stay back!”, but when she did the screeches already began. First slow and deep, and then in paced, beautiful high frequencies. The cries joined harmoniously with each other, constantly tangling and untangling in strange unconventional ways. The cries were undoubtedly not owned by the diggers, they were unhuman and comedically semimusical. They had elements of a Bach fugue, but also of modern day rock, as well as containing many elements Mishel had never heard.
People began to collapse all around her. She felt it too, she felt sick to the stomach and had an urge to vomit straight on Eddy’s face. But Eddy was no longer beside her. He tapped her shoulder, motioning her to run away before doing so himself- disappearing from her view. Mishel knew she needed to act immediately. Without thinking she ran directly to the source.
It was her responsibility after all. Being the supervisor meant that it’s her duty to help deal with potential dangers, and harms to everyone in the site. Because if she wouldn’t who will? No workers are gonna get screwed because of a mysterious source of purple light, not on her watch. She ran directly to the light, searching blindly for the reason she was there. It was a small object, she quickly picked it up. From the touch of it, she could tell it was shaped like a donut.
She covered it with her soft yellow shirt, partially blocking the light it emitted. It felt like cold metal, and it vibrated, trying to escape her grasp. Each second holding the donutlike thing felt like a lifetime, making her feel more and more lightheaded. Everything spun, including a group of workers that managed to get closer to her by now, now that they could see. She managed to watch them taking and covering the object, just before everything became dark.
Mishel dreamed she was in a big city. At first she thought it was Cairo, because of the dessert, but her senses quickly rejected that idea. Although she saw many things close to it, the fine details just didn’t fit to her intuition. The markets and architecture were lively, she smelled an aroma of cinnamon, anise and nutmeg along with many unknown spices. Many small flat-roofed buildings were seen, which became bigger as she advanced through the narrow mystic paths. But the people, the people made her hair erect. Their clothes were full of color and shape, and their eyes squinted, staring at her collectively. After minutes of this nonsense, she had enough. She advanced towards one artisan with a particularly colorful hat and asked him for direction. He didn’t even blink. He answered something in a rough convictive voice, but it wasn’t English, or Arabic, or any of the five ancient languages Mishel knew. She woke up.
On the hospital bed, the surprised nurse hurried immediately to bring the doctor- “She woke up!” She said like she was about to pass out herself. A very relived doctor in his fifties came from the door. After some treatment, and threats to take it easy he agreed to treat her for some questions, finally. To her classic “what happened” he answered that she was in a coma for three weeks, with ringlike third degree burns on her belly and hands. “On the rest, you know more than me, Madam” he added. The main theory the doctors had was that the metallic torus emitted ionizing radiation and it’s a miracle she woke up feeling well.
On the very same day, Ralph and Eddy visited, and explained a richer more dramatized version of events. “You don’t know?” Ralph asked surprised. “Darn doctors tried to not stress you out, but two people died, and the five remaining are still in a coma. You were the only one to wake up.”
“Yet.” She added.
“Mishel is just inherently badass, she jumped on an alien donut to save many cowards like me, and then woke from a three-week nap like it was nothing.” Eddy tried to brighten the mood a bit.
Mishel didn’t really know how to respond, her memory was still hazy after her apparently very lengthy dream, but she knew it was bad to just wait and do nothing.
“Top notch men are working on the torus thing…” Ralph calmed her, and Eddy added that they’re continuing digging around trying to find similar objects of significance. This reminded her.
“So it’s likely, our theory… you know based on the discovery of the scrolls a few months ago…”
“Yes. A different ancient city, a metropolis. Before the pyramids and pharaohs.”
“We continued digging south, and we found the edge of a ruin. It was once a wall and a row of small flat roofed houses.” Ralph showed a picture of the discovery.
“We also found a person!” Eddy interrupted.
“He seems to be a craftsman of the sort, from the analysis. Their cloths must be made from a special material because it’s surprising that they survived at all.”
“The same can be said about you!” Ralph jested.
The picture showed a skeletal figure wearing scrambled torn cloth. It clearly once been a magnificent robe and a hat, covered with stripes as the surprisingly still-visible sewing indicated. But there was no color, it was completely drained away with time.
For the first time in her life Mishel didn’t want to know anything about the past, any detail at all. The hollow, skeletal gaze was stern and grudgeful. The past was staring at her, unblinking, and it did not like what he saw.
Me and a few other members thought that this would be a rip off of that one Simpson episode based on the twilight zone. I was pleasantly surprised when it was not.
Sometimes: it’s better if discoveries are not made, as an archaeologist in Egypt is about to realise.
-The motif of staring eyes and blank expressions building up to the disdainful look of the pharaoh-lich at the end is interesting and rewards rereading.
-The POV character here might have the most realistic arc of any of the characters in the competition. Going from wanting to explore the desert sands to slowly starting to be scared of them is definitely something I can see happening after such a terrifying experience. Side note: this reminds me of a lovecraft-esque story I read once, about a marine biologist becoming scared of the sea.
-Ralph and the POV’s relationship is pretty funny and seems like a friendship that might actually exist, well don’t for making me care about a character in 1.5k words.
Things to improve:
-In the first paragraph, you write ‘The sun radiated, and it was a very hot day for Mishel. Her auburn hair glimmered as if it was a smaller, second source of light. She didn’t mind it though.’ Because of the subject of the previous sentence about her hair glowing, it makes it seem like the last sentence is her not caring about the sun in her hair, which makes little sense. If I were to write this I’d have changed the last sentence to ‘She didn’t mind the heat though’.
-Eddy looked excited. “seems promising. The predictions seem likely so far?” Should have a capital S, since Eddie speaking is a new sentence.
-I wish we had some more description of the strange city the POV is transported to when she touches the donut. I felt this was the most interesting part of the story.
Thank you for the review Green! I had no idea that there was a simpson episode related to the title, the connection to donuts makes sense though, I guess.
Funny thing is, the first idea I was considering was making a horror fanfic about 'The man in the yellow hat' from Curious George. (making tmwtyh sacrifice George to some eldrich abomination/diety or something, and connecting it somehow to the fact he is always wearing yellow cloths). So you were right to some extend with your suspisions. I sure am glad I didn't go for that one. Haha.. yeah. (glances rapidly to the 400 words written about it)
I'm glad you liked the eye motif, and Mishel's character change. I also got connected to the characters' relationship haha.
About the city thing, my first idea was completely different. But when I wrote Mishel's first vision, I realised I was already a 1000 words deep so I better make her dream related somhow and wrap it up lol. That's why it probabliy felt rushed/with not enough meat.
I feel like the ending was rather open, and not that scary. If I were ever to go back and clean stuff I would describe more the city, and try to give a reason to why Mishel was the only one that managed to wake up till now, and what happened to the other people in coma. Are they still in this city, wandering aimlessly until they would ask someone for directions and wake up? It would probably be something like this-
Over the next few days Mishel didn’t feel like eating much. She refused all the press and media, not feeling like talking much about what happened. She just wanted to snuggle in bed, left alone for a time being. Even the visit from her sister, Hellen, who apparently flew half the world to come and see her, only managed to cheer her up momentarily. Her stomach ached at the thought of the skeletal gaze. Why her? What do they want? And why was she the only one to wake up?
She didn’t want to know the answers to those questions, but her thoughts kept creeping back to her lengthy dream. It was four a.m. when Mishel watched the clear night sky from the hospital window. The moon shined on the endless desert sea, showing the winds engulfing paths of travel that will never be seen again. Dread suddenly struck her, devouring what little feelings of comfort she had left. And she wondered. She wondered how long it would take the others to go and ask for directions.
Besides that, I'm actually glad I finished something. Thanks again for the feedback!
@WizzyCat gives us our next patiently awaited entry
Doctor Jimbo awoke when his clock released its screeching cry. He scrambled into his clothes, grabbed his lantern and cloak, and shuddered out into the frigid morning. The winds howled at a volume that would make hurricanes jealous, and Jimbo could do nothing against the shredding ice being rocketed into his face by said winds. Nonetheless, he persevered and made the hour-long journey into town. Today was undoubtedly the predicted Winter Eclipse Mega Solstice, and the Dogs will certainly be the hungriest they’d ever been.
In fact, the creeping, jet black night shuddered, revealing the hideous plan, the intent of the Dogs for this night of infinity. Soft whimpering could be heard, coming from beyond Jimbo’s small hemisphere of lantern-light. This was the defeated sound of all the nearby Spirits, having broken down after being touched by a Dog’s aura.
As Jimbo moved, he began to notice the tortured whispers of the trees, each fiber crying out quietly for someone to save them from the suffering. They sounded almost like the faintest screaming of a child. Jimbo chanced upon a tree within the radius of his light, and was able to nurse it back to some health with the kerosene glow. The screaming turned to a soft giggling, and finally to a quiet content. The light allowed for a burst of photosynthetic strength. Unfortunately, Jimbo had to hurry.
As he approached the town, he began to hear raspy, sobbing breaths. He arrived at the bonfire which marked the entrance, and saw Scruffy, the town cat, lying at the crackling border of its light. His breathing was labored. Jimbo walked up, slowly and carefully, suspicions fully formed. Hisses and growls danced about the edge of his hearing. Not Scruffy’s. The night seemed awfully close, and the Dogs along with it. The lantern’s glow had indeed diminished: Jimbo was running out of time. He touched Scruffy’s soft flank, felt the slow, thudding, uneven pulse, and acknowledged the worst. His own dog had been the first victim of the Dogs. His son, playing with George, that delightful pug, had been the next victim. Jimbo remembered the first sight of them, lying there, eye sockets exposed and bleeding, crying at the lack of their previous occupants. When the Last Deal had been made, the creators had been hasty, and as a result, dozens of years later, Jimbo had to see his son’s ears leak the first ectoplasm, a greyish-white, viscous goo. Ghost honey…
Scruffy let out the weakest caterwaul possible, sad and defeated. He was already in the final stages, with nothing left to do but beg.
Jimbo hadn’t been able to give his son the sweet release. At least he could give it to someone, or something, now. Scruffy had been a good cat, the sweetest boy. This was well deserved.
Jimbo withdrew a Soulblade, and slit the little tortoiseshell sweetheart’s throat. The raspy sobs cut off with the slightest sigh.
Tears crawled up to the corners of Jimbo’s eyes, recalling how similarly his son had been lying on the ground, moaning and sobbing at the bone-shattering, brain-frying pain. He remembered how he had tried to heal his son with every remedy and medicine he had available, and how it only seemed to make the pain worse, until he finally succumbed, after months of suffering.
Jimbo became aware of a Dog approaching, its grim, nearly invisible silhouette lurking in the corner of his right eye. Its horrific jaw was the only visible feature, any chance of a head and neck replaced with that monumental maw, full of at least 10 rows of tiny teeth that resembled the closest thing biology could get to a chainsaw, but far more frightful than any tool man could devise. Every other element of its body was the perfect shade of darkness—burying it within the night, hiding things that could only be worse than the mouth. Indeed, it had a presence that could be felt, a sizable presence, one that intruded upon the very threshold of Jimbo’s mind and soul.
Jimbo repressed a scream. He’d never seen a Dog that looked like it was smiling. It seemed to be smiling, or as close to smiling that a vertical mouth could reach. This tiny gesture was more expressive than any words could be, betraying thoughts of destruction and an abyssal fate worse than death.
Then it disappeared.
The presence, however, closed in. It crawled onto the lantern-light, an invisible net of negativity that Jimbo could feel with every cell. It wrapped around, trapping him in the light; the light continued to decay inwards, the presence forcing itself ever closer to Jimbo’s shrinking form.
This overwhelming evil kept toying with Jimbo, inching closer, ever and ever nearer, slinking along the outskirts of the lantern’s influence like some cruel hyena.
“Jimbo, is that you?” a concerned voice echoed from somewhere to Jimbo’s back right. His mind churned furiously as it tried to identify the voice.
As another tentacle of evil closed in, so close it nearly snatched onto Jimbo’s outstretched foot, he stirred, scooting backwards across the snow—which was so cold it burned—towards Henry’s voice.
Henry must’ve heard the shuffling, as his tone shifted, becoming more firm and confident. He yelled, “Come to my voice, keep your lantern held tight!”
Jimbo hurried, standing up and retreating towards his ally. The presence seemed to give pursuit, and every nerve in Jimbo’s body turned to flight, his leg muscles firing, sending him across the sub zero blizzard with unexpected speed.
He finally reached the source of the voice, Henry, who stood in the doorway of his castle, known as Malbork Manor. Jimbo flew inside and shut the door with as much haste as he could muster.
He squeaked out his typical line, “Who’s hurt?”
Henry de Maleiv replied, “Well, interestingly enough, no one’s even gotten touched. The Dogs haven’t bothered us at all.”
“Well, have we gathered the Royals?”
“Yes, and the Moor as well. I know you don’t like him, but you also said that we need our most able fighters, and he is, unfortunately, just that. Anyway, now is no time for petty squabbles, the Father Lamp is dying.”
“The Father Lamp is dying?” Jimbo repeated, terror continuing to creep in. Without light…
“Yes, follow me.”
Henry led the way into a large dining-hall chamber. The majestic mahogany table, fit for 30, was covered with a hefty layer of dust, accumulated over generations of neglect. Behind the plush, velvety chair at the head of the table stood the Father Lamp. This imposing construct, akin to a coffin of riveted metal plates, was home to one of the very few Enchanted Flames remaining.
“Mind if I take a closer look?” Jimbo asked.
Henry simply nodded, and stepped out of the room. Not many had the stomach for a “closer look”.
Henry opened the chamber where the flame licked away at the walls with an unnatural hunger; it screeched at him.
Sound reverberated through every corner of Jimbo’s mind, like a violin mating with a guitar while being strangled.
this plane can no longer feed me
With this justification given, its voice the mental equivalent of nails aggressively meeting a chalkboard, the flame disappeared. A sizzle, and a miniscule column of smoke billowed.
“Just come to the table already, we’re all waiting.”
The voice snapped Jimbo out of a trance; he rushed out of the rapidly cooling chamber. Without the demonic flame, it somehow felt less safe. Jimbo couldn’t shake the presence, still wrapped tight around him. He’d barely processed Henry’s words before experience carried him into the Resistance Room. To call it War would be foolish…
The Royals were all gathered, in their shining armor, with their various weapons of ruthless steel. The Moor was there as well, armor similar, but lacking all forms of color.
Each member but Jimbo had already donned his disturbing but necessary garment. The Mask of Sun, with thick lenses to shield the eyes, and a beak added on as camouflage. The leather was a bright yellow, the color of the Sun, repulsive to even the strongest of foes: it was the opposite of camouflage.
Suddenly, the earth rumbled. Quills and inkwells alike flew off the table, and most of the Royals flew off their feet, Jimbo included. When he got up, he saw a flaming circle under the ceiling: a portal.
All the Spirits remaining in the house cried out, a unified squeak, and were silenced.
A pitch-black orb floated down out of the portal.
hello my friends
“It’s a monster, kill it!” Henry cried out. The Royals lifted their weapons, then dropped them again. Jimbo stared at Henry’s eye sockets, emptied in a millisecond. The bodies slumped, each one with a grim thud. Blood pooled.
“What do you want?” Jimbo gulped.
It was given.
After the last deal is signed, the dawn of humanity comes at the snouts of the dangerous dogs. As the father lantern flickers, those that bask in its light learn that dealings with the unknown often end in death.
-Excellent racism with the use of the word ‘Moor’, classic lovecraftian stuff there. Iago, I feel, would be proud.
-The development of the dogs throughout the story was very well done. We are teased information about them slowly, so that the noun we are familiar with has almost a completely opposite meaning by the end of the extract. This juxtaposition between the familiar and unfamiliar is a classic horror trope in games (think of literally any indie game for kids in that last ten years), and is used here to great effect.
-Personally this story was a winner for me because it gives some information but not enough, of them all this is the one that has stuck with me the longest due to how plain weird it is.
-The narrative of this story is a little all over the place, it has what I believe Atwood describes as a ‘feminine coital rhythm’ in that it slowly builds up in speed before ending abruptly. Thankfully this story isn’t The Handmaid’s tale, but both have the same abrupt climax which I believe could be improved with more action occurring earlier.
-There are some minor tense things which are weird, and you use the word wind twice in one sentence. Beside this SPAG is excellent in the story.
Return to Innsmouth by @Axxius is next!
The world is full of addicts. We are slaves to our own indulgences. We try to numb the pain and bury the truth behind our own base desires. What truth? That we are an insignificant speck in an infinitely larger universe and that in the grand scheme of the cosmos our existence is irrelevant. We willfully live in whatever comfortable prison we encage ourselves in because to free our minds and to even acknowledge the truth for the briefest of moments would shatter the illusion of the carefully crafted lies we live. To acknowledge that would be to live our lives in constant limbo teetering on the edge of madness and enlightenment. But hell what do I know? I’m just a part-time IT consultant finishing up on a Master’s in Divinity.
You close your journal reflecting on the bitter taste the last few days have left on you. Your wife Debra took off on you. Just up and left you to take care of your two daughters Cassandra and Josephine who you affectionately nicknamed Cassie and Josie much to your wife’s dismay. “Well screw you, Debra, have fun banging a crusty old man named Jean whose only occupation is riding a Harley and breaking up bar fights. Not enough excitement living a normal responsible life with the guy who does computers and guides lost souls, go join the rest of the rabble as this world implodes on itself,” you think to yourself with a wry grin and a hint of satisfaction. “Come on daddy! Let’s go to the lighthouse let’s go to the lighthouse!” Josie and Cassie both slam into your legs nearly toppling you as you bend down to kiss your daughters’ warm faces and give them a big hug. It’s been just as hard to watch your daughters deal with moving away from Albany, but you managed to somewhat veil the truth to them about why mommy wasn’t coming. They’re both eight and nine for god’s sake they don’t need to know.
As you walk outside your cabin with Josie and Cassie in tow you notice several things. First, the town smells distinctly of rotting and dead fish which isn’t uncommon given that Innsmouth used to be a fishing town before it declined around the war of 1812. Secondly, there are few individuals wandering the streets this time of morning but those who do have a strange shambling walk perhaps from a long career as fishermen in the tempest seas you rationalize. Their faces are rather bizarrely misshapen though as you walk by and wave to several of them who give you a brief nod before you continue on your way. A lot of curious things have happened in Innsmouth since you did your research before coming here but most of the history seems to connect to various diseases or wartime tragedies like the bombing of Devil Reef by sub where some fishermen were killed. You and your daughters make your way to the lighthouse as promised and spend a few hours playing on the beach before making your way up to the tower.
The kids run around and play on the top of the lighthouse while you examine the old-looking computer nearby. As they pass by you notice a strange symbol on the kite frame that matches one of the encrypted symbols on the computer. “Josie!” you say excitedly. “Yes daddy?” she turns around from Cassie tilting her head curiously. “Let me see that kite for a minute please.” They hand you the kite and you push down on the symbol and it opens a thin strip of paper with the name Zadok on it. “This must be the master key,” you think to yourself. Thinking quickly you scroll back to the input in settings and type Zadok and the entire computer begins deciphering dozens of bytes of data. You decide to download it all on your flash drive. “Josie, Cassie, we’re leaving,” you say. No response. “Josie? Cassie! Where are you?!” you run down the stairs frantically searching for them when you slip on something banging your head on the railing as you fall on your back. You look up and see you slipped on the kite they were playing with earlier.
As you begin to get back up an invasive voice pierces your mind magnifying the pain in your head tenfold causing you to scream and hold your head in your hands. “If you wish to see your daughters alive again, join us at the church of the deep in twenty minutes.” The voice’s presence leaves your mind before you get a chance to respond. You curse yourself for not being more aware of your surroundings. Whoever these people are they aren’t giving you much time to act since it’ll take all of twenty minutes to get to the church and your head is throbbing so you doubt you’d be much in a fight right now. You can’t call the police out here. Your ransomers picked a remote enough location alright. You’re starting to doubt if this was even a job offer at all and just a way to get more money out of you.
As you arrive at the doors of the church the shambling people one with a sawed-off shotgun and the other a large fishhook roughly escort you inside. As they force you towards the altar you notice a few shocking things. First, Your wife Debra is tied down on the altar in front of Jean whose carrying a rusted machete and upon further examination has the same shambling walk as the other denizens of Innsmouth but that’s not all. His eyes are a deep shade of yellow and you notice his hands and feet have grown webbing on them as he’s got yellow gills and the entire sickly yellowish-green shade of his body gives off an unearthly glow. You also notice your daughters sitting in the front left pew blindfolded and bound. “Welcome enlightened one. The deep ones will be honored by your sacrifice,” Jean says. “What the hell is going on here? Why are you doing this to us?” you ask. Jean kind of shakes his head and chuckles quietly.
“No, you did this to yourself enlightened one. You have a gift which we mean to extract but first let us indulge ourselves,” Jean gestures to the yellow, robed figures at the altar that you initially thought were statues as they seize Josie and Cassie hauling them up beside Debra. Debra begins to scream as Jean completely disembowels her throwing her entrails in a circle around your family before he silences her screams by decapitating her licking some of her blood off his fingers. The two men with the shotgun and fishhook start beating you unconscious and haul you inside the bloodstained circle while your daughters scream “Daddy! Daddy help us! Save us!”
The screams, the pain, the ritual, it was all a setup and you feel so helpless. Something inside you begs to be let out what emotions are they hate, wrath, retribution, yes let them feel my hate. An unearthly howl escapes your lips as the whole room begins to darken. “No, you idiots! The circle isn’t complete yet! Kill him now,” Jean yells. The man with the shotgun goes to do so before a shadowy tendril erupts from your body piercing the fish man’s eye before a second one deftly plucks the shotgun and discharges the rounds directly into Jean’s crotch. Jean howls in pain while the second goon goes for you with the fishhook which causes more shadowy tendrils to lash out of your body and eviscerate him. The two priests grab your daughters to use as shields trying to pierce your mind with their voices again but your mind is a cacophony of maddening whispers and they drop your girls and writhe on the ground in intense pain clawing out their eyes as blood leaks from their noses.
You ignore them and head straight for Jean who at this point is calling out desperately to the deep ones in prayer. “Please, please, you don’t know what you’re doing, this gift will destroy you it cannot be controlled,” he begs. “I think I’m doing just fine Jean,” you say casually sitting next to him. You can’t even see what happens to Jean next the shadow is just everywhere and then it slowly dissipates and a cloud of red mist evaporates with it. You start to stand up when you notice your shadow steps out from the ground and coalesces into the form of another man with piercing white eyes surrounded by shadow. “I know you… your face is familiar to me, I’ve seen it in dreams before,” you say. “Yes, I am known by many names: The Crawling Chaos, The God of a Thousand Forms, but you may call me Nyarlathotep brother, and our work is only beginning.” As you look back you quietly murmur with a contented smile “Yes, yes the work has just begun.”
Cucked and burdened by a couple of kids, the character must interrupt a ritual in order to get back their daughters.
-Innsmuth! Excellent reference. This is clearly inspired by ‘shadows over Innsmuth’ from the lovecraft mythos, and the title is pretty clever.
-The stakes are high in this story. The character’s motive of getting their children back is relatable and believable. The simple structure of the story lends itself well to the narrative it tells.
-Show, don’t tell. While it’s important to establish important information about the characters early on due to the short word count, you could’ve done this far more effectively. I don’t need a whole description of the divorce, I don’t need to be told about my wife’s boyfriend to try and build sympathy. Show me instead (maybe the character looks at a locket of his family, before looking up to show that the wife isn’t present). In a mystery or horror story the audience needs to be able to make assumptions to slowly build up tension, we can’t do that if we’re immediately told everything (as we are with the fish-like inhabitants of Innsmuth).
-Some leaps of logic are present here for plot convenience. How does the character know the location of the church? I doubt there’s signs to the human ritualistic sacrifice building, the one in my town isn’t exactly on Google maps (though it can be found, just go to the homeless shelter where the meat tastes weird).
-The ending is sort of a deus ex machina. It also leaves a lot of threads open, such as the fate of the daughters. There’s only one lovecraftian entity I know who’s kind enough to have a few children pottering about.
@Soy_No_More delivers us some ‘cosnic horror’.
I remember how it all started, only two years ago. I was so innocent then.
I took Stewart with me on my hike out of town, and he saw a rabbit and twisted out of his leash. A dog escaping his leash, what a small thing to lead to all this!
That big drainpipe, emerging from the hills that were always in shadow even on the sunniest day. So many abandoned constructions projects out there, and the ground was always slightly spongy, and stank.
I never saw where the rabbit went, but Stewart was distracted by something else, and ran into the drainpipe, tail wagging happily. I could hear buzzing flies and smell something indescribably rotten, I didn’t want to go in myself.
I never saw him again.
But he was there, just the same. He did come out again. I could sense his presence, and sometimes I’d wake up and find muddy pawprints across the floor, or the ceiling. It sounds silly I know, but after that incident I always felt like he could understand me when I spoke to him.
I’d always been sort of withdrawn, I never cared for sports or hanging out with lots of people or anything like that. But one day following Stewart’s pawprints and the sound of him panting, he led me to an old man in the park. An odd sort of foreigner, he wore a yellow robe and meditated surrounded by stones with strange markings. He opened his dark eyes and stared at me when I approached, then smiled. He reached out and petted the place where I knew Stewart was. I smiled too, knowing I had found a kindred spirit.
He taught me lots of things, that old man. Ancient knowledge greater than anything I ever learned in school. My grades started slipping, and between spending all my time with Stewart and the old pagan, my parents started to worry.
I was quite distressed when they started sending me to a psychologist. They told her the problems began when I lost my dog, and that wasn’t right at all. They told her I drew crazy scrawls and monsters, not able to recognize the ancient sleeping gods. It all made me a little angry. They never would understand or believe me about anything.
Stewart showed me what to do though, and afterwards the state sent me to a boarding school for orphans. A dreary place, and I missed my old friend terribly, but I did to one of the bullies there what I had done with my parents, and this time I made the markings I had been taught by the old man onto the brick walls, here and there in shadowed hidden places all over the school.
I haven’t had problems with parents, or bullies, or anyone else for a year now. The other kids in the school, they all stand up straight when I walk by, they admire and respect me, I can see the adoration in their eyes and I’ve only needed to refresh the markings once. And one of my classmates was quite willing and grateful to volunteer, this time. Even the teachers love me.
We wrote an essay today on what we’d like to do when we grew up. I said that I think I’d like to go into politics. Stewart was pleased.
A sacrilegious sect can spawn from a single seed.
-This story treats it’s audience as if they are clever. It doesn’t need to explicitly state that the character kills/does something horrible to their parents, we can assume so due to the results and the tone shift afterwards. This works well as, while the author could’ve described any number of horrible things happening to the character’s guardians, our minds will always come up with something more terrifying.
-I think this might be one of my favourite examples of a detached first person perspective being used as a metaphor for physcopathy/mental illness/cosmic awareness. The nonchalant way the author describes presumably despicable deeds is unnerving, though there are a few flaws with this.
-Finally, the ending is somewhat humorous. While this is a drastic tone shift it is pretty funny so I’ll let it slide.
-You’ll notice that this story is significantly shorter than all the others, I’d assume this is because it was written quickly before the end of the competition. The full word count isn’t used and this is to its detriment.
-While I explain the benefits of the detached viewpoint, there are some detriments. Due to the audience being doubly detached from the narrative it is difficult to care about anything that occurs, so while I’d class this as a horror story it isn’t exactly scary.
@PerforatedPenguin is our next stellar story:
The food packets came in separable pairs of two, which meant that it irritated Sergei slightly every other day. Nothing gave him as great of a satisfaction as taking the last single packet from the dispenser on the last day of his journey to Cicero.
Of course, the greater task at hand was to check up on the scientists studying elder magic in the observatory of Cicero. Sergei wasn’t particularly worried about their situation, the observatory was one of the safer ones, tucked away underneath nearly a mile of ice. The recent loss of signal should just be a temporary power outage, or some failure with the connection devices. As for the scientists, Sergei cared less about them than his food packets.
The observatory’s entrance was nearly buried underneath a mound of fresh snow, he brushed it aside into great white plumes that hung in the low gravity atmosphere. The mechanical doors to the stairs grated open after some effort, and revealed a dark passageway down, steel stairs covered by a thin layer of dust. The lights dimmed and flickered as he gingerly stepped down, eventually shutting off altogether. After what seemed like an eternity of groping in the dark, Sergei’s foot found the stone floor of the observatory. He peered around, and entered through the unhinged doors, scraped and battered.
This slightly unnerved Sergei, but he steeled his nerves and found himself in the main lab. At this point, the only light was from the few glowing deformities suspended in green fluid, and an occasional flicker from the panels. As he slowly made his way to the telescope, his foot hit something soft, and he flinched. Taking a match from his coat pocket and lighting it, he found himself standing before a corpse. It wore a white wrinkled lab suit, and laid unmoving, facing the massive scope lens. Sergei leapt over the body before the light from the dying flames scattered, and took one last glance back. The scientist’s face was distorted into an inhuman grimace, and the eyes were white with madness.
With the light gone and Sergei not so keen on seeing much more, he stumbled his way over fallen chairs and lab equipment to the main telescope. The massive lens was dim, but surprisingly unharmed in contrast to the other fragile equipment. The chief operator’s chair sat slightly apart, with a clipboard laying over the handrest.
The papers clipped to the board were handwritten notes, perhaps, of their daily routine and accomplishments. Most of it was regular checks, but in the recent month or so, the telescope had detected an explosion in one of the ancient stars. Following the bright supernovae, the various instruments began to break through. Problems previously thought unsolvable were easily worked out one by one, such as the shifting curse, or obscure mathematical calculations of the dark energy flows within some elder spells. The handwriting became shaky, though, perhaps out of excitement or urgency.
The scientists within were kept up by this string of discoveries with extreme fervor, they worked sleeplessly, often days on end to create the next success, to break the next unsolvable myth. This did not last. Eventually, answers derived from after the supernovae displayed uncertainty, gaps in the numbers grew larger and larger, growing from small errors casually rounded off in excitement to massive disparities several orders of magnitude apart. Many aspiring scientists saw their hard work and dreams that they worked tirelessly on crushed, growing restless and temperamental. Those who tried to contact the main base found the connection device bashed to pieces out of anger.
The lab devolved into anarchy, killings and suicides were common cases by the day, and-
The notes stopped there. Sergei set the papers down and took a deep breath, glancing around at the maddened corpses. He peered into the scope by his side, out of curiosity, and found that it was set to play the supernova again and again. The ancient star, celerbos, exploded into colorful fragments of elder magic that enveloped millions of miles, coloring the then sky brilliantly. He sighed and stepped down from the platform with the papers.
As he made his way over to the entrance, his attention was attracted by a flickering panel of numbers. It started to make sense, the annoying constants that kept the equation from being perfect started to melt away before his eyes. He sat, and stared.
It wasn’t long before the next crew of investigators arrived, and they found a similar scene. After counting the bodies and noting one extra, they discovered the notes from the main operator. It took much effort to pry it from his bloodied hands - intrigued, they stumbled over to the telescope pad…
A cynical cyclical story by someone who’s clearly had enough of their parents forcing education down their throat .
-The horror here is very original and, while fitting with the lovecraft ethos, is one of the fresher takes. Usually it’s writings or journal entries that turn people mad in this genre, but the idea of numbers doing a similiar thing is definitely entertaining and works well.
-Some of the imagery is very well done, especially the idea of the snow floating in the planet’s atmosphere, which I’m considering stealing. Also, staying on the theme of language, the fact that the word for the planet had a similar suffix to that of the star is a nice touch.
-Finally, the cyclical structure of the narrative is probably this story’s best feature. Very cosmic horror.
-Primarily I feel the issues with this story stem from the short amount of time it was written in. There are a few strange wording choices. Particularly ‘the then sky’. Is the sky not always the sky? I feel an adjective was cut here in the heat of the moment and you didn’t look at the surrounding sentence. There are a few other small issues like this, but overall the text has a nice flow. Other than this I see very few issues with this short story and, if it was set in a less space like setting, I could imagine it in the pages of the Cthulhu mythos itself.
-One thing I thought was odd was the food packets at the start, I feel this section was a waste of words as the character traits established dont rear their heads again.
@Pearlcatcher is the next entrant, if they’re still around:
Shog'Lithura's name meant "the Shade" in one of the older tongues used by those who had worshipped it in ages past. The Shade was a creature of legend, the sort of mythic beast that had come to be feared more than worshiped. It was said to have vast wings that spread across the entire firmament and a body made entirely of darkness. It could pass through solid objects without leaving any trace of its passage. And if anyone fell within its shadow, and looked up too long, they would go mad or die. That was what happened when you saw the stars the Shade showed the mortals of old, before the coming of man.
In other words, it was the dragon from which legends came, and now it had returned. The last time it had been seen, the last time men were able to record its passing, it was said that it crossed the sky above the frozen wastes of northern Siberia, blotting out the sun and revealing the stars of another sky. For centuries, those who remembered had looked up at the night sky and wondered about those strange constellations.
They knew that somewhere beyond the horizon, the Shade waited for them with all its terrible knowledge and power in a dark, cold place where no light ever shone. But they never thought that it might be closer to home than they'd imagined.
A great crack appeared in the ice of the north, a fissure that could be seen from space. The opening widened and deepened as it split the ice and then the earth beneath it. In the end, the great rift became so wide that it reached the sea, and the water rushed into the gaping wound in the earth.
For the next few days, the water boiled.
Then there was a terrible eruption of molten fire, and a screech that could be heard all over the world. Everyone had bleeding ears.
And then the darkness came.
It began as a faint gloom on the northern horizon, rising from the sea like a fog bank. Within minutes, it had grown to a towering pillar of blackness, blotting out the sun and revealing the stars of another sky. Those who stared into its depths too long claimed that beyond their strange solar fires was nothing but endless night. It was the very edge of the universe.
But soon enough, the darkness thinned and broke apart. A moment later, the stars reappeared, filling the sky with familiar constellations once more. The strange, distant stars still blazed brightly, but the familiar ones were back. The night with its double set of stars was bright enough to read by. But after that the sun never rose.
The Earth was born in its old place in the cosmos, and hanging by a thread at the edge of the universe, both at the same time.
By the time people realized what this meant, it was too late to stop it. All over the world, the dead walked the living, and the living did whatever they could to escape the creeping madness. They found themselves staring into the night sky and wondering how they'd missed it all these years, but they never explained what "it" was.
"You'll find out when the dragon arrives," was all they'd say.
So far, the world's astronomers had not been able to explain the changes in the heavens with what had been previously known as science, but the day would surely come when the dragon itself would reveal its presence. When that happened, it was hoped that the fragile mind's of mankind would be prepared. Perhaps, the scientists reasoned, the dragon would prove to be just a legend.
That hope died when the first crack appeared in the egg, splitting the planet to its core. The new dragon emerged, draining the sun until she was clad snout to tailtip a garment of yellow light.
She would battle the Shade for eons and emerge victorious, for darkness could not exist in the presence of such light. That was the last prophecy spoken by human tongue as the atmosphere burned away and the Earth crumbled in her wake.
When a dark dragon wakes, the mortal world mingles with madness.
-This story hits the main tropes of lovecraft precisely. Strange stars? Check! Evil ancient deity? Check! You’re missing the racial undertones but beside that it complies to the genre completely.
-If nothing else, the story does do a good job of showing humanities status in the universe as lesser beings. Some extisential dread can be taken from the idea we could be snuffed out by a huge dragon dude whenever it feels like it.
-Unfortunately this story is more of an exposition dump rather than a narrative, the problem being that there isn’t isn’t anything for it to exposit. I like this dark world you’ve created, but I feel this piece didn’t understand the prompt. It’s an exercise in worldbuilding, not storytelling.
-Expanding on the previous point, because everything is explicitly stated there is very little tension built. Thus the story isn’t as scary as it perhaps could’ve been.
-This story has similar issues to Peng’s in that it was written quickly and probably could’ve done with another read through. Phrases like ‘the dead walked the living’ are odd and are definitely missing a word, unless the dead are literally taking the living on walks: which doesn’t seem lovecraftian at all.
Reflecting back on all the entries, Mirror Images by @Mizal is one of my favourites:
I never believed in the supernatural. But I dare you to tell me if there’s any other explanation for this thing that’s happened to me.
Inheriting my grandfather’s home, I took the week off and drove the 300 miles in a straight shot overnight, the restless fingers of fog drifting across the road in vain attempt to impede my progress.
The house needed cleaning to prepare for sale, and for anything that couldn’t be sold to be hauled off. I had barely known my grandfather due to some prior rift in family relations, and was sentimental for none of these things; my mind was solely on the tidy check I’d see.
I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful old mahogany furniture either way, even if it was plain to see none of it would fit in my apartment. There was one item I settled on however, a large mirror in an elaborately carved wooden stand, pushed to the very back of the closet. In the yellow dress shirt tossed over it, I found a faded receipt for an antique store I remembered as having burned down while I was still in high school.
Upon returning home I set the mirror up in my bedroom, and in the evening gloom I studied it a long time. It’s eerie and enticing sometimes, how mirror images can be; the shadows are darker, depths are deeper, doorways beckon, and everything is just a little more mysterious and askew. It gave me an enjoyably creepy feeling, and I shivered and flashed a nervous smile that didn’t quite reach my reflection’s eyes.
Then I slept. And when I woke up, everything had changed.
Surely everyone has had the experience of being lost in a dream, with strange and terrible dream knowledge thrust upon them unawares. It was a bit like this, yet it was morning and I was fully awake. I looked about me and I knew I was not in the same place where I had fallen asleep, although on the surface, everything looked the same. But it was all just a little...off.
And it was there in that damnable mirror that I saw my own comforting room, my own native world, now inhabited the sinister doppelganger who in the night had worked some sorcery to make this switch. They looked at me with frightened eyes when their deception was uncovered, and when I tried to push my way back through they raised resisting hands. Their expression growing absolutely mad and furiously angry then as my efforts to return home and strangle the life out of this foul impostor didn’t cease, they met me blow for blow, fighting wildly.
Then the unthinkable happened. The mirror cracked, and shattered. Dozens of their eyes met mine in a kind of disbelief that I should be so foolish. And now I’m trapped here, forever. I rarely leave my apartment, as I fear the citizens of this foreign world, and the places the slightly askew doorways beckon to, and the deepness of the shadows. I keep the shards of the mirror, and sometimes try to piece them together. But my work is imperfect and so the world beyond never looks quite right either, the angles are all wrong, and my reflections are more fearful than ever.
Grandfather deceased, new house to lease, sanity seized then ceased.
-The ending is excellent. The implied imagery of the MC staring into shattered shards of mirror ‘reflections more fearful than ever’ is a great idea.
-The ambiguity if the narrator has truly been transported to an alternate reality is very well written: is it their reflection that traps them, or their mind? Combine this with how the story never slacks in its narrative flow and you have an excellent entry.
-Unlike with some other entries, the author knows exactly how much information to present us with. It’s just enough for our imaginations to wander, but it never falls into the pit of becoming a lore dump. I think the best example of this is the mirror realm itself: it is described, and is thus terrifying, but we aren’t given its history or rules, making it unknowable.
-Overall the narrative in this story is tightly written, there are no SPAG errors and it fits with the theme. This story shows that even with barely any time, you can still produce something spectacular with a little proofreading. The one issue I have is that the plot is very cliche: I’ve seen it in everything from goosebumps to doctor who. This isn’t really an issue, but I feel with the competence displayed here Mizal could’ve written something original and exciting that would’ve likely placed in the top three.
@Winterfern14 is second to last, next is Ebon:
Max called out, “What are you waiting for?” He asked, staring at me with a skeptical look.
“What?” I replied with a hint of annoyance.
“The tournament is today, remember?” he asked.
“Yes of course I remember dumb ass, its the tournament, why would I forget?” I said, getting up out of my chair to go with him.
The tournament is very simple, teens every year race around the universe to find 3 things (they vary each year) and have to bring them back to earth where the Masters are. You are allowed to compete when you turn 13 so many new people try each year. There are about one million people competing each year so the competition is very tough.
“LET'S GO ALREADY!” he yelled at me. I sat in my chair looking at him with a skeptical look, “Why now? We don’t have to be there for another hour.” I replied.
“But we have to get there early,” he contradicted.
“Honestly what is your problem with getting to places early, the Masters won’t be happy with you if you're there early, and you know what happened last year.” I said looking at him with a proud glance. He looked back at me thinking about last year's incident, “Fine, but only because of what happened last year.”
We sat in the room and looked up at the stars. The room was navy blue and in a pod on a tall tower in space, there were at least 300 other pods below them and many more all around earth.
The room was filled with modern furniture that was gold, white, navy, and shades of gray, the ceiling was glass and you could see the stars through it. Every kid at 12 left their parents to live in their own pod with a roommate, it was required, unless you had medical issues…
At exactly an hour Max jumped up “It's been an hour, time to go!” he said while bouncing around the room.
“Ok, ok, jeez” I replied. He started jumping up and down with excitement. I got my hoverboard outside the closet and went to the chamber, “If you want to go so bad you better hurry up” I said, glancing over at him.
“Jeez, calm down” he replied walking over with his neon green hoverboard.
“Honestly, why did you pick that ugly green?” I asked.
“Hey! I like this color” he replied, looking very offended.
“Ok- suit yourself” I said, sealing the pod door after he walked in.
Once the chamber door was shut, the door to outside opened, we flew out of the chamber and into space, going towards a big platform miles ahead.
Humans had developed a way to breathe in space, a way to genetically code your body to let you trap oxygen inside you to allow you to breathe, every kid was required to get this “treatment” done.
“Hey Elise, how far are we?” Max said as he glanced over at me
“Why are you asking me, you have a GPS on your hoverboard, just ask it.” I replied
“My god you are so annoying,” he answered
We were a good ten minutes away from the platform and could see many people flying onto it and standing in front of a big stage. A few minutes later we started to slow down to land on the platform, swiftly flipping them up into our arms while jumping onto the giant platform.
We went to put our hoverboards away before going to stand in front of the stage. Once everyone arrived The Masters got up to speak.
“Welcome everyone to the 45th annual tournament!” They said in unison.
All but one of them sat down again, the one standing was clearly the “leader” of the group and looked down at all of us and said.
“Most of you know how this works but I will explain for all the people who don’t.” She said, “Every year teens come here to compete to find three items which we hide each year.” She glanced at a piece of paper she pulled out of her pocket and then said, “This year the three items will be…” she paused glancing at the paper again. “A yellow komodo, a small glass containing a mini universe called Eurathia, and last but not least a collection of ancient gold coins.” She said, sitting back down.
Next one of the men stood up and said,
“You have seventy-two hours to get all three items, clues will appear and be messaged to you. The first one right now”
Everyone looked down at their phones waiting for a message to appear, and then over the whole crowd, the sound of one million phones going off at once, everyone looking down at the message and talking to their friends.
“Let the tournament begin” The Masters announced and then disappeared.
Everyone was running for their hoverboards and jumping off the platform. Through all the chaos I could see Max looking for me. I walked over to him and opened my phone,
“This item has been spread around the solar system, it currently lies on one of the biggest planets in the solar system, in the heart of ice, there you will find the clue to the next item and the yellow komodo” I read aloud.
“Well we know that the biggest planet is Jupiter, but it's very dangerous there and I personally am not interested,” Max said.
“What do you mean you're ''not interested”, we agreed to do this and you are just going to quit!?” I replied, staring at him.
“I'm just joking,” he said, still sounding a bit nervous. I knew he wasn't telling the truth but decided to just leave it alone.
We flew off towards Jupiter and then landed only to see many people searching the land for the komodo. It seemed like such a waste of time to look for the komodo since there was so many people there, the clue also seemed too easy.
“Hey Max!” I shouted, “wanna go to Saturn and look there? It would make sense if the komodo was somewhere in the rings,” I said.
“Sure, that sounds like a great idea.” He replied, seeming glad to get off of Jupiter.
We headed off to Saturn's rings and were not shocked to find a few people there as well.
“Ok lets start looking,” Max said.
We started flying along the rings looking for the komodo when we heard a scream up ahead. We rushed to the area where the scream came from and saw the yellow komodo sitting right atop the rings.
I immediately pulled out my phone and scanned the komodo to then receive a message containing the next clue.
“The golden coins are hiding in a secret village hidden in Japan, you have to look there for we will provide no more information.”
“Well let's head over to earth then.” I said looking over at Max.
We jumped on our hoverboards and rushed over to Japan.
We searched all over until we spotted a bamboo patch, going inside to reveal a portal.
“We should head inside,” Max said.
Rushing inside we saw a pile of gold coins, taking a picture of them to reveal the last clue.
“The last item is in the center of the Milky Way”
We rushed over to our hoverboards and flew the long journey into the center of the galaxy, “Hey,” Max said looking at me, “Why are you shaking? Are you ok?” He said, staring at my shaking body.
“Yeah I’m fine, I just am a little worried,” I replied.
He immediately dropped the conversation and instead started speeding up.
We approached the black hole in the middle of the galaxy and started slowing down.
“Well, we are here,” he said looking at the absence of light inside the hole.
We started looking around the area and found nothing, until I thought it was a great idea to go look inside the black hole for the galaxy. I told Max my idea and he seemed skeptical but I didn't listen when he told me to stop. I was already getting pulled into the darkness and I then saw my whole life flash behind my eyes. I realized how I was never an important asset to the world or the universe, and so I was crushed into oblivions, never to be seen again. And as for the tournament and Max, I haven't heard a thing in the dark prison that now conceals me.
The weeb masters decree teenagers should search for a bunch of random items, will our heroes find them?
-The idea of an intergalactic space scavenger hunt is a cool one, and could make a nice story game given time.
-The motives of the characters are non existent. Why should we care about the competition? What do they get for completing it? Is there some sort of personal stake in doing so? Because this isn’t established it’s pretty hard to relate to the characters and their cause, so the audience is less invested.
-Moving onto the plot, this is very focused on collecting mcguffins. This can work (such as in ready player one), but because we as the audience have little time to digest the clues (which, in themselves, make no sense as far as I can tell) it feels like we are in a slideshow with each scene directly focused on going to the next.
Also the narrative flow is all over the place, the time in the pod is pointless and a waste of words. It establishes one character as excited and the other as patient but this never comes up later. I would much further have the fun stuff (like the masters) be the opening to hook me. Also this plot isn’t horror, more sci-fi adventure.
-The dialogue isn’t Shakespeare, but that’s okay. If you look online you can find a ton of tips to make the sentences less stunted and add emotion. There’s probably a terrible writing advice video about it somewhere.
-There are a few weird word choices (eg: ‘oblivioned’) and times where you repeat the same piece of information twice.
The sun was unusually bright the day Arnold met his gods. Well, to be totally honest, they weren’t really his gods. They were really Layla’s, his older sister. She calls them the Twins. It’s an overly fond term for beings that Arnold had never seen or heard from himself, but his sister insisted that they both call them that. As the Twins’ emissaries on Earth, it was only right.
Sunlight pours through the windshield of the jeep Arnold and Layla sit in. Layla would practically rather die than be in sunlight, and Arnold follows her like a puppy, so they instead had their followers drive.
A hum sounds from the content lips of Layla. It’s a lullaby from their childhood. One that Layla learned from the Twins after their parents disappeared, and had sung to Arnold for years since. Following her lead, Arnold began to sing the words she taught him years ago.
“The Darkness is my home.
The Darkness sets me free.
In the Darkness I roam.
From the Darkness they flee.
They wish the Darkness gone.
I plead the Darkness stay.”
It was a rough translation from the true language of the Twins, but, as the lullaby ends, Layla looks at you gratefully. A satisfied smile dances across her face, but, as she looks at you, her expression melted into nothingness. Her eyes go wide, and for a moment they fill with panic and desperation before rolling into the back of her head. Arnold calmly unbuckles his seatbelt and wraps his arms around her shoulders.
Episodes like this infected him with fear in the past, but now they seemed a normal part of her interaction with deity. It was the only time where he allowed his sister to be at the mercy of anyone, and even during her episodes he was careful to make sure The Twins didn’t harm her.
That thought not subconsciously causes his arms to tighten around Layla, and his teeth to grind against each other. Layla may worship these beings as gods, but Arnold had killed many men in defense of Layla in the past. If the Twins weren’t careful, then they would end up like the rest, 6 feet under. Gods be damned.
“Hey boss. We’re almost there.” Jake, the follower driving, takes a moment and points ahead. Arnold follows with his eyes and takes in the scenery of the area, and despite the incessant sunlight, he actually finds himself enjoying the view.
Immense and ominous stand the verdant Appalachian mountains. They pierce the open sky like emerald spikes, and the different slopes create the illusion of a massive green beast opening their mouth to devour their prey.
“What are you looking at?” The soft voice of Layla breaks the silence, and Arnold immediately turns to see the wide, pale eyes of his sister peering curiously at him.
A memory comes back to him at that moment. A memory of some old followers who, now dead, once called Layla crazy eyes behind her back. Arnold shakes that thought away faster than it came, and tugs forward on Layla's arm. “Look at the view. A fitting place, huh?”
She scoots forward while carefully making sure to avoid the sunlight. As she gazes at the same view you see, a grin, just as wide as her eyes, tears across her face. “It looks like the Twins.”
“What?” Arnold asks somewhat confused, and then turns back to see where he missed that in the view.
“Oh don’t worry brother dear. You’ll see soon enough.” She pats him lovingly on the shoulder before turning to Jake and his brother Jack, who sits in the passenger seat. “How much longer until we arrive at the cave?”
Glancing up from a map, Jack responds readily. “Thirty minutes until the trail ends, and then another thirty minutes walking to the cave, Prophetess.” He and his brother, like most of their organization, were twins. These two were particularly loyal, and were chosen specifically by Arnold to be Layla’s bodyguards.
“Good. Only an hour or so until we finally get to be with the Twins. It’s been, what, twenty years that we have waited for this moment?”
“Yeah,” Arnold responds. “Twenty years in the making, and,” he clutches Layla’s hand with her own, “here we are.”
The pair share a moment of excitement together, and before long they finish their drive. The trail ends against the forested mountain. This was planned with the sun in mind, so they get out as it begins to set.
A short time later six more arrive, and the process begins. Each new set of twins approach Layla together and bow while muttering respectfully, “Prophetess.” Arnold takes his position at her side, and carefully watches each and every pair closely as they come near Layla.
Once the proper introductions are made, the group waits for the sun to fully descend. In the meantime, Layla explains the ritual. “We begin in darkness, then roam from here to the ritual site. It’s important to make sure your clothes are worn and prepared properly. My visions are very clear in this particular. When I saw the Twins, they were clothed similarly. As if they had made light bend the knee to them.”
Arnold confirms mentally that each and every one of the group was clothed in the yellow cloaks Layla picked out.
“...then, in the circle and while singing, I will come and mark each of you as worthy. Then the Darkness will take us to the Twins. Ready?”
A chorus of, “Yes Prophetess,” came from the group and shortly after, the ritual began. Layla steps forward first, then grabs Arnold by the hand and begins walking into the darkening forest. It started off easy, but as the darkness grew they stumbled more. Well, everyone except Layla. Arnold clutches her hand tightly as she effortlessly guides him and the rest of the group through the darkness.
Before long, anticipation takes the group by the reins and time passes quickly. Layla is the first to enter the cave, but the rest follow quickly into impenetrable darkness. It should be comforting to Arnold, but it left him deeply unsettled. Especially as Layla left him to make sure everyone else was in place. For comfort he instead clutches an object he’d hidden beneath his yellow robe. If things got bad it would be his last hope.
Suddenly, the voice of Layla whispers to him. “Stay here brother.” He feels her lips on his forehead. “I now pronounce you worthy. Join with me in singing.”
He nods, and begins the lullaby.
“The Darkness is my home”
The Darkness sets me free.”
A silent wet thud hits the ground nearby. Uneasiness fills Arnold, but he keeps singing.
“In the Darkness I roam.
From the Darkness they flee.”
A few rapid steps reach his ears before they are silenced by another thud to the ground.
“They wish the Darkness gone.
His voice ends the song, as he hears more thuds hit the ground. Layla’s voice, however, continues the song in a different language, but somehow he still understands its meaning.
“Here until the broken dawn.
Their bodies go not astray.”
A final thud hits the ground, and the sound of wet footsteps nears Arnold. His breaths hitch, but he doesn’t say a word. A wet hand reaches out and caresses his cheek first, and then touches each eye.
“Now see as I see my child.” A distorted version of Layla’s voice tells him, and he opens his clenched eyes.
They were no longer in the cave, and Arnold was suddenly able to see clearly through the darkness. The bodies of their followers lay in pools of blood on the inky black floor. He looks beyond them to the sky where he sees two solitary mountain-like peaks. He looks closer, and sees a half of a body, from waist up, on each peak.
One raises an arm and Layla flies toward it at incredible speed. It places her atop the mound and with a single motion slams her body into the peak of the mountain beside her. She screams, and with no hesitation Arnold brings the object from his pocket out and points it in defense of Layla. A quick flick of his finger activates the flashlight which he then points at the Twins.
Cackling fills the air in response, but not only the voices of the Twins, but also of Layla. Before he can react, he and the bodies are slammed into the peaks of the Twins. The last thing he hears is the voice of Layla singing a new verse of that cursed lullaby.
“Be one with our skins.
with Darkness, our new twins.”
Fuck older sisters I guess, a Morale that does not apply to this site in the slightest.
-A cult made up entirely of twins is definitely a unique idea. I liked this entity was definitely one of my favourites in its uniqueness, though it did make me think of that one terraria boss with two eyes. Regardless I like this idea.
-The characterisation in this is definitely better than some other entries. Each of the two main characters has a motive and acts towards it, the protection of a loved one being a relatable goal. One thing I was confused about, however, is why Layla and Arnold aren’t twins. Surely the deities here would make their cult leaders twins? It’s their whole thing.
-We love the colour green round these parts, I can’t tell if this was you trying to suck up to me or just a coincidence but either way thanks for boosting my ego.
-That first paragraph twists it’s tense a lot even if it’s technically grammatically correct. First it’s in past tense with ‘was’ and ‘were’ but then it shifts to present with ‘calls’. Really this should be accompanied with a paragraph break. Anyway we stick with an active present tense for the majority of the rest of the story, which is good for horror as it immerses you. Thus I can forgive the chronological confusion at the beginning. I don’t really get the point of it.
-From changing tenses to changing persons. The second paragraph introduces a ‘you’, which I’m assuming is supposed to be Arnold. This doesn’t seem to function narratively as the rest of the story takes place from Arnold’s POV so doesn’t exactly make sense.
-‘they seemed a normal part of her interaction with deity’. Shouldn’t that be ‘the deity’ or ‘deities’ or ‘the divine’ since I’m assuming the twins are two separate things.
-The plot is pretty predictable. I could kind of tell beat for beat where the story was going as soon as a ritual was mentioned. Predictability is obviously the opposite of tension.
Why didn’t Ebon win:
I think the primary reason Ebon didn’t win is that his story seems rushed, those two tense/person grammatical mistakes really screwed over what I think is a pretty interesting idea. This was the final entry entered, merely a few minutes before the deadline. Ebon is not a bad writer, but what they are is someone who challenged half of the site and believed they could win with a rushed entry. Sometimes with bravery and foolishness it’s hard to discern which is which. It’s my belief this is the deal here: I’ll leave you all to decide which Ebon is.
The Agreena is likely my current biggest contribution to the site, but took far too long. Next time I’ll improve my speed of reviewing as I recognise this was an issue. It is also not unbiased, I am one British girl who has prejudices with prose and plot. Regardless I’m glad I’ve finished it now, and I hope you all enjoyed my reviews.
Thank you to Mizal and Gryph for pushing me to finish this, and End for being a great dad and helping me with admin stuff.
Anyway it’s time for me to start writing my own stuff again.
This story felt very weird to me and didn't make sense in places.
The observatory’s entrance was nearly buried underneath a mound of fresh snow
The observatory’s entrance was nearly buried underneath a mound of fresh snow
How can there be snow if the observatory is underneath a mile of ice? In fact, the entire setting is confusing to me and difficult to visualize. Is this observatory on a space station, a moon, a postapocalyptic Earth...?
The mechanical doors to the stairs grated open after some effort, and revealed a dark passageway down, steel stairs covered by a thin layer of dust. The lights dimmed and flickered as he gingerly stepped down, eventually shutting off altogether. After what seemed like an eternity of groping in the dark, Sergei’s foot found the stone floor of the observatory. He peered around, and entered through the unhinged doors, scraped and battered.
The mechanical doors to the stairs grated open after some effort, and revealed a dark passageway down, steel stairs covered by a thin layer of dust. The lights dimmed and flickered as he gingerly stepped down, eventually shutting off altogether. After what seemed like an eternity of groping in the dark, Sergei’s foot found the stone floor of the observatory. He peered around, and entered through the unhinged doors, scraped and battered.
It is strange that we do not hear any of Sergei's thoughts on these obviously unusual circumstances during the "eternity" of his descent down the staircase.
Sergei leapt over the body before the light from the dying flames scattered, and took one last glance back.
Sergei leapt over the body before the light from the dying flames scattered, and took one last glance back.
How does the match that was just lit die out so fast? If it is some supernatural force snuffing out the flame, make that clear. Moreover, it is strange to describe Sergei as taking "one last glance back" when he only just discovered the body moments before. The word "last" suggests that he has already been looking at the corpse for some time.
The massive lens was dim, but surprisingly unharmed in contrast to the other fragile equipment.
The massive lens was dim, but surprisingly unharmed in contrast to the other fragile equipment.
There was no mention previously of other equipment being damaged or destroyed.
The lab devolved into anarchy, killings and suicides were common cases by the day, and-
The notes stopped there.
The notes stopped there.
This reads more like a diary than notes, and being that it was written by a scientist at the observatory, it's way too self-aware, not something that would be written by someone who should likewise be caught up in the madness.
As he made his way over to the entrance, his attention was attracted by a flickering panel of numbers. It started to make sense, the annoying constants that kept the equation from being perfect started to melt away before his eyes.
As he made his way over to the entrance, his attention was attracted by a flickering panel of numbers. It started to make sense, the annoying constants that kept the equation from being perfect started to melt away before his eyes.
I wasn't under the impression that Sergei himself is a scientist given the denigratory way he spoke of the scientists at the beginning, yet here it's implied that he has studied these equations before and been frustrated by them.
Finally, the cyclical structure of the narrative is probably this story’s best feature. Very cosmic horror.
Finally, the cyclical structure of the narrative is probably this story’s best feature. Very cosmic horror.
I'm not a fan of the cyclical structure, since it feels very forced. It would require every investigator sent by the home planet to be researching the precise phenomenon being studied here. Even if there is some unnatural curiosity to view the telescope and thereby get dragged into the madness of the numbers, it's weird that a group of investigators, such as that which discovered Sergei's body, who presumably know their mission isn't to conduct research, wouldn't figure out that something is wrong after seeing one of its members start scribbling equations after looking into the telescope. I suppose I just don't find this enticement particularly compelling. Even though the overall narrative was a bit confusing, I feel that Lux_Inferni's story has the most naturally incorporated cyclical structure; the story felt like it was built around that structure rather than it being something tagged on at the end to tick a box in the list of Lovecraftian horror elements.
While I agree with some of your points in retrospective, with any competition judged by one person there will be a degree of personal preference when it comes to feedback and judgement. However now that you've pointed out the flaws that slipped past me I'm sure Peng can correct them in his future work, resulting in a better written outcome for everyone to enjoy: so thank you!
I certainly didn't mean to disagree with your judgment; I've enjoyed reading you're commentary, and it's not like you gave this story an honorable mention. I simply can't help commenting on glaring logical inconsistencies in stories.
Haha, I'm sure his storytelling abilities have improved in the 4 months since he wrote this on account of the beatings.
This was my second time trying to right anything remotely horror mostly because I'm scared of what I'd come up with. I think it's interesting exploring what kind of horror someone comes up with and how it can often be a reflection of their own fears. I just didn't know how to concisely establish the info necessary for the story to progress. Your explanation helped me make sense of a lot of it.
Thanks for the feedback Green and hope you are doing well!
Thanks for your critique, I really appreciate it! Glad you enjoyed my story.
Thank you so much for the review, I really apriciate it. I will make sure to double cheack spelling and grammar, and try to be more consistent with my tense. Although I did use a yellow item of clothing, I used "a thin yellow jacket you bought at a thrift shop".
Thanks for hosting this Green! It was certainly fun to write about an atypical genre.
Congrats to the winners and to everyone that managed to avoid shame this go around!
Thanks for hosting, Green! Good luck with all those reviews, lol. Congrats Wizzy and Elad, and congrats to those with honorable mentions!
Thanks for hosting Green. I was pleasantly surprised by how fun it was to write and actually complete something for a change!
And of course congrats to Gryphon, Wizzy and anyone who managed to turn anything in.
Well done to everyone who submitted a story, and congrats to the winners! Also, congratulations on hosting your first contest, Green!
I'm looking forward to reading these stories. Hopefully, it'll be just what I need to get out of my writing rut.
Congrats to Gryphon and elad for the podium finish, and thanks for allowing us to bloody the pit (although I guess we just used Voldy's body for that).
Thanks green for stepping up and taking the resposbility to host a duel, thanks for the feedback. OWO
Congrats to everyone that isn't shamed. SHAME on those who failed, especially a certain someone. Also congrats to honorable mentions!
I can't thank you enough for all the work you have done to keep this competition running, Green. I like your honest reviews and I'm sure they will help anyone who wants to be a better writer. I can't wait for you to review my story, at first I was scared for all of choose your story to read it, But I realized It would be a great opportunity for me to grow stronger. Thank you Green for all the feedback you have given these writers. and congratulations to gy and wizzy!
Well your gonna have to wait patently, they are dealing with real life problems right now and has no time to get on cys. so I suggest not rushing them. By the way don't count on them getting to your story in at all because we all know how stressfull doing that shit is...