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The Return (NSW) [complete]


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This the first part of a short story. It wasn't conceived in parts but there seemed a natural break so I thought I'd throw the beginning up.

 

==========

 

For a moment's fraction Paul saw the sole object of his life's happiness; the blissful image seared into his memory and stayed as if impressed from an eternity””but before the instant even passed, all he saw flickered and was suddenly snuffed by darkness, and it was gone.

 

NO! he cried out desperately.

 

Pitched in lonely isolation, cut off from the world of sight and sound, he saw nothing but the black, heard nothing but the race of his own heart. He heaved, groped, scrambled; his mind reeled in paralyzing panic; panic rolled into despair, abject fear of a hope lost forever, and with each passing second, though the memory still burned, its reality escaped. He could not move, at least not in the way he wanted, and though half-aware of what was happening, he refused to accept it. It left him destitute.

 

What cruelty had whisked it all from him so quickly?

 

These thoughts and their half-conscious meanings darted and turned in his head all at once, and in no time, with whatever awareness he possessed, he resolved:

 

I have to get back.

 

How he could or if he could he did not know, nor even consider. He knew without knowing that it wasn't about thinking at all””that posed his greatest danger. It was the feel, the fluidity; he had to slip back into the stream. A gentle dip or a violent plunge””either way he must find the river and take the dive. He had to make it happen without making it happen. If he made it happen he was sure to fail. He sensed rather than reflected that reflection was his enemy: the anti-gravity that pulled him up to heights he feared. Armed with nothing but his will, he fought without fighting to find his way again. He had to. And he must make it””with the force of all his feeling, he must. If he didn't...he would not give form to that thought.

 

Suspended in the formless void, with the urgent calm he sensed was required, Paul gave himself to purposed instinct. He walked the wobbly tightrope of control and release, and by this indelicate balance the walls of night thinned and tore, and in rushed figures that flew by him like specters. Some were large, some small; some thin, some wide; some beautiful, some terrible. But they were all chatty. They spoke, screeched, and whispered; the ghosts circled round him, rising in discordant chorus. Each he recognized, but only in the moment it met his vision””when it passed he held no memory of the last and saw only the next. But for that moment””as they soared past, fluttered by, and twinkled in and out””the individuals vied for his attention while ever eluding it; but Paul heard in full the swell of the swirling symphony.

 

Suddenly the figures gathered speed and the swirl evolved into cyclone. He could no longer perceive any single form””their orbits flew too fast and were all swept up in a rushing blur. With acceleration the choral garble melted into one roaring pitch. From the eye of the storm, Paul felt dazed, both light and heavy. One corner of his mind witnessed everything with curiosity; a larger pocket held unfocused focus of his dire mission; but the vastest part fell sedated under the siren's spell.

 

As the whirlwind grew, singing with a roar so great it approached silence, Paul's awareness dimmed; he began slipping, teetering on the brink of consciousness, and then””

 

His feet were on solid ground.

 

It was a quiet suburban neighborhood. Paul knew where he was now. He stood on his porch that wasn't his porch of his house that wasn't his house and looked across the street. A rusty pickup sat in the driveway opposite while sprinklers ran in the owner's lawn. With steps muffled by distance, a jogger turned down the end of the street and passed out of sight behind the next row of houses. Further past, the sky dressed in warm summer orange as afternoon merged with twilight.

 

Taking in the scene, Paul noticed that everything was very nearly finished, but not quite. If he stared in one place long enough he could barely make out the broken contours and tiny spots of missing color. And if he stared even longer he could actually see them connect and solidify. Their shapes slowly filled as by an invisible hand, still applying the final lines and brush strokes. Paul briefly felt he had glimpsed behind something he was not supposed to see, but he did not dwell on it. The scenery had this strange fluxing residue, but inwardly everything was firm again. His hypnotic swoon, the subtle dance of force and feel...these were gone. When he hit the ground his sense had come flooding back. He could think and reason without worry, direct his faculties fully to his purpose; with vivid command he had retaken the reins of his mind. He no longer rode an unstable wave, no longer feared collapsing, but was now in control of his destiny. He was there. He had made it. And without knowing how, he knew where to go.

 

Paul stepped off the porch, turned into the street, and began to run.

 

Now he just had to find it. Had to find...her.

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Man, you need to write more. Your writing just sucks me right in!

 

As the whirlwind grew, singing with a roar so great it approached silence, Paul’s awareness dimmed; he began slipping, teetering on the brink of consciousness, and then—

 

His feet were on solid ground.

 

It was a quiet suburban neighborhood. Paul knew where he was now. He stood on his porch that wasn’t his porch of his house that wasn’t his house and looked across the street. A rusty pickup sat in the driveway opposite while sprinklers watered the owner’s lawn. With steps muffled by distance, a jogger turned down the end of the street and passed out of sight behind the next row of houses. Further past, the sky dressed in warm summer orange as afternoon merged with twilight.

This is just brilliant. The breathless overwhelming first paragraph slips way to a quick, short catch, and then settles into a paragraph of setting. When I critique, this is what I'm LOOKING for them to attain. The use of grammar to create a tone, vivid settings in just as many words as necessary, creative use of the English language to create a picture and a work of art... "As afternoon merged with twilight." Poetic, and yet literary all at once.

 

This is what I mean when I encourage people to show, not tell. You're using the medium to what I consider its fullest, everything working together to cascade into a story.

 

This is the stuff I WANT to read!

 

"He stood on his porch that wasn't his porch..."

 

Damn, I want more of this.

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Just when I thought it was over, I watched Tiana kick Almira in the head, effectively putting her out of her misery. I did not expect that.
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Wow, thanks, Tiana. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

 

I will post the next bit as soon as I have it done; fortunately, this is a story I plan to finish within the week, as I have all the major strokes figured out and some other chunks already written. I just need to put it all together. I should have the next part ready by tomorrow though.

 

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

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First things first”¦

 

Damn, I want more of this.

 

That's definitely what she said!

 

As always, COEM, you managed to grab my attention, and then squeeze the hell out of it, unrelentingly, without even giving it a fair chance to shake away. This was great, my good fellow. You've done a lot in here, and it's got me excited for more.

 

You used some redundancies, I thought, but I say that actually to praise the intense level of description that you've used in some of these passages. I'm a fan of flowery language. I often go so overboard with it, so that I need to cut it down and just concentrate on being matter of fact. You used a lot of it, but it worked well, and you didn't even have to pull from a thesaurus. You've used fairly common words in a very uncommon, exciting, concisely well-written way. You've done what I have always striven to do.

 

How he could or if he could he did not know, nor even consider. He knew without knowing that it wasn't about thinking at all””that posed his greatest danger. It was the feel, the fluidity; he had to slip back into the stream. A gentle dip or a violent plunge””either way he must find the river and take the dive. He had to make it happen without making it happen. If he made it happen he was sure to fail. He sensed rather than reflected that reflection was his enemy: the anti-gravity that pulled him up to heights he feared. Armed with nothing but his will, he fought without fighting to find his way again. He had to. And he must make it””with the force of all his feeling, he must. If he didn't...he would not give form to that thought.

 

I thought a lot of that paragraph was fluff. If by fluff, I mean awesome fluff. I really liked your choice of words. The words gentle and dip go together perfectly, and juxtapose well with violent and plunge, which also match. The redundancies were gold too. ”œRather than reflected that reflection”

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[Associate of the Illinois Mafia since November 2002.]

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Brilliant work, COEM! Very captivating. Like T said, it drew me right in, and I found myself waiting eagerly for some resolution. I immediately felt drawn to Paul's plight and began caring what would happen to him.

 

This is really, really good writing. One thing I'll point out that I loved was the alliteration in the line "Paul heard in full the swell of the swirling symphony". That's just beautiful alliteration!

 

Nice stuff...I'm definitely interested in reading more.

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SHE MEANS TO END US ALL!!! DOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!!11eleventyone!
There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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Wow, thanks guys. You're awesome. And thanks LAP for the comments about fluff: after rereading that section I agree there are a few needless sentences I would edit for the next draft; but I'm glad even the fluff was somewhat enjoyable.

 

Here's Part II! I have one more planned. Thanks for your readership; I really appreciate it and I'm glad you guys have enjoyed it so far.

 

=========

 

Paul sped down the street in pursuit of the jogger. Certainty told him the man was going where he needed to follow, and would lead him straight to her.

 

As he came upon the crossing he shot a glance both left and right, but there were no cars on the road. All the houses and yards looked charming, but the neighborhood was eerily empty. He turned right as the jogger had and instantly spotted him up ahead. But he was far...very far...farther than seemed possible in the half-minute since Paul had watched him turn the same corner. The man kept his healthy jog, but the road already split them by a vast expanse. Afraid of losing him, Paul burst into a sprint.

 

The new velocity brought on a strange sensation. It crept up in a whisper, but Paul felt that his speed tugged at the frays of some conspiracy. He sensed that the world was following him, and now he ran so fast that it constantly shifted to keep up””that what was behind him, what he left when he turned his head this way or that, was no longer there. He was crossing a bridge being built right under him, the tireless builder always snatching up the treaded planks and laying them down mere steps ahead. Paul thought if he spun around quick enough he might even take him by surprise and catch him in the act. But he didn't have time to test his theory; he quickly buried these encroaching thoughts to give full focus to the chase.

 

Yet to Paul's baffled dismay, his advantage in speed proved useless: his target drew closer, but only by inches. The jogger bobbed in casual rhythm while Paul tore with full frantic strides; but the gap closed at a crawl. He saw his struggled progress and knew that if the man's pace rose by the slightest degree, he could disappear with ease and Paul might never find him again. He tried to yell out but didn't have the breath to reach him; sweating fear and fatigue, he pushed his legs to go faster, but fed with such meager gains they soon tired.

 

Far ahead the man reached the street's end at another intersection, and stopped. Paul's racing heart jumped, but he saw his window and without hesitation reached deep for a final spurt. To his surprise he not only gained, but gained rapidly. His legs excelled under familiar physics, reinvigorated as from shedding a great weight. The houses flew past and he now felt sure that he could catch him. As he cut through the air he even caught a welcome breeze, and on it floating a sweet, sensual aroma...

 

Hers.

 

Paul stopped dead in the street. In the same moment a tremor shook the earth””not just the earth, but the fabric of the world. The man, the street, the houses...everything warped and dissolved like a broken signal, as if someone had bumped the world's antenna. With a flash all things fled from Paul's vision, and something tugged at his insides so that he felt himself rising while his feet still clung to the ground. Paul blinked...

 

And everything fell back into place: reforming, slowing, settling. Stunned, he regathered his senses. Her scent still hung in the air, and looking up he saw the jogger with back still turned, standing unmoved at the nexus of roads. From fifty yards back Paul heaved bewildered breaths and watched him closely. The man stood coldly still as if knowing, and waiting. Paul detected something sinister in his stance. An alarming thought seized him:

 

Had he taken her?

 

Was this not a guide, but a villain? Paul's mind churned, and he had just decided to end their silent standoff in a furious dash when the statue finally stirred. Paul froze and watched breathless as the man twisted his neck over his left shoulder, and like a sideways sunrise turned his head in glacial taunt. Paul strained his eyes with rigid gaze, prepared for the instant they would meet his face.

 

But at its climax the tension snapped: the man darted and fled, and before Paul could react he had vanished down a side street.

 

HEY! he yelled after him.

 

Paul chased the newly christened runner but when he cornered the same street he was nowhere to be found. The new road ran straight without end, and bore no branching outlets. It lay bare for as far as he could see. Paul guessed his fugitive had veered off the road and now hid among the houses.

 

Paul slowed and stopped. He stood motionless for several seconds, trying to pick up any sound. But silence blanketed all directions. Beginning with slow, cautious steps, and with all senses alert, he proceeded down the road. His steps landed with a feeble crunch, but in the quiet their echoes resounded. Measured breaths accompanied his strides, but within his chest his heart rebelled. His ears crouched while his eyes scanned: he kept to the street, but on both sides he searched behind fences, play sets, garages; leaned one way or another to stealthily peer into backyards and side yards; and stopped again every few minutes to listen intently.

 

But all was still. In his anxiousness, without even realizing, Paul silently repeated the same mantra. Had to find him. Had to find her. Had to find him. Had to find her.

 

But how? The road and its houses stretched to the horizon. He could be anywhere. He could play hide-and-seek forever. But that would mean...would he really never see...? Paul began to despair...

 

A flutter breached the corner of his eye.

 

He spun around and locked on the second floor of the adjacent house, and in the moment of his turning the two panes flew open with a terrible crash and a violent gust lifted a violet billow.

 

Paul knew those curtains.

 

A shock wave, stronger than before. His vision grayed, the world rippled and collapsed again, and something pulled him up and away without lifting him an inch. But he would not go. After several long seconds of desperate concentration, the tide slowed, halted, and reversed; and he came rushing back.

 

The scene restored. The wind had passed; Paul stood just as before, neck craned toward the open window where inside the violet curtains hung. The house belonged to strangers, but their curtains were their curtains””his and hers. They had picked them out together.

 

Paul paused as he received a new thought, and then realized:

 

It's a trail.

 

Racing footsteps bellowed from behind. Paul turned just in time to see his man far back at the crossing, dashing down the last street and out of sight. Their patter called in mocking sport, daring him to follow.

 

Paul took off. A burst of adrenaline propelled him faster than ever before, and doubling back the way they came he vowed never to lose him again. He cut the corner lawn and sprinted round. The jester ran ahead but this time Paul closed fast. He would overtake him, Paul was sure. He was so close now...

 

Suddenly the man ahead planted and sprang down a leftward pass. Paul skidded to redirect, but when he turned to face the new direction his face dropped all its color. He recoiled as struck by an unseen blow, and forgot all about the runner as his eyes set on the gruesome display at the newest street's center: a menacing heap of black paint and twisted metal, grotesquely mangled””formerly a car, but now the devil's artwork.

 

From his soul's depths horror rose and flooded to every crevice of his being. His body shook and staggered backwards, while his mind raved and could not accept it.

 

No... Paul insisted, reeling. No, no...this is wrong! This is not supposed to be here!!

 

Like the previous signs to this apocalypse, but on a cosmic scale, an earthquake rocked ground and sky, and the invisible hand finally had him with adamant grip. Paul tossed and thrashed but it was too late. He was swept up””not off the ground, because there was no ground, but to whatever up there was. He had nothing to grab on to, nothing to grab on with, and still screaming as he was carried away””Not supposed to be here! No! Not here!!””Paul arrived back where he started, trapped by silence and cast into familiar night.

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Pretty interesting, COEM. Very surreal and dreamlike in content, and this is reinforced by the flowery prose used to sketch out the world. You have a very poetic way of writing and this helps in painting a vivid picture of the world.

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http://www.themire.co.uk-- being a veracious and lurid account of the goings-on in the savage Mire and the sootblown alleys of Portstown's Rookery!

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Thanks, Brendo. Glad it was intriguing.

 

Just a general update on the status of this story: I was hoping to have it finished by the end of this past week but some real life stuff was more pressing so it'll be a little longer till I get it up. Also the third (and final) part is turning out to have quite a lot packed into it and will be a bit longer than the others so it's taken more time, but I am excited about it and want to take the time to make sure it comes out right, or at least the best I can make it.

 

Anyway, thanks for reading, guys, I do appreciate it.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Okay guys, after much delay, here is most of Part III. It ended up stretching so long that I had to break it up here--it's not an "official" break but I think it works fairly well. The end of this post should leave a nice cliffhanger and the final post that contains the end of the story will be significantly shorter (I'll put that up in the next the next few days). If anyone reads to the end of this post I'll be slightly amazed but hopefully there's still an audience for it.

 

=========

 

The sea of nothing enveloped Paul once again, but he would not stay an instant. The haunting image chilled his blood, yet it steeled him with abandon. He had to return, now more than ever. He was hell-bent, he could not wait””the window was already closing. Ignoring everything about the subtle dance, he lurched with all his might and hurled himself back in.

 

Paul landed.

 

But he was...somewhere else. He sensed he had made it by pure force of will, but it was...off. The feel was different. Everything was now solid, but less solid; hazy, yet vivid. His body felt used, already worn; his limbs sluggish and rigid, but that didn't seem to impede their motion. His legs already carried him down a dim and narrow corridor, but their movements felt predetermined, happening regardless of his say. He was too absorbed in his walk to give his head to his surroundings, but something told him he wouldn't have been able to if he tried. The tugging sensation of the previous world now pulled lightly, but continuously””like an inverse hourglass drawing him up grain by grain. Paul knew he had to hurry.

 

He followed his footsteps to the corridor's end and found another to his left. When Paul began down the second hall, two thoughts appeared to him at once. He soon realized they had been there since his landing, but lightly buried, and only now uncovered by a wave of experience. The first was that he had been here before. The second hall, much longer and wider than the first, seemed the center of some kind of labyrinth. He now remembered being here, remembered the walls lined with closed doors and segmented by numerous crossing halls, some dimmer and some brighter. The second, which jumped his heart, was that she was here. He had known it the first time, standing in that very spot, without knowing how; but this time he remembered because he had seen it, had seen her here. Last time something told him to follow the light...

 

Paul stretched his eyes and made out a pocket far ahead that shone just brighter than the rest. He hurried down and on approaching saw that it came from the right. When he turned a new section of the maze opened up with new doors and new halls, all cast in the slightly raised but still soft glow. An inviting door stood to his immediate left. Paul went for the knob but it would not budge, and that was all he needed to know that every door was locked, except one. The source. She was there. The tug pulled harder; he had to go now.

 

Paul found and scrambled to the next brightest spot. Another hall, more doors, more light. Right, left, left, right...the light climbed like the crawling dawn. As he ran, scanned, and ran again he noticed that all this was happening exactly as it had before. The realization, the light, the door, the turns...right, left, left, right...the scene was replaying beat by beat. In a far and tiny recess of his mind Paul knew how it ended. He ran faster.

 

In these halls the maze became trickier. The daylight made it difficult to spot the just-brighter path. Paul made several wrong turns and had to retrace his steps””the same turns and same steps, yet it could not happen any other way. But he knew he was getting close now. His eyes throbbed; he felt he was coming up on the sun.

 

Paul rounded a corner and...there it is! Not a side door (in this hall there were none), but a main one, directly ahead against the far wall: the end of the maze. Rays of unearthly radiance burst from the razor-thin cracks on all four sides, the hidden glory too abundant to contain.

 

His spirit leaped with excitement. Yes, yes, this is it!! he thought. He couldn't believe it...he had actually made it back. She was right there, behind the door!

 

Paul ran on air as he sprinted down the hall. When he neared the door a shadow knocked at his consciousness, but he brushed it away. He was so close! He reached the end and flung it open.

 

The room was enormous, if it was even a room. There was no way of telling: he could see no wall, ceiling or floor: just a vast, awesome chamber of blinding brilliance. It overwhelmed his senses, yet, amazingly, he looked without harm: this was light of a different species. It seemed to have no end, to have no dimensions or all of them””it was total, whole, one. He only perceived anything like depth at all because in the distance one figure stood out from the light, beaming with celestial splendor.

 

She was far””he couldn't even tell if she saw him””but right then he knew that he was standing with her, and all his joy rose to life. He had returned and found her again. Here, if nowhere else, was perfect peace, and he was happy.

 

He inhaled, ready to call out and run to meet her. But before he could take a step, before he could even speak, his secret fear arrived: all at once, without even a sound, the entire luminous chamber went out.

 

NO! he cried out desperately. His voice sounded distant, muffled, as if coming from afar and not from him at all. Darkness reigned. Was she still here? He heaved, groped, scrambled””but he felt it, and knew it from before. Everything had scattered. She was gone again.

 

He had known””without admitting it to himself, he had known. He had realized what was coming but wanted to keep it going, write another ending, make it different this time. He believed it was possible. But it ripped her away exactly when it had before.

 

Paul broke down. Had he really come this far again, only to find her and lose her in the same instant? Had she even known he was there? It lasted less than a glimpse and he had barely seen her face. He sank in sorrow.

 

One thing saved him from despair: he was still here. He was left in the dark, and she had vanished along with the rest, but he hadn't been flushed out””he knew because he still felt the tug. It was there, and growing. At last, something different. Before he had left with the rest, and had to float his way back in. Now time ran short, but at least he remained. And as long as he stayed he still had a chance. But now he had no idea where to go or what to do. The night was lonelier than ever.

 

I just want to see her again, he pleaded. Just to see her.

 

Suddenly the ground shifted under his feet. Paul felt a lateral movement and heard a sound like a shutter. What””?

 

Soft rain fell outside the window. Paul stood with his hands in his pockets and a briefcase slung over his shoulder, staring mindlessly at the taxis and passersby, and every so often a blooming umbrella. Ah yes, the big storm. There will be more umbrellas soon. Or fewer people. Through the glass he listened to the bustle of the street, punctuated by the occasional honks and shouts. He let his thoughts drift off...

 

”œPaul?”

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Sorry, I know this is sort of a cop-out post. I just read the second to last section that was already up. I really liked it. Geki nailed it, talking about the dream-like feel that it had. Once sentence jumped out at me as particularly awesome. "The jogger bobbed in casual rhythm while Paul tore with full frantic strides; but the gap closed at a crawl." Bobbed is such a good word to go along with casual rhythm. Additionally, tore goes well with frantic. Obviously, you know this, having written the sentence. I just thought that it was very well put together and I stopped to reread that sentence and think about it for a bit. I'll definitely keep reading soon. I just wanted to touch base with things.

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[Associate of the Illinois Mafia since November 2002.]

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Thanks for reading dude, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really appreciate your comments on the language (from this reply and the previous); it's always great to hear specifics of what is working, or what isn't.

 

And I understand about the catching up; I know it was already getting long to read in a casual sitting before I just gave birth to this new massive text wall but I hope the newest part entertains as well whenever you get to it, and hopefully begins drawing some of the various threads a little closer together. I still have to throw up the last little bit and you won't have the "cipher" (so to speak) until then, but it covers a lot of ground and builds steam toward the final resolution.

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Thanks for reading, mate. I'm glad it's been enjoyable and at the same time bewildering. Headspin is what I like to hear. I think (or at least hope) that the finale piece will explain or at least give the tools needed for figuring out what is happening mechanically and how it all fits together. I'll have it up as soon as I can.

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Good stuff! Very dreamlike. I'm entranced by the way the story flows, like a river, rocks of punctuation surfing through the words and jerking us back to reality here and there as we fade into the mind of the character and the surreality of it all. And what a cliffie! That is an emdash, my friends! THAT is how you use an emdash.

 

D:<

 

The only thing I have to note is this.

 

Ah yes, the big storm. There will be more umbrellas soon. Or fewer people.

Ought to be italicized for consistancy, or made into past tense if you want it to be narration.

 

And similarly, with this one...

 

That voice again. It was musical to him, with gorgeous timbre and perfect pitch. And my God, that smile.

The third sentence is also an active thought and should be italicized for consistancy, because you're using a personal pronoun... "my", therefore claiming it as his thought. I would also recommend "it was music to him" instead.

 

Otherwise, man.

 

This is amazing. It compells me to keep reading. I have no idea what's happening, really, but it's just so... musical. Lyrical. Thoughical. Somethingical.

 

Fantastical.

 

It's like a dream in a dream and every time I stop reading I have to shake myself awake.

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Just when I thought it was over, I watched Tiana kick Almira in the head, effectively putting her out of her misery. I did not expect that.
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Thanks, Tiana. I appreciate the words as well as the corrections. I admittedly rushed this to "print" because I was excited to get the story out (and have since made over a dozen tiny edits and fixes) but I knew I hadn't caught them all and your pointing out those parts is very helpful. Much obliged.

 

I'm glad it's been an absorbing read, and that that dizzying effect has been interesting rather than nauseating. And thanks for the comment on the language and pacing well; it has been fun to sort of let loose and be playful with it as the nature of the story allows for it.

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The end! Here's the last section of Part III. Thanks for reading, guys.

 

==========

 

{He rolled over in bed...}

 

Paul was lifted.

 

{...Not there; must be in the shower...}

 

The tug had won, the world had crumbled, and Paul was tumbling skyward. He was heading out, but not before passing through the final stage.

 

{...On the table, one keycard? There should be two...}

 

The scene skipped; it was broken, discontinuous””a series of patchwork images. Not hitched together but floating, disembodied””and Paul colliding through them.

 

{...Dressed already? ”œWhere you going?”

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Powerful stuff, COEM. Very, very well written, and the ending is close to heartbreaking (not for me, though; I'm a big gruff man who likes cars and chicks and doesn't show his feelings, obviously).

 

I loved the quick, unacknowledged transitions close to the end of the penultimate post. They were very jarring and disorienting, forcing me to go back and read the last line. They reminded me, bizarrely enough, of Scrooged with Bill Murray, where he's suddenly in a new location without warning.

 

It should feel like a cop-out, a betrayal that you don't reveal the specifics of what happened to Paul's wife, but ultimately what precisely happened becomes irrelevant. All that matters is that she's gone.

 

I cannot emphasise enough what a charged, powerful ending that was, full of pathos and quite simply painful reading. I suppose it particularly resonates with me because my girlfriend is in a different country and I haven't seen her for eight months- not the same thing, obviously, but some of the things you wrote mirror my feelings of frustration and replaying the past I don't have anymore.

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http://www.themire.co.uk-- being a veracious and lurid account of the goings-on in the savage Mire and the sootblown alleys of Portstown's Rookery!

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Wow, thanks, Geki. Appreciate it, man. Glad it struck a chord (though unfortunately in relation to your own situation, which I'm sorry to hear about and am sure can be rough).

 

About the specifics, yeah, the loss is ultimately what matters. I tried to avoid a straightforward telling in the way that the griever circles the brute facts and is still unable to acknowledge them fully. (And also simply for the mystery.) Though I tried to sprinkle in a few clues one might use to piece together the general nature of what happened (namely, the end of Part II).

 

Thanks for reading and for the comments, man. I wanted it to be a thrilling mind-bender, yet as a means to uncover an emotional personal story, so your impressions are encouraging to hear.

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  • 11 months later...

Wow, almost a year since I cranked this out. Doesn't seem that long ago.

 

I intend to do some thorough revisions and/or rewrites on this story in the near future, not because I think it's fundamentally off—I actually think it's one of the better ideas I've had—but because there are a bunch of ways it can be tightened up and I actually want to make it as good as can be. Another writerly friend whom I gave it to said it's a bit long, and I agree (I also cringe little now at some of the linguistic over-indulgences).

 

So this is one where, even though it's technically "completed," any honest feedback (positive or negative) would continue to be very helpful, as I mean to roll up my sleeves and give it serious revisionary treatment till I get it to a point I'd really feel good about.

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Yep... it's still like a dream in a dream in a dream. It is perhaps too long for the final reveal, of course... chasing the smell of a dead woman's perfume, which echos hauntingly with a discussion I had last night.

 

I still love it, of course. But from the point of view of an editor, take the red pen and cut everything unnecessary. Your prose is beautiful but it's easier to add than take away and it is fairly long for a short story. If something doesn't add to the plot, or add to the characterization, then remove it.

 

But it's best left to you to decide where these cuts should be made.

 

I'd also recommend taking a look at where you use passive voice. Since it's a very immediate story... still him, running through this dream in search of her... try to minimize any instances of it.

 

I'm fairly sure she was in a car accident. It seems implied; the organ catching, the car keys as she heads out the door. But then it might not be, because that's a simple cop-out death. As you said... it's not the death that matters, it's the grief that makes this story.

 

But in retrospect, there's a lot of stories about people about to commit suicide and until someone knocks on the door, you don't have a story, just some emo poetry as they consider their life. You have a premise, but what IS the action? That he cannot escape until he accepts the reality--she's dead and he can't do anything about it?

 

There's my critical thoughts for you, as someone who did like the original.

 

On a similar note, on the topic of "what's the conflict?" here's an article on the 'dual natured character' which I think is what you have here. Tutorials and other useful things

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Just when I thought it was over, I watched Tiana kick Almira in the head, effectively putting her out of her misery. I did not expect that.
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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply to this, but thank you so much, Tiana. This helps more than you know.

 

I'm actually beginning the process of revising this one now, and I appreciate your advice—it is sound, and it's encouraging to have specific focus points for a yet positive overall impression. I'm going to slash a good bit (killing the darlings, as they say), sticking to the plot and characterization being a good rule to follow.

 

You also brought up something that has concerned me slightly the more I have thought about it: the story is pretty back-heavy. It is structured (by design) to culminate in that final punch, where all the threads come together, but I realize that until that point one really has very little understanding of the story, and that's a lot of weight to put on the payoff. Maybe too much, which is why slashing sentences in this case seems doubly wise. I want to find the right balance so that it works, and that may just take a lot of tweaking.

 

Thank you also for the compliment about the prose. To be honest this is probably what I worry about most. Anyone who's read anything I've posted in this forum can probably tell that I enjoy writing in a lofty style. When I read books myself, I love coming across prose that sings with the beauty of the language, and it's something I like to emulate, or at least try to. (It's also rarer in modern writing, I think, which makes me appreciate it more; and I've always simply leaned in preference toward the poetic.)

 

But I feel I'm always on the edge of being overwrought, and often spilling over, which is something I'm want to discipline myself on. There's a quiet beauty in sparse simplicity, which I too often forget. For this story I can kind of get away with my worse tendencies, because it's supposed to be surreal and poetic and taking your mind in turns. But is it too much? I know a proper answer to that probably requires judging on a case-by-case, maybe sentence-by-sentence, basis, but just as a general impression, does the prose work? When or why does it, and when or why does it not? (I'm kind of thinking out loud now so don't feel you need to have an answer. Also, I'm not just fishing for validation; I'm really just trying to get an sense how the prose comes across, because I realize is usually not straightforward, and because what sounded pretty to me, given my taste, at the time of my writing may rightly sound inflated and affected to a normal and much more discerning reader.)

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for asking, Brendo. I did a sweep of revisions on this one several weeks ago and then sent it off to a real-life writer friend of mine for comment (we swapped stories), and was hoping to springboard off his feedback to make another set of revisions, but we caught each other at busy times and he had to pretty suddenly move from Maine to Texas, so I've yet to receive his comments and haven't worked on it since. I sort of subtly nudged him about it recently but he's understandably busy, so I just hope to pick it up again whenever I hear back. (And his reaction may determine how drastically [or not] I end up revising for the next wave.)

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  • 1 year later...

[18 months later...]

 

Thanks, Brendo. I've recently been making some edits trying to whip this thing into shape so I will post a revised version in the general Library forum soon, I think (if that's okay). It's not a rewrite from scratch, so it's not radically different (a lot of passages have been left untouched), but I have tried to reduce length wherever I could by cutting out needless repetitions and self-indulgent descriptions — a general tightening all around. I have been on a long hiatus from any creative writing but in reading back over this story I liked it more than I thought I would, which gave me the push to bring this story to the best place it can go and maybe even to finish some other projects I have lying around.

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