#1
This is for an English class assignment.

I'm halfway through editing the third draft, so I decided to post the second draft here. I need to get a complete version out in two week's time, so your criticism is appreciated.

I'll try not to get hurt by your caustic comments.



This is a picture that only I can see.

It does not exist in the strictest sense of the word. No one else can see it, but as long as I can, it exists to me. I am not sure of the exact date of this photo but I know a few things about it.

It is the year two thousand and eight. It is humid and the Sun is shining brightly, though it’s hard to tell from the picture. Somewhere in the middle is a crooked tree basking in the heat, its limbs gnarled and twisted into unnatural yoga positions. Close to it are flowers. I suppose they’re tulips - it’s hard to tell. The petals are looking coquettishly away from me.

At the bottom of the picture is a flat plain of lush, dark green grass that somewhat resembles the turf you see in football pitches. If you were to look solely at the grass, you would never guess that it was a hot day.

Amongst the grass, weeds have sprouted up. The weeds stand proudly in thick clumps, tall and arrogant, pushing the grass out of the way. Half-hidden by these weeds are two halves of a BB gun bullet.

The two halves are close to one another. One is facing upwards and the crevices are irregular and almost chaotic in their jagged patterns.

It is, I’m quite sure, 4.04 pm in the evening. The Sun, at this point, hasn’t made up its mind between shining as brightly as possible and clocking out for the day. It casts subtle shadows on the crevices of the pellet. They look almost like craters on the face of the Moon.

Next to the half on the left is a girl.

Her head is tilted slightly downwards and her mouth is very slightly agape. Her expression cannot be read from her mouth. I suppose she’s pouting. There is a wrinkle of a smile at the corners. It is barely noticeable. It might not be there at all. She told me once that, “illusions are sometimes the results of reality playing tricks on us.

Her eyes look like they are staring into me.

There is a polished, glazed look to them. They are slightly unfocused, as if something caught their interest and the picture caught them just before they turned to see what the distraction was.

Her lush hair protests the tilt of the head. It fights the pose in quietly ferocious curls and twists that reach away from the pull of gravity. They remind me - they always do - of the first time I saw her.

She was rushing past me, wearing an oversized T-shirt crunched up at the shoulders, and very short pants. I noticed her hair first though. It was black - but at first glance, it seemed a rich, dark brown. There was something about it that made me start and stare at its waves of movement. I caught a glimpse of her face as she passed. Her eyes had that same glazed look she has in this picture.

This is a picture that only I can see.

The curls of hair are partially hiding a figure in the background. It’s a blurred figure walking away into the distance. The tilt of the shoulders is exactly the way Josh’s shoulders tilt when he walks. Josh was a particularly close friend of mine back in high school, but we slowly drifted apart since then. I’m told it’s a normal part of life - it happens to everyone. That doesn’t mean much to me. Death is a normal part of life too.

The last time I talked to Josh face-to-face was a couple of days after he broke up with Angela. He was bitter and cynical and clearly drunk. He mocked her and cursed her and wept and I tried to console him, but he got angry. He mumbled something about envying my relationship, and I brushed it off then. Secretly, I felt proud. I was a fool. With the precious gift of hindsight, I see the truth. Every relationship is fractured in its own way, and no matter how you try to tape up the cracks or ignore the fine spidery lines, they’re always there.

In any case, Josh was in the midst of a furious bout of swearing when I tried to calm him down. He pushed me away and accused me of “consorting with the enemy. You’ve got it all wrong, innit? Friends, goddammit, nothing but enemies you’ve yet to discover.” And that was the last thing he ever said to my face. It was a rather coherent sentence for a drunken man, come to think of it. I suppose Josh wasn’t as drunk as he made himself out to be. I don’t blame him. He used to be crazy about Angela.

The first time I met Josh’s ex-girlfriend was when he brought her to a party. We exchanged a couple of polite words, and she told me a joke - but the thumping music drowned out her words. She looked rather comical with her mouth wide open, laughing at her joke that I didn’t hear. All I could focus on was the relentless pounding at my eardrums, and I became uncomfortable. I left soon afterwards. Josh retold the joke to me as he followed me to the door, something about the people at Harvard using Yale locks. I didn’t find it that funny, but I laughed politely and told Josh to tell her it was a fabulous joke and it was a shame I didn’t catch it the first time. I wondered about them when I got back. What did either of see in each other?

I look back at the picture.
Her T-shirt is a slightly faded black and, in bold, white font, the letters MCR are scratched onto it. I can’t stand most of their songs. We actually argued about it once. She insisted that I listened to their music and I just couldn’t. It was bad enough that I had to hear it on the radio everyday. She pretended to be angry, but I really was annoyed, and after a while, everything felt real, and we didn’t know who was pretending. We fell silent for a few awkward moments, then she said, “I’ll take it off if you want,” and she did. She laughed and planted her lips on mine firmly, as if to shake off the moment of uncertainty. We had sex then, and she smiled contently afterwards and we snuggled up and talked. I loved those moments after sex - we used to talk about our future and our dreams and our secrets.

In her left hand, she is holding something. I can’t see what it is from the picture - her hand is tilted away from me. I think it’s a card. Her hand is holding it very tightly. She gave me a card once. It was a faint purple card, with lush ink lines forming words I can no longer remember. It gave me a funny feeling when I opened it; an abrupt blossoming of giddy, uncharacteristic gleefulness that fizzed through my body and plastered a silly smile on my face.

Her other hand is open awkwardly. Her index finger is curled further inwards than the rest. There is a BB gun on the ground near her feet. It is a mock pistol that shoots tiny plastic spheres that sting when shot at close range and leave light bruises if you’re unlucky. I bought one once, but I left it somewhere with all the other junk that we tend to collect throughout the years. They are not meant to be part of our lives; we simply take them along for a short time before realizing that they do not belong. Before her, my life had been an amalgamation of irrelevant details.

We had a big fight about a month before this picture. I can no longer remember what it was about. We made up afterwards. I think that above everything else, we were both terrified of the prospect of losing one another. She said it this way, “It’s like - you share this part of yourself with someone else, and if he leaves, you’ve lost that part and you’ll never get it back, ever, and I’m just so ****ing scared of that happening.”

I wonder how we managed to smooth over every conflict and pretend afterwards that they never happened. Is that what the clichéd ‘love is blind’ means? I do not know. Perhaps our quarrels were the only real thing about us. It is a Bokononist thing to say.

All those dreams we shared while we lay there, holding each other tightly, were they lies? It does not matter, but I can’t help wondering nonetheless. I think, what I think is that the truth is nothing but a cleverly disguised lie. It is a work of fiction dressed up smartly in a highfalutin tuxedo. And this life is just a dream - neither a good one nor a bad one - just a figment of someone else’s imagination. And the one Dreaming will wake one day and everything we know will vanish. Was it so wrong then to want an end to this absurd joke? It was not a selfish thought; I did not seek such a solution for myself. But I could not bear to let the one I cared so painfully about suffer the similar fate. Do you see now? It was the right thing to do.

I look back at the picture.

There is a spot of crimson on her shirt that I did not notice before, near the bottom right corner. It is a blemish on this thing that I hate, but am forced to like because she is wearing it. I understand her expression now. She isn’t about to crack into a smile. Her mouth is simply open in black, expressionless shock. The right side of her mouth is smudged with a faint wisp of smoke that trickles downwards into nothingness. She is, I think, staring at me accusingly. Her glazed eyes are screaming, saying I trusted you why did you I do not understand-

I think I see a speck of red in her mouth.

-why did you I love you-

It is the year two thousand and eight. It is a humid day and the Sun is shining very brightly and the glare hurts my eyes. It is giving me a torrid headache and the silence is painfully noisy but it can’t drown out the loud thumping, the relentless pounding of my blood around my eardrums, the faint barely visible wisp of smoke trickling out of the heavy pistol I’m grasping tightly in my quivering hand, a real pistol, a loaded pistol-

-why did you shoot me?

It is precisely 4.05pm and as I let my gun drop to the ground, I fall to my knees and cry.
#2
Holy... damn. That was amazing, and incredibly dark. There were a few minor typos, just a misspelled or missing word here and there, but I'm too lazy to go back and read it again to find it. I imagine if you read it carefully or have somebody read through it with a pen and they'll find it. Great stuff. I loved the end. I wouldn't really change anything, I loved the usage of detail in it, it kept it interesting despite the massive length (I almost didn't read it at all because it seemed like such a massive wall of text). Great work!
#3
Quote by theoneandonlyq
Holy... damn. That was amazing, and incredibly dark. There were a few minor typos, just a misspelled or missing word here and there, but I'm too lazy to go back and read it again to find it. I imagine if you read it carefully or have somebody read through it with a pen and they'll find it. Great stuff. I loved the end. I wouldn't really change anything, I loved the usage of detail in it, it kept it interesting despite the massive length (I almost didn't read it at all because it seemed like such a massive wall of text). Great work!


Yeah, I got the typos fixed up in the latest draft. Thanks though.

I'm glad you liked it. None of my friends seem to.
#4
I know I'm kind of really late on this, but I saw your sig and I must say, my girlfriend and I both agree, you, sir, are a winner. That was awesome. Coincidentally, have you ever read Watchmen? The superhuman amount of detail reminded me of Jon Osterman.
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#5
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I know I'm kind of really late on this, but I saw your sig and I must say, my girlfriend and I both agree, you, sir, are a winner. That was awesome. Coincidentally, have you ever read Watchmen? The superhuman amount of detail reminded me of Jon Osterman.


Thank you. That meant a lot to me. I live on compliments and aftershave. It does wonders for my digestion.

Yep, I have. And I've watched the movie, which has now made me subconsciously link Watchmen with a swinging blue penis. Lolz.

I changed up a couple of things in the final version, but it's not too different, really. Just very slight word changes, as well as an obscure reference to Bright Eyes.

Once again, thank you. Have an e-flower for your kind girlfriend too.
#6
Fantastic read. Didn't expect that twist at the end really, at first I didn't know how I felt about it, but now I think it's amazing. So, good job sir.
#7
I actually didn't really like the end that much. Not because of what it was, but because it came out of nowhere. There wasn't much stuff that seemed to lead to him feeling messed up enough to kill her. It felt a bit rushed.

The other stuff is very good though. Your style of narration is unusual, and so is the way you introduce characters. I like that. I thought some of the 'I think... maybe... etc etc' stuff bordered on annoying, but the descriptions made up for that in a weird way.
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#8
wow that is very dark and amazing
My futile existance could be summed up in one word


Derp!!!
#9
Thank you.




Well, yeah, I agree that there isn't that much of a direct buildup towards the end. I only noticed that after I finished the final copy and sent it off. It made sense in my head, I guess.
#10
Holy shit. I Am about 5 months late, but that that was incredible.

Best thing I've read in a long time.
#11
Just saw this in your signature....and all I can say is....WOW. That was one amazing read.
#14
Woah, that was actually a great read.

I love the twist at the end, even though I realized what was going to happen when I read the following:
"Was it so wrong then to want an end to this absurd joke? It was not a selfish thought; I did not seek such a solution for myself. But I could not bear to let the one I cared so painfully about suffer the similar fate. Do you see now? It was the right thing to do."

I think that it makes a lot of sense of why he killed her.

He wants to get her out of this "senseless" world he believes we live in. A world will nothing will ever matter.

I really don't know how to put it in words, but this was REALLY good. You have potential to write a good novel. You have a very rare talent in building suspense, although I kind of think you slipped away on the aforementioned quote, giving away the end, but also making me think - and therefore increasing the suspense - "holy s**t, did he kill her?!".

I hope you are writing another one and, if not, you should :P

Also, that sounds an awful lot like schizophrenia ;D
#15
This was a really good read man. The first quarter left me feeling as though my brain wouldn't be able to swallow the rest, but it caught steam after that. I was afraid I was going to be completely disconnected from the narrator. I still feel like there could have been a stronger connection between the narrator and reader, but that depends on what you are going for I suppose.

I especially enjoyed this line, I'm really not sure why. "It is a blemish on this thing that I hate, but am forced to like because she is wearing it. "

Overall, it was great. Your tone remained steady and your story progressively sweeps the patient reader in.

When you get a chance if you could read and leave some sort of comment on one of the links in my signature, I would appreciate it muchos.

-Jake
#16
Thanks guys. I appreciate the comments.

Haven't had time to work on another one yet, but I've got a couple of ideas. Like a claustrophobic psycho stuck inside a lift during a fire.

Will get back to all the obligatory C4Cs in a day or two, really busy writing some CD reviews at the moment.
#17
Nicely written, bro.

If you've ever written other short stories...wanna lemme know? I think you have a fan. =]
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#19
Really really good. I have a kinda like this I wrote last year. Maybe I should post it for some feedback...Sorry off topic. Excellent story. And you did remind me of the dude who wrote Watchmen. Nice job dude.
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#21
This has to be one of the best stories i have ever. I've seen the link in you're sig a few times and i finally decided to read it. I have to admit it was a lot better than i ever though it could have been. i may not be able to actually critique your work but I love to read stories like this. This one in particular reminded me of myself in a way it really made me feel connected to the narrator. So yeah if you ever make another story like this one or just another story in general I'd like to know. If it wouldn't be too much to ask.
#22
Hellooo. Thank you. I'm pretty busy with uni life right now, but I'm aiming to get a novel, a few short stories, a graphic novel and a webcomic down in the next couple of years. And hopefully for money, since my job as a music reviewer + interviewer is leaving me more bankrupt than a clown in Somalia
#23
Late as hell, but whatever. That was absolutely incredible. That style of narration has a very odd way of making sense that not too many people can pull off. Awesome!
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#25
its limbs gnarled and twisted into unnatural yoga positions

I do not like this line. yoga positions seem rather unnatural already, I would come up with a better description.

you would never guess that it was a hot day.

Personally, I could never tell the temperature of by looking at the grass, so i found this line rather odd. I could tell perhaps what time of year it is, but not necessarily the temperature. Just my opinion...

of a BB gun bullet.

I found this odd because BB guns don't shoot bullets, they shoot BB's. Perhaps use the word "projectile" in some form to avoid using "BB" twice so close together? Just a thought.


is very slightly agape

"Very" followed by "slightly" does not seem to fit, since agape means open, "it is very slightly open" doesn't make sense to me. Remove the word "very." In the future, make your adjectives strong enough to stand on their own, without having to put "very" or "slightly" in front of them. It is a challenge indeed, but I believe that you will find that it will improve your writing.

Her eyes look like they are staring into me.

They are slightly unfocused

Personally, these lines seem slightly contradictory. That is just my opinion, after all, it may have been intentional. It just seemed weird to describe her eyes as starring at you, but then also distracted at the same time. Just my opinion...

waves of movement

Seems a little redundant, since waving is a movement in itself. i would remove the words "of movement."

The curls of hair are partially hiding a figure in the background. It’s a blurred figure walking away into the distance. The tilt of the shoulders is exactly the way Josh’s shoulders tilt when he walks. Josh was a particularly close friend of mine back in high school, but we slowly drifted apart since then. I’m told it’s a normal part of life - it happens to everyone. That doesn’t mean much to me. Death is a normal part of life too.

Suddenly, the story changes here. I felt like I was still waiting for more about the photograph and then it goes off an a seemingly side story, especially because of the first line of the above quoted paragraph. You start out describing this photo, but then go off on a tangent, when I was still ready to learn more about the photograph. until this point, th picture was slowly coming together in my mind, like pieces of a puzzle. but now suddenly, I forgot half of the tedious details as the description derails off into another story.

I loved those moments after sex - we used to talk about our future and our dreams and our secrets.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is my favorite line to this point, because it pairs the intimacy of sex (physical intimacy) with emotional intimacy (being able to share with one another). It compares well, making the "sex" seem more real and important, like it was shared between two people who maybe had feelings for one another, instead of between strangers.

Bokononist

Bonus points for well used literary reference.

Alright, overall, I feel like you had something going, but about halfway through, you went away from it. You were describing this photograph, and, at first, I found it tedious, but then I wanted to know everything about this photograph. But instead of revealing its secrets, you started to go off on tangents, that I feel detracted from the overall impact of th story. It was almost as if you combined two versions of the same story, if that makes any sense to you. I feel that you should shorten those tangent stories into brief sentences that describe what you are feeling, that get to the point. I guess I am saying be a little more economical. I understand that the photo is strictly metaphorical, you say so yourself at the beginning, but still, you need to stick with the theme, which was that photograph. When you go off and talk about random guy "Josh" and his girl friend or how you don't like listening to the same music, it distracts me. Now that i have beaten that point to death, the other thing that bothered me is the ambiguity of the death at the end. Does she really die, or is it a metaphor? i assume that because it is in the photograph, it is a metaphor (and obviously I know that you did not kill her in real life...or did you?) But you also say earlier on that "Death is a normal part of life to" making me think that perhaps she died, and you feel responsible (possibly drove her to suicide?). So it could either be perceived as tragic, in that she is now dead and you feel guilty, or melodramatic, in that you simply broke up and it is a metaphor. You could have done this intentionally, however.

This piece is not bad, do not think for a second that I did not enjoy reading it. I feel that if you "tighten it up," I would find it even more enjoyable. I simply posted my opinions above, take them with a grain of salt, for I only want to help you improve.
Last edited by Perrigrine at Feb 11, 2010,
#26
Very well written, I listened to it with rain in the background, very decent job I might say, has a very dark tone
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#27
i don't like the reference to bokonism. it's far to obscure for the casual reader and it makes it a little less accesible which i feel is one of the pieces main strengths. Otherwise fantastic. alot of universal feelings in this piece. some more clues to the ending towards the end of the piece would be nice. If only to make the incline from pleasant reminicscence to murdering his girlfriend a little less steep. Great work man, great work.