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Matty Lee
December 26th, 2010, 08:31 AM
Dog Story

Chapter1: Solomon

Solomon had curled himself tightly into a corner of the subway’s docking area, pressing his mid-sized frame as firmly against the cold stone wall as possible. His long fur was armor against the prying chill, but its millions of sharp fangs still found their way into the skin underneath. He sighed through his snout, sending out a small cloud of white that lethargically dissipated upward, the cold pulling the small bundle apart. He was a fool to believe that the upright gods were more generous in the winter than in the warmer months.

Had he the anger left to do so he would have cursed himself,but that particular facility had been exhausted by his combat with the frigid urban enviroment, and with a hunger that narrowed his mind such that thoughts of anything but food were difficult if not impossible. The upright ones gave the best tasting food, and in previous months had given it liberally, but now he was almost totally dependent on scavenging. Back then he had actually gotten regular meals, bulked up, and for one of the few times in his short life, he felt satisfied when he went to sleep at night.

That period of his life, that fruitful era of profitable begging, stealing, and even occasional hunting had passed with the season. As it grew colder, the spirits of the upright ones conformed to the climate, and any warmth that they normally let off disappeared inside of them, and their large coats. His first winter he hardly remembered, as puppyhood in the tunnels wasn’t partial to the seasons. Smells were plentiful, and he learned to discriminate finely between them, yet now, those fine tuned senses refused to come to the present. Hunger was the other memory, and besides the brief, beautiful anarchy of a full belly, it’s dominion over mind and body was absolute.

An elderly god was curled on a bench a few body-lengths away, layered by several fur-like fabrics, all smelling of various bodily odors. The tunnel packs, if they could be called that, never saw fit to drive them out, as they were a great resource for food,and occasional affection, provided proper manners were exhibited. The man’s body, his life, puffed out its own clouds of warmth, every determined wisp dissolving in an ever present, frigid atmosphere.

The old creature continued this for several minutes, and Solomon watched, allowing the repetitive sound and sight of the being’s breathing to sooth him as much as the weather would allow. He had prepared himself for along night’s rest in the warmer parts of the subway, away from the louder echoing of the giant running things that ripped through the tunnels. They would still come yes, but they would be quieter. When he was on his first summer,which was only a little while ago, he had tried to sneak into one of the things out of curiosity. It was warm there, but his sojourn only lasted a few hours, for when the gods began noticing him, they kicked and barked at him and fretted with one another, trying to get him to leave. He did so when the opportunity opened.

Now he found himself again in this corner, his now favorite corner, stuffed with odds and ends of god coats that he had collected. He built this shelter slightly off to the side, so that it remained undisturbed and hopefully unnoticed. The stone sucked away warmth, he found, so the coats protected him.

The small suns above him burned the darkness, and they formed a perfectly spaced line of shining orbs. When two of the seven flickered and then died, they left a dark spot on the other end of the hall. He could still see, but the sudden change in the amount of light made it more difficult.

A rat scurried somewhere nearby, but the creature was gone before he even had a chance to consider chasing it.

There was the distant sound of beasts running on the flat, hard, black paths, their routes going every which way with upright Gods they contained.

These were the sounds of the night.

shadows
December 26th, 2010, 09:36 AM
Hi Matt

Not an easy task to write from the POV of an animal. It is all too easy to put human conditions and thoughts on them so well done for attempting it. I liked the character of the dog and how he copes and survives in this hostile urban environment. Sad when people abandon dogs like this.

My only issue is how you refer to humans as gods. It felt wrong - too human a way of thinking. Dogs (as a good friend of mine would say) are more intelligent and sensible to think of another species as superior. We are the only ones foolish enough to need to explain life and death and create a fantasy for existence and afterlife. I should add that this is purely my viewpoint. Others may not agree.

A few other thoughts - again, this is my perspective only so read it as such.


Solomon had curled himself tightly into a corner of the subway’s docking area, pressing his mid-sized frame as firmly against the cold stone wall as possible. His long fur was armor against the prying chill, but its millions of sharp fangs still found their way into the skin underneath. He sighed through his snout, sending out a small cloud of white that lethargically dissipated upward, the cold pulling the small bundle apart. He was a fool to believe that the upright gods were more generous in the winter than in the warmer months.
I struggled to see the chill as millions of sharp fangs but the metaphor eluded me.

lethargically to me, isn't needed. Dissipation is slow. And I didn't see how the cold could pull the small bundle (I assume dog) apart and it should be separated from the cloud of white as they are two totally different images.


Had he the anger left to do so he would have cursed himself,but that particular facility had been exhausted by his combat with the frigid urban enviroment, and with a hunger that narrowed his mind such that thoughts of anything but food were difficult if not impossible. The upright ones gave the best tasting food, and in previous months had given it liberally, but now he was almost totally dependent on scavenging. Back then he had actually gotten regular meals, bulked up, and for one of the few times in his short life, he felt satisfied when he went to sleep at night.

The strikeouts are suggestions to tighten up the paragraph as you tend to overwrite. For example it is stronger to say - thoughts of anything other than food were impossible
than thoughts of anything other than food were difficult if not impossible.


That period of his life, that fruitful era of profitable begging, stealing, and even occasional hunting had passed with the season. As it grew colder, the spirits of the upright ones conformed to the climate, and any warmth that they normally let off disappeared inside of them, and their large coats. His first winter he hardly remembered, as puppyhood in the tunnels wasn’t partial to the seasons. Smells were plentiful, and he learned to discriminate finely between them, yet now, those fine tuned senses refused to come to the present. Hunger was the other memory, and besides the brief, beautiful anarchy of a full belly, it’s dominion over mind and body was absolute.

Try to show instead of tell and avoid repetition. You already said he hardly remembered his first winter and in the previous paragraph showed the domination of hunger.

I liked the description of the lights as small suns, the noise and smells of the subway.

Over here in UK I don't think this would happen - the dog would be found and taken to somewhere like Battersea Dogs Home if seen alone and unwanted.

Thanks for the read and good luck with the rest. I'm curious to know where you are going to take the story and also what age it is aimed at. If children you need to avoid complicated sentences.

Olly Buckle
December 26th, 2010, 11:28 AM
Shadow's advice about stronger sentences is good, I usually put it in terms of qualifying something, as soon as you start to qualify it you weaken it, compare,
"Everything was against him"
"Everything except .... was against him"
Of course sometimes you need to qualify for the story line, but it is better if you can avoid it, and you can often rephrase to avoid it. For example,
"Almost everything was against him" qualifies "everything", "Most things were against him" is an unqualified statement about "most things", and after all what do we need to know about the other things for?

Good read, well written.

Matty Lee
December 27th, 2010, 06:26 AM
Thanks for the advice everyone, your concerns are noted.

However, I don't see any reason why Dogs couldn't see people as deities. This doesn't mean we are ethically superior to them, just remember the way that Greeks looked at their Gods, very ...human creatures. Humanity's powers, our mastery over the elements, our obvious intelligence, our "majesty" all would make us perfect candidates for Godhood. Jack London also thought so, and I trust his authority on the matter.

Leyline
February 23rd, 2011, 06:53 AM
This was a well written and enjoyable beginning. I had no problem with the conception of humans equaling gods to the dogmind, partly because we can't be certain what a 'god' refers to filtered through said dogmind. Writing from an animal POV may as well be looked at as translation from an alien language. The words aren't perfectly literal, but approximate. Solomon is a good example. I assumed it wasn't a reference to the legendary figure itself, but something closer to 'wise creature'.

Shadow offered some good advice on tightening the actual prose, but I'd counsel against too much tightening. Having the piece be a bit 'tell-ish' could very well enhance the idea that this isn't a human POV we're witnessing. Perhaps finding other ways to slightly 'skew' the narrative could also prove beneficial.

All in all, this was intriguing and I'd certainly keep reading from where you left off. It grabbed my interest from the get-go and kept it. I'd love to read some more if you get around to adding to it.