View Full Version : Exploring/experimenting with voice (adult themes?)

January 18th, 2011, 07:22 PM
Hey all, I wrote a mini short story that was adapted from Ursula K Le Guin's short story entitled, "The One's Who Walk Away From Omelas." As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am seeking to unify abstract philosophy with concrete literature.

Here, my main goal was to experiment with voice and really try and encapsulate a narrator/protagonist/antagonist/etc through their voice. The piece is entitled, "A Higher Place".

Note: This piece is extremely dark! It was part of a portfolio in an english class and I would love to get some feedback on it.

It is dark. It is always dark. Sometimes the door opens and lets in a thin strip of light. They come in and stare at me. Most of them smile at first. Some enter my room and kick me. Some simply stare and bite back quivering lips. They know they can’t help. I see them cringe at the sight of my room; the thick layer of caked dust, the warmth of something rotten. Their once joyous faces become distorted. Often no one comes. I sit for weeks at a time. Food is twice a day. Cornmeal.

I will be Good. I say. Please let me out. I will be Good! I cry. In my nakedness and filth and dirt and disgust and suffering, I cry. I see the pity in their eyes. But they do not help. That is part of the arrangement. They leave me here in my room to eat and piss and sleep and die.

Often they bring children. They look at me with flat lips and wide eyes, “Why must it suffer so?”

The innocence of the child is now gone. But the adults must bring the children. That is part of the arrangement. They lay reassuring hands on the child; they talk of equilibrium, of rules, of pain and of sacrifice; of Utopia. The child smiles and nods and looks at me with pride. A hero they call me. They tell me thank you. I tell them nothing.

Cornmeal comes. I can feel my belly growing larger; these legs can hardly carry my weight anymore. I try to stand but fall back into the muddy sludge that covers my room. My head hits hard. I reach my hand to my scalp and away comes a large tuft of grimy brown hair.

A woman comes. Something strange about her eyes. Then I remember what color is. Blue. The color brings outside memories back, before this place. The sky. I remember the sky. And birds.

She doesn’t cry. Her blue eyes look into mine and her expression does not change. Her eyes shoot through me. Ignoring me almost. Then, without warning, the woman with blue eyes turns around and walks directly away from the doorway. I could not see where she is going from the crack in the door, but she seems to know.

I want those blue eyes back. I want the sky back.

A child comes today. He stands in the doorway staring in at me for a while. Carries food with him. The child extends a bread-filled hand, but a much larger hand appears from behind and swats his away. Bad Gabriel. They say. Bad. That is not part of the arrangement. The child frowns and slumps over. He nibbles on his bread in silence. They leave. The door closes. It is dark.

I sleep. Dreams come. Of the blue-eyed women, of Gabriel, and of the sky. Of a place I have never seen before. A place, it seems, impossible to see with waking eyes.

I wake up to tiny raindrops tapping on my face. Rainwater drips through cracks in the thatched roof.

Gabriel is back. This time his hands are empty. His face is solemn. He approaches, nose twitching at the putrid smell. Eye contact.

He stares at me. There is a long, silent pause. Several drops of rain splash atop his forehead. His eyes stay focused. Water drips down his face, drooping over his eyelids and matting his hair. He frowns. He breathes deeply and clenches his hands into defiant little fists.

He does not blink.

Gabriel turns and walks out the door. I watch him disappear in the distance. He does not look back.

I sleep. No dreams come.

I wake to the sound of the door creaking open.

A man stands, silhouetted by moonlight. He yells and screams about his loss, his only son and his wife. How they left on my account. How no one knows where they are.

I sit in silence. I look at the man with tired eyes. I think about where Gabriel and the blue-eyed woman may have gone. Or why they may have gone. They left the City. The City of Pleasure, they call it.

But somewhere, someplace, there is a mother and her son.

A place free of Pleasure. A higher place.
Free of Utopia.

January 18th, 2011, 11:47 PM
This is very interesting. Although some background information would be nice, this has a somber tone that I find communicative.

January 19th, 2011, 04:59 AM
Okay, this was an interesting look into a confined life, the guy seemingly put there for some higher purpose of the society's. The grammar and story flowed solidly for me. I would have liked to know a bit more about why he was in there.

Got a few nits and ideas here,

I will be Good. I say.I'd exchange the first period for a comma.

I can feel my belly growing larger; these legs can hardly carry my weight anymore.I'd exchange this semi-colon for a period.

Rainwater drips through cracks in the thatched roof.This single sentence changed my vision of the scene dramatically. I had pictured a solitary confinement in an iron prison, but when I read that the roof was thatched it gave me an impression of a much more primitive society.

Okay, for me the ending didn't hold a lot of impact. A few people not liking the custom and running away didn't move me. I don't necessarily know any better way to end it, but maybe the guy himself could escape, or be set free by rebels breaking the old ways or something.

January 19th, 2011, 06:33 AM
Awesome thanks for the feedback! That's interesting about the setting... I guess I should include more descriptive language near the beginning to cement the location/surroundings earlier. I really like your understanding of the surroundings though, I hadn't really considered it as a prison to be honest (but it's an intriguing notion).

Thanks again.

-w. galt

Adeline Addison
January 19th, 2011, 06:39 PM
I wonder, do people slap the label 'dark' on their work because they worry what people will think if they don't, or as a sort of advertisement? 'Youknowyouwannareadmei'mdark~'

Not that this wasn't properly dark (as a particular shade of dark i'd call it... grim), it was just a stray thought.

I enjoyed this, despite not really having an interest in philosophy and being pretty burnt out on utopia stories. That's a compliment by the way, I don't like spaghetti but I can recognize when its good spaghetti. This, despite being spaghetti, was pretty darn tasty.

Yea that's about as abstract as I get, sorry.

I liked the imagery, that your utopia didn't feel like some steril futuristic... em... something. I need more coffee. While I wasn't big on the concept of one man suffering falsly for everyone else to be happy (it's been done to death since the bible I think) you put an interesting spin to it: they honestly blame him, don't they? They would have to, or they couldn't live with themselves for what their concept of 'balance' requires. Hence the woman taking her son and leaving.

I don't have any particular direction i'd like to see this go should you continue it- it reads like you know what you're doing, and I think I'll be pleased with whatever you decide. It stands well enough on its own.

January 20th, 2011, 07:10 PM
On 'darkness': Eh, I was mostly just letting people know in case that's not there bag.

Thanks for the feedback though (and yes I agree, Utopian/dystopian literature has been overdone beyond belief, this was for an english/philosophy class on Utopian literature in which we had to explore the voice of a given character).

I really appreciate the critiques and advice though, thanks again everyone.

January 23rd, 2011, 06:21 PM
I like this. Not as dark as you promised, I admit. As has already been said, I'd like a little more backstory with this.

But it's interesting to see how many directions you could go with this.
Did the blue-eyed woman and Gabriel leave for a purpose like saving the man (as he has saved them)? Does Gabriel have any resemblance to the archangel Gabriel of the Bible? And the man at the end: good or bad?

Would love to read more as it comes!