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Winston
February 7th, 2012, 01:25 AM
Sci-Fi, horror etc., I hate "classifications".

It's a story. There will be "love" in it, toward the end. So, is it a "romance" now? And of course, there is "mystery" as well.

Check your preconceptions before reading. Then, any helpful, constructive critiques are welcome.

Enjoy. Or not.


Partition 1.0
 

The man winced as his bare feet touched the hard, frigid floor. He groaned and
shook his head, his hands gripping the coarse white sheet beneath him. His green,
bloodshot eyes blinked as they focused. In front of him were an opaque window, and an
almost featureless door. In a half-conscious stupor, the man raised himself off the bed and
shuffled toward the door.

The door was solid, white, and smooth. It was bordered with a black seal around
its edges, and a silver handle protruded on the right side He flexed his fingers, grasped
the handle, and turned.

Nothing.

He grasped more firmly, twisting the door handle hard. It did not budge.

"Oh, mother!" He moaned, pulling back his now sore hand. As he rubbed his
hand, the man glanced up above the door. A clear dome above the door flashed a red
light for a few seconds, then stopped. He reached for the door handle again, while fixing
his gaze upon the dome above the door. He gave the handle a gentle twist. The light
above the door flashed red again, then ceased.

He observed the dome for a few seconds after it stopped flashing. He then stood
still, and listened. There was a vague sensation of air moving, and he was aware of his
own, laboured breathing. Yet, there were no sounds.

"This is bloody queer," the man whispered to himself, "bloody queer indeed."

A splash of colour to his left caught the man’s attention. On the bare white wall
hung an olive coloured tweed coat on one hook, and matching trousers on a hook next to
the coat. Beneath them, on the floor, was a pair of black loafers. The man blinked as he
stared at the suit on the wall, then glanced down at his chest.

He grasped at the material on his torso. The shirt felt pliable, yet coarse and firm.
The material he wore was much like the sheet on the bed. The trousers he was wearing
were of the same white fabric.

The man stepped over to the coat, lifting it from the hook. He examined the
inside of the collar, and read the name stitched in the fabric,

"John W. Smith," he mumbled to himself, "you had one too many pints last
night." Smith threw the coat onto the bed, then placed the trousers and shoes next to the
coat. He spun around quickly, looking for his suit shirt and undergarments.

"Hello?"

The word echoed dully in the bland, sterile room.

"Beggin’ your pardon, might I get a bit of help here?"

Smith spun slowly in place, surveying his surroundings. Farther to the left from
where his suit had hung was a waist high counter top. On the plain wall was the outline
of a small door, cupboard-sized, with no visible handle. Further along, the counter’s
surface dipped into the form of a basin. He placed a hand into the depression, and
water poured out from a small hole in the side.

Smith was taken aback by the unexpected stream of water, but instinctively
placed both hands in the basin, and proceeded to splash water on his face.

As he stepped away from the counter, he spotted a clean white towel next to the
basin. Smith proceeded to dry his face and hands, exhaling deeply while wiping away
the refreshing water.

He placed the crumpled, damp towel on the counter. He stared at it briefly. He
could not remember seeing it on the counter a moment ago…

"Too many pints."

At that moment, Smith felt a pressure in his lower abdomen. He noticed a closet-
sized cubby in the wall, on the other side of the bed. He walked to the tiny room, and
thankfully found what appeared to be a commode. It was oddly shaped, but it appeared
that it would work for what he needed.

Smith fumbled with his pajama / trousers, finding neither buttons nor a zipper.
There was a seam where the buttons should be, and he proceeded to pull on it. The
pressure built in his bladder as he pulled harder on the seam. The seam finally gave
way with a muffled ripping sound. With haste, Smith removed his member and relived
himself into the bowl below. He sighed deeply as the last of the stream emptied into the
bowl. He stepped back, contemplating the rip in his trousers, then looked above the toilet
for a chain to pull. When the toilet bowl flushed itself, Smith jumped reflexively.

Smith poked his head outside the water closet. He absent-mindedly fumbled with
the flaps of cloth covering his crotch. Somehow, the cloth flaps resealed themselves, and
Smith stepped back into the room.

Rubbing his sore temples, it occurred to Smith that the last thing he remembered
was drinking in a pub in Bromley. It was Sunday evening. That would make it now
Monday morning.

"Bloody Hell!"

He leapt for his coat on the bed, and deftly yanked out a gold pocket watch. The
watch chain pulled the attached coat across the bed as Smith opened the watch cover, and
stared at the time. He blinked as he continued to look at the watch face. He knew that a
good winding would keep it running for over two days. Yet, the watch had stopped.

It read twelve oh one.

Smith scanned the room again, looking for a wall clock.

"HELLO!" His yell reverberated in the small room. "Can someone assist me?"

Along the wall across from the bed, Smith saw a small, odd-looking table and
chair. He walked up to the table, and noticed two very familiar items. There sat a bright
yellow pencil and a pad of lined white paper. He picked-up the pencil, and stared at it.
For that one moment, the stress that had been building in him evaporated. A smile,
almost formed on his lips.

Out of the corner of his eye, Smith looked to his side, to the space on the wall
next to the intransigent door. He had noticed it when he had first got out of bed, yet it
was the last thing in the room he examined.

He set the pencil down carefully as he stepped hesitantly toward the window.
As he approached, the diffuse light from the room caused a glare on the glass that made it
impossible to see what was on the other side. The window, about a yard square, reflected
his image as his bare feet shuffled across the cold, sterile floor.

Smith brought his hands up to his face, and cupped them around his eyes to
reduce the glare. His pupils slowly dilated, as the image outside the window crept into
focus…

A bright light flashed on the other side of the glass, temporarily blinding Smith
and forcing him to back from the window. Seconds later, a low rumble gently shook the
window. He looked around the room once again, a scowl formed on his lips.

"Those worthless buggars at the Weather Bureau didn’t predict a storm," he said
to no one in particular.

Undaunted, Smith once again placed his cupped hands and face next to the
window. He took a deep breath and tried to focus on the images outside as they gradually
formed in front of him. The blackness outside morphed into a mosaic of greys. Jagged
shapes, unrecognizable, coalesced into familiar forms. A glow in the distance, radiated
like fire, but crept along a barren landscape.

He pushed his face closer to the glass, sweeping his brown hair away from his
forehead. He looked from side to side through the window. Minute followed minute.
The only motion outside was a wind that blew grey dust over grey rocks. The red ribbon
in the distance crept down the side of a craggy, barren mountain. Grey rocks. Light
grey, dark grey, large and small, scattered over a otherwise featureless landscape.

There was nothing manmade. There were no plants. There were no animals.

Smith opened his mouth, trying to form a word. He failed.

There were no people.

He violently threw himself toward the basin in the counter and began to retch.
The smell of sour bile rose out of the sink as the water automatically flowed, washing it
clean. Smith brought his dripping, shaking hands to his face. It wasn’t until that moment
that he noticed the redness on them, and the stinging on the skin from its contact with the
window. He stared at his singed hands, then timidly glanced back at the window.
Through the glare, he could just make out another lightning flash.

His whole body involuntarily quivered. Smith cupped some water from the basin
and splashed it on his face, noting now his forehead was burned as well. Water dripped
from his hands and face as he reached for the towel on the counter.

The towel he used earlier was clean, dry and neatly folded.
 
 
 



Partition 2.0
 

Smith inhaled deeply. The air tasted stale, lifeless. Yet, as the oxygen filled his
lungs, it was carried through his blood to his head. Stale or not, he knew that he needed
it. He began pacing the room, along side of the disheveled bed with the strange sheets.
He mumbled to himself, alternately shaking his head and closing his eyes.

"I must be dreaming, I must be dreaming, I must be dreaming…"

Spontaneously, he stopped pacing and flung himself onto the bed. The crumpled
sheet bunched-up under him as he squirmed, trying to make himself comfortable. Smith
slammed his eyes shut, and grit his teeth while paradoxically trying to relax.

"Wake up, wake now, old boy."

He remained motionless for an indeterminate amount of time. Eventually, his
eyes cracked ever so slightly, allowing a sterile white light to enter him. Through half-
open eyes, Smith saw his chest heave up and down rapidly. He made a conscious effort
to slow his breathing as he opened his eyes further. He lifted a hand to his chest, noting
the hairs standing up on it’s back. He was cold....

Notquitexena
February 13th, 2012, 08:59 PM
So far I'm not feeling it. Within a couple of paragraphs I got that some poor dude woke up after a night at the pub and is now in a strange place. Give me some more action, please, or a greater sense of threat.

toddm
February 14th, 2012, 04:29 AM
This is really good writing on one hand, yet the suspense that you are going for ends up being almost slow-motion, creeping along - there needs to be more punch, a real hook early on, like something really bizarre that needs some serious explaining and the reader will wait and read on for it - a barren landscape is not quite enough
---todd

Winston
February 18th, 2012, 08:17 PM
Polonius said it best: "Brevity is the soul of wit." Ergo, my writing is boring.

That said, I must claim numerous handicaps in this particular endeavor. Firstly, this story involves one character. That fact makes snappy, engaging dialog a non-starter. Second, the setting must be bland and stale. That is an integral part of the story. Finally, I cannot give out too much detail early on, as that will give away the rather interesting conclusion.

I must have been mistaken. I thought that a man waking up in an alien place, and looking out a window onto a hellish landscape was at least enough to keep a readers attention. It seems that that must be a rather common occurrence for some of you. Since this is not working, I humbly ask for any suggestions (within the above-set parameters).

Writing is learning. I am beginning to understand that it is assumed that all readers are borderline ADHD and must be "hooked" within the first page or two. Since I was raised in a different generation, assuming delayed gratification and patience are faults of mine.

Thank you in advance for understanding my "handicap", and helping me overcome my work ethic with more "flash" and "action".

Foxee
February 18th, 2012, 08:39 PM
Your attitude toward those who've taken time to comment may be handicapping you more than anything else. If you firmly believe that your writing is above reproach, why post it for critique? There is an art to receiving criticism, it has to do with nodding, thanking those who've given it (sincerely), then deciding for yourself what you need to take to heart and apply in your writing.

'Brevity is the soul of wit' means that you make choices regarding which words are needed the most.


The man winced as his bare feet touched the hard, frigid floor. He groaned and
shook his head, his hands gripping the coarse white sheet beneath him. His green,
bloodshot eyes blinked as they focused. In front of him were an opaque window, and an
almost featureless door. In a half-conscious stupor, the man raised himself off the bed and
shuffled toward the door.

The door was solid, white, and smooth. It was bordered with a black seal around
its edges, and a silver handle protruded on the right side He flexed his fingers, grasped
the handle, and turned.
It just took your character 99 words to look around and try to open a door. You've gone to extremes to try and set the scene and could probably do a neater job with half as many descriptors.

Nothing.

He grasped more firmly, twisting the door handle hard. It did not budge.

"Oh, mother!" He moaned, pulling back his now sore hand. As he rubbed his
hand, the man glanced up above the door. A clear dome above the door flashed a red
light for a few seconds, then stopped. He reached for the door handle again, while fixing
his gaze upon the dome above the door. He gave the handle a gentle twist. The light
above the door flashed red again, then ceased.

He observed the dome for a few seconds after it stopped flashing. He then stood
still, and listened. There was a vague sensation of air moving, and he was aware of his
own, laboured breathing. Yet, there were no sounds.

"This is bloody queer," the man whispered to himself, "bloody queer indeed."
That's it? A character's reactions to what's around him help to show the gravity of a situation. He grabbed the handle so hard that it hurt his hand and possibly is feeling panic of some kind. It's hard to tell, there is so much description of the room that there's not much left for whether your MC's heart is hammering or if he, as his reaction at the end of this seems to indicate, finds that it's merely a queer circumstance. Does this happen to him much because it's an awefully calm reaction to the situation.

You're probably not going to like what I've just told you but, believe me, this is solid critiquing and this IS what you'll get if you post for critique...at least if you treat critiquers as though they're doing exactly what they're trying to do which is to help you.

The Backward OX
February 18th, 2012, 10:52 PM
I stopped reading at the first sentence. A floor that's frigid doesn't need the additional adjective "hard". This error tells me there has been no objective assessment of the entire piece.

Kevin
February 18th, 2012, 11:30 PM
I stopped reading at the first sentence. Apart from the base of a kids' inflatable castle, when was a floor not hard? This error tells me there has been no objective assessment of the entire piece.carpet?

FrameOfDust
February 19th, 2012, 04:46 AM
@ The Backward OX I don't really think you should put down an entire piece when you have only read the first sentence. I understand the temptation to believe you can divine th total from a snippet at the beggining, but it's simply not true.

In regards to the story, I enjoyed it. It does have a slow pace, indeed almost too slow, but I like a snails craw in some things. My primary criticism would be in regards to the way the character speaks. Some of the the language seems a bit stiff and unauthentic. I would work on that. Also, if you can find a away to highten the readers expectancy of the future, or create a vague feeling of unease somehow, that would help peoples criticism of it being too slow. I believe you have a good set up here to do that.

Rustgold
February 19th, 2012, 05:29 AM
I stopped the moment I read unannounced strong language.

Winston
February 20th, 2012, 02:07 AM
Thanks for the input. Every little bit helps.

@ Foxee: Sorry if I came off as overly defensive and not open to criticism. If someone would tell me my cooking was "bland", and left it at that, I would be put out as well. I don't think it's so much to ask what it's missing. Tarragon? Allspice? A pinch of salt? Just a clue, please. Your detailed suggestions were very helpful, thank you.

@ B-Ox: You are now in the elite club of 6.5 billion people who haven't read my work. I'm no more offended at you as the rest of the planet. Your suggestion regarding adjective usage is noted. I'm now thinking the floor may be described as "smooth", or another appropriate synonym. Is that too obvious as well?

@ FrameOfDust: Thanks for defending me with The Ox. I grew up with curmudgeons, and have developed a thick enough skin to understand how not to take misanthropic statements too seriously. Good points you made. Trying to get inside the head of a MC that is in an alien environment is a challenge. I would act differently than Smith. Challenge and opportunity there.

@ Rustgold: Your offence at my use of the word "bloody" is noted. I just researched historical, and contemporary usage for the exclamation. It seems that it is generally considered to be an "offensive" word, but not profane. Considering the stress my MC is under, and his working-class background, I defend that word's usage as appropriate. I'm sorry that, at least for your benefit, that I didn't flag it.

Thank you all again. Good input.

tputnik
March 10th, 2012, 08:19 PM
Well written but the pace is a little slow.