View Full Version : Let grief be a falling leaf at the dawning of the day.

Name the Sky
April 3rd, 2012, 07:04 PM
They used to say the night is darkest just before the dawn.

But what if the dawn never comes?

Does the world keep getting darker?

Or will the people learn how to bring back the light?


Aluminum cots were queued in neat rows under the dim fluorescent lights of a high school gymnasium murmuring with the hum of several hundred people engaged in tense conversation. For far too long the building had been running on a backup generator, powering only the bare necessities, but it couldn't last forever. The lights were beginning to sputter in the empty hallways and cold crept in with icy fingers. Some time ago, the rest of the world had gone silent. Cellular phones and landlines alike had ceased working, while televisions blurred with static black and gray to the tune of radios crackling uselessly. Once fires started burning on the horizon the voices began to rise, primal instincts taking over; their self preservation boiling desperate brains into a slowly crescendoing frenzy. Before the first drop of blood could be spilled on the institution's linoleum floor, he had left with his family of four, driving west while they still had the gas to carry them.


Dozens of bloody arms snaked through the broken windows of the battered minivan, red slicked skin torn from bits of glass, their filthy fingers clawing at the family trapped inside. The screech of a ten year old girl pierced the frigid night air as she was dragged through the rear window. The girl's younger brother was soon to follow, snatched through a door nearly ripped off its hinges. Smoke billowed from the leaking engine of the vehicle, metal smashed beyond repair; with fire licking at the base of a broken street lamp laid across its path. A flash of gunfire was followed by the crack of a bullet screaming through the head of a man attempting to drag the childless mother from her passenger seat, spraying the mob with gray matter and shards of bone. Twelve more shots followed as he squeezed the trigger in a blind rage until the slide clicked open and empty, sending the marauders scattering in all directions. Five bodies were left behind, leaking what was left of them onto the dusty asphalt of that ghastly freeway offramp. There were no children in sight.


Tears streaked the grime caked on the face of the most beautiful woman he had ever met, as he pled on bended knee for the pistol pressed against her temple. Her slender finger trembled against the trigger, as she searched for a reason to keep going, lost in the desperate eyes of the only man she'd ever loved. One floor above, the front door of a crumbling house splintered with each chop of a bloodstained axe, incited by deafening voices and pounding fists. One of the boarded windows broke first. Smashed to pieces by a sledgehammer, half a dozen men fought their way through the small opening, footsteps thumping thunderously overhead. Only a small chain kept the basement door locked from impending calamity. Before its screws could be ripped from the doorframe, a single gunshot left him in solitary.


Scarred and broken, he sat on the edge of a massive metal bridge that was twisted in half, above a river of black water. He watched homes drift past, half sunk in the sludge of yesterday, bobbing into a tomorrow that wasn't there. It carried his reflection like volcanic glass, obsidian shards of memories floating into nowhere. Behind his eyes he watched himself drown, sinking away from the world above, and felt the peace that came with everlasting darkness. For seven days he sat there, willing himself to fall; yet each morning he was still accounted for, legs dangling like a child fishing without a reel. Then the bridge itself began to groan, thick bars of iron bending until the stone round them shattered, dumping him into the stygian muck a hundred feet below. Among the concrete boulders and steel supports plunging into the clouded river, around the empty cars and corpses swirling in a never ending whirlpool of carnage, one hand emerged to grasp the limb of a passing tree.


A skeletal city smoldered above the horizon, comprised of the bones of thousands of homes and empty skyscrapers, jutting from earth scarred by the failures of decades lost. Swathed in rags stitched from the clothes of dead men, a solitary figure ratcheted one last round into the chamber of the only firearm left on his person. Half a limp saw him stride past faded billboards and blackened storefronts, never beyond the confines of shadows that hung from the jagged edges of disemboweled buildings. Walking alone in that valley of darkness, he searched for a spark of light.

( The current title is a lyric from the song 'Raglan Road' by Patrick Kavanagh, was also thinking about 'No Sun Rising' as a possible title as well. The basic premise is what happens after society falls apart, and the devolution of the human psyche in the absence of civilization. I was wondering if this works alright as a standalone piece, or if it would work better as a starting point for a longer work. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. )

April 4th, 2012, 05:37 PM
Its a little wordy for my taste. Long descriptive sentences are hard to follow, at least for me. And I have trouble getting into any story that doesn't have characters.

Terry D
April 4th, 2012, 06:18 PM
Using the stages of grief as a structure for your story is an interesting idea, but using them as headings for your brief vignettes doesn't work for me. Perhaps that would work if this were a novel, or novella, and they were used as chapter titles?

There are some effective images in the piece, but there is nothing tying them together. Descriptive language -- sparingly and carefully used -- is the paint and finish of a story. It's what people see at first glance, but not what they pay for. They pay for the quality underneath -- in the case of a car that's the power and craftsmanship -- in the case of a story it's the characterization, structure, and flow of the tale. By simply stringing together a series of vivid images, you have given the reader a glossy paint job with no vehicle under it. Reading this piece, for me, was like watching a movie trailer, a series of quick cuts that show me enough catch my interest, but not enough to tell the story. Unfortunately, this was suppose to be the story.

April 4th, 2012, 10:31 PM
I was attracted to this by the title, because grief is a subject that fascinates me. The stages of grief -- those are personal and internal, and it's like you've tried to associate them with a much larger event, or events. I think you'd need to do this on much smaller, personal scale, if you wanted to use this structure. It's brief enough that you could make this format work, without using all the traditional story elements -- but I don't feel a connection to anyone -- it's just a string of images.

The most problematic thing for me is the whole concept of the stages of grief, which has largely been discredited among people who work in areas of grief counseling. I went to group grief counseling with couples who lost children, and when someone mentioned these, there was a collective chuckle -- and that included the lady running the group. From my own experience, they're meaningless -- you might go through these in a day and in and in no particular order. For me, it would be hard to get past that.

Name the Sky
April 5th, 2012, 05:57 AM
This is good feedback, I guess it would work better as a template than a story on its own, and be able to flesh out the ideas a lot more. The original premise was that it was one man who was going through the stages of grief after an apocalyptic event, ultimately losing his family but still deciding to carry on. That's something I probably could have made clearer as well, but I agree with the critiques. Thanks for taking the time to give it a read.

April 5th, 2012, 06:20 AM
The only thing I would like to add is giving the conflict in the story more depth. The villain in your story (aka the mob) would work better if there was more to go off of. I wasn't sure if they were zombies or people because there was nothing said about what they were doing or what they wanted. Why did they take the children? To kill them? To make them slaves?

I did like the use of the different stages of grief as the template to your story. I definitely think it is creative and can be used going on even if it isn't widely used in modern therapy.

April 8th, 2012, 09:36 AM
This seems to be a good opening bid for a longer work, like a quick back story to a more detailed account of the man's struggle. I find that the first page or couple pages of a piece is a writer's initial idea of the stories tone. Those first couple pages are easy to write because you know what words you want to use, what you want to happen and how you want to make the reader feel. The hardest part is letting that initial idea evolve into something new, carrying you further into the story.

If this is your initial idea, setting the tone and creating a base for the story to spin off of, then you should see where it takes you next. I don't think it is meant t be a standalone piece.

April 8th, 2012, 01:31 PM
I guess my post comes across more as trolling, than as anything in the form of critique, however while night is darkest just before dawn, it's also darkest fifteen minutes prior to dawn, and half an hour prior to. The darkness of the night is only darkest prior to dawn because it's the same level of dark throughout most of the night.

Also, depending on the time of year, and the size of the moon, it could be anywhere from darkest to lighter at the time of dawn than at other periods of the night.

I only say this, as I believe your intro is fascinating, but could be better used to portray the darkness that could rule our planet (or in your case, I believe, your characters mind).