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Jilka
January 18th, 2014, 11:05 PM
Startled, I woke up. My heart was pounding and I was covered in a film of cold sweat. I laid still, though as frozen in place and time, listening for a noise I knew wouldn't come. Once again I have had that dream that kept haunting me on and off for weeks, if not months now. Slowly the paralysis subsided and I rose, full knowingly that sleep now was furthest from my mind and wouldn't find me again.
Resignating I saw the glaring, almost flimmering red digital numbers tell my brain that it was only three thirty in the morning. It was summer time, but yet no sign of the gray line of light on the horizon that announced the start of another day. Even the birds, the early risers, were all snug in their nests. It was still the time of the night, at least for another hour or so, in which badgers, foxes, and owls had domain over the blackness that swallowed their footsteps and their stalking deaths.
My bare feet on the kitchen floor made a hollow sound in the darkness of my apartment and I almost wanted to apologize for interrupting the silence with my awkward presence, now stumbling its way to the refrigerator.
Drinking ice cold milk, right out of the jug, was a luxury I wasn't shying away from, especially in these early hours. A shiver ran through me, when the cold draft from the fridge hit my sweat covered body. My heartbeat had slowed down however and the gripping fear that held me like an iron first subsided with every gulp I took.
After starting the coffee maker, I reluctantly dragged myself to the bathroom to begin my day, even though it was still night, after all. Beginning your day, at night? "What an oxymoron." I whispered to the dark. My voice sounded cracked and dry, although I just have had my refreshing drink. There still was that lingering feeling of fear stuck in my throat, a leftover from my frequent nightly visitor.
An hour later I sat with my cup of coffee cradled in my hands on the couch, watching the anticipated gray line appear on the horizon. "So, there was going to be a day, after all." I thought mechanically.
Soon after, as if magically awoken, the wind picked up slightly and swayed the old huge oak tree next to my apartment building. The birds within it were eagerly hopping from branch to branch and sang their daily tune. I, however, sat still unmoving on my couch, holding on to my cup, of now luke-warm almost cold coffee. A shrill noise disturbed the perfect silence, and for a split second the fear of the night was back. "Whoever would call this early?" I wondered, slightly annoyed, after I had recognized that it was only my phone. Hesitantly I rose, apprehensive of answering the phone, but determined to make that noise stop. For a second I contemplated to just unplug the phone, but then I took it off the charger and answered with my cracked, unused voice:
"Yes?"
There was a strange noise on the other end of the line, a sort of crackling you usually hear when the telephone line is experiencing water damage. I was about to hang up when I finally heard the raspy, deep voice I've heard so many times before.
My mindset had finally been ease, just sitting on the sofa and watching the day begin and it was almost physical work to bring myself back to the presence and listen to my early caller.
It was a brief conversation and I barely needed to say more than a few agreeing and disagreeing noises and I was once again enjoying my temporary solidarity with my cold coffee. I know now what I had to do, and should start on it sooner rather than later.
The day had grown into a little more than just a hopeful gray line on the horizon, when I rushed out of the house and made my way to my old Volkswagen bug. I didn't have a particular romantic affiliation with that sort of car, but it was simply a car I could afford. In addition it was an age-old, hand-me-down from a very good friend of mine. Of course it wasn't a perfect car by far and to top it: the heating core stopped working about two years ago. I could have sworn that ever since that happened, the winters had been colder and longer, as if to spite me. Just when I was thinking about that, the wind suddenly picked up and blew right through me. Still filled with the cold chill of night, the wind gripped me to my bones and I was tempted for a moment to draw my jacket closer around my body to preserve the residual warmth. Then I thought different of it and embraced the chill, knowing it would be a warm day.
On the drive to my destination I slowly felt the ice lump in my stomach dissolve. It seemed to take longer each time, after every dream, to shake off that feeling that was paralyzing my soul and seemed to haunt me into my day. I sometimes felt as if I was still sleeping although my eyes were open; there was a certain disconnect from reality that took longer and longer to disappear after each dream.
A fiery sun rose to the east when my bug pulled up at my destination. The wind had died down as if it was only allowed to blow at dusk. The sun rose now high enough to illuminate the big building in front of me and I stood in awe for a second, before I walked up the big stairs to meet my early caller.
Walking through the halls I caught the whiff of this old elementary school floor cleaner that used to violate the air sometimes till the early morning hours when I arrived ready to start class. I always had wondered as a child where that smell came from, until I had my first (and certainly not last) detention late in the afternoon. It was the first time I noticed the janitors, meticulously cleaning and polishing the floors. That smell seemed to have been imprinted itself in my nose ever since, connecting my synapses in my brain with the elementary school floor cleaning solution. Forcing myself back to reality and away from my elementary school years, I was now almost rushing down the hallways. While I was passing showcases and janitor closets, my attention was drawn to the brief reflection of myself in one of the dusty showcases. Slightly shocked I drew in my breath. Did I comb my hair this morning? I couldn't recall. My long, straight hair was tamed in a bun, however there always seem to be these shorter hair-strands out of nowhere that curled themselves in different shades of boring brown around themselves, and framed my very pale face. Only a pair of inquisitive green eyes seemed to peer at myself with a curious, almost annoyed expression that I was tempted for a second to avoid my own gaze. Then it was over - the showcase reflection disappeared with my brisk walking and I notice to my own relief that this indeed had been the last showcase in the long hallway, that was about to end in the corner room.
Quinn, or Professor FitzPatrick as he was called by many, just looked up very briefly when he noticed me enter the room. I paused for an instant; hesitant to go closer, when Quinn waved me further into the room, without any eye contact. Quinn was my uncle. Somewhere growing up I lost the "uncle", a title he probably didn't care for much anyways. However, if he rather preferred me simply calling him Quinn instead of Uncle Quinn, he didn't say. For everyone else, Quinn made sure he was Professor FitzPatrick (yes, with a capital P, although there was no family tree evidence for that), and Professor Fitz for his friends. Never have I ever heard anyone call him Quinn. That was strictly reserved for me. I did like enjoy that.
I finally arrived at the cluttered table my uncle gave his undivided attention to. I stood there, unmoving and gave him some time. He was mumbling and was, as always, in his own world. Finally he looked up almost surprised as if seeing me for the first time. I knew this expression in his face: a slight degree of confusion, a faraway look and with time even recognition when he slowly came back to the here and now. Then his green eyes fixed on me, an eerily familiar pair as my own, and narrowed them slightly in disapproval when he noticed my hair. He shook his head, but I was thankful when he didn't comment on it. Without a single word he pulled out a sheet of a very old document from the pile and pointed with a finger directly to its center.
"There, I think I found something at last!" were the only words interrupting the perfect silence.
Sun beams came flooding into the room now and made the dust particles around the table dance and shimmer in the golden light. A shiver of anticipation ran down my spine.

Folcro
January 21st, 2014, 01:05 AM
I'm told it's not an easy language. Ironically, I'll never know. Be patient with it. Many of the crits I offer you now may not be fully understood because you haven't yet the intimate feel of the language. You may not be in the position right away to agree or disagree with my advice and that of others. It may be frustrating at first. Take from me what you can and again, be patient. You've come this far--- you can go a lot further.

Startled, I woke up: "I woke up, startled" is usually preferred.

My heart was pounding and I was covered in a film of cold sweat: For dramatic and frightening moments in fiction and non-fiction alike, shorter sentences are generally employed. Your "and", in my opinion, should be replaced with a period. Now, to say that you were "covered" already suggests that there is a "film", making it appear, to some readers, that you just wanted to use the word "film." Less is often more when it comes to English prose: It is, after all, a language designed to be simple and direct. Any word that is not needed is your enemy.

It was still the time of the night: It was still nighttime.

Even the birds, the early risers, were all snug in their nests: Strike the underlined. We know that birds are early risers; and if we've forgotten, the word "even" will do a fine enough job on its own to remind us.

My bare feet on the kitchen floor...: Unfortunately, I am not multi-lingual, but I'm sure you'll find that, even in most languages (but again, ignorant), this sentence is a little long.

I reluctantly dragged myself: You already have "dragged." Why would you need "reluctant"?

I must say, I find it hard to believe that this is your first attempt at English prose. I'd wager to say that most Americans can't express their ideas so well. You establish a very lonely, fearful, paranoid atmosphere to which all can easily relate. You make the reader feel uncomfortable and nervous. That takes talent.

There is a lot of overwriting. For you, I will not discourage this just yet. In fact, I think that playing and experimenting with English vocabulary, more importantly sentence structure, will do you good. Keep writing, and more than that keep listening and reading. Seek those who will provide honest and in-depth critique as you continue to develop. It may even help--- a little farther down the road--- to withhold the fact that English is not your first language: it might help to keep the critiques honest.

As you come more familiar with the language, as you listen closely and read carefully, you will find that your ability to write will come not in trickles, but in leaps. Atmosphere is so important in storytelling, and you clearly have the knack for it. Even the smallest lessons, I feel, you have the aptitude to craft into gold.

I'll be watching you.

Jilka
January 21st, 2014, 10:36 AM
Hello Folcro, Thank you so much for this! I will work on it and yes, it is my first try to write fictional work in English. However I read a lot and it's exclusively in English. In the past I have been writing in my own language, but I have approached this border in which the lines get blurred. When I start talking to myself in English (yea I do that) and dream in English then the question rise - what is my language? I will work on your advice - work the piece over and try to eliminate overwriting and the sentence structure! Thank you again for your kind words and the critique :-) - Jilka

allenasm
January 23rd, 2014, 09:59 AM
I really like your imagery as it transports one to the moment. I can't critique the work as much as more experienced writers but I can say that I found this piece compelling. Thanks for posting!

dmontague
February 9th, 2014, 08:52 AM
though as frozen in place and time,
I think you tranposed "though as." Should be "as though."

for weeks, if not months now.
I would just change this to "for months" to lower your word count.

Slowly the paralysis subsided and I rose, full knowingly
I think "full knowingly" should just be "knowing."

Resignating
I'm not sure what you meant by this. Resigned?

I saw the glaring, almost flimmering
Glimmering?

It was summer time
Usually I've seen "summertime" as one word.

sweat covered body.
"Sweat-covered" might work better.

"What an oxymoron."
I would just delete this part. I think it disturbs the mood you were creating.

My voice sounded cracked and dry, although I just have had my refreshing drink.
I think this should be "although I just had my refreshing drink."

There still was that lingering feeling of fear stuck in my throat, a leftover from my frequent nightly visitor.
I would cut "a leftover from my frequent nightly visitor." You want to keep your readers guessing.

An hour later I sat with my cup of coffee cradled
"Cradled" works well here. Good verb choice.

"So, there was going to be a day, after all." I thought mechanically.
I'm not a big fan of adverbs like "mechanically," but it's your decision.

Soon after, as if magically awoken, the wind picked up slightly and swayed the old huge oak tree next to my apartment building. The birds within it were eagerly hopping from branch to branch and sang their daily tune. I, however, sat still unmoving on my couch, holding on to my cup, of now luke-warm almost cold coffee. A shrill noise disturbed the perfect silence, and for a split second the fear of the night was back. "Whoever would call this early?" I wondered, slightly annoyed, after I had recognized that it was only my phone. Hesitantly I rose, apprehensive of answering the phone, but determined to make that noise stop. For a second I contemplated to just unplug the phone, but then I took it off the charger and answered with my cracked, unused voice:
If this part is supposed to be scary, slow down the pacing. Make the paragraph longer. Add more details. Build to a climax. Think about how time seems to slow down when adrenaline is pumping through you.
[/quote]My mindset had finally been ease,[/quote]
"Finally been ease" doesn't really work in English. You should probably rephrase that somehow.

from a very good friend of mine. Of course it wasn't a perfect car by far
I would put a comma after "far." Also, give the friend a name.

(and certainly not last)
In terms of style, generally speaking you don't want to use parenthetical phrases in a horror story. They're sort of a lighthearted technique suited for jokes, unnecessary information, and stuff like that. Perhaps you could use em-dashes (—) instead: they won't disturb the mood you're going for.

Slightly shocked I drew in my breath.
I'd put a comma after "shocked."

Did I comb my hair this morning? I couldn't recall. My long, straight hair was tamed in a bun
I like your use of "tamed."

however
I think "however" should be "but."

framed my very pale face.
You don't need to use the word "very." Usually it doesn't add anything.

Only a pair of inquisitive green eyes seemed to peer at myself
Change "myself" to "me" perhaps?

with a curious, almost annoyed expression that
You could probably put a period after "expression" and start a new sentence.

Sun beams came flooding into the room now and made the dust particles around the table dance and shimmer in the golden light. A shiver of anticipation ran down my spine.
I think the part about Quinn's background feels a bit too long and ruins the pacing of the story.

Your English is extremely good. I'm impressed. That said, you could use a bit more structure to your story. You want a character with a desire who either achieves what he wants or learns something in failing to overcome it. I feel like some of your description is nice, but it's hard to know where your story is going or what the main conflict is. It's sort of confusing. But you can make a convincing mood. Perhaps read some H.P. Lovecraft and see how he does what you're trying to do.

martinCHwriter
April 24th, 2014, 07:28 AM
Good, I like a novel/fiction with first person view as it gives readers a feeling of what being said is true.