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Pluralized
April 8th, 2014, 12:46 AM
Outside his window, Markel could hear the drone of the farmer’s tractor well into the night but even with the full moon couldn’t see what the old man was up to. Markel buried his head in the pillow, twisted and writhed around for a time, and checked the clock’s white face at least a dozen times. Around two-thirty, the moon reached an oblique angle and glinted off the clock’s glass, driving all sleep from his mind. He sat up and pulled his boots on. The floorboards in the old house creaked like the sides of an old ship, lost at sea. Across the room the moon painted a rectangle, chopped up by the blinds. It disappeared as he flipped on the light switch.

Pushing arm through jacket sleeve, he felt a light tickle then a sharp pinch. He withdrew, staring at the back of his hand. He dropped the jacket to the floor. The spider ran out of the sleeve and into the hallway so quickly he wasn’t sure it was really there. The bite already started throbbing and he could see the two punctures from its fangs. He went after it, but could find no sign of it. He shook the jacket and, convinced it was free of bugs, threw it on.


When Markel cracked open the front door, the tractor’s muted hum became a well-defined, loping roar, chuffing like a locomotive. He still couldn’t see the old man beyond the row of juvenile alders separating their farms. The sound of the engine faded as the tractor made a turn and headed south. Markel thought he heard the scrape of a plow attachment digging up the hard Springtime clay. A light wind brought him the sweet scent of grass-fed manure, which he knew well. He was reminded of his years driving endless laps around their small farm, his father looking on in constant disapproval. He’d make the turn, come all the way back down to where father stood, and listen intently as father spoke up over the noise of the diesel machine. “Y’need to run them lines straighter, boy,” he’d say, then step back to where he’d been standing, arms folded. More than a few times, Markel took off on the tractor with his teeth clenched and tears streaming out the corners of his eyes.


The bite on his hand throbbed.


His footsteps crunched along the gravel driveway as he finally came to a gap in the line of trees, revealing the modest farm of Donald Gumlap. Moonlight reflected off the windshield of Gumlap’s old steam machine as he headed back toward the house, running what looked like the last pass right along the edge of the road. Markel walked briskly toward the far side of the road and jumped down beside a wide culvert, out of sight.
Pain tore through his spider hand as he steadied himself jumping down. He looked at it in the moonlight but all he could see was a dark patch.


The tractor approached, breathing its noise out into the crisp night air. The old man passed by on the rumbling machine, looking straight ahead as he and his apparatus shook the earth. The plow dragged on behind him, creating seven black lines in the gray dirt. Markel breathed through his mouth. The air was still and the moon about to duck out of sight. Gumlap pulled his tractor over to the barn and jumped down. It idled with a strange surging noise that bothered Markel. The sound became rhythmic, like a dirge leading him down the corridor of some darkened carnaval side-street, then came the pop of fireworks, bright and brilliant, flashes of white, and all went black.


The smell of earth in his nostrils, he popped awake. Sunlight stabbed him in the eyes and panic lit up in his mind before awareness settled in and he realized where he was. Somehow, impossibly, he was sprawled out across the furrows of Gumlap’s field. Instinctively pushing himself off the ground, he realized his hand was tight and swollen. The lines in the field were arrow-straight, converging on the horizon like the strings of a giant harp. Markel tried to stand, but stumbled and knelt there, looking at his swollen hand. Around the bite was red and purple, bruised deep beneath the skin. Red streaks were forming up the pale flesh of his forearm like the furrowed earth, but virulent. Wrong. He looked down at the rows of upturned mud, and thought he saw strands of hair sticking out. When he tugged at one, it wouldn't pull loose. He tried digging down with the good hand, but found only more and more of the hair; must've been a foot long. Hundreds of hairs, in clumps, sticking out of the dirt. In every row, as far as he could see. It seemed to be growing, but that was ridiculous, he reasoned.

A weird quiver went through his gut and he worried over his spider bite. The tractor droned behind him, but when he turned toward the farmhouse, Gumlap’s tractor was parked by the barn and the plow had been disconnected. Between the thick rubber wedges of the tire tread, caked mud an inch thick appeared to be dry as a bone. Markel walked up to the machine, studying the tires. He placed a hand on the muffler. Cold as the hard earth.







Ideas or suggestions on where to go with this are much appreciated.

InstituteMan
April 8th, 2014, 02:57 AM
Ummm . . . Wow.

I am not entirely sure where to go from there, but I suspect the neighbor has planted some nasty thing to fend off evil spiders or is somehow in league with the evil spiders and planted something nasty to help them. Maybe the late night plowing woke up a nasty spider nest somewhere. Or maybe the spiders aren't evil, they just have a venom that turns you into a plowing zombie or something.

I do have a minor question for you. When you write "Moonlight reflected off the windshield of Gumlap’s old steam machine as he headed back toward the house," do you mean an honest to goodness steam engine? I am just not familiar with the term as a reference to a tractor, but then I am from the Ozarks originally, not Appalachia, so the jargon may be a little different.

30Drummer30
April 8th, 2014, 03:04 AM
Hmmm I liked the story. I thought the way you described things were awesome. As far as where you should go with it, it's a weird story it would seem like you'd already know where you'd wanna go. But if it was me I would go with spider bit made him delusional and it didn't really happen? I don't just a thought.
Either way can't wait to see more.

Pluralized
April 8th, 2014, 11:26 AM
Hey InstituteMan - I had a steam machine in mind, because, well, that's about the weirdest thing I could imagine to hear. A steam tractor, powered with the fluid of organisms. Not sure which kind yet. Maybe it's just diesel fuel and I'll lose that whole bit, really.

I thought of this idea based around hearing the neighbor doing something weird and unexpected. The spider bite just adds a bit of flavor to the whole thing. I'm thinking the crops this old dude is planting under the full moon are going to hatch and spill out thousands of little spiders, which will then infect people in the area with a predilection for attrition. Perhaps they'll slowly lose their drive to continue the subsistence lifestyle and let their crops/land/animals/livelihoods go to waste, and then we'll find out the land is siezed for mega-ag production by one of the big seed companies. Who also created the spiders.

Spit-balling.

Thank you for reading this. I may expand this first bit and hoist this petard over to the workshop.

30D - thank you as well. Appreciate the fact that you read this, you liked it, and that you're here at WF with us! Welcome.

InstituteMan
April 8th, 2014, 01:14 PM
Aha, that makes sense, Pluralized. I think that "steam machine" works as a weird thing - obviously, it struck me as weird. It was a little disorienting, maybe, but it was also from the perspective of someone strung out on spider venom, so disorienting is part of the point.

I like the hatching a crop of spiders idea. Maybe the spider that delivered the bite is escaped seed stock or something. The mega-ag corp is then a cherry on top of a nice plot idea.

i look forward to seeing more if you push on with this one.

kilroy214
April 8th, 2014, 01:42 PM
This made for a very interesting read. It was appropriately creepy and kept my attention, and I loved your fluid use of metaphors and wording. The only issue I really couldn't get past was this man's realization that apparently hair has been planted in the furrows and seemingly shrugs it off to go check the tractor. I think the fact that finding massive amounts of hair ppanted the field over garners a bit more time to digest. Also, when I read, I did not think more spiders were going to burst from the fields like they'd been planted until I read it just now in your summary post. If that's the case, I would suggest changing the 'hair' to perhaps silk, because when I read 'hair' in the first go, I immediately thought human hair.

Plasticweld
April 8th, 2014, 01:55 PM
Nice pace and it reads well. I was lost when you wrote

Wrong. He looked down at the rows of upturned mud, and thought he saw strands of hair sticking out. When he tugged at one, it wouldn't pull loose. He tried digging down with the good hand, but found only more and more of the hair; must've been a foot long. Hundreds of hairs, in clumps, sticking out of the dirt. In every row, as far as he could see. It seemed to be growing, but that was ridiculous, he reasoned.

I had a go back and re-read this before it made any sense, I know what you are trying to say I almost think you need more of a build up to it so the reader has a better idea of what is going on.

Nice story

Pluralized
April 8th, 2014, 09:24 PM
kilroy214 - Good input, thanks man. I'll be working on that whole spider-hair logic thing.

Plasticweld - That part may or may not be the most convoluted logical misstep in the whole piece. I'll continue working on it - thank you.

Plasticweld
April 8th, 2014, 10:42 PM
kilroy214 - Good input, thanks man. I'll be working on that whole spider-hair logic thing.

Plasticweld - That part may or may not be the most convoluted logical misstep in the whole piece. I'll continue working on it - thank you.


Gee in my twisted little mind that was the only part I had to struggle with all the rest of seemed pretty normal :}

thepancreas11
April 9th, 2014, 06:11 PM
Freaky. I hate spiders. I'm just not a fan of anything eating me. That's probably for the best.

I'm all about your kind of strange, but this kind of reminds me of that first draft of Oath of Weirding that you did. There was a disconnect between the first half of the story and the second half there, and the same seems to be happening here. Logically, there's something wonky. There seem to be two different plots going on here that aren't quite connected like two very well made elements on the same plate that don't have the same taste profile (been watching the cooking channels...). Sampling either would be delightful, but when you put them together...you lose luster from both of them.

I like the way you frame the coming conflict between the farmer and Mr. Markel here in the context of a neighborly quarrel. As I said to someone earlier today in a critique, there is an element of realism here that makes me suspend my disbelief. I can see where this is going (although, I might include a line of dialogue with Markel cursing the neighbor for being up so late because you never explicitly state his intentions; at least I don't remember it). I would urge you to ramp up the conflict between the two of them rather than visiting the conflict between Markel and his father. That might make things better. You can always introduce the other conflict later.

I also like the way the character played the bite. "Oh, I'll be fine," he says. "Just walk it off," he says. "Got to go get that butthole to shut off his machine." His conflict with the spider is also believable and well written. That's how I could see my dad or any of his buddies playing it. Your characters, while usually trapped in insane situations, always have a sense of realism to them, most likely because of dialogue (in this case because of the choices you made with him). Although, the fact that the bite happened within his own home makes it seem much less connected to the neighbor's machinations. Personally, I might have him put the coat on, get to the field to confront the neighbor and THEN get bitten by the spider. That way, all the weird comes from one place.

Really, the issue is that while the problems both lie with the neighbor, they appear to be distinctly separate. I think that using those two suggestions, having him muttering about the neighbor doing strange things and the spider biting him at the field, would really tie up your loose ends here. Then, just like the Oath of Weirding, you'd have a crazy but believable plot.

As to where to take it, depends on whether you want the character to go on some kind of hallucination, or whether you want him to battle the neighbor, or whether you want him to realize that he should have been minding his own business and only at the end does he realize he was in the wrong, well that's up to you. Those are the three ways I could see it going from here.

Good stuff. As always, a fun and satisfying read.

Toodles!
pank

Bard_Daniel
April 11th, 2014, 04:34 PM
Hmm... I liked the piece, and would read more.

I especially liked how you described the floorboards creaking like a ship at sea. That part stayed with me. There are other examples of good description in it, but that one stood highest on my mantle.

I find it REALLY hard to judge a chapter of a novel without seeing the whole thing, so sorry if I couldn't offer you a better input. :grumpy: I just felt that, because I read it, I should at least try to comment on it.

Oh, actually, I just looked it over again and I realized how smooth your pacing (sequencing) was. Very good transitions.

Overall, good.

Pluralized
April 11th, 2014, 06:17 PM
Pank - thank you for the detailed response and for your always valuable input. Something tells me this story is going to get expanded and horrifically weird-ified this weekend. Probably going to turn ol' Gumlap into a sort of ground-dwelling spider-master with a plowed field full of his offspring. Maybe he's an egg-layer. Character development will be a hoot with this guy, and great practice too. I like your suggestions about having the spider bite happen out there in the field, which would open the door to him investigating the furrows closer... then seeing what hatches. I like stuff like that. No idea why. Thanks again matey.

danielstj - I thank you for reading this thing. Your comments are encouraging, and I'm happy you liked it. I'll see what I can do to expand and create more of this weird world for your use and enjoyment. :)

Cheers guys -
Plurpitudes

A_Jones
April 11th, 2014, 06:43 PM
Very interesting. Beautiful language as always. Here are some situational comments of mine:



The spider ran out of the sleeve and into the hallway so quickly he wasn’t sure it was really there.
Here I am not sure what you mean. Not sure it was there? As in couldn't see it? Or so quickly he wasn't sure weather it had ever even been there. Besides the evidence on his arm of course. Small nit to pick but a nit none the less.



When Markel cracked open the front door, the tractor’s muted hum became a well-defined, loping roar, chuffing like a locomotive. He still couldn’t see the old man beyond the row of juvenile alders separating their farms. The sound of the engine faded as the tractor made a turn and headed south. Markel thought he heard the scrape of a plow attachment digging up the hard Springtime clay. A light wind brought him the sweet scent of grass-fed manure, which he knew well. He was reminded of his years driving endless laps around their small farm, his father looking on in constant disapproval. He’d make the turn, come all the way back down to where father stood, and listened intently as father spoke up over the noise of the diesel machine. “Y’need to run them lines straighter, boy,” he’d say, then step back to where he’d been standing, arms folded. More than a few times, Markel took off on the tractor with his teeth clenched and tears streaming out the corners of his eyes.

Could you make us feel any more connected? This is wonderufl. I mean really, your language... its its what makes your horror that much more frightening because its true. We believe everything you say because you make it feel so real. You give us a connection. You emphasize the thoughts that we all have on a daily basis. The feelings we have all felt. And the small things we all notice. Even in a situation where we have never been.





Pain tore through his spider hand as he steadied himself jumping down.

I dislike this. Maybe spider bitten hand? But I dislike spider hand.


The sound became rhythmic, like a dirge leading him down the corridor of some darkened carnaval side-street, then came the pop of fireworks, bright and brilliant, flashes of white, and all went black.

I love it. I seriously do. Just the rise and fall of your rhythm. You have such wonderful language.


Hope to read more soon.

Pluralized
April 12th, 2014, 03:48 AM
AJ - to have any piece of my writing appreciated in this way is tremendously flattering, so thanks. And your nits are totally legit. I'll work hard to make the next iteration of this piece as strong as possible, and try to reciprocate if I can. Thank you very much for taking the time to digest and appreciate this work. It was written in full transparency, with no thought given to subterfuge nor literary enhancement. I can say, however, it was written with probably a bit less plot in mind than it should've been. I'll do my best on the next phase of Markel's journey. Very Wiz, what's going on in my head right now. Very 1930's, art-deco, sort of like weird Yellow-Brick-Road stuff. I am not sure what that means for the story but it put the flavor on what's here now.

Thanks again - you've both made my evening with your praise and given me stuff to work on. :)