View Full Version : **Melt**

June 12th, 2014, 01:55 AM
“Tip the bucket, go ‘head. G’wan! Tip it!” Dore shouted as he grabbed the controls and pushed the filthy lever as far as it would go, sending the massive ladle groaning to the side. Pilkington stumbled off balance and nearly fell into the hellish mix, grabbing and groping the safety rail. Below them, molten steel gurgled and smoked, and flames shot up into the air. A couple of dark lumps rode the river of orange down into the main casting mold, and for a moment flared up, then disappeared into scattered dark spots. The oxygen lance automatically belched its timed blast into the mix, and the whole foundry shook. The heat came in intense and unpleasant surges like the breath of a volcano screaming at them to leave.

“I gotta get the fuck out of here,” Pilkington yelled over the roaring and hissing pour. “I can’t stand this heat any longer. Wait for you upstairs.” He tromped off, climbed up a couple flights of metal stairs and went through a doorway to the outside air. His suit was too hot to remove. It always stayed hot until the after-shift quenching, but since everybody had died, there was nobody but Dore to quench him. And he wasn’t about to let Dore do anything of the sort. Couldn’t trust him not to spray his face mask first, as he’d done to some of the others before the Sickness. Quickest way to blind a man, spray that hot glass with cold water and shatter it into his eyes.

One good thing about the foundry—it was an ideal place to dispose of infected corpses.

Dore finished casting and parked the ladle back in its rest. He had to turn his entire body to look around through the small windowed helmet, but there was no sign of Pilkington. The heat in his suit was uncomfortable, and he knew he had about ten minutes to get up and out of there before he overheated. His clothing underneath was drenched and his feet hurt. The hardest part of their job was now done, and it was just down to the two of them. As he climbed the steps, the contact points with the suit burnt him and pulled his awareness from thoughts of survival. The first thing he must do now that the hard work was done, was to make sure Pilkington stayed contained. The only threat left in the world, his old buddy Pilkington. They’d grown up in Yarborough, a town known for its magnificent castings and artisan foundry works, and one of the last towns in Framchen Province to die. When the Sickness started claiming their friends and everyone they knew, the dark times took their toll on Dore, left him hollowed and afraid.

Oh, the heat of that suit.

“Hey, Pilkington—grab that water hose and cool me off.” Pilkington looked over at him through the lens in his conical silver helmet, reminding Dore of a confused tower of babel, no telling which language would emerge. He could only see his reflection in the lens. Pilkington didn’t speak. Dore grew irritated and pulled one of his silver gloves off, screaming at the instant searing pain. The wristband of his sleeve piece caught fire from the heat as he slid the glove. He began to panic. Instinctively, he flailed both gloves off. The skin of his hands stuck to the heavy metal helmet and a thin layer tore loose. The helmet fell to the ground, taking the flesh with it. The elastic wrist seals erupted in flame, as well as the neck seal. Hair ablaze, he tried to run but could only take weak, impotent steps in the general direction. “Get the hose. The hose!” he shouted, watching in horror as the flesh of his wrists bubbled and quivered, the pain shooting through him deep and acute. The silver helmet just stared back at him. He lifted a foot to kick the other man instinctively, but couldn’t get his leg up high enough with the heavy suit. Flaming hair sizzled and crackled, melting his scalp. Rivulets of skin ran down the back of his head, resting in puddles along his neckband like drops of bird shit.

Dore stood and tried to walk along the path toward the hose. The world turned sideways. He felt the weight of his suit pulling him down to the ground, spiraling through the fog of pain. His neck skin started to melt and green sprays of vomit made their way out through his nose and mouth. He sucked air, panting and gasping, the flames finally extinguished. The steam of his piss wafted up from his suit and he retched again. The other suited man stayed silent, letting his suit cool and stepping carefully over to the hose. As he sprayed himself down, a cloud of vapor enveloped him like a demon astronaut. He removed his suit, carefully, and shook out the sweat from his hair. He stood there, panting and nude, shaking his head at the other man, whose last breaths were ragged and shallow. He leaned down and sprayed the man’s suit, cooling it off enough to touch the dying man’s suit clasps. As Pilkington made to remove the torso piece, Dore managed to gurgle: “It’s yours now. All of it.”

June 12th, 2014, 03:30 AM
Wow, your story's are amazing!!

June 13th, 2014, 10:19 AM
Great story, but one thing sorta bothers me. Would Dore have removed his glove if he had the experience to know that it was too hot in the room to do so safely?
"Pilkington fell off balance and nearly fell into the hellish mix, grabbing" you use the word 'fell' twice in a short period of time. 'Toppled' or 'dropped' perhaps? Only a minor point but it jumped out at me. 3rd paragraph, there was no sign of Pilkington but in the 4th para. Dore asked him to cool him off.

J.T. Chris
June 13th, 2014, 05:17 PM
This is very well-written. You have a good voice for the genre you are writing in, though I'm not quite sure of the genre yet from this small snippet. I'm assuming fantasy, science-fiction? That doesn't matter for the purposes of the critique however. All I'm trying to convey is that you know the genre and you know the voice.

The point-of-view really bothered me with this. I'm assuming this is Dore's point-of-view because of the paragraph about Dore's long friendship with Pilkington. Or perhaps you're going for a more omniscient narrator. Either way, we're in neither Dore's head nor Pilkington's head during the accident. I would think that the ensuing death of an old buddy would really have an immediate impact on Pilkington's psyche. I see no emotional agency here for Pilkington to save Dore. Likewise, there is no panic in Dore's mind. What would somebody be thinking when they are burning to death? That's what confuses me about the POV issues here. The description is good, but I think it would raise the emotional stakes if we at least had an idea of what one of these characters was experiencing internally during the incident.

However, I have this belief that you are going for a more distant, omniscient narrator who is a character in itself, judging by the line: resting in puddles along his neckband like drops of bird shit. There is an evident point-of-view here, whether it's the narrator or Pilkington's. If it's simply the narrator's voice, and not Pilkington's, then I think to solve the problem of emotional stakes, we could get more of an internal opinion of the incident through the narrator's voice instead of a play-by-play. You could inject more voice into this intensely powerful scene regardless.

So yeah, as a reader, I'm still trying to figure out what the point-of-view here is, which shouldn't ever be an issue. That might be something you may want to think about.

Excellent stuff.

June 14th, 2014, 03:00 PM
Great points, guys -- and much to consider. Thanks very much for reading this thing and offering your comments!

Mudgeon Ramblings
June 15th, 2014, 04:31 PM
Yeah good imaginative story-The double fells in the beginning badly need changing as someone else pointed out-The word 'tromped' doesn't really say it well idt-Pick another.

The 'panting and nude' is clumsy and needs to be fixed also-something like 'He stood there nude, panting while shaking... or panting as he shook his head (adverb eg derisively whatever you are going for) "As Pilkington made to remove the torso piece.." that's a little fuzzy.

Good luck with your writing, all you need is an editor imo

June 18th, 2014, 12:36 AM
amazing writing - fluid, light and rich.
was kind of hard understending the point of view in this piece.
still very enjoyable.

June 18th, 2014, 01:44 AM
That was smooth. It kept me reading and that's what you want. Besides what was already pointed out. The only thing that stood out to me was if it's so hot in there what keeps the metal steps from melting? Yes that's a very minor point but it's something I noticed.

June 22nd, 2014, 03:31 AM
I enjoyed the opener, it really grabbed my attention, which is hard, because i have a very short attention span, in fact, i smell pie

June 22nd, 2014, 04:20 PM
I also don't understand why Dore would remove his helmet at this time. It sounded like he was going to go take care of Pilkington and then for no reason began taking off his suit. Maybe I missed something while reading it.

July 1st, 2014, 07:57 PM
Great story. Iv'e found a lot of good writing here (this forum).

July 3rd, 2014, 12:37 AM
You used “fell” twice in, “Pilkington fell off balance and nearly fell into the hellish mix...”

“Oxygen lance.” Wow. You must have done some research on foundries because that sounds like a real term. Based on your description the setting seems to have its own life.

The phrase, “since everybody had died” seems to come from nowhere and then is promptly abandoned. It’s like coming home from work and saying, “Honey, I’m home. Timmy died. What’s for dinner?” I feel there should be more said about it, since people dying is usually an important matter. Then, when the “corpses” statement comes in later, it all fits together better.

Which is the POV character, Dore or Pilkington? If it’s Dore, then the first half of the second paragraph is a POV error. Then in the fourth paragraph, it’s back to Dore.

I had difficulty reading this but am having trouble putting my finger on it. Maybe it is this: Perhaps each paragraph needs to be expanded to several paragraphs. It seems rushed and condensed. Some of the content demands greater attention. Otherwise, it is treated trivially. And trivially is a close cousin to not-seriously, and you don’t want anyone thinking that about your work.

July 10th, 2014, 07:20 PM
The descriptive work on display here is brilliant, the cramped and blazing industrial conditions coming across vividly in just a few short paragraphs. The description of Dore's death is gut-wrenching and an excellent use of overt gore, shocking rather than trite. The slow heavy movements his suit forces on him while instinct screams for him to run absolutely accentuate the hopelessness of the situation and generate the low, clenched feeling in the stomach that well-executed visceral horror always elicits. I feel that further criticism of the descriptive writing would be a wasted effort, as you've really nailed it.

The ideas on display are interesting. My first thought when a "Sickness" was alluded to was of course zombies, but the piece has a kind of dull, quiet atmosphere that suggests a more realistic plague. The concept of a town using its pre-built industrial facilities to deal with this adds a degree of melancholy, as everyday objects are given terrible new connotations. Overall, this could work as the introduction to a larger piece or a standalone vignette whose unanswered questions hang in the air on a haze of oily smoke.

The major criticism to be leveled at the piece is a matter of presentation. Perspective shifts between the two characters are rather jarring and lead to initial reader confusion. While the clarity of the description does go some way towards mitigating the problem, in such a short piece the reader needs to have a firm basis to stand on rather quickly. Unfortunately, the story as it is does not provide this. Fortunately, it should be a simple matter to rectify. Even something as simple as adding a break between paragraphs to signify perspective shifts would go a long way towards dispelling any ambiguity (Personally I always favour a centrally-aligned ***, but this is purely a matter of taste).

Hopefully helpful