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MrTickle
November 28th, 2016, 04:55 PM
This is a short story I wrote. Thank you for reading!

“Alright, fuck the international sales, forget that. We sold strong in this region, who cares if some blogger from London didn’t think it was his ‘cup of tea’.” said Burke, who was addressing the band in his garage.

Hank, who was sitting on top of an upturned crate and leaning on his guitar said, “We are going around in circles here, Burke.”

“Wait. Think about it, we’ve got a niche. A niche who like the darker parts of our album. But imagine if soon they didn’t just like our darker songs, they loved them.”

“You want to be some kind of sadist band?”

“Call us whatever you want, we need to go where our audience wants us.”

Hank, who was sitting on top of an empty beer barrel listening to this conversation from his phone most of the time, looked up, “So, what? You want to start writing a new album now?”

Ingrid, the other band mate who was tapping the drums against the hood of the bands rusted Sedan sighed.

See, that was the only problem for Burke. There weren’t enough dark undertones in Maidleton. This town was white picket fences, friendly gas stations and town halls. Burke always says, “All this town does is look back at you. One after another of reflected glass buildings. I don’t want to see my moody figure. Show me something maudlin.”

The Haunted Sphere, what a pretentious name for a debut album. It was inspired by driven by teen angst and ritualistic killings that the band made up. They played live at local venues like their old school and town hall. One local journalist said, “What a blast! A debut album to remember. I could imagine this to be the soundtrack to a Stephen King film.” That guy can’t even write films, thought Burke. And worse, Burke didn’t want mainstream horror. He wanted his album to enter your subconscious like smog, slowly dampening your positive outlook on life.

Yeah, that’s right. Darkness comes from the world you inhabit, thought Burke.

Burke made an announcement to the band.

The next Thursday they flew over to Berlin, and moved into a cabin surrounded by pine trees. Burke rented a little wooden cabin from an Italian painter called Enzo Santan in Berlin. Enzo claimed in an interview with Hearts & Arts magazine that his influences came from the dark undertones of this cabin where a snuff film director once murdered his director of photography for shooting a scene so close to the director’s image he had in his head that he smashed the DoP over the head with an iron and ate his insides. That’s the art life.

Enzo’s last words to Burke when he handed him the keys were, “Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.”

But for the first day, did they experiment? No, they sat around talking about what kind of demons could be out there in the woods. Fuck, this ain’t a found footage movie. “No more fables guys.”

“What do you want to do Burke? There’s not much going on here. There’s no heating, no hot water. What did this painter find here? And why is there an old torture rack in the corner?”

“That’s why we need to experiment! Talking about demons with pitch forks and pointy fucking ears ain’t gunna hit our niche is it?”

Ingrid starred daggers at Burke, “Then how are we going to huh? Put one of us on the rack and write lyrics about it?”

Burke shook his head and sat back in his chair, and retreated into his thoughts.

His band ignored him and started jamming. Burke closed his eyes. Then at one point during his bands singing:

The devil grows some angel wings
But he brings with them
A thousand stings!
From these deep dark woods.

Burke stormed out into the woods.

His band spent all evening shouting his name from the cabin, but they confided it was too dark out there and too late to go looking for him. The best thing to do was head to a nearby hotel and wait until morning. After all, he had a habit of running off into isolation when there were band squabbles and would often come back very tired and bruised, but having written a lot of lyrics.

His band headed out the next morning to find a hotel after a not so successful hunt for Burke. They did all wonder though how they were going to find the cabin again once they got out of the woods. There wasn’t even a road or dirt track, and the map the Italian painter used to guide them when they arrived had been given to Burke. And Burke still had it.

However, that same evening Burke wondered back inside the cabin. His hair now slicked back. His clothes speckled with mud, but having written nothing. He immediately ordered a pizza. He could finally get ideas for lyrics without the interruption of anyone else. Burke always liked the freedom of having control.

He never was in control of anything as a kid. He grew up in the pressure cooker of a controlling father in a small hut in the Mojave. Burke wasn’t allowed to make friends, wasn’t allowed toys, “use your imagination.” His father used to say. He wasn’t even allowed to go into his Dad’s room. Apparently it was off limits because there were things in there a young kid might get nightmares about, which, incidentally gave him nightmares because of that. But Burke did find a bit of control when his Dad wouldn’t wake some mornings due to long nights writing another of his dark thrillers.

Burke would run out of his hut and head to the formation of rocks a mile away and feed the coyote he’d made friends with since 8. He fed and met him all the way until he was 13.

However, one day he visited coyote. And he saw coyote lying still in the middle of an opening in the rocks. Red ink with bits of what looked like red spinach to Burke lay out in front of the lifeless coyote. His Dad was standing with his back to both of them, drawing something on a canvas like a painter. He had a portable radio playing Mozart’s requiem. But his Dad caught sight of him when he turned around to paint more of coyote’s dead body. He sighed, and said, “Believe it or not son, this pays the bills.”

At the time he thought his Dad was insane, but now Burke realised - after spending two nights in the Berlin woods - maybe his Dad really knew how to write dark stuff because he knew how to access it. Yeah, he thought, darkness comes from experience.

The pizza Burke ordered was a bit too greasy for Burke’s liking, and the filing in the crust more like glue, but Burke wasn’t one to complain. He couldn’t anyway. He was dragging the dead delivery girl he beat to death with an amplifier towards the rack in the cabin.

Burke pulled the handle of the ratchet mechanism until her limbs were as far as he thought they could go without tearing off, and then he got a garden rake and raked her skin hoping that some kind of dark epiphany would be set off in his brain. But no lyrics were forthcoming in this act.

Later on, he used her teeth as pens dipped in an ink well to write replies to his fans thanking them for their fan letters. He also told them he was in a good place creatively and hoped they would be ‘violently’ surprised by his next record. But no lyrics were forthcoming in this act.

But later in the evening he did try to write some lyrics:

I used to love ya
but you pushed me too far
so I’ll stretch ya
so you’re tall enough to see
the things you did to me.

No. Fuck, no. Burke snapped his pen in half. He looked at the girl’s dead body, resembling a mound of skin sent through a grill. This hasn’t even affected me, he thought.

Burke lay on the floor starring up at the wooden beams, the cobwebs and the flies trapped in the webs. He watched as a spider edged its way into the middle of one of the webs and devoured a fly, and with a spring in its crawl, vanished. Maybe darkness doesn’t come from experiencing things. Maybe it comes from inside, he thought.

Burke went outside and found a snake. He grabbed it by the mouth and with his right foot clamped it to the floor so he could tape its mouth with duck tape.

He carried it back inside and bent over the table. It slid up his ass with surprising enthusiasm, but he kept the tail hanging out so it would be easy to yank out when he was finished. Burke kept reassuring himself that it was simply a scaly tampon. Nothing else to it.

The strain it put on him. The pressure inside, he felt something coming, a distant lyric maybe? But suddenly the snake stopped squirming. Did it just die inside of me? He thought.

Fuck, even the snake can’t find anything of worth inside of me.

Burke pulled the snake out and threw it back into the cold outside. Burke then slung the body of the delivery girl behind a tree. He moved the rack out back and cleaned the brown muck off the floor.

He sat down at the table for another four hours waiting to see if another song would come. Nothing. He tried to remember how he wrote all his other albums, but really, they all sucked.

It took him another two hours to buck up the courage to ring Shaun, who answered sounding tired yet relaxed, “Hey, do ya, you know, wanna come back?”

“Maybe... huh? Where are you?”

“Back in the cabin, listen, I-I want to collaborate.”

“...That’s a first.”

Ptolemy
November 29th, 2016, 02:00 AM
What the hell is this? I mean this seriously.

The pacing and prose is all over the place. I mean the piece introducing Ingrid was just hard to read, it was choppy, the use of the word bonnet threw me for a sec. (I know it means hood and they are in a different country than the States.) Overall the introduction of Ingrid was not very good, I want more scenic showing rather than telling me she was tapping on the hood of the car. Show me the sounds, the vibe the shitty Sedan radiates throughout the garage.

Also I'm getting a real asshole vibe from Burke. By all means you can have an angsty teenager in your book as your protagonist, I'm fine with that, but overall I got zero (and I mean absolutely nothing) character development out of him or even a hint that he could even be developed as a person. He seems so set in his ways of being angst. I mean I can kinda see that he wants more out of his band but that's around it.

Also did he kill the pizza delivery girl? Or did she die of a heart attack or something? For a crucial plot point it was very muddled and confusing. Like I feel like I should feel bad but I really don't it just adds to the fact that Burke is a dick and unlikeable as a protagonist.

Wait wait wait wait wait. I just fully read the snake scene (to be honest I kinda skipped it) but what the hell? I'm pretty sure PETA would never let this get published because of this one scene alone. My main question is how in sweet Jesus's name does this develop Burke's character? I mean really shoving a snake up his ass? Jesus Christ man, I know it's a adult themes... but really.

And I'm not saying its obscene or to extreme, I'm just thinking about your readers here. You begin with a decent plot about a teenage band with some interesting (albeit under developed) characters. But you kinda blow it by having a kid (probably I don't even know) kill a pizza girl and have him shove a snake where the sun don't shine. Unless your readers are sadists then no one is going to read this.

So overall it has it's problems, other than the obvious prose and lack of showing, and the overuse of telling, it has some serious plot questions. By all means be edgy, I don't want me to dictate your way and style of writing but you need to make it a lot clearer than this. In the story give me a definitive answer on whether he killed the Pizza girl or not so I can feel bad or not. The whole snake scene I suggest changing, or something, for many it would be to much. (also PETA bruh)

MrTickle
November 29th, 2016, 12:17 PM
Thanks Ptomely. This is meant to be a farce. It's all about a self absorbed pretentious musician who believes you need to be a suffering artist to write about suffering. The fact is you don't. I'm glad you found the character shallow and annoying, that was the point. I wouldn't take it that seriously bud, it's all tongue in cheek.

I agree with you about the sometimes choppy writing, I will clear that up in a future edit.

And I will edit in how the delivery girl died!

Also I have written a letter to PETA stating that I am sorry for harming an imaginary snake and that I wouldn't want to influence younger readers into thinking that shoving a snake up your ass provides a boost in creativity.

Thanks again!

Ian8777
November 29th, 2016, 05:24 PM
I liked it a lot.....Maybe because I read the story before commenting on it. Was the Art of Darkness a reference to Conrad's The Heart of Darkness? It felt strange enough for sure! Yeah it did feel a bit choppy in places and I did wonder where the pizza girl came from but that did not detract from the quality of the writing itself. I liked it because it was not a formulaic A to B the character must change because that's what creative writing classes tell us to do type story, and thankfully not!

There were a few typos (might have been intentional) here and there, but nothing that a clean up would not sort out. I like stories like this. For me it crossed into poetry and gave me an actual job to do as a reader. It made me pay attention and work things out for myself and at no point did I lose interest or get cross because Burke did not do the things that a protagonist should do in every story every written.

The snake up the ass is great. It really was funny. Perhaps because it was so unexpected. Or perhaps its just because the idea of a snake up someone's ass is really funny. In fact It has given me an idea to write a short story myself about a pet shop that breeds animals specifically to be shoved up people's asses. Hamsters, toads, snakes, spiders the lot.

Really enjoyed this story. Keep writing just as you want. If no one is pushing boundaries then no one gets anywhere. I will finish by quoting your own work: “Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.”

Cheers

Ptolemy
November 29th, 2016, 06:39 PM
Maybe I should have expanded my critique...

I think you're getting me wrong on the whole 'snake scene'. I personally have no problem with it's content. The reason why I said it the way I did is because to me it was poorly written in. If you were going for obscene then fine, I really don't care go for it. I also said that it wasn't to obscene or extreme, it just didn't help his character. (aka the PETA thing was sarcasm hence 'PETA Bruh') If anything it made me more confused on his character. Like does this guy have a mental disorder? Is he sadistic? Will this be a plot point later on? Will he tell his bandmates? It opened a lot more questions than it closed. Which hell, maybe pretty good.

But for me the scene was a build up all for the pay off of this line: Fuck, even the snake can’t find anything of worth inside of me.

While I know that the scene is supposed push his character, making him ring Shaun and ending on an open end with collaborating. The problem I have here is that it feels overall pretty forced. The best I could explain it was that you were "selling out" on this scene for his character instead of having him notice this throughout the passage. I feel that the scene needs to have more 'flow' rather than just being 'there'. It was like the dead pizza girl scene. It was so sudden, so confusing, so forced, so 'there' that at first I didn't get the full gist on my first, second, or even third read of it.

While I did read it (contrary to popular belief) I felt it detracted more than it added because for me it was so choppy, forced and deserved a rewrite.

MrTickle
November 29th, 2016, 08:23 PM
Thanks ian8777. This was a deliberate reference to The Heart of Darkness. It's a black comedy of sorts, and I'm glad you got it. And yeah, I wanted to write something a little different. And it was more a commentary on the ridiculous extremes an artist is going to go to, to gain inspiration.

MrTickle
November 29th, 2016, 08:31 PM
Ptolemy. None of the scenes just appear or are forced. There is a large build up and foreshadowing of these scenes. When Burke rents the cabin he here's about the story of a snuff film director eating his director of photography, and the backstory of his dad in the desert killing a coyote so he could gain inspiration. It didn't come out of the blue.

This is a black comedy/commentary on pretentious artists. Burke clearly has a warped sense of self worth and believes he's something great. That's it. That's what I was trying to show. Nothing else. He doesn't develop because he's a moron.

Thank you you for the feedback though, I appreciate the responses!

Gomer_Ashby
November 30th, 2016, 07:08 PM
This is dark...I like it :lol:

I do think it would be interesting to have some scenes where the pizza girl and Burke interact with each other before he kills her.

MrTickle
November 30th, 2016, 11:06 PM
Thanks Gomer! I'm glad you liked it.

Unfortunately Burke is in such a self absorbed artistic place that he hasn't got time to mess around with delivery girls lol.

Thanks again!