View Full Version : Horror short: 316 words

October 20th, 2018, 06:53 PM
Had some troubled sleep, this was the result. Feedback and title suggestion welcome.

I woke. Something was wrong. The fingers of some forgotten nightmare lingered in my mind, raked through my being. My eyes were open to shape, colour and texture and yet I saw nothing. Each was isolated from the other, refusing to form a coherent image. Was this what it was like for a person blind from birth to suddenly see? My brain could make no sense of it. The colour was of various shades of black and grey. A movement in them woke my primal senses and a world swam into focus. But still it made no sense; all seemed upside down. Was that a wheel in the air? The movement was a shadow, creeping in the darkness. It crawled beyond my sight, lurking by my side. I could feel its presence. It watched, waiting for… what? I tried to move but couldn’t. Something held me deathly still. Even breathing was difficult, shallow and uneven, my chest seemed bound in iron chains. And still the presence waited beside me. I could not hear it or feel it, but it was there. Strange, I could not hear or feel anything. I strained every sinew, commanded every cell, screamed at every muscle to move. But nothing. I was on the cusp of giving up: suddenly, with a crack, I turned my head to behold the presence. I saw the eye first, framed in a fractured car wing mirror. It was my eye, my bleeding head, I saw. Again, I could not move, but now I could see the car, upside down and twisted. A thousand tears of glass were shattered upon the road in some dim light. A movement snapped my attention back to the mirror and in it I watched as the shadow crept towards me, extending an impossibly long limb towards my head. I felt cold as the world sunk into nothing.

October 20th, 2018, 10:52 PM
I like the overall tone of confusion. I had trouble interpreting the first few sentences until I read "Was this what it was like for a person blind from birth to suddenly see?". That helped put those previous sentences in context.

In general, I think this definitely needs more to build the dread and horror of actually seeing Death approach (which I interpret as the "presence"). Once this person figures out they are in a crashed car, they might re-count the terror and panic of the accident. This person may feel panic at the thought of being alone and in need of help. The sight of the "shadow" approaching could prompt relief and hope thinking it might be help arriving, only to be dashed when the full impact of what is actually approaching dawns on the person.

Also, I've had night panics before and they were truly terrifying: a weight on my chest seemingly preventing me from breathing; held down by unseen hands, unable to move; the panic and terror as I thought "this is it! I'm dying!"; then relief as my body begins to wake up and the "presence" recedes; the quick prayer of thanks, and maybe a tear or two; then lying awake for an hour wondering if going back to sleep is such a good idea…

Nice but very rough draft. I wouldn't let it languish, though. Pick it up. Prod it. Get it working. Give the subject hope, then dash those hopes, and let the full horror dawn on him/her only at the last instant. At least that's what I would do.

Than again, what the hell do I know?

October 22nd, 2018, 11:14 AM
Thanks. I wasn't planning on expanding it anymore, but you point out some interesting directions. Usually sit on this kind of thing until it suggests itself as fitting into some larger body of work.

October 22nd, 2018, 11:59 AM
I'm a big fan of writing about some dramatic event in the way you do here: it happened an indeterminate time ago - seconds, years, it's hard to say - and it can't be directly recalled but what there's no doubt about that it was definitely something and it was definitely big, and it will overshadow events from here on in. Good stuff. I would say perhaps watch for your tendency to overwrite. For example:

A movement in them woke my primal senses and a world swam into focus.

It's good - but it's just a bit ... heavy, and makes the reader think they are in for a blow-by-blow account of what each sense does. Even that wouldn't be so bad if the language was super tight. Expressions like "swam into focus" and "strained every sinew", "commanded every cell" and "raked into being" - they're okay, they're not cliches but I would say they're proabably not far off; they are just not as immediate as they could be. Think imagery. Bear in mind this guy has just been in a car wreck, and clear, direct words like commanded and isolated are not going to feature in his vocabulary at that moment. He's just experiencing stuff. As you go, see if you can strip out filter words - he felt, he noticed, it seemed, to my mind, beside me, and so on - and present the stuff to us as is apart from the occasional anchor. Also watch for repetition (eg: "make/made no sense". "woke"). And don't be afraid to abuse grammar in the name of immediacy and immersiveness. What I wanted to read would have started something like this:

I woke. Something was wrong. The fingers of some forgotten nightmare lingered, a faded echo or a just-passing threat, and my eyes were open, but the shapes, the colours and textures, were meaningless, disparate images that refused to form a whole. Was I blind? My brain could make no sense of it.