A tale for Halloween.


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Thread: A tale for Halloween.

  1. #1

    A tale for Halloween.

    I was coming down the drive, which dropped and curved towards the road, and creeping round the corner from nextdoor were three little figures, very pale, I thought children dressed for halloween and covered in flour at first. They panicked a little when they saw me and froze on the spot, so I greeted them in my friendliest voice and kept my distance so as not to be threatening. Their costumes seemed very convincing, how had anyone managed the goat’s feet on the satyr? And the cherub’s wings were proper, no visible fabric or plastic. The girl was a little more normal in her long dress, or cloak, except she seemed to sort of float. Not that I saw a gap under her, more that she didn’t go up and down when she stepped forward, the way people do when they walk.
    “You sound kind Sir, we are seeking refuge.”
    Her voice was different, I couldn’t tell exactly how. Slightly old fashioned phrasing, a trace of foreign accent, but it was more than that. Something in the pitch and timbre made me look more closely, and I realised; these were not small humans disguised as statues, these were statues acting like humans. Looking back on it I feel maybe I should have been terrified, but I wasn’t, I think because, whilst it did not seem in any way normal, it did seem perfectly natural, they were so matter of factly who they were. In a way it was a bit like a dream, where one can accept the most outrageous things, except it was very real.

    What could I do? I invited them into the garden, introduced myself and invited them to sit down around the garden table, asking as an afterthought if the chairs would take the weight, ‘Not wishing to be rude, but you do appear to be made in solid stone.’ They assured me it would be alright ‘today’, I was to find out later what that meant, and we had a short discussion about refreshments which ended in me getting four strawberry milk shakes and a selection of biscuits, then they explained.

    The house next door was well over a hundred years old and they had come there with ‘Old Mr Maddox’ and his new wife when they returned from the grand tour they took for their honeymoon. Of course he was ’Young Mr Maddox’ then, and they had spent many happy years in the orangery watching the young Maddoxes grow up and listening to conversation.
    “It took a while to learn English, and things have not been nearly so lively since the house was sold in the 1920’s, orangeries went out of fashion.”
    “Giovanni made us back in the 1840’s, but we didn’t come to England until 1873, a terrible journey wrapped in sacking in the guard’s van of a train, as we discovered later. At the time it was all just noise and vibration that seemed to go on forever.”

    There had been a little bit of caution about the idea of eating and drinking with me, I heard the words ‘The old magic’ mumbled, but having made their minds up to trust me things got much easier and they were fair falling over themselves to explain and expand.
    Giovanni was a bit ‘touched, we think his grandmother had a bit of faerie.’
    “They delivered the block of marble to his workshop the 31st of October and he made one of us each year on the same date”
    “Giovanni always said he could see us in the block before he started, and it did feel as though we were being let out rather than created.”
    “It was terrible when he died and we were sold to the sculpture yard, luckily Giovanni made it a condition in his will that we stayed together and the yard honoured that”
    “We don’t really have names, I am ‘Satyr’, he’s ‘Cherub’ and she is ‘Charity’, the greatest of all the virtues you know.”
    Charity did a fair imitation of ‘Modesty’ and said,
    ‘You might not think a virtue and a satyr would get on, but it has been so long now, we are a bit like the Maddox children, all different, but brothers and sisters under the skin.‘
    ‘Apart from Giovanni you are the only one to see us ‘animated’, it just didn’t seem right, but today was an emergency.’
    ‘They are taking the old house down and rebuilding, there would be no place for us in the new style of things.’
    ‘We didn’t know what would happen, we could have been sold separately, or even thrown away.’
    “And we only get one day a year to act, today,”
    “All Saints”
    “Halloween.”
    ‘Or it would be too late.’

    We sat up late talking, making the most of that one day, and I learned many things. Although there was only one day a year they could move and talk they still observed the world for the other three hundred and sixty four, though of course a lot of the time they were on their own apart from a friendly robin who would come into the orangery. And as the satyr put it, “People talk and talk and talk, but when all you can do is listen you come to realise they don’t say anything on the whole.”
    I told them they were welcome to stay, but I was a little anxious, “I don’t want to be accused of theft. If someone notices you are gone and comes round to ask I can hardly conceal you.

    “Don’t worry, ‘hidden in plain view’, it’s a great principle’ said Satyr, he looked bashful for a moment, then asked, “The hat, would you lend it to me?” and indicated my old trilby hanging on the corner of the mirror. He was delighted when I passed it to him, “I’m not certain, but I am pretty sure if I am wearing it when the change comes it will change with me.”
    “I have been standing on one leg for so long now” said Cherub, I shall stand feet together, looking down, and with my hands over my private parts, they have been public long enough.”
    “Looking down can restrict your field of vision,” said Charity, “I have been doing it for too long now, I shall raise my gaze and spread my arms in a welcoming attitude, that seems quite appropriate for Charity, and you may hang your umbrella on my wrist if you wish, it would be nice to be useful in some small way.”

    And that was how it turned out, I had three different statues from the missing ones, the hat did turn to stone on the stroke of midnight as Satyr had predicted. I remember that they can still see and hear, and read them my new stories. Reading my stories aloud before I called them ‘done’ was something I had always done, but it is good to know that at the end of the year I will get a bit of commentary. I have also been reading them some of my favourite books, something I have missed since the children left home, and Molly died. Once or twice I have read them a newspaper, but I remembered the Satyr’s comment about talking, but not saying anything. Sometimes I take them outside, my robin instantly came and sat on Charity’s hand, I am sure birds know more than we give them credit for, and I have left them out on clear, moonlight nights, but I am sure acid rain would do them no good and I keep them clean by sponging them down from time to time with a little bicarb in the water. It is good to know that soon I will have a whole day of company filled with a year’s worth of gossip.
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  2. #2
    Nice story, Olly. Do you want critiques on it? (I'm not familiar with this section since it seems to be for either critique or just sharing, as opposed to the workshop, which is clearly for critique).

    If you have any more Halloween-ish stories, the next prompt for our Lean and Mean challenge (which starts in a day and a half) is "fall festival."

    https://www.writingforums.com/forums/60-WF-Challenges

  3. #3
    I will always welcome crit. , so long as I don't always have to agree with it Seriously, even if I don't agree I find it interesting to hear what people say, there are things I have done I would like to know if they stand out or have an effect, like not ascribing dialogue even though I had a character in mind

    I don't know about any more on this theme. This stemmed from a very vivid dream where I was walking down a drive and met these three coming up, that was as far as it went, but it was a strong enough I wanted to do something with it.
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  4. #4
    I really enjoyed this story. It's very original and interesting. Here is a nitpicky line edit for polish, all jmho, naturally.


    If "A Tale for Halloween" is the title, I think it could use something catchier and more specific to the story.

    Some of my suggestions might be due to differences in UK/US conventions.



    I was coming down the drive, which dropped and curved towards the road, and creeping round the corner from nextdoor were when three pale little figures crept round the corner from next door, very pale, I thought children dressed for halloween and covered in flour at first.(I found it hard to sink into this story at first because I had to read the first few sentences twice. I'm sure it's a style choice to some extent but I'd simplify/break it up a little). I suggest a new paragraph here. They panicked a little when they saw me and froze when they saw me, on the spot,(I'm nitpicking here but telling us they panicked and froze is redundant and "froze on the spot" sounds cliche-ish to my ear) so I greeted them in my friendliest voice and kept my distance so as not to be threatening.(I already understood his motivation. Maybe a new paragraph here. A story seems more inviting to me when it's broken up more, especially at first when I'm still trying to get into it). Their costumes seemed very convincing,(.) how had anyone managed the goat’s feet on the satyr? And the cherub’s wings were proper, no visible fabric or plastic. The girl was a little more normal in her long dress, or cloak, except she seemed to sort of float. Not that I saw a gap under her, more that she didn’t go up and down when she stepped forward, the way people do when they walk. nice. The suggested cuts are because flash fiction imo doesn't have room for small redundancies or extra wordage that isn't adding much.

    “You sound kind Sir,(.) we are seeking refuge." You seem to use commas where I would expect periods.

    Her voice was different, I couldn’t tell exactly how. Slightly old fashioned phrasing, a trace of foreign accent, but it was more than that. Something in the pitch and timbre made me look more closely, and I realised; these were not small humans disguised as statues, these were statues acting like humans. nice Looking back on it I feel maybe I should have been terrified, but I wasn’t,(.) I think because, whilst it did not seem in any way normal, it did seem perfectly natural,(.) they were so matter of factly who they were.nice In a way it was a bit like a dream, where one can accept the most outrageous things, except it was very real. nice

    What could I do? I introduced myself, (that seems more the order he'd do this in) invited them into the garden, introduced myself and invited them to sit down around the garden table, asking as an afterthought if the chairs would take the weight, ‘Not wishing to be rude, but you do appear to be made in solid stone.’ niceThey assured me it would be alright (all right) ‘today’,(.) I was to find out later what that meant,(.) and we had a short discussion about refreshments(,) which ended in me getting four strawberry milk shakes and a selection of biscuits,(.) then they explained.

    I got a bit confused with the mixed up timeline. So I suggest starting with when they were first carved and proceeding from there to the present, in chronological order.

    The house next door was well over a hundred years old(.) and they had come there with ‘Old MrMaddox’ and his new wife(,) when they the couple returned from the grand tour they took for their honeymoon. Of course(,) he was ’Young Mr Maddox’ then, and(.) they The trio had spent many happy years in the orangery(,) watching the young Maddoxes' children grow up [STRIKE]and listening to conversation.[/STRIKE(they didn't seem to really enjoy the conversation but thought it was inane chatter?) New paragraph here, maybe.

    “It took a while to learn English,(.) and things have not been nearly so lively since the house was sold in the 1920’s,(.) orangeries went out of fashion.” new paragraph here, if there wasn't one.

    “Giovanni made us back in the 1840’s, but we didn’t come to England until 1873, a terrible journey wrapped in sacking in the guard’s van of a train, as we discovered later. At the time it was all just noise and vibration that seemed to go on forever." (this comes earlier, in my suggestion about the timeline)

    There had been a little bit of caution about the idea of eating and drinking with me,(.) (put in the order it happened) I heard the words ‘The old magic’ mumbled,(.) but having made their minds up to trust me(,) things got much easier and they were fair falling over themselves to explain and expand.

    Giovanni was a bit ‘touched,(.) we think his grandmother had a bit of faerie.’ interesting

    “They delivered the block of marble to his workshop the 31st of October and (.) he made one of us each year on the same date(.)

    “Giovanni always said he could see us in the block before he started,(.) and it did feel as though we were being let out rather than created.” (I think the lack of dialogue tags is fine here because it doesn't really matter which of the three is speaking).

    “It was terrible when he died and we were sold to the sculpture yard,(.) luckily(,) Giovanni made it a condition in his will that we stayed together and the yard honoured that (Check that there's a period at the end of your lines of dialogue; you've missed some of them).

    “We don’t really have names, I am but I go by ‘Satyr, (.) he’s ‘Cherub’ and she is ‘Charity’, the greatest of all the virtues(,) you know.”

    Charity did a fair imitation of ‘Modesty’ and(I think that was meant to be a jokey play on words but just found it confusing) said,
    (This goes with the preceding sentence, not in it's own paragraph) ‘You might not think a virtue and a satyr would get on,(.) but it has been so long now, we are a bit like the Maddox children, all different, but brothers and sisters under the skin (breaking the sentence up a little makes it easier to follow)

    ‘Apart from Giovanni(,) you are the only one to see us ‘animated(.) (I don't think "animated" needs to be in quotations)(.) it just didn’t seem right, but today was an emergency.’

    ‘They are taking the old house down and rebuilding,(.) there would be no place for us in the new style of things.’

    ‘We didn’t know what would happen,(.) we could have been sold separately, or even thrown away.’

    “And we only get one day a year to act; today,”

    “All Saints”

    “Halloween.”

    ‘Or it would be too late.’

    We sat up late talking, making the most of that one day, and I learned many things. Although there was only one day a year they could move and talk(,) they still observed the world for the other three hundred and sixty four,(.) though of course(,) a lot of the time they were on their own(,) apart from a friendly robin who would come into the orangery. new paragraph here And as the satyr put it, “People talk and talk and talk, but when all you can do is listen you come to realise they don’t say anything on the whole.” nice.

    I told them they were welcome to stay, but I was a little anxious, “I don’t want to be accused of theft. If someone notices you are gone and comes round to ask(,) I can hardly conceal you.

    “Don’t worry,(.) ‘hidden in plain view’, it’s is a great principle’ said Satyr,(.) he looked bashful(,) for a moment, then asked, asking, “The hat, would you lend it to me?” and He indicated my old trilby(,) hanging on the corner of the mirror. new paragraph here He was delighted when I passed it to him,(.) He said, “I’m not certain, but I am pretty sure if I am wearing it when the change comes(,) it will change with me.”

    “I have been standing on one leg for so long now(,)” said Cherub,(.) "I shall stand feet together, looking down,(.) and with my hands over my private parts,(.) they have been public long enough.”

    “Looking down can restrict your field of vision,” said Charity,(.) “I have been doing it for too long now,(.) I shall raise my gaze and spread my arms in a welcoming attitude,(.) that seems quite appropriate for Charity, and you may hang your umbrella on my wrist if you wish,(.) it would be nice to be useful in some small way.”

    And that was how it turned out,(.) I had three different statues from the ones that were missing ones,(.) the hat did turn to stone on the stroke of midnight(,) as Satyr had predicted. new paragraph hereI remember that they can still see and hear, and so I read them my new stories. Reading my stories aloud before I called them ‘done’ was something I had always done, but it is good to know that at the end of the year I will get a bit of commentary. I have also been reading them some of my favourite books, something I have missed since the children left home, and Molly died. nice Once or twice I have read them a newspaper, but I remembered the Satyr’s comment about talking, but not saying anything. Sometimes I take them outside,(.) my robin instantly came and sat on Charity’s hand,(.) I am sure birds know more than we give them credit for,(.) and I have left them the three (It's unclear who "they" is there) out on clear, moonlight nights, but I am sure acid rain would do them no good and I keep them clean by sponging them down from time to time with a little bicarb in the water. On second thought, I'd delete everything after "...and Molly died," or at least some of it (but leave the very last sentence). I think there's a bit too much packed in here and the more important parts get lost amid the less important parts. It is good to know that soon I will have a whole day of company filled with a year’s worth of gossip. In some places, the lack of contractions sounds to my ear too stiff and formal. I'd "contract" a few of them, such as changing "It is good to know..." above to "It's good to know."

    Hope my nitpicks help. I could easily see this published. I suggest putting your work in the workshop section from now on to preserve your first rights.
    Last edited by Ma'am; October 19th, 2019 at 11:46 PM.

  5. #5
    'seemed to sort of float', you are dead right, the more qualified it is the weaker it sounds, I might edit that to 'floated', period.

    'whilst it did not seem in any way normal, it did seem -- natural,'
    Yes, I could lose 'in any way' as well

    And I am taking note of the other comments, some of them very valid. A bit naughty of me really, I only hammered it out this morning, I should have left it a bit and given it a good edit, thank you very much for your time and attention.
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. Hidden Content

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