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An excerpt from 'Halfway House.' (Language) (1 Viewer)

OLDSOUL

Senior Member
Chapter 1:

The early hours of the morning hung under Williams eyes as he stared pensively through the windows of the cabin. His ears were pricked to a sound that seemed to emanate from beyond the snow sprawled pines and craggy outcroppings of the Notch. The indiscernible note teetered on the very precipice of his hearing, dancing there; deriding him. An anxious moment passed through him like the icy wind tearing through the mountains, as if a recollection that eluded his conscious mind was rousing dread from deep within him. There it is again. He strained his ears as the sound moved in and out of earshot. When he closed his eyes, it became almost, almost, decipherable amongst the lulls of the gale as it furrowed through the cordillera. He felt the misplaced tenseness rise up in him and broil in his chest. The best he could describe it was as if the sound was someone in trouble. As if an injured climber might break through the pine brush seeking refuge from the encroaching storm. He watched the jutted outcroppings of bedrock that perforated the muddy snow for a moment longer before chalking it down to the wind and his jumpiness and turned back toward his work. The anxiety of it settling toxically into his gut. He flicked the switch on his projector, in an attempt to discard the thought.

The sobering wind was seeping through the chinks in the cabin and the fire was reduced to mere shifting coals on mud-brick hearth. Williams teeth chattered violently. God damn it. No dry firewood… Miserable fucking night. Winter could've been moments away and he'd have no way to discern when or if he was going to be snowed in. A twinge of panic ran through him suddenly. No telephone… No one knows I'm up here. Even the vociferous thrum of his projector had been drowned out in the squall that sounded to Will as if it was cutting it's way through the mountains themselves. Timber eaves groaned achingly under the force of it all and Will wondered how the smugglers and fugitive slaves the caretaker had mentioned, had survived running their cattle and stolen goods up through the Notch, unimpeded by the unrelenting weather. After a few minutes, he realised his ears were still pricked expectantly. The sickly foreboding stuck with him as the witching hour receded into the cold expanse under the cloud covered night. The stars were a sight to see out there. He'd watched them for hours every night before the storm roiled over; tiny pinpricks of light through the condensation on the windows. One redeemable quality about being out of the smog choked cities. Open sky. He reached across the cluttered desk for his empty whisky glass. I need a pick-me-up. He glanced through the scattered notes and tape recorders, not quite able to focus without his glasses on. He could scarcely make out the shape of his decanter sitting empty by a stack of tape recorders. Out of booze. Damn.

The projector light flickered idly against a small square of plastered wall above the mantel shelf; the only part of the cabin that wasn't comprised entirely of interlocked timber. He yawned deeply as he fumbled around the desk for his coffee mug. When he couldn't find it and had put on his glasses, he realised the mug had been knocked off his desk and onto the floor when he'd been in his anxious reverie. The dredges of cold, silty coffee were strewn across the carpet. The caretakers gravelly voice grated in William's mind; I want it back in the condition I left it in. Leave the money on the countertop and no smoking… What a crock of shit, he thought defiantly. No smoking… He placed a cigarette on his lips and lit it with a match. A coffin's not complete without the nails, he thought to himself and smiled in the coruscating dim.

As he watch the smoke swirl from his mouth in the projector light, he thought fleetingly that he must've looked a treat in the shadows cast by the candlelight flickering and dancing as they did. His eyes; dark brown, appeared black in the candlelight; two deep wells, outlined with weariness. The candlelight danced in his gossamer hair and his skin had taken on a sallow, almost jaundiced semblance. He felt his tired heart beating through his shirt as he knelt down with a stifled groan to pick up the mug to place it back on his desk, abandoning his quest for coffee with a look of displeasure toward the wasted caffeine that now sat as a sore contrast to the white of the carpet. He took another drag of his cigarette and picked up a spool from the pile to feed it languidly into the projector, discarding the previous spool into a separate pile. He blew the smoke from his mouth menially as the whirring of the projector took his attention:

The image of a second floor landing appeared illuminated where the light shone previously, spluttering into motion after a moment or two. A door at the end of the landing stood slightly ajar. The camera moved toward the door before it swivelled to the right and blurred momentarily revealing a heavy set woman tentatively climbing the stairs to the landing. The camera rotated back to face the door again. A hand reached out and pushed the door open revealing a musty-looking guest room. The camera lens was manually adjusted to the low lighting of the room before panning it measuredly. An old mattress rested on an aged brass bed frame. An old mahogany bureau came into shot and slowly disappeared…

"I'm tired of this goose chase. Where're you hiding, little miss?" His voice was muffled by cigarette smoke.

...A blank patch of wall. The camera shook, then a window came into view. It was facing out to a pasture. A horse cantered in then out of shot. The camera lingered for a moment longer before the projector whirred heavily and the spool melted and burnt up.

Will sighed and clicked his tongue in frustration as he pulled the tarnished spool of film from the projector and threw it in a wastepaper basket beside the desk.
"Useless fucking machine." He hit the projector with his palm and collapsed back into his chair in defeat. There's nothing on there anyway, he thought after a moment. But in this cabin there ain't no rest for the wicked, he thought as he massaged his arthritic knuckles tenderly. How am I supposed to sleep in this cold?

Few homes this far up would be occupied this close to the forecasted snowfall, and still William hadn't finished all his work in Stowe. He felt his heartbeat increase at the thought of being snowed in. He had been keeping an ear out for local weather forecasts on his car radio to avoid such a catastrophe. The cabins eaves groaned as it shifted in the hastening gale and he felt his body tense up in anticipation of the impending snow storm that would eventually envelope the road south east to Stowe or north west to Jeffersonville, leaving him stranded for the winter. He wondered why he ever thought he'd find peace and quiet in the mountains. When it wasn't storming, the silence of the place rang in his ears. He could feel the beginnings of cabin fever creeping up on him with the solitude of every sprawling night he'd spent floundering in the shallows of sleep while the cabin sank into chill in the dead of night.

The thickness of witching hour crept in and rocked the cabin in it's wind burnt embrace. It whistled through the eaves audibly, rendering William's productivity short-lived. He'd been finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on his work as his three week stay in the cabin drew to a close. His eyes were drawn away from the projector by the sway of the pine trees and the rhythm of something else behind it in the dark. Maybe the animals are out tonight. He realised then that he must've looked a treat in the shadows cast by the candlelight. His eyes appeared as two deep wells outlined with weariness. His skin had become sallow, almost jaundiced in semblance. The small part of him that he hadn't already drowned in alcohol and burnt up in cigarettes despised the solitude his career forced him into.

His feet itched to be out of the stale air of the cabin; it was all he could do not to count every minute that brought him closer to tasting the open air again. He found himself glancing at the coffee mug that now housed his cigarette butt as if it would fill up with steaming coffee again. Only a few more spools left, he thought restlessly, as he stared through the window and watched the snow gather and slowly envelop his only route to freedom and the hot coffee and fresh tobacco of the world beyond.

The old man placed another spool methodically into the projector and tried his best to focus, but with every distant howl the wind offered up to the star slung night, the small part of him that he hadn't burnt up in cigarettes and doused in alcohol longed desperately to be rid of the solitude his career forced him into. For the foreboding that pounded in his chest and whispered to him in the dead of night was growing. In looming shape and discernible stature.
 
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Saeria

Senior Member
This was a pretty neat intro and I'm quite curious as to what your protagonist is up to. The style you have written matches the dialog nice and really adds to the flow.
As for crits, there are a great deal of passive sentences that make some parts a bit awkward. A little basic <sub verb pred> thrown in to the mix would. make.it just right. All in all a great start
 

OLDSOUL

Senior Member
This was a pretty neat intro and I'm quite curious as to what your protagonist is up to. The style you have written matches the dialog nice and really adds to the flow.
As for crits, there are a great deal of passive sentences that make some parts a bit awkward. A little basic <sub verb pred> thrown in to the mix would. make.it just right. All in all a great start

This is for the most part a fairly old story. I'll get onto correcting the passive sentences when I get to editing.
I've been hanging to get some valuable feedback so thank you!
 

CharlieParker82

Senior Member
Again some good writing but nothing appears to really happen. You repeat yourself a few times

'His eyes; dark brown, appeared black in the candlelight; two deep wells, outlined with weariness. The candlelight danced in his gossamer hair and his skin had taken on a sallow, almost jaundiced semblance.'

is almost the same as

'He realised then that he must've looked a treat in the shadows cast by the candlelight. His eyes appeared as two deep wells outlined with weariness. His skin had become sallow, almost jaundiced in semblance.'

There is a lot about booze and cigarettes which again appears to be repeated. Maybe this is on purpose.

Though the writing is good and it appears to build to something, it just keeps building, and building and building and then nothing. Give us something, a scary moment here and there, a sound outside, the gnawing at the door, is it just his imagination or is there something trying to get in? oh its just an animal, the storm still comes, what if i die here? i'll scrawl my will, wait i'm over reacting etc
 

OLDSOUL

Senior Member
Again some good writing but nothing appears to really happen. You repeat yourself a few times

'His eyes; dark brown, appeared black in the candlelight; two deep wells, outlined with weariness. The candlelight danced in his gossamer hair and his skin had taken on a sallow, almost jaundiced semblance.'

is almost the same as

'He realised then that he must've looked a treat in the shadows cast by the candlelight. His eyes appeared as two deep wells outlined with weariness. His skin had become sallow, almost jaundiced in semblance.'

There is a lot about booze and cigarettes which again appears to be repeated. Maybe this is on purpose.

Though the writing is good and it appears to build to something, it just keeps building, and building and building and then nothing. Give us something, a scary moment here and there, a sound outside, the gnawing at the door, is it just his imagination or is there something trying to get in? oh its just an animal, the storm still comes, what if i die here? i'll scrawl my will, wait i'm over reacting etc

I didn't mean to repeat myself. The top quote is the edited version of the bottom quote. One was meant to replace the other. How that happened, I don't know. I seemed to have a problem with saving the document at one point.

Also, the atmospheric tension is purposeful. It might be a bit much but it's meant to be an undercurrent to the story. It remains questioned but largely unresolved until the end when it blows up in your face. I could definitely cull this down, which I will, but it's the start of a novel so I wasn't about to put any cheesy horror cliches in the first chapter that weren't relevant to the story. i try to avoid them like the plague if I can.

Thanks for the feedback!
 

VickiW

Senior Member
I think this piece is wonderfully atmospheric and ominous. It certainly makes one want to read on and find out what happens next. Apart from the unintentional repetitions mentioned above, the only jarring note for me was use of the pronoun "toxically" in the first paragraph.
Keep at it. I'm waiting for more.
 

OLDSOUL

Senior Member
I think this piece is wonderfully atmospheric and ominous. It certainly makes one want to read on and find out what happens next. Apart from the unintentional repetitions mentioned above, the only jarring note for me was use of the pronoun "toxically" in the first paragraph.
Keep at it. I'm waiting for more.

Thanks VickiW. Always great to hear that the atmosphere I intended to create was felt by the reader. Such an awesome compliment.

Really valuable comments by everyone. Thanks for taking the time. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for your work and tear you all some new (and hopefully valuable) bottoms in due time ;).
 
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kinetika

Senior Member
I see what Charlie is saying, because I saw it myself. I read all the replies, before reading your work, and I went in thinking you edited this supposed error out, but I still saw it there when I read your story. Also, I did see where you brought up the alcohol and cigarettes a lot, but I didn't see it as a problem. What I found odd was how he wanted to drink--and seemed to have already been drinking, prior to it being mentioned--then decided to drink coffee? Maybe it's odd to me because I don't drink Kahlua, or drink coffee with my liquor, so it kind of threw me off a bit, and I figured I should make a mention of it, just in case it wasn't intentional.

I feel the same way as Vicki does about the word "toxically". If I could offer more/better suggestions to replace that word, but I couldn't. (Sorry lol)

Apart from that, I thought you fleshed out the story very well. The descriptions weren't overly done and painted a picture in my mind. At first I was going to agree with Charlie on the "building and then nothing" comment, but the more I thought about it, what I read flowed and made me want to know more and keep on reading (what all writers strive for), so I'd say it was fine and apparently a few others felt the same. It's great, so far.
 

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