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Words by kangho


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Submitted on
July 15, 2012
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Those were not the clangs of distant church bells. The hollow echo drained of its passion was nothing more than a steel pipe swinging overhead on its lonely chains, rocking in the breeze and hitting a crumbled wall. Sombre stacks of dirt piled below once hopeful they would become the foundation of new life, but they sagged tired, trapped in their mound. A fortress of iron fencing guarded this construction site with all its might. Not a soul had entered here in weeks and even the hopeless pigeons of the city knew to stay away from such tainted grounds. 

 

A homeless man with his blue sleeping bag roamed the perimeter; babbling about the shadows beyond the gates. The police had questioned him many weeks ago, but his answers were more absurd than a theatre filled with nonsense. He clutched his sleeping bag as comfort as he feared whatever lingered beyond the gates. Whether he'd witnessed the truth of those shadows, nobody could answer.

 

Before all this, it had been weeks of hard work. Workmen sweat underneath a city's heavy sun as they followed plans of their construction. Between sandwiches, they watched as businesswomen in their clip-clip heels trotted across the road to avoid their wolf whistles and chauvinist retorts. They mocked the school kids on their skateboards trying their hardest to be cool as they wobbled along the rails of a nearby stairwell. Each night they left the site in whatever messy state they’d created, back home to their families forgetting that place once again. It was just another job. Nobody spoke of shadows amongst them and whether they knew of them they dared mention it amongst their peers. They wouldn’t take such discussion seriously and yet had they spoke, perhaps the site would not be abandoned and each man out of work.

 

Those weeks had passed and the sun the only visitor. She crawled over the abandoned cement mixers and yellow helmets, stretching towards the corners blocked by a towering skyline. Her rays crept between the cracks, searching for life with no avail to its pursuit. The shadow did now want to be found; even the moon-- the suns own sister-- made an attempt. Her glow was weak in this yard as if the iron gates stopped her searching. Had they reached those very edges, not only would the silver of metal pipes reflect back at them, but also glimmer with the stains of blood.

 

When the workman left and the sun had set, the shadows snuck between the gaps in the iron fence. Ignoring the crazed man with his blue sleeping bag, and scaring sleeping pigeons away it lingered for a moment taking in the surroundings of this construction site. This would be the setting for the shadows greatest deed, hiding the crimes and the screams. It disappeared again alerting the homeless man who shouted after the darkness.

 

They had hoped for the clang of church bells. It would have been a message others were still out there. The shadows had swept the city, the site being their home. Stories had uttered of workmen digging too deep into the ground, or the curses of a single murder bringing forth demons to punish civilisation. Some even spoke of rapture; a punishment that would take every single life into darkness and merge into a shadow of their very own.

 

Nobody could determine the exact date or time when disappearances began. They knew it happened under the night sky and could guess the first to go were not cared for- the prostitutes, the alcoholics and the criminals. Assumptions were made about police doing their jobs for once and shadows blissfully ignored. When others went, heads rose in confusion.

 

The homeless man could have told them; he had seen the shadows for what they truly were. His senile senses detected the truth, that these were not merely shadows, but a true threat on civilisation, one even he would soon submit to. With every missing person, the shadows were growing in force and the deserted city was evidence enough of its might. Their eyes were red, sunken with life sapped out of them and faces gaunt, bruised and grey.

 

The clangs of the abandoned construction site echoed in the lonely wind.  

This is no way finished, but I wanted to get it on dA for some feedback as its been lingering for about 2 weeks now. just my own version on an "end of the world" style story. Thoughts are greatly appreciated!

The ending feels really sloppy. :/
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:iconagramuglia:
Critique by agramuglia Aug 20, 2012, 7:17:19 AM
Damn, this is good!

Now, it's definitely a chilling piece, very isolated, very unsettling. I like how, early on, you establish the utter sense of loneliness, of emptiness, especially with the image of the church bell.

There is no doubt this is a well-written piece. The way things are articulated, the description, it's all very powerful. I like that you're vague about what happened, about the shadows. Is it supernatural? Maybe a delusion of some sort?

I also love how hollow the peace leaves you. By the end, you don't feel good. In fact, you kind of feel a bit uncomfortable in your skin.

...at the same time, it has some flaws.

The characters are just names. They didn't leave any impact on me while reading it, and I didn't feel like I could invest in the situation because of that. Okay, you have this horrible tragedy, but so what? I don't care about the homeless man or the workers. They don't have any character for me to latch onto.

I think that expanding this piece would help, but also finding some central character for us to relate to. I felt oddly detached the whole while, even when I don't think I should've. If all you wanted to write was an apocalyptic scene, you succeeded. Still, this scene could be so much more, even though it already is very good.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
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:iconitti:
I like the basic idea you've got going on here Becca - the mysterious construction site and something sinister lurking there - but to be honest, I'm not sure you're expressing it as well as you could. Sinister is most sinister when it's original and you have to be careful not to just throw dramatic words at something and hope they stick. You do have some lovely choices of phrase in here, but I think perhaps in some sentences you've gone back to "default mode" and not given things as much thought as you could have.

I'll go over the list of things I noticed as I read through and then come back to this.

Sombre stacks of dirt piled below once hopeful they would become the foundation of new life...
It took me three reads to work out what this sentence meant.
I would suggest:
Sombre stacks of dirt piled below: once hopeful they would become the foundation of new life, but now sagging tired, trapped in their mound.

Not a soul had entered here in weeks and even the hopeless pigeons of the city knew to stay away from such tainted grounds.
"Show not tell" is the phrase that springs to mind here. It feels like you're adding adjectives just for the sake of it. If you really want to tell me that the pigeons are hopeless, convey that by telling me something the pigeons do. Or if not, just call them pigeons. I'm not sure what extra you've accomplished that couldn't have been achieved with the following:
Not a soul had entered here in weeks. Even the pigeons knew to stay away.

A homeless man with his blue sleeping bag roamed the perimeter; babbling about the shadows beyond the gates.
I don't think a semicolon is right in this sentence. The second clause cannot stand on its own; I think a comma would be more appropriate.

his answers were more absurd than a theatre filled with nonsense
Like the adjectives earlier, this feels forced. If you want to make some sort of comparison, choose something less generic. I read the comments and it sounds like you're talking specifically about absurdist theatre. It would work better maybe if you used a particular play? If you are really attached to this imagery that is.

businesswomen in their clip-clip heels
Lovely phrasing! I like this :D

Workmen sweat underneath a city's heavy sun as they followed
Change of tense halfway through the sentence. I think you meant "workmen sweated".

chauvinist retorts
It would only be a retort if the business women had initiated the conversation with the workmen. If you just mean that they're whistling and making catcalls, don't say "retorts".

Each night they left the site in whatever messy state they’d created, back home to their families forgetting that place once again
Grammar error in the second clause. Go with either:
- they left the site [...] and went back home or
- they left the site [...], going back home

They wouldn’t take such discussion seriously and yet had they spoke, perhaps the site would not be abandoned and each man out of work.
The tense is awkward again. I think you need either:
- perhaps the site would not have been abandoned
or I think you can get away with
- perhaps the site would not be abandoned now

Those weeks had passed and the sun the only visitor.
Another sentence with missing words...
Consider:
- Those weeks had passed, the sun the only visitor.
(although I think that sounds a bit clumsy - maybe put a 'now' in the first clause somewhere? or lose the 'had')
- Those weeks had passed with the sun the only visitor.
- Those weeks had passed and the sun had been the only visitor.

The shadow did not want to be found

not only would the silver of metal pipes reflect back at them, but also glimmer with the stains of blood.
You can ignore this if you want, but as the subject in the second part is implied, I think it would read better if the "not only" came after "the silver of metal pipes". The way it stands now, you expect a whole new action (including subject) in the second half.

the shadows snuck
You can ignore this too but I'm not comfy with the American slang here! I wouldn't have mentioned it had you been American, but it feels weird reading "snuck" instead of "sneaked"!

Suggestion for the next bit:
Ignoring the crazed man with his blue sleeping bag and scaring sleeping pigeons away, it lingered for a moment taking in the surroundings of this construction site. This would be the setting for the shadow's greatest deed: hiding the crimes and the screams. It disappeared again, alerting the homeless man who shouted after the darkness.
(check all the punctuation as sometimes it doesn't bold)

They knew it happened under the night sky and could guess the first to go were not cared for-
This feels very bland when you're just stating it like that. I think it would have more impact if you illustrated what you meant.

I think the penultimate paragraph is the best written. It feels less forced and more interesting than all theothers - although "true threat on civilisation" is going back to the vague dramatic words again. "a real threat" would have worked just as well.

Okay, now a general overview - I know a lot of people have told you to expand it, but I think the problem with this is that there is a LOT of "build-up" and the end is really short. Perhaps because of the tenses you've used, it feels like there are seven paragraphs of "start", one of "middle" and a single sentence of "end".

I see a few ways you could go with this:

1. Change the tenses to make it more into a story. Not "it had been weeks of hard work" and "those weeks had passed", but "Weeks of hard work followed" and "those weeks passed". In this way you convert some of the "start" into "middle". I'm not 100% sure if this will work but it's probably the easy option.

2. Make it longer. But NOT more build-up. Make something actually happen! Go forward from here. The homeless man could have told them; the threat is coming - what happens next?

3. Make it shorter. You could go the opposite way. A lot of this could be trimmed. I think that rather than losing something, this would heighten what is already there. But you would need to be really dramatic in your cutting - enough to make it into a whole new piece. Just take the really good bits and make it a LOT shorter. For example, you could lose the entire paragraph with the sun. Not that there aren't some nice ideas in there, but if you are going for this option you really need to commit to it.

I hope this all made sense to you and I didn't sound too bossy about my opinions or anything. This took me a long time to write and I am a bit concerned that I am coming across too critical. I normally spend a fair bit of time trying to soften what I say, mostly because I am too sensitive myself!

I do think you have some good ideas here, but they need developing more.
What do you think?
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:iconthemadmulatto:
TheMadMulatto Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2012
My husband brought this piece to my attention. :iconall-my-darkness:


This work certainly deserves all the attention it's getting. :thumbsup:
I'm at a loss for words, but certainly, this is the best thing I've read in a long, long time.
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:iconbeccalicious:
Beccalicious Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012   Writer
Thank you for the lovely compliment :)
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:icondarkshields:
DarkShields Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2012
it paints really cool images in my imagination... Well done :)
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:iconresidentnobody:
ResidentNobody Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
The atmosphere is remarkable, setting the scene for something truly menacing and evil.
Those were not the clangs of distant church bells. This really grabbed me in, the simple denial yet comparison of something heartwarming and good lays down the foundation for the story. The rest only built on that, until there was a monolithic and heavy world filled with darkness.
As *sydnerella said, I don't think that the ending is sloppy as much as it echoes the beginning in a poetic and rhythmic adding to the world.
My only problem is the length. I feel like if you had extended this, the ending would have made a much bigger impact, and the world would have gotten to the point of truly amazing work. Eh, it is your story though, just injecting my opinion.
Overall, a remarkable piece.
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:iconbeccalicious:
Beccalicious Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012   Writer
It's interesting people have commented on the length, my worry was that if I continued it to anything bigger it would become repetitive and too much of the same thing. If you want to see more, where would you take it?

Really appreciate your comments thank you :hug:
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:iconresidentnobody:
ResidentNobody Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You know, I've actually thought about this for a couple days now and I cannot think of a single way to take this without it ending up as unoriginal or not too confusing. So, I'm just gonna retract my last statement about length. Apparently you did it perfectly, good job. :clap:
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:iconresidentnobody:
ResidentNobody Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Woops, I meant too confusing, not "not too confusing." Sorry.
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:iconvshaw:
VShaw Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2012
Hello, Beccalicious. :)

The imagery in this was just awesome. Beautiful, but perfectly ominous. I like the feel of something lying, simmering in the background. You really managed to create such a vivid environment too.

Personally, I didn't find the ending sloppy at all - as a reader, I actually found it effective in tying the piece together.
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:iconbeccalicious:
Beccalicious Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012   Writer
Thank you very much :heart:
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:iconautumnlit:
autumnlit Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
This was a very captivating read! At first I was puzzled y the first paragraph then I was pulled in. I loved how you ended the story bringing readers right back to the beginning, a very important thing to do in a story I believe. I don't find it sloppy at all! And the mystery was wonderful. The only thing I noticed that could be fixed is the word "civilization" you spelled it with an s instead of a Z, which is no big deal. I'm an infamous typos maker. =D
Great story telling!
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