Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drop the Needle #13

TITLE: Evensong
GENRE: Fantasy/Science Fiction

Explanation: The narrator’s brother died and she is just home from hospital.

I placed my palm against his door’s glossy surface and was surprised to find it warm, hot even. When I pushed it open, his room was hotter yet.

Everything was as we had left it, the clothes he decided against still thrown on the bed and floor. His notes on the desk. His laptop on the notes.

I sat on his chair, letting the strange warmth enter me, lull me.

And then something caught my eye, a shape that shouldn’t have been there, a dark movement against the shadowed walls. I jumped, hitting my hip against Gabe’s desk.

It was a man. I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming, then changed my mind and tried to shout, except it came out as a choked croak and then he was inches away from me and I couldn’t move. A languid heaviness pinned my arms to my sides, my feet to the floor.

Heat spooled out from him in waves. A blue glimmer from a street lamp highlighted his cheekbone, skimming a curved forehead and the slightly upturned tip of a straight nose. He leaned over me, studying me closely. He smelled of sun-baked sand and salt water. I tried to scream again, couldn’t, again, wondered if I were still dreaming, my body refusing to obey.

“Shhh”, he whispered and it sounded like water about to boil.

“What are you doing here?” I whispered back, then thought I should say something more conventional like “Who the hell are you and get out before I call the police.”

He raised his hand and grazed my cheek. His touch was soft and feverish and I thought, I should push him, I should try to run. But I didn’t. I moved closer. And then he wasn’t there.


  1. This looks very exciting. I like all the non-visual details. There are a couple of logic and editing issues.

    At the first sentence, I was thinking there was an actual fire in there. Maybe tone it down to a warm handle? Why would she touch the panel instead of the handle anyway? Is the door already cracked open? Does she have any theories why it might be so hot? Otherwise, wouldn't she be calling 911?

    Editing issue: "he decided" is misplaced.

    The clothes can't be still thrown - either "the clothes he had thrown", or the the clothes littered...where he had thrown them."

    You don't need, "I thought"

    Why can't she scream but can whisper? Is she being choked somehow?

    I think it would be stronger if she just tried to scream and couldn't rather than suppressing it initially.

    It would be stronger to delete "Who the hell are you...and start with Get out..."

  2. I really enjoyed this and love your descriptions. Your character has a sincere voice and I'd be excited to read more :)

  3. I like this piece of your story; it has a nice rhythm to it and I’d want to read more. I did notice that the word ‘then’ appears five times in this short piece of work. If this repetition occurs throughout your manuscript, it's a tick you should work to bring under control. If you just use it here for the rhythm, it’s probably fine. Events are sequential by nature of the order in which you present them in your story, there’s no reason to emphasize the sequential nature unless you present two events that could possibly happen simultaneously and you want to establish that they do not.

    I also note that you choose some interesting words to replace simpler words. ‘highlighted’ instead of ‘lit’, the word ‘spooled’, etc. That's a good thing, especially since you pick strong words that resonate well with the events unfolding.

    'He leaned over me' -- how tall is this guy, that he can lean over the MC? Did the MC suddenly end up laying down and we missed it?

    I agree with Heather but for a different reason, the dialogue is too long for a character supposedly being choked silent. I also agree with the comment about the clothes littering the bed.

    I disagree with Heather about the appropriateness of ‘I thought’, I think it works well. You probably have the thoughts italicized (but if you don't, do so.) You could do away with ‘I thought’, but if you do, redact the entire clause including the ‘and’, i.e., ‘and I thought’. If the thoughts are italicized, and there is no transitioning clause (i.e., ‘and I thought’) then the thoughts stand alone as separate sentences. For me, the use of the word "and" to link the event and thought is rhythmic (making the sentence pacing pleasing), it creates an explicit connection between the touch and the thought (rather than the thought being tied to earlier comments about proximity, or the man's presence.)

    Also, unlike Heather, I didn’t immediately think fire, but only because I’ve had a very similar experience to your MC and, at the time, I lived in a place where summer temperatures quite easily got to 105-108 degrees. I assumed there was a temperature difference between the room and where the MC was standing (otherwise why note it?). Contextually, fire didn’t seem indicated (I reasoned that possibly the windows were left open and the summer heat was warming the room, who knows.) Especially since you have the MC open the door in the same paragraph in which the heat is mentioned, and there is no mention of fire (which seems like something you would have mentioned, if one had been present.)

    (tag: I trust in my narrator.)

  4. This was really nicely done. I liked the heat- and i don't think it sounded like a fire or made me wonder why she was pushing open the door. Her brother has died, she's probably in a state of shock, so her body is aware of the heat but her brain is lagging behind.
    I liked the images of the man in the room. It's ahrd to mentioned cheekbones and noses and make the description sound fresh. Well done!