Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Down into Darkness
GENRE: Science Fiction

Brian forced himself to take a deep breath, tried to relax. Back on Earth he’d laughed at the irony of the government using Mars—god of war—to slingshot his ship into the outer solar system on a mission of peace. He wasn’t laughing now.

He gripped the wall bar to anchor his weightless body in the darkness, bringing his face close to the Empathy’s tiny porthole. Outside, the world of Mars floated beyond his one-man craft—a red marble of desert rolling against the black felt of space.

Brian’s exhale ruptured the silence left by the ship’s sleeping engines. Now that he was here, floating like a lost soul over the only other human-inhabited world, an emptiness at the pit of his stomach told Brian something was wrong…

It was different than the first sharp emptiness he’d felt at blasting away from Earth, leaving everything he’d known far away beneath its delicate blanket of atmosphere. Nor was it the second, gnawing emptiness that had crept in daily from a diet of freeze-dried meals, recycled water and re-breathed air. It wasn’t even the third, untethered emptiness that had suspended his body’s every cell since the moment the Empathy entered null G. What he felt now was a deeper emptiness; one that swallowed all the others.

“Maja!” Brian swore. He couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong. Maybe nothing was wrong. The Earth team had assured him that the Empathy would be a ghost passing Mars, slipping quietly away. Now even that metaphor held disquieting connotations.


  1. I think is really strong. You have some great descriptions that draw the reader in. I'd like a little more explanation of what he's seeing that makes him swear. I don't entirely understand if Mars is populated or if some other planet is. Also, this felt like our world until he swore. I didn't understand his swear word, so it threw me off a little. Anyway, like I said, the writing is very strong, and I'm sure most of these concerns will be addressed later in the story. Good job!

  2. I love this piece, Irony, tension, all wrapped up in a limitless genre.

    Brian needs a last name. Sometimes his proper name is used too much, when a simple "he" would do, or rewrite to eliminate the use entirely. He needs to have an active purpose to this section, other than looking through the porthole.

    This is a great beginning - well written and emotional, the perfect mix.

  3. Good sensory detail, including the internal feelings of the body. And these details are not just random; they are part of the flow of the story. This is an unusually good opening.

  4. A couple things to consider.

    o The sentence 'Outside, the world...' seems to say the craft was a marble of desert. It might read better if you moved the description '-a red marble...etc' to immediately follow Mars which is what it is actually describing.

    o 'Brian's exhale' changes POV. Rephrasing it to 'Brian exhaled, rupturing' keeps us in the same POV as the first two paragraphs. Similar problem with last line of that paragraph when 'stomach told Brian', instead of 'stomach told him'.

  5. Ugh, why did I have to pick this one to critique? I know there’s no cheerleading allowed, but this opening is fantastic. I agree that you could add the MC’s last name if you wanted, but that’s really all I can say. You have some pretty great descriptions. I feel like I’m right there experiencing things with your MC. It’s an interesting blend of sensory detail, world-building and tension. The swear word also adds an element. It takes the story away from an Earth we know.

  6. Pretty good! We like that we get to see Brian’s fears and worries right away. We can picture Empathy from just a few paragraphs, which is great. We like how you’ve managed to convey a sense of foreboding very quickly.

  7. This was done well for the most part. I didn't get a sense of forboding here, though. The words you use make it clear I should, but they don't make me feel it. The piece didn't have a foreboding tone to it. Perhaps because you're telling us what he's 'not' feeling, rather than what he is feeling?

    And I wondered at the 'Maja! If he came from another world, it might work, but he comes from earth so wouldn't he say something 'earthly?' What does this word Maja derive from?

    Parg 2 - A red marble of desert etc - should be placed after 'Mars,' otherwise, the spacecraft is the marble.

    Parg 3 . . . told HIM something was wrong.

    Parg 4 - nor was it the second - doesn't make sense. You could say, It was different from the second, a gnawing . . . and - It was even different from the third . . .