Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #27

TITLE: KARMA (Adult Fiction
GENRE: Psychological Horror

The fire erupts quickly due to the abundance of varnished wood and combustible dry goods that comprise the bulk of the wagon's furnishings. Those inside are surrounded by smoke and flames and can do nothing to stop its pervasive attack. All avenues of escape are blocked and it takes only a moment or two for the blaze to make efficient use of everything in its path. The oil-based pigment used to paint the garish wood facade makes for an ideal accelerant and within minutes the first wagon is completely engulfed; the searing heat prohibits any attempts at rescue of those unfortunate souls now burning alive. Mercifully the screams die away shortly after they begin. If only the rains had come before the fire, souls might have been saved.

Just hours before, the area teamed with carnival life; now the sodden field lay deserted with the exception of the defunct midway debris swirling within the currents of the storm. Pitch cards tumble haphazardly across the empty grounds, some continue on into the night while others become mired in the oily surfaces of the watery parade of footprints crowding the muddy thoroughfares. The bold images of carnival freaks depicted on these strange souvenirs are prudently scoured away by the discerning torrent; ghostly traces of their bizarre existence are all that will ever remain.

Occasional light from the crescent moon shimmers through the turbid atmosphere; its soft glow flickering across the residual human imprints creates the illusion of movement as the waterlogged clouds pull apart then reform.


  1. i think you really need to inject some dialogue here, since the paragraphs are ponderous w/their descriptive details. maybe get into your main character's head more? the omniscient voice isn't close enough to get the ghastliness you're trying to convey.

  2. This starts with a lot of tension that you did a good job in describing. I think you could improve it if you broke up the sentences into shorter ones. You could even get away with fragments. In this opening scene, I see no need for semi colons.

    The 2nd sentence starts with "those inside". It was unclear at first what "those" were. It could be the varnished wood for all I know. Be specific here, say it's the carnival workers/freaks or the attendees or whomever.

    I like this, though. It reminds me of the opening scene/prologue for Water for Elephants. An excellant book.

  3. While the language is lovely, it doesn't set the scene for me. I'm confused until you mention carnival. I think you could cut paragraph one by half, and spell out that the garish wood facade is on the carnivale wagon.

    I think your readers need to know if those are human or animal screams, or both. You can do this quite creatively.

  4. I think I remember an earlier version of this, and I think that earlier version works better. This version is cold and distant and clinical, and while you may be describing something horrible (people or animals being burnt alive) I don't feel the horror. It's just words.

    Show us the flames, let us hear the screams, give us an MC who we can experience this through/with. This feels very much like I'm sitting across the table from you and you're telling me a story, rather than feeling like I'm there and seeing it all for myself. Put us in the moment.

  5. It's a gruesome and eerie set-up, and I'm compelled by that, those tumbling cards in particular; but getting in the way is: the redundancy (we learn a few too many times how flammable it all is); perspective confusion (who's telling us all this and is the person or omniscient narrator navigating with specific intent or just describing for describing's sake?). Also, what's a "discerning torrent"? And why are the humans of this story described at such a distance? We hear their screams but don't know them. We see their footprints but don't know how they got there. Not convinced all these questions were intentionally raised by the author.