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Printed from http://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/mongo505
Review Requests: ON
78 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
So we all admit that not all stories are created equally. I'll attempt then, to review on a curve, based on an arbitrary two tier system. If the story really impresses me in its uniqueness and is publication worthy, it will make my tier 1 review and I will specifically say so. If the submission is average or below and not publication material it will make my tier 2 review but I will not overtly say this. Both kinds of reviews will still garner supportive analysis and constructive criticism where necessary.
I'm good at...
Plot analysis and character development. Recognizing strong starts and stronger finishes.
Favorite Genres
short fiction stories especially of mystery, horror and psychological intrigue. I enjoy twists and misdirection. Poetry is not my forte however.
Least Favorite Genres
sci-fi, religious,historical
Least Favorite Item Types
Those without imagination.
I will not review...
Political or religious pieces.
Public Reviews
Previous ... -1- 2 ... Next
1
1
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Ms Shamrock This is a tier 1 review.

Hey, these little forced assignments are hard. Good job with the dialogue engineering to fit in your phrases. Almost all of them were seamless in the relevant narrative with respect to the plot. Now I'm going to critique the essense of the story for some things I believe you can improve on;


“Meet me inside.”

Such a simple command, but it sent shivers and the theme song to Jaws. SENT SHIVERS IS A HACKNEYED PHRASE. EVERY ONE USES IT. TRY TO DISTINGUISH YOURSELF WITH SOMETHING NEW. ( IT FELT LIKE EACH VERTEBRAE HAD TURNED INTO A CUBE OF ICE.) WAS THE THEME SONG 'SENT' ALSO? THIS NEEDS TO BE TIGHTENED.

My face heated; DESCRIBE WHAT YOUR FACE FELT LIKE OR LOOKED INSTEAD OF SAYING THE VERB. ( I COULD TELL THE WARM FLUSH TO MY CHEEKS TURNED THEM A RUDDY SHADE OF LILAC) my heart sped. Was I getting fired?

The boss responded with, “Take a break from questions, Mattie,” when I asked what was up.

Gravel crunched beneath our feet as we trudged toward the steel building where the auto garage and Mr. G’s office lay. THIS IS A WEAK SENTENCE PERHAPS ( TRUDGED TOWARDS THE ENTRANCE OF THE STEEL BUILDING HOUSING THE GARAGE AND HIS OFFICE)

I peeked at his face. It wasn’t a pleasant sight. Mr. G was an ex-boxer with a broken nose, splayed lips and one eye, always askew. NICE.

One last time my eyes searched for the gentleness I’d thought might lie underneath, NICE but he was wearing dark glasses, the mafia enforcer kind.

“You want the short or long version?” Mr. G’s voice growled as we stepped underneath the building’s overhang.

The coolness of the garage, a metal building the size of a football field, did nothing to combat my worry. On the right, two mechanics were dismantling the tires of someone’s idea of an economy car, a VW bus with heavy metal bumpers and a super-charged engine. To my left sat the waiting area, empty as usual, except for my boss’ old green parrot. The bird wasn’t much of a talker, but it made up for it with high-pitched screeching. NICE ADDITION OF THE PARROT AND HIS SQUAWKING.

“Cahhhhrrrrew,” Bobbo squawked over the din of hydraulics, air conditioning, and tools clanking against metal.

“Listen, Mattie. This is my shot, Mr. G said, PUNCTUATION REVIEW FOR DIALOGUE TAGS ETC. removing his dark glasses so he could frown better. “And I’m not going to hear a word against it, you hear?”

“Cahhaarrrell,” Bobbo seconded. NICE

“Mr. G, I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I thought you were offering to give me the . . .”

He raised his hand like a cop demanding attention. The look he gave me narrowed his eyes into slits.“Wait for it,” he shot out in a menacing tone.

What had I done? Was it bad enough to get me fired? My knees buckled. I pictured myself swooning like some tightly corseted Victorian lady. “I gotta go to the john,” I cried out, then bolted.

Mr. G, gangster look-a-like or not, would never think to question a woman’s need to use the facilities. He stuttered a moment, “bbbbb . . . But you'll be back right? This isn’t resolved. I haven’t. . . “ He stopped, either figuring out that I couldn’t leave the garage without doubling back, or else, that I wouldn’t be able to hear him over the pneumatic whatever it was, blasting ear-piercingly.

A sudden silence followed. I wanted to grind to a halt and look, but I knew that Frankie and Joe were probably just google-eyed over the bit of drama they’d witnessed. It never took much to entertain them.

I kept my forward momentum, pushed in through the yellow door, the one with the big sunflower in the center. The men had to use the room with the black door, the one that smelled so bad, you didn’t want to pass by closely.

Inside the woman’s WC everything was neat and fresh-smelling. A vase of tulips sat on the azure-blue tiles of the counter. Mr. G got the flowers from a bag lady. She traded them each day for a glazed doughnut and an apple.

The bag lady – Honey. Oh, no! Was that what this was about? I’d complained to Mr. G that Honey wasn’t leaving after she got her food. I’d been worried she might be up to no good. It wasn’t like she was waiting to use the bathroom or chatting with the men. She was just hanging around -- for hours.

It was obvious that Mr. G had a soft spot for her. Why would he care if the lady’s restroom had flowers? Besides, Honey probably didn’t even buy them, probably dragged them out of a nearby dumpster. But Mr. G didn’t seem to care about that, or that Honey was hanging around. In fact, I once saw his lip curve upward when she appeared.

I used the facilities, washed my hands, sighed, and then pushed out through the yellow sunflower door. Once more the men stopped to stare, then TOO MANY 'THENS'. glancing over at Mr. G, made a pretense of working hard. But Mr. G didn’t notice. His eyes, still unsheathed by the mafia glasses, were watching me as I approached.

“Look,” he said, “I’ll make it short. I’m going to . . .”

“Fire me?” I gasped, feeling wobbly knees again.

“Fire?” he gasped, then shook his head. “Why would I do that? You’re a good addition. You make everything clean, bright, friendly. Nah, what I have to tell you is . . . well, it’s the story of tonight.”

“Caaahhhrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

Whatever Bobbo was trying to get across, it couldn’t have been any more puzzling than Mr. G’s frightening IS THIS THE RIGHT ADJECTIVE? utterances. But at least I wasn’t getting fired . . . Wait, what did he mean about TONIGHT? Was the boss asking me out? A tidal wave of nausea rolled over me. NICE. I GET WHAT YOURE TRYING TO SAY BUT BE ACCURATE. IS IT A TIDAL WAVE OR IS IT A TSUNAMI. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. I barely heard his next words.

“I didn’t want you to . . . I mean you . . . well, uh, you see . . . I invited Honey out, just for a burger.”

“Honey . . . the bag lady?”

“No. I mean, don’t call her that. Uh, it’s why she’s been here a lot. We’ve been talking.”

Mr. G’s face reddened; his eyes shut; his hands began to shake. Was he afraid of me, of what I’d think? NICE.

“But that’s great,” I said. “I’m happy that . . .”

“Thought I’d better explain about . . . Uh, I know you got invoices to do, but I wanted to . . .” Mr. G didn’t finish the sentence, just turned and strode off.

I paused a moment before I headed off to do invoices. What I saw, I could hardly believe. My gruff old boss was not only smiling, but whistling an old Elvis Presley song -- the one about fools falling in love. NICE.


2
2
Review of Life in Death  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.5)
Anita E.
(This is a tier one review)
Thanks so much for asking my opinion on your fine piece. I am impressed with your treatment of a familiar theme in that of soul harvesting. Well done. There has been a definite improvement between my first reading of a week ago and now. Obviously you've done some superb editing in that interim as a few of the issues I noted then, no longer seem to be apparent.
My main criticism involved your verb tense usage which I found weakened the strength of your prose. The usual construction followed the format; ...Was talking or was looking, but as of last reading, I only detect two remaining examples. You have also edited out a few of the adverbs (-ly ending words) that prevented you work from shining.

The plot is intriguing although I have not been convinced as to the reason behind the change of heart of the spirit 'death'. You need to delve just a bit more below the surface to reveal the emotional turmoil he was going through. Your grammar and syntax are excellent. Your ending paragraph is strong generally. Nice twist but the actual last sentence is somewhat weak and needs work to tie a perfect bow on your piece.

Good work. Keep it up.
kind regards.
DH
3
3
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Dragonbane,
Thanks for asking my opinion of the first few paragraphs of your fantasy piece. You are a passionate fantasy writer and I'm impressed with your enthusiasm. These are my own personal impressions and you should embrace the suggestions that you think have value and discard those that don't.

That being said, this is what I like about your piece. I like that you begin in the middle of the action. Immediate immersion is good rather than starting with something predictable like talking about the weather.

About three years ago I requested a review from an author and he put two arms on my shoulders and shook me with a raw truthful review. Best thing that ever happened to me. I'm going to do this for you right now.

The most obvious problem with your writing is seen in your dialogue tags. You are making two errors which reveal an immaturity that you must get beyond if you want to take your writing to the next level. This is especially seen with Princess Alexia's speech. There is too much reliance on ADVERBS which forces you to TELL and not SHOW. So you're trying to communicate that she's very angry but you rely on words like; Angrily, coldly, firmly x2, unflinchly, sternly. My reviewer impeached to me that these adverbs were the tools of lazy writers. How do you know she's pissed? You have to SHOW us. Write about the flare of her nostrils, write about the prominence of her jugular vein at the side of her neck, write about how big her pupils are and how long it has been since she last blinked. Describe the prominence of her Adams apple dropping low in her throat before she speaks. You get the point I'm trying to make right.
The second thing you might consider changing is the ....," said Princess Alexia... After the dialogue. Try indicating the speaker before the sentence to mix it up sometimes. It demonstrates a maturing skill in writing.

For Example; ...She hadn't blinked in over five minutes ignoring the burn of her dried corneas. Her frigid stare locked in on the seated king. "War it will be if you don't release him."

So I'd like you to get rid of all of your adverbs and I'd like to read your rewrite when you do. I'm very excited about this. You're a good writer dragonbane, but now you need to be a great writer.

Respectfully
DH
4
4
Review of Come Back  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Elizjohn
This is a compact but remarkable poem. I rather like what you've done with it. Here are only a few of the things I appreciate about it(lol). The central theme of time and love lost is clear and you adhere to it throughout; There is tremendous symmetry to your poem. I love that you are not forced to rhyme which makes the prose sing; Your vocabulary is on display in the conveyance of the single emotion of grief; You build to a crescendo very skillfully by the step-like increase in numbers.
Given all of these credits to your poem, the title should now be obvious.

"One Single Wish"
5
5
Review of Matilda  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
James
This is top shelf art. Loved your style. Your world building is excellent and characters breathe with the elixir of your prose. You achieve what all we authors hope for...the holy grail of immersion.
Keep it up.
DH
6
6
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.5)
Thanks so much for the opportunity to review your work. Please keep in mind that I am not a professional reviewer so please only take the comments you find useful.

Here are the things I like about this piece; Your use of the country vernacular and accent is spot on, although I felt it might have been more appropriate for a more southern region like Appalachian West Virginia than in Midwestern Ohio. I also kind of like the nonchalance of the dialogue with all the rocket mayhem going on around.

The problem for this piece for me is that I don't understand the deeper meaning. I can see you know how to write as you have a command of the English language but I don't get the subtle message you are trying to convey. I desperately want to be let into the secret but as an author, you have not done so.
Writing with nuance and hidden meaning requires deft skill and if the reader is left having to re-read multiple times then you have failed on a particular level.

So far what I have gleaned is that A farmer decides to have a barbeque during the start of a missile war from his farm fields. Then he reminisces about his pyromaniac brother-in-law who is or was the POTUS. Are you using 'Billy' as a metaphor for a rogue president? And who is speaking the words that are in italics?

Don't get me wrong...I like quirky short stories that don't have a direct approach but I don't get the message in this one.

Keep writing the good stuff.
7
7
Review of Story of She  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Mimi
I’m impressed. This piece of erotica was most entertaining. I love your raw style of discourse of lesbian intercourse. Your motel setting was perfect in reflecting the psssion that ensued. And on a personal note, there is something truly erotic when a woman writes the word ‘cunt’ to describe her lesbian adventures.
Well done and keep it up.
DEREK
8
8
Review of Homecoming  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hey Old friend
Read your piece and loved it. You really did a fantastic job with this one. I particularly like the gradual transgender reveal. That treatment was excellent. The dialogue is on point. The vernacular is appropriate for the setting and time period you're writing in. Well done. I also like the deft touch in revealing the deference her mother showed to the dominant figure in the household. The resignation of will in her was well displayed.

Issues; In one or two parts it dragged a bit especially in the paragraph with the dates and the house fire. You might want to lose or rewrite that one. Also, you need to get rid of the five or six adverbs that are skulking around destroying your lovely prose. They are mostly in your dialogue tags. Shyly, angrily, excitedly... etc. You know the deal---show vs telling.

Ending was good too. So the spiders are the actual aliens or they are controlling the earth spiders?
9
9
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hello []
I liked your story. There are some enticing themes that you have going on in this piece. All good stories are comprised of different elements working together. Your consistent theme of gritty determination works pretty well here.

Overall though the story lacks other elements that prevent it from being a truly great piece. You've chosen to write this in short story form but it reads as if it's one chapter in a bigger novel. The relationship between Sarah and Bart is not well established and the exchange of height and weight is not a natural introductory dialogue. As an author your job is to tell the story. The importance of effective storytelling can never be understated. I know your plot is well formed in your mind but you have not told the story for your reader in the words that you have allowed us to read. So many things Sarah did and wants to do are not very well explained. What drives her ( apart from this mysterious bus on the mountain) is missing. She seems a complex character, which is good, but you haven't shared her age or where or when this scene is taking place. These are important elements in storytelling and your charge as an author is to blend it in seamlessly.

These are some of the elements of the plot that confused me; What did Bart mean when he addressed the bus driver about giving Sarah some engine parts? What motivated her to stab herself with a metal screwdriver in her already injured foot then breaking it off while still impaled? (impossible btw). How did she get to her destination by the 5 oclock deadline?

On the technical side, I'd try to use as few adverbs as possible in your descriptions of the speakers. It's those words that end in -ly. there are a few punctuation issues but not that many. Remember, relationships matter, they are the essence of conflict within your story and that's where you want to be in your writing. Having compelling conflicts between your characters.

Thanks again for allowing me to read and critique your very nice piece. Keep it up. I see a diamond in the rough here.

DH
PS you should change your pen name to something pronounceable. Folks need to know who you are as you make a name for yourself.
10
10
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hello
To be clear, you want us to review your description of a proposed character who is himself an author looking to be reviewed? It seems like a work in progress and I applaud your creativity but in it present form I am not drawn to want to read more. It's a bit confusing right now. I wish you good luck with the project going forward.
Regards
DH
11
11
Review of Family Secrets  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
CanImagine
I see your vision with this piece. This is a well written period drama seemingly set in feudal middle ages. The overarching theme transmitted for me is one of love enduring through worsening crisis. The piece is written in third person omniscient narrator style. There are three protagonists introduced but no obvious antagonists.

In the first sub-chapter, we are immersed into an unusual father-daughter relationship where risky cavalier acts of bravado are the currency of terms of endearment. The daughter seems to have been blessed with a hereditary super-power which must be managed to avoid overt detection. This is not unlike the father-daughter relationship in the Logan movie of X-Men series. The plot conflict is intriguing. The Warden is torn between keeping his daughter out of the crucible of direct conflict versus increasing the odds of victory by allowing her to accompany him. It's not an original plot sequence by any means but you have started to brand your unique style into the threads.

SO far the Warden seems to be the most engaging character of the three. He's engrossed in paternal responsibility while having a strong preparatory eye on defense and allegiance to his king. He's gregarious and somewhat skilled in weapons of the time and combat. The dialogue is Americanized British speak which is appropriate for this present audience. It's light and nonoffensive and flows well. The reparteé is rich and give a clue of the loving relationship between them.

The story is beginning to come to life but it has not had time to mature as yet. You are doing quite a bit of telling so far and that's keeping me at elbows length away from beginning to care significantly about the characters. But this is still early times yet.

Let's talk about the hook and opening paragraphs. It's good but it needs flesh. This is very significant that a father is throwing a knife at his daughter's face. It needs to be made explicit that this is happening and you should spend a lot more time with this opening scene. I'd like to know what sound the heavy knife made through the air and into the bark. Her emotion at being nicked with the blade. I'd like to know what she actually did to heal herself and how she felt at seeing her own blood. Right now you only devoted two lines to this event and perhaps a whole paragraph should be invested for dividends to pay off later.

I like how you use the linkage of the olfactory memory with Lindsy and Andrew. Her the forest smells and him the barn smells that remind them of their time together. If this is going to be a novella you will have the time to be more descriptive about facial and body habitus of the characters along with scene setting. The horse exercise scene with Andrew was well written. The pace was about right perhaps too fast at times.

Hope I was thorough in answering your questions. Keep it up. Lindsy will be pleased.

Regards
Derek
12
12
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Dear Breach
This is my review of your chapter 'Tracks in the snow' which you requested. My impressions and comments are merely those of a fellow writer interested in the growth of his colleagues through exchange. Those comments which you find have no value feel free to disregard.
This is a tier one review!

The interesting thing about reviewing a chapter is that one gets to observe the writer in his most relaxed creative state. One where he is unhurriedly driving his plot forward. The other side of this sword is that unfortunately the reviewer does not get the benefit of what has happened before, which brings these particular characters together in the space that they occupy in your work. Thus plots and conclusions are sometimes lost in the immersion. That being said let me say that I rather liked this excerpt that you chose.

The things that impress me most are your excellent scene descriptions and your easy character dialogue. Your characters are believable and you have good use of your dialogue tags. If not done well these can be very distracting to the reader. It's clear that we are in a setting similar to that seen on Game of Thrones in the North. You did well in your vocabulary choices when describing the handling of the horses and their behavior. You did a pretty good job in limiting your use of adverbs which most mature writers agree degrades ones writing. Just the occasional 'suddenly' and 'quickly' observed.

Relationships are the life blood of any decent works of art. The casualty of a random chapter review robs me of the essential relationship between the four horsemen. One can get a sense, but then inferences and assumptions have to take over.

I want to discuss your level of detail that you chose to describe your changing wilderness scene. You made a deliberate decision to record very small and mundane actions. This adds to the overall story but at some point the reader is expecting this detail to matter to the overall plot. For me this is usually the vehicle used to set descriptive scenes but you do not use enough smilies and metaphors to achieve this. Your editor will caution you to be frugal with your words if they are not supportive of your theme or ultimate plot.

I'm not the greatest fan of the fantasy genre but your attempt was really good. There was a gentle crescendo in your tension and I'm sure further chapters will reveal why the Wolgs perished.

Your punctuation was spot on but perhaps you might try to be a tad more provocative with your vocabulary to achieve a more edgy presentation. I'd have loved to know what Vigo and Branson looked like but you likely have described them in previous chapters.

Overall I loved your work. A strong solid piece of art indeed. Good luck to you going forward.

Regards
DH
13
13
Review of Isolation  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Dear Boogie 15
Thanks so much for the opportunity to review your piece of art. I'll give you my honest opinion about what I've read but you should take only to heart what is useful for your growth as a writer. That which you don't agree with you may choose to discard. I'll begin by saying that this is a tier one review.

So you're a young writer looking to make this a passionate pursuit. I enjoyed your story quite a bit. Isolation is the story of an emotionally bereft man seeking a proxy family in the military. His experience on the battlefield exacerbated his antisocial tendencies however. Living in the wilderness with his dog he has to deal with a satanic entity.

Your title is good. it's solid but perhaps it could be more intriguing/mysterious. Like...'The Isolation in Ace'.

Your plot is well written. You have an over average vocabulary and you use it well to describe the ensuing actions. From what I can see you are best at describing nature scenes. But there is significant room for improvement that you will need to traverse in order to make publisher's notice you.
The story itself is entertaining but in the end it seems incomplete. So many questions that you introduced are left high and dry and unanswered. For instance what happened to the kidnapped daughter and the sheriff who seemed to be the ringleader. One of the cardinal rules in short story writing is only to include pertinent topics that are vital to the plot development. If it does not advance the plot leave it out.

Esthetically speaking from a reader's point of view you should break up your story with more paragraph breaks. It's daunting to read large blocks of typed words with no breaks.

Some technical aspects in your word usage need to be commented on. I was much like you a few years ago until a knowledgeable person took me aside to educate me on stronger writing.

You should reduce your usage of adverbs. Those -LY words are generally frowned upon in mature writing and are just begging for the author to describe the action under consideration better. See below;

"He used bedsheets to cover the bodies, laying them neatly on the floor. He wished he could provide them with a proper burial but this was all he could do for now. He saw chucks dog tags on the ground, and mournfully put them in his pocket. "

neatly and mournfully are adverbs that need to be severely reduced.

Overall you have all the tools it would take to create further top shelf works of literary art. Keep improving your vocabulary and read extensively of other authors and challenge yourself to write in different styles and from different points of view.

Great job.
Regards
DH
14
14
Review of The Offer  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hello Blake
Thanks for the privilege of reviewing another one of your pieces. Remember these are merely my thoughts as a reader and you may choose to act on those you think apply to you.

So it looks like you've done a nice job again with this piece. Much better title than last time which right off the bat injects intrigue. In the last review, I focused on strength of plot and character development. Your plot here is significantly better although you telegraphed the ending two paragraphs before the end. This is a big no-no for short stories. Your endings should be twisty and surprising if you have the skill to do so. In this case, your Protagonist Remy made an error in judgment which led to his death. You failed to give him a plan to outsmart the villain which makes your hero seem inadequate almost stupid even. This is not satisfying for your reader who has invested in your character. Remember you are the architect of this melodrama and you control all that transpires in it.

Generally speaking, the dialogue flows very well. In an effort to guide you to becoming a more mature writer these are a couple things that editors will be looking out for; Try not to pile on with too many sequential adjectives in one sentence. Also, you are using way too many adverbs in your descriptions. You should try to 'show' what is happening in your story rather than 'tell' your readers. Brightly, graciously, meticulously, quickly, exceedingly, surprisingly, confidently...are examples of your heavy usage of adverbs that should be replaced with concise, description. It's not easy to get rid of all of them but use them judiciously. (smile)

So for instance, your opening few sentences look like this: Gold emblazoned tapestries straddled the long and inviting welcome lobby of the hotel. The marble floor glimmered brightly and looked as if its expensive tiles had just been meticulously cleaned. In the corners, bright screened TV’s droned on with repetitive information about the current election season with no breaking news currently being brought to light.

Consider this toned down alternative; The hotel spared no expense if the ornate furnishings in the lobby alone were any indication. Remy appreciated his own well-dressed reflection from the polished marble on which he walked. Television monitors flashed old news but...

Overall a much better job son. Keep at it.
15
15
Review of Just A Quickie  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
Highway Hiker
This is a tier one review just to get this out of the way. Take a breath...do you smell that? That's the breath of fresh air that you bring to the table dear. Pardon my French but your shit is really good. I enjoyed reading this edgy piece of yours H2. You already know this but you write in the 'less is more' style. There is no need for hyperbole when you have the weapon of smart insightful discourse to blow you out of the water.

So this scene probably only took ten minutes in real time but you skilfully pulled back years of sequential levels of pain and internal conflict with this man she calls her husband. You deftly dismantled the psyche of weak male self-esteem with a strong phallus. Well done. But I also think you're trying to leak a message about the female character's mode of thought. Could it be that she is in such negative arrears in love that she prefers the rough angry quickie than to actually have to deal with the more distasteful thought of intimate sex with him?

Your handling of this delicate topic is raw real and superb. You generated some classic phrases which allow you to paint in colors not often seen. I wanted to see if you were the real deal and I poked around your portfolio a bit. The piece 'White Trash' is equally well done if not better. Bravo to you. Not sure how old you are but you have a bright future in fiction if you continue to hone your skills in this craft. Here are a few of my favorite things...

'My mind seemed to scatter and flee, for those brief (eternal) moments I was only what lay between my legs. I was nothing but pounds of worthless flesh wrapped around this vagina that kept betraying me by making me a woman. By being female it seemed that I was born to be a victim of every surge of testosterone that deigned to sniff in my direction. '

'Instead of dreading this coming time, instead of all the planning of escape that I used to do before the last baby was born, I found that I was waiting for the numbness that I hoped I would eventually find. I needed a harder shell, more protection from this natural disaster of my life.'

My suggestions for improvement are few but important as a reader, however. Give your character's names so we can get further invested in your narrative. I know this is first person singular narration but have her say his name once instead of 'baby' and for him of her instead of 'bitch'

Dispense with the parentheses please. I'm not sure who they are for and how to read them and it bumps me out of the mood you've woven. She's already speaking to herself generally anyway. If there is something that's poignant but said under breath you might try using italics for effect.

Just a suggestion to complete your story. You can completely ignore this but I thought you could consider transferring the revulsion into thoughts of messing with the meal she's preparing for him. AN internal fantasy plot for poisoning as she continues to fume about her situation but in the end, the food prep is more spectacular than she's ever done with respect to taste and presentation. That would be the proverbial cherry on top for me and I know you're skillful enough for that challenge. Lol

By the way, the kids are not his right? Where's the father then?

Anyway, great job all around. I love your other pseudo erotica pieces also. Keep it up.

Derek
16
16
Review of Gate 11A  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Young Mr. Blake,
Thanks so much for being a lover of the arts and being an active contributor. I wish I'd began when I was in my teens. So this is a pretty good attempt. Your airport fiasco had some intriguing aspects to it. The one thing I like that you did very well was to demonstrate the degree of substance abuse dependency. It became clear that Paul has a problem even multiple problems it appears but your story structure is weak and may prevent some of your readers the chance to identify with your main character. You have to decide in your planning, 'do I want my readers to celebrate, to hate or merely to understand my character's actions'? After reading your piece I neither love hate or quite entirely understand Paul.

You've got good skills at writing so my critique is only to make you a better writer for your readers. It is not to discourage you in any way. The following are some general pointers that will dramatically improve your writing.

Use a provocative title; This one is actually pretty good.

You must capture your reader in the first three or four sentences. You only have one chance to impress and score points to make the reader become invested. This was a very poor beginning as it made me feel you were not taking me seriously using the word stupid so often and introducing eyebrows etc.

When introducing your characters it's okay to be a bit mysterious in the beginning. Avoid saying things like 'Paul Westerly was his name...' Rather something like; Although there wasn't a single cloud in the sky, Paul Westerly's umbrella tapped against the escalator steps as he entered gate 11a. One of his only two true companions. That and his flask with the yellow cap...'

Your plot has to make sense to the reader. Readers are intelligent and are very sensitive if it appears that you are insulting their knowledge. So I assume this is an American Airport. In this day most people know that you cannot hang out near any Airline gates without a boarding pass. This is a security lapse if this is allowed to happen on a daily basis. Also if Paul wants attention from crowds why not choose a zoo, boardwalk, mall etc. Another issue with your plot that confused me involved his confirming the bathroom gender by feeling out the words on the wall. Indicating that his vision is very poor but yet still he could pinpoint a child across the room and hit him with a projectile.

Finally, there is a bit of confusion at the end. After this old mad was attacked and bloodied in an airport he was put in a cell and not into an ambulance to go to ER or something. Where is airport security? I'm just pointing out things in your plot that must make sense so your reader is allowed to invest with your characters.

You're definitely a better writer that I was when I was 19 and you are well on your way. Take you time and listen to those around you who know what they are talking about. There are other points that need fixing too but the first one you should tackle in your quest to become a great writer is plot and character structure.

Good luck to you going forward.
Regards DH
17
17
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
This is very nicely done indeed. Majestic images behind a veil. I appreciate this craft of natures beauty and power.
18
18
Review of In the Family Way  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Thanks for the opportunity to review this piece of your creativity. I appreciate the trust that you have extended in asking for my opinion. Please note that my comments are only meant to give you empowering skills to be a better writer from the perspective of your audience. Take away with you, those you find useful, and discard the opinions that you disagree with.





Overall impression: Tier 1 review.

John/Jeff it was a pleasure to review another one of your works of art. You are right; us older guys do have to stick together, in fact our writing styles are more alike than dissimilar. in the family way is written very much like my style was three years ago. Then something amazing happened on this platform and a couple reviewers took me by the shoulders and shook some literary sense into me. So in this review I'm going to be frank and give you the business just like they did me to make you publish ready. It's very uncanny that I am also writing a piece currently with a similar Family/ Horror house genre as you are doing with this one. I'm not claiming to be perfect at all mind you. I've still got quite a bit of growing to do but I'm happy to share with you what I've learned along the way.


These are the things I like about your writing. You have an impressive vocabulary, like a builder there is no substitute for having multiple tools at hand for doing this same task. You are a very good storyteller and it is obvious that you give thought to the progression of events, and you create characters that are very vivid and lively.





Plot:
So this is a big baby in fact it's too big to be a short story. I estimate it to be over 12,000 words and if euro are going to do that it's beginning to get into the novella category. If you want to label this as the short story you've got to get to the point fairly quickly without using paragraph breaks with titles. It's fine if you want to labeled this as a novella but it's too obese to fit into the short story box. This was hard for me but I've learned to only include information that is critical to my characters and for the conclusion of my story.

Because of your strong vocabulary you tend to over describe things. I had the same issue. My philosophy was that if one adjective is good then two must be better. I often see you use the double adjective and I'll point this out in your story below.

I am told the secret to great writing is to show rather than tell. I'm getting better at this and the one thing that prevents this from happening is the dreaded --LY adverbs that describe actions. Not all adverbs can be avoided but this class of adverbs demonstrate a certain immaturity of a writer. I've completely stopped using 'suddenly' for instance.

Then lastly you should pay attention to the dialogue tag in your spoken speech assignments. The 'She said...He yelled... she asked, are not always necessary after spoken speech especially if they are only two people in the conversation. I was guided to mention the relevant action of the speaker either before or after the dialogue to get away from this. Again it just demonstrates a maturity of the art form and it gives an opportunity to show rather than tell.

Great job none the less. Enjoyed it.





Punctuation/Grammar/spelling:
Generally this area is well done on your part. There are errors here to be sure but nothing systemic that can't be corrected with multiple drafts.






Suggesstions***Moving Day ***




The dark, leathery An example of your double adjective tendency leaves of the trees crowded in on Vic as she rushed down the forest trail. She could feel him behind her. Could feel his desire. His need to have her. She couldn't see him, not yet, but she knew he followed. He called to her in a voice that sang like taut chords in her soul but not in her ears. Except for her ragged breath there was silence. If there were many leaves on the trail like you mentioned would they not be contributing to the noise ? Careful not to contradict your setting for the sake of drama. This was not what she wanted. Which was why she ran. Why the black fear thundered in her veins and she sprinted through the dark woods.

Suddenly, a voice called to her. It blew down descended? from the treetops like a gale and turned the forest into a swirling fog. The voice was familiar, kind. "Victoria. Vic, wake up!"

Vic's eyes fluttered open and she squinted against the bright sunlight streaming in through the windshield of her mom's old Ford Explorer.

"You were having a bad dream," her mother said. "Are you OK?"

Vic pushed herself up in the seat. "Yea, I'm fine," she croaked. She picked up the styrofoam cup sitting in the holder and took a sip of Dr. Pepper watered down with an hours’ worth of melted ice.

The SUV bumped down a brick-lined road, passing rows of tired, single story homes double adjective again before pulling into a crumbling asphalt drive. Her mom popped open the door of the Explorer and climbed into the dazzling heat of the August afternoon.

"We're here," she announced happily.

The old Fords air conditioner barely kept the cabin cool and once the door swung open, sweltering heat flooded the interior.

"Come on out, honey," her mother called. She grabbed the steering wheel and poked her head inside. "Our big adventure begins."

Vic sighed and clambered out of the car. She pulled off her thick glasses and wiped the humidity fogged lenses on her shirt before slipping them back on and peering at their new home.

The old, three-story Victorian was sorely in need of a paint job. Wood rotted boards peered out from beneath the overhangs and along the bay window. Ancient, rusted window triple adjective air conditioners hung precariously from the first and second story windows and the green copper cupola was rust-streaked beneath its storm-damaged spire.

Vic’s mother slung an arm around her shoulder and dragged her into an enthusiastic hug, "Isn't it great?" she waving an arm towards the house. "Before you know it, this old place will be the fanciest home in town. And we'll be the happiest family in town."

Vic chewed her bottom lip in consternation and flicked her eyes between the crumbling structure and her mother's sparkling eyes.

"It's a piece a crap mother," she snapped. "And you moved us into the middle of nowhere. I mean, who's ever heard of Thunderbird Falls Oklahoma anyway?" She tapped at her cell and held it up, glaring in disgust. "One bar mother. One freakin' bar of reception." She jammed the phone into her back pocket and turned her back. Hot tears pooled in the corner of her eyes and she swiped at them with her wrist. "I hate it here. I can't believe you moved us from Alsuma. At least there I had friends."

Vic's mother was a thin woman with a bob of dark brown hair and a round, kindly face. Now her face was twisted into a bitter scowl. She placed her fists on her slim hips and glared at Vic, her dark eyes flashing. "Victoria Eunice Brighton! You will not take that tone with me young lady. I'm doing everything I can to make a good life for us and I'm sorry things aren't working out just peachy for you. They're not a basket of roses for me either. We're damn lucky I found this call center job and the fact that we could afford to buy this house with the last of your father's insurance money is a blessing."

Her mother's voice cracked at the mention of her father. Vic could tell from the silence that followed that her mother was crying. Vic turned and toed a broken chunk of asphalt across the ground. "I'm sorry momma." She didn't even fight the tears streaming down her cheeks and mingling with the sweat beaded on her neck. She felt bad, crying. Crying was for children and she wasn't a baby anymore. Heck, in two more months she would be a fifteen. This is very good. sweat and tears commingling is a nice visual but it needs a little work. Take out the 'Heck' though, It makes it seem that the narrator is biased towards her.

Her mother closed the gap and swept her into her arms. Vic suddenly felt better. Safer. Ever since daddy died of a sudden heart attack two years ago, mom was the strong one. At thirty-seven no one would have expected her to be an unemployed single mom and a widow, but there it was. Mother stood tall through the funeral. She smiled and thanked everyone afterwards. She told Vic they would get by and things would be 'OK'. But Vic heard her crying through the bedroom door late at night when mother thought she was asleep.

"Mom, I can't breathe," Vic gasped.

Her mother released her from the bear hug and held her at arm's length. Already her mom's flashing smile returned and although her eyes were wet, they sparkled with enthusiasm.

"You just wait," she said. "You're gunna find friends and this will be the best house ever. Who knows, you may even find a boyfriend."

Vic nodded and glanced up at her. "Best house ever," she repeated. A smile turning up the corners of her lips, more for her mother's sake than her own.

"Now, I think there are some people that want out," her mother said. She danced to the rear of the car and lifted the gate. Inside a black metal dog crate was a chubby chocolate lab and a graying, frizzle-haired terrier.

Her mother swept up the door and out bounded the lab. He dashed about the weed-strewn yard before circling around and leaping on Vic. She couldn't help but smile as she grabbed the young dog's paws and looked into his grinning face.

"Hey, Skip ol' boy," she said. "I'll bet you were ready to get outta that car, huh?"

The other dog, a chunky, old terrier hopped cautiously to the ground and swaggered over to her mother's feet then rolled, belly up, before her. Her mother scrubbed a foot across the hairless, pink paunch and crooned at the old pup. "There ya go Bunny. Here's your new home, here it is." Bunny rolled up and sat considering the property with tongue lolling indifference.

Vic sat scrunched in a patch of shade on the front porch as her mother talked on the cell phone with the realtor. She was trying to find out where the keys were. Just then, a battered white moving van with the marquis "A Couple Guys and A Truck" pulled up in front of the house. Mother flipped the phone closed and rushed to meet the actual 'two guys' who piled out of the truck's cab.

For a moment, they stood sweating beneath the white hot sky gesturing towards the house. Then one of the men disappeared around the back of the building. In a heartbeat, the front door swung open and he stepped onto the porch.

"Back door was wide open," he grinned and jacked a thumb behind him.

Vic sat in the cicada laced heatWhat does this really mean? and watched the movers bustling in and out. Occasionally, her mother would rush out from the dark interior and after a brief consultation the movers would drop whatever box or furnishing they had in their arms and load an identical box or similar furnishing and disappear inside.

Skip and Bunny nosed around the house but after a few minutes of wandering in the sweltering air, they joined Vic in her shrinking shadow. As the sun crept past noon, Skip pushed up lazily and meandered to a sickly looking rosebush growing at the corner of the house. His slack tail perked into a curl as his nose searched the ground beneath the shrub. His face disappeared momentarily beneath the bus, then he gave out a sharp yelp and sprang back.

The hair at his shoulder blades stood like a ridge and he gave a low, rumbling growl before backing away and dashing back to his spot beside Vic.

"What's the matter boy?" she asked, rubbing the dog's thick neck. Skip looked over at her and lapped a wet tongue across her cheek then turned and considered the rosebush again. Vic could feel a low rumble deep in his chest.

Out of curiosity, she pulled herself up and strode over to the bramble. When she drew closer, she could see that although the bush was thick it sported barely a handful of dark green leaves. The interior was shrouded in gloom and intertwined with thick, thorny branches. The sickly plant sprouted but a single ghostly white rose. Gingerly, she pulled apart the stems and peered inside. Far at the back, next to the house, there was the faintest sparkle of glass.

Skip followed her to the hedge but stood a pace behind, watching her. "It's OK boy. What's in there huh? A big ol' rat? You smell a rat in there?"

Vic stepped to the side of the house and from this vantage, she could see the glitter was from a basement window hidden deep in the old bush's branches. I sure hope that rat isn't in the house. She turned and examined the faded blue exterior of her new home's walls. Mom loved doing fix up, but there was a lot of work on this old place. She still hadn't been inside and with a heavy sigh she followed the movers as they trundled across the wooden boards of the front porch and stepped inside with another load.

Even though the windows were thrown open and spread a cheery light across the mounting pile of boxes in the corners, it took a moment for Vic's eyes to adjust. When they did, she saw the inside of the house was in much better shape than the outside.

There was a thick, dry smell inside. It reminded her of the old library in downtown Alsuma. She loved to catch the bus on lazy Saturday mornings and hang out at the library until afternoon. She would stuff a baloney sandwich and some chips into her backpack and make a day of it. She doubted if Thunderbird Falls even had a library. nice.

The walls of the living room were papered in a faded yellow pattern of diamond shaped ferns scrolling from the dark hardwoods to the ten-foot plaster ceilings above. Here and there the paper was torn or stained but the floors gleamed in the mote flecked light that filtered in.

"Oh, good, you finally decided to come in," her mother said jogging after the workmen as they rushed out the door. Vic wondered how her mother kept track of which room the movers were in but decided she just followed the trail of their stench. Their body odor seemed to hang like a fog in the rooms after they breezed past.

Her mother's face was lit with an excited smile and she dabbed at her sweaty forehead with the corner of her shirt. She grabbed Vic by the hand and dragged towards the stairs. "Come on, I'll show you your room."

"Even though it looks big," her mother was saying as the steps thudded beneath their feet "the house is actually smaller than our old place in Alsuma. The kitchen, living room, and a powder bath are downstairs and there are two bedrooms and a bath on the second floor."

She pulled Vic onto the second floor landing and pushed open a closed door. Cool air flowed out in a palpable wave that swirled past her thighs and sandaled feet. Inside, the walls were papered in rows of vertical gold and green stripes. The room was lit by a bay window covered with what were once white lace curtains but now were nothing more than tattered yellow rags. The covering over the center window had been tied back and an A/C unit hummed noisily in the frame.

"This is my room," her mother said. "And the bathroom is just across the hall. It will be your bathroom too."

On the opposite side of the landing, there was an open door and a steep staircase leading up. Her mother waved a hand invitingly towards the opening. "Lead the way."

Vic mounted the stairs which came up in the center of a vaulted attic. There were windows on three walls. Each window was cut in a low diamond arch that you had to bend over to get to. The fourth wall was dominated by an expansive wall of brick. Vic assumed it was the back of the fireplace.

There was a dry, throat-catching Double adj. and its not clear what this really means. Be surgical with your descriptions.heat in the room and besides the old musty smell, there was something else. A slightly unpleasant almost dark odor.

"This will be your room. If you want it," her mother said. "If not, we can use it for a guest bedroom and storage. You could take the room next to mine."

Vic admitted the room was pretty damn cool. And there was no way she was going to sleep next door to her mom. She dashed to a window and yanked it up in a flurry of paint chips. A thick, cooling breeze blew through the room and she knew this was her spot.

"I know it's a little rough, "her mom smiled. "But we can put in some awesome lights and paint it up nice. Get a big area rug. It's gunna be sooo cool."

*** Maximus ***
Vic sat with one leg dangling over the sill and her back leaned against the window frame. She took another drag on her Marlboro then cocked back her head and puffed out a stream of smoke into the chilly autumn night.

Above, spotty clouds danced across the moon sending mottled dark waves flowing across the patchy grass and tumbling leaves below. Her cell phone pinged and a brief flash of light illuminated her drawn features.

Vic pinched the cigarette into the corner of her mouth and picked up the phone. Skip and Bunny were lying on the floor beside her and Skip's eyes cracked opened and he considered her with a lethargic thump of the tail.

It was a text from her best friend, Celia. It was hard to believe that she had already been in Thunderbird Falls for three months. Vic wasn't one of those girls who made friends easily or quickly for that matter. Yet, somehow, she and Celia had hit it off. Maybe because Celia was an outsider too. She was chunky with a bad complexion and being a real wiz at math didn't help.

"U still up?" Celia's text read.

"yup,two year old" Vic texted back.

"ny thing weird hap n 2nite?" pretty good for a 54 year old and the text lingo lol.

Vic eyed the message and threw a wary glance at the brick wall at the far end of her room. Ever since moving in, Vic heard bumping and scraping sounds coming from the other side of that brick border. She complained to her mom, but the sounds came mainly at night. Since mom worked the graveyard shift at the call center, she never heard the strange sounds.

Mother called out the exterminator to check for squirrels but the guy said he couldn't find any sign of squirrels, raccoons or anything else. He suggested something might be living beneath the copper cupola but without removing the cupola or cutting in from beneath there was no way to be sure.

Tonight, the sounds were noticeably absent. Skip actually seemed relaxed. Whenever she heard the scraping sounds, Skip wouldn’t leave her side. Vic wasn't sure if it was to protect her, or for his own comfort. She thought maybe a little of both.

"nope all quiet" she texted back. "may b 2moro."

Vic took another long drag on the cigarette then flicked it into the night. It glowed briefly in an orange arch then smacked onto the asphalt drive in a fountain of sparks. The Jenkin's old tomcat, Maximus, slunk across the yard and the riot of light caused him to spring into the air and zip out of sight.

"STBY LOL. sleep over L8r?" Celia sent.

"yea. Sat. may b get a recording of the sounds? We can post on youtube? :0"

"K. I'll bring sound recording stuff. Nite GF." Celia texted

"nite WYWH :) "

Vic felt a chill of excitement at sending that last text. "WYWH-Wish You Were Here". The thought of being close to Celia, maybe even kissing her sent a shiver of excitement along her shoulders and up her neck. Vic tossed her cell onto the bed and let the chill breeze wash over her. She closed her eyes and thought of Celia.

Vic jolted awake with an audible gasp, banging her head painfully on the window sill. She had been dreaming about ... what? About walking through thick woods again. And there was something in the dream with her. She almost could see the something that followed. Then there was the scream. But the scream was real. That was what woke her. It wasn't a human scream though...an animal? A cat? Probably Maximus and another tom fighting in the alley. This summer Maximus woke her up plenty with his constant yowling.

She glanced at the lawn and saw movement. At the edge of the yard. Vic leaned over and squinted into the night. A shade detached from the house and drifted across the ground. The moon was low against the rattling autumn leaves but it cast a threadbare luminance across the sky. Patches of lighter dark and darker light shimmered before her eyes as she strained to pierce the gloom. Then she was sure. A darker hue of shadow crept down there. It disappeared into the rose bush at the corner of the house with a clacking of thick, thorny branches. This is an example of where your great vocab over powers your description a bit. there's another one further down I'll mention then I think you get the picture that I'm drawing out for you sport. There was a whine at her feet as Skip joined her at the sill. They both sat stock still, staring at the brick wall. There was the subtlest hint of noise behind the bricks. It grew. Then there was a wet 'thud' above them. In the ceiling beneath the cupola.

Outside, there was the scrunching of tires on gravel and the slow grinding squeal of her mom's brakes.
Vic's head began to feel light and she exhaled in a gust. She hadn't realized it, but she had been holding her breath.

*** Sleep Over ***

Vic was sitting on the floor of her bedroom while Celia perched on the bed behind her and ran a brush through Vic's short brown hair.

"And that's when my mom pulled in," Vic said, concluding the story.

Celia was quiet for several hollow, raspy pulls of the brush through Vic's hair.

"That's creepy as hell," she said finally. Then she slid onto the floor beside Vic and pulled out her phone. "I didn't want to freak you out, but I did some research on your house last week. I found something REALLY wild."

She tapped on the screen and pulled up photo. It was an image of an old newspaper article. Vic took the phone from Celia's and zoomed in. The picture was a front page shot of the Alsuma paper. The headline read, "Mummy Mother Murderer Convicted." There was a black and white photo of a crowd surrounding a blonde woman. She was bent over and covering her face with her hands. Vic could tell by the long hair the men wore and the funky, old sunglasses that the picture was from a long time ago.

"Where did you find this?" she asked, passing back the phone.

"It was in the microfiche they still have these things? wow. section of the library," Celia said. "I took that pic to show you."

"You like the library too?" Vic's mouth twisted into a toothy grin. For a moment, she was lost in Celia's eyes, then the brick wall behind her friend yanked her back to the now. "What's the article say?"

"Seems like your house was the scene of a triple murder in 1978."

"What?" Vic was shocked at the news. But, in a way, it made total sense. How else would they be able to afford this great house unless there was something seriously wrong with it? She assumed mom was able to buy it because of the poor shape it was in. Now it seemed unlikely her mom could afford it even then.

"Yea," Cilia continued. "Two kids were killed by their mother. She drained their blood, sucked out their organs and mummified them. Then she hid their bodies in the attic. Her husband died a few months earlier of a sudden heart attack that the article called 'suspicious.'"

"Oh my god," Vic said, "are you serious?"

"Totally serious! The mom told the cops that the kids disappeared from inside the house during the night.two-year-old disappeared in the spring and the four-year-old the following fall. It said in the article that a phone repairman running wires through the attic around Christmas time discovered the bodies."

"But there is no attic," Vic began. Then she shot a glance to the corner of her room and leapt to her feet. "Oh...my....god," Vic repeated. "The attic has to be the space beneath the cupola. And the noise I'm hearing has to be ....ghosts....oh my god!"

"I know, right," Cilia said. "Is that totally cool or what?"

"Totally scary you mean." She dropped back on the bed. "Whatever happened to the mother?"

"The article said she was sent to an insane asylum. But after that, who knows. Maybe she moved back in and lives...you know where." Celia grinned at Vic maliciously and bobbed her head towards the brick wall.

"Oh cut it out," Vic snorted and shoved Celia so that she rolled onto her side gripping her stomach in laughter.

At that instant, nice use instead of suddenly. there was a soft thud and a dragging scrape of something hard brushing past the bricks.
Both girls spun towards the wall in a shocked gasp of surprise. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing. Skip jumped to his feet and stood stiff-legged in front of the wall; the fur along his spine a bristled brown line. Bunny, on the other hand, made a tail tucked retreat down the stairs.

"We are SO going to be on Youtube," Celia blurted excitedly. Dreaded adverb that telling not showing. She knelt beside her backpack and dragged out an ice-cream cone shaped microphone and a thin laptop. Then she pulled out a compact digital camera and a tripod. In two minutes, the mic was attached to the laptop and the camera screwed atop the tripod.

The two dropped onto Vic's bed, pointed the camera at the wall and waited. For over an hour, nothing happened. Finally, Vic sighed and pushed to her feet. The clock on her wall said it was almost two in the morning.

"You never know when there's gunna be a noise," she explained as if in apology.

Celia stood up stiffly adverb!!!and walked over to examine the wall. Vic joined her and ran her hands along the rough surface of the bricks.

"So where do you usually hear it?" Cilia asked.

Vic thought for a moment then pointed to a corner in the roof where the bricks met the plaster ceiling. Celia pulled up a chair and climbed on top. She examined the ceiling and wall carefully.

"You know, there's a loose brick here." She wiggled at one of the bricks and bits of white masonry chittered to the floor. She looked down at Vic questioningly and Vic nodded.

"Go ahead," Vic said.

Celia turned her attention back to the wall and after two more minutes, the brick came loose in her hand. In its place, there was a dark hole. Celia cocked a brow and smiled. "We could stick the camera in and see what's up there. I can wifi connect the camera to the laptop. We could watch live."

Vic nodded her head excitedlyAdverb use and dropped to her knees to retrieve the camera, tripod, and laptop. Celia turned on the camera light, hit the record button and eased the device into the hole. A glowing yellow light oozed from the opening as she tried to push the camera into the darkness. Only about half of the tripod's length would fit inside before it caught on something. The laptop screen displayed bright close-ups of the red brick face.

With a frustrated huff, Celia yanked the tripod out of the hole. She shown the light into the gap and stood on tip toes to get her face as close to the opening as possible. Then she dropped back down. "There's a tight corner the tripod can't get around. But past that, it opens into the attic."

"So what're we gunna do?" Vic asked.

Celia rubbed at her nose for a moment then held up a finger, an enlightened gleam in her eye. "I'll just hold it."

She worked the camera off of the tripod and dropped the plastic support to the floor with a thud.

"Are you sure?" Vic asked. She had always considered herself pretty brave but sticking her hand into an unknown hole wasn't something she was up for.

"Yea, no problem," Celia smirked. "The lights so bright it'll scare away any mouse or spider. Plus, I doubt anything's up there anyway. Other than ghosts that is." She beetled her brows dramatically.

"Well, all right," Vic said reluctantly.Adverb use again. I won't point out any further as you get the point I'm making. She had more than half an impression Celia was trying to impress her. If that was her goal she had succeeded.

Celia pointed the camera at herself in a selfie pose and they both giggled at her fish-eyed image on the screen. Then she eased her hand into the opening. Both girls watched the camera lens ease past the bricks and widen into a dark, dusty expanse.

"Whoa!" Vic exclaimed as Celia rotated the image. The enclosed space of the cupola was three feet square and three feet tall, not including the copper pyramiding above. In the washed-out glow of the camera lights, the walls appeared to be covered with a fine layer of cobwebs and dust. Celia switched her footing in the chair so she could rotate the camera the other way. There was a soft bump above them. Vic eyed the ceiling suspiciously. Did Celia do that?

As the camera rotated there was a brief glimpse of a growing pile of debris, then a shape flashed across the screen. Celia shrieked in pain and her eyes shot wide in fear. "Something's got me!" she screamed.

Vic dropped the laptop and reached up for her friend's arm. Her fingers seized Celia's elbow, sinking into the soft flesh as she pulled. She tugged with all her might, but Celia's hand wouldn't budge.

"Mooootheeeeer!" Vic howled.

Around the two girls, Skip ran in frantic circles, barking, snapping and leaping towards the ceiling.
Celia grabbed her ensnared forearm with her other hand and her knees sagged as she used her weight to free herself. Celia's cries of panic faded and her breath came in short whistling gasps.

Then, as sudden as a thread being cut, Celia's hand snapped loose. Both girls tumbled to the ground, sending the chair flying across the room. Over the thudding footfalls of her mother rushing up the stairs, Vic heard the unmistakable and familiar scraping behind the bricks.

Just as her mother burst into the room, Vic rolled to her feet. Celia was still lying on her back cradling her hand. There was a nasty hole between the thumb and index finger and a thin white liquid oozed out followed by a thick stream of blood.

Her chest rose and fell with hummingbird rapidity and her eyes flicked wide-eyed from Vic's face to her mothers.

"What's the matter, Celia? Are you hurt?" Vic asked.

"Ih...Ih...it ...had...mmm..mmm..me," she stuttered.

"You're OK now," Vic said soothingly. She took her friends hands in hers and stroked them.

"What in the world happened?" her mother demanded and dropped down beside them.

Celia's breath didn't slow. She wheezed more desperately, arching her back with every intake of breath.

"in...in...haler....in....haler," Celia gasped.

At first, Vic didn't understand but her mother was already upending Celia's pack. The plastic, 'L' shaped inhaler tumbled to the floor and her mother grabbed it and pressed it into Celia's shaking hands.
Celia stuck the device into her mouth and huffed two quick breaths, the inhaler hissed in counterpoint to her gasps.

Celia's panicked breathing wouldn't slow. Vic's mom sprang to her feet and thundered down the stairs.

"Make her take more," she shouted over her shoulder. "I'm calling 911."

By the time the ambulance arrived eight minutes later Celia had stopped breathing. Vic and her mother performed CPR as best they could until the paramedics shoved them aside and hooked her up to the machines. When they rolled her out, she was as pale as a sheet.

They followed the ambulance to the hospital where Celia's mother and father were already waiting. Twenty minutes later the doctor came out to tell them Celia was gone. She died from severe and sudden asthma attack.

"It wasn't asthma!" Vic protested. "There was something in the attic that got her. It bit her!"

"What are you talking about?" her mother asked. The doctor and Celia's aunt crowded in to listen.

"Celia and I were looking for ghosts in the attic. She put her camera in the attic to film what was up there and something grabbed her. I saw it."

"Was there a bite?" Celia's aunt demanded of the doctor.

He held up his palms in walled defense. "No, no. There's no indication of any think like a bite. She had a single puncture wound in her hand. It was the only injury. Probably from a nail. I think the girls worked themselves up into a tizzy and when Celia's hand snagged on the nail. She simply panicked. It's a horrible, horrible thing to happen but it was an accident."

Celia's aunt shot Vic a withering glance then disappeared after the doctor through the swinging doors of the ER. Vic could hear Celia's mother keening in the distance.

*** After ***
After the funeral and the flurry of rumors that ran through Thunderbird Falls High School, Vic's life resumed some timbre of normalcy. Her mother finally convinced her there was nothing hiding in the cupola and Celia's death was a horrible accident. But part of her couldn't accept that. Her mother even called the exterminator a second time to check for animals in the attic. He found nothing. Vic couldn't live in that room any longer. Not after what happened. She left her bed and dresser upstairs and moved all her belongings into the guest bedroom on the second floor.

When she returned to school the following week, she found herself shunned by the other students. It wasn't that they were mean. They simply wanted nothing to do with her. The house was now well known and no one wanted the dark aura of the girl who lived there to rub off.

Vic found herself spending more and more time at the library. The squat, brick two-story had been built in the 30s and was once the home of the city's municipal offices. The space had been given over to the library when the new city complexes were constructed in the early 90s. The old wooden shelves were moved from the original library and the tall oak structures stood in dark lines atop the lighter colored hardwoods of the building.

Three months after Celia's death, Vic found herself wandering through the musty racks in the library basement. A dusty microfiche machine jammed in the corner caught her attention. She thought of the headlines Celia had shown her and thought she’d have a look.

She remembered the date on the paper, and in a matter of minutes she’d loaded the microfiche spool and was reading the article herself. Celia pretty much told her everything of importance. Two children, two years old and four, killed by their mother. The children's bodies mummified and missing their organs. Discovered in the attic months later. The thing Celia didn't mention was the woman's name, Susan Rhodes.

Vic jotted down the name and marched upstairs to the computer center. After an hour of searching, she discovered Susan had been interned at the Eastern Oklahoma Hospital for the Insane. The hospital closed in 2008 so who knew what became of her. Maybe Celia was right. Maybe she moved back to Thunderbird Falls.

For an entire week, Vic returned to the library searching for clues to what happened to Susan Rhodes. The only shred of information she could find was in an article about a potential retrial. In 1983 a woman named 'Jennifer Yost', Susan's sister, petitioned the courts for a retrial. According to the article, the petition didn't go far.

Vic made a quick search of Jennifer Yost and found an address. It was on the outskirts of Thunderbird Falls. Maybe she could go to this woman and get some answers. She scribbled the address on the inside cover of her Algebra book and checked her cell. It was already dark outside even though it wasn't yet seven p.m. Vic hated winter. She saw three texts from mom wondering where she was. Vic texted that she was on the way and slipped on her heavy coat and slung her backpack over her shoulder. She only lived five blocks away but the February wind could be brutal.

*** Breakfast ***
Vic waited for the weekend to go to the address she'd jotted down for Jennifer Yost. She pulled up the address on Google Earth. The street view only showed the corners of an old car tucked behind a tall, overgrown hedge.

That Saturday morning she rushed downstairs to find her mother cooking up a plate of bacon and eggs. She had just cracked the eggs and dropped them into the spattering hot bacon grease when she stepped into the kitchen.

Her mother started the house remodel with the kitchen and the warm aroma of bacon, coffee and toast wafted across the freshly painted white cabinets and gray faux granite countertops. Weekends were wonderful because mom switched her hours and Vic feasted on hot breakfasts instead of her usual fare of cold cereal and fruit.

"Whatcha got planned today, kiddo?" her mom asked. She laded out a heap of bacon and eggs onto Vic’s plate and slid it in front of her.

"I thought I'd go down to the library," Vic lied. She shot her mother a glance beneath her brows.

Her mother filled her own plate and slid into the chair beside her. "Well, I'm glad to see you getting back to life. What are you looking into this week?"

"Did you know our house was the scene of a murder?" Vic blurted.

Her mom's fork paused in mid-air before continuing the trip to her mouth. "No, I didn't." Her mom's eyed drifted up and studied her. "Sounds interesting. Tell me about it."

"Well, there was this family. The Rhodes. And they lived here, like, a long time ago. In the 70s. Anyway, the mom killed both of her children." Vic set down her fork and eyed her mother excitedly. Her mom leaned back in her chair sipping on her coffee.

"But it wasn't just murder. She also drained their blood and took out their guts. THEN she mummified them. The mom got sent to a loony bin but I haven't discovered what happened to her after that."

"Really," her mother set down the cup and dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. "You know, Victoria. You're just going to frighten yourself if you keep looking into this. I think maybe it would be wise to consider applying yourself to something more…productive?" She arched one brow in a look that demanded Vic's agreement.

"Yes, Mother," Vic grumbled. She dropped her eyes to her plate and poked at her eggs with her fork.

Her mother considered her above the lip of the cup for a few more seconds then set it down with a light clink. "All right then. After you finish your breakfast, I'd like you to take out the trash and feed the dogs. Then you can go to the library. But be back no later than three this afternoon."

Vic edged her glasses up with her finger and smiled. "OK, mom. I'll be back by three."

*** Jennifer***
The gravel crunched beneath the wheels of Vic's mountain bike as she eased it up to the corner of Hickory and Seminole streets. She didn't have gloves on and her hands were frozen from the short ride across town.

She jammed her icy fingers beneath her jacket and grimaced as she laid them across the warm flesh of her stomach. As the feeling tingled back into her fingers, she considered the old house in front of her. A tall, unruly hedge ran along the street side broken only by the opening for the driveway. A battered tan Celebrity was parked in front of the cramped, square house and an aluminum porch awning was tacked onto the front as an afterthought. Except for the wisps of steam seeping from a pipe on the stained roof, Vic would have thought the house was long abandoned.

She took a deep breath and exhaled a cloud into the chill air before stepping off the bike and marching the front stoop. Before her resolve could abandon her she balled up a fist and rapped on the front door.

She stood for several moments throwing a look over her shoulder at the bike and considered jumping on and leaving when the door creaked open and a chubby, gray-haired woman examined her through thick glasses.

"Yes, my dear. What can I do for you?" she asked in a grandmotherly tone.

Vic sucked at her lower lip unsure where to begin. She hadn't thought out this part of her plan.

"Umm, wellll. I'm doing a report for school and I wanted to see if your name was Jennifer Yost. If you knew a woman named Susan Rhodes."

The woman's grey-blue eyes swam behind her lenses in magnified focus nice but just say grey or blue. as she considered Vic. "A report, eh?" she asked incredulously. "I suppose this is about the murders in seventy-eight." She said it as statement and not a question.

"Yes, ma'am. It is." Vic dropped her eyes and jabbed her hands deep in her pockets.

"Well then, you'll want to be out of the cold," the old woman said. She shook her head as she examined Vic. "Ain't you the spittin' image of myself when I was a teen. There's hardly a strip of meat on you. I believe you could do with a bite of hot soup." She pushed open the door and stepped aside.

Vic slid into the house wrinkling her nose against the sudden, sharp bite of cat urine. The living room was surprisingly roomy based on her impression from outside, but it was crowded with old furniture. A bulky blue cloth couch was pushed up against one wall. Three cats lazed across its back. Two puffy armchairs were jammed on either side of a hallway and faded photographs dotted the walls.

"PIease, take a seat,"," the old woman said and bustled down the hall. "I won't be a minute."

Vic stared around at the room as one of the cats disengaged himself from the couch and crawled down to rub against her leg. From down the hall, there was the sound of clattering dishes, then the old woman bustled back in with a steaming bowl resting atop a yellow plate. She sat the plate atop the table and patted the back of the chair with her hand.

"Come now," have a bite and I'll answer all your questions. "It's been such a long time since I've had guests."

Vic shuffled to the chair and sank behind the bowl of soup as the woman grinned at her with gappy yellow teeth. Then she dropped into the seat next to Vic and folded her hands on her lap.

"Well, go on then," she nodded to the soup and leaned forward expectantly.

Vic picked up the spoon and dipped it into the steamy bowl. The rich odor of beef somehow managed to cut through the ammonia stench and she took a sip. The rich, meaty broth rolled down her throat and she nodded appreciatively. "Mmm, this is good."

The old woman clapped her hands in delight and rocked back in her chair. "Oh, good. I only cook for myself and sometimes I think I might have lost my touch." She dipped a hand into her pocket and fished out a napkin then coughed roughly into it before looking back at Vic.

"So, young lady. What is it you would like to know?"

"Well," Vic began. "Are you Susan Rhodes sister?"

"Yes, I am," she smiled. "Susan was my baby sister. We were the only two Yost girls in town. Susan married that good looking Gerry Rhodes back in 74'. Myself, I joined the army and never married."

The old woman repositioned herself in the chair so she could point back over her shoulder at one of the dusty pictures. "That's Susie and me there," she said.

Vic pushed up her glasses and squinted across the room. The colors were faded but it was a photo of two girls sitting on the hood of a blue car. One of the girls was maybe ten or eleven with pigtails and a goofy grin. The other was a skinny, homely girl with Coke-bottle glasses and dark hair pulled into a long ponytail. It was a summer day and both were dressed in swim suits and laughing.

Vic took two more sips at the soup. "So what happened in 1978?" she asked finally.

"I wish I knew," the old woman said almost in a whisper. "Susan's life all came tumbling down right after they moved into that house."

Vic looked up at this. "What do ya mean?"

"That was when Gerry had his heart attack. Right after they moved in. They weren't there a year before Suzie found him dead on the living room floor. Poor dear found him Sunday morning before church."

She clucked her false teeth noisily and went on. "He must have gotten up in the night and had the heart attack on his way to the kitchen. You know they say most people think they've got indigestion when they're having a heart attack."

"But the paper said it was murd.....I mean suspicious."

"Oh, pooh! That's the crazy media trying to drum up sales. There wasn't nothin' suspicious about it. He just up and died. It had a terrible impact on my sister. She wasn't never the same after that. I think Gerry's death did something to her.

She used to come over to visit me or leave the kids. After Gerry's death, she started telling me she was having crazy dreams. Then she started thinking someone was following her."

"Dreams? What kind of dreams?" Vic asked.

"I can hardly remember now. It's been such a long time. I seem to remember that she said something about being chased." She tapped her chin thoughtfully and gazed up at the ceiling. "And I think it had something to do with a forest.

"Anyhow, that's neither here nor there," she waved a hand dismissively. "The long and short of it is that she was goin' bonkers. Just none of us knew it at the time. It wasn't long after she told me about the dreams that she told me she was dating someone. Well, I knew better than to believe that. Thunderbird Falls is too close-knit a town for her to be going out with a fella and no one know about it. It was then I started to worry. I just wish I'd known how sick she was. Then maybe I could have gotten her some help. And saved Jake and Seth."

"Were those the children's names?" Vic asked.

"Yes. They were such smart boys. Hardly a day goes by I don't miss all three of them."

Vic swirled her spoon in the dark broth for several heavy seconds before she went on. "So what happened to your sister? I mean after she was committed."

"You knew she was sent to Eastern Oklahoma Hospital?"

"Yes ma'am," Vic said. She finished the last of the soup and pushed the bowl away.

"Would you like some more?" the old woman asked.

"No, thank you. That filled me up. It was delicious soup."

The old woman's cheek's hummed with color. "Why thank you, young lady. That's the nicest thing I've heard in a month of Sundays."

She coughed into the napkin once more and cleared her throat. "So, anyhow, she went to Eastern Oklahoma. Susie was there until she passed in 98'. After the baby, her physical health went downhill as well. She never really recovered."

"Baby?" Vic asked.

"Yes, a baby. About six months after the boy's bodies were discovered she gave birth to a little girl. Oh, she was precious. It was about the time the trial started." The old woman sat in contemplation, twisting and untwisting the napkin. Then her watery eyes fell on Vic. "You know, I would have taken the child if I could. But I was an army nurse, a Captain. I didn't see how I could take care of an infant and keep my job. So, I let her go. The state took her and she was adopted. Sometimes I wonder whatever became of her."
She shook her head slowly and almost under her breath mumbled, "I guess there must have been some truth about Suzie's boyfriend after all."

Vic gazed at the table for a long moment then pushed to her feet. "Thank you very much, Mrs. Yost. For the soup…and the questions."

The old woman's face creased into a wide smile. "Dear, you are very welcome." She clambered to her feet with a groan and shuffled to the door. Vic followed at her heels.

She swung open the door and placed a hand on Vic's arm. "So, why are you so curious about my sister and her boys? You and I both know this isn't for a school report."

Vic dropped her eyes in embarrassment. "My mom and I moved into your sister's house last summer. I found out about the murders and wanted to know more."

The smile melted from the old woman's face and her fingers dug into Vic's arms with surprising force. "You be careful of that house," she hissed. "There's an evil there. I know it. Keep inside after dark. Your pets too." She released her grip and stepped out of the way. Her threadbare grin finding its way back onto her lips . "And if you ever need help just come by, OK? "

Vic nodded.

"By the way young lady. You know my name but I never caught yours."

Vic stuck out her hand, her lips parting to reveal a gleaming row of white teeth. "My name is Victoria Eunice Brighton. But, my friends call me, Vic."

*** Family ***
The deep, seductive voice called to her from behind the branches of the dark trees. "Victoria, it's time. It's our time." In fearful expectation she watched as a shadow moved from behind one of the huge trunks and resolved into the shape of a man. He was not tall but Vic recognized immediately his romantic good looks. His hair was long and dark cascading across one muscled shoulder. His chest was chiseled and broad and a fine mat of curled hair grew between his nipples. Except for a tan loincloth that covered his genitals, he was naked. He beaconed to her with outstretched arms. "Come Victoria. Lie with me and the generations will flow like an unending tide."

Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew this iconic image of passion would entice most women. Vic felt something else. Fear. That and a growing edge of disgust. She'd had wet dreams before. They usually involved other girls. Like ones that included Celia before she died. "Victoria, come to me. It's our time, Victoria...Victoria.....Victoria."

She woke with a jolt at the soft hand of Mrs. Franks, the librarian, jostling her shoulder. "Victoria, wake up. We're closing in fifteen minutes."

Vic glanced around the empty library confusedly and wiped away the slobber on her left cheek. Then she logged out of the computer and grabbed her backpack.

"What time is it?" she asked.

"Almost eight o'clock," Mrs. Franks said. "Have you had any luck with your adoption search?"

Mrs. Franks was a kind, well-meaning spinster in her early sixties. She was a little taller than Vic but thin as a rail with ebony skin and silver hair she wore in short, tight curls.

"No, no luck at all," she said. "I found the month the baby was born and the month she was adopted. After that, it's a dead end. All adoption records are sealed except in special cases and those all require a court order. After thirty-seven years the records are impossible to find."

"Well, I think you have the makings of an excellent report," Mrs. Franks said, "even without discovering what happened to the baby." She swung open the tall, oak front doors that led down to the sidewalk.

Vic shrugged on her coat and slung her backpack over one shoulder. "Yea, I guess you're right," she said, "but I sure would have loved to solve that mystery."

She plodded down the concrete stairs and along the cold, windy streets. When she reached her back door and opened it Bunny and Skip bounded past and disappeared into the night. It was too cold to mess with them now and Vic knew they would be begging at the back door once they relieved themselves.

She yanked off her coat and dropped her backpack onto the kitchen table. The room was saturated in the meaty aroma of her mom's crockpot stew. In front of the pot, she found a tin of cornbread, an empty bowl and spoon and a folded note.

Vic didn't think she was hungry until the smell of the stew hit her nose. Now her stomach grumbled in eager anticipation. She broke off a hunk of cornbread, dropped it in the bowl, and ladled a hefty portion over the top. Then she grabbed the note and plopped into the wooden seat.

She spooned in two mouthwatering bites hardly having to chew the soft beans and meat. She rolled them around her tongue and swallowed. As she raised her heaping spoon, her attention was drawn to the back door. Skip's piteous whines announced they were ready to come in.

Vic pushed up and opened the door. Skip dashed in but Bunny was nowhere to be seen. She called for the old hound but with the frightfully chill air whistling past she latched the door with the idea to put on her coat and find her after she ate.

Returning to the meal, Vic almost emptied the bowl when she remembered the note. She unfolded the creased paper. Inside it read:
Hope you enjoy dinner. There's ice cream in the freezer.
Please make sure the dogs stay inside tonight. It's supposed to be really cold.
I'll be back early. Have something important to discuss.

Love always,
Mom

Something important? Vic flicked the note onto the table. I hope she gets home before midnight. Whatever it is I don't want to wake up to discuss it. Vic broke off another piece of corn bread and sopped up the last of the stew before setting the bowl on the floor. Skip licked it clean with tail-wagging enthusiasm.

Vic pulled open the backdoor curtain to see if Bunny was waiting on the porch. When she saw the old dog hadn't returned, she dragged on her coat with a snort and stepped into the cold. The wind had picked up since she'd come home. It howled around the cornice of the house mournfully and whistled through the empty rose bush.

"Bunny! Where are you?" She moved around to the front of the house. She pulled her coat tighter against the icy blast and scanned the darkness. "Bunny."

Behind her, she heard Bunny's familiar bark. Then a sharp 'yelp'. Vic raced into the back yard. A shadow skittered past the barren rose bushes. "Bunny, It's too damn cold to mess around." She stepped quickly to the spot. Bunny wasn't there. Then she heard the soft bang of the basement window slamming to. It was the thing. The thing in the wall had Bunny!

Vic raced to the back door and flew up to the third floor. She flung open the door and ran to the brick wall. She pressed her ear against the wall. It was cold and rough against her cheek. Then she heard it. The slow scratching approach. It grew louder as it went past and there was a thump in the spot above her head.

Vic couldn't stand it. Something was up there and it had her puppy. She glanced around the room until she spotted her desk chair. She pulled it over and stood atop it. Her head just inches from the sloped roof.

She wriggled her fingers around the edges of the old loose brick and edged it out. She hefted the weight in her palm and eyed the plaster ceiling. A part of her said this was crazy. The noise was just the wind and Bunny was outside right now. There was nothing in the ceiling but trouble after she busted out the plaster and mom came home to find it. But a louder voice screamed that Bunny was up there. If she didn't do something she would be gone. Just like the Jenkin's cat, Maximus. She raised the brick, slammed it into the ceiling. At first, she only dented the hard surface. Then she broke though. She worked on the edges, blasting apart the white surface and sending pieces thudding to the ground.nice tension.

She thought there was rushed movement behind the wall, but with the howling wind and the pounding of the brick she couldn't be sure.

Vic's bicep grew hot and tired with the effort and she paused to push the glasses back up on her nose and examine her work. She had broken open a two-foot hole in the ceiling; enough for someone to crawl through; if they wanted.

"Bunny? Are you up there?" Vic patted her pockets for her phone and pulled it out. She flicked on the flashlight and raised it into the opening. The tiny room appeared much as she remembered from Celia's camera. A confined, square opening with cobwebs along the walls and a lump of rags and newspaper jammed in the corner.

She stood on tip toes and panned the interior with the light. There, by the pile of rags. It was something fuzzy. She squinted. Her eyes and recognized the pink reflection of Bunny's collar.

"Bunny, I'm coming," she shouted. Below her Skip circled the chair in agitation.

Vic gave Skip a quick, worried glance then focused on the hole and jumped. She caught the edge of the plaster opening with her arms. The damaged drywall scraped painfully against her stomach as she dragged herself in and peered around. Below, Skip yapped and whined. Cautiously, she crawled to Bunny's side. Bunny's eyes held her in a glassy-eyed stare as she laid a hand on the old dog's flank. Already her body was growing cool to the touch.

"Oh Bunny," Vic cried. Hot tears dripped down her cheek as she scooped the pup into her arms.

Vic sobbed out her anguish until a soft, hissing voice startled her into the present. "Victoria," it called from the darkness.

Vic scrambled back and stared at a darkness next the rags. She held up the phone and snapped on the light. For the first time, she noticed the foot wide hole that disappeared behind the brick wall.

"Please, Victoria. Turn that off," the voice crooned.

An overpowering musk filled the cramped chamber. Vic felt suddenly like she were in the dream; distant from herself. Her arm dropped and she flicked off the light without thinking. The shadow gave birth to a face. At first, it seemed wavy and indistinct then solidified in the shadow. It was a dark, handsome face. Like from her dreams. She shook her head and squeezed her eyes willing away the fog that clouded her head.

When she opened her eyes again the face was closer. No longer was it the dark, comely face of a dream lover. Long strands of dark Gollum-like hair hung down along a face pockmarked and pitted. Close set protuberant eyes bored into her and seemed to hover above a sniffling bulbous nose.

"Come, my love," the face squeaked through thin, rubbery lips. "Our line must not perish. You and I are the last. You and I are the future." The creature extended a scabrous white hand and smiled revealing rows of needle-like teeth.

Vic's stomach churned in disgust and she backed away in fright. In an instant, she went from darkness to light. She tumbled through the opening and with a loud 'yelp', landed on Skip. Stunned, Vic stared up at the jagged hole in the ceiling and gasped for breath. Skip scrabbled from beneath her and stood licking her face.

Then, Skip looked up. A deep, rumbling growl swelled in his throat as the hideous face thrust into the opening. Clawed hands grasped the edges and starved, misshapen shoulders slithered through.

Outside, there was a crunching of tires on gravel and a white light played across the window.

"Do not fight me, Victoria," the monster cooed. "It is was always thus. Let yourself go and I will please you." The powerful musky odor again filled the room and Vic's head swam. The form peering down at her seemed kindly and handsome once more. His words...wise.

Vic shook herself and rolled to her knees. It's not real, it's not real she told herself. She crawled for the door and clawed her way to her feet. Behind her, Skip howled and snapped at the form dangling from above.

"Skip! Come!" Vic commanded before stumbling into the hall. He voice was cracked and weak but Skip came. Her finger's wrapped around the dog’s collar and with his help, she floundered down the stairs.

When she reached the kitchen Vic's head felt clearer. She snatched a knife from the butcher block and backed towards to door. Her mother was here. She was outside. She would be here any second. Upstairs, a loud bump. Then, scraping sounds down the stairs.

The creature pushed through the doorway. In the bright illumination from the lights, the abomination was revealed. Naked except for torn rags covering its groin. It crawled into the room crouched double above the floor. Its spine was bent into a 'U' and one deformed leg stuck forward like he had been caught in some gruesome game of twister.

Skip barred his teeth and stepped between them. The creature hissed and backed away. He raised a pasty, clawed hand. The nail on its middle finger was raised in defense. Like a lone ebony fang dripping thick, white ichor.

Vic backed towards the door. She groped for the handle with one hand and yanked. The door pulled momentarily open then slammed shut. She turned in surprise and dragged on the handle again. The door pulled open an inch then slammed shut.

Her mother's face appeared in the window. "Don't fight it, honey," she smiled sweetly. "Just let yourself go. It's the family way."Great twisty ending .



© Copyright 2016 John Yossarian (jdosser at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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19
19
Review of Lullaby  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
This is a tier 1 REVIEW

Corban
Very impressive bit of fiction you've created here. I liked it a lot on many levels so let me see if I can dissect some of the elements here for you.

The plot is simple enough. Most of the time you don't need anything extravagant to produce literary magic. Less is more, more often than not. Terror come to life is the box that i'd put this in. Certainly I'm curious about the form and origin of the entity but it looks like you deliberately left those pieces of information out for effect of mystery. It's fiction in the end right dammit! But if you could work in a hook or some obscure clue that the reader may hang their curiosity hat on would complete the circle here as to why where how. Perhaps have it wearing Lieutenant Krause's badge or something weird like that.

I like how you tangentially describe things and emotions that are not directly related to the immediate action. This shows a degree of literary maturity where you recognize that you have your readers ensnared already and you can take the liberty of an occasional offramp before returning to the highway.

Like this:
Thomas, on the other hand, has longer dark brown hair. I cannot see his face because his head is angled a little to the floor, causing some of his hair to hang down and block my view. But what I do see is that he seems despondent and detached from what is happening.

And this: This is pretty good in fact.
I stare at the blank screen. In fact, all of the screens are blank. I'm breathing fast. I feel sweat on my face. My rapid heartbeats become thunder in the silence.

I sit there in that chair for what feels like forever, mortally petrified, and unable to process what happened. I sit there in the silence, as fear's icy grip refuses to weaken. Every second that passes by rolls past like an hour in my head.

Something is off. Something about the room I sit in now. Afraid of what I'll find, I look around the room. I listen. Then I finally realize what it is.

The clock stopped ticking.


You still need some work on this piece however, to smooth the ruts out. Below I will paste a paragraph which contains excellent metaphors, but you spoil it with a couple errors;

"NO NO OH GOD NO!" He scratches with futile at the knob. At this point tears run down his face, almost as if they too are trying to escape this dire situation. Thomas turns to the side and throws his arms across his face. He yells the names of his children so violently with remorse that I am sure it would kill his vocal cords.

Refrain from using all caps in your dialog. The exclamation point is enough to transmit the anguish if well written. The next sentence I think that should be 'futility'. Even so, this is called 'telling' and you need to learn of how to 'show' his futility.

One further criticism is that I would not like you to fall into the trap of having the narrator die. If he did die then who was telling the story. Under what situation unless ghost, can Connors relate this story from the jaws of the creature. You give no indication that he survives although you do say that he may be MIA.

In conclusion, This is pretty good writing here. Cool metaphors that are understated but still vivid imagery. Keep it up.
20
20
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hello Tadpole
DH here giving you a return review as requested. Now remember I'm not greatly skilled as a reviewer. But what I lack in finesse I make it up in noting plot, character and dialog flaws which might be holding your piece back from being excellent.

I really like this story you've written here. It's got loads of texture and promise. Who doesn't love a scary swamp mystery? Of the the three you gave me to pick this one is far superior. Your title is vague and mysterious enough but it wouldn't hurt to jazz it up with another totally bizarre word; menace of the Rougarou ...night of the Rougarou...the horror in the Rougarou. You get the point.

You have a good beginning but you must always strive for a fantastic beginning. SO we have this slacker kid who's not doing well in school. Grab your reader and never let them go...
I might open with a thought bubble...F's suck. Whoever first began the word fun with that letter should be shot dead. And when my father sees this grade he'll freak then shoot me.....

So our protagonist wants to share an adventure with a friend out of frustration. A little teenage invincibility right? Great plot indeed. A couple things that you need to keep in mind for strong reading is to avoid weak verbs.
So for example, instead of 'Benny was lying on the couch' ... 'Benny lay on the couch" is a stronger sentence.

I notice you don't have too many adverbs which is great. Avoid those like the plague Tadpole. Anytime you can show your actions rather than tell them is a literarily more powerful sentence. Says me who just used an adverb to tell you that. lol

Also your dialog tags are pretty good. there are not that many that just 'Said Benny' or 'Said Jana'. You use action descriptions very well to assign the speech dialogs.

Your story as written is not visually attractive to look at. I was told once that my words have to look esthetically pleasing on the page. A few lines of description in a paragraph then a few lines of dialog then repeat.

There are times when there is too much dialog without breaks and it becomes homogenous to look at.

Finally although this is a really good plot with nice suspense the ending is soft and happily ever after-ish. Shy away from predictability like its a hot inferno. When I think I'm done with my plot when I write my short stories I pause and challenge myself to come up with a more unexpected ending.

If I wrote this great story I would go to the extreme and have Jana BE THE ROUGAROU!!!! And pretend to be protecting Benny from the threat while she's just concealing her true identity until the kill. I'd have her go back to the shore to get help from Benny's father so he could come over into the woods too to help look for him. Then kill him too.

I know my mind is a little warped. Overall great job. I like it. I'd submit this one.
21
21
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Matt
Just came across your piece. I like it. It's well written. The construction is spot on with adequate pacing. Grammar and syntax are appropriate for British culture and customs. Character development is good but needs improvement. You also need to scribe the time of day correctly but perhaps that's ok for Brit literature.
The thing that I'll critique you on is that you have all this literary muscle but your story is weak. I am not invested or fearful of a public vandal. The intrigue index is too low for your great writing skills. Next time increase the stakes with a kidnapping a bomb or a murder or all of the above.
Great job
Cheers
22
22
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hello Lilly Rose Hen,
Welcome to writing .com. I saw and read your story and thought I'd offer a review of your work. I'm so glad you joined this community and are producing original works. Artists are very sensitive creatures when it come to their work. I Know this to be very true but also know that the spirit of this critique is for your overall growth and maturity in becoming a better author. You are free to accept what you like and disregard what you don't.

That being said, I liked your piece a lot. It's an acrid dark story of desolate souls. A classic 'good versus very evil' tale with graphic elements of violence and despair told in the first person point of view. (POV). This are two of my favorite descriptive lines of your piece: 'He had a darkness that clung to him like the smell of bonfire smoke, clutching to anything that gets within its cloudy grasp.' and 'my lungs burn like my skin, with every breath it feels like a million little forks dragging down my throat and lungs.'

Punctuation
You have quite a few problems with punctuation here however. Your sentences in many cases are too long. The comas are out of place and probably should be replaced with periods. Here is an example of a too long sentence that needs to be restructured: 'He would use her against me as leverage by telling me the things he would do to her if I ever told anyone about him and if I dared to go against him he would threaten my life and hers, forcing me to get my hands dirty and light the match that would destroy a helpless persons house to the ground.'
Try to make your sentences short, communicating as much information as possible.

Plot
The plot is good but there are major problems with the tense that it's written in. You switch frequently between present and past in your tale and it gets a bit confusing. Also I am not sure who is writing the story. In the last paragraph it would appear you are successful in your suicide attempt by sailing off a tall building. If you died then who is writing the story. The only way around this is that you survived or that this is a ghost story told from beyond and you don't make it clear which one it is.

Characters
I like how you described Bonnie's character. I can see her shrouded innocence . I would have been pleased if you fleshed out Sam's character a bit more. What motivates him etc. The protagonist who is Mason You need to mention his name in the text earlier rather than late during the fight scene.

Phrasing/Sentence structure
Pretty good. It's good how you keep the dialogue on separate lines. I talked about the sentence length before. I picked up a few spelling errors. "Is this what excepting death feels like? Did Bonnie except death?" Do you mean expecting or accepting?
Try using Italics with an exclamation point rather than full caps to emphasize shouting.

Final thoughts
Pretty good attempt. Nice story. Keep at it.


sincerely Donkey Hoetay
23
23
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hello Kaitlin I am reviewing your chapter 'Three turns from home' with pleasure. We all feel very protective of our creations and authors are extremely sensitive about their work. However please take my individual critique as my singular opinion and you should decide for yourself if you want to agree with or disregard my comments.
With that being said I want to tell you that I liked your excerpt very much. I don't know your age or experience in writing but you clearly have talent in this area. I was intrigued by your title because it inspired a mystique in its vagueness.
Technically you are pretty accomplished with your syntax and grammar. Your sentence structure is good but you have a tendency to have them run on for too long. More attention needs to be put into commas for your longer sentences and paragraphs for change of scenes. The transition from the horses and stable scene to the Grandparent's home needs a paragraph break for example.
As I said your writing flows well. You give very vivid details of the scene from the first person singular point of view. The problem is that it's too much detail sometimes. There is a tendency to focus on details that does not advance the general plot.Take this sentence for instance: I pulled out a bottle of Apple juice and poured myself a glass and sat down at the kitchen table. can be reduced to: I drank a glass of juice at the kitchen table.
Essentially your piece needs to lose a little weight to be really good.(my grandfather and my grandmother can be shortened to my grandparents). You spend a lot of time detailing your horse and how it made you feel riding and grooming but not that much time in detailing meeting your mother again after not seeing her for years. So this attention is disproportionate and it gives the reader the impression that its not important to the story at all.
You've got talent for sure. You just need to focus on what the reader needs to focus on.
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24
Review of Writing.Com 101  
for entry "How To Create an Item
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hello I was creating an item into my portfolio. I took a break then came back to continue. I attempted to save my work and it said I did not own the work I was attempting to save and it kicked me out to log in again. Is there any hope of recovering this? This is the reference num I was issued 31446067

Donkey Hoetay
25
25
Review of Horses  
Review by Donkey Hoetay
Rated: E | (3.5)
Brookbyrd
I loved your monologue. I could feel your unbridled passion for your hobby/profession all through this piece. Through your writing I am educated about the nuances of barrel riding and the fact that not only do horses have emotions but that they can feel ours too. On the technical side there are a few typographical errors that you need to clean up; This sentence for example, 'I don't believe in order to win shows and *completion* you have to have a horse that is *breed* for it.'
Not a bad job overall but I'd like to challenge you into writing a piece as seen through your horse's eyes. what do you think they think of us?
Cheers
Donkey Hoetay
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