| This review is part of the gift basket from "Invalid Item" that you won at the "12 Days of Midwinter Christmas" raffle.
My Thoughts: This story was excellent. Although it was somewhat longer than stories I usually choose to read, I couldn't resist the title and description. I must say that it lived up to my expectations. I became hooked within the first few paragraphs, and I was riveted to my seat until the end. I must admit that I really had to fight the urge to skip ahead near the end of the story. It wasn't at all that I was bored, but because you did such a terrific job of keeping me guessing throughout the story that I almost couldn't wait to see how it ended!
Katerina was a likable character, and she was easy to relate to and empathize with. I do wish you would have given a bit more background information about her, because her age and physical characteristics were a bit unclear to me. I thought she was middle aged by the description of her holding her hand on her back to fight pain/stiffness, but her interactions with Ron made her seem much younger. Also, I wondered why it had been so easy for her to leave her life in Indiana. Did she have any family there? Had she been married? Boyfriend? Any kids? Also, although you did a great job of describing Ron's physical appearance, I was left wondering how Katerina looked.
Moving on, I loved the story's premise. I had never seen a dilemma such as the one Katerina had. It was scary and exciting, and as I said earlier, the ending came as a complete surprise. I love the dark/horror genre, and you did a terrific job!
My Suggestions: In the first line, I would omit "to herself". After all, to whom else would one think? In that paragraph, I would make "hometown" one word. Also, there are at least five instances of the word "had" or "have" in the first paragraph. I suggest editing the piece to cut at least a few of them. In most sentences, they wouldn't be missed. In the second paragraph, I would change "embrace of recliner" to "embrace of the recliner". In the following sentence, a comma should be inserted after "door". In the first sentence of the next paragraph, I would insert a comma after "den". In the first sentence of the next paragraph, I would move the word "entirely" from the end of the sentence to between "had" and "slipped". In the first sentence of the fifth paragraph, I would omit the word "have" and insert the word "she" between "when" and "returned".
In the first sentence of the next paragraph, I would insert a comma after "home" and insert the word "of" between "stack" and "mail". In the next sentence, I would insert a comma after "it". In the last sentence of that paragraph, I would change the comma to a question mark. In the third sentence of the next paragraph, I would insert a comma after "later". In the next sentence, a comma should be inserted after "Apparently". In the next sentence, the question mark should be after "nice", not after "herself". In the second sentence of the next paragraph, a comma should be inserted after "Finally". Even though there are several spaces separating this paragraph from the next few paragraphs, I don't think those paragraphs fit well here. It really makes it seem as though Ronald has walked into her house at first. Once it became obvious that it was another time and place (on campus) entirely, I wondered about the purpose of having it here. The fact that, after a few spaces between the paragraphs, she is back in her den, it makes in seem even more like those paragraphs just interrupt the flow of the story. I would suggest either putting them in a different place or at least find a way to make a smoother transition.
In the next paragraph (where she is back in her den), I would omit the second "up" from "up the stairway up to her...". In the next sentence, I would insert a comma after "fatigue". In the third sentence of the next paragraph, I would insert a comma after "brushing". In the next sentence, I would insert a comma after "face". I would also consider changing the wording of that sentence because you have "By the time she was finished..." and "After she was finished..." as consecutive sentences. It seemed to me a bit repetitive when worded that way. I would change the comma after the swear word in the next paragraph to an exclamation point, because you're saying she "exclaimed". In the last sentence of that paragraph, I would insert a comma after "bed".
In the second sentence of the next paragraph, a comma should be inserted after "bellow". In the next sentence, I'd insert a comma after "Eventually". In the last sentence of that paragraph, "sway from the desk" should be "away from the desk". In the next paragraph, the question mark should be after "offer" instead of "asked". In the last sentence of the last paragraph of that part of the story, a comma should be inserted after "results". In the first paragraph of the next part, a comma should be inserted after "room". Near the middle of that part of the story, "Dream" should be capitalized, because it's part of the title. Several paragraphs later, in the part of the story that starts, "The Siberian Orchestra put on...", in the third paragraph, the period after "Sure, why not" should be changed to a question mark. In the next-to-last paragraph of the story, the sentence that begins "In order to keep the balance..." should end with a question mark, because it goes on to ask a question.
Overall: Thank you for providing this fantastic read. It's a story that I won't soon forget, and I can't wait to check out more of your work!