Sunday, August 7, 2011


For contest rules go here


Fredrick dipped his clothes into the icy stream, letting the glacial water lift the blood from the fabric. His hands shook, and the rock lodged into the muddy bank sent a wave of nausea rolling through his stomach. Downstream, the water turned a light pink, a silent witness to his crime.

       Once more, he checked to see if anybody followed him, but he was alone. “Evil...Destruction...Sacrifice...” he muttered, mimicking the phantom voices. Where did they come from? He clasped his hands together, plunged them into the water, and splashed it onto his face. He knelt, frozen, over the stream and thought of the small corpse resting in a pool of blood. Fredrick threw his shirt over his head and shivered while the wind whipped through the soaking fabric. With shaking legs, he stumbled down the mountain, grasping at the tree branches for support.

   The early morning sun struck the valley floor and warmed everything it touched, but Fredrick remained cold, both outside and in. Back in his village, the smell of fresh bread wafting from the kitchen brought his nausea back. He staggered past the huts, keeping his head low and avoiding the community hut where most of the villagers were gathered.

   At the temple, Fredrick check over his shoulder to make sure he was alone. He paused and ran his fingers around the sculptures of bears, vultures, rats, and rams, carved into the smooth stone walls. He peeled his fingers off the rock and looked up at the bell-tower that pierced the sky from the valley floor. It stood as tall as five grown men, and perched on top, a statue of an eagle grasped a thistle in its talons. Fredrick closed his eyes and pictured himself flying over the mountains and away from the village.

   He backed away from the temple and slipped behind the kitchen, when he heard somebody call out to him. "Good morning." Susan leaned out the kitchen window, shaking out a dishrag. A couple wisps of grey hair framed her sun-worn face, and as always, she was smiling.

    Fredrick kicked at the ground, stirring up a cloud of dust and stones to turn back to her. The sound of her voice calmed him, his nerves, and even his stomach, began to settle. "I could smell your bread all over the village today. Please tell me it's acorn."

       "You're right. We thought that since everybody has been working so hard in the fields, you all deserved a little treat."

       "Do you think you can sneak me a taste?" Fredrick said with a half smile.

       "I'm sorry, but I can't. Everybody gets to eat at the same time."

       "Not even for me? I'm practically your son."

       Susan laughed. "I think you're a very special young man, but I don't think I could ever take the place of your mother. You'll always be her son." She dropped her dishrag on the window-ledge. "Come here anyways and give me a hug."


tfwalsh said...

I'm intrigued by the opening and want to know more about the phantom voices, and why's he's paranoid someone is following him. You do a good job of putting us into the scene and feeling the cold Fredrick senses. I did find the second half a bit slow with regards to the bread - I just wanted to know about him I guess, but I'm sure that's coming up. I would keep reading:)

Mysti said...

A very intriguing start. Leaves us to wonder exactly who he killed and why. Is he insane? Possessed? Under contract? I'd keep reading :)

Just a bit of feedback: "Fredrick felt cold both outside and in." Try to make this more active. And oftentimes, if you can avoid "felt", "saw", "heard", etc, it'll help. Something like this:

"The sun warmed the valley. The aroma of hot, fresh bread wafted from his village's ovens. Yet, none of this beloved warmth touched Frederick, and he wondered if it ever would again."

Otherwise, nothing to add. Looks like you're starting with some excellent worldbuilding and tension. Good luck!!

Joan Strading said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Strading said...

I always worry about leaving comments because I don't want to offend anyone, but I hope you'll take my comments in the spirit of being helpful with which they're written.

This is a good start, but I'm going to be nit picky here because I think it can be better. =D

In the first sentence, he dips his clothes into the cool stream but then you describe the water as glacial. Cool and glacial are two different temperatures to me. ;-)

I'd consider starting with "Fredrick's hands shook, and the thought of the small corpse resting in a pool of blood sent a wave of nausea . . ." but try to come up with a better description than "through his stomach" (crashing in his gut for example to tie in with the "wave" image). Then go to the washing of the clothes.

In the second paragraph, stream is spelled straem. Also, you say "shivered from the wind whipping through soaking the fabric" and I think you meant "through the soaking fabric" because the wind can't soak the fabric, but water can. =)

Make things in the third paragraph more active by having him experience the action in the village instead of telling us about it . . . Frederick rushed past the temple goers, hoping he'd washed away all the blood (or something) The fresh baked bread would normally make him hungry, but it only increased his nausea. I know those aren't the best examples, but hopefully you get what I'm trying to say. =)

The action of running his fingers around the sculptures seems random. Why is he doing this other than to point out what they look like? Give it a purpose, like he's trying to calm himself or something. Also, the same thing applies to looking at the bell tower . . . why is he doing it? Because it rings? Or is it special to him? Also, why is he stopping at the temple if people are gathering there for a service? Wouldn't he be worried that they'd notice some blood on him (even though he tried to wash it all off) or see the guilt on his face or something? I'd think he'd want to hide instead of go out in public. He avoids the public hut, but not the temple?

Instead of telling us the woman is about to enter her twilight years, give us a short bit of physical description to show us. If she's practically a mother to him, the way he looks at her wouldn't be so distant. He'd notice with fondness/love the lines in her face or the flour on her hands or in her hair or whatever.

After all that it may seem like I didn't like this, but I do because it shows some promise based on the fact that there's a body in the water, Fredrick had blood on him, and the voices. Those are the things that intrigue me and I want more about them and less telling about the village (unless you can combine the details with Fredrick's feelings or movements through it.) So, those are my thoughts. I hope they help. =)

Michael A Tate said...

Thank you all for your comments. All very helpful and I'll take many of them into use!

Hopefully I was as helpful to others as you were to me.