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    Thread: The Crow Cult

    1. #1
      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      The Crow Cult

      This is just an exercise in daydreaming, which my roommate and I do quite often. I've had better ideas for stories, and don't really know why I'm deciding to write this one. I'm bored? I need practice? Yeah, I'll go with that. I'll try to finish before school's back in session. Maybe.

      Chapter 1:

      ...........One dozen eggs, two frozen pizzas, a pack of bagels, four cans of cat food, and a gallon of 2% milk, snugly and geometrically packed by one Robert Falbe, who was carrying the load in a recycled paper bag. He had just reached the end of the slush-lined Cleveland Avenue (one of Fargo's busier streets) and turned his boots toward the residential, slush-embossed Hill Street, when some form of luck struck. A bundled-up (dedicated!) motorcyclist buzzed and growled past Robert, and while he knew that the biker wasn't the cause of his icy slip five seconds later, he blamed it on him anyway.

      ...........Comically, he landed on his rump, but took care to keep his groceries safe. While he heard a few eggs crack, he wasn't willing to remove his cloth gloves to clean up the potential mess. His keys and mp3 player flew a few feet, in separate directions as they were in separate pockets of his long, puffed coat. Music player in clear sight, he retrieved it first, wiped off his earbuds, and popped them back in. He had momentarily forgotten what he was listening to, but the memory returned within hearing no more than two seconds of continuing the ambient track. After only a few moments more, he had spotted his keys, dangling precariously over half-iced-over gutter grating. Carefully, he picked them up, then shook the snow off for good measure. The clinking metallic notes they made were different, somehow, and it caused him to furrow his brow, but it didn't consciously bother him. He wiped his keys and pocketed them.

      ...........The late afternoon sun shone too sharply through a slit in an otherwise overcast sky, so Robert kept his eyes downcast, examining the footprints on the sidewalk, and aligning some of his steps with those made before him. A set of thin, four-toed prints started from nowhere, and ended just as abruptly.

      ........... Crows, thought Robert. But I didn't need prints to know there are crows around. Indeed, their sporadic and loud cawing had shaken him off his train of thought several times during his walk, for the better. Many an afternoon, his thoughts would wander toward fantasy RPGs, the beauty of nature, and other topics he considered pleasant, but today his self-loathing consumed him.

      ...........I have only a month left to register for spring semester, but I still don't know where I'm going, Robert brooded. Straight ahead, there were only a few blocks left until he would reach his house. I like learning. There's still so much to learn, but I can't learn everything. He shuffled slowly past thin Douglas-firs and driveways with chain-wheeled SUVs. I'm bright, I guess, but such a dud. Mom asks me every dinner what I plan to do with myself. I can't say. I can't decide, and I can't even imagine. This was my semester off. This was my chance to find 'My Calling,' as mom calls it, and I'm just as lost as when I started. Now at the door, warm key met frozen keyhole, and he turned the slick knob. And even if I chose a major, even if I got a job, then what? More crows made themselves known, all cawing, but no louder than before. His boot steps were softer now, cushioned by a lighter snow. I'll work and pay off my debt, and then retire and die. I am one small speck of space, here for one small speck of time. I won't matter. Don't most people shake off their existentialism by their late teens? A dozen more crows glided overhead, roosting on needly branches of tall pines.

      ...........He took a deep breath, which devolved into a deep sigh; his hot breath poured out in whirls of thin vapor, a lighter grey than the darkening sky. The cacophony of cawing became unison, a steady chant, not a mocking, “HAW, HAW, HAW,” but a beckoning “COME, COME, COME!

      ........... He snapped from his trance and back into the frigid evening. His eyes met the riot of crows (as their numbers were too great to call it a mere “murder”), most of which were staring back at him. Glancing ahead at the thin path, he noticed all that was missing. There were no cars, no houses, no slush-slathered streets, and no footprints. Feet stationary, he twisted his torso, and noted that his own trail went on through this coniferous forest farther than he could see. The crows sustained their chanting until he opened his mouth to speak.

      ...........“I opened the door,” he started softly, calmly, “and then...” He drew a blank. Breaking his new silence, the crows murmured softly to each other. He ran his gloved fingers through his thin, mouse-colored hair, gave his scalp a cursing scratch, and rubbed his eye, but still couldn't figure out how he got there.

      ...........“No matter how far it looks, if I retrace my steps, I'll get back home,” he decided aloud, and started back. At once the crows crescendoed in a random scrabble of avian syllable. Robert picked up his pace. The crows dove ahead of him and beat their wings against his prints, covering them with snowy dust. “Well, screw you, too, buddies,” he hissed behind clenched teeth. Trying to hide how terrified he was, trying to make up for his unidentifiable mistake, he persevered in effort to retrace his steps, as they persevered in their effort to cover his trail, making his prints hidden and unidentifiable. The wind stood still, and apart from the beating of wings and the compression of snow, all was silent. This mutual labor continued until shadow was indistinguishable from the dimness of dusk. He knew he had already walked much longer than his entire grocery route required. He knew it would be too dark to see soon. He turned around.

      ...........The crows flew back to the trees, and took back up their beckoning chant. He had no choice but to follow. One crow flew straight in front of him, and burst into crackling flame. Still alive, still flying, it let out a shrill cry. Robert blinked.

      ...........“Well. This isn't Fargo.”
      Last edited by Abra; 12-31-2009 at 07:47 AM.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

    2. #2
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      Finding it hard to care about Robert.

      Or the situation. More development of character k

    3. #3
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      For what it's worth, I liked this. Kinda reminded me of Neil Gaiman.

      HOWEVER, I picked up some niggly little things. For one, in the start there, where he's thinking to himself:

      'I have only a month left to register for spring semester, but I still don't know where I'm going.' Straight ahead, there were only a few blocks left until he would reach his house. 'I like learning. There's still so much to learn, but I can't learn everything.' He shuffled slowly past thin Douglas-firs and driveways with chain-wheeled SUVs. 'I'm bright, I guess, but such a dud. Mom asks me every dinner what I plan to do with myself. I can't say. I can't decide, and I can't even imagine. This was my semester off. This was my chance to find “My Calling,” as mom calls it, and I'm just as lost as when I started.' Now at the door, warm key met frozen keyhole, and he turned the slick knob. 'And even if I chose a major, even if I got a job, then what?' More crows made themselves known, all cawing, but no louder than before. His boot steps were softer now, cushioned by a lighter snow. 'I'll work and pay off my debt, and then retire and die. I am one small speck of space, here for one small speck of time. I won't matter. Don't most people shake off their existentialism by their late teens?' A dozen more crows glide overhead, roosting on needly branches of tall pines.
      . . . I was initially confused as to whether this was thought or dialogue. You've established in the paragraph beforehand that thought is represented through single quotation marks, but as there has been no preceding dialogue, for all the reader knows single quotation marks could represent speech also. It's established in the next paragraph that speech is represented through double quotation marks, yeah, but it causes the reader to do a double-take and it breaks the flow of the story. Or, if you're like me (retarded), you miss the whole thing and continue to think he'd been talking to himself until you reread it again and realise that a) Kiza's stupid, and b) that method of thought and speech representation may be a bit confusing. Personally, I'd just go with italics for thought, and quotation marks for speech, but of course it's your story and you're free to do whatever you want.

      Also, in the last sentence of the paragraph I quoted there, it should be "A dozen more crows glided overhead . . ." Don't wanna go all wack and switch tenses in the middle of the story, yo.

      Also a couple of tiny issues with the first paragraph:

      One dozen eggs, two frozen pizzas, a pack of bagels, four cans of cat food, and a gallon of 2% milk, snuggly and geometrically packed by one Robert Falbe, who was carrying the load in a recycled paper bag. He had just reached the end of the slush-lined Cleveland Avenue (one of Fargo's busier streets) and turned his boots toward the residential, slush-embossed Hill Street, when some form of luck struck. A bundled-up (dedicated!) motorcyclist buzzed and growled past pedestrian Robert, and while he knew that the biker wasn't the cause of his icy slip five seconds later, he blamed it on him anyway.
      1. It's snugly, not snuggly. Not really a big thing but it is in your first sentence and you don't want people dismissing it out of hand because of a spelling mistake in the first few words.

      2. ". . . motorcyclist buzzed and growled past pedestrian Robert . . ." The "pedestrian" here is unnecessary, since in the preceding sentences you've really given the reader the idea that Robert is a pedestrian. I know, it's a stupid small thing, but I'm a stupid small person.

      I know it looks like I fucking hate this story or something, but I don't. I'm actually liking it quite a lot. I'm just niggly, is all, when it comes to writing. It's all the small niggly things that come together to make a big thing, so if one of those small things is not as good as it can be, it's out of place in the whole, uh, big thing. Okay this is a pretty bad metaphor, but you should probably know what I'm getting at.

      Mostly I'm just impressed that you've managed to write this while the most I've written in the past 2 months is probably this post.
      A turd with a bullet in it ain't exactly 5 O'Clock News Ray

    4. #4
      Veteran of the DV Wars Man of Steel's Avatar
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      What Kiza said. In fact, everything Kiza said. Except the stupid small person thing, because I am an intelligent large person. Well, not really large, but at least average. So not small.

      Anyway, yeah. Italics for thoughts, double quotes for speech, tends to be the American standard. Now, since the grammar and spelling has already been critiqued, I'll just say that I like the story direction. Could use a bit more description of surroundings. I kind of felt like I was seeing Robert's (I had to scroll up to remember his name; character development would be nice for the next chapter) surroundings through tunnel vision. You're using third person narrative, so tell us more about the street, maybe. This does not have to detract from Robert's own tunnel vision, necessarily.

      Or perhaps you wanted little to be known about his street, and the focus to be on his thoughts until he opened the door to another world with the special key. Then it sort of comes out more freely. I dunno. Your story.

      In short (is it ever, when I'm talking?) I like it, Abrakadabra. Keep it up; I'll be reading and commenting.

    5. #5
      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      Typos and stuff fixed~

      I will work on characterization. But really, Robert Falbe isn't the type of person one would care about. He starts out as an unattentive, lazy, and stubborn pawn, but ends up compassionate and driven. Funny thing is, it's all circumstantial (most anyone would behave similarly). This is my fault, and the story has already grown around it. From this point on, I'll try to put in increased description of personality, fleshed-out reactions, and more insight into his thought process (but he's still not too likeable).

      The description is tunnel vision as his thoughts are tunnel vision. Whatever goes unnoticed or untouched is left out. Also, it's an average street with borderline winter weather, and I'm relying on the reader's schema to fill in the blanks. More exotic locations will call for more details, which I shall gladly give. I'm worried about length (my description to action to characterization ratio), otherwise I'd flesh out the scene more. In the first chapter, I wanted to jump into the fantasy world as fast as possible. I can slow it down from here.

      Herp, the above is subject to change. The course of the story is pretty much set, but the delivery is all very tentative. I just came up with this idea last night. This story doesn't have some giant meaning behind it, or a complex plot. I just liked the idea, liked the setting, liked the idea of crows that can ignite themselves. I want to finish, though, because usually I don't.
      Last edited by Abra; 12-31-2009 at 08:06 AM.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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