Chapter 1: The Old Man

Chapter 1: The Old Man

A Chapter by M.R Steiner
"

Humanity is a ghost, another day another kill, strike from the sewage, grab and twist, throttle until dead. full book Finished in rough draft feedback appreciated, I just want to learn.

"

Chapter 1: The Old Man

6th drafts is the charm, complete rewrite. sample chapter of my full book. may be removed when edits are complete and I feel brave enough to send it for query.


"Humanity is a ghost. Another day another kill - strike from the sewage, grab and twist then throttle until dead," I'd say it to myself each morning like a mantra or a bad poem.

 

I talked to myself often and always because there was no one else to hear. It was all I could do to stop insanity. That phrase was a hard taught lesson learned in a dank hell hole. I was alone and trapped under the ruins of existence. It was home, hunting ground and prison.

 

My skills had been honed through years of practice beneath layers of shimmering slime. I crept through fallen tunnels stalking for Vermin, numb from the cold with fingers stretched out all still as a statue. My body submerged right up to the nose.

 

Sooner or later they would forget I was there and come down from the roof, stirring the silence with a click and a hiss as they moved in for a swim. They were nubile little beasts with eight scurrying legs and 8 soulless eyes, almost impossible to catch without a little bit of patience. This is where I learned to kill.

 

I'd shout the important steps out as it happened.

 

"Strike." My hands would dart like a viper. "Grab." The fingers would sink into their fur. "Twist" I'd crack the spine in half. "Throttle." By then it was time to eat.

 

I used those words to remind myself not to panic. Since I first uttered the phrase my hunts became less troublesome. A small note of joy would overtake me in those few seconds as the adrenaline wore off. It served as a welcome distraction from that purgatory. In honesty it made me happy to see the creatures squirm under the pressure before those last panicked breathes. There was a time when I was the prey, but not anymore.

 

My food had to be cooked quickly down there; it was as though the air itself consumed them leaving any flesh green and bloated within hours. For that I waded back to the waist high water tunnel I called home.

 

"Another day another kill," I said it every time on arrival so the pipes would know I was back.

 

Over time I had named each one based on the noises they made. Whistler was the smallest and would squeal high pitched jets of steam, damn near choking me to death every time. The second was Bertha who was a massive barrel shape that burned so hot the alloy would burble. Then finally there was Mary who was split in two and cried clean water.

 

It became a bit of a lottery to see who would go first. With a still twitching kill in hand I would wait intently day after day. The last time it was Mary who started first with a wail and a shake. I had little time to wash myself and my clothes before Bertha shone to life. The metal creaked and I left the water to rip the vermin apart. Dead or not it was better than the green mould and mushrooms. Their bright green blood would jet out no matter how hard I tried to stop it, for the best results I used my hands to wrench its shell from the meat. While the flesh sizzled on bertha's surface I had time to shower before Whistler began to call out. My only way to shut him up was to slat my clothes over the top for cleaning, a pair of ripped ancient leggings and a short sleeve shirt both dyed black from the sewage.

 

With my hands full of charred meat I would climb into my hammock strung high above the filth. Still shivering I'd lie up there for hours, huddled for warmth as I read the first torn page I’d ever found. By pure luck I stumbled across it on a coral of corroded fat. It became the first part of my mantra, spoken many times in my endless nights.

 

"Humanity is a ghost."

 

Even that high up there was no way to escape the damp. By morning the hammock would wring out a chorus of droplets into the toxic bath below, foretelling my inevitable bound back into the mix. I would put on my clothes and feel the liquid rise up to my torso before wading back out.

 

And that cycle was my life, the way it had always been until the water stopped flowing.

 

I thought perhaps I'd stayed in the tunnels too long or that I may have just lost track of time. On the second day I really started to worry because I waited and nothing happened. Not one jet of steam or twist of the barrel and most importantly, no water. Slowly the sewage level begun to seep downward until at all but a carpet of festered sludge was left. For the first time in memory the walls had run dry. Even the mushrooms became a hard grit in my fingers the moment they were picked. It served to herald that final event which forced me past the familiar and out into that horrible unknown.

 

Some days I questioned my sanity. Time in isolation had left me paranoid and open to flights of imagination. Sometimes a call would echo through the tunnels, like an animal desperately looking for something, perhaps a fresh kill. I had never dared seek them and never would have until that night.

 

I heard the dull murmur of a roar; it tore me from slumber and froze me in fear. In those hazy moments I believed the stuff of my waking nightmares was right underneath me. Cautiously I grasped the edge of my hammock and peered over the side to see what it was. Vermin flowed like tide. A thousand tiny calls propagated into one booming shriek as they migrated in the hundreds, set for places unknown. It left me no other choice. In a single bound I ripped down the hammock to wrap up my belongings and gave chase to border of home.

 

The spot was called Rickety Bridge, a juvenile name given on my first week of arrival. In reality that collection of twisted rubble was anything but its namesake. It stretched over a void separated by a clear gap that blasted gusts of wind as I looked over the edge. On viewing my footing shifted and my stomach shrank, one wrong move and death was certain. It was a problem the Vermin didn't seem to share. They were already halfway across almost unaffected by gravity itself.

 

Starvation was the only other option. My muscles tensed, I knelt on the ground and for a second I considered turning back, but my body didn't seem to listen. In a spray of sludge I dashed towards the jump and took off from the very edge to reach out a pillar of stone. Still in mid-air I clutched to it and screamed. Helpless to do anything but watch the hammock's knot unfurl, casting what little I had into the deep.

 

Out of the blue my lips started to move with prayers to the deities from the torn pages, those poor souls who plummeted inside the hammock into oblivion. It felt like the words weren't for me but for them. Something inside knew that without those stacks of paper they would no longer exist. I treated it as a sacrifice which gave the strength to push on. Carefully I squeezed through cracks of concrete and grazed my skin upon the coarse surface. It forced me to slow in pace and hold in each breath, exhaled for minutes at a time as I inched vertically to the built up remains on high.

 

"This is amazing," I said as I rested for air.

 

What greeted me were ruins of a corridor barely supported by rubble. The whole place served as a sort of time capsule to house many fossils of the past. Signs with crudely drawn men and frames of old furniture dotted every darkened corner. I walked distracted when my boot hit something round and hollow which rolled off and smashed against the wall. More of the same stared back at me from the dark, dozens of skulls. I wasn't frightened because if anything they confirmed my suspicions. Everyone else was dead and I was the only one left, a girl at the bottom of earth, it hit me just as events took a turn for the worst.

 

The floor shook and the roof crumbled. Whether it was my weight or the Vermin's crossing Rickety Bridge had begun to fall. A sound of collapse chased me down the hall; section by section the stone cracked underfoot pressing my haste towards a final obstacle, one last jump across the void. There wasn't time to think. I leaped into the unknown and dropped like a rock, narrowly catching a ledge. Winded on impact with barely a gasp I clawed to safety. It was all too close.

 

I was trapped in a place I had never been brave enough to set foot. Rickety Bridge served as a barrier to protect me from the creatures beyond, without that gulf between us I truly felt endangered. I quietly crept in fear and saw the same fallen grey brick as back home, yet after a while when I turned last corner no thought in imagination compared. It made itself plain in scale, impossibly large towers of concrete made bright by orange fixtures. It was still a sewer but the filth ran as waterfalls from one perch to the next. Mass reservoirs for whatever stood above.

 

Vermin shrieked through the rushing water, drawing me to a walkway where the falls mist hid them from view. The spray only grew thicker as I followed becoming a rain of salty sludge which covered my vision in a thin film. I didn't notice him stood right in front of me. He was quiet. By the time my sight returned it was impossible to run. His mere image froze me with fear, stood on two legs, his body like a wolf with wetted grey fur and beady red eyes.

 

Its mouth opened and an end seemed certain.

 

"Human…" Its jaws did not move but words called forth like a whisper. "You are the one we wait for." He tackled me to the ground and clutched my arms with claw-like hands. "You are our way to paradise."

 

"And you thought they were a myth," said a voice out of view, almost female in tone, "hold it down, our mute friend will conduct the procedure,"

 

A third set of footsteps churned towards me like a set of gears. All I saw was his arm, a steely limb with a blade at the end. It span like a saw, my one choice was to watch. Helpless as it drew closer, burning hot right next to my eyes. Then a flash, I knew true pain. They cut through my face, peeled back the skin and plucked each eye away.

 

"Cut out her tongue!" he said over my screams.

 

"No time, payment is for the eyes so leave the rest, or do you want to stay here for Reclamation?"

 

"Forgive me Founder."

 

They left me there to die. I tasted nothing but blood and saw naught but a dark void, one that burned against the raw cut flesh. As I twisted in agony my voice attracted a familiar noise. They squeaked and clicked emboldened by the pain. First one gnawed at my hand while the rest were too skittish to join. It forced to me stand and blindly sweep my legs, an act that only provoked them.

 

What few senses remained were all pushed beyond limit as I stumbled with arms outstretched. Desperately I sought the crash of the waterfalls in the hopes they would throw off my pursuers. Though the absolute night my hands shredded against the bars for support, injuries barely noticed when I rushed back into the spray. It washed into my wounds as if someone poured acid becoming a deep pain that brought me to the floor as the Vermin gathered for the kill. Being devoured by the animals I hunted seemed fitting; they hissed then slowed to a crawl, leaving just one option. I jumped over the side and plunged into the unknown.

 

I persevered beneath a running tide that pulled me right to the bottom. The air exploded in my skull whilst every fibre of muscle kicked to the surface where I swayed amongst the rapids, wracking me upon a solid steel grate. My last ounce of strength was used to climb out of that mess, just as the adrenaline wore off and unconsciousness found me soon after.

 

I awoke some time later, still in pain with the scent of infection on my wounds; the last thing I expected to hear was a voice.

 

"Impossible, you're human," he said.

 

I could barely hear him over the sound of my own heartbeat, nor could I speak in anything but a whisper.

 

"Just finish it quickly…," I said.

 

His feet trudged closer next to my head where he grasped my face and turned it towards him. His skin was cold to the touch.

 

"I assure you girl no harm is intended, I was looking for salvage, never expected to find anything like you. Who did this?"

 

"I don't know..." If it were still possible I would have shed tears.

 

"I can help you; the only other option is to wait here for death so what is your decision?"

 

"Who are you?"

 

"Just an Old Man, do you accept my offer?"

 

They were words I could not trust. The reason why was carved on my very face. There was no doubt in my mind that he planned to cut me up like the rest. Yet with an audible gasp of anguish I nodded in agreement. Against every remaining sense I trusted this Old Man who just happened to have walked by.

 

His freezing cold hands clasped around my ankles and pulled me away through the grime. At that point it seemed like a quicker end. Only then it struck me that I was trading time for pain. If he truly meant to cut me up like the rest that last hour of life could have been excruciating. I tried to kick free but my body was just too weak. Whatever he planned was going to happen no matter what.

 

For hours my head dragged against a series of stones and metal; the Old Man didn't say a word until the very end.

 

"Almost there, we just have to cross the bridge; my home is on the other side."

 

For a moment I passed out and awoke upon a cold metal surface where machinery hummed in the background, occasionally drowned out by the sharpening of tools which only confirmed my suspicions.

 

"We need to cut out the infection before it goes any further so please don't move. This will be essential if we want you to see again."

 

It was obviously some sort of trick. A ploy to get me to sit still, either way it didn't matter; I just went along with it. Death was inevitable.

 

"What do you mean see again, who are you?"

 

"I'm an engineer of sorts, one who works with biological and mechanical applications. I'd like to ask one thing before we begin, what is your name?"

 

I hesitated until he injected something into my arm, a drug which washed through my veins like a warm bath.

 

"My name is March…,"

 

"The month of Mars how poetic, now March your face should be numbed by the anaesthetic and your other senses should have diminished on the left side, let's begin."

 

Even if it was a trick and death was about to follow I was thankful he'd left me numb for it. In that semi-conscious state, a sense of acceptance came over me. I was prepared for the end.

 

"What attacked you?"

 

I saw no reason to hide the truth anymore.

 

"One was like an animal, some sort of wolf man."

 

"A Tragen, the closest thing to natural life these days except for you of course, so it was a pack of them?"

 

The medicine had left me half deaf and moving in recoil as the rotten flesh was chiselled away. All the while I tried my best not to throw up at the dulled sensation of having his fingers inside my skull.

 

"I didn't see much of the second but his arm was made out of steel."

 

"That could have been any number of mechanical life form. It's strange because the Tragen stand against all technology, I wonder what could have made them work together?"

 

"Who cares what made them friends, why did they do this to me?"

 

"Because you're human obviously, in this age you are almost a myth to those in the lower circle and human organs fetch quite a price, something they no doubt required to escape this place."

 

"I think they both took orders from the third one, she stayed out of view. Someone called Founder."

 

His hand's stopped when I spoke the name.

 

"Impossible the Founder is gone; those fools are following a liar,"

 

My answers sent him silent for the duration, right until he announced the visor had been attached.

 

"There was a price for this March, one you will notice the moment I engage your implant."

 

I saw a flicker of something thought lost as a billion sparks birthed colours of red, green and blue to reveal an image of my saviour's face. He apologised for the low resolution which made him appear like a mosaic pattern, but it was still easy see, white wrinkled skin covered in cables all bundled around a visor in place of eyes.

 

"As you can now see I have a little experience with being vision impaired myself. Maybe you realise why I wanted to help now?"

 

Then I noticed my left ear was still deaf. I touched the side and felt nothing but the display grafted in its stead.

 

"Yes, that's why I stayed on your right; I needed some material to reconstruct those new retinas, the ear was an acceptable match,"

 

He had traded one sense for half another. Nevertheless I was almost ecstatic as I looked around the room, a rust metal shack with a mirror in the corner. My implant was like his but more minimal in design. A sort of visor spread from one eye to the next with two cameras beneath all fixed through the earpiece. Only then did the pain return. It felt like a knife in my skull, collapsing me to the floor where I almost blacked out. I barely heard another word until he injected me a second a time.

 

"The price of being human I am afraid. That procedure was designed for my kind not a living breathing human. We will have to keep you medicated otherwise the pain could be lethal."

 

"Just what the hell are you?"

 

"I told you, I'm an Old Man."

 

His direct almost emotionless attitude was off-putting at first. The moment I stood up he insisted I head right upstairs, the reason being my recovery would interrupt his work. The ordeal had left me too tired for questions. When he showed me the ladders I climbed up to the second floor without argument, an almost empty space with some sheets in the centre. Compared to the hammock it was heaven. I collapsed right onto it where in tandem with the drugs my body fell still, rocked to sleep by toxicity.

 

As the time passed I realised the Old Man was anything but human. Not once did he sleep. He just worked from one contraption to the next. Sometimes he would head out and return hours later with arms full of scrap to use for his numerous projects. No matter how many times I asked he never explained what they did. It seemed conversation was not his strong suit, apart from when it was time for me to eat, a quirk questioned on my 5th day.

 

His forehead twitched with the slightest frown, his gaze drawn to the silver ration packet as I took a bite. His mouth seemed to move along with it.

 

"I do miss eating," he said.

 

"When was the last time you ate?" I asked.

 

"Long ago, I was a different person back then, we all were."

 

He went quiet for a moment as I ate another piece, like he was trying to relive the memory by action.

 

"What does it taste like?"

 

"Kind of gritty like dry mushrooms and mould, I've rarely had anything other than that unless you count the Vermin."

 

"You eat Vermin?"

 

"They weren't so bad, I knew how to catch one, don't ever try to take on a gang of them."

 

"Vermin as you call them don't give me any bother."

 

"Is that because you're not human anymore?"

 

My last question must have struck a nerve because that was the last time we talked until the 6th Morning.

 

He ignored me the second I climbed down the ladder, his attention focused on work. When I asked for the pain killers he just sprung up from his chair and attempted to walk right out the door. I rushed between him and threshold, my arms lifted as a barrier until he told me exactly what was wrong. It turned out the drugs were running short. There was only enough left for a week so we needed a fresh supply, for which there was a single location. He showed me an image of a settlement which looked like a castle built from trash, either way it served as a seat of power for the Tragen.

 

I backed away the moment he mentioned the name, overcome by that memory of the attack.

 

"You want me to go in there after everything they did?"

 

"There is no other way, fear not, we can alter your appearance to look less… alive. That heartbeat is going to have to be slowed and it's a simple matter to change your skin tone. Although I can assure you the Tragen will hate my kind almost as much as they covet yours. But it will work if they're given proper tribute."

 

His indelicate words gave little reassurance. The idea of being among them still terrified me. Regardless of fear the Old Man spoke the truth, there was no other choice. Deities help me I agreed.

 

The Tragen as he called them lived a tribal like existence and their laws required something extraordinary to overlook distrust, which was to be a finger from my right hand. People cutting me up had become a regular fact of life. It was a thought which left me numb even before he injected me and sawed off the smallest digit. He placed it inside a clear container called a preservation jar where it floated in the centre becoming a morbid sight that left me distracted.

 

I didn't expect to see my hand transition to a bleached white colouration, only then did I notice the second needle stuck out of my skin.

 

"Is this permanent?"

 

"It's only one half of the Van Haugen conversion so it's entirely reversible, the Tragen shouldn't suspect a thing. To them you will be a grovelling Ersat like me."

 

A sound of rolling metal outside diverted my questions. When we walked out the shack I saw an odd craft in the water shaped like a cylinder on its side, with tracks all around and an open ramp at the front.

 

"I used this to get around a while ago. No one questions a garbage scow, everything you need is inside."

 

The ramp pulled closed the minute I walked on. Within there was nothing but a panel on the wall and a half-zipped bag on the floor. What I expected to find inside were weapons perhaps a flashlight, instead I pulled out a set of black boots and a large hooded cloak. In anger I sat cursing the Old Man's name, bitter he'd left me nothing to defend myself when a high pitched shriek erupted from my earpiece.

 

"Can you hear me? I have a clear image through your visor."

 

"You can see though my implant?"

 

"I can also hear so long as the connection is strong enough."

 

He was in my head and It meant nothing to him, I should have been outraged. My main concern should have been to make him break that connection. Alas the engine on the craft shuddered to life and the journey commenced, it became a necessary evil to survive the mission.

 

"You said I look Ersat now so just what the hell does that mean and why couldn't you give me a longer battery life?"

 

"It was the best I could do so be thankful it will last two days; mine works for eight hours. As for the term Ersat, well it’s a label my kind appropriated, once an insult repurposed to show pride. It is difficult to explain in full just know we were once like you but not anymore and the Tragen hate us for it. Now put on the cloak and pull up your hood, try to keep covered."

 

He never told me about seeing through my implant. Once more I was thrown back into uncertainty. How many other things he lied about and what his real intentions were became a mystery. I blamed myself for trusting him. It was a stupid move and in all likelihood would have seen me better off in the gutter. For hours the vehicle rocked back and forth whilst I sat uncomfortable and anxious, torturing myself with mental images of those monsters ripping me to shreds when at last that moment had come.

 

The door opened up and for a moment I believed my visor had broken, for nothing but a single light was visible. Beyond the vehicle all was quiet save for a cutting wind to enforce the sheer size of my surroundings.

 

"Where do I go?"

 

"Follow the path March."

 

His words didn't make sense until a stream of light shot out my display. Somehow he'd projected a trail that guided me but gave little comfort from the shadows. Snarls and roars had begun to call out. Their blurs rushed past me, the slightest pull of their momentum knocked me over. I was lucky to be alive by the time the gates came into view.

 

It was bigger than expected. What I thought to be a castle was a stack of toppled tower buildings deep inside a crater all completely surrounded by massive scrap walls. There outside the gates was a crowd of Tragen, gathered as a menagerie of every size and shape. Strangely they were all covered in the same manner of cloak as me.

 

Before them stood one of their kin who blocked the path, twice the height of the others. He spoke unlike the previous Tragen I saw, his lips moved while the one who attacked me kept his mouth still.

 

"We will take warriors of fighting age only, if you cannot fight you must move on!" cried out the beast.

 

"You have to speak up before they close the gates March," said the Old Man.

 

I begrudgingly followed his advice and cautiously crept forward to announce myself.

 

"What about tribute?"

 

The second I spoke that Tragen stepped in front of my face; he was like a boar, eyes yellow with protruded tusks.

 

"And what would an Ersat, especially a damaged one have to make such an audience worthy?"

 

Clouds of breath made me choke as I pulled out the jar. Its mere existence made them step back in disbelief.

 

"This is my tribute, a relic, a human finger if I'm not mistaken."

 

"Be thankful you know enough of our traditions to survive Ersat for our Matriarch must accept all tributes, even from monsters like you. Let the Pale-Skin through!"

All had become quiet. Their hatred burned into my back and I could do nothing but walk away. My pace turned to a sprint as one howled while the rest followed in suit. Each ripped off their robes, exposing what true forms dwelt underneath, mammals, insects, birds, some were all three combined. Twisted monsters turned feral at the mere sight of my passing. Were it not for the closing gate they would have killed me right then and there.

 

Beyond those walls the crater stretched for miles, looking like a giant version of Rickety Bridge. Every building stuck out from the centre as though a massive explosion had once taken place. Between them were clusters of Tragen, each moved over one another in the distance, their calls clear. It left me too scared to move. I stood entrapped by terror as the glowing trail vanished and nothing but static hummed through my earpiece.

 

The Old Man's voice was gone and I was alone in a city of monsters.

 



© 2016 M.R Steiner


Author's Note

M.R Steiner
any advice is welcome, currently drafting the whole finished book.

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Featured Review

(I'm going to write most of this while I'm reading, so sorry if it's a bit jumbled!) I love the intro to this! It's very eye-catching. At first I was a little confused as to what the setting was, but I caught on pretty fast. Already, your narrator is very interesting. I love the mention of how the only thing he hears is his own voice and that it keeps his insanity at bay. It already gives me insight into your characters mental state and some clues about their desolate surroundings.
The description of the Vermin is very interesting! I like how its capitalized, it tells me that they aren't any regular rats and your follow up description proves that to be true. I like how realistic the piece seems, I almost forgot that 8-eyed rats don't actually exist. I like your description of killing them as well. As a vegetarian, I winced a little (which is a good thing!), but I like that you don't go into any unnecessary graphic detail.
In the sentence " In honesty it made me happy to see the creatures squirm under the pressure before those last panicked breathes. " the term 'in honesty' seems a little odd to me. It may be better to just use the word 'honestly', but that's just a personal preference.

"I said it every time on arrival so the pipes would know I was back." I love this sentence. It really emphasizes the lonliness.

"While the flesh sizzled on bertha's surface I had time to shower before Whistler began to call out." I think you meant to capitalize Bertha here.

"I walked distracted when my boot hit something round and hollow which rolled off and smashed against the wall." This sentence sounds a little awkward to me. Instead of saying which, it may sound better to turn it into two sentences like "I walked distracted when my boot hit something hollow. It rolled off and smashed against the wall." But that may also just be personal preference.

"a rain of salty sludge" yuck! Good description here.

"almost female in tone" this phrase kind of confuses me and sounds a little out of place. Maybe say, "It sounded like a girl" or something like that?

"Then a flash, I knew true pain. They cut through my face, peeled back the skin and plucked each eye away." Again, descriptive enough for me to wince, but not unnecessarily graphic, I like it. I really like the first sentence, too. I like how you don't describe the action, but show that it happened by the narrator's response.

"Just an Old Man, do you accept my offer?" I love how you capitalize Old Man. Its really subtle but it definitely gives your writing a unique twist.

We need to cut out the infection before it goes any further so please don't move. This will be essential if we want you to see again." This also made me wince... ouch!! Good job!!

"a drug which washed through my veins like a warm bath." I like this description.

"A Tragen, the closest thing to natural life these days except for you of course, so it was a pack of them?" This sentence is important! The story takes kind of a turn here, as the things that set your fantasy world here are really beginning to be explained.

"Impossible the Founder is gone; those fools are following a liar," This sentence caught me off guard. His strong response to hearing the "Founder" tells the reader that the Founder will be very essential.

"exposing what true forms dwelt underneath, mammals, insects, birds, some were all three combined." Very interesting and imaginative, I like it.

Alright, you're writing is amazing! I really enjoyed reading the chapter, the world you created is very gripping and it definitely left me wanting to know more about it. I love the brief mentions of humans being rare, but the lack of deep descriptions of it. You tease the reader with information and it builds up good suspense.
I also love the creatures you've created, as they all sound very interesting. I really want to know what an Old Man is now. The world you've created sounds dark, dreary, and scary but also vibrant and cool in a very offbeat way and I like that. I also enjoy the setting, as its just vaguely creepy and it leaves a lot up to reader interpretation, which makes it somehow creepier.
I think once your narrator meets the old man, the pacing does get a little bit fast and things to seem a little rushed. To be honest, I think you could turn this whole big chapter into two chapters, but that, again, is personal preference. However, consider slowing things down a bit maybe?
I like how you don't say the characters name or gender until its asked of her, I like being able to kind of get a sense of who the character really is without knowing the superficial stuff, so you've done a good job at that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this piece and I look forward to reading more! :)



Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

nice one for the review :) I think you may be right at splitting the chapters up a bit, upon reading.. read more
rigsbypott

6 Years Ago

I feel that, I'm the same way!! I'm always so eager to get the story on the road that I just wanna s.. read more



Reviews

(I'm going to write most of this while I'm reading, so sorry if it's a bit jumbled!) I love the intro to this! It's very eye-catching. At first I was a little confused as to what the setting was, but I caught on pretty fast. Already, your narrator is very interesting. I love the mention of how the only thing he hears is his own voice and that it keeps his insanity at bay. It already gives me insight into your characters mental state and some clues about their desolate surroundings.
The description of the Vermin is very interesting! I like how its capitalized, it tells me that they aren't any regular rats and your follow up description proves that to be true. I like how realistic the piece seems, I almost forgot that 8-eyed rats don't actually exist. I like your description of killing them as well. As a vegetarian, I winced a little (which is a good thing!), but I like that you don't go into any unnecessary graphic detail.
In the sentence " In honesty it made me happy to see the creatures squirm under the pressure before those last panicked breathes. " the term 'in honesty' seems a little odd to me. It may be better to just use the word 'honestly', but that's just a personal preference.

"I said it every time on arrival so the pipes would know I was back." I love this sentence. It really emphasizes the lonliness.

"While the flesh sizzled on bertha's surface I had time to shower before Whistler began to call out." I think you meant to capitalize Bertha here.

"I walked distracted when my boot hit something round and hollow which rolled off and smashed against the wall." This sentence sounds a little awkward to me. Instead of saying which, it may sound better to turn it into two sentences like "I walked distracted when my boot hit something hollow. It rolled off and smashed against the wall." But that may also just be personal preference.

"a rain of salty sludge" yuck! Good description here.

"almost female in tone" this phrase kind of confuses me and sounds a little out of place. Maybe say, "It sounded like a girl" or something like that?

"Then a flash, I knew true pain. They cut through my face, peeled back the skin and plucked each eye away." Again, descriptive enough for me to wince, but not unnecessarily graphic, I like it. I really like the first sentence, too. I like how you don't describe the action, but show that it happened by the narrator's response.

"Just an Old Man, do you accept my offer?" I love how you capitalize Old Man. Its really subtle but it definitely gives your writing a unique twist.

We need to cut out the infection before it goes any further so please don't move. This will be essential if we want you to see again." This also made me wince... ouch!! Good job!!

"a drug which washed through my veins like a warm bath." I like this description.

"A Tragen, the closest thing to natural life these days except for you of course, so it was a pack of them?" This sentence is important! The story takes kind of a turn here, as the things that set your fantasy world here are really beginning to be explained.

"Impossible the Founder is gone; those fools are following a liar," This sentence caught me off guard. His strong response to hearing the "Founder" tells the reader that the Founder will be very essential.

"exposing what true forms dwelt underneath, mammals, insects, birds, some were all three combined." Very interesting and imaginative, I like it.

Alright, you're writing is amazing! I really enjoyed reading the chapter, the world you created is very gripping and it definitely left me wanting to know more about it. I love the brief mentions of humans being rare, but the lack of deep descriptions of it. You tease the reader with information and it builds up good suspense.
I also love the creatures you've created, as they all sound very interesting. I really want to know what an Old Man is now. The world you've created sounds dark, dreary, and scary but also vibrant and cool in a very offbeat way and I like that. I also enjoy the setting, as its just vaguely creepy and it leaves a lot up to reader interpretation, which makes it somehow creepier.
I think once your narrator meets the old man, the pacing does get a little bit fast and things to seem a little rushed. To be honest, I think you could turn this whole big chapter into two chapters, but that, again, is personal preference. However, consider slowing things down a bit maybe?
I like how you don't say the characters name or gender until its asked of her, I like being able to kind of get a sense of who the character really is without knowing the superficial stuff, so you've done a good job at that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this piece and I look forward to reading more! :)



Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

nice one for the review :) I think you may be right at splitting the chapters up a bit, upon reading.. read more
rigsbypott

6 Years Ago

I feel that, I'm the same way!! I'm always so eager to get the story on the road that I just wanna s.. read more
i read the intro. it sounds great! i think you should post the second chapter. i want to know what happens next! haha!



Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

as I finish the edit of the whole 1st act I will post that, but the rest will have to be requested a.. read more
You put work into this story, I can tell, just reading I see your world and creatures, very hard genre, I just want to know who the founders... I liked it but I saw two mistakes you must fix, this is one of them # ' It forced to me stand and blindly sweep my legs in an act that only provoked them.'... and don't doubt yourself and think too much on every opinion cause opinion is divided...but the other reviewers are right aswell

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

thank you so much for pointing that out for me :), I have pretty bad dyslexia so its sometimes hard .. read more
M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

did you say there was a second mistake as well? :)
hey MR! i really like this revision. i can 'feel' the dystopic nature of this world more; it's like 'humanity' (or even just simple human kindness) is quite rare, and when others notice someone with kindness they're taken advantage of, or "cut to pieces." it's a critique of society i can easily see myself. or perhaps i shouldn't say the word "see" because March can only see the world through the lens that she is given, another interesting part of the story and something that can be critiqued about society. we're all 'told' what the world is, and kind of have to trust whoever is doing the telling. but if they don't have our best interests at heart then the world really is a dystopia.

to review my previous suggestion: you have shown more and told less with this draft, which i enjoy as a reader; and i particularly like the second half more than the first half. in my own writings i often do this too, where i feel like i have to explain the world in the beginning, then once i do that it becomes more of what i intended, the storytelling becomes more natural. i think it's just a struggle of writers, haha.

i have a couple more suggestions. (and to mention it again, these are only my opinions. i don't believe there is any right or wrong way to write or tell stories. i think there's only more effective ways to reacher either wider or more specific audiences). so, i'll just make a small list of suggestion or impressions i had while reading this:

-maybe tell that the narrator, March, is a female earlier on, like right at the beginning, because i think it's significantly different for a female than a male in a dystopic world, especially having to trust an 'old man' so it changes the context of the story. a female and a male would trust this character differently, in my opinion.

-you said you've been reading Shelley lately, and Frankenstein is one of my favorites, and it made me wonder if the narrative of your story might be better if written like journal entries. just a thought that occurred to me because of your stylistic approach of narrating. it feels like someone narrating their day or week, which was why i suggested before about 'show don't tell." but this could work perfectly as journal entries, and then when March's loses her pages of a religious book she could still keep her journal. i dunno. just brainstorming here, haha.

-i wonder if giving the old man a name would improve this. i avoid giving characters names in many of my stories but sometimes it makes a huge difference. i wonder about the significance of it being an 'old man' and what imagery it's supposed to evoke: wisdom, senility, something else?

-i don't know if this is a suggestion or an observation, but the story completely lacks emotion until March has to enter the Tragen community. maybe tell (tell haha, i just said to show) about her emotional state earlier on, for example about how she feels distrust to the old man, or how she feels in the beginning just having to live day-to-day in a dystopic world. i have no idea what that would actually be like, and as a reader, i'd like to know. in much of my own writing i try to tell things in my own 'fearless honesty' because, in my opinion, that's what creates truly human characters. if there's something in your head that you tell yourself "i shouldn't say this or let people know this," that's exactly what you need to write. that's how you create a character that will have people's empathy. and in a dystopic world, i want to connect with the one other human, haha.

-another thing, maybe just an observation. the tragens seem to resemble Luddites, a group of people who historically rejected technology during the beginning of industrialization. it's interesting how you create these different social classes. i look forward to seeing how you shape the dynamics between them.

-lastly, some of the dialogue seems too forced. or, that you're forcing a moment to happen through dialogue, and it doesn't seem real. people often don't communicate directly or say what they're thinking, but your characters do. people, in real life, hide what they really want to say and often say things indirectly. and in a dystopic world information that March just volunteered would definitely be kept hidden from an old man she only half trusts. i understand the need to connect dots about the world these characters live in, for the sake of the reader, but i think it can be achieved in another way.

again, i like your story. i have no real authority to say 'this should be like this, or that should be like that.' i'm just trying to be helpful. i look forward to reading chapter two!


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

Thank you so much :) everything I said is in my message to you, but just wanted it out in public how.. read more
PaintedBirdy

6 Years Ago

not a problem, MR. glad i could be helpful!
You still use too many commas than is strictly necessary. Take this paragraph for example:

"There weren't many things to eat, just mould, some mushrooms and the Vermin, nubile little beasts with eight scurrying legs. They were fast, yet through years of training I learnt their tricks, it was a matter of patience. In waiting my body grew numb, hidden up to my nose beneath the water, with fingers held at the ready. Sooner or later one would swim by, only then would I strike, my hands would wrap around their furry little bodies, then twist to finish the job. Food always spoiled quickly down there, like the air itself consumed it, leaving any flesh green and bloated within hours."

I would have written it like this:

"There weren't many things to eat just mould, some mushrooms and the vermin. (They were) nubile little beasts with eight scurrying legs (and) they were fast. Through years of training I learnt their tricks; it was a matter of patience. In waiting my body grew numb whilst (I was hidden) up to my nose beneath the water with fingers held at the ready. Sooner or later one would swim by, only then would I strike. My hands would wrap around their furry little bodies then twist to finish the job. Food always spoiled quickly down there (as though) the air itself consumed it, leaving any flesh green and bloated within hours." (words in brackets my edits)

As you can see the narrative flows better than in your original version. It is this that you need to look at more closely as it spoils your work somewhat. However, your revised version is an improvement on the original draft :-)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You clearly have talent, that much is very evident from the off. My problem, though, is with your STYLE of writing. It is old-fashioned and so outdated as to be quite boring (I am offering a PERSONAL opinion) to read for any length of time, which is a pity as your story is interesting and engaging. Perhaps fewer words and a more direct style of telling your tale might be more appropriate?

Take care with your spelling and grammar. There are examples of the wrong spelling of words being used ('your' for 'you're, for instance). Your computer's spell-check/thesaurus will help highlight this sort of error.

Do keep writing! The more you write the better you'll become. This has been one of the better offerings I have read on this site, so kudos to you for that at least! :-)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

authorised1960

6 Years Ago

Thank YOU for taking my comments on board - unlike another moron who had a strop and blocked me from.. read more
M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

just updated the first chapter, am also adding what I have learned to the other chapters, please fee.. read more
M.R Steiner

6 Years Ago

me again :D This time I have essentially rewrote the whole first chapter, taking both your opinions .. read more
hi MR Steiner! overall i think you have a good start to your book. it's a pretty interesting world you've created, and comparing with everything i've personally read it stands out with originality too.

i have a couple suggestions: your writing is pretty solid however i think the storytelling aspect of it could be improved if you showed more of what was happening rather than told what was happening. you can do a google search of "show don't tell" and endless examples of what i mean by this will probably come up, if you're not familiar with this concept. of course, this style of writing is just my preference too.

the second thing: at first i thought this was in the dystopia genre, but reading further it seemed more in the fantasy genre because it's unreal (i.e. monsters, that robot character, trash castle lol; in other words its more star wars than brave new world). if you're aiming at making this a dystopian novel, maybe make a more direct critique about society because thats what makes dystopian worlds so appealing (they say "hey what we're doing right now is going to lead to this world," but in your story you've haven't made a clear comparison like this yet; are you critiquing society in this story?). that's, of course, only if you intend this to be dystopian. just my opinion. hope it helps!



This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on July 9, 2016
Last Updated on August 2, 2016
Tags: science fiction, dark, animals, hurt, tragedy, future, distopia, augmented reality


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M.R Steiner
M.R Steiner

a terrible city, an even more terrible region, United Kingdom



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looking for advice and feedback, every critic welcome no matter what, I will thank you :) more..

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