Deeper than Blood

Deeper than Blood

A Story by Sapphire Balasquez
"

Follow Jodie and Hannah as they are poisoned, drugged and experimented on in a lab, and how their friendship grows within that, a bond deeper than blood.

"

         My eyes have opened, as if a child, seeing everything with a strong curiosity for the first time. Stone surrounds me with an empty, airy feel. Most of the room I sit in is shadowed, but there are iron bars: I'm in a cell. I don't know anything about myself but my name and my appearance from behind the grime in the mirror. My long, almond-brown hair and bright hazel eyes are better attributes than the pudge that my instincts require me to hate. I can't remember how I got here. My mind is reeling through answers for this sudden imprisonment, but I can't think properly: there is a faucet dripping madly in the corner next to the wretchedly unclean toilet. The shadows encompass the rest, and I haven't the strength to get up.      

She sits where the shadows have fallen, where no light is able to or has chosen to seep. She is a healthy girl, just like me. Neither of us has talked. We just sit in the cell as moonlight infiltrates the small room, just barely reaching me but going nowhere near her.
            She shifts when a tall man in a lab coat approaches with his slicked back blonde hair and shining green eyes that pierce through his small glasses. The emeralds land on me, looking up and down my body with caution. His deep voice remarks,
            "Hannah, you should come with me." He shoves a small, dirty key into the lock on the cell door and slides it open with a loud clang. I glance back for a moment, seeing clear blue eyes filled with desperate fear from the darkness. The man does not let me look long, as now he has gripped my arm, inflicting pain upon the squished muscles. He leads me down a long hallway which is also of stone, but filled with more mysterious black than the cell.
            I am placed in a white room where there are beautiful flowers lining the wall. I smell incredible amounts of cleaning supplies; bleach, windex, and a mix of different carpet cleaners along with anything else you could think up. The two large windows behind the long desk in front of me are glittering, as if with pride and nearly laughter. A chair is placed in front of me, facing the desk, it is also white. It clinks a little metallically on uneven legs as I sit. The first man exits and soon enough a man with luscious black hair and sunglasses glides in, and seats himself in his own white chair. He clears his throat before speaking in a deep, smooth voice,
            "Can you get along with your room mate?" I open my mouth to speak, but fear has captured my tongue and I nod. The man scribbles something quickly onto a paper on his desk, nearly invisible in the midst of the white array, "You will now take this box back to your room for me and place the contents on your bedside table." Until I nod, his almost-white blue eyes focus on me, unwavering. Unsure of what he means by all this, I take the smallish brown box from his hand and he continues,
            "That is your only source of light after the power is turned off. Take care of it. Your first therapy session will be tomorrow, Gabriel will be back to your room to retrieve and guide you." He motions toward Gabriel who shows me out the door and back to the cell, where I am locked back in. My cell mate is waiting near the bars in the light this time. She is expecting someone to come for her too and soon enough Gabriel returns with a blindingly red clipboard in hand. He opens the cell once again, merely saying,
            "Jodie, the second day will be the hardest." I wave a little and feel heat over my face in embarrassment when all Jodie does is stare back. Her staring is not in disgust or anger; it's just a blank, glazed over stare. I try not to worry myself with where they're taking her by busying myself with opening the box. Inside is a brand new, tall and thin candle on a stand. Matches lie next to them within the box. I lift them out and place them on one of the grimy bed stands with care. I notice with fear that a plea has been burned into the wood, "Help me."
            "So they gave you a candle, eh?" Jodie laughs from behind me, having suddenly and quickly returned. I am startled and turn around to see her clean face smile at the candle. She is holding a bigger box, and I ask her,
            "What did they do to you?" She holds the box in her right hand now and raises her left hand up to the crevice in her arm where there is a red mark, nearly bleeding. She laughs more,
            "Today was my first. I guess you'll understand soon enough." I nod timidly and with a slight bit of jealousy at the experience she has that I haven't a clue about. Another question rings out of my mouth,
            "What's in your box?" She opens it to reveal a beautifully bloomed flower. It is trumpet-shaped and perfectly white, tapering to a point at the end of each petal and it blends gracefully into a black core. So beautiful it is that we put it on the other bed stand. After gazing at it, Jodie climbs into her low bed with stained sheets, grinning if a bit madly.
            "Are you ok?" I whisper, and just before she falls asleep she mutters,
            "I'm just so happy." I gaze out the window for a moment, seeing that the sun is coming up, and decide to sleep as well, though my mind swims in thirst for knowledge and experience. I smell a sweet fragrance from the flower nearly right in front of my face as my head lands on the stiff, stained pillow. I pull up the sheet over my eyes and after much thought manage to tumble into the world of peaceful dreams.
            I open my eyes to streams of sunlight throughout the cell.  I didn't sleep long, by the position of the sun, but I pace the small room until Jodie awakens with a great stretch and groan, and small bags under her eyes. She smiles a heavy smile, and plops back to her pillow. We spend the day like this; wandering, sleeping, discovering new unpleasant things in the cell. Once it has fallen dark, Gabriel comes for me again and I follow him to a different room where he closes the door behind us and sits down in a recliner, offering one to me as well...
            This room is all deep, dark green to the same extent that the white room was white. Gabriel has a clipboard in his hands and a small pencil. He asks me,
            "How did you sleep?"
            "Horribly." He scratches words down on his clipboard.
            "Is your roommate nice to you?" I shrug. He seems to pass a crude judgment on me, then scratches some more on his clipboard.
            "Are you happy?"
            "Not particularly."
            "Why's that?" I am taken aback by the ridiculous question.
            "Memory loss and being poorly informed." Gabriel scratches more words onto the paper.
            "Do you feel depressed?"
            "No, but I'm not happy." He nods, then more scratching. He has a syringe and sticks the needle into the crease in my right arm, a sharp pain at first but then numbs as the needle goes deeper. He pulls it back out and remarks,
            "You may go now." I lead myself out the door this time; guessing my way back to the cell that is unlocked. Jodie is taken out soon after I return. I settle on the bed, staring at the sunlight pouring in; a long fall from the sky. There is nothing to do after only one day. I am bored and I just rub my right arm where the needle went in, waiting for Jodie to return.
            The great silence is broken when Jodie's voice cracks it like glass, saying,
            "Isn't it lovely? This room?" She laughs unsarcastically, but seems drunk on some sort of strange happiness. The hole in her right arm is now redder in the needle spot, and a new one has appeared on her left arm.
            "Look." She says, "I got more shots than last time! I see you got one too." I nod, wondering if Jodie had ever really been sane.
            "How many days have you been here, Jodie?" She laughs again, a little sloppily, and answers,
            "Oh, only a day more than you, m'dear!"
            "Why would they shove us into a place like this?"
            "To inject us with crap," she winks at me and continues, "Not much we can do about it anyways, they've got us locked up pretty tight here." She taps on the lock that holds the cell closed, "Not like we know where we are so we could actually escape."   I press my face in between two cold iron bars and observe the other people surrounding us,
            "Hey, Jodie?"
            "Hm?" She doesn't turn her head, only moves her eyes towards me as we're now facing the same direction.
            "Are there only girls here?" Her eyes widen for a moment and wander from cell to cell as I can see alarm rising in her face.
            "…women…aren't… significant…" She is lost in thought as though she just remembered something crucial. She turns around and leans against the bars, sliding to the ground and inspecting first her hands, then her arms, then her torso and all the way down from there.
            "Are you alri-?"
            "Shh!" With a sense of urgency, Jodie closes her eyes and whispers something to herself. I stare with caution for several minutes until my legs tire and I copy her sitting position, facing the same direction once again. I hear footsteps and I feel uneasy so I start to hum, but Jodie's eyes pop back open and her head snaps towards me.
            "Hannah, I remember something! Maybe that's what the shots are for! This place is for people with serious cases of amnesia!"
            "Explain the dirty cell."
            "Not everyone has money." She glares and I don't answer, but we both know she's wrong. A tense air is between us until she eases my mind,
            "Whatever, you can have an opinion, it's all right. Why do you think we're here?"
            "I have no clue, I get the feeling I've never been allowed to have an opinion before." Her face scrunches in confusion, but her attention is short-lived, as her head turns to her right elbow and she twists her arm so she can see it.
            "Well hello there! What's this?" She peels off a long band-aid that had been covering a deep gash that continued for quite a ways on either side of the joint.
            "How could I not know that was there?" She laughs and examines the cut more closely, "Looks like it's from a knife… a clean knife." 
            "And how would you know that, Miss Jodie?"
            "Not many things can make a perfect cut like that…"
            "Maybe you were some kind of homicide detective."
            "Like Sherlock Holmes?" We both laugh and continue on, in banter of what jobs she could've had before she came here. When our conversation runs dry, Gabriel arrives in the nick of time to deliver evening clothes- simple white t-shirts and black sweatpants. Jodie thanks him and he nods, walking away.
            "At least they give us fresh clothes. They haven't completely deemed us their prisoners."   There's something charming about Jodie and I can't pick it out, but I admire how she's so sure of herself and can be polite to the man who puts drugs into our bodies. She tosses me my clothes and we both change, faced away from one another in modesty, but I change faster and accidentally urn around to see her near-bare back, strewn with long band-aids.
            "Jodie…" I can barely whisper it.
            "Don't worry about it, I already noticed." She throws on her shirt and stands for a moment, realizing that her hands are shaking. She plops onto her dirty bed again with a kind of nonchalance that I could never manage. A loud voice rings through the hall,
            "Lights out," and the power is switched off, leaving me just enough moonlight to find my own resting place. Jodie is still wide awake but I'm drifting off, and I inquire one more thing,
            "What was it you remembered?" She winced at the question but said in a lighter tone than I expected,
            "I was abused."
            "And you're just okay with that?"
            "I don't think my mental health is any of your concern. Go to sleep." I did drift off then, but I slept lightly and eyes watched me in my dreams, yellow eyes. They followed me everywhere, and now the eyes melted away to reveal a mouth with sharp fangs, it had captured me just before I woke up gasping for breath. It was light outside, Jodie turned to me in deep concern, her eyes freshly red and still sniffling.
            "Are you all right, Hannah?" I nod in response,
            "Have you been crying?" She doesn't answer, but exits the cell with Gabriel.     I stare at the ceiling until she returns and Gabriel takes me to the green room again and Gabriel asks me now,
            "Did you feel as if you acted strangely at all last night or did Jodie remark on any strange behavior? Any unusual aches or pains?" I shake my head and say three soft words,
            "Just the dreams." He nods and comes towards me with a tray, whispering:
            "Very interesting," to himself. He injects me with four different needles and sends me out the door.
            The days continue on like this. When Jodie isn't in the room I wait and long for her to come back. When she's there she acts increasingly happier after coming back from getting her shots. They bring us dull meals to eat in the room and the time just drones on. I begin to wish for escape and perhaps gain some insight by thinking for once. Jodie comes back to the room this time and she yells in anger,
            "They didn't give me any shots, Hannah."
            "Why would you want them? They just hurt-"
            "They make me feel happy." I stare at her face, now the mural of ruin. Dark bags have been created under her eyes that are sunken in now.  She has gotten skinny so that I can see her ribs and spine and has obtained ugly red rashes all over her skin. She's twitchy and always waiting for her shot time. That's finally when it dawns on me and I feel so stupid that it took me this long.
            "Jodie, they've been giving us addictive drugs." Jodie flashes a dangerous glare in my direction and screams, shaking the cell doors between her tense hands. They rattle in submission.
            "You think I don't know that? I need them now, Hannah! And they won't give them to me!" She crouches in the corner, pulling her legs close to herself, whispering,
            "I need them," oh so softly.  I don't like her like this. I'm angered too and sit on my bed. I wonder if I look any better than she as I stare at the beautiful flower, still thriving in the pot at my side. It scares me to see her unstable and addicted, unable to control her emotions. I can feel tears trying to come out of my eyes and I try to force them back, but they fight valiantly and the words are bouncing through my head. I'm so scared. What will I do? What will Jodie do? We'll die here…
The past couple of days when I tried to talk to her she didn't care about anything; just put me down about how I think too much. She's no the same Jodie, but she still cares for me… I think.
I have worse dreams than ever. The melting eyes and pointy-teethed mouth have evolved into several people with melting faces, bloody mouths. Their hands are covered with the filth of human insides and I can sense that they've been starving for so long. They come after m, for there's no meat left on the bones of the other dead and they're fast. Stench fills the air and I wake up suddenly, sprinting to aim my vomit into the toilet. I'm sweating and crying, exhausted and shaking. Jodie is mostly asleep, just grumbles a,
"Are you okay?" Then goes back to her docile state. 
One time in the middle of the night Jodie is gone a long time and I miss her terribly, worrying all the while. It is cold in the cell tonight, possibly approaching winter. I fidget for hours, waiting to hear the footsteps coming down the hall. And a fear strikes my insides, there's a pull from the back of my head, insisting we must find a way out. What if Jodie had died? No one would tell me, I would be waiting here, not knowing what had happened.
            I shriek when Jodie's hand is on my shoulder, at first imagining the gruesome creatures from my dreams. I've been huddled against the wall so long that I fall out of the bed in an attempt to embrace her. She is smiling and so must have been given her drugs today. She picks me up like a baby, her warm hands feeling like they could burn me. Tears are spilling out of my tired eyes. I've only had a few hours of sleep in the past week.
            "I'm so tired." I say quietly.
            "Why haven't you been sleeping then?" She smiles at me in wonder.
            "I was waiting."
            "For what?"
            "For you." She stops smiling and looks seriously at me, saying,
            "Hannah, you've become too attached. What if something happened to me? Then where would you be? I've seen your life starting to revolve around mine and we can't have that." I cling to her dirty shirt and sob, gasping for air. She pulls my head closer and pets my hair softly.  I sleep in her arms, feeling safe here. She wakes me up every time that I yell out from my dreams.
            They didn't give me any shots today and I sit, staring through the window, trying not to fall asleep. Here I am waiting again for Jodie. Always waiting. I shield my face from the light; it hurts my eyes. Jodie is here. They haven't given her shots either. She knocks the candle off the table in anger and it breaks in half. She looks at me now,
            "Why aren't you addicted too?" I shrug, but reply,        
            "Gabriel says I'm immune to the drugs."
            "What's with the dreams then?"
            "I don't know. I feel like there's something wrong with me." I crawl over to the candle and stare, as if seeing its soul, and then I gather the pieces in my hands, they're only held together by a simple string.
            "I feel… like a broken candle. A jagged cut across my brain, I can't think properly and I have terribly violent dreams. I'm broken, Jodie, I'm not even useful for experimentation and I sure as hell can't save us." Jodie looks down at her hands quietly for a moment.
            "Hannah-"
            "Do you think they'll kill us?"
            "Don't be so pessimistic-"
            "Why wouldn't they?" I break down in tears again. Jodie is shaking, twitching, sweating uncontrollably. She's trying to be helpful but her head is too clouded.
            "I don't want to die, Jodie." She groans a little and I continue to survey the broken candle. I decide it wouldn't matter if I'm killed anyways. I'm practically already dead.
            More time passes by with our elevated state of emotion and dread, but my fear is still increasing from the terrible dreams. I try to sleep as little as possible and try not to think too much when the opportunity presents itself. Every night that Jodie goes without her shots ends in tears or anger fits. My soul is dying here and I can feel it. Jodie is my only salvation, the only person I can talk to, but when she's off drugs she's so irrational, so dead.  But then, she is when she's on them too.
            Gabriel calls me in one morning, just like any other, and there seems to be and emotional block behind his eyes. I sit down, but there are no needles this morning, they're off in the corner, unprepared. Gabriel looks into my eyes and says,
"You have a choice to make a week from now. You can shoot your room mate or you will be shot by her." He lets me stew in my thoughts while he starts preparing the syringes. I gather my wits and ask a question I've been burning to ask,
"Why are you doing this?" 
"Psychological experimentation."
"That's sick."
"That may be… These shots aren't for you today, you're excused. Jodie doesn't get the advantage of a warning for this little rendezvous."  
On my way back, my eyes water from though or being upset I do not know, but I wipe at them and when I get to the cell Jodie notices. She knows something is wrong, but I don't even acknowledge her so she leaves me be as I look in the disgusting medicine cabinet that we haven't touched and there's one glass bottle with a poison sign on it and a name I recognize. I do some figuring, staring at the contents and put one drop into my water, drinking the whole thing. I continue this for the next week, enduring at first an annoying headache and feeling of light-headedness, but it blossoms into stomach problems and my throat is hard to manage- tight and dry. I don't feel like talking much, not that Jodie needs to be talked to when she has her drugs. 
The day comes and Gabriel comes to get us and takes us to a smallish closet-sized room with one-way glass for one of the walls. Everything is a dark red and Gabriel to explains for Jodie's sake,
            "One of you must die; the other will be set free. This door will not be opened again until one of you has been killed." He walks out of the door and shuts it. A splitting headache doesn't stop me from noticing that Jodie has clearly set herself on the other side of the wall in her mind. My air intake decreases- I won't need it though. She looks into the box on the floor between us. She draws out a gun. It gleams with grim and filth from hands of previous users. I manage to keep my stomach down during these tense moments. Jodie is shaking mostly from stress and fear, sweat dripping down from her forehead. The gun is shimmering in the light from a big glass window that leads to freedom. She pulls the hammer back with her thumb, the forceful clicking sound almost more than I can handle. 
Tears are pouring down Jodie's face, but her expression remains unchanged, staring as if nothing's going through her mind. We circle for a few moments but I grow dizzy and fall to the floor. I am weak and scream as much as I can manage with my constricted throat when she pulls the trigger. She is startled by the loud "bang" too, and misses by a few feet. I'm still quivering too much to stand up and I sit on my knees before the box in great, deep sobs. Jodie is advancing as I stare at the other gun. I have to kick Jodie down; apologizing to some greater being as I do so and the gun is knocked out of her hands. She cries out in pain as she has landed on one of her deep cuts and it is split open again, causing it to bleed. Everything is blackening; I've had my limit of arsenic. Jodie is watching me in confusion and blind fear covers her face in an instant when I say,
            "Jodie, I've known about this for a week now." She shakes her head at me and her eyes widen, but I don't have much time left. I say softly into hear ear, gripping her hand as tightly as I can with my cold one,
"I'm going to sleep, Jodie. And once I fall asleep, I'm not waking back up." My time is wavering in front of me, and I only have enough of it to throw out of my mouth what I've wanted her to know all along,
            "I love you." And it's all black now, the headache consuming my brain and my body and it's cold. No breath… no breath.

© 2008 Sapphire Balasquez


Author's Note

Sapphire Balasquez
So here's the revised version, I hope I fixed everything as well as I could!!! Please help me improve it even more with your suggestions if you can! <3

My Review

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Jeberle has given you a lot of great advice; most of it is what I also had in mind to relay to you to improve. Rather than repeating everything that he said, I'll try and elaborate or focus on certain parts that might help you out a little more.

Along with Jeberle, I would have loved a little back story. In a way, it's unnecessary because the story could definitely stand alone. However, I think if you include a discussion between the two girls as to how they got there--it doesn't have to be their life story, mind you, and preferably not, in order to keep the readers' eyes misted with intrigue of the unknown--it would definitely help to distinguish the two characters apart. I too had the problem of telling them apart in the beginning, but they grew into their characters soon enough and I commend you on the fact that they do become their own person as the story develops. And yeah, I've never written anything in present tense, much less staking on first person to it. I think it helps develop the bleak tone of the story perfectly.

Because you wrote in first person present tense, though, Jodie didn't seem as developed to me in comparison to Hannah. Which is normal because we're in the current mind of Hannah, so of course we're going to feel attached to her. The thing is, though, Jodie is just as important a character as Hannah, if not more important, and so I think Jodie's characterization needs to be stepped up a little. More dialog between the girls and/or descriptions of Jodie's actions and behavior would be beneficial.

I forgot to mention this earlier, but it feels like the story itself was a tad rushed. I'm a novelist at heart, so I could easily see this being a 5000+ word short story. Many short stories in this day an age are upwards of 10-50 pages and I can enjoy them more because the plot can unravel at a fairly comfortable pace and the characters can grow on you. The ending seemed kind of rushed and, while it was climactic, I have a feeling you could easily increase the intensity ten-fold if you slowed down a little and drew out the final confrontation.

Something I found interesting in Jeberle's comment is that he refers to the characters as 'women.' When I read the story, for some reason I pictured both of them as being children/teenagers. Perhaps it was the way they spoke or acted that gave off a childish atmosphere, or when Hannah "waved a little" at Jodie when she's returning to their cell. I'm not sure. Hannah's vocabulary is pretty advanced, but I just assumed that she had matured given the circumstances she was in. You have to be sure to clarify things like this if it's important; and no, I don't mean stating, "I am 16 years of age," in the manuscript but you know what I'm trying to say, right? Unless, of course, you wanted it to remain left up to interpretation, which is always nice.

On a side note, I LOVE Gabriel's character. The fact that he's named Gabriel is painfully ironic and beautiful. Maybe you intended it to be ironic (seeing that it's an alternate name for Jesus and he is considered the Savior to many, when in fact, he is anything but a savior in this story) and if you did, well done. That struck me immediately and seemed to be an underlying theme as I continued to read. I think you should elaborate a little on Gabriel. Not to the point that he's another main character, obviously, but something. Perhaps show his lack of emotion as he gives Hannah her shots, or maybe explain his expression as he tells the girls that one of them will be dead before he opens the door. Is he pained by this? Is he indifferent? I'd love to know. He strikes me as a bit of a mad scientist which is just plain interesting and I'm dying to know more.

I have a problem with this paragraph:

" "That is your only source of light. Take care of it. Your first therapy session will be tomorrow, Gabriel will be back to your room to retrieve and guide you." He motions towards Gabriel who shows me out the door and back to the cell, where I am locked back in with the dirty grime. My cell mate is waiting near the bars in the light this time. She is expecting someone to come for get too and soon enough a woman with bouncy blonde hair and rectangle glasses comes and opens the cell, merely saying, "Jodie, the second day will be the hardest." "

I am confused as to who this woman with bouncy blonde hair and rectangle glasses is, and I'm wondering if it's really relevant to the plot or furtherance of Hannah's character. It distracted me. Also, this would have been an opportune time to describe Gabriel, if even just a little bit. What's Gabriel doing when the man speaking motions towards him? These little things make a story all the more enjoyable.

I love the grotesque descriptions of Hannah's dreams, but I think you could even take it up another notch. I am intrigued but dark, disgusting dream sequences. It helps retain the dismal mood of the story. That' just in personal taste, though. You might not want to squick out everyone, which is completely understandable. I'm just offensive, as you may well know, haha!

I noticed as I read that you have quite the number of adjectives and adverbs sprinkled within this story. Sometimes, less is more, and adding "-ly" words at the end of everything doesn't do much to enhance your sentences. Most of the time they're unneeded and just serve to distract. You didn't overuse them, really, but some of them could be cut and I wouldn't miss them ;) "She shakily opens the biggish cardboard thing to reveal a beautifully bloomed flower, perfectly white tapering to a point on each petal" was a sentence that seemed a bit awkward to me, probably because you used the word "biggish," which kind of seemed out of context with the mood. You also used three adverbs in this single sentence, "shakily," "beautifully," and "perfectly." Do you see how it just ends up complicating the sentence and making it harder to read through? It could very well be altered to something like, "I notice that her fingers are shaking and she struggles to pick open the cardboard box, revealing a flower at the peak of its bloom" or something to that effect. Doesn't it seem to flow a little easier?

Anyway, if I stare at this computer screen any longer my eyes might bore holes into my head. I hope this was of help and if you want any more help or have any questions, feel free to ask me. I love trying to help to the best of my ability. Overall I enjoyed this story and know that once you make some changes and edits to it, it'll be live up to the emotional intensity that I know it was born to express! The concept is something that interests me, so thanks for giving me the opportunity to read it.

Regards,
Piper.

Posted 16 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Q_________Q

=D Dude.

Much better. ^^ The length provided the necessary details that make the story flow beautifully and the character's relationship is so much better developed.

A few things: You have a tendency to describe everyone's eyes and hair in detail. Especially for the "doctors" that's probably not the most important attribute. In a short story like this it may be easier to give everyone one super-defining feature that the reader can hold onto.
Also, as the pace of the story starts to speed up you start to lose letters. XD I'll point out all the places to you later, and I'm surprised your spell check let you get away with 'm' for 'me' and such, but run through and check those. ^^;

Beautiful! T___T Awww. Yeah, it was great.

Posted 15 Years Ago


I'm actually going to disagree with Jeberle and Piper on ONE point (the rest were perfect):
I think much more background information would clutter the story. At some point it transitions from short story to novella, and in the structure of your story, I think background information would be that point. SOME might be interesting to slip in, but personally I found myself more on edge not knowing why or how they were there. I believe letting their relationship develope more would answer most of the questions about their past because of the enlightenment on personality that would come from that. Spend more on the concrete development of their characters and the rest can be assumed.

Maybe it's because I know you and so I saw them as stemming off from you, but I saw them as much younger. I think I thought of Hannah as being between 13 and 15 years old and Jodie being between 12 and 16 years old. I know that's quite a range, and I think further defining their personalities would clarify ages better. I sort had an idea in my head that Jodie was younger but more streetsmart than Hannah by the end, but I'm sure at the beginning I assumed Jodie was older. Did you mention it in there? It's more fun if you don't, I just can't remember if you did... can't find it. Guess not.

It looks like other reviewers have said pretty much all I wanted to say, so there you go! That's my pennythought! Good luck!

Posted 16 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jeberle has given you a lot of great advice; most of it is what I also had in mind to relay to you to improve. Rather than repeating everything that he said, I'll try and elaborate or focus on certain parts that might help you out a little more.

Along with Jeberle, I would have loved a little back story. In a way, it's unnecessary because the story could definitely stand alone. However, I think if you include a discussion between the two girls as to how they got there--it doesn't have to be their life story, mind you, and preferably not, in order to keep the readers' eyes misted with intrigue of the unknown--it would definitely help to distinguish the two characters apart. I too had the problem of telling them apart in the beginning, but they grew into their characters soon enough and I commend you on the fact that they do become their own person as the story develops. And yeah, I've never written anything in present tense, much less staking on first person to it. I think it helps develop the bleak tone of the story perfectly.

Because you wrote in first person present tense, though, Jodie didn't seem as developed to me in comparison to Hannah. Which is normal because we're in the current mind of Hannah, so of course we're going to feel attached to her. The thing is, though, Jodie is just as important a character as Hannah, if not more important, and so I think Jodie's characterization needs to be stepped up a little. More dialog between the girls and/or descriptions of Jodie's actions and behavior would be beneficial.

I forgot to mention this earlier, but it feels like the story itself was a tad rushed. I'm a novelist at heart, so I could easily see this being a 5000+ word short story. Many short stories in this day an age are upwards of 10-50 pages and I can enjoy them more because the plot can unravel at a fairly comfortable pace and the characters can grow on you. The ending seemed kind of rushed and, while it was climactic, I have a feeling you could easily increase the intensity ten-fold if you slowed down a little and drew out the final confrontation.

Something I found interesting in Jeberle's comment is that he refers to the characters as 'women.' When I read the story, for some reason I pictured both of them as being children/teenagers. Perhaps it was the way they spoke or acted that gave off a childish atmosphere, or when Hannah "waved a little" at Jodie when she's returning to their cell. I'm not sure. Hannah's vocabulary is pretty advanced, but I just assumed that she had matured given the circumstances she was in. You have to be sure to clarify things like this if it's important; and no, I don't mean stating, "I am 16 years of age," in the manuscript but you know what I'm trying to say, right? Unless, of course, you wanted it to remain left up to interpretation, which is always nice.

On a side note, I LOVE Gabriel's character. The fact that he's named Gabriel is painfully ironic and beautiful. Maybe you intended it to be ironic (seeing that it's an alternate name for Jesus and he is considered the Savior to many, when in fact, he is anything but a savior in this story) and if you did, well done. That struck me immediately and seemed to be an underlying theme as I continued to read. I think you should elaborate a little on Gabriel. Not to the point that he's another main character, obviously, but something. Perhaps show his lack of emotion as he gives Hannah her shots, or maybe explain his expression as he tells the girls that one of them will be dead before he opens the door. Is he pained by this? Is he indifferent? I'd love to know. He strikes me as a bit of a mad scientist which is just plain interesting and I'm dying to know more.

I have a problem with this paragraph:

" "That is your only source of light. Take care of it. Your first therapy session will be tomorrow, Gabriel will be back to your room to retrieve and guide you." He motions towards Gabriel who shows me out the door and back to the cell, where I am locked back in with the dirty grime. My cell mate is waiting near the bars in the light this time. She is expecting someone to come for get too and soon enough a woman with bouncy blonde hair and rectangle glasses comes and opens the cell, merely saying, "Jodie, the second day will be the hardest." "

I am confused as to who this woman with bouncy blonde hair and rectangle glasses is, and I'm wondering if it's really relevant to the plot or furtherance of Hannah's character. It distracted me. Also, this would have been an opportune time to describe Gabriel, if even just a little bit. What's Gabriel doing when the man speaking motions towards him? These little things make a story all the more enjoyable.

I love the grotesque descriptions of Hannah's dreams, but I think you could even take it up another notch. I am intrigued but dark, disgusting dream sequences. It helps retain the dismal mood of the story. That' just in personal taste, though. You might not want to squick out everyone, which is completely understandable. I'm just offensive, as you may well know, haha!

I noticed as I read that you have quite the number of adjectives and adverbs sprinkled within this story. Sometimes, less is more, and adding "-ly" words at the end of everything doesn't do much to enhance your sentences. Most of the time they're unneeded and just serve to distract. You didn't overuse them, really, but some of them could be cut and I wouldn't miss them ;) "She shakily opens the biggish cardboard thing to reveal a beautifully bloomed flower, perfectly white tapering to a point on each petal" was a sentence that seemed a bit awkward to me, probably because you used the word "biggish," which kind of seemed out of context with the mood. You also used three adverbs in this single sentence, "shakily," "beautifully," and "perfectly." Do you see how it just ends up complicating the sentence and making it harder to read through? It could very well be altered to something like, "I notice that her fingers are shaking and she struggles to pick open the cardboard box, revealing a flower at the peak of its bloom" or something to that effect. Doesn't it seem to flow a little easier?

Anyway, if I stare at this computer screen any longer my eyes might bore holes into my head. I hope this was of help and if you want any more help or have any questions, feel free to ask me. I love trying to help to the best of my ability. Overall I enjoyed this story and know that once you make some changes and edits to it, it'll be live up to the emotional intensity that I know it was born to express! The concept is something that interests me, so thanks for giving me the opportunity to read it.

Regards,
Piper.

Posted 16 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is a great start, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. Hannah's thoughts and the progression of their relationship is great, but you could add even more to it, to make Hannah's addiction to Jodie deeper, which would make the end more powerful. Also, the decision to write in present tense is very bold and creates a sense of immediacy that's downright creepy.

The characterization is great, but in the beginning, it was hard to tell the two women apart. You might consider describing them in greater detail and giving one a different style of speech. Also, Hannah could be a more compelling and original character if you let her paranoia develop, let her get a little crazy, and dedicate a paragraph or two to these ambiguous dreams she's having. Beyond that, more description of setting is needed. A lot of details about the cell and the room where Hannah speaks with Gabriel are missing.

The ending could be longer. This is the climax and the fear that you've been developing needs to be realized. You could draw out the discovery that only one can survive and raise the tension by letting us spend more time with the gun. No need to rush this - it would be scarier if you create more anticipation and suspense by making the reader wait.

Finally, I think the story would benefit from more background information - how Hannah and Jodie got there, why they're there, where they came from, what these scientists are doing and why, etc. And a bit more background on the arsenic (like hinting at it earlier) would be nice so it doesn't just appear magically out of nowhere.

I hope these suggestions help. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading a revised version of this story!

Posted 16 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Very descriptive does need revision but with time I am sure you will get it!

Posted 16 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on May 31, 2008
Last Updated on July 28, 2008

Author

Sapphire Balasquez
Sapphire Balasquez

Niwot, CO



About
In my room of orange, I obsess over books, and write into the unearthly hours of the night, starting at my Shmoo for condolences. On any normal night, my music pushes my thoughts along until sleep ta.. more..

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