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The Devil's in the Details · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 8
Time to embark on an extended journey over the sea of original writing.
Don't forget your buoys and tank suits! Celluloid ducks accepted!

We'll visit marvellous islands where words nest and quills soar.

Come and hear the fairy tales that the grammar mermaids sing!
Come and seek the hidden treasure chest filled with medals and goodies.
Good luck!
#2 · 4
Five days for writing?

Maybe I'll actually be able to submit a 2nd draft this time!

#3 · 5
I'm in.
#4 · 6
· · >>Flashgen >>Monokeras
If I can figure out a way to make horses sound vaguely like not-horses, I can make this work.

Search: anypony
Replace: anyhuman(?)

...yeah, I'll need all five days for this.
#5 ·
Maybe anyape?
#6 · 1
· · >>Trick_Question
Wow! Trick is back! That’s a day to remember :)
#7 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
You just don't pay attention to pony rounds.

But yeah mostly
#8 ·
· · >>Trick_Question
Yeah that’s right, I don’t glance much on to pony rounds these days.
But I can’t wait to read your entry!
#9 ·
· · >>Monokeras
It's not a done deal yet, to be fair. Nonpony rounds don't inspire me much, so it's quite likely I'll skip. But, you never know.
#10 ·
And once again I'm a day late for prompt submissions and only barely in time to vote...

Let's see what promt wins, I have some vague ideas for a lot of these this time.
#11 ·
I'm sure that if everyone here decided to go down on their knees and beseech you to partake, you would cave in :p
#12 · 5
· · >>georg
Be Prepared On a Guided Tour of the Pit. Week After Week, It Stirs the Forest Darkness…

“Come Along With Me. It’s Not What It Looks Like.”

“You Wouldn’t Say That. It’s Exactly What It Looks Like.”

“Trigger Snappy? Fire, Once Upon a Burning Sky. The Missile Knows Where It Is. Ex Astris Scientia!”

“Were It So Easy. Contraindication…”

“Break It Down, Electrical Heart. The Devil’s in the Details.”

“More Precious than Silver and Gold… The Metaphor Turned Literal.”

“Omen? Crime of Passion?”

“Bitter Winds. Winter… isn’t coming.”

“Well, Stack my Pancakes.”
#13 · 4
Electrical Heart Fire - The story of a select group of physicians and their struggle with a flamable patient.

Crime of Passion Bitter Winds - Two electrical engineers carry out an illicit midnight rendezvous in a wind turbine space, unaware of the oncoming tornado that will turn their world upside-down. Literally.

On a Guided Tour of the Pit, Week After Week - A Disney Jungle Cruise Guide dies, and find his job in the afterlife is not really that different than before.

Be Prepared, Winter Isn't Coming - Global Warming comes to Siberia. It isn't all bad.
#14 · 1
I'm definitely going to try doing something for this. Might help with a few ideas for my thesis.
#15 · 2
I have just the story for this!
#16 · 1
I feel the inkling of an idea forming.
#17 ·
· · >>Miller Minus >>Cassius
Out of curiosity, the voting results show a 3-way tie at 10 votes. So did the system pick a winner at random?
#18 ·
· · >>Cassius
#19 · 3
>>Miller Minus

Miller picked the winner out of hat.
#20 · 4
Despite all his restless attempts, he was never able to get it right. The clocks of the world worked tirelessly against him. The hours came and went without even a greeting. Stuck in a forgotten cubicle in some long-lost corner of the universe, he was trapped in a changeless cage, equipped with only his grease-stained mouse, his dusty keyboard and a buzzing monitor— the only window he had left to the outside world.

Each new day brought a new scenery beyond the digital blinds; the temptation was barely out of his reach. He stared on in jealousy, and in what few moments interspersed amid the lackadaisical dullness of his life, he felt the urge to smash his keyboard against the monitor. Of course, like with most men, he never had the courage, all of it lost to trends masquerading as human nature.

Voyeurism aside, he also found time to look into himself. To vivisect his amorphous principles and precious philosophies as he went by his day-to-day. Sometimes, the depths of his operation warranted a stern warning from life's many managers, but he paid no heed to them. He only asked for a minute of selfishness every day, a minute to align his sullen world with the vivacity on his screen. Was that really too much to ask?

In time, those worlds collided, a slow-motion car crash, and change finally took place as the world outside began to merge with the world within him. The plaster of the cubicle crumbled away, only to swoop back and constrict him from the waist down. The mouse and keyboard sunk into him, the wires and keys intertwining with his tendons and bones. The monitor stood by his side and showed the world within him pulsating, reverberating, resonating, and when the time came where it would pulse no more, he could only confide in his doctor — a mere stranger — with his last words.

"Look at the first letter of each paragraph."
#21 · 2
A largely facetious:

Site improvement suggestion for Roger--a "down thumb" for prompt suggestions. 'Cause I'm currently on my third attempt at writing something for this one...

#22 · 4
· · >>Monokeras >>Anon Y Mous
In my restless dreams,

I see that place.


You promised you'd take me there again someday.

And you totally did. So... uh... great job honey?
#23 · 2
Ok done.
Well, I’m not really proud of it. But it’s in.
Also >>AndrewRogue : Welcome back, dearie!
#24 · 1
Great job on that rhyming there.

If only there were a place or perhaps, a group where you could put your poetry.
#25 · 2
· on Torre Vieja
I’m sat in the lush grass while the others have drifted away looking for those smashing butterflies.


So, I’m going to start this off by saying that I am not a fan of the prose here. Its not clunky for me in its presentation, but in its poshness. The wording weighs it down in some parts, but not all, I have to admit. In the parts where it describes the tower/castle it flourishes, but when the speaker is speaking, he sounds like the queen of England. Yes, I know you’re in northern England, but I think it could flow better with different wording. I don’t know if everyone else thinks this too, its just my observation.

Next, to me there’s a glaring hole in the plot. It would have made sense if he was being trialed for the death of them when he didn’t have four alive witnesses, but he does, and I would think that they would testify in for him that he didn’t do it, so he shouldn’t be that worried. Also, wouldn’t it be the people who take care of the tower’s fault? It shouldn’t be able to collapse entirely just by one tailor accidentally losing his grip.

I do appreciate that Spencer keeps coming back to the tailor, even when he keeps raising his prices to mock him. I mean, I don’t like him, but it adds a certain maliciousness. Also, I don’t understand why spencer is just that bad of a person and stupid that he would testify against the main character and could easily be caught in his lie by the other three. I probably just don’t get it, and that’s my fault.
#26 · 4
· on The Yadean Game
This just has a lot of interesting stuff in it. I actually kind of appreciated the cold start into an info-dump; it did a great job of establishing the setting and the main character's tone. And of course, basically all of the Yadean bits were fascinating and creative stuff. You really do a great job of creating a sense of alien-ness without alienating the reader from ZZijka.

I think my only significant-ish complaint is that the transition from the first scene to the second is a bit rough. We completely lose the distinct voicing from the first scene, and its difficult to orient ourselves again. I know that this is partly by design, but on my first read I spent as much time on the first few hundred words of the second scene as I did with the rest of the story put together. I honestly thought that we were dealing with entirely new characters, and it was a bit frustrating to my sense of investment.

Personally, I would have liked some kind of clue or hint that we haven't actually completely changed our perspective character. Maybe a recurring phrase or word can carry over to the second scene, just so we get the sense of some kind of continuity. I realize that the break in perspective is kinda crucial to this story, but at the same time I just kinda wish the landing was a little softer.

Don't get me wrong; in the end I really, really liked this piece. It's got cool ideas, and it maintained my interest throughout. Thank you for submitting!
#27 · 1
· on Marriage Can Be Hell
You know your audience well. You know we like cute fantasy settings. You know we like cute fantasy lesbians. You're playing me like a fiddle, and I'm enjoying every bit of it.

This piece is a lotta fun. To my untrained eye, the legalese was very entertaining to read without being distractingly difficult to parse. In fact, I kind of wanted to see a bit more of Cerodwin's citations and monologues every time her dialogue trailed off. Which, of course, is a perfect sign that you're giving us just enough of it. And of course, I had a great time with the cute little touches like "two heads to one" and "City of Lost Angels" that were sprinkled throughout.

If I had to lodge a complaint, I think the conflict resolution might have felt a little weak to me. If all it took to win the case was a demonstration of Furfur's continued evilness, it kind of makes the previous posturing about what exactly constitutes as evil feel a little pointless. I mean, it gets the job done, but it wasn't quite the Ace Attorney slam dunk that I was hoping for, when I was excitedly pouring over the minutia of what the lawyers were saying.

My nitpicks with the climax aside, this was still a very entertaining piece for me, and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for writing it!
#28 · 1
· on Ripping Up the Pieces
I really like how this one handles how it builds up its suspense. You do a great job of progressively adding new layers to the situation throughout the story, and what begins with a pretty straightforward premise genuinely feels like a tangled mess by the time the climax comes around. Nicely done!

Now, I will have to note that not all of these layers/elements feel as resolved as the others in the end. Things like the bird or the schizophrenia reveal don't quite feel like they completely pay off. Their inclusion doesn't feel very impactful to the plot or to our understanding of the characters, at least to me. So while they do a great job from a mood perspective of adding to the feeling of convolution and confusion during the climax, on second and third read-throughs, they're elements I tend to gloss over.

I know that this piece isn't really trying to wrap things up with a tidy little bow by the end of things, so I think it's really up to you if and how you want to address my qualms with the payoff. Thank you for writing this!
#29 · 2
· on Lost and Found
This story has a really strong sense of theme and message, which really does make re-reads all the more pleasant. I mentioned in the chat how I liked the use of the cat as a way to let our two main characters express themselves, outside of conversation with one another. It's a well-thought out way of giving us more opportunities to become invested in how the characters handle the theme of interpreting one's own circumstances.

In terms of critiques, I will have to mention that the perspective-hopping really threw me off initially. I got all the way down to halfway through the third scene before I realized what was happening. Up until that point, I was thinking that this was a story about a person working his way through college while not having a place to stay. I think the misunderstanding might stem from the tight first-person perspectives and the fact that both the 1st scene's ending and the 2nd scene beginning talk about hunger and food. It was natural for me to assume that both "I"s were the same person.

On a thematic level, I'm also not exactly sure what the homeless person being so young really adds to the narrative, other than cashing in sympathy points. I mentioned in the chat how this might be to contrast how longer people and older people view their lot in life, but it's still kinda unclear to me. On a fridge logic note, it's also a little tough for me to imagine how an unaccompanied 15 year old could drop so completely off the grid like this, but I don't know much about CPS or homelessness, so maybe I'm missing something.

So overall, I like the message of this story and I like how it handles its character interactions. But things like the perspective jumping and the slight out-of-the-blueness of the age reveal (I mean, he calls the college student "kid" at one point) really do impact my first reading. But the fact that this story feels that much stronger on my subsequent read-throughs really goes to show the great job you did with your high-level planning.

Thank you for submitting!
#30 · 2
· on Undertones · >>Bachiavellian
I really appreciate the work that you must have put into crafting the prose, here. Even though we're pretty heavy on description, nothing felt purply or overly flowery, and this really helped maintain the momentum this story builds up. And the way you've set this story up, the momentum is crucial. You do a good job of constantly winding up for a punch, leaving the reader in suspense.

Now, for me, I will have to admit that as steady and consistent the aforementioned wind-up was, it might have been a little too long. Most of the other stories this round felt pretty similar in terms of length to me during my reading, despite the differing wordcounts. But this one just felt long to me. Part of this is all the time we spend in descriptions. I know that it's important to how you're trying to present your mood, but I think you can afford to dial it back a bit. A lot of these descriptions don't really seem like they relate directly with the plot or give us new insights to the mystery, so it becomes tempting to skim, especially on subsequent readings.

As for the ending, I mentioned in the chat how to me it feels a bit too... uh... tidy, I guess? I know this might sound harsh, but I was not all that invested in personally caring about Antonio's well-being, so the fact that he dies and his shop goes up in flames doesn't really hit me. In fact, it's actually a bit tension-relieving, because both the madness-inducing paintings and the madness-inducted person are taken care of. I think it might have a bigger impact if someone else had to take the fall for Antonio, like Zach (who's feeling a little under-utilized to me right now).

So in the end, while there's no doubt that this one takes great care in lining up its dominoes, I do feel like for what we get in the end, the story might be spending just a little too much time smelling the roses along the way. I think my primary suggestion would be to trim some of the fat, or to find some other way to make all of the descriptions and re-descriptions feel relevant and important. I still had fun with this piece, no doubt, but it just doesn't feel as efficient about what it does than I think it could be.

Thank you for writing this!
#31 · 1
· on Undertones
I just had a thought this morning that I wanted to add real quick. It occurs to me that maybe a first-person perspective might have helped with the engagement problems that I was having with this. I mean, we're already pretty deep in Antonio's head, so having him directly speak his thoughts to us might be a good way to build immediacy and intimacy.

Just a random thought I wanted to share!
#32 · 1
· on Ripping Up the Pieces
To be blunt:

All the grammar and usage issues made this extremely difficult for me to read. I'm not even sure what happens at the end because I simply couldn't get the words on the screen to resolve themselves into sensible sentences.

The problems start right at the beginning. The first paragraph is all in the past tense, but paragraphs 2 through about 10 are in the present tense. The story then pops back and forth between the two for a while before finally settling into the past tense. We're told that the man across from Jade has "a typical face and typical body and typical clothing," but then we're told that he has on a leather jacket and has "a myriad of rings on all of his fingers." That doesn't sound typical to me.

I also had POV problems. We're in Jade's point of view, but when she leaves the scene between paragraph 7 and 8, we don't go with her. This would be the perfect opportunity. author, to let us in on her thought processes so we can get to know her and what's going on with her.

So I'm sorry, but I couldn't get past the language barrier to read the story itself.

#33 · 1
· on Phage
This one's definitely one of the more ambitious stories this round, both in length and scope. Now, while history has shown that I'm probably not the best judge of sci-fi techno-talk (I tend to like it more than most, it seems), I do have to say I appreciate how the story comes across as having technical depth. It's not always the easiest to follow (especially in the beginning), but towards the middle and the end, I personally liked how you paid off on the investment of teaching the readers so much about the Dulcinea and the setting.

In terms of critique, I think I'll have to say that the story definitely feels more and more pressed for word count. While the first several scenes steadily build up tension at a pretty leisurely stroll, the last two scenes have to run or at least break into a jog to try to wrap things up. It's definitely not quite a satisfying as it could have been, IMO.

From a prose perspective, I think you could use a little cleaning up in the places where you switch between high-level and up-close narration. Not all of the transitions felt smooth to me, and as a result I had a little difficulty getting a sense of how much time was passing from scene to scene.

So overall, I think this story has a lot of neat ideas and plays with them in ways that are definitely fun. I think your limiting factors here are the pacing and flow. Once you have the room to expand the back end of this, I think it'll feel like a more balanced piece.

Thank you for writing this!
#34 ·
· on Overnight in a Haunted House
Okay, so I really, really like this story's message and how it's presented. For me, when I was done with my first reading, this basically hit that absolute sweet spot of the themes being just clear enough for me to feel satisfied, but not so obviously overt that I could easily sum it up when I was done. I had to think about what I just absorbed, and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. So, huge kudos to the way you managed your message.

Now in terms of critique, I think there is a bit of unevenness when it comes to the narration. When our main character doesn't have anyone or anything to bounce off of and she's kind of talking directly at the reader, it has a tendency to start feeling a little meandering. A lot of these kinds of passages reveal also information that's very important to the themes you're trying to convey, so the fact that they feel a bit skimmable is an issue.

Honestly though, I think that's pretty much the only qualm I had with this. I'll just endcap by saying that this is one of my favorites from this round, so thank you very much for submitting it!
#35 · 2
· on Torre Vieja
I really like your narration, and how it gives the whole story a kind of dark fairy tale vibe. Combining first-person perspective with a pretty distant-level narration voice is a really interesting choice, and it immediately lends this piece a lot of unique character.

Now, I'll have to admit, the overall conflict and payoff of the story didn't quite land for me because of a fridge logic issue. I'm just having a hard time being convinced that the main character is at fault for the building's collapse. I mean, if all it took for the whole thing to come down was the weight of one person hanging off of some grating, then that building was going to come down no matter what. And I really can't see how anyone can be at fault other than those who failed to maintain or condemn the building.

My personal disbelief at the set-up aside, I really like what you're doing with the climax, with intermingling guilt and suspense. It kind of reminds me of Tell-tale Heart, where the character's simultaneous desire to know the outcome and fear of the consequences come into conflict with one another.

So I guess I wish this story did a better job of selling me the idea that the main character is truly guilty. I mentioned in the chat how I'd be happier with this entry if the main character had instead done something overtly negligent, like crashing his car into the building, or something. The fact that my disbelief wasn't suspended is a significant issue, but I really do still like the idea that you're aiming for, here.

Thank you for submitting!
#36 · 1
· on Lost and Found
At first, when it hard cut to him saying that he was hungry, I 100% believed that he was going to eat the cat.


I didn’t mind the pov shift, but then again I usually don’t, or at least I didn’t mind until the last shift in perspective. In my opinion, if you didn’t go with the plot twist of him being fifteen, it would have made this story ten times better. For now it just confuses the reader and makes them feel less for the boy bc we feel like you want Miller points for including how sad it is.

I do love the importance of the cat and how it’s only circumstantial, like how cancer isn’t something with higher meaning, it’s just cancer.

A well put together fic with good pacing. Adios.
#37 · 2
· on Overnight in a Haunted House
A cute and energetic character driven story that I don't think quite manages to end successfully. I had an extended discussion with Bachi on this in chat, and, having slept on it... I still feel the same way. I think the ending idea is fine, but I think the actual application here feels a bit lacking in terms of Chloe's self realization. I can sort of see his argument about serendipity vs surprise, but I feel that is undercut a bit by her still using Kladdadle, since that is literally one of the things her grandpa calls her out on!

I guess what it is at a level is the question of what she was going to do with the money was never really hovering in the air in such a way that ending on that particular beat doesn't really feel like it closes out the story. Like, strictly speaking, the "I'm pretty predictable that way" line is the better out since it is the one that really solidifies her acceptance who she is, whereas the "Surprise" instead comes off as a bit smug and self-congratulatory - basically who she was throughout the rest of the story.

Speaking of, her voice is pretty well realized and plays well to her character, but do be careful about this particular kind of narrative voice as constantly being clever/punchy can get a little tiresome/feel a little tryhard. Give a little more space to breathe between clever turns of phrase!

Still, this was a really fun and enjoyable read.
#38 · 2
· on Undertones
A nice little creepypasta with some suitably eerie images, but I think it is mostly let down by its length. This is just waaaaay too long, which results in it being fairly unfocused. What you've got here, I think, is a nice, tight little 3k piece. At 7+K though? You are just losing the focus and meandering too much.

The first scene is a really great example. All that really needs to happen is we meet Antonio, we learn the painting is weird, he buys it. That doesn't need to be... 2.5K? And I think the big culprit is really just that you do a lot of description, some of it doubly unnecessary because contextual clues would suffice (Zacariah's full name being used, for example). But like, in the first scene, really all the other description you do kinda detracts from the idea of the painting being this uncanny, eye-catching thing... because everything gets lavished in detail.

Heck, as structured, you could entirely cut Zach with no real difference to the story!

The other core issue is that the end doesn't really tie back to the beginning well. I think you would better served by establishing that Antonio was maybe a bit obsessive about his restorations, maybe judgmental of people who didn't take good care of their stuff (for example, maybe the frame on this painting is damaged and that annoys him), which then allows you to build the painting in as an amplifier to that behavior. Maybe have him escalate to a notable (but still lesser) level, like lashing out at Zach. Then you can go with the ending, at which point the slide into that is easier to accept.

Descriptions are solid though, especially the stuff with the paintings. Really good and eerie. I do wish the portrait had been the painting of choice (woman slowly gets mad at him) but still, your presented ones are really good.
#39 ·
· on The Yadean Game
Very nice set up:

But not a lot of pay off. I mean, these two get together, and then... Fight crime? Explore the world? Begin the Yadean aerospace industry? With this round's prompt, I expected our ne'er-do-well to do something at the end like ask if the Yadeans understand the concept of money, or if they possess the concept of private property. Maybe give a bit more of a sense that, even though he's accepted the limitations he's been given, he's still looking for a way around the rules, still looking for a hustle to start. I like that Zzijka seems able to handle him, but I'd like things to end on a more uncertain note, I guess.

Still, like I said, very nice.

#40 · 2
· on Lost and Found
A short little slice of life with a good amount of pathos and heart. I will agree wholeheartedly with Bachi that I think the perspective swaps could be smoothed out a bit. The character voices are a little indistinct (especially given the revealed age difference) which makes it a little hard to tell for sure that you've bounced without a better flag at the start of a new section.

I also agree with Anon that I feel the reveal cheapens the story a bit? Aside from very much feeling like a manufactured revealed for added pathos, as someone who lives in in the Bay in California, I see a lot of homeless people on a day to day basis, and very few of the ones I see are kids. And, of course, making it a sadder reveal for it to be a kid... kinda takes away from all the other people suffering on the street, if that makes sense? Like this fairly tragic implication that if this were some 30 year old vet or something that it is inherently less sad (and thus his tragedy is worth less). I don't think that's your intention, of course, but it is kinda what happens when you structure this way.

The cat is a nice little weavethrough detail and the heart is definitely there. Maybe spend a little more time on their interaction so we can see the friendship grow?
#41 ·
· on Marriage Can Be Hell
I just have to say that I appreciate this take, and although it was one of the most obvious responses to the prompt, it still brought a lot to the table.

I have to admit that I got very confused with the four main characters. We’re immediately put into the middle of an intense court room scene with no opening scene for us to get familiar with at least two of them, giving them personalities and warmth, making us want to root for them the whole time.

I don’t know if it’s my bias against ‘bury your gays’, but I did in fact root for them and cared, which is very impressive for a fic where I couldn’t tell who was who.

I also got very bored on some of the legal jargon or talk or whatever. I know I’m not the sharpest lightbulb in the shed, but I didn’t like the back and forth monotony. It felt like they were getting nowhere (which they kind of were intentionally?) but.... I don’t know. I might abstain if nobody else brings up the issue that I’m (attempting) to portray in words. I think it’s just not my cup of tea, that’s all.

On the gayness level I’d give this a 10/10 succubi.

Might come back to this review later... who knows. I think I still have a lot left to say.
#42 · 2
· on Phage
Very cinematic:

I always enjoy stories that can trigger that "movie in my head" reflex, balancing detail and pacing by giving me just enough of the background so I can fill in the rest myself as the story goes along. The only thing I can think of that I would've liked here is more indication of whether the virus is sapient or not. We get a few suggestions when Barry talks about what it "wants," but a little more of that would've made me happier.

Still, quite nice.

#43 ·
· on Undertones
I'm having:

"Night Gallery" flashbacks!

All the elements are here, author, but I agree with folks above that they don't quite mesh together. I'd like, for instance, to get some feeling for how Filch's father died: if the paintings are generically cursed, they would've affected him, I'd've thought. And maybe there'd be a scene at the end where Zach's being told that only three items survived the burning of the shop or something like that.

But if they're only cursed for Antonio, then, yeah, I'd like to know more about him so I can see that he's responding to the paintings in a way no one else would. Still, good stuff here.

#44 ·
· on Torre Vieja
This one's also got:

Language and usage problems throughout. "The professor Spencer" should be "Professor Spencer" without the article and with a capital P, for instance, "Along the years" should be "Over the years," and "I'm sat" should either be the perfect present "I sit" or the imperfect "I'm sitting."

Our narrator also says at the beginning, "I have no more tears to shed." But we don't see him showing any real remorse during the course of the story. No sleepless nights, no arguing with himself about whether he should go to the police, no haunted visions of the young girl's face when he looks at passers-by outside his shop. The passage of time also threw me in the middle where in one paragraph we seem to go from a week after the event to several months after it.

I was kind of expecting the story to go full-on Poe and end with our narrator in the dark outside Spencer's house with a knife in his hands or something, debating how to best kill the man. And I found myself wondering who the authorities are putting on trial. I would think that detail would interest our narrator quite a bit, thinking about who's sitting in the courtroom rather than him.

So it's a good start, but it needs a fair bit of tidying up.

#45 ·
· on Torre Vieja
A tightly wound little tragedy that does, admittedly, have me questioning the nature of said tragedy.

Opening paragraph is a little weird as it set me up for like, a fantasy or historical romp when, in fact, this story is very modern. Worth noting that you might want to contextualize that a bit more to better get your reader prepared for the story up ahead. Its mostly the tone of the language, which feels distinctly archaic.

I do agree with struggling a bit with the main conflict because the actions don't quite line up in a way. The narrator is definitely at fault for running away and guilt is natural (though really, all of them - including the professor) are kinda assholes for bailing. But yeah, the amount of negligance displayed our narrator seems to be pretty minor. Whoever made the entire building dependent on that one support is the one who needs to be strung. And while emotions are not always logical, there is a definite bit of painting that the narrator is the one at fault here, rather than the narrator JUST feels guilty for what they've done.

Which brings us the professor, whose smugness is... honestly pretty off-putting. Like, asshole, you were there. You had the ability to clear this up. You had the ability to help! So your kinda smarmy conversation there at the end feels super unwarranted. Just talk to the narrator. Or, I mean, be cheeky and give him a reason to consider you.

Honestly, if you wanted to aim at the personal failing level, that might be a bit tighter of a path. Have the narrator kill the professor to protect himself and realize that he really bore no fault for what happened. Then his feelings of guilt and cowardice have ACTUALLY compounded into something truly monstrous that has moved the narrator from rather guiltless to truly guilty. Or something like that.

Or just spend more time with the nature of his guilt in general. Still, all told, this was a nicely tight little tale (with a few tense mistakes).