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More than Meets the Eye · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Unreported Clairvoyant Events
1. The Bridge


Like all ancient things, the bridge had abandoned its ties to the civilized world. From a distance up the river you could tell it dipped slightly in the middle; this weary mule of moss-stubbled concrete and pitch-soaked wood that had carried one too many trains over its back.

Mica introduced Tracy to the bridge in the summertime.

Thistles grew thick along the dry trail. Burs festooned their socks and shoelaces. They’d kick them off before jumping in the river, so it hardly mattered.

It was customary to begin on the northwest bank, where they could tattoo the bridge’s feet with their names and dates as a sort of homage to the silent concrete sentinel for allowing them passage. Maybe slip in some dirty words that weren’t allowed under their parents’ roofs, because out here the great arching roof of the bridge was much bigger and cared much less about what was going on beneath it.

Tracy settled on a choice “D” word while Mica went straight for the “F” bomb. Satisfied with their tribute, they kicked off their shoes and stuffed their socks into them. They tore off each others’ shirts with a summertime lust, somewhere between the heat of teenage arousal and the heat of the day scorching their skin.

Tracy’s golden blonde hair, slick with sweat, draped over her shallow bra like spilled honey. Mica let his physical insecurities get the better of him, turning awkwardly to face the river in hopes of concealing the erection in his boxers.

The bridge was a traditional spot for firsts of all kinds. Tracy had never taken her clothes off in front of another boy before. Mica had never seen a girl with her clothes off except in magazines the other boys passed around in the school locker room. Perhaps the pair of them were something like Adam and Eve might have looked in their lanky pubescent years, booted out of the garden early for the sin of being very attracted to one another and having similar tastes in 70’s disco music. Cast into the wilderness to build their own paradise out of summertime and mischief.

The river bore them patiently, expectantly. Sunlight melted on the water’s surface.

Tracy lifted her hands out of the water, wiggling her fingers in the air to show Mica how wrinkled they’d become.

Mica dove underwater to show how long he could hold his breath, managing to stay submerged for a minute and a half, a new personal record. Long enough that, by the time he resurfaced, dappled red blotches popped in his vision.

Mica thought he heard a splash, like the sound of a large rock being thrown into the river behind him. Head still spinning, he turned to look.

At first, he thought the body he saw floating down the river belonged to Tracy, and started swimming madly toward it before Tracy’s voice stopped him dead in the water. His head followed the sound of her voice until he found her treading water a few yards behind him, very much alive.

The body was gone when he looked back. He reminded himself that people are known to see things in an oxygen-starved nausea.

“What’s the matter, Mica? I’m right here. Are you okay?”

He wasn’t, but he said, “Yeah, of course,” and tried to be cool about how he steadied his frantic breaths.

Afternoon ushered the evening in an unwelcome, abrasive fashion. The remaining sunlit patches of the river invited hordes of mosquitoes. The bridge’s shadow became cold. Mica and Tracy remembered they still had to endure the chore of pulling burs out of their shoelaces before putting them back on, plus the walk back up the trail in the fading daylight.

Mica turned to Tracy, his damp feet squeaking in his shoes. “Again tomorrow?” he asked hopefully.

Tracy shrugged, clasping Mica’s bur-prickled hand in hers. “We should find a closer spot,” she replied.

She leaned in to kiss him on the lips, exhausting their last reserves of daylight.

The moment joined the host of other first-time moments and memories, becoming secluded and ancient beneath the bridge.

2. The Barber Shop


Between shards of broken bottles, empty take-out boxes, and crumpled beer cans, Eric’s living room floor could have passed for a kind of art installation, provided one didn’t take the smell into account, which Eric himself never did. Peeling wallpaper and brown ceiling stains were part of his decor. Light bulbs flickered if they weren’t already burnt out. No paintings or family photos hung on the walls. Nothing beautiful had occupied his home since his daughter had moved out, god knew how many years ago.

Eric sat languishing in a grease-stained armchair with a copy of the daily newspaper unfolded on his lap and an empty bottle loosely held in his long, dark fingers. Boots remained on his feet twenty four-seven, making it easier to navigate the caltrop maze his floor had become—or, if he decided to go outside, he didn’t have to worry about forgetting to put them on.

The bottle fell from Eric’s hand. He snapped the newspaper shut and squinted his faded eyes at the window.

The daylight of the afternoon had taken on a putrid grey pallor. Disorganized shadows spilled through the crooked blinds, further weaponizing the floor into a disorienting minefield.

Eric rose from his chair, wincing while his joints complained about all those skipped doses of arthritis medication. This would normally be about the time of day when his wife, Abby, would scold him for sitting around, drinking himself into a stupor—as if his own joints didn’t nag him enough already. He could hear her voice even now, rattling inside his memory; a raspy squawk knit together by a crow and an alarm clock.

“Man, get your drunken ass outta that chair and get me some smokes from the gas station!”

In his opinion, her beauty had died long before she did.

Gripping his cane, Eric shuffled his way to the door.

Outside, the air stank of rain.

When he reached the edge of his overgrown lawn, he heard Abby cawing at him from the doorway: “I want Marlboros this time, you hear me? Forgetful sonofabitch!”

“I ain’t that forgetful,” he grumbled aloud. “Just ‘cuz I’m eighty-five, that don’t mean I can’t take care of myself. You’ll get your damn smokes, woman, then maybe you’ll finally shut up.”

Eric peered up and down the sidewalk, collecting his bearings. Both sides of the street were mirror images of poverty and decay, filthy houses that reflected the anemic souls living inside them. Some houses, though occupied, looked even worse than the empty ones. Twenty square miles of desert-baked depression. A discarded suburbia that wore Eric like its only pair of shoes.

He walked with a limp while his cane tried to pick up the slack. The clouds overhead became moodier.

Eventually, Eric wandered his way into a distantly familiar street corner shop with a candy-striped pole spinning beside the entrance.

“The old lady’s been nagging me to get a haircut,” he grumbled at nobody in particular once he was inside. Static-saturated jazz music poured out of an old radio on the front counter. “Need it nice and short so I don’t have to hear it from her for a while.”

Familiar with the routine, the barber spun an empty chair toward the old man. “Got a seat with your name on it,” he said.

“Gimmie today’s paper,” Eric grunted as he sank into the barber chair. He hung the crook of his cane over the armrest and folded his fingers. His ears sank into the pleasant buzz of electric razors and the gratifying clip of scissors.

Some part of his brain was telling him he’d been here before. Recently, in fact. He shrugged the feeling aside, as he always did.

The barber draped a sheet over his shoulders, then handed him a copy of the newspaper. Eric stared at the front page a moment, frowning.

“Hey, this ain’t today’s paper!”

The barber tried to assure him it was.

“Don’t you tell me that! My own eyes don’t lie!” Eric fumed at the barber, waving the paper in his face. “I had a copy in my hands this morning. The headline was about some guy’s body they dragged out of the river. Fella named Paul. Thought it might have been suicide or somethin’. Definitely wasn’t about…” he examined the front page again, “...Southern California Wildfires on the Rise.”

The barber pointed to the date printed on the front page. “August 11th. That’s today, buddy.”

“Yeah? What year?”

“2012.”

Eric refused to accept this. Last he remembered it was the year 1999. He refused to believe that, in the year 2012, he was still an alcoholic living in a garbage house with a wife who hated his guts. Things were supposed to get better after the new millenium began, or at least that’s what he was promised.

He didn’t know who had made that promise. It could have been himself.

“2012, huh?” He narrowed his eyes upon the barber. Warm, steady rage seeped into his voice. “You think I’d be in this goddamn town if what you’re telling me is true? Oh sure, you might be able to fool someone else, but it ain’t working on me. I’m outta here.”

Still fuming, Eric grabbed his cane and left. Raindrops prickled the pavement as he walked, kicking up a sour dry smell that made him cough. At least if he couldn’t find his way home, he knew of a park bench he could shelter under for the night.

Only five minutes into the year 2012, and it already stank.

3. The Freeway


Francine was only partially focusing on the rain-slicked road. The pain in her bruised eye was distracting, and the swelling made the lights of the city look blurry.

She swerved recklessly toward the freeway offramp to answer the vibration in her pocket, knowing full well the message was going to be from Troy. It gave her some kind of smug satisfaction watching his anger while it was safely confined to a phone screen. Like a stupid animal in a cage, he could do nothing except snarl and bark against the glass.

She dug her hand into her pocket as she approached the intersection, slowing Troy’s car to a crawl.

The light blazed green in the orange Southern California night, tugging her into the intersection ahead of the honk of some impatient driver. All L.A. drivers kept a twitchy trigger finger on their horns, just in case they needed to assert their dominance over every square inch of road. Five years of steady, dedicated traffic-based torment had turned Francine from cautious backwoods driver to irate city driver.

The city, she thought, brought out the worst in everybody.

She pulled the car under the static buzz of a 7-Eleven sign. The engine idled nearly in tune with the sign’s hum.

Troy - 2:14 A.M./ August 12

If there’s one scratch on my car you’re dead bitch. Better hope the cops find you first.


Francine grit her teeth, pounding her thumbs against the touchscreen keypad.

If I’m dead, the car’s coming with me.

Send.

She scrolled back up through her previous messages, looking for something that was certainly there. His open denial to knowing who Carly was—a relic of a simpler, doe-eyed time when she had been living in his apartment for hardly a month. Everything seemed to spin out of control so fast after that.

The little battery icon in the top corner of her phone’s screen appeared to be nearly empty. She tapped it.

1% Battery Life.

But the message was there:

Troy - 12:40 P.M./ May 23

Out to lunch, so for now you can wait in my office. Be back within the hour. Who is Carly? I don’t know anybody like that in the office. She must be new.


Low Battery.

Darkness.

Grey-yellow light pollution and angry white sign fluorescence poured into the car from the outside. Her injured eye blossomed with pain as it tried to adjust to the sudden change in light intensity. The screen left a glaring white stamp burned into her brain, along with that text that bled Helvetica all over the imprint. When she blinked she could still see it.

Blink. I don’t know anybody like that. What a fucking way to phrase it.

Blink. She must be new. He could write a bestseller about the art of lying badly, and she in turn could write one about missing all the red flags. They could even use the same title.

Blink. Who is Carly?

She stepped out of her car, phone in hand, holding the dark screen in front of her face, expecting it to return to life at any moment. By the Frankenstein’s lab of downtown, by the sheer volume of radio static and airborne internet by-products, by the loom of power lines above her head and the buzzing lights of the convenience store filling her lungs with vibrations, it was impossible that her phone should be dead. The city was saturated in energies. It exhaled them as readily as carbon dioxide. It was an anti-forest.

For a moment she stood on the sidewalk and drew several frustrated breaths. The air tasted of exhaust fumes and street refuse and the thousands of other breaths the city was taking in that moment. It was also a liberating flavor, since Troy wasn’t around to foul it.

She set her dead phone in the car’s console and crammed the key into the ignition. The car’s engine seemed to react to her urgency by firing up with a thunderous roar, setting off a car alarm down the street. A collateral victim of her rage, and by extension, Troy’s.

Yes, that car alarm was absolutely his fault.

Police sirens emerged out of the distant traffic sounds.

Francine hit the gas.

On the freeway, street signs became a blur of indistinct shapes and colors through Francine’s swollen eye. She pressed the gas pedal to the floor, pleased with the car’s willingness to aid in its own escape. Cars would swerve to avoid her if they saw her approaching in their rear-view. The road became a red sea of tail lights for her to part with speed and retribution. Into some promised land where she could avoid all the mistakes she’d made up until now. It would just take a few more to get there.

Faster and faster she went.

80 mph.

90…

95…


She heard a buzz coming from her phone. Not slowing, Francine looked down at it. The screen flickered to life.

1 New Text

She picked up the phone to read the message, incredulous.

Troy - 2:33 A.M./ August 12

Molly’s in urgent care, Paul. Cops found her dumped outside some back-alley abortion clinic. I don’t care what your boss says, get on the next flight to Burbank. You need to come home NOW.


She checked again to make sure the message was sent from Troy’s number. It didn’t seem like it was meant for her. She reread it to make sure her bruised eye wasn’t playing tricks.

While her attention was diverted, the red sea began to collapse around her.

4. The Pier


In a way, Molly didn’t mind that the bench beneath her was so wet from the rains the previous day. The dampness against her back was a reinforcement of the fact that the world had just taken a refreshing shower. Even if it was only by degrees, things were cleaner than they had been yesterday.

Molly turned the business card over in her hands, feeling the paper should have weighed much more for what it contained. She'd received it from her friend, Krista, who'd suggested Santa Monica Pier would be a good place to think over her insane proposition.

"It's not a great option," Krista had said. "Hell, I'd say it's even a terrible one. But at least you can make the choice now, which is better than what Paul gave you."

It used to be Paul's job to bring her to amusement parks and buy her cotton candy and drag her into the photo booth so the pair of them could make absurd faces for the camera. Now, apparently, his job was to be away on business trips for a majority of the year, insisting on keeping a child he would never be around to raise.

Molly rested a hand over her enlarged belly, pretending she didn’t feel a faint kick, trying to focus instead on the smell of popcorn and the sounds of dopplered screams from the roller coaster.

Directly across from where she sat, the game arcade belched a litany of bells and sirens and laughing people. She watched as a pair of them—a young teenage couple—stopped in front of the fortune telling machine near the entrance.

"Am I gonna be a millionaire?" she overheard the boy say after plopping a quarter into the machine's rusty slot. The two kids waited expectantly for their fortune to be told.

Unknown to them, Molly watched and listened.

The machine’s pre-recorded mechanized voice went through some nebulous descriptions about stars, celestial alignments, the loose connection it had to them, hoping to convince the audience of its prophetic pedigree. Its voice was schlocky, accented, probably a little bit racist. Some badly-tuned music poured from the machine’s rusty speaker box, which was meant to inspire awe and mystery, but had lost a lot of lusture after years of weathering and countless performances.

If fortune tellers had a soundtrack to aide their craft, something to attune the conduit between the diviner and the cosmos, Molly imagined this music was what it would sound like—full of glittering chimes and sweeping harpsichord that crinkled like a dusty record on a phonograph. She thought the music quaint. Probably a little racist, just like the fortune teller’s accent.

For all its struggle and tarnished pomp, the little brown card it produced felt like an underwhelming product.

The blonde-haired girl pulled out the card and read it aloud.

“For you, the veil of time has moved—Behold! The cosmos has approved!”

“Um...I guess that means yes?” said the boy, shrugging.

Molly lifted herself from the bench and approached the two kids. She'd very nearly made up her mind, but she needed a second opinion.

“How does it work?” she inquired, pointing to the machine.

“You can ask it anything you want,” the boy replied. “Just as long as it’s a yes or no question.”

Molly eyed the two kids, then moved to inspect the machine, unconvinced that it could produce anything more than hackneyed rhymes, and perhaps tetanus, if it really tried. Regardless, she pushed a quarter into the machine and waited for it to go through its spiel once again.

"You didn't ask it a question," said the girl.

Molly rolled her eyes. "It's supposed to be a fortune teller, right? So it already knows what I was going to ask."

A moment later the machine spat out a little brown card. Molly read it aloud, hoping to cement the outcome in her head.

"Alas, to my dismay, the stars decree this must not happen today."

After hearing the fortune, the boy shrugged. "Not today, huh? I mean, whatever it is could still happen tomorrow, I guess. Not like anybody really takes this thing seriously anyway."

The pair of teenagers left Molly alone beneath the unchanging plastic glare of the fortune telling machine, disappearing into a river of laughter together.

Before they vanished, Molly thought she caught a glimpse of herself and Paul in those two kids, frozen in an ancient moment that she'd never get back. She thought about what their future might be, the choices they’d make together, and the choices she had to make for herself now.

Eventually she forced herself to turn away before she let the present tarnish the past. They looked like good kids, even though she'd likely never see them again. In her head, she told them they'd be okay.
« Prev   6   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny >>AndrewRogue >>Cassius >>Rocket Lawn Chair
First impression: Very slice-of-lifey, but not in a bad way. The bridge scene is the sort of idyll that makes me not mind I'm reading about nothing in particular happening. (That's a solid compliment; sorry if it sounds weak.) Then I hit the second scene, and Eric's dementia feels rather belabored. Don't like it nearly as much. Hit the third scene, and start wondering what these all have in common. Finished the story without figuring it out. I think I'm starting to put it together after about two passes, but I also think I'm not quite there yet. This is probably playing its cards too close to its chest.

(One specific note on that: I didn't connect the body in the river to the Paul thing at first, because the line about Mica thinking it was Tracy made me think the dead body was a woman.)

Here's what I think I've puzzled together so far: None of the four sets of characters know each other at all. (Which was rather a red herring, especially because Molly's scene with the teens really feels like it wraps back around to the bridge.) The first three all are getting a glimpse into some alternate version of reality #4 where Molly gets different advice from the machine; which leads her to go to the back-alley abortion clinic; which leads to her hospitalization and the text message seen in #3 … and maybe also the police/emergency responders tearing down the highway?; which leads to … step 2, ???, step 3, profit Paul commits suicide. I REALLY can't follow the causality there. Did Molly also die despite no textual evidence, and he had nothing left to live for? Did losing his offspring to her unilateral decision drive him to the brink?

And that's the source of most of my frustration right now. Not only the ambiguity, but also the way that I had to do a lot of close reading to figure out what linked and what didn't. If some scenes call back to each other, they all should. I do really appreciate the way that #4 wraps back around to #1 with a sort of thematic link despite their near-complete dissociation — but that leaves the other two scenes feeling unmoored, or me feeling like I'm jumping at shadows to link them in ways you didn't intend.

I'm also oddly disappointed that you're telling four stories instead of five. One of the things I considered as I was trying to connect the scenes was that the things which didn't fit all were collectively telling a fifth story that you never explicitly addressed. Then that story folded directly into the characters of #4, and it made the story feel lopsided. This is basically Molly and Paul's story, but three of the four scenes give us one tiny piece of that puzzle each, and then you upend the box at the end and dump everything else out.

Author, you've got a workable core here, and the writing itself is polished to the level I expect out of the names in the guessing list. This isn't a bad story by any means — it just may end up lower on my slate because the quality of the competition this round is high. That said, this could definitely benefit from some structural editing, tinkering with the big picture to bring some balance to the issues above and to be a little less coy about the core situation. Thanks for writing!

Tier: Almost There
#2 · 1
· · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I'll just echo >>horizon:

Pretty much from start to finish here. The writing's just plain lovely--so many sweet, crunchy verbs!--but I need another section or three containing more puzzle pieces that I can try fitting together.

Mike
#3 · 1
· · >>Cassius >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Very solid little vignettes that remind me I should actually work on developing prose that is not garbage tier. The metanarrative left me a little cold though primarily because I don't really have any investment in it. Initially I thought the nature of the visions was one of those "this is how things are going to turn out in the end" sort of things, happy days ending in tragedy, grim begetting grim, etc.

I dunno. Especially with Molly's proper story only appearing at the end, there just isn't a lot to grip onto there. Especially given most of the premonitions don't actually seem to have to do with, but rather Paul, which kinda further disconnects us from her section. Ultimately I guess I'm just not really sure what the metanarrative is attempting to do outside of exist. It is of course possible I am interpreting elements incorrectly, but I definitely ended up with a similar interpretation to >>horizon (though I don't think it is an alternate reality - I'm pretty sure Molly goes on to die here).

I will say, the positioning of time is also a bit problematic? Like, given the apparent timeframe and location, I'm a little... weirded out by her dying to a back-alley abortion? I mean, not to say it isn't impossible, but it just seems like an odd choice given fairly modern + California.

I dunno. There's definitely good stuff here, but I think, taken as a whole, the story just doesn't manage to narratively or thematically hang.
#4 · 2
· · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Author, you're playing a dangerous game, which is you're betting very heavily on the reader paying attention to the significance of the the title for the reader to understand the meat of the ENTIRE story. This is a bad gamble to take. I immediately understood the significance of the events by the setup in the first scene, because I realized that I didn't at first know what was going on, took a second to think about it, and recalled the title. The problem with this approach, is that even though I understood the story, is that you'll get readers like >>horizon who will instead naturally try to take a closer reading at the narrative to figure out what is going on, get frustrated because you've provided really no indication of what is going on in the story proper, and then get frustrated with the lack of answers within the story itself.

I'm going to spoil what is going on now, because it's a pretty clever idea.



Through a series of unrelated vignettes, the story of Paul and Molly is told via "Unreported Clairvoyant Events" wherein the perspective character has a brief vision of the future. All the characters are unified by a common thread being at a different stage of a romantic relationship. Mica and Tracy are young, idealistic lovers, Eric is a man who hates his wife Abbey (who may be dead and he is just experiencing hallucinations due to habit?), Francine is fleeing an abusive relationship with Troy, and Molly is pregnant with Paul, who is distant and unsupportive. Stories 1-3 indirectly provide hints as to what goes on with Molly, and Story 4 fills in the rest of the details and Molly's vision loops in back to Mica and Tracy.



I suspect this is intended to be a metaphor, but it's hard to dig out what exactly is intended here. The details are not concrete enough to draw a definite conclusion about the overall meaning I'm supposed to pull from these series of events. I tend to subscribe to the idea that each character sees something specific to them that it broadly relates to them in the context of the situation that they find themselves in, although how this is tied together is not exactly clear or apparent.

Illustrated, I think this means that Molly is looking back on her relationship with Paul, and as a result, sees the idyllic relationship of Mica and Tracey, Eric sees Paul's suicide in the news, which ties back into his shitty living situation, Francine sees a text from Paul's friend telling him to come home, when she is on the run. It's hard for me to say definitely how Mica seeing the body in the river relates, but I think it could be more broadly interpreted to be representative of his fear that the relationship will end, death of innocence, or some other shit, who knows.

I do think that the fact that every story is about a couple is a significant detail that the author meaningfully included, but it's too hard to figure out what to draw from that fact. There's too many possible answers. Are we talking about love just in a oblique sense? Is this sort of of effort to describe the life cycle of a relationship?

The nitpicks that >>horizon and >>AndrewRogue bring up were problems that I had in my initial reading as well. Namely, horizon's confusion of the identity of the dead body being Paul (male) because Mica thought it was Tracey, and also because the detail is BURIED in Eric's section, and Andrew's comment about the back-alley abortion. When things are happening is of particular confusion, because the scenes in question have a much different feel to them as to when they are occurring temporally, so much so that Francine's vision actually seems more like a vision into the pass than the future. I'm not sure if the author changed the time of the setting halfway through, but Mica and Tracey's (along with Molly's) stories seem very late 70s, early 80s in tone and execution, whereas the other vignettes are a bit more modern.

In particular to Andrew's commentary about a back-alley abortion, it really really doesn't work if we are at all to infer that this is a modern setting consistent across all timelines. If you look too deeply to try and figure out when everything occurs in this story, it really starts to fall apart, especially if you're interpreting the events of the story to be occurring at the same time of 2012, because the "Unreported Clairvoyant Events" are jumping like, maybe a week into the future, which is pretty underwhelming to say the least.

I'm going to side with >>AndrewRogue again in that the story is a neat way of indirect story-telling, but it's very difficult to put any meat on the bones of the story when it comes to garnering some significance to the story's events. I've hypothesized about what you might have meant, but there's not enough to go on to be certain what the reader is supposed to draw from the story proper other than the execution of the story-within-a-story meta gimmick.

The prose is good though. It's unfortunate that your best vignette is the first one, however, as it sets the expectations much higher for the rest of the story. I found myself a bit disappointed by the following vignettes just because you started on such a high point.

In another sense, I think it was a mistake from a dramatic standpoint to give away what the eventual result of Molly and Paul's "story" so early into the narrative proper. If you wanted the audience to be invested in the characters themselves, you would have to structure the flash forward in such a manner that it would give them a reason to care. Knowing that a character is doomed devalues audience investment because they know that character is going to die. Additionally, it would have benefited you to select parts of Molly and Paul's relationship that shows at least what made their relationship work if we are to care about their subsequent relationship drama. Indeed, this would have been thematically appropriate as well because it would give a tie in for Tracey and Mica's relationship, and give a better tie into my "Life Cycle of a Relationship" theory of how the vignettes relate to the Unreported Clairvoyant Events.

But anyways, this was my favorite entry so I guess I'll just die.
#5 · 3
· · >>Cassius
Oh, right before I forget again. In a story like this where you know people are going to be looking for connections, you should be really careful to strongly differentiate names. I had to do a doublecheck a time or two with Troy and Tracy, and Molly and Mica aren't particularly great either.
#6 · 1
·
>>AndrewRogue

I'd like to echo this criticism and also advise that you avoid gender ambiguous names like "Mica" because it only creates more confusion as to who is who within the story.
#7 ·
· · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I must first state that this piece is very competently written. Moody. In the extreme. Excruciatingly so. It evokes a sense of dark melancholy from the first paragraph to the last. It most certainly hits the theme of more than meets the eye.

Unfortunately, I am not a fan of what in my youth we referred to an "experimental" fiction. While narratively well done, I cannot discern a story or plot here, or how all the moving parts mesh—and I am not saying that's bad, merely that I am the wrong audience.

I have abstained from voting on this one as it would be unfair if I did.
#8 ·
· · >>Rao >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I do not have much to say about this one. The writing is particularly solid – never overbearing and never dwelling on anything too long – and the characters themselves were vibrant. I personally didn't have any trouble with their names, though I will admit that I came into this story knowing that it's one that demands attention, so I was watching very close to see if I could catch something everyone else didn't.

Unfortunately I am also pretty adrift. My interpretation lines up well with Cass's, for the record, but I'm still on the "Why is this story being told?" side of things. What's essentially been done, as I see it, is that a perfectly serviceable story in Molly and Paul's mid-shatter relationship is being obscured by the perspectives of these clairvoyants, who are focused on their own stories instead. But the visions don't really affect them, so what was the authorial motive here?

Well, I should take that back. All of our clairvoyants were not affected, with the exception of Francine, who as I see it was killed by hers. If this had happened to each of them, I might have seen a story about the ramifications that a breaking relationship can have on other people, but since it's just her I find it to be a little distracting. If it's not a clue to the overall mystery, I recommend taking it out. Unless it was meant to be a brief PSA on the dangers of distracted driving; in that case you should print that part out on a sheet of paper and burn it.

But this was still the most engaging story of the lot, for me. So have the top of my slate, you dirty beast.

(long live subtlety)
#9 ·
· · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Cass drew a great connection between the stories with the common theme of romance, but I'm not sure I buy it as the over arching point. It just doesn't feel quite right. The writing itself is too grossly competent* for there not to be a proper moment where everything fits together and the gears in my brain make that nearly audible click of recognition. Sometimes I'm a bit thick and I don't get it, but I also kind of can't believe that nobody else would have sussed out the undercurrent yet, either.
>>Miller Minus
For what it's worth, I think Francine was heading to a fatal accident with or without that text message. Doing 95 in LA traffic is asking for a surprise visit from the Reaper.

*it's very good <3
#10 · 2
·
>>horizon
>>Baal Bunny
>>AndrewRogue
>>scifipony
>>Miller Minus
>>Rao
>>Cassius

Ho boy, all of you deserve a well-reasoned and satisfying explanation for this, especially when you all put a lot of time and thoughtful consideration into what I was trying to say with this story.

First off, I do want to express how grateful I am that you all took time to read through and share your thoughts. It's super-helpful to know how your minds work as readers, what kind of details you search for, what makes you care or not care for what is going on. It was interesting for me to see what each of you took away from it (even if that was mostly confusion).

Secondly, it wasn't my intent to confuse people; that comes about as a by-product of my coarse technique. It's obvious to me that branching into OF from ponyfics is like taking the training wheels off my bicycle. It's still very wobbly and I crash a lot.

I've had the bones of this story in my head for a few years, ever since I moved from L.A. after only living there a bit more than a year. The big city was weird to me. Really weird. Almost overwhelming, especially coming from the small town I was raised in. Things moved too fast. The city devoured the present too quickly, and it seemed to me like people had to put their feet in the future just to stay ahead of it. I collected snippets of my thoughts and feelings in my journal while I was living there, and you can see some of those snippets in the story. In light of your comments, I realize that my chosen story was a poor vehicle to convey that idea because it wasn't exactly the focus. I tried to tell the brief and tragic drama of Paul and Molly through the lens I saw the city through; small fragments of their lives viewed by unrelated people who didn't know or care what to do with the information, so it became swallowed up. You guys caught onto that drama, then asked the obvious question: "What's the point?" to which I have to shrug and say: "It sounded cooler in my head." This technique of tying a story together through several clairvoyant visions would have better suited a different theme, or would have been better if I made the theme more obvious.

Bottom line: I need to work on focusing my stories, to make it clear the point I'm trying to make, or make a tight, engaging plot that doesn't throw you guys out of the loop. I definitely had more fun writing in this OF round than the last one I tried, especially when I got to let loose with some snazzy prose. I'm glad some of you enjoyed that with me as well.

Thank you all for your patience and insights. Congratulations to our medalists for their great work as well. Y'all rock!