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More than Meets the Eye · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Antoine's Armory
There's a machete taped to the underside of the bed. There's a hunting knife under the welcome mat. There's a floor vent in the guest room that doesn't lead anywhere, except to a pair of grenades. Downstairs in the kitchen, the cutlery drawer has a false bottom, underneath which is a slate black pistol. It isn't the only gun in the house.

Dorothy knew where all the weapons were. She'd lived in this remote farmhouse off the highway for four years now; she couldn't possibly have missed any. The only thing she didn't know was whether or not her husband, Antoine, knew that she'd discovered every single one of them.

Probably not, though. He never did appreciate how thoroughly she cleaned.

"I'm going out," Antoine announced as Dorothy sprinkled parsley, double-handed, over two plates of pasta carbonara. Even with the exhaust fan on, the meaty aroma was in full force.

"Oh," she said, wiping her hands on her apron. "Alright. I was hoping we'd have dinner together, but—"

"Not tonight," Antoine said, making his way across the kitchen to the front door.

Dorothy's auburn hair was shiny and freshly curled. Her lipstick was perfectly shaped. She wore a bright green dress that stopped an inch above her knees. It was as soft as silk, and underneath it was something even softer.

But Antoine wanted to go out. Sure.

Dorothy sighed, watching her husband open the closet to fetch his jacket.

There's a pair of brass knuckles in the shoebox. One of them has a blade sticking out its side.

The fake fireplace burned soundlessly behind Antoine as he tied his shoes, giving him the look of someone preparing for war. That might not have been far from the truth. Dorothy didn't know what her husband did for a living, but she knew he wasn't a stock broker like he said he was, just as she knew that he wasn't simply 'going out' tonight. His hands were in his jacket pockets as he scanned the house, and wherever he looked, he did it darkly. His mood soured like this whenever he was about to go to 'work'. He would return smelling of sweat and gunpowder, many hours from now.

She never asked him the truth about his job. Why start a fight? She might lose the love of Antoine Cochrane—six foot one if he slouched, rough hands beaten and worn like leather gloves, and an embrace that could quiet a raging bull. This was the man that had encouraged her to start her horse rescue charity down the road. The man who built a stable in the backyard with his bare hands for Cisco, the stallion she adopted herself.

How could a man like that be doing wrong?

All she knew was that, whatever he did, he made careful, precise work of it. Because in four happy years of marriage, not a single one of the house's hidden weapons had ever been disturbed. Except, of course, for the monthly wipe-down Dorothy gave them on the first of every month.

"Not tonight," Dorothy repeated. "I understand," she replied.

"Hmm."

Dorothy began packing Antoine's meal in a plastic container, moving as slowly as possible. She listened to the front door open and shut, and Antoine drive away in his Bentley. After, of course, he retrieved the hunting knife from under the welcome mat. He never left home without it.

In the distance, Cisco neighed, like he always did when he heard a car engine. He was cooped up in his stable without anyone to entertain him. Dorothy felt his pain. The farmhouse might have been roomier and more modern than the stable, but it still didn't hold much in the way of things to do.

Leaning against the countertop, she balanced her plate with one hand and a fork in the other. Taking a bite, she moaned poignantly. The bacon pieces were just right. She'd never cooked it so well.

The worst part was that she could have gone out tonight, too, if not for that ruesome vandal at the mall. What possessed someone to slash some poor woman's tires and steal about two-thirds of her engine, she had no idea.

She looked around for a way to pass the time. On the main floor was the kitchen, the foyer, and the lounge, all in one expansive room. Connected to it was the garage, Antoine's office, and stairs to the second floor. Her eyes eventually rested, as they often did, on the picture on the wall at the top of the stairs. But not for the same reason that anyone else might look at it.

There's a metal button behind that picture. It isn't labeled.

Maybe she would press it tonight. She was dying to know what it did.




Dorothy sat up on the couch, squinting. Her Walkman slid off her stomach to the floor, but the headphones stayed connected, blasting the soundtrack from Dr. Zhivago in her ears.

Was that a glint? On the floor, near the front door. A shard of glass? It must have been from when she dropped her wine last week. How could she have missed it?

At least it was something to do.

Moving casually around the spot where she saw the glint (she was barefoot), Dorothy carried her Walkman to the kitchen, humming the whole way along. She grabbed a cloth, ran it under some water and carried it back to where she had seen the glint. But she didn't find a shard of glass on the floor. She found ten thousand of them.

Her hands and feet went cold. The floor looked like it was covered in snow, coming from around the corner. She recognized it, even in a thousand pieces. It was from the window next to the front door.

She slowly lowered her headphones to her shoulders. Around the corner, she heard the distinct sound of glass chunks being crushed under a boot, not three feet away from her.

Her ears rang. Her body trembled. She dropped the cloth and ran back to the kitchen, throwing open the cutlery drawer, thrusting her hands inside, and tossing the tray of utensils onto the floor. She cringed at the clattering and covered her ears.

When the noise ceased, she heard him. His voice coarse, amused, and freezing her stiff.

"Evening, ma'am. Husband not home?"

Lara's theme continued to play faintly under her ears, picking up in both speed and volume.

She turned, revealing the abject shock spread across her face, and the pistol in her hand.

"Jesus—FUCK!"

She fired. Her ear drums almost burst. The recoil sent the gun cartwheeling out of her hands, and she tried to catch it in midair, pawing at it once, twice, three times before it fell in the sink.

And went off again.

The bullet flew past her hair, hit something metal on the ceiling, and she screamed as loud as she could, as if the noise might make the world stop for a second and let her gather her thoughts.

She fell to a crouch and, still screaming, fumbled her way to the base of the stairs and sprinted up as fast as her legs could carry her. Her Walkman smashed to pieces somewhere along the way.

She made it to the bedroom and slammed the door behind her, sliding down to her seat. After a few more seconds of screaming, she bit down on her knees and chased after her racing breath. She closed her eyes, and that was where she saw him, burned into the backs her eyelids.

He was white, about 50 years old, with graying brown hair and a mustache. His clothes were black from top to bottom; he was even wearing gloves.

And he had a gun. He did. In his hand. A silencer on the end. But he wasn't holding it up. He wasn't expecting Dorothy to have a weapon, and if she was honest, she didn't blame him.

The man downstairs groaned. It sounded like he was sliding across the floor. He yelled, "Get the FUCK out here!" but his voice had some distance to it. Where was he? Was he not yelling at her?

Dorothy covered her mouth, inhaling sharply. In a few moments, more boots stomped into the house. It sounded like an army marching across the broken glass.

A man spoke, sounding like he was young enough to be in college. "Whoa, Rob! The fuck happened to you?"

"Don't ask. The bitch is upstairs, she—"

"So much for the easy job." This one was a woman. She sounded maybe thirty. "Watch and see how it's done, huh?"

Another man, his voice filled with gravel like that of a chain smoker, said, "She shot you on top of your shoulder! How tall is this woman?"

"It was a ricochet. Lucky fucking…"

The woman said, "Wow," and the other two whistled.

"All of you shut up!" Rob shouted. "It doesn't matter. You idiots wanted to help, well, now's your chance."

"Well, gee, Rob," the college student joked, "we didn't bring any weapons."

"Yeah," the woman said. "This was supposed to be a ride-along. Learn something from the master."

Rob growled. "Well, look around. This is Antoine—goddamn—Cochrane's house," he said, adding, "you stupid motherfucker. She's armed herself, and you can too."

Dorothy stopped crying, momentarily, so that she could gasp. He didn't see her drop the gun. More than that, they knew who her husband was. These were people from 'work'.

But what did they want with her?

There was no time to guess. Downstairs, Rob began barking orders.

"You, and you, cut the phones."

Dorothy winced, biting down on her hand. There were no phone upstairs. Antoine hated being near them when he slept.

Rob continued, "You, check the garage."

Dorothy's heart leapt, and she suddenly couldn't breathe.

There's a basket of baseball bats in the garage. The oldest, grodiest looking bat is wrapped in barbed wire.

There's a nailgun on the shelf. The safety disengages far too easily.

And behind the shelf, set into the wall, is a rack holding ten mean-looking rifles.

"Hooooly shit," the college student said. Dorothy hid between her legs, listening to him grunt, throw the shelves onto the ground, and then whistle. A gun began to click and clack with glee.

Dorothy's heart got too loud to even think. It wasn't beating so much as vibrating.

She suppressed her panic as best she could and thought about options. Her only choice was escape, but she was miles away from civilization, so running away was out of the question. That was, unless she could ride like the wind…

On her hands and knees, she crawled over to the window to the backyard and peered outside. It was her best bet. The pergola was right beneath her, and she was skinny enough to crawl through the window. She could get down with only a few splinters to worry about, as opposed to two broken legs.

Once outside, she could reach Cisco, hop on his back and gallop away into the night.

Feeling a bit stronger now that she had a plan, she unlatched the window and slid it upwards. The cool air wafted her face like a gentle reminder, and a thought struck her.

Cisco couldn't jump the fence. The only way out of the backyard was a small gap next to the house. They'd spot her immediately, and while Cisco was fast, he couldn't outrun bullets. He'd be done for. She pictured him whinnying in agony, spots of red appearing on his shoulder, his flank, his neck, as he crashed to the ground, never to run again.

With a painful whimper, Dorothy closed the window and fell backwards. She crawled across the floor and pulled herself under the bed. She needed somewhere to think.

The people downstairs—the assailants—kept talking as if they were in a business meeting. Closing her eyes, Dorothy whispered, "Antoine. Andy. Please, please help me."

And then she remembered.

There's a machete…

Dorothy threw her eyes open and groped the entire underside of the bed. But there was nothing but springs and cotton. She could swear she had seen the weapon just last week. She kept searching with her hands, as if the weapon had simply gone invisible. She cursed and pulled on her hair, retreating to the fetal position.

An idea washed over her like a splash of cold water on a scorching hot day. Her brain made a connection that it somehow never had before.

In the bathroom there's a dirty rag, a lighter, and a quarter-empty bottle of scotch.

Antoine doesn't drink scotch.


Dorothy gripped the edge of the bed and dragged herself out, scrambling up and into the bathroom. Her image in the mirror frightened her—make-up running down her face, hair damp and splayed everywhere like she'd just gone for a run through the rain forest.

She shook her mind clear and put each item on the counter. She placed her hands on her head, thinking, processing, grasping at the straws of her memory. How did this work again? She'd seen these things made in movies all the time, but they usually involved gasoline or something. And they were in movies.

From downstairs, the college student and Rob had a short, horrifying conversation.

"Rob, why is there a gun in the sink?"

"A what?"

A pause.

"Is she unarmed, Rob?"

Another pause.

A snort. Then, "I'll get her."

Dorothy poured scotch all over the rag. She knew she shouldn't get it on herself but she couldn't help her shaking hands.

Footsteps on the stairs, creaking.

She wiped her hands on her dress, ruining it. She stuffed the rag in the bottle and gave her fingers another wipe. Was that really all it was?

"Yoo-hoo! You in there, Ma'am?"

Chk went the lighter. Chk, chk, chk, chkchkchk.

"I think you owe my friend an apology!"

Dorothy took a deep breath, whispered, "Fuck you," and the lighter catched. The flame licked her nose, and she yelped. She lit the rag and held up the bottle unsteadily in her outstretched arm. The fire expanded and crawled up the bottle. Climbed up the bottle. Stormed up the bottle.

"I'm gonna count to threeeeee!"

She exited the bathroom and waited, but the fire was about to spread to her hand. She raised her leg, reminded herself that she had never even punted a football, and then kicked the door as hard as she could, blasting it open.

"One—WHOA!"

The man stumbled back and raised his weapon, but Dorothy's was already raised. She saw that he was beautiful—gelled black hair, big, muscled, and young—and then she saw to it that he never would be beautiful again. She aimed right for his face. She wasn't going to miss from so close.

Screams filled the upstairs. Both from the man on fire, and from Dorothy herself. The woman yelled, "NICK!"

The house glowed orange and black, and the stench of smoke went from nothing to overpowering in seconds. Bits of fiery rag and glass sprayed onto every surface.

The man stumbled back to the edge of the stairs. His hand reached out and gripped the railing for balance just as Dorothy ran into him, pushing him with both hands and sending him tumbling down the stairs. He landed on his shoulders, and a terrible crack sounded through the house. His limp form came to rest among the steps, burning quietly where he laid.

Dorothy looked on in horror at the body she'd created, and a small part of her wanted to go down and check on him, or at least fetch a bucket of water. But the rest of her wanted to know what the hell that button did.

"Don't move!" the woman roared, but Dorothy saw no reason to listen. The woman hadn't grabbed a gun yet, and neither had her friend with the voice full of asphalt.

Clamping her hands together in a fist, Dorothy wheeled around and smashed the picture on the wall. The glass shattered on impact, and she wondered if that was enough.

Suddenly, the house shifted beneath their feet. A great mechanism below the floor moved like a beast roused from slumber, and then went silent again. Nothing appeared to have changed, except that the limp, smoldering man on the stairs was moving again. He wasn't getting up, thankfully, but sliding further down. The steps had folded into a smooth, unassailable ramp.

"Catch!" Rob yelled from nowhere. Two rifles flew threw the air, and the two assailants caught them with barely even a glance, tucking them under their shoulders and peering down the sights.

Dorothy bolted towards the guest room, avoiding the small patches of fire. She grabbed for the handrail to steady herself, but found only thin air. The woman and the smoker backed away from the stairs as both railings, and every single post holding them up, collapsed to the main floor in a waterfall of iron.

Bullets ripped the walls. Dorothy dove into the guest room, rolled over and swung the door shut with her feet.




Dorothy wished the house wasn't so beautiful. Marble counters, shiny ceramic tiles, the railings made of metal—none of it was flammable. If it had all burned down with the man, taking her with it, this would all be over. Dorothy wondered why it could be so easy to wish death on herself, so long as the method was unavailable. Because walking out and being shot was out of the question, even if it would be quicker.

Safe in the corner of the guest room, she had found a way to stop crying. It took a lot of deep breaths. She also managed to stop most of her body from shaking, though her jaw was refusing to settle down. She was cold all over, except for her arms, which felt like they were on fire. A long burn mark stretched from the base of her right wrist to her elbow. It looked like a long-healed scar, and it stung like a fresh one. The fingers of her right hand had tiny little cuts, inside of which sparkled pieces of glass, as if they had sprouted from her bones.

Antoine had once joked that she was made of glass. Delicate Dorothy, the glass sculpture, always catching the light just right.

"Antoine, where are you?"

She could hear them downstairs, breaking things, taking things, shouting at each other. They had left her alone, for now, at the chain smoker's suggestion.

"Who the fuck knows what she found in there?"

He was right to worry; in both palms, she held the grenades from the floor vent, already planning what to do with them. She had the movies to thank, again, for teaching her how to use them. Hold the handle down. Pull the pin. Pray to every god that humanity has ever worshiped. But she couldn't tell where the three of them were at any given moment, and she couldn't check to see—one of them was probably aimed upstairs right now, waiting for her to peek her head out. Ready to take the shot. And if that was the case, they could probably deal with a grenade or two.

Besides, she had a better plan. Stay upstairs until Antoine got home. It couldn't be much longer now.

"Ready, Vi?!"

Dorothy twitched. The smoker.

"Ready!"

The woman. She was outside the window.

"Ready, Mrs. Cochrane?!"

Rob.

Dorothy almost shot to her feet, but before she could, a storm of bullets burst into the room, tearing the window and door to pieces. She held her ears and screamed. Wood and glass flew through the room as if in a tornado, and Dorothy stayed in her corner.

They don't have a clear shot. Don't move, don't move, they don't have a clear shot. Antoine, please help, Antoine!

The guns clicked—out of ammo. There was a full second of silence before another round came flying through the door, continuing where the last left off.

The two tips of a ladder slammed into the windowsill and began jostling immediately, quickly. The woman on her way.

The gunshots ceased, and the men immediately started moving. Dorothy got to her feet and cast a look through the perforated door. The man with the mustache, Rob, boosted the smoker up to the second floor. They stood over their fallen comrade as if he wasn't even there.

Dorothy went to the window, fell to the floor and tucked her arms in. Rocking on her back, she lifted her feet to the top of the ladder and pushed. She was using her reserve strength now; she could feel herself going faint.

The woman screamed something, 'bitch' perhaps, but Dorothy wasn't listening anymore.

She looked behind her, and the smoker was in the room. An ugly man, his face all ripples and warts, and his hair balding. He brought up his gun. She rolled twice more and was under the bed before he had a chance to fire.

"C'mon, love," the ugly man said, kicking the leg of the bed. "Party's over. Don't make me shoot you under there; it's undignified."

Dorothy closed her eyes. She prayed a quick prayer, addressed to nobody. She pulled the pin on grenade number one and rolled it out towards the boots.

Without so much as an expletive, the smoker snatched it off the ground. Dorothy saw his feet pivot one way, then the other, and then repeat.

He ran towards the window, let out a grunt, and then froze.

"Oh, fuck, VIOLET!"

And in a brief moment of calm, Dorothy thought, It can't be that easy.

She came out from under the bed as the grenade detonated. The house rumbled, and she fell to her knees. Cisco whinnied in fright from somewhere far away.

"What the fuck was that?!" Rob screamed upwards.

The smoker didn't respond. He just stared out the window, dumbfounded, his face painted with orange light. "Whoops," he muttered to himself.

Dorothy made a break for it. She fled from the guest room to her own room in less than a second, a hair ahead of Rob's gunfire. She slid on her side out of his range, but her dress caught on the corner of the door and she stopped abruptly. She tugged but couldn't break free.

"Dirty whore!"

Dorothy looked helplessly at the smoker, turning away from the window. He raised his gun, took a step forward, and looked down to see what he had just stepped on.

"…Oh."




Antoine Cochrane was having a rotten night. He'd spent weeks picking this exact date for the job, selected the right guys to carry it out, memorized Barrett's schedule, and even went so far as befriending the guy. And then the bastard wasn't even home. He was probably on a flight to the Maldives right now, briefcases of stolen goods sitting in the cargo bay. Antoine never even got to interrogate him, which he was really looking forward to. He had a big show planned, with a machete and everything.

And he missed pasta night. Again.

Antoine drove the long, straight highway home, gripping the steering wheel fiercely. The radio was off. Just 60 miles of countryside left to go.

He came to a valley and saw an oncoming pickup truck, barreling downhill a mile up the road. Strange. There weren't many houses up this way, and none of them owned a pickup truck. And even stranger than that, he had been searching everywhere for a certain pickup truck all night.

It can't be that easy.

Antoine killed the engine, letting himself coast in darkness. With one hand he rolled down the window. With the other, he opened the glove box and punched the space where the airbag should have been, revealing a secret compartment flap. He pulled out a glock and switched it to his left hand. As the truck approached, he switched the lights so that his brights would be on.

The truck crested the valley and came up towards him. He started the engine and his lights shone right into the driver's face. And there he was. Robert Barrett, visibly recoiling at the sight of Antoine, who was pointing his gun out the window. He swerved away, ran himself off the road, and smashed his front end into a ditch. The truck's lights flashed and its alarm blared.

Antoine didn't even have to fire. He was right-handed, anyways.

He gently pressed the brakes, threw the car in reverse, and rolled back towards the wreckage. The front half was about a quarter of the length it should have been. A bloodied arm stuck out the broken driver-side window, completely still.

"That was tidy."

A thought struck Antoine. He threw the car in gear and floored it.

Dorothy.




"Dorothy!"

Antoine got out of his car and surveyed the damage. He didn't know where to start.

The house had been on fire; that much was certain. The windows were smashed so thoroughly it looked like they never had any glass in the first place. The furniture was scattered across the lawn. And the limbs were concerning.

The east wall had taken the worst damage. The lower portion was buckled and bent, a few bricks fallen to the earth. The upper portion was missing entirely. Was that the guest room? It was always so hard to figure it out from the outside. Especially when the room didn't exist anymore.

And he would have been running inside, calling his wife's name and searching everywhere for her, if she hadn't been sitting on the front porch, a few feet away from a casually grazing Cisco. Her eyes were locked on him as she slowly ate pasta carbonara from a plastic container.

She looked… shocking. Bruised and cut, covered in gypsum dust. Bandages on her left hand and all the way up her left forearm. She looked exactly as she should, having endured what she just did. Right down to the pistol clutched in her right hand. She squeezed it so hard she looked like she might crush it into powder.

He approached with caution. "Hey," he tried.

Dorothy swallowed her food. "Hi." She set down her fork and pulled a glass of whiskey out from behind her, downing half of it in one swig.

He put his hands together and looked at the ground. "I'd like to apologize."

Dorothy chewed. Well, perhaps not chewed. It was more like she massaged the food with her teeth.

Antoine cleared his throat. "So… I guess—"

"I thought you said you were going to apologize."

"I'm sorry."

Dorothy breathed in and out, long and deep. She put the food down.

"I've tried really hard to prevent this from happening."

"I know."

Antoine leaned rocked back on his feet as if recovering from a blow. Dorothy could pack so much into those two words.

Cisco wandered over to see the two of them, but he was really interested in the food. Dorothy pushed it out to signal her permission.

The stallion was untouched. Of all the shocking things he was taking in, that was the least surprising.

"By the way," Dorothy said.

"Yes, Dear?"

"In case it wasn't clear…"

She pointed over her shoulder, to the remains of the farmhouse.

"…I'm not cleaning that up."
Pics
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#1 · 1
· · >>Rao >>Miller Minus
Hey, author. I don’t know if other people on this site will like this story as much as I did. (Mostly because I’m a sucker for action and horses.)

I’m just going to say my heart was racing the entire time I read this.

I was rooting for Dorothy, and was laughing when Antoine returned home to find her eating out of the plastic Tupperware.

Loved it! 10/10 machetes.
#2 · 3
· · >>Miller Minus
Top of my slate so far:

I've really got no suggestions. One line near the end--"The house had been on fire"--struck me as a little inelegant because I have a mild allergy to using unadorned forms of the verb "to be" when there are so many other verbs in the language--maybe "Part of the house had burned" instead?--but this is just plain terrific from top to bottom.

Mike
#3 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus
Well, I liked it. I read a lot of these as a kid. Good action thriller and well set up in the classic "if you write 'there's a rifle on the wall' in the story someone in the story better use it" way. Your foreshadowing went off like a string of fire crackers.

One thing I didn't quite get was the red button, tho. That and the abrupt ending (which is still satisfying) probably where Dorothy's narrative ran into the submit deadline. (I presume you wrote the ending first as a contingency so you could pull this off as well as you did.) In any case, I would have been happy to see a bit more.

Biggest plus: I shouldn't have been able to believe an untrained person could have done as well as she did, but you pulled it off.

Biggest strike: I don't quite see these guys as being as professional as they seemed to think they were. Beds and gypsum wallboard make poor shields. Maybe tweak Andy's thoughts on the way home to clarify? Or I might of missed something...

Take this all as what one reader got on a single read. Fun read.
#4 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus
The beginning of this story sparkled with its intriguing setup of Dorothy mentally listing all of the weapons in the house, but letting us know that she's unsure what purpose they serve. It also gives us some good characterization, in how she presents herself as unappreciated and bored. I mostly had fun reading this story, and I found it especially satisfying that nearly each weapon setup had a payoff. It made me think of what Home Alone might look like if Kevin's family had hidden lethal weaponry around the house, which was kind of fun on its own.

I began to tune out a bit once the action kicked in, and that's probably more on me for not being much of an action junkie. What kind of dragged it down was how samey some of the scenes began to feel. Once you get a rhythm, we get very slight variations on Dorothy hiding in a new location, overhearing a conversation, grabbing a new weapon, then using it. I did end up needing to read back through the middle section to get a more distinct picture of what was going on, and it ended up being better the second time around. I also wish the button had a better payoff, especially since you give it special attention in the beginning.

There were a few lines that really stuck out to me:

"The fingers of her right hand had tiny little cuts, inside of which sparkled pieces of glass, as if they had sprouted from her bones.

Antoine had once joked that she was made of glass. Delicate Dorothy, the glass sculpture, always catching the light just right."


I just want to kiss them.

That's all I've got. Thanks for writing!
#5 · 1
· · >>horizon >>Miller Minus
This was fine. It was fine. Fine, fine, fine. That's just kind of how I walked away from it feeling. I was not amazingly blown away, but the story unquestionable walked in, did what it set it to do, and left. It's a good thing. I'm a little less on action set-pieces like this for literature (I want my awesome action to be animated) so it kinda washed off me, but there is no question that it was solid.

The bits that stood out negatively were the staircase (that just seemed a little too "fantasy" for a "grounded" thing like you were doing - those words being used loosely obviously) and the unclear ending on what happened with the smoking man. Like, I assume it involved the second grenade, but I read that scene a couple times and have no idea what actually happens there.

Sorry I don't actually have a lot to say on this one. It accomplishes what it set out to do effectively. I guess it is worth noting that due to the story being rather brisk, Dorothy goes from somewhat simpering to very snarky in a very fast space. It is not wholly unreasonable, but you might want to tone down the earlier "Oh save me Antoine!" if you want to end at that snarkier spot.
#6 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus
It feels to me like >>AndrewRogue and I often have different takes on the stories we read -- we seem to look for different experiences from our fiction, maybe? -- but here, I'm 100% on board with his comments. This is a story whose primary fault is that it dangled a lot of hooks which failed to set. Sorry, author, that your fish aren't biting.

Part of that, though -- and possibly worth discussing -- is why it didn't feel compelling. After all, "will the protagonist survive?" should be pretty low-hanging fruit.

I think, for me, part of why that didn't really gel was that there's a strong video-game effect at play here, if I can coin a phrase. Dorothy, the text tells us, is a normal suburban housewife. Dorothy, the text shows us, is sufficiently covered in Protagonist Armor to survive being outnumbered by a houseful of professional assassins. There are some lampshades hung that it's luck rather than skill -- her handling of the gun, for instance -- but then a few scenes later she Molotovs a killer in the face. And a few of the coincidences which keep her alive felt more like author fiat than luck to me: I mean, she survives because there's a button which turns off the stairs? I'm not really buying the chokepoints keeping them attacking her one at a time. I'm not sure why they aren't flinging Molotovs of their own upstairs and burning the house down, if they're simply there to kill Antoine and any witnesses. I'm not sure why the smoker grabs the grenade rolling out from under the bed, rather than sprinting out into the hallway and leaving Dorothy to die in her own blast. When I feel like the deck is stacked toward the protagonist, I'm not going to get caught up in wondering whether they can make it.

I'd like to see more of a defined character arc for Dorothy, too, but I think Andrew covered that.

Reagrdless, thanks for writing!

Tier: Almost There
#7 ·
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This comment section is such a perfect downward trend of people liking this story less and less that I almost want to throw an unwarranted shitfit just to keep it going.

But for now, just pretend that this comment is between RLC and Andrew, because that's about where I fit in. I'd say that the beginning and ending of this story did a lot for me, but that the middle lost me something fierce. The issues for me were that, A) the baddies are given so little to describe them (the smoker, the woman, and the college student), that I can barely see them, and B) the only character who I can really picture and get a feel for is Rob, but even then it's the bare minimum. His description, and the rather boring motive of "wanting that bitch dead". It isn't often you get a compelling skirmish scene with a protagonist taking down several faceless henchmen. Even if they are there, there should at least be one guy who I know a lot more about, and the lack of intent behind Rob's character makes it fall flat a little, even if I liked the set pieces.

Because I still thought the action was good, but the prose was falling apart since Dorothy appeared to be battling skeletons + One Angry Man. Maybe have her sneak a peek at them when they arrive, before the action starts, for starters. You were right to avoid them all dropping each other's names one-by-one, but there needs to be more. Perhaps some unique voices that identify them immediately in the dialogue so that the tagging can be trimmed, assuming you can pull that off without sounding racist.

Ahem.

Thanks for writing, you!
#8 · 2
· · >>Miller Minus
>>Anon Y Mous
Right there with you. 1950s (ish?) housewife meets Home Alone meets John Wick. There's no way I couldn't love this. The others covered the points of improvement very thoroughly (the killers being a somewhat incompetent* after the surprise wears off in particular), but I think the core concept here is hilarious and fun to read.

*It took a second read, but the Smoker's actions with the grenade make sense**. You can throw farther than you can jump, so grabbing it and chucking it is the best way to make distance. He turns back toward the door to throw, then realizes Rob is down stairs. No guarantee he won't take him out, so he pivots back to the window, not thinking about Violet down by the fallen ladder, runs over, and lobs it.

**Actually I re-re-read it and there are a few too many pivots to go along with my original interpretation of events, so maybe he just grabbed it an panicked after all.

Anyway, a little cleanup around things like that and there'll be something extra fun here. Good work, I say.
#9 · 3
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>>Anon Y Mous
>>Baal Bunny
>>scifipony
>>Rocket Lawn Chair
>>AndrewRogue
>>horizon
>>Rao

So I wrote cocaine!

This isn't really a retrospective so much as me saying thank you to everyone for reading and relaying your thoughts. Big, big shoutout to horizon and Andrew for their medals, and to everyone who participated! This round was quality, for real.

Thriller is a genre I'd never tried before, but had always wanted to. I originally had this idea for the Glass Masquerade prompt, but was in such a slump that I had three (four?) false starts before throwing it all in the bin. When my prompt won this round I figured it was a sign from the heavens that I should try to write it again.

And it was fun! Really, it felt good to write something without any meaning or commentary—just a fun, action-packed romp with a compelling protagonist. Honestly, it was a palette cleanser.

Which is to say... it was an interesting experiment, but at the end of the day I don't think thrillers are for me. There were many times during the writing process that I felt I was hamstringing my own writing style just to make the story flow faster, and there were certain angles I really ought to have expanded on but just didn't want to (i.e., Antoine's actual job and Rob's plan and maybe some background behind the the building's architect). I laid the framework for it but all I really wanted to focus on was the struggle, so that's what I did. Plus, there were several set pieces where I felt I had taken it too far—the only one that remained being the killswitch for the stairs. I just... couldn't part with it. You know? It was too stupid to take out.

I pushed through all my reservations because I knew I could make a satisfying product from it all (if not a product for everyone!), and I'm really glad it worked out. Good times.

In summary.

I also have to give a shoutout to my friend (she knows who she is) for reading a rough draft of the introduction and politely informing me that she hated Dorothy with a passion. Honestly, she saved it. Without the last-minute changes to her motivations, I might have ended up in last place.

Thanks again, and see you next week!