WRiTE CLUB 2013 Play-offs Round Two - Bout 3



Yesterday we had a bit of a boo boo.  It seems the piece that was originally posted and attributed to Alone, was actually Imalie Teller's.  The mistake was caught before noon and quickly corrected, and no real harm was done because it was the writing going against one another...not the authors name.  If you voted for Alone before noon, your vote was automatically converted to Imalie Teller.  I'm sorry to both writer's for the confusion.

Continuing on with the second round of the WRiTE CLUB play-offs, our ten contestants will be battling it out with brand new writing samples.  The bouts will be posted on Mon - Tue - Wed - Thur - Sat, but the voting will remain open for all bouts until Sunday at noon.  Today we have Bout #3.

Once again...every vote counts. The contestant who doesn't win their bout...but garners the most votes amongst all of the other losers...will become a wildcard winner and advance to round 3.  

Whether you've been following along from the beginning or this is your first time here...no matter...it's just a matter of choosing the one you feel deserves to move forward. Please offer some critique if you have time.  Anyone reading this can vote (after signing up on this LinkyList) so blog/tweet/facebook/text/smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun. 

 
And now...stepping into the ring with a brand new story to tell...here is Gordon Holmes.





Standing watch has never been my favorite activity. Well, it’s the lack of activity that bothers me.  I've been pacing for two hours, a set of binoculars practically glued to my eyeballs.  Sun glints off the rooftops, sent stabbing pains of light all the way to the back of my head.

I usually pull my stint during the witching hour with night vision goggles.  I see everything that moves or leaves a heat signature. And it keeps the bugs from eating my face off. Mosquitoes were aggressive enough before the Insectoid aliens arrived, but now the tire dump two miles outside of the school grounds was a breeding ground for Aedes as large as Monarch Moths.

Last week Jimmy Huntell somehow enticed Lucy Plume to sneak out after chores and meet him for some afternoon delight. Lucy was barely alive when my patrol found her beneath a swarm of the blood suckers and surrounded by a unit of armed Insectoids that  looked like they were guarding the meal.

My value to the army isn't just my lightening fast feet; I can mentally hear the bugs. Can’t understand them too often, but if I’m close enough I get visual pictures from their hive mind. But I can sense a buzzing over a mile away, which is how I knew where to find our missing lovers.  Jimmy was a shriveled husk, barely recognizable as a human.

Lucy was flat on her stomach, her back, legs and arms covered with black and white striped, skeletal bugs I’d never seen before. Once the shooting started, most of the bugs  took flight and joined the battle, swooping in and slashing faces and hands with razor sharp legs and gaping proboscis. I lost two boys in that fight; one when a spray of gunfire from Ray’s M9 ripped his head off, the other took several disrupter hits from the Insectoids.

The bugs have no odor when they’re live, but the putrid smell when you kill one is bad enough to make a man vomit his last meal. All told we killed four, wounded two and scared off two small ones that never even pulled a disrupter. Most of the mosquitoes flew off after their initial attack; but several never detached from Lucy’s naked body. Ray had a lighter and he burned off four. The last one was so bloated it couldn’t fly off, and we stuffed it and the burnt bodies into a back pack to take back for study.

I was on this gym roof in the heat of the day because of those overgrown mosquitoes. General Guff wanted more live bodies, and since Aedes were day feeders and breeders, I figured it’d be best for my crew to surprise them after dark. I hadn't collected bugs since I was in the fifth grade, but this seemed like a good time to clean out the mayonnaise jars and go exploring.

Whatever General Guff wants, Gordon Fucking Holmes would deliver.

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And with their own brand new piece of writing (the right one this time), welcome back to the ring....Alone.




Thanksgiving 1972 
Allison 

The road led nowhere. Or so it seemed.

Darkness blanketed the trees along the lane as the truck’s headlights dressed the bottoms of them in its glow.

“Um…how much farther, Mister?” I searched his grizzly face, as his black emotionless eyes glared into mine. He smeared on a sly grin then focused back on the road.

It was that very smile that coaxed me into his car, promising me a ride to the nearest payphone to call a tow.

But now…the smile haunted me.

The man’s hand reached to my exposed leg. I flinched against my seat, inhaling. He stopped a moment, and redirected to turn the radio dials. He spun them left and right till Loretta Lynn bellowed through the speakers.

I exhaled, closing my eyes. “Um….”

“Soon, honey…soon.” He cooed through dried lips, turning the radio's volume up.

Out the window, I saw only black. No road signs or signs of life.

My stomach churned with regret.

“My-my parents are expecting me for Thanksgiving dinner anytime now so…at least they know I’m on this road, ya know?” I tried to sound as convincing as possible, while a nervous sweat escaped my pores. “I…um, called them from a payphone right before the car broke down. Maybe twenty miles before.”

The man broke his eyes from the road again, lingering them on me. His smile drew wider, exposing yellow, crooked teeth. “That’s good, honey…that’s good.”

Inching closer to the truck’s door, I found the handle, and rested my palm on it. My heartbeat echoed in my ears. God willing, I’d make the leap and jump out.

I checked the speedometer. Fifty-five. It’d be a hard fall, but it’d save my life.

In the distance, a green rectangular sign reflected back the next gas station to be fifteen miles away. A deep breath escaped me, calming my nerves.

Just a few more miles and I’d be safe again.

“See, honey? Almost there,” he comforted with a projected Cheshire grin. “Thirsty?”

I relaxed in my seat. It’d been hours since I’d had anything to eat or drink. “Yeah…yeah, I am.”

The man pulled a flask from his jacket’s inner pocket, unscrewing the top with one hand, and offered it to me. I paused, unsure of his motives, till a coercing frown emerged.

Just one sip. Enough to satisfy him, and my dry throat.

Just one.

Returning the top to the flask, wincing from the liquor’s strength, I handed it back coughing. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, honey,” he chuckled gruffly. “You’re welcome.”

The music continued playing in the background, then stopped.

Cops confirm the roadside snatcher is still on the loose. Repeat, roadside snatcher--”

He turned the radio off quickly.

“Mister.” My eyes grew heavy, head fogged. Glancing from the road to him was a blur of neon lines. “You’re….” Movements slowed, almost melting into each other. “You’re….” I felt myself dozing, unable to focus.

His haunting smile grew as he swerved hard down a dirt road.

I saw black.


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Leave your vote and we'll see you back here tomorrow for the next match-up!

Remember the WRiTE CLUB motto, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!

32 comments

  1. Oh, shucks ... I'm going with Gordon F. Holmes. I know it was pure exposition and GFH used the dreaded cliche, "afternoon delight," but I liked the POV, the MC's voice, and the creepy concept of large bugs with (somewhat) advanced intelligence.

    Alone's, though well-written, was completely predictable.How did I know the MC would accept the drink even though she sensed she was in mortal danger from a man with cracked lips and yellow teeth who made her stomach churn ... a stranger who picked her up near a disabled car? Because I JUST KNOW she's the same gal who would run UPSTAIRS and hide under a bed when the bad guy comes through the front door. "Don't drink it!" was not even on my radar as a reader. Instead, I thought, "She's gonna drink it. What a dope."

    I know there will be the "It's a writing contest, and Alone is the better writer in this bout" line of thought, but I like stories and I wasn't given enough in Alone's entry to care about the MC.

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  2. I like this excerpt of Gordon Fucking Holmes better than the last one because it anchors me a little stronger and establishes some key elements of the story. I'm much more grounded in Gordon's world with this piece. The fact that he can "hear" the bugs is a key plot point that needs to be revealed to the reader as soon as possible. But I also think that this excerpt spends a little too much time in explanation and backstory. There's very little that happens beyond Gordon's inner discussion about the Insectoids and relaying events that have already happened. I understand that a 500-word sample is not a lot of time to establish a character, do world-building, AND also have 'live' events that engage the reader, create tension, and move the story forward. It's a huge challenge to cover all of those bases in such a short writing sample. The writing is ok although there are some stumbles between present tense and past tense ("glints"/"sent" and "but now"/"was" for example). But interest in Gordon's world. the Insectoid invaders (I'm picturing Starship Troopers here), and the upcoming bug hunt is raised, and I would read on.

    Alone gives a familiar scenario of a hitchhiking young person (female?) trapped in a car with a predator, but it's done very well. The tension builds smoothly through the piece and it's vey easy to identify with the MC and to care about what's going to happen next. The elements are a bit cliched (the perfectly-timed announcement on the radio which gets quickly shut off, the yellow crooked teeth of the predator, and how many people were surprised that the drink was spiked?), but they're put together in a very convincing way. The writing is smooth, the descriptions inserted well, and the dialog flows and advances the story. I liked the piece, was definitely pulled into it, and would certainly read on, but I do admit I am hoping for an unexpected twist to my eager "what's going to happen next???"

    Good job to both contestants, but I think Alone is the winner in this round.

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  3. Gordon Holmes. And I agree with the other comment, I like this excerpt better than the first one.

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  4. Alone! Both well written but the reading was smoother in alone's.

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  5. Alone this time. It's just better written.

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  6. Gordon Holmes today--I thought this piece showed more originality than his first and I love seeing that improvement.
    Alone's was well-written, but too unbelievable for me.

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  7. Alone. Not much for the grittier stuff.

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  8. For the ability to construct an entertaining sentence, I give the edge to Gordon. Aside from that, it was actually a tough call. I like Gordon's concept and subject matter. Alone's has been done enough.

    Gordon,
    Nitpicky stuff - Several tense discrepencies throughout.
    Night vision goggles don't see heat signatures, infrared goggles do. (this might seem extremely petty, but you're writing science fiction, whatever the subgenre. And science fiction fans are the most rabid over details)

    Your story has potential. It's got cool things going on. I like the monster mosquitoes. It makes sense they'd be in the area of the tire dump because dumped tires hold rain and it stagnates. It doesn't exactly make sense that the lovers would go for a romp while knowing the dangers... But then again, I've done stupid things for a romp.

    The issue here is how it's told. You have a flashback that isn't chronological, it's littered with extraneous details, making it confusing. Gordon finds Lucy and the bugs. Then he tells how he found them. Then he mentions Jummy's state. THEN he mentions Lucy's state. FINALLY we learn that when he initially finds them there's a skirmish! That should have come first!
    It shouldn't have been until the threat was gone that Gordon F Holmes takes into consideration (or even recognizes) the state of Jimmy or Lucy.

    Alone,
    First and foremost, I wish the name "Allison" didn't exist. If I were to consider that this was a male main character, it would be far more unique a story. But it's not. It's a girl.
    My biggest issue with this story is the victim. Accepting a ride? Fine. Accepting a drink from a greasy creeper who's already tried to grope her? Stupid. There's no excuse. I don't care if it's 1972 and that's the very first date-rape, penis-colada ever concocted... I do not relate to her and therefore could not read another word of it.
    Besides all that, it's written well, aside from some painful cliches. It achieves the tension it's going for, giving a shimmer of hope and then yanking it away.
    For this reason, it was a hard choice.

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    Replies
    1. ...forgot to say it plainly - I vote Gordon Holmes

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    2. LOL. You know, I admit I kind of breezed through the headings and took "Allison" as the setting, like we were in a car outside Allison, Texas or something. That's why I put the "(female?)" in my comments -- I thought the ambiguity about the character's gender was one of the better non-cliched aspects of the piece.

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    3. Agreed! And maybe Allison WAS the location.

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  10. Well, that was depressing. Alone by a whisker.

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  11. Well, that was depressing. Alone by a whisker.

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  12. Well, that was depressing. Alone by a whisker.

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  13. Oh, this IS a hard one, and for exactly the reason that other folks have mentioned. It IS hard to get past the "too dumb to live" decision of the main character in Alone's piece, but boy, some of those lines are just meltworthy. You can't read a sentence like "he cooed through dried lips" and not see the scene with perfect, nasty, disturbing clarity.

    I have to vote for Alone for that reason. But if these were books at a bookstore, I would probably spent my last $8 on Gordon F. Holmes - the execution is not so good for a 500-word sample (all the backing-and-forthing in time, as others have mentioned), but boy, the story and the world would have me in a heartbeat.

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