For this first week of critiques, several submissions came in. I’m glad for the enthusiasm, but since I don’t want to overwhelm my fellow critiquers right away, I will post one this week and save the others for following weeks. If too many come in as the weeks go on, I might post more than one each week. We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve seen the following scenario many times: You submitted a piece that is waiting to be posted, and while you’re waiting, you learn a bunch of cool tips during the critiques, so you want to alter what you submitted. If that happens, please let me know so I can take it off the waiting list. Then send me the new version when you’re ready.
To those who are participating in critiquing, be sure to follow the guidelines posted here. All you have to do is post a comment about the writing (see below). Don’t feel like you need to critique the whole thing, as I will. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful. For a critique group to work, we need to critique as a group. I can’t do it by myself. 🙂
This post will stay active indefinitely, so you can come back and add comments at any time. If you are the one who is being critiqued, you should subscribe to this post so you can be notified when any comments are added.
Submission #1 – Outcast
It was going to kill me. I couldn’t see it, but I could sense it, every muscle tense, my heart pounding louder and faster than it ever had before.
Hiding was useless, but hiding was the only thing left to do. I held my breath, but I was sure it could hear the rapid beat of my heart. Darkness and a table were the only things keeping me from death. The only things separating me from plain sight and discovery.
Boom, boom, boom. I started at the sound of its heavy footsteps, which stopped as suddenly as they’d started. Could it see me? I opened my eyes and saw its feet and legs. One kick from its metallic leg and my skull would break like glass. I started trembling. Why was it just standing there? Had it seen me? Was it hoping I’d come out, thinking it was gone?
Suddenly its hand shot under the table, dragging me out by my hair. I screamed in pain and terror, grabbing its wrist as it pulled me to my feet. It released me and I backed away. It was nearly seven feet tall, shaped like a man, with arms and legs. But it was made completely of metal, with glowing red eyes. His left hand was in a fist, which he pointed towards me. I knew that some sort of weapon was attached to the top of his arm.
“No,” I backed away until my back hit a wall. I looked for an escape, but saw nothing. “Leave me alone! Get away from me!”
The machine took a step forward. It was emotionless. It was following its commands, it was being controlled. I wasn’t trying to talk to it. I was talking to whoever was behind the controls. “Let me go!” I said, trying to control my shaking.
I heard a strange noise, the gun preparing to fire. I rushed at it, hoping to take it off guard. The sound of a gunshot ran through the room while something slammed into my forehead, which exploded with pain.
I opened my eyes to darkness. My head throbbed. I raised my hand to my head and ran my fingers over the area the bullet struck. I almost expected to feel a hole in my skull, but I felt nothing but skin.
I put my hands at my sides and felt my bed. Had it really only been a dream? I pulled a pillow from behind my head and then felt my forehead again. My scalp still tingled as if someone had just grabbed me by my long hair.
I let myself fall back into a comfortable position. It’d been a dream. But its details were still clear in my mind, like a recent memory, like it had really happened. I turned onto my side and an alarm beeped three times before a voice rang over the speaker I knew was at my bedside table.
“All unassigned fifteen or older report to the government building in two hours.” My lights flashed on and I quickly covered my head with a pillow. I still hated how the lights turned on that fast.
I heard my door open. “Mara, did you hear the announcement?” it was my mother.
“Couldn’t’ve missed it if I’d wanted to.” I said, my voice muffled by the pillow.
“Well you’d better get dressed. The next bus leaves in an hour.”
“Any after that?”
“Not going where you need to go.” She pulled the pillow from my face. I winced and blinked several times.
Sitting up, I spoke. “Do I have a bruise or anything on my forehead?”
I felt my mom’s cool hand pushing my light brown hair back from my face. Her fingers caressed my forehead. “No, nothing dear. Does it hurt?”
I nodded, swinging my legs to the edge of my bed. “A few seconds ago it was like someone just shot me.”
“Shot you?” my mother sat down. It wasn’t the first time I’d had a nightmare like this one. It was the third time I’d had a realistic dream, and the last two had been nightmares.
I nodded. “But it’s just a dream.”
“Can you tell me about it?”
I quickly related the dream to her as I pulled my clothes for the day out of the dresser. They were normal clothes, dark, fitted jeans and a navy blue shirt. No uniform yet. I’d get that later today when I received an assignment.
“It was the worst one yet.” I said, tossing the clothes on the bed. “It just…I was there. As much as I’m here. Well, almost. I’m not sure.”
My mother stood and smiled. “Well, it’s unusual, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about, dear. After all, it’s just a dream. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. Meet you downstairs in five minutes.”
After she’d left, I hastily dressed and brushed my hair.
The kitchen was empty when I went downstairs. I grabbed something to eat, although I had very little appetite. Both of my parents were healers, but would I become a healer? I grimaced at the thought of performing surgery on anyone. Maybe I’d be a farmer. I groaned at the thought of pulling weeds in the hot sun.
As long as I wasn’t assigned as a cleaner, I’d be happy. Cleaners were the lazy ones or those that refused to go and watch a few jobs. They kept the streets, buildings, and other places clean. A few of them were assigned as cooks or some other small job. I’d watched countless jobs to see what I’d like, and I’d watched the healers many times while waiting for my parents to finish work for the day.
School had finished two years ago, when I was fourteen. Now, at sixteen, I’d be assigned a job. Assignment day happened only once every three years for the whole city, so teens of different ages received their jobs on the same day.
Ready! Set! Critique!
Categories: Critique Group