Critique Group – Anomalys

And that’s how you ruin a hero’s journey story. (It’s strange that Yoda didn’t talk backwards this time.)

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Anomalys – by Shana

The night was unusually dark and still, clouds coating the sky in a sheet of grey-black. The only light came from the flashlights of the guards as they scanned the perimeter, the only movement from a single, cloaked figure who ran through the shadows, hiding from the eyes in the sky.

Lenna clutched her bundle tighter to her chest as she knelt in the shadow of a tall statue. Her breath came hard and fast. This was her only chance. She could not fail. She peered over her shoulder, seeking out the lights of the guards. One was moving slowly past the nearest stretch of fencing, casually checking the grounds for escapees.

For her.

Lenna’s arms clenched at the thought, squeezing her bundle tightly, and a faint whimper of protest came at the movement. Chagrined, she loosened her grip, smoothing the cloth away from the tiny face inside.

“Sorry, sweetie,” she whispered. “Don’t you worry, Mommy’s got you.”

Soothed, the baby yawned, and nestled deeper in her mother’s arms. Lenna gently smoothed her bangs out of her eyes, feeling her heart clench at the thought of the fate her tiny child would face. Except she wouldn’t have too – Lenna was going to make sure of that. She would find somewhere else – a place where her daughter’s beautiful hair wouldn’t matter, a place where her twelve fingers and toes wouldn’t be seen as odd. For the hundredth time, she brushed her fingers through that strangely long and silky hair, counting the shades. Lavender…violet….heather… periwinkle….mulberry and plum…. She was just so beautiful. She enfolded her in her arms once again.

She was going to escape tonight. One way or another, she wouldn’t spend another minute in this constricting life.

She checked on the guards again. No one was in sight. It was now or never.

Lenna hadn’t taken more than a step from the shelter of the statue when a light fell directly on her and an automated voice blared. “Stop, and desist. Stop, and desist.”

Suddenly, guards were everywhere, black masks and faceless beings closing in around her. Panicking, Lenna made to run past them, darting into the small garden to her right. More guards appeared, sprouting from bushes and leaping from behind trees. She stumbled to a halt, trapped, frantic. She dropped to her knees, putting herself between the guards and her baby. “Please,” she begged. “Please, don’t do this! She’s not an anomaly! She’s a human being! An innocent baby!”

The guards didn’t stop. Lenna searched for a way out, but found none. “Please! Can’t you see?”

A sharp sting in her back made her stiffen. She felt the sedative seeping through her system, blurring her sight and loosening her grip. “No…” she pleaded softly. “No…!”

As she slumped over on the cold, wet grass, she felt hands reaching between her arms and pulling the bundle from her grasp. The baby squalled in the damp air. Lenna felt the cry as a physical pain.

I’m so sorry, baby, she thought, as consciousness slipped from her grasp. I didn’t want this… I tried!

The last thing she saw was that beautiful hair, spread wide in the breeze as her baby was carried away.

Iris… she thought blearily Mauve…. Sangria…

And then the darkness overcame her, and she knew no more.

———–

Rae lay very still, when she woke, and didn’t open her eyes. She’d been having the strangest dream she could ever recall… something about an old rocking horse she remembered playing on when she was little… except it’s mane and tail had looked all purple, identical to hers. It had turned to look at her, and its face had been decorated with a drawn-on mustache and eyebrows, like what some of the boys had done to the paintings in the hall. She had started to laugh, when suddenly the rocking horse grew giant fangs, and leaped and pinned her to the ground, snarling. That was when she had remembered how those boys had vanished for three days afterward, and how they had never been quite the same since, and how her old rocking horse had been burned as a punishment when she’d tried to build a fort to live in the woods. She stopped laughing, and started crying, and the rocking horse began crying with her. That was when she had woken up.

When she was sure she remembered the whole thing, Rae opened her eyes and sat up. She reached for her bedside table and picked up a cheap notebook, with an annoyingly orange cover. She flipped to a blank page, and after taking out the pen from the binding, wrote:

Fourth Month, Third Day, of Great Broden’s Twenty-Fifth Year of Rule

Dream Record of Brealynn Anomaly

I dreamed I was painting a wall purple. Then the paint fell over, and painted the whole world purple, and I ruled it forever and ever. Except everyone drowned in the paint, so I wasn’t ruling anyone but myself.

She set down the pen, and reread her work, satisfied. Bland and pointless, with just enough a hint of rebellion to make them mad, with just a bad enough ending so they wouldn’t punish her. Pleased, she slammed the notebook closed and set it back down. Dramatically, she flung back the sheets, letting the brown-grey bedspread float gently down like a parachute. Somersaulting onto the floor, Rae cartwheeled the four feet over to her closet, swung the door open while balancing on her hands, and pushed and flipped simultaneously so her knees hooked over the overhead bar and she dangled upside over her clothing. Panting, she grinned happily down at rows of identical down shirts. “Awesome,” she whispered. “Just like normal.”

After getting dressed, Rae flung the sheets back on her bed, tucking the corners and straightening the cloth. With a sigh, she flopped down, arms spread to stare at the white ceiling. “I wish things would be abnormal, sometimes,” she whispered at the ceiling, like she was sharing a secret. “I wish things would actually happen.”

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4 replies

  1. You have the framework for an intriguing and exciting story with plenty of mysteries. It held my interest.

    The plural of anomaly is anomalies, not anomalys. Is there a reason for your spelling?

    Here is a link to my line-by-line critique – http://www.daviscrossing.com/CritiqueFebruary162018.docx

    Other critiquing readers might benefit from checking it out.

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    • Um, yeah, I corrected it to anomalies once I reminded myself of the spelling, but I guess I forgot it for the title. Thanks for pointing that out, and thanks for the critique.

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  2. Hm…aside from what Bryan Davis said in his critique, the main thing that jumps out at me is that in the first paragraph, the cloaked figure is said to be the only thing that’s moving, but then the guards are also something that’s noticeably moving as they search, so that sounds a little off. Also, flashlights are mentioned, so it sounds like the guards are searching on foot, but then ‘eyes in the sky’ are mentioned, which makes it sound like there were also helicopters or people far higher in the building are looking for her from their high vantage point, so it might be good to find a way to clarify the ‘eyes in the sky’ part.

    Other than that, though, good job 🙂

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  3. This is great! You held my interest all the way through. I like the description of the guards’ armor. Made me picture something like the armor you’d find on HALO (only from pictures I’ve seen; I’ve never played any of the games).

    You might want to make some of the narrative slightly more gripping. Try to show, not tell. E.g. this paragraph:
    – “Suddenly, guards were everywhere, black masks and faceless beings closing in around her. Panicking, Lenna made to run past them, darting into the small garden to her right. More guards appeared, sprouting from bushes and leaping from behind trees. She stumbled to a halt, trapped, frantic. She dropped to her knees, putting herself between the guards and her baby. “Please,” she begged. “Please, don’t do this! She’s not an anomaly! She’s a human being! An innocent baby!”

    Could be changed to:
    * Guards appeared from the blackness, their black masks covered their faces, adding to their daunting presence as they closed in around her. Lenna darted into the small garden to her right. She was met by more guards, sprouting from bushes and leaping from behind trees. She stumbled to a halt, trapped, frantic. She dropped to her knees, sheltering her baby from the faceless beings. “Please!” she pleaded, “don’t do this! She’s not an anomaly! She’s a human being! An innocent baby!”

    Try to avoid adverbs. Instead of:
    – Iris… she thought blearily Mauve…. Sangria…

    Consider:
    * Thoughts swirled in her head. Iris… Mauve… Sangria…

    What exactly do you mean by “she knew no more?” Is she dead? Unconcious?
    – And then the darkness overcame her, and she knew no more.

    * Darkness overtook her…

    – It had turned to look at her, and its face had been decorated with a drawn-on mustache and eyebrows, like what some of the boys had done to the paintings in the hall. She had started to laugh, when suddenly the rocking horse grew giant fangs, and leaped and pinned her to the ground, snarling.
    (At first, I thought that she had started to laugh when the boys drew on the paintings)

    Expounding upon Autumn’s comment, would it be better to change “flashlights” to “spotlights”, or “floodlights”?

    Overall, great work! Thank you for writing! We need more talented writers like you who write books worth reading. 📖📚

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