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SORRY I FORGOT: this is unreviewed and unfinished, I just wanted some thoughts on this. Thanks! The man stared across the screen. It didn’t feel as if he was staring at a camera. He was staring at me. I felt chills spool down my spine, chilly fingers tap dancing along my back, feeling as if this wasn’t my bodily functions, as if someone was behind me. I whipped around in the chair provided to me by the company, and saw nothing. I turned back to the monitor, heart pumping. What happened was something I couldn’t explain, nor I wanted to.

The mall wasn’t a place I was afraid of, at least not during the day, it was easy to call for help, with customers and security everywhere, so I felt comfortable taking a job there. Apparently every teenager in town felt the exact same way. The first day of work came soon enough after I applied. The job I had applied for had came oddly enough. I was going through job posts on my town’s website. It was the town mall after all, and I needed a job after taking a gap year after high school. I was on the website, browsing through the job postings when the website reloaded and the screen went dark for about a few seconds. As the screen darkened in the reflection of the screen I swore I could see something behind me. I had chalked it all up to my ravaging imagination. What a fool I was. When the screen turned back on I was still on the website, with only job posting available, being one of “Security: Camera feed surveillance.” With no other option, I clicked the apply now button.

The first day of work came soon enough, after the interview process they hired me on the spot, I guess my references held up pretty well. I walked into the surveillance room with a colleague, who was there to show me the ropes and etiquette of working at the mall. When I walked into the room, something immediately felt off. It was like one of those liminal space pictures where you don’t know what it could be, where it could be, or anything. What I did next baffled myself, I sat down in the chair without saying anything, and flicked on the monitor. My colleague looked at me funny, and I felt his gaze from the back of my head, and I snapped out of it. I stood up, apologized, and took in the room. The room was beige, off white colored, with a single fluorescent light hanging from the ceiling. There was a desk sitting on the table, and an old computer monitor with all the fixings with it. There was always something I saw about this room as being “off” but it didn’t matter much to me in the moment. My co-worker was standing beside me in the far too cramped room for both of us as he turned on the PC, and it booted to the Windows ME boot screen. “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and don’t even try to upgrade the software, the whole place’s networking will fall the fuck apart, and we don’t want to have another ‘incident’ when the security, wifi, networking, and cabling all goes to hell, and we have to shut down the mall for a few weeks again. Last dude who did that got fired, so make sure to never, never screw around with anything on the computer, settings or operating system, anything. Never.” The look on his face as I said this was dark, almost frightening. He logged into the computer, gave me the password, and left saying no more than a few words. He had left me to my own devices, and I was a bit unnerved with the room, now that nobody else is here other than the tower of monitors and the keyboard in front of me. I knew that to make myself feel comfortable in the place I would need to customize it, maybe get some posters, a new mouse pad, stickers, whatever I can to make the room not feel so, offputting. The room felt larger than it could be on the outside, as if I felt smaller in it than I was. I was not a small man by any sorts, but this desk and room in front of me made me look a few inches shorter than I knew I was; I constantly joked with my friends about how short they were, and the fact this place made me feel short was a odd realization to me.

With my sight seeing of the room done, I turned back to the computer, and began the application to check security cameras. My work outline and procedures were in a booklet next to me, and I grabbed it and began to read. An excerpt from page 37: “Your job as security camera manager, may sometimes be dangerous, with things happening in this mall being unlawful, such as: shoplifting, assault, verbal abuse, and manslaughter. We hope that these horrible crimes are never replicated in this mall, although they have happened before during the incident. Your job as the security camera manager is to report these incidents to the correct personnel, with the phone provided.” Huh, I had not noticed a phone on the desk, but like magic, one was there. Coming into the room it didn’t feel as if this was here when I walked in, but I’m not the most perceptive person, so I wasn’t ever 100% sure. So after reading through this booklet, I turned back to the cameras. There wasn’t anything out of the order here, a woman with one of those purse dogs in the Victoria’s Secret shoplifting by stuffing stuff into the bag with the dog. Didn’t want to imagine how that smelled afterwards. I called security and watched the scene unfold as she grabbed and screamed profanities as security escorted her, rather forcefully, out of the building. I laughed in my seat, the situation would be funny to any one of us, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the first time that something such as this would happen, and I was giddy with excitement at the next show. It felt like I was watching a movie, and this movie was going to last for a very long time. Before long, the day was over, and I clocked out, and went home.

I had clocked into the job the next day a little early. Posters and mousepads in tow, I had walked into the building when it was empty, using the key given to me on the first day to get in the building. The mall felt eerie as I walked through it, empty shops with the muzak playing over the loudspeakers. The alarm system didn’t recognize me as an intruder, so that was good I guess. I turned the corner to another section of the mall and saw a store that seemed to be open, but left abandoned, as if the owner had dashed out in a hurry. Thinking in my head that this was a little odd, I walked into the store. This place was a store I had visited myself, a small convenience store sandwiched between two of the most popular stores in the mall, the Apple store and the Tommy Hilifiger. The place was small, and very home like. There was wood panelling on the walls, carpets on the ground, and a few rows of shelves and coolers. There was a counter with a LottoMax machine sitting on it, with the processing computer and debit card reader. I could have used a pick me up, having not eaten breakfast that day, I grabbed a Monster Energy from the cooler, and when I turned around to leave a note, and some money, a man was standing at the counter. I was startled, and screamed. The man stayed the same, facial expression and all, and looked at me. His eye twitched. “Ya gonna pay for that?” He said. “Yes, sorry, you startled me and I thought nobody was here,” I replied back. I paid for the drink and left, hurrying as fast as I could out of there. I felt the death glare he was giving me through my soul, and went into the security office. The room felt larger again. I blinked and it went away.

I booted up the PC, and opened my drink, Windows ME blaring in my ears. The speakers were turned all the way up, and it was too much. I turned off the speakers. After I logged in, and it took it’s time going to the home screen, I put up my posters, and set down my mousepad. Anything to make this place feel a little more like home, right? Miku stared down at me from the poster I had set above the monitors, and that gave me an odd sort of companionship, and friendliness, one that the coldness of the room clashed against. By the time I was finished, it was time for the mall to open. I opened the security app, and the first camera was set to the one in the convenience store I was at. There was a different man working the counter. It was weird, I had thought, because the shift hadn’t really even started yet. I switched my camera over to the one in the Nike store. Nothing. I switched my camera over to the one in the Spencers, nothing, except for a grandma checking out the back a little too closely. Before long, they day was over, and I clocked out to go home.

I clocked in on time this time, feeling unnerved after my encounter with that clerk yesterday. As normal, booted up the PC and started checking cameras. I was on the one for the Dollar General when I noticed a man. This person wasn’t doing much in the store, almost as if he wasn’t there. He looked normal enough, imagine an average man and that’s who he was. Looked like a painting, oddly enough, something only a mind could perceive inside of itself. He did nothing except stare into the camera. Standing there, staring. I called security off of the phone next to me. I saw them over the cameras go over to the spot I had described to them, and then they called me back. “Are you okay? We see nobody there.”

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William See (talk) 20:56, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[]

Its looking like a solid draft, but that opening paragraph feels really out of place. I don't mind cold opens personally, but I think it might look better a little more towards the middle/rising action of the story as well. Or perhaps you could have it be a red herring and the narrator accidentally saw a coworker in the monitor reflection.

RedNovaTyrant (talk) 19:31, 11 July 2024 (UTC)[]

I think there is potential here, but it is going to need a fair amount of work. For positives, your punctuation is pretty solid for the most part, and I think the cold open paragraph is good - although I agree with William that it could use a little revision.

Regarding structure, I have a number of comments here. The first being the most obvious, but also one of the easier to fix - you need to break this up into more paragraphs. The current walls of text are extremely hard on the eyes to read through, so cutting them up a bit finer will automatically make the story more appealing just from a visual standpoint.

In addition to this, you have a number of run-on sentences that also strain the reader's attention. Without proper pauses, breaks or differing sentence lengths, this can also tire the reader out. One very easy example to show is this:
I could have used a pick me up, having not eaten breakfast that day, I grabbed a Monster Energy from the cooler, and when I turned around to leave a note, and some money, a man was standing at the counter.
This could have been broken up into two separate sentences; I would've put the period at the end of "that day". The unnecessary amount of commas makes this go on far longer than it needs to. There are multiple examples of this throughout the story, so I encourage you to go back through and fix these.

There's also some awkward phrasing scattered throughout. To showcase a few instances that stood out to me:

  • I could have used a pick me up, having not eaten breakfast that day - Returning to this again, the "I could have used" feels really clunky, something like "I was in need of a pick-me-up" could work better.
  • What I did next baffled myself, I sat down in the chair without saying anything, and flicked on the monitor. - While interesting in concept as to why the MC is doing this, opening with the line "What I did next baffled myself" into another comma kinda ruins the strangeness and takes me out of the moment.
  • There was a desk sitting on the table - Even more strange wording like this that make no sense, a proof read could catch things like this.
  • “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and don’t even try to upgrade the software, the whole place’s networking will fall the fuck apart, and we don’t want to have another ‘incident’ when the security, wifi, networking, and cabling all goes to hell, and we have to shut down the mall for a few weeks again. - Perfect example of a run-on sentence, repetitive and garbled language, and way too wordy. People don't talk like this, especially with no clear breaks. You can definitely still get all of this across, still have this character say all of these things (I actually liked the immediate hostility of this coworker, very surprising and caught my interest), but it needs to be broken up into more sentences, made to sound a bit more natural, etc. Some back and forth with your main character will make the dialogue feel even more real, even if the MC is only saying "Uh-" or "But-" and just keeps getting interrupted by this coworker, for instance.

One really good tip I'd offer for writing is to read your sentences out loud to yourself. If the exact wording doesn't sound right when you say it, you may want to reconsider that particular phrase and try rewording it.

I won't speak too much or give heavy criticism to the plot, as it's currently unfinished and would be unfair to fully judge it. I will give my thoughts on what you have so far, and so far? It's alright. I like the idea of seeing strange things being done by the employees of the mall to customers, I think there's a lot you can do with that. However, the meta references (i.e. explaining what a liminal space is) immediately yank me out of the story because it feels so out of place.

And finally my last piece of advice - slow down! Some scenes feel like they go really slow because they're too wordy, and others go by way too quick. Take your time, give the right amount of description to a scene that creates a full image in the reader's head, and then keep going. I know, getting through the boring bits of a story so you can get to the twists can be a slog, but it will be worth it in the end if you take your time with the story.