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  • Darkness. Not a peep in the void.

    Then shapes, sounds, blurred and distorted, but growing into something more tangible. I feel my feet on the floor and my arms by my sides. My mouth is dry, and my breath comes to me in short gasps that soon even out into longer, deeper sighs. I blink the haziness away and take a quick glance at my surroundings, realising with moderate shock that I’m in my household ballroom.

    I look down at myself. I’m wearing my finest, most expensive garments, a three-piece navy suit with silver cufflinks. My hands run back along my scalp to find my hair groomed into a stylish wave. I see other people, dressed in similarly elegant attire: suits and ties and pretty dresses. They chat politely to one another, laughing and smiling, glasses of wine in their hands. A fireplace burns gently at the far end of the room, casting a soft, thoughtful light that reflects off an impressively ornate chandelier dangling from the ceiling, covered in sparkling gemstones. As my hearing restores, I hear tasteful piano music being played, though I see no piano. Despite the uncertainty, a cool, comfortable energy hangs in the air. The room is neither overcrowded and unpleasant, nor dull and lifeless, but instead a perfect balance between.

    Still somewhat dazed, I force my legs into action and take a short stroll along the carpeted floor. There seems to be no blatant tell for whatever the occasion may be, no birthday banners, nor Christmas tree or New Year countdown clock. Tables are arranged in lines besides the walls, covered in gift boxes and costly snack food, with vases of flowers and glowing candlesticks arranged neatly on every table-top. Grand paintings adorn the walls, kept within decorated golden frames. Moustached butlers amble politely between the crowds of people, carrying plates of cooked shrimp and freshly-baked pastries. The smell is intoxicatingly pleasant.

    Bewildered by the sheer luxury of it all, I decide to start looking for answers. I approach a man standing alone near the corner of the ballroom, sipping a glass of champagne. He hums a merry tune to himself but stops as I tap him on the shoulder.

    He turns towards me. Half of his face has been torn off, leaving nothing but a cavernous opening in its place, exposing both his brain matter and the inside of his mouth. I back away in disgust, pointing and stammering, as the man gives me a puzzled expression and turns back around again as if nothing had happened.

    I flick my eyes from guest to guest in a panic. Their friendly demeanours had distracted me at first, but now I see the awful truth. Each is marred by some terrible deformity. A woman with icy-blue skin and a shock of soaked ginger hair, looking as if she had drowned, chats courteously to a gentleman with blackened, burned skin, peeling off his flesh. Another man with three bullet holes shot clean through his head talks to two twin brothers, one covered in boils and scabs, and the other with an opening melted straight through his chest.

    As I continue to weave through the ballroom, I quickly notice that my presence is plainly met with discomfort and unease by each and every guest. Groups of people hurriedly slide out of my way wherever I walk, shooting me dirty looks out of the corner of my eye. To every conversation I try to enter, I am only met with disdainful looks and raised eyebrows, as if I were the deformed one. Even the butlers, who are noticeably free of disfigurement, simply ignore me and regard my attendance as some sort of imperfection.

    I am startled once more by a mighty creak that echoes from the front door. The curtains burst open, and an aura of pure, white light beams into the room, so dazzling, I lift my arm to shield my eyes from the brightness. The guests smile and sigh contently, and one by one, they put down their refreshments and begin to siphon through the doorway, disappearing as the light engulfs their bodies.

    The last guest slips through, and the door slams shut in my face as I approach it.

    I turn back towards the ballroom. The enjoyable atmosphere has evaporated. Instead, the room now holds a far more sinister feel. The fire is extinguished, and the candlestick flames have been reduced to gusts of smoke, plunging the room into a darkened, greyish shadow. The chandelier has fallen into disrepair, and the paintings seem to warp and darken before my very eyes, twisting into all manner of strange shapes. I pick up a glass of wine, only for it to spoil and turn to ashes in my hand. The food is rotten and dusty, now being swarmed by flies. In fact, the entire ballroom looks as if it has been long abandoned, though it was lively and populated just a few seconds ago.

    Childlike voices giggle and whisper all around me. I come across a shattered mirror, only to watch my very body rot away to the ravages of time, my skin stretching over my bony frame, and the light draining from my eyes in an instant. My suit droops and turns to rags, and the hair rolls off my balding head in messy clumps. I collapse upon the floor in horror, reaching out towards the ceiling for some sort of relief.

    Another voice, louder than the others, whispers in my ear.

    “You’ve been here far too long,” It speaks, in a voice that could make the bravest wither in fear, “Better wake up now before you forget how to.” And as I open my mouth to scream, I awaken in a cold sweat upon my bedroom floor.

    Immediately, I run downstairs to the ballroom. It’s untouched, exactly as I had left it. There are no paintings on the walls nor fire in the fireplace. There isn't a dust particle out of place.

    What I do notice from my bedroom window is dozens of footsteps leading away from the front door outside, imprinted in the snow.

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    • I don't see much of a review for this coming out of me. The fact that this is a dream is a bit obvious from the beginning, if you don't want it to be so, perhaps add some surprised emotion to your protag along with some curiousity. Almost as if to show that they're exploring something they think they shouldn't be in. If you are into making it slightly obvious, keep it as it is. 

      I don't see much of a point to the closing statement really, it doesn't add anything for me. The revalantion of this being a dream is a good enough ending as it is. It's very lackluster as it is, it either negates the previous statement, "you better wake up" or just sticks out like a sore thumb. Was this a dream or not? This question isn't one of interested wondering, it's more of a questioning of your endgoal as the writer, at least from me.  

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    • Why was the two word sentence “I blink.” Added?

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    • Author13 wrote: Why was the two word sentence “I blink.” Added?

      To show that the character blinks. The next sentence begins with "The haziness begins to subside...", which I intended to be shown as a result of the blinking. I suppose a comma would be more appropriate than a full stop in this context.

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    • Cornconic wrote:

      Author13 wrote: Why was the two word sentence “I blink.” Added?

      I suppose a comma would be more appropriate than a full stop in this context.

      I suggest to conjoin them by saying, “I blinked and the haziness began to subside.”

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    • BloodySpghetti wrote: I don't see much of a point to the closing statement really, it doesn't add anything for me. The revalantion of this being a dream is a good enough ending as it is. It's very lackluster as it is, it either negates the previous statement, "you better wake up" or just sticks out like a sore thumb. Was this a dream or not? This question isn't one of interested wondering, it's more of a questioning of your endgoal as the writer, at least from me.  

      You seem to be missing the underlying theme of the pasta. Try to take a step back and look at it a little less literally.

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    • Cornconic wrote:

      BloodySpghetti wrote: I don't see much of a point to the closing statement really, it doesn't add anything for me. The revalantion of this being a dream is a good enough ending as it is. It's very lackluster as it is, it either negates the previous statement, "you better wake up" or just sticks out like a sore thumb. Was this a dream or not? This question isn't one of interested wondering, it's more of a questioning of your endgoal as the writer, at least from me.  

      You seem to be missing the underlying theme of the pasta. Try to take a step back and look at it a little less literally.

      I read it a few times and there doesn't seem to be any undertone theme other than "perspective is a thing" or "things aren't always as they seem". Im probably missing the point and id be glad if you could explain.

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    • I read it a few times and there doesn't seem to be any undertone theme other than "perspective is a thing" or "things aren't always as they seem". Im probably missing the point and id be glad if you could explain.

      The events of the pasta are an allegory for the afterlife (hence, The After-Party). The ballroom is a representation of purgatory, a waiting room, if you will. It is displayed as an upper-class party scenario to make the 'waiting' experience more pleasant for the guests: there is food and gifts, and as the narrator picks up on, the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. The 'guests', who are the representation of spirits that have died and are now present in this 'waiting room', are all horribly deformed to mirror the way their bodies were when they died (shot with bullet holes, blue skin "as if she had drowned", etc.).

      The narrator is so plainly unwelcome at this party simply because he is not dead, and has entered this realm accidentally. This explains why he is treated so poorly by the guests, and why he cannot enter the blinding white light through the front door (symbolising the passage into heaven).

      I think that should be enough for you to get the gist of things. I'd rather leave the rest to the imagination. Now that I read through the pasta again a few more times, I see that maybe I should be working on making these themes a little more clear.

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    • Cornconic wrote:

      I read it a few times and there doesn't seem to be any undertone theme other than "perspective is a thing" or "things aren't always as they seem". Im probably missing the point and id be glad if you could explain.

      The events of the pasta are an allegory for the afterlife (hence, The After-Party). The ballroom is a representation of purgatory, a waiting room, if you will. It is displayed as an upper-class party scenario to make the 'waiting' experience more pleasant for the guests: there is food and gifts, and as the narrator picks up on, the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. The 'guests', who are the representation of spirits that have died and are now present in this 'waiting room', are all horribly deformed to mirror the way their bodies were when they died (shot with bullet holes, blue skin "as if she had drowned", etc.).

      The narrator is so plainly unwelcome at this party simply because he is not dead, and has entered this realm accidentally. This explains why he is treated so poorly by the guests, and why he cannot enter the blinding white light through the front door (symbolising the passage into heaven).

      I think that should be enough for you to get the gist of things. I'd rather leave the rest to the imagination. Now that I read through the pasta again a few more times, I see that maybe I should be working on making these themes a little more clear.

      Yeah, I guess. The thought of the protagonist being perhaps attacked in his home during a bulgary crossed my mind because of the "foot prints in the snow" but I dismissed it because you described the house being tidy with everything still in place. 

      I guess it does require some clarification since the whole afterlife/dream world scenario aren't too far apart in fiction. 

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