1… 2… 3… 4… 1… 2… 3… 4… I count the corners of my kitchen table as I round them, sliding my palm across the hard edge. 1… 2… 3… 4… again and again.
I started walking in circles around my kitchen table when I was eleven. My parents weren’t concerned. My sister did it when she was younger, and she grew out of it. Yet, here I am, approaching adulthood, and I’m still pacing. Every night. It's comforting, really.
I do it only late at night. With the lights off, no tv, no music. Just the sound of my feet on the linoleum and the only light from the clocks on our appliances. I was quite proud of those clocks. One was on the microwave, the other on the stove. I had them synchronised down nearly to the second.
I’d watch the clocks, too. They were on opposite corners of the kitchen, so I’d see one, note the time and have the pleasant experience of seeing the exact same time on the other when I round the corner.
Round the corner.
As I was doing my pacing, I felt the usual comfort in the sameness of it all. The silence. The limited stimulus. The corners against my palms, the dim LED glow of the clocks. Perfection. I checked the clocks.
Round the corner.
I continued some more, counting into oblivion. There was a rustle outside the patio doors. I ignored it. Raccoons were about this time of night. I turned my attention to the silence I enjoyed. Just my feet on the floor, my counting, and if I listened hard enough, the slow, metered breathing of my parents down the hall. I checked the clocks.
Round the corner.
The rustling had stopped. In fact, it had gotten much quieter than usual. Of course, I couldn’t always hear my parents, but I must’ve been stepping lighter than usual. The normal rhythm of my steps wasn’t there. The whisper of my counting came down to a mumble. Things weren’t too strange, so I continued. I checked the clocks.
Round the corner.
What? The clock on the stove was off. There must’ve been an electrical short, or something. I didn’t hear rain, but maybe there was some lightning that made the power surge. As I passed them, I looked outside my patio doors to see the weather. It was pitch black. Huh. I didn't know it was time for a new moon already. That’s the only reason it would be so dark. I shrugged it off and went on my way around the table. I checked the clocks.
Round the corner.
Now they were both wrong. They were very wrong. Something was wrong. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes. I really should get to bed. Before the clocks went crazy, it was after midnight. Clearly I was sleep deprived enough to be seeing things. I stopped my pacing.
I began walking out towards the living room, and as I reached the doorway, I realised something. The living room wasn’t there.
I'm reposting from the page so my comment doesn't disappear.
-a "whisper" can't fall to a "mumble", its quieter.
-why would the narrator be proud of a clock? Its just a clock.
I'm really not sure what you were going for with this story. The premise seems strange and irrelevent to the weirdness going on. What little scares the story attempts to pull off are pretty cliched (why are the clocks acting weird? They have nearly no relevance to the events occurring at all.) The character dismisses all weirdness up until its bleeding them in the face, and by that point the story has ended, without even reaching a conclusion.
Additionally the whole plot point of pacing is odd and unrealistic. You mean to tell me that two siblings have had intense OCD that requires them to walk around for an hour before midnight, and only NOW is one of them experiencing/considering things to be off? What about the ramifications of having insomnia? In story-time, thats a whole hour of nothing happening. The whole point is that the living room disappeared: what does that mean? How did anything in the past hour contribute to that event?
There’s a lot of questions that need to be addressed when you rewrite or make another draft. Events needs to logically follow each other for there to be closure of any kind.
ScreamingAllTheTime wrote: Acknowledged the same as in my reply in the comments.
I think if you really want to make this work, you should focus on how this ritual actually impacts reality and what do the consequences mean, as well as making that transition smoother/coherent. Inversely, you could have it take a more plausible route and have something happen to the character as they're performing the ritual: for example, a night stalker approaching the patio door and watching them periodically.
There's a rule in writing that basically states if you introduce a concept to a story, you have to use it. Usually called the "Rifle on the Wall" trope (edit: Chekhov's Gun). If there is emphasis on clock weirdness for example, you might convey a little exposition via the electric digits (have them display a message periodically for ex).
Yeah, I also think something could be done with the darkness outside (it was meant to foreshadow the coming disappearance of the rest of the world, which is why the living room is gone) maybe having the main looking out and seeing something, like the eyes of some animal for example, the aforementioned raccoons
I really liked it! There were a couple issues here and there, some were outlined in other comments. Here are the ones I found that weren't outlined:
"Just the sound of my feet on the linoleum and the only light from the clocks on our appliances."
This sentence just feels off. It could be corrected in a couple ways, but I'd probably rephrase it to "Just the sound of my feet on the linoleum and the light coming from the two clocks on our appliances."
"I ignored it. Raccoons were about this time of night."
Same thing as the first sentence I highlighted. The easiest way to make it work would be to add "at" between "about" and "this". You could also change "about" to "common".
I, for one, like that the reader doesn't really see what's happening to the protagonist. No big hint, no smooth transition, it really puts me in the shoes of the character where he turns around for one second and everything changed without him realizing it.
As for the pacing around the room, sure it's unrealistic for the average reader, but I think that if you hint as to why the protagonist left the normal world, it could make it work just fine. For example, what if this was some sort of ritual that an outside force was trying to force onto the protagonist?
What if, very much like in Junji Ito's "Amigara Fault", the protagonist doesn't control their action when it happens? Maybe Instead of it happening in real life it could happen in a dream. Maybe The protagonist could think it's a dream because of a certain feeling of depersonalization that comers with the phenomenon, and therefore, think nothing of it.
Anyway, I really liked this story. I like that it doesn't give the reader much to work with.
You've gotten some very good reviews on this, but I just wanted to add that I liked it. It's simple and effective and working the anxiety up in the reader. The ending feels a little abrupt, but maybe that's okay for a work like this.
The one thing I will add to the reviews you've been given is this: make sure you read this out loud to yourself when you complete your next draft, or run it through a text-to-speech program. This will give you a sense of the flow of your story. It will help you hear where the rhythms aren't serving you and give you an idea of how to fix them.
Overall, nice work. Just clean it up some and this will be a great addition to the wiki, in my opinion.
Yeah I’m glad you like the base. I’m definitely gonna get to reworking it and appealing the deletion once I think it’s up to snuff. The world disappearing is supposed to be like a metaphor for something I’ve felt in real life, as someone who has had some pretty debilitating mental health issues. Sometimes when I get into actions caused by my disorders, it’s very trapping, like it’s all that matters and I can’t stop.
ScreamingAllTheTime wrote: Yeah I’m glad you like the base. I’m definitely gonna get to reworking it and appealing the deletion once I think it’s up to snuff. The world disappearing is supposed to be like a metaphor for something I’ve felt in real life, as someone who has had some pretty debilitating mental health issues. Sometimes when I get into actions caused by my disorders, it’s very trapping, like it’s all that matters and I can’t stop.
Try not to worry about whether the reader's getting that or not. All readers will project their own experiences onto your story, and that's an important thing to allow. That's what's going to help it reach and scare more people. It's great to have your idea, but let the reader have theirs as well.
Looking back on my initial review I think maybe I came down too hard. For the record I don't think this is something "deletion" worthy, far from it. More or less in line with what Corn stated, theres just a lot of little needling details that leave me wanting more. Might be because I was never a huge fan of slowburn on paper: I like me some build up. Also might be because I see the clock-weirdery trope a lot and I feel its still so niche people don't utilize it to the fullest extent.
Also, while I don't think you need absolutely everything explained ala SCP analysis, I think it helps to have some semblence of...closure? Some sort of subjective understanding of the horror phenomenon people can come to conclude on their own. I just worry that the story doesn't allow that and becomes too open-ended, you see. But good luck, and stay safe during quarantine.
I think you can make something out of it. It does require a bunch of reworking, however.
It's just too abrupt, and it's not to say that an abrupt ending is always bad or ineffective. Sometimes it's the best kind of ending, but here it sort of anticlimactic. You're trying to build discomfort through the story, I take it, this means you'll have to make the ending least comfortable, or most shocking. It has to pack a punch.
You can keep the whole thing as it is in form, but be more descriptive; describe everything in great detail. Make me feel like I'm watching a movie in my head reading this. As it is now, it's more of a script.
Then there's also another option; you can frame the bulk of this as a dream or a fever dream, or a hallucination or a daydream - anything really. Just make it a little more trippy throughout and have a disctiptive ending where the protagonist is sweating bullets and is outworldy shaken by the dream. It doesn't have to be scary per se, it just has to be in your head something you'd like to not experience.
I think the best advice here is, try to scare yourself with this. Try to get out of your comfort zone, make your own skin crawl.
I do think you had a bunch of ideas, and a cool visual in mind but you didn't think it all out completely. Sit on that, think it through, figure out some symbolism (which I take it you're probably considering) and you'll have something lovely right here.