"2014 Short Story Contest entry: Grumpycroc"

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by grumpycroc, Jul 14, 2014.

  1. grumpycroc

    grumpycroc Member

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    I really feel like I could have did better if I had the time, but this the dead line. Pencils down. enjoy

    The White bird jungle.

    I ran up the mountain with painful flashes of memory possessing me with fear.

    The old priestess witch doctor warning us too late, with her lips quivering, and her eyes fearfully wide. “We've taken too much from the forest! She comes for us now!”

    My husband, Kokia, and the men holding back the threat at bay with spears. “Kalisa run! Run while we can still hold her back!”

    Most of all I remember her. The amazon princess, the otherworldly half/human creature, riding an Anaconda longer than four huts and with jaws able to swallow six men. The hate in her glowing emerald eyes branding my traumatized mind. I ran, but not fast enough to avoid my husband's final scream of pain. When I finally collapsed, my face was wet with tears.

    (Que prompt 1 )

    With the salty solution dripping into my mouth, I placed my hand on my belly, and declared to the stars, “Husband...I will name our child Kokia, Boy or girl, I will name it after you.”

    It took forever to fall asleep, and I grumbled at being awoken by the calls of toucans. Still, I pushed myself up, my body creaking sore from resting on solid stone. Down below was the rainforest, from which the waterfalls, howler monkeys, and bird songs echoed. I needed breakfast, and to find my people. The rainforest was my best hope for food, and of finding some of my scattered people.

    The leaves on the forest floor would sometimes slide from underneath me, so I tread carefully, occasionally grabbing branches to maintain balance. A gently flowing brook led me to an Ohya fruit tree. It was necessary to wade through knee high water to reach the tree's sweet, yellow, one of which fit in the palm of the hand. Before a fruit was plucked there was a squeak, and a splashing. To my left there was something that made me jump and gasp upon seeing it.

    “A river dolphin!” I said aloud to no one. “I sure am glad to see a friend like you but...”

    I waded into the water. “How did you get so high up the mountain and why are you in water so shallow?” There were so many found memories of patting dolphins, yet when I offered my hand, the creature lunged and snapped at me.

    “Aaah!” I fell back to the tree and on my buttocks. The creature hissed and snapped like a crocodile. “Why are you...wait...you're...” I looked into the dolphin's narrowed eyes, and when it drifted into to tree's shade, one could see the faint glow.

    “You're the amazon princess.” I fell to my knees, and bowed my head. “Great spirit, we have taken too much from your forest. Please offer forgiveness.” For several moments nothing happened. Even standing back on my feet did not offend the princess. My rumbling stomach then reminded me of the reason to come to the tree.

    I reached for the fruit. “Please great spirit I have only come here too...Ahhh!” The dolphin thrusted so hard that she came upon the land to knock me back into the water with a splash.

    “Please princess, I am with child...gaa!” slimy eels snaked around my legs and sent powerful jolts through my body, causing it to go numb and seize. Only when they relented was it possible to crawl to the land.

    The dolphin princess lay immobile on the ground next to the fruit tree, but as she maintained her narrow glare, army ants, and scorpions crawled from under the leaves, while spiders and vipers descended from trees to the calls of howlers monkeys. The final call to run was the roar of hidden jaguars.

    Up was the only way out of the jungle, where the tree line gave way to the mountain's solid stone cliffs. After a long time of gasping on my knees, I let my head hang back in relief. There were few beast that came to the rock, so I was safe, but still hungry and frustrated.

    “That witch!” I said kicking a stone in frustration. “We’re supposed to do die for a few trees?” With a grumble I turned around saying, “So I'll plant a few trees if that will make her...” There was shocked silence upon seeing it. The huge gash cut into the jungle by my people. A quarter of the forests that I could see had been reduced to patches of grasses and desolate dirt. Land we used and left empty. Still other parts were black after being burned away. An ugly contrast to the shining emerald canopy fo the untouched forest alive with the echos of monkey calls, toucan songs, and water falls.

    My forehead falling into my hand, I realized that we would never be forgiven, and the jungle could not ever be my home again. It was time to turn to the cliffs.

    The cliff before me was barren save for few shrub trees, made twisted by the wind, which could dig into the rock. The trees had roots strong enough to serve as handles, to scale the cliff, but they had no fruit. The sun was well into the south before I finally found berries with spines. Maha berries. When the spikes were peeled away, their sweet juices could explode in my mouth, but after plucking only a handful, the shrub was half bare.

    More berries were found, but never enough. A small shadow was cast over me. I put my hand over my eyes to block out the sun to see what was above. It was an unfamiliar white bird. I followed it, and others of its kind as they circled the sky. The birds led me to the most astounding thing I had ever seen.

    At the edge of a cliff, I could see the most enormous lake any person could ever know. This great lake stretched far beyond the horizon, rippled with white crested waves, and shined a brilliant sapphire blue. I was paralyzed with wonder. For a long time, not even my hunger could take my attention away. Eventually my stomach shouted with grumbles and pain.

    Squawking white birds could be heard from the cliff's edge. Leaning down it was possible to see them poking their yellow beaks out of crevices. It was also possible to see what a long flight down it would be if I fell trying to capture them or their eggs.

    I don't think I will find much food elsewhere. I reasoned. I should do this before hunger makes me too weak. Kneeling down to scale the cliff I suddenly became sick and overwhelmed with second thoughts.

    All that was in my mind's eye was a mother white bird anxiously pecking at my scalp, while I struggled to hang on to an egg and my life. It was possible to hunt the birds if a spear could be carved, but carving spears was never my skill. Either way, it would all be a temporary respite. There just wasn't enough eggs or berries on the ridges sustain me for more than a few moons, less considering the baby. A new approach was needed.

    I searched again for food. More berries were found. A clear pound was found, from which to drink. There were beetles, and ants, but still, counting the birds, there was little, and still no way around a new approach. I found a place to think, so high up that clouds could be seen floating over the great lake, the setting sun reflecting gold off them. (prompt 2 http://miriadna.com/desctopwalls/images/max/Sky,-clouds-and-sea.jpg)There I could begin the conversation with myself.

    I can never go back to the forest. These stone mountain tops are to be my home forever, but the food here will not last forever.

    My eyes scanned to the left and right of me. Enough berries and bugs to last me a moon at the very most. The birds may take me to two, but if I can't hunt any why should they be included. It makes things even worse that there is two of us.

    My belly was only just beginning to bulge. I guessed it would be seven moons before Kokia arrived, but found myself swallowing saliva in anxiety that we would not live until then. Finally an idea

    With a sigh I peered down to my belly, and explained it. “If we hope to survive we must feed this land so it can feed us. Feed it until it’s as fertile as the jungle.”

    Any plants that were edible were weeded, and amended with whatever rotting material could be found. The stone around them carved away with a rock. Every day their branches were measured against my fingers, and there was cussing when they grew too slowly. Every fruit plucked was a count down. To buy more time plants that attracted edible insects were tended to. The fruit time keeper was slowed, but as the full moon turned to waning quarter, the bushes became emptier and emptier till I was scrounging the very bottom of the closet plants. My bones began showing even as my belly was growing. The subtraction was clear, we would not make it. Anxiety turned to desperation, and the white birds were worth another look.

    The white birds looked plump with their chest popped out, and made me lick my lips, but their cliff defense paralyzed me. Dropping a rock on them was impossible, for they tucked themselves deep into their crevices. There were cuts in the cliff that allowed me to walk down to the water safely, but never to the birds. Attempts to carve spears wasted sticks and stones. The birds were always out of my throwing range regardless.

    I reached for a ledge where a grip could be obtained, but when pulling myself up my swelling torso touched the cold hard wall, and I relented, at first.

    It's too dangerous, I thought, but then up against the wall the images of bare berry bushes flashed in my mind, and the thought of consuming an egg overwhelmed me. The scaling of the wall continued, even as my knees had to be bent to keep the belly from it. With every step there was a pause and thought. I would look down and remembered the dangers of falling, then looked up at the smug birds, shoving their beaks into their feathers.

    Just one egg, just one egg.

    The crawl up proceeded. Suddenly a rock slipped from under my foot. It fell and split on the boulders below.

    This is mad. I thought. This is mad. The climb would not happen.

    On my way down one of the birds dropped something hard.

    For hours I watched the birds pick up hard things, drop them, and then lap up something with in them. Finally, a white bird was scared away just after a drop, and so it was possible to see what it was eating. Something soft in a shell. I sniffed it, and ate it. It was bouncy and tough, but consumable. When I didn't die more of the soft things in shells were collected.

    Later, after watching the birds fight for nesting grounds, I tore out cliff trees with rocks to make crevices for the birds nest in.

    One moon passed. Maha branches blossomed, the white birds nested in my crevices, and new fruits were discovered as weeds were peeled back. The shelled things, bugs and fruits I collected finally put some fat on my bones, and grew the baby in my belly, all the while the birds brought nutrition to plants through their guano. There was finally enough food to concentrate on the future, but that future appeared dangerously lonely.

    While looking out to the great lake, I rubbed my swelling belly, pondering how I was to give birth to little Kokia. So many of the women I had cooked, and plowed the fields with, jumped to be at my side after the first bought of morning sickness. It was striking, remembering Isa, smiling, cupping both my hands in hers.

    “Please, let me be your mid wife.” I agreed

    My mind's eye showed her suddenly bursting out of the bushes, and me embracing her. I imagined my parents, my friends, my husband, emerging from the brush. They never did, only birds, and chinchillas.

    Days passed, weeks passed. Two moon passed, then three, and four. The barren stone became greener, food grew sufficiently, but my hope became meager. Then on the day before the fifth full moon someone began to emerge.

    The jolt forced me to grab my swollen belly. When it happened again, I rose up from plucking berries, and was able to walk off the pain. Still, nervous beads of sweat formed on my forehead. The gathering of food continued throughout the day, for the sake of distraction. Recollections of child birth deaths flooded my mind, as I paced in circles, for Kokia was coming. The sky was red in the west, when it finally occurred to me to head the pond.

    “Maybe water would do me good,” I said to myself gasping. The sun sunk deeper and deeper as the marching continued, and contractions came on stronger. The pond was in the distance, so my pace quickened, but I stopped, when her figure rose out of the water.

    “No. Not you. Not now!”

    Appearing as a shadow against the late sun set, the amazon princess sat half out of the pond, pointing her beak at me. From behind the rocks a caiman and a jaguar meandered to her flanks. My heart pounded harder as the princess began rising. Her fins extending into arms, and boney fingers. Her body stretching towards the sky, her too slender form becoming like a skeleton ascending from the netherworld. I turned and ran.

    I must find more barren rocks. They won't follow me there! Much of the night was spent running, before collapse to sleep in a cave. Time for rest was short, for soon more violent contractions ripped me from sleep. My back ached like someone pushed on it from the inside, I was sweating and gasping constantly, then more animals.

    Iguanas, capaberras, otters and other beast that didn't belong, broke from the tree line below.

    “She sent you, didn't she? She's near, isn't she.” The beasts stared, and I forced myself up again.

    I leaned on every bolder, and stumped tree I could find to keep moving. It was impossible to walk otherwise. My pace slowed. With the animals gathering, my eyes scanned for the most comfortable place for my baby and me to die. There was just enough to strength in me to hobble to a grove of brush, and fall. (prompt three is Midnattblod’s picture)

    I was a sweating, gasping, mess, heaving and sore, my life to be taken by an animal at any moment, except it wasn't. Instead I was left to moan and squirm with my eyes closed as the contractions sent agonizing quakes through my body. It wasn't until slimy fluids drained between my legs that my eyes burst open. The sky was lit bright by the full moon and the stars. The moon was the first beauty to notice, before closing my eyes, and concentrating on my pain. Then something warm worked its way between the back of my shoulders. As slow as a turtle, it gradually elevated my upper body, while its hot breath soothed me. Then something soft, and silk was placed under my head.

    My eyes opened again, and their forms were revealed in the moonlight. They stood tall, and wore white robes like men, but their stoic faces were of monkeys, lizards, and jaguars. They were animal spirits, and standing amongst them was the most beautiful woman to ever be seen. Her fair skin shined like gold, her flowing hair reflected the light of the moon, and her eyes glowed like the emerald canopy of the jungle. When I saw an infant squirm in a spider-silk strap on her breast I was certain the amazon princess would not slay me.

    The princess keeled between my legs, while the spirits rested their warm paws on my sides. Her fingers went inside me, feeling the child with in. Then with a voice that was as a gentle breeze, she said one word.

    “Push.”

    I screamed. Pushing that huge child through was the greatest agony, but I forced myself forward, squeezing the paw of the jaguar spirit as I did.

    “Push.” I gave it everything.

    “Push.” I thought I would die. Then crying. Kokia had come.

    The child was coated in fluid, and covered in blood. His cries deafening and beautiful. With a single touch, the amazon princess melted away the umbilical cord. Soaked with sweat, eyes flooded with tears, I reared up. My arms opened to accept my new child, but the princess brought the baby to her own breast. When she turned around I screamed.

    “My child! What are you doing with Kokia?!” The Monkey, and iguana spirit held me down by my shoulders. She took a moment to hold Kokia, but then turned around and offered back my crying and blood covered child.

    “For your jungle,” She said. She walked away, then she and the spirits faded like the mist. I fell asleep, breast feeding my baby for the first time.

    The next morning there was tromping in the brush. Voices, could be heard.

    “Look at all the berries, there's a feast here.”

    Isa?

    “I know. It's so lush. It almost a miniature jungle.”

    Oya...my husband's brother.

    “We should camp here.”

    I bolted up and to the voices. When I emerged I was greeted with shocked eyes and then smiles, from five of my people.

    “You're alive!” Isa had tears in her eyes at seeing me.

    “You're alive. With the baby no less. Come. Please come.” All five of my fellow villagers swarmed in to embrace, and I responded in kind, but then they stopped. Their smile faded.

    “What's...What's wrong?”

    “That baby. Look at its eyes.” When I peered down I gasped at the sight of Kokia's eyes glowing green.

    Isa pointed her finger at me. “Look at it. It's look like some kind of animal. You’re with the amazon princess, aren't you?”

    “No...I..” The child did not resemble the one in my arms before. Its jaw was longer like it could be a peek, and his hair felt like down feathers on a chick.

    Oya hoisted his spear. “You must have cheated on my brother with an animal spirit. You sick witch.”

    “That's not true.”

    “You must have brought the amazon princess on our village.”

    My pulse quickened, as the people closed in. “Please, I don't know what happened!” Oya was ready to thrust his spear in me, when there was a sudden roar. My former tribe jumped back when the great cat leaped between me and them. Oya fell on his bottom. The roaring call of howler monkeys was defining. Serpents, spiders, and scorpions began crawling out of the brush, forming a wall of venom between me and my former people, while circling birds cast shadows over us all. With one last look, the tribe retreated from my jungle.(prompt 1 again )

    Kokia was not lost to me. Over the years, I would see a human boy with tapers, and ocelots. Sometimes he would even be seen swimming with a glowing eyed dolphin, but he was the child of a different jungle. The child with me grew to be the most beautiful boy I had ever seen, and so did the forest around us. It didn't matter that he sometimes turned into animals, because, he made me amazon princess of my own jungle.
     
  2. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Breakdown of scores and feedback from judges:

    Judge #1:

    The plot of the story was rather predictable until the birth of the child. The only unpredictable event was the appearance of the fellow tribespeople, which was however a little confusing to read and understand. The whole story itself is well written, but the lack of depth in the plot as well as the main character didn’t make it very entertaining. As to the prompts: I failed to see how Midnattblod’s image fit into the story. I looked at the prompts after reading all the short stories, so they wouldn’t influence my reading, and I hadn’t imagined the surroundings to look anything like in the prompt. Some more descriptions might have made this a bit clearer. The other prompts worked very well, though.

    Depth of story: 3
    Entertainment value: 3
    Use of prompts: 6

    Score: 12/30

    Judge #2:

    Imaginative use of prompts: 5/10

    I could identify all of the prompts used in the story but they were used fairly literally as they were. I was a little unsure about how the song fit however. The entire story was suspenseful, beginning with the main character’s escape, continuing with her struggle to survive and the birth and then ending with her conflict with her tribe. The song did not sound like it held any element of danger or suspense to me though. I interpreted it to be lighter and more upbeat in essence than that.

    Entertainment value: 9/10

    I thought the opening of this story was great and I felt it had good pacing and suspense throughout which drew me on to keep reading it. I loved the twist at the end where the Amazon princess swapped the babies. That was a really cool idea. :) Though the plotline and story-arc were solid, they were also fairly standard fare. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going with the tried and true, but to get a perfect score from me on this judging point you’d have to come up with something unusual / original / new.

    Depth of Story: 8/10

    I think you did very well in creating some depth in your story. You managed to convey to me a sense that the main character and her tribe had a long-standing relationship (history) with the Amazon princess. It was the tribe’s greed and stupidity that wrecked it (common problem among us humans....unfortunately) and that mistakes can be repaired and forgiven (as represented by the main character’s feat of turning a barren wasteland into a new forest). My favourite element of depth in your story though comes from the baby-swap twist at the end. It sent my mind racing, wondering who exactly the Amazon Princess was and where she had originally come from. That suggested to me that the Amazon Princess had a much more rich history with the jungle tribe than even the main character knew about. :)

    Bonus: +2 for story submission a day early!!!

    Total Score: 24/30

    Judge #3:

    There appears to be a little confusion as to the placement of the character in relation to her surroundings. Early on it sounds like she heads to the rainforest yet there's little expansion to where she was to begin with (with the prompt of music one might assume the settlement was fully within the rainforest).

    Latter when the dolphin appears the character seems to shift positions from being in the water to on dry land (to bow one's head to the ground is not wise in a flowing river). Whilst there is a clear interaction around the bank of the river it might have helped to have

    Summary
    Scores:
    Imaginative use;
    Honestly each work used the source material in their own way and, I feel, did well within their own right to add creativity to it. It's a difficult one for me to score at all since an inspirational element is inspiring to different writers in different ways.
    I will say, however, that Yuan's story feels the more original. Whilst all 3 can be pulled apart to show cores that have been "done"; Yuans' manages to hide this the best. Although I respect that a reader more keen on sci-fi and less so on fantasy might well feel the opposite reaction.


    Entertainment Value;
    Midnattblod/Grumpy Croc
    Lord Yuan

    I'm battling between Midnatt and Grumpy here. Grumpy has more substance and also presents a completed start to finish story; whilst Midnatt presents one that is easy to read and flows off the page to the reader very easily. Yuan's has the most mystery, but at the same time the language use, for me, faulted it making it a less easy to engage with reader.


    Depth of Story;
    Grumpy Croc
    Midnattblod
    Lord Yuan

    Grumpy manages the most depth as is openly displayed to the reader. The others display hints (a common theme with short stories); but neither really expands upon those hints at the actual depth. They leave much to the reader to fill in and whilst not devoid of depth.

    Yuan I feel loses points here simply due to lack of character association; whilst Midnattblod loses some because of a lack of real character depth beyond the action presented.



    Overall:

    This is a short story competition and I would say that Midnatt and Yuan have both presented good introductions, but not really full stories. Grumpy I would say is the only one who has presented a work that is a full story in of itself; leaving the reader with questions at the end, but also sense of closure to the primary arch of the storyline.

    The others provide what I feel are solid introductions to longer stories; but are themselves a touch clipped at the ending - although I'd say Yuans does manage to present a good "make up your own ending" approach, whilst Midnatt's clearly intends to continue on at a latter date by the writer.



    Sorry I kind of wound up talking more than scoring. Each has its merits and its pitfalls although as an overall rank I'd say its:

    Grumpy
    Midnatt
    Yuan
    (Contest organizer’s note: since this judge didn’t provide scores I’m awarding the stories bonus points in the order he ranked them in: 3 for first place ranking, 2 for second place ranking and 1 for 3rd place ranking).

    Overall score: 24 + 12 + 3 = 39
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2014
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