2014 Short Story Contest Entry: Lord Yuan

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by Lord Yuan, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. Lord Yuan

    Lord Yuan Death-Thousand+

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    (I used probably a few too many prompts for this one. I went with SJ's Picture for a main chunk of the plot devices. Liv's song kind of inspired locale and theme. Grumpycroc's croc pic gave me some mannerism ideas even though there were no crocs. BFD's Geiger pic also for plot device visions. I also worked in Greybeard's The Who song in some of the undertone and theme. Whew. That is that for prompt citation.)

    The amber and hazel waves have been crashing on the cliff face for years. Nobody can say when the seas changed, it happened slowly. Steel juts would ride the brown tides crashing into the shore, what was once the greatest hive of life became a metal swathe. The little life that held on that long had to adapt.

    Humanity was tried by the slow loss of the sea. Some resigned theirs and embraced the waves, returning to the primordial soup. Humans that remained engaged in genetic modification, among other traits they devised solutions to the natural hazards time would unfurl.

    The acrid coastal air stung their noses. The research team could breathe the repugnant air but it hurt their old senses. Most of the team patched their masks back on after humoring the idea that the air was salvageable, Jason brazen enough to suggest so was in another world entirely though. Jason marveled at the chromatic swirl of metallic decay. His whole life was leading up to this, all the stories in his youth about the creatures that lie within enraptured him. He didn’t come to survey resources or to harvest oxygen, he came for the lost coves and the Serpentine.

    Fellow researchers teased him along the way; cynically they left him to do his own bidding while they examined samples in the portable lab. Jason knew about the other half of humanity and he was dead set on finding it, he trailed onward along the coast.

    Hours passed as he got lost along the expanse. The screeching metals and sloshing waves were starting to deafen him. Jason lost his footing on the blackened sand and crashed down recoiling. The sensory overload was pulling Jason in like an undertow; he started to blink off into his personal abyss. He started to hear a scream unlike anything earthly and a tug on his wrist.

    Too tired to move, paralyzed by the unreality, he accepted he was dreaming. His hand getting wet was a part of his dream. His arm getting wet was a dream. He was entirely submerged, iron and steel edges gashing his genetically immaculate visage as he was wrenched even deeper.

    Was this what he wanted? Was this what his curiosity was worth? His whole body stung and was being buffeted by solid matter. He was stuck in a loop of flinching, unable to open his eyes or mouth. Was this a Serpentine? Was some other foul iron skinned predator dragging him to his grave?

    Jason’s doubt and shock muted the screeching and pain before he knew it was over. The cold calm pierced his wounds as a new depth of punishment when he regained his senses. Free to open his eyes he caught a glimpse of an uncanny face among the red cloud billowing from his own body.

    His whole body numbed but had enough sensation to feel strange warmth as he finally submitted to the ocean. He was content with death. His wonder had slighted him and so had his colleagues. Going limp and assuming the warmth was his blood Jason didn’t curse or plead, he knew in some primal aspect this could be the only way he would go. Forgotten, foolish, a joke.

    The metal waves shattered against the stone. The dark volcanic rock was durable enough to resist the acrid water and blunt blades. The familiar clamorous sound of the sea woke Jason as he lay safely in a shore cave. Expecting the void of nothingness instead he found what was a brutal nostalgia. His whole body felt raw but the sand around him was as pure as it could be. He stumbled to his feet to see not a drop of blood. He could feel lighter though, some of the cuts he suffered were deep, feeling his body there were gashes all around, but healed.

    A notion swept over him like the sea pulling him back into reality. It was vain to consider, but he lost the only thing of worth he had, what probably got him as far as he did, his good looks. He could feel his face without touching it, he knew it was lost. Health and body gone, mind nearly too, all he knew was that only the Serpentine could have saved him. The instant he saw the shadowy face as he plumbed the depths it had to be.

    Jason by accident discovered a lost species capable of great feats of survival. That knowledge and his life were all he had, but the ever burning question of what that was worth now wrung him.

    Plodding back across the coast he passed the research site, they were all gone. They left without looking for him. How long had it been? If he had been nursed that long surely the Serpentine played a role. His mind was drifting away farther grasping for something to anchor to, something to find reassurance in. He mindlessly kept on shuffling forth, returning to utopia.

    The people in the street gave him icy stares, in the lab frigid stares, at the desk of his employer the rime dug into his wounds deepest. He was fired. His story and suffering only earned him a complementary medical pass for plastic surgery to reduce discrimination by employers as part of a government project. The only face that didn’t despise his was faceless. He spent the coming months of unemployment keeping his scars, they were the only proof of the Serpentine he had. Trying to reach other labs, historians, even fringe groups were fruitless. He had a burning stigma and he was tied to it.

    Jason headed back to the coast; the cooking pressure of everything around him had him galvanized. If he needed more proof he had to get it himself. If he wasn’t accepted there he would go elsewhere. His fevered mind took him to a sea overlook. Desperation drove him further. The rushing air fed his burning desire until it was gone in an instant. His trajectory missed, crumpled feet from the sea he was smoldering, cursing everything. As his eyes faded gazing at his twisted and maimed hand he saw a steely wet arm wrench him into the merciless steel sea.
     
  2. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Breakdown of scores and feedback from all 3 judges:

    From Judge #1:

    As thoughts and impressions play a major role in the story, there was much more to it than just action. I sometimes wished to read more about the world and explanations for what was happening to Jason, but the gaps that were left for the reader to full work very well with the unknown of the world the story takes place in. But still, the wish for more stayed – not only to fill gaps but to add information in order to make the world feel more ‘real’. However, the concept of this world is amazing and it was fun imagining what was going on and what Jason perceived. Furthermore, his perceptions and impressions were written very clearly, making it easy to imagine and understand what was happening. Although quite a lot of prompts were chosen I could see how all of them more or less served as inspiration for the story.

    Depth of story: 7
    Entertainment value: 6
    Use of prompts: 8
    Score: 21/30

    From Judge #2:
    Imaginative Use of Prompts 10/10

    Most people use prompts literally when writing: taking an image and turning it into a background scene or basing the physical description of a character on a picture for example. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but you’ve taken the idea of using prompts a step further. The idea of the metal-encrusted sea and the Serpentine that inhabit it were clearly based on the prompts you chose but were given a life of their own in your story. You used the prompts to generate ideas that are truly unique rather than literal and that’s why I gave you 10/10.

    Entertainment Value 6/10

    As a reader I had real trouble following the logical progression of this story at first. I had to read it 3 times before I understood the linear progression of the plot: man goes to beach, falls catastrophically (why?) and then is dragged into the sea, is rescued by something and returns home to find his life destroyed. There was a lot of internal introspection from the character’s point of view and jumbled, vague imagery that confused me. My first impression of the story was, “This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. So what exactly happened here?!?!?!” After a few re-reads and some reflection, I began to consider that this confusion was appropriate. It seems to me that the character of Jason really had no idea of what exactly had befallen him, so perhaps the reader wasn’t supposed to know either. This raised the question of “what if?” in my mind, which is in its own way, entertaining for those who like to think about that sort of thing. For people who won’t go back and re-read, or who don’t like to invest a lot of mental energy into what they read, this story might not be very entertaining. Also, for those who like the high-stakes, dramatic or action-based entertainment stuff, I’m guessing this would be a tough read because there just isn’t any of that included. Even when Jason is dragged into the sea, the mood of the story feels kind of unreal and dreamy. There’s no struggle for survival, no gasping for air, no straining to reach the surface... and absolutely no suspense in that approach. Technically, I probably should have given you a 5/10 for this category for not including any Hollywood-style suspense stuff. Doing so would have elevated this story’s appeal to a much wider audience. However, since I personally favour the thought-provoking stuff in what I like to read and because your story captured my imagination, I gave you 6/10 instead.

    Depth of Story 8/10

    Including much depth is pretty tough to do in a short story but you managed to bring out the underlying themes of human stupidity bringing about environmental destruction, human society discriminating against those who are “disadvantaged” (re: the scarring on Jason’s face) and the beginnings of a personal journey that Jason is embarking upon in his quest for answers. I found it very interesting that he had chosen to leave the scars on his face after his ordeal. Well done!

    Total Score: 24/30

    From Judge #3:

    Creative ideas, although language selection feels; off. As if it relies upon too exact a definition of words that can throw casual understanding (and raise a question in the readers mind as to if the words are correctly used). It mars the description a little; although as part of a larger work might work as a writing voice with more distinctive style.

    A little pro-log feeling though, there is not as much move to really engage with the character, its more a series of events presented as occurring. As said it has a prologue feel to it; setting a world or scene or event for a primary story whilst not investing the readers emotions into the character presented.

    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 + 21 + 1 bonus point from Judge 3's ranking = 46 points
     
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