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"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)

3.15.2011

Hone Your Skills Blogfest

Today, I am participating in the Hone Your Skills Blogfest hosted by Charity Bradford and Rosie @ East for Green Eyes.  It officially starts tomorrow, so there's still a little bit of time if you'd like to participate.  Find the details here.

I've chosen a previous flash fiction of mine and done some minor editing.  Remember, this is open for critique, so you don't have to just say nice things in the comments!  All constructive criticism is welcome.

*****

Righting Wrong

I stood on the round metallic teleportation device in the middle of the room.  I turned to face the only other man in the room.

"When you enter, you should arrive in the southwest corner," the old man said.  "The oval table will be to your right.  He will be sitting at the head of it, of course."

I nodded.  Nervous perspiration broke out in tiny droplets on my upper lip.  I brought my arm up and wiped it away on my sleeve.  I didn't speak for fear my voice would crack.

"You will have only a few seconds before their surprise turns to action.  You must act quickly."

Again, I nodded.  I steadied my voice.

"Should I have my gun drawn already?" I asked.

"No.  That would raise alarms immediately.  Let them see you and wonder first."

I could see the old man had thought this through, over and over, reliving it again and again throughout the long nights leading up to this moment.

"Are you ready?" he asked.  I placed my hand on the butt of the gun tucked inside the front of my jeans.  I closed my eyes.

I nodded.

I opened my eyes to see the scene exactly as the old man had described it.  I was in the southwest corner of the room.  The oval table was to my right.  He sat at the head of it.  His impeccable black hair, parted down the right, gleamed, the broom bristle mustache twitched under his nose.  His uniform was crisp, and he held his hat casually in his left hand.  The swastika band was blood red around his left bicep.  He threw his head back and laugh, momentarily disconcerting me.  I had never seen more than a frown turning his lips down at the corners.

The men in the room became aware of my presence incrementally, as if in slow motion.  Expressions turned from surprise to confusion to concern as I pulled the gun from its hiding place and trained the sights on the laughing man.  I pulled the trigger and blood erupted from the clean white shirt beneath his jacket.  The smile faded from his lips as I pumped three more shots into his chest.  The room felt silent for a millisecond, and then a buzzing roar filled my ears.  I let the gun drop from my fingers, bouncing innocuously at my feet with a clatter against the hard wood floor.  I was tackled and fell to the ground next to it.

I waited for the crack that would signal the bullet meant for me.  It didn't come.  Two burly men rolled me onto my back, and I felt cold metal handcuffs coil around my wrists.  They hauled me to my feet, and I stood to face these men, his cronies and accomplices.  They stared back at me in horror, as if I were the butcher of millions instead of the man bleeding lifelessly at their feet.

The two men pushed me through the door, out of the building, into a waiting car.  They drove for miles, and I wondered what would happen next.  A dark dank cell?  Torture?  Encampment and a cyanide shower?  They pulled up in front of another building, pulled me out, pushed me through the door.  They led me down a corridor, turned left, and opened the door to a small room.  They shoved me forward, then turned me around and removed the cuffs from my wrists.  They left me standing in the middle of the room, alone, and I heard the door shut behind me with a click.

The room was sparse but comfortable, a blanketed twin bed in the corner, a round table and wooden chair in the middle.  A few books, a pad of paper, and a pen were stacked on the table.  Behind a small privacy screen were a toilet and a sink protruding from the wall.  And in the corner opposite the bed was a TV.

A TV?  But that hadn't been invented yet.  I blinked back the surprise.  I found a remote control on top.  I picked it up, pushed a button, and watched the images spilling from the screen.

I watched for hours.  Somber announcers with tears in their eyes.  Mourners spontaneously gathering on the stairs of the building I had been taken from, not just blond-haired, blue-eyed mourners, but brown and black mixed in.  A sea of flowers growing like a garden at the top, flowing down the steps like a waterfall.  Similar displays at German embassies in foreign countries.  Interviews with dignitaries from all around the world, in languages I couldn't understand, and then Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"The American people join our hearts to the great people of Germany and share their sorrow during this horrendous moment in history.  We honor this man who has done so much to further peace and prosperity in the world.  We vow to continue his fight against the very thing that took his life: blind hatred enforced by violence.  We will not stop or falter until every weapon has been safely buried in the ground.  Even in these darkest moments, his legacy shines brightly before us, a beacon to follow, and he will go down in history as the greatest man ever born."

Dear God, what have I done?

*****

14 comments:

Cathryn Grant said...

I can't recall what's changed from your first version, but based on what I remember this feels tighter. For some reason, the ending packs a greater punch.

Charity Bradford said...

Hi Shelli, thanks for participating in the blogfest. I haven't read your original so my comments will just be on this piece.

First, wow, I loved the twist at the end. My sci fi mind was asking all kinds of questions and filling in all kinds of things like alternate universes and split time lines.

I liked the little clues and details you placed throughout, such as the laughter, the gun bouncing when he dropped it, the TV that shouldn't be there, and so forth.

For tightening:
It was really hard to find anything to pick at. I think you started in the right place and the ending was awesome.

There were times my brain wanted a longer sentence, but the story calls for a lot of short urgent sentences, so I don't know if its fair to pick on that.

Um, I was really curious to know who the old man was that sent him and why they picked that specific time for the assassination.

Your imagery was really good too. :)

RosieC said...

Hi Shelli. This is just a note for now to tell you that I'll be reading your story in the car on my way out of town. I'll post my comments later tonight. Thanks for participating! :)

Myne Whitman said...

Really good imagery with the flowers flowing, and the description of the target. But maybe because I do not read much sci-fi, the plot lost me.

Shelli said...

Cathryn -- Thank you!

Charity -- Thanks for reading and for your comments. I was thinking last night that I could have done better with the set-up. I think I was trying so hard not to give too much away that I didn't give enough.

Myne -- Thank you for reading! Like I mentioned to Charity, I should have done a better set-up for the piece. If I had mentioned setting the time machine to 1940, then I think it would have been clearer what was going on.

Elaine AM Smith said...

OK I'm with Charity all the way.
I loved how the reveal grew from the clues. I do read sci-fi so I could see some of the hints at an alternate reality. I spied an idea that you could extend into a longer piece of writing too ;)
One thing you could focus on is sentence starts - you have lots staring with I. Even in a first person narration you can play around with order and the piece reads with greater fluidity.

Jane Isfeld Still said...

I loved the story. I don't read alot of sci-fi but I definitely got what was happening.
I felt that it could be tightened alot more. In the first 2 sentences you use the word room.
You also used the word table close together later on.
I could see the old man thought this over... that seems to br repeating the same thought over and over. Several places like that I thought could be tightened.

For some reason I thought the person being teleported was a girl. I have no idea why but I would definitely like to read the book if it's going to be one.

Shelli said...

Elaine, thank you for reading and your encouraging comments! I can see how I can rework some of those sentences.

Jane -- Thank you also for coming by and reading. I'll definitely rework those areas you mentioned. Funny how glaring it is once someone points it out to you. :) Oooh, and that would be an interesting idea to make the MC a girl, wouldn't it? If I expand this into a novel, I might just have to do that. Thanks for the idea! ;)

RosieC said...

Hi Shelli,
I finally made it! Thanks again for participating and sharing this with us.

Kudos:
1. You do a great job building the tension and going toward a place we think we know, and then twisting it at the end.

2. You give us so much in terms of place and time and characters without actually telling us anything, only on hints in description. I like this a lot.

Suggestions:
1. I think you could tighten the beginning a bit more. The dialogue should always reveal something new about the characters or the action, and I'm not positive the question and response about the gun do this entirely. Just an opinion, though.

2. The TV is not enough of an indication that this is an alternate reality because TV *had* been invented. Hitler's address to the Olympics was televised live. Televisions certainly weren't pervasive enough to be in holding cells, but they had been invented.

Another minor thing: there are several adverbs for such a short piece. You might consider cutting a few of them.

Thanks again! Great job :)

Shelli said...

Rosie, thank you for your comments. I had a niggling feeling I might have been off on the TV thing. I should have researched it better. :/ I could make it a color TV or something. Hm. I'll see what I can do to work it in.

Thank you all for wonderful, helpful comments!

Jen Daiker said...

What a great piece! It looks like a lot of what I would have said has already been done in the comments so I won't spend time rubbing in the same view!

That being said I stopped in on this fabulous blog (yes, it's fab) to welcome you to the A-Z Blogging Challenge! I'm one of the hosts and looking forward to seeing all the fun you'll bring!

Shelli said...

Thank you, Jen, for coming by and your comments! If you're personally welcoming everyone from the blog challenge, you are a busy, busy girl. It will be fun joining you and the rest!

estrella05azul said...

Sorry to arrive here after so long, wish life was more predictable...
I really liked your flash, the ending definitely packed a punch ;)

Shelli said...

Estrella, thank you!