Short story I wrote over a year, but haven’t done anything with it (~1400 words). Decided to post it here because it made the most sense.
The dead Trees
I did not like this. It wasn’t awful. Not even bad, really. But it’s too clearly compressed.
Inline comments in Red.
Text I think should change in Green..
My suggsted change, if any, in Blue.
I saw Kiana for the first time when I was 14. From then on I was in love. Many years later when she finished school and with my failed attempt as a writer gone, we moved far away. I still remember boarding the train. My beaten leather trunk and her two soft bags were tossed on the top with everyone else’s belongings. We stuck our heads out the window one final time, waving to my family, her family, no our families. Their faces were half horror, half pride. Then the platform disappeared, but I still had her.
Sort of disjointed. From 14 to “many years later” in a couple of sentences. And totally focused on the POV character. I think you can reword this as the moment they leave, have his thoughts be in that moment, and get a stronger feel for the love he feels, rather than relatively bland telling. Something like:
The train rounded the bend, and the platform was gone. I took Kiana’s hand in mine, looked into her eyes, just as brown and bright as that first day I met her. I knew then it was love forever. I glanced up at all we owned in the world, stuffed into the overhead bin. “We’re on our way, my love.”
Kiana looked out the window, toward the now invisible station. She smiled, gripping my hand.
Certain details don’t affect the story, so I left them out. But do you see how letting the characters express themselves, as opposed to simply telling us how they feel, allows the writing to tighten up?
Like many people of our time, we headed to the coast. The war hadn’t hit the west yet. In fact it hadn’t hit anywhere yet, but we should have known it would eventually come. These things always do.
I’m lost. It hadn’t hit anywhere yet, but there was a war? I think your imagery is contradicting itself.
We found a lovely spot, away from the water and hidden in a narrow stretch of trees known as “The Row.” It was old and we liked it very much. We often spent our nights in front of the fire.
Spot? Not a house? A tudor? A ranch? A victorian? Maybe just a log cabin? You leap from outside descriptions to being by the fire without any transition.
I found work at the city center writing ads enticing people to spend their money, plus painting what ever needed to be painted as much as Kiana allowed. She worked at the doctor’s office; fixing people up and making them smile. She was good at that.
Ten years we spent there, in a town close to a big city on the west coast of a medium sized country. Then somehow I grew restless. Maybe it was my dreams following up with me as I slept, reminding me I had once wanted to be someone completely different and had given it all up. I hated my self for it. We talked about it after she had worked late one night and we’re sprawled out in front of the fire.
“I used to have it all figured out,” I said.
“You don’t now?”
“Thought I knew where I was ending up.”
“Where are you at now, since you don’t know?” She was now growing restless too. This made her eyes flatten out showing she was uncomfortable.
“Who knows anymore? Every once in a while I’m there. It’s quiet, clear, and no wind at my back. Then I open my eyes.”
“Maybe you’re just scared of what you see.”
“If only. Then maybe I would do something about it.” We sat there for a while, all sour like and finished our drinks. Afterwards we went to bed.
I woke the next day to the sound of glass breaking. Smoke billowed in as men in grey suits from head to toe walked in and harnessed us. They had hoses dangling from their reflecting visor’ to their backs, where a blue liquid sloshed around in a clear tank. That’s the last I’ve seen of Kiana.
You may be wondering why I chose to tell you this story. I must admit it’s for my own selfish reasons. I’ve been tied to a cart where tubes carrying the blue liquid have entered my naked body for days now. I no longer eat, sleep, feel pain, or even go to the bathroom. I only feel sorrow and an empty regret that I wasted what time I had with the only thing I loved.
Right now we are going through another city the men in grey suits have conquered. I could hear a brief resistance, maybe by the few people who were brave enough to fight for their lives. I felt sorrow for them to, but then again I don’t feel much.
My cart, which I realized was guided by no one, traveled over dead bodies. I still didn’t know why they were keeping me alive.
Soon we were out of the city and I fell back in line with the walking procession of men in grey suits. Except now we were headed towards the beach, where the men stood looking out into the water. Ships stretched as far as the eye could see and that strange blue hew hid under the ocean. For a second I forgot all my troubles. The war ships added to the strange beauty.
After the brief interruption my cart made it’s way onto a raft. Four men sat on either side of me. Even through the visors, I could feel their gaze. Did they feel sorrow? How could I know though, no one had spoken to me yet. I took the chance.
“What did you do to her?” They did not answer. “Please. You can do whatever you want to me. Tell me she is alright.” The one to my right gave me a noticeable glance, but still said nothing.
My focus was again taken from me as we came upon the large ships, taller than any building I have ever seen. Their size frightened me. The water carried our raft into a tunnel under the ship and continued into the belly until we opened on the most beautiful land I have ever seen. The blue liquid flowed everywhere. This had to be heaven.
Just as quickly the thought disappeared when a horrid ghost like creature floated towards me. The men quickly backed away, bowing in her presence.
“So fresh, so scared.” Her hand touched my arm and I looked into her face. Instantly I was sucked into nothingness. Then images of Kiana began to flash through my mind, along with my family, and all the words I had written.
When I woke up the beautiful land was gone. Blue light crept through the glass window of my cell. Someone moaned in the background.
“Can you hear me,” I asked.
Someone coughed, but still didn’t say anything. So I asked again. This time I was rewarded with more than an answer.
“Unid? Is that you?” There was no way, could it be Kiana.
“Yes,” I said.
“My love. I thought I would never see you again.”
“They took me that night almost a year ago. I thought you were dead.”
“You must be mistaken. Its been only a few days now.”
“No it’s been close to a year. I have watched the sun rise and fall. But it doesn’t matter.” She rushed in close, embracing me.
I was about to return the favor, until I felt her face. What should have been the smooth skin I remember so much was now crusty.
“What have they done to you?”
“Why don’t you touch me?”
“What happened?” I was instinctively backing away like a crab.
“You don’t want to know. The lady. She performed tests on me. They burnt me with that blue liquid. Said it was all a test.”
Then the moon caught her face. Half of it was unrecognizable. Her eye stuck out at me and swiveled, but no flesh was left. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. She started to cry.
“Don’t say it. I can tell what you are going to say. My beauty has been ruined. You can’t even look at me.”
Truth be told I didn’t know what to say, but I didn’t have to. Men in grey suits rushed in taking us down a long hall way covered with insects that jumped on my skin and latched on. I started to scream. Soon though we were placed in front of the ghost lady again.
“What’s the matter,” she asked, which was followed by loud laughter. “She’s not how you remember her is she? I couldn’t help myself when I felt the love between you two.”
“You dirty hag.”
“Hear me out. I’m giving you a choice. I never do this. Take your love and leave this place. You will never be harmed.”
The idea didn’t sound as good as it should of, still I felt like I had to. “I will.”
“You haven’t ever heard the other choice. Refute your love for her and begin your career again. Be the best writer that ever lived. Have power, wealth, and women far more beautiful than her.”
I heard Kiana whimper at this. One of the guards had her pinned down, showing only her bad side. Her face showed no emotion. I wanted so bad to grow old with her; only to be taken back by what had happened to her face. I couldn’t do it. Maybe if her good side was showing then I would of reconsidered. Except the bad was far worse and without realizing it, I found myself responding.
“Take her away. I am ready to write.”
I don’t know what was louder, the loud laugh or the crazy and uncontrollable screams coming from Kiana. The last thing I saw was her face as men in grey suits carried her out. It had to be done.
I gave up right around that last comment. I don’t like your main character very much. I never quite hated him, either. But, in truth, I didn’t care enough to hate him.
I think you’re fitting too many moments, and not enough character, into this. There’s got to be something this character suffers, and other than being unable to move and some kind of liquid pumping through him, I don’t get it. Without that suffering, all I feel at the end is:
Unsatisfying, and totally expected because we don’t ever feel this guy’s devotion for Kiana. And Kiana herself is practically a stranger to us. We haven’t been given anything of her or about her that lets us care about her any more than your main character appears to care.
I think you’ve got a framework here for a heartbreaking story. But there’s no heart in it to break.