Critique requested – 1500 Short Story

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 11 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #346503


    Was hoping to get some experienced eyes to look over this 1500 word short story… Thanks!


    The Unseen
    By J.Garrett Miller
    “Eeeyaaaauugghh!” The walls echoed with terror as I pushed harder into the headboard to escape the vision coming for me….”No!no,,,no!”

    “Kevin,” came a calm voice close to me. “Kevin, it’s just another hallucination. Calm down…” She softly gripped my upper arm, showing that I was not alone to face this fear.

    “I was awake! I wasn’t dreaming…”

    “What was it this time?”

    I slipped down lower from the headboard to ease securely back into my pillow. My eyes were still wide, but my breathing had quieted. Trying to explain what I had just experienced was hard, especially after so many nights wrenching my wife from a deep sleep by my night terrors. “Just another spider…” This was the best way to end her curiosity with a measure of understanding.

    I was sixteen when they started and the memory was clearer than any other I had. After a quick run with one of my buddies, we went into my trailer home to get some water. It was very dark outside and the bay window served more as a mirror against the night than a pane framing the driveway and street beyond it. Standing at a bar area separating the kitchen from the livingroom, I guzzled down water like it was beer and I was a college student with a funnel.

    A round oak dining table sat in the middle of the kitchen, with four chairs around it. With no one else in the trailer, except me and my buddy Mike, we began our usual attempts at verbal jabs to each other.

    “Getting outta shape old man,” I said, alluding to the fact he was slightly older than I was.

    “You may be in better shape, but we both know I can kick your ass.”

    “Fair enough,” I offered back,chuckling awkwardly between gulps of water and still catching my breath. Out of my peripheral, I noticed something moving in the reflection of the bay window. “What in the hell,,,” With a snap of my head to capture the full view of what I thought I was seeing, my eyelids seemed to disappear at the same time my eyebrows crawled up my forehead. The table was empty, but as clear as if the window was a mirror, there was the reflection of four men sitting in the chairs. Each looked as solid as my own reflection from the same window. For the first time in my life, I knew what it meant to ‘jump out of your own skin’.

    “What’s wrong?” Exploded Mike. He was standing next to me and become collateral to my desire to escape what I was seeing. “What are you staring at?”

    “You can’t see that!” A mixture of horror and then anger filled my scream.

    “See what?”

    “Look into the reflection! Don’t you see? Don’t you see those guys sitting at the table?” I never saw Mike’s expression because my stare never left the bay window. “They are playing cards at my table! Hell, I can even see the cards in their hands… He has two 8’s…”

    “Why are you screwing with me?” He said, much more relaxed now. He seemed to realize I was trying to play a practical joke on him.

    “I swear, Mike… I can see four guys at my table! It’s like a reverse vampire thing.”

    “O…K… Have fun with your poker game… I am heading home.” Still seeing nothing and believing I was trying to dupe him, Mike left.

    I was scared now, beyond measure, and was about to follow him out of this house of horrors,,, but,,, something in me needed to explain this. My rational mind could not resolve it as just a product of heat exhaustion or some other vitamin deficiency. I moved closer to one of the chairs, aware that I was now alone in the trailer with these manifestations. Staring into the window, but consistently jerking back to look hard to the table, I reach for one of the chairs to see if my hand hit the man I saw sitting in it. Closer reached my shaking fingers, convinced I was about to get them eaten off…. But,,,, when my hand nearly reached its target, the apparitions all disappeared.

    I stayed fixed in the kitchen for the following two hours, trying my best to recreate the events that led to what I had experienced previously. As most minds tend to do, I internalized my fear and explained it as merely a ‘hallucination’.

    The following night, home alone, and relaxing on the couch watching TV, my life was from that point on, altered. Fully awake and fully aware – what looked to be a gremlin about the size of a girl’s Barbie doll, crawled over the top of the television. I leapt up from my laying position and retracted, aggressively holding up my fists. The gremlin stared directly into my eyes for what seemed to be an eternity, then maneuvered back behind the TV box. The sound of its steps and the scrapping of its claws were as real as the sound of my own heart beat drumming inside my ears. After a brief moment to gather my courage, I grabbed the remote as a weapon and raced to look behind the TV… Nothing..

    “I was just hallucinating…”

    Over the next few weeks, I would see things like this almost nightly. Sometimes the same, often very different, but always terrifying. I became more comfortable in the fear as I further convinced myself it was all in my head. After the fifth meeting, I began trying to interact with the visions. I talked to them and they seemed to respond. This led to me trying what seemed like the perfect way to prove my assumption; I kept a glass of water next to me on the couch. The next time I saw something I splashed its entire contents in my own face… Anxious to see the creature gone,,, my fear only compounded to wipe my eyes of the water and still see it staring back at me.

    My mother and friends led with the same response whenever I would try and explain what was happening to me. “It was just a dream… You must have been asleep,” they would argue. I knew I was alone in my experience and that it would have to be something I would bare by myself.

    About a month later, and many more hallucinations, my terror had met its apex. The livingroom met a hallway that led straight to the master bedroom where my mother slept. The couch rested against the wall that fed into the hallway, allowing me a clear view to my mothers door. Water still at the ready, watching TV, I was jolted to look to the end of the hallway… Staring back at me was a very tall man. Military styled hair, in worn jeans and a solid colored teeshirt, he stared right through me.

    “No,, no,, just a hallucination,, not real…” I had started to accept gremlins, spiders the size of dogs, troll looking monsters,,, but,, this?

    I could hear the man’s footsteps, heavy against the carpet. I could see the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in deep. Frozen to my spot, unable to react to what I was seeing, I watched as this horror walked closer to me… He stopped, at the end of my feet as I laid on the couch staring up into his face.

    “Not real,,,,,not real,,, mom,,,,,,MOM!” My whisper trumpeted into into a scream!

    Gasping to exhale another call for help, the man kept unmoved, staring unblinking at me. Before I could get out the next “MOM!”, he bent slowly over at the hip, reaching both hands to the top of his head… His face was less than two feet from my own! Eye-to-eye, I felt I was moments from death… With a violent jerk apart, both of his hands dug fingers into his scalp and ripped the skin from his skull!

    My left hand wrenched the sheet I had on me over my face, while my right hand swung towards the monster in front of me! It felt like I had struck the bloody head. All I could hear was my own piercing scream, and then the sound of my mother calling to me poked through the terror… Pulling the cover down slightly, I saw the man turn and run back down the hall. As he reached the door, my mother ran through him as if he were nothing but smoke,,, and then he was gone.

    That was the last of my night terrors for the next three years. They have since become less common, but still very much a part of my life. Those close to me know of my affliction, though it is still laughed off as hallucinations… But, are they?

    “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are in your philosophy,”….Shakespeare.

  • #654560


    Interesting telling of hypnopompic/hypnagogic hallucinations. That would be true horror. A couple of points to mention, but Im not an expert. I believe, a sentence like “He was standing next to me” would be called a passive sentence, you can make it more active by making it “he stood next to me”. I think this could use more showing of the emotional reactions. “You can’t see that!” A mixture of horror and then anger filled my scream. Instead of telling us there was horror and anger, show us the horror gripping his chest, the anger welling up like a storm about to strike. I think this could, over all, read at a faster pace, to show the tension and drama. Make us feel the terror and suspense. The ending, if you want to give the idea or feeling that these aren’t just hallucinations, give more, why does the character think it’s not just hallucinations? On what does he base that?

  • #654561

    jackitaylor wrote:
    I believe, a sentence like “He was standing next to me” would be called a passive sentence, you can make it more active by making it “he stood next to me”.

    Jackie, “He was standing next to me” is not passive voice, it is past progressive tense. It shows an action that was taking place in the past, but was not completed. “He stood next to me” is simple past tense.

    Past progressive and simple past certainly convey different feelings, but one is not necessarily better than the other. However, both are active voice; neither is passive.


  • #654562


    warren, it is all very confusing lol. i only know that many have said on forums and sites on writing, that you should try not to use phrasing like that, was standing,. maybe you shouldn’t use it too often, like those adverbs, there are times for it, and others where it’s not needed. I completely skipped over that you mentioned passive voice, I should read thoroughly before responding.

  • #654563


    I looked up the thing about passive voice, has to do with the order of the subject and verb. I read that before, but had forgotten the details, good reminder. Most of the examples of the passive voice sounded awkward to me anyway, but a few of them, i may be guilty of!

  • #654564


    Needs a clean up with a line edit. Trailer with a bay window seems unusual. The lady and tigerish like ending was not satisfying. Interesting imagery of all the hallucinating; but would like something more significant to happen. I can see it as part of a larger story that is more interesting. Agree with jackitaylor about improving the description with more showing and less telling.

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