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This is a cliche. I'm running, I'm bounding, I can't look back. The lumbering thing that chases me through a forest of gnarled black trees, around an indoor track the tone of Lovecraft's unnameable color out of space, between towering skyscrapers that twist unnaturally and gleam both in the harsh burn of the sun and the gentle glow of the moon--it grows closer, ever closer, and I can feel its icy breath at my back like a violent gust of wind, tearing at me, pushing me forwards. But none of this is odd. The strangeness lies in the fact that I am self-aware. I have not once in my life had a lucid dream. Why now? Why--

Awake. Thank god. But I can remember it, goddammit. I can remember it. I never remember my dreams. This place is getting to me. I never should've come. I never should've agreed to take that risk, to allow the expedition--and what could've inspired me to follow, to tag along where I had no business being?!

It doesn't matter now. I'm going to die here, die alone. I haven't been forgotten back home, not yet. But that doesn't mean anything to me here and now. Everyone else is gone. Lost to the depths of the stormy grey-green abyss, lost to the creatures that roam this rocky patch of land... lost to the macabre appetite of someone I thought I knew, someone who proved more abominable than I ever could have imagined, someone who grew so abhorrent that death had to be brought to the shell of what she once was. The knife, half-buried in the fine gravel near the shore, still has traces of the dark brown stain that the briny seawater will never wash away.

What is left? I have the knife. I have my sanity, at least for now. The rest of my possessions lie splayed in front of me--splayed in front of me, or at the bottom of the ocean.

A strip of cloth, used to bandage an ailing friend. Of no use to me now, but in the future... the thought makes me shudder. If I wound myself in my present state, there will be no recovery. But the bandage is reassuring, somehow.

A notebook--I don't know how it survived. The pages populated by what I think was once a spidery scrawl have been largely destroyed by water damage, but the blank ones, after being laid out to dry, were salvageable, as was the pencil attached to them. I know nobody will find it, that the pages will inevitably be reduced to pulp, but it has given me some peace of mind. I write out my woes, my hopes, my thoughts, my nightmares; I sketch the fascinating and sometimes otherworldly vistas to be found along the island's rocky shores.

And a bowl. I can't help but smile at the irony of its presence here. A shallow bowl of fine china, a souvenir, a gift for a mother--or was it for a wife? Whatever meaning it had before has been replaced, subsumed into its current state, its utilitarian purpose. The intricate azure filigree, the lines of glaze that traverse its surface--they are refracted and reflected in the bit of clear water pooled in the gentle ceramic curve.

It's the only potable water left. After yesterday's sudden deluge, a rivulet formed among the rocky grooves of the island's heart, a rivulet that rapidly grew into a raging river. The crystal-clear stream saved my life--but disappeared as quickly as it had come. And it hasn't rained a drop since.

I really don't have long. I'm coming to accept that. But it's just so hard to let go. It's so hard to close my eyes, to let myself drift through the stream of my consciousness, a stream as clear as the one that was here on the island--just as clear, and just as fleeting.

It's almost time. My eyelids are heavy. The bowl has been drained to the very last drop. The notebook bobs violently in the surf. The bandage hangs from a high crag, pulled there by a harsh wind. The knife is now buried up to the handle. My eyelids are heavy. So heavy. So heavy...

Darkness. A forest of black trees. An indoor track. A monolithic city. But I do not run. I do not run. I do not run.
Inspired by #tWR's prompt--the four objects chosen (if it wasn't already pretty obvious) were a knife, a strip of cloth, a notebook, and a decorative bowl of fine china. And that's that. A bit depressing. But what good is a story of isolation with a happy ending?

So, first off... I mean for the background of the story to be pretty ambiguous. Does the story suffer for it? Should I include some of how the narrator got to where he is? Most of the horror of isolation is alluded to, not directly addressed, and little actual action takes place--is that good or bad? Is the overall theme too obvious? Is the piece generally too obvious? Or is it too subtle? Are the dream parts pointless, or do they add to the overall effect of strangeness?

Link to a critique: [link]
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-04-30
~bmansky1 uses repetition and clipped sentences to build tension in Stream. ( Featured by neurotype )
:iconbmansky1:
bmansky1 Featured By Owner May 1, 2013  Student General Artist
Wow. I logged on today just hoping to check if anything happened in the past week, and I found this. I never thought my writing would get this exposure! Thank you all so much for you comments, favorites, and support. I really appreciate all your feedback. And, of course, thank you neurotype for choosing to feature this!
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:iconscorpianakio:
ScorpianAkio Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
sounds like hetaoni
=D
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:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz: :iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
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:iconsimplysilent:
SimplySilent Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013
:heart: Congrats on the DD! :clap:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013   Writer
:iconcongratsddplz: I enjoyed this thoroughly, from dream to reality, and what a great trip it is! Thank you. :+fav:
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:iconfirelightprincess:
firelightprincess Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist
This is beautifully written! To answer some of your questions: The ambiguity works really well. I think you could expand on how he ended up where he is (though I mostly say this because I'm curious now!) I liked how the events are alluded to, addressing them directly would take away from the flow of the story. And I love how you brought the dream back at the end, it was very eerie and fitting way to show his death.
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:iconpaulwe:
Paulwe Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is a work of genius, and I do not just as say that to anybody.
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:iconjade-pandora:
jade-pandora Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013
:faint: Holy crap!
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Congrats on the DD! :dalove:
    Have a nice day! :heart:
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:iconvanmall:
vanmall Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congrats on the Daily Deviation! :happybounce:
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:iconpikachu-28:
Pikachu-28 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013
Great story!
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:iconindigoskyes:
IndigoSkyes Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You have been featured by :iconthewrittenrevolution: for July 15th, 2012's prompts blog.

I am so terribly sorry the critique was so long in coming, but I hope the wait will be worth it.

To answer your questions first:
The ambiguity does not affect the story negatively. I liked that there wasn't any ostentatious violence or details that made the story drag.

If you wanted to expand the story, you should certainly feel free to. It would be interesting to see how the character ends up where he is, especially if it's in an unexpected way. For example, try avoiding shipwreck or plane crash, because those are used most frequently in "stranded" situations.

The alluded ominousness comes across very well. Details like this: lost to the macabre appetite of someone I thought I knew, someone who proved more abominable than I ever could have imagined, someone who grew so abhorrent that death had to be brought to the shell of what she once was. The knife, half-buried in the fine gravel near the shore, still has traces of the dark brown stain that the briny seawater will never wash away were particularly chilling.

The theme is fantastic and also comes across effectively.

The dream parts were appropriate because the narrator is drifting in and out of consciousness as they're dying, which is really quite haunting.

Suggestions:
:bulletblue: I definitely think this could be expanded: lost to the macabre appetite of someone I thought I knew, someone who proved more abominable than I ever could have imagined, someone who grew so abhorrent that death had to be brought to the shell of what she once was. It's quite chilling, and would make for a fantastic story. Expanding it wouldn't necessarily lose any of the ambiguity you're shooting for; I think it would simply increase the impact of the horror.
:bulletblue: I feel that your opening sentence (This is a cliche) isn't as powerful as it could be. Because this situation is already the typical "nightmare", I don't think stating that it's a cliche is necessary. Rather, I working against the cliche is more in your favor, and I definitely think the story is strong enough to do so.
:bulletblue: This is just nitpicking, but there are a lot of run-on sentences. In some places, it helps the stream-of-consciousness narrative, but in others, I feel that it gets a little clunky.
:bulletblue: Also nitpicking, there are a lot of dashes. Not necessarily a bad thing, there are just a lot of them. :p
:bulletblue: I definitely think this story could be expanded.

Hope this was helpful, and again, I am so so sorry for the wait!
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:iconbmansky1:
bmansky1 Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2012  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for the critique, and for the feature, of course:] I'm really glad the ambiguity worked, especially in the piece you refer to in your comment. I do struggle with the dashes and run-on thing with most of my writing; I tend to write that way without realizing, especially when I'm writing stream-of-consciousness. I'll definitely try to keep that in mind from now on. And I was a bit unsure about that first sentence, but I decided to keep it in anyway. If I do expand and edit this piece, It'll be the first thing to go.

After this piece, I think I want to try my hand at horror writing--though I would probably try and keep it as ambiguous as possible. I feel that the horrors we can't stick a label on are the ones that reach us the most; after all, the more ambiguous, the more room for readers to interpret based on their own fears.
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:iconsimplyfeel:
simplyfeel Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Student Writer
The story does not suffer from the ambiguous nature of the background story. It's one of the main motivation to keep reading the story. I wanted to keep wanting to find out what happened. I felt you gave the read a little more as they progressed through the piece, but still always teased the complete picture just out of reach. I feel that showed some talent on your part. You found out a way to tease the reader, but not be obvious about it. I feel that you should add no more or no less in concerns of the background story. I like it the way it is.

That's a good thing that the horror of isolation is alluded to. If you outright said it, it would have detracted from the piece. Every detail in your story has described the feeling, so why state it? Sometimes the obvious needs to be stated in literature pieces to add that extra punch. This is not one of those times.

Once I read your artist comments about what the story was inspired by, I felt it was obvious. Beforehand, I wouldn't say anything stuck out like an infected thumb. I'm not sure how you can fix that. I feel that after anyone reads your artist comments, the presence of the four objects seem too obvious. If they never read the artist comments, the items probably wouldn't cause too much attention. They would fit into the piece.

The piece in general isn't obvious. While I was reading, I wasn't quite sure where it was heading. I couldn't pin it down exactly. So no worries there.

The dream parts do add to piece, definitely. As you said, it adds to the overall effect of strangeness in the piece.

I liked the short story overall, so grand job! Hopefully my critique helped you in some way. :D
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:iconbmansky1:
bmansky1 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Student General Artist
I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback, and for taking the time to read it. Yeah, I was hoping a more subtle approach to the most horrific aspects of the situation would work. About the prompt, I used it very, very loosely--as you probably know, it asked about the four things you would choose to have with you if you were stranded, and this only sort of reflects that; the objects I chose served more to capture certain aspects of the situation rather than actually function as objects that, personally, I would want with me. Thanks again, I really appreciate it!
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:iconprettythings9:
PrettyThings9 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012
i really like this, the whole piece has a dreamlike, hallucinatory feel. i don't think the story suffers, i quite like it, and it's descriptive enough to give us a flavour of the dream and the reality, the two reflecting one another; one an oppressive city, the other a barren wild island. i imagine it was some kind of ship-wreck the got the narrator where they are; the objects seem like random detritus, thrown up by the sea. i imagine the narrator decided to go on 'an adventure' with friends, 'tagged along', and then got wrecked in some strange, almost magical island. it's interesting you define the narrator as 'he', in your comments, for some reason i imagined them female :P

the overall theme...what do you mean by that? i kind of take it as a metaphor for the writer, the 'stream of consciousness' and their own isolation and fears. or at least, that's what i think :P

i like the dream parts; they add the question; is the narrator truly dreaming or not? hallucination or reality? however, i would say that i feel your references to lucid dreaming at the beginning seem strange and out of sync; the narrator is focusing on the trivial when they already know the night mare is coming for them, as it has before.

my favourite is the end, mainly for this sentence; 'the knife is now buried up to the handle', now call my macabre, but i think the narrator has buried the knife in their own body and committed suicide, a way of running towards their own fate and choosing it, offering them dignity in their last painful moments. the final words; 'i do not run, i do not run' make me think of a slowly quietening heartbeat. all in all, excellent stuff!
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:iconbmansky1:
bmansky1 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Student General Artist
Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I suppose the narrator really could be either gender--it really isn't vital to the story itself. Going back and reading it through, the talk of lucid dreaming does seem a bit out of place. I might try a different route to emphasize the alteration in the narrator's dreams caused by the nightmarish conditions on the island. The last part is definitely my favorite as well--I had a lot of fun with the last few sentences. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!
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:iconprettythings9:
PrettyThings9 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2012
my pleasure!

yeah, i guess it allows the reader to step into the narrator even more in may ways.

ah yes, that would be interesting...

it shows! it's a very powerful ending :) you're welcome!
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