Honest Critiques

No, I mean it. REAL honest. Email your excerpts or full stories, up to 1000 words or so, to honestcrits [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk. Synopses would also be welcome. My backlog is so daunting now that I recommend not submitting anything you are not prepared to wait a couple of months for a response on.
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  • Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Buried Alive

    A short story from Cheri, 'Buried Alive'.

    Moisture, cold and penetrating awakened her senses. The smell of damp earth was overwhelming to her. Wiggling around just a bit brought it home in crushing fear.

    "Oh God," she thought, "I'm in the ground! Buried alive!"

    She screamed and struggled but eventually understood that the screaming was all in her mind. With that thought came overwhelming despair and she just lay quiet, unmoving. After what seemed a very long time she began to contemplate her future, or lack thereof, and she began to plan a resolution to her problem.

    Realizing that she was able to breathe, to somehow exist without surface air, soothed her enough to relax and think coherently.

    "At least I'm not claustrophobic," she thought.

    She would grasp at anything for a little comfort. Knowing that she would have quickly become mindless with terror if she had been claustrophobic, she clung to that little bit of knowledge like a drowning person clings to a life jacket. She wondered how long she could survive buried God knew how deeply in the ground. She felt the bone-chilling cold creeping through the darkness of her involuntary confinement, making her drowsy, and in time she fell into a deep sleep of renewal and nourishment. After an indeterminate amount of time had passed, the ground once more began to warm. Slowly she awoke, squirming just a little to test the boundaries of her unearthly subsistence. She thought she felt a bit more room around her and heartened, she thrashed and kicked and struggled until she exhausted herself. Once more her tomb of dirt smelling of unknown minerals and dank, unseen things she refused to acknowledge, began to cool. Dejected at her lack of progress in freeing herself, she fell into a fretful sleep. She dreamed of the sun on her face, raising her limbs to the skies and reaching up and up as the sun smiled down at her while he moved farther and farther away. There was no sun on her face, only dampness. Was she crying? She could no longer tell.


    But hold on - skipping ahead -

    On the second morning of her 'dormancy' she awoke to muffled voices above her. With an urgency born out of desperation she pushed higher and harder until, Oh God, is that sunlight? She reached higher and sod began to drop away. Encouraged, she struggled harder and was at last rewarded for her grit and determination.

    Breaking free of her earthen tomb, she stood tall. Shaking off the last clumps of dirt she finally succeeded in reaching her goal. Lifting her face to the gloriously blazing sun she heard...

    "Oh, look honey, the sunflower's come up."

    A trick ending. They always make me think of the time I was seven years old, at a Chinese restaurant with my mum, and she said she'd give me two pounds if I ate a water chestnut, which initially I was disinclined to do. When we got home she went into the kitchen and came back with two pounds of self-raising flour. What a rotten trick to pull on a trusting young soul.

    Endings like this to short stories make me feel that way because all my expectations of the kind of story it will be, along with any emotional investment I might have made in the characters, are just dashed. I don't mind it in a mystery, but then I'm reading a mystery precisely because I want a trick ending. My advice: Sorry, Cheri - but avoid this sort of thing.

    Even to get to the ending, there's a fair amount of contortion involved to preserve the apparent premise - it doesn't quite feel like a person buried alive, but then the thoughts and behavior attributed to the sunflower seed are rather disquieting, particularly the screaming and struggling. It doesn't really work either way.
    Torgo, 10:19 pm


    What if it were a demonically possessed sunflower seed, driven insane by the cruel interment, that bursts out of the ground to wreak terrible revenge on humanity?

    Or possible ends up in a tub of Flora thereby spreading its Evil Will across unsuspecting toast.
    Anonymous Chris, at 10:53 am  
    I believe this is a Jar of Tang story, as per The Turkey City Lexicon.
    I wonder if I can collect the whole set?
    Blogger Barbara, at 12:40 am  
    Stick around.
    Blogger Torgo, at 1:01 am  
    Wow Chris, how twisted. I like that in a person! I don't really understand the Turkey City Lexicon reference. Guess I'll have to do some research.
    Blogger Cheri, at 7:20 am  
    Torgo, sounds like your mother was a little, oh I don't know, perverse? Sorry I brought up sad memories.
    Blogger Cheri, at 7:37 am  
    But at least I have grown up devious and untrusting.
    Blogger Torgo, at 11:05 am  

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