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Shirley Golden, 10 Aug '12

I think of his text message: Please reply. Forgive me the past. I can explain all, Seth. At first I thought it was a sick joke. He'd been missing for nearly seven years. I'd stopped searching a lifetime ago, stopped seeing his image in every mirror and window. But his message repeated, every day for the past month, same words, same time.

I hadn't told Matt. This was my demon to destroy.

Ahead, I can see the meeting point. An empty carriage pitches to one side; its wheels have dislodged off a track and it teeters on a corroded rail. A tangle of bramble has broken through a bed of nettles and curls a relentless path through slits in the undercarriage; it reappears only once it reaches the fractured glass above. The splash of red along the side must once have proclaimed in dripping font, 'Hello there!' But the doors are ripped from their hinges and all that remains is 'Hel here!' The greeting is finished with a cross that once served as a kiss.

I catch my reflection in a broken pane: crimson hair, tamed by a black band, wide, skittish eyes, skin too pale against the night. I shudder and shine the torch onto my watch. He's late, but then again, he always was.

Finally, I detect movement. A figure steps into my plug of light. I grip the handle of the torch, angry my hand isn't steady. His hair is matted and lifeless, his face gaunt and whiter than my own. There is something else not right, something I can't pinpoint. His eyes shift, like one accustomed to being hunted.

'Gwen?' he says and takes a hesitant step forward.

I lower the torch. I'm struggling to find my voice. No one has called me Gwen since he vanished.

Comments · 9

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  • Shirley Golden said...

    Hi everyone, this is the start of a story I began a few years ago. Originally intended to be short story, I kept thinking it had more of the feel of a novel and I set it to one side. Soon after, there was an explosion in vampire literature/films and so I thought it probably wasn't worth pursuing as a novel. I might re-visit it and see if I can get it to work as a short piece - any feedback is very welcome :)

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Perhaps you could try to change things so that it's no longer a vampire story, as before I reached your comment I wasn't thinking 'oh he's obviously become a vampire' (although 'stopped seeing his image in every mirror and window' is a nice little hint I took at face value at first!).

    I like the start and would like to read more so it would be interesting to see if you could come up with an alternative explanation for Seth's absence?

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    It's an excellent start and I would definitely read more.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Charlotte Buchanan said...

    I think this is a good opening; it sets up lots of questions and images for the reader to wonder about. You create a great setting for the meeting. I must say, the thing that really caught me was the relationships: the narrator is going to have to deal with the rediscovery of her ex-boyfriend and is also in a new relationship and both of those things are infinitely more difficult because the ex is a vampire. I also think the idea of being the "successor," so to speak, not of someone who was dumped but of someone who disappeared is interesting to explore. From your beginning, I don't see why it has to be a run-of-the-mill vampire story. From the language you've chosen so far, it might be a shame not to make it a vampire story at all but on the other hand, I think the events on their own could carry a story with a different feel. Anyway, you're a very good writer so I'm sure you'll make this story work, however long it ends up and whatever direction you steer it in. :-)

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Shirley Golden said...

    Hi, and thanks for some great feedback and your encouraging comments! @Ross Tarran I think you're right, it's not obviously a vampire story but it does have, as @Charlotte Buchanan says, a vampire/gothic feel to the language, which I'd like to retain. So from this point of view, I think it would be good to keep it as a vampire story. I'll just have to see if I can condense my original ideas into a short story... :)

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Nathan Ramsden said...

    It's a nice start - I find I have an inkling right away whether something's a shorter or longer piece, so I'd just go with your gut on that. I've nothing against vampire tales, but they do seem to have been overdone lately; if you feel you don't want to go with the 'popular' side of that, there are ways to avoid it. It wouldn't have stopped Angela Carter, and there's no way I'd lump her in with Twilight etc.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Rachel Anderson said...

    I have no idea if this was intentional or not but you have "a tangle of bramble" and "a bed of nettles" in the same line. Just saying them out loud makes me want to smile. It's almost like a tongue twister, but more melodic/rhythmic (not sure which one I mean at this point).

    "Gwen?"
    -I- got goosebumps ... it's not even dark where I am. Sheesh.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Jamie Thomas said...

    This was awesome, and I would love to see it continued as a short story because you include the right amount of mystery and room for elaboration. I loved the way you wrote it, obviously, you never fail to impress, but the part I loved most was the part where "Hello There" was changed to "Hel Here". For something so subtle and almost trivia, it has such profound depth that I just loved it! It reminded me of The Dark Knight, when the Joker paints an S in front of the word Laughter and it becomes Slaughter. You executed the lines so well, it was a definite highlight :)

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Shirley Golden said...

    Thanks for the feedback everyone - it's really appreciated. And I will take it all into consideration if/when I get around to doing a re-write! Thanks too Jamie for your comment on the graffiti - I worried that it was a bit gimmicky, so good to read your response :)

    • Posted 4 years ago