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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Suspense #2

Okay, I don't have any more submissions. Feel free to send them now. :) Include the title and genre, plus your (up to) 500 word submission to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com.

Indulge me? No wait. You're stuck with me until you send more submissions. Let the torture commence! Mwhahahahaha!

Here is that short story I've been working on. Is the suspense any better than the first time you saw it? Feel free to critique to your hearts content.

Shadows

Movement on the edge of my vision caught my attention, but when I turned to focus on it, it was gone. I shook my head and looked ahead once more.

“What’s up with you today? You’re so jumpy.” Toni’s brow furrowed.

“Nothing, just my overactive imagination I guess. I keep thinking I see something, but nothing’s there.”

“Forget about it. We’re almost to your car anyway.” She paused to kick a branch off the path.

I jumped and fell sideways off the trail as another shadow moved behind her. From the ground, I looked up. Toni laughed at me. There was nothing else. No one else.

“Tell me you saw that?” I asked.

“Seriously, are you okay? I told you to stay away from the horror flicks.” Toni held out her hand to help me up.  “Relax.”

But I couldn’t. Toni chatted easily while I chased shadows. They stayed just out of focus.

We reached the last stretch of trail before the parking lot. We usually ran, but I stumbled on a rock and fell to my knees. Toni took off without me. I cursed and brushed the dirt away as she disappeared behind a boulder at the bend ahead. Then she flickered like the shadows, in and out of sight.

Clouds must be rolling in. The woods grew darker ahead, but Toni sprinted to the end. I picked myself up and trotted after her, giving my knee time to stop throbbing. As I rounded the boulder I heard a scream.

“Toni?” My heart raced and I ran faster. “That’s not funny.”

I ran out of the woods into the gravel parking lot. My car sat right where I left it, beside Toni’s. There were no other cars in the lot. The sky above glowed clear blue as far as I could see. Not a cloud in the sky.

Toni wasn’t in the parking lot.

I spun around. The air was eerily quiet. No birds sang. Even the wind had stopped. But the shadows danced.The hair on the back of my neck raised and a shiver ran through me.

“Toni?” I called. “Where are you? This isn’t funny.”

A shadow moved at my right. When I turned it disappeared. Another moved at my left. Turn. Nothing. A branch snapped behind me. I spun around but found nothing.

I backed toward my car, fumbling for the keys in my pocket. “Toni?”

She still didn’t answer. When I turned toward the cars, a shadow slid out of sight underneath. Tears pricked my eyes and my breath came in short gasps.

Like a coward, I scrambled into the car and peeled out of the lot. I glanced in the rear view mirror. Shadows flickered in the backseat. I slammed on the brakes, the tires sliding on the gravel road. My hands covered my ears and I squeezed my eyes shut and screamed. “Get out, get out, get out.”

2 comments:

L. said...

It's a good start on a classic sort of scene. I think it needs a little tightening of the language, though -- I noticed you used forms of "move" a lot and other vague actions... I don't want to go word by word right here, but I thought this was good:

Toni took off without me. I cursed and brushed the dirt away as she disappeared behind a boulder at the bend ahead. Then she flickered like the shadows, in and out of sight.

Nice, specific actions there. Here's one other thing that impacts the tension IMO:

But I couldn’t. Toni chatted easily while I chased shadows. They stayed just out of focus. We reached the last stretch of trail before the parking lot.

You step back and summarize a stretch of time here instead of going moment-by-moment. That lowers the tension.

mshatch said...

I agree with the above comments and I'll add that I would've liked more inner dialogue. Has the narrator seen these shadows before or is this the first time? If she hasn't then I'd think she'd be way more freaked out. And if she has how long has it been going on? Forever? Or just a short while. It seems like a shorter while but if so then maybe she's beginning to realize no one else can see them - not that that might stop her from asking anyway.

I would also suggest having Toni disappear right after this:

"Then she flickered like the shadows, in and out of sight.

Clouds must be rolling in. The woods grew darker ahead. I picked myself up and trotted after her, giving my knee time to stop throbbing. As I rounded the boulder I heard a scream.

interesting so far :)