Story challenge 1: Write a story beginning with the following sentence: "He looked out the window and howled."

 

Contest winner

 

This contest has no winner - all the stories had received the same number of votes. So congratulations to you all!

Story competition 1

Every Sound has a Soul

Stuart W. Mentha 24/06/2011
He looked out the window and howled… Adam had never truly let out that kind of sound before. Sure, he had yelped when he fell off the slide as a 10 year old and broke his arm (it seemed like a great idea for three kids to go down at the same time), and sure he had screamed when he had drilled straight through his thumb in woodworking class, but this was different. Adam had never let out the full might of his voice with every single ounce of breath, every muscle tensed in the fight to exorcise the dark hollows of his belly. There, his darkest traumas hid, compacted upon each other, and only made themselves known from time to time as an odd feeling of dead butterflies in his stomach, which Adam had never been able to completely explain.

In truth, it can be a pleasant feeling to have butterflies in your stomach. Nervousness can be excitement. At least you know you’re living when your palms are sweaty, your neck is nervous-tic tic ticking, and your feet are tapping not because you’re listening to any kind of beat but because the nervous energy is escaping out of your limbs whether you like it or not. But dead butterflies only serve to remind you of all the opportunities that you never acted upon, because the butterflies that were once the flickering naive sparks of inspiration are now dead. What’s more is that the girl you were too frigid to kiss as a teenager is now pregnant with the local bricklayer’s child, the role model who you never told how much he inspired you is choking on his own vomit in the gutter on the other side of the world, and the teacher who tried to get you to read more as a kid is being made redundant. They have no idea of the dead butterflies. They never knew you had the butterflies in the first place. The bright lights that once helped the larvae to hatch are long gone. But now! Now, at least for Adam, these demons had been expelled into the night! Now the butterflies had become reanimated with the spirit of something arcane, had arisen and recovered their light in the stars that seemed to awake with them.

Yet, every part of Adam growled in pain. The rumbling frequency consumed him. It threw him against the wall. It had such power that it took on a life of it’s own. People talk about sound having soul, but no one ever talks about a soul having sound. This was a white noise, malevolent, born into the air to wake up not only the neighbours, but the neighbours neighbours… neighbours. Adam lived on the fourth floor in an apartment in a busy inner city street of Prague, and sure enough, there came a loud thud on the ceiling, followed by a tapping on the floor, and a rattling on the wall. Outside a car horn screeched, and a drunk Czech shouted words that were indecipherable even if Adam did speak the language. They were pissed off, but there was something symphonious about the way they all let him know, almost in time with each other, as if the spirit of sound had somehow consumed them too and made them tap, rat, tat, tat… thump.

Adam sat with his back against the wall, winded. Tears ran down his face and his neck like young kids running down sand dunes in the prime of their youth. The years that he had spent hiding himself from the world had suddenly, within the space of a minute, become undone. His past spilt into the air like ink in water twisted by the ripples of sound. But it was now eerily silent. It reminded Adam of the time on school camp when his teachers told him the story of “Shotgun” Davies. Later, when he and the other students were sleeping under the stars the teachers dropped a huge stone into an old empty water tank deep in the bush. It sounded like an almighty gunshot. It scared the fucking shit out of him. Even the kangaroos ran for their lives through the open field. He remembered how he could still feel the reverberation long into the night. In a similar way, his howl was still swimming around the room, but made no sound. It was his soul escaping from its fetters, hungry like a ravished beast for food, sex, anger, love. Anything. The things that Adam had spent so long desperately building walls against. It could not be controlled. It was flying away, out the window, and into the night.

Without him.

Praha, the "old crone", had brought him into her leathery hands to teach him a lesson. Her claws were further reaching than Adam had ever expected. But just like any mother must eventually be forced to do, she was letting him go. He realized then that the old crone rarely lets anyone escape her clutches only because they haven’t learnt their lessons. Praha is an excavation of souls. But she only takes people down to bring them back up. She’s a wizard, she’s as white as the stars, and she means no harm.

Re: Every Sound has a Soul

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
I liked these parts:
- every single ounce of breath, every muscle tensed in the fight to exorcise the dark hollows of his belly
- This was a white noise, malevolent, born into the air to wake up not only the neighbours, but the neighbours neighbours… neighbours.
- there was something symphonious about the way they all let him know, almost in time with each other, as if the spirit of sound had somehow consumed them too and made them tap, rat, tat, tat… thump.
This was nicely phrased but very melancholy: What’s more is that the girl you were too frigid to kiss as a teenager is now pregnant with the local bricklayer’s child, the role model who you never told how much he inspired you is choking on his own vomit in the gutter on the other side of the world, and the teacher who tried to get you to read more as a kid is being made redundant.
I just wish you had explained what actually spurred him to howl. If it was in there I missed it :o(

Re: Every Sound has a Soul

VOTE (Radek Lano) 16/07/2011
I like this story the best. Its missing a plot, but the descriptions are excellent. You can kind of feel what Adam is experiencing.

Re: Every Sound has a Soul - Belated Feedback

Damien 21/07/2011
Firstly, I apologise for taking so long to getting around to giving constructive feedback. As someone once said, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans!

Anyway, on with the critique -

Likes: Some great sentences/imagery, and Sonya picked out some of the best. My personal favourites though were;

"Adam had never let out the full might of his voice with every single ounce of breath, every muscle tensed in the fight to exorcise the dark hollows of his belly."

"Tears ran down his face and his neck like young kids running down sand dunes in the prime of their youth."

There is also generally a good pace, which I like a lot.

Dislikes: It's too long winded and descriptive in places. Especially in the paragraph about the dead butterflies. And it doesn't really GO anywhere. We don't know why Adam is howling. What has happened that has got him so upset.

There are too many unanswered questions for such a short piece about someone howling for my liking.

The Hair-raising Truth

Sonya Lano 21/06/2011
He looked out the window and howled.
Oh, no, I thought. Not again! That sneaky full moon. It just creeps up on you when you're least expecting it.
And there he goes, tearing up another set of clothes like a rabid Tarzan, sprouting fur in all the wrong places (and I mean REALLY wrong places) and growing a snout with teeth reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood's new and improved grandma.
Why can’t he keep his clothes on for once?
Although I suppose a werewolf darting about in tighty-whities would look a bit incongruous. Maybe I should buy him some boxer shorts instead. Decisions, decisions…and I don’t make good ones. Case in point? My choice of husband.
I’d thought being married to a werewolf would be romantic and exciting, a grand adventure in a brave new world (yes, and a poor deluded thing I was, too), but believe me, it's like having an oversized dog running rampant in your house.
He sheds fur everywhere (that dratted molting season every full moon), he has an affinity for gnawing on the couches with his canines and he scares little children when he lopes out onto the street with the stuffing in his fangs. I mean, what kind of husband is that? I have to take a Dirt Devil to him just to keep him decent. Moreover, I can't even train him NOT to mark his territory in the house.
And those pee stains everywhere are hell to explain when my parents come to visit, let me tell you.
At the very least he could be a dignified werewolf, but even that missed the mark. I mean, what's the deal with all that slobber? Is that really necessary?
Go to the dentist, for God's sake!
But nope, no getting him there. Putting him the car is akin to allowing him a free-for-all claw fest on the car seats. I'd like to keep my leather intact, thank you very much. You just go and shred the couches a bit more. There's a good boy.
Oh, yes, he's definitely more high-maintenance than I'd bargained for. And if I don't watch him closely, he's liable to start eating people on the side.
Speaking of...
Where is he?

Re: The Hair-raising Truth

Damien 13/07/2011
Vote, simply because Stuart's entry, although well written, doesn't seem to really go anywhere. And I'm not allowed to vote for myself of course :-)

Re: Re: The Hair-raising Truth

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
Don't vote for one just because you didn't like something about the other! You know that voting isn't mandatory - next time if you think yours is the best story, don't vote at all - you only lower your chances of winning :-P

Re: Re: Re: Re: The Hair-raising Truth

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
I saw the second competition first so I already knew you dissed my rambling when I wrote the comment above, so :-P back to you :o)

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Hair-raising Truth

Damien 14/07/2011
So you were just upset because I criticised you for writing half a novel to tell a tale that could have been written in a quarter of the time. Fair enough, not everyone responds positively to constructive criticism :-P

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Hair-raising Truth

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
I actually wasn't responding because I didn't think it was constructive, or that I was upset or angry or anything (sheesh!) but because you did it twice! And it's not very flattering even for the one you vote for to hear "I just voted for you because the other one was worse" :o) I know I was rambling but at least I was having fun doing it - moreover, you're one to talk about rambling, Malice and Vomit man :oP Which, by the way, I finished reading today.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Hair-raising Truth

Damien 15/07/2011
I am going to work on some more constructive feedback for each of the stories, and do take your point that it's not very encouraging for people to be told 'I voted for you just because I didn't like something the other one wrote' on board.

My football game tomorrow has been brought forwards to 8am, which is a ridiculous time to be out anywhere other than a bar from the night before, and I have two proof reading jobs to do between now and then, so the constructive stuff will have to wait a little while longer :-)

But I will get it done eventually. You know how much I love to procrastinate :-p

Re: The Hair-raising Truth - Belated Feedback

Damien 21/07/2011
The procrastination is finally over! Here is some actual, real-life feedback. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest my nether regions for all eternity should I be so lax in the future!

Anyway, likes and dislikes are as follows -

Likes: I like the premise behind the story. The concept of a woman who knowingly marries a werewolf, and yet still doesn't seem to have been prepared for what she was letting herself in for appeals to my sense of humour.

I detect a sub-context too, in my own mysoginistic way, of the poor, helpless woman running around behind the uncontrollable man of the house, who knows he really shouldn't be behaving like that but damn, it's much more fun this way!

Dislikes: Truthfully, there is nothing to really dislike about this. It's well written, funny, and should serve as a warning to all the angsty teenagers out there who think vampires and werewolves are somehow romantic!

Out of the Window

Damien 20/06/2011
He looked out the window and howled. Surely this couldn't be happening, not after all he had been through to get to where he was now.

It had taken him years of fighting to achieve his dreams, and now he could see them dying in front of him. What had he done to deserve this? Surely if there was any justice in the world this travesty, this abomination, would not be happening.

But he was a rational guy and so he trusted what he was seeing before him, even if he really didn't want to believe it was true.

He thought of all the battles he had fought over the last few years. The arguments with a seemingly endless procession of bureaucrats, the reams of almost unintelligible paperwork.

And for what?

He sat and pondered the unflinching unfairness of life, and wondered what he had done, who he had upset in a past life that was now in a position of importance high enough to heap countless varieties of misery upon him.

His life, which should have been so wonderful, was in tatters in the street before him. It made no sense. How could something like this even happen? Surely there were laws against such behaviour, and if there weren't, there bloody well should be.

A noise behind him caused him to turn from the window, tears in his eyes from the sight that had captured his attention so vividly for the last 10 minutes or so. It was his wife, coming in from the kitchen where she had been making lunch.

Seeing the look of anguish on his face, she walked over the window in order to see for herself what had caused his state of melancholy. He knew, even before she was close enough to see what had happened, that she wouldn't understand. She was a woman, after all, and although she was bright enough in her own way, this was something that was beyond the comprehension of any woman.

It was a man thing, and so he was not even remotely surprised when she told him to pull himself together and stop blubbering like an idiot. She just didn't get it. It wasn't her fault, women just weren't programmed to understand things like this.

He turned back to the window, tears now streaming down his face. It had taken him almost 4 years to do it, but finally, after all the red-tape and bureaucracy, he had achieved his goal.

He owned the only Ferrari in the country.

And some bastard had just driven over it with a tank.

VOTE

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
VOTE - funny story, just like a man to howl at something like that ;-D
I liked this sentence a lot: He sat and pondered the unflinching unfairness of life, and wondered what he had done, who he had upset in a past life that was now in a position of importance high enough to heap countless varieties of misery upon him.
"She was a woman, after all, and although she was bright enough in her own way, this was something that was beyond the comprehension of any woman." - you just had to get a dig at women in there, didn't you :o)
There was only one thing I didn't get: why did his wife come walking into the room after he finished howling? Wouldn't she have come running once he started? Or are you trying to say that women are slow? :o)

Re: VOTE

Damien 14/07/2011
By: Damien

Our main character is rich enough to own the only Ferrari in a country. This means that he will, by default, have a certain social standing. And people who have such a social standing, especially the ladies, do not HURRY anywhere.

At best they may be allowed to progress at a slightly more brisk pace than normal, but all women of such standing are trained from a young age to walk with poise and decorum, regardless of the situation.

I hope this helps :-p

Re: Re: VOTE

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
Yes, and your main character of this oh-so-high social standing is being very dignified standing at his window howling :-P I'm sure his wife would come running in if he were acting so unprecedentedly undignified - after all, rich people are people, too! I'm sure that if someone came in and started shooting, they'd be running with the rest of us, not walking away with poise and decorum... so there :-P

Re: Re: Re: VOTE

Damien 14/07/2011
You have clearly never spent any time around seriously rich people, especially the British ones. If someone came running in shooting, the old stiff upper lip comes into play and everyone stands there chatting over canapes about how 'frightfully dreadful that gentleman is' and asking one another questions about golf and cricket. It is unseemly to show emotion at any time.

Obviously our main character is one of the 'Nouvous Rich' who probably got his money through industry, whereas his wife comes from a much higher moral and social background and has been trained since birth to never display emotion under any circumstances!

Re: Re: Re: Re: VOTE

Sonya Lano 14/07/2011
I think you've read too many P. G. Wodehouse novels :o) Look at Jeeves, who is NOT rich but is still ever unflappable - so I think it's just a British thing, not a rich people thing :oP And my friend from the Seychelles is super rich and I can tell you he is very human and would act accordingly :o)

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: VOTE

Damien 15/07/2011
I've never read any P.G. Wodehouse. Maybe I should try some at some point. It might give me more of an insight into certain sections of society that I have never really been invited to mix in....

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: VOTE

Sonya Lano 16/07/2011
I never read any P. G. Wodehouse either :o) I just know of it from what my friend read.

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