Author Topic: Rye Hill - 1997 words  (Read 609 times)

Offline Matthew Hughes

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Rye Hill - 1997 words
« on: December 13, 2017, 05:48:38 PM »

Hi

I've started a piece which may end up at around 10k words. It's Horror/Sci-Fi, multiple POV.  Probably alternating between three main characters. Pulpy stuff, but hopefully populated with some realistic characters. The setting is modern day South London. 

I'm looking for reader reaction.  Is this grabbing you?  Would you read on?

Thanks in advance for the feedback.

-------------------

Phil sits on the top deck, holding a paperback in his left hand, staring out of the window. The gloom of the evening presses in on the bus, but he sees only the lights and the faces of the people. 
 
Six more stops and he’ll be with her.  
 
The mental image of Isla’s face, smiling as she opens the door, is so sharp, so vivid, it has the quality of a premonition. Isla might be coy when he arrives, kissing his cheek and leading him by the hand into her flat. Or she might pounce before the door even closes. Either is fine with him. 
 
The bus pulls into Nigel Road and the thin northernmost tip of Peckham Rye Common appears outside his window. To the west, above the Dulwich skyline, he sees the orange glow of flames, flickering against the clouds. A house fire, he assumes.
 
As if though reading his thoughts, two fire engines and a police car charge past. 
 
A large elderly man in a dirty green jacket stumbles up the stairs and drops into the seat in front. He smells of booze and sweat and his skin is dangerously pale.
 
A teenage girl, sitting across the aisle, stands and moves towards the back of the bus. Phil thinks about doing the same, but the drunk turns and speaks to him, “It’s crazy out there. You know?”
 
Phil shakes his head and smiles. “Sorry?”
 
The old man’s jaw drops and Phil wonders if he’s having a seizure. Before he can ask if he’s okay, the man turns and slumps across the seats.
 
Phil wants to give someone a knowing grin. ‘Look at me, dealing with the drunk’, but nobody is making eye contact. A middle-aged woman has her face immersed in a phone. A well-dressed professional nods along to cordless headphones. 
 
Five more stops. 
 
The 343 reaches the traffic lights and Phil is gagging from the smell. He nestles his shoulder and nose into the window and breaths in cold air. The Common is broad now, the green sweep of grass and trees still visible in the descending light.  
 
In the distance, the road to the west of the Common is blocked. Two cars have collided, coming to rest across the carriageway. Drivers trapped in the traffic get out to investigate. To Phil, it looks serious. The front ends of both cars have crumpled inwards. 
 
He thinks, ‘It is crazy out there.” and takes out his phone, snapping pictures of the crashed cars with quick-fire taps. 
 
A movement outside catches his attention. He leans closer and sees something moving across the Common. It is large, black and irregular, with so many moving parts, he finds it hard to focus. At first, its speed makes Phil think of a converted vehicle, a motorbike perhaps, decorated to look like some hideous insect.  He screws up his nose and presses his forehead against the glass.
 
It is making a direct line towards a woman with a buggy. She’s seen the black swirl approaching and is standing stock still, waiting for it. Even from the bus, Phil can see her tilting her head, trying to understand what she is seeing.  
 
In the last second, the woman grabs the buggy and tries to pull out of the way, but it is too late. At the point of contact, Phil finally discerns its form. The blur of jagged black lines propelling it forwards can be only one thing: legs.
 
In the silence of the bus, he stands and pounds on the window.  
 
“Help her!” He shouts, “Somebody help her!”
 
 
*** 
 
The Tesco security guard says Roger didn’t pay for two of the beers, but he did, he’s sure of it, and what the hell is he supposed to do when the till thing doesn’t beep when it’s supposed to? If they want to get all of the money right all of the time, maybe they should do it the old-fashioned way and get someone to do it for him.
 
But now the guy is talking too fast and he’s shouting and Roger can’t understand a word.
 
He takes two of the cans out of the carrier bag and throws them on the floor, then pulls his arm away from the security guard and scurries out of the shop. There is shouting and laughing behind him, but he pays no mind. ‘Keep moving’, he thinks.
 
Outside, he feels the cold through his cheap coat and thinks about getting into bed with his cans of beer and warming up and making the shakes go, but then his cheeks burn because he knows what Susan would think. He pushes that thought aside, and says the words out loud this time, “Keep moving, Roger.” 
 
He has to cross the big junction on Peckham Rye West, but it’s easier than usual because all of the traffic has stopped. People are blasting their horns and one guy is craning his neck out of the window and shouting filthy words.  
 
Roger walks between the cars and hurries onto the path which crosses the Common. Two young women, walking towards him, stare in silence as he goes by. One of them looks a bit like Susan, but without the kindness in her eyes. As they pass, he turns to look at them. He does that sometimes, and he wishes he could help himself. But, instead of looking at them, his attention is taken by a figure swaying in the trees. 
 
He laughs because someone is playing a joke. The Council, probably, has put a great big, black statue in the trees. What is it? A huge bug, a spider? It looks almost alive. If it weren’t for the bus, the 343 he can hear approaching, he might take a closer look.  
 
He runs for the stop and the wheezing in his chest is bad, but Roger gets inside the doors just as they’re closing. The driver snarls because he doesn’t have a card, so he shouts, “I’ll come back down, fella.”
 
The bus pulls off, which is good, because the driver won’t be an arsehole and call the police. He climbs the stairs and flops down on the seat. Roger wants to talk to someone so that he doesn’t start thinking about the dive he’s staying in. 
 
The guy behind him looks like a good sort, and he’s thinking of that big spider thing, so he says “Weird as shit. Don’t go out there.” But just as he does, he looks out of the window and see’s that the two girls are lying on the grass in the middle of the Common and the big black thing is walking away from them. It is walking on eight long, black legs.
 
The image is too much. With the drink in his system and the pressure he's been under, it overwhelm’s him. He slumps his head down onto the seat next to him, hiding from the hideous thing outside.
 
***
The young guy is shouting and banging on the window. Alisha thinks this is strange because it's the well dressed man who is raving and not the stinking bum sat in front. 
 
A decade of travelling on buses in South London has taught Alisha one lesson: Don't engage. Guy hits on you? Don't engage. Someone blasts their music in your ear? Don't engage. And top of the list, crazy guy starts shouting crazy shit? Don’t engage. 
 
But this is different. His tone, his appearance, the way he's suddenly jumped up, out of nothing. “Help her!” He shouts, “Somebody help her!”
 
Silhouettes of the Rye Hill Park towers loom against the grey sky ahead. The next stop is hers, so she stands and walks down the aisle, watching him. The lights inside the bus reflect against the glass. She can't see what he’s shouting at, but there is something out there, movement where there’s usually dead space.
 
The guy turns and sees her. He says, “Don't get off. Whatever you do, don't get off the bus.”
 
In ten seconds, they’ll reach her stop and she doesn't want to miss it. Alisha has to make dinner tonight and her mum will be wondering where she is. But this guy is real. Something has spooked him. She steps into the empty seat behind him and puts her face to the glass. 
 
And she is flying. 
 
The sensation of moving through the air comes a moment before the smashing, crunching sound from the front of the bus. Her hip catches the seat in front and she knows the pain will be severe even before she lands.
 
She comes down on top of the drunk, who is on the floor, in front of his seat. 

The high pitched ringing in her ears subsides and she can hear a scraping and scratching sound coming from the lower deck. Glass is breaking. People are screaming. A recorded voice is loud and insistent, almost drowning out the terror of the people downstairs.  “This is an emergency. Please vacate the bus via the nearest exit. This is an emergency. Please vacate the bus via the near . . ." Abruptly it stops.
 
She looks up at the ceiling and all is red, so she sweeps her hand across her eyes to clear the blood. The guy underneath her is shouting and Alisha lifts herself up and shifts onto the seat.  Her head is cut and her hip hurts, but she’s relived to find she is still in one piece.

The people downstairs continue screaming.  A woman’s voice can be heard above all the others. “Get it off me!  Get it off me!”  Alisha has never been in a bus crash before, nor any other kind of traffic accident, but she knows this is the wrong soundtrack.  The worst should be over. People may be injured, some might even be dead.  There should be crying and wailing and movement.  Not screaming, not the pure terror she can hear coming from below.

Around her, the top deck passengers are getting to their feet. There must be ten people stirring themselves, all in various stages of shock. 

The only exception is the woman from the shop on Cheltenham Road.  Mrs Chopra. Alisha has known her since she was small. She would go with her brother to the corner shop on Sunday, after tea, where they were allowed to buy one sweet, or an ice cream in the summer.  Mrs Chopra was always friendly, always treated them like they mattered.

They’d said ‘Hi’ to each other when Alisha had got on the 343 just half-an-hour ago, but now Mrs Chopra wasn’t moving.  Her forehead has caved in, smashed on the metal bar of the seat in front.

A guy in a pin-striped suit, with Bose headphones round his neck shouts, “What the fuck happened?”

What she hears now is not his words, but the silence that follows.  The screaming below has stopped, so has that scratching sound.

She sees what is making that awful scraping sound is and she knows why the woman downstairs was shouting. Across the Common, on the roads, in the playground, climbing up the houses and the trees, she can see them.

Monsters. There is no other word.

Huge black, arachnoids, their huge bodies and heads carried along by impossibly long legs.  She a sees a man with long blonde hair wearing a blue tracksuit, running away from the bus. One of the spiders changes direction and chases, scuttling at twice the man's speed.  A front limb reaches out and sweeps his feet from under him.  He lands heavily on his shoulder and it it's on him, spearing his body over and over with it’s razor sharp legs.  Then the head descends and pincer fangs gouge at his body. 

All across the Common and the park beyond, they are hunting. 

Alisha drops her head, and brings her shaking hands together in prayer.


Jo Bannister

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2017, 04:08:58 AM »
This is good.  It's well written - a couple of grammatical slips but nothing horrendous - and the situation you create is convincing and compelling.  It doesn't strike me as at all pulpy.  It's very promising.

The only thing that put me off was the present tense.  Are you really going to keep that up for ten thousand words?  Why?  It will trouble publishers and readers, it will give you problems you wouldn't have with past tense, and it won't give you anything in return. 

However, it's your call.  You clearly know how to write - if you think you can outweigh the disadvantages, be my guest.

hillwalker3000

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2017, 07:24:21 AM »
Is it grabbing me?

It reads like a cross between 'War of the Worlds' and 'Shaun of the Dead'.
The matter-of-fact beginning, seen through various POVs, works up to a point. But at times I felt you'd overdone the 'Normal day in Normsville' tone. The scene with the security guard at Tesco didn't work for me, nor did the backstory surrounding Alicia and Mrs Chopra. It felt as if you were trying to insert way too much local colour.
You also have Phil hearing Roger say 'It's crazy out there' - but when Roger reports the same conversation he uses different words? Was that intentional? And if so, why?
Personally I'd want a little more focus on the dramatic scenes out in the street and a little less on what the bus passengers are doing or thinking. It dragged after a while.
There were also one or two places where you repeat yourself and some of the sentences run on - but that's an editing issue.

Would I read on?
That depends on where this is heading. If it's strictly 'SOTD' territory, then no.

I found the use of present tense tiring after a time, but that's probably a personal preference.

Just one opinion - use or lose.

H3K

Offline pjmlporter

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2017, 01:30:03 PM »
You definitely have a talent for writing, I was very much immersed in the story until the Tesco scene and as a Londoner I could vividly picture Phil's busy journey - the descriptions of the other passengers sounded very familiar!

In my personal opinion, however, the quick jump between scenes and characters was not amenable to making me want to read on. It felt like it made the descriptive elements quite laboured and just as I had invested in a protagonist he was quickly ushered from my attention disintegrating my interest in him. The three POVs could work but maybe each one's story should be carried on for longer before swapping?

Hope this helps, PJMLP.

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2017, 02:44:01 PM »
For me, the flow felt like the story unfolded as someone would show you their family vacation on slides. I see the images, I hear the character, but I can't feel anything. It's almost like a 2nd Pov style, written in 3rd. So the connections between those images was too abrupt.

Just my thoughts. Nothing that should stop you from writing more. Editing is for editing. Writing is for writing.

Offline Matthew Hughes

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2017, 03:39:20 PM »
Very helpful comments here.  In particular, I was wondering about the tense already, and you’ve confirmed the issue for me. I’ve taken a pass at it in past tense, which is below. Probably still needs some cuts to zone in on the drama, but I think the change helps.

—�—�—�—�-

Phil sat on the top deck, holding a paperback in his left hand, staring out of the window. The gloom of the evening pressed in on the bus, but he saw only the lights and the faces of the people.
 
Six more stops and he’d be with her. 
 
The mental image of Isla’s face, smiling as she opened the door, was so sharp, so vivid, it had the quality of a premonition. Isla might be coy when he arrived, kissing his cheek and leading him by the hand into her flat. Or she might pounce before the door even closed. Either would be fine with him.
 
The bus pulled into Nigel Road and the thin northernmost tip of Peckham Rye Common appeared outside his window. To the west, above the Dulwich skyline, he saw the orange glow of flames, flickering against the clouds. A house fire, he assumed.
 
As if reading his thoughts, two fire engines and a police car charged past.
 
A large elderly man in a dirty green jacket stumbled up the stairs and dropped into the seat in front. He smelled of booze and sweat, his skin dangerously pale.
 
A young black girl, sitting across the aisle, stood and moved towards the back of the bus. Phil thought about doing the same, but the old guy turned and said to him, “It’s crazy out there. You know?”
 
Phil shook his head and smiled. “Sorry?”
 
The old man’s jaw dropped and Phil wondered if it could be a seizure. Before he could ask if he was okay, the man turned away and slumped across the seats.
 
Phil wanted to give someone a knowing grin. ‘Look at me, dealing with the drunk’, but nobody met his eyes. A middle-aged woman was lost in the screen of her phone. A suited professional nodded along to cordless headphones.
 
Five more stops.
 
The 343 stopped at the traffic lights and Phil gagged from the smell. He nestled his shoulder and nose into the window and breathed in the cold air. The Common was broad now, the green sweep of grass and trees still visible in the descending light. 
 
In the distance, the road to the west of the Common was blocked. Two cars had collided head on, coming to rest across the carriageway. Drivers trapped in the traffic got out to investigate.
 
Phil thought, ‘It is crazy out there.” and took out his phone, snapping ten pictures of the cars with quick-fire taps.
 
A movement outside caught his attention. He leaned closer to the window. It was large, black and irregular, with so many moving parts, he struggled to focus. At first, its speed made Phil think of a converted vehicle, a motorbike perhaps, decorated to look like some hideous insect.  He screwed up his nose and pressed his forehead against the glass.
 
The thing moved in a direct line towards a woman with a buggy. She spotted the black swirl approaching and stood stock still, waiting for it. Even from the bus, Phil saw her tilting her head, trying to understand. 
 
In the last second, the woman grabbed the buggy and tried to pull out of the way. It was too late. At the point of contact, Phil finally discerned its form. The blur of jagged black lines propelling it forward could only be one thing: legs.
 
In the silence of the bus, he got to his feet and pounded on the window. 
 
“Help her!” He shouted, “Somebody help her!”
 
 
***
 
The Tesco security guard said Roger hadn’t paid for two of the beers, but he did, he was sure of it, and what the hell was he supposed to do when the till thing didn’t  beep when it’s supposed to? If they wanted to get all of the money right all of the time, maybe they should do it the old-fashioned way.
 
The security guy kept on shouting at him and he talked too fast, so Roger couldn’t understand a word.
 
He took two of the cans out of the carrier bag and threw them on the floor, then pulled his arm away from the guard, then scurried out of the shop. He heard shouting and laughing behind him, but payed no mind. ‘Keep moving’, he thought.
 
Outside, the cold cut through his cheap coat and he imagined getting into bed with his cans of beer and warming up and making the shakes go, but then his cheeks burned because he knew what Susan would think. He pushed that thought aside, and said the words out loud this time, “Keep moving, Roger.”
 
He had to cross the big junction on Peckham Rye West, but it was easier than usual because all the traffic had stopped. People were blasting their horns and one guy craned his neck out of the window, shouting filthy words. 
 
Roger walked between the cars and hurried onto the path across the Common. Two young women, walking towards him, stared in silence as went by. One of them looked a bit like Susan, but without the kindness in her eyes. As they passed, he turned to look at them. He did that sometimes, and he wished he could help himself. But, instead his attention was taken by a figure swaying in the trees.
 
He laughed because someone must have been playing a joke. The Council, probably, had put a great big, statue in the trees. What was it? A huge bug, a spider? It looked almost alive. If it weren’t for the bus, the 343 he could hear approaching, he might have taken a closer look. 
 
Roger ran for the stop and the wheezing in his chest got worse.  He arrived inside the doors just as they were closing. The driver snarled because Roger didn’t have a card, so he shouted over his shoulder, “I’ll come back down, fella.”
 
The bus pulled off, which was good, because the driver wasn’t going to be an arsehole and call the police. He climbed the stairs and flopped down on an empty seat. Roger wanted to talk to stop himself thinking about the dive he was staying in or his daughter, or any of the other things which brought on the darkness.
 
The guy behind him looked like a good sort, and he was thinking about the big spider thing, so he said, “It’s crazy out there. You know?”
 
But just as he said the words, he looked out of the window and saw the two girls he’d passed, lying on the grass, in the middle of the Common. The big black thing  walked away from them.

Walked on eight long, black legs.
 
The image was too much for Roger. With the drink in his system and the pressure he was under, it overwhelmed him. He slumped into the seat, his head down, hiding from the hideous thing outside.
 
***
The young guy shouted and banged on the window. Alisha thought it strange because it was the well-dressed man raving, and not the stinking bum in front.
 
A decade of travelling on buses in South London had taught Alisha one lesson: Don't engage. Guy hits on you? Don't engage. Someone blasts their music in your ear? Don't engage. And top of the list, crazy guy starts shouting crazy shit? Don’t engage.
 
Yet, this was different. His tone, his appearance, the way he suddenly jumped up, out of nothing. “Help her!” He shouted, “Somebody help her!”
 
Silhouettes of the Rye Hill Park towers loomed against the grey sky ahead. The next stop would be hers, so she stood and walked down the aisle, watching the man, gauging his distress. The lights inside the bus reflected against the glass. She couldn’t see what he was shouting at, but there was something out there, movement where she expected dead space.
 
The guy turned towards her and said, “Don't get off. Whatever you do, don't get off the bus.”
 
In ten seconds, they would reach her stop and she didn’t want to miss it. Alisha had to make dinner tonight and her mum would be wondering where she was.

But this guy wasn’t faking it. Something had spooked him. She stepped into an empty seat and put her face to the glass.
 
And she flew.
 
The sensation of moving through the air came a moment before the smashing, crunching sound from the front of the bus. Her hip caught the seat in front and she knew the pain would be severe even before she landed.
 
She came down on top of the drunk, who was sprawled in front of his seat.

The high pitched ringing in her ears subsided. A scraping and scratching sound came from the lower deck. Glass broke. People were screaming. A recorded voice, loud and insistent, almost drowned out the terror of the people downstairs.  “This is an emergency. Please vacate the bus via the nearest exit. This is an emergency. Please vacate the bus via the near . . ." Abruptly it stopped.
 
She looked up at the ceiling and all was red. She swept her hand across her eyes to clear the blood. The guy underneath her moved and Alisha lifted herself up and shifted onto the seat.  Her head was cut and her hip hurt, but she’s was in one piece.

The people downstairs continued to scream.  A woman’s voice could be heard above all the others. “Get it off me!  Get it off me!”  Alisha had never been in a bus crash, nor any other kind of traffic accident, but she knew this was the wrong soundtrack.  The worst should have been over. People may have been injured, possibly killed.  There might be crying and wailing and movement.  Not screaming, not the pure terror she could hear coming from below.

Around her, the top deck passengers are got to their feet. Ten people stirring themselves, all in various stages of shock.  A guy in a pin-striped suit, with Bose headphones round his neck shouted, “What the fuck happened?”

Alisha ignored him, but noted the silence that followed.  The screaming below had ceased, along with the scratching.

She looked out of the window.  Across the Common, on the roads, in the playground, climbing up the houses and the trees, she saw them.

Monsters. There was no other word she could think of.

Huge black, arachnoids, their thick bodies and heads carried along by impossibly long legs.  She spotted a man with long blonde hair wearing a blue tracksuit, running away from the bus. One of the spiders changed direction and chased, scuttling at twice the man's speed.  A front limb reached out and swept his feet from under him.  He landed heavily on his shoulder and the thing was on him, spearing his body over and over with it’s razor sharp legs.  Then the head descended and pincer fangs gouged at his body. 

All across the Common and the park beyond, they hunted   

Alisha dropped her head, and brought her shaking hands together in prayer.

Offline Oceaxe

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2017, 03:53:51 PM »
A good shot at an old-fashioned horror story. I’m not sure about the multiple POVs though they could work if each one took the reader a little closer to the revelation of what’s happening. Perhaps it would be better not mentioning the spider-things in the first section? The tricky part is building character when all the other stuff is going on but you’ve had a bash at that. It is, as has been noted, reminiscent of War of the Worlds, so it will be interesting to see where you go with it. The second version definitely better. Finish it, if you haven’t already.

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Quote
Phil wanted to give someone a knowing grin. ‘Look at me, dealing with the drunk’
- what I was saying about building character, nice glimpse of a personality.

Good luck.

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2017, 04:02:21 PM »
Though you write well in some regards. Your focus is something that needs more work.

This is my belief. An example would be here:

Quote

Six more stops and he’d be with her.
 
The mental image of Isla’s face, smiling as she opened the door, was so sharp, so vivid, it had the quality of a premonition. Isla might be coy when he arrived, kissing his cheek and leading him by the hand into her flat. Or she might pounce before the door even closed. Either would be fine with him.

For me, the bold section is placed at the wrong moment. It interrupts. Maybe it is because I liked the first sentence and believed it to be strong enough to stand on its own. I mean 'quality of a premonition' - wasted away by a 'might'.

It isn't just once you do this, but a number of times.

I could be just too damn picky. But the changing would soon tire me out as a reader.


Offline Shortcross

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Re: Rye Hill - 1997 words
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2017, 04:01:38 AM »
Hey Matthew

I only got half way through the redraft and stopped reading. The rewrite in past tense has ballsed it up. For example:

Quote
But now the guy is talking too fast and he’s shouting and Roger can’t understand a word.
...is pacey and vivid, and I'd keep reading.

Quote
The security guy kept on shouting at him and he talked too fast, so Roger couldn’t understand a word.
...isn't, and I wouldn't.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with the first version in present tense - but if you are going to rewrite in past, I'd do exactly that. Don't try to transcribe, just close your original word doc and start from scratch.

Shorty