Author Topic: First chapter of a dystopian thriller - 1140 words - implied violence  (Read 271 times)

Offline TRex

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This is the first chapter of a dystopian thriller I have been working on for some time.  It is set in the near future and begins in a first-person POV, but it will not be entirely in first person.  The main character's name does not appear in the first chapter and this is intentional.  I appreciate all types of comments and criticisms.  Thanks!

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For once, itís not insomnia confining me to the dim bedroom.  Iíve spent the last ten minutes begging my stomach to settle down without success, and I feel like I just got out of a hot shower. The sticky sweat on my legs and lower back can only mean a fever, a harbinger that the silent negotiation is probably not going to end in my favor.  Clare is still asleep on the other side of the bed so itís probably not food poisoning since we ate the same thing for dinner. Plus food poisoning wouldíve hit me sooner, at least in theory. Itís too dark to read my watch and I canít see the clock sharing the nightstand with my glasses. Thereís a lump in the bottom of my throat. Itís only a matter of time now.

I softly toss the blanket and sheets to the center of the bed, both of which feel like they are drenched in sweat too. The cool air gives me a much-needed jolt that dissipates far too quickly when my legs shudder as I try to stand, instantly unsteady on the thin carpet. The wall beyond my nightstand is a good guide, and even better crutch, as I feel my way towards the bathroom. Thereís a momentary pause when my foot lands in a warm wet spot but there are more important things about to come up. My tentative first step into the bathroom, to avoid slipping on the cold tile floor, works well enough. I skid only a few inches on my greased right foot and stay upright long enough to collapse in front of the toilet without a second to spare.

Half-digested dinner, dessert, and wine explode from inside me and taste so much worse than they did going in.  Especially the wine. It reeks of raw vinegar and summons a second wave until thereís nothing left but spit and stomach acid drooling from my mouth. Iím grateful for the darkness. It takes three efforts until the toilet finally flushes and eliminates the smell.  I yank the toilet seat down and rest my forehead there. It feels spectacular. The sweat covering every inch of my skin turns into a blessing, a menthol-like sensation from the forced air falling from the vent overhead. The bathroom floor below beckons me to lay down but I resist the temptation. Clare is still in bed, somehow undisturbed by my stomach refund, and she would freak out if she found me here in the morning. I have no confidence in my legs at this point so I shuffle towards the double bathroom doors aided by the edge of the vanity and close them quietly. 

Now Iím shivering. The soft black robe from the metal hook near the doors provides instant relief. The next task is getting rid of the taste of vomit and vinegar. Of all things, my motherís voice is inside my head instructing me to brush my teeth to wash the stomach acid off my tooth enamel. I find the sink furthest from the door, still in the darkness, and paw for my toothbrush in its usual place near the sink handles. Finding nothing, I close my eyes and reluctantly flip the switch for the light inside the glass-enclosed shower behind me bracing myself to see if I look as deathly as I feel, or worse.

It is so much worse. My face and neck are smeared with something red that Iím convinced must be the wine I just threw up. Until I see my hands. Thereís no question it is blood. The robe quickly finds its way to the floor and now there is a lot of blood, mostly dry and definitely not mine. Only a huge gash could produce this much blood and thereís not a scratch on me. My head snaps to the closed bathroom doors where there are blood smears near the handles and a deep burgundy footprint at the threshold. Sweat pours from my forehead and down the back of my neck.

ďClare?Ē I shout at the doors. No response. I yell again and still there is nothing but my bare feet pounding the tile before I crash into the bathroom doors. The ones that open inwards. The single bulb over the shower is faint but thereís enough light to reveal a nightmare when I manage to get the doors finally open. The wet spot on the carpet is such a deep red it may as well be black, and the overturned sheets on my side of the bed have traces and smears of the same. Worst yet, the light blue comforter on top of Clare has turned an unbelievable deep purple.

I scream her name again as I round the bed to her side and fight the lamp cord for more light. The comforter feels ten times as heavy as it should. As I try to shake Clare awake, the sheets underneath cling to her lifeless body covered with a staggering amount of caked blood. With one hand I look for a pulse in her neck and search for an injury with the second. Thereís no pulse but numerous stab wounds in her chest and stomach framed by wild tears in her favorite blue T-shirt.

I need a cellphone to summon the RoboMedics but Clareís isnít on her nightstand. I take two running steps for mine on the opposite side when I see it on the floor. In front of the bed glinting in the lamplight is one of our kitchen knives, the big one, from the expensive set we received seven months ago as a wedding present. Itís the same one I sharpened hours earlier for the redskin potatoes, shallot, and garlic. The matte black handle and polished sliver blade are both flecked in dried blood.

Iím suddenly paralyzed with indecision. No medical machine or robotic physician can bring Clare back, even I can tell that. Someone has murdered my wife, my best friend, in our bedówhile I slept next to herófor some diabolical reason. She has no enemies. What second grade teacher would? How did I not hear anything? Did she not cry out? My mind is racing with questions while my eyes are transfixed on the certain murder weapon until I settle on the most important one: Who am I going to accuse? I canít think of a single person and I know exactly what that means. The Commonwealth with certainly accuse me.

It will take a hundred miracles to survive a public vote from citizens starved for a salacious criminal trial on the third Friday of the month. Just one hour to defend myself and convince thirty-one percent that, for once, the husband didnít kill his wife. My first miracle comes quickly but itís useless.  Somehow Iím able to throw up again.

Offline msgretagreen

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Hello TRex,

Here are some rough thoughts as I read, which might help tighten the prose. Obviously take and discard what works for you :)
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For once, itís not insomnia confining me to the dim bedroom.I think of insomnia keeping me awake and OUT of bed. What about: it's not insomnia keeping me awake in a dim bedroom?  Iíve spent the last ten minutes begging my stomach to settle down without success, and I feel like I just got out of a hot shower. The sticky sweat on my legs and lower back can only mean a fever, a harbinger that the silent negotiation is probably not going to end in my favorI like what you are saying here, but for some reason the phrasing is tripping me up.  Clare is still asleep on the other side of the bed so itís probably not food poisoning since we ate the same thing for dinner. Plus food poisoning wouldíve hit me sooner, at least in theory. Itís too dark to read my watch and I canít see the clock sharing the nightstand with my glasses. Thereís a lump in the bottom of my throat. Itís only a matter of time now.

I softly toss the blanket and sheets to the center of the bed, both of which feel like they are drenched in sweat too. The cool air gives me a much-needed jolt that dissipates far too quickly when my legs shudderwobble? tremble? as I try to stand, instantly unsteady on the thin carpet. The wall beyond my nightstand is a good guide, and even better crutch, as I feel my way towards the bathroom. Thereís a momentary pause when my foot lands in a warm wet spot but there are more important things areabout to come up. My tentative first step into the bathroom, to avoid slipping on the cold tile floor, works well enough. I skid only a few inches on my greased right foot and stay upright long enough to collapse in front of the toilet without a second to spare.

Half-digested dinner, dessert, and wine explode from inside me and taste so much worse than they did going inthis implies that they tasted bad when he ate them.  Especially the wine. It reeks of raw vinegar and summons a second wave until thereís nothing left but spit and stomach acid drooling from my mouth. Iím grateful for the darkness. It takes three efforts until the toilet finally flushes and eliminates the smell.  I yank the toilet seat down and rest my forehead there. It feels spectacular.Can you explain the sensation of coolness, relief, etc. with a more descriptive word than spectacular? The sweat covering every inch of my skin turns into a blessing, a menthol-like sensation from the forced air nice description!falling from the vent overhead. The bathroom floor below beckons me to lay down but I resist the temptation. Clare is still in bed, somehow undisturbed by my stomach refund, and she would freak out if she found me here in the morning. I have no confidence in my legs at this point, so I shuffle towards the double bathroom doors aided by the edge of the vanity and close them quietly.this might read clearer if you switch the order: I have no confidence in my legs at this point. Aided by the edge of the vanity, I shuffle towards the double bathroom doors and close them quietly 

Now Iím shivering. The soft black robe from the metal hook near the doors provides instant relief. The next task is getting rid of the taste of vomit and vinegar. Of all things, my motherís voice is inside my head instructing me to brush my teeth to wash the stomach acid off my tooth enamel. I find the sink furthest from the door, still in the darkness, and paw for my toothbrush in its usual place near the sink handles. Finding nothing, I close my eyes and reluctantly flip the switch for the light inside the glass-enclosed shower behind me bracing myself to see if I look as deathly as I feel, or worse.

It is so much worse. My face and neck are smeared with something red that Iím convinced must be the wine I just threw up. Until I see my hands. Thereís no question it is blood. The robe quickly finds its way to the floor and now there is a lot of blood, mostly dry and definitely not mine. Only a huge gash could produce this much blood and thereís not a scratch on me. My head snaps to the closed bathroom doors where there are blood smears near the handles and a deep burgundy footprint at the threshold. Sweat pours from my forehead and down the back of my neck.This is an interesting twist!

ďClare?Ē I shout at the doors. No response. I yell again and still there is nothing but my bare feet pounding the tile before I crash into the bathroom doors. The ones that open inwards. The single bulb over the shower is faint but thereís enough light to reveal a nightmare when I manage to get the doors finally open. The wet spot on the carpet is such a deep red it may as well be black, and the overturned sheets on my side of the bed have traces and smears of the same. Worst yet, the light blue comforter on top of Clare has turned an unbelievable deep purple.

I scream her name again as I round the bed to her side and fight the lamp cord for more light. The comforter feels ten times as heavy as it should. As I try to shake Clare awake, the sheets underneath cling to her lifeless body covered with a staggering amount of caked blood. With one hand I look for a pulse in her neck and search for an injury with the second. Thereís no pulse but numerous stab wounds in her chest and stomach framed by wild tearsthis phrase confuses me in her favorite blue T-shirt.

I need a cellphone to summon the RoboMedics but Clareís isnít on her nightstand. I take two running steps for mine on the opposite side when I see it on the floor. In front of the bed glinting in the lamplight is one of our kitchen knives, the big one, from the expensive set we received seven months ago as a wedding present. Itís the same one I sharpened hours earlier for the redskin potatoes, shallot, and garlic. The matte black handle and polished sliver blade are both flecked in dried blood.

Iím suddenly paralyzed with indecision. No medical machine or robotic physician can bring Clare back, even I can tell that. Someone has murdered my wife, my best friend, in our bedówhile I slept next to herófor some diabolical reason. She has no enemies. What second grade teacher would? How did I not hear anything? Did she not cry out? My mind is racing with questions while my eyes are transfixed on the certain murder weapon until I settle on the most important one: Who am I going to accuse?That doesnít sound right. Why is he thinking of accusations? wouldnít he be thinking - who did this? I canít think of a single person and I know exactly what that means. The Commonwealth with certainly accuse me.Heís jumping very quickly to worries for himself and not for his wife

It will take a hundred miracles to survive a public vote from citizens starved for a salacious criminal trial on the third Friday of the month. Just one hour to defend myself and convince thirty-one percent that, for once, the husband didnít kill his wife. My first miracle comes quickly but itís useless.  Somehow Iím able to throw up again.This last paragraph feels unrealistic to me. I donít think an innocent person would jump to fears for himself minutes after discovering his murdered wife. It makes him highly unlikable. Are you setting up a different world with a new set of rules? i.e. public votes, Friday trials. Perhaps this can be explained a little clearer? You still might give the man some time to reflect on his loss, before jumping to panic over his fears of being suspect. Is his first miracle, puking?

Offline TRex

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Thanks msgretagreen.  As to the final two paragraphs, yes the "world" is different and I'm trying not to rush the dystopian nature of it too quickly.  I agree with your comments and reactions to MC's thoughts in this area and most are intentional, but your observations give me ideas on how to clean it up a bit more.

Offline Svermorg

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Hi TRex,

I liked you story, it has a strong narrative. The descriptions are vivid and very recognizable.
I have little to add to msgretagreen's comments, except these two suggestions:
  • The use of the word 'tear' might be confusing, when you describe Clare's ripped T-shirt. The first image in my head was of cried tears, hence the confusion.
  • Second I also have trouble truly understanding the meaning of his first miracle, unless this is something that's still to be explained.

Personally, the MC's quick fear for his own safety doesn't seem too farfetched. If someone was murdered right next to me, I would wonder why they have left me alive. And then it's not too far a leap to think about the possibility of being framed for murder. The MC's fear also darkens the mood, setting a good stage for a dystopian world where no-one can be trusted.

Offline TRex

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Thanks Svermorg!  I appreciate the feedback, especially on "tears" as I recognized that crying-tears verses ripped-tears upon further reading.

I have made substantial changes to the chapter and added a second part that I may post soon.  if you have a chance, I'd appreciate any further feedback you have.

Thanks again!