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  1. #1
    Dave O

    In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    ******Warning. Some people may find the following scene disturbing. I don't want to give it away, but I deal with some pretty serious themes here.

    I'm looking for general impressions. Did you like it, why/why not, etc.

    In The House Of God

    Father Jacob closed the old door to his office, wincing as it creaked. He’d been telling himself for three years now that he needed to get it replaced. He walked into the small nave, the plain wooden benches empty. It was a Monday afternoon after all. In this day and age, work comes before God, he thought with a sigh. Father Jacob began to walk down the length of the aisle, sun streaming through the unadorned windows. He got halfway before he noticed a lone figure sitting in the middle of the foremost row. He came and sat down next to his young visitor.

    “Welcome son,” he said with a friendly smile. “It’s nice to have company. The Church can be rather lonely sometimes.”

    The boy turned toward the priest. An angelic face, if I ever saw one, Father Jacob decided. His gray eyes promised understanding, his face; sincerity.

    “Are you not in the company of god, father?”

    Father Jacob’s grin widened. “But of course. But it isn’t these crude walls that house god, my son.” He clapped his hand against his chest. “This houses god.” And he took the boy’s hand in his own, and pressed it against the boy’s heart. “This houses god. So tell me son, am I alone in sometimes feeling alone?”

    The boy looked away. “No father, you are very right. I feel alone as well.” He spoke in a soft, gentle tone.

    Father Jacob’s smile faded. “If there is any way I can help you, son, I will. Please. Speak freely. Boy’s of your age don’t spend their Monday afternoons in churches talking to sorry old men like me,” he finished with a chuckle.

    The boy seemed not to notice. He turned his solemn face toward Father Jacob’s once more. “May I ask you to listen?”

    “Of course.”

    “Do you promise? In the presence of God, will you promise to listen to me? All the way through? No matter what?” His voice spoke of weariness far beyond his age.

    “Of course. What sort of priest would I be if I turned a needy soul away?” Father Jacob asked with an encouraging smile. The boy nodded.

    “Father. Do you believe in vampires?”

    Father Jacob laughed. “No, son. I do not. Is that what’s bothering you?”

    “Sort of. If there were vampires, do you think one could go to heaven?”

    Father Jacob shook his head. “Vampires – at least the ones I am familiar with,” he said with a wink, “are blood sucking monsters. I think that would disqualify them.”

    “Father, may I tell you a story?”

    “I am here to listen,” he said, resting his hand on the boy’s.

    “There was once a vampire who did not become one the way most people are familiar with. He was born one. Ever since he was little – he had the urge to tear into things, to cause pain. At first, he did it to his toys. Even when he was young, he knew they weren’t real. So it was okay. But then his parents found out. They didn’t understand. So they got mad. They took his toys away.” Father Jacob felt that the boy was now holding onto his hand.

    “So…the little vampire swore he’d never do it again. But every time he was around people, he got those same urges again. It was almost like he could feel their blood running through their veins… And he would imagine the most horrible things. Tearing people limb from limb, crushing the life out of them even as they pleaded with him. Lapping at the blood draining out of their slit throats. For a long time – years, he was plagued by these dreams, but plagued really isn’t the right word. He liked – loved, even, them. They gave him a peace of mind. They made him feel complete.”

    The boy’s grip had grown harder. Father Jacob found he could not look away from those gray eyes. He wanted to stand and excuse himself, but the words would not form, and his legs had become utterly useless.

    “But even as he loved them, he hated them. He realized what they were. And he fought them. He would get embraced by one, and he would fall into it. And he would fight himself and he would finally come out of it. He started hurting himself whenever he got them. At first it started with a pinch. But soon they came stronger and stronger. A pinch would no longer do it. Once, he thrust his hand through a window. And his parents again were displeased. They sent him to a psychiatrist.” The boy paused. “A man who was supposed to know everything. Understand him. But he didn’t. And the boy was afraid to tell. He told the boy’s parents their son was just going through a phase.”

    Father Jacob’s hand hurt. The boy’s grip was tighter than it had any right to be. It scared The Father, for a small boy of only fourteen or so to be so strong. Scared him almost as much as the story.

    “So for the parents, everything was back to normal. They were relieved to hear their child was not different. That there was nothing wrong. That’s what they wanted to hear all along. But the child. He couldn’t sleep. His dreams would come at night, and he would lie awake for fear of falling into them. He grew tired and weak. And during the day he would drift off to sleep. And the worst part was he was everything other kids wanted to be. He was smart, so the teachers liked him. He was good at sports so the boys liked him. He was pretty, so the girls liked him. But what they didn’t understand was that every time they got close to him, jostled him, laughed with him, they tempted him.”

    Father Jacob’s hand felt like it was being crushed. He tried to pull away but couldn’t. Tried to look away but couldn’t. Beads of sweat snaked their way down his lined face. The only things that existed in his world were his throbbing hand, the boy’s eyes, and the story of a child vampire.

    “He finally tried animals as an outlet. And for a while it worked. For a time, he thought he’d found a way to control his urges. The squealing of the squirrels and rabbits – those were okay, they weren’t human. But then one night, the dreams came just as strong as before. And he didn’t snap out of it. In them, he killed a young girl who looked very much like a classmate of his. She cried for her mother. She told him to stop but he didn’t – couldn’t. And once she lay dead at his feet, he had a feeling of ecstasy. Of oneness. It felt as if all the weight he’d ever felt was lifted from his chest. He felt free… The next day, the class had a picnic. He was feeling better than he had in a long time. Almost normal. And then, out of nowhere, they came to him. The visions. He was scared. More scared than he’d ever been before. He’d given into one completely the night before. He told everyone he had to relieve himself. And he ran away. He ran and ran. He could hardly see where he was going, he was crying and trying to shut out the nightmare, desperate not to give in again now that he knew they would not stop even if he did. He tripped and fell. And there she was. The same girl he’d killed the night before. She reached out her hand. He touched it, took hold of it, and pulled her down…”

    Father Jacob’s mouth was open, his eyes welling up in tears in a mixture of pain and fear.

    “He sobbed as he did it. She screamed and cried and struggled and pleaded – just like she had the night before. And just like the night before, it made no difference… The vampire knew he couldn’t go on like this. Knew he couldn’t go on killing like that. But he knew he couldn’t go on without doing it either. He wanted to know why God made him this way. Why god made him want to – suck the life out of everyone he got close to. Why god made him into someone everyone trusted and liked – when that would only make it easier… He wanted to know why god created a monster – why god cursed cursed him with everything but humanity. What would you say to him, father?”

    “…I – I’d say there is a purpose for everything, though it may be beyond our comprehension as mere mortals,” Father Jacob said, his voice barely audible. “I’d say there is always choice. That is what it comes down to. Choice.”

    “How can a human choose to be a human and go to heaven, while when a vampire chooses to be a vampire he goes to hell? Is that even a choice to make?”

    “…There are no vampires,” Father Jacob yelled, breaking free of the boy’s gaze, his vice-like grip.

    “I know.”

  2. #2

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    Disturbing?... Not.

    Beaucoup telling?... Yes.

    I think you've got the writing chops, but you come off trying way too hard to impart drama--so over the top the scene's not plausible. Drama doesn't derive from telling the reader what happened; it come from showing.

    My opinion. Sorry.

  3. #3
    Mark Phillips

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)


    Love it, absolutely love it. I was really hooked by your telling of the story. I somewhat agree with Jayce. I think that the telling of the story is a little over the top, but not too much. What I really wanted was to see more. I heard everything the boy was saying, and I felt what the Priest felt with his hands, but what I didn't get a clear picture of how the boy was reacting. A little sobbing or sniffling, something like that. His voice breaking, that's what I'd like to see.

    However, I was very impressed with what you wrote. I really felt the emotion of this piece. I'm wondering if this is a short story or the beginning of a longer work.


  4. #4
    Dave O

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    Jayce - By disturbing, I only meant that it dealt with a subject matter that not everyone would be comfortable with. Didn't want people to come in here expecting a cheery religious story only to read this. xP

    Do you think the drama is over the top in the story that the boy is telling, or in the actual scene in the church?

    I agree with you - there is a lot of telling. And it did indeed bother me a little - I guess that's why I tried to emphasize the hand and the eyes. Not sure if it worked/made it less plausible.

    Anyway, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it!

    Mark - Thanks! I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Is there anything in particular that sticks out for you as being over the top? I really do want this scene to feel as real as possible.

    And that's a great point about the boy, I can't believe I completely forgot about him. I'll definitely have to work on that.

    As for the last question. See, I'm working on a book (different) already and if I went off on tangents every time I got a new idea I wouldn't get anything done. xP

    But this set-up was really eating away at me, so I decided to sit down and write it up. I plan on returning to it eventually, when I have enough skill to really do the story justice.

  5. #5
    Dave O

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    I just realized I was a little ambiguous in my answer. I meant to say I will eventually return to this concept and write a novel around it, maybe using this as one of the initial chapters.

  6. #6
    Kitty Foyle

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    Dave, when I read where the priest plunked himself down next to the young boy, I thought, "Uh-oh...is this guy one of those perverted clergymen?"

    Realistically, nowadays at least, I don't think the average priest would dare to do this. He might keep a wary eye on the boy from a distance for a while rather than just barge in on what could have been deep prayer on the kid's part. Seemed kind of invasive IMO.

    Then when I got to: And he took the boy’s hand in his own, and pressed it against the boy’s heart , I became even more convinced. The man's a lech! :-)

    I was glad to see (because of his eventual fright) the priest finally stopped referring to the kid as "son." Do they really use that word? Other than in movies, books etc.? Certainly not back when I was a practicing Catholic -- eons ago. Times change, of course, and your piece is fiction after all.

    I'd be curious to know if the kid sported a couple of fangs. :-)

    This was different, I'll say that. (But then I know zilch about vampires.)


  7. #7
    Dave O

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    Kitty, thanks so much for reading!

    Yea, I can see what you mean about the Priest's behavior. But I sort of imagine this happening in one of those out of the way, small town communities, where maybe approaching someone like that wouldn't have been as awkward.

    And you make a good point about him barging in. A line or two would fix that.

    This was different, I'll say that. (But then I know zilch about vampires.)

    I'm not sure if this is clear or not, but the boy's not actually a vampire... He was using a vampire as a sort of metaphor for, well, basically serial killers.

  8. #8
    Kitty Foyle

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    Ahso! As I say, I don't know anything about vampires -- even as to whether they exist or not. :-)

    (But I DO believe in ghosts.)


  9. #9
    Dave O

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    lol. Seriously though. I mean, I got that you feel its different, but what was your gut reaction? Like/dislike/something in the middle?

  10. #10
    Kitty Foyle

    Re: In The House Of God (1500, not a religious piece)

    Well, okay, let's see: Gut reaction? It shows promise.

    First off, I thought it seemed unlikely that a priest would initiate a conversation with anybody in "the House of God" -- at least not while they appeared to be praying/meditating/whatever. And as I remember, we used to whisper, though I can't remember just why.

    Too, it seems to me the priest would have glanced around once in a while to see if anybody had come into the church and was perhaps listening to what turns out to be a very spirited -- and probably very loud -- conversation. The sort of conversation a priest might have anywhere but in the first row of a church, near the altar.

    Again, these days all the so-called rules have changed -- or so I hear. Last time I went into a church building was to attend my husband's funeral almost a decade ago.

    Plus, the young kid seems so unbelievably...wordy. He bursts forth with these l-o-n-g paragraphs -- sort of like he's possessed (or maybe that's what he turns out to be). Aren't boys that age usually a wee bit shy and maybe a little hesitant? Especially towards a stranger/priest who, for all they know, might indeed be a sex maniac? Of course, this kid isn't your average kid, as we soon find out.

    Oh yeah...and (not that it's a big deal) to my dirty mind this too sounded like a come-on towards the boy: “Welcome son,” he said with a friendly smile. “It’s nice to have company. The Church can be rather lonely sometimes.” Lonely meaning how 'bout you and I spend some quality time together? :-)

    Also, somewhere near the beginning you wrote, "Boy's of your age..." You didn't mean to include that apostrophe, right?


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