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Thread: Hunted

  1. #1
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    Hunted

    Hunted
    Chapter 1
    London 1715

    As the rain has one character and the wind another, it is the fog that shrouds them both in mystery.



    Peter Gray is my name. Of late I have been known as Henry Crum. The quality of my life has become a distant glimmer of former aspirations, causing my true name and identity to become so distant that, upon reflection, I sometimes imagine them as another person. To lose one's self—especially to those with ambition—is a punishment more confining than prison, for prison—and my escape from it—has brought me to these straits.

    It troubles me greatly to put pen to these thoughts. By the grace of God, I have made my twenty-third birthday. It is Monday, a day I now hate, and I am sure the other days of the week do also. For many, it is the drudgery of another horrible day in their horrible lives. For me, it had always been a new start, another chance, but now I feel trapped and unable to take advantage of that promise. My time piece broken, I prematurely open the door and the brightness of the world causes me to retreat. Closing my eyes, I sit on the lone chair. I forget that other people exist besides my good self, so cautiously I periodically push myself to go out into the world to prove it.

    I wait patiently for the sun to drop and night to rise dutifully upon the city. For my birthday, I am coercing myself to leave this dungeon of a room and go out to eat a roasted chicken, whole if affordable. My long wool coat, scarf, and hat may seem suspicious to those who take notice, but suspicion is better than recognition. It is late July and along with my heavy attire, the summer heat helps veil me in some mysterious manner. The people who pass by are too concerned with their own discomfort to recognize me and expose me to those who hunt me. The tax daily life weighs upon the mind and body is enough, without being cooked by the sun, and makes most people less cognizant of the world about them. This gives me a slight edge for the tasks at hand.

    Finally the sun gives up and I walk down the back stairs to an alley still comfortably wearing its shadows. A few steps and I am suddenly exposed as I enter Tooley Street, an unnecessary wide avenue, not yet bustling, for it is suppertime for most. I do not recognize any of the faces that pass me, and the few who grant me a curious, if not suspicious glance, are as new to me as this part of London.

    A particular alley, next to Pinkerwirth's Bookstore, beckons me, and I go with my inclination. It is not a shortcut, but the thick evening traffic affords me a private walk. I round a corner in the alley and a smell approaches me– a distinct and familiar sour goat milk and fish mixture. Then I hear someone, but as of yet, can not see them.

    “Luvley evening sir?” He is leaning casually against a downspout, the bottom of his right foot propped upon the wall.

    I stop and put my hand to the pommel of my rapier. “A bit hot,” I offer.

    He stands away from the wall, blocking my way. A big man, as much as I could tell in the murky darkness.

    A voice behind me, not preceded by footsteps, catches me by surprise. “I suggest you reach for your purse, not your blade.”

    I turn my head to see another man. My heart beating too fast. I take a deep breath. If I turn to face one or the other I am doomed, so I do what one does when cornered in an alley—I go with my back against the wall, where I can easily see them both. They take steady steps towards me, the muted glint of blades announcing their intentions.

    I still have time to bargain. “I would ask you sheath your weapons and halt your steps.”

    They both pause. The man to my right answers, “And do tell, why should we do either?”

    “I do not wish to kill you.” I added a smile.

    “Kill me? I don't think that is likely. You may kill my dumb brother there, but it ain't gonna happen to me.”

    Words were apparently finished as the dumb brother to my left lunges towards me. I draw my rapier and cut the air in front of his face. But he takes no heed of my warning and continues toward me, his knife pointing high. I go low with my weapon and hear the rip of his coat. He stops, but still waves his knife at me. I aim and cut again, this time the unmistakable sound of my blade cutting flesh, like shaving the scales from a fresh fish. He whimpers and lowers his knife.

    I throw a quick glance to my right and see the other brother almost upon me. The alley is about as wide as two lengths of my blade, and when I swing to cut him, it sparks against the opposite wall, slowing it enough so that he is upon me before I can strike. He is a bigger man and pins me to the wall. I grab his hand which brandishes the knife, but feel in an instant that he could out wrestle me.

    His other hand goes to my throat and squeezes. It is overpowering and know I have but seconds. I can not use my right hand to pull his hand away because it holds my sword. Seconds fly as my mind screams for an answer. I take a risk, drop to my knees and try to pull him with me, knowing his reaction would be to remain standing. As he is stronger, he manages that. With my other hand I manage to swing my rapier and slice his left knee. He yells as he falls to his good knee, holding the other to stop the spurting of blood.

    I stand and face him. I hold the tip of my weapon to his throat and he halts all movement.
    “Drop your blade. Pick up your brother and leave.” I order.

    I watch as the brothers help each other down the alley. Their faces etched in my memory, for surely I will meet them again.

    Even after that encounter, I stick to the alleys and come up to the side of my destination. I pause look around, and deem it safe to enter the Brandywine Tavern, choosing a table in the back, I sit and observe.

    I put my hand too quickly on the barmaid's when she tries to light a lamp on my table. Taking my hint, she withdraws her hand. “Wine?” she asks.

    I nod, then retrieve my rolled up writing kit and busy myself sharpening my quill. Always good to have a weapon ready. The barmaid returns and puts the wooden cup on the table. She looks at my quill and journal before her gaze shifts to the lamp. I slowly shake my head. She does not know I have the eyes of a cat, my world of darkness has made necessary alterations to my senses.

    Without a hint of fanfare, I am allowing myself a self-celebratory toast to my birthday. I now hate days I feel obligated to enjoy, but tradition and self worth usher me to continue some rituals. I avoid all social contact and, when I must, vapid and shallow communication is careful in its dossage's. I know my problems are nothing compared to some, but they are much to me. I cannot explain my insecurities in few words. I need more space to worry.

    I dip my quill in ink between sips of tolerable wine. I feel I must pen these words that tell my story, so in the event of my demise, there may be a soul who will live on to right the wrongs that have befallen my family. At least the injustices will be recorded.

    My greatest fear is that this journal will be on my person when my end is forced. I hope I will have time and sanity of mind to make it safe. To place it where my tormentors cannot find it and that some compassioned person will, upon reading it, hopefully realize that it must be placed in the hands of some authority. Prayfully a more honest class than I am forced to mingle with.

    My life of late, like my journal, is filled with uncomfortable passages. Not a minute sneaks by that I am not keen to sounds and textures in my world. It is an unwelcome talent I have developed that the sounds, smells and vibrations reach a fevered pitch in my brain. I have the instincts of an animal hunted. Every movement, every sound could hasten my demise. The barmaid eying me flirtatiously. The two sailors ignoring me. The lone gentlemen in the corner, reading the daily. The fat drunk playing cards. Anyone of them could be on my trail or hired to watch me.

    My dim reflection in the glass of the lamp startles me. I am but a former recollection of myself. And for now, that is good, but not so encouraging to my esteem. My beard and hair are dark and full, while I, on the other hand, have grown pale and thin. My eyes sunken and sad. Those who hunt me see through my changes. Perhaps it is my character and not appearance that clues them to me?

    More than once they have caught me. But I escaped with my life and a new scar, broken rib, worst of all—my head not as round as I prefer. My will to live was apparently stronger than their desire to kill me—I fought with all I had. Only having to alter my appearance again, and again.

    A year and a month I have lived this way. No, not lived, survived—for to live would be a luxury not on London’s menu. The stress has taxed me to my limits. I sleep fitfully, have little appetite; joy for life is but a foggy memory. On occasion I am tempted to leave London—where not only the bad search for me—also the supposed good. But I have purpose here greater than my own life.

    What holds me to London is my heart. What is left of it is held captive here. My very soul and reason for existence, my mother Arlene, father Albert, sister Katherine and Josie my wife, are the reasons for my vigilance. They are in debtors' prison in Southwark. If not for swift action and much mayhem, I would be there too—or dead.



  2. #2
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    Tobias,

    I like it. You took a while to get to the hook but once there, I wanted to read more. The only thing - and it's minor - "It is overpowering and know I have but seconds." comes off a little awkward for me. I think it should read "It is overpowering and I know I have but seconds." I would definitely read on.

    George

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
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    Is that first sentence supposed to be a quote? It's a bit unclear with the message board formatting.

    My only real problem is this ends up feeling like a prologue instead of a first chapter. The whole point seems to be getting down to writing the actual story, so why not just start there?

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Yeah, not much of a story there...lot of unnecessary, uninteresting yammering about himself...very narcissistic. Easily more than every tenth word is "I", "me", "my", "myself"...you need to cut that down, especially "I" and "my". I'd probably lose the first three paragraphs and start immediately with the alley confrontation. I think the MC should quit talking about himself so much and primarily just tell what happens.

    I think your verbs are fairly weak, but I've seen lots worse. Describing action instead of the MC yacking about himself and his experiences might cure that a bit.

  5. #5
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    As the rain has one character and the wind another, it is the fog that shrouds them both in mystery.
    Only you, who know the story and the line's relevance to it, take any meaning from it. For the reader it serves to delay the arrival of the story.
    Peter Gray is my name. Of late I have been known as Henry Crum
    This approach, the protagonist talking as if he and the reader were together, went out of vogue nearly a century ago.

    Remember, the reader can't hear the tone in your narrator's voice, or any trace of the emotion that you, the writer, can as you read it. Nor can they see the expressions you would wear, the gestures you'd use as visual punctuation, or any part of your performance. Have your computer read it to you, or better yet, someone who knows nothing about it, or even that you wrote it. They you'll get what the reader gets as they read, not what you intended them to get.

    You're telling it in first person and present tense to try to add immediacy, but better to write it in a way that places the reader into the scene as a participant.
    I enter Tooley Street, an unnecessary wide avenue,
    Think about your reader's situation. They don't yet know who they are as a person. We know that our protagonist doesn't want to be recognized, but not why, so we don't have context to make them meaningful.

    He thinks a street—which you call an avenue—is unnecessarily wide? So? We can't see it. We don't know the neighborhood or why he feels that way, or why he had that thought, in that moment. So given that we can't create a mental picture of the situation, it's data, not story.

    My point is that you're not making the reader know the scene in the way the protagonist does, because we don't know why the thoings you mention matters to him. Mentioning that he's on a given street is meaningless at this point, and so the narration will be informative, but not entertaining. And your reader is with you to be entertained—not be informed on detail that matters not at all to the plot or the character in the moment he calls, "now."

    The problem you face, and all new writers do, is that like any profession, writing for the printed word is filled with specialized knowledge that those outside the profession won't be aware of. As Mark Twain so wisely said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

    The solution is to fix some of the "just ain't so," we all leave our schooldays with. And in that quest, the local library system's fiction writing section can be a huge resource. While you're there, I'd suggest looking for the names Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon on the spine of the book.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

  6. #6
    Rogue Mutt
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    While you're there, I'd suggest looking for the names Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon on the spine of the book.
    That might be tough. I looked them up for my home state and the results were Swain was only in 7 libraries, Bickham in 19, and Dixon a mere 1. That's the whole state. Can't you point to any contemporary authors? Preferably ones still alive?
    Last edited by Rogue Mutt; 01-19-2016 at 02:37 PM.

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