Tuesday, February 23, 2021

New Beginning 1093

The three of them marched purposefully to a halt and peered over the black-and-silver waves.

“I can see it,” said the first one, nodding at some spot not too far out on the water. He pointed with four fingers, his hand held out like a cleaver. “There.”

“So half the ground is covered,” said the second one.

“Which means,” said the third one, “that nothing remains except that final, fickle, determinative one percent.”

The first one gave an ironic wince. “If it happens, it happens.” He cupped his hands around his mouth and blew a long, soft breath out at the ocean. The wind picked it up and carried it just beyond the breakers, where the water stilled and something compact and formless floated upward from the depths. A pale oval. As it neared the surface, its topology and colors were resolved by the moonlight: a human face, detached from whatever body might have carried it to warmth and firmness, staring up in pain and horror from beneath the cold salt sea.

"Well, that's not entirely true," another voice affirmed.

The first three turned rapidly at the unexpected voice. The fifth one just wore a contemptuous smile. (No, he was the fifth one. The fourth one was the one who floated up from the sea. Although it was just a face, so not really a whole fourth one. Maybe just ten percent or so. So the fifth one was probably just four and two tenths.)

"What is your meaning?" The second one asked in a questioning voice.

The fifth one, or more accurately 4.2, shrugged and replied, "Well, if half the ground was covered, that means a headmost, reasonable, stable forty percent remains."

"Forty?" the first one questioned. They all looked at each other. Except 0.2 (the head), who let out a wail and sank back to the depths, knowing these four fools could never make him whole because they're all shit at math.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril


Evil Editor said...

Not sure if this is absurdist fiction or perhaps the opening of an internal chapter, with readers knowing who the three are and what ground they are attempting to cover. In any case, it wouldn't hurt for “If it happens, it happens," and "I can see it," to be more specific.

Was it the face the guy pointed to like a cleaver? Because how could he see see something at night that hasn't yet floated up from the ocean's depths? Also, if it's not far out from the shore, it's probably in the shallows rather than the depths.

It would be hard to see the expression on the face if it were out beyond the breaking waves. It would be hard to tell it was an oval before it had reached the surface. Or that there wasn't a body attached to it below the surface. So, whose eyes are we seeing this through? It doesn't seem that an omniscient narrator would be so vague about what's happening.

JRMosher said...

First and foremost, that was an absolutely terrific continuation. Well done!

As for the opening, the big issue I have is the vagueness of the characters. It's OK not to name them, and too much description at the start can bog things down, but maybe a little something could be provided to help the reader along. We don't have the benefit of the book cover illustration, back cover blurb, or even a title to go on, so maybe the three of "them" are witches, or soldiers, or astronauts, or children, or talking monkeys. The "first one" is male, and either has syndactyly or just a weird way of pointing at things, and apparently can do (what appears to be) magic. Of the others, we know only that they can speak.

The math thing bothered me, too, which made the continuation perfect. Half is covered, so just one percent remains?

But the end of the snippet is much better. I really like the description of the face rising from the depths. Here you have gotten far more specific, and the imagery is well conveyed. So I would definitely read on to find out a bit more.

Mandakinz said...

Not much to add, as I agree with EE and JRMosher. Great continuation by ril (as always!)

I had the impression that this scene is meant to by mysterious and intriguing. I think the setting (as much as we know), the summoning, the face in the water, and the description works for the most part. I didn't notice the logic problem of seeing the face in the darkness until EE pointed it out.

My mind filled in the characters as three men in uniform (probably because of the word march), until JRMosher pointed out that we don't know anything about them and whether or not they're even human. Maybe that's why one of them only has 4 fingers?

I glossed over the cryptic dialogue since it was short and I didn't seem to need to know what they were talking about. Interesting stuff happens immediately thereafter, so I just ignored it. Probably not the reaction you're going for. Maybe consider whether it's necessary here?

Nitpicks: 'purposefully' after marched. I think the word 'march' implies purpose and direction. "ironic wince", especially in response to the previous line of dialogue.

I still would have kept reading to find out if the face in the water is going to be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Author here.

I thought I'd wait for that other "Anonymous" to drop by because s/he always has a lot to say, but wth I'm energetic this morning.

First and foremost, I knew the continuation would be one hilarious reaming, and I was right. Well done!

The issue of perspective ("whose eyes are we seeing this through?") is one I wrestled with -- and it has apparently pinned me. Back to work on that one.

The math, heheh, if you're going to use a metaphor, best to keep it under control. Back to work.

JRMosher, the vagueness of the characters would be reduced by the title and chapter title, and the few facts you cite about them (they can speak, might be able to do magic, male) is all you need to know for now. I want "the first one" to point not with an index finger -- too nice, too precise -- but with a flat, outstretched hand. Not sure how to describe that. Maybe I just did? Skip the cleaver?

"I would definitely read on to find out a bit more." DING DING DING DING DING.

Just have to get everything in shape up to that image. I guess that would be the final, fickle, determinative 110 percent. Or would it be the third half? Anyone know the square root of pi?

Thanks, all!

Anonymous said...

Overall, I think this could use a bit more context/specificity/clarity and maybe a little more description, things like how much light/visibility there is, and/or include a few senses beyond the visual.

A few other things:
"marched purposefully to a halt" Where did they halt? It's a bit jarring to imagine them on a beach and then have it seem that they're looking at something under the water at a distance. Either they need to be up on a hill or cliff or something (and the distance-detail issue EE brought up handled), or it needs to be more obvious that not everything is described from their POV.

"black-and-silver waves" This is somewhat clarified later, but it might help to have a bit more here so I know if this means it's night or if it's implying the water(?) isn't normal or both.

The vague identities leave me with an impression of dream/vision and/or that the scene exists to let the reader know what some (for now) unidentified antagonists/sub-plotters are up to, which I'm ok with. That being said, the conversation being more specific would probably add interest rather than kill suspense, and would hopefully clear up the math?/exaggeration(s)?/differing subjects?

The cleaver hand doesn't work for me either. Cleavers have a handle near the spine and a distinct rectangular shape. The human wrist is close to centered, and its silhouette is more pointy with the different lengths of fingers. If you mean he's holding it out like he would a cleaver, fingers are usually curled around the handle then.

Is the breath making the water still and face float up or is there for some reason still water beyond the breakers and the face happens to be floating up while the breath is doing/going to do something else?

I like the idea of something pale coming up through the darkness. That being said, still (black) water with (moon)light shining directly on it is going to be a mirror surface. Unless that rising face is glowing (which should be specified) it's not going to be visible until it's coming out of the water. Also, it can't be both formless and an oval. If that's supposed to imply there's something else in the water or that the face coalesces or something, that should be more clear. You could maybe add a word or two without interrupting the flow to specify what colors or if it looks living/drowned/decaying and the approximate age/gender, things which could add to whatever feeling you're going for.

Hope this helps