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Soul-Death


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#1 Offline Grantaire

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Posted Oct 19 2011 - 01:31 PM

The day began like every day. It began with the sun, it began with the drums.My body tensed instinctively; over hundreds of years, it had grown used to the wake up time. My eyes rebelled, catching the last lingering remnants of sleep.Then came the footsteps. We could hear them down the hall. Cold, metallic, pitiless. A clatter of keys, then the moan of the ancient metal door. I opened my eyes, fixing them on the Jailer. He was a short, fat Vortixx, and the light of cruelty was plain in his eyes. This was a man who liked what he did. His eyes lit up like usual as we dragged ourselves out of the slime and foulness that we slept in, our manacles clanking dismally.Then the drums began. Hard, driving, the essence of hate.Like every morning, we shuffled into a double line, and marched out of the chamber. Eyes down, in perfect unison. We knew all to well what happened if we gave even the slightest sign of rebellion. Over the course of two hundred years, you got to know a lot.The Jailer’s eyes were keener than usual. We all knew what that meant. I shot quick glances at the prisoners in front of me. They were far older than me, at a guess they had been here for thousands of years. Their armor was gray, slightly tinted by their Element, and their Kanohi stood out shockingly; the same shade as the unfortunate matoran’s first day of existence. Their armor was almost useless, it had worn away at the places it was supposed to protect. Flesh and bones showed in places. These slaves were worn from thousand upon thousand years of labor, and they practically dragged themselves along, their eyes zoned out and expressionless.It was upon these that the eyes of the Jailer fixed. One stumbled.The Jailer was on him in a second, shredding the chains off him and hoisting the prisoner into the air, where he hung like a limp rag; all expression had faded out of him hundreds of years ago. He was, as they say, ‘broken’. He showed no reaction as the Jailer hurled abuses and blows upon him, and finally threw him to the floor, where he lay in a limp heap.“You heap of filth,” I heard the Jailer shriek, clearly enjoying himself, “You don’t deserve to serve us, you deserve only one thing!”He paused for the sake of dramatics, and the fallen Matoran actually moved, looking sadly upwards.“To the cliffs with him!” The Jailer finished triumphantly, landing a kick on the luckless prisoner’s face. For the first time the prisoner’s face showed emotion; a desperate pleading, a cry for mercy. The Jailer caught it, and laughed as two soldiers dragged the slave out of the room. We were shocked; the cliffs were the only thing that could phase us.A whip cracked across our backs; the drums continued their beating. We marched out into the air.I had looked at the building before, and its image was always in m y mind. It was square, metal, and utterly plain. A box, like one who keep Kane-Ra in.That’s what we were, after all. Just dumb rahi...The ground crunched under our feet, and we winced, just like we always did. The area around the gate was nicknamed the compost heap. Whenever the guards were unusually bored, they would find that snapping a slave’s back in two and throwing his mangled body onto the road was extraordinarily amusing.We passed that, slightly glad about it. Then I looked to one side. The same two guards were next to the cliff edge, holding a small cage.They were cliffing the matoran.My mind shuddered, although I showed nothing outwardly.The cliffs of Odina were not known as much to the residents of the outside world, but to us, it was a horror we loved to forget.It was worse than the usual cage. Bars just small enough so you couldn’t slip out, just big enough to allow any carrion bird easy entrance. The cage not big enough to be even slightly comfortable, yet not small enough to crush you. The victim inevitably ended up as a well pecked husk, his sanity gone long before that. It was slow, painful, total agony.But this was worse, oh how worse it was.The cliffs the cages were wet, not from water, but from acid, rumored to come from the homes of the Cliff Screechers. So the victim also had his armor and flash eaten away at by acid.Then there were the Cliff Screechers. They lived on the cliffs, and almost all their food was the flesh of the caged prisoners.Death on the cliffs took only a day, but it was a hundred times worse. First came the acid. After an hour, your throat would be raw from screaming, your armor and flesh pockmarked from the acid, and torn by the beaks of various carrion; eyes would usually be gone as well, a mercy in this case.All the time you could feel the eyes of the Cliff Screechers on you. They always waited until their pray was terrified like that. Then they pounced. After being slammed into the cliff once or twice, you would be half mad with terror.Then they would tear the cage apart. Your only protection gone, you would be dragged into the cliff screechers nests.Then came the real pain. The adult Cliff Screechers hunted abroad; this was for their babies. Your half dead corpse would be thrown into them, and they would take a few nibbles. Those babies were picky, and they had an odd way of eating; the end result was that it would take hours for you to be devoured, a little bit at a time.Even for us, desensitized by our brutal life, it was a shock, and a horror we preferred to forget.I tore myself away, and trudged onwards. I could already feel the aches in my muscles, and resolutely pushed it out of my mind. It was only going to get worse.The sun had just began to rise, shining straight into our eyes. We blinked, but continued on without a pause; we were to used to it by now.Ahead of us, the wall of the arena rose. The workday had began.* * *The arena was a ruin, as always. The floor was pitted with a half a dozen mini craters, and the last fighters apparently had some control over stone; half of one wall had been torn down, and scattered across the arena floor. A crushed corpse still lay on the floor, reminding us of the dangers involved. The arena never stopped, even when it was being repaired. It was quite normal for prisoners to find themselves being used as human shields, or as projectiles.With a sigh, we went to work. Thankfully, the stones weren’t too large; in fact they had been mostly half crushed by impact. We pushed, dragged, and carried them away; dumping them in the nearest crater: for once, the floor damage was actually a good thing.Hours passed as we slaved away; we all knew that breakfast was simply a nonexistent meal. Our food craving bodies were pushed to their limit, while all we wanted to do was rest. It was a long seven hours, like always.Finally, we heard the horn call; it was our one and only break for the day. We were exhausted, sweating, and weak.And the workday wasn’t even half over.We collapsed on the rough ground, staring around with dull; too tired to care about anything. Our stomachs growled, and we stared greedily at the food. People from more civilized backgrounds would have said that it looked like dung mixed with weeds and the odd stone. They would have been revolted, but we pounced on the mess as if it was food fit for a king.Break was short, to our weary minds, it lasted only for a moment. Then we were lined up, and marched back to work.It was harder, oh so much harder now. Our muscles were even more aching than before, and our stamina had been exhausted long ago. Our supervisors tolerated our snaillike speed of work: any faster and we would collapse long before the day was over. Bolts of energy whistled around us as we worked; another duel was taking place, and one of the combatants apparently had some form of rapid fire blaster. We speeded up slightly, even as one slave collapsed, his leg sheared in half by a stray bolt. He lay, moaning in agony, the guards smirking at him, shrieking at him to get back to work. He was forced to crawl about, filling a bag with rubble, then dragging it away for disposal. Mercifully, another bolt, this time more accurate (the fighters usually liked to pretend to ‘accidentally’ clip a slave) totaled his brain. A slave dragged his corpse away, throwing it into a nearby pit along with a few other pieces of rubble. His body was buried, becoming part of the floor.Hours wore by, as we slowly repaired the entire flour, and began to work on the walls. Mercifully, the guards rarely lifted a finger to drive us along as we tottered about; they had learned from past experiences the breaking point of a matoran.Lifting stones and fitting them into the wall was sheer agony, as our already exhausted bodies were forced to work as hard as they had all day. Several times a slave collapsed under the stone he was trying to lift. The last time it must have landed on him, for he didn’t stir after that.The sun had gone down long before the guards called the end of the workday. We were chained up again, and marched back to our quarters. This time however, our progress was far slower, as we practically inched along.We collapsed in our cells, too weary to move. A barrel of the usual slobs stood in the center of the room, and again the fight for food began again. Like animals we fought, and like animals we fell asleep, sprawled out wherever we had fallen.We were soul dead. ---It's strange how one five second scene from a movie can cause a four page long story. In this case, the scene that gave me the inspiration for this was the English prison island at the start of the Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Honestly, I don't recall what made me write this thing in the first place, aside from the fact that I wanted to capture that feel.This story, ftr, was written in about three parts, and started over a month ago.I seriously hope this isn't too graphic for BZP.
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#2 Offline Legolover-361

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Posted Oct 19 2011 - 03:21 PM

While this is well-written, I think it's more of a premise than a full-blown story; this idea could be lengthened to become an epic, and a good one at that.That said, I do think this is rather dark. Throwing "hope" in there a few times would have given it more dimension, I think. I understand the slaves are soul-dead, but the story is all dark, and despite its ambiguous ending I can't imagine the characters as doing anything other than what they're doing in here, day after day.I do like the writing style. Characterization had no place in here, but the descriptions were, I found, grim beyond a doubt. You don't need any work on that.
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#3 Offline Captain Marvel

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Posted Oct 20 2011 - 10:15 PM

We collapsed in our cells, too weary to move. A barrel of the usual slobs stood in the center of the room, and again the fight for food began again.

This is great. The description of just how decrepit the conditions for these prisoners are is perfect (it's ironic that I choose that word to describe this fic) :P. As LL said, the writing style was good. I found it particularly fitting for this story. Again, no need for characterization, although it helped that the story was told from the point of view of a nameless prisoner, it seemed to enhance the agony and torment that the slaves go through. As you can see in the quote, you said again twice there at the end. Other than that, no grammatical mistakes or anything like that. Overall, great story Zar! -CM

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#4 Offline Yukiko

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Posted Oct 22 2011 - 10:00 AM

That said, I do think this is rather dark. Throwing "hope" in there a few times would have given it more dimension, I think. I understand the slaves are soul-dead, but the story is all dark, and despite its ambiguous ending I can't imagine the characters as doing anything other than what they're doing in here, day after day.

I disagree. While I do think that bittersweetness has its place (I'm a little too fond of it, as a matter of fact) I feel that an attempt to add "hope" to this story would make it sappy. The characters are broken, without hope, but the way you phrase the story creates a natural sense of anticipation: your characters may be without hope, but I bet that most readers won't. That's why this story would work so well as a prologue, though I think that it stands fine on its own. You wrote in a style that seems so appropriate for this story. Normally, it would come across as overly dry, but here it suits the emotionless state of the main character perfectly. It impresses me that you did this when you could have easily gone overboard with description, and it really makes me want to read more of your stories. I have one little critique: you seem to switch a lot between the first person singular and plural in the first part, but then switch to just using the plural in the second part. If you try to make your usage more constant, it will help the story flow better.

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#5 Offline Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa

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Posted Oct 11 2012 - 11:22 AM

Vivid, very vivid. For a short while it was my misfortune to march along with those slaves and to feel and see everything they experienced. It's a compliment to your writing to say I was glad when it was over, but is that necessarily how you want your reader to feel? I admit, though, that there are a lot of people who enjoy this type of story. I'm just not one of them. There wasn't any plot to it, but it was obviously meant to be a description of Odina's pitiable slaves, and that it was. Like I said, it wasn't my thing, but you did a good job. And I commend your choice of narration. First person, in my opinion, puts us right in the story alongside the characters, and in this case it rendered a name, which would have taken away from the story, unnecessary. Grammatically, there were too many mistakes for my tastes. Most of them were simple, mere typographical errors, and I suggest you watch out for those in future. Proofread more carefully. Here are a few I noticed:

Over the course of two hundred years, you got to know a lot.

Get would be the proper tense in this instance. When speaking generally,

They were far older than me, at a guess they had been here for thousands of years. Their armor was gray, slightly tinted by their Element, and their Kanohi stood out shockingly; the same shade as the unfortunate matoran’s first day of existence. Their armor was almost useless, it had worn away at the places it was supposed to protect. Flesh and bones showed in places. These slaves were worn from thousand upon thousand years of labor, and they practically dragged themselves along, their eyes zoned out and expressionless.

First off, two instances of awkward sentence structure. Commas in such places don't sound quite natural. Second, Matoran is a proper noun in BIONICLE grammar. Third, Matoran have little flesh and their bones are made of metal. Fourth, those thousands should be pluralized.

He was, as they say, ‘broken’. He showed no reaction as the Jailer hurled abuses and blows upon him, and finally threw him to the floor, where he lay in a limp heap.

Periods always go inside quotation marks.

"You heap of filth," I heard the Jailer shriek, clearly enjoying himself, "You don’t deserve to serve us, you deserve only one thing!"

I couldn't quite tell if the whole quote was supposed to be one sentence or not. If so, then the you should not have been capitalized. If not, then that comma should be replaced with a period.

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#6 Offline Grantaire

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Posted Oct 11 2012 - 04:18 PM

This entire story was inspired by the prison scene at the start of Piurates of the Caribbean 2; I tried to capture the feel that imagery gave me. I'm not overpleased with my writing, and this certainly could have done with polishing up; my writing of a year ago in nowhere near as good as my writing is these days. I have only one response to the grammar nitpicks (the rest were valid and true... I had nowhere near the amount of practice in first person then that I do now):

Second, Matoran is a proper noun in BIONICLE grammar.

Sorry, personal quirk of mine; none of my stories within the last year and more will have matoran, toa, rahi, etc capitalized unless it's being used as a title for someone. Mayhaps not quite proper grammar, but it's personal taste.At any rate, thank you for the review. I am glad to know that my attempt to create an utterly despairing story worked. :)

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