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An Assassin's Reflections


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#1 Offline Grantaire

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Posted May 21 2012 - 10:02 PM

The wind blew across the neighborhood, ruffling the assassin's hair even as he walked through the gathering dusk. It was an early summer evening, and all its smells and sounds assailed him. Briefly he paused, only to stroke the drooping leave of an iris, convoluted into a twisted tube; past its bloom.This was how his target spent much of his night hours, when sleep would not come, which was most every night. It was useful information about the internal disposition, the assassin supposed, but that was not what concerned him. Rather, it revealed valuable behavioral information. The assassin stopped behind a honeysuckle bush as it occurred to him that he might be watched. But no, he assured himself: the yard was massive and filled with bushes and plants, with no security to speak of. He was not expected, he never was. On most jobs, he'd never be able to do this, but like he had reminded, this was easy.The irises that followed the bush were of different color, large and deep red, the leaves slightly ruffled. A slight smile crossed the assassin's stony features, a rare thing for him. But then, he never had been given a job that involved strolling through flowers on a summer's evening. Such surroundings were foreign to him, and he felt like a fallen man in the garden of Eden. Slipping a hand inside his right pocket he felt the handle of his revolver. It was his connection with his own world, lost amid the entrancing beauty that surrounded him. Should he move faster? Nah, he had some time. His target would not yet be in bed, much less feeling an urge to visit his gardens. he could wander slowly through the beds of irises. The red had thinned out, and were intermingled with white of the same type. Blue would have formed a patriotic scheme, but it was not present. Unable to help himself, he leaned over, smelling the gentle fragrances.Flowers were not an uncommon thing to see, but up close, grouped together like this, they were. And the evening was intoxicating, the darkness wrapping around like a gentle blanket. That was another thing he had not experienced in a long time, the gentle feeling of a summer evening. Was it by choice or by force? the assassin decided it was by both. How long had it been since he had noticed the beauties of such thing? He again touched the gun in his pocket, but the grip was no longer a calm, instead it raised questions, questions mingled with memories, questions rising from memories.The assassin walked on, but the flowers were no longer in his notice, as black and orange replaced red and white. Their influence permeated him though, and he felt pensive, not driven and practical like he had even since he had become what he was.Don't go there, his mind warned, almost desperately. He snapped down to earth in time to stop himself from throwing the gun aside, in time to make himself stay upright and walking instead of lying on the cool, damp grass. The memories that had flowed through his mind slowed, and he began seeing individuals among the blur. The dull concrete walls of his room, or his cell as it truly was. The off white walls of the training center. The weapons that lined the walls, the ranges, the obstacle courses. It had been his whole life for as long as he could remember. His childhood was a vague blur to him, the events of his teenage and adult years long blurring them into oblivion.There had been no flowers in what he recalled of his life. There had been no true beauty. Some might have said that it could have been seen in the girls that had trained alongside him, but such beauty was not comparable to the pure, calming glory of this evening.There was life here, among the flowers and the grass, life not ended by gunshot or knife, not ended by any means the assassin had even employed.Dusk was turning into night, and the assassin forced himself to walk a little faster. He had a job to do, he could not be delayed like this.There had never been beauty or peace in his life, but there had been discipline, and it was that discipline that made him tear away from the nature surrounding him, even though it was worse than any punishment he had ever received, many and varied as those had been. Again he felt the gun in his pocket, and the weapon was no longer a calm, no longer a bringer of memories but a driving whip.The house was visible to him, not too large, but not small either. But on the open porch at its back was his target, and the assassin quickly, out of long habit, ducked behind a bush. His target was wearing a bathrobe, his hair tussled from sleep. But as he descended from the porch, the assassin could tell by his shoes that he had not came out at random, but for his usual walk. Sedately his target walked, stopping at times to admire a plant or to smell a flower. The assassin moved like a lithe robot, his legs drawing him silently towards his target, the entrancing night's power beating against him, but now without effect.He was heard now, and his target turned to face him, eyebrows raised in some startlement at his visitor. The assassin almost halted, but the feel of the gun in his pocket drove him on, overpowering the night he had so longingly observed. He was silent, not answering his target's greetings. Unease showed clearly on his target's features, even as he began to back away. The assassin's heart seemed to tear at itself within him, the placidity of before fighting again, even as the gun forced him to draw it. His target had no time to run, although he tried. The sound of the shot was hampered by a silencer, and the assassin silently watched as his target collapsed. But the assassin stood there silently, his very substance rooted by what he saw. For the dead care not where their bodies fall, and the corpse of his target crumpled into a bed of small white irises; clearly did the assassin see the flowers, their pure petals stained with blood. The summer night's appeal was shattered and desecrated, replaced by a cold, sickening feeling in the assassin's gut. His heart was freezing, and he felt like vomiting. He glanced at his gun, and the dark shape in that hour seemed more evil than anything he had ever seen, even in the most filthy of his missions.Almost against his will, the assassin placed the gun back into his pocket, and its chains fastened once more about his soul.His reflections were over, his reflections were shattered. The beauty was gone, the beauty was no more.The assassin walked silently away, his face once more like a stone. But his soul was as black as the night he was part of: the last spark of light, fanned by the summer evening, now gone forever.

Edited by Zarayna: The Quiet Light, May 22 2012 - 01:58 PM.

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#2 Offline ~JC~

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Posted May 21 2012 - 10:27 PM

This was a good piece, I will give you that. The opening segment was actually quite powerful, but you lost it in the second half. You recycled words, you made grammatical mistakes, and at some points you were openly confusing. "The man ___, the other man ____." the fact that your assassin was labelled an assassin in the title but not in the piece hurt you, sorry to say. Overall, I did like it though. It made me ask questions, and I want to get to know the protagonist. It was a solid idea, but just needed more polishing.
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tu whit, tu whoo


#3 Offline Grantaire

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Posted May 22 2012 - 09:30 AM

Okay, I didn't describe this well: I started out with no idea what I was writing, and this stayed like that until halfway through. I also wrote it in 50 minutes flat, and for the last 20 minutes my dad was yelling at me to get off. I guess I have some editing to do. :P
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#4 Offline The Mad Great Being

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Posted May 23 2012 - 08:44 AM

First off, Quiet, iris flowers don't have leaves. They have petals. I daresay biologically the long drooping parts are actually some sort of leaf while the uprights are true petals, but leaves makes me think of the blade.Aside from about umpteen spelling and capitalization errors, excellent. Very good description of the sin against the Holy Spirit.
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#5 Offline Velox

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Posted Jun 12 2012 - 01:19 AM

Official SSCC ReviewI'll begin with some nitpicks:

The wind blew across the neighborhood, ruffling the assassin's hair even as he walked through the gathering dusk.

The "across" should be "through" and the "even" should be removed completely.

Briefly he paused, only to stroke the drooping leave of an iris,

Should be "leaf".

This was how his target spent much of his night hours, when sleep would not come, which was most every night.

I think that'd be better as: This was how his target spent much of his night hours when sleep would not come (which was most every night now).

The assassin stopped behind a honeysuckle bush as it occurred to him that he might be watched.

"...that someone might be watching him." But, if he's an assassin, shouldn't the instinct to stay behind cover already be drilled in his brain? Also since you say later he's a person of discipline, it seems like this would be something he is disciplined about.

On most jobs, he'd never be able to do this, but like he had reminded, this was easy.

Not quite sure what you meant here. He wouldn't be able to take cover behind something? Also, it should be "...had reminded himself,"

The irises that followed the bush were of different color, large and deep red, the leaves slightly ruffled.

With the wording it sounds like "large" is a color. I'd change it to "The irises next to the bush were larger and of a different color, a deep red, with the leaves slightly ruffled.

Nah, he had some time.

I'd make it "no"

His target would not yet be in bed, much less feeling an urge to visit his gardens. he could wander slowly through the beds of irises.

But couldn't the assassin be seen from the inside? "Bushes and plants" aren't very good concealment, unless he's crouching. Therefore simply because his target is not in bed yet would be a reason to hide or find shelter rather than simply wander through the gardens. Or, if this is a huge house with a huge garden and the assassin couldn't be seen, then that should be described. As of right now the reader has no idea how big or small the garden is (and as such, how much cover it provides). Also, you forgot the capitalization of "he"

The red had thinned out, and were intermingled with white of the same type.

Should either change "red" to "red flowers/irises" or "were" to "was"; also, "of the same type" isn't needed, IMO.

Blue would have formed a patriotic scheme,

I don't think that's the right word, as a scheme is a plan -- perhaps "scene" or "theme"?

And the evening was intoxicating, the darkness wrapping around like a gentle blanket. That was another thing he had not experienced in a long time, the gentle feeling of a summer evening.

I'd make this "...gentle blanket; another thing he had not..."

Was it by choice or by force? the assassin decided it was by both.

"the" should be capitalized.

How long had it been since he had noticed the beauties of such thing?

"things"

He again touched the gun in his pocket, but the grip was no longer a calm, instead it raised questions, questions mingled with memories, questions rising from memories.

"...the grip was no longer calming. Instead it raised..."

The assassin walked on, but the flowers were no longer in his notice, as black and orange replaced red and white.

Would be better as: "The assassin walked on, no longer noticing the flowers as black and orange replaced the red and white."Though, why does the black and orange make him not care about the flowers?

Their influence permeated him though, and he felt pensive, not driven and practical like he had even since he had become what he was.

"Their influence permeated through him and he felt pensive, not driven and practical. He had been this way ever since he had become what he was." And maybe it's just me but I'd add a couple short, quick sentences about what he was. For example "A murderer, an assassin. A slave to his handler, to the life he chose." or something.

Again he felt the gun in his pocket, and the weapon was no longer a calm, no longer a bringer of memories but a driving whip.

Should be "calming". I'd also put a period after "memories" and capitalized "but" -- it'd just make "but a driving whip" stand out more and have more impact on the reader.

But on the open porch at its back was his target, and the assassin quickly, out of long habit, ducked behind a bush.

"at its back" sounds weird. Also, again I must bring up the point: how close or how big is the garden? If he can see his target on the porch, why can't his target see him? I know that right now he's concealed in bushes, but back when he was simply wandering the garden it doesn't seem like there would've been enough shelter.

The assassin moved like a lithe robot,

"lithe" and "robot" are kinda contradictory, unless you meant them to be in which case you should explain.

He was heard now,

You had just described him as moving silently, but if he was heard, then obviously not very silently. You could change it to him being heard simply because he got closer, and therefore louder.

The assassin's heart seemed to tear at itself within him, the placidity of before fighting again, even as the gun forced him to draw it.

Awkward sentence, specifically from "the placidity" until the end.

His target had no time to run, although he tried.

"but" instead of "although" would be stronger, IMO. Also, I would start a new paragraph after this sentence, but maybe that's just me.

The sound of the shot was hampered by a silencer, and the assassin silently watched as his target collapsed. But the assassin stood there silently, his very substance rooted by what he saw.

"and the assassin silently watched" "but the assassin stood there silently" -- remove one of those. ----I apologize for all the nitpicking, but I really did like the overall plot and idea of the story -- I'll get to that. First things first, the title. I'd recommend putting it at the top of the story. Maybe it's just me, but it was weird only having the title in the topic title, rather than in the story itself. I think it just sets it up better. As for the title itself, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. You mention that the guy's an assassin in the first sentence, so naming him an assassin in the title doesn't hurt your piece at all, in my opinion. If anything I'd recommend trying to not label him as an assassin until a third or more through the story so the reader is interested -- you'd make hints, but not outright say it, causing the reader to ask questions (but not distracting ones; it'd have to be done in a way that's not at all confusing), which would be a good thing in this case. But I think it's fine how it is. But back to the title itself, it serves its purpose: it interests the reader and gets them wanting to read more. Or maybe that's just because I like stories about assassins. =P Yes, you could have gone with something else about an internal struggle or something, but again, it's fine how it is. Now on to the character. A very interesting character, to be sure. But that unfortunately is a problem. I'm so interested in him that I'm just left with a lot of questions and wanting to know more -- and not in the good way. For example, his way of life being all that he can remember...that leaves me thinking that he was sent to the training camp-thing at a very young age, which is unusual and therefore I'd want it to be explained. What type of place/society is it where they send kids to become assassins? You mention the patriotic red, white and blue, which makes me first think of either America or England or France, all of which are civilized countries, unless this is meant to be an alternate universe of some sort. Now yes, I'm starting to ramble about the possibilities of where this place is, but it's small things like the fact that he seems to have been training for this since childhood that cause me to have a lot of questions. So back to the character himself. Again, very interesting. And you did a good job portraying the internal struggle. Sure, there could have been more, but you did do very well with what you did. One thing I would've liked to see more of, though, was the "don't go there" thing. But that is in a good way, since this is a short story. You left the reader wanting more, but not confused. Yes, I want to know more, but at the same time, I can feel for the character, feel for the way that he wants to repress whatever it is that haunts him, and that drags me into the story more as I become wrapped up in his emotions. If it wasn't a short story I would of course expect you to go into much more detail. I think a little more backstory would be good, though, even if just to explain why he suddenly started having doubts now; is it really just because of the flowers? If so you should go deeper into that -- how he connects the flowers to being in the wrong line of work. Yes, you touch upon that, but not deeply enough. As I said above I did really like the overall plot. The idea of an internally conflicted assassin, especially one with such an interesting background as this, coupled with the more general picture of an assassin on a mission to, well, assassinate, simply makes for quite an intriguing story. Unfortunately, the grammar mistakes and a few other plot holes made it not as enjoyable as it could have been. For one, I was left confused oftentimes and with a lot of questions. Why was the assassin sent to kill the guy in the first place? That right there could've opened up a large opportunity for more characterization, as well as answer the question: why now? Yes, there's flowers, but did he have some doubts before; maybe about this mission? About whether or not this guy really should die? Or simply just characterization because of morals -- not why now but just why him. Was his target deserving of death? Things like that. Also, since he's a professional assassin, I found it a little odd that he'd carry his gun in his pocket; why not a holster? A concealed one, of course, but still. The last thing I want to mention is the description. Some places it was very, very good, and other times I was left confused. I loved your description of what is life and beauty; very accurate in my opinion. I also thought the last few lines were very well written, which is a very good thing -- always great to end on a high note. But now for those questions again. First off, where is he? Not only what country, as I mentioned before, but just simply what were the surroundings like? You say he's in a neighborhood, but yet with the huge garden this guy seems to have a huge house; one so large that he couldn't live in a neighborhood. And if it's not that huge of a house and there are other houses around (as you do mention the house being "not too big"), then wouldn't he be afraid -- or at least cautious -- of being seen? Wandering around someone else's garden for a while is very suspicious. Even the murder act itself could've been seen if it was in the middle of a neighborhood. Yes, there are a lot of plants to conceal him, but you don't mention trees; bushes are usually too low to the ground to provide adequate cover, and when he committed the murder act he wasn't in the garden. Basically I would've just liked to have more description of where he was. Obviously all these questions are rhetorical -- things I would've liked answered in the story itself.Again, though, I truly did enjoy this story, and I really believe that with a little more effort it could become something great. You've got the idea, you've got the interesting character, and I know you've got the writing talent from reading other things of yours as well as parts of this -- put that all together, comb through the story a few times to make edits and to proofread, and you're good to go. Definitely keep writing, Zarayna, you've got a lot of talent. I hope to read more by you.Posted Image

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#6 Offline The Lord Of Wednesday

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Posted Oct 25 2012 - 08:11 PM

This is the SSCC charity review of An Assassin's Reflections by Zarayna, (review by Samhain). Sorry for the last minute nature of this review.Now, this is normally where state how I had no flow problems (which I didn't), and then go into grammar errors, but my colleague Velox seems to have picked that topic to death, and it is my belief that he is much better at examining that sort of thing.Onto your story, here you paint us a wonderful descriptive picture with what the assassin sees and what is going on in his head. He seemingly has some internal duel with two parts of himself, the disciplined assassin side of himself and what appears to be the real him taking in the splendor he gets from his marvelous spectacle. I did feel quite a sense of sorrow for our protagonist and his unfortunate target, especially sense he was already in the process of seemingly questioning his morality and the success of his mission seems to have been the tipping point. The final scene could also symbolize the profound impact that his assassin life had over the real him, symbolized with the body and blood stains covering the flowers that had brought out the real him.Very nice, needless to say, your level of detail is wonderful (even if the interpretation I present was not the intended one).
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#7 Offline Grantaire

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Posted Oct 25 2012 - 09:01 PM

I intended to show failed repentance definitely, and it was mainly the fact that he had never really been awakened to the beauty of creation, etc. You might say that this was like an ork's one moment of grace... And the assassin flubbed it. As TMGB said, it is intended to show complete impenitence.Thank you for the review. :)
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