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Ever Up

short story flash fiction

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#1 Offline Tolkien

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Posted Jun 07 2012 - 11:34 PM

Ever Up

He opened the door wide on creaking hinges, letting the orange light of evening spill across the floor of the hut. The windows followed, shutters flapping open in the breeze that was just now rising over the empty prairies from the north. It blew gently through the hut as he busied himself with other matters, shuffling about on aching knees.First, he swept. A slow task with the thatch-broom that he always kept in the corner. Dust rose in little clouds as he worked, glinting in the sunlight before the wind snatched it up and away.When that was finished, he turned to the furniture. Not much: only a wooden table and chair. These he dusted, straightening the small collection of books on the tabletop, and put away the pewter dishes that lay scattered about. They would be useless to him on the journey. He smiled faintly, though, as he touched the books. They were dear to him. He would miss them.Next, he hobbled outside, leaning on a stick that he had used for many years. Rounding the hut, he made his way up the hillside behind. There, he looked upon the pens of sheep and goats that he had tended for so long. A hermit must keep himself busy, after all, and what else was there to do on the open prairie but tend the animals and read and think? What more indeed?He wheezed a bit as he stooped to lift the latch of the main pen. The gate swung open, and he tied it to a stake so it would not shut. Within, the livestock shuffled around but did not leave the safety of the pen. They held together, looking back at him with dark eyes. Sad eyes. He smiled at them, always grateful for their simple, silent company.The descent from the hill was harder in the twilight. The hut seemed grey now, thatched with colorless reeds, fluttering in the wind. He stopped when he reached the door again, looking out into the distance.South, he looked, and then west. The wind stung his eyes as he turned to the north, and he shielded them with one trembling arm. Soon, now. Soon he would go. The thought sent a shiver through his aged body, and suddenly he wept, for he was lonely. Here in the desolation of the prairie, with only the sheep and goats to keep company, he was lonely at last.He had chosen this solitary life for himself, but now…now he longed for something else. He longed for speech and company…warmth on a cold night.Soon he would go. Yes, very soon, and he was ready.His hand gripped the wooden stick tightly as he turned from the door, leaving it thrown open to the prairie and the fading sun. With faltering steps he moved towards the chair, wheezing as he lowered himself into it. He wore a weathered cloak, and on his feet were traveling boots.Now all was prepared. Yes, now was the time.The hermit lay back as the sunlight fell away, and night crept up from the west. His eyes closed……and abruptly he went out…out from the sheltered place into that greater night where there are no stars. A dry land, with dark hills rising to a darker sky…But above those hills, fitful and half-lost in the darkness, it seemed that a pale light flickered faintly.Now suddenly he started forward on strengthening limbs, casting aside the walking stick, for he may now climb those deathly hills without weariness…climbing…climbing ever up.Ever up, toward the light.

End

------------Hi folks. Officially, this is an entry for the Flash Fiction Marathon, following the theme "Preparation." Unofficially, this is the first COT short story I've posted on BZP. Funny how that works. It's a sad kind of story, but not, I think, too dark in the end. I hope you enjoy. Leave a comment or critique if the desire moves you. All such things are appreciated.JRRT

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#2 Offline 55555

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Posted Jun 08 2012 - 03:45 AM

I enjoyed it. I liked the way you didn't actually say he was old, but gradually let us realize that as you described his trouble doing his various tasks, and going into him being a hermit for so long.I like the idea of him realizing his death was coming and preparing for it in practical, prideful, and symbolic ways. To me unexplained, possibly supernatural things like a his knowledge of his upcoming death are really good ideas and add a lot of mojo to a story.Glad you entered this challenge, I hope you had fun with it. :)- 55555
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#3 Offline Tolkien

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Posted Jun 27 2012 - 05:06 PM

I enjoyed it. I liked the way you didn't actually say he was old, but gradually let us realize that as you described his trouble doing his various tasks, and going into him being a hermit for so long.I like the idea of him realizing his death was coming and preparing for it in practical, prideful, and symbolic ways. To me unexplained, possibly supernatural things like a his knowledge of his upcoming death are really good ideas and add a lot of mojo to a story.Glad you entered this challenge, I hope you had fun with it. :)- 55555

Hey thanks for the review. Much appreciated.One of my goals in writing the description was, in fact, to try to avoid mentioning that the character is old, so that the purpose of the "preparations" remains somewhat of a mystery until the end. Glad to know it was successful. Thanks again. This was definitely an enjoyable contest overall.JRRT

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#4 Offline Yukiko

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Posted Jan 23 2013 - 10:27 PM

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Short Stories Critics Club Review[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]First, I'd like to say for being named after a writer that I usually associate with well, verbosity, your prose is remarkably concise.  Forgive me if I don't have much criticism to give you.  Usually I advise writers to be more economical with their prose or create more atmosphere, but you've achieved an almost perfect balance here.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]I especially liked this phrase.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]He smiled faintly, though, as he touched the books. They were dear to him.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Usually, we here "show, don't tell," but you have told us something here that works stylistically.  It has personality and it just feels right, and that's something that every writer looks for.   (Though I would leave out the "He would miss them" at the end.  It sort of diffuses the impact of the paragraph.)[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]In general, I would just be careful with the word "was."  "To be" verbs are weak and you don't want to use them too much.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]The windows followed, shutters flapping open in the breeze that was just now rising over the empty prairies from the north.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]This would be more wieldy as "the breeze that rose over..."[/font]

 

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]South, he looked, and then west. The wind stung his eyes as he turned to the north, and he shielded them with one trembling arm. Soon, now. Soon he would go. The thought sent a shiver through his aged body, and suddenly he wept, for he was lonely. Here in the desolation of the prairie, with only the sheep and goats to keep company, he was lonely at last.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]I feel like the first one should be "he felt lonely."  You have two strong verbs in that sentence ("sent" and "wept"), and the "was" just makes the sentence awkwardly grind to a halt.  I don't think you need that "suddenly".[/font]

 

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Now suddenly he started forward on strengthening limbs, casting aside the walking stick, for he may now climb those deathly hills without weariness…climbing…climbing ever up.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Again, I don't think you need it.  I know "suddenly" is one of the adverbs most tempting to use (I know it is for me), but you're better without it.  Also, you use the present tense at the end of this sentence.  I think you should change "may" to "could" unless you're going to write that entire last part in present tense.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Otherwise this is a remarkable story.  I look forward to reading more of your writing. ^^[/font]


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