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  • A Draft Into A Paradox (Flash Fiction)

  • jojabarker

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    May 18, 2021 at 10:04 am
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    A Pair of Docks at the Time Inn

    “It’s always been my get away,” Julian thought as he placed his loafers by the edge of the pond. “Then why, why does it feel like I’ve gotten away from nothing?”

    Barefoot, Julian stepped onto the dock. An old, sturdy dock that felt like the wood planks of his grandparents. Each step took him deeper into the hallway of that New England home. Closer to when his mother found his grandfather with a knife in one hand and Julian’s childhood puppy in the other.

    “It wasn’t my fault!” Julian blurted across the water. Wait, was there a figure, someone else on the other side?

    He could not tell. This morning’s fog was too thick. Julian ignored the hallucination. He sat at the end of the dock, his naked toes just inches above the seren water.

    “Why did my boy have to take that toy from his sister?” Julian muttered and turned the gold band on his left ring finger. “How many times do I have to warn him that his sister freaks out–and then my wife turns it on me!” He made a fist, “Who says I yell?”

    The figure shifted. Julian released his fist and shaded his eyes as he looked, “Hello?” The figure stood up. Then faded back into the fog.

    Julian crossed his arms and thought, “Jeez, this Memorial weekend is chillier than usual.”

    “That’s right,” he squeezed his shoulders, “damn office is always freezing–even during the winter!” Julian slammed a fist and bruised his knuckles on the dock, “If I ran that office, I would not just turn the heat up. I’d light a fire under all my lazy bum co-workers!”

    He pointed across the pond as he thought aloud. Julian froze as he noticed that not only did the figure return but it also mimed him.

    “Hey!” Julian leapt up, “What’s the big deal?” He headed back to shore and began to walk around the pond.

    The figure paused before it turned away to vanish into the fog once more. Once to the other side Julian discovered the second dock as he glanced over where he had just been. He saw the figure on that very dock he had just left.

    “Who is this guy,” he thought. “I realize it’s a popular resort, but come on! It’s my time to be with me,” he clenched his fist and stamped a foot. The figure mimicked.

    Julian turned to walk back.

    The figure mirrored.

    He stopped. Shook both fists at his sides.

    The figure shadowed.

    Julian ran to the end of the dock closest to him.

    The figure did the same.

    A moment and then Julian and the figure jumped into the pond from their identical docks. They trudged through the water, closer and closer to each other. Julian’s face deepend in a burgundy red as the rage coursed through him, but flipped to fear once he realized the figure was on the same war path. Terror gripped Julian as they were inches away from one another.

    A chill ran through him.

    Not because the pond soaked up his pants into his shirt.

    It was because the figure wasn’t where they were supposed to collide.

    Julian slowed inch by inch, minute by second as he closed in to the other dock. When he reached the edge he almost had no strength left. He lifted his cold, drenched body onto the dock. He slumped down and sat.

    He breathed deep.

    Slowly he raised his head as the fog cleared.

    The sun lit the dock he had just left. He saw medics on the other side rush to aid the resort manager who had just lifted a body out of the pond. A group gathered. The EMTs went to work. The manager stood and looked down. Julian yelled. No one looked over. He screamed. The manager solely peered at Julian. A minute passed and then the manager looked back down at the body.

    [fin]

    500 word target clocking at 654 in this 1st draft

    cc @ASAP

    fwd @thesurrealari

  • ASAP

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    May 19, 2021 at 3:18 am
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    Very chilling story. I’ve already got something in my mind’s eye for this.

    We probably need to talk colors and tone, but I think I have an idea.

    I’m picturing some sort of cabin by the lake imagery with some beat up docks and heavy shadows.

    I’m imagining a lone figure on the dock, looking around and spooked.

    However, in the reflections on the lake, we see shadowy figures approaching him. I’m also thinking that the main character either does not have a reflection on the water, or his reflection is almost crouching, as if it’s about to jump out at the water to snatch him up.

    Thoughts? @jojabarker

  • thesurrealari

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    May 27, 2021 at 7:08 pm
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    Joel,

    I think you have the framework of something amazing here. I love the mirroring effect and the twilight-zone-esque end.

    I wonder if you are able to weave the backstory/flashbacks throughout the story to make the mirroring effect more integrated. It seems to come a lot at the beginning, whereas the second half is mostly in the present. I wouldn’t want you to lose the momentum of the end, but some more detail/context, continuation of the effects of the inciting incident later in life might amplify the climax.

    Also, I know we are not proofing at this point, but I think there’s a missing a word. The planks probably don’t resemble the grandparents. Given the context, they probably resemble the planks in his grandparents’ house. Normally I wouldn’t bring up this type of line-level issue on a first draft, but it did trip me up and I had to read it twice to understand it.

    That said, the framework is excellent. The end is chilling. I like the idea that Alex had about the figure having no shadow as well.

    • jojabarker

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      June 5, 2021 at 11:13 am
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      Double, positive whammy @thesurrealari, my friend!

      I like that suggestion of weaving more backstory/flashback(s). Maybe, in order to not lose momentum I work it so that there’s a gradual transition rather than 1st half vs 2nd…?

      And yeah, I’m glad you brought that to my attention early (because quite honestly, I’m rereading it and still having a hard time catching — the pricelessness of an editor!)

      Again, I greatly appreciate the feedback ~Kirbyspeed

  • krisburgos

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    June 5, 2021 at 7:02 am
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    Very cool story and very macabre. One thing I liked that Ari touched on, was the flashbacks, and I too felt you could have gone further with them. I know you’re looking to drop word count, but if you were to dive deeper and write more, you could have a story where the guy’s life flashes before his eyes, intermingled with the tale, prior to his death and that could further lead into his emotions on past events as they pass him by, creating more character development. Think of it like A Christmas Carol, what happens to Scrooge is horrifying, being visited by some creepy-ass ghosts, but if the story didn’t build on his character, would it have hit as much as it did?

    One of the issues I generally have with the traditional “Twilight Zone” storytelling… they’re a bone-chilling tales that only matter because of what happens to someone. I tend to be affected more when the character matters to me. But if you’re one for more shock from what happens then by all means go for it, its purely personal preference.

    • jojabarker

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      June 5, 2021 at 11:18 am
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      Excellent @krisburgos, my friend — I’m indebted to your honesty!

      I hadn’t considered that I leaned into the shock more than the character. I’m glad that you and @thesurrealari grabbed onto the push for more backstory/flashback(s).

      Definitely drawn to challenging myself to keeping it under 600 words, so gonna see if I can incorporate you and Ari’s suggestions while achieving that goal! ~Kirbyspeed

      • thesurrealari

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        June 7, 2021 at 12:09 am
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        Don’t worry about word count yet. Write the story you want. You can always trim the fat later. Cutting with the scalpel rather than the axe is one of my specialties as an editor. It comes from years of editing college essays, along with my previous career in journalism.

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