As much as I really liked Legacy and A Night At Aprilside High, I was won over by your story in the end. It's almost ironic seeing as you were the one who linked me to this thread in the first place. I'm not sure what it is that really caught my attention, but I think there is something very captivating about how you told your story. While the rest of the stories seem to be based in modern times (with obvious exceptions such as Untitled), yours was set in a completely unique world with unknown rules and characters. In spite of this, however, I found myself caring about the characters at the end and was pleasantly surprised by the plot twist (?). The ending was also very satisfying and I'm a little surprised that yours did not get more votes.
As quite a short entry, there isn't much opportunity for the reader to connect with the characters. Edda's relationship with Hans was alluded to, but with him dead before the start of the story, it is difficult to be invested in this personal development. It is also odd that Harald is given the most closure, when he lacked any agency in the meat of the story.
The overall structure of the entry works (save perhaps the epilogue), though quite straightforward; Edda faces several challenges, and sacrifices herself at the end to complete her objective. Still, it relies heavily on the exposition forced in at the start to add any meaning to her actions.
The little details hinting at the abnormal—Jessica's «controlled breath», her forced counting at the smell of blood, Megan's «true age»—all subtle enough to fit within the mundane narrative, but memorable enough to be given new light after the reveal.
The dramatic shift in tension from sexual to lethal was sudden, but every bit fitting. It was timed to follow just after a reversal of the power dynamic of the two girls: as soon as Jessica was relegated to the role of reacter, Megan moved in for the kill. This, paired with the quality writing, made for a captivating read.
Overall, while bearing a simple plot, this entry is a strong contender with style.
A heavy tone permeates this entry, a gloom perhaps fitting for a story taking place entirely at night. Descriptions were vibrant, due largely to the use of simile and metaphor—at times too vibrant, as those same tools were used to excess. Many were simple enough, providing a clear comparison appropriate for the context: «clinging […] like moisture», a scent of «lilac and rose, like the smell of new graves». Moisture clings, and fresh graves are decorated with flowers; these are sensible comparisons.
Others create confusion by blending simile and metaphor. For example, «he clutched [his self-control] like a man drowning in guilt and self-blame» makes perfect sense as a simile up to and including «drowning»; John is clutched a lifeline. The rest turns the act of drowning into a metaphor for his actual condition, which paired with the simile, make John similar to John. John is John; the comparison is unnecessary. Similarly, «eyes gleaming like sapphire, its color of the ocean's depth» establishes twice in the same sentence the colour blue; once would have been sufficient.
A more effective way of blending the two, by adding a metaphor as parenthesis to the simile is also in use: «Walker's white suit burned like pale flame in the tinted gloom, a phantom traversing a hell of crimson and shadow» and «the door whined like a banshee's wail, trepidation manifested in its purist [sic] form». By keeping them grammatically separate, the act as alternatives to the simile—a second layer of abstraction. Each enhances the imagery, rather than muddying it or introducing redundancy. Still, this technique is highly expressive, and can appear heavy-handed if used too frequently.
Moving on to the structure of the story, the threads connecting each aspect of the investigation were thin. For the most part, Walker conducted his investigation outside of the reader's view. No indication was given as to how he knew to seek out Janet Bailey, and even when a clue was provided to lead him to Lincoln Holmes, it was hidden behind a vague statement—«"Tell me everything you can recall." / So she did.»—and it took one tangential scene and three paragraphs of searching through the house for the reader to be informed that this line of inquiry had borne fruit. By obfuscating the process of the investigation, there is no challenge for Walker to overcome; paired with a climax that reveals his success to have been manufactured, the investigation nearly irrelevant. (It also reduces the impact of learning that it was manufactured, because it is unclear what lengths Albert would need to have gone through.)
The climax itself, while benefitting from an intriguing core concept, was messy in application. Very little of the history between Walker, Albert, Powell, and John's father had been developed—or even properly hinted at—leaving it unclear why any of their fundamental philosophies should matter. Walker refers to an agreement that Powell breaks, but the nature of this agreement is never established. Walker supposedly betrayed his son the sake of another, but this betrayal is never explained. (John and Janet were fairly compelling, as their motives were clear; but they were largely irrelevant to the plot.)
The choice of presentation here is an interesting one. Adding a degree of separation between the reader and the murder allows the entry to take a controlled approach to which information is revealed, and when. It also shifts the entire focus away from the outcome—catching the culprit—to the process. Of course, this choice does have its downside: while pleasant to read, it lacks in either the tension or the depth to be truly riveting.
Though mostly consisting of dialogue, the writing is clear and fitting for its tone. The introduction in particular sets a solid foundation for Ken, which is important seeing as he is the de facto narrator as well as the only character the reader has the opportunity to connect to.
For the plot itself, it is generally effective: clues are given out piecemeal for the reader to figure out at the same time as the students. Unfortunately, the solution is quickly apparent, and this dampens Ken's final revelation. (Personally, I'd suggest more ambiguity, by removing the mention of werewolves. Rather then assuming Ken to be slow, this would allow us to instead assume that the myth simply does not exist in this culture.)
This entry was a well-knit production: the settings, the creature, and especially the descriptions supporting each other for a united atmosphere. Even without any indication of the supernatural until late in the story—a risky choice, as foreshadowing helps suspend disbelief—there was a sense of unease. The girls were splitting up, even if for only a moment. The atmosphere was oppressive, a little gross, and far from help. And the exposition was doled out carefully, never more than what was needed to understand the current events.
In true horror style, most of the entry was build-up—and the climax was tense. Even after they'd escaped, the silence maintained the possibility of things starting up again. Ending on a neutral note, despite their success, really sealed the creepy tone of the whole event.
An odd entry, without much in the way of plot. Confined to but a single scene, the characters played out as cogs in a closed system—that is to say, without real agency. No motives were provided for their actions, nor were they particularly necessary: when a mongoose is caged with a snake, the result is self-evident. As perhaps direct consequence of this, there was little reason to feel sympathy or compassion for any of the characters (save perhaps the servant, whose displeasure with his current situation was at least made clear). The impact of the twist was minimal, because there was no indication as to how the hunter would react to his newfound vampirism.
On the subject of the writing itself, it was effective enough, tying in his faltering memory to the classic gothic descriptions. The role of the narrator was somewhat unclear—at times representing Vladimir's perspective, such as in «How long both had been!», while having been explicitly established to be the readers. That in and of itself is a confounding notion, and seemed to be introduced only so that the initial rush of exposition could be split between to narrators. (Is it ironic to interrupt a «long and dreary introduction» with a longer one?)
Grammar was also spotty: commas used sporadically, semi-colons incorrectly substituted for colons, and inconsistent verb tenses.
Though redemption and forbidden love are both espoused in this entry, not much attention is given as to the mechanics or value of either. Flashes of dialogue and interaction are separated by large swathes of exposition, often skipping over the juicy bits to get to the single moment representing change. We do not see what horrors Anthony committed, nor do we see the difficult transition towards a moral lifestyle. We do not see what drew the two lovers together—only the moment they coupled up. Because of this, neither Anthony, Melanie, nor their relationship is particularly compelling.
This is not to say that the story required more scenes—revealing only the most pivotal moments is often necessary in this medium. Instead, the scenes simply would have benefitted by containing more details and hints at either the characters' driving characteristics or the core themes. (It wasn't clear, for example, why Melanie sought redemption for Anthony but swift justice for the brother.)
The narration itself was rather plain: effective, but without standing out. That being said, it was replete with punctuation errors. Most severely, commas often split the verb from its object without an intervening independent clause, such as in «he didn't know, that he», «he sought out [the] help, of those like him», and «and reading, things he had once enjoyed».
A very strong entry, without much to criticize.
Splitting the story between two perspectives was an interesting choice. Both were compelling characters, but only Darian had a strong development arc, as he learned to push aside his pride—a fairly standard personal arc, and the story's secondary conflict. By contrast, the primary conflict—hunting the vampire—is largely Suha's domain. (She does have a minor personal arc in allowing herself to not be alone, but it wasn't really established as an issue until the last scene.) Unfortunately, this conflict is resolved a bit too easily by Suha, as she succeeds on tagging the vampire in the first night and Cobb confesses even before she deduces it was him. Without any real challenge, she doesn't have room to grow, and this makes her a bit less interesting than Darian. (Though in a similar vein, Darian didn't really do anything concrete to demonstrate his development.)
Ultimately, the story would have benefitted from a few extra hurdles to build up tension, but was still well-written and a good read.
The concept behind this entry is quite interesting, as it follows the process of becoming a zombie from the perspective of the victim. To that end, the first-person narration is used effectively not just to create a closer connection with Audrey's evolving desires, but also to allow for the narrator to progress towards madness. Broken up sentences—such as «I screamed. And thrashed.»—started to crop up to replace the long and eloquent ones of before (though ultimately those remained ever-present, making for an at time disjointed narrative voice).
The opening and closing scenes were particularly effective. Right from the start, there was tension. The character was running, but the reader didn't know from what—and in spite of that crucial missing detail, everything else was grounded. The «cracked pavement», the «lungs burning», the «nasty scrape [...] beginning to bleed»; always something tangible to latch onto. The level of detail also helped to slow things down, enhancing the horror vibe of the scene.
Taking a different approach, the second-to-last paragraph focuses on a barrage of actions. This is particularly effective due to the rather slow pace of the entry up until that point (more on that below), making for a tight climax that is punctuated by an extremely effective last sentence. That it is consistent with the first-person perspective makes it even better.
Still, the bulk of the entry was very dry. The paragraphs were all roughly the same length, much of the narration consisted of Audrey recounting events, rather than experiencing them. The few shifts into the bestial mindset remained surrounded by mundane thoughts. While in no way poorly written, they did account for a dip in interest. This wasn't helped by the lack of development in the characters: Audrey remained worried about her turn, and while there were moments hinting at an arc for Devon, by locking it behind Audrey's limited perspective, it wasn't as compelling as it might otherwise have been.
An enthralling horror story that takes its time to provide the proper set-up—the rule of three in good use. The first dream by the river to alert the reader to the danger, the second (story-wise, not plot-wise) to create a pattern, and the third to cash in. All the characters were distinct and relatable, and the setting they were established in was believable enough to create some unease when the oddities started to occur.
The entry was very efficient with its narrative, as well. Little details were called upon later in the story, and every scene served a purpose. The opening and closing lines were also very effective hooks—a great way to leave a strong impression.
The writing was great, with vivid descriptions and authentic dialogue. A balance of long and short paragraphs was employed to maintain the ebb and flow of tension—especially effective in the climax. (I also liked how the perspective switched to Luiza for the first and only time in the climax; it made it plausible that Izabel wouldn't survive the encounter.)
The internal pacing of the narration was primarily effective. Moments of action were relayed in punchy phrases, such as «It snapped at him once, reared, and then ran» and «And he began to saw». Periods of horror were drawn out to sustain tension, such as in paragraph twenty-six, devoted to the painful description of James's amputation. This was especially true of the latter half of the entry. (The beginning suffered from a surplus of short paragraphs—sometimes several in a row. A scarcely-used technique can cut to the bone, while many will often prove jarring.)
The narrative voice, however, was not so tightly managed. While it maintained a limited third person perspective, the narrative voice was inconsistent in terms of how it expressed doubt.
Unfortunately, it is the structure of the narrative itself that is most problematic in this entry. The beginning of the story reveals the ending—a valid technique—but the difference in time is so short that it leaves no room for intrigue. Tension could not build, because the answer to any uncertainty was readily available. The climax has essentially been robbed of its payoff in order to bolster the hook. (This is perhaps to blame for the out-of-place ending: three questions seeking to shift the entire theme of the piece from the established one man's struggle, to the struggles of many.)
Finally, the character arc itself was not particularly compelling. Because the reader already knew the results going in, James had very little character agency—even if in the fiction, he was forced to make a tough choice. The reader knew he would survive, minus one arm, and the how was not difficult to predict. The reader also had no reason to care about the arm: he won't be handicapped for the rest of the story, because that is where the story ends. There isn't enough detail given to James to estimate how much of an impact this will have on his life. (James isn't even named until the very end—entirely too late. Perhaps it would have been better to not name him at all.)
The writing of the piece is quite good, setting an effective tone for the horror it seeks to convey. It is at the macro level that it could use some fine-tuning and development.