Contest Entry-Please critique!

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Wistful Beast, Jun 20, 2016.

  1. Later on this summer I will be attending my first writer's conference and I'm so excited!!! Anyways, one of the main features is a writing contest and I'm entering as a way to get my writing out into the world. That being said, I'm going to share my entry here before I actually enter it in the hopes of getting some feedback.

    Call out my grammar, suggest better phrasing, anything you think would make it better. I only have a few more days before the entry is due(damn my procrastination), so this will only be up for a few days.

    Thank you for the help!

    The sidewalk, gleaming under the neon lights of the city, led Maxine towards a place of refuge. Looking down towards her boots, the young woman saw that the sidewalk’s drab, concrete surface was marred with wads of gum, flattened by hundreds of different shoes. Beside her, cars rumbled by with haste, the cold night air catching their growls. High above, the moon peered down at towering buildings and squat establishments alike with equal disdain. It hid itself in a shawl of clouds and didn’t dare to make another appearance. It was a frigid autumn night in New York city. A mere taste of the bitter winter to come. To keep her hands warm, Max shoved them deeper into her coat pockets.

    At this hour it was somewhat reasonable for Max to be more paranoid than she usually was. As she fast walked towards her destination she kept stealing glances behind herself. Every figure she passed was reason for her to be suspicious. An old man sauntered past with an armful of grocery bags, bottles of alcohol clinking around. His cordial smile in Max’s direction felt forced. A gaggle of middle aged woman stumbled out from a little restaurant, their jovial chatter loud enough for anyone to hear a block away. They were high on their sense of livelihood. A pair of men with shifting eyes and crisp suits, walked to the bus station after a long shift. Their responsibilities visibly weighed on hunched shoulders, bags adorning the undersides of their tired eyes. All warranted suspicion under Max’s mistrusting gaze.

    The sound of pulsating music reached Max’s ears as she approached her destination. Eagerly, she followed the sound towards a small, sleek looking building. A black awning jutted out sorely over the entrance and white lettering identified it as, “The Spades Club.” One of Max’s regular haunts. While she wasn’t one for dancing, clubs provided her with a sensory overload that was enough to drown out her problems for a while. Plus, it made her feel the safety that came with anonymity. No one would seek her here.

    It had taken some time and money to get her on the list, but once she had, all she had to do was flash her I.D at the door to be admitted. They knew by now that she wouldn’t cause trouble, although they were irked that she came to a nightclub and refused to dance or associate with others. All she did was sit at the bar silently. However odd her behavior, the club was not going to refuse an opportunity to make money.

    At the door, Max pulled her I.D free from her pocket and showed it to the bouncer, who was a thick man with a square jaw and eyes that were hidden under black lenses. After examining the card and checking his list, he silently pushed the door open to admit Max. The sound of loud techno music was swept out into the street. After taking one last breath of cold outside air, Max entered the fray and allowed the music to swell around her. The door swung shut behind and closed her off from the rest of the world.

    Inside it was dark, but slicing through this darkness was a variety of neon lights. Vividly colored lights danced off of the patrons clothing and skin as they clustered on the expanse of the dance floor. They bobbed to the music, grasping at each other through the dimness and cacophony of lights and sounds. They danced with reckless abandon and reveled in their distorted sense of reality. They smelled like sweat, alcohol, and above all, desperation.

    Instead of joining the mass of writhing dancers, Max headed towards the bar area that was tucked away in the front corners of the building. For a club it wasn’t too large, which was better in Max’s opinion. Nightclubs were only tolerable in small doses.

    At the bar she took a seat on one of the tall stools, hanging her coat and scarf on the back of her chair. A bartender was quick to dote on her, eager to make some nice tips. “What can I get you?,”he asked with a charming smile, speaking loudly and leaning close in order to be heard over the din.

    “Just a Coke,”Max answered.

    “Jack and Coke?”the bartender asked, holding a hand up to his ear.

    “No, just a Coke,”Max clarified.

    “Jack and Coke it is!”the bartender exclaimed, still not hearing her properly.

    Before Max could correct his error, he was off to make her drink. “Ugh, whatever,”she grumbled. I’ll just hand it over to someone else when the bartender’s not looking. I’d hate to waste a good drink. She thought.

    There was a good reason that Max was perhaps one of the only people to reject alcohol at a club. In fact, this reason motivated her to refuse to drink alcohol entirely. At least, as much as she could help it.

    A few years ago Max’s mother had died of liver failure from a lifetime of excessive drinking. The poor organ couldn’t keep up anymore. In great detail, Max recalled the very day it had occurred. October 23. A Friday. The day had been rainy in a cliche way, water sluiced down the hospital windows and somber grey clouds wreathed the city. A solemn professional voice explained that hours were numbered and mentioned something of a failure despite their best efforts. For a while, Max didn’t have the heart to look into her mother’s eyes, not wanting to see their dull shine as they seemed to peer into her very soul. The cool, stagnant air smelled sterile to an unnerving degree. White walls and endless halls made the place feel like a great, claustrophobia inducing maze.

    Never could Max forget the sudden hollow feeling that had filled her insides when, with her mother’s clammy hand held tightly, the heart monitor flat lined with a sharp and almost tangible beep of finality. The afternoon that had followed was spent breaking glass bottles in an abandoned parking lot just to hear the crash and the tinkle of shards to the asphalt, yearning desperately for any sound that could fill the void. It had opened like a wound and no amount of futile stitching seemed to pull it together for long. Even now, years later, the loss stung.

    The bartender finally returned with her drink and held out a hand for payment. Begrudgingly, a few dollars were fished out and forked over by Max. Then she was left sitting with the drink perched on the counter in front of her. A smooth, clear glass held the precious cafe colored liquid, a few ice cubes floating on the surface. It was so close. One sip couldn’t hurt, could it? Max reached a hand out to grab the glass and met the cool surface, condensation chilling her hands. Then she seemed to remember herself and recoiled, withdrawing her hand as if she had touched a stove top.
    All of the sudden Max felt like she was suffocating. She had to get rid of the drink. Fast. Looking around she looked for a candidate to hand the drink off to. However, she soon thought better of it. It was cruel to hand the poison off to someone else. To aid in the murder of an innocent. One drink less would do their liver good.

    Max scooped her jacket up and scarf before sliding off of the stool with the drink in hand. With long strides, she advanced towards the bathrooms, which were in the back of the building. She’d have to pass by the dance floor. The distance between her and the safety of the bathrooms was closing. Not fast enough. The sensation of suffocation threatened to send Max into a panic and when she looked to the people dancing she could only imagine them in her mother’s place, dying of liver failure in some crisp hospital room, their loved ones producing keening wails of sorrow. Ghosts seemed to pursue her, urging her to dispose of the beverage as fast as she could.

    Max reached the bathrooms, but not before being stopped by a woman who looked too young to even be here. Dressed in short, tight fitting clothing, sweat clung to her tanned skin. “Heyyyy, are you gonna drink that?”she asked loudly. Judging by her slurred speech and unsteady legs, this girl had enough to drink already.

    “Yes,”Max snapped defensively, and had kept moving.

    Glancing back, she had seen the baffled looking drunk with her mouth agape, looking to her few friends as if to ask, What’s her problem?

    Now she had reached the bathroom door and pushed it open, closing and locking the door behind her. The bathroom she had chosen was a single stall, ensuring a few moments of seclusion. Dirty looking white wallpaper lined the walls, peeling in some places. In some places pen marked the wall, sloppy strokes conveying a variety of lewd messages. The florescent lights bathed the room in a sickly yellow. For now Max ignored her surroundings and rushed to the sink. Easily the glass was tipped and the contents sloshed into the sink unceremoniously, slapping the sides and trickling down the drain in a spiral motion. Once every drop was disposed of, the glass was placed on the tile floor with a shaky hand.

    Max gripped the side of the sink tightly and found herself looking in the mirror, which had a thin crack running from one corner to the other. It displayed her reflection despite its injury. Max’s shoulder length, black hair had been pulled into a neat pony tail, but now a few strands had escaped. The light in the bathroom tinted her pale skin, cheeks flushed from the heat. Unlike most of the club goers, Max wasn’t dressed in flashy, short attire. Instead she wore the opposite, dressed in dark blue jeans, tall black boots, and a clean, grey long sleeved shirt. Simple, clean, and dark.
    Deep brown eyes bore into her visage with scrutiny, winged carefully with eyeliner. Her eyebrows were well groomed and near symmetrical in shape, but across her right eyebrow ran a faint scar. A faint scar also interrupted the right side of her pink, bow shaped lips. Most saw an attractive young woman, albeit a bit scarred. Max saw a monster.

    She didn’t only see what was in the mirror, but what she could be. Max wasn’t entirely human. She was heavily genetically altered, a creation most would deem as science fiction. Only last year she had escaped from the facility where she had been trapped in for years, swiped not long after her mother’s death by a man in a darkly colored van. Instead of finding herself chained in a dank basement, she had wound up as a lab rat for an underground scientific experience condoned by the C.I.A. They wanted to see if humans could be genetically altered to take more deadly forms. What for? War. These mutants would become super soldiers, or rather lethal, glorified pawns of the government.

    Max was to be one of them, a subject of their experimentation. She was lucky enough to survive and even luckier to escape. Unfortunately, not before she was tampered with. Scientists had created a fast growing set of cells personalized to spawn rapidly and completely cover the subject’s body, creating a tougher exterior with dangerous and grotesque beast like features to incite fear. They had successfully created monsters. The only way to prevent the growth of these cells in the affected subjects was to consume a specialized medicine that killed the cells faster than they could regenerate. These were very difficult to come by outside of the facility, making Max form dangerous connections in order to obtain the drug. It would be a short while until the medicine wore off, meaning she had to be on her way soon.

    Looking deeply into the mirror, Max imagined herself as the beast she was. A pelt of thick, black fur covered her body in uneven patches. Sharp claws reached up to her throat, fingers buried in a shaggy mane. Tall, leathery ears were pinned back in permanent aggression. Devoid of flesh, a bleached, exposed canine skull grinned back, its scarred tongue massaging exaggerated fangs. Black orbs sat back in the eye sockets. Grotesque. Harrowing. That’s how Max truly viewed herself.
    “Hurry up in there!”someone shouted from outside of the bathroom, pounding on the door.
    In a flash, the vivid imagery that consumed Max had dissipated and in the mirror she only saw a woman. A loud sigh echoed in the small room. Max stole one last look at herself before departing, allowing someone to rush in past her. As she retreated from the bathroom she heard violent retching.

    Outside, the cool night air greeted Max. She stood in a back alleyway, leaning up against the brick wall. With her head angled back she looked up at the stars, pinpricks in the dark canopy of the sky. With memories fresh in her mind, it was difficult for Max to center herself, to remember where she really was. All she could think of right now was that facility. She recalled being strapped to a gurney, writhing in agony as a syringe plunged into the pliant skin of her throat. She recalled staring up at figures in clean coats, their faces covered with surgical masks, gloved hands holding a mask to her face. Each inhalation had made her drift closer towards oblivion, a place she had grown familiar with. She recalled being kept in a small room in a straight jacket and how she filled the emptiness with screams, which, of course, always fell on deaf ears.

    What was just as painful as her own suffering was witnessing the suffering of the other subjects. Watching a teenage boy fastened to a chair, dark scarlet blood gurgling from his mouth as froth, muscles quaking violently. His eyes had rolled back into his skull. All the while the scientists watched in silence, scribbling frantically on clipboards. As Max was escorted around the scene, she heard a splitting shriek erupted from the boy’s mouth before turning into a bout of choking as gore splattered the tile floor.

    Standing in the alleyway, this image was frozen in Max’s mind. Petrified, she remained with her eyes to the stars. To no one in particular, she mumbled, “What a fucked up world we live in.”
    #1 Wistful Beast, Jun 20, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016