Speaking of, the sand in the hourglass has run out on our 49th battle. The judges have called, the votes are in, and it is time to pick a winner. First, let’s look back at the stories.
Danny Brophy lost control with “The Damned Spot on Black Cat Lane.”
Now, on to our judge’s decision.
“Red Sands” – I liked the way this story begins. The description of the diner from the owners perspective gives us more of a backstory than just a picture would do. Touches like Tammy Wynette and what the officer were eating go a long way to fleshing it out.
The interactions between the customers and Warren are nice and convey the familiarity that they share. They come across as a little simple, but in as short a story as this you don’t need more than that.
When the door slams open and our prisoner friend arrives, my first thought was that there was going to be a “crazy” aspect to this story. He Is obviously not right, and the way he keeps talking about “her” as the storm picks up does a good job of showing his state of mind. The reactions of Warren and Winnie were great. That calm, slow motion, “Holy shit!” reaction that comes with such an abrupt change in intensity.
I was starting to wonder about the outcome of the showdown that seemed to be brewing but Jonny is much more interested in the girl he thinks is outside. When Warren sees her too, the entire story shifts gears. Crazy goes out the window and in comes the supernatural.
The rest of the story is done well, but I could have used a little more tension. The crime in question and the people involved mean that its not a really tough decision. Nobody is going to get themselves killed to save a child murderer. I was also a little disappointed with the whole “He didn’t even fight” ending. He fought at the scene of the accident, he fought his way to the diner, he was prepared to fight to keep her out, why all of a sudden does he give up. If I was him you’d have to shoot me dead before you could get me out there.
Still a fun story and very economical. Could see this as a short film.
“The Damned Spot on Black Cat Lane” – First I gotta say, I like the way that this story is written. Weaving the timelines works well to reveal and conceal at the same time. Her actions and motivations are teased out of the fog.
I liked the idea behind the story as well. A supernatural being who needs a body and a ritual to cross over and be reborn playing on a young girl’s loss and grief is fantastic.
The descriptions of the feelings she had for her boyfriend and the way that that special someone “comprehends your philosphy” were beautiful, almost poetic.
Rebirth through fire is not a new idea but it is a nice touch here. It makes the freezing of the body and the time that passes since the death inconsequential and gives the girl time to come to grips with what needs to be done.
I liked the “someone” who watches over here. I got the feeling it was a follower of the Old Guard who was trying to free them and bring them back.
My favorite part of the story is when the boyfriend starts to communicate. It adds a whole other level of horror. That she now knows the extent of the mistake she has made and that he doesn’t want what she is trying to do is wonderfully horrible. Makes much more impact than her performing the ritual and something else coming out.
There is a melancholy beauty to the ending. That they will be “together”, or at least near each other, forever but trapped in an endless void of evil is one thing, but that she prefers this to living without him is great.
What I didn’t like in this story was the sand. There is no explanation as to why there is this spot, is it just a hole in the pavement or is it special? It seems like the story could easily be told without any sand at all.
The stories this week both took a paranormal turn and interestingly they both saw the otherworldly beings “win”. Not a good week for humanity in the arena. The difference this week came down to the prompt itself. One of the authors embraced the prompt and made it an integral part of his story. My vote this week goes to “Red Sands” by Logan Noble.
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second judge this week. Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here. He welcomes comments at his blog http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).
The poet and mystic William Blake claimed to be able to see the world in a grain of sand. Our combatants this week had a more modest goal — to find a short story there. I think that they rose to the occasion admirably. As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on the two stories before moving to my vote.
“Red Sands” – When I first saw the title to this story, I had thought we would get a story about Mars. Instead we are invited into a diner so far off the beaten path that it may as well be in the Twilight Zone. I like the idea of a diner as an updated version of the tavern of fantasy. It is a place at the crossroads, a place where narratives cross paths. The interaction between the three characters at the beginning implies that there are many personal narratives going on here under the surface.
My major problem with this story is that it takes so long to get to the heart of it. While I find the characters in the diner interesting and I don’t mind the time I spent with them, they seem to be simply onlookers in the tale of revenge that is playing out around them. The ending of the story comes on very fast and the viewpoint character doesn’t seem to play any role in determining the outcome. Reading a story like this leaves me wondering whose story it really is.
“The Damned Black Spot on Black Cat Lane” – From a tale of revenge, we move to a tale of love. Or perhaps not, as our viewpoint character seems determined to revenge herself upon fate. I like the focus of this story, the way that we are so tightly locked into the main character’s head. She seems to be spinning her wheels over the loss of her beloved, a concept that subtly reinforces the imagery of how he died.
The ending was less focused in my opinion, but I didn’t mind. Such efforts to thwart fate never go to plan. Has the main character failed or succeeded? And which would be the worse tragedy? While I enjoyed this story, I’m not sure it dealt with the prompt as successfully as its competition.
In the end, I have to decide which story worked better for me this week. While I enjoyed “The Damned Black Spot” immensely, that story’s use of the prompt seemed less integral to its tale. So this week, my vote goes to “Red Sands” by Logan Noble.
Looks like our guest Logan Noble has taken the crown! Fantastic job Logan. Your terrifying story was a great addition to The Writer’s Arena.
Let’s see if our audience agrees.
They most certainly do! With a 4 to 1 ratio Logan Noble dominated this round. We’ll have to bring him back for a rematch someday.
Thank you all for reading, voting, and encouraging The Writer’s Arena! We’ll be back in two weeks with original stories, but we have a few treats for you so be sure to come back!