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Thread: Starlight (one-shot)

  1. #1
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    Default Starlight (one-shot)

    Happy Halloween, folks.

    I'm going to rate this a very soft T, mostly on account of a slightly gory interpretation of a certain pokémon.

    ______________

    Starlight


    The night before, Henry had dreamed of the Goddess.

    It hadn’t been the first time. Not the first time She’d drifted into his sleeping mind, overwhelming him with Her invisible yet undeniable otherness.

    But it had been the first time, the first dream, in which She’d ever spoken.

    Come here, She’d said, and come alone.

    Now, Henry walked through the woods She’d shown him with a lantern in hand, trying to keep his composure when no small measure of him wanted to fall to his knees and burst into tears and thank Her, thank Her, thank Her for this blessed opportunity until his voice was no more. What more would She want to do with him if Her first encounter was with a slavering idiot?

    He nearly failed himself within the first hour. A mansion easily a third the size of his own village had materialized before him with no warning, and it was all he could do not to fall arse-first into the leaves in surprise.

    Henry drew a sharp breath that came out in a huff. This shouldn’t surprise you, he chastised himself. She is a higher being. There’s nothing She can’t do.

    Eyes fixed forward, he approached the front gates. They were wrought iron, resembling nothing so much as enormous hands clasped in prayer. Nestled between their palms, there was a ring of iron encircling the silhouette of a murkrow.

    Its eye opened, glowing bright, and Henry visibly started for the second time that night. Dignity, he reminded himself. For all he knew, She watched through those eyes. He met the iron bird’s gaze, trying with all his might not to wince or squint. Endure Her light.

    He was about to speak, to announce his presence, but of course, of course, She already knew he was there. The gates swung outward without a sound, at which he stepped back, but no more than he had to. They all but grazed his chest as they opened.

    He put out the lantern, then proceeded up the long path before him. Lamps stood to either side, glowing golden in the night, and another iron murkrow perched atop each of them. As he approached each pair, their eyes opened, bright as stars. She still watched his every move. Mindful of this, he held his head high on the way to the doors, his hands at his sides, no emotion on his face.

    As silently as the gates had, the doors opened. Beyond, he saw chandeliers and marble floors and carpeted staircases winding out of sight. And unless his mind was playing tricks on him, he heard footsteps shuffling his way. He tensed in spite of himself. Could it be…?

    He smelled the new arrival before he saw it. It hit him like a wall, reeking of every kind of filth he could name. Eyes watering, he fought against a surge of nausea and very nearly lost.

    This is a test, he told himself, gritting his teeth. It has to be… As he wiped away the tears, the source of the stench finally came into view.

    She was close to his height, Her skin a moldy shade of green. It had ruptured in several places, something grey-brown and lumpy bulging through the wounds. Another one burst open, right then and there, and a glob of the same filth dropped out. She looked upon him with wide, crusty eyes, breathing noisily through parted, pointed teeth.

    “Servant?” She said, Her voice crackling wetly. “Servant, you?”

    Henry suppressed a tremor. This couldn’t be happening. His Goddess couldn’t be such a wretched, disgusting creature… and yet, here She was. Here She was, smiling warmly even as She rotted alive. Just a test… He swallowed against his sickness. “If my Lady so wills,” he said, “then yes, I will serve You.” He shut his mouth before anything more solid could escape.

    She cocked her head at him. The little piles of muck on top quivered obscenely. Then She burst into laughter, drops of something dark and greasy flying from Her throat. “No! Only Drass.” As She spoke, a metallic tentacle slithered out of Her side, dripping more filth as it curled inward to gesture at Her broad chest. “I serve Nalna. Now, you serve Nalna.”

    Henry took a moment to make sense of that. Then he felt relief wash over him like cool water. This horrid thing might not be the Goddess after all. The possibility almost made the stench more tolerable somehow. “If you’ll take me to Her,” he said, “I will gladly serve however She wills.”

    “Yes, yes!” Drass turned toward the stairs at the opposite side of the room, beckoning Henry to follow. He did so, as close as he could stand, doggedly keeping his sights turned forward. Every so often, his boot squelched into something half-solid in the carpet. He didn’t need to see it. It was hard enough to keep from reacting as it was.

    Drass led him up one flight of stairs, and then another. And then several more, without pausing. Henry wiped sweat from his brow in vain, his joints threatening to lock and his breath burning in his chest, and wondered just how many floors the mansion actually had. More than he’d have counted from the outside for sure. As many as it took, no doubt, to prove to his Goddess that he’d endure anything for Her.

    Finally, finally, the climb came to an end. His legs wanted to turn to jelly, but he couldn’t sit yet. Drass was waving him forward again, toward another pair of towering doors.

    This, he dared to hope, was it. Every shudder he’d suppressed, every heave he’d choked back, every step he’d taken in a body that screamed for rest would prove worthwhile in the most glorious ways imaginable.

    The doors opened all on their own, noiselessly, as he’d come to expect by this point. And there, in the middle of a room that looked for all the world like the night sky itself… there, as far as he could guess, She stood.

    She was perfectly visible, despite the surrounding darkness. Shorter than he’d expected. Pale purple, dressed in a black gown with white bows adorning the front, hair or horns or something without a name standing out from Her head in discs the size of Her face. She moved a little closer, and he realized Her clothes weren’t clothes at all. Don’t look away. No surprise. No mortification. Nothing else. It wasn’t his place to decide what She should or shouldn’t wear in his presence.

    <Enter,> She said.

    Henry’s mind skipped a beat. Then he nodded, and without a word, he stepped into the sparkling void.

    As soon as he was past the threshold, the hall outside vanished. There was only star-studded blackness where the doors should have been. Whatever unseen floor lay beneath his feet disappeared next—the sky now surrounded him from all sides—but he didn’t fall. He hung in midair, cradled by Her power as She rose to meet his gaze.

    <So,> She said. <You’ve barely arrived, and already you’ve managed to disappoint me.>

    Henry’s mouth dropped open, but no sound came out. Distantly, he realized he wasn’t breathing, and apparently no longer needed to. But first and foremost in his thoughts were Her words, echoing in his mind. His heart seemed to turn to stone inside him. No…

    <I cast my sentries in the form of carrion birds to unnerve you,> She elaborated. <I conjured the foulest creature I could imagine to disgust you. I intended you to crawl up those stairs. To collapse before you ever reached me. And yet you refused to break down, refused to cry out, refused to give me anything I wanted.>

    He stared through wild, bulging eyes, desperate to assure Her that yes, yes he could suffer for Her, yes he could stop holding back and let any further misery show, if only She’d give him another chance. But he couldn’t speak. Couldn’t breathe. Didn’t need to.

    Until She lay Her hands upon him.

    Suddenly his lungs burned in their emptiness. Suddenly his tears dried away, and he flailed helplessly in the air-that-wasn’t, reaching out to Her with swollen hands. But She drifted back out of reach, Her form still crystal clear as the stars dimmed all around him.

    <I should have known,> he thought he heard, before it all went black and he knew no more. <I should have known you’d only bore me.>
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 21st November 2015 at 12:01 AM.

  2. #2
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    I realize that it's no longer Halloween, but this IS the Month of the Dead (though in a less morbid or spooky way than Halloween depicts them) and I can always use a good Halloween-themed story for whatever time of year it is. Anyway, I thought this was fun to read!

    A mansion easily a third the size of his own village had materialized before him with no warning, and it was all he could do not to fall arse-first into the leaves in surprise.
    I started out taking this fic completely seriously, but then I read this sentence and the story's comedic value kicked in.

    He smelled the new arrival before he saw it. It hit him like a wall, reeking of every kind of filth he could name. Eyes watering, he fought against a surge of nausea and very nearly lost.
    These few sentences made me think of Frodo encountering Shelob in the Lord of the Rings. Makes me wonder if this "goddess" is actually a monster...

    It had ruptured in several places, something grey-brown and lumpy bulging through the wounds. Another one burst open, right then and there, and a glob of the same filth dropped out.
    EW WHY

    He did so, as close as he could stand, doggedly keeping his sights turned forward. Every so often, his boot squelched into something half-solid in the carpet. He didn’t need to see it. It was hard enough to keep from reacting as it was.
    This guy has guts of steel if he can stand to be that close to that filth. I admire his determination.

    Finally, finally, the climb came to an end. His legs wanted to turn to jelly, but he couldn’t sit yet. Drass was waving him forward again, toward another pair of towering doors.
    I admit; part of me was hoping that there would be another staircase behind the doors XD

    ... Dang, that was a cold ending. Fitting for Halloween, I suppose. Admittedly, the only thing that made it feel at all like a Pokemon fic was the appearance of the Murkrows at the beginning, and the rest was a lot more surreal. Not saying this is a bad thing, but just something I'm commenting on.

    I was a little confused at the end, where he was in the outer space-like setting. Did he die from asphyxiation? I'm not sure if everyone else needed clarity on that part, but I just wasn't able to follow.

    This was a nice fic! I'm super into high-fantasy and surrealism, and I appreciated the originality and found your writing style fun to read (even if he descriptions of Drass were in more detail than I would have liked XD). Thanks for putting this here for us to read, and I hope you had a happy Halloween!


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  3. #3
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    starliteevee: I think anything I write is going to have at least one joke in it. At this point it's practically a fundamental law of reality.

    Re: Drass: BECAUSE EW. Ew is why. 8D Garbodor is one of my favorite 5th-gens, partly because they have the potential to be abominably nasty (yet endearingly goofy) at the same time.

    And yes, Henry asphyxiated at the end. I'd always wanted to space someone in a fic, because I'm horrible like that. When I decided okay, Nalna is a gothitelle and thought about the whole space-distortion powers thing and the association with the stars... yeah. Surprise, surprise, my mind went straight to oh **** what if they can literally just send your *** to space if they feel like it. :B

    Halloween was awesome, and so was popping in here and findinf this review. Thanks for reading!

  4. #4
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    Boo! American--Pi here, and welcome to the Sunday Review! Here's how it works: Every Sunday (well, at least I try to make it every Sunday in my timezone) I pick a one-shot or a single chapter of a chaptered fic to review. I try to alternate between the Fan Fiction and Shipping Fics forums. My reviews are Review Game-style, which means that for Fan Fiction I pick four out of the eleven Review Game criteria and comment on them as much as I want to (but at least two sentences per criterion). Every time I try to pick four different criteria, but usually I just comment on whatever in the story catches my eye.

    I saw that you were featured in the first Fan Fiction Quarterly's Reviewers' Feature, and when I saw that you wrote a one-shot, I thought, "Hey, it's Sike Saner! I think I'll check out this one-shot that she (he? xe?) wrote." So I did, and whoa, this is a really interesting, impactful, and creative story!

    Characters
    Man, I love all three of your characters - Henry, Drass, and Nalna. In my opinion, your characterization was the strongest point of this one-shot. You really created three very memorable characters in a rather small amount of words. Which is why I'll spend a disproportionate amount of time reviewing your characters.

    Henry first, since he's the protagonist. Henry doesn't have much description or backstory to him, but there doesn't need to be - this is a one-shot, and it's suitable that the protagonist is an everyman. The horror of the story is intensified because of the normalness of the protagonist. I would, however, have enjoyed a bit more backstory - is he young or old? He can't be a child considering the way he's thinking about Nalna, but there must be a reason why he's so fascinated by a Gothitelle, which isn't that rare of a Pokemon. Are Gothitelle practically legendary where Henry lives? Did Nalna make herself extra desirable in the dreams she's sent Henry? Why didn't Henry tell anyone about his dreams? Those are just some questions that I think may have been worth answering.

    Drass is disgusting, and that's excellent. I feel really stupid for not realizing that Drass was a Garbodor until you mentioned it in your review response. I was so grossed out by the description that I couldn't wrap my head around what exactly it was describing. Maybe if you'd mentioned that it was round and fat, it would have worked for me. I love the way you injected a healthy dose of disgustingness into this one-shot just by describing this Pokemon. (And for the record, I love Garbodor. It's so derpy and adorable even as it tries to be disgusting.)

    And Nalna… don't even get me started on her. She is definitely a very interesting, creative, and deliciously evil villain. Gothitelle are fairly average Psychic-types - they can see the future, create illusions, and manipulate things with their psychic power, but many Psychic-types can do that. But this Gothitelle… holy moly, she's like the embodiment of the Evil Is Cool/Sexy trope. She lures people to her mansion with her charms only to take pleasure in their suffering or, worse yet, kill them if she thinks they haven't suffered enough. And she does this all for fun. Oh my Arceus, Nalna's such a great villain. *slow clap*

    Writing
    The way you described Drass in the grossest way possible was excellent, creative, and very, very effective. I could really feel Henry's utter disgust, and I felt a little sick myself. But it was awesome. For the record, I am somewhat of a biology nerd who's utterly fascinated by gross things. xD

    Plot
    This one-shot is so creative and original, man. It's so terrifying in a surreal way, and just does its job very, very well. Like I said before, I love the idea behind Nalna.

    Pace
    This one-shot is on the short side, but I think its length is perfect for it. The story is told, and there doesn't need to be any more words to make the story's point (well, aside from the ones that might tell Henry's backstory). Great job!

    Heh, this review had so much on characterization and so little on everything else. xD I hope it was helpful regardless.

    - Pi

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  5. #5
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    American--Pi: Answers time!

    1.) Indeed he wasn't a child. I see him as about thirtyish.
    2.) He wasn't a very social person in any sense, with regards to both other humans and pokémon. He didn't get out much, and didn't care about much, and consequently there was a fair bit about the world that he didn't know.
    3.) Nalna definitely turned up the mystique factor when luring him--he likely wouldn't have given a **** otherwise. Likely wouldn't have even remembered the dreams upon waking, in fact.

    I'd classify that as a helpful review, yeah. It's certainly heartening to see this level of interest in characters that were only on-screen for a short time. Thanks for the read 'n' reply!

  6. #6

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    I liked this. It was short, but I never thought it felt rushed. Unfortunately I didn't read it (or anything) on Halloween, so I missed the chance to really spook up my life, but it was still enjoyable regardless.

    I have two small criticisms. The first one is that the fic might benefit from you chewing the scenery a little longer. Right now, the story's creepiness relies almost entirely on what is actually happening, which is fine. But I think it could be pushed even further if you gave more gothic detail to the forest or the mansion. It worked really well with Drass, but as it came across to me, the setting is very secondary (which might be intentional considering everything is temporary), when a little more detail could immerse the reader. That being said, right now the fic keeps a steady focus on Henry's thoughts, and since I thought that provided us with a good path through the events of the story, adding in extra detail might distract from that. It's up to you, but you might think about it.

    The second thing is what I should take from the ending. It feels like it's saying Henry should have succumbed to his misery, but that would only seem to provide a temporary extension of his life until Nalna eventually got bored anyway. So the next idea was that he should have just stayed home, but that didn't seem to communicated by anything. Of course, a story doesn't need to communicate anything, and a meaning doesn't need to be spelled out. But it felt as if Henry's strong will was supposed to come back and bite him when the actual bad luck seemed to be in his obsession for the dream. Basically I just felt the message the ending seemed to be giving isn't what the plot itself suggests. Also, sorry for the rambly paragraph!

    Both of these are just my opinions, so use your own judgment to decide if they work for the story. Even with these criticisms, the story works great with Henry as a main character. I think his thoughts and motivations are deluded enough to be interesting and tragic but dedicated enough to keep the story going in an interesting. Also, despite my thoughts about the implications of the ending, I thought the scene was very well described, and I could really hear Nalna's chilling last line. I also like the lack of time or place in the story (as far as I can tell, the use of a lantern is the only hint that this might not be present day). It makes the whole thing feel like poor Henry's death is just a blip on the radar as far as history goes. The whole thing was spooky and interesting. I just wish I had read it on Halloween to get the full effect.

  7. #7
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    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]: Yeah Henry was pretty much fubbernucked no matter how he'd sliced it. Sucks to be him!

    We're pretty much on the same fence when it comes to whether or not to detail the setting a little more. I think there's something of a spookiness in leaving a few things to the imagination, but as you said there's something to be said for really setting that type of scene, too. Decisions, decisions.

    Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply; it's still pleasantly surprising to see so much response to my li'l popcorn chicken fics.

  8. #8
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    Never to late to share the Halloween love. It's one of my favourite times of the year and I always think of it as a second Christmas despite it coming before Christmas. I really liked the characters and the creepy and amusing undertones. I think my favourite character in the one shot is Drass because of the way he's presented. Henry was doomed from the moment the fic started.


  9. #9
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    ChloboShoka: Halloween is one of THE best times of the year, hands down.

    And I'm pretty fond of Drass as a character, too. Even if, strictly speaking, she didn't actually exist. But hey, neither did zombie-Travis, and he was fun as heck to write, too.

    Thanks for the read and reply!

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