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message 1: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Robinson (robb_lucas) | 19 comments R.L. Robinson

Short story: 'A Deeper Water.'

Comments and Criticism welcome.


message 2: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Robinson (robb_lucas) | 19 comments A Deeper Water


Later they would say Elizabeth bathed in virgin’s blood to keep her youth, but these were only peasant stories meant to scare children. There was some truth, however.
When her men found the Dark Water and after one of them had been taken by it, she had the old woman from the gypsy camp brought to her.
Elizabeth was independent, educated and wealthy. Born in another time she would have been unremarkable, but this was now and she was as much an outcast as the hunched old woman who stood in front of her. Only an accident of birth separated the two.
The gypsy woman might have been sixty and she might have been one hundred. They would say similar things of Elizabeth, in time.
Elizabeth told her about the Dark Water. She used the language of the Roma as easily as one of their own.
The old woman listened until the story was finished.
“You may bind it, mistress.”
“How so?”
“The days are gone when men believed in the chaos that crawls beyond and not since I was a girl has the Widow of the Woods answered us.”
She moved closer. “But the Dark Water?” she said, smiling without warmth. “It is always here, it draws other creatures to it and fools besides, but I can show you how to bind it”
“Tell me,” Elizabeth said.

Deep in the castle, the ironmongers finished the tub. It was roughly conical and long enough to take the length of a man. The gypsy woman watched them build it and shooed them away.
That night, she wove the first wards into its fabric and the servants whispered among themselves about the distant screams they heard. Always almost out of hearing, but they heard them all the same.
“Once placed here, the Water will do what you desire. Take one part of it and you have its essence.”
Elizabeth nodded and asked her what came next.
“Next?” she said. “Next, we must give it something it wants and then take what we need while it is satisfied.”
Of course the old woman did not say that it was, as far as she knew, impossible to satisfy the Water. Something so still ran deep.


The gypsy woman took three men, young men of her own blood who knew what was expected. They drank something that was both bitter and sweet and took almost willing steps into the Water. They never screamed as they were taken and while the Water feasted on their bodies and minds, she filled the wooden bucket to its brim.
As she hobbled back to the castle, she was careful not to spill any and ignored the voices.
They were old voices, which had no right to exist and which plucked at the edges of her mind.
When she reached the castle, she seemed to have aged a hundred years and her eyes were feverish.
Elizabeth looked into the bucket, her mouth forming a hard line.
“And this is enough?”
“Place it in the iron tub and wait until the next night,” the old woman said. “It is enough.”

All was as the old woman said and the next night, the tub was full almost to the brim.
The water was neither cold nor hot, but felt more like being wrapped in a second layer of skin. She could feel it reaching inside her. After each night’s bath, she would dream.
Her dreams made no sense and they were at once terrifying and thrilling. She dreamed of standing under a sky empty of clouds, but filled to bursting with stars. Overhead, vast shapes moved like fish through water. There was something sickeningly languid in their movements that made her want to turn away, though she never did.
Before each dream ended, she was aware of a sound like heavy breathing and the feeling of something moving closer towards her. Closer, closer and closer, until she could feel its ancient and rancid breath on her neck, but woke before turning.

The old woman told her the Water drew things to it. Creatures and fools she said.
None of them were ever seen, either fool or creature, but people started to go missing from the villages around the castle. As they were perhaps the more vulnerable, it was the young women who were singled out.
To the peasants around about, Elizabeth became cold and distant and she never seemed to show the passing of years. They began to whisper about the comings and goings of the Roma woman and these whispers reached Elizabeth’s family.
Her family didn’t believe the stories, but it didn’t matter. A charge of witchery or black magic would stand as strong as an accusation of murder.
They wanted her land.

The night before they came for her, she found the tub tepid and near empty. It never refilled, because it had taken what it wanted.
Through her, it had seen the secret paths of one heart and so understood these frail and feeble creatures all the better for it. In time, it would put this to use and would draw its victims to it that much easier. If its mind had been at all capable of the act, it may have thanked her.

They walled her up, her family, after all was said and done and in a few short years she wasted away and died.
The old woman would be seen again, seemingly unaged and always tramping the same forest paths. Sometimes, people saw her speaking to something they themselves could not see and thought it nothing more than the ramblings of a demented gypsy.
Had they seen what she had, they would not have been so unkind, for the creatures she spoke to were ancient and vast and unknowable. Later, in the coming centuries they would drive men to madness in the bowels of cities yet unbuilt.
She never bathed in the Dark Water, but on the night of the new moon she would coo to it and always on these nights strange noises could be heard in the forest. Sounds like infants crying and wolves howling and the sobs of men and women and under it all, a gentle murmuring in a language that stirred dreams to dark shapes above empty skies.

END


message 3: by A.F. (last edited Aug 27, 2013 10:22AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
I like the feel of it; there's a good nice dark atmosphere and mood to the writing, and mostly the descriptions are well-written.
The beginning could use some work though; it's too much of an information dump, all tell, no show. Perhaps writing it as a scene with dialogue, instead of an exposition would be better. In fact, you should consider expanding some of the rest of the story with more scenes, your point of view does lend itself heavily to narration (telling), with little character activity (showing).


message 4: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Robinson (robb_lucas) | 19 comments A.F. wrote: "I like the feel of it; there's a good nice dark atmosphere and mood to the writing, and mostly the descriptions are well-written.
The beginning could use some work though; it's too much of an info..."


Thanks for the feedback, it really does help


message 5: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
R.l. wrote: "A.F. wrote: "I like the feel of it; there's a good nice dark atmosphere and mood to the writing, and mostly the descriptions are well-written.
The beginning could use some work though; it's too mu..."


You're welcome.


message 6: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Robinson (robb_lucas) | 19 comments Made some changes. Comments welcome.




A Deeper Water

Dark walls loomed above the men as they walked by. The castle had been abandoned for years, since the family had sold it and it was falling to pieces.
“You heard the stories ‘bout this place?” said one.
Everyone in a hundred miles had heard the stories.
“They say she’s still up there.”
“You believe that?”
“It’s what people say.”
“People say a lot of things, like how she bathed in blood.”
“Them girls went missin’, we was boys, but you remember?”
“Course I do, but it don’t make it true.”

When her men found the Dark Water, she had the old woman from the gypsy camp brought to her.
The old woman might have been sixty and she might have been a hundred.
Elizabeth told her about the Dark Water. She used the language of the Roma as easily as one of their own and spoke others besides.
The old woman listened until the story was finished.
“You may bind it, mistress.”
“How so?”
“The days are gone when men believed in the chaos crawling beyond the world and not since I was a girl has the Widow of the Woods answered us.”
She moved closer. “But the Dark Water?” she said, smiling without warmth. “It is always here, it draws things to it. Dangerous things, but I can show you how to bind it”

Deep in the castle, the ironmongers finished the tub. It was roughly conical and could the length of a man. The gypsy woman watched them build it and shooed them away.
That night, she wove the first wards into its fabric and the servants whispered among themselves about the distant screams they heard.
“Once placed here, the Water will do what you desire. Take one part of it and you have its essence.”
“What next?”
“Next?” she said. “Next, we must give it something it wants and then take what we need while it is satisfied.”
For how long, who can say? She thought.
“You have asked for nothing, so why are you helping me?”
“Why do you want the Water?”
“I want to know it. I want whatever it can give me.”
“What else?”
“To survive and to keep what I have.”
She is a fool, intelligent, but still a fool.
“You asked me what I want…I want the same.”
And I know what to give it to get what I want.

The gypsy woman took three men, young men of her own blood who knew what was expected. They never screamed as they were taken and while the Water feasted, she filled the wooden bucket to its brim.
She hobbled back to the castle and was careful not to spill any. She found it hard to ignore the voices.
The voices were old and had no right to exist. They plucked at her mind, fraying it at the edges.
“No matter, no matter,” she said.
When she reached the castle, she seemed to have aged a hundred years and her eyes were feverish.
Elizabeth looked into the bucket, her mouth forming a hard line.
“And this is enough?”
“Place it in the iron tub and wait until the next night,” the old woman said. “It is enough.”

The water was neither cold nor hot, but felt more like being wrapped in a second layer of skin. It seemed to reach inside her, the way her husband had once done. After each night’s bath, she would dream.
Her dreams made no sense and they were at once terrifying and thrilling. She dreamed of standing under a sky empty of clouds, but filled to bursting with stars. Overhead, vast shapes moved like fish through water. There was something sickeningly languid in their movements that made her want to turn away, though she never did.
Before each dream ended, she was aware of a sound like heavy breathing and the feeling of something moving closer towards her. Closer, closer and closer, until she could feel its ancient and rancid breath on her neck, but woke before turning.

The gypsy woman watched as the creature loped through the forest. Whatever it was looked more or less like a man, but there was something unnatural about the way it moved, the way it stopped and sniffed the air and bobbed its head from side to side. It wasn’t the first she’d seen.
It won’t be the last. The Water is never satisfied for long.
A girl had gone missing the night before, not that she cared.
Just some peasant quim from the village.
She could still hear the voices and they told her what to do.

One or two people threw insults at her as she hobbled up the road. It was little better than a river of shit, but she was used to both.
Shit and insults are my lot in life.
She was tired of both.
“’ere!” one man said.
The old woman stopped and waited for the man, now joined by several others, to pick their way through the mud.
“You been up to the castle, ain’t you?”
“Aye.”
“What’s she want with the likes of you?” said one.
“She’s too good to your lot,” said another.
“Meanwhile, another girl’s gone.”
“What’s she doin’ up there?”
“What do you mean?”
One put a finger against her chest and jabbed.
“He means, we ‘eard she had somethin’ built up there. Some kinda bath, made special like.”
There was a moment of tension and she let it hang just long enough. She sighed and looked quickly about her, before leaning in close.
“She does, made of black iron.”
“And?”
“And, she asked me to bless it in the old way and now three of my kin are gone and haven’t been seen since.”
They gave her hard looks, but the old man relented a fraction.
“Why’d you do it?”
“If she asked you for something you thought was harmless, would you say no?”
“The servants said they heard voices the night you was there.”
“I can’t speak to that, but she wanted it badly enough to take three of my kin and they’ve not been seen since.”
“What else you expect from one of her lot?”
“Don’t tell her I told you!”
She fell to her knees in the mud and started to sob quietly, until one of them helped her up roughly.
“What do we do?”
“We get word out maybe, to her family. They’re the best ones to deal with it,” the old man said. “Always said it weren’t right, a woman by herself to manage what should be a man’s. They’ve wanted her lands for years, be good to get her out, especially now if she’s up to devil magic and god knows what else.”
“You know, my old mum said she must’ve bewitched him.”
“Who?”
“Her ‘usband.”
“Don’t talk daft, he copped it on a hunt, this is somethin’ different.”

Elizabeth stared at the tub. It was half empty and when she touched the water, it was tepid and almost slimy. She turned to the servant girl.
“Send some men to find the old woman.”
“M’lady.”
The girl bowed, but returned a moment later, backing slowly into the room.
“What is it?” Elizabeth said.

They walled her up, her family, after all was said and done and in a few short years she wasted away and died.
The old woman would be seen again, seemingly unaged and always tramping the same forest paths. Sometimes, people saw her speaking to something they themselves could not see and thought it nothing more than the ramblings of a demented gypsy.
The voices she heard told her of cities yet unbuilt, where they would drive men to madness and devour what they wanted.
She never bathed in the Dark Water, but on the night of the new moon she would coo to it and always on these nights strange noises could be heard in the forest. Sounds like infants crying and wolves howling and the sobs of men and women and under it all, a gentle murmuring in a language that stirred dreams to dark shapes above empty skies.

END


message 7: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
R.l. wrote: "Made some changes. Comments welcome.




A Deeper Water

Dark walls loomed above the men as they walked by. The castle had been abandoned for years, since the family had sold it and it was falling ..."


Much better scene wise, and bringing the reader into the story, but you lost a bit of the dark mood. If you bring some superstition into the beginning scene and some eerie ambiance to the rest, you'll be good.


message 8: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Robinson (robb_lucas) | 19 comments A.F. wrote: "R.l. wrote: "Made some changes. Comments welcome.




A Deeper Water

Dark walls loomed above the men as they walked by. The castle had been abandoned for years, since the family had sold it and it..."


Okay, many thanks. Any ideas about how to do that? I'm thinking some more dialogue in the first scene to show they're uncomfortable being there.


message 9: by A.F. (last edited Aug 28, 2013 06:12AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
R.l. wrote: "A.F. wrote: "R.l. wrote: "Made some changes. Comments welcome.




A Deeper Water

Dark walls loomed above the men as they walked by. The castle had been abandoned for years, since the family had s..."


More dialogue is good, like a mention of how people have heard screams coming from the ruins at night or saw ghosts. Also showing simple things like having them mumble a prayer or do the sign of the cross when they pass the castle can help illustrate their fear of the place.

As for adding mood, just pump up the descriptive bits.

Take this passage:

"She never bathed in the Dark Water, but on the night of the new moon she would coo to it and always on these nights strange noises could be heard in the forest. Sounds like infants crying and wolves howling and the sobs of men and women and under it all, a gentle murmuring in a language that stirred dreams to dark shapes above empty skies."

An example of a rewrite:

"She never bathed in the Dark Water, but on the night of the new moon, under a canopy of shadowy trees, she would coo to it in a gentle voice. Always on these nights strange and echoing noises could be heard in the forest. Peasants swore they heard sounds of infants crying, wolves howling, the sobs of men and women, and under it all, a gentle murmuring in a language that stirred dreams to dark shapes above empty skies."


message 10: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Robinson (robb_lucas) | 19 comments A.F. wrote: "R.l. wrote: "A.F. wrote: "R.l. wrote: "Made some changes. Comments welcome.




A Deeper Water

Dark walls loomed above the men as they walked by. The castle had been abandoned for years, since the..."


Thanks a lot, I'm actually going to use that section you wrote, if you don't mind? It fits pretty well with the story as a whole.


message 11: by A.F. (last edited Aug 28, 2013 08:42AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
R.l. wrote: "A.F. wrote: "R.l. wrote: "A.F. wrote: "R.l. wrote: "Made some changes. Comments welcome.




A Deeper Water

Dark walls loomed above the men as they walked by. The castle had been abandoned for yea..."


That's fine by me.


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