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The Root of all Evil

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Old 09-23-2006, 05:21 PM
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Default The Root of all Evil


Chapter 1



During the day, the swamp has mystery dancing within its beauty. Sunlight reflects off the black water, leaving it bathed in a golden hue. Trees stand tall reaching for the sky as if for freedom, while the gray Spanish moss hangs from their branches like tears, for here they must remain. When the sun gives into the darkness, the swamp shows her sinister side. The bullfrog sitting on the bank sings his song of love. He must sing to attract a mate, so that together they will continue. To the snake, resting peacefully on a log the frog's song is a lullaby, as it slips into sleep. Hunger does not drive it to hunt, for today its belly is full. The alligator drifts unobtrusively closer. The owl, from the safety of his branch, witnesses the drama that is unfolding.

Suddenly a terrifying sound rolls across the swamp. The frog ceases his song, and the snake slips from his log into the inky black water. Even the alligator swiftly submerges, and the owl flies silently away. The sound echoes across the bayous, as the animals wait silently and hope that when it has passed they will still exist.

A small boat enters the bayou from Monet's Creek. The bayous are ill suited for man. Yet here he lives, and has for more than three hundred years. They are descendants of Pirates; they stay in spite of the land's unforgiving nature. The people themselves are a lot like their land; from adversity, they draw strength, and the ability to survive is what gives them their pride. These are the qualities on which they built their kinship; they know to stand together, for alone the swamp devours them.

The monotonous putt, putt of the engine is the backbeat for the laughter and song of Henrik and Charlie. Henrik and Charlie are as much a part of the bayous as the creatures that now quake in fear with their passing. They were born here never venturing farther than twenty miles in any direction. As young boys this bayou was their playground. When they turned thirteen, they went to work for Cantrell Foods as crabbers, and just like most, have worked for old man Cantrell for next to nothing wages. They left the dock at five in the morning, just as the sun's bright light broke the darkness. This was the time Charlie liked best. It is the time the terror of the night retreats from the light, and the annoyances of the day have not yet awakened.

Seventeen hours passed and not one crab caught. It is not that there were no crabs; they fill the black water with life. They never looked in their crab boxes. Henrik led Charlie astray as usual. They went to Leland's camp, for a couple of pints of homemade whiskey.
Even a moonshine-clouded mind is not enough to keep Charlie from knowing he is in trouble. When he gets home, his wife Dominique will be waiting for him, with that familiar face of disappointment. Then he will make up some wild story. She will reply that he is a bad husband and father, gallivanting around drinking with his no-good friend. Now she and the kids will have to do without. Charlie gets mad thinking about her complaints. After all, she had the house on the campsite. He will be the first to admit it is not in the best of shape. Nevertheless, it keeps the weather out and no matter how bad things get there is always food of some kind to eat. Dominique always wanted to live like the people in town with their running water and indoor plumbing. She felt these were necessities. Yet to Charlie things like that were extravagances he did not need or want.

Thinking about what he has to look forward to, Charlie starts to feel the uneasiness. He still had ten minutes before they get to the dock, then another twenty minutes to his camp, and the unavoidable showdown. He can save about fifteen minutes if he cuts across Lafayette's Point, just ahead. The walk across the swamp will clear his mind. Not being so drunk, maybe Dominique will be a little less angry, Charlie thinks.

" Henrik, drop me off at the old banyan tree. I got to get home."

"You a crazy boy? You want to cross the swamp on this night? With all the rain lately the path will be underwater, you'll be gator meat or worse," Henrik says, looking at him like he is a fool.

"Never mind all that. I got to get home now. My wife gonna have my hide. Now take me to the tree, or you better want to swim tonight because overboard I throw you," Charlie tells him in a tone that lets Henrik know he is not fooling around.

"Boy oh boy. Here you are the biggest and strongest man in the whole Parish. Fear of your woman will make you go out into the swamp on a black night, with only a quarter moon. I tell you me gots some bad feelings. There are things out tonight that no man should see. You go into the swamp tonight and the blackness will swallow you up boy. You no more see the sun," Henrik says, moving his hands slowly in front of Charlie's face as if casting a spell.

"Stop all that swamp witch foolishness, Charlie says pushing Henrik's hands away. "But you know you're right, it is dark this night. I will take the lantern with me."

"Ok, ok," Henrik says with a laugh, "but you keep an eye out for the evil that makes fools who walk the swamp alone at night disappear."

Standing under the banyan tree Charlie watches Henrik disappear into the darkness. Though the night is humid, Charlie feels an unfamiliar chill. He fights the urge to call Henrik back, telling himself he must be turning into a fool because he is starting to believe Henrik's monster in the swamp stories.

A flooded trail affords no difficulty for Charlie. He knows the way like the back of his hand. His lantern emits only enough light to cast the surrounding bushes and trees in menacing shadows. They seem to follow him as he moves across the bog on the way to Tilly's Dike.
Charlie cannot put his finger on it. Maybe it is the rotgut whiskey or the darkness of the quarter moon night. He cannot shed the uneasy feeling gnawing at him deep inside. To be bit by a snake or a gator you have to step right on them. He gives plenty of advance warning to anything that might be up ahead. Charlie knows that any swamp critter is going to give man a wide path.

Charlie stops and thinks how much he would like to have a drink right now of Leland's velvet brew. Reflexively he wipes his dry lips on his sleeve. Then it comes to him why he feels uneasy. It is the quiet. Charlie knows the creatures will quiet down when man is near, but a complete stillness like this.

Charlie holds the lantern high and surveys the surrounding swamp. The bushes and trees just stand there in the light as if they are watching and waiting for some unspeakable horror to begin. He tells himself he is being a fool, but the urge to get out of there, sends him down the trail in a swift jog.

Something stops Charlie dead in his tracks. It is a stench and a sound such as he has never heard. After a moment, a smile comes to his lips. It is Henrik, Charlie thinks, he must have come up Sutter's Creek and cut across. Charlie is glad he did not succumb to his fears. If he had run away as he first wanted to, he would have been the laughing stock at Petrie's General Store.

"Come on out Henrik, I'm gonna whop you boy, Charlie shouts, walking up to the bushes and holding his lantern high.

"Henrik, enough of your foolishness, Charlie says reaching into the bushes to pull Henrik out. Something grabs Charlie's wrist. Yanking back with all his might Charlie cannot break free of its grasp. In the swiftness of a heartbeat, Charlie flies through the air as if he were a child, not a man of two hundred and fifty pounds.

Before he can muster even a thought of what happened, he finds himself sitting in a puddle, his lantern by a tree ten feet away. He sits there for a moment, his body awash in a numbness that keeps him from clearing his mind.

Ever since he left Henrik by the tree, he had fear like a knot in the pit of his stomach. Now he is in the clutches of stark terror. His mind is racing, but goes nowhere.

Charlie sees little lights circling his head. The visions of his surroundings are moving in slow motion, as if in some sadistic way to prolong his agony. He did not want to look up but curiosity commands him. Standing before him something horrifying and yet familiar. It looks to be ten feet tall. It is reddish brown, the color of dried blood. Yellowish puss dripping from the opened sores reflects the light. It has a large tail like a rat that twists and turns behind it as if dancing with glee. Its fire red eyes burn with delight. Its huge nostrils open and close with every breath.

Charlie tries to clear his terror-filled mind as he thinks he knows this horror. The thing looks right into Charlie's eyes, which are about to cloud with madness. The light from the lantern reflects off the horror's fangs, giving it the appearance of a smile.

One thought stands out in the madness of Charlie's mind, and that is survival. It is this thought that makes Charlie desperately try to crawl to safety. After moving away about five or six yards he has a spark of hope; which is immediately smothered when he looks back and sees the Beast laughing at him with amusement. Listening to the human laugher form the Beast makes Charlie remember how he knows this hideous evil. Sadness swallows Charlie. It is not because of his impending death, for he has already resigned himself to that. It is because all his life he was preached to about good and evil and never listened. Now here was the Devil itself to claim its prize. Charlie's sadness is because he knows his next stop is eternity in the burning pits of hell.





Last edited by Geoffrey Robson; 09-25-2006 at 04:49 PM..
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Old 09-23-2006, 05:59 PM
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Just a quickie crit for ya - if you don't agree, take what I say with a grain of salt.

During the day, the swamp has mystery dancing within its beauty. Sunlight reflects off the black water, leaving it bathed in a golden hue. Trees stand tall reaching for the sky as if for freedom, while the gray Spanish moss hangs from their branches like tears, for here they must remain. When the sun gives into the darkness, the swamp shows her sinister side. The bullfrog sitting on the bank sings his song of love. He must sing to attract a mate, so that together they will continue. To the snake, resting peacefully on a log the frog's song is a lullaby, as it slips into sleep. Hunger does not drive it to hunt, for today its belly is full. The alligator drifts unobtrusively closer. The owl, from the safety of his branch, witnesses the drama that is unfolding.
Nice descrption, but it went on a little long, perhaps because it's a bit simile-laden. Example, your first few sentences could be cut down to:

In the day, the swamp dances with mysterious beauty. Reflected sunlight turns the black waters to liquid gold; trees reach for the freedom of the sky while Spanish moss drips from their branches like tears.

A small boat enters the bayou from Monet's Creek. The bayous are ill suited for man. Yet here he lives, and has for more than three hundred years. They are descendants of Pirates; they stay in spite of the land's unforgiving nature. The people themselves are a lot like their land; from adversity, they draw strength, and the ability to survive is what gives them their pride. These are the qualities on which they built their kinship; they know to stand together, for alone the swamp devours them.
Again, this is a bit florid and wordy. This is good, but there's a little too much of it. Just a thought: if a reader is bogged down in a swamp of description, they may become bored before they get to the meat of the story.

The monotonous putt, putt of the engine is the backbeat for the laughter and song of Henrik and Charlie. Henrik and Charlie are as much a part of the bayous as the creatures that now quake in fear with their passing. They were born here[,] never venturing farther than twenty miles in any direction. As young boy’s [boys] this bayou was their playground. When they turned thirteen, they went to work for Cantrell Foods as crabbers, and just like most, have worked for old man Cantrell for next to nothing wages. They left the dock at five in the morning, just as the sun's bright light broke the darkness. This was the time Charlie liked best. It is the time the terror of the night retreats from the light, and the annoyances of the day have not yet awakened.
Seventeen hours passed and not one crab caught. It is not that there were no crabs; they fill the black water with life. They never looked in their crab boxes. Henrik led Charlie astray as usual. They went to Leland's camp, for a couple of pints of homemade whiskey.
good description, but a little dialogue between your characters would be nice.

Even a moonshine-clouded mind is not enough to keep Charlie from knowing he is in trouble. [<---how does he 'know' he is already in trouble? Surely an alcoholic isn't thinking of his wife/kids/etc when he's focusing on drinking - it's probably the last thing on his mind. If it's on his mind then maybe some 'thought' dialogue would help clarify this] When he gets home, his wife Dominique will be waiting for him, with that familiar face of disappointment. Then he will make up some wild story. She will reply that he is a bad husband and father, gallivanting around drinking with his no-good friend. Now she and the kids will have to do without. Charlie gets mad thinking about her complaints. After all, she had the house on the campsite. He will be the first to admit it is not in the best of shape. Nevertheless, it keeps the weather out and no matter how bad things get there is always food of some kind to eat. Dominique always wanted to live like the people in town with their running water and indoor plumbing. She felt these were necessities. Yet to Charlie things like that were extravagances he did not need or want.

Good narrative, but it's too 'telling' for my taste. Maybe have his friend comment on what his wife might think.


Charlie sees little lights circling his head. The visions of his surroundings are moving in slow motion, as if in some sadistic way to prolong his agony. He did not want to look up but curiosity commands him. Standing before him something horrifying and yet familiar. It looks to be ten feet tall. It is reddish brown, the color of dried blood. Yellowish puss dripping from the opened sores reflects the light. It has a large tail like a rat that twists and turns behind it as if dancing with glee. It’s fire red eyes burn with delight. It’s huge nostrils open and close with every breath.

Charlie tries to clear his terror-filled mind as he thinks he knows this horror. The thing looks right into Charlie's eyes, which are about to cloud with madness. The light from the lantern reflects off the horror's fangs, giving it the appearance of a smile.
One thought stands out in the madness of Charlie's mind, and that is survival. It is this thought that makes Charlie desperately try to crawl to safety. After moving away about five or six yards he has a spark of hope; which is immediately smothered when he looks back and sees the Beast laughing at him with amusement. Listening to the human laugher form [laughter from] the Beast makes Charlie remember how he knows this hideous evil. Sadness swallows Charlie. It is not because of his impending death, for he has already resigned himself to that. It is because all his life he was preached to about good and evil and never listened. Now here was the Devil itself to claim its prize. Charlie's sadness is because he knows his next stop is eternity in the burning pits of hell.[<---again, how does he 'know' this? Maybe have the Beast say something to that effect].





Not bad, good description of the swamp beast (or Devil, be it as it may). There's a lot of exposition in this piece that pounds the reader with information - most of which seems to be "assumed." You'll need to explain your character's motivations for thinking that the creature he encounters in the swamp is not only going to kill him but take him straight to Hell, too. I know that the theme here is a comeuppance for an alcoholic, but the moral to your story doesn't come through solidly because in order for the man to understand his penalty for drinking, the experience must teach him about his wicked ways through an irony of some sort. His friend dies, too and I'm not sure what his crime was. All in all, though, good writing.
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Last edited by OnceUponATime; 09-23-2006 at 06:01 PM..
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Old 09-24-2006, 04:24 PM
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I like your way with words. Drips or hang. Hang better shows the reason for the tears; because they are trapped.




Again, this is a bit florid and wordy. This is good, but there's a little too much of it. Just a thought: if a reader is bogged down in a swamp of description, they may become bored before they get to the meat of the story.

I am wordy, but you know how poets are. This is just the first step that will waltz you through 123,023 word poem that has a visually rhythmic style. I can work that a hundred ways. I do not want to cut something that leaves the reader wondering Who is Charlie?





Even a moonshine-clouded mind is not enough to keep Charlie from knowing he is in trouble. [<---how does he 'know' he is already in trouble? Surely an alcoholic isn't thinking of his wife/kids/etc when he's focusing on drinking - it's probably the last thing on his mind. If it's on his mind then maybe some 'thought' dialogue would help clarify this] When he gets home, his wife Dominique will be waiting for him, with that familiar face of disappointment. Then he will make up some wild story. She will reply that he is a bad husband and father, gallivanting around drinking with his no-good friend. Now she and the kids will have to do without. Charlie gets mad thinking about her complaints. After all, she had the house on the campsite. He will be the first to admit it is not in the best of shape. Nevertheless, it keeps the weather out and no matter how bad things get there is always food of some kind to eat. Dominique always wanted to live like the people in town with their running water and indoor plumbing. She felt these were necessities. Yet to Charlie things like that were extravagances he did not need or want.

Good narrative, but it's too 'telling' for my taste. Maybe have his friend comment on what his wife might think.


What would get Charlie out of that boat and into that swamp on a quarter moon night? Only a wife like Dominique.





Charlie sees little lights circling his head. The visions of his surroundings are moving in slow motion, as if in some sadistic way to prolong his agony. He did not want to look up but curiosity commands him. Standing before him something horrifying and yet familiar. It looks to be ten feet tall. It is reddish brown, the color of dried blood. Yellowish puss dripping from the opened sores reflects the light. It has a large tail like a rat that twists and turns behind it as if dancing with glee. Its fire red eyes burn with delight. Its huge nostrils open and close with every breath.

Charlie tries to clear his terror-filled mind as he thinks he knows this horror. The thing looks right into Charlie's eyes, which are about to cloud with madness. The light from the lantern reflects off the horror's fangs, giving it the appearance of a smile.
One thought stands out in the madness of Charlie's mind, and that is survival. It is this thought that makes Charlie desperately try to crawl to safety. After moving away about five or six yards he has a spark of hope; which is immediately smothered when he looks back and sees the Beast laughing at him with amusement. Listening to the human laugher form [laughter from] the Beast makes Charlie remember how he knows this hideous evil. Sadness swallows Charlie. It is not because of his impending death, for he has already resigned himself to that. It is because all his life he was preached to about good and evil and never listened. Now here was the Devil itself to claim its prize. Charlie's sadness is because he knows his next stop is eternity in the burning pits of hell.[<---again, how does he 'know' this? Maybe have the Beast say something to that effect].



Not bad, good description of the swamp beast (or Devil, be it as it may). There's a lot of exposition in this piece that pounds the reader with information - most of which seems to be "assumed." You'll need to explain your character's motivations for thinking that the creature he encounters in the swamp is not only going to kill him but take him straight to Hell, too. I know that the theme here is a comeuppance for an alcoholic, but the moral to your story doesn't come through solidly because in order for the man to understand his penalty for drinking, the experience must teach him about his wicked ways through an irony of some sort. His friend dies, too and I'm not sure what his crime was. All in all, though, good writing.

This has nothing to do with the comeuppance for an alcoholic; Charlie was just in the wrong place at the right time. Even the Devil itself sometimes just likes to have fun.

Thanks for your input I find it most helpful.






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Old 09-25-2006, 03:11 AM
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Hey Geoffrey.

Just letting you know that when posting your works, you should put a space between each paragraph (look at other post for examples) It makes it easier to read and will encourage more people to critique your work.

Cheers.
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Old 10-02-2006, 02:59 AM
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Sorry it's taken me so long to get around to this.


You change tense quite a few times, the biggest tell-tale being the uses of 'has' and 'had'

They were born here never venturing farther than twenty miles in any direction

I think there should be a comma after 'here'
Cantrell for next to nothing wages.
Should probably change it to 'next-to-nothing'
but a complete stillness like this.

consider changing it to 'but a complete stillness like this...' because it's an incomplete thought.
It’s fire red eyes burn

Its fire-red eyes
human laugher form the Beast makes
from



The opening scene has a great poetic description which fades toward the end of the piece, but considering the flow of the story, I think it works. The small touches like the man knowing that the animals will stay out of his way if he makes a bit of noise are good additions.

It needs a little work, but not bad at all.


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