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Clockwork Kiss ~ Part 1

by Stigma


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

I suppose one might call it a gift. The ability to fall asleep on command, anytime, anywhere. I, for one, utilize it admittedly excessively, even when I shouldn't. It is my escape from the harsh and painful reality into an illusionary dream world. Sometimes at school I ask to use the restroom, lock myself in the spacious handicap stall, and curl up in the concealed corner until the bell for the next class shocks me awake. Well okay, "sometimes" may be a bit of an understatement. But it's not like anyone cares if I'm present to pretend to absorb Mrs. Albert's monotonous algebra lessons. By the way, I haven't really explained my dream world, have I?

My dreams always take me to the same place. It's a very tall tower--which I've affectionately nicknamed "The Museum" due to the ground floor--with countless floors, seeming to grow each fantasy. An elevator with dozens of buttons is located at the back of each room and is the only form of vertical transportation; from what I understand there is no stairwell. The ground floor is the only one that really rings true to a modern museum, with some oddities. It is furnished with beige marble tiles and deep blue velvet curtains adorned with gold trim. A small gift shop is located on the eastern wall. There's virtually no exhibits, just a fossilized fish whose name I can never seem to remember. Oddly enough, there is also a small arcade in the back corner. It isn't much, just a platform of cheap black carpeting with a few racing games, but it still sticks out noticeably against the otherwise classy atmosphere.

If something happens to go wrong in a dream, I simply kiss the steampunk pendant that hangs off my neck and I awake instantly. A ninth birthday gift from my late grandmother, it is a heavy, brass plated circle with exposed gears and an old fashioned analog clock. A delicate copper swallow and a small topaz decorate the smooth surface. I don't know if it's the cold metal against my lips or the sentimental value, but it's the only way I can manually snap myself out of it. I only take it off to shower.

~

I yawn quietly, momentarily muting Mr. Robert's lesson on persuasion, which, incidentally, isn't persuasive enough to capture anyone's attention. I raise my hand to go to the bathroom when the bell rings for dismissal.

I walk slowly to my distant locker on the third floor, staring down at my shuffling feet as everyone around me rushes to pack their things up and head home...or, wherever teenagers go after school. Once I finally get to my locker, the corridor is pretty much deserted. I first twist my lock clockwise.

24...18...

"Hey bitch," Rebecca Hyland startles me from behind, waving a full bottle of Diet Coke around. "Didn't have time to go puke in the bathroom today? You poor, ugly thing."

Addison Ford approaches from the left. "Stupid whore probably cuts class 'cause the lessons make her head hurt!" she mocks savagely, poking at my sleeve with a pencil.

Elizabeth Trent saunters over. "Look at those rags...dig those out a dumpster, slut?"

"Here, let me help with your hair," Rebecca shakes the bottle vigorously. I close my eyes and brace myself for impact.

~

I fruitlessly wring out my sticky, matted hair on the sidewalk, only accomplishing the task of coating my hands with even more sugar. I continue down the dimming horizon, quickly becoming chilled by the frigid winter air. My wet hair freezes me to the bone, instant motivation to sprint towards my visible home. The driveway is empty--the first good thing to happen all day. I fumble with the front door lock for a few moments before stepping inside to the warm embrace of my living room. I throw my backpack to the side, hastily strip, and take a rushed but revitalizing hot shower. It takes a while to wash the soda out.

As soon as I get out, I immediately fasten the clasp of my necklace around my neck and plod up the stairs. Tying the belt on my favorite bath robe, I heave a weighted sigh and collapse on my bed. I bury myself in the soft sea of sheets and yawn audibly as the day fades. The last thing I hear before my departure into slumber is Mom's car door slamming shut outside...

~

I arrive at the ground floor of the Museum, relishing in the relaxing atmosphere. A family of five--correct, I'm not alone in this realm--gathers in front of the gift shop, seeming rather disoriented. A tiny, orange spark appears in my perphreal vision. At the southwestern corner is what appears to be another small room, only visible thanks to an illuminated wooden torch on the wall. No door, either, just a granite threshold marking the boundary between itself and everything else. It reminds me of hackneyed fairytales of medieval times. I debate entering it, ultimately deciding to pass on the defense that it gives me the "skeeves".

Instead, I slide over the polished floor to the elevator, which upon sensing my familiar presence, opens warmly. As the doors silently shut within the carpeted enclosure, I scan the vast array of buttons on the wall. Only a few are marked, such as the nightmarish Red Eye Room and the delectable Pastry Shop, the rest are blank silver. Undefined explorations. I press a randomly selected unmarked button, near the top left. As the elevator climbs, it shutters slightly. Most likely Mom trying to wake me up. I ignore it.

A cheerful ding indicates my arrival and the doors part to reveal a room made entirely of mirrors. I don't mean a bunch of little mirrors, either, but the floor, walls, and ceiling was just one gigantic plate of reflections. This is a new one for me. I slowly skate along the delicate floor to the sleek northern wall. Face to face with my reflection, I immediately discover that not even dream mirrors lie.

My dark brown hair falls unevenly just above my shoulders, apparently the ideal length for the slur "faggot". My pale complexion compliments my dull, cement gray eyes and thin lips. I look like a disheveled homeless girl in a faded green robe and pink plaid pants that reach just above my ankles. I gently unite my fingers with the other girl's and cloud her face over momentarily with a long exhalation. I close my eyes.

"Dirty whore...fucking bitch...ugly faggot...fat skank..."

My emotions flare and I score down the mirror with my nails before connecting a punch with the silvery surface. The tiny, fist shaped hole shatters into millions of fragments, slicing my hand open in the process. As to be expected in a dream world, the physics are highly exaggerated, and this small, seemingly insignificant gape branches out along every plane, every corner, even impossibly across the elevator. In one large collapse, the room completely shatters and the microscopic, reflective slivers fall around me to reveal an endless black abyss. A steady stream of scarlet runs down my arm. The stinging is so real. It actually hurts. The pain jolts me back into reality.

I wake up sweating and hyperventilating. I sit upright and try to calm down and in doing so, notice a small dent in my wall. The skin on my right hand knuckles is bruised and split.


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Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:24 pm
Hannah wrote a review...



This is an interesting premise. There's a lot of power in dream and dream imagery. Many of us dream, and many of us try to look for meaning in our dreams. I was especially interested because there are some places that I often go back to in dreams -- one school in particular that seemed based off my elementary school but was decidedly not. I love the idea of the recurring place and the many rooms with possible explorations!

But! What does your character want? I see no direction to this piece because I don't know what she wants. I think I'd be with you on saying she wants to escape her life, but she can do that any time she wants. I guess right now I figure she'd be trying to figure out a way to leave in her dreams forever, or contemplating what that would mean. But then again, I haven't seen anything bad happen in her dreams that would make her want to stay in reality, so I'd need to see a scene of that and some more good things in her life. Also, maybe I had a good life, but do kids actually go out and say those words to each other in the hallway? Out of nowhere? I remember writing the same sort of dialogue in a piece and my teachers and fellow students didn't believe it, and I realized I'd never actually seen it happen, but it was just an exaggeration of how I thought mean people would act. If that's the case with you, tone it down! Those girls can be just as harmful without coming out of nowhere and using such intense language.

I would also recommend removing the direct address. The, "oh yeah I didn't tell you" and the "that's right, I'm not alone in my dreams" and that sort of thing. We are listening. We are captive readers. Addressing us actually breaks the spell you've cast on us, reminding us that we're not actually talking with the character. When we're just reading we use our imagination to feel that we are.

Also, places are very hard, especially nebulous places like your dream museum, but work harder on using sense of light and sound to bring out the space of your rooms instead of just saying they're big. Saying the light of a skylight fell all the way down from the ceiling brings in a sense of height of a room without ever saying it's tall. Go that way.

Anywhoo, I hope this was helpful! PM me if you have any questions or if you'd like me to take a look at the next part.
Good luck and keep writing!




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Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:37 pm
Panikos wrote a review...



Hey, Stigma. Dark here to review. :D

Firstly, I've got to say that I really like this. It set the scene excellently, and though not a lot happened in it I think it's an incredibly promising start to what could be a very interesting idea. The theme of dream-worlds and all that jazz is somewhat commonly used, but I really like what you're doing with it - the idea of the 'museum' and its different floors is intriguing, and I can only imagine the horrors that she'll doubtlessly meet on some of them. Some of the detail is brilliant, and, as far as I can see, your grammar and spelling was pretty good too.

It's a hard piece to critique, I'll be honest, but I have a few very picky nitpicks.

I, for one, utilize it admittedly excessively


Those two words feel a bit rickety next to one another - they've both got four syllables apiece, and it's a bit of a mouthful to read. Maybe change it to 'I, admittedly, utilize it excessively' or something.

--which I've affectionately nicknamed "The Museum" due to the ground floor--with countless floors


Again, this is incredibly trivial, but I've really got a thing about similar words being used within a certain space of one another, and saying 'floors' so quickly after 'floor' feels a bit repetitive in my mind. If you changed it to 'levels' instead, I reckon it would read a lot more cleanly.

Also, about the scene in which those bullies are ganging up on her...I for one know exactly how hard it is to make tormenting dialogue sound realistic, and I think you've struggled with that a little here. Bitchy girls are pretty hard to write, and so I think that the speech needs to be tinkered with - there's something about their insults that don't seem all that realistic. Some of them feel a bit elaborate and planned, particularly Addison's and Rebecca's, and thus slightly lame - they don't make me flinch and think 'God, how could you say that?'. Just simplify some of them - Elizabeth's is good, by the way - and it'll have more impact. Less is more in this case.

That's all I really have in terms of criticisms, and I really hope you write some more of this. I'm enticed - I want to know more about the dream world!

I hope this review helped. PM me if you have any questions - or send a carrier pigeon. I don't mind.

Keep writing! :D

~Dark




Stigma says...


Aw shoot, I didn't even realize I had used "floor" twice in one sentence. o_o Right, should fix those things. Also, part two /should/ be up within the next week. Thanks for your review, I really appreciate your input!

~ Stigma




"Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon."
— Paul Brandt