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Keep Driving

by Kyllorac


My headlights sweep between the legs of the people running along the road. Their long limbs cast longer shadows between the trees and signposts as they match speed with my car.

One of them leaps from the roadside to cross in front of me.

I keep driving.

There is no bump, no hiccup in the contact between my tires and the tarmac: only shadows running beside my car, flitting between the shapes cast by my headlights.

---

The first time it happened, I came to a screeching halt, my engine stalled, my breathing ragged, and everything shaking as I opened the door and checked the shoulder behind me for the body. I was certain that I'd hit a pedestrian wearing all black and walking on the wrong side of the road, and at the speed I'd been going, there was no way I'd stopped in time.

But as I fell out of my car and scanned the road with the jittery beam of my emergency flashlight, the steady blink of my hazards more hindrance than help to my vision, there was no body to be found.

The only human sound was my radio; the only sign of disturbance, the skid marks my tires had left on the asphalt just past a pothole.

Still, I searched the thick brush edging the road for a body, ignoring the scratches to my skin and tears to my clothes, searching until the radio started playing static and the headlights began to dim.

I never found a body.

No one ever did.

---

They do not always run beside my car.

Most often, it's on nights when I'm alone and driving home from a long day’s work, half asleep from exhaustion.

Most often, but not always.

---

My sister is a terrible backseat driver.

She'll point out every mistake I make, even ones I don't, and flip out over other people's driving (in)ability. And if there’s a pedestrian on the side of the road, she makes sure I know with her raised voice and tensed posture, eyes fixed on the clearance between vehicle and body.

Once, while my sister rode shotgun, I commented that the shadows past the headlights looked like people running alongside the car. She snorted. Told me I must really need sleep if I was seeing things like that.

I feel safer driving with a passenger.

---

I joke, sometimes, that my car is haunted.

I worry, sometimes, that it's true.

I'm not sure if I believe in ghosts.

I think, sometimes, I should.

---

One of these days, when I'm driving alone and half asleep, without my sister to distinguish the people from the shadows, I'm certain that I will hit a pedestrian—

And keep driving, none the wiser.


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Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:20 pm
Symmote wrote a review...



Hi!

This is a good piece of work. I see a lot of writers go for the short and clipped style of narration, and very few manage to make it sound rhythmic and punchy instead of terse. Props for that.

I see some other reviewers critiquing the length and/or structure of the piece. I think that's fine if you'd like this to be considered a strict example of flash fiction or another style of writing, but as it sits I'm happy with the overall arc of the piece. It feels like a worried confessional to a priest or therapist. It has no rigidly defined ending because the narrator is terrified of what might come of the shadows, not what has already occurred. Feel free to play with your scene breaks and transitions, of course, but that's not as hefty as the other structural overhauls people have mentioned.

Content check:

I joke, sometimes, that my car is haunted.

I worry, sometimes, that it's true.

I'm not sure if I believe in ghosts.

I think, sometimes, I should.


I'd consider dropping those last two lines. They aren't distinct enough - the first line means much the same thing as the third, and the second much the same as the fourth. I think paring it down to the pair might provide a more 'subdued interlude' feel to the section.




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Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:39 pm
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Lightsong wrote a review...



Hey, I'm here to review as requested! Sorry for the long wait. :P

The first five sentences easily capture my interest. Separated to form short paragraphs, it makes reading easier with more focus to the details. I like the details of what's going on without explaining it and it gives me enough mystery to be intrigued about. This story also reflects the way you keep the paragraphs short with how, instead of giving us a lengthy description of a few scenes (as is common in the short stories I read), you give us small moments, fastening the pace and keeping the writing tight.

But as I fell out of my car and scanned the road with the jittery beam of my emergency flashlight, the steady blink of my hazards more hindrance than help to my vision, there was no body to be found.


This sentence isn't exactly wrong, but I think it'd be smoother if the comparing word 'than' is accompanied by matching verbs, like hinder for help instead of hindrance. But then again, it might be just me.

The scene with the sister is great. It gives us more explanation as to what the protagonist is experiencing and makes it sort-of unreliable with the way the sister denies the shadows being people. Since what the protagonist is experiencing is somewhat surreal, I naturally am inclined to believe her, but there could always be the case that the protagonist sees something she doesn't. Since this is a horror story after all, the possibility is definitely there. Maybe the protagonist sees ghosts or zombies >.> but there's no third party to confirm this.

I joke, sometimes, that my car is haunted.

I worry, sometimes, that it's true.

I'm not sure if I believe in ghosts.

I think, sometimes, I should.


While I don't mind the repetition of sometimes, I think the commas used slow the reading too much. I would suggest making us pause in the last paragraph instead so that the effect is delivered the most.

One of these days, when I'm driving alone and half asleep, without my sister to distinguish the people from the shadows, I'm certain that I will hit a pedestrian—

And keep driving, none the wiser.


These two paragraphs (or one, since I'm sure the breaking is to give off more suspense) are the most chilling I read here and they become the perfect ending. It goes back to our doubts whether the protagonist really hits someone or not and since the protagonist doesn't check if they actually did, it makes us worried if they would accidentally do that, what's with them in a half-asleep state. Thus, the story is open-ended, and being the curious reader I am, I AM DYING TO FIND THE TRUTH. Please reply to this review and explain to me what's actually going on. I can't live tortured like this. u.u'

Anyway! That is all! Not much criticism for the story, which is good, right? :D It's certainly refreshing to see one that doesn't involve fantasy or fantasy, and an horror at that. Keep up the good job! :D




Kyllorac says...


Thank you for the review, and don't worry about how late it was!

I'm not sure what you mean with the "hinder" part, but I really appreciated your comments on the commas around "sometimes", and I confess that I do tend to err on the side of too many commas than too few. I do agree that it does give the final "sometimes" a bit more impact if it's the only one offset that way.

You're the only person who liked the sister section so far. XD But! You picked up on exactly what I wanted that section to do, so now I'm so torn because I do want to keep it, but now I have no idea what to do with it because there's so many conflicting opinions on it. XP

As for the ending, I am sorry. There is no true ending. All three endings are equally valid, and the discomfort that uncertainty brings is what I intended to be the main source of horror in this.

What I will say is that, seeing as there was no bump in the road, the narrator didn't hit anyone living. This time. ;P



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Sun Oct 08, 2017 5:41 pm
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Megrim wrote a review...



Hellooo. This is a nicely written and haunting piece of flash fiction (I'd definitively place it as flash rather than short story). I guess I'll go through it in "descending" layers.

I really want to call this an excellent work of flash, but I'm reminded of some rules my more flash-savvy friends taught me. In order to be a story, there needs to be some solid change/progression and a feel of beginning/middle/end (even in those 150 word microfictions). While I felt quite satisfied at the end of this, I had to stop and reflect on that, and I think it actually doesn't quite flesh out a full story. We get a snippet of the character's life, but that's mainly what it is: a description of what happens to them. There does seem to be a sense of progression between the first time it happened and the most recent time it happened, so maybe that's enough to count. The trouble I'm having is that most of it's presented as flashback or introspection, sooo idk if it really qualifies as forward movement? Maybe if there's a small tweak to the ordering, or a reiteration at the end of her hitting a bump and continuing to drive--something to make for a solid (mini) "scene" that can be compared/contrasted to the initial.

Layout-wise, I'm not convinced you need the scene breaks. I tried imagining them not being there, and most of the transitions work fine as one paragraph to the next. Then again, they add a nice "breath" between the sections that you don't always get with just a paragraph break.

Descending into a section-by-section level, let's look at the progression of scenes. The first two are very nice, with a good balance of solid imagery, but still tight enough to feel like flash. The brief third section feels... unnecessary? It's nice having something between the first two and sister one, but this one doesn't add a whole lot. Maybe if you bring out more what this one's trying to say.

The sister section is a bit of a lurch in the tone. Especially that first line, "My sister is a terrible backseat driver," that makes it feel a lot more lighthearted and like we've moved on to some totally other topic. If it were me, I'd go for maintaining a similar tone. Probably your best bet is to cut or replace "terrible," because for one thing, that's a big culprit for the tone shift, but also, the POVC seems like she actually, honestly, appreciates it. I think using the wording to reflect that would help make the point subtly.

The section about ghosts and haunting doesn't really excite me a ton but I love the phrasing. I see it as more paranoia or delusions; something brought on by her own mind. The reason I don't like the ghosts comparison, I guess, is that the running people don't seem very ghost-like to me. But I do think it fits that if they are hallucinations, she'd try to explain it and might come up with ghosts.

Then the last bit is a very nice ending, and leaves us on a strongly "haunting" note. Like I said earlier, maybe having her drive over a bump and continuing would help make it more concrete (show vs tell, after all), and tie up the theme presented in the beginning.

On a line level, there were a few that didn't read as smoothly:

The first time it happened, I came to a screeching halt, my engine stalled, my breathing ragged, and everything shaking

The construction of this makes the verbs feel incorrect (I particularly got stuck on "ragged", because I misinterpreted how "stalled" was being used), and required a reread once or twice. I think rearranging, adjusting the verbs, or maybe adding a "with" somewhere ("with my breathing ragged and everything shaking") would make this much clearer.

I was certain that I'd hit a pedestrian wearing all black and walking on the wrong side of the road, and at the speed I'd been going, there was no way I'd stopped in time.

Too many words for something that can be said much more simply. It leans over the line of overdescribing/overwriting. Most of this can be implied. (I might go with paring down to: "I was certain I'd hit a pedestrian. There was no way I'd stopped in time.")

My sister is a terrible backseat driver.

She'll point out every mistake I make, even ones I don't, and flip out over other people's driving (in)ability.

I already talked about this making a major tone shift. These are the guilty parties.

And that's it! Very cool piece, lots of atmosphere. Like I said, I take it as someone suffering from paranoid imaginings/hallucinations, and reacting to the long shadows they see in their peripheral vision. If you hadn't pointed out that it's meant to be open to interpretation, I'd probably leave it feeling a bit confused and unsure of myself.

Cheers and happy writing!




Kyllorac says...


Bless you for this review. <3



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Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:35 pm
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Jyva wrote a review...



27! geez, that's hardly young, but i guess it's a matter of perspective.

>I'd be particularly interested in your impressions of the overall tone of the piece, as well as your interpretation of what is actually going on in the story.

i'll keep that in mind.

_______________


>My headlights sweep between the legs of the people running along the road. Their long limbs cast longer shadows between the trees and signposts as they match speed with my car.

alright, but i feel it's overly wordy. you want the story to flow smoothly - the reader shouldn't have to stop to understand what you're trying to convey. try simplify a bit.


>One of them leaps from the roadside to cross in front of me.

I keep driving.

piques interest nicely, good

>There is no bump, no hiccup in the contact between my tires and the tarmac: only shadows running beside my car, flitting between the shapes cast by my headlights.

semicolon instead of colon would fit better


>The first time it happened, I came to a screeching halt, my engine stalled, my breathing ragged, and everything shaking as I opened the door and checked the shoulder behind me for the body.

screeching halt - verb. engine stalled - verb. breathing ragged - adjective. everything shaking - verb.

tweaking it to "my breathing going ragged" or something similar would make that sentence much better. in the same vein, "everything shaking" is in present tense whereas the rest of those descriptives are past tense. "everything shook".


>I was certain that I'd hit a pedestrian wearing all black and walking on the wrong side of the road

just say "pedestrian". even better, "someone", as it's more colloquial.


>But as I fell out of my car and scanned the road with the jittery beam of my emergency flashlight, the steady blink of my hazards more hindrance than help to my vision, there was no body to be found.

this is a panicky moment. your character isn't gonna notice their blinking hazards hindering their vision, or at least not in that amount of detail.


>The only human sound was my radio; the only sign of disturbance, the skid marks my tires had left on the asphalt just past a pothole.

unnecessary semicolon, just end the sentence there
reader doesn't need to know about the random pothole


>Still, I searched the thick brush edging the road for a body, ignoring the scratches to my skin and tears to my clothes, searching until the radio started playing static and the headlights began to dim.

nice


>I never found a body. No one ever did.

ooh, spooky. im guessing this is supernatural. very serious-sounding.



>They do not always run beside my car.

Most often, it's on nights when I'm alone and driving home from a long day’s work, half asleep from exhaustion.

Most often, but not always.

---

My sister is a terrible backseat driver.


yo, the transition still sucks even if you put three hyphens in between



>And if there’s a pedestrian on the side of the road, she makes sure I know

end sentence there. that's all you need.



general statements:

>One of these days, when I'm driving alone and half asleep, without my sister to distinguish the people from the shadows, I'm certain that I will hit a pedestrian—

And keep driving, none the wiser.

this sounds like a cool premise for a full-blown story, but seeing as it's listed as 'just' a horror short story - so i'm gonna review this as a complete piece - i'm left un-horror-ified. intrigued by the concept of running over shadows in the night, though. recategorize?

besides that, uhh...

1. your grammar's mostly fine, no need to worry there. though i probably don't need to mention that.

2. chill out with the line breaks. it's not illegal to have more than two sentences put together, y'know.

3. watch the usage of short sentences. they're strong and punchy and great for driving a point home, yes, but use them too often and you'll come off as trying too hard.

4. try keep your mind on how much description you're putting in. does it fit? does it add anything to the reader's experience, or does it just slow down the flow of the story?




Kyllorac says...


I was young when I joined all those years ago. *quiet old person sobbing with the weight of AGE THANKS*

So, I'm replying on mobile, so glitches are known to abound, so I will keep this brief:

Colon and not semi-colon because the following is a dependent clause.

Stalled and shaking are adjectives in that sentence.

In my experience, I get hyperaware when panicking, but I figured that wouldn't fit as well in the this so I tried to leave things vaguer. The blinking flashers was me trying to add on to the sense of disorientation, because have you ever tried seeing at night with flashers blinking? It's very weird.

The pothole is not random. It's there to contrast why the narrator stopped the first time (implied feeling of colliding with something) to why they drive on in beginning (no sign of collision).

This story has been a tricky one I've been trying to figure out how to tell, and it looks like I have more figuring out to do lol. I'm not sure if will hold up to more expansion, but we'll see.



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Fri Oct 06, 2017 4:05 pm
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PenmanshipPriority wrote a review...



Hi Kyllorac,

Overall I would say this is good for a short piece, it was easy to follow and understandable.

I'm not one of those people who complain when a story is too short or doesn't link to it's original genre, so I think you did a good job summarizing the whole plot in the work you did.

There are no grammar mistakes and this is expected, I assume the publishers at least proof read their work before uploading it or run it through a spellchecker.

I don't really have any ending questions that have left me in confusion or curiosity because quite frankly, I found it to be quite relaxed and amusing. I didn't get a vibe of any horror whatsoever - maybe you were going for a funny take on a 'creepy' plot or something, I'm not too sure.

When I say it was relaxed, I mean that the events happen with an unrealistic tone, that links to the zany style of the piece. It was almost like the driver's actions were 'normal' to run someone over and not feel the slightest bit of guilt.

I've already seen you get a bit defensive when another reviewer pointed out the perfection of grammar was down to the shortness of the piece, so I'll try and keep things neutral and not mention the controversial opinions I have, being as I think you're really proud with this short story.

"(in)ability"

You didn't need to put the 'in' in brackets for this sentence.You could've just said 'ability' and we would know that you're trying to say that it could go both ways. Usually ability doesn't mean just one thing - whether it's positive or negative.

You also kind of joked that the car might be 'haunted' ,and alot of people reviewing this seem to think that. I think it's good that you didn't establish any reasoning and left it up to interpretation. It's very rare to find that the protagonist of a 'horror' story becomes the 'bad' guy/girl in the end and I like how you added that thought.

If you have any comments or feedback on my review please let me know!

GMills
PenmanshipPriorities




Kyllorac says...


Thanks for the review.

Regarding my response to the grammar comment in the other review, length really is irrelevant when it comes to how grammatical a piece is or isn't. While longer works do tend to have more mistakes because of the sheer quantity of proofreading involved in them, proofreading generally catches most of those mistakes, so commenting on a lack of grammar issues and attributing it to the brevity of a piece 1) doesn't provide feedback on the contents of the writing and 2) ignores the effect of simply proofreading before posting.

If you have some comments on the grammar, feel free to express them. I found your comments on (in)ability to be really helpful because that was a phrasing I was a bit iffy on myself.

I'm also wondering which angle you're approaching the story from. Is it ghost side? The hallucination side? A different side? I've gotten a few comments that the tone changes quite a bit depending on which angle you look at it, and I want to see if there's a pattern to the angles and the variations in tone.





Thankyou for responding,
I think I approached as 'the person is clearly insane if he doesn't react to running over people' kind of side (: - I don't personally believe there is a ghost side to it or a hallucination side to the story; once again, it's good that you left it up to interpretation of the reviewers and readers. I think it's more individually driven and I don't think there is a paranormal side to it at all and it's more of an abstract feeling of lunacy. But of course, being the publisher, you have the power to sway your story (if you choose to continue it) in any direction and you could prove us that there is a paranormal side to the piece. Anyway thankyou for replying.



Kyllorac says...


Thank you for replying back!

I wrote this deliberately tobe open to interpretation, so I'm glad I got at least that part down. Whatever edits I do make will probably deal with amping up the overall tone of horror since it seems to have gotten a bit drowned out by the comedic aspects.



Kyllorac says...


*to be

My keyboard sometimes eats spaces. :(



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Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:29 pm
DemonGoddess wrote a review...



Hello, Kyllorac! It’s Kara here for a (hopefully) quick review!

Give me your soul.

With that aside...

STOP! Grammar time!



No grammar issues, which is impressive, but it was probably because the piece was so short.

Suggestions:



If I'm being honest, I didn't get enough from the piece. Yes, I get that the car was haunted, but I didn't really get any satisfaction, description, or anything that I get then when I usually read something. If it were me, I would make it longer and more satisfying, to make the reader a bit more happy and sated.

Confusing things:



It was a little confusing overall at first, but the part with your sister cleared things up. Good job.

Other comments, reactions, and fangirling:



No other comments, reactions, or fangirling.

Overall:



This wasn't the best thing I've ever read. I like to be satisfied with description, but I didn't get any of that. It would be good if you were trying to write under a maximum word limit, but otherwise, I would make it longer with more description, events, etc. Maybe put an actual time where the MC hit someone and was sickened to his stomach and just... kept driving. That'll drive in the horror, in my words.

Give me your soul --

Kara

Image


This review courtesy of
Image




Kyllorac says...


but it was probably because the piece was so short.

Or because I proofread before posting. It's actually a bit insulting that you assume longer works of mine would have grammar issues, because that involves assuming I lack the skill to spot my own grammar mistakes.

I understand that you probably intend to offend, but before you comment on why you think a technical issue is or isn't one, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself if the comment is about the piece itself or of it involves commenting on the writer's assumed abilities.

As for the rest of the review, is the car really haunted?



Kyllorac says...


*probably didn't

Gdi autocorrect.



DemonGoddess says...


Whoops, sorry, most pieces have at least one grammar mistake in my eyes, because I am really nitpicky, so I tried to compliment you. Looks like that backfired lol

I dunno, is the car haunted? Conspiracy theories :wink:



Kyllorac says...


It definitely did lol

You tell me. ;P



DemonGoddess says...


XD

ooooo can i get started on conspiracy theories.



Kyllorac says...


Yes



DemonGoddess says...


Okay, my conspiracy theory is that the car IS haunted, and that the shapes running besides the car are ghosts. I'm assuming that it was a family car and the entire family died or something and all of their souls/spirits bonded to that car I haven't seen them in my torture chambers, that's for sure and that they are haunting it. Either that, or they all somehow got hit by a car or got in a car accident or something and that car was fixed.

Just a theory.



Kyllorac says...


That's an interesting theory.



DemonGoddess says...


Thank you



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LadyLizzLovelace wrote a review...



Well dang Kyll. You posted this sooner then I imagined you would and I don't know why I'm here giving you a critique. Maybe because it's a very slow Thursday night.

I should, maybe, switch the style that I do these critiques in. But instead let's take it from the top to defeat the green room beasts.

1. Based on the teeny bit of this I read the other night, which I'm counting as the entire opening lines since it doesn't pick up until the last one, I found this to be more humorous than horror. Not that is necessarily a bad thing because to be honest, I do like to see that sort of thing, by the end that vibe was overpowering. Yes the narrator eventually considers the possibility of killing someone in a traffic accident but I was still back a few blocks laughing about their sibling.
But for now we're talking about the first block where they just roll on without regard to what just happened and nah that doesn't remind me of psycho at all.

2. "The first time it happened" sounds like the beginning to a really corny joke akin to "three vampires walked into a bar". (What? Can you blame me for getting into the holiday spirit?). I'm bot exactly sure what the exact motivation was for this but it came through as "the narrator may or may not have killed more people and hasn't checked since the first time". I admit st this point it did start to sound more like horror than the creepy comedy that was developing before. But I still get the off vibe. That's the best way to explain it.

3. Okay so the last line of this block did manage to set in stone for me that this was horror. Except for in the next block when the comments about the sibling kind of took a sledgehammer to the whole thing. That aside, this is when I really started to enjoy the story and even though it rushed by so quickly, you kept it simple. Normally I would complain about works this short trying to tackle so much but I'll give you the free pass tonight because I'm lazy.

4. I'm going to be blunt with you here. It went to hell. And back again. Like the Hobbit.
While I see the need for including s secondary character to set the main character straight, she almost seemed too familiar and too basic. Like just standard Jane Doe, non believer in magical haunting and possibly murderous shadows. This might factor back into the length thing where each thing is only briefly mentioned so the reader never gets a feel for what's going on. That might not make the best sense but it's too late at night for me to care. Message me in the morning if it doesn't make sense.

5. It's short and for the most part sweet, a summary of this entire piece. Like haunting would be the least worse scenario so I'm just going to pretend that's what is going on here. The character goes through the whole doubt and I swear to god, if they drove off a cliff because of the spirits, I would be giving you a round of applause. With the current ending I'm just giving you a sarcastic slow clap. So I guess that moves us into the final part.

6. I'm going to say a swear. Don't report me. DAMN.
By this point, we're pretty much grounded in the fact that this character has probably killed at least one person. Odds are over the course of many years and not being able to differentiate between shadows, cows, bushes and pedestrians, they had killed someone. Never had the compassion or care to stop and look if they were towing a body from the axle, so I guess this is meant to dehumanize the haracter. Or maybe just to make the readers fear them. Seems a bit complicated at this part but it's still enjoyable.

Overall:
I think I've covered everything I need to say about this piece but if I haven't, you know that I'll be back.
See you around.
~Liz <3




Kyllorac says...


*hits you up on Discord now that we've both used the sleep*




Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that.
— Ellen DeGeneres