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Straddling the Grave [Chapter 1.1]

by Magebird


Straddling the Grave

Chapter 1

Summer was just within grasp. I could feel it in the hot, humid air clinging to my skin as I made the way from the bus stop at the end of the street, and could taste it as I nursed a lollipop that had been in the bottom of my backpack for who knew how long. I had spent all of last summer wishing it wouldn’t end, but now I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was going to do.

I kicked a stray pebble across the asphalt.

A lawn mower’s rumble reverberated in my chest as I walked past one of the several farm fields littering my neighborhood; a symphony of crickets added to the chorus. By the time I reached the top of our house’s driveway, I already knew I wouldn’t see Jess’s car sitting in it. She was probably out visiting one of her college friends again -- that was all she had been doing ever since the spring semester ended.

I slipped into an empty house.

I’d be the only one home for a bit, apparently.

I went through the same old routine I did every day. After I had finished my lollipop, I grabbed an energy bar. I tidied up the kitchen - putting away the now dry dishes and washing the ones still in the sink. I took down the clothes I had hung out on the line that morning. I made sure our house looked lived in but presentable. When I was finally done with that, I entered my mess of a bedroom and sat down at my desk. Then I let out a tired sigh.

Just another average spring day in an average junior year.

xXx

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be thankful when I finished my homework sooner than expected. Junior year was brutal, to say the least, but the teachers seemed to have gotten the hint that we needed a break by the end of it. All it took was an hour before I was out in the front yard with my current read in hand - it was the last of many graphic novels I had taken out from the town library a week before.

I was sitting down on the hammock when I realized I wasn’t alone.

All I could make out was an unfamiliar pair of shoes -- Mom’s size and style, maybe? They definitely belonged to someone older. I couldn’t remember her shopping for shoes recently, but she probably found them when digging through her closet over the past weekend.

“Hi,” I said.

Mom didn’t say anything.

Frowning, I looked up. Had I done something wrong?

...The woman in front of me wasn’t my mom.

She was around her age - her hair was just as white as Mom’s was, and they had about the same amount of wrinkles. But her clothes were unfamiliar - and older - like she hadn’t gotten the memo that clothing styles had changed in the past few decades. If having a practical stranger in my yard wasn’t bad enough, she just felt...off. Like she wasn’t supposed to be in front of me but also was.

I got to my feet and studied her.

I was taller than her. She didn’t have any kind of weapon on her, either. Maybe I should have run away, but she wasn’t exactly dangerous. I could handle a confused older woman.

“...Can I help you?” I finally said.

I went to put my graphic novel back down on the hammock; my back was turned.

Nothing happened. No sudden attacks, no answers, and nothing that could explain just who that woman was. But when I turned around again, she was gone. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had never once hallucinated - and definitely hadn’t imagined a person before - I might have thought she was a figment of my imagination.

I shuddered a little.

Grabbing my graphic novel again, I decided it might have been a little better to go inside.

Being inside, though, was even worse than being outside.

Our house wasn’t exactly new. With every little unexplained creak, I became more and more convinced that I had seen a ghost. The woman had been wearing pajamas, right? She could have died in her sleep. Ghosts just made sense right now. I had been convinced that ghosts were more fiction than fact - even though a little voice in the back of my mind was trying to tell me otherwise.

So I took the next best option.

Leaving my graphic novel on my desk next to the quickly growing pile and grabbing my phone from where it was charging, I left the house. I made sure to lock the door. No one would try to steal from our house, of course, but I’d forgotten to lock it enough times that Mom and Jess’s scolding had drilled it into my head.

I began my walk to the library.


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Thu Jul 02, 2020 1:23 am
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Liberty wrote a review...



Hi Mage!

Lib here to review your work because this looks inTeResTINg so let's get to it. c:

The beginning line is awesome and such a cool introductory sentence. And the vibes I got from that first bit was so nice and honestly, relatable (other than the fact we're all stuck in quarantine :p).

ANYWAYS

Just another average spring day in an average junior year.

I'm a gazillion percent sure it's not going to be an average spring day. Also speaking of, wasn't it summer time? Isn't school almost over? I think those were the vibes I was getting - school is almost over yay but gosh it's hot.

I was sitting down on the hammock when I realized I wasn’t alone.

I love hammocks. Also that last bit made me scoot to the edge of the couch, no joke. My sister looked over at me to let me know. xD

Frowning, I looked up. Had I done something wrong?

All you said was hi. D:

...The woman in front of me wasn’t my mom.

Run, or call 911. There isn't supposed to be anyone in your backyard considering your mom or Jess isn't home. Ditch the call. I say you run for it.

I went to put my graphic novel back down on the hammock; my back was turned.

Why. Would you. Turn. Away. ;-; But okay if this lady isn't going to do anything turn your back all you want.

I shuddered a little.

So did I because I'm sitting right under the AC (my new favorite spot) and also because goosebumps.

I'm not happy with you going inside, MC. What if someone attacks you from inside, and also locks all the doors so you have no escape and then when you're in pain, you won't be able to open the door if someone comes to help you SO STAY OUTSIDE.

Okay. I see.

Alright, the library is good too but. Who goes to the library after seeing some creep in their backyard? And in pajamas? Also, speaking of pajamas, I wasn't expecting this lady to be wearing pajamas. I expected some fancy clothing or something, I dunno, but pajamas are good too. I guess it was just that the fact that you said that her clothing was out of date? Yeah it's probably that.

Well! I'm done my review. ^^ Hope it helped. Let me know if you have any questions!

Also I'm trying Team Tortoise again so I'll be reviewing your next chapter tomorrow.

Tag me when the next chapter is out, please! :)

And as always...

Keep on writing!

~Liberty




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Tue Jun 30, 2020 3:39 am
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Saw the second chapter in the green room so popping in for a review on the first.

First Impression: Well that was a pretty neat little opening segment. Introduces a bit of a hook to a reader pretty darn quickly. And we get just the tiniest bit of insight into our character.

Anyway let's get to it,

By the time I reached the top of our house’s driveway, I already knew I wouldn’t see Jess’s car sitting in it.


That is a great line for introducing the character right there.

I slipped into an empty house.

I’d be the only one home for a bit, apparently.


One sentence paragraphs are great for being dramatic on occasions but there are a ton of those in this and they don't have any kind of effect when you use them so often. You should tone them down a bit and use them only for the parts that really must have an impact.

She was around her age - her hair was just as white as Mom’s was, and they had about the same amount of wrinkles. But her clothes were unfamiliar - and older - like she hadn’t gotten the memo that clothing styles had changed in the past few decades. If having a practical stranger in my yard wasn’t bad enough, she just felt...off. Like she wasn’t supposed to be in front of me but also was.


That's a pretty good description right there except you probably should have inserted those pajamas in their somewhere or it feels like it came out of nowhere when you mention them later.

I was taller than her. She didn’t have any kind of weapon on her, either. Maybe I should have run away, but she wasn’t exactly dangerous. I could handle a confused older woman.


Wait, what kind of neighborhood is this for the second thing someone notices to be weather or not the stranger is carrying a weapon? Like how many times have you studied a visitor to check if they're carrying a weapon?

Nothing happened. No sudden attacks, no answers, and nothing that could explain just who that woman was. But when I turned around again, she was gone. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had never once hallucinated - and definitely hadn’t imagined a person before - I might have thought she was a figment of my imagination.


Now that's interesting. Happens to me too

Our house wasn’t exactly new. With every little unexplained creak, I became more and more convinced that I had seen a ghost. The woman had been wearing pajamas, right? She could have died in her sleep. Ghosts just made sense right now. I had been convinced that ghosts were more fiction than fact - even though a little voice in the back of my mind was trying to tell me otherwise.


The emotion here is captured very well in this paragraph. Great job there.

I began my walk to the library.


So this person is not going to return those graphic novels? It sounded like he/she had finished reading them.

And that's it for this chapter.

Overall: Pretty great opening segment here. Just enough information on the characters and an intriguing situation to start things off.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Tue Jun 30, 2020 2:32 am
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Vita wrote a review...



Hi! first of all, let me just say, i LOVE your descriptions. I'm a total sucker for figurative language, and this chapter was great for that! They're unique and vivid, without feeling forced.
This chapter is very short, so I don't have much to go off of, but the plot seems good so far. I honestly don't have much to critique.
A few wording changes:
"as I made the way from the bus stop" here, it might read better like: "As I made my way to the bus stop" My way sounds much more natural than "the way", like something someone would actually say.
"If having a practical stranger in my yard wasn’t bad enough" I understand here that you mean that she's practically a stranger, but I associate the word practical more with someone being capable of completing tasks, or having realistic expectations for something. Maybe a different word would be better?
I'd also like a bit more description of the old lady, and maybe add something to make her feel more "ghostly".
Overall, a great start. I'll try to get to your next chapter soon. Keep writing!




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Tue Jun 30, 2020 2:29 am
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EternalRain wrote a review...



Hey Mage!!

OH MY GOSH, I love this so far. The sticky summer air into set the tone so well. I can’t exactly place it—I wouldn’t say dreary or lazy, but it captured that school-is-almost-out-I-am-so-fed-up-with-work kinda vibe.

A lawn mower’s rumble reverberated in my chest as I walked past one of the several farm fields littering my neighborhood
This line was so nice!

I’m really drawn to our main character right now! I don’t know why but I’m feeling as if she’s sorta a nerd (and I love characters who resort to libraries in novels—I’m not sure why haha).

The woman had been wearing pajamas, right?


It’s a bit weird and sudden from this to be mentioned when the pajamas weren’t described—at least, when I read this I did a double take! Maybe if it had been hinted at earlier- like “tattered plaid pants” or something? Right now the clothes description just says “older”.

Speaking of this... woman (I am so intrigued) I feel like the main character JUMPED to the conclusion that she is a ghost. They still seem to have their doubts, but I feel like it would be a bit more realistic if perhaps they went inside and their paranoia starts to grow—and then they were like “ok maybe it’s a ghost, I’ve always believed in them after all”. Or it would even make sense if perhaps the main character always thought there was an older woman ghost, so when she seems the woman she’s a bit freaked out- but otherwise it feels a tad abrupt, *even* though the lady just weirdly disappeared. I don’t know, maybe I‘m just a reluctant supernatural believer hehe :P

Those are my main thoughts for this chapter! This feels like it might have some mystery to it and I think ghost stories can be so interesting, so this is right up my alley! I would love to read more in the future and see what this main character gets up to!

Hope this helped!
Peace,
~EternalRain




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Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:41 pm
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redvictory wrote a review...



First of all: I LOVE your first line. I struggle so much with openers, and to be honest I can't put my finger on why I love it so much, but it just has such a good vibe and really puts you into the main character's shoes.

Speaking of the main character, a little thing that I really like was that you made them like graphic novels. Maybe it is a plot-relevant thing, but for right now it seems like it's just a hobby completely separate to the plot. That's always something that I love to see in writing!! It makes the character feel more real when they have traits that aren't part of the plot.

The one time I did get confused reading this was when you said a "symphony of crickets added to the chorus." I love the imagery, but I don't know if one lawnmower would be called a "chorus." I'd add a few other sounds on top of that, maybe wind or something.

I would also, if you do go back and edit, maybe flesh out the protag seeing the woman a bit more. It's supposed to be a hook and read as odd, but it feels like it's kind of glazed over a bit since the description and narration runs so quickly. It's a really good way to start to drop hints about what's going to happen, but i think it would have more impact if there was more description and the strangeness was emphasized a bit more.

I do really like how you write, though! The way you set the opening scene with the main character walking past fields on a sticky summer afternoon sucking a lollypop is a really genius way to get the reader into your protag's shows via those sensory details.

I would like to know more about your main character, but this is the first half of chapter 1, so I won't fault you for that. I think it's good to get to know the main character a little better as you read the opening, rather than dumping it all in the first three paragraphs, you know?

All in all, good work!! Thanks for sharing! :D





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