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Awakening Chapter 6: Shadow

by Otterpop


Blake awoke with a start, breathing in sharply while his head flew up. He still sat on the floor next to his bed in the darkened room, and in only a few seconds his eyes adjusted. With a twist of his head Blake examined the analog clock atop the nearby nightstand. 1:43. After a quick groan he rubbed the corner of his eyes and threw his head onto the bed. He didn't even have dinner yesterday.

But something didn't feel quite right. Unease drifted up through his spine and enveloped his neck, and he allowed a gentle breath inside to calm his nerves. If there was something going on, he'd figure it out. His gaze swept across the room in a slow and simple motion. But he saw nothing in here.

A burning sensation tingled within his spine and Blake straightened up. The burn was soon accompanied by a very faint stinging that tried pressing right into his back, as if attempting to weight him down. Even his chest had tightened a little. More than anything, the combination of these uncomfortable twinges rather annoyed him.

This is insane, he thought. Blake looked behind him; the scythe still lay on his bed. With a sharp inhale Blake reached forward and lifted it. He did not necessarily want it, but right now he was almost sure he might need it. With only the slightest reluctance, he began tiptoeing out of his room.

The narrow hallway was such a dim one this time of night, and Blake's sight was aided only by the faint glow of some street lights near the front of the house. But he headed for the rear instead, his pace slow and wary. He clutched the weapon with both hands now, looking left and right.

Once he reached the door to his mother's room, he stopped. Only a large crack prevented him from looking inside very much, just as he'd left it, but he peeked anyway. He barely picked up on the sound of very gentle and leisurely snores, leaving him confident enough to simply tiptoe past her room.

As he entered the office he froze and scanned. Nothing here either. Blake made his way to the back door, which creaked ever so slightly as he pulled it open, the tension growing in his body with every passing second. When the opening was wide enough, Blake leaned his head forward.

Without any lights shining on the backyard, nobody could see a thing out here. The glow of the waning crescent, a sliver at best, also provided no aid for sight. He could not even discern the backyard from the fence, as everything beyond a few feet in front of him appeared as a neverending blackness.

The burn coursed throughout his body and enflamed his back and shoulders in particular, yet it was no stronger here than what it was earlier. Still, his senses told him to come this way for a reason, and like it or not he trusted his instincts. Blake stepped out into the night and let the door slowly creak behind him. In a manner of seconds it shut with a very soft click.

A terrible and searing burn radiated throughout his entire body. Instinctively, he backed up while holding the scythe in a defensive position, just as a forceful weight crashed into the staff and pushed him back with a startling thud.

Blake clutched the scythe with both hands gripping the staff tightly. He couldn't see it clearly enough, but a shadowy figure grabbed the weapon with its jaws, snarling and growling like some rabid dog. His heartbeat quickened and pounded in his ears, and every muscle in his body had become tense. With a hefty grunt Blake braced his legs, took in a sharp breath of air, and pushed his arms forward as hard as he could muster.

The movement flung the shadow off of him in a mere second, but in the darkness he could not tell how far that was. Blake spread out his legs and frantically scanned his surroundings despite knowing the uselessness of it. There! He saw it. The outline of the shadow was clearer to him now, and stood near the base of the fence's corner.

Wait, the fence? Blake realized it almost immediately....he didn't think he'd ever seen this well in near or total darkness before.

Something hissed, but not the shadow he'd just pushed away. It came from a different direction. Then something else growled, again from elsewhere. And the panic had yet to overtake him. The shadows were easy to distinguish in that moment, and because of that he almost felt calmer despite the ever present tension in his hands. He saw one, no, two? Another assessment of the backyard revealed at least five more. Each was small, none larger than a coyote, but every one took a very different shape. With lanky legs, long tails, and short snouts, they all looked like strange animalistic creatures, with silvery eyes and puffs of smoke radiating from their forms. And every single one had their malice directed right at him.

Only a small degree of fear plagued his mind, and a strange bout of determination filled within him. Like it or not, it was a fight. The strange creature yesterday had startled him, but this time he felt prepared, more or less. Blake released the tension in his legs, and pulled the scythe back in preparation for an attack.

He did not wait long. A cat-like shadow near him lunged with a screech, its clawed appendages extended. Without the slightest hesitation, Blake ran forward with all the swiftness he could muster and swung the weapon forward. But the blade almost pulled him towards the side, missing the creature entirely and nearly thwarting his balance. Blake caught himself and regripped the weapon, dumbfounded by what just happened. 

What am I doing, I have no idea how to use this!

He could not get another thought in as two more creatures leapt at him from different directions. In a split second, Blake jumped and leaned forward into a somersault, avoiding the attack of both assailants. As he leapt back to his feet he breathed in and out in a rapid back-and-forth manner.

How am I possibly supposed to fight these things if I don't-?

Once again his thoughts were interrupted. A few other shadowed entities moved toward him. Blake needed a fraction of a moment before he stepped sideways, easily dodging the attack of the cat-like shadow from before. And in a mere instant it clicked, and Blake suddenly had an idea. Two more creatures raced right for him. Blake stepped backwards only a slight bit, then jumped forward the instant they leaped. Their smoky forms collided with one another before landing in heaped dazes, and surprising Blake by the lack of sound either action created.

But at least that only left three for the time being. A creature hissed from behind, and Blake barely sidestepped out of the way.....and straight into the path of an oncoming attacker. In a moment of random remembrance, Blake grasped the end of the staff with both hands, and without hesitation swung it like a baseball bat. The creature screeched as the curved blade severed two of its limbs, and it crashed onto the grass with a sharp and grating cry so uncomfortable that Blake winced from the very sound of it. Unfortunately the large and heavy blade had enough momentum to pull its wielder to his knees. Blake grunted as soon as his body hit the ground, but he sat up as quick as he could.

He then looked back towards the shadowy creature. The scythe had not severed much from the creature's limbs. But unbelievably, it was enough that the creature slowly disintegrated away. 

The other four seemed to want to keep their distance from him at the moment, which gave Blake the time to stand and look over the scythe again. Okay, that worked.....but that's not how to use a tool like this. Right?

He knew better than to try and strategize right now, especially with four dark and dangerous creatures still directing malice right in his direction. At least now they were cautious. And they all began circling him around him, as though waiting. Blake looked back and forth between them, anxious about who would make the next move.

In the periphery of his vision he caught movement behind him, a lanky dog-like shadow that crept forward, then charged without warning. It was so fast; Blake could only hold up the staff portion of the weapon in defense. But he was not prepared for the strength of its attack, and before he knew it Blake was forced to the ground, trapped. On his back he groaned and sputtered, and pushed as hard as he could to keep the shadow away from clawing up his face. He suddenly realized from his rapidfire heartbeat and shaky arms that panic was beginning to set in.

In the corner of his eye, he saw a larger shadow bolt at him from the side, and for a single moment he froze.

Without thinking, Blake used all his might and kicked the shadow off of him, and sent it flying forward. Not even a second later, he thrust his legs up and back, using his hands and the weight of his scythe to push him up into a simple backflip. In seconds he landed balanced on his feet as the large creature whisked by him, its attack barely missing him by an inch.

His instincts kicked in, screaming at him to go on the offensive, and so he ran right for the one he'd kicked away. The entity screeched at him during his advance but Blake ignored this and, with the left hand near the bottom of the staff and the other near the top, pushed the right hand with all his might.

The dark form jumped up just as the blade sliced where it had stood, and it fell towards Blake with long and sharp claws outstretched.

A searing pain reverberated throughout his body, with most of it concentrated on his right shoulder. He wanted to look at it, but a smaller shadow lunged for him. Blake grunted as he somersaulted forward. His shoulder felt the impact of the movement and he winced, though his injured arm gripped the scythe even tighter. He spun around as one of the shadows attacked, and could only block with the staff. Another shadow leapt, and then a third lunged from below. The back-and-forth onslaught happened so fast, and he just blocked and blocked. They came so quick he had no moment to counter.

Some dirt gave way beneath him, and he fell backwards once again. Now more exposed than before, the largest shadowy creature lunged right for him with outstretched claws and silver eyes glistening with ferocity. Blake grabbed the middle of the staff with but one hand, and reacted.

He didn't even realize what happened until his eyes focused again. But the shadow could not come close to touching him, as its head was severed from its body. Every bit of it disintegrated into the air before any dark particles came close to touching him.

The air of tension was not as strong as it was before. Blake sensed this and struggled to stand, and when he did he spread out his legs and clutched the scythe tighter than ever before. But there was no need to. Because when he'd looked up and all around the backyard, the rest of the shadow creatures had gone. Everything had fallen silent, except for the occasional twitch of grass blades giving way to the breeze. Even the burning sensation had begun to ebb.

Blake closed his eyes, a little unbalanced all of a sudden. But now he could breath a little easier. A slight sting enveloped his shoulder but it was bearable for now. When he opened his eyes, Blake was nearly startled by the strange change in his vision. The crescent moon hardly lit up the backyard, and the fence was nothing more than a still shadow that he could barely make out. He could, however, catch a glimpse of the outline of the scythe. He stared down at his hands, disbelieved as he took a step back. It was just like before; he knew exactly what had happened, what he'd done in the moment, but it had all felt like a trance that he just snapped into.

And he didn't know why.

A ringing sound swept through his ears with no warning, making Blake feel even more dizzy than before. He could barely keep himself standing, and eventually he gave in to the uncomfortable sensation as his knees buckled. The dizziness did not go away, but at least sitting down it was not as unbearable. One hand clutched his forehead, while the other held on to the scythe. Blake closed his eyes, and did everything to clear his head with slow breathing and unfocused thoughts. For a moment he let himself go, let himself simply stare into the void of his own closed eyes.

Come to me.....in the darkness.......

Blake's eyes opened with a jolt. That voice. It was almost clear, and deep like a growl that could vibrate the very earth. He felt like he'd heard it before....but where? First these shadowy things show up everywhere, and now this. What is going on?

He let go of both his head and the scythe, to stare at open palms lit up only by a sliver of moonlight. The night was warm with spring air. But at this moment, he felt nothing but a cold unease. No longer fixated on the pain emanating from his shoulder, Blake's mind wandered with desperate and questioning thoughts.

What in the world is going on? What.....is something happening to me?


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Fri Jun 11, 2021 4:31 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

I've almost forgotten how the story unfolds here and am glad to return. So, at first glance it seems to me that the plot has reached a point that can be called "new experience". Blake seems very brave in the way he tries to fight and I especially like the way you present it in the chapter.

I think that's a big plus with you, that you always try to create a connection between Blake's inner world and the outer world.
I also like the little details you put in and describe some things as if it were from Blake's perspective. Especially during the fight.
You could feel how Blake is feeling, and you realised as a reader that he is still inexperienced in some aspects, and only now is he coming to a point where he will learn how to deal with his ability. Great job.

I also like how you were able to write the chapter without dialogue, which portrays this "loneliness" that Blake is experiencing well. Also, there is this trepidation in the middle of the night of being in a place where you don't really belong. I wouldn't be as brave as him to go after something in the middle of the night on my own.
You've done a good job with your structure and I like how the sections, mixed with his thoughts, read through well and quickly
which gives a certain dynamic to the story. Above all, it gives the impression that you can experience it second by second and be right there.

However, I also found that the plot seemed to falter in some parts of the chapter. I see it as an important challenge
Blake has to face now, and as already mentioned, it is a kind of turning point in the story, but while reading it, there were parts where I wondered if it was even necessary to put it in, because it makes the story move a bit too much at a snail's pace.
Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very good chapter, especially because there is no dialogue. :D

Three small points that stood out to me while reading:

With a twist of his head Blake examined the analog clock atop the nearby nightstand.

In this case I would rewrite it a bit, because you are giving unnecessary information to the reader here. When Blake looks at the clock and he has just woken up, the reader can imagine for himself how he must turn to stare at the clock.
Unease drifted up through his spine and enveloped his neck, and he allowed a gentle breath inside to calm his nerves.

Since you have already applied an "and" here, I would split the sentences between "his neck" and "and he allowed". It would also help the flow if you split the sentences here to give the reader a sense of breathing space.
The creature screeched as the curved blade severed two of its limbs, and it crashed onto the grass with a sharp and grating cry so uncomfortable that Blake winced from the very sound of it.

As there is a bit of a climax coming to a head here, I think you have done well to increase the tension through your narration and to change the structure of the sentences. However, I think the sentence is a bit too long for its meaning, and as a reader you run out of breath here.

Grammatically, I couldn't find anything that needed to be corrected in any way. You manage with your two ways of writing
to build up a good tension.
The introduction is well done. The perspective and narration make it very real and the reader can put himself in Blake's shoes and imagine what must have happened to make him wake up in this state. You manage bring the reader into the story with ease. Towards the end you also manage to insert a good cliffhanger which gives the chapter a good ending. However, since I can't see into the future, I'll have to wait and see how the story develops.
I'll have to wait and see how the story develops and then come back to the chapter in retrospect to give a better critique of the plot.



Have fun writing!

Mailice




Otterpop says...


Many thanks for the review! I was glad to see you come back to this.

The strengths you mentioned really are appreciated, and there are even a couple of points that I didn't quite notice that make a lot more sense when you say them! And of course, I always appreciate the constructive criticism. For the longest time I often struggled with (1) being overly detailed, or (2) writing the story as too slow especially when action is involved. It is interesting to see that I may still struggle from time to time and I appreciate you pointing it out. Definitely something to look for in future sections.

Hopefully I'll publish the next chapter in the coming weeks, and once again thanks so much for the read and the review! It's very helpful!



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Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:23 pm
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starlitmind wrote a review...



AHHHHH NEW CHAPTER :')))

With a twist of his head Blake examined at the analog clock atop the nearby nightstand.


I personally think it sounds better to leave out the "at" so it's just "Blake examined the analog clock" ^_^

Seconds passed before Blake realized that his entire body had frozen up; the sudden immobility drew him towards a moment of panic.


I personally think you could wait a little bit more until you have one of these encounters / events again - since he just woke up and since the chapter just started, I don't think it would hurt to pause a little bit more until the action starts. That way there's a little breather before we are pulled into chaos :D

He allowed a gentle breath inside, allowing his gaze to sweep across the room.


Just wanted to point out some repetition ^_^

The burn was soon accompanied by a stinging that pressed right into his back and almost seemed to weight him down. His chest tightened so much he almost fell off balance.


I honestly think you could remove the first "almost" -> saying "it seemed to weigh him down" gets the same point across even without the "almost" c:

the tension growing in his body with every passing second.


SAME HERE, I feel like a jump-scare is coming or something 0.0

Blake clutched the scythe with a tighter grip from both hands.


Hm I was wondering if you really needed to clarify "from both hands" -> or maybe it's that clutching + tighter grip convey the same idea, so you don't really need both?

A heartbeat quickened and pounded in his ears, and every muscle in his body had become tense.


Did his heartbeat quicken? I feel like "his" would work better than "a" ^_^

The movement flung the shadow off of him in a mere second, but in the darkness he could not tell how far that was.


sounds poetic >.>

The strange creature yesterday had startled him, but this time he felt prepared, more or less. Blake released the tension in his legs, and pulled the scythe back in preparation for an attack.


YESS GO BLAKE

Blake jumped forward and leaned forward into a somersault,


You could get rid of the repetition with "Blake jumped and leaned forward"

avoiding the attack of the both assailants.


I don't think you need the "the" here ^_^

Your descriptions of the fight are just soo vivid and so clear; I can picture exactly what is going on perfectly in my mind. I love the verbs you use and how action-packed it feels. And I also love how you're able to slip in some of Blake's thoughts along the way c: This is very gripping and nerve-wracking, and I love it haha ^_^

First these shadowy things show up everywhere, and now this. What is going on?


I would like to know too omg 0.0

What in the world is going on? What.....is something happening to me?


AHHH honestly though, so many crazy things are happening to him, he must be so shocked, confused, scared, and alone :O

How on earth is Blake able to deal with all of this? >.> I can't imagine how hard this must be to handle all on his own. Not only are these mysterious shadow things appearing, he has no idea where this scythe came from, and now he's hearing voices that are luring him into something bad, I'm assuming 0.0

I wonder if he's going to have to tell someone about this. I feel like he might tell his friends? Because this story did open til his friends, and I just realized that we haven't seen or heard from them in a good while. I don't think you'd introduce them for no reason, so I'm guessing that they may have a purpose further in the story

OMG HAHA what if his friends are also spectre people or whatever you'd like them to be called, but everyone kept it to themselves, so no one knows that the other is just like them xD that would be funny haha, but I doubt that's the case :p

OKAY I hope these comments prove useful to you! ^_^ Your fight scenes are always my favourite part of your writing; so vivid and impactful and easy to follow along. I can't wait to read more, and I hope this helped <3




Otterpop says...


Your advice definitely helped!

Don't know how I missed some of these little grammatical errors, but thank goodness for people like you that catch on to them!

I also love seeing speculation from other people regarding how the story will go. Mostly I'm curious to see if anybody else is starting to come up with ideas for what will happen next, and if what happens is expected or unexpected, or even if the story makes sense when it goes directions people might not expect.

Hope you enjoy the future chapters as well as the story in general!




Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.
— Jules de Gaultier