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Rigor Mortis

by mihaivisan

Those of you who have read one of my other pieces, "Half Asleep", will recognize this as being a prequel to that one.

Distant sounds of laughter and bursts of sweet joy take him back in time. Green smudges all over his body, as they roll in the freshly cut grass; drops of water sparkle for a moment in the sunlight, before falling and soaking him wet. Somebody pokes his cheek hard – if only his brother would quit it. One more shove – a powerful one, this time – and he’s back in the present.

Cold, steel bars keep their harmful curiosity at bay, but their sticks have found their way through and are now poking him with a queer animosity. It comes as a shock the idea that even though there are crowds gathered around, all fussing and demanding his attention, he feels more alone now than in the times when the only care in the world was to take care of his needy, baby brother.

He seeks the face of his Master – his new Master – in the mob, the only familiar look in the eyes of these strangers; his raw features make him easy to spot in the bunch. He’s here and he’s there, questioning one and answering another, throwing him a quick glance from time to time, as if to make sure he is behaving. At times, he could swear he was addressing him, but his words get lost in the buzzing of the crowd, taking with them the hopes of an explanation.

* * *

A shout makes him snap back to reality – he had been staring at his Master for more than five minutes now, with no reaction to his words. Another day went by with him on autopilot, his wandering thoughts trapped inside his mind. His muscles ache as he stands up with difficulty, stepping out of his cage and following the smell of meat.

He picks it up with awkward movements, and that’s when it happens, that’s when he hears it: the call of the wild. His kind was made to hunt and provide for him and the family, not spend days encaged, waiting to be fed. With an agility he forgot he had, he throws himself over the man, the taste of the blood bringing with it the memories of the first time they met; their fight and his capture.

Ah, sweet revenge. But his acute mind exercises his numb body and payback is put off for another time; he jumps away and puts as much distance as possible between him and his Master – his old Master. He stops to breathe and turns his head, wasting only a glance on the man, who is nurturing his wounds.

With the fresh air of the night in his nostrils, filling his lungs and sharpening his senses, he starts running. The wild wolf is free once more.

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107 Reviews

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Reviews: 107

Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:03 am
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EnchantedPanda wrote a review...

Hello mihavisan,

Panda here to review as requested! You've already had some pretty detailed reviews, so I'll keep this brief.

This is good. The description at the start was really effective, it helped paint a beautiful picture in your mind and really caught your attention. I like the raw imagery you've used to describe the setting, it's a great contrast to the rest of the story and helps you understand why the animal feels so trapped. You've also really shown the history of the animal through a short description and it helps you better understand why it feels that way, it doesn't try and make you figure it out, sometimes it's nice when the author shows a bit of direction rather than leaving the reader to try and figure it out.

I think you still need to develop the writing in terms of feeling like it is the animal's point of view. What you've attempted is difficult in itself, it's hard enough to pinpoint the feelings of a human sometimes let alone trying to guess how an animal would react in a situation. It isn't entirely realistic in that sense. It feels rushed like these are feelings the animal is experiencing for the first time which doesn't seem very probable. For the animal to experience such powerful emotions they would have had to have been angry and trapped for years. Try explaining this through your writing, put us in the mind of the animal- so to speak.

Next I think this would work better if you gave more clues to what was going on. I understand this is a prequel so it wouldn't work to tell the reader the entire plot and exactly what was going on, but it would be nice if it was a little easier to understand. Clear your mind from all your knowledge of the story and try reading it as if for the first time. It's likely you'll notice how complex it is. Even if you don't want to reveal the plot try telling us a bit more about the narrator- who are they? How are they feeling right now? Let us know so we can enjoy the story even more.

Now some nit picks and specifics;

bursts of sweet joy

drops of water sparkle for a moment in the sunlight, before falling and soaking him wet

This is almost too sweet, it makes the scene feel almost unreal. I don't think an animal would actually appreciate the water sparkling in the sunlight, so much as freedom or room to roam. I also don't think an animal would experience sweet bursts of joy, so much as wild freedom or excitement. Try keeping it simple and real, what would an animal actually appreciate and find appealing?

Somebody pokes his cheek hard – if only his brother would quit it. One more shove – a powerful one, this time – and he’s back in the present.

A shout makes him snap back to reality

Again I've heard it's unrealistic. No one actually gets shoved back to the present by some one else. It's more a matter of the person experiencing something that catches their attention. You've used these little phrases twice just in this piece, focus on leaving out things like that, the rest of this writing is really original so don't spoil that with cliche phrases. Stick with your own style, that's what people want to read about more than anything else.

Those were the two main things I really noticed with your writing and the rest of the reviewers have already covered most of the small details to fine tune, so I won't bore you with more little details.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this piece. I know I've been blunt with my review, but that's only because I can see you've got tons of potential and I really want to see you improve even more. I really enjoyed reading something so creative and original. I liked the excellent descriptions and the twist at the end was also really nice to see. You already know that I like your writing, so I won't go on and on, but believe me this is really good and something I really enjoyed reading. You've got talent and I encourage you to keep exploring all different areas of writing and keep finding out your strengths and improving your weaknesses.

Nice job! You know who to come to if you ever want a review. Keep up the awesome writing.

From EnchantedPanda <3

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662 Reviews

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Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:46 am
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dogs wrote a review...

Howdy doo! Dogs here with your requested, terribly sorry I didn't get to it sooner. Anywho I love the imagery of your beginning, I think it's incredibly cute and you effectively use the poking from your brother to push you back into reality. Well done there, although I think you should make the last line a little clearer in that someone clearly shoves you hard. Do you roll off the bed and smack your head on the ground? Gimmi something a little clearer there.

"He's here and he's there"

A little too confufled in terms of the rhythm Just say: he's here and there.

Ok issues here with the "he"s and "him"s. I've gotten good at telling them apart and which he belongs to the master and which him belongs to the pupil from my reading of The Road. But to most people it just becomes difficult to read and even I had to review over that line a couple times because I couldn't quite understand which him you were talking about. That is something you need to clarify.

Ok define an "awkward movement" I'm not quite visualizing that. Is he stumbling, is he having troubles picking it up because he has so many bruises from being beaten it hurts too move? Also you didn't quite define what "it" was that he's picking up. Is it a piece of meat or what? These are the tiny details you need to clarify as a writer.

Ok taste of blood? What taste of blood... when did he taste blood? I'm slightly confuzzled here.

Ok interesting ending, leaves more room for curiosity from the reader which draws us to wanting to read more. Although I have no idea what his surroundings are. Is he in a forest or a dessert? In the sea or a mountain? You have great flow in your writing but you miss a lot of the small describing details so the reader is still a little in the dark. With a few touch ups this can be a great piece of writing. Please let me know when you post the next chapters, I'd love to read them. Keep up the good work!

TuckEr EllsworTh :smt032

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158 Reviews

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Reviews: 158

Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:24 pm
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Veeren wrote a review...

Hey there, Mihaivisan! :D
Forgive me, for I haven't read your other piece, so please bear with me.

Spoiler! :
bursts of sweet joy

I know you're trying to paint an image in the readers head, but this just isn't working. It's hard to think of what exactly a 'burst of sweet joy' is. You did a nice job when you said 'distant sounds of laughter', so personally I think it would be better if you tried something else along those lines.

Spoiler! :
soaking him wet.

This is awkward, I'd suggest removing 'wet'. It sounds a bit redundant.

Spoiler! :

Where you should be using a comma, you put this instead. The first time you did it was alright, but the others not so much.

Spoiler! :
It comes as a shock the idea that

This was an awkward way to start off that awkward sentence. For it to sound better, I'd change it one of two ways:
1) Make this first bit - The idea comes as a shock, that
2) Change the whole sentence, with The idea that... as the beginning, and ... comes as a shock. as the ending.

Spoiler! :
He’s here and he’s there... he is behaving.

You're using two different he's in the same sentence, which is quite confusing for the reader. I'm not exactly sure how you would change this, unfortunately. Perhaps Google will have the answer.

Spoiler! :
cage and following the smell

Change 'and following' to 'to follow', it would make more sense.

Spoiler! :
exercises his numb body

Perhaps 'exercises' is the wrong word to use here. Try 'restricts' instead.

And the rest is fine.
So my first impression of the story was that there was a caged animal. Luckily for both of us. Lucky for you because you were able to let us know what was going on without directly telling us; and lucky for me, because that means I'm not crazy.
Otherwise good work. I might check out some of your other pieces later, but until then, keep on writing :D

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:45 pm
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marivisan wrote a review...

It's review time!
Very good piece this one, just like "Half Asleep", and it has, like said before, "good sense of hunger and freedom (...) which plays very nicely into the feeling of the wolf getting free".

I don't understand why people think it's a prologue, since you've explained very well that it's a prequel to the other story, that should be read to complete the journey of this wolf, and that, by the way, is even better.
But anyway...

Again, this prequel is really good, has deep emotions, and manages to make the reader feel the lack of life, the stillness of the wolf, how tortured he was and all the missing of better times. I like that you put emotions in his character in a way you can't recognize at first to be an animal. Vey well done!

But when he feels the need of changing it, when he feels wild again, it seemed to me like it's missing a bit of description.
Maybe you could work it like a snap that gradually makes him go back to wildness, remembering how exciting it could be to run again, even though it would be a vague memory after so long in a cage. So his scape could be delayed a bit, and i would like to know more about his baby brother. How bad he misses it, how strong is his will to regain meaning in his life again.

But, what i like is that you wrote with heart, for yourself, and you managed to make it simple yet very sensitive. Ofc not everybody will enjoy, but what matters is that you are satisfied, and you should be, indeed, cause it's great.

Congratulations, mr. Visan!

Faithfully yours,
Le wife.

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:39 pm
Hannah wrote a review...

Is this a really important moment? Like, I'm thinking on it, and all I get from this animal (which, by the way, I wasn't sure it was at first: first I thought a person, then slave??, then finally got that it was an animal far after the star break) is that they decided they would go free. There wasn't even a big turning point, it was just, "Oh hey I have been dozing off for a while, and now I got the "call of the wild", so I guess I'll go. Which, by the way, is not a good thing to do? Like, there's nothing in this prologue that tells me this book will be in any way different from Call of the Wild.

I guess that's one thing about writing about animals. From a human's point of view, they have normal behavior, and that can be explained like one or two ways from our human brains. We can give stories to them a couple times, but we can't break too far out of their normal habits, so that limits us, where as we understand humans can do like anything.

So it's already hard. But I encourage you to keep trying.

It's just, you have to go deeper, to something new and fresh that makes me want to read a book about wolves. What's it gonna tell me that I don't already know?

As a side note, the whole, "omg, then a big loud noise snaps me out of it" is WAY over done and not even how it happens. It's always, "he waved a hand in front of my face and I came back to reality", not like, "I was focusing really hard on the pattern in the bars and answered him mindlessly, hoping he'd go away". Like we're still aware of ourselves. Though of course, this is a wolf, so like... it's hard to say how much mind you're putting in the character.

My main point is, what is important about this? Prologues are generally not needed. You introduce your character at the beginning of the first chapter. You can put this escape in backstory. I don't think there's any detail that merits it being written up by itself.

That said, your writing is grammatically and spelling-ly solid, so that makes it easy to focus on your structure and meaning, which is grand on a site like this.

PM me if you have any questions, please.

Good luck, and keep writing and learning!

mihaivisan says...

why would I want to make you want to read a book about wolves?

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:31 pm
PenguinAttack wrote a review...

Hi Mihaivisan,

I like this, there's a good sense of hunger and freedom at the end which plays very nicely into the feeling of the wolf getting free. I like the suggestion, also, that this wolf has been picked up several times by human beings, trying to tame him and collect him. I wonder why he hasn't been killed yet - you'd think they'd get over the novelty and just render him asunder! As was.

More so, I think that you aren't utilising description enough here. I want to feel caged like the wolf, I want to feel pressed in against the bars and the thick saliva pooling in my mouth as I smell the meat and sight the master. Maybe I'm considering this too much like a short story rather than a novel, but I don't think so. You want me to care about this wolf, you're going to have to make more of an effort. I thought this wolf was a human to start with. I feel like a wolf would be thinking of running, mostly. I don't know much about wolves, but they seem like strong pack animals that race like anything. I think I'm missing the emotional connection to this guy, even though I want to feel it because the situation sucks for him.

I think a lot of this is a bit stilted as well, your description isn't flowing here, it's stop and starting a lot. Some of this is the abundance of commas. I don't think you should be trying to pretend he isn't a wolf for most of this. Oh maybe you don't intend to be secretive about it being a wolf, but in any case I think you shouldn't shy away from it. Describe his silver and black fur, or the yellow of his eye as men walk past. This will also help us connect to him and you ground him in your head.

As a prologue this is mad short as well, consider extending it or having it as a short sectioned off piece a the beginning of your chapter one, it might not be worth the separate heading, in a novel that is. That's only because the prologue should give us a strong sense of "the rest of this is going to be amazing", but this doesn't do that. It's very much like a short story rather than a prologue. I'd rather see you connect it to chapter 1, conceptually.

Thanks for writing this. Please feel free to hit me up with any questions, queries or just to chat.

~ Pen.

mihaivisan says...

ah, this is in no way a prologue haha. I don't know what gave you that idea (in the author's note, I mentioned it is a prequel, not a prologue). so, it's a short story preceding that one, "Half Asleep", written in the same style.
thanks for reviewing!

Man, sorry. I'm so tired, I thought it was a prologue. My comments still all stand, except that this is now way too short and we need to know about the brother and the master and stuff.

We think in generalities, but we live in details.
— Alfred North Whitehead