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Version 3: Loss

by Beccablue


[This is the third version of my short story Loss. It a short story that the reader can choose how they want it to end. I am not totally in love with the last two paragraphs so any ideas would be great!]

I know what I need to do, I just don’t know if I have the strength to do it. I just know that it needs to stop. Grave after grave after grave. I’m tired of burying my friends.

Placing the last rock on Kenton’s head, his face looks so white, so unnatural. He didn’t even make it to his 20th birthday. It’s next month. He told me it was a bad idea going after her. I didn’t listen.

Amidst the rapids rushing through the gorge, bushes rustled behind Soran.

“Hello?” He said nervously as he scanned the rocks and bushes behind him. “Please be a deer, please be a deer, please,” he pleaded and slowly reached for a piece of drift wood nearby.

Suddenly a silver knife flung through the brush and wedged itself between the rocks missing Soran’s hand by near inches. He fell back against Kenton’s grave, catching his breath.

“Thought I would find you here,” said the silverly voice. “Didn’t think you were watching when he fell.”

“He didn’t fall,” Soran snapped. “You pushed him.”

The voice laughed and a young woman wearing blood stained jeans and grey jacket stepped out of the bushes.

“Oh please,” protested Alaya, “I didn’t think he would fall this far. Didn’t realize this gorge was so... deep.”

Soran’s face and eyes burned with hatred. In a flash he swiped the knife wedged between the rocks and held it in front of him. “You. Pushed. Him.” he said through clenched teeth.

Unfazed, Alaya rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips. “So?” she smirked, “What are you gonna do about it?” She enticed, staring down at him.

Her electric blue eyes flickered. The veins on her neck were pulsing black. She looks like she’s half dead, especially with those bullet holes riddled across her chest. How she is still standing, let alone breathing, is beyond me.

“Well?” She questioned slyly, narrowing her eyes like a wolf.

Soran stared her down but then saw the knife between them and realized what it would cost him. He sighed and let the knife drop out of his hand.

“I…can’t,” he faltered.

Shocked, Alaya furrowed her brows and stepped closer. “What do you mean you can’t?” she scoffed, “aren’t you going to finish this?”

Kneeling, Soran looked up at her. “You killed him,” he began. “He was my best friend. My brother. And you killed him. You killed all of them! All of us!” he said sharply. Tears began streaming down his face painting the pebbles and stones with his grief.

Puzzled, Alaya stepped closer. “So, you’re giving up? Just like that? You’re not going to fight for your family or friends any more?” Soran wiped his burning eyes and looked down at the rocks. “Laya, please, I’ve lost three friends and a brother in two days, I can’t. I just can’t. Please. I can’t bear to watch another friend die.”

Alaya smirked. “Coward,” she said under her breath. Suddenly, like a panther, she rushed at him, kicked him square in the chest, and snatched the knife out of the rocks. Soran fell backwards against the grave and tried to scramble away but Alaya was faster. She lunged at him with full force pinning him down with her knee. She grasped his wavy brown hair with her one hand, holding his head back against the rocks and pressed the knife against his neck. Soran grabbed her hands and did his best to hold them back. His eyes were as wide as saucers.

“Come on, Soran, give me a challenge,” she smiled and chuckled to herself. “At least fight for Kenton.” She tilted the blade slightly until the point drew blood. Soran froze, he was breathing so fast he thought his heart would explode. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. All he saw were those unnatural murderous eyes. Eyes that used to make his stomach flutter. Now all he feels is pain and his body screaming for attention.

“Fight!” she yelled. “Come ON! You COWARD!” Her eyes wild and empty.

Fight or flight. He had to do something. But perhaps ‘doing’ is only going to make things worse. There is only one way to get out of this.

Soran swallowed hard, his hands now shaking.

“Well?” Alaya pressed her knee further into his chest.

“Enough!” bursted Soran, “please! Just get it over with! I can’t.”

“You can’t or you won’t.”

Soran felt the knife push a little further into his neck. “I can’t do this anymore, just do it. Do it!” Soran slowly released his grip on her hands. “I have nothing left to lose…except…you.” Alaya tilted her head and furrowed her brows.

“Unless,” he choked.

“Unless what?” She paused.

“You could change, Laya. You could fight; not me, yourself. You can take the antidote, you can be cured.” He winced as she pulled on his hair even more. “I’ll have my best friend back, I won’t have to bury anyone else.” Alaya felt his hands fall away.

“But this is who I am,” Alaya told him. “This is the best version of myself.”

“Is it? Is it really? Your best version?”

She sneered, “Shut up! I’m stronger, faster, and smarter in every way. I’m practically invincible.”

“But is that all you ever wanted? You think life has nothing to offer you?” Soran’s face twisted from fear to pity.

Alaya shifted. “Life has been hell for me! I was alone, and abused and hated it. I had no-one! Nobody! But now,” she boasted, “now no one will EVER hurt me AGAIN!”

“But you had us!” Soran pleaded. “We were there for you! Why do you think we came after you? To kill you? We wanted to bring you home. To fix you.”

“You can’t fix me, you idiot! You can’t fix any of us—“

“Yes we can. That was the plan. The antidote—“

“—is a lie!”

“—works.” Soran answered. “It does. We tried it and it worked. It’s why we came for you. To give you chance. To come back home.”

Alaya briefly looked away from his puppy dog eyes. So much love, so much weakness she thought.

“Look,” he sighed. “I give up, I can’t keep doing this. I want this to end.” His brown eyes gleamed, and his voice broke. “Do what you want. I’m tired of burying my friends.”

Alaya was puzzled. She never had an opponent give up like this, he showed such compassion and love. Something she hardly remembers. Soran closed his eyes, his hands lay open at his side. Deep down, she wanted to believe him. She wanted to remember what Heal-X took from her.

For a moment, her eyes seemed to clear for the first time. She questioned everything she was told to believe. Studying his face more closely, she began to remember ruffling his wavy brown hair and seeing his kind brown eyes. She could almost hear his laugh. However, the memories did not come fast enough.

Soran’s eyes shot open, he gasped and grabbed his throat. Blood gushed between his fingers and he struggled to talk but only blood spewed from his lips. Alaya released her grip and rolled back on her knees. She stared at her friend drowning in his own ambition.

“I’m sorry,” she uttered, unable to look away. “At least you can join your brother.”

Soran reached for her before everything went dark. His hands dropped into his lap and his head lulled to the side. Alaya watched his warm skin became pale and waxy. She inched closer to him and gingerly touched his hand. So cold, so strange. Alaya leaned into his face, his brown eyes looked empty now. She killed many times before, so why did it feel different now? A single tear slid down her grimy face. Strange.

She quickly wiped the tear with her sleeve then noticed her knife still in her hand. She looked it over. Something inside her was trying to get out, like someone clawing at the lid of a coffin desperately trying to get out. She shook the feeling away and stood up. Mission accomplished. Now, she had to return to Heal-X and wait for her next assignment. As she turned to walk back the way she came, Soran words drifted back into her head,

“… I can’t bear to watch another friend die…I have nothing left to lose, except you.”


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Fri Feb 19, 2021 2:31 pm
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

This was a really intriguing short story! I haven't read any of the other versions, but I'm not sure I need to! I think this was really good, and you've got some great lines and emotions in it!

One thing I really loved was your opening paragraph. It works so well to draw the reader in and keep them reading until the very end. The line "I'm so tired of burying my friends," was my favorite in this entire piece, I think. The weight it carries is just so profound, and the implications are both astounding and devastating. Lovely job.

One thing I wondered about was the shifting point of view. You start of in first person, and then go into third person limited, and then go into third person omniscient. I couldn't really see what your intention was with that stylistic choice. To me, it felt really muddy, almost, and it just confused me rather than made it more interesting. My recommendation would be to choose a POV and stick with it. I was really enjoying the first person at the beginning, but since a lot of the story is in third person, it might be easier to rewrite the first paragraph into third person.

I also wondered about the context. There's a lot going on in this piece. I know you said it was a short story, but it seemed to me that there's a lot that could come before it. These two characters obviously have some sort of backstory, and it might be worth expanding this piece to really delve deep into that past. It's just a thought, though— I also think having it as a standalone works.

Specifics

“Hello?”, he said nervously as he scanned the rocks and bushes behind him.


You don't need the comma after the dialogue; the question mark is enough.

“I didn’t think he would fall this far. Didn’t realize this gorge was so. Deep.”


I feel like instead of a period after "so," you could use ellipses so that it read "didn't realize this gorge was so.... deep." I feel like that reads a bit better than what you have now, which sounds a little stunted and awkward.

Other than that, really nice work! I really love your dialogue and premise. It's so great, and I look forward to reading more from you!




Beccablue says...


Thank you for your review! Yes, I wanted to try and see if it would work for me to write both in first and third person, but I wouldn't mind changing it and seeing how it reads!
My other versions are shorter and these characters do have a bit of history. The classic tale of two friends: one takes the righteous path and the other was pulled into the darkness. I have been interested in extending this story, get a fuller understanding of their relationship.

Thanks again! This has been really helpful!



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Tue Feb 16, 2021 4:55 pm
HarryHardy wrote a review...



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

Hi! I'm here to read yet another ending, quite excited to see where this one takes us.

First Impression: Okayy....so this was pretty different from earlier in quite a few ways. There were some good improvements, others kind of meh but more details down below.

Anyway let's get right to it,

I know what I need to do, I just don’t know if I have the strength to do it. I just know that it needs to stop. Grave after grave after grave. I’m tired of burying my friends.

Placing the last rock on Kenton’s head, his face looks so white, so unnatural. He didn’t even make it to his 20th birthday. It’s next month. He told me it was a bad idea going after her. I didn’t listen.

Amidst the rapids rushing through the gorge, bushes rustled behind Soran.


Is it just me or is that a bit of a change from the earlier story...I feel like this was not the way it started out earlier...not saying this is bad or anything...just different and I see nothing wrong with the way this starts here.

“He didn’t fall,” Soran snapped. “You pushed him.”

The voice laughed and a young woman wearing blood stained jeans and grey jacket stepped out of the bushes.

“Oh please,” protested Alaya, “I didn’t think he would fall this far. Didn’t realize this gorge was so. Deep.”

Soran’s face and eyes burned with hatred. In a flash he swiped the knife wedged between the rocks and held it in front of him. “You. Pushed. Him.” he said through clenched teeth.


Hmm...well...this is certainly a lot more drama than was present earlier...I kinda like it more this way. It's a bit more fun that way.

“I…can’t,” he faltered.

Shocked, Alaya furrowed her brows and stepped closer. “What do you mean you can’t?” she scoffed, “aren’t you going to finish this?”

Kneeling, Soran looked up at her. “You killed him,” he began. “He was my best friend. My brother. And you killed him. You killed all of them! All of us!” he said sharply. Tears began streaming down his face painting the pebbles and stones with his grief.


Well...way more accusations and backstory in this too...

Alaya smirked. “Coward,” she said under her breath. Suddenly, like a panther, she rushed at him, kicked him square in the chest, and snatched the knife out of the rocks. Soran fell backwards against the grave and tried to scramble away but Alaya was faster. She lunged at him with full force pinning him down with her knee. She grasped his wavy brown hair with her one hand, holding his head back against the rocks and pressed the knife against his neck. Soran grabbed her hands and did his best to hold them back. His eyes were as wide as saucers.

“Come on, Soran, give me a challenge,” she smiled and chuckled to herself. “At least fight for Kenton.” She tilted the blade slightly until the point drew blood. Soran froze, he was breathing so fast he thought his heart would explode. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. All he saw were those unnatural murderous eyes. Eyes that used to make his stomach flutter. Now all he feels is pain and his body screaming for attention.


Well...that's not great...some of the raw horror from the earlier versions is totally gone...this way is more informative, which is great, it establishes more stakes and makes the fight more purposeful but...it does take away from the raw terror of the previous version though.

Soran felt the knife push a little further into his neck. “I can’t do this anymore, just do it. Do it!” Soran slowly released his grip on her hands. “I have nothing left to lose…except…you.” Alaya tilted her head and furrowed her brows.

“Unless,” he choked.

“Unless what?” She paused.


Well...he's that old fashioned technique...well...one hand I hope it works...on the other hand...knowing that we already read the happy ending, I believe this will be not so happy. If the pattern is anything to judge by I daresay this is the one in which Soran dies.

“Is it? Is it really? Your best version?”

She sneered, “Shut up! I’m stronger, faster, and smarter in every way. I’m practically invincible.”

“But is that all you ever wanted? You think life has nothing to offer you?” Soran’s face twisted from fear to pity.

Alaya shifted. “Life has been hell for me! I was alone, and abused and hated it. I had no-one! Nobody! But now,” she boasted, “now no one will EVER hurt me AGAIN!”


Well...there's a loooot of history behind that statement.

For a moment, her eyes seemed to clear for the first time. She questioned everything she was told to believe. Studying his face more closely, she began to remember ruffling his wavy brown hair and seeing his kind brown eyes. She could almost hear his laugh. However, the memories did not come fast enough.

Soran’s eyes shot open, he gasped and grabbed his throat. Blood gushed between his fingers and he struggled to talk but only blood spewed from his lips. Alaya released her grip and rolled back on her knees. She stared at her friend drowning in his own ambition.


Poor guy...it does look like my prediction was right...

Soran reached for her before everything went dark. His hands dropped into his lap and his head lulled to the side. Alaya watched his warm skin became pale and waxy. She inched closer to him and gingerly touched his hand. So cold, so strange. Alaya leaned into his face, his brown eyes looked empty now. She killed many times before, so why did it feel different now? A single tear slid down her grimy face. Strange.


Death does have that effect on ya.

She quickly wiped the tear with her sleeve then noticed her knife still in her hand. She looked it over. Something inside her was trying to get out, like someone clawing at the lid of a coffin desperately trying to get out. She shook the feeling away and stood up. Mission accomplished. Now, she had to return to Heal-X and wait for her next assignment. As she turned to walk back the way she came, Soran words drifted back into her head,

“… I can’t bear to watch another friend die…I have nothing left to lose, except you.”


Well...that was a wonderful line to end on.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall this was well...not my favorite ending....I think I explained why in the earlier story...anyway that's all I have to say for now!!

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

Stay Safe
Harry




Beccablue says...


Yes, it was a predictable ending and I wanted to change up the story line. I'm glad you liked the happier version!
What are you thoughts on the last paragraph? I wasn't sure how to end the story or if there should be another line that Rayla would have remembered from Soran. I'm not totally in love with that last paragraph.




You are all the colours in one, at full brightness.
— Jennifer Niven, 'All the Bright Places'