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Gazing into the Abyss

by Cub

So, everyone, I got word back on the contest--yay! One silver key, and two gold keys!! I'm going to nationals! This is a story I'm using to apply for a scholarship. Please review!


It was the summer of ‘08 when I first met you.

I saw you on the school playground, three or four weeks before the first week of school. You were sitting on one of the benches, kicking at the wood chips and watching them take flight. You didn’t smile when they flew, though. Your face only lit up as they fell. Once they hit the dirt, you’d stand up, sturdy ten-year-old legs lifting to squash the wood into the dusty ground.

When I came over to ask you what you were doing, you stared up at me with your delicately-lashed gray eyes, and said shortly that it was none of my business. But I wasn’t angry with you. I was intrigued, in that way a person is intrigued when they see something disturbing. So I leaned in, and said that you looked like you were having fun, that I wanted to have fun as well.

You grinned, teeth like little chips of ice.

By the time school started, you and I were together always. You were the smart one of us two, the one who was worth it. Even in fifth grade, I was a pudgy brat. You, on the other hand, were tall and strong. I’d heard people call you beautiful before, and they were right. Your face was so rosy, so soft, so sweet. When you smiled, the sun smiled. But only I could really tell the truth about you. Your teeth always gave things away. They were so perfectly sharp, so filed and icy-thin.

You were already winning back then. The teachers were always calling on you. You would raise your hand, all adorable, and they would ask you for the answer. And in the back of the class, some of the others would jeer. You would continue smiling, basking like a sun-warmed snake in the teachers’ praise. And yet you were lonely. Of course you were.

I remember one night in the winter when we were staring up at the stars, pointing at them, laughing. Among the stars, I noticed one. It was a fiery blue one, so bright, so wonderful, that it stood out in the darkness around it. I realized then with a faint sadness that you were that star. So bright, so powerful, and most of all, so alone.

They made fun of you. You answered too many questions, were too respectful to the teachers. You would sit on the lonely spot atop the slide and stare off into the dark forests around our school. They said you cried up there. You didn’t. I saw your eyes. Gray, silent, tranquil. You didn’t care. Your attention was on the black wood.

We weren’t allowed to enter the wood. They were strict about it. Some kids would try every year, and they were always all suspended. There were foxes in the woods, swamps, dangerous areas. We weren’t supposed to venture there. At first I thought you wanted to. But then I realized, as I watched you, that you did not want to cross the boundary that was the tree line. Because for you there was no boundary. It was that the rest of us thought the woods were a boundary that intrigued you.

At the end of fifth grade, you ambushed me in the corridors behind the school. You were smiling your shark smile, teeth out.

"Want to go to the forest, Adam?"

It was our last day at the elementary school. I and my classmates had only barely realized that the school couldn’t really hurt us any more. I was drunk on that joy, and you exploited it. And besides, I was curious about what you wanted.

So I followed you.

We went to the forest, stood before the shifting shadowy leaves, and I was scared. I grabbed your arm. You looked down, disgusted.

"Let’s go, Lux! Please."

You left reluctantly, already looking back.

Middle school was different. Middle school was big and scary. It was made of tumbling hallways and shifting corridors. The students choked the locker bay, congested the classrooms. Fights were easy for the teachers to miss. I saw her in a fight our first day.

She was a sixth grader as well, from the other elementary school. Her hair was long and yellow, streaked with green, and her smile was a thousand beams of the sun. She was red-faced and hot-tempered, sloppy and ill-mannered. She was our first, and only best friend.

A boy was gripping her arm and shouting at her, and she was punching him with great abandon. She was winning until the boy’s friend joined in. He pushed her against the wall, laughing in a stupid teenage way. And then you stepped forward. You pushed the boys off of her with quick excellent strides. You stared into their eyes for an instant, and their expressions made that one stare more than enough punishment. They never caused Eva trouble again.

But they did cause you trouble. Everyone started to hate you. It happened like lightning that the rumor spread, the rumor that you were a psycho. You really scared those boys, Lux. Truly terrified them. They both left the school three days later, after telling their friends all about what happened. You had forced away two eighth graders with just a glance. It seemed. . . disturbing. And then Mrs. Ewan’s hamster disappeared.

The mutual friend of the two eighth graders was caring for it over the weekend when he called the school. He said it had disappeared from his house. They found it two weeks later, mutilated beyond recognition. Did you take it? Did you kill it? Even now, I’m not really sure. You always were so quiet.

Eva came to sit with us at lunch one day, and then the day after that. She would plop down her plate with a bang, and leaning back, chew down her food. She would play video games with me after school, and listen to classical music with Lux on the weekends. We were friends, that was all. Eva of the sun-flower hair was just a friend of mine. Was it the same for you?

Animals were disappearing in the neighborhood by then. Always small ones. Nothing important. We would find them lying about, all dead, if we checked in the secluded parts of town. It was creepy. Even brave and brash Eva was scared. But at least we weren’t crying.

Immanuel was. We found him sitting next to a dead crow, skinny sixth-grade hands wrapped around its body. His blue eyes were bubbling like a spring, and his face was a bright red. He looked up at us, and bawled. You told the rest of the school that you found him crying. So they’d stop making fun of us, you said. Immanuel never got mad at you telling, though, even when he ended up with a black eye. He just kept smiling.

Soon he was part of our group.

He liked classical as much as you, but never listened to it with you. He liked video games, but not the kinds I played. He was as distant from us as you were. I knew he was a star like you, and yet, not like you. He was warm as the sun. You withheld your warmth. You were a miser.

We went to the forest at the end of seventh grade, when the first large animal, a dog, was found dead. We stood in front of the woods, prepared to go in and put our fears to shame. You were already walking forward. I started to run after with Eva, but Immanuel grabbed our wrists. He said it was dangerous. You looked back at us, annoyed, furious to the fiber of your being. But I shook my head at you. Going into the forest, I felt, would be going too far.

In eighth grade, Eva and I found you killing a cat. You were in an alley, leaning down, knife scraping at its flesh. It was screaming. The air was hot with blood. We gasped. You looked up, with your eyes like stars. So happy. Your teeth looked almost as if they had melted.

"Want to help?"

We were going to run to get help. I swear we were. But there was something in your smile that kept us there. Something that latched onto us like an invisible thread. We started to kill with you. Skinning cats, stabbing dogs, we did it because it teased the system. It waved a red flag at the bull of authority. We were the best, and we would let no one forget it. And as things continued, Eva hung out with you more. As for myself, I steeled my mind to try to understand you. If I could do that, then, I thought, I could stop you.

And yet we never told Immanuel. Something in our minds informed us that he wouldn’t like it. He was too priggish. He would tattle. So we continued on with you. Your eyes enchanted us. I forgot your teeth.

Towards the end of eighth grade was when I think things got worse. You were acting more agitated. Your long, lithe fingers tapped incessantly at your pants in class. On the playground, I saw you squashing ants in a line. Immanuel was catching on. Or perhaps he always knew about you. He started to forcefully tag along, preventing us from killing more animals. I was almost relieved. Something in me wished to keep killing, and that wish scared me.

You and Eva had changed.

Once when she slipped in the hall, you caught her. But your hands stayed a little too long on her body, and your eyes traced her for a second that lasted hours. You didn’t look at her like you liked her. It was something else. Something darker. I didn’t like it. And she was staring at you more. But her eyes were warm and bright, and her cheeks were light pink. She sparkled for you alone, growing inside your nonexistent warmth.

You watched her in odd moments, gray eyes as cold as fish. And Immanuel watched you with a cautious guarded look. And I gazed on with a disturbed fascination. And we waited as the days passed, until eighth grade ended.

Immanuel grabbed me during the last evening on the last day of eighth grade. He pulled me to the forest wordlessly. There ahead of me were running you and Eva. Her skirt was fluttering around her knees. Your eyes were the wide-gray of waves against the rocks. You were pulling her forward, and she was laughing. She was having fun. She was acting like you loved her. But I saw your teeth in a flash, in a rise of your upper lip. Shark’s teeth.

I followed quickly, still watching, while Immanuel raced with a strange urgency. You stood outside of the wood, holding Eva’s hand, and then, in an instant jerked her forward. You pulled her into the shadows of the wood. I heard a wordless cry, and stopped outside the trees. Immanuel ran forward.

I saw the shadows act out the story.

Your shadow over Eva’s, black and pausing. Eva was crying. You were silent. Immanuel stood frozen. You, reaching down. You, pulling Eva up. You pulling out your knife. Blood. Not Eva’s.

I ran several steps forward into the forest. Eva was silent. Immanuel stood in front of her, wobbling. Trembling. With a pause, he fell. The forest blushed. And you, you looked at me with no emotion, like a blank sheet of paper in a world of color. An icy star, alone in a cosmos of planets. Immanuel was limp and cold.

As I watched, you leaned forward and lifted your knife towards Eva. It stroked her throat. She was silent, but her shoulders betrayed breath. The blade’s edge kissed her in a splash of red. Immanuel’s hand twitched. In last life, he looked up at me, begging me not to.

But I ran at you. I pushed you against the tree. Back, back, back. Into the black forest. I punched you. I pummeled you. I wrestled you. Sweat dripped down my neck. The sky loomed dark. The world groaned. And you just stared at me with your starry eyes, and I realized as you stopped breathing that you weren’t a shark.

You were a water-filled abyss, the shiny glass in a window, the mirror in my bedroom, reflecting my silent gray eyes.

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74 Reviews

Points: 0
Reviews: 74

Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:31 am
Thundahguy wrote a review...

Hi, I’m Thundahguy. Congrats on your results! Anyways, onto the review:

I really like this story. It has that sense of dread and eeriness that manages to get your attention. I was thoroughly invested in it the whole time.

For grammar mistakes, there’s nothing really wrong with it. The most prevalent thing was comma usage, however. There are a few points where you add commas where you shouldn't:

...delicately-lashed grey eyes, and said shortly…

and another few places where you should add a comma:

At first(,) I thought you wanted to.

Those are just two examples of a few. Just a basic grammar checker can help fix those. The overall structure and tone of your story are really good, so I have nothing to say there. Of course, you probably want some actual tips for improvement.

I really only have two things I can say. The first is how long this short story is. The way the tension is built up from elementary to middle school works well, but it drags on for a bit too long before the finale. There’s just this blank void where this already peak suspense is just put off for a bit too long. It could be possible to either shorten it or at least balance the suspense more evenly if you get what I’m saying.

The second thing I have to say is about Immanuel’s involvement. While I understand that he’s supposed to represent the good, pure, wary side, his involvement to the story is rather limited. He cries over a bird, half-joins the group, then tells Adam about Eva and Lux before getting stabbed. While I’m not saying that you have to get rid of him, it’d be nice if there was more to him. Adam ends up corrupted by the end, so you could use Immanuel to contrast that growing corruption or something along those lines.

That’s all I have to really say. Still, really good short story. 4.5/5 stars, if I was scoring it.

Cub says...

Thanks a ton for the review, Thundahguy! You've given me a lot of interesting comments, so I'll set to work on revision. I was a little worried the story was getting too long, so it's good that you confirmed it! I do have a tendency to write stories that go overboard on the word count, lol. I'll also work on making Immanuel a more complex character. In a matter of explanation, though, the reason he's in the story is a little more complex. I'm a big fan of putting in weird amounts of symbolism. Lux, for example, is Latin for star. The name of the devil, Lucifer, is Lux Ferre--so Lux is the devil. After that, Adam is obvious. Eva is Eve. Immanuel is another form of the word Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us,' which is also another name for Jesus. Insert nerd excitement! But yeah, I'll work on making him more of an interesting character. Thanks a ton for the review!

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88 Reviews

Points: 4704
Reviews: 88

Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:46 am
Zee6 wrote a review...

Hi I am here to give you a review. Congratulations on the winning and the chance for a scholar ship. I how this review helps a little. So first things first your grammar, structure, and use of literary devices is impeccable. I could not have down better myself and I see nothing there is to fix in that sense.

The only thing i would consider revising is two things. one there is a line where you describe Eva. "Eva of the sun-flower hair was just a friend of mine." I liked where you were going with this but I read a little weird. Again, the idea was great but maybe try to work it a little differently. Two, The end; I presume everyone dies but Adam but that was a little confusing for me. it seemed a bit muddy and I think the effect would be better if the death were clearer.

Over all this whole thing was riveting and it consumed my attention for the couple of minutes I read it for. I think it was all eerie and lovely in the best kind of way. Even if you don't take my advice this story would be wonderful. Good luck with everything and have a great day.

Cub says...

Zee6 Thanks a ton for the review! I was worried no one would read my story, lol. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I'll work on making it a tad bit less vague.

Zee6 says...

Yeah no problem. :)

Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.
— Niels Bohr