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Awakening Chapter 18: Mother

by Otterpop


A few more tears rolled down his cheek, but he couldn't care less about wiping them away. The machine next to him beeped a continuous and monotone tune. He did not look at the numbers, but he was sure the rhythm chimed slower than it should have. This waiting game had become cruel torture to Blake, but what else could he do? The pressure and helplessness was nauseating, and much as he wanted to he could not bring himself to stand.

How long had he sat here, powerless? Ten minutes? Twenty? Longer? Time had all but escaped his understanding, and somehow his response was to clench both his fists into tight balls, the fingernails digging right into his palm.

Whether perhaps the pain snapped him out of it or it was just instinct, Blake lifted one hand, and very gently set it on the bed. His mother's left hand was limp, fingers curled in a little, the palm facing slightly upwards. Slowly Blake's own hand slid towards hers, but he flinched as soon as they touched. Even with a medical glove on, he could feel how little warmth escaped from her fingers. A crushing overtook Blake's head and it fell forward, right onto the side of the hospital cot as he squeezed his mother's hand in a moment of complete and utter surrender.

Mom, please. You have to wake up. I need you right now. Please. Please be okay...

A tingle in his fingers made him clutch her hand even tighter, and he desperately fought back tears. Another tingle later he pushed his face even further into the bed sheets. Something brushed the tops of his fingers...in a slow, back-and-forth motion.

Blake's head lifted with a start, and he began to stand as disbelief washed over him in a great wave. Alisha's eyes were twitching a little under the lids, without a doubt, and Blake held his breath for a few seconds. He looked down to see her thumb gently rubbing his fingers in a clearly conscious movement.

"Mom?" He gasped so quietly he almost didn't hear his own voice.

He wasn't dreaming. Within seconds his mother's eyelids flickered open a sliver, opening further until he could barely discern a pair of pupils. They stared up for a second, squinted, blinked, looked around. Her gaze then found and settled on him. It was a knowing stare, glazed with exhaustion yet also a sense of familiarity the longer she looked. Her eyebrows shifted, and suddenly small tears welled up in the bottoms of her eyes.

"Mom..." His voice cracked as he gripped Alisha's hand with both of his now. He forced back his own tears and mustered the strength to ask, "Are you...are you okay?"

Why would you even ask that? It seemed stupid to ask given her current state, but it was all he could think of. Alisha attempted to lift her head but gave up due to the strain. She tried the same with her hand but lifted it maybe an inch off the bed before it fell back down on the bed sheets. Her eyes then scanned the room until they eventually settled on the tubes sticking out of her nose and mouth. She stared for what felt like ages, and the glaze over her eyes changed. Suddenly there was this ashamed look on her face, and for a few moments she turned her head away from Blake.

He reached over and grabbed her hand again, pulling down the mask covering his face. "Mom, I know it looks bad. But, you, you're not getting any worse, right?"

Alisha twisted her head back and faced the other direction, and Blake guessed his attempt to make her feel better fell short. Despite her inability to speak and even with her head turned the other way, Blake could see the emotions clouding her face. He squeezed her hand even tighter.

"I'm not gonna leave. I'm here. But...Mom, I can't deal with everything going on right now without you."

She merely squeezed his hand in response and looked back at him. A second later, her brows furrowed and she leaned towards him ever so slightly. Her gaze rested hard on him, such a pressing look that he could not ignore for some reason, and Blake curled in his lips a little. She never looks at me like that, he thought. I...have to tell her.

"There's, umm, some things that have happened lately. Weird things, confusing things." He paused but an insistent twitch of Alisha's head lessened the hesitation only slightly. "I've been...seeing things lately. A-and I don't know a good way to explain it..."

The sweat on his palms increased as he struggled with words. His mother continued her insistence with some rather tight hand squeezes, but Blake was at a complete loss at how he could say it. He'd never had to explain this kind of thing to anyone before! So how could he say it right here before his very sick and incapacitated mother?

No, no, he had to go about this differently. Start somewhere else. Start with someone else...

"I saw, well, saw this strange man, at the cemetery by our church," he explained before long. "He said-" Blake paused to remember it exactly. "-something about one of my family members being marked because I could see things. And, and I know how crazy that sounds, but, I found something, something weird, in your..."

He was losing his train of thought again, and his mother still appeared just as confused, though perhaps a bit concerned now at the mention of a stranger. Blake inwardly told himself to calm down, slow down, and try again.

"Mom. There are things going on, and I think you might know why, or at least know something about it."

The confusion was still there but at least she had the determination to listen intently, so Blake wasted no time. "I've been able to see things, for a long time. And, I didn't say anything about it ever; maybe you'd think I was crazy, but I know I'm not, not anymore. I was worried, worried that you or my friends or the whole town would think there was something wrong with me, so I didn't say anything to anyone. I didn't know if I would ever tell you, until I..."

Blake trailed off, because Alisha was no longer looking at him. Her gaze was fixated on something just to his right. It was such an intense stare that he knew she had already tuned him out somewhat. So he turned his head, confused, then twisted his neck even more until he was looking almost directly behind himself.

The scythe.

As soon as he laid eyes on it the realization crept up his spine and shocked him to his very core. Though he figured something like this was the case, it wasn't any less disbelieving. Blake swallowed nervously, barely able to get the question out if his mouth.

"You...can see it. Can't you?"

He looked back at his mother, whose gaze shifted to him soon after. She did not need to nod or shake her head; the watery look in her eyes said it all. Blake's chest tightened a little, but he managed his strength to reach back and take hold of it, bringing it closer to her. Alisha's stare followed the blade, before she looked the staff up and down with this eerie, knowing look. Their gazes locked once more.

"You can see it..."

He turned his head the other way, losing all feeling in his body for a split second. Another question came to his mind, one that needed an answer.

"Do you know? That other people can't see it?"

She lay still momentarily, but she gave him the faintest nod after a couple more seconds.

Blake gasped in disbelief. Not only can she see it, but she even knows other people can't see it? Why? She knew this all along and she never told me? How could she never tell me about any of this? The Shadows could have hurt somebody. That man already hurt the people here, and some have even died, and she never told me!

A tightness came over his chest as the hurt set in. He wanted to ask his mother about everything, he wanted to know what more she'd kept from him. But right now he could only ask yes or no questions, and it hurt that he couldn't do more than that.

Now he knew though: Alisha knew what the scythe was, meaning the stranger's words about his lineage were true. Why then did she keep this from him for his entire life?

"So that's why," he breathed, his voice louder but also shakier. "That's why I can see spirits, and these shadowy things. That guy said it because of someone related to me...and now I know it's through you. Because you know about it. Because this belonged to you and your family."

What other explanation was there? He found the scythe in her room after all, so why would he have thought anything different? He looked at his mother, wanting some kind of response that would tell him how he was supposed to feel about this grim truth.

Instead, he saw her shaking her head.

Blake stared in confusion at her reaction. "You know about this thing, you have to know about everything else, or at least some other things?"

Alisha reached out and grabbed his wrist so quickly, and with such unusual force given her state. She looked at him, looking at the scythe, and back at him. With her free hand she gently tapped her own chest, and shook her head.

The confusion rose within him as he tried to figure out her mixed signals. Thinking about what he'd said, he stopped and tried to put it all together. "So, you know about this, but you didn't use it?"

Alisha shook her head once, then a second time, all while staring at the scythe. Blake still did not understand and continued shaking his head for what felt like hours, unable to figure out what his mother was trying to tell him. Alisha eventually stopped, having realized what she did was not working. Instead she lifted a finger and pointed at the scythe, pointed to herself and shook her head in the same moment. She repeated the same gesture two more times.

Soon the realization struck Blake. If he thought he understood this right, the truth was a shocking one. "You're saying...this thing didn't belong to you? This isn't yours...?"

After a few seconds, she shook her head once more, slowly. Blake looked the scythe over, trying to figure out what his mother had just revealed. Was she actually telling that this weapon that no one could see, that was locked in her room...it wasn't even hers to begin with? But it wasn't his! So then-?

"Mom." He held his breath. "Who does this-?"

A whirring of static electricity echoed throughout the room. Suddenly the ceiling lights flickered, catching Blake's attention. A few surprised yelps rang from outside the hallway. They soon turned into screams when the lights flashed off suddenly.

The entire building shook without warning.

Blake bumped his chin in a soft thud when he hit the floor face down. When he propped himself up, he noticed the flashing hallway light illuminating something near the door of his mother's hospital room. Its silhouette was barely visible. But he could easily, and unfortunately, distinguish the shadowy form.

"Not here too..." Blake stood but the creature did not move. It just stood at the now-open doorway, staring at him with gleaming silver eyes. Or, at something past him?

He spun around. Alisha could barely lift her head as she stared right in the direction of the Shadow, her eyes concerned and full of unease. She then glanced in Blake's direction before long.

"You see that thing too?" he asked in disbelief.

Her gaze fell back onto the creature, and Blake faced the Shadow again. The flashing lights were distracting, but something did not feel right. It looked ready to run, so why wasn't it? It took Blake's eyes a few seconds to adjust, and when they did that's when he noticed something in the creature's mouth. A necklace it looked like, faded and dull, faintly visible as a gaseous black swirled around it. Hanging at the bottom was a pendant. No. A rosary. A dull green stone was embedded in the top of it. Blake's heart lurched as the sensation of urgency and horror took over.

He bolted for the door and the creature, which fled as soon as he moved. In the same instance he uttered only a single word with a voice coated in terror.

"JUNE!"


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Thu Jun 09, 2022 10:10 pm
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Spearmint wrote a review...



Hiya, it's mint, back to see what happens as Blake visits his mother! ^-^ And ooh, I think you've done an excellent job with this chapter-- it's one of my favorites so far, because of the emotional intensity, hints of reveals, and that bit of action at the end.
I enjoyed reading the communication between Alisha and Blake, and the fact that Alisha was unable to speak just hooked me further into the story. It feels like the mysteries are being unraveled, little by little... though there's still a lot we don't know about the scythe's connection to Blake and his family. Overall, nice job with this chapter!

How long had he sat here, powerless? Ten minutes? Twenty? Longer? Time had all but escaped his understanding

This part felt really poetic to me. :] I think you consistently do a great job of conveying emotion and having the reader sympathize with the characters.

Their gazes locked once more.

"You can see it..."

He dare not look his mother in the eye however...

This is a super small thing, but to me it feels like the "gazes locked" sentence and the "dare not look" sentence kind of contradict. Did Blake look away from his mother sometime in between? Or did he drop his gaze after speaking? I think it'd be nice to clarify this part a bit more. ^^'

It took Blake's eyes a few seconds to adjust, and when they did that's when he noticed something in the creature's mouth. ... A rosary.

0.0 That cliffhanger at the end...
Also, I wonder if there's anything special about the rosary? It seems like the Shadows don't usually interact with normal humans, so perhaps June is involved too somehow... could the rosary be an heirloom or something like the scythe? I'm also curious as to why the Shadow stopped at Alisha's room in the first place. Even though Alisha indicated that the scythe isn't hers, she's likely still connected somehow...
So yeah, nice job keeping the reader intrigued in the story! I do hope we get some answers soon though. ;)

Keep writing, and have a fantastic day/night! =D




Otterpop says...


Thanks a bunch for the review Spearmint!

For some clarification, June has been described a few times in previous chapters as wearing a rosary as it is important to her, hence Blake's reaction. Reading the chapters far apart from one another, it's no surprise that detail may have been lost!

Thanks for the feedback and other little nitpicks, I will definitely reread some parts and makes some minor changes. Hope you enjoy the remaining chapters!



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Wed May 04, 2022 4:42 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

This was a chapter like nothing I had imagined. It had one thing in particular, and that was an emotional bond that you displayed beautifully between Blake and his mother. The tone had definitely arrived at a very calm point.

What I particularly liked was how you crafted the interactions between Blake and his mother. I thought they were done very well and convincingly, so that as a reader you could empathise with them. I thought the build-up between Blake's monologues was well used, especially in terms of emotions and descriptions. It gave the whole scene a lot of depth and built up the bond between Blake and his mother.

I also like how you answer some questions here and at the same time insert new ones to hold up a tension. As mentioned before, I liked the interactions between Blake and Alisha, but I think that sometimes there could be a longer "pause" to show that Blake doesn't understand what she means. (In some things, that was also the case.) I think it would be good to insert that Blake himself is a bit more nervous and tense.

What I've mentioned in previous reviews also applies here, just inserting several of Blake's thought processes, or in this case, depicting the ball of yarn of thoughts he has, too, to match that to the previous chapters.

I was surprised at the continuity towards the end, especially with the Shadow, because I was expecting somehow Blake's mother to die now but am reassured that another thing has opened up here.

In summary, I think it's a very good character arc development for Blake and again shows that he continues to be on that threshold, between autonomy and "attachment". It's like we're just before the surface of a lake or something here, where Blake has to finally be ready to surface.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




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Mon Apr 25, 2022 1:42 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop! Lim here with a short review.

AH it’s frustrating that we don’t get to hear the whole story from Alisha. I’m super curious as to who the scythe belongs to, if not her. Blake’s father? Or maybe Alisha’s parents or something? At the same time, I think it makes sense for the reveal to be cut off like this, if only because the town is so chaotic, there’s no expectation for things to stay peaceful for very long.

The conversation

Something I liked about this interaction between Blake and his mother is how you showed him expressing his feelings and revealing what’s been happening this whole time. It doesn’t feel too abrupt. It feels like he’s hesitating, and that it makes sense because he’s gotten into the habit of keeping things a secret for so long.

The dialogue here is particularly good:

I've been able to see things, for a long time. And, I didn't say anything about it ever; maybe you'd think I was crazy, but I know I'm not, not anymore. I was worried, worried that you or my friends or the whole town would think there was something wrong with me, so I didn't say anything to anyone. I didn't know if I would ever tell you, until I..."

Blake stutters and repeats himself just enough so I can hear that tone of voice when someone is struggling to tell a story, but it’s also ‘packed’ enough with information that 1. It looks alright when written on a page and 2. It still feels like he’s conveying a lot of stuff at once, so we have that ‘outburst’ effect.

I think something that could be improved on is maybe the description of how Alisha is carrying her side of the conversation without talking. I think it works best towards the end, when her gestures are described more concretely, like:
With her free hand she gently tapped her own chest, and shook her head.

Before that, though, I feel Blake shouldn’t be able to guess what she’s thinking so accurately? Or that he seems to infer a very detailed narrative from minimal cues, so it’s kind of puzzling to me as to how he knows all that stuff (unless he’s secretly a mind-reader).
She stared for what felt like ages, and the glaze over her eyes changed. Suddenly there was this ashamed look on her face, and for a few moments she turned her head away from Blake.
He reached over and grabbed her hand again, pulling down the mask covering his face. "Mom, it's...you didn't know this would happen. You couldn't have known."

I think it’s a bit hard to understand how Blake realistically goes from ‘ashamed look’+ ‘looking at the tubes’ to ‘Alisha is ashamed that she’s in the hospital again’. Because I’d imagine anyone who woke up with a bunch of tubes connected to them would stare at said tubes a bit, if they don’t remember being in the hospital before they fell unconscious.

That’s just what I felt when reading though! Looks like the other reviewer managed to see the flow better than I could. Maybe Blake just knows his mother so well he can infer all these things from her gaze direction.

The scythe and the shadow

I like having this curveball thrown at Blake when it seems he’s just about to get some answers. I also think it makes the threat of the stranger more palpable, since the big thing Blake fears here is his loved ones being hurt by the shadows.

Something I think might help with the pacing of this section might be splitting up some of the longer sentences. I find that it’s easier to imagine something as an action scene or a fast-paced scene when each sentence contains just one thing happening. For example:
A few yelps rang from the hallway, but they soon turned into screams when the lights flashed off suddenly, and simultaneously the entire building shook.

This sentence read to me as a summary rather than as things happening in real time. The ‘list’ structure makes it kind of long and ‘flattens’ the rhythm. That might be more appropriate when doing a time skip or conveying some not-so-important background information. Maybe I’d suggest something like:
[quote] There were yelps from the hallway. The lights flashed off suddenly. At once, the entire building began to shake. People screamed. [quote]

The ending line works well for this section I think. I like that it conveys Blake’s desperation very quickly. And it also helps just in case the reader forgot about June’s pendant, since we haven’t seen her in a while.

Overall

I think you’re great at choosing and portraying challenges and obstacles that just ‘fit’ your protagonist’s character arc. Like here, Blake is having to deal with the consequences of his fear to tell people things, and at the same time he’s being threatened with a much bigger fear, which is that of losing people he loves. It’s very heavy stuff for a kid, but it’s also a coherent and easily sympathetic theme.

Hope some of this was helpful, and keep writing! (Also feel free to ask if you need more feedback, e.g. on particular lines. I think my reviews are getting shorter because I want to avoid nit-picking too much on things I've already pointed out in a previous chapter. >.<) Looking forward to reading more of your work!
-Lim




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Sat Mar 12, 2022 7:51 pm
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SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hello again! Salis here with a review!

Some revelations were finally made and I'm very happy about that. Very surprised as well.

Needles to say, the beginning of the chapter up until the point of Alisha waking up was painful to read. I myself felt a long amount of time passed until she woke up, but was very relieved when she did. At least Blake knows she's still with him and any comfort for the boy is more than welcome in the current situation.

I loved the description of every gesture each of the two characters made and how there was no gesture without meaning. While Blake could not always make out what his mother wanted to say right away, it became clear soon enough and I felt like they had a conversation without either side saying too much (Alisha not saying anything at all, actually). For me no more words than the ones spoken were needed and I'd definitely like to have more scenes like this in the future.

Now, about the revelation itself. So the scythe actually belongs to June's family, but was kept by Blake's family? While Blake's mother seems to have been marked because she can see the scythe, I guess she can't use the scythe because it doesn't belong to her family. That explains why Blake himself had difficulties with wielding it.

How much June or her family knows about this is a mystery as of yet, but more important than that, she seems to be in danger right now. I just hope Blake will be able to get to her on time before the Shadow reaches her. Maybe he'll be able to get more answers if he succeeds. Our protagonist just can't catch a break, always being in a hurry lately!! That's why I enjoy following his story so much, though.

Thanks for the great chapter! Keep it up!!




Otterpop says...


I definitely had to rely on a lot of show, don't tell for this particular chapter/parts of this chapter, and I'm glad to see that spending a little extra time on making it sound right paid off.

And I love hearing about your ideas and speculations! (that's true for any readers of my stories, really). I hope to type up and submit the next few chapters soon so you can continue and maybe find some answers to your questions! Thanks a ton for the review!




Who knew Kansas City had its own branch of the Yakuza?
— Jason Sudeikis