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Titania

by Pentavalence


(Author's Note: Okay, so I plan to submit this to a magnet school for writing. It's a parody of the Titanic. There was no prompt, only a picture of a girl on a train (which I couldn't figure out how to upload here), and M. Jolie is based off said girl. Anyway, I hope you all like it.)

His last picture was taken minutes before disaster struck.

The buoyant mood of the send-off party had wound down to a low hum of energy; balloons not popped but sagging weakly. M. Jolie and her entourage had retired to the car on the far end of the train: she had no appetite for parties, and wherever the famous model went, her escorts went too.

Caspian Beytel was allowed to join this retinue only because of his photographic pass for Parks Global, which in the past few years had become one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world by seizing the market for instant, constant, online news.

His camera clicked and whirred as he contemplated the shot. His partner Ebina Shoyu sat next to him, typing furious updates for Parks. If he could get the glow of her Iphone in the frame it would make a nice contrast, but the angle was too difficult. Caspian focused instead on the model sitting across from him.

Her dark hair swung in sheets over her face, hat tilted at a fashionable 45 degrees. She sat alone in the corner of the compartment, pink Prada purse contrasting a pale green dress. The velvet seat was barely impacted by her thin frame.

His finger pressed a button; the camera snapped and captured the moment. Filter options slid by, and he selected black&white. It would go well with the cream background of Parks, next to the lead story.

And what a story that was: the world’s first ever entirely machine-operated luxury train, speeding across the country from Los Angeles to New York City. He wasn’t sure how it worked, exactly, only that it involved some electricity-conducting metal called Titania, for which the train had been named.

Caspian’s job was to get a good picture of the streamlined silver train and the celebrities riding inside it.

Jay Z, Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton and Tina Fey; all were riding the Titania to the end of the line, but for some reason, Caspian and Ebina had been assigned to follow the reclusive French model, who went by her last name only.

Another click of a button and the image was sent to the editor of Parks Global. Little did Caspian know that that picture would be his last.

He smiled, unaware. The train rocked. Everything was surrounded by stuffy silence, hot and thick. Caspian thought of nothing but his job and the novelty of a machine-operated train.

He had no idea that only twelve cars away, something was going terribly wrong.

A wire--a jolt-- a spark. A frayed cord in the central computer system, exposed end rubbing against a red-blue wire, creating dangerous friction. It was only a tiny flare, however, nothing big enough to cause damage.

But fire is catching. And this inferno spread almost as fast as the train it was derailing.

The spark glowed vainly in search of something to burn. It strained and stretched it’s tiny body until, at last, connected with the GPS chip embedded in the system.

After that, the explosions started.

Small ones at first; enough to jolt Caspian from his daydreams but not enough to make him assume they were anything less than stray party crackers. He settled, drowsy, back into the seat. His head complained of the beginnings of a headache.

The eruptions grew in size and sound, fire raced across the train, eating it alive. Metal scorched and sparked.

It was Jolie, staring vacantly out the window, who noticed first.

“Feu! Sinistre!”

Fire. Disaster.

Ebina looked up, sable eyes wide in horror, and raced to the window. She spoke fluent French. Caspian lurched from his seat.

“What is it? What’s going on?” He pushed dark brown hair out of his eyes.

Ebina waved him over in frantic gestures. “The train--it’s on fire!”

“What?”

He could hear the screams now, people wailing in terrified chorus as flames turned silver metal into oozing pools and human beings into cadavers.

“Something must have gone wrong...this was supposed to be uncrashable!” Anger and resentment filled Caspian’s voice. “And now we’re all going to die.”

Jolie shouted something in French. Ebina translated: “She says we have to jump. The train’s going to crash, and we’re over a lake..come on, Cas, it’s the only shot we have.”

He crossed his arms. “I’m not jumping, are you crazy? Diving into water is worse than hitting cement. I’ll take my chances with the fire, thanks.”

Smoke was seeping through the compartment door now, the temperature of the car was slowly increasing. Sweat dripped down Caspian’s neck.

Ebina translated his words into French; the M. Jolie shrugged, opened the window, and climbed out herself.

The last breath of her words echoed throughout the stuffy room.

“Au revoir.”

Caspian and Ebina stared as the inferno raged around them; each one’s helplessness reflected in the other’s eyes.

Ebina’s breath was tight with worry and fear. Sticky silence fell.

Suddenly, the train lurched, jerked, was nearly thrown off the rails.

Caspian felt his head slam against the open window, blood trickle down his face. As if in a movie, the rest of his body tipped slowly out of the train. Head, arms, torso, legs. Ebina screamed, but it sounded distant and far away.

Caspian fell.

But his hand, in some miracle, gripped the window ledge, grooved metal catching on his nails. He sighed in relief, dangling forty feet in the air. Ebina leaned out the window, eyes wild and panicked, short hair standing up on end.

“Don’t let go, Caspian! Don’t let go!”

Her words were caught and tangled up in the wind; they blew away, never reaching Caspian.

Fire or water, water or fire.

He let go.

Cold air rushed passed him, ripping his camera and glasses away. He felt naked, falling to his death, heartbeat pounding loud in his ears, hands grasping at nothing.

As the icy water rose up to meet him, he had one final thought:

This would make a fantastic picture.


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41 Reviews


Points: 2856
Reviews: 41

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Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:53 am
SteppeVesteffi wrote a review...



Hello,

This may be the best story I've read on YWS.

THAT LAST LINE. The suspense. The drama. The characters—we only know them for a short time, but they're fascinating and leave such an impression. I want to see more of them.

This is such a clever idea. Truly, I've never read anything quite like it. And not only is the concept great, but the execution is pretty much flawless. I maybe noticed an incident or two where you switched from past-tense to present-tense, but otherwise, it was just brilliant.

Your writing style—God, it's amazing. Rich, crackling, fiery, sassy. Full of energy and spark. Smart, too, very smart. You write like a published author. (And you're thirteen?! How is that possible??) Your voice is amazingly well-developed, and that's a rarity. The way this is constructed is seamless (again: like a published novel). The flow's good, and each event folds into the next one with swift skill. Clearly, you're going to be a successful writer—no doubt in my mind.

I'd love to see this adapted into a longer story, with more background on the characters, the train—all of it. But the current version is already pretty much perfect, from the story to the characters to your excellent imagery. I'm honestly not sure there's much for me to say other than "fantastic, fantastic, fantastic." (Boring, I know.)

The reviewers before me did have some small pieces of advice/criticism, and everything they said made sense, so I agree and suggest you heed them. I don't have much more to add in the way of constructive criticism, which I guess brings us to nitpicks and comments:

If he could get the glow of her Iphone in the frame

Should be "iPhone"—lowercase I, capitalized P.

Jay Z, Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton and Tina Fey

Now I really want to see this group of people in a reality show together. (Admit it—you'd watch.)

It strained and stretched it’s tiny body

Should be "its"; strike the apostrophe.

She spoke fluent French.

I'd put this in parentheses.

“Something must have gone wrong...this was supposed to be uncrashable!”

Love the direct Titanic parallels ;)

“And now we’re all going to die.”

NOT TINA FEY!

we’re over a lake..come on, Cas

Three dots following "lake"; not two.

I’m not jumping, are you crazy?

Improper comma.

Smoke was seeping through the compartment door now, the temperature of the car was slowly increasing.

Change that comma to a semicolon.

the M. Jolie shrugged

"The"? Was that intentional, like to emphasize her notoriety? Either way, it looks odd.

So. This was awesome. I could go on and on and just shower you with praise and an excess of descriptive words, but I won't. What I will say is that, as good as this was, I don't think I'll ever forgive you for putting Tina Fey onboard the modern-day Titanic. >_>
(Still, though: terrific writing.)

Well done!




Pentavalence says...


Thank you so much! You are an amazing person and made even more amazing for taking the time to review my work. I will fix the spelling/grammar issues and tweak it a little bit. (And I'm very sorry for putting Tina Fey on the Titanic, I love her too. Maybe she survived-- some people did, after all.)

Your review made me ridiculously happy %uD83D%uDE0A

Thanks again,

Pentavalence



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Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:30 pm
SilloriaD wrote a review...



Oh my god! This was a fantastic read! Though, I wouldn't necessarily consider it a parody of Titanic, all things considered. But you pacing was absolutely stunning. The little moments of knowing before the characters did kicked on the suspense, and the ending was phenomenal. Showcasing Caspian's love of his profession by making it his final thought capitalized on the idea of a beautiful tragedy, truly giving this piece that one little unbelievable something to make reading worthwhile.

However- we do have to discuss how you handled the fire scene itself. It isn't BAD, per-say, but the rest of your work here is leagues better. It felt too rushed. You spent so much time building up to this action moment only for the fire itself to fade into the background. I'm not entirely sure how you could fix it, but I'm sure it's possible.

Your life-like characters really drove the story forward. Keep up this amazing work!

~SilloriaD




Pentavalence says...


Hey SilloriaD,

Thanks so much for your kind review!

The fire scene definitely needs work, you're right. I think it's pretty similar to the Titanic though, but just in case I'll tweak it a bit more.

Thanks again,

Pentavalence



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Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:03 am
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mckeownm wrote a review...



Love love LOVE! I love it! I'm going to be completely honest here, when I saw that it was a parody of the titanic I thought oh please no - not any slow and sappy romance scenes and 'never let me go' stuff. But this is so good and the opposite of what I expected! Your pacing is incredible. Although a lot was covered in a short amount of time it never felt rushed (jokes there was just one tiny part but more on that later) - you captured each scene amazingly.

Your characters are also great. Personally I would like to see M.Jolie developed a bit more - although I like the mystery. Maybe hint at a past, substitue au revoir for a more dramatic and meaningful goodbye? "Nobody's ever listened to me anyways" or something like that (it's a bit dramatic but I'm a dramatic person haha)? Caspian on the other hand is great. I like how you incorporated his photography into the story as well, it's a really great motif. I would like to see more of a connection between Caspian and M.Jolie or even Ebin. Is there a bit of a love triangle? Jealousy? Nothing at all? Whatever it is, it could add a whole other layer to your story!

Another critique I have is for your fire scene. You do a really good job of describing the start of the fire, but then it fades away a bit. I think more vivid descriptions of what Caspian is feeling - burning, sticky sweat, suffocating heat etc would help add to the drama. *Just a small thing, I think if you compared the cool outside air to the inside heat you could have a really beautiful, descriptive line*. Also I would like to see a little bit more panic from Caspian, as he seems quite detached. However if you feel that this is how he would act, of course continue.

Overall a SUPER strong piece! I'm not kidding this is amazing! Good luck in you competition

Best wishes,
Maya :)




Pentavalence says...


Hi Maya,

Thank you so much for taking the time to review my work! Everyone who reads this piece seems to agree that the fire scene needs work, and I am certainly going to update that. Your review was insightful, detailed, and helpful.

Thanks!

Pen




I love how we all band together to break things...
— Kelpies