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The Angkor Monolith (Part 1/3)

by Pernicus


The middle towers of the ancient temple stood erect against the sky, their true height disguised by the gradual nature of their ascent. Around them the world seemed to bubble at the fringes like boiling soup, and the pale nimbus clouds decorating the vista were free of all constraints of perspective, seeming simultaneously so close I could bite them and so far that they may as well have been stars. Next came the rumble like a clap of thunder but muffled as if there were a great distance or mass between the source and I. It was in this drawn out instant I became aware of the dream being such and in response awoke with a start. My hands were clutched into fists tucked against my chest in response, done with a force of will I knew not that I could conjure. It was such that my fingernails had dug crescent shaped divots into my palms, though at the time I was unaware of this. I would have sat bolt upright but the design of a hammock prevented such. Instead my body shot out straight a plank of wood, fighting gravity a moment before I realised myself awake and relaxed.

As it is when first waking up in a place yet to become familiar one is disorientated. My locale seemed alien and it took a moment for me to recall where I was and why. This recollection was hastened by the unmistakable Oriental heat. Almost as stifling as the heat was the noise, the chirping of insect species uncatalogued by man. If I had pursued biology instead of archaeology I could have discovered many an exotic species here and returned to England with much esteem. As it happened I was there as a representative of The Royal Archaeological Institute. At the time I was excited, almost giddy with opportunity as the very next day I was to make the trek to a newly discovered temple and catalogue it on behalf of the Institute. The temple had been discovered by a Frenchman just the past month but the details were anything but, all we knew was that it was a temple of the Khmer, the people who inhabited these floodplains. My general knowledge of the history permitted me the judgement to say it would be at least seven hundred years old if it were as grand as it were described. If I had forecast the true nature of the events about to unfold I would have turned tail and ran, then spent the rest of my life warning all away from that place. The dream should have been warning enough, but at the time I was a man of stoic rationalism who scoffed in the face of ghost stories and the like, so comprehending that the dream may have been an omen was impossible for me.

Despite my rationalism there was still fear, a deep disgust and horror for what I had seen though even mere minutes after my awakening what I had seen became wholly unclear to me. The feeling lingered the whole night and I was unable to sleep. Disturbed but not perturbed that next morning I carried myself with vigour, attending to the preparations for our trek with haste and efficiency. In retrospect I suspect I was merely trying to distract my conscious from the unease and looming uncertainty I felt deep within. I conversed briefly with my fellow archaeologist over the breakfast table that morning. I told him of the bizarre dream I had had where I saw some subconscious rendering of a temple I had never actually set my eyes upon. He concluded as I had that the description of the temple had prompted my dreaming of it, though this explanation neglected the strange warping of reality that I witnessed it was satisfactory enough that I ceased questioning it.

The trek through the jungle was more troublesome than expected and the insects were as loud as ever. We had been assured many a time on our journey that predatory animals were rare beyond belief in these jungles, and that our main concern was to be bamboo snakes. Indeed we encountered not one mammal the entire morning save for a hog which ran past us with haste. Unlike the normal loud mannerisms of a hog this one was silent but for the rustle of leaves it left behind it. At the time this detail was not apparent to me, I was far too focused on staying standing. If this had been a walk on my family estate in England I would barely have been tired, but the unrelenting sunlight heated you even in the shadows of a leafy canopy. Our guides began discussing something between themselves at just past noon. They spoke in hushed voices despite our inability to understand them, indicating to me that whatever it was they were talking of we were not meant to know.

At around three past noon it became apparent we were nearing the temple, around the roots of the giant banyan trees several ancient blocks were visible, these fragments alone were worthy of study. At first I could scarcely identify what I was seeing ahead through the thick trunks and coiled roots of the jungle, but with rising excitement it became clear the profile and colour were that of the temple we had been searching for. Sure enough as we pushed past the obscuring trees the temple in its full grandeur was revealed to us. My colleague Wilson was far more enchanted than I. I, in fact, was in a state of shock. The temple from my dream and the temple that stood before me then were identical, even the angle from which I viewed it in the dream was identical. This sudden and shocking reveal left me stunned and staggering, for a moment I had feared I would fall. The final straw for me was the clouds in the sky, they too were identical in geometry and scale as they had been in my fevered mind the previous night.


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1080 Reviews


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Wed May 03, 2017 10:29 am
Kaylaa wrote a review...



This is Nikayla here dropping in for a review!

So I don't believe that I've reviewed you before, or at least, if I have it hasn't been for awhile. Let's jump into that. The first aspect of this piece is that I noticed the large paragraphs that are nearly just blocks of text that I'm not very fond of. It's hard on the eyes and lacks a structure, so I don't know if you chose to do this for a reason, or if you just didn't feel like cutting up your paragraphs to where the story has a better structure or flow to it. Believe it or not, that part of prose exists, and it affects how the reader perceives your work.

Moving away from that, I believe that the main reason the pacing and flow of the piece isn't all that great is due to your language. While I love a strong vocabulary, it can sometimes harm other aspects of the work, making it rather verbose. That's what I felt happened here, and it shows that sometimes the simplest route is the best route. Most of the issues of this piece are in regards to the pacing, the flow, the structure and writing rather than the actual plot or characters (some aspects that are harmed in the process). I found this to be more of a narrative than a short story, as a portion of the work is written in the passive voice. I want to see more fleshed out. More scenes where there are actual interactions that immerse the reader into the story.

And this doesn't have to be through characters, either. I feel that mastering the voice of the main character while keeping a balance between that and writing the actual scenes of the story is important. Finding that in-between where you don't have to abandon one aspect for another. It's a little too detailed for my tastes, and I'm a fan of imagery and description. While the tone or atmosphere and the imagery are strong, don't let those be the only elements that drive the story forward, because it won't work.

If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask! I hope I helped and have a great day.

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Pernicus says...


Well this type of writing is more of an experiment for me. I'm writing so verbose to give an impression of the era and class of the main character. It was done poorly quite often. I was sorta trying to go for an H.P Lovecraft vibe with the atmospheric focus and Im happy to see that was picked up on. I'll be sure to utilise the feedback in future writing :D



Kaylaa says...


Experimentation is always good! Glad that the review helped. c:



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Wed May 03, 2017 10:05 am
Hannah wrote a review...



Hey there, Pernicus! Here for a quick review of a horror story, yessir!

I'm sorry to be picky from the first line, but I guess I have some high expectations, 'cause I gotta point this out:

their true height disguised by the gradual nature of their ascent.


This sounds good, but I'm not sure how to imagine it so that it makes sense in my head. If the ascent is so gradual, I feel like it couldn't go that high, and if it's not that high, there would be no true height to disguise. Is it disguised because of some other reason? I want this first line to pop, 'cause I feel like it was going to, but then I got confused trying to imagine this, haha.

I love the way you describe the clouds, especially because now that I've read a couple of sentences, I realize this is dream reality. I think that you should still clean up that first sentence since it's our first impression, but I'm okay with being confused about the clouds being free of a point of perspective because I soon find out it's a dream. Speaking of finding out it's a dream, though:

It was in this drawn out instant I became aware of the dream being such


While I appreciate your vocabulary and tone, this phrase is so awkward and could be said so much more simply: "It was in this drawn-out instant I became aware I was dreaming" is more common and more understandable. Yes, we wanna have a good sentence tone, but we also want to make sure we're communicating clearly! Same with the following sentence -- make it simple. Don't get rid of your tone, but make it simple!

Well, okay, now that I read on, with most of your sentences. Yes, you are going for a higher tone, I get that, but this:

As it is when first waking up in a place yet to become familiar one is disorientated.


Place yet to become familiar = unfamiliar place
That's enough. If you want it to be fancier, try unaccustomed, unacquainted -- go to yer thesaurus for help.

Also, I would strongly recommend against saying Oriental heat unless you're going to reveal to me that this is in the voice of someone from the past when they didn't know any better to use such a Eurocentric word. :) Phew, which you do.

Hmm, I'm not quite sure why he would be unsettled by the dream he had. The way you described it, it just seemed like a big sound happened and he was startled, not necessarily scared. Did you imagine a detail or emotion you haven't shared with us?

We had been assured many a time on our journey that predatory animals were rare beyond belief in these jungles


THIS is an example of how your sentences should be, in my opinion. It's got that old-time tone, but not in any unnecessary ways. Assured is a perfectly fine verb for this instance, and predatory animals is an acceptable term to my ears. Later in the sentence the phrase "was to be" is a little off, though, because it could just be simply "was".

but the unrelenting sunlight heated you even in the shadows of a leafy canopy.


Here, to stick to your tone, I'd have expected "heated one even in the shadows".

The final straw for me was the clouds in the sky, they too were identical in geometry and scale as they had been in my fevered mind the previous night.


I love this reveal moment, although I think you could have transitioned into it a little more cinematically -- maybe the character see's Wilson's reaction before he sees the temple himself, because as you've written it now, it feels like he sees it, and should be reacting, but somehow has enough wits about him to see Wilson's reaction too? Also, what does he mean by "the final straw"? I think you might find a better expression to reveal this last shock with!

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. Overall, I like your introduction and you do a good job building tone and pacing yourself. I might enjoy some actual lines of dialogue, but the imagery is good. I'm interested to see what happens next, and that's always a nice sign as well!

If you have any questions/comments about this review, feel free to PM me or reply here.

Thanks for sharing, and I'll await the next installment.

Hannah

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Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind