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13 Blackberries (Part 2)

by Quinine


    The electric fear, after a while of standing still, looking dumbly out to surroundings that she was blind to, became weary, and it poured out of her in a gasping sigh.

     You can't be scared forever. 

     The cloud of tension lifted from her vision like a vulture as she properly observed her surroundings, taking it in a single, sweeping glance. She was surprised to see that her eyes were in fact familiar with the scene laid out before her. It might have once been a garden, with twisting thickets of overgrown blackberry brambles pervading the flagstone paths, the glitter of dewy blackberries in the moonlight, and gray walls rising on four sides to form a small courtyard. A fat white moon observed it silently, as if questioning her presence here so late at night.

    This was the abandoned castle atop the hill.

    Memories flooded through her, fresh, ones of scaling the ivy-ridden walls, chasing her brother through the crumbling corridors, the dizzying, glorious feeling of being at the top of the enormous sycamore that had burst through the cobbles...

   But it was so different now. In the cold darkness, the eerie moonlight, and threat of imminent death, it was a completely different place.

  She took inventory of her situation, trying to find some way that this could not be true, trying to find a story that ended with things returning to how they used to be, and found none.

   There was no escaping it.

   She would have to...pick the blackberries, however odd a request it was. 

   As she looked around, her stomach sank. It wasn't blackberry season yet. Most, if not all, of the moonlit blackberries in the mass of brambles were lovely shades of scarlet, very prominently unripe. It was the early bloomers, the special snowflakes that had reacted violently with the spring sun's rays, the rare ripe blackberry that she would have to find. This was not going to be easy.

   Gingerly picking her way across the thorn-covered ground, slowed considerably by her enormous dress, she examined the largest tangle of thorny branches and leaves, searching for a flash of rich, dark purple that gave away such a snowflake. After a quick survey, she stooped down to look on the underside of the thorn-studded boughs. To her encouragement, the telltale black blackberry glittered there among a magenta cluster. She dropped it into her basket.

   One.

   One down,  eleven more to go.                                       

   ~o--O--o~

     Twelve.

      Anna followed the path of blackberry with disbelieving eyes as it dropped into the basket. She recounted, and the number came up strong. She was one away.

     It was now that she paused from the monotonous, repetitive search-and-gather motions to fully consider what she was going to do. She recalled the cold blade under her chin, the harsh and mysterious tones of her captors, the bruise that festered upon her scalp. It was crystal clear that whatever they wanted the blackberries for, their motives were almost certainly of malicious terms. 

     And she-what was she? She was their  little puppet, a instrument to carry out their sinister plot, a victim of their conniving schemes, nothing less. She couldn't accept that she would have to be key in fulfilling whatever toxic desire they had in mind. She conjured dreams of heroism and grandeur, in which she used her vital role to her advantage, forming a grand master plan and  single-handedly leaving their plans in disarray.

     In these imaginings, however, the details of this plan, were, unfortunately, glossed over. No amount of thinking produced any plan of the sort. There was nothing she could do. Heaving in a despairing sigh, she picked the final blackberry.

    Thirteen.

    Right on cue, a cold wind rustled the moonlit leaves of the bramble, skipping across her skin. Looking up at the moon, Anna saw that she had succeeded. It was midnight. The pale moon hung high in the inky ocean of sky, as if sealing her fate. The song of late-night crickets filled the silence.

    What now?

    As if in answer, a hand silently extended from behind a stone brick wall.

    Anna stared, both bewildered and mesmerized by such a specter. Clutching her basket, she deduced that it must be the hand of her captors, and then looked at it with a new fear. Once she gave them the basket, there was no going back. Her fingers and legs suddenly were made of lead, frozen with pure indecision. Slowly, unwillingly, she felt herself take a shaky step forward, compelled by terror and the undeniable, powerful desire to live.

   She took another step forward.

   She was going to do it.

   And another.

   She had no choice.

   And-

   She tripped.

   It was actually an accident. It really was. But afterwards Anna would not have said so. 

    It was a magnificent trip, too. 

    Anna sailed forward in a flamboyant arc, arms flailing, as she sent basket and blackberries flying. She face-planted into the dust, pain shooting like needles through every part of her body. The basket tumbled a foot or so ahead of her, and the blackberries spilled everywhere in a cuneate splatter across the flagstones.

    In deathly fear of rebuke, she quickly jumped to her feet, ineptly scooping up the blackberries into the basket, her mind racing. She straightened, and in a very disgruntled manner, held out the basket, her eyes furiously glued to the ground. She felt a cold hand take the basket handle. A susurrus of aggravated muttering rose up from the vagabond group, and that of counting. She waited expectantly.

    "Where's the thirteenth one-" 

    "I'll get it."

    Anna dove behind a bush, lightly grazing her arms on the thorns. Sucking away the blood, she made rapid, tangled movements as she slowly eased toward her goal.

    It was off. She was now only in her own clothes once more. The wretched dress now lay in a dejected heap in the dirt. Now with such a snag in escape  removed, Anna felt at ease, as she saw the possibilities of escape open. Letting out a a sigh of relief, she looked up

into

a face

disfigured 

by 

rage.

     Her plans had single handedly become a hot, smoking wreck, and her visions of heroism and flawless carry-out were in a instant shattered into smithereens. With only her instincts to guide her now, it was almost on impulse that she grabbed the thirteenth blackberry and tossed it into the stewing pot of miscreants. Not looking back, she violently jumped the wall, falling with a sickening crunch on the ground outside. Numb to the pain that now pumped through her body, she crazily jumped up and ran.

   Luminous white fur suddenly filled her vision. She blindly grabbed on, and croaked out a hoarse "Go."

   Suddenly her stomach was ripped out of her and left behind as she almost was sent flying, if it weren't for the disgruntled grip of her numb fingers. Wind buffeted her ears she she rocketed over the moonlit prairie. Regaining control, she struggled to sit up, to get a hold on what had just happened. Her blurred vision slowly came into focus as they flew across the grass.

She was riding a bear.

     Everything she had been taught about bears screamed at her to let go, to get as far away as possible, to fear it. But they were going at such a speed that letting go meant death.  Suddenly they were airborne, and Anna's paralyzed heart suddenly flew into her throat, then into her shoes as they landed in the water, hard, with a massive splash.

    Anna tumbled off the bear's back at the impact, and into the water. Everything was suddenly still. She looked up, quaking, at the bear.

    It wasn't like any bear she had been told about, at least. The moon-colored, luminescent fur almost seemed to glow, and a pair of intelligent blue eyes looked down at her. The sight was so strange, and the night had been so surreal, that she failed to summon any conventional fear.

"What are you?"

she mouthed.

   Her clothes were soaked through. Looking around, she was puzzled to recognized the mud-caked walls of earth the cradled the water that she stood waist-deep in. But it couldn't be. That very morning the creek had been dry.

   Anna looked down at her hands. The one she had snatched the final blackberry with was stained purple from gripping it so hard. The purple blot looked like blood in the moonlight, and it seemed to burn into her palms, hissing "You did this. You gave them what they wanted. Now we're all doomed." She suddenly felt overwhelmed with the weight of her blunder. She stood, motionless in the rippling waters, not knowing who she was or where to go.


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Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:30 am
Mea wrote a review...



Hey there! I thought I'd drop by for a quick review today. Apologies if I repeat anything that was previously said. I did read the last part, so I'll be talking a bit about the story as a whole so far.

Overall, the first part of this was really good and engaging, but I feel like the second part got away from you a little bit. Particularly after she finished picking the final blackberry, I had a hard time following what was going on and why, partly because the narration felt a little too dramatic. (For example, this whole paragraph:

Her plans had single handedly become a hot, smoking wreck, and her visions of heroism and flawless carry-out were in a instant shattered into smithereens

I also wasn't really a fan of the way you started new paragraphs in the middle of your sentences once or twice.)

However, I really liked the parts where there was an obvious omniscient narrator - lines like "It was actually an accident. It really was. But afterwards Anna would not have said so." actually give a great atmosphere to the story. And I think your imagery is lovely and there's a lot of fascinating ideas here - I'm definitely curious about the 13 blackberries, the bear, and what they portend.

In these imaginings, however, the details of this plan, were, unfortunately, glossed over. No amount of thinking produced any plan of the sort. There was nothing she could do. Heaving in a despairing sigh, she picked the final blackberry.

So, I felt like her emotional state was a little bit confused here. It's like you can't quite decide whether she's angry/annoyed/afraid at the fact that she's having a hard time finding the berries (and wondering what they'll do to her if she doesn't get them), or whether she's annoyed at herself for going along with their plan and not thinking of any way to get out of it. In the paragraph before, she had been frustrated/afraid because she only had 12 blackberries, and then in this paragraph, she's suddenly picking a final blackberry - when did she find it?

In general, I'm just not feeling the fear. How does she know that what these people are doing is so bad? I mean, she knows it's bad enough that they're willing to kidnap people for it, but that doesn't mean it's broadly destructive or will doom everyone she loves. I feel like it makes a lot more sense for her primary fear to be coming from the fact that these people might kill her if she doesn't do what they want, rather than her somehow knowing that their plans are just that evil. It just seems a little melodramatic of her.

And I think that's all I've got for you! Sorry this is a bit disjointed, but again I want to say that this is a great start to a story. :) I definitely appreciate Anna's bravery and am interested to see what happens next.




Quinine says...


The paragraph breaks were not originally there, I'm not sure why they were there when I published it.
Also, I'm not sure if there will be more...but possibly.



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Thu May 24, 2018 6:12 am
Evander wrote a review...



Heyo, Quinine! I'm back for another quick review~

Despite my amount of criticism, I really am a huge fan of this story and I can't wait to see where it goes from here. I think your description is excellent! Seriously, if you post more, then feel free to let me know! You have a loyal follower from here on out! :p

The electric fear, after a while of standing still, looking dumbly out to surroundings that she was blind to, became weary, and it poured out of her in a gasping sigh.

This sentence meanders off, losing its focus. The "became weary" sounds like it applies to the electric fear, instead of applying to her? I'm not entirely sure what the exact visual is supposed to be here. I'd highly suggest rewording this, perhaps separating it into two sentences if need be.

Memories flooded through her, fresh, ones of scaling the ivy-ridden walls, chasing her brother through the crumbling corridors, the dizzying, glorious feeling of being at the top of the enormous sycamore that had burst through the cobbles...

This is another long and meandering sentence. It does suit its purpose -- the main character is getting lost in her memories -- but it's also difficult to read and a bit difficult to follow. (Suggestion: Turn the first comma into a period, remove the second comma, turn the fourth comma into a period.)

It was the early bloomers, the special snowflakes that had reacted violently with the spring sun's rays, the rare ripe blackberry that she would have to find

These are nice little pieces of description, but they also become repetitive. I would instead just pick one instead of going with all three.

Anna followed the path of blackberry with disbelieving eyes as it dropped into the basket.

The antecedent (what "it" refers to) looks like it should be "the path of blackberry" which makes little sense in my head. What dropped into the basket? Another blackberry? What is a path of blackberry? The only other noun "it" could refer is Anna, but Anna would be referred to with "she/her". Clarification is needed here.

It was midnight. The pale moon hung high in the inky ocean of sky, as if sealing her fate. The song of late-night crickets filled the silence.

These are very good lines of description! Seriously, the visuals I'm getting from these are very vivid and I love them a lot. The only qualm I have with this line is "as if". I feel as if (haha) the line could be stronger with the omission of it. It also becomes repetitive to keep it in, since a few lines down, "as if" is repeated again.

As if in answer, a hand silently extended from behind a stone brick wall.

Although, "as if" could probably be removed here too. The hand is in answer (unless it's just a hand?), so "as if" doesn't seem like it qualifies.

She tripped.

Nice! Although, what did she trip on? Given that her first few steps seemed very deliberate, it's weird that she would trip on nothing. I think that it could be very easy to add in lines about unsteady brambles coating the pathway or something similar -- maybe adding in a log that she didn't notice for her to trip over.

"Where's the thirteenth one-"
"I'll get it."

How did Anna know where it was? The narrative makes no mention of her scanning around for it, but it also doesn't mention her purposefully giving the wrong number of blackberries. I would recommend adding in a clarifying detail.

Sucking away the blood,

Sucking away the blood on her arms?

Luminous white fur suddenly filled her vision. She blindly grabbed on, and croaked out a hoarse "Go."

Question! Why did the bear obey her command? Unless it's domesticated (can bears be domesticated?) then I don't see the reason for it to obey her instead of eating her.
Also, luminous white fur? o: Is this a polar bear? Dang, I really want to know more about the setting now.

"What are you?"
she mouthed.

This doesn't need to be on separate lines!

she was puzzled to recognized

*recognize

"You did this. You gave them what they wanted. Now we're all doomed."

Granted, giving thirteen blackberries to malicious creatures isn't always the best thing, I'm not sure if we (the readers) really understand the magnitude of what she's done. The three beings are bad, but we don't necessarily understand the full scope of their power yet (or even a sliver of their power to be scared of it). "We're all doomed?" How much bad can these beings do?

For general improvements, I would definitely recommend proofreading before posting -- there are a lot of small errors here and there that could definitely be caught by a quick glance over before pressing submit. In addition to that, I would also recommend reading this out loud! I find that I tend to catch my most grievous sentence errors after having read my story out loud. Meandering and long sentences become easier to spot that way!

Once again, I really like this story and I can't wait to see what the 13 blackberries were for. I definitely hope that you keep on writing! If you have any questions or comments, then don't hesitate to send me a message!




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Wed May 23, 2018 9:42 pm
Banana25 says...



Wow! This is so amazing! I love it so much!!!





"Death is cheap, and so is life, but a reputation is not easily recovered."
— SirenCymbaline the Kiwi