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Momma's Boy

by Traves


Dead plants extended down the sandy plain as far as he could see. He took a quick breath, and hit the button.

The ground beneath him disappeared. Or rather, it reappeared a lot farther away.

A robotic voice beeped “Fall initiation time: 1640 hours” as he whistled past the wind, sparse as it was. The form fitting body suit and helmet held him together as his eyes rolled around in his skull. Falling through the sky was actually not that bad, he thought. Of course, the same couldn’t be said about the huge black thing blocking out half of his downward view. The 3 ton ‘package’ strapped to him should’ve oriented correctly by now, as it dragged him through the sound barrier and beyond, but going by the way it was beginning to swing him around at sub-sonic speeds, it probably hadn’t. He also couldn’t get rid of it either.

Not yet.

400 metres later, he was going down twice as fast, and zero times as around. It was time to let go. He still hadn’t though, causing a faint sense of alarm in the back of his head. His thoughts were of course, fiercely focussed on the poetic “AAAAAARGH!” that was emanating from his mouth. At the same time, a strong current pulsed around his neck, only so much weaker than a taser. Don’t ask how he knew what that felt like.

X301. X301. Jum. Your payload is in position. Automatic release is non-functional. Disengage manually immediately.”

“AAAAAAAAA-“

“The red handle marked ‘release’ on your right leg.” The feminine voice replied.

He clutched at his thigh, hoping for this nightmare to end. It didn’t work. “You are hurtling towards the ground at sonic speed, attached to a box that should not have weighed 3 tons, given its size.” a voice in his mind helpfully piped as he hysterically tugged at the red pin, praying to God that he got to see his mother again. He knew he shouldn’t have taken this job. The company was too shady. The facility looked too clean compared to the functional university rooms, the faces too unconcerned unlike the tired postgrads asking him questions in the usual clinical study. But thinking of his mama’s hospital bills, he had gone ahead anyway. Three hours later, pushing a button out in a desert field had thrown him into the sky.

X301. The payload is aligned. It will enter the tunnel in 30 seconds. Twist, push and pull.”

”Goddamn, I forgot the push. Sorry mama.” He whispered, as he finally managed to let go and the block fell away from him, along with the fuel cans of the cheap jetpack that got it in position. Immediately a robotic voice in his helmet noted, “Release time: 1641 hours. Release height: 5000 feet”. With a parachute released quickly, his motion slowed and he swayed down the last few thousand feet, cheeks and trousers wet like they hadn’t been in two decades. He slowly trudged to the buggy and headed back to the control tower, feeling sick to the core.

A few kilometres away from where he landed, a man had gotten increasingly worried until Jum’s payload was released.

“Christ, Len. This was way too close. The kid passed all your tests! What if he had died?” a man grumbled next to the woman on the comms, as Jum began to make his way back.

“Our only problem would have been retrieving the helmet, since it has all test data and payload jetpack control system. The boy would have splattered on the shutters, which close as soon as the payload enters the energy recoup tunnel. So calm down, Frank.” She barked without looking up at the grizzled man’s agitated face.

“And I assume that his life had already been bought if we needed it?” he murmured slowly, as understanding dawned on him.

“Yes.” she said as she offered him the contract file. “Also, with this test the system now produces energy at 8 times the rate it consumes. No known side effects excepting the occupational hazards.”

“Hmm. You’re as good as ever Len. I don’t know why I ever came down here.” He smiled as he read through the details, shuddering inwardly and making a mental note to never cross paths with the woman.

Told ya, Frank.” she said in a sing-song voice.

“Keep doing what you’re doing and maybe I’ll manage to keep the Army off your back.” he whispered as they walked off to talk to Jum, who had returned from his ‘adventure’.

“Congratulations Mr. Zhang. That payload you dropped just helped power a neighbourhood for the day.” she said. Her smile was more artificial than the flowers in his mother’s hospital room. “Want to go again? You are allowed to leave, but only because it’s your first time.

“Nah, I think I’ll take off.” Jum said, already turning around.

The old man next to her yelled “Good job, kid!”

On the bus back to the hospital, all Jum could think of was how he had fallen from the sky without ever getting up there. Even though the pay was pretty good, he was not sure if he would do it again. One moment he had been sweating and hesitating, on solid ground, and the next there was no ground beneath him. That feeling of unease continued to build up, and he couldn’t help but dwell on it since his stupid phone was dead.

An hour later, he sat outside the hospital room, still unable to understand how a recovering pneumonia patient had died of cardiac arrest. The doctor had looked appropriately sad as he explained how even though his mother had died in their care; he still had to foot the bill. He glanced cursorily at his mother’s file, not quite comprehending the words while seeing them.

  • Unusual cardiac activity detected at: 1640 hours
  • Estimated time of death: 1641 hours

___________________________________________________________________________

This was written entirely in about an hour on this prompt from r/WritingPrompts — " There's a computer that, when someone enters a specific location, will take the person exactly there. Make this only a minor part of your story and not the main focus."

This is about 900 words long,and just the bare bones. I always struggle to contain my stories to below 1500 words. 


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Wed Oct 10, 2018 6:35 pm
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thedevinhiggins wrote a review...



Hello!

First of all, this story has great imagery and characterization! It also has near-flawless pacing and transition!

However, I would like to mention something about your flow.

"He still hadn’t though, causing a faint sense of alarm in the back of his head. His thoughts were of course, fiercely focussed on the poetic “AAAAAARGH!” that was emanating from his mouth."

You should add a comma after "were" ("His thoughts were, of course...") and another comma after hadn't ("He still hadn't, though..."). These changes would help the passage carry the great flow across the story a bit more.

Also...

"He glanced cursorily at his mother’s file, not quite comprehending the words while seeing them."

I think you mean "curiously" instead of "cursorily".

And one more thing...

I have noticed that in a lot of your dialogue, you have periods before the dialogue tag. Here are some examples of what I mean:

---

"Yes." she said as she offered him the contract file.

“The red handle marked ‘release’ on your right leg.” The feminine voice replied.

“Told ya, Frank.” she said in a sing-song voice.

“Our only problem would have been retrieving the helmet, since it has all test data and payload jetpack control system. The boy would have splattered on the shutters, which close as soon as the payload enters the energy recoup tunnel. So calm down, Frank.” She barked without looking up at the grizzled man’s agitated face.

“Nah, I think I’ll take off.” Jum said, already turning around.

“You are hurtling towards the ground at sonic speed, attached to a box that should not have weighed 3 tons, given its size.” a voice in his mind helpfully piped as he hysterically tugged at the red pin, praying to God that he got to see his mother again.

--

After all of these bits of dialogue (and more), there are periods at the end of the statements when there should be commas. It's just a rule that whenever there is dialogue followed by a tag such as "she/he/I said", you should have a comma at the end of the dialogue phrase.

Anyway, that's about it!

It's a gripping, dynamic story that is wonderfully written for the most part. The only issues I really see are with grammar.

Keep writing, please!




Traves says...


Thanks for the great review, @thedevinhiggins ! I did not know that dialogues are supposed to end with commas. I do need to work on comma placement over all, it seems.



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Sun Sep 30, 2018 2:00 am
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SpiritedWolfe wrote a review...



Hey! Happy review day ~

Let's get right into it!

Jum copied and pasted the location as told on the beat-up laptop that was strapped to way too many wires.


For a beginning sentence, this has too many details and it's difficult to parse what exactly is important about this and why it constitutes as the first sentence. Try to streamline it a bit more and maybe flesh out some of the other details as the rest of the paragraph unfolds. Alone, this sentence feels unremarkable and I'm not given much direction as to how the story will start.

Still, he hesitated… the guy next in line politely helped him along by taking his hand and smashing it into the auxiliary keyboard on the pad connected to the laptop.


I'm a little confused by this? We're not given much set up for the scene around Jum and suddenly mentioning a new guy and a line is confusing to me. A line for what? Why is he in a line? What is he trying to do? I think trying to slow down and flesh out the first paragraph a bit more might help, trying to establish some more Jum's purpose along side his motivation -- which I'm glad you've already included! It just would be more impactful with a more fleshed out scene.

“Christ, Len. This was way too close. And that too when the kid passed all your tests. What if he had died?”


It feels as if there is a sudden shift in perspective at this point and I'm pretty confused what is going on. If this is the case, some kind of indicator of this would be really helpful, such as some asterisks or some other kind of line break to signal to the reader that something has changed. I'll write more about my impressions once I finish the rest of the story, but I did want to point out that the paragraph where this line comes from is difficult to read because it is a bunch of dialogue without paragraph breaks. Remember that every time there is new dialogue, a new paragraph has to start.

Overall, I'm not entirely sure what just happened. I understand there is some kind of science fiction element where this man, Jum, has been involved in some kind of study of transporting somewhere instantaneously and then transporting ... something? I understand that Jum isn't necessarily in the loop about what is occurring, but that doesn't mean that you have to leave the reader completely in the dark either. The beginning was so vague that I didn't know that Jum had been transported anywhere, what his package could even begin to be (I'd initially thought it was a bomb) and what the purpose of his mission was.

My suggestion for this is to slow it down and trying to be much more intentional about what you are trying to convey. I know you want to make this a shorter story, but you also can't cut out essential details that give it meaning to the reader. It's essential that you spend some time setting up the scene where Jum is at in the beginning before throwing him and the reader into ... wherever he went. Then giving us the background and what he knows as he's participating in this experiment, before finally giving us the conclusion that he (most likely) ended up killing his mother. This would also help the reader be more engaged and care more about the plot of the story, but I finished this not entirely sure what the purpose of the story was.

I think you have a good start here, but the essential thing that being more clear and intentional with the story. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Best of luck ~
- Wolfe




Traves says...


I agree with you on most counts, this is a great review @SpiritedWolfe ! I'm sorry for replying so late but I finally got some time to write. I have edited it to make it a bit clearer, could you let me know if this is any better, whenever it suits you?
Thanks again!



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Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:27 am
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ellasnotebook wrote a review...



Hi Traves! This was really fun to read, and I really liked your distinctive writing style! I'm here with a review to hopefully help you out some, so let's get into it (:

Alright-I'm going to be honest. I understood like 70% of this. Actually, make that like 50%. I don't know if it's because I'm super tired (which is definitely a possibility), or if I just didn't grasp it. So this makes "Momma's Boy" a little harder to review. However, while I was reading, I made note of some things that I thought could hopefully improve the writing. Just be aware that I didn't fully understand it, so my suggestions might be a little skewed.

My first suggestion is clarity. The first paragraph was very confusing. I believe it was just a matter of it being the first paragraph, as your last paragraph was infinitely more fluid and a lot clearer. I would honestly just go back and either rewrite it or try to add a little more detail. It jumped really quickly between him musing about why he was doing this to a guy in a line pressing a key on a keyboard and him falling through the sky. Up until that point, I thought this might have been a story about a hacker doing something illegal for cash; I didn't know there were other people waiting in a line behind him. So I would suggest adding more "exposition" type stuff there. I think that starting in media res is the best idea for this story, especially since it's a flash-fiction type piece, but I think more detail could be added to improve the clarity.

My second "suggestion" isn't really a suggestion, just a thought. I think there's an argument that this story would be better in first person. I think the sarcastic voice that you sometimes used would fit first person better. For example:

"Like, right now."

"“You are hurtling towards the ground at sonic speed, attached to a box that should not have weighed 3 tons, given its size.” a voice in his mind helpfully piped as he hysterically tugged at the red pin, praying to God that he got to see his mother again."

"Don’t ask how he knew what that felt like." (especially this sentence, for some reason)

This next sentence is a panic-inducing situation that was addressed in a single sentence, which if written in first person could be a lot more panicking.

"400 metres later, he was going twice as fast, but the release gear was stuck, causing a faint sense of alarm in the back of his head."

If instead of telling us that the release gear was stuck, you showed Jum slowly begin to panic about it not being able to be released, it could add some more depth to the situation.

However, I think there's also an argument that this story works well in third person. (This is my favorite part of the review where I get to highlight all of the sentences you wrote that made me really happy (: )

"The form fitting body suit and helmet held him together as his eyes rolled around in his skull."

"He knew he shouldn’t have taken this job. The company was too shady. The facility looked too clean compared to the functional university rooms, the faces too unconcerned unlike the tired postgrads asking him questions in the usual clinical study. Plus, he had heard someone mention “perpetual motion” and “infinite energy”, and being an engineering drop-out, his understanding had scared him."

"With the parachute released quickly, his motion slowed and he swayed down the last few thousand feet, cheeks and trousers wet like they hadn’t been in two decades."

I think it's just something to consider. (:

Smaller suggestions:

-I don't know if I would describe the wind as being coarse, but I see where you're coming from. It's just a little odd, but I didn't mind it so much.

-The dialogue in the scene with Len and Frank is hard to follow. Generally, you make a new paragraph every time someone starts talking-I think that doing that will make the paragraph a lot easier to understand, too.

- "“Congratulations Mr. Zhang. That payload you dropped just helped power a neighbourhood for the day.” she said, with a smile more artificial than the flowers in his mother’s hospital room."

This could be made into:

"“Congratulations Mr. Zhang. That payload you dropped just helped power a neighbourhood for the day.” she said(.) (Her smile was) more artificial than the flowers in his mother’s hospital room."

It's up to personal preference, though.


Overall, I have to say I really like your writing style! Even though I don't think I fully understood the story, I do fully appreciate your writing. I think you really loosened up towards the end, and I really like the way you told this story. Keep writing!




Traves says...


Thank you for the amazing review @ellasnotebook !
Apologies for the late replies but I have been really busy.
I have edited the work according to your comments, could you please read it again whenever you have some free time and let me know what you think?

(Also, the reason for it not being in first person was that the protsgonist is kinda not very smart, and sarcasm is not suited for him I think??)





I thought your edits made the story a lot clearer to understand! Especially the part with the two people talking about Jum - I understood it a lot better this time. (:



Traves says...


Okay!




Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
— -Apple Inc.