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A Backwards Suburbia: Snippets From an Extraordinary Town

by interstella

The joggers emerge at sundown. Where are they going? The dark envelops the placid neighborhood with feline stealth, creeping across the painted sky and then, with its gaping maw, swallowing it whole. You hope the joggers pick up their haphazard pace before nightfall consumes them and rips their colorful athleisure to shreds.

There are chalk arrows drawn on the sidewalk. You follow them to the local condominium complex. They disappear at the edge of the parking lot, where asphalt and woods converge. Pieces of blue chalk lie on the ground, framed by a circle of trees. In the distance, you hear the lilting giggle of a child. A dark cloud eclipses the sun and the trees become looming shadows. They beckon with long fingers.

All the houses look the same. Their mouths hang open in a perpetual cry and their eyes are dark and glassy. They live in a mundane cul-de-sac, with a neatly pruned knoll in the center. The street is shaped like infinity. They stare deep into each other’s brick façade until a hand yanks the curtains shut. The eyes, they say, are the window to the soul

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23 Reviews

Points: 4108
Reviews: 23

Mon Mar 25, 2019 4:12 pm
paperforest wrote a review...

Hey there! This was a fun read, I love these kind of aesthetic/descriptive things because of the way they pick little moments to show that then create a sense of a bigger whole, which I think you've done well here. The only thing is that, in terms of storytelling, this is really just setting the stage for something else to happen. It's something to read, yes, but is it a story? I'm not sure. The title calls it snippets, so it doesn't have to be a story in the usual sense - as long as it feels like a complete thing and not just a list of unrelated images, and especially if it ends with some sense of closure, then it's just fine the way it is. The rule of three and the poetic finality of the last sentence make that work.

But if you do want to make it more storylike, it could easily become so if the "you" character were a little more present/active. They aren't mentioned at all in the third paragraph, and if "you" is the main character, or at least the character that the story follows (sort of like a guide, bringing the reader into the town), then they should perhaps do something in the last paragraph. The other possible candidate for protagonist here is the town itself, but again, the town isn't doing anything. it's just sitting there, being creepy. Which is cool, but it makes the reader anticipate that something's going to happen, so it's a bit of a letdown when that's all we get.

The most action we see is at the start, with the joggers jogging and the night encroaching. The next paragraph is more active on the part of the "you" character, as they're following the chalk arrows, but then when you start describing the woods I don't know where to place the "you" character in my mind - at the entrance to the condominium complex, or right at the edge of the parking lot, or a bit back from that (sensibly away from the shadows, that's where I would be). The "framed by a circle of trees" bit also confuses the image in my head, because if it's the edge of a parking lot it'd be a straight line of trees, and if you're now inside the woods, then I'd like to know that. Unless you're going for an effect of spatial distortion/confusion, in which case maybe give us some hints that it's purposeful, like using words like distorted or warped or even just saying "you aren't quite sure how you got here", that kind of thing. Also, because there wasn't any special break between the first and second paragraphs and the sidewalk arrows led nicely from the first to the second, I thought it was a continuous story - and only on the second or third read through did I realize that you say "a dark cloud eclipses the sun". I was imagining a moon at that point, because the first paragraph set up the setting as being evening/nightfall.

The third paragraph definitely confused me at first, because there was no lead-in to it from the second paragraph, it just skipped away completely, and then there wasn't even a mention of the "you" character. This was when I started to realize that the snippets thing might be literal, and you aren't actually trying to write one continuous story. Anyways, it's also neat, definitely very creepy. It does seem a bit more detached from the rest of the story, because the houses seem to be the focus instead of the "you" character's experience as in the previous two paragraphs. Also it doesn't have as much movement as the first two. I like how you've anthropomorphized with strong verbs like the mouths "hanging" open and the houses "living" in a cul-de-sac, but still, nothing is happening but the houses sitting there staring at each other. Maybe I'm just impatient with these snippets because I really want to read a story set here... The only other nitpick I have here is the line "the street is shaped like infinity" made me think the street went in a figure of eight shape, and that confused the otherwise strong image you've created, because there's only one knoll, and I just imagined a normal circular cul-de-sac at first. Perhaps something like "stand here too long and you realize that you're surrounded - there is no street in or out, only a never-ending circle of houses" would communicate the vibe you're trying to create there more clearly?

Overall, I really like the writing style here, it's appropriately eerie and narratorily (if that's not a word then it should be) detached, and, especially with the second-person point of view, the narration sort of gives an atmosphere of being watched. I don't know if that makes sense, but I like it.

As a last note, I saw in the description that this is supposed to be nightvale-esque, so I can understand why you tagged it humour, but taken by itself I'm not really seeing anything humourous here - it's just creepy. Now humour is really hard to write, and I'm not really sure how to do it myself, but I think what makes nightvale-style humour funny is the juxtaposition of the terrifying, mysterious, cosmic creepiness of the setting, and the totally blasé, "that's just how so-and-so is, the silly old bat, let's get back to the real issue at hand: the gossip", attitude of the characters that live within it. The only thing you've got here that sort of approaches that is the joggers, except that they're just sort of creepy themselves. I think maybe what you've done here is combine a normal setting with a creepy attitude/atmosphere, instead of a creepy setting with a normal attitue/atmosphere, with the effect being that it's super creepy and not really funny instead of being funny because the normal attitude ignores and undercuts the creepy.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this - I would love to read more about this place, or in this style! Hope I've said something helpful, and keep writing!

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8 Reviews

Points: 786
Reviews: 8

Mon Mar 25, 2019 3:05 pm
HiddenMask wrote a review...

Hey! Here with a review for your great piece. SO, I love the atmosphere here in the writing. It's very creepy and surreal, especially the bit about the houses. The only thing here is that it seems to mostly just be description. It's not really a story, it's setting the stage. It's definitely surreal and creepy, but nothing's really happening. And, frankly, that's a bit boring. Your word choice kept me interested and reading, but you didn't do much. The bit where you addressed the reader, made them do something, made me think that we were going to venture into the dark, dreary woods, and see what's really giggling in there. But it just seemed to be a device for describing that part of town. You could've gone farther, addressed the reader and made them not just be looking at the scenery, dream walking through a surreal town. Instead perhaps, you could make them wander through the town, maybe warn the joggers. It's essentially just surreal description. It's not reeeaaally humor, though it's definitely in a Nightvale style. The humor in Nightvale often comes from the unexpected, the fact that everyone perceives this as totally normal when it's insane on so many levels. Perhaps we could have talked to the joggers, seen what they thought of this hellish suburbia. It's more horror and surreal than humor. That's fine, I like that kinda thing, and it's well written. It's just not a story. Use that "you" to your advantage, and do something with the stage you've set. As always, great word choice and metaphor usage.

The end about how the eyes are the window to the soul is very definite and ends it neatly, in a very creepy way.

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119 Reviews

Points: 57
Reviews: 119

Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:55 pm
Horisun wrote a review...

I really liked your story (and my brother) but I just thought of making your story a little longer. Also, I feel like it jumped in time between paragraph two and three. Also, it's labeled as horror and humor. And there was nothing very humorous in this. Otherwise, this stories suspenseful in a good way. I love it! Keep up the good work!

Also. Jack, why do I feel like you are responsible for spamming the site with the Bee Movie quote in the quote generator. *looks suspiciously*
— alliygator