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Late Shift

by jster02

The factory always felt quiet after dark. Without the constant whirring of machines, the hiss of steam from the engines, and the workers shouting to one another, it was almost tranquil. But even now, an hour after the last gear stopped turning, not all had left for home. In the furthest corner of the building, a mountain dwarf could be seen, trying to coax what looked like a gigantic orange slug into a cage.

“Get back inside so I can go home, you useless lump!” He prodded the creature with a metal pole, but it didn’t seem to notice.

“Of all the nights for this to happen, why when it’s my turn to feed you?”

The creature only snorted in response.

The dwarf rubbed his eyes, the beginning of a headache embedding itself right between his eyes. When was the last time he’d gotten a good night’s sleep? Two weeks? Three? He wasn’t getting one tonight, that was for certain. For a moment, he considered going home right then. Maybe, if he acted real surprised tomorrow when the others discovered the slug out of its cage, they’d think it escaped on its own.

A clattering from across the building shook him from his thoughts.

“Who goes?” he said.

No response. The dwarf crept towards the other side of the building, checking over his shoulder from time to time. A broom lay on the ground near the wall, but other than that there was nothing there. Warily, he looked about, but from what he could see the factory was empty.

“Show yourself!” He shouted, “Or I’ll find you, and then you’ll really be in trouble!”

The sound of running feet on concrete echoed off the walls. There really was someone here. The dwarf dashed towards the sound, leaping over conveyor belts and wooden crates. The footsteps grew louder, their owner making no effort to conceal them now. The dwarf chased them into the corner of the building, where, after vaulting over a particularly large pile of crates, he found a man dressed in ragged green cloak, clutching an armful of tiny glass bottles filled with an orange goop.

“So you came here to steal, did you?” The dwarf asked.

“D-don’t come any closer!” The man said, trembling “I’m armed.”

The dwarf let out a short bark of a laugh, “Ha! So am I!”

He drew his dagger, an ornate piece about as long as his forearm. Even in the darkness, it seemed to gleam.

The man looked from the knife to the dwarf to the bottles in his arms. For a split second, neither moved. Then, without warning, the man dropped his loot and lunged, pulling a knife of his own from beneath his cloak. The dwarf leapt aside, taking a swipe at the man, who just barely managed to raise his weapon in time to parry. With one flick of his wrist, the dwarf twisted the knife out of his opponent’s hand, sending it clattering under a nearby conveyor belt.

“I’m not sure what you thought was gonna happen, attacking me like that,” the dwarf said, touching the tip of his blade to the man’s throat, “I’m a bleedin’ mountain dwarf! We’ve got fighting blood, don’t ya know?”

“P-please don’t hurt me!” The man squeaked, raising his hands, “I only wanted a few bottles, just enough to get a few extra coins at the market. I have kids to feed, honest!”

“Oh, I’m sure. And I’ll bet one of them’s dying and you need money for medicine.”

“Yes! Poor little Jimmy’s caught the plague, and-”

“Shut up, you worthless street urichen. You’re wasting your time lying to me.”

The man opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, going red in the face. The dwarf sighed, and lowered his dagger. “You honestly think I care if you steal from this place? No skin off my nose if the people at the top lose a few coins. Go right ahead, take everything for all I care. Besides, it’d be too much of a hassle to have to explain what your corpse is doing on the factory floor tomorrow.”

“You’re… just gonna let me go?” The man asked.

“Sure. By the way, you ever work with slugs? The big kind?”

“Uh… yeah?”

“There’s a real lazy one in the corner over there. Lock it up for me when you’re done, will ya? I’m going home.”  

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109 Reviews

Points: 1940
Reviews: 109

Fri Dec 13, 2019 4:52 am
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Gnomish wrote a review...

Hey there!

I'm a sucker for a fantasy story, so I clicked on this right away. First of all, I really liked how you managed to introduce the setting and give the reader a feel for where the story takes place right in the beginning without having a whole paragraph.

I really liked the ending, it was a humorous plot twist and I liked that the story didn't get too dark. One thing I'd say though is that when the man dropped the glass bottles wouldn't they have broken? It seemed like he kept the medicine for his son in the end, but I would think that at least one of the bottles would break. The part between the "fight" and the dwarf letting the man go also seemed a little rushed, but maybe it was purposeful so that it would be a sudden plot twist.

Again, I really enjoyed reading this story and found it was just the right balance between a light story and a darker fantasy mystery!

jster02 says...

Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I'll probably flesh out that fight scene a little more once I get the chance, seeing as you're the second person to mention it feeling a little short. As for the glass breaking, I wanted to include that detail, but I couldn't quite figure out how to do so without interrupting the flow of the combat scene. Even still, I might take another look to see if I can find a way to do it smoothly.
Anyways, thanks again for reading!

Gnomish says...

Glad I could help!

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209 Reviews

Points: 13076
Reviews: 209

Fri Dec 13, 2019 12:13 am
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WinnyWriter wrote a review...

Hey! I was pulled in by this story. It is fascinating, and so far, I like it. The unique setting and unusual opening scene are intriguing. You stepped right into action, and brought to life a scene that could be boring. Then when the mysterious footsteps are heard, you plunge into the action even more, which can be a great thing to do so the story doesn't drag out boringly until you get to anything exciting.

I also will mention that this is well written. There are very few, if any, spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. I did want to point out a couple of things, though. First of all is this sentence:

“Yes! Poor little Jimmy’s caught the plague, and-

Maybe it was just a typing mistake, but you don't have any closing quotation marks here.

The only other thing I want to mention is a capitalization thing. Whenever a quotation ends, the first word of explanatory material following it does not need to start with a capital. Take this sentence for example:

“So you thought you could steal from us, did you?” The dwarf said.

The word "the" doesn't need to be capitalized. Make sense? Anyway, that's more or less a nitpick.

Overall, this is well-written and engaging. Keep up the good work!

jster02 says...

Thanks for the feedback! I really need to work on my dialogue punctuation, so the advice is appreciated. I'll be sure to fix the mistakes as soon as I get the chance.

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18 Reviews

Points: 1939
Reviews: 18

Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:31 pm
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clarevelyn13 wrote a review...

Hellooo there! I was in the Green Room and saw your work! I was immediately intrigued, and very much enjoyed reading this short story of yours. I have not come across this type of setting before, but I really liked it! As I was reading, I noticed a few things, which I will describe below. Keep in mind that everything I say is my opinion, so take what you will! Overall it was a great, well-written piece, with points of humor that I loved.

Okie, so - let's go!

Right away, the setting of the story is interesting, being a factory - especially a factory after closing. However, there are also a few things I am wondering right off the bat. First, what kind of factory is this? A bottle factory? A medicine or pharmacy-type of factory? I am also wondering why this mountain dwarf is the only one left - is it just his turn for closing shift all by himself? Are there other fantasy creatures that work here?

This brings me to another question - how tall are the conveyor belts and things? If this factory is built for dwarf-size employees, then okay. But if there are a mix of creatures...I don't know if I can picture a dwarf being able to hop over conveyor belts like you mentioned. Is that too petty of a critique? Well, you can decide, haha.

I do love the dialogue of this dwarf character - clearly he is a feisty one. I like how he calls the slug a "useless lump."

When the dwarf says, "who goes?" I feel like he should say, "who goes there?" instead. Again, maybe petty.

I thought the sudden action sequence after the dwarf catches the man in the corner was a good addition. I just have a couple details about it!

First, if the bottles were so precious to the man and the whole reason he broke in, why would he just forego his mission and drop them? Secondly, I was waiting to hear (er, read) a sound effect of the bottles breaking on the floor, assuming they are made of glass. I think that would add to the action sequence you have here, and also just accuracy.

It also seemed a bit too easy for this dwarf, no matter how menacing he may appear, to overpower this thief. Maybe a bit more of a struggle would have been more interesting or realistic. I mean, presumably this guy has a sick child at home, which would surely give him a bit more motivation to fight for what he came for, ya know? Does that make sense?

Finally, I felt a little let-down at the very end, just because of the sudden character change in the dwarf. He went so fast from being this feisty dude doing his duty as a factory worker to just nonchalantly letting this thief go. Why? To me, this just seemed a little out of character for him, based on the rest of the character traits presented here. I did like the tie-in with the slug again, though, and the peculiarity of the characters. I think if you are able to expand on them a little more (the dwarf's name? a little more background or setting the scene? what land is this? what is going on in this world that the man had to break in?) it would add to the story, tie up loose ends, and help the story to circle back at the end.

I think that is all I've got to say! Once again, it was lovely to read, and clever. Let me know if something I critiqued does not make sense or needs further explanation. And of course, keep writing! :)

jster02 says...

Hi! Thank's so much for the review, I really appreciate. This story was kind of an experiment for me. The idea is to hint at certain details, or simply leave them out altogether so that the reader can draw their own conclusions. Your feedback is really helpful, because it made me realize I should probably hint at some things a little more, specifically the dwarf's reason's for being there so late. (You got it right though, it really is just his turn to close shift). As for the nature of the factory, I left that out on purpose to leave the reader wondering, though maybe I should have dropped a few hints throughout.

As for the change in character development, that's kinda my fault. I'll probably add a line somewhere towards the beginning where he considers just going home without locking the slug up or something. The idea behind his character is that he's just a disgruntled factory worker who hates his job and doesn't really care about breaking company policy if he knows he won't get caught. As for the thief, he really was lying. I should probably make that a little more clear too, as I kinda realized I never really confirmed whether he was or not.

Your feedback is much appreciated, thank's again!

clarevelyn13 says...

No problem - I enjoyed reading your work very much! And of course, leaving some things open to interpretation is great too. I did suspect that thief was a liar!

Still, what an awesome read. I'm glad I could help, at least maybe a little bit! -c

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
— Lyndon B. Johnson