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16+ Violence Mature Content

LMS VI: Let Me Live Tonight 1.2

by winterwolf0100


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence and mature content.

When Desdemona played, it was like the whole world stopped.    

Dessie was the same age as me, and in the same homeroom at school. She was also my next-door neighbor, had been since we were both born. She had bright gray eyes and deep brown hair and a chipped-tooth grin from falling out of a tree when we were seven. She always wore her hair in a pony-tail, and at night, after we’d finished all our games and the sun had gone down, she’d go home with a rat’s nest in her hair for her mom to yank a brush through. She was always skinny and small, wearing long shorts and messy shirts, all bones.

We played every day after school, all the neighborhood children. I can’t remember a time when it was only boys, but I know Dessie was the only girl. We played tag after school, chasing each other through our yards. We lived on a busy street, so we couldn’t play in it, but sometimes we’d race across on a dare. Felix had a driveway that wrapped around and connected to his backyard both ways, and sometimes, Dessie would hide back there, holding back giggles as she peered around the corners to see if anyone would find her to tag her. The only reason I know she did that is because I was always right beside her, peering the other way. We’d stand back to back, on constant alert, like soldiers surrounded. It was like it was us against the world.

There were five or six of us that played nearly every day. Sometimes, more would join. Sometimes less. Nox, Orlando, and Robin made it outside most days. I was outside the moment my backpack hit the floor. Felix was outside all the time— Dessie was outside more. She’d climb the tree that sat in-between our houses and shout daring insults interspersed with laughter. If I didn’t come outside, she’d knock on the front door and talk to my parents and when she heard I was sick, she’d say she hoped I got better. I don’t know how she could get outside that fast— we were in the same class but she always seemed to have been waiting for hours by the time I got home, her face impatiently resting in her hands as she sat on the roots of the tree and leaned against its truck. She’d groan, “It took you forever,” and I’d go, “I’ll be out in a minute! I have to put my backpack up first!”

When we played, everyone seemed to forget about everything. It didn’t matter if Dessie was smaller. It didn’t matter if Dessie was a girl. It did matter that Dessie beat us at everything and climbed trees faster and outran us all while grinning ear to ear, but since none of us could do anything about it, we couldn’t really complain. Sometimes, we’d play infection tag just to see how many of us it took to catch her. Sometimes, we’d play freeze tag and see how long we could hold our breath.

One day, when I was eight, Robin came home from school with a big grin on his face. He was seven, a year younger, but carried himself like he held all the secrets of the universe. He said he had a new game that one of the older kids had taught him at recess— he said it was called chicken.

We all sat in a circle in Felix’s backyard, the sounds of cars speeding by on our road loud and constant. It was always busy during rush hour. Nox drew with a stick in the dirt and Orlando and Felix kicked a ball around as we all waited for Robin to start his explanation. He seemed determined to draw the suspension out as long as possible, but finally, as Dessie yet again made a comment on how bored she was, he couldn’t hold it in anymore and he caved

“Alright, alright, pay attention!” Robin said excitedly, an impish grin on his face. Nox looked up from his stick-man drawing in the dirt and Felix and Orlando paused their game of soccer. “First, everyone has to stand on the sidewalk. Then, one person has to go out into the middle of the road, and they try to stay there as long as they can while a car is coming at them without moving out of the way. And the longer they stay there, the more brave they are. But if they jump out of the way too fast, then they’re a chicken.”

“That’s so boring,” Nox complained and rested his chin on his hand, looking back down at his drawing and absent-mindedly drawing an ‘x’ through the stick figure.

“Yeah…” Orlando said distractedly, kicking the ball back to Felix, “it doesn’t sound very fun.”

“Come on!” Robin groaned, “You haven’t even tried it yet!”

“My mom says not to go in the road,” Felix chimed in, kicking the ball back to Orlando and laughing as it hit him in the stomach. Nox looked up and laughed too, while Orlando kicked the ball back hard. Felix ducked to stop it from hitting him in the face and it bounced off the fence with a loud thud.

“My parents told me not to go near the street,” I agreed.

Robin crossed his arms and stomped his foot, frustrated at being ignored. “Oh come on, you’re acting like a bunch of girls! Quit being chickens,” he complained.

“Hey!” Dessie piped up indignantly from beside me, standing up suddenly with her small hands clenched into fists. “Girls aren’t chickens!”

“Then why don’t you do it?” Robin dared. “Unless you’re too chicken.”

Dessie seemed to hesitate before a look of determination overcame her. She frowned, then stuck out her tongue and said, “Fine, I will!” She stomped off up the driveway towards the front yard, and everyone paused what they were doing to watch her. I shot up from where I was sitting and followed her up the driveway, hearing the other boys run along too.

Robin ran to the front of the group so he could be on the sidewalk first, before turning back to everyone. “Okay, the rules of the game— if it takes the car more than five seconds to get to where you were when you jumped, you’re a chicken.”

“Five seconds seems like a long time,” Orlando said, seeming to become more interested now that someone had volunteered. “Maybe we should do four instead.”

“Or three,” suggested Nox.

“Three’s too short,” I finally said, “you can’t jump out when there’s only three seconds.”

Dessie stayed silent, chewing on her bottom lip as she frowned deeply and stared at the road. She seemed to be lost in thought as we watched the cars whiz by.

“You know, you don’t have to if you don’t want—” Felix began quietly.

“Three seconds!” Dessie announced suddenly, cutting him off as she turned away from the road and back towards the group. “You guys better be counting. And don’t do any stupid stuff either.”

With that, she marched with determination into the road. A van came speeding around the corner, old and rusted. It honked loudly at her, and she jumped out of the way. We counted six seconds before the van zoomed past us.

“Scaredy-cat!” Orlando gloated and Nox laughed beside him.

“I thought girls weren’t chickens,” Robin taunted.

Dessie pulled back her pony-tail and tightened it. “They aren’t,” she seethed. “I just wasn’t ready yet.”

“Right, right,” Nox laughed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Felix go back to the edge of his driveway and sit down, looking bored.

The second time, Dessie walked into the road and a truck rounded the corner. The driver blared their horn and Dessie seemed to hesitate.

“Chicken!” Robin called out, laughing as Dessie jumped out of the way. This time, it was only four seconds.

“You cut off two seconds that time!” Nox said encouragingly.

“Still over time though,” I said, a little hint of a smile finally beginning to show. Dessie shot me an irritated look and I smiled fully. She rolled her eyes at me, placing her hands on her bony hips.

“This is so stupid,” she complained, “it isn’t fun at all!”

“Are you trying to chicken out?” I teased, and she huffed.

“Fine. One. More. Time. And this time, I will make it under time. And then, we can stop playing this stupid game and do something else instead, okay?”

“Fine with me,” Orlando shrugged.

“No, we all have to do it,” Robin began to argue. “We all gotta make it in three seconds or it doesn’t count!”

Dessie ignored the argument and walked into the road. A red SUV sped towards her, and I watched Dessie take in a deep breath, ready to spring out of the way. The driver laid on their horn, a constant blare that seemed to go on forever. At the last second, the driver swerved and Dessie jumped, a relieved and successful grin spread across her face— it was over. There was no way for her to know she’d be jumping into its path. Her feet didn’t even touch the ground before her body was sent flying backwards down the pavement. Tires squealed and skidded. A scream ripped through the air. Time stood still. Sudden, deafening silence.

I don’t mean there wasn’t any noise, because I know there was plenty— boys cried, people were on the phone to 911, sirens bloomed in the distance like blood branching out into water. I mean I couldn’t hear any of it. One moment I was there, and the next moment I wasn’t. I think my mind blocked it out, because even now, after all these years, I can’t remember how I got inside my house.

I missed a week of school. Dessie never came back. The ambulance took her away, and then she was gone— forever. My parents sat me down and told me that Dessie and her parents had moved away to a different state, one far away, to be near their family.

I asked what happened to Dessie. My mom said, “Clayton, do you know what paralyzed means?” I asked if Dessie would ever get better. My dad said, “Clayton, you can’t play outside for a while.”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to step foot outside. The sun was too bright, and it hurt my eyes, burning into my skull. The tree connecting our yards was too empty, too barren. Dessie wasn’t sitting in its branches, waiting for me to come outside. She wasn’t knocking me over and squealing, “Clay!” She wasn’t doing anything anymore. The neighborhood fell silent. The kids all stayed indoors. There were no chases or soccer games. There was no giggling and hiding— there were no games of chicken.

When Desdemona played, it was like the whole world stopped. But when she left, I think it actually did.

       

~~~

    

1833 words

I appreciate all feedback, and would love to hear it all, but I especially love hearing about how the piece makes you feel, your theories on what it means and its implications for the story, and your opinions. Thank you for reading!


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Fri Sep 30, 2022 8:18 pm
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RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hi winterwollf!

RandomTalks here with a short review!

We are only in the first chapter of the novel, and already you have traumatized me with your stories. It broke my heart when I realized that the narrator took the job at the 911 call center, when he had been a witness to such a horrific accident of a very close friend at such an young age. It made me feel so sorry for him, especially because the only things we know about this person is the trauma that he has been through in life. I love the way you are progressing with the story - through flashback that depict a particular event of the narrator's life. Like I said in my previous review, these flashbacks feel like building blocks of the narrator's character; these little pieces of the puzzle that made him who he is today. And since the two flashbacks until now have been marked with death, grief and shock, it makes me genuinely wonder about his wellbeing and the circumstances under which he has grown up in life.

Now coming to this part, I loved the way you narrated it! It is strong enough to stand as a story on its own, but the fact that it is not a random story but a part of the narrator's childhood makes it all the more tragic. I think I understood where you were going with this the moment the game of chickens was explained. From that very moment, these red alarms went off in my head and I wanted to scream through the screen at the children and tell them to just go home and not come outside for a very long while.

I think what made it all the more traumatizing and tragic for me is the fact that they were all children and it was their childish innocence and naivity that led to the accident. It had happened unknowingly, in the middle of a game on a random afternoon of their young lives. It was all fun and games for them - a contest of who was more brave for some, a source of entertainment for some others and a hit on the child's ego for Dessie which motivated her to agree in the first place and reduce the time limit later on. They were so ignorant and oblivious to the dangers of the world around them, to the dangers of their own suggestions and actions and their implications on other people. It just hit really hard for me.

A few specifics:

At the last second, the driver swerved and Dessie jumped, a relieved and successful grin spread across her face— it was over. There was no way for her to know she’d be jumping into its path.

The way you narrated this scene made it a thousand times worse for me. It was cruel and haunting, the way you just cut off in the middle of the sentence describing her victorious smile and concluding it with a plain and simple 'it was over'. It seemed to me that you crafted this scene with the sole intent to destroy your readers. But that aside, I really loved the way you portrayed the narrator's thoughts after the incident, the 'haze' which he experienced, the sudden and complete upheaval of the life he had known until then.

When Desdemona played, it was like the whole world stopped. But when she left, I think it actually did.

This repetition at the end was so ingenious and cruel and creative that I could not decide whether to be impressed or be angry at your determination to traumatize your readers. I have realized by now that this might be a recurring dilemma when reading your novel.

Also, it occurred to me that you include a Shakespearean quote in every part - is that a hint at the tragedy your story entails or is there another reference which we will come to realize later?

Overall, you have succeeded in delivering a devastating end to a devastating chapter and I cannot wait to read what you have in store for us next!

Keep writing and have a great day!

Until next time!




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Thu Sep 29, 2022 2:47 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh, another quite intense part. I'm curious about whether this has all been the same narrator—if so, I wonder why they would ever go into being a 911 dispatcher with such a traumatic event in their childhood. They certainly make some interesting choices. But who am I to judge! So far, it makes for a very gripping story!

I wasn't sure how much I'd like the isolated story feel of this longer work, but I actually find myself really enjoying it! I've always been a fan of short stories, and I also love it when each little bit of text eventually culminates in something super epic. I think you've also been doing a great job so far of making each one feel unique and engaging—I know I've really enjoyed making connections between the parts so far. I also loved the circular ending moment in this one; I'm always a sucker for callbacks like that, and I think you executed it really well here.

Also, one thing I noticed that I didn't catch the first time is all the Shakespeare names!! So far we've got Ophelia in the first part, and Desdemona, Orlando, and Robin (Goodfellow?) in this part. Paired with the Shakespeare in the descriptions and your title, I'm beginning to think the Bard has more to do with this story than I originally thought. I absolutely love Shakespeare, though, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else you weave through! I have a feeling the part where it all clicks will be something very epic.

Specifics

We played every day after school, all the neighborhood children. I can’t remember a time when it was only boys, but I know Dessie was the only girl. We played tag after school, chasing each other through our yards.


Just a tiny thing here; I noticed you had "We played ___ after school twice in pretty close succession here; to me, it felt a bit repetitive.

I asked what happened to Dessie. My mom said, “Clayton, do you know what paralyzed means?” I asked if Dessie would ever get better. My dad said, “Clayton, you can’t play outside for a while.”


Aaaaa this part. I loved this part; I think you conveyed the absolute heartbreaking feeling of telling a child bad news. That innocent questioning countered with the parents' repsonses was so well written. Really great work.

Overall: nice job! I'm enjoying reading this and I'm super excited for you to continue! You got this!! Until next time!






Ahhhh Plume thank you so much for this! I am always very excited to hear opinions. I will say that this is all the same narrator, though there%u2019s a lot that happens between this age and when Clayton goes into being a 911 operator, so while it feels like a really weird choice on his part now, I do think it will eventually make sense.

I am really happy you are enjoying the connections that are being made between the stories! The first few stories, they will feel isolated, but they will also all begin to build into telling a singular story, I promise!

Ahhhhhh I am very excited you caught onto the Shakespeare. I was wondering if anyone would >.> there is actually one really huge part that is Shakespeare that I am not sure you have noticed yet, which will hopefully be some sort of mindblowing when you figure it out? That was the intention at least XD

You are right, that repetition is a bit annoying XD I did not have the chance to really edit anything in-depth, but I will keep that in mind for future revisions! ^^

I am also very happy you enjoyed those lines, or that they at least hit hard :%u2019] I tried hard to convey it in a disconnected way that makes sense to adults but still conveys that confusion and not understanding that young children have.

For real though, thank you very very much! You made my day when I saw you reviewed, and I smiled the whole time I read it :]]]




The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust.
— Samuel Butler