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A note from Deaddogsstillbark

Hello, this is my first fiction, so I would be overjoyed with any feedback or reviews. 

Thanks for reading

 

Payten lay on his straw mat as he watched a drop of water leak from the roof of his Uncle's farmhouse. This was the only moment of the day he enjoyed, his sole moment of peace before the rest of the farmstead awoke and he would be resigned to spending the rest of his day toiling on the farm. He closed his eyes and tried to suppress the feeling of dread pooling in his stomach, knowing that any minute his fragile peace would be destroyed by either his Aunt’s shrill cries or his Uncle bursting into the room threatening to tan their hides if they didn’t get up immediately.

 

BREAKFAST GET IT WHILE IT’S HOT!”

 

Payten sighed internally as he rolled off his mat, at least he would get to eat before he started.

He was sat at the table crowded by his Uncle, Aunt and four cousins, slowly eating his meager breakfast consisting of a too-small portion of porridge and a single boiled egg.

 

“Pate '' his Uncle barked “After ya’ eat, go to the village and fetch me nails from the blacksmith. I already paid so don't let that dirty bastard take any money from ya’.”

 

Payten looked at his Uncle, trying to conceal his giddiness. Uncle was a short, leathery man with mean beady eyes, his gaze soon started to study the energy that flowed through his Uncle’s body, its shine was most visible on his arms, neck, and face but he could still see the rhythmic pulsing of the energy through his Uncle’s clothes.

 

“Why does he get to go” the whining of one of his cousins snapped him out of his study. “Cus I said so'' snaps Uncle “you hear me boy” his Uncle said returning his attention to Payten. “Yes Uncle” he noded noting the glares his cousins shoot him, he knew he would pay for this perceived slight later, but for now he allowed himself a small smile as he would be able to spend the morning away from the farm.

***

 

Pate walked along the long dusty road towards the nearest village of Wheatblanket reflecting on what he knew about the strange energy he saw.

 

One: every living thing had it; a network of energy that flows through their body matching the beating of their heart.

Two: no one else could see it; in the past when he did bring it up all he got was blank stares and confusion

Three: he was to never speak of it; his Aunt and Uncle made him promise, if he ever did his aunt would shoot him a cold glare and his Uncle would slap him. But their reactions were nothing compared to when Payten told his aunt the other energy he could see, the black miasma that leaked from dead things, when he had told his aunt she had slapped him for the first time, screaming that if he ever talked about that again she’d leave him to die in the woods. Or the time he had told his Uncle what he saw down by the well, his uncle had beaten him with a rod.

 

He shuddered as the memories of that day rose unbidden to his mind, the pale man-like shape that floated towards him, its arms outstretched, the right side of its head caved in as it made that horrible gurgling noise. Payten’s thoughts were interrupted as he approached an old bridge that cut across a river, the landmark signifying his proximity to the village. Across the bridge he noticed a group of village children skipping stones, he couldn't help but wince, clutching the bundle of herbs his Aunt had given him. Before he had left she had taken him aside and given him two instructions; give the herbs to Miss Marge and don't accept payment, as his Aunt said times were tough and neighbors had to help each other. It wasn't long before one of the girls from the group of children noticed his approach, pointing at him and screaming in mock horror.

 

“Look out everyone, pale Pate is comin’ if he touches you, he’ll put his curse on ya’ ”

 

The group began to scream and laugh as they ran away from him, yelling mocking taunts as they retreated. Payten sneered, he had never done anything to them, and yet they treated him like a monster. The adults of the village were moderately better; they at least tolerated his presence and made an attempt at hiding their disdain. He sighed as he crossed the bridge at least this time the children had not thrown stones at him or tried to take his things.

 

Payten walked down to the river bank where the children were skipping stones a moment ago. He sat down on his haunches and studied his reflection. He was tall for a boy of eleven, with dark hair and sunken blue-green eyes, while it was true that he was pale, he saw no other outward reason for the people of the village to hate him like they did. Payten started to rise until he saw something glinting in between the stones. He reached down and discovered a silver hairpin, one of the girls must have dropped it running away. He felt a smile creep onto his face as he slipped the pin in his pocket, the warm feeling of getting one over on your tormentors spread through his chest.

 

***

Payten walked into Wheatblanket and found himself agreeing with his Aunt, times were indeed tough. Once Wheatblanket had lived up to its name, a flourishing town surrounded by sweeping fields of grains. Now most of the fields lay fallow, the once sturdy and proud houses built by the settlers have begun to give in to decay, now the once strong stones have cracked and the rafters sagged under the weight placed upon them. Most of the villagers had given up on the maintenance of the houses letting the decay wash over them like the tides of the sea. Others still struggled valiantly against the apathy and desolation that hung over this town like a cloak, one such man was the blacksmith Temar.

 

He found Temar outside his shop attempting to repair the brick half-wall that surrounded the shop. “Excuse me Sir'' Payten coughed politely, he found it reduced complications if he adopted a polite and subservient attitude when dealing with adults. “What do you want Pate'' Temar growled, for a moment he could swear he saw a twinge of fear in the blacksmith’s eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it came now replaced with suspicion. “To get nails for Uncle'' he replied. Temar nodded as he stood up and walked over to a barrel in which he dipped a cup. The blacksmith was the largest man he had ever seen, he stood at least five heads above his Uncle with thick arms braided with muscles bigger than Payten’s head. “Wait here and keep your grubby hands to yourself” Temar said before downing the contents of the cup and walking into his shop. Left to his own devices he briefly considered pissing in Temar’s water barrel but thought better of it when he pictured the blacksmith’s arms and the beating he would receive if he was caught. After a short wait, Temar brought out a sack which he tossed to Payten. “Here's your nails kid now piss off”. The sack hit him square in the chest and almost knocked him over. The sack weighed more than he had expected. How in the name of Yaza am I going to lug this home? he thought to himself.

 

***

Payten had swung the heavy sack over his shoulder laboring under its weight. He still had one more task before he could return home. Why didn't I get the nails after I gave Miss Marge the herbs. he cursed his lack of foresight as he lugged the nails down the path to Miss Marge’s house. When he arrived at Marge’s door he set the nails down and knocked.

 

“Hello Pate, what brings you to my door today” Miss Marge said as she opened the door. “Aunt gave me herbs for you” replied Payten. Miss Marge was the picture of a sweet old lady, with wrinkled skin and a shock of white hair but still, even she was wary of him. “Wonderful, one-second dear and I’ll get the money” Miss Marge ducked into her home for a moment before returning with two copper pieces which she pressed into Payten’s hand. He nodded and thanked the old lady before slipping the coins into his shoe and slinging the sack back over his shoulder.

 

Payten briefly felt guilty about taking the old woman’s money when his Aunt had instructed him to give the herbs away for free. But he knew that Miss Marge viewed him in the same way the other villagers did, when his cousins delivered herbs they'd be invited in for oatcakes and tea, but he was shooed away as soon as possible. Plus there was no way he could miss the chance to pocket two whole coppers! He knew that he would leave the farm someday and for that he would need money so in the nine years he had spent on his Uncle’s farm he had stashed money in a hollowed-out tree trunk every chance he got. He had managed to amass a dragon's hoard of eight coppers that would soon be increased to ten once he managed to add the new additions. As he walked back to the farm the nails weighing him down, he began to plan how he would sneak the coins to his stash, as if any of his family saw him they would quickly loot his only valuables.

 

He occupied his time walking towards the farm by alternating between curses the heavy load on his shoulders and fantasizing about what he would spend his coin on. With ten coppers he could buy five loaves of bread from the bakery or three salted fish, Pate froze, a terrible revelation tearing itself through his mind. Ten coppers are… fuck all. he felt his once-great pride in his hoarded wealth deflate. He had never stopped to actually calculate the value of his coins before this moment, ten coppers couldn't even get him enough supplies to get to the next town over. He set his jaw, he had been content snatching a few coppers but now he knew that would not be enough. He would have to find another way if he wanted off the farm.

 

***

Payten had switched from scheming of ways to get off the farm to examining the energy of the life around him. Plants had a very faint energy. He had to get close and squint to be able to see it at all, insects had more but they were still dim compared to a person. A dead snake on the side of the road caught his attention, he squatted down to inspect the black miasma leaking from the corpse, like wisps of smoke. the energy is faint and only a small amount is leaking from the snake, It's been dead awhile, he thought to himself as he absentmindedly put his hand into the miasma, the wisps of energy covered his hand making them feel cold and oily. Why is it so much colder than its surroundings, Payten was snapped from his thoughts as the energy that passed through his hand appeared to begin diffusing into the miasma, he looked closer the miasma appears to be sapping the energy from my hands… I need to experiment with this more. his mind filled with questions he wondered why his Aunt reacted so strongly to any mention of the black energy.

 

Behind him Payten heard the piercing cry of a raven, and suddenly all of the black miasma surrounding the dead snake condensed around his hand like a glove. The unnatural cold seemed to seep all the way to his bones. Payten yelped in surprise and pain as he jerked his hand away. Payten whipped around and was confronted by a raven perched on a branch. The raven was the largest he had ever seen, it studied him with eyes that betrayed a bemused intelligence. The strangest thing about the bird was not its great size or unusual intelligence, but that fact that Payten could not sense any energy coursing through it. A million questions popped into his mind as he flexed the fingers on his now numb hand, whether the numbness was caused by the cold or something else, he could not tell. The bird is clearly alive, so why can't I see its energy? Is it responsible for the strange behavior of the miasma? The raven cocked its head as it stared at Payten before letting out another shrill caw, he could not explain it but the bird’s cry sent shivers down his spine and filled his stomach with dread. Payten broke eye contact with the raven and started to hurriedly continue his journey back to the farm. If he did not get back soon his Uncle would accuse him of skipping work. He walked down the dusty road murmuring many new questions to himself when he felt a hard hit on his back sending him sprawling.

 

“Why if it isn't pale pate” Payten scrambled back to his feet, the familiar voice inspiring fear and panic in the young boy. He turned around and came face to face with a mob of village children, many of which he recognized from the group that was skipping stones. At the front of the group stood the one who’s voice he had recognized and the one most likely responsible for knocking him over. It was Connor the baker’s boy, he was one of the ringleaders of his tormentors seemingly finding great amusement in Payten's pain. He dropped the sack of nails on the road and began to back away, when Connor was involved the jeers and taunts would escalate into violence and theft.

 

“What do you want, Connor?” Pate spat, his mind working to find an escape. “I just want to make sure a freak like you wasn't causing trouble in my village” said Connor, a smug smile forming under his large watery green eyes. In all of his past encounters with the villagers, he had acted passive, hoping that if he did not provide a reaction they would grow bored of the game. Which is why both boys were deeply surprised when Payten threw a wild punch that connected with Connor’s face resulting in the audible crunch of bone and a spray of blood to spurt from Connor’s nose. He was over a head taller than Connor and his body was strong from his long days of laboring at the farm. He was confident he could beat Connor in a one on one fight, unfortunately for Pate, Connor did not come alone.

 

As Connor stumbled back clutching his face crying in a piercing tone, a member of the mob, a toad faced boy he recognized as Mikal rushed forward and pushed him hard. Once again Payten was sent tumbling onto the dusty road when he felt a flood of emotion rushing into him. Payten had been pushed too far; he had spent years suffering passively under the torment of the villagers, he felt a rage like he had never felt before burning in his mind like an inferno. He blindly lashed out with a kick towards Mikal hitting nothing but air. A third member of the group took this chance to kick him in the ribs, sending a shock of pain through his body. A girl from the group ran up and grabbed the sack he had dropped and swung it about scattering the nails among the dust and rocks of the road. Payten clutching his side tried to return to his feet but was met with a kick in the stomach from Mikal. “Kick his ass Mik” screamed Connor, his blood-covered hands still clutching his nose.

 

Mikal kicked him in the stomach again knocking the air out of Payten but this time he was ready grabbing the attacker’s leg and sinking his teeth into Mikal’s leg as hard as he could. The fury Payten felt rose to a crescendo as he began to shake his head like a wild dog killing a chicken. A hot coppery tasting liquid filled his mouth and dribbled down his chin as Mikal began to scream and punch Payten in the side of the head. He could barely feel the blows losing himself in the ecstasy he felt, letting his rage take control. A rock slammed into his temple forcing him to release Mikal from his jaws and making his vision swim. His eyes searched for the source of the thrown stone as a warm trickle ran down the side of his head. It was Connor, despite the amount of blood covering his body and the unnatural angle his nose now sat at, he had recovered enough to take action. “DIE BASTARD” Connor shrieked as he picked up another stone to throw. Payten started to scramble up from the ground when the raven shrieked again.

 

It was the most horrible sound Payten had ever heard. He forgot where he was, all of his rage replaced with panic in an instant, all he knew was that he had to getaway. He felt the panic running through his veins like poison as he dashed towards the side of the road into the woods, hearing the screams of the village children behind him as they fled towards the village. He ran in the woods trying to resist the fear that made him flee. Breathing hard he collapsed under the shade of an old tree. Clutching his pained stomach and praying to Yaza that the stone didn't give him a concussion. Payten put his head into his hands as sobs racked his body.

***

Thank Yaza he thought, his Uncle’s farmstead was finally in sight, just as the sun had begun to set. He prayed that the strange events that had taken place on his trip to the village had not delayed him enough to provoke his Uncle. He winced as he touched the spongy bruises on his face, Payten wasn’t sure he could take another beating today. Reaching the farm he saw his Uncle and cousins toiling in the dirt that made up their meager turnip farm. His Uncle eyed the bruises on Pate’s face as he approached. “I have your nails Uncle,” said Payten, holding his breath waiting for his uncle’s reaction. “Bout time ya’ showed up I thought you had skipped working”. He breathed a sigh of relief, his Uncle had long stopped asking about the injuries he would sport after a trip to the village and if he was going to lash out at Pate he would have already done so. Today may have been the worst day of his life but at least he would be spared his Uncle’s wrath, perhaps his luck was taking a turn for the better. “Pa’ we need water from the well” said one of his cousins with a sly grin. What little colour Payten had drained from his face, his cousins were taking their revenge sooner than he had anticipated. “Ya’ Pa’ and we all have our hands full, Pate should go get it” another cousin chimed in, shooting him a mischievous smile. “I know you’re a coward Pate but all ol’ Kinly wants to do is give ya’ a kiss” a third cousin added hammering the final nail into Payten’s coffin. “Pate go get the water” his Uncle barked. “But Uncle…” Pate began to stammer. “Pate there ain't no gods damned ghost, I didn’t raise no coward, now go get the fuckin’ water or you don't eat for three days and I'll beat your ass till you can’t sit for months” Payten felt the hot pinpricks of tears on the corners of his eyes, he balled his fists he would not give his family the pleasure of seeing him cry. “Yes Uncle” he murmured.

 

The well was haunted; everyone in Wheatblanket knew it. Fifteen years before Payten was born the last owner of his uncle’s farmstead, a man named Kinly, had fallen down the well and drowned. Since that day whispers could be heard coming from the well, on some foggy days a shape could be seen shambling around the well. But none of the stories Pate had heard could match the terror of his experience with old Kinly. He suppressed a shudder “I just have a strong imagination, the ghost isn't real” he wasn't convinced, he knew what he had seen.

 

He tried to distract himself from his growing fear by musing over the events of the day. What was the deal with the raven? Was it responsible for the strange behavior of the miasma? Why did its cry make everyone panic?” Payten felt a wave of frustration slam against the walls of his mind, he kicked a nearby stump sending a wave of rotten wood flying. It isn't fair, I don't understand anything he felt his face redden as he tried to stop the tears. “ I don't understand, why do they hate me, even my own family tortures me” he was now screaming sending his anger into the empty night. He couldn't even trust his own eyes, he swore that he had seen one of the villagers throw the nails all over the road yet when he returned all of the nails were back in the sack. Even his ability to see the energy, his only talent that set him apart from his peers had failed him in the face of the enigmatic raven. Tears now rolled down his face I can’t stand it anymore, I vow by Yaza I will do anything to get away from this place.

 

Payten’s fear was forgotten, overtaken by his frustration but terror once again seized his heart when he saw the well. It was just like he remembered it, built with old stones, surrounded by a patch of dead grass, a leaky wooden bucket swayed gently on a frayed rope. Remember old Kinly isn't real taking a deep breath took a long stride towards the well and then he heard it.

 

Four years ago a villager had contracted Rotlung and Payten had gone with his Aunt to deliver the man some herbs to ease his pain. The sound of the man desperately sucking down wet ragged breaths into his destroyed lungs is what came to his mind when he heard the rasps from the well. Payten froze as a ghastly white hand crowned with jagged, cracked fingernails gripped the lip of the well. Old Kinly rose from the well dressed in clothes stained with dark brown blood. The right side of his head was pushed in forcing a piece of skull-bone to jut out above his eyebrow. Black miasma dripped from his lips like mucus, his eyes were rolled back in his head showing nothing but the whites and burst blood vessels, somehow he still saw Payten. The specter’s hellish rattles rose to a frenzied pitch as it rushed at him, hovering above the ground its arms extended. Payten screamed as he ran his muscles pumping aided by sheer primal terror, he tripped over root skinning his hands. Oh gods I'm going to die, Yaza save me He desperately got on his feet, Old Kinly was still chasing him and would catch up any moment. He couldn't run anymore. Kinly had closed too much of the gap. Hysterically He picked up a rock and threw it at Kinly, miraculously it seemed to slow him down but then old Kinly was upon him. He ripped a tree branch from a nearby tree as a throat tearing scream ripped from his mouth, He swung the branch with all his might. As it swung through old Kinly the ghost unleashed an inhuman scream spraying the miasma across Payten’s face its cold hands wrapping around his neck. The ghost’s wheezes became rapid and excited as it squeezed the life from Payten’s windpipe.

 

Air would no longer enter Payten’s lung. The world was becoming faint any god that is listening save me please. He began to slip into oblivion when a flash of light blinded him. He heard A man’s voice shout “begone!”. The pressure was released from Payten’s neck; he dropped to the ground and greedily sucked in the air. He looked at his savior, a well-dressed middle-aged man with dark hair, bright blue eyes and a greying beard. The man looked at Payten and extended a hand towards him; it lacked any sign of life.

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A note from Deaddogsstillbark

Update: In response to feedback I tried to cut down on the number of times I said Payten, in retrospect it was way too often so I am pleased with the change.  

Thanks for all the feedback. Much Love 

- DeadDog


About the author

Deaddogsstillbark

Bio: Just trying to spin a good yarn

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Corvus Handly ago

The concept seems interesting. I'm excited to see how you'll develop the ideas you've laid out here, though I will say that I don't think you need the quotations if you are going to use italics for inner-dialogue anyway. It makes the formatting a mite confusing.

You clearly have a talent for names. They're all intriguing and rather satisfying in some odd way. Very nice.

My criticism as of so far, story-wise, would be the thought out listings in the middle of the chapter. You could incorporate that into some actualized dialogue and it would be a little more organic. But I'd like to know your thoughts on that.

    Deaddogsstillbark ago

    Thank you for the feedback! I have tried your suggestion of removing the quotations and will see if it helps the clarity. I do agree that the middle listing is a little clunky and smoothing out my writing is something I am working on. However, I wanted to give the reader some idea of what was going and at this point, Payten is a complete loner, trapped in his own head. I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

precinctomega ago

Laid - *Lay. Laid is the transitive form. "I laid the baby in the cot", but "I lay on the bed".

tolling - *toiling. Bells toll. Workers toil.

There are a few others that are typos rather than errors (the old woman has "skiing" rather than skin), but you should have a good look over each chapter and try to pick these out for correction.

Overall, this chapter is a much better start than those early mistakes made me fear, but Payten not a very sympathetic character. I feel like there needs to be something - a keen natural intellect, or a whimsical imagination, or an instinctive kindness - about him that makes the reader root for him to find his way out. I don't think the fight helps with this. It doesn't seem realistic and there's no lead up to it. And there's no real sense of why he would be bullied. In fact, if he works on a farm, he really shouldn't be pale at all.

I'll give the next chapter a read, and see if I feel inspired to continue.

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