Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Beginning 297


Until she looked through Rebecca's front window, Tabitha had only seen three dead bodies in her life. Shifting from foot to foot, she struggled to get a better view through the crack in the curtains.

"Is she coming?"

Turning her head, Tabitha called over her shoulder, "Call 911."

"What?"

"Now, Anna. There's . . . there's something wrong with Rebecca."

Not waiting for a reply, she tried the front door, which opened soundlessly. Tabitha took several reluctant steps past the door that Rebecca always kept locked and into the house. The antique mahogany hall table that Rebecca had bragged about bringing back from France lay overturned, the crystal bowl where she kept her keys in shards beneath it. Beyond that . . .

"Tabitha?"

Tabitha spun around to see Anna hovering on the front steps. "Did you call?"

Anna nodded. "They said three minutes. What's--" She froze, mouth open. "Is . . . is she . . . "

Tabitha forced herself to crouch down and look at Rebecca. One look was all she needed. It was just like her dream. She stood, raced past Anna, and threw up in the bushes by the front door as the sound of sirens began to swell.

Never again, she vowed to herself. Never again will I eat anchovies after midnight. Not only did they give her frightful nightmares in which her friends died violent deaths -- nightmares that came true the next day -- but her delicate stomach just couldn't handle them.


Opening: HW.....Continuation: Bump in the Night

10 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


Anna gently held Tabitha's shoulders while she retched. "What... What are we going to do?"

Tabitha took a deep breath then wiped her mouth with her visibly shaken hand. "I... I don't know. This is too horrible... It's-- Wait! Next door. We can borrow Jessica's bowl instead!"

--Anonymous


"They ate the shrimp salad, too, didn't they?"

Tabitha spat, trying to get the awful taste from her mouth. She nodded.

Anna snickered. "You're in so much trouble--"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

"I told you to put the food with the mayo in the cooler."

"Well, you're the one who took credit for the salad with the judging committee. What's that blue ribbon worth now, huh?"

--writtenwyrdd


“Oh, Yuck!” Anna said, standing next to Tabitha. “What have you been eating lately?”

Tabitha wiped her wrist across her mouth, the image of Rebecca’s faceless skull burning across her synapses. Tabitha couldn’t understand why she kept seeing people in her dreams, only to find them dead in real life a few days later. She was only eight and this was her fourth body in three months. Was it a sixth sense, or was it because she went around snooping in other people’s business, looking in their windows? Or were her dreams merely a product of bad pizza and rank burritos and the deaths nothing more than freaky coincidences? She felt another surge from her stomach, but swallowed it back.

“Are you okay, Tabitha?” Anna asked. “You don’t look so good.”

Last night she dreamed of Anna, and the chief of police and his deputy, Marvin, in some kind of Kafkaesque orgy. But that was just a silly dream. Wasn’t it?

“You haven’t dreamed about me, have you, Tabby?” Anna asked, her expression darkening.

“Uh…I…,” Tabitha tried to explain. The sheriff’s squad car raced in at the same moment Anna was backing away from Tabitha. The car slammed Anna into the side of the house and all three of them—the sheriff, deputy Marvin, and Anna—were killed instantly.

If this keeps up, Tabitha thought, I’ll need a calculator to keep track of all the bodies.

--circus boy


Something red caught her eye and she looked to her right. Before she did that, she had only seen zero disembodied hands in her life.

Still, there was something odd about this one. Pinching one of the fingers, she held it up.

It had been chewed on. Just like Rebecca's neck.

"What is it?" Anna asked.

Just then, a dull moan blew out from inside the house. Anna turned and looked inside. Her face lit up.

"Ohmigawd!" she said. "Rebecca, you totally got us."

Tabitha dropped the hand and stood up. She looked down the street, gazed at the front lawns and spotted the first, second and third dead bodies she had seen in her life.

"Anna," she said slowly. "Are you sure there's a second Halloween in November?"

--merper


Anna stopped short as Tabitha said, “Don’t go in.” Tabith wiped her mouth and coughed to try and sooth the stinging in her throat. “It’s a mess in there. You can barely tell it’s -- it was -- her…”

“What are we going to do?”

“Say nothing. We’re in this together. All right, it was me who bought the Space Dust but it was you that told her to wash it down with Pepsi…”

--Anonymous


The paramedics arrived shortly after. The tall, skinny one took one look at Rebecca and shook his head.

"Another Mary Kay victim," he muttered to his partner. "The blue eye shadow--it gets 'em every time."

--Marissa Doyle

Beth said...

Good opening. This moves, it's tense, and it draws us right along.

My only suggestions are of the tweaking variety. First, attribute the disembodied dialogue. Untagged dialogue is fine when the reader already knows who the speaker is, but in this case, we have no idea who is speaking to Tabitha. There's no reason not to write something like:

"Is she coming?" Anna called out.

And again later--

"Tabitha?" Anna whispered.

--or something similar. In that second instance, I initially thought someone in the house was speaking to Tabitha.

Next, watch out for redundancies. For instance, you don't need both "turning her head" and "Tabitha called over shoulder." One of those is sufficient. In another place, she takes several steps past the unlocked door and then you tack on "and into the house." That's already obvious.

Also, if you start a paragraph with a character identified by personal pronoun ("Not waiting for a reply, she tried...), don't switch to her name in the next sentence, not unless it's needed for clarity. Better to lead off with the name, then use personal pronouns whenever possible thereafter. This may seem like a non-issue, but it makes a big difference in smoothness and in POV immersion.

Last thing. Anna says the emergency units will arrive in three minutes, but it appears there's some serious time compression in that final paragraph. Anna notices the body, Tabitha kneels, takes one look, dashes outside to throw up just as the sirens get going. That didn't take anywhere close to three minutes.

But all in all, this is very promising. Just needs a little editing.

phoenix said...

Ooh, lots of continuations. I have to say I'm partial to the first anonymous' contribution.

Well, shoot, Beth. Get here first and just say everything that needs saying, and leave nothing for the rest of us to do but twiddle our thumbs. *twiddle. twiddle.*

But that's good news for you, HW! Just a little spit and polish and you'll pass the agents' first-page test with ease. Good job!

Dave said...

I think that this:
"Until she looked through Rebecca's front window, Tabitha had only seen three dead bodies in her life. Shifting from foot to foot, she struggled to get a better view through the crack in the curtains."


is too passive an opening sentence. Not passive in tense, but passive in action.

Why not use something more direct:
When Rebecca didn't come to the door, Tabitha looked through a crack in the curtains on the front window. The table Rebecca always bragged about buying in France lay on its side, her precious crystal vase shattered beneath it, and Rebecca lay next to both objects, blood pooling around her head.
"Is she coming?" Anna asked,
"No, call 911." Tabitha said, trying the front door. It was unlocked. Rebecca never left it unlocked...
...

Anonymous said...

Why is Tabitha shifting from foot to foot? Does she need to go to the bathroom? It doesn't fit the situation (to me). It seems like something one does when nervous, not freaked out over a dead body.

Anonymous said...

"I... I don't know. This is too horrible... It's-- Wait! Next door. We can borrow Jessica's bowl instead!"

That was a great line in one of the unchosen continuations. Good job Kofi Anon...

Beth said...

Well, shoot, Beth. Get here first and just say everything that needs saying, and leave nothing for the rest of us to do but twiddle our thumbs.

Think of all the typing I saved you...

BuffySquirrel said...

Three dead bodies seems a lot to me, depending of course on what Tabitha does for a living, or, I suppose if she's accustomed to open-casket funerals. Paired with "only", it feels wrong.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ditto what Beth said. I liked this opening, and minor tweaking seems to be all that it needs. The first sentence is a bit passive, but that seems to be okay. A lot of works begin with a wide focus in an omniscient or passive voice and immediately zoom onto the pov character. It helps set the scene in a way that is perfectly acceptable in current literature (IMO anyhow).

spooge26 said...

i was really confused as to who was saying what until i read Dave's idea. thanks dave! i agree with his:

Why not use something more direct:
When Rebecca didn't come to the door, Tabitha looked through a crack in the curtains on the front window. The table Rebecca always bragged about buying in France lay on its side, her precious crystal vase shattered beneath it, and Rebecca lay next to both objects, blood pooling around her head.
"Is she coming?" Anna asked,
"No, call 911." Tabitha said, trying the front door. It was unlocked. Rebecca never left it unlocked...