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Chapters 4 & 5 of The Follower (Revised)

by Steerpike`s sister 

Posted: 17 April 2006
Word Count: 5099
Summary: Taking into account your helpful advice,especially on chapters 4 and 5, I've revised these chapters to try and make Mariposa less passive, while still showing that she's blocked by her fear and uncertainty. I've tried to bring out her internal dilemmas more and to make her more questioning of her situation. What do you think - has it helped?

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She was not hungry, but she was thirsty. The thirst came and went in waves. She went into the kitchen, looking for water. She found a jug of it, and was about to drink when Gaby, behind her, said: “What are you doing in here? You’d better not break anything. Come on, out you go.”
She bundled her out. Looking at Mariposa coldly, she said: “I’m going to sleep now, so if you want a share of the bed you’d better come along. I don’t want to be woken up by you coming in later.”
“Share your bed?”
“You can sleep in the stable with the horses if you’d rather,” sniffed Gaby, turning her back. “There’s nowhere else.”
“But it’s still - “ Mariposa looked out of the window, not knowing how to describe it: light was not the word, the sky was as dark as ever.
“It’s as dark as it’s going to get. Hurry up.”
Mariposa followed her, into a small room where there was a solid, broad bed and not much other furniture. A shallow covered pan of hot ashes heated the room and there was a small wooden chest. Gaby opened it and took out two nightdresses, one of which she threw to Mariposa.
“It’ll be far too big for you, scrawny,” she said, turning away and pulling her own over her head.
Mariposa got changed and got into bed reluctantly. She lay quietly, trying not to disturb her companion. But Gaby did not sleep. She lay quietly, breathing, then she sat up sharply, with a muttered complaint, and got out of bed. Mariposa heard her dressing, and the door creak open. Later she heard noises from the kitchen, as if someone were sweeping the floor with an angry hand.
She drifted off to sleep. She dreamed of nothingness: a flat, grey, empty space. It was the most terrible dream she had ever had. She felt bare and broken, a seed that could not grow, a bird that could not fly. In the dream, nothingness tasted like salt. When she woke up the misery of the dream clung to her like a sickness, a physical ache.
She swung her legs out of bed, and sat on the side of the bed, listening. The only sound was her breathing, her heart beating. And the other breathing, the other heart beat. She listened carefully for it. It came so close to her own that she could barely separate them, at times, did not know whose breathing was whose.
Why do they tell me that other place doesn’t exist? she thought desperately. I know it’s there. I know there’s something outside. I walked through the streets, I smelled the sea there. She tried to remember the thin old woman in the church, but she was already small and far away and not quite real. Already it seemed as if there was nothing but the terrible sky, and the endless stamping of forms for no one to read, and the dead grey land. After a while she gave up trying to remember that city as real. She turned her mind to the other city, the City on the Deep River, where everything would be explained and all right. She was glad she was going there.
She got up, her bare feet curling on the cold boards, and walked through the quiet house, to the door. The nightdress was huge. Seeing and touching objects brought their names, their functions back to her: door, door-handle. But there was a word she was looking for, that she couldn’t taste on her tongue. She wondered if anyone else was really sleeping.
The door was not locked. She opened it and leaned against the frame, looking out. The clouds in the sky writhed and twisted, like an unquiet sea. She watched them, their stirring, troubled colours, the ugly shapes they formed, and listened to the quiet heartbeat and the soft breathing of the person who seemed always to be standing behind her. She tried to forget the terrible feeling of emptiness that had stayed with her from the dream.

“This is where we keep the devils.”
Mariposa followed the policeman nervously through the door, but it was a room like any other, lined with chests and shelves on which boxes were piled and scattered. After she had gone back to bed she had slept dreamlessly. Day seemed to have come by consensus, suddenly people were awake, the sound of hammering echoed from the forge, the fires were lit, and she had woken up to Gaby crashing pans in the kitchen.
“Are they dead?” she said.
“You can’t kill a devil. But they have rest states, hibernation, I suppose you could call it. They’re not dangerous right now.”
He lifted down a box from the shelf, opened it and showed her the contents. She stared at them in amazement.
“These are devils?”
The box contained some gravel, the sort you might find in your shoe at the end of a day’s walking. There were a few bigger, white pebbles, and a child’s tooth.
“They can look like anything,” said the policeman seriously, taking the box back from her. “Sometimes they get into your shoe, like a little stone. You don’t think anything of it, and by the time you’re home they’ve worked under your skin, under your nail… They nest in you.”
He put the box back on the shelf, and opened a large trunk. Mariposa looked inside. She saw the hide of an animal. It looked like a horse’s skin. In the box was another, smaller jar, in which was some clear liquid. It looked like water.
“If I opened this jar, the devil would come back to life,” said the man. “This is a big one. They are the ones we have most trouble with. It has a terrible cry. It can drive you mad with it.”
“I think I heard one in the forest,” said Mariposa.
“You were very lucky to escape.” The man put the jar back carefully in the box and closed the lid.
“All of these must be reported to the Quaestor,” he added, almost to himself. “I want you to deliver some papers for me. We will set off tomorrow morning.”
“Are you going all the way with me?”
“I can’t do that. I am not allowed to be away from my post for long. There’s a way station half a day’s ride from here. I will take you that far and the police of that state will escort you onwards. It may take a long time for you to get to the City. But rest assured you will be in good hands. The Police are reliable. After all, it is our job to help the vulnerable.”

For lunch, as Mariposa supposed she had to call it, they had vegetable soup. It arrived cold and half-congealed from the kitchen, brought in by Gaby, who slammed the pot down on the table without a word and then went back to the kitchen, from where they heard her violently washing up.
Mariposa skimmed her soup with the spoon. She didn’t feel hungry. She hadn’t felt hungry since she came out of the forest. She just felt empty inside, as if her stomach had folded up until it was needed again. None of the others - Jack, the police chief and the two policemen - seemed to be eating either. Jack pushed a potato moodily around his bowl with a piece of dry bread. In the silence, the heart-beat and the breath in her ear sounded so loud she could hardly believe no one else could hear them.
There was a terrible crash and a scream of fury from the kitchen. Mariposa jumped and dropped her spoon. She looked around the table. No one else seemed to have noticed.
She wondered if she should go and see what was wrong. It’s not as if I owe her anything, she thought. She hates me. Maybe I shouldn’t care. She sat undecided, wishing she could remember what kind of person she was, if she was the kind who would go, or the kind who wouldn’t. Then she put down her spoon, and, unnoticed, slipped off to the kitchen.
She found Gaby sitting at the kitchen table, her big red hands pressed into her eyes, shaking with silent, angry sobs. The shards of what had once been a jug were scattered across the floor like a broken star. The walls were greasy and oily, and a pan with stew relentlessly burned onto the base stood in the sink, a nasty mess of burnt food and water in the bottom of it. The fire had shrunk to grey ashes.
Mariposa looked around, found a broom and began to sweep the bits into a pile in the corner. Gaby looked up, her eyes puffy with tears.
“What happened?” asked Mariposa.
“Oh, I’m just so clumsy, aren’t I,” she said bitterly. “Here, you’re doing that wrong. Let me show you.” She got up and took the broom from her, and began sweeping crossly but efficiently.
“You’re not clumsy. You’re not clumsy now.”
“Yes I am, what would you know about it? I’m clumsy and stupid and ugly. And a bad-tempered shrew,” she added, bending to sweep the bits into a dust pan.
Mariposa smiled.
“Things get broken sometimes, it’s not your fault.”
Gaby laughed shortly.
“I don’t know whose fault it is. Everything breaks here. And I can‘t seem to keep the place clean.” She tipped the fragments into the dustbin, and said “You’re going to the City on the Deep River tomorrow? You’re lucky. I wish I could go.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Me? Go to the City? Oh no, thank you, I think I’ll just stay here burning food for men who don’t eat it and think it’s their blessed right to be waited on hand and foot. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been doing this forever.” Her voice broke as she sat down at the table again; she bent to snatch something out of a large basket and Mariposa saw her tearing at it angrily, as if she were plucking a chicken. She moved towards her and saw that she was tearing pages out of a thick book; these she screwed into handfuls and threw onto the fire. The basket was full of books. Mariposa hesitated, not knowing what to say. There was something wrong about putting books on the fire, at least, she thought there was. But as she began to speak, Gaby looked up and said quickly, harshly; “I don’t need your pity, miss. Go along now, go on, off you go, or I’ll get angry.” Mariposa looked at her uncertainly, and, seeing that she meant it, went.

Jack was waiting for her when she came out of the front door onto the porch.
“How did you like the stew?”
“I didn’t feel hungry,” she said guiltily.
“Nor did I. You know, no one eats much around here. As a matter of fact - “ he looked at her sideways “-we don’t eat at all. We can. But we don’t.”
“You have to eat something or you’ll starve,” she said.
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?”
He waited for her response. When there was none, he said:
“You’re going tomorrow. I want to show you some of my work.”
He handed her a piece of paper. She looked at it. There were black marks on it, like writing.
“I can’t read this.”
“No, nobody except me can. This is what it says.” He cleared his throat and began to sing, without self-consciousness. His voice was hoarse and flat. “La la la laaa, la la laaa, la la…”
Mariposa listened politely, and when he had finished, said: “It sounds nice.”
“No it doesn’t!” He laughed bitterly, and took the paper back from her. “It sounds wonderful. It sounds incredible. It sounds like the sunrise, and the mountains, and the wild rivers, and the first snow of winter. Except my voice sounds like a dog being thrashed senseless.”
“Can’t anyone else here sing?”
“No. Anyway, no one can read it except me.”
“You could teach them how to read it,” she suggested.
“What, this stupid lot?”
“They’re alright. Gaby’s alright.”
Jack shrugged. “Besides,” he said, “it’s not meant to be sung. It’s meant to be played.”
“Well, can’t you play it, then?”
“I’ve tried! Come and look at this.” He jumped down from the porch, and set off towards the forge. He had a fast, rolling walk, and Mariposa had to hurry to keep up with him. She said: “Don’t you sleep, either?”
“You catch on, don’t you?”
“But everyone sleeps. Everyone eats, too. You have to.”
Jack nodded, batting at the long grass with his hands, knocking it out of his way.
“So why don’t we?” Answering his own question, he said “I think it’s something in the Borders, in the air here. Do you think a whole area can be infected with a devil?”
“I don’t know,” she said.

As they entered the forge, he grabbed the little stool from the corner and sent it scooting across to the table, as nonchalantly as a skilled football player kicking a ball. Climbing up onto it, he picked up something from the table, and showed it to her. It was a long pipe, with holes in it. His broad-nailed fingers splayed across the holes, they produced little muted gasps of air as he covered and un-covered them, .
“It even feels dead.” He blew down it. It produced a rusty quack that wavered over seven notes and then died. “You see? Nothing works here.”
“But why not?” She took the pipe and peered down it. It smelled of metal. She tried blowing into it, but the noise she made was worse than Jack’s attempt.
He shrugged.
“I don’t know. They say everything is better in the City. People get things done, things work. Try and find out for us, will you, when you get there? Ask the angels why things don’t work. If I had proper legs, if I could walk or ride a horse, I’d go to the City on the Deep River. But I can’t. I’m stuck. You’re lucky, getting out of here. Try and find out, won’t you? Please?”
“I don’t know how,” she said, frightened by the edge of desperation in his voice. “I don’t think I’m the sort of person who could do that.” She stumbled over her words. “I’m – I just want to be safe. I don’t even know who I am.”
He looked at her and shook his head and held out his hand for the pipe.
“Look, I’ll try,” she said guiltily, handing it back to him. “But I don’t know how.”
Looking down at the pipe, he said: “You know, I don’t believe things were always like this. But we’ve been here so long we’ve forgotten when it all changed. Perhaps once the things we set our hands to worked and didn’t break. Perhaps once we were able to learn, to change things. Don‘t end up like us, Mariposa. Don‘t get stuck here.”


The road lay not far from the house, invisible in the long grass. It had once been paved and cambered, but now large stones were missing, and grass had forced its way through cracks. In places the stones had worn away completely, leaving only uneven rubble here and there to mark its path.
“It’s good to see a road,” she said. She was riding behind the Chief, watching the unchanging landscape of the plains. He didn’t answer, and she wondered what she really meant. It was like suddenly being able to breathe. Roads meant movement, meant things happening, meant going somewhere. It meant change.
They stopped for a rest after some hours, and drank cold tea from a chipped thermos flask. It looked as if it had been buried in the earth for a long time, the strap was grained with dirt. The horse tore grass with its strong teeth, stepping slowly as if in a dream further away from them.
“What’s the City like?” she asked him.
“Safe. There are no devils in the City.”
“But what does it look like?”
He paused.
“There’s a river that runs right through it. There are fountains, and trees… big parks. People sit in the park and picnic.”
It sounded nice.
“Is it near the sea?” she asked, but he was already getting to his feet, calling to the horse, and it was time to move on.

As they rode along, she listened to the other heart-beat, the other breath, riding on her own, and heard faint hoof-beats, parallel to their own. In the darkness at the corner of her right eye she thought she saw a faint figure. She turned her head sharply, but she never caught him, there was only the long yellow grass and the long wind in it. As they left the station further and further behind, the heart-beat and the hoof-beats and the breath shifted out of step with her own. Before she had almost been able to convince herself she was just hearing her own body. But now the sounds seemed to curve away from her, like a pendulum swinging on an out-arc, like a wave swelling up and out, as if the person were drawing away from her. And the dark figure in the corner of her eye moved out into the dim plain while always keeping in step with them; further away but still inside her, as if she could keep the whole plain, and the wind, and the dark clouds, inside her like a locket keeps a picture. In the darkness above a great grey bird beat its wings heavily, drawing away from them, up into unseen regions, yet always keeping steady pace. The sky lightened and darkened with the regular rise and fall of breath, yet never reached full day or full night.

Hours later, they saw a pale shape upon the horizon, undressing itself from the darkness, into a small white clapboard house, surrounded by dust on which no grass grew. As they approached, Mariposa realised that this was their goal. There were no other houses around it, no other buildings except for a large dog kennel. As they dismounted she saw the kennel was empty. A long chain lay on the ground, in the dust, like a dead grey snake.
“They’re not back yet,” said the chief. He walked over to the door and pushed it. It opened easily. Peering round him, Mariposa smelled choking dust, and saw a large room, piled high with shapes of objects and furniture under cloth, on which a layer of dust like a fine white mould had settled. There was an alleyway straight through the piles, which rose like walls on either side, to the ceiling. At the end of this alley was a doorway through which she saw a table, a back door, a chair and a sink. Dust lay on the floor, except for two sets of footprints, one coming, one going. Under them the pale wood floor showed through, worn by the feet to a shine like a pearl.
The chief went through the alley-way, treading in the footprints, and Mariposa followed him, nervously, expecting the walls to collapse on her at any moment. In the kitchen the chief searched the shelves on the walls, grey and covered in dirty finger-marks and tea-stains. He lifted down an old tin and a rusty kettle with a spout like a scrawny goose neck, and began building up the fire, which lay dead and ashen in the grate. His hands shook and the lid of the kettle rattled as he set it down on the table.
“Who lives here?” Mariposa asked, looking round in awe at the kitchen. It looked bare as a bald head, almost as dusty as the room she had come through. There was a small door set into the wall, barely high enough for her to pass through, and a dirty window looking into the back yard.
“Oh, just policemen. Fred, Bill and – and Ted. You don’t need to worry - you’re in good hands. And the angels will look after you, once you get to the city.” He smiled, rather sadly. “I wish I had angels to look after me.”
“Can’t you get one?” she asked, unable to remember what angels were, and not liking to ask.
“Oh no. They won’t leave the City. There‘s nothing for them to eat out here.”
He opened the cupboards, one by one. They were empty, save for an old mousetrap, a single egg-cup, and a chipped, cracked old mug, with a pattern of pink and blue stripes. It reminded Mariposa of the pyjamas she had been wearing when she woke up.
The chief filled the mug with hot tea, handed it to her, and pulled out the chair for her. Mariposa looked at it. It was a big, wooden, square seat, worn smooth with sitting. He’s going to leave me, she thought. He’s not going to wait till they get here. She sat down and held the mug tight, even though it was hot, just to have something to hold onto to stop her feeling afraid.
The chief felt in his pocket and brought out a thick white envelope. On it was written: Quaestor-General of Department S, Circle 2. It was sealed with the red stamp. “These are the papers I want you to take to the City.”
Mariposa took them. She remembered what Jack had said about useless work.
“What are they?”
“Official business. For the Quaestor, the big man, the boss.” He paused, and a shudder seemed to run over his face, as if she had momentarily seen him through the heat of a flame, as if something he had held tight and controlled had flickered. “They’re nothing interesting. Just give them to the angel who takes you into the City. He’ll make sure they’re delivered.” He faced her and held out his hand. She stood up in surprise and confusion, and held out her own in turn. The chief solemnly shook her hand. His own hand was dry and cold.
“Good luck,” he said. “I hope you find what you’re looking for in the City.”
Then he clicked his heels and saluted, turned and marched away to the door. Mariposa stood listening to the sound of hooves melting away into the darkness.

After he had gone, she sat in the still, dim kitchen, and tried to feel hopeful. She looked down at her tea. She dipped her finger in and licked it. It tasted of rust and dust. She wished the other police would come soon . She wanted to get to the City. Perhaps there she would be able to find out who she was and where she had come from. She certainly did not want to stay where she was any longer than she had to. The house was filthy, empty and somehow hopeless. It seemed odd that the policemen would not keep it in better order. She took a deep breath and picked up the mug again, holding it tightly and carefully as if to reassure herself it was really there.
In the quiet kitchen, she heard the distant breathing, clear but far away. As she breathed out, the other was already breathing in. The heart-beats came between her own, fitting like tongue and groove together. For the first time she wondered if it could be the breathing, the heart-beat of a real person she was hearing. Perhaps something had happened, some crossed line of the body so that she heard every pulse, every breath of some stranger, old or young, man or woman, in a distant city or village or other world.
It was a strangely comforting thought.
“Are you looking after me?” she asked aloud. “Do you know I’m here?”
A rattle of cart wheels outside, sudden and harsh, disturbed her. She sat nervously, as she heard the cart draw to a halt, and an old man’s voice: “Whoa up, I said, you brute!” It was followed by the hard crack of a whip, and the scattering clang of a chain. A few moments later, the outside door was pushed open, and a voice that was all metal and cold anger, said “Who’s been at the tea? Thief!” And dissolved into a static of coughing, so violent and phlegm-ridden that Mariposa jumped up and ran to the door, expecting to see the person collapsed on the floor. Instead, she saw an old man, in a worn brown corduroy suit and a filthy white shirt, leaning against the door frame. In his hand was a heavy bull-whip. He had a cunning, warty, crumpled face, a dirty yellow hairless scalp and dirty brown teeth, and he was sucking on the remains of a very thin hand-rolled cigarette. He eyed her maliciously, spat out of the door, and said again: “Thief!”
“I’m not a thief,” said Mariposa. “I’m a visitor.”
“Oh! A visitor! Ha ha ha ha ha!” He doubled over again, coughing and wheezing until he was lapping, with big blood-shot eyes, at the air. Mariposa started towards him. He waved her away furiously, and finally recovered his breath.
“And what made you take it into your head to come and visit me?” he asked sarcastically, heading into the kitchen. Mariposa, following him, saw that he trod exactly in his old footprints, without even having to look down. “And drink my tea!” He thumped the whip down on the table, grabbed the tin, unscrewed the lid, and took out a pinch of tea. Taking out a packet of cigarette papers, he began to roll himself a cigarette with it.
“I - I - the police chief sent me,” said Mariposa, trying not to show how disgusted she felt by him. He looked like a vile baby, a spoiled and monstrous toddler. “Are – are you a policeman?” She could not keep the incredulity out of her voice.
“Police chief, eh?” said the old man, sneeringly, ignoring her question. “That idiot! Crazy as a can of ants. Spends all his time writing letters that don’t get sent. All he can think of is devils. I’ve lived here forever, and I’ve never seen a devil.”
“But I’m to be taken to the city. By the police.” She thought: perhaps he’s a bit mad. He’s really old, after all.
“Police? What police?”
“The police of this place!”
“Ain’t none,” said the old man, lighting up the cigarette and taking a satisfied drag. “Ain‘t even a place. You mean that nut just brought you out here and left you? Ha ha ha haha haaaa! Good trick, damn and blast his fingers and knees - ach!” He spat into the fire. Mariposa jumped aside as it almost hit her.
“What do you mean there aren’t any?” she said furiously. “This is the police station, he told me. I’m going to the city, I’m going to find out who - who - who -”
“Find out who who what?”
“Who I am!”
“I’ll tell you that for nothing,” said the old man, looking her up and down. “You’re a useless brat with nowhere to go and no one to love you. Police station? Hah! This is my house. Mine.”
“But they’re going to take me to the city -” Her breath felt tight in her chest, as if it could not make its way past the dust inside and the emptiness outside.
The old man shrugged, and took another drag on his cigarette.
“No-one’s taking you anywhere. And he’s certainly not coming back for you. Looks like this is where you stop. So sit down, and drink your tea, since you‘ve stolen it out of the mouth of an old man.”
“I can’t stop here!”
“Why not? Not good enough for you? Where are you going to go, then?”
She shook her head. He grinned at her triumphantly.
“I need a housekeeper. You do the dishes, sweep the kitchen, that kind of thing. You can sleep under the kitchen table. If you’re lazy, I’ll use the whip, same as I do on the dog. Sound fair?”
The air seemed to tighten around her. She pushed past the table, and rushed out of the dark, dusty house into the yard. On the horizon, the clouds piled and piled, a bruised light behind them. The day was at its darkest point. In her ear, fast, frightened breathing, and the quick heart-beat of some stranger. I’ve got to run, she thought, I’ve got to get out of here. But as she looked at the horizon, the land fading to a darkness bleak and empty, she felt fear beating in her throat like a trapped bird. She tried to step forward, and could not. She was shaking.
Behind her, the old man roared: “Where you going to go, eh? Tell me that! As if I couldn’t catch you in the dogcart!”
She tried to move forward again, and the cold dark loneliness seemed to reach out for her, as if the land were haunted. If she went into the darkness alone, she felt she would disappear.
As she stood, shaking, unable to run, she saw from the corner of her eye that a long-legged yellow dog stood chained to the kennel. It stood still as only a live thing can stand, alight with awareness, listening, its ears pricked. From where she stood she could see the shine on its wet muzzle, the lay of the fur on its spine and its thin tail, pressed back by the breeze, the way the yellow grass was pressed back. It did not look at her. It looked out, past the grey dog-cart, across the empty plain and into the horizon where a gash of red light showed through the clouds like a wound that would not heal.
She wondered what it was looking at, so far away. Suddenly she felt ashamed, to see how quiet the dog could stand, watching, waiting, with a certain patience and faith for some unseen future or hope. The long wind stirred the grass, against her legs, and calmed her. After all, there was nowhere to run to except out in a circle of madness, out into the darkness, to run until her heart burst and her legs sank under her, from the weight of all the things she did not know. She turned and walked slowly back into the house. She, too, could wait.

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Comments by other Members

nr at 21:18 on 04 May 2006  Report this post
Hi there Leila
At last I have found time to put the two versions side by side and I definitely like nearly everything you have done.

Chapter 4
I like the way you've made M think about the other place and reflect on what she saw (eg the thin old woman in the church) instead of having her sentimentally (to my taste anyway) think of dresses smelling of happiness.

Seeing and touching objects brought their names, their functions back to her: door, door-handle. But there was a word she was looking for, that she couldn’t taste on her tongue.

This is lovely: the concreteness of objects bringing back the names is very good - and sharply evoked by the nouns without articles - and it contrasts beautifully with the word 'she couldn't taste on her tongue'

It was very helpful to have the explanation of her going back to bed - much clearer.

I liked the book burning and M's hazy sense that it was wrong.

Gaby's rejection of pity seemed very much in character.

Definite improvements all round

Chapter 5

It was good to have M express an opinion out loud - it does make her seem less passive.
I like the bland names for the policemen - they fit the idea that nothing has substance. The rhyme of Fred and Ted supports this too.
I very much liked the way you've amended the police chief's reference to the Quastor so that his controlled fear breaks through. This is very well described and makes the narrative richer. I felt that I was being drawn forward to new aspects of the story instead of being stuck - it's like a new hook for the next phase, just what you needed.

M's incredulity at the idea that the old man is a policeman, and the fact that she asks this aloud, both help to make her seem less passive.

A few minor queries: I wasn't sure that the sound of hooves 'melting away' made sense. Melting is a continuous process whereas hooves make distinctly separate sounds. But perhaps that's just what they don't do in this dream world.

'a static of coughing'? Wasn't sure what this meant.

The only thing I definitely didn't like was the last sentence. Surely she isn'tcontent to wait. You could end the chapter at 'back into the house'. And why should she be ashamed to be less patient than the dog? She has every right to be impatient hasn't she? She doesn't know what to do yet but there are cracks in her passivity so I don't think the ending should be so - can't think of the word - virtuous is what I want to say.

Apart from this I think you've made excellent changes. This is a fascinating story.


Steerpike`s sister at 15:54 on 05 May 2006  Report this post
naomi, thank you. That really is very helpful and I appreciate the time you've taken over this!
I do agree with the points you've made re. the hooves and the last sentence. The static of coughing meant as in radio static - that krrrrrr noise - instead of staying still, if that makes any difference! I'll try and rephrase that.
Thanks again for very useful comments.

eyeball at 17:37 on 08 May 2006  Report this post
Leila, I've just had a chance to look at this. It's very intriguing and impressive. Although I haven't read any of the earlier chapters so I don't know what the background is, it carried me along with its wonderfully strange atmosphere.

A few places where I felt it could be tightened.

'She was not hungry, but she was thirsty. The thirst came and went in waves. She went into the kitchen, looking for water. She found a jug of it,' Three sentences beginning with she, could any of this be combined or varied?

'It was the most terrible dream she had ever had.' A bit telly when you are already showing it beautifully with the rest of the para, which I really like. Could you dump that sentence?

'She sat undecided, wishing she could remember what kind of person she was, ' Love that line, very telling.

'The walls were greasy and oily, and a pan with stew relentlessly burned onto the base stood in the sink, a nasty mess of burnt food and water in the bottom of it.'

Seems repetitive

'as nonchalantly as a skilled football player kicking a ball.' Doesn't seem to fit the atmosphere of this world.

Love the atmosphere of the section beginning 'But now the sounds seemed to curve away from her'

'Hours later, they saw a pale shape upon the horizon, undressing itself from the darkness, into a small white clapboard house,'

Love the phrase 'undressing itself from the darkness' but don't think you need the comma after it.

' He faced her and held out his hand. She stood up in surprise and confusion, and held out her own in turn. The chief solemnly shook her hand. His own hand was dry and cold.'

A lot of repetitions of hand.

'The heart-beats came between her own, fitting like tongue and groove together.'

Love this; it has a real sense of the intimacy between her and her follower.

Great writing. I hope to read some more soon.


Steerpike`s sister at 14:31 on 14 May 2006  Report this post
Thanks, Sharon, take your point on the repetition in several sentences. You mention the intimacy between her and her follower - does it seem like a threatening presence, I wonder, or a friendly one?

eyeball at 17:42 on 15 May 2006  Report this post
Ambiguous, Leila, not so much friendly as intimately connected, like another self or a twin, but not threatening.

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