Part 1: A Dream or a Vision

Jonas ran as hard as he could ever remember having done, his lungs burning as if on fire as he gulped in air in an effort to fill them at an ever-increasing pace.  There was no use looking over his shoulder, he knew the horde was still behind him.  He could hear the slapping of their footfalls on the travel-hardened earth and the rattle of their claws as they reached for him, could feel their closeness as if they projected an aura, something that felt cold and greasy but at the same time warm and hateful.  The presence they projected instilled panic and discomfort on every level.

He kicked harder, an immediate reaction to the nip of blade-like appendages nearly cutting into his buttocks as they closed in.

The despair that he began to feel at their nearness urged him to stop, to give up the game and surrender to them.  Wouldn’t it be better to die sooner than later, when they were surely to take their time luxuriating in the kill once their prey was too tired to fight?  He struggled with the feeling, fighting the urge to just flop onto the ground and hide his eyes and utter feeble prayers that if he couldn’t see them, then maybe – just maybe – they wouldn’t be able to see him either.

He dismissed the thought, but not before it provoked a memory.  He had weapons with him, had always had them, but somehow had overlooked the fact.  Two hand crossbows he had acquired so long ago he could scarce remember, but they were his and they were there in his hands, as if his mind had simply commanded that it be so.  His fingers closed around the grips and he ran a thumb across the jewel on the inner side of each.  As expected, he could feel the magic in them flare to life, and the fear left him like the blurry veil of darkness retreating from the morning sun.  He was sure of himself now, he felt complete.  He looked back at last, turning his run into a galloping sidestep and aimed his weapons at his nearest pursuer.

One of its bulbous eyes imploded as the magical dart, composed of pure arcane energy, passed through with immeasurable speed.  Its velocity pulled the collapsing orb with it into the beast’s skull, spraying a vile-smelling green ichor in all directions.  It whipped its long, tendril-like arms about frantically, forcing Jonas to dash backward; the appendages were fitted at the ends with razor-sharp hooks and were cutting long lines into its gruesome face and nearly spherical head as it shrieked in agony.  Its many rows of teeth shattered like glass as its jaw landed hard in the dirt and the beast fell still.

The man turned and resumed his frantic pedaling, and almost immediately felt a mild discomfort in his right foot.  The moment of rest had allowed something to settle, and he knew that the sensation would soon work its way into an unbearable pain.  As he ran, his foot began slapping the earth as if it were just hanging from the hinge of his ankle, and he knew his run was coming to a swift end.  The finality of it occurred to him when he felt the stitch in his side begin.  This was it.  Now or never.  He would turn and see if his furious instinct for survival would be enough to save him, or at least how long it would be able to prolong his life.

Jonas spun to face his fate, and realized all to late that the horde was already upon him.  Nightmare faces were on all sides, forming walls of fiery, malevolent eyes and vicious moths running with poison and saliva.  In his panic he lost all sense of himself.  The scream began its journey out of him even before the jagged teeth eagerly snapped together over both of his forearms.  He looked it in the eyes as it tore his hands free like a dog tearing at a stuffed toy, warm, smelly fluids mixing with his blood and running up his arms to his shoulders.  His body went numb, reality suspended as he watched himself being devoured like some defenseless prey under the eager jaws of a group of lions.

He could feel the bites, the tearing, but there was no pain.  All Jonas could feel was a rough sort of prodding and pulling this way and that.  He did, however, feel the agony of loss – the unmistakable dread of someone watching everything they owned destroyed, only abstractly aware that they were actually witnessing his own death.

Jonas’s eyes opened in the dark and he breathed shallow, frightened breaths.  The forest was all about him, and the sensations of his dream, though still lingering, were quickly fading under the realizations now pushing them aside.  He calmed himself and let his eyes droop closed again, almost smiling in the face of the incredible relief he felt.

A dream.  He was not one to buy into the superstition that one’s dreams could be the foretelling of future events, but he remained disturbed by how vivid it had been.  It had affected him emotionally, and even though the feelings would fade rapidly, he had rarely awakened under such a spell.

He looked around to see if his waking had roused the others, and when it was apparent that it hadn’t, he turned over and allowed himself to fall back into sleep.

3 thoughts on “Part 1: A Dream or a Vision

  1. Watch out for passive language. This might be some of the flow you see missing in your writing. It is definitely a hard habit to break, I find myself doing it all the time. It is fine to use it when you free write too, better than stopping mid thought to fix, it is best fixed after a few days break and a re-read. An example of some in the above story and how to fix it: “Jonas ran as hard as he could ever remember having done, his lungs burning as if on fire as he gulped in air in an effort to fill them at an ever-increasing pace. There was no use looking over his shoulder, he knew the horde was still behind him. He could hear the slapping of their footfalls on the travel-hardened earth and the rattle of their claws as they reached for him, could feel their closeness as if they projected an aura, something that felt cold and greasy but at the same time warm and hateful. The presence they projected instilled panic and discomfort on every level.” This whole paragraph is very passive, you need to activate it, you will be amazed at the result.
    “Jonas ran as hard as he could. He couldn’t remember running harder in his life, his lungs on fire as he gulped air in an effort to fill them at an ever-increasing pace. There was no use looking over his shoulder, he knew the horde was still behind him. He heard the slapping of their footfalls on the travel-hardened earth and the rattle of their claws as they reached for him. He felt their closeness, an aura that felt cold and greasy, but at the same time, warm and hateful. They projected a presence that instilled panic and discomfort on every level.”
    The trick is to look at all of your verbs and remove the extra words. Try to keep them all as direct as possible, if you are using had beens, could ***, and other multi-verb combos that aren’t true adverbs you are probably writing in passive. A few other things I changed were the simile’s. Whenever possible try to use more metaphorical language instead of a like or as. Used sparingly a simile is ok, but be brave and just say it “is” something and you have a much more powerful metaphor, they make for the best writing. Read some of your favorite writers closely and see how they do this to great effect. I can recommend a writer whose metaphorical prose is very strong. I guess I’ve gone on long enough. Hope it has been helpful.

    • It is very helpful, but I’m not entirely sure I see what you are saying with “passive language”. I can see how your changes improve the feeling behind what is written, but I’m not sure what the goal was behind the changes. Using the first sentence of the paragraph you changed, what I see is that you changed the verb tense, breaking the sentence apart as a result. Looking on, I see that “could hear” became “heard”. Are you basically taking what I have done (writing his hearing to seem like something that might happen) and writing it has having happened? A similar example being to take something like “on a night like this the moon might shine brightly” (an exaggerated form of what I did) and make it more like “the moon shone brightly tonight”?

      All of that being said, I think I can see it. I believe you are suggesting taking “potentials” and making them “actuals”. I will do some more research, and will go over my upcoming stuff with an eye for it. Thanks! I think you managed to help me make a leap here!

  2. That is exactly it. You got it in one. Another good example would be, passive: “He was run through with a sword” Active: “A sword ran him through.” The idea in this example is to always make the subject of the sentence the one “doing” the action. In this case the sword is the true subject of the sentence and He is the object of the running through. It is a tricky thing, and one that is hard to prevent but when you reread always ask yourself if there is any way to tighten up a sentence to make it have more action and fewer words. Not that you shouldn’t sometimes use it, especially as a pacing tool in some sections.
    Also I think you are doing a great job and you need to keep it up.

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