Working Title: Bayou Horror or Dark Waters --- 1363 word opening

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
8,271
Location
Everywhere.
#1
Y'okay.


Working Title: Bayou Horror or Dark Waters


Brown water, covered with duckweed and cattails rising, in crowded conditions, in the shallower water near the edges of the pool. Palmetto bushes line the water’s banks, some of their leaves and branches dipping into the dank water.

As a child, I used to climb the Old Willow, whose great, meandering root system includes many that have spread into the dark waters. Many of the roots are now above the water line, and strong enough for me to walk out on them and sit – virtually in the pool, but not touching the water.

A group of tadpoles swim feverishly, just below the surface below me. I can see them through a gap in the roots. A ringneck – a rather common snake in these parts – swims so quickly across the pool, I expect to see a pursuer – but there is none.

The constant caws of blackbirds can be heard some distance off. I’m not well-versed enough of their calls to tell if they are crows or ravens - both I see frequently around here. There is a rather large flock of small birds flying high above. They flitter to and fro, west to east, north to south and back again. It is late summer, but the temperatures have been lower recently, making me wonder if this flock is confused, and undecided if it is time to head south.

There are no ducks. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen any living on this pool. Even visitors abandon the pool after just a few minutes - or less.

This pool is dead. The tadpoles will probably survive, but there are no more fish in these dark waters. The local animals won’t even drink the water here, anymore.

The duckweed is more yellow-brown than green. The parts of the palmettos in or touching the water have also browned.

The roots of the Old Willow upon which I sit are still solid and strong, but there is a bad stench to them, and those that I can reach feel rough and dry (I won’t try to feel those beneath the water line – no telling what diseases this smelly water holds!). The Willow itself looks to be dying of old age.

I am wearing my second set of clothes, old, patched blue jeans, a gray t-shirt, and the old brown loafers I found in a bin one day, in town. These are my ‘lazing’ clothes. My first set is for working in, the other set for church.

There’s another caw – but different from the others. It is a lone caw, of a different pitch, and much nearer.

I look up, shielding my eyes from the bright sun, shining through the leafless tree. It is a raven – which convinces me the nearby flock is a murder of crows.

I take the appearance of the raven as a good sign, and figure it is time to start fishing.

As I sit on the Old Willow’s roots, I take the fishing line and hook out of my back pocket. I reach out for the stick I’d found on my way down here this morning. I tie the line securely to one end of the stick, then check the length. I am pleased to see I have a good six or seven feet left dangling from the stick.

I stand up, stretching away several hours of sitting, then pat my shirt pocket, making sure I remembered to bring the bait gramma had made from some bread that was going bad. Satisfied it was there, I turn to leave – I’m certainly not going to try fishing in a dead pool, even if it is my favorite place in the whole world!

Luckily, a pool of good water isn’t more than three dozen yards away.

Just as I get turned, I am startled by a soft splash. Looking about, I can only see the resulting ripples, but not the cause.

Many of the branches of this Old Willow hang out over the pool – a fact I’m reminded of when I look up. Seeing no other possible cause, I decide the Spanish moss must have killed off a small limb, which then tumbled down into the water. The moss is itself looking sickly and thin, but surely it was still feeding off the tree?

I make my way off the roots – though not without incident – a slight misstep and I’ve soaked my left loafer before reaching land.

I’ve moved about a half dozen yards west, away from the dead pool when I hear another splash. It is slightly louder than the first one. I turn about. Pure instinct, since there was no way I am going to see anything.

Only, I do.

Another splash – much greater than the previous ones. It sounds like a tree has fallen into the dead pool! I see the water erupt upward and out – but not the cause.

No tree… nothing.

I stand there, perfectly still, for about two minutes. I’m not sure what I am waiting for – another splash, I suppose. But none come, and I finally just shrug my shoulders, turn and walk the rest of the way to the other pool of water.

As dead as my favorite water pool is, this one is resplendent with life. More than a dozen mallards swim to and fro, often dipping their heads underwater, and often coming up with a small fish. Many kinds of birds (but no crows) sit in the trees that ring the pool, seeming satisfied to merely laze away the day. When I arrived, a fawn had been at the side of the pool, drinking. Of course, my arrival has scared her away.

I set my equipment – including the dough bait from my shirt pocket – under a tall, but thin, oak tree that stands only a short distance from the water. I stretch away the last vestiges of stiffness and prepare to sit.

Another splash from the direction of the stagnant pool. Considering the distance, I figure it’s loud as the last one.

I stand quickly, but then just stay there, not sure what I am going to do.

Yet another splash. My curiosity finally gets the better of me and, leaving my gear where I’ve lain it, I jog back to my favorite pool.

At first, I see nothing unusual. Then I see – or imagine I see – something - a dark blotch on the water’s surface, some distance out on the water. I climb out on the Old Willow’s roots again, to get a better look. Hooding my eyes from the sun, I look for the blotch again.

I cannot be sure, but from these roots, it looks like a body. A human body!

I stare for some time, wondering if my eyes were playing tricks. The body of a dog, deer, or boar was a frequent thing one saw out here, drowned in the bogs. It could be a floating gator; it should be a gator! I think to myself.

But I’m somehow sure it’s a human body. In my favorite pond, more’s the rotten luck!

I make land again, then begin to traverse the lake, trying to find a closer look. The pool isn’t round; its borders uneven.

I soon find a spot where I can get that better look. Sure enough, the floater is human. If the face is a true indicator, it is male, and wearing hunting clothes – an outsider, his gear from L.L. Bean, no doubt.

I marvel at the corpse’s condition. It is bloated, but not yet much decayed. His eyes are still fine – of course, they’d last longer than usual in this pool, since there are no fish to eat them.

“Murphy, go get he’p!” I tell myself out loud – and am finally able to turn myself away from the macabre sight.

I quickly go and collect my fishing gear, then head out toward town. I’ll be passing by my shack, of course, so I decide to stop in, drop off my gear, change socks and get some change for some jerky. It’s best not to waste a trip into town, just to report finding a dead man!
 
Last edited:

TheEndIsNigh

...Prepare Thyself
Supporter
Joined
Mar 16, 2008
Messages
2,762
#2
IMO:-

There's not much wrong as such, but I was getting bored half way through.

There's too many favourite pools/water.

I'm also having trouble with why this newly (or so it's implied) body. Would it be in such a condition after only just falling in the water. I think you are trying to imply it's been there some time, but if it had just floated to the top I don't think it would make so much noise and why would there be 'loud splashing'.

The observer is able to see the water erupting so why the desperate search for where the object might be.

So to sum up, to me it's not dynamic enough. I would shift the action to the splashing first and then go on to describe the pool as the observer looks for the reason.

Some indication of size would also help.

At first I thought this was a bit bigger than a duck pond (given the references to ducks) and as such spotting a body in it wouldn't be difficult. However, I understand it may be much larger, but that doesn't come across.


I did like the last paragraph though.

Hope I helped

Tein
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
8,271
Location
Everywhere.
#3
Thanks, TEIN.

There's too many favourite pools/water.
Hadn't realized that. An easy fix. Thanks!

I'm also having trouble with why this newly (or so it's implied) body. Would it be in such a condition after only just falling in the water. I think you are trying to imply it's been there some time, but if it had just floated to the top I don't think it would make so much noise and why would there be 'loud splashing'.
The big problem here is that you're only seeing the opening. The body did not make those splashes. ;)

The observer is able to see the water erupting so why the desperate search for where the object might be.
I must not have made it clear, but he was searching for a better view, not for the object. I'll work on that.

At first I thought this was a bit bigger than a duck pond (given the references to ducks) and as such spotting a body in it wouldn't be difficult. However, I understand it may be much larger, but that doesn't come across
I think you're right. I need a way to express the size better. (Ducks will inhabit any body of water that provides their staples. on a large pond on our family ranch, we had a dozen mallards that took up residence year round.)
So to sum up, to me it's not dynamic enough. I would shift the action to the splashing first and then go on to describe the pool as the observer looks for the reason.
Again, he's never looking for the reason. I'll try to make that clearer. I don't want to change the order of events - it would end up illogical. Nor do I want to give up too much too soon. But I will look at making it more dynamic. Thanks!
 

Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
Joined
May 11, 2018
Messages
68
Location
UK
#4
I enjoyed this excerpt, although it is heavy on description and light on action so personally I might struggle with that balance for more than a couple of chapters.

I would have liked to be introduced to the character earlier so that the descriptions were what they were experiencing rather than cinematic. I also found I wanted to know why it was their favourite pool and perhaps there's an opportunity to address those together.

That's all personal preference of course.

Perhaps a little more technically, there were too many splashes imo. The descriptor could vary, perhaps easier for smaller noises, e.g. plop, gurgle, plink...

For me it was clear that the character was looking for a better pov rather than trying to find the body.

I hope that's useful for you. Overall nice work I thought.
 

Stable

Watching you from upside down
Joined
Oct 7, 2016
Messages
270
#5
The description is lovely, and Murphy's character comes through strongly, but it takes a little too long to get moving for me. I don't know if I would last long enough to get hooked.

Other thoughts:
"blackbirds " a blackbird is a type of bird, it definitely doesn't caw. Do you mean black birds or is this local usage?
The first splash is italicised. To me that would suggest it's louder, but you specify that this one is soft, then the big splashes have no italics. That seems backwards to me.
"Sure enough, the floater is human. If the face is a true indicator, it is male" This feels a bit awkward to me. Either it's obvious from the whole body the corpse is male or if it's non-obvious (bloating etc) then the face probably would be too.
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
8,271
Location
Everywhere.
#6
it takes a little too long to get moving for me. I don't know if I would last long enough to get hooked.
Seems to be a consensus. :) Will have to work it in faster.

The first splash is italicised. To me that would suggest it's louder, but you specify that this one is soft, then the big splashes have no italics. That seems backwards to me.
The first one shouldn't have been italicized. Thanks for pointing that out. I tend to italicize too much.

"Sure enough, the floater is human. If the face is a true indicator, it is male" This feels a bit awkward to me. Either it's obvious from the whole body the corpse is male or if it's non-obvious (bloating etc) then the face probably would be too.
Good point. I wanted to show his uncertainty - which I could do with the clothing.

Thank you for the comments!
 

Similar threads

Top