MAZE - Intro to a short story - ca 1250 words

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
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Here is the thing. Last week, in the thread It's back! Sekrit Santa 20. there was a post requesting for a story about either Chopin's beating heart or a Maze. A few days later that request was withdrawn. It turned out it had already been fulfilled.
Meanwhile I had started on writing a story that was based on a 100 Word Anonymous story I had written a while back, about a Maze. This one would be an extended version. Not 100 but about 10,000 words.
As it no longer was needed for the Sekrit Santa and it probably would take me a while to complete it anyway (the writing was going slow), I decided to complete and use to submit it as an entry for a Dutch competition. Nothing is certain yet, but I am as yet unsure whether to complete it in English or Dutch.

Anyway, what I would like to hear from you is what you think of it so far. Would the narrator's voice I used work for you. What about the setup? Opinions will differ, no doubt, what I'm curious what the general view will be.
Beginning of the story (ca 1250 words)

MAZE

The bastards! The snakes! The rats! They stole away last night while I slept, taking everything of value from my equipment that they could carry. It left me with just the materials that happened to be in my tent. Bearers alright. That vocation must have a different definition here on Aaboniss.
I suppose they didn’t risk waking me while they were busy and therefor left the tent alone. When I woke up and stepped outside this morning, the campsite was reduced to a silent, deserted glade, littered with discarded stuff.
Two days in and my expedition already is a failure. Unbearable!
Yet, I have to face reality. What are my options?
- Returning means defeat, something I refuse to seriously consider. But do I really have a choice?
- Going forward, on my own, is absolute madness. But is it truly undoable?
I wish I could think of alternatives, but it hinges on just these two miserable options.
...
Pacing around the campsite - what was the campsite - I just noticed that the marker I had placed last night is missing. If this one is gone, than likely the other markers too have been removed by the snakes on their way out. I get now why they waited until last night to run. It made my route back as much a challenge as the way forward would be. Darn it! If that is the case I might as well push on and continue my survey, however trying. Better to die in the attempt than to break my pledge.

Now that I started writing, in frustration, about my dire situation, I decided I might as well continue this and begin a diary. A travel blog.
I hate stories that start in the middle,
- at the point where the protagonist faces a dire situation, only for the narrator to then look back and start a lengthy, dragging tale of how it all had come about, revealing along the way how the protagonist has picked up some object or ability that makes it clear the situation wasn’t all that dire as it initially had seemed and therefore swiftly dealt with. End of story. Oh, scratch that -
but I could not have known upfront that I would begin an adventure, on my own, mind you, that will be anything but the expected well-organised, meticulous exploration of a mysterious valley. I had not expected my notes to become anything but dry, scientifically observations of a geographical feature. So, dismal chronicler that I am, a short glance backwards is in order to explain the situation.

Stories about a mystical valley on Aaboniss are ancient. Locally, that is, and dating from the time of the original settlers. Aaboniss itself occupies 3 lines in the Galactic Almanac. While planning the expedition I had believed getting there would form the trickiest part of the enterprise. Hah!
This valley, The Valley - apparently that is the official name, how sinister! – had a peculiar attitude towards visitors; anyone who stayed overnight was never seen again. Tourists, adventurers and explorers alike.
Which just meant it ought to be properly explored. We, at the Society – needs no introduction, I think - do precisely that. With passion and determination. Rumours about this anomaly had somehow – long story, quite boring – reached us, and roused our curiosity. In my case mostly because of indications this valley contained, or was in its entirety, a maze. Not long afterwards the Society approved my plans, financed the expedition and, after having accepted my solemn pledge not to return until the case was investigated and concluded in a satisfactorily way – just protocol, really – handed me Elemental’s keycard.

My first sight of The Valley was a bit of a disappointment. Looking down on it from orbit didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary. A, perhaps slightly too regular, oval valley, covered with green foliage, hemming in a central lake, fed by brooks running down from the surrounding mountains. None of the various scans showed anything unnatural. Not that I expected to see anything unusual, but I have a secret hope of being the first person to discover alien artefacts. Hey, it is just a dream.
Also disappointing was that it became clear there was nowhere suitable space enough to land a shuttle. I would have to enter the valley the old-fashioned way, on foot. It gave me the opportunity to hire bearers, to carry all my scientific stuff and camping essentials. I would have hired them anyway, but later, once I had dropped all my luggage on a central place in The Valley, or so I had hoped.
I suppose you could say that this was the point where things started going wrong. Their eagerness to accept the job, contrarily to their confessed fear for this valley, should have warned me. But I believed to have convinced them of their safety by explaining my scientific approach and setup of using colour-coded markings I had devised to mark any route and explored tracks. It is only now that I see how I presented them myself with the means and strategy of how to betray me and get away with it. Idiot. Yes, I meant myself.

There is only one way to get into The Valley, on foot across a pass through the mountains. It took us two days. Seen from the mountainside it looked even more lush than it did from high above. The central lake glittered in the sun. Where did that water go? There was no visible outlet. Only when you get closer you see there is an actual entrance, of sorts, a wider spacing of trees and shrubbery, that allows one to enter, along a small path leading into the forest. More like a green tunnel. Here, at the entrance, I placed the first of my markers, before entering the forest with the six bearers and one cook.
Two days later I awoke on Day Naught.

Day 1
Today I made an inventory of what remained of my equipment. That didn’t take long.
Even so, I realised that I could carry only half of what I essentially needed. It meant I would have to travel any distance twice, no, trice, just to bring everything, distributed over two loads. Both packets shouldn’t leave me in dire want for the other.
Schedule: Explore and record my findings in the mornings, walk back to collect the remainder of my stuff in the afternoons. Get back in time to set up camp. Rest every third day, write reports and upload them to Elemental, when above the horizon.
I will survive this. I will do what I came here for to do.
To mark my route I selected to only take the coloured ribbons with me. Of course, all the sophisticated gear was gone, but would have been too much to carry now anyway. The pegs were too cumbersome. There was my clothing, what of it had been in my tent, and handgun. No solarpowered cooking gear. It did not overly worry me. The Valley was littered with fruit-trees. It looked, and I assume it was, in essence an orchard. Valley-wide. A Garden of Eden, if you will. Yeah, well, make what you will of that.
Most of the fruits were unfamiliar to me, but I had seen the bearers eat from them, so I knew there were several that were edible. Additionally I could shoot some small game with my gun. Fingers crossed.
Trial run tomorrow. Even more fingers crossed.
 
Fair play @Elckerlyc . I don't often contribute to the crits as I can't offer much outside of a general impression. There are some grammar & spelling errors -I'm fine with them and happily make way worse, but I think it'd be best to iron them out for the comp.
I like the voice and style. My only reservation is the long lead in. It started off with a ton of questions that I'd be happy to read on with hanging till later, and for the story to just jump into the chronological diary.
Anyways, voice works for me, is compelling and I liked the setup, but it felt a little too heavy on the background info side.
 
Sorry to be boring but I second everything that AnRoinnUltra said, including the fact that I can only offer general impressions. Yes, there are a few spelling and grammar errors, but nothing horrendous. Yes, the lead-in feels too long, and the story could happily start from the section headed Day 1, with all the rage and history being described in later entries of the diary. And yes, I too like the voice and style. I would love to read more.
 
Thank you, @AnRoinnUltra and @Provincial.
You made fair comments. Grammar is a weak point of mine which needs to be addressed. A spellchecker doesn't catch everything.
It is interesting you both think I should start with Day 1. It was my initial set-up, but thought it needed a lead-in, because to all the questions that already are hanging this approach would add some more to the mix. Not that I mind the questions itself, they should incite the reader to keep on reading. A careful rewriting is in order.
But I am glad the voice works, for some at least.
 
If you need someone to help with the spellings and grammar, I would be happy to oblige. I make my own errors as well, though! On the other hand, if you don’t want anyone fiddling with your writing, perhaps it would be a good idea to write it in Dutch, assuming your spelling and grammar are more accurate in that language.

It’s a pity you couldn’t finish it off for Sekrit Santa 20 and submit it as an extra story, but there you are. When I last took part in one I got two or three stories, and it was a lovely surprise!
 
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If you need someone to help with the spellings and grammar, I would be happy to oblige. I make my own errors as well, though! On the other hand, if you don’t want anyone fiddling with your writing, perhaps it would be a good idea to write it in Dutch, assuming your spelling and grammar are more accurate in that language.

It’s a pity you couldn’t finish it off for Sekrit Santa 20 and submit it as an extra story, but there you are. When I last took part in one I got two or three stories, and it was a lovely surprise!
Thanks, I will keep it in mind. However, my primary goal is to write it in Dutch for the competition. Not surprising, my Dutch is more accurate, but at times also interfering with my English. Which causes the majority of the errors, I think.
Considering the much larger market it would be a bonus if one can write in English as well.
 
As a short story I think it needs editing and tightening-up.
Suggestion to start here, with the struck-out passages removed?

Better to die in the attempt than to break my pledge.

Stories about a mystical valley on Aaboniss are ancient. Locally, that is, and dating from the time of the original settlers. Aaboniss itself occupies 3 lines in the Galactic Almanac. While planning the expedition I had believed getting there would form the trickiest part of the enterprise. Hah!

but I could not have known upfront that I would begin an adventure, on my own, mind you, that will be anything but the expected well-organised, meticulous exploration of a mysterious valley. I had not expected my notes to become anything but dry, scientifically observations of a geographical feature. So, dismal chronicler that I am, a short glance backwards is in order to explain the situation.

This valley, The Valley - apparently that is the official name
how sinister! – had a peculiar attitude towards visitors; anyone who stayed overnight was never seen again. Tourists, adventurers and explorers alike, etc ...

Overall a promising piece, but could be much better with a bit more work, in the sense that it is up to the writer, and not the reader, to do the work on such a piece .. imo?

@Elckerlyc
Always just my own opinion :)
 
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Hey, there. Just wanted to chime in with my two cents, for what that's worth.

First, I agree that the voice and style really work for me, and at this point I want to follow the protagonist and see how things unfold.

I also agree that the lead-in is a bit much. I think starting with Day 1 and sprinkling in the background as you go might be a more effective way to go.

The best example I can think of where exposition is given organically (i.e. not an explicit info dump) is the film Aliens. Ripley is our POV character who's been in stasis for nearly 60 years with zero knowledge of what's been happening, on top of essentially being dropped into the middle of a huge operation. Like her, we don't know anything about anything at the beginning, but we learn along with her without feeling like the filmmakers are just spoon-feeding us information.

Overall, the piece is a lot of fun, and I hope you most more because I'm looking forward to it.
 

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