Slavka
02-12-2009, 07:58 PM
A short story I wrote for my Creative Writing coursework. Let me know what you think of it, if anyone reads it.


The Sandman

My feet pounded rhythmically on the stone floor, the sound echoing off the damp walls, beating in time with my racing heart. My starved lungs screamed at me to stop and breathe, but that was impossible while it still pursued me. Eventually, however, my tired body could take no more, and I stopped to rest against the cool stone of the wall. I kept an ear out for the creature, trying to breathe quietly so as not to alert it. But all I heard was the sound of my own chest rising and falling. Perhaps� perhaps I had lost it.

As if the beast had read my mind, a monstrous screech tore through the air, instilling fresh terror in me. I ran again, sensing its presence behind me. I felt its foul breath on my neck, and wondered why it had not simply killed me there and then. The answer, however, was perfectly clear � it liked to toy with its prey. I put on a sudden burst of speed, one last bid for freedom, tripped and fell. For the briefest of moments, my oxygen-deprived brain considered giving up, but a single glance behind me was more than enough to spur me on once more.

I scrambled to my feet and ran on, straight into a wooden door. Locked. Trapped. Dead end. I hammered my fists uselessly on the wood, while the beast at my back walked steadily towards me, savouring in its victory. In a fit of desperation, I threw myself at the door, and, by sheer luck, it gave way, leaving me sprawled on the floor. Glancing up at my new escape route, I saw them.

Eyeballs. Thousands upon thousands of eyeballs, all staring down at me with their eerie, disembodied gaze. But, when asked to choose between them and the monster behind me, I chose the former. And that�s when I saw them, slumped in a pile in the centre of the room. Three strangely familiar bodies staring up at me with empty eye sockets, dried blood staining their cheeks like tears. No� It couldn�t be�

Shaking with a mixture of grief and rage, I slowly turned to face the slathering beast behind me, the bloodlust evident in its contorted features. I was beyond fear now. With a calmness that hid the hotpot of emotions within me, I took up a fighting stance and drew my weapon. �If I�m going down,� I whispered, �I�m taking you with me�. As if it has somehow understood, the creature bared its teeth, let out a battle cry and lunged towar-

I woke with a jolt, sweat pouring down my face. My panicked fingers scrabbled uselessly at my chest, eventually settling on the silver amulet slung round my neck. �It was just a dream,� I kept telling myself, �Just a dream�. Of course, this was a lie, but that was beyond the point. It wasn�t real now, and that was all that mattered.

After my breathing returned to normal, I opened my eyes and glanced at the clock on my bedside table. 4:00 am. Great � I was never going to get back to sleep now. This was the third night in a row I�d been woken by this �nightmare�. Well, there was little point in staying in bed, so, with a sigh, I swung my legs out, dumping my feet into the slippers I always kept there.

Heading into the kitchen/dining room of my tiny apartment, I made myself some breakfast. Shredded wheat, as always. I�m not much of a cook, and its not like I could afford anything else. I sat down to take a bite and� And my ex strikes again. Sand in the cereal box. Why sand?

Sand is what started it all. A series of disappearances across the City, linked only by the thin layer of sand left in their beds. There was talk of a Sandman � you�ve heard of him, haven�t you? The half-man, half-bird that steals the eyes of children who stay up past bedtime? I always thought that was a disturbing story. But I dismissed the rumours, as usual � for one, it wasn�t just children who were involved, and the whole body, not just the eyes, was missing.

Still, there was a (presumed) murderer on the loose, and my team were sent to investigate. We found nothing, but the disappearances continued. Then� Then bodies started showing up. Most of them were found back in the bed they had abducted from, with a new layer of sand covering them like a blanket. But that wasn�t the worst part. Their eyes were completely missing, replaced by solid lumps of sand. Why sand?

He must have known it would do this to me. Bastard. Sighing, I tossed the vile stuff away, and headed back into the bedroom to get changed. After all, today would be a big day: it would be my first day back at work in months. I doubt Hans would be too pleased to see me back, though; we never did get along well. That�s probably why he sent me to investigate the old church, of all places.

I work for the Paranormal Department at the City Police Force. It�s our job to investigate any potentially supernatural occurrences. Not that we ever found anything, before the Sandman case. Even then I was sceptical, and more than happy to end it back to the regular police. If it were not for the cruelty of Fate, I may have been spared involvement altogether, but then� Then my family disappeared. My parents, my brother. Gone.

I managed to convince my team to take another look at the case, something which probably only fuelled the enmity between Hans and me. This time, our search revealed leads, obvious leads. With hindsight, it was perfectly clear it was leading us into a trap. But I was desperate and foolish � how was I to know?

It was time to go. Even after all this time, I still remember the best ways to dodge the commuter crowds in the Underground. The trains are still jam-packed of course, but certain stations are less busy at certain times. I hate living so far away from work, but I suppose one get used to it. And besides, there�s no way I can afford anything closer�

So here I am, on the �Tube�, with my head forced into a man�s armpit, and another man�s head stuck in mine. See why I hate the Underground? Glancing up at the overhead advertisements to keep my mind off the sweaty stench (someone forgot to deodorise this morning), I saw something that caught my eye. A bed store advertisement featuring a cartoon �Sandman� � a comical looking elderly man wearing pyjamas and a nightcap. Oh, how wrong they were. And oh, how I wish they were right.

The real Sandman stays fairly true to the old tales of a bird/man hybrid, but a thousand times more monstrous. It walks on great taloned feet, each claw as long as your arm, hard as diamonds and needle-sharp. Its body could be considered human, but only in the loosest sense: heavily muscled, skin like tough leather, with various implements of war embedded within. Everything about the creature screams demon, but it is perhaps the face that is the most terrifying�

Human, but not human. Bird, but not bird. Its cruel beak, sharply hooked and clearly designed for the rending of flesh, is lined with teeth like jagged rocks, soaked with the residue of its last feast. Blood-specked and bedraggled feathers complete the natural war mask, and disturbingly human eyes rest in deep sockets. Those eyes can hold a man transfixed in fear until the very life is drained from him. The sight of bloodlust in those human eyes, such a savage, animalistic expression in such a familiar eye, is enough to drive a man quite insane, and is sure to haunt the beholder for the rest of their life. I am no exception.

I walked into the Paranormal Department�s main office. There I saw them, still so familiar after all this time: Mae, our research girl and gatherer of intelligence, at the computer as always; Nathaniel, fellow field investigator and probably my closest friend, talking into that wireless headset; and Hans, self-proclaimed �team leader�, drumming his fingers impatiently on the desk. �You�re late,� he said. Oh, no�

That�s exactly how things were, that day. �You�re late,� he said, �And I�ve got leads on your �Sandman�. Isn�t this �your� project?� Always so keen to remind me of that. �Anyway,� he continued, �You�ll be headed to St. Matilda�s Church � it�s abandoned now, but there are catacombs below. Nathaniel, you�re going to Dahlia Street Park, also abandoned. Poke around and see what you can find. Report back in 24 hours, maps are on table.�

With that I headed to St. Matilda�s Church, a dark, forbidding structure in the heart of the slum district. The government had put it here in the hopes that it might help civilise some of the rougher citizens� It should be obvious how that turned out � looted and vandalised to the point of desertion within the first two months. When I reached the building, all the stained glass windows were already smashed, which at least made it easy to get inside. From there, it was even easier to locate the catacombs: a worn-out wooden staircase guarded by a solemn pair of stone angels. Though, with all the weathering, they looked more like stone devils.

I could hear the monster as soon as I stepped inside. A harsh, ragged breathing that, disturbingly enough, sounded like a child crying, a child in pain. I knew instinctively what is was, and all my senses screamed at me to flee, but I couldn�t leave. Not without physical or photographical evidence for Hans. Not without finding my family.

I knew, even then, they were lost to me, but I� I needed to know exactly what happened to them, and why. Was it because the creature knew I was on its trail? Because it wanted to lure me into its lair? Or had the Fates simply conferred against me? My answers lay in that cold dungeon, that much I knew. Thus, despite that small, sane part of my mind urging me to turn back, to get out while I could, I pressed on, resolution winning over reason.

Of course, the monster found me, and within minutes I was running for my life. I lost the way out some time ago, but, even if I knew where to go, what good would it have done? I was only surviving because of my instincts, and instincts have no memory for directions. Had I not stumbled upon the eye room, I would still be down there, most likely as one of the beast�s grisly trophies.

But I got my answers there. My parents, my brother. Dead. Eyeballs stacked with the thousands before them. And I got my revenge there. Not sweet, but bitter. Something that scarred me for life. Yet, I think I lost something down there too� But it does not do to dwell on such things. Rearranging the patch over my empty eye socket, I sat down to join the meeting. The Sandman will always have a part of me� But I won�t let it run my life.

�One�s eyes are what one is��
John Galsworthy

George
04-08-2009, 08:16 PM
Really Nice :D

Slavka
04-10-2009, 09:36 PM
Thanks! Though I have to admit, I'm surprised someone read the thing...

Blue Ray
04-20-2009, 05:12 AM
oh wow that awesome!

Slavka
04-20-2009, 08:36 PM
Why thank you!

Dr Faustus
07-14-2009, 12:01 AM
Slavka - I hope this is helpful…

Firstly it's a real pleasure to see someone who can either: a) spell, or b) take the time to use a spellchecker, so kudos for that. Secondly, if I had the time I would print it out and give it a close reading but I don’t right now; if you find it helpful and want me to do so, PM me and I’ll put it on the list of TTD (things to do!)

Now to the critique; my biggest criticism, and I think your biggest failing (don’t worry, it’s not all bad - LOL) is that god-awful “it was all just a dream scenario,” that made me cringe. I think the reader should be aware it is a dream from the onset, and that before the dream begins we should be told of the protagonist’s job. That way we would begin to wonder whether the dream was a recollection of past events or a Freudian parallel invented to help him cope with some real life tragedy; by engaging the readers analytical nature like this we draw them into the protagonists world that little bit more. That way the following paragraph: would either confirm or deny our suppositions.

The dream would also benefit from shorter, sharper, more tightly wound sentences to convey the sense of immediacy. Rely less on commas, and spend more time on sentence structure. If you did I feel that after the dream sequence, the length of sentences, which is fine, would have an interesting contrast to the dream world.

I’m sorry but I have to go in minute, so I’ll just say that:
-Reads more like an opening set piece to a novel than a short (did you perhaps intend to make it longer, but lacked confidence?)
-I [I]loved the tube ride, echoed the claustrophobia of the dream world in the real world
-Too much time spent introducing co-workers that we don’t meet again
-Really liked the overall concept
-Sandman suitably nightmarish

On the whole, a careful restructure could turn it into something great.

Hope that doesn’t come across as condescending, that’s not my intention – I intended only to give an opinion. Good Work.

Slavka
07-14-2009, 04:17 PM
Thanks - I'm glad someone actually took the time to read this. I haven't looked at it for quite some time now, but I agree with you on the dream thing: I'll see what I can do.

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