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Held

Held

A young girl is held hostage by someone very close to her.

0

Horror


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Whitley O'Brien (United States)


Hey, I finally finished another story. Hope you like it :) He won’t let me leave. I’ve been here in this house for so long…a year at least. I hardly remember what it’s like to talk to someone who isn’t him. Sometimes when the phone rings I try to reach it first, not in an attempt to escape, just to hear another real live person’s voice. He always beats me to it though. Believe me, I have been tempted to wait until he’s sleeping and leave. I’m not bound or locked in some dirty room, chained to the floor. I’m free to roam the house as I please. It’s a nice house, clean and comfortable. It’s not that I have it so bad here. There are no beatings or torture, he’s never even raised his voice at me. I just miss the outside world. I guess the main reason I don’t just slip away in the night is that I love him. I don’t want him to get himself into any trouble. He is my dad after all. He wasn’t always this way. For the first 15 years of my life he was my hero. I was most definitely a daddy’s girl. I guess you could say I was a little spoiled. I can remember how he was always the happiest person I knew. He could make me and mom laugh even when we were trying our best to be mad. He was strong and athletic. Just thinking of the man he was makes me smile; it also makes me sad. He’s a shell of that man now. Sad and withdrawn. He doesn’t see friends or family anymore, rarely leaves the house except to go to work. Even that has become sporadic. I can hear him moving about upstairs. Before he would have been up hours ago. He was always an early bird;he liked to watch the sunrise. Now, I can’t even imagine how he makes it to work on time. He calls in a lot and I worry it’s only a matter of time before he gets fired. His many years with the company and previously good record can only save him for so long. They can only pity him for his loss for so many months before the good of the company will win out. He walks down the stairs slowly, still in his bathrobe, unshaven. The gray in his hair makes me sad, that wasn’t there before. The lines around his eyes and mouth weren’t either. “Hey Dad,” I say softly, “aren’t you going to be late for work?” He looks up at me then quickly looks down at his hands, appearing to concentrate all of his attention on the coffee he is making. “Dad, you can’t keep on like this,” I try again. “Mom wouldn’t want to see you like this.” He still doesn’t speak but a single tear leaks from his eye and rolls down his cheek. With a sigh I walk past him, patting him on the back. I go up to my room, the same room I’ve had since I was born, and flop down on my bed. Sometimes I wish I could cry, but for some reason I haven’t been able to. I’m stuck in this deep melancholy without even tears to bring relief. I don’t feel any emotions strongly anymore. I miss feeling happy. I don’t think either of us has been happy since the day mom died. It was a rainy day and she needed to go to the store for a few things. Dad kissed her as she walked out the door and as always told her that he loved her. That was the last time he saw her. Dad started to worry when an hour passed and then two. He tried to believe that she had met up with a friend and gone for coffee or something, but he knew she wouldn’t do that without calling and she would never ignore his phone calls. The knock came just as he was getting ready to go look for her. He opened the door to a policeman in a soggy uniform. He said he was so sorry, but she was gone. A dump truck had lost it’s brakes and plowed into her car, crushing it like a tin can. She had held on for an hour they said, but she was hurt too badly. Her purse had been thrown in the wreck and no one got around to looking for it until the more important job of saving her life had been declared a failure. The funeral was a blur. All of the well meaning condolences fell on deaf ears. Sometimes sadness is too complete and all consuming to even imagine a time when you didn’t feel this way or a time when you might not again. My mom was the love of my father’s life. She was the sun and the moon to him. He was only completely happy when he was with her and like half a man without her. I know they loved me more than anything, but I also know that they would have lived a perfectly happy life together had I never been born. They completed each other and I was a bonus. So, you can see how difficult this has been for him, even harder than it’s been for me. He lost a part of himself. Although I understand what he’s going through I hate being shur up in this house all the time. I miss my family and friends, the sun and the rain. But as I said, he keeps me here. I can’t leave him. I try to talk to him and make him smile. I know he barely even hears me but I hope that on some level I’m getting through to him. He talks to me a lot about good times and tells me how much he loves me. He talks to mom more though. I wish that she could answer him, I’m not enough. It’s past nine and I haven’t heard him leave for work, so I go to check on him. Maybe I’ll give him a pep talk for the day. The light is shining from the crack under the bathroom door. A sudden feeling of dread settles in the pit of my stomach. I creep up to the door and let out a breath I hadn’t even known I’d been holding when I hear his voice. He’s talking to my mother, telling her he can’t go anymore, that he’s given all he has to give. This is my cue to go in. He’s sitting on the edge of the tub with a a razor in his right hand and pictures of me and mom in the other. He doesn’t look up when I come in but I know he knows I’m there because he switches his focus to speaking to me. “I’m so sorry baby” he says, “I know you wouldn’t be proud of the man I am now. You wouldn’t be proud of this, but I just can’t live without you and mom. He stares at my face smiling up at him from the picture in his hand. “Why couldn’t I have been in that car with you?” I put my arm around his shoulders and tell him that I’m right here and I love him. That he can move on and me and mom won’t be mad. That we’re glad he wasn’t in the car with us. I put my hand over the one that holds the blade and plead with him to stay here, keep trying. Not just for him, though I so want him to go back to the happy person he used to be, but for me too. I want to move on to whatever comes next, to wherever my mom is. He presses the blade to his wrist and I think this will be the time that he finishes it. This will be the time that I don’t get through to that tiny part of his brain that perceives that I’m still with him, the part that keeps him alive. Finally he drops the blade and buries his face in his hands. I breathe a sigh of relief and stand to go, bending to kiss the top of his head. I know it’s over…this time. Standing at my window watching the rain drops beat on the window I long to feel them on my face, to feel the wind whip my hair about and smell the wet earth. I wonder if I ever will again. I will be here until he doesn’t need me anymore. Until I’m not the only thing pulling him back from the edge. Until he can learn to live without us, he keeps me here.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Nice story. Small things like, why does the dad always beat you to the phone? It seems that in his state, not going to work, wants to commit suicide etc, he wouldn't even bother answering the phone. Tighten some things up and it could be a bit better. Thanks for letting me read.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
The conflict was clear, and therefore the story was compelling enough. However, it could benefit from a boost of originality, both with some of the language and some plot points--for instance, the depressed guy holding a razor in one hand and photos of his lost loved ones in another is a bit overused. That said, the story was entertaining and the twist is revealed organically. Nice work

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Great use of first person POV, worked very effectively in convincing the reader that the protagonist was alive. Need to be careful here...as is true of many Serling Twilight Zone stories, there is an element of Deus ex Machina that needs to be avoided. I think you managed that, especially with the tiny clue at the very beginning that the girl was in the house about a year. Enjoyed it!