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Hedgehog's Dilemma

Hedgehog's Dilemma

He put too much faith in people. It was something he would’ve liked too change if he wasn’t currently hanging between life and death. He took a step forward, back to the verge of his destiny. And the bridge.

4

Literary fiction


author-small

Ren (United States)


He was making a spectacle of himself. He was already aware of that fact, but that didn’t mean he was pleased. Mallory hadn’t planned for it to be this way, yet the sirens of the police cars and gathering throng of bystanders were as real as his resolve. He silently cursed to himself.

“Step off the bridge, boy! We can talk this out!” The officer’s voice was rigid even through the megaphone’s amplification. It showed the exhaustion and uncertainty of his role. It was painfully obvious that he was inexperienced not only with children, but with matters of quietus as well. Mallory almost felt pity for him. Almost. “Please, think about what you’re doing!”

His mother wasn’t there. His mother was absent in the breakdown of her kin. Mallory knew that she was most likely unaware of his plight, crammed in her tiny office, ignorant of the lengths he was going. She would’ve had him off that bridge within ten minutes with a swift scolding and an entire speech about his stupidity. She wouldn’t have cried in that imaginative situation, so her presence wasn’t necessary anyway.

“Mallory!” However, she was there. “Mallory, please!” Wendy cried. She wept for his mother. She wept for him.

She wasn’t supposed to be there. Mallory was angry with himself because this was supposed to be a matter belonging exclusively to him, yet he allowed Wendy to involve herself. He was careless; perhaps his resolve wasn’t as firm as he initially thought.

“Don’t do this, Mallory!” Wendy’s shouting cut through the barrier of his chest. Mallory’s mother would’ve had him down within ten minutes. Wendy would have him down five. “You have so much to live for!” That was cliché. “Think of your family!” He already had, and it was nothing special. “Think of me!” It was extremely difficult for him not to given the current circumstances. “I love you!” Yes, yes. She loved him –

“What?” Mallory breathed, startled. He took a step backward inciting a gasp from the crowd below. She… loved him? The girl from his childhood, the girl he had grown up with, the girl who had always teased him about his name and pulled his hair and walked with him to the bus stop, loved him? It took the air out of his lungs as he faced her confession. She loved him.

Mallory gritted his teeth. He returned to reality, away from the sweetness and fabrication of Wendy’s statement. It was all false. He was aware they were friends, but she didn't love him. She couldn't love him. Wendy was simply feeding him sugary words to coerce him down. It was a nice gesture, but it was lost within the gloaming of the ending day.

“I don’t believe you.” Mallory didn’t raise his voice to answer Wendy, but he was heard nonetheless. He was the center of attention, after all. “I don’t believe you.” He affirmed it again. Whether the repeated words were for Wendy or himself he wasn’t sure.

The message was receive though, and it yielded a flabbergasted expression. “Mallory…” Wendy bit her lip as her face morphed into that of frustration. “How could you say that? I do love you! I love you! I love you, Mallory!”

The phrase defaced him with every repetition. Mallory couldn’t help but wonder how much time had passed since Wendy had began her plead. It was past five minutes, right? He was promptly disappointed in his previous estimation. Wendy could not get him down in five minutes. She might not be able to get him down at all. Well, down in the way that she wanted him to come.

He put too much faith in people. It was something he would’ve liked too change if he wasn’t currently hanging between life and death. He took a step forward, back to the verge of his destiny. And the bridge.

“Stop!” The officer was the one who spoke. Maybe Wendy had as well, but it was lost within the rising shrieks from the people below. “We can help you, but you have to step away from the edge first!”

Mallory defied the officer’s order. He was an infuriating boy; it was no secret. He was the type of child that aimlessly wandered around the town after dark. He was the type of child whose attendance at school waned like the moon. He was the type of child where this situation, directly disobeying authority while atop a bridge, was not unexpected.

Yet, no one ever helped him. There was never an extended hand of comfort from those wiser than him. With a mother who worked so much that she couldn’t bother with maternal duties and a missing father who left before Mallory could speak, the boy was lacking a familial structure. No teacher cared for him, simply marking another absence as they continued to foster the gifted children. The other children at school weren’t cruel, just apathetic. It was as if he didn’t exist to anyone.

He came to this revelation earlier that day. He was at school for the first time in a week, he tried to listen to the teacher’s lectures, and he tried to converse with his fellow classmates. It went smoothly. Mallory had learned new information that day about the constitution. His conversations were pleasant, if not a little short. He felt content.

He sauntered home, and he opened the door to his empty home. He threw his backpack onto the kitchen floor and smashed a wilting flower pot. Then, he got out a dust pan and cleaned up the disarray he had created so his mother wouldn’t be concerned when she returned. He went to his room and cried on his bed for a while.

Finally, he made his mistake.

“Wendy?” He spoke into the landline phone, eternally grateful that it was not shut off. His tone was soft, yet it wasn’t weak. He made sure that it was because it was not a call for help. It was simply to trade farewells. He would’ve done it in person if Wendy wasn’t a town over, most likely returning from her after school clubs.

She sounded jubilant, excited to hear from her old friend. “Mallory! What a surprise. What do you need?” Her speech was always so formal, highlighting the meticulous education she received.

Mallory swallowed hard. Wendy was extremely intelligent and perceptive; he had to be heedful with his words. “I just called to call.” She allowed a lull. “I went to school today and learned something interesting.”

“Oh, do tell me.” She laughed in good-natured.

Mallory allowed a crooked yet nervous smile to grace his face. He answered, “We’re all allowed the right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, right?” There was an agreeable hum from Wendy. “Well, that really opened my eyes. I wasn’t really happy when you moved away.” He was trekking into a dangerous area. He could sense that Wendy was growing concerned with his speech. He tried for a lighter tone, “B-But now I found my pursuit to happiness!”

“That’s wonderful, Malloy, but… are you all right?” She weaved her way into Mallory, pulling at his heart. Are you all right? Such a simple question, yet it dug into his skin. His unraveling began, not with a jump from a high area, but from an innocent question.

“No.” He admitted. His mind with in chaos. It screamed, Please help. Help me. “No, Wendy, I’m not okay.” Help me. “I’m thinking horrible things.” Save me. “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through the day – “

“Mallory, calm down.” There was rustling on Wendy’s side. She was running. “I need you to take a deep breath. I’m coming over there; it won’t take long.”

“No!” He cried and flinched backward as if he’d been struck. “I don’t wanna see you. I just wanted to say goodbye.“

“You’re scaring me, Mallory – “

“Goodbye.”

“Mallory – “

He gently severed the conversation by flinging the phone across his room. He didn’t watch as it struck the wall; he was too busy fleeing his empty hearth. He constructed a resolution as he passed his abhorrent school. He was ready to die.

When he was atop the bridge, however, he wavered. There he was, standing at the highest point of the town, wallowing in the lowest moment of his life. He wanted to cry again, but refused.

Mallory’s resolve was strong, but Wendy’s was just stronger. She was quick, already making her way to the overpass that separated their towns, authority following closely behind her.

He was making a spectacle of himself. He was already aware of that fact, but that didn’t mean he was pleased. Mallory hadn’t planned for it to be this way, yet the sirens of the police cars and gathering throng of bystanders were as real as his resolve. He silently cursed to himself.

“Step off the bridge, boy! We can talk this out!”


Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 2

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
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
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
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. 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 scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
It was intriguing and a good start. I just didn't understand what truly motivated Mallory and I didn't feel like the ending was clear. I was interested while reading the story and wanted to learn more. Keep up the good work.

Review 2:


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
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
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 challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
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
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout.
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?
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
The story has an interesting premise, plot and characters. There are some fresh turns of phrase, but there are too many technical mistakes in the writing, and a few too many clichés, spurious words and non-sequiturs, which collectively detract from the enjoyment of the story.

Review 3:


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
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
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 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.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
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
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your 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 3:
This was an amazing story. I was wrapped up in it from beginning to end. The characters were relatable and believable. The atmosphere and mood of the story was simply captivating. There were three things that I am going to complain about now. First, the repetition. Now before you go saying "well that was intentional...," hear me out. I did like all the intentional repetition throughout the story, but there were a couple of times when you said the same thing twice in different words. That is the "bad" repetition, or redundency. Nobody likes having to reread the same line over and over again. To fix this, just cut one sentence out, simple as that. Second, I thought that some of the gammar/word choice could be improved. Just make sure to avoid "boring" words where you can help it and go over the story a couple of times and see where you could change something. Now that we have the two minor issues out of the way, let's get the big one. The ending. Now I see where you were going with it, but I did not feel like it worked. But let me describe what it was that I felt when I got to the ending so that, if what I felt is what you wanted me to feel, then you can leave it. Otherwise, you can take my advice on how to change it. And I also noticed that it was close to the word limit, so if that is not the actual ending, then don't worry about it. So, when I got to the repeated beginning portion, i felt like the story was never going to end, like we got nowhere with the whole encounter. I felt let down (no pun intended) by the characters that they did not come up with a solution. This was a boy's life they were grappling over, so they should be able to decide, or at least make some headway. And I understand that many stories are "let the reader decide how it ends," but at least those stories have an ending where you know what's going on. in one word, it was frustrating. If that was what you were going for, then well done. Otherwise, let's talk about this. I think that you can keep the repeated lines, but at least add something new. Maybe dialogue, or a feeling, description, an action, something. And that's all you have to do. And this is why: time, at least in theory, is not a crazy mess of goo. To the average human, it is linear. That is how we like out time. As writers, we can get around this by adding flashbacks, but we should not end up on a parallel timeline where nothing happens when we return to the "present." It seems like Mallory is going to do the exact same thing again, which just doesn't make much sense. So if you add just a couple words, even one would do, to tell me (the reader) that this world that you built with these characters isn't trapped in a time loop, that would be helpful. And you can even write it in a way that makes it just as frustrating, but without the hassel of questioning the whole integrety of the story by this time dilemna. Okay, that's enough ranting for one day. Again, great story, one of the best. Great job. If I was a crier, I would definitly be burning through the tissues right about now. Amazing. Top marks. Amazing. Aftertought: tie in the title a bit more to the peice, or consider it. I googled the hedgehog's dilemna and now it makes sense, but not everybody has heard about it. Then again, you don't want to overdo a great work of fiction.