First one through the gates! Bows to the roaring crowd. Enjoy. Beware, this piece was over 8000 words and only halfway done when I set that aside for myself and took a diffrent approach to the story. Now it is legal.
_________________ “You got farther then most.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“What did you intend to do when you got to his bedroom?”
“I intended exactly what happened.”
Victor’s eyes narrowed, taking in every bit of the slim man sitting on the other side of the table. He was tall, long brown hair and dark brown eyes clothed in dirty denim, silver crosses highlighting his jacket. Hours penned up in this stone room and only a few hours away from death, the man still screamed an unnatural arrogance and comfort with his hands behind his head and his boots on the metal table.
“You intended to be captured,” Victor finally replied.
The man shook his head, “No.”
Victor fought back the tide of frustration and desperately wanted to just kill this man. But he had been ordered to find out how the man had gotten in and who had sent him before his life was put out. “What did you intend to do?”
Boots hitting the ground, the man lurched forward and placed his elbows on the table. Leaning forward, a strange smile spread across his face. “Let’s be honest with each other. I will tell you everything you want to know, and in return, you listen to my entire story.”
The man nodded. “My past, my present, my future. How I got here and why. Everything.”
Victor sat stunned, his training reflecting it as quiet contemplation. It had taken nearly two dozen men to die in front of this guy just to slow him down, and another two dozen to bring him down. After all that, he hadn‘t expected this. “Why would you give up that info so easily?”
“Because neither of us will be telling anyone else what we learn in here,” the man whispered. “When my story is finished, I will kill you and walk out that door. I will then kill any of your men who get in my way until I reach the outside.”
Victor smiled. “And what of the outside? What will you do once reaching it?”
Victor took a moment. Everything about this made him feel bad and he had spent his life forcing that feeling into others. He had killed, tortured, raped, maimed and any other number of horrible things to survive in the new world. He had ripped apart men twice his size and done it without breaking a sweat. This would be assassin made him feel like a child.
“Where do we start?” Victor finally asked.
The man leaned back. “Before I tell you how to create a real killer, we start with you taking my empty guns and placing them on the table, follow by a smoke from the tin in your left inside coat pocket above an impressive arsenal of knives along your waist.” Victor registered the observance of the man and stored them away for his report. He finally nodded and reached into his black coat. Retrieving the heavy guns, he placed the weapons on the table. They were still warm, hours after this man had slain several of his friends. They glinted red with a crimson buried deep within the metal of the two guns. He then retrieved a tin and a lighter out of his left inside coat pocket above a large assortment of knives and placed them on the table. Opening the tin, he released two home rolled cigarettes and gave one to the man. He lit them both and swallowed the poison into his lungs.
“My name is Lostus Darkwell. Twenty years ago, I was the son of a cop. I had planned to be a cop when I grew up but I also wanted to be a traveling gunfighter like Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter. But then it happened. You must remember the day the world lost it’s insanity. No ideal who shot first but every country lashed out at each other. Most of the population was incinerated and those of us that were left and had to learn new rules of survival.
“The weather grew bad, and most of who were left fell to starvation or the elements. My family was lucky. My father knew how to hunt. He taught my mother, sisters, and I how to survive in the wild. Add to it that we had reach to an old cabin in a mountain range known as the Arbuckle’s and one could say we made it through better then most with the help of an old hermit who lived a few miles away.
“One day, the winter ceased. It warmed and that’s when the real problems began. A power vacuum existed and the ruthless of those still living got guns and began trying to fill it.
"The best I can tell, I was in my teens when the first scouting party came by to tell us a new government had been created and that we were stack dab in the middle of it. They told us we owed them a tax of goods. When we denied, they attacked. My father gunned them all down minus one. Why he reloaded the man rushed my mother with a knife. Before reaching her, I fired my first bullet at a human being. I killed him by putting a hole between his eyes and out the back of his head.”
“How did it feel getting your first kill?” Victor asked sitting back.
“I’ve killed so many now, it’s almost impossible to remember what killing him felt like. If I think back hard enough, I seem to remember feeling cold, or the start of cold. Now, I don’t feel anything but. They weren’t the last to come. Close to a year later, a second group came. A month later, another group. Governments came and went or more like gangs came and went. Then something happened. Someone who had more then just a bunch of thugs organized a militia. They took over the surrounding towns. Crushed any resistance that may have tried to stand against them. One of their trained groups found our cabin.”
Lostus put the smoke out on the table. Cold eyes fell on Victor and the room grew icy. “They rushed our home at night, killing my dad first. He got one shot off before they returned in same. My mother took part of the fire and they both died in their bedroom. My sisters screamed as they went into their room. I rushed forward, rifle in hand and got off a shot. I struck a target but I didn’t kill. I set to fire again but a blade pieced my body and traveled through, finally jutting from my back.
“My legs gave way and I fell onto my knees. My hands went to the metal cutting through my body and I blacked out. I don’t think I slept very long as I remember flashes. Men in dark uniforms standing before one man. A flash of silver in the moonlight. A quick flame adding the smell of tobacco to the air. The line of men saluting the one.”
“The initial cleansing was needed to help stabilize the region,” Victor explained. “People who were too afraid to join us might eventually oppose us and cause instability. The greater good needed to be protected.”
Lostus laughed. “Propaganda has always been useful. I have no doubts your methods were useful. But even the most efficient plans have repercussions. May I continue?”
“When I awoke, the hermit was standing over me. He was adding some kind of salve to my chest then binding my cut with a white bandage. I went out again and when I awoke a final time he was forcing a broth into my mouth. I drank eagerly. I had never hungered so much nor had I ever tasted anything so delicious. I downed the cup and chased it with several more bowls.
“He nursed me back to health and explained the new government. Told me about how the leader had been a history teacher at one time who had a thing for dictators like Hitler and Stalin. He used his knowledge and slowly gathered supplies and followers. Then he struck, taking over one town and converting its citizens to his cause. They went wanting stability and protection from the random gangs and this new man gave it to them. Soon, his death squads were spanning the country side. Looking for both followers and examples. Anyone they got word of standing up to previous gangs with any bit of success was wiped out. We were the most successful so they stuck us with the most precision and with their best death squad.
“I wanted revenge and the old hermit had taken a shine to me over the years, so he agreed he would teach me things that even my father didn’t know. The death squads put a desire that overtook all else and that was all I needed to become a good killer. I remember the words the hermit told me on my first lesson. He said, ‘Say goodbye to your soul, lad. For you won’t be needing it for the rest of your life.’
“The things I learned. First, he taught me patience. How letting your prey come to you first was easier then going hunting. I would stand for hours in a grove untill a buck came to me. Slowly, its curiosity would bring it cautiosly to me where I would put a bullet in its head point blank. "Second, he then taught how to open myself to my surroundings till I was aware of everything. I soon learned to put that information to use until I could warp it to my advantage. Little quirks that attracted my prey. Patterns in everyday life and reactions. I'm unbeatable at poker. I won't play a hand for half an hour then I will take every hand until my opponents walk away with empty pockets. "Then, I learned how to use other people who's intrest were alinged with mine. I would set traps for death squads through my travels. I once had a group of prostitutes call over half a dozen men. They came willingly to take what they wanted and not pay. As each man embraced a girl they drove a knife deep into thier bellies and twisted. The girls had had thier families broken apart by death squads. I learned of them through a pimp who did not live long after that and taught them what they needed to know to kill a man. "Last..."
“He taught you how to shoot better?”
“No. It wasn’t needed. But last, he taught me how to kill better. How direct was not always pretty but was best. How stretching out a death not only put you at risk but helped ruin chances to get what you want. This, I follow very carefully minus a very select few. "I was there for a short time. A couple of years before he grew sick and died. Some sort of cancer that before the end, would have been easily curable. Now, he succumbed to his body ripping itself apart and died at the mercy of his last present to me. Those,” Lostus nodded toward the crimson guns on the table.
“Custom made for him years before my birth by a friend of his long gone. They have never jammed on me and I have never missed with them. They reload in seconds and the bullets are easy to create in this new world. For me, they are the perfect weapons...
“I sat out to for revenge and with the help of old friends of my father was accepted into the Neo United Army or whatever its name was. I kept my skills in check, doing my best to stay unnoticed getting menial work in response. I then researched old records for the history teacher loved to keep records of everything they did, not fearing the early days of his regime. It helped keep stability. I discovered it had been five years since my family’s death and yet I had lived lifetimes already. It took only a matter of time before I discovered the names of those who had taken part of the slaughter of my family.
“I hunted them down. One by one. Only a few had survived the squabbles with smaller gangs that were soon crushed by the large force that finally followed. I found two along the gulf, both now in charge of their own death squads. I cut their groups in half, sent them on a wild goose hunt and led them into each other in the dark. A blood bath ensued as they tore each other apart. I made sure I was the last thing they saw.
“The third had been put in charge of a ‘Truth Seeker’ group. I used his own tools to open every inch of his body while I watch him go through the five stages of grief and pain.
“The fourth was hard but not the hardest to track down. He had actually left the life he held while raping my sisters and went far south. I found him living with a tribe of Indians along a poisonous river that held snakes the size of houses. He eagerly gave his life to me and thanked me for setting him free. I made sure he knew I was doing him no favor, but merely quickening his route to Hell.
“The fifth was the hardest to kill. He had become a gun runner that stocked rival gangs with sabotaged weapons and stole good ones from them at the same time. His personal arsenal was very impressive and it took many hours of trading bullets before I finally sent his body up in an explosion of his own weapons. I found his twisted body pinned to a tree begging for me to finish him. I left him cursing me. Only the man in charge was left now.”
“The history teacher,” Victor smiled. He retrieved another smoke and handed a brother to Lostus. He watch Lostus take it and the light, inhaling the dark perfume. He suspected the story was almost over and with it, this would be assassin’s life. They had worried that such a professional was hired by some unseen enemy prepared to strike deep into their force. His leader’s advisors said that any man who was as lethal as this one was at the very least, the first strike by a larger power. Many would be glad to hear otherwise.
“I sought out the capitol. I was many leagues away but I traveled the distance quickly. Once reaching, I used my brief rank to gain entrance to this city and scouted the area. I expected more but like most gangs, your leader and his troops were mostly talk and simply prayed that no one actually tried anything. The many gangs you battle while underpowered and smaller are still numerous and if the constant fighting is dwindling your supplies. Ten years have passed and you have grown too fast to keep others from getting the jump and now your leader’s forces are stretch too thin. I easily slipped in.”
“And were captured.”
Lostus laughed, his voice sending waves of frost down Victor’s spine. “No, I went willingly after killing enough to make you think I was being captured. I’m good, but on the run I was forced into in the fight above, I would not be sure if I killed my mark and that beyond all else is the thing I must accomplish.”
“Yet your history teacher is not here and I am,” Victor pointed out shaking off the fear growing inside him.
Lostus leaned forward. “Leaders can only be faulted for setting loose the monsters it needs to get things accomplish. This absolves him nothing but no less blame can be taken off the monsters set loose. He will fall, in time, as all governments will in this new age but not by my hand. No greater punishment could be put on that man then watching everything he sold his soul for… Fall apart.”
Victor froze. He was suddenly aware how exposed he was. How the distance between him and locked door with armed men on the other side was growing in size. How his knives latched to his left side were so inaccessible. I set to fire again but a blade pieced my body and traveled through, finally jutting from my back. Victor’s hands dropped from his mouth and landed on his tin holding his rolled smokes and lighter. A flash of silver in the moonlight. A quick flame adding the smell of tobacco to the air.
Lostus lashed out. His hands blurred and defied reality. Victor saw the hands strike below his chin, his neck feeling an impact followed by numb coursing every inch of his being. His lungs lost their connection to his mouth and he began to choke. He fell backwards and Lostus stood. The man retrieved his weapons, sheathing them in his holsters hanging from his waist. That icy smile never left his face as he grabbed up the tin and lighter he had held all his life.
The door opened, and two men rushed forward. His fading vision allowed him to helplessly watch as Lostus grabbed up the chair he had sat in moments before, travel the distance to the two men, and strike the first down. The second man must have yelled because him mouth opened but Victor herd nothing as Lostus reached forward and twisted the man in an unnatural way.
Victor’s sight gave, leading him into a dark abyss. The memory of Lostus Darkwell walking out of the room following quickly behind.
4/5 Adherence to Prompt: There was how-to, but I felt that the "heart" behind the steps was left out. A how-to can go far beyond the steps involved. There's essentially a person behind the steps. And if there is a person, then there is a lot of characterization involved in the process itself.
4/5 Spelling and Grammar: little errors here and there.
7/10 Characterization: There was a lot of information and support given to the character by way of ample back-story. Because there were few scenes in real time and few actions in the present, the character couldn't grow and benefit from the large amount of back-story.
6/10 Plot and Structure: Because the story is mostly dialog where the character is recalling and retelling the events of his life, there isn't much room for narrative. Becuase it's in dialog, the present in the story is at the interrogation. This means that all the dialog is essentially a flash back mean to summarize large amounts of information so the reader has it. This story should show instead of tell.
5/10 Style: Style is mainly evident in the narrative passages, however (as I has said before) the story is mainly dialog. Dialog can be restricting because you are representing the characters actually voices in text. This means you don't have as much literary flexibility. You have to maintain the credibility of the characters dialog in this way.
6/10 Creativity: The story is leaning on the over the top, unbelievable side. Because the story was mainly summarized there is a lot of information that I feel, has dug a hole deeper than what the story filled. Information about the government, the intricacies of the factions, and history of their world must be used for a specific purpose. If they are merely presented to provide more back-story, then the plot-driven story can be hindered. The story felt largely inspired by movies and very specific novels. Part of the problem that can come up from imitation other mediums is overlooking the strengths of the medium that you are working in.
Closing comments: When considering a revision, consider changing the chronological structure of the whole story. In movies it works great to start with a scene where you don't have a lot of information, and then flash back to how everything came to that point. But in fiction, it's more complicated and confusing when this technique is used. If the structure is simplified the amount of information in the story can be reduced down to what is absolutely necessary. I remember what SCAV told me while riding in the car one time. He said that when you do a lot of research for a story, most if it is invisible. In other words, the back-story that you worked out in this story, doesn’t' necessarily have to be explained or state to be there.
Adherence to Prompt: 3/5 - A capable how-to, but you don't really go into depth. You also suffer from the same problem as most of the stories, in that the reader pretty much already knows (or has been told) what you instruct.
Spelling/Grammar: 3/5 - Some distracting typos and awkward grammar.
Plot/Structure: 7/10 - I gave you extra points for sticking to your structure. A lesser writer would have had him storm into the history teacher's room, and abandoned structure. Still, your story is lacking a second plot point. Impressively, you have two first PP's. The death of his family, and when he gets captured. But, you still need something to change, in order to force a moving action. This will make your story much more satisfying to the reader, strengthen your characters, and make the "twist" at the end less obvious.
Characterization: 4/10 - Unfortunately, revenge stories are hard. They are made even harder when driven by dialogue and motive backstory (lots of flashbacks.) While the interview format can work (See: World War Z by Max Brooks), it is difficult to pull off. Either you need to pepper the dialogue with more personal observations, or you need to pull away from dialogue altogether. Dialogue is at its weakest when used for exposition.
Victor needs more depth. Revenge stories are notoriously character-shallow, so you need all of the depth you can muster.
Style: 5/10 - I covered most of my style issues under Characterization and Plot. The main issue: you have very colorful descriptions, but they tend to conflict. Avoid describing the same objects over and over again (at least, too colorfully.) The best example of this the many ways to describe cigarette smoke. "Dark Perfume" is great, but combined with "Poison" and the many other epithets, it just makes your prose turn purple. (Purple prose: the author trying too hard to be ornate and descriptive.) Another example is when he got stabbed. Gorgeous description, but it stands out like... well, like a knife wound. And not in the good way.
Creativity: 5/10 - You have a well-imagined world, now you just need a bit more to make it unique. The history teacher is a good start. But you can do more than just the "evil empire killed my family and now it's time to murder the emperor" routine. I'm looking forward to it.
A note on my grading: I mark these as if I was doing a professional critique. I will be pretty harsh and I don't give out top marks unless I think the manuscript is publishable. Imagine I am the editor who holds the ability to publish your material or toss it into the circular file. Most slush pile submissions get tossed. You have lots of competition out there, so your story has to be damn near perfect to get published.
The biggest problem here is that I saw the ending coming a mile away and the main character (who seemed reasonably intelligent) did not. It's also pretty cliche'd story and plot line with nothing new. Man was wronged, man gets revenge on everyone who wronged him, and the last man is the one he's telling his story to. It's been done.
Your style also needs some work. The low grammar score is because too many of your sentences run on or are structured poorly. This makes it hard for the reader to follow the action. I also never really felt close to the story. Sure, you are re-telling it and your main character is a cold, emotionless killer. But the story is told in such an emotionless way that I found it hard to care about what happened to him.
You might want to re-cast this as a story told to a son after all the killing had been done and use the story through the eyes of innocence. It could then be a story of how the vengeance gets passed on from generation to generation. It could then be a story about something more than just vengeance.