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wolfie
March 18th, 2003, 09:23 AM
Hi, ya'll! I am new around here. I've been dabbling with my writing for the last year...mostly short stories. But I'm trying to get serious. To that end, I have been toying around with a story and would like some feedback...How does it read? Does it intrigue you? How do my characters come across? Do you get any feel for them? Do you like the set up of this first part?

I appreciate anything advice, criticism, praise that you could provide. Thank you in advance and God Bless.

***
The Disgruntled Coven

Part I – The Right Time, The Right Place

The Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial
Salem, Massachusetts
February 29, 1992

Abigail Bethune stood in the early morning mist, her gray gown billowing around her, three inches of slushy, melting snow at her feet. Black was so…so…done…so passé, she preferred gray. It fit her mood, it suited the weather and it complimented her environs perfectly. The wind whipped her unbound, shoulder length, brown hair about her face, but she paid it no attention. Her eyes were focused across the street, at the recently dedicated memorial. The smell of the decaying flowers placed at the site to pay tribute to the victims was still pungent in the air, even at this distance.

Three hundred years! It took them three hundred years to do this…to try to make some peace with what happened here. Three hundred years! And what do they choose to commemorate the tragedy with? Stones. Stones! Still the indignity lingers…stones! One of the victims of that travesty died when stone slabs, weights were placed upon his body. He lasted two days…two days before succumbing and giving the villagers the satisfaction of his last breath. Stones! She would never breach those gates, never look at the stone slabs chiseled with the names and dates there…she would never remember her family at such a mockery, a sick joke. She would remember them in her own way, in her own time…and damn everyone else.

Abbie felt the fury rise within her, felt the wind pick up, felt the stinging lash of her curly, unruly hair as it whipped fiercely about her face. She cast a baleful look at the official memorial. Stones! She bent and worked her fingers through the cold, wet remnants of the last snow and found the frozen ground beneath. She dug her fingers into the slumbering Earth and made a solemn vow…the past was not forgotten. Not by a long shot.

***

The Witch House
Salem, Massachusetts
March 2, 1992

Elizabeth Gayle stood across the street, at the corner of Rte 114 and Essex, and regarded the Corwin House, better known as The Witch House. It wasn’t at the original location. It had been moved here in 1944 to save it from certain demolition. The local town folks didn’t want to see such a tribute to history destroyed and had managed to raise the necessary money to have it moved and preserved…keeping the legacy alive.

Betty shook her head, her raven black hair billowing around her flashing green eyes. Legacy! Hah! More like a tourist trap, a cash cow, especially come October. Her eyes narrowed as the proprietor stepped out to pick up the daily paper. She hated seeing what the house had turned into, hated knowing that money was being made off the dead bodies…37 bodies. She wondered how much of the profits had made it or would ever make it to the bank accounts of the ancestors. She knew that she had never seen a damned dime, even though, supposedly, restitution had been made to the families. What a crock! It was mere publicity only, propaganda, nothing more than a token writ.

She mouthed a few silent words and smiled grimly as a bird flew overhead and dropped a little bomb on the proprietor’s head. She turned and walked away chuckling darkly as his string of colorful invectives was carried to her ears by her friend…the wind.

***

The Old Cemetery
Sudbury, Massachusetts
March 19, 1992

It was a cemetery, just a cemetery, like so many other cemeteries, and yet it wasn’t. She felt a sense of peace here and not the usual eerie feeling of walking over somebody’s grave that she would have expected. She knew why. The why is what brought her here…on this day, the day that started it all for her, and yet it actually started so much sooner, for without the one, there wouldn’t have been the other.

Marianne Cloyce toyed with a lock of her blonde hair. It couldn’t be called blonde exactly. It was closer to silver in color and had been since she was just a little girl. People just had a hard time attributing gray or silver to hair on one so young, so blonde it was labeled and blonde she had become. Her recent marriage had sent her on an ancestral journey; her new husband was big into genealogy. The upshot was quite a shock to them both…her married name was one of a distant female relative…she had, in fact, married back into her family, the family of her grandmother, many times great, Sarah Cloyce nee Sarah Towne.

Marianne shook her head sadly. Sarah Cloyce had some notoriety, but not nearly as much as her sister, Rebeccah Nurse, and that is what led her to Sudbury and what would lead her next to Salem, to the old cemetery on Charter Street, The Burying Point. She had it on good authority that Sarah’s marker would be found here, though she knew enough of her family’s history now to know that she wouldn’t find Rebeccah’s here or at the one in Salem. No, they wouldn’t bury executed witches on hallowed ground. Her body was somewhere so secret that no one left in the family even knew where it was.

Wherever Rebeccah Nurse slept in final repose, Marianne hoped that at least her soul had found peace. She continued walking the rows of old, cracked, chipped and toppled-over head stones until she stopped dead in her tracks. She pivoted and hung a right and then a left amid the tangled overgrown weeds until she stood looking down at a partially moss covered stone. “Sarah Cloyce, b. 1639, d. 1703, beloved wife of Peter Cloyce, beloved mother of Benoni, Hepsibah, and Mary Cloyce, and Hannah, Edmond, Benjamin, Mary, Caleb, Sarah, and Alice Bridges.”

As Marianne felt the tears fall, the sky opened up and the rain poured down. Marianne dropped to her knees, her gut wrenching tears washed away by the water coming from the heavens.

***

Ok...that is not the end of the first part, but it was too long to put in one post...so, it follows immediately herein. Many thanks, again.

wolfie
March 18th, 2003, 09:24 AM
The Disgruntled Coven
Part I, continued...

***

Gallows Hill
Salem, Massachusetts
April 18, 1992

Gallows Hill. That’s what they called it then, but not now. No. No one wanted to be reminded of what happened then, well, unless it sold another t-shirt or some movie rights. Richard Phips stood on the small knoll that had long since stopped being referred to as Gallows Hill and ran a tired hand through his very red, thinning hair. Now, it was some park or another, where kids played and laughed and families spent joyous times together unknowing, unaware for the most part that their picnics were laid out on the same grassy swathe that claimed the lives of 19 innocent people.

They would be here today, in all likelihood. The weatherman said it was going to be unseasonably warm later…up near seventy degrees. Lovely. Great. His anger seethed, boiled, bubbled up. He gazed up into the rapidly lightening sky. It would be full of kites later, bright colorful kites with boys and girls running merrily about trying to make them fly higher and higher. It was a perfect place to fly kites…there was nothing to get tangled up on, nothing to stop them…except one thing…one tree…one lonely, old, gnarly tree, standing high atop the largest rise of this knoll.

The tree represented everything he hated. How could they have let it stay? How could they have turned this into a park? Visitors might only see the lush greenery, the flowers, the shrubbery, but he saw only trails of bright red, of blood, of excrement and human waste as the unjustly accused bodies swung in the air, emptying their bodily cavities and their souls. He would never see anything else here. Certainly, he would never see anything to celebrate and that’s what this place had become…one big party.

The tree had to go…and everything else with it. It couldn’t be allowed to stay. Richard picked up a small, granite pebble from the ground and played with it idly in his hands. He closed his fist around it and squeezed, feeling it grow hotter and hotter, feeling the smoke waft from his closed fist, the fire within him raging momentarily out of control. He took a calming breath. Soon. Soon. But not nearly soon enough.

***

A Taste of Thyme Café
Washington Street
(Adjoining Federal Street, overlooking
The Old Essex County Court House)
Salem, Massachusetts
May 27, 1992

Abbie walked in and sat down choosing a front booth with a view of the street. From here, she could watch the comings and goings of people who had no clue what this day in history meant, she could look out and see the Old Court House, could sit and remember, could sit and feel, could sit and plan.

She felt the skin on the back of her neck prickle, the bell above the door clanging awkwardly as it opened and someone entered. She turned to look, emerald green eyes blinked back at her. Their gazes locked. Abbie shook her head and broke the stare. How odd. Her neck still prickled and now the hair on her arms was standing on end and quivering.

Abbie glanced up to find the owner of the green eyes still regarding her strangely. She felt an uneasy connection between the two of them and hastily made her decision, motioning her over. The other woman nodded, slowly walked over and slid into the booth. They sat in silence for a few moments, regarding each other, both feeling the same intense, inexplicable connection.

The bell clanged against the glass door of the entrance again, and again, the skin on the back of Abbie’s neck prickled. She looked up, and this time, rather than green, it was a pair of light brown eyes staring at her. But she was not alone in her regard of the stranger at the door. The woman sitting across from her had jerked her head up abruptly and was staring hard at the figure looming in the doorway. The man at the door stood there in shocked social ineptness…holding the door half open, his body not quite inside the café, not quite out in the street. An impatient would-be patron elbowed passed him rudely, mouthing a rather uncalled for word.

Abbie looked into the green eyes across from her. They returned her gaze steadily. Why not, she thought. Abbie shrugged and waved him over, too. The unexplained never bothered her; she was used to it. But something was happening here. Something she had not been a part of for so very long…since she left her coven in Savannah…

The three of them sat in the booth, silent, but not uncomfortably so. It was a solemn moment of regard, each one of them, in turn, peering into the others’ eyes, delving deep, looking, and finding what they sought. Abbie shivered. It really shouldn’t surprise her to find other like-minded people here, in Salem, of all places.

The quiet inspection, introspection continued until the door opened again, but instead of the expected dulled, clanging of the bell, only silence prevailed…an eerie, deep silence, more of a vacuum than a state of existence without sound. The lights flickered; the air was sucked from the room in one deafening roar before the lights steadied, the bell clanged and life returned to its normal rhythm.

Abbie looked around. The other patrons did not seem to have noticed what had just happened…maybe it was just a figment of her overactive imagination…maybe it was nothing. She looked towards the door and instantly knew better. A pair of aquamarine eyes blinked coolly back at her, surprise etched on the stranger’s face and Abbie didn’t even bother to look at the other two occupants of her rapidly filling booth, but just went ahead and motioned the other woman over.

The four of them sat there in a spiritually charged quietude, an energized silence that was as old as time itself, and took in the presence of the others. There were no need for words, none. They all recognized what they had, what had happened…what had been created. Some things don’t require explanation, they just are.

Formal introductions began a few moments later, though it really wasn’t necessary. Richard Phips, red hair, amber eyes…oh yes…fire. Marianne Cloyce…silver hair, aqua eyes….hmmm, definitely water. Elizabeth Gayle, black hair and emerald eyes…wind. And when she said her name, Abigail Bethune, she knew they were taking in her curly, brown hair and sky blue eyes and making the proper inference…Earth.

The entire compliment of the elements, a full circle…and a whole lot of trouble.

***

John
March 18th, 2003, 10:24 AM
Hey wolfie,

I liked the start of your story. It was interesting and your descriptions are well written.

I also haven't read much about covens in the literature I've followed so I liked your explanation on the four elements of the circle.

The main feelings I got from the characters were anger/outrage/regret. Marianne seems like a thinker and is regretful. The other three appear to be angry and bitter, also a little unreasonable. Abbie comes across as the person who will become the leader in the cafe scene. You haven't really developed their personalities that much yet, but it's still quite early in the story.

There's not much I can say, for improvements.

I noted you used "…" comparatively more than other people. Not sure if this is a problem as I didn't seem to have any issue with it when I read the story. So I'll just point it out as something unusual.

One bad thing is that the story starts slowly, as you have to introduce four characters. The character introductions are great, but the really interesting part is after the introductions. This could be a possible problem if you're trying to attract someone that might be just browsing. My interest started to wane a bit around the 3rd introduction. In the introductions you added the suggestion that each of them were witches, and that they might have power that they will use in angry retribution. This was successful in increasing my interest in the story during the introductions. I'm not sure how else you can pique more reader interest.

Anyway, it's looking like it will be a good story.

John

wolfie
March 18th, 2003, 09:35 PM
:) John....Thanks for taking the time to read and give me some input. It is appreciated.

Ellipses....*smirks*...I did get a little heavy handed with them. Several of them could be better served replaced with comma's or semicolons. I have a "meter" in my brain when I write and try to express that to the reader. Thank you for pointing it out. I didn't see it myself because I was still reading it to the beat in my head! hehehe

The slow build up...Hmmm. I was going for a "snap shot" like effect...like how they do in some movies where in the beginning, the film maker will go "bang bang bang" with several short scenes to set up the background. I tried to give just a little bit about them and their motivations without giving too much. Perhaps it can be tightened further, but in reading it, I'm not sure. I guess we'll have to see how it develops from here and let that be my guidance.

But again, many thanks. My friends don't seem to dare suggest anything that smacks of criticism and since I really want to become a good writer, that's what I'm here for. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated.