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Thread: "Scottish Moon"--a tale of terror

  1. #1
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    Apr 2011
    Orange County, CA

    "Scottish Moon"--a tale of terror

    I have always had a fascination with Scotland and folklore of monsters, so I decided to combine the two in this short horror story. This one is set during the Jacobite Rebellion in 18th century Scotland...

    "Scottish Moon"

    The moon rose in the night sky, its light reflecting on the men’s bayonets. The captain gave the order to march out. “All right men, we’ll see if we can’t catch whatever’s delaying people’s nightly travels. Let’s move out!”

    The troops began to move away from the center of town, following the main road while under the gaze of anxious, fidgety villagers. After some time passed, the patrol made its way to the hilltop just outside the village, and soon disappeared from the view of those still looking on in nervous anticipation.

    The captain and his men scanned the roads with no luck at finding any travelers or fiendish threats. At times the route was steep, sloping both uphill and down. In spots the road was soft and muddy, dirtying up the soldiers boots, weighing them down, which made the search all the more taxing and arduous. A couple miles from the village, the captain ordered his men to return the way they came. The night’s search was fruitless. There were no howling wolves to track down, nor were there any scenes of gruesome attack.

    As they trudged back towards the village, some of the men got the irritable feeling that they were being followed by something in the shadows of the moors and rolling terrain. None voiced their concern to the captain, whose countenance was also shaken. The still quiet of the evening, displaced with the gust of chill wind, emanated an eerie mood. Two soldiers flinched nervously as a hare scurried across the road.

    Suddenly, the silence of the evening highlands was broken by one of the soldiers. “You hear that? There’s something growling out there! Just off the path.”

    “Calm yourself lad.” the captain replied. “It’s just the wind in your ears.”

    “No sir, I heard it. Just off to our right. Something like a fevered dog.”

    “He’s right sir,” cut in another private. Two others quickly voiced their agreement. The column of troops came to a halt, each man glaring into the darkness of their right flank.

    All was quiet until the lull was broken by a loud grunt-like growl. The captain was a believer now, as were the rest of the men, each instinctively readying his musket. The click of cocked triggers resounded with rapid succession. As if in response, a hoarse howl went up into the night with a chilling quality that reached the marrow of the soldier’s tense bones. There soon followed a series of harrowing, unearthly cries in unison. It now seemed that the noise surrounded them from all sides.

    “Don’t fire until you can see them!” shouted the captain. There soon followed a sick silence, with the occasional shuddering of cold men with loaded rifles.

    The quiet was broken by terror. One of the creatures charged from the left, tearing through the darkness and landing on a soldier near the end of the column. A musket went off, replaced by the sound of gurgling, and the thing was gone as soon as it appeared. The redcoat’s throat had been ripped open in one crunching bite. He was on his knees clutching the gaping wound as scarlet ooze gushed through his pale fingers, eyes wide with horror. Another man bent down to help his dying comrade, when the beasts all charged at once.

    There was a simultaneous discharging of muskets followed by the roar of charging beasts. The creatures moved like that of a man, but in a more sinister, crouching manner. They were covered in thick charcoal fur, and from their large wolf-like heads, jutted robust snouts with serrated, jagged teeth. Their arms extended far, at the end of which were razor sharp claws.

    There were five of them, and as soon the captain fired his rifle, he caught a glimpse of carnage to his right. One of the beasts had swooped in and decapitated the redcoat who had bent down to help his struggling comrade. Blood gushed from the hole in the man’s headless neck, splattering the other soldiers’ white pants, matching them with their crimson coats.

    The captain hit the beast with his shot. It had fallen, but was now getting up, apparently no longer affected by its mortal wound. The creature charged in again before the officer could reload. Instead of going for him, it leapt on a young corporal who stabbed at it with his bayonet—but to no affect. The thing quickly pulled the sharp metal from its body, tugged the musket away and buried its snout into the soldier’s neck. Loud, then fading screams followed.

    To his horror, the captain was witnessing the slaughter of his men by ferocious, bloodthirsty creatures all around him. As he finished reloading his musket, he turned around and saw one man lying on the ground, holding the intestines that had been ripped from his abdomen. More screams began to fill the night. Next to the dying man, another soldier was struggling with one of the beasts, fending it off by swinging his rifle and bayonet. Soon the thing got hold of the man’s arm and tore it off in one quick motion. There soon followed more screams and a swift drainage of blood.

    The captain soon noticed the beast’s attention focused on him. Shaking, he cocked his rifle and began to take aim, but it was too late. The musket went off harmlessly into the air as he was hit hard and brought to the ground. His head slammed on impact, and his vision swirled. Despite his impaired sight, he could make out the beast’s face, just before its jaws lunged at his throat. The last thing the captain could feel was the crunching of his own neck bones, then came darkness.

  2. #2
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
    Fremantle Western Australia
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    I really think this story is way too short for the bloody terror which it contains. There is little suspense and absolutely no way for the reader to attach themselves to any character since there are no details about them other than a captain, his men, redcoats, reloading muskets. The wild beasts are ambiguous which is fine but since the rest of the cast is equally so, the story doesn't get started for me.

    I like your writing style and description of the landscape. More dialogue will help
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  3. #3
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    Apr 2010
    I think the reason this is lacking tension is that every event is described in sequence rather like the newspaper report of a soccer match - we are told everything from start to finish - with no change of pace or style. And the characters are all featureless - the villagers, the soldiers, the beasts.

    The story would be better written from the point of view of a single soldier perhaps - let us witness events through his eyes. That way we have more chance of sensing his nervousness, seeing it through his eyes, hearing and smelling everything he does.

    I wasn't particularly fond of the first line of dialogue

    “All right men, we’ll see if we can’t catch whatever’s delaying people’s nightly travels. Let’s move out!”

    - it's a cheap way of feeding the reader some background (not particularly important in this instance anyway) that should be avoided at all costs. I can't imagine anyone spouting such a line outside a B-rate movie.

    And this paragraph :

    The troops began to move away from the center of town, following the main road while under the gaze of anxious, fidgety villagers. After some time passed, the patrol made its way to the hilltop just outside the village, and soon disappeared from the view of those still looking on in nervous anticipation.
    is overwritten.
    Is it a 'town' or a 'village'? And why do we need to be told so many times that the soldiers set off on their patrol and the villagers were uncomfortable?
    'After some time passed' is one of those expressions that should never appear in fiction. There are so many better techniques of moving on.

    Also I'm wondering why we needed to be told the soldiers marched a couple of miles out of the village then decided to turn back. Writing about nothing happening is a sure-fire way of switching your readers' imagination off. If an incident doesn't drive the story forward - leave it out.

    Several bits need removing or reworking - and some need elaborating on. But it does show promise so don't give up on it.


  4. #4
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    Apr 2011
    Orange County, CA
    Thank you for the constructive critiques. I agree with the both of you, and your suggestions help me improve my writing. I wrote this story a while ago, but forgot to post it for sharing. Indeed, there are essential details lacking in this story. For my next stories I will focus on building suspense, viewpoint, characterization, dialogue, and other key aspects of good fiction writing. I have been focusing more on historical thriller and mystery stories as I find horror writing to be difficult, but I think this is because of my current preferences as I have not read any Poe, Lovecraft, or King in a while.

    Best, Nolan

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