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Thread: [FANTASY] The Squirrel in the Forest

  1. #1

    [FANTASY] The Squirrel in the Forest

    The Squirrel in the Forest

    By Adam Szava



    She steps carefully across the forest floor. Medila the archress has been lost in these woods for days, surviving off of rodents. As she walks, bow in hand, the tree her back faces gives off a sound. The sound of nails gripping onto bark, a squirrel. Her fast reflexes let her pirouette quickly around to where she heard the noise, without making a sound herself, moving to the other side of the tree. She spots her prey, a medium sized squirrel, with a big bushy tail, climbed halfway up the big oak tree.

    She has an arrow ready and begins to pull back on her bow, the squirrel stays put. The forest is silent, all she can hear is the faint sound of her breathing, and the sound of her bow. She takes the shot.

    Just as she lets go of the arrow, a gust of wind miraculously intercepts the arrow mid flight, sending the arrow way off past the tree. The squirrel jumps at the sound, and scurries up the tree.

    “Fantastic” Medila says sarcastically as she pulls out another arrow from her quiver, five left.

    Her eyes try their best to keep a lock on the rodent, climbing up the tree, then onto the branches to run from it’s hunter.

    Medila walks slowly, without making a sound, onto the next tree, following the squirrel. The forest is silent, the squirrel makes itself obvious by rummaging through the branches.

    Finally, the squirrel has lost it’s luck. After running down a line of trees, the squirrel reached a more open area, one of the few areas where there are no trees covering, and sunlight can pass through. The squirrel can either jumps off the tree, or goes back towards the huntress.

    Medila continues to walk briskly, with perfect posture, following the rodent. Bow and arrow in hand. She watches as the rodent jumps from the tree, onto the ground. Now’s her chance.

    In this open area, the squirrel is completely exposed, and has nowhere to run. Foolishly it runs straight into the middle of the field.

    Standing at the edge of the field, Medila pulls back her bow, and fires into the sky. She has been trained for years and years with a bow, for as long as she can remember she’s had a bow in hand and a quiver behind her. As the arrow flies through the sky, the squirrel stays put. Finally, to end the chase, the arrow lands directly onto the top of the squirrel’s head, piercing it from the top, and coming out the bottom.

    Medila starts to walk over to her dinner, giving herself a pat on the back as her long red hair begins to sway in the new wind, a fresh breeze she hadn’t felt in days.

    Once she reaches her squirrel, she kneels down and looks at her kill. Observing the straight pierce through the head. She begins to hum a melody as she pulls out a piece of cloth from her pocket to put the dead squirrel in. Just as she reaches for the tail of the squirrel, she takes one more look at the face of the kritter, arrow still through the head.

    This moment Medila will never forget, never has she seen such inexplicability happen in such a terrible way. As she takes one final look, the squirrel opens it’s eyes and exposes it’s great big fangs.

    In an instant, Medila throws the squirrel a meter from her, dropping the cloth. The rodent begins to hiss, loudly. The wind suddenly picks up even more and leaves begin to be torn from the trees. A black smog begins to form around the limp squirrel body, a smog that begins to form into a spiral. This spiral keeps growing until it becomes more than four times Medila’s height.

    In a gasp, Medila stands back up onto her feet, and grabs her bow off the ground. She quickly pulls out an arrow from her quiver as she scurries backwards to get away from the giant swirling smog.

    A shape begins to form, that of a moose? No, not quite. That of a human? No, not quite. That of a tree? A little bit.

    After just twenty seconds, the beast has appeared. What stands before Medila is a giant with the face of a moose but the body shaped like a human though very thin and frail looking. On it’s head it has a giant top of branches, almost like a head of broccoli.

    Medila stays low, as if to try to evade the beast, but it is useless. The beast raises its head and stares directly at her with it’s bright red eyes.

    “You stand in my forest”, a booming and powerful voice shakes the ground, “you try to kill one of my people”.

    “What are you!?” Medila screams, trying to speak over the wind.

    “I am the keeper of the woods, I am the protector of animals, I am here to defeat the threat that harms my forest.”

    The beast’s gargantuan voice echoes in the trees. Suddenly, the beast begins to move, it’s giant leg stomps slowly forwards towards Medila. The trees shake and the birds fly away.

    Medila begins to plan her fight, although still stupefied by the beast. She notices how frail the body of the beast appears, it’s arms look like four sticks tied together, she could easily break that with a dagger she carries around as her arrows are useless for now.

    She runs around the beast, looking for a tree to scale so she can jump onto it. The keeper of the woods uses it’s giant fist, and tries to swipe Medila as she runs, though unsuccessful.

    She reaches a tree, one tall enough to leap onto the beast, she must be quick. In a matter of seconds, she scaled the tree, branch by branch, and positioned herself facing the beast, the beast who is walking steadily towards her.

    As her foe approaches, Medila jumps at the most optimal moment, the beast tries to swing, but Medila is too fast for the giant. She uses her dagger to attempt to strike the arm of her foe.

    At first she sees success, breaking through the first three sticks holding the beast’s arm together, but at the final stick her strike comes to a halt and her dagger bounces right off sending her falling backwards.

    Medila’s strong legs let her run fast, jump far, and in this case, land hard.

    A menacing laugh echoes.

    “Foolish brute, you thought I was just few twigs. Let me tell you what I’m really.”, the beast’s voice rattles Medila’s ears as she kneels there for the moment, “you strike me in my arm, and you break my first three bones. But then what you don’t think of is that my final bone now contains all of the energy. The strongest sword is too stupid to figure that out, and the smartest mind is too weak.”

    “So why do you tell me this?” asks Medila as she steps up.

    “Because now you know you have no way of defeating me, I’d love to see what a human does in the face of inevitable defeat.”

    The menacing laugh continues. The forest echoes the laugh back and the wind begins to get stronger.

    As the beast has his head back, looking up to the sky, Medila notices something. A weak point. Only one stick, under his chin but above his shoulders, his throat is but one stick, just a bit bigger than the ones that make up his arms. Since there is only one stick, no energy is wasted in destroying others. Medila begins to think.

    She scans the beast for any more weak points she could strike, something that would raise his head up. As the beast lowers his head back down after a good laugh, she immediately notices it’s red eyes, like gems.

    Immediately, Medila pulls out two arrows. As the beast begins to approach, she places both bolts into her bow. She takes a deep breath, kneels down, aims for the eyes, and fires.

    In an instant, the arrows go flying, no wind, no animals, nothing can stop these bolts from hitting their target.

    The red of the beast’s eyes shine their final shine.

    Pushed back by the shock, the defender flails its head backwards, exposing its neck. Medila doesn’t spend a second coming to action. She jumps onto the hand of the beast that is still flailing, and quickly climbs it. She uses the many sticks and branches to climb, some breaking off, almost making her fall. She climbs onto the shoulder of the beast, with its head still pushed up. The wind is strong as the gargantuan boom of the beasts deep scream pulsates through the air.

    Medila draws her dagger, holding on for dear life as the beast flails around, she screams into the defender’s giant ear,

    “Inevitable defeat you say!?”

    The forest rumbles as the crack of the giant’s neck lets out a huge noise. The sound of a thousand animals gasping for air. The giant body falls the the ground, only adding to the noise.

    Medila jumps off the neck of the beast as it falls, she lands hard on the ground, near to the beast’s head. As a black smog pours out of the head and neck of the decapitated beast, the painful animal noises don’t stop.

    The giant head of the dead beast somehow rolls it’s self over to face Medila. With it’s now small dying voice, it murmurs some words.

    “What have you done?”

    “I was just trying to survive” Medila responds quickly, slowly turning her head.

    The beast closes his eyes, though they still have two arrows in them. The wind begins to free up, and the gasps start to die off. The beast’s mouth open for one final time.

    “So were they.”

    In that moment the head and body finally dissipate, exploding into a cloud of black dust.

    In a minute, the dust settles, leaving everything covered in black. Everything except a squirrel, a squirrel with it’s head chopped off, laying there, finally dead. And in the dust, is written the words, “Still want to eat?”.

    Medila stands up, and does what she should have done since the beginning, she runs, she runs and never looks back.

  2. #2
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    I didn't give you a very high score, but please don't be discouraged, and be sure to read all my comments. I make some constructive suggestions at the end.

    I found your story dull and mostly pointless. I never cared about the archress or the squirrel. Was there some reason (based on what you told me) that I should have? I didn't have the slightest idea who the archress was or what she was like. I understand that the story is fantasy, but what about it is captivating enough for me to suspend my disbelief and take it seriously? And the resolution: how is running and never looking back "what she should have done since the beginning" when (according to you) she "has been lost in these woods for days"? What has changed?

    There were also mistakes. Critter isn't spelled with a k (no biggie) and perhaps "The squirrel can either jumps off the tree, or goes back towards the huntress" simply contains typing errors, but there is no excuse for "Everything except a squirrel, a squirrel with it’s head chopped off, laying there, finally dead." To lay is transitive (you have to lay something somewhere); the word you are looking for is lying. Also it's is a contraction not a possessive pronoun. The word you want here is its (with no apostrophe).

    "Her eyes try their best to keep a lock on the rodent, climbing up the tree, then onto the branches to run from it’s hunter" needs a relative clause showing that it was the rodent climbing the tree (not the archress' eyes). And you make the mistake with its again.

    I also want to warn you off using the following imagery: "A shape begins to form, that of a moose?" You are probably too young to remember The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, but many of the Frostbite Falls generation (like me) will find this image pants-wettingly funny in a story about a showdown with a squirrel. And believe me, we don't need any encouragement to misbehave.

    Okay, enough being mean. I suggest that instead of trying to write in fantasy genre style, you try to develop your own style, and that you simply add an element of fantasy to a more authentic story. For example, instead of being an archress, your protagonist could be a lost teenager who is starving in the wilderness and possibly beginning to hallucinate. Perhaps the squirrel appears from time to time (at least she takes it to be the same squirrel) speaking kindly to her and giving her advice about how to survive. But the reader would not be sure whether it was really happening. The story could move to a climax in which the girl sees a way to trap and eat the squirrel--and presumably live. Will she do it? Will she reject her childish fantasies for the harsh reality of survival? Or will she refuse to betray her magic squirrel friend? And how will the squirrel react in either case? What will the result be?

    It seems to me that would make a more interesting story. But remember, you will have to establish who the girl is (meaning what she is like) in much more detail than you have done with the archress. Good luck with whatever you decide, and thank you for sharing your story.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-20-2016 at 09:51 PM.

  3. #3
    flash fiction fatale heartwing's Avatar
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    Sometimes one writes some things to write other things - other stories or other versions of stories. The process is like scaffolding. Something must be built to allow for something else.

    Perhaps the main issue is the lesson we are to learn as readers. Too heavy. At the end. Heavy. Heavy. This seems to be the main reason for a creature who defends the squirrel: His sole reason for being is to embody the lesson and then at the end state it. Yeah, but ok. Maybe another animal could chat with the archress, someone bigger and mightier than the squirrel, but well, maybe not a moose. But they could do something unlikely like have conversation over tea or chillax at the larger creature's habitat.

    What makes something unique is to go against reader expectations.

    You may get different suggestions for doing a story like this, for making some revision to what you have. Good luck.
    Last edited by heartwing; 07-19-2016 at 10:27 PM.
    “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by heartwing View Post
    Perhaps the main issue is the lesson we are to lears readers. Too heavy. At the end. Heavy. Heavy. This seems to be the main reason for a creature who defends the squirrel: His sole reason for being is to embody the lesson and then at the end state it.
    It wasn't the heaviness that bothered me about the "message" as much as its predictability and self-righteousness. I said that I found the story "mostly pointless" because, well, there was a point--just a trite and preachy point: " 'I was just trying to survive.'...'So were they.' " Okay, fine, hunting's cruel. I'd still try to kill animals for meat I were starving in the wilderness. So, I suspect, would the author.

    Maybe it would have worked better if instead of a strong, swift archress the hunter had been an indigent kid who caught rodents to survive. That could have opened the theme the poor preying on one another instead of sticking together. One way or another, the conventional (and predictable) fantasy elements in this story need to be toned way down.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-20-2016 at 10:35 AM.

  5. #5
    flash fiction fatale heartwing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    It wasn't the heaviness that bothered me about the "message" as much as its predictability and self-righteousness. I said that I found the story "mostly pointless" because, well, there was a point--just a trite and preachy point... One way or another, the conventional (and predictable) fantasy elements in this story need to be toned way down.
    The preachy thing you describe is what I meant by the heavy thing.

    The whole thing feels like a draft.
    “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser
    (image: walking by crilleb50, deviantArt)

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by heartwing View Post
    The whole thing feels like a draft.
    Well, hopefully that's just what it was. I know our comments were all intended to be constructive, so the author can take it from there. (I'm actually thinking about writing the hallucinating hiker version myself).

  7. #7
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    I gave it a 7/10. The red hair of the girl reminded me too much of the movie "Brave". I didn't understand how she shot an arrow upwards to land on the squirrel's head. Also, I think the ending should have had her eating that weird squirrel rather than running off, but that's just me. Anyway, I still liked the general idea of the story. Also do people actually hunt squirrels with bow and arrow? It would seem that is for something larger like deer.

  8. #8
    flash fiction fatale heartwing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Well, hopefully that's just what it was. I know our comments were all intended to be constructive, so the author can take it from there. (I'm actually thinking about writing the hallucinating hiker version myself).
    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    Anyway, I still liked the general idea of the story.

    I like the way the post has also given me the thought that it would be fun to write some version of this. Maybe this could be the starting place for some riffs.
    “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser
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  9. #9
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    You mean a Muss and Skvirrel thread?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Well, hopefully that's just what it was. I know our comments were all intended to be constructive, so the author can take it from there. (I'm actually thinking about writing the hallucinating hiker version myself).
    Welllllll, I pulled out of Pittsburg headin' down that eastern seaboard.

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    I think the criticisms so far have been excellent. One litmus test I have used in the past is to try reading a piece out loud to someone. If a story still needs work, you will feel it fast, as your tongue moves.

    I cannot score the particular story high, but I score any author high just for finishing. It took me years to learn to finish anything longer than a short poem. If you are a young person you are already in possession of power simply because you can finish.

    If it is fantasy you love to write, there is a large audience and masses of competition.

    I thought perhaps you could be spinning off The Hunger Games. I know there is some archery in that. Keep writing, whoever you are, however old you are. In extended fantasy you have to create a world from scratch.

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    I liked it. It was like alice down the rabbit hole. Sometimes we become so focused on our hunt, our kill. It's instinctual, but then life throws you a curve ball and suddenly you're in over your head. Not physically, but somehow. The hunter becomes the hunted.

    I also thought it resembled Brave, Hunger Games, and Pokemon.

    But perhaps that's my own subjectivity.

    As a fantasy writer, you need to focus more on what could be, and not on bizarre situations that most people can relate to. On that point I would say the rabbit's advice to change the setting of the story is really ineffective.

  13. #13
    flash fiction fatale heartwing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    You mean a Muss and Skvirrel thread?
    A Rocky and Bullwinkle thread or do you mean something else? ha ha. Either way, let's do it, why the heck not. I once received a comment that an absurdist piece reminded someone a bit of the cartoon. If there is absurdism to be had, I am in, but if there is anything, well, you know, why not.
    Last edited by heartwing; 07-21-2016 at 12:59 AM.
    “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser
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  14. #14
    flash fiction fatale heartwing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Turia View Post
    As a fantasy writer, you need to focus more on what could be, and not on bizarre situations that most people can relate to. On that point I would say the rabbit's advice to change the setting of the story is really ineffective.
    I think all suggestions are legit. Besides, I personally can say I have never started speaking to a squirrel in the woods because I was so hungry. I just kind of, you know, go to the grocery store. But you know freaky things can happen at grocery stores! And especially for those who seem to spend lifetimes there. What fresh hell. Any place can be a setting for magic. I found this on a children's literature classic website and it points to some thoughts on the genre.

    There are 3 different ways that fantasy writers set up their worlds.
    ◦Some novels begin and end in a fantasy world (for example The Hobbit or A Wizard of Earthsea).
    ◦Others start in the real world and move into a fantasy world (for example Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan).
    ◦A third type of fantasy is set in the real world but elements of magic intrude upon it (for example Mary Poppins or David Almond’s Skellig).
    •Realistic settings are often called primary worlds; fantasy settings, secondary worlds.

    Portals between worlds
    •Protagonists usually cross some kind of opening or “portal” between the two worlds
    •Examples of portals: ◦The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: a wardrobe
    ◦The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: a painting
    ◦Haroun and the Sea of Stories: sleep
    ◦Harry Potter books: platform 9 and ¾
    ◦Coraline: a door in a flat
    ◦Peter Pan: magical flight
    ◦The Golden Compass: windows cut between worlds
    ◦Inkheart: a gifted storyteller reads aloud


    Why do writers use the fantasy genre?
    •The major advantage of fantasy is that it can open up possibilities; it is not confined to the boundaries of the real world.
    •Writers are able to convey complex ideas on a symbolic level that would be difficult to convey otherwise.
    •Fantasy works can provide a fresh perspective on the real world.
    •Ursula Le Guin has written that “fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual, but it is true.” The fantasy genre involves a different way of apprehending existence but it is no less true than realism.
    •Fantasy stories can suggest universal truths through the use of magic and the supernatural.
    •Thomas Hardy preferred fantasy over realism, claiming that “a story must be exceptional enough to justify its telling,” and that a writer must have “something more unusual to relate than the ordinary experience of every average man and woman.”2
    “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser
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    That came out wrong. I didn't mean the suggestion was ineffective, just that...I can't imagine hunting in say an apartment complex. There is something organic about the setting, which I think kind of goes with the ending.

    Then again I was drunk when I read it last night. So I could be way off. I actually really sucked in English courses during school, so my opinions are pretty worthless in they aren't based on anything even remotely formal. Probably best taken with a grain of salt, if at all.

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