Jay Melzer

Bisbee, AZ

Self-taught writer in love with the American Southwest and the uncanny. Focused on LGBT+ speculative fiction.

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Spooky Bite-sized Vignette

I really like your handle on descriptive language, and I'm intrigued by the decision to present just a brief glimpse of a story, in media res, forcing the reader to try to fill in what came before and what will come after themselves. I feel like this would work really well in a compilation of similar vignettes.

You switch back and forth between present and past tense, which is disorienting, but that was really the only format error I came across. Leaving out a large amount of detail gives things a mysterious and unsettling feel, but I do think one or two areas could use a little more elaboration just so the story has the impact it needs.

The final line seems to suggest that there was already something wrong with the protagonist, but that kind of comes out of nowhere: I think just one hint of foreshadowing near the beginning would make it more a revelation than a punchline coming out of left field. Likewise, one hint of Richard's wrongness before the very end would balance things. You might also have the boyfriends each call their girlfriend a different pet name, so they don't blend together.

Never telling us what was in the box beyond that one hint is a good choice, I think, and is the defining trait of the story. I always love a world that doesn't owe us an explanation.

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Holy Heck

This was one of those times when I planned on reading the first two paragraphs to see if I wanted to try a story later, then ended up just reading the whole thing, so your hook is obviously working.

You mentioned elsewhere that you enjoy Stephen King, and I can absolutely tell that was the soil you grew your writing style out of. I caught feelings similar to my experience with Jack Torrance, and other characters where King has tried to get inside the head of an abuser and understand the monster for the ugly, awful, but ultimately pitiable thing it is.

We can never sympathize with the father, but we can empathize with him - especially those of us who have also endured abuse. The tyrannical parent "always seems to know what to say" because they aggressively discourage their victim from ever making their own decisions, and it turns off something in a child's brain that might never come back on. They're like paralyzed deer for the rest of their lives, terrified to make any decision at all, because what if its the wrong one?

Daddy is dead and can no longer hurt you, but the body keeps the score. The body remembers that punishment could come at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. Eventually part of you wants to punish /yourself/ just to get it over with, because the only time you didn't have to /worry/ about being hurt was in the cool-down phase right after you already had been. The pain becomes associated with the relief from pain.

It's this sick, twisted knot of psychological garbage that somebody who never got help could never be expected to untangle themselves from, and it just keeps getting passed down, hand to hand, until somebody is strong enough to break the cycle. That's everything I see symbolized in the whipping board: you managed to get all those feelings in there in a way that resonated with me, and it was a damned good time. Well done.

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