Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the first story on this blog. This piece is a 660-word western by Nathan Weaver.
Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated! (My comments are underneath Nathan’s bio :))
Mine Own Land
“Let me tell you what I know about the pale men who came from the waters. Their skin is like the sun has never seen it; they came out from the waters on large homes they had built with the trees. Upon their faces, like the beasts, hair does grow and some have more hair on their faces than others. They can talk to each other like the birds of the air, but they do not understand us and we cannot understand them. They wear all sorts of strange coats of skin, but they feel nothing like our beasts. They eat strange foods that quickly wither away.
“The first time they came to our village, they were not aggressive. But in their eyes, you could see they were uneasy. Like the beasts are when they fear what we might do to them. They walked all about my village, talking to each other in their strange tongue. One pale man kept writing unseen things.
“The second time they came, the sticks they had carried on their backs and at their sides they now held in their hands. The sticks made thunder and threw as it were pebbles into our skin. Many of my people died from the pebbles. We tried to fight them off, but their pebbles flew faster than our arrows and spears. On their bodies they wore shiny, rock-like skins and our weapons could not penetrate them.
“I am not aware of any who have survived from my village. I stand before you as the last of my people. Tears fill my eyes and embrace my face, because my family and friends have all gone to meet our Mother. I stand with tears, because I did nothing. I ran.
“I tell you these things, so that you may know. Prepare yourselves or move on, these pale men are not like your people or my people. They are unlike any people you know. They may not even be men, these pale creatures from the waters.
“Please heed the warnings. Not only mine, but those from our fathers who spoke of pale riders that would rise from the waters. I believe these are they the fathers spoke of. I believe they are come to destroy us.”
I watched as the council spoke quietly, though in their own words. The Medicine Man, also a prophet, spoke. He was aged and look to be wise with many years before him; there was authority in his voice and all men listened. When he finished, it seemed they all agreed with his wisdom. The Interpreter looked to me and spoke through the smoke of the fire.
“Dear Friend, we are deeply saddened by the news you bring. Your people have always been welcome in our village and ours in your own. We have always enjoyed the trade we had with one another and many winters your goods have kept us through to the warmer times.
“The Prophet tells us that these are not the pale riders spoken of by our fathers. They are indeed vicious creatures, like those of the prophecies, but these are not they. We will not leave our land; we do not feel the threat is such as you make it.
“You are free to stay. Should you go, ask freely of our people and we will provide you with what you need for your journey.”
I looked at the council, it was clear that this was their belief.
I spoke with great remorse. “Ones before you I have visited have said the same. Many have died; some are now slaves and guides to the pale men. They will be here, too.
“I will not stay. I will take what provisions you can give me and towards the Dry Land I will go. They may come there, too, but maybe by that time I will be old and will have died.
“It is a shame not to die in your own land.”
Nathan Weaver is a writer, lyricist, filmmaker, educational video production specialist. He writes short stories, novellas, and is finally taking his turn at novel writing. He bleeds noir, which shows through in most of his writing; whether it’s crime, horror, western, science fiction, or whatever. His website is http://talesfrombabylon.com
“…the sticks they had carried on their backs and at their sides they now held in their hands.” I think there should be a comma after sides as it’s not clear whether they were holding the sticks at their sides or now hold them in their hands at their sides.
“The sticks made thunder and threw as it were pebbles into our skin” – I got a bit lost with “threw as it were pebbles”??
“I stand with tears, because I did nothing. I ran.” – definitely an “ahh” moment.
“move on, these pale men” – I’d say should be a full-stop (period).
“these pale creatures from the waters” – is intriguing.
“He was aged and look to be wise” – looked? And comma after ‘wise’.
I know it’s speech but “Ones before you I have visited have said the same” confused me. It’s then clarified that he’s been to other villages so it’s OK but confusion is never good… unless it’s just me. 🙂
Because we’ve had someone else speaking it might make more sense to have the final line at the end of the previous line. I know it’s more of a statement on its own, although the lack of close speech marks show it’s the same person speaking. Again, just a thought.
I really enjoyed the authenticity of the voice and how the pale strangers appeared to them – as aliens now would appear to us.
Thank you, Nathan!
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words (and post stories of up to 3,000 words). Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online on the Red Pen Critique posts, or posted for others to critique (up to 5,000 words) on the new Morgen’s Short Story Writing Group) then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.
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