Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Shadow Messiah

The Shadow Messiah
by Jason Evans

The police sniper wrapped himself in the colors of the forest floor.

The aches and cramps were growing. Especially his shoulder. He shifted the rifle to ease the strain. "We've been here since dawn. We're not going to take him here."

His spotter sat close. "Yes we will."

"He's not even reported to be in the area."

"I know."

"Then why the hell did you drag me out here?"

The spotter stared through binoculars stone still. "Trust me."

Great. Just great.

The sniper settled back a little, but still held marksman form. The slightest move sounded like freight train in the dry forest.

In the clearing, a cloud of gnats whirled in the brightness. The rays curtained like angelic light.

The motion of the swarm hypnotized him.

Sun warmed sand.

Footsteps in the dunes.

A man ahead.

Waves withdrawing. Withdrawing.

The man--

His eyes snapped open. A tuft of brown filled the scope. Not twigs. Not the spray of a fallen hemlock tree.


He dropped the crosshairs down to the profile of a face. It was serene, staring not quite at the sky.

The sniper blinked. He'd seen this scene before.

The gnats swirled.

Something rustled beside him, but he didn't waver from the target until a pistol planted in the side of his head. Without turning, he craned his eyes toward the spotter.

"Put down the rifle and stand," the spotter said. "He's waiting for you."

As the sniper walked, he wrestled back a bizarre urge to laugh.


JLB said...

I love the entire composition Jason, and I feel nestled right in with the sniper - I had to really think about the end... :) Thinking is good.


Josh said...

Interesting take. I like the short, succinct style. It feels like a bit taken out of a larger story, and makes me want to find out what's really going on.

Bernita said...

Nice job, Jason.

jenn said...

Ooooooooo. Stories of betrayal always make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Thanks for this, Jason!

Verilion said...

Great Story Jason. Just out of interest, do you write your stories before the competition? Just wondering.

takoda said...

Hi Jason, Really liked this one!! Great twist at the end. Loved the succinct sentences.

This part took me out a bit:
Sun warmed sand.

Footsteps in the dunes.

A man ahead.

Waves withdrawing. Withdrawing.

The man--

I'd rather see the sniper go more internal, but that's a personal preference.

This reads like a passage written from a professional thriller writer. Great job!

jason evans said...

JLB, thanks. :) The atmosphere was vital to the piece (although with me, I guess it always is, ha).

Josh, I was trying to use the short form to help carry the sleepy, surreal feel. You're right, there is loads of story outside the confines of the 250 words.

Bernita, thanks, my friend.

Jenn, this was a strange kind of setup. I had an image of how people might be subjugated to a cult/quasi-paranormal leader.

Verilion, no, I don't think about my stories until the contest opens. This one was written yesterday. I had another idea that I wrote Monday, but I had a nagging feeling it wasn't strong enough.

Takoda, thanks for the feedback! In short pieces, I always try to challenge myself with something new. Here, I wanted to give the impression of a person slipping into a half-reality where this mysterious figure has the power to reach you. With those italicized thoughts, I was trying to show his dreamy mind. These short pieces are tough though. The little experiments don't always work. That's the fun of it! If we don't blow it sometimes, we weren't pushing ourselves hard enough. :)

SzélsőFa said...

I liked the hypnotic part - and the twist in the end. Wow.

'mbm' said...

I really liked the part where he is distracted " Sun warmed sand...." and sees the man but it doesn't register at first. Well done.

Victor Bravo Monchego, Jr said...

Nice sucker punch. I should have seen it coming but you got me. Good writin' my man.

Anonymous said...

forgive me, but i don't get it. i mean, i figured early that the spotter was going to turn, but i don't understand the flashback (was it a flashback?) or the ending. it seemed like this was a 250 word section pulled from a larger book. the writing is good, but i feel like i don't know what's going on.

Terri said...

There's a 2-hour movie in this one.
I really liked the flashback bit.
You're not big on happy endings, eh?!

jason evans said...

SzélsőFa, glad you liked it. :)

MBM, thanks. You got what I was shooting for.

Victor, you gotta hate when that happens. ;)

Anon, the danger of what I was trying to do is that the dreamy/confused state of the character could transfer to the reader. I completely understand that this one may be too obscure.

Terri, You're probably right. I should lighten up. ;)

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Nice, tight writing, Jason - like the way you've twisted the end. Would love to see what lies beyond the 250 word limit! ;-)

angel said...

very niiiiice! a whole nother take on the picture!

sandra seamans said...

I so wanted to know why the spotter turned on him. Nicely done! You've left yourself open to go way beyond the 250 word limit here.

Jaye Wells said...

Never trust anyone who says "trust me." Nice job, Jason.

Ally said...

Supposedly Sirius laughed when he was hauled off by the Dementors. I don't think it's that bizarre. :)

RachaelfromNJ said...

Great writing. Loved it.

The Anti-Wife said...

Interesting. I love unforseen endings.

c.s. said...

i like this treatment, Jason. and i probably understand what anon was trying to say. i wrote a piece in your previous contest and many didn't get it. but i took pride in writing my story then and i believe you do too now. obscurity is not bad thing, cos it only means people do really think very differently. did anyone really understand clockwork orange easily the first time?

anyway, i have something for you at my blog. it's not big but hope you like it.

jason evans said...

Absolute Vanilla, the Shadow Messiah would probably be up to no good. ;)

Angel, thanks!

Sandra, it's buried in there, but you need to dig a while, lol.

Jaye, excellent advice.

Ally, great allusion! Very timely. :)

Rachel, much appreciated.

Anti-Wife, those are the fun ones to write.

C.S., I tend to flirt with the obscure. :D This time I went to far, but that's the fun of taking a risk. That word limit can be a bugger, but its a great exercise to keep sharp. **I'll stop by your blog to check it out!

apprentice said...

Nice piece on how one moment of not trusting your own insticts can cost.

Thanks Jason, and for all the work on the competition too.

Jude said...

Chilling... cool twist too