Peer Review by anemoia (#words) (United States)

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A Dream to Remember

By: Minvra


FREE WRITING

Four more days left. 
    Four until his boss lets him back. A day since he got let off—well suspended. And a day in bed trying to sleep the week off in the cold autumn of October, right around treat or treat.
    Clovis flicked his book shut and leaned in his recliner. His foot fidgeted and sped up until his entire leg racketed and shook the cushion. The young-man glanced at the clock periodically on his otherwise empty desk.
5:00 am.
5:30 am.
6:00 am.
8:00 am.

Clovis’s eyes drooped. Soon, it'll be the next day.

     Lids fluttered open.
     Calculating blue old eyes—although only twenty-two—drank in the darkness. Clovis considered that the lights went out but crossed it off. So he was somewhere else.
     Clovis peered down his figure, straining to see something. He hovered his hand over (where he assumed) his leg and pinched it as hard as he could. Clovis squeezed his eyes shut.
     Nothing.
     Clovis bent his knee experimentally. He felt it. The man clenched his hands, idly wondering if this was a good idea. His foot clashed down where he stood. Nothing. Brown brows screwed up in a tight ball.  
     Clovis stood for several moments. The room was like a vacuum. The air which carried sound was sucked out; yet he didn’t need to breathe.   
     His chest wasn’t moving or maybe it was. Was this the astral plane of existence...the other side? 
     As if on cue, the ground rumbled. No the space—pocket. The entire space was shaking and it was coming from his right.

       A dark figure, with a strange white-grey glow outlining, emerges soundlessly from the floor (if that even is a floor). Dim, white mist spreads out into the plane, thickening as the seconds goes by.
One...two...five...seven seconds when the silhouette sprout fully. The mist was like thick, velvety white paint. But he can see, slightly, where the figure was. 
     Clovis approaches the figure on his right unhesitantly. Surprisingly, his steps echoes louder as he progresses calmly despite the lack of sound. The mist thins as he draws near and before him is a gate. A dark, unholy, towering, and ghastly set of thick doors glared down at him. Its dim glow and circular knocker that's the snout of the bull gives an ancient vibe to it. Snakes slithers at the rim of the doors. Clovis smooths a hand over. Like rusty iron.
    Clovis leaps back about ten feet. The door vibrates, then the ground and by now it's humming in the dark abyss. ...four...six... By increments, the rusty-iron gate spreads outwards.
    At seven seconds, the gate gapes open. On the left, an image of a man with a bad slouch and sunken sadden eyes—even his hair looks wilted—shimmers into existence. The right follows; a perkier, less messy, well-kept, and far more aware one stood. 
Clovis’s tired eyes widens a fraction.
       It's him. They are him. 

       Clovis’s stomach turned, this world turned. It's like his body was being sucked into a vortex.
       And then it stopped and with it replaced by a growing killer headache.
     Clovis pressed a hand against his head. It was like his brain had a Mario size up. And that if he banged on his skull—if he were to smash it, it would release. But Clovis still has some semblance of logic.
When the disorientation settled, Clovis saw light from behind his lids. 
     Clovis looked up and surveyed the area. The sun shined strong through the clouds and the rough cool air. Multi-colored leaves fluttered to the ground. Park benches peppered along sidewalks leading to a fountain in the middle.  
Daly's Park.
    “Clovis!” Clovis’s eyes snapped and pivoted with his body. He could only make out a honey-brown blur as it ran through him. Clovis pauses as a familiar tenor voice speaks.
     “Yes?”
     “I got a grant!” Cried the man-who-phased-through-him.
      Tenor man shifted. “Really?” 
     “Yeah, was wondering if you wanted to celebrate with me at Reynold’s bakery?” 
      The bakery was just around the block from the apartment and has been around since senior highschool days. He never went there. Never liked sweets and he grew a taste for bitter things. It would have been a waste of money since he could make some coffee anyway. 
      Maybe Alphard, an old pal, did. Before highschool hit, Clovis recalled Alphard’s unhealthy craving for sweets. It didn't help that his stomach was virtually a vacuum cleaner. 
     “So how do you feel? How much?” The tenor voice, closer to hi spoke. 
     The two men walked through Clovis. One black and one honey-brown. Two faces angled towards one another. One laughing the other nodding along. And Clovis’s world turned. His face went slack as he followed them. It’s like the world is spinning from the flu.
    Jarring. His mind supplemented.
     Holy—
     It was Alphard and a replica of someone he knows all too well: Himself.
     But it was not him. It was just like the one on the right side of the gate’s door. He looked healthier, bulkier, and his eyes. Oh his taunting eyes were dancing in amusement. 

     The three rounded a corner. In the distance was a small building up ahead. Smooth brick walls lined the sidewalk leading to a crosswalk. In front of it are two large sets of windows bent in a way that creates an incomplete trapezoid. Something akin to a cafe in France resting at a corner. Long spruce wood lined the two glass windows sandwiching the two doors adjacent to each other. A sign hovered above the doors, “Reynold’s Bakery”. 
     Alphard opened  the door. A puff of blended aromas containing sweet coffee, tea, and pastries wafted through. Both Clovises and Alphard padded in. The interior was cozy.Red plush booths stood at the windows and tables at its side. More booths were separated by a wall in the far left for privacy, and warm air vented in the building. A sign stood at the doorway “Please seat yourself.”
      They sat in the corner of the room, far left of where the entrance was.
     “So, you haven't told me what your project is called yet.” Alphard’s Clovis situated himself on the opposite booth of Alphard and looked deeply at him. Alphard closed the menu and looked at his Clovis who placed his elbows on the table. Non-existent Clovis took his left. 
      “Innovators and Ink.” Alphard grinned widely.
      “Innovators and Inc?” His Clovis mouthed. Alphard’s went Cheshire Cat style. 
        “No, Innovators and Ink. I n k.” 
        “Why ink?” 
         “Why, what existed before pens became a thing?”
        “Pencils.” His Clovis deadpanned. 
       Alphard shook his head. “Okay,” Alphard said slowly as if talking to a child. “What is in pens?” 
         “Ink.”
         “What is ink for?” Alphard made writing motions. His Clovis didn’t notice or didn't care.
        Unseen Clovis pressed his lips to prevent peeling laughter even though he didn't need to. When did Alphard get so sarcastic? Last time he saw him, he was overly hyper and sincere that he couldn't even keep a secret lodged in a vault, much less patience if he wanted to. Clovis's face fell. And it was just that, "last time." 
         “Writing.” His Clovis’s eyes sparked after a few moments. “So it has something to do with writing and inventing?”
         Alphard fumbled into a mix of words and flying hands. Boy it was a messy web; yet, both Clovises and even nearby customers were enraptured. Who wouldn’t? It was like a tale out of a novel. 
         Alphard explained how the company will unite ideas and doers. It wasn't just a company though, it was a community. Where “doers aren’t reserved to inventors, but also businessmen/women, and architects.” And that’s not all.
        The fascinating thing is that the “ink” portion of the company is not privy to writers, but artists in general. It’s the mere creation of possibilities and ideas. The inspiration to do, but at the same time, the act of publishing such is doing. It's a paradox. 
      Ectoplasmic Clovis smiled wryly. It was a food for thought, but the trouble in mandating would be indescribable. One man couldn't possibly do much without the business spiraling. Besides, it's, just as it sounds, like a novel’s tale. The world isn’t like that.
      The three left Reynold’s Bakery and customers broke into discussion over what went over. The trio went to a viewing place.

At the railing of Daly's Park, where viewers see rising and falling sandstone mountains, stood three figures. One presence unknown to the two. The specter yawned as the sun floated down and the moon took lead in the near-eternal waltz. 
        It was surreal to see someone who looked like him, sounded like him, has his name, but wasn't him. This Clovis’s story diverges from his. He looked like well—a refined, fit, maybe a little weary, young man. Not a balding, graying, slouching middle aged man who looked like he’d been on dope and has a gravelly voice to prove so. As much as Clovis hated to admit, this person is a mother’s pride. But what stings the most—what burns from the deepest pits of hell is that this is what he could've been; if only he did something about his relationships. If only.
       The Specter sighed as he watched the two buds chat away, oblivious to a third wheeler watching their interactions. He wondered if there might've been someone who too watches him. The man shuttered, what a creep.
       
     “Ya know, I don't regret a single moment.” A soft smile graces on Alphard as he shifts closer to his Clovis.
     Other Clovis startled a laugh “Where did that come from?”
     Alphard glanced sidelong at Clovis, at him, square in the eyes, shrugged, and faced the galaxy again. Gold light ricocheted on his shoulder length auburn hair. And silence filled the air. 
    Spectral Clovis stood mouth gaping as he brain processes what went over, trying to rewind a frame. Trying and failing to reboot as Other Clovis fixed on Alphard questioningly.
    The Specter would’ve felt uncomfortable like he walked in on someone and was caught doing so if he wasn't a stiff board. 


    Wet, vulnerable blue eyes snapped open.
    
    Two days left until he can get out of this blasted boredom-inducing-house. He didn’t want to sleep. No he couldn’t. He didn’t want to see that look on the-man-who-looked-and-acted like him again. That steady silver-calm gaze from the moonlight square in his eyes. He knew his presence. So no he didn't want to go back.
   Clovis didn't pay to mind that his employer sent him his weekly pay despite his absence. Hell he spent it on a couple coffees at Reynold’s Bakery and still is. An espresso and raspberry danish laid on the table as he worked the newspaper crossword puzzle. Something to distract him.
   Three days and a half. Half day spent on visiting oblivion, one day willing himself awake, and two days the other on binge reading which was 99% of which he did the first day. The second was music. 
    Today, he skimmed over the web and moved on until one caught his eye. “The Howling Dog by Celestine Chua of Personal Excellence—” Clovis regarded it for a couple seconds and swiped through something else. 
     But his mind would always lead to that title with a nibbling dread. Surely he wasn’t one. He knew by the title what it entailed, but he knew,  in order to staunch the nagging, he has to read it. And he did.
      It was confusing. But the thing that caught Clovis’s eyes were:
    “‘...so why doesn’t he just get away from the nail then??’”
    “...That’s because he doesn’t find it painful enough yet.” 
     Clovis went to bed. No matter how much he read, of crossword puzzles he did, the crude story would wander back. It was six-pm anyways. 
     Clovis found himself staring off in the distance (even though he was looking at his coffee) in Reynold’s Bakery in the far left corner of the room.
     Clovis tapped a finger and foot against the wooden table and plank respectively. He read the rest of the articles and he had a lot to think about the night before. Now he was meeting up with his boss because it's the last day of his break (suspension). In all honesty, Clovis wished he had more time.
     Half a decade later, on a lamp desk, stood a new picture of a smiling Clovis with his coworkers and boss outside in autumn. Right next to a recently dusted picture of middle school Alphard and him, arms wrapped around each other for trick or treat.
    On the new picture it said, “Last day and birth of Innovators and Ink. Trick, or treat.”

 

   Disclaimer: I am not trying to advertise a blog.

   First short story! So I'm going to need as much critique as I can for the next draft of this and for any future short stories. So what I could clear up, what made the character pop out, what I could work on...
     This was written before I joined this community (and before I knew of this). It was originally from inspiration of a Dream I had. Old friend. We drifted part. I honestly forgot the details of the Dream but it had my mind occupied for an entire day. Might've written about if somewhere. 

I'm also trying to think of a more empowering title:
A Dream to Dreams
Twin Reflections
A Week of Suspension
A Step Back




 

Message to Readers

New draft. Was wonder if I conveyed any emotion from the character, Clovis, well. I also want feedback on if I'm confusing you by changing from present to past, past to present. Uh, what I could cut out. Etc.


Peer Review

The alternate reality of multiple Clovises. And the very first sentence. And the character of Alphard, and how he's different than the real Clovis knew him to be.


I'm not sure where Clovis works, what he did to get suspended, and who his boss is. I am also confused about exactly how the alternate Clovises exist or where they came from. But this is a pretty layered topic, so I understand how it would be hard to keep everything clear but not too clear, so the reader stays curious. I also love the Innovators and Ink idea. I will say that the flow feels a little jarring and "go-pause-go-pause-go." The very end feels suspenseful, like a cliffhanger, but I also don't fully understand what it implies/means. That's probably just me and my tired brain, though.


Reviewer Comments

You managed the "two Clovises, one is unseen" thing very smoothly. That was impressive. It was always clear which Clovis was speaking/acting. But what happened to the successful Clovis, the one who was talking to Alphard?
Anyway, here's my overall impression: Clovis is intriguing, intelligent, calculating. He's a man of reason and simplicity and logic. He's cool and collected and handles the situation pretty well. Discovering he has a doppelganger doesn't faze him much. However, I also felt pretty confused through a lot of this. How are there three Clovises? (Where is the third one, anyway? The guy on the left side with wilted hair and sunken eyes?) Where did the other Clovises come from? Where did the successful Clovis go? What's up with that ARTICLE?
I do believe that leaving the reader with burning questions is a great feat—and you definitely did that! But there are a few that I think need to be made clearer—unless you're holding back for a reason.
But remember: these are only suggestions! Don't let my overtalkative, tired, grammar-loving self alter any of the fundamentals or messages you hope to convey in this story. ;)
I hope this didn't come across too harsh or critical. I really am intrigued by this idea, and it leaves so much room for character development as Clovis looks at his more successful self. In fact, Clovis' character arc could be incredibly complex if you wanted.
Best wishes, and good luck!