Peer Review by ALangford (United Kingdom)

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Shatterproof

By: imdivergent247


Chapter One

There are voices in our heads. Always. They tell us snippets of clues about life. These voices give us ideas, ones to either help ourselves, or bring us down. How do I know so much about these voices? They’re in my head, too. One being my own. This voice gets me into trouble most of the time. It’s this one I must always watch out for, the seemingly sweet and honest voice, truly dangerous and rebellious. My mother knows this well. After all, she is the one who led me to these voices. She is the one who is making me dip into the pool of insanity. And if I drown, it’s a known fact that she will not be there to save me. She will smile and watch as I sink below.

One reason for this, is that she is a poet. In fact, she locks herself up in her room, murmuring words to herself, nodding, and jotting them down. She doesn’t like to make human contact. Antisocial, that’s one word to call her. Mom surrounds herself with different crazy poems, saying that words are the only thing that will understand her. I completely agree. When I was a child, very young, I used to sit on my mom’s bed and watch her antics. The way she would sway her hands into the air, as if creating a delicate piece of invisible artwork. The way she would quickly look away if she catches her own eyes in the rickety mirror leaning against her bedroom wall. I never ask why she does, because most things about my mother are unknown. They should stay like that, for the better.


The voices in my head consist of a trio, excluding mine. There’s my mom’s, my dad’s, and my only friend who went missing a few years ago. My mother’s voice keeps me away from normal things, like making friends, or even going outside. My father’s makes me think. He left me here a few months ago, and his voice is the only remnant of him here. But there’s Isa’s voice, probably the best one out of the three. Right before I make a decision, she helps me. She asks me if this is what I want, and will this affect others in a harmful way or not. Before she left, my friend Isa was caring. She wanted others to be in good hands even if she wasn’t.

The night after she went missing, mom told me a similar story. One with obvious horror, coated with darkness. After she finished, I told her never to tell me any stories ever again. Mom smiled and turned off the light of my room, with a single goodbye, and shut the door as she left. There’s no doubt that I never asked her for bedtime stories after that.

There was a time in my life when my mom actually cared for me, and actually knew that I was her child. She would feed me breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She would tuck me into bed. She would always be there for me. But now those memories are only thoughts now, and they will be lost somewhere soon. The only good thing that came out of this, is that I learned how to take care of myself. I learned how to do everything to keep us alive when I was only ten, which was six years ago. It feels so distant now.

And even though mom still keeps to herself in that room of hers, I make sure we don’t lose our house. Among other things. Like our sanity. Which, to be brutally honest, we have lost already.
I knock on her door, the sound rumbling through the hallway. “What?” She replies, definitely lost in thought. “I’m going out. Try not to die.” The latter has become a new favorite phrase of mine. One that my mother begins to chuckle at. I can see her chapped smile, lingering in my mind. “Try and fail. But don’t fail to try.” Mom says quickly, as if she has this rehearsed. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.” I mutter going back downstairs.

The stairway railings made of wood, fall softly underneath my palm. I let go of them, feeling the roughness of my hands, and head to the entrance. The door flings out of my way, and I shut it behind me. I am pulled into a short embrace from the autumn breeze. I let out a deep breath, and put my hands into pockets. The warmth is instantaneous, flooding through my fingers and palms.

My feet lead me out of the street, walking past shriveled trees and nearly dead flowers. With the sky wearing a stormy hue, I begin to change my pace, and walk faster. I go into the forest, careful to avoid the poisonous flowers. Some things seem so beautiful, but once you get to know more about them, there are things you would do to avoid them at all costs. At first, they’ll seem like a subtle flame, luring you in. Curiosity will get the better of you until it kills the cat. Luckily I'm not a cat. I would be dead by now.

I go further into the forest, glancing at the few small birds that swoop in and out suddenly. The crunch beneath my feet sound from the twigs and leaves littering the floor. But I am not fast enough. Soon, I feel droplets of water run down my skin, soaking my hair and clothes. I ignore the wetness, and run. Running, I hear, is dangerous. So is being free, having choices, making decisions, loving someone, and caring for them too. Everything in life comes with a price. Sometimes the price tag is ripped off. Sometimes that price will have to get paid later. I know what that price is.

When my father left me, he said a few words before he did so. He said never to love someone. To never want them, or care for them. I know what he means. He wasn’t always the best dad, though, with his bad drinking habits. But I have learned many lessons from him. He was very unloved by my mom. All she cared for, and still does, is words. My dad married her to convince my mother that there are more things in life. Getting outside, feeling the sunshine on your face, and making memories to fill up your heart and mind. But dad never said if bad memories are able to take hold of you.

Can they control you, and take over? Maybe that’s what happened to my mom. Maybe something or someone took over her past, and mom doesn’t want to relive it anymore than that person would want to. Did she fall in love with someone? More importantly, did that person even wanted her to?

Either way, I step out of the now pouring rain, and into the sullen abandoned house that Isa and I used to play in. When we were little, we walked with our moms into the forest, and found this place. I release a breath I didn’t know I had been holding, and shut the door tightly close. Isa and I brought our toys here to play with, and a chime of laughter bubbles up in my mind just thinking of that relentless past. And that’s when everything shut down. That’s when she left us all.

She left and no one knew where she went. I couldn’t do anything anymore without her. She was my best friend and to lose someone who has so much meaning to you, well, that’s something to go through. That’s in one reason how my father may be right. But if you show no love for anyone in this world, you will never experience anything. Love may hurt you and break you, but being unloved will shatter you and disconnect you with reality. For me, it already has.

I walk over to a stool, and begin to dust it off. It has been a long time since I’ve came here, but I need to do something. Summer is slowly dying, and autumn is beginning to take over completely. With the rain and the short storms, there is no where to go. Even if the weather would turn out to be a little warmer, my mom would never go anywhere anyways. So I must take myself on small adventures.

I sit down and stare out the almost broken window. Water runs down, and the trees shake and shudder. If I go out right now, would I die? Or would I be whisked away to a whole different world? Somewhere I could find people like me, people who need someone else to survive. Would anyone even care? Maybe it’s okay if I slip away? Maybe it’ll be okay if I let myself fall into the unknown. I mean, no one seems to plead me to stay. My mom will do fine on her own, locked up inside her room.

With an angry frown and fists for hands, I get up and try to muster up the bravery to get the hell out of here. Out of what, Angie?

No. I know this voice. “Don’t try to stop me, Isa.” I say aloud. Will this voice in my head even listen to me? You have too much to die for. Think about it, please. Isa doesn’t take anything from anyone. If I argue with her, it won’t help. Her voice doesn’t stop me as I begin to open the door slowly. Rain lands hard and unforgivingly over my body. With chattering teeth, I walk outside and sigh. I walk out of the forest, not giving any notice to the poisonous flowers. I do nothing as they begin to brush against my leg.

When I leave the forest and continue to walk across the road, I remember how I have a death wish. So I stand in the middle of the road, begging for a quick accident to end me. I stand there, still, counting the seconds ticking by. Am I doing something wrong? Because I do not hear Isa’s calm voice anymore. Even she has had enough of me, hasn’t she?

58, 59, 60... It's been a full minute. 

Maybe I should just leave. Ill find a way out of this universe later.

However, as I tilt my head up to walk away, all I see is a blur of black rushing to me. The loud honk of the car is what I hear.

And the hard ground rushing up to meet my body is the last thing I feel before everything fades away.


Peer Review

Right from the first line, the writer drew me in - using a particularly charming and unique tone and style of short, rhythmic phrases and snapshots of past and present, she carries the story smoothly and flawlessly through. It's a somewhat addictive style precisely because it is so different. However, in terms of favourite lines, I think 'she will smile and watch as I sink below', 'after she finished, I told her never to tell me any stories ever again' and 'luckily I'm not a cat. I'd be dead by now'.


I think this could be a very long and interesting novel partially because she makes everything move so fluidly and partially because she subtly hints at great complexities in the characters. She crafts it very well, giving very telling information very concisely and leaving the reader to wonder. She uses the character of the mother, for example, very cleverly, integrating aspects of personality such as self-absorption and slight sadism but you wonder how this manifests itself in everyday life and what further depth there is to the character - such complexity is rare in such a short extract and extremely intriguing.


The paragraph about the mother and her story could be developed - firstly I'm unsure as to what the 'similar' means here as I didn't pick up on a story beforehand, and secondly she could go into more depth about the horror of it to develop her character further - it is unlikely that her character would be scared by typical, everyday horror and although it seems weak to blatantly state what the story was about, I think it could at least be hinted at. Maybe have very vague quotes from the story punctuating the paragraph as a whole?


Setting of the house could be explored as I stated in one of the highlighted comments - with these two uncommunicative characters and a whole load of empty rooms, it must be something of a ghost house and I feel that to add to the grimness of the voice this could be developed.


This is an excellent piece of writing - as I say, the writing is of a very unique and deeply personal style and dark humour, and metaphor, symbolism etc are used with extreme subtlety and maturity. I also like the contrast between quietly poetic sentences and statements that the narrator makes.


Reviewer Comments

Excellent piece of writing here, I'm a little bit in love with it! I'm pretty new here so I don't know the exact guidelines but you might want to check the word count if you intend to enter it for the competition (which you should - with some tweaks every now and then it could defo be a winner.)