Peer Review by David M. (United States)

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Umbra

By: Arabel James


All day, you have worked to build up your wall. A safe place, you tell yourself, for your family to live, at least for one night. The wall is tall, built of solid grey stone, mortared together by your own two hands. Refuge and shelter lie behind it. Safe from everything imaginable--except the inevitable.

Tonight, as the moon shifts directly above the city, the Umbra Hora, the Shadow Hour, shall begin. As soon as the Shadow touches the wall that you labored all day to complete, it disappears. No trace of evidence that a wall had ever been bulit remains, no piece of dried mortar, no fragment of broken stone. The Shadow takes all that it wants. Should fortune smile upon you, your family will come out unscathed. But no matter how strong your wall is, the Shadow will take it.

You can hear it already, the high scream of the Shadow, combined with the terrified sobs of your infant daughter and, maybe worst of all, your seven-year-old son shouting, "You told me it wouldn't come tonight! You lied to me!"

You look, shaken out of your terrible reverie, at the city around you. Families huddle behind walls of their own, comforting their children as the sun begins to set. Umbra is high on a mountain. Closest to the sky, but farthest from the ground, and in that, farthest from escape. If you can make it down the mountain by sunset, before Umbra Hora, you and your family will be safe. But never has anyone crossed the threshold of Umbra before. And should you fail, you risk not only your own life, but the lives of your children. Sighing, you walk back behind your wall where your son waits to ask you a question.

"Is it gonna come tonight?"

You make a decision. "No. Tonight we are safe."



Message to Readers

Any feedback is awesome! Thanks for taking the time to read it!


Peer Review

I loved the line about what happens when your wall vanishes. Some really great imagery there. And I loved the first paragraph... it's a really interesting way of setting up the scene. In addition, this concept of "the Shadow" is very cool.


Terror. It feels that people live out their lives in utter and abject terror, waiting for the next night, waiting to see if they'll live out that horror.


There are a lot of things I'm confused about. What exactly is the Shadow... not the mechanism behind it, but how does it manifest in people's lives? What are these walls? What does the city LOOK like? How is it constructed? How does this society function, with catastrophe occurring every night? Is there infrastructure? Are there buildings? How do you escape the shadow?


Reviewer Comments

Okay, here's the thing. You've written something is SO COOL. But I want/need so much more. Like, this city has such an interesting dynamic! But I have no idea what it looks like. All I know is that there are walls that people huddle behind at night and that it's on top of a mountain. You've showed an ability to write good imagery... use it on the city! And some elements of how you describe the Shadow are confusing and seem contradictory, which I think takes away from the power of your otherwise vivid and gripping description of these people's terror and of the story of this family. This city seems so cool and I want to know much more... show me!