Peer Review by The Dreamer (South Africa)

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Thief #paperbirdcontest

By: korra4life


My head was killing me. I couldn’t think straight. Everything blurred and seemed to become one jumbled thing. I groaned and tried to sit up but I immediately became dizzy and fell back. My head slammed against something rough and moist and I groaned again. I rubbed the back of my head and sighed.
The room that I was in was very dim. And it smelled of mold. I sneezed and slowly sat up, rubbing my nose. I blinked a few times, trying to clear the black spots from my eyes. The room started to clear a bit but not too much. It was too dark to see much.
I could only make out a few things. There were a few tattered bags in a pile in one damp corner. In another, there were rats nibbling on something I couldn’t make out. I wrinkled my nose in disgust and tried to shuffle away but I hit a wall. I guess I shouldn’t judge; it’s not like there weren’t rats in the city.
I tried to concentrate on where I was. Obviously, it was an empty room besides me and the rats. I glanced down and saw that I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I just had a poorly wrapped bandage on my stomach and along both of my arms. Pain coursed through my body every time I shifted.
I tried to recall what could have happened to me to land me in such a predicament but my memory had a large gap through it. The headache penetrated my skull and I let out a deafening scream as I held my hands against my head. My chest heaved as I panted, trying to ease the pain. My arms shake and I let them fall and let out a deep breath. 

A weird noise caught my attention. It sounded like a grating noise, like metal against metal. As I tried to figure out what it was, light poured in and vanished in seconds. I frowned, trying to see what just happened. Then I realized that a door opened but hadn't closed yet. There was just an incredibly thick guy blocking the light. He seemed to take a few deep breaths before stumbling forward and snatching my mostly bruised and bandaged arm.
Knife-like pain sliced through my arm. I tried to yank my arm away but he tightened his grip and the pain in my head doubled. I winced and tried to keep up with his fast pace but I couldn’t. He was practically dragging me through the room.
I did my best to walk with the man but my legs were weak. I could barely stand. My skull seemed to fracture with every stumble. As soon as we neared the door, I flinched and covered my face. The light was blinding and it stung. After a few moments, I dropped my arms and continued. I wasn’t sure where we were. The light that stabbed me wasn’t even sunlight. It was from a torch.
From a room that we passed, I could hear screaming. I wanted to look in the little peephole but the man was going too fast. We came to a set of stairs and climbed, barely pausing to take a breath. I tried to take two at a time to catch up but stumbled, sprawling across the steps. His hold on my arm loosened before tightening and he yanked me up. My shoulder screamed in pain and I gritted my teeth.
The stairs creaked as he marched up them. I didn’t even know how it supported both of our weights. Well… mine I understood. As I took another step, my stomach clenched. I pressed my palm against it and tried to keep walking. He pulled me to the top and I felt like I was on fire. The light that burned into my eyes and stayed after I closed them was not a torch or candle this time, it was the freaking sun.
My skin was hot; way too hot; I must have a fever. I covered my eyes with my hands and groaned. The man grunted, his voice deep and harsh. I was pulled, bumping into his back. I uncovered my eyes and glared but he shoved me away. “Hey, you’re the one that—” I started but the sun stopped me again. But this time it wasn’t its light. Well, in a way, it was.
The rays from the sun were beautiful. They caught my eyes. But, most of all, it was their reflection. The rays reflected against the water. There was so much water. Glittering water that moved and breathed and lived. I stopped staring at the water and looked to the floor. It was wooden.
“Wait… we’re on a boat?! We’re on the ocean?” I yelled. I raced to the edge and held onto the boat. The water was lapping against its sides. I can’t believe it. A hand grabbed my arm and pulled me away but I didn’t care. This was great. This was perfect. I have never wanted to leave the city before but if I have the chance, then I’ll take it. Except... how did I get on this ship?
A thick silence fell over the ship. The man holding me stiffened and saluted. I looked to where everyone was staring and my eyes widened.
A woman was walking towards us, her short brown hair tucked into a broad hat. Her footsteps were heavy and cautious. And she was tiny; she’s barely the height of my chest. Her narrow eyes found mine and we stared at each other until I had to break the gaze; it seemed as if her dark eyes were peering into my soul and I didn't like her blank gaze. 
"I highly suggest that you continue being submissive. I don't like to have a lot of blood on my hands but if it's necessary... then, so be it," she murmured, her voice low and commanding. "I don't take thieves lightly. My money has been returned but I am, so to speak, wounded by your blatant disrespect for my men. Kill him." My eyes widen and I try to say something but the man holding me starts to shove me towards the edge of the ship. I panic; I have never done anything to deserve this. Or maybe... fine, I'm not a great person. But I don't deserve to die! I don't even know what she meant. I never stole any money!
"Please, wait. I didn't steal your money. I'm not a thief! Please, listen" I stammar, my legs shaking from fear and from weakness. Sweat pours down my face and I have to blink constantly to keep it out of my eyes. My arm is shrieking in pain and I try to wiggle out from the man's grip but it's too tight. 
"Have fun" the man whispers and laughs before grabbing my arms and swinging me around. I yelp and feel weightless. The ship is in front of me. And I am falling. I let out a bloodcurdling scream and claw at the air for a nonexistent hold.
As the water rushes towards me and my voice fails, I can’t help but feel at peace. If I’m to die, I’ll die like this. In the brisk, cool air of the south. Falling into the arms of an ocean that I’ve never hugged before.
Despite my acceptance, my extended arm hooks onto a jutting decoration of the ship. My body jerks and I gasp, needle pinpricks of pain stabbing into my arm. Black spots fill my vision but I slowly pull myself up, using my entire body to help. 
It takes hours, sweat pouring down my face and back, for me to reach the top. My legs, arms, and head tremble as I pull myself up, gasping. I lay on scorching wooden planks, panting for breath. 
A shadow falls over my face but I can't make out anything. My eyes are blurry from tears and sweat. A kick to my stomach sends me shrieking and I double over, holding onto myself. The woman leaned down, her short hair curling against her cheeks. 
"You must be a strong little boy. I suppose we have use for you yet." 

Written for Paperbird's contest. 

Message to Readers

Let me know if my pacing was alright, please! I want the transitions to be smooth and detailed but I'm nervous that it wasn't as smooth or as detailed as I wanted it. This is kind of an excerpt of a work-in-progress but I've edited it a lot. I hope you all enjoy!

Peer Review

The fact that he is actually on a ship and that perhaps he is a criminal.

I would like to know who he is, what he is doing there and what he has done to end up there. Also who the people holding him hostage are.

Reviewer Comments

I think it was great. It was suspensful and gripping and I couldn't stop reading. Do not worry about your transitions they were great. It was an incredibaly detailed piece. I really enjoyed it! Keep going!