I run my fingers over the paper face on the recruiting poster. The army’s human weapon, shot then cast aside. How do soldiers – trained, ordered, paid to kill – come home and never kill again? Would my thirst for blood, power, violence be slaked by being that weapon, a pawn in someone else’s dangerous game? I think not. But I will meet with this Sgt. Masterson on the morrow. Perhaps become this man’s first female recruit.
My fingers glide across the poster. One claw rips through the soldier’s neck exposing the red brick underneath. My gaze lingers on the words under his feet. Serve the country that has rejected me, relegated me to this half-life, this lonely, nocturnal existence? Why do I torture myself with dreams of acceptance? Anger rises, my flesh radiates the heat. The edges of the poster curl and blacken. I draw away before it can become a flame.
Leaving the decapitated soldier behind, I venture out of the darker alley onto the main street of shops dimly lit by the flickering gas lamps. Time for a little window shopping.
The speculative elements intrigue me, and the story obviously depends on them, which is a Good Thing. The author isn't making me wait either, thereby bypassing a common slush issue. I like the heat radiating flesh, the thirst for violence, the claws. Also, the bitterness and anger indicates conflict even though the character is alone.
I'd probably keep reading, but--and its a big one--I'd be wondering what this little display (all she really does is tear up a poster) has to do with the story. I'm already wondering if this is where the story begins. We have a vague problem with the right degree of complication--she wants to get recruited and go to war to ease her thirst for violence, but she's a creature, and a female one at that. (If she felt a bit torn over her violent tendencies, it might add something--or not. I like me some dark characters so I'm cool with it.) But is it enough? We'd have to see how it plays out. "Going to war" doesn't seem as exciting and conflict-ridden as "being at war " or even "returning home from war." Just a thought.
I'm also seeing a lot of internal narrative--especially questions--substituted for concrete action. I'm wondering if her bitterness and thirst for violence could be better shown. I greatly prefer action over internal narrative, especially in short stories, because I feel internal narrative can do a lot of the fun work for readers. I've mentioned this before, and my fellow editors don't always agree with me, but I rank internal narrative right up there with telling: a little goes a long way. I'd be asking this author what can she do to show this creature's thirst for violence and seeming internal conflict over it via action?
There's enough hints at scene setting:the brick wall, the gas lamps, recruiting a first female, the poster, to satisfy me for a first page, but I'd want it nailed down pretty quick. Generally good work here, though. Thanks so much for playing!!
I've got lots more so keep reading and commenting. The participation in the comment thread has been the most fun, especially when folks kindly disagree. :)