Reviews for Aqua Vitae
What Happens Now chapter 1 . 5/21/2011
Before I start I just wanted to say that in Italian Aria means air and is used to describe a solo melody mostly in opera, a famous one would be "O mio babbino caro". All this is good and well but it struck me as funny that your friend Cillian Crowley refrenced it in the Ward.

The opening was a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, it wasn't bad but it wasn't good. It didn't strike me as good but it didn't bring the story down in anyway. It seems like from there the whole thing took off and so maybe you wanted a slower start to the story, I thought the effect was interesting though. And then the imagery afterwards really turned the whole thing around.

The scene where you described the needles is great, I was visibly awed by the amount of imagery used in the writing. From the first mention of needles to the end of the italics I was shaken and even a little scared by all the imagery. Unfortunately upon further investigation I realized I'm a big wuss and that the pacing might be a bit too fast for fear to actually inset into anyone.

not trying to take away from the whole feeling of the story, but I'm still not sure who Gabriel is. I know he is her liver, but is her real? I know his actions are real, but was he really there? The way he comes makes it seem like he was simply a figment of her imagination, and since Gabriel is also angle I thought that might be what you were talking about.

"the hands-turned-wolves" definete like!

Still not trying to take anything away from the tone of the story I sort if want to know what they were trying to do to her. Were they waterboarding her or something? But I like the connection of the title to the ending, since it was a wonderful ending. Could she really here them from her temprorary euphoria? I would think that if she could it wouldn't be as good as she thought, it would seem like she wouldn't be able to hear them only Gabriel, she could sense him above all else even or impending death but yet she could hear them? This doesn't really make much sense to me, but overall it's good I just think that even if you need to you could jump into third person to at least make it more plausible that she could or the reader could hear them.

Congrats on winning the WCC for April-May
notveryalice chapter 1 . 1/11/2011
1. "Her dreams were the better of two half-states these days – reconstructed distortions of what she once called her life, her existence"

This doesn't tell me anything. My dreams are *always* reconstructed distortions of what I once called my life, my existence (and what I still call my life, my existence, to boot). I've never had a dream that *wasn't* [etc.].

2. "She found that her heartbeat was often the telling factor – if she could feel its thump, she was subject to her deplorable not-life."

It reads as though she can only feel her heartbeat in her dreams, but I think you mean that she can only feel her heartbeat in her life-that-she-no-longer-calls-her-life.

Firstly, this is... muddled. It's not clear what you mean; there's more lyricism than there is reference.

Secondly, why should this be so? Why can't she hear her heartbeat in her dreams? I've had dreams that are nothing but a heartbeat and footsteps in the dark - terrifying, by the way. It seems strange to me that, you know, just coincidentally, she can't hear her heartbeat when dreaming.

3. "her heartbeat responded with a keen wail"

I know it's a metaphor but metaphors are meant to make an image clearer, not to muddy it. I have no idea what to picture when I read this. Unless she has a cop siren in her chest, I'm not sure this works.

4. "A moment later she felt the vile needles forced into every orifice – every inch of her skin – and they forced upon her indignity, pain, and memories of terror."

Really lovely sentence you have there. I think it would read better like this: "A moment later she felt the vile needles forced into every orifice – every inch of her skin – and with them indignity, pain, and memories of terror."

This re-write eliminates the second "forced" and trims the sentence down a little.

5. "She was running; running from impending vengeance; running from certain holocaust, as though her weary feet could outstrip the steel Angels of Death; as though she could escape the hungry fire they rained from the dark night sky."

Semicolons cannot be used to separate sentence fragments, only complete sentences. So: "She was running - running from impending vengeance, running from certain holocaust, as though her weary feet could outstrip the steel Angels of Death, as though she could escape the hungry fire they rained from the dark night sky."

6. "She teetered for a moment – or was it a lifetime – in the poignant limbo" - "She teetered for a moment – or was it a lifetime – in a poignant limbo"

You don't mention which poignant limbo until later in the sentence, so you can't use the definite article yet.

7. "her heart as it began the mandated implosion"

Mandated by whom? This is an odd word choice and I find myself picturing a bespectacled bureaucrat with a pen and ink-stained fingers hovering over a giant ledger barking something like, "No beat! No heart! It must implode!" I read The Phantom Tollbooth far too many times as a child, I think.

8. "chomped on her like a violent wolf"

I'm so sorry. This simile made me laugh aloud.

It's just...silly, not dramatic at all. I think the biggest culprit is the verb "to chomp", which has facetious connotations. It's also very surreal that suddenly there's a wolf in the picture, and the adjective "violent" is entirely superfluous... It's eating her face off! Of course it's violent!

Perhaps, "morphed before her closed eyes, becoming something like serrated canine teeth, which chewed her skin," or similar. I find that drama works better if you present immediate imagery; you don't need to picture a violent wolf when you can picture hands morphing into claws or teeth directly.

9. "wrenching her out of Lethe's waters"

The only other allusion to mythology in this piece is the title. If you were to scatter references throughout, or to concentrate them in one or two paragraphs, it would work. But just casually name-dropping one of Hades' rivers is jarring.

Aside from that, the Lethe induced forgetfulness when drunk; your MC is in the middle of a full-blown memory-induced hallucination. It's the least appropriate choice. If you must, go with Cocytus, the river of lamentation.

10. "hydrous kiss"

Hm. All right. But I'd still like to see more mythology much earlier in the piece; so far all you have is the rain of fire, and that's Judeo-Christian, not Greek.

11. "Oh why would it not come sooner?" - "Oh, why would it not come sooner?"

Needs a comma.

12. "from some demon whom she did not know or understand" - "from some demon who she did not know or understand"

By making this passive, you've made the demon the subject of the verb. Thus, "who".

13. OK, so I get the reference to Lethe, now. I still don't think it works. They're not trying to make her forget; they're trying to make her remember - and to break her with her memories.

Overall

I like your concept, especially because I remember the prompt, and chose it in the first place. Your images are at times very vivid, and your language flows, and has a melody.

However, the piece verges on the melodramatic; there's not even a breath to pause. Torture isn't an exercise in pretty words; I'd like to see some rawness, some immediacy, in her experiences. Right now it reads like a poet is watching torture from the outside, and is ignoring the pain in favour of the Romance of the situation.

Get inside her body. You might need to make your language balder and a little nastier to achieve this.
berley chapter 1 . 1/10/2011
I remember reading this back in October, and I’m not sure why I didn’t review it, but whatevs I can review it now! I honestly don’t really remember how many changes you made, so I’m just going to review this piece like it is my first time reading it.

“...would pretend she could hide from the fiendish visions that awaited her in the vials. It was the sick and twisted game that the needles played with her.”

- I know this piece isn’t about drugs, but that line totally reminded me of some kind of hardcore recreational drug and drug addiction. I really liked the line and the effect it had on me when I read it. Well, more like I really liked the beginning of this piece and how mysterious it was in general. The imagery was wonderful.

To me, Steel Angels of Death could be a few things, but saying that they rained ‘hungry fire’ I’m going to say that they are some sort of plane or helicopter. Hungry fire makes me think of some sort of all consuming explosion, and Aria and Gabriel are trying to escape from it. Aria then falls, and of course Gabriel comes back for her, saving her life at the cost of his own. So then someone grabs her from the water after the explosion of some sort, and is ordered to take her to Nidavel Ward, which I’m going to assume is the medical center at a prison or something like that.

“She teetered for a moment – or was it a lifetime – in the poignant limbo, caught between suffocation and the fires of hell.”

- I really, really liked that line. I enjoyed the contrast between her nearly suffocating, or almost getting burned to death. It was almost like she had to choose between the lesser of two evils. Really great stuff.

So she is in water again, and I can’t help but wonder if this is some sort of torture or a way of trying to get information out of her. I just get this image of someone holding her head under water in like a tub or sink or bucket or whatever. The thing is, whenever she gets plunged under water again she gets to see her Gabriel and it seems so real she can practically feel him. This of course would go away as soon as she was pulled up for air, but as soon as she fell back into the water, Gabriel would come back to her.

This is probably why she ‘hasn’t broken’ and lasted as long as she did. Trying to hold head under water doesn’t bother her because she gets to be with Gabriel. She wants to be underwater and to feel that sense of almost drowning.

“The dream faded like a wisp as more needles made their way through her body, telling her to see vile things – sick illusions that could not have come from her own mind, but from some demon whom she did not know or understand.”

- I think that line is the only one I am a little confused about. I’m trying to think of what they would inject into her that would cause such a thing, but I’m going to assume it’s some sort of torture that they decided to try instead of drowning her, since that clearly didn’t work.

Patrick, I’m really impressed with this piece. You have to read between the lines a bit and think about the story, but it is very clear to me, unless I guessed everything completely wrong. Haha. But honestly, I really liked this piece. I’m glad I took the time to really read it, because it’s a beautiful story.
C. Tattiana H-H chapter 1 . 1/1/2011
Kay, I'm two days behind in my FP stuff, so I apologies for the delay in reviewing this! D:

So, the main thing with this story seems to be the vagueness of it all, which I actually rather like and think is the best part about it.

I think the confusion may come from the half-states. You begin with saying she's not dreaming, but then say her dreams were the better of two half-states. These states are reconstructed distortions of her previous life. That's a wee bit of a mind twist to kickoff the story with, so that's one area that might be troublesome for readers.

Then in this third line we have her in the present, feeling needles forced into every orifice (owch) of her skin. You then say her not-dream state was shattered. So, I'm assuming the first state is when she can feel her heart beating, while the other is the not-dream.

Just to make things easier for me to remember and explain, I'm going to say Half-State 1 is the one in which she feels her heart beating, while Half-State 2 is when she’s in a memory.

In this present, she feels excruciating pain and horrible memories flood her mind; she's in Half-State 1 at this point. While in HS1, some sort of physical action (being dragged or perhaps running away from her oppressors) triggers a memory and she's brought back into a memory (HS2) of running away from some sort of person/people who wish to do her harm; Angels of Death you call them, although I don't think you literally meant that was the name of the group of people chasing after them.

You don't go into detail regarding whether on she and Gabriel are the only ones running away, but due to the phrase "running from certain holocaust" I imagine she and Gabriel are merely two out of a large number of people who are being hunted/prosecuted.

You describe the Angels of Death being made of steel and fire raining down from the sky. This makes me think of, perhaps, helicopters or some sort of aerial vehicle is shooting them from the sky, and perhaps armoured land vehicles, as well.

She falls and I believe the "mournful whistle" is some sort of, what's the word, ammunition... the bigger one, er, missile or something, being shot. Gabriel looks back, but I'm not entirely sure why she's shrieking "no."

He pushes her beneath the water because the spot where they just were (she's in the swamp, he's still on the land beside it) is now raging with fire and he doesn't want her to burn/die. He's consumed by it, kisses her one last time, although I'm wondering at what exact moment he died because if he was consumed by them, he wouldn't have been able to hold her beneath the water, nearly suffocating her, for so long.

One of the enemy dudes drag her out of the water and she's brought to Nidavel Ward, which I'm assuming is some sort of medical ward, either for prisoners or just everybody.

And now you give us the names of the two half-states: not-dream and not-life. I'm assuming the not-life is her memories, and not-dream is the few moments of peace she has in the present. So, the not-dream would be Half-State 1 where she can feel her heart beat, and Half-State 2 is her present reality when she can feel her heart beating. Or maybe I’m completely off the mark here and it’s the other way around, either way, that’s how I’m understanding it.

At the line, “The running stopped” we’re brought back into the present (not-dream/HS1) where someone has pushed her beneath water, trying to drown her. She sees no fire above the water here because she’s no longer in the memory, and she can feel her heart here, which reinforces my earlier impressions. Ohp, but now you say “this place was peace, a dream” so… hmm, so yeah! The not-dream is her present reality.

Caught between death and present pain she finds peace because it reminds her of Gabriel. This is where things start to blur a bit for me: “She felt the air leave her lungs…” I’m assuming she’s delirious now and because she’s beneath water right now, it reminds her of Gabriel and her memory of that final moment bleeds into the present so much so that she can physically feel him.

And, crap, you call her present reality her not-life in the paragraph that begins with, “And then her not-life came back in a roaring inferno.” M’kay, so I *do* have things mixed up, only I’m not entirely sure how. Not life present reality, while not-dream memories. So… she feels her heart beating only in present reality, which is the not-life and… okay, so I just had the names switched. I think my understand was correct, I just gave the memory vs. present the wrong “not” name.

I thought HS1/not-dream was when she felt her heart beating, thus present reality, while HS2/not-life was when she was in a memory, but it’s the other way around; HS1 not-life, when she can feel her heart beating, and HS2 not-dream, when she’s in a memory. That makes sense. (I think, I’m beginning to confuse myself).

Okay, so then at “And then her not-life came back…” someone’s pulling her out of the water by her hair and then punches her and she goes back into the not-dream/memory state. The line in italics here, I’m assuming, is a doctor talking to the commanding officer or someone of high station. It’s a brief glimpse of what has passed before she’s back in her not-life present state. But the confusing part here is the, “She thought she heard a voice through the white walls of her dream, but she did not care” line. I thought not-dream was memory while not-life is present, so the “white walls of her dream” must mean she flickered into her not-life for a moment before flickering back into not-dream.

She hears Gabriel kiss her (which I find slightly odd since I think “feel” would be more appropriate), then she’s pulled back into present reality and someone’s torturing her/sticking needles in her/whatever. I don’t understand the, “telling her to conjure sick illusions that belonged to some demon whom she did not know or understand” line, though.

In this second last paragraph you provide a bit more information; she calls time away from drowning night, she can feel her heart beat during this time (although I thought she always felt her heart beat during not-life) and she doesn’t like it because the sensation of drowning brings her closer to Gabriel in some sense. And the memory of Gabriel keeps her alive.

Question, though, why the hell are they doing this? “Sir” thinks she’s a damn nuisance and wonders why her mind is still intact, but what does that mean? Does he want her dead? If so, why not just shoot her? If he wants to break her mind, would dunking her in water and pricking her with needles really be the best method?

Anyway, this isn’t my normal review style, but I thought I’d break my reading down like that so you could see where potential problem areas might be. It’s all very vague, which I’ve already said I like, but I think it might be wise to define not-dream and not-life earlier on. Also, the heartbeat thing, I’m not entirely sure but I think you could use that sensation a bit more and double check to make sure it’s consistent. For some reason, I thought there was one part in her not-dream where she felt her heart beat, but I thought she only feels it during not-life.

Interesting read; definitely a complex piece you have here.
wammyboys chapter 1 . 10/25/2010
[RG - stories - depth]

Opening:

Interesting, but it confused me. I didn't get the line: "if she could feel it thump, she was subject to her deplorable not-life." Was it that if she heard her heartbeat thump she was dreaming, or was it that if she heard it, she was awake?

Characters:

I didn't get much of an impression from the character. Since this was third person, shouldn't there have been a bit more of personality? I guess maybe it's because she's on her deathbed.

Scene:

The one scene that stood out to me was the scene in bold with the doctor. Mostly because it finally made it all make sense to me, but also because I just found it really neat. I'm not really sure why.

Ending:

Okay by now it was all making sense. So Gabriel was her former lover that died/left and he was telling her to live. I liked how you ended it with that line. It left the story nice and vague. I felt kinda smiley after that.

It was a very well written story. I enjoyed it very much.
SilverBluu chapter 1 . 10/17/2010
Hey, thanks for the review of Tiny Riddles. I actually wrote the whole story in one sitting, but then edited it after receiving reviews and changed some things in the second half. Do you think a tone change is appropriate if someone different is telling a different part of the story?

Onto the return review:

Seems that a lot of entries into the WCC have focused on dreams, not dreaming, and floating sensations. This entry caught my attention with the contrast to fire.

Good choice of first person. It keeps the sense of chaos, and as a reader I'm not sure what exactly is going on. Consider adding in some back-story. How did Aria and her lover get into such a firey mess?
Nesasio chapter 1 . 10/10/2010
This is a cool kinda surreal piece. Was she really in hell or was this just some other kind of torture? I wasn't sure about that but it wasn't a big deal to me. I still found it all intriguing.

Gabriel is a cool character/entity here. I liked how he kept showing up, keeping her sane and grounded when everything else was falling apart around her. Whenever he showed up it reminded me of the bit in the Return of the King movie where Frodo's running around in Shelob's cave and suddenly Galadriel comes to him in a vision. It goes from chaotic and dark to bright, hopeful, and quiet, and I really enjoyed seeing that here.

Good luck on the WCC!
lookingwest chapter 1 . 10/9/2010
There was no air here, hissing of fires that burned in her memory-dreams – this place was peace.

-Edit: There is something called an EM Dash, which you can't do on Document Manager, but is the proper dash in prose. What you're using is just hyphens. Which is fine, because I know that Doc. Man. doesn't let you edit in EM Dashes (you have to first write your prose in word and then copy and paste after editing it there), but I just thought I'd let you know and let you keep that in mind. A lot of people on FP just use the hyphens though.

"No one has ever lasted this long, Sir. She won't make it much further. She can't."

-Style: I'm not a fan of bolding in prose on FP unless it really has a purpose, and I'm not sure if this dialogue really *needs* to be bolded. That being said, I mean, my initial reaction to Dee was the same, but there are only two people on FP that I let slide with it and it's Dee and Jake, XD. Here I find myself asking: does it *need* to be bolded? Could it have just been italicized? Because then you're letting the boldness stand out instead of the words themselves. Is it that the italics are happening in the past, and then the bold in the present? But the narration is in the present, so then shouldn't the entire narration be bold? It would make more sense to me if the italicized words ere *only* dialogue, like the bold was, but since there are speaker tags and descriptions in the italics too, I find that the bolding isn't needed. Am I making sense? -_- Probably not. Anyway, my blubbering is just personal preference too, so again, it's just style, and per usual, your choice.

Overall! Interesting take on the prompt, I liked the mention of the submergence idea and the likening to water, almost like the ocean, etc. I'm guessing this person is dying, or near death, and then perhaps the Gabriel is calling her back from the brink of it-but then I felt something almost darker and sinister with him too, like perhaps he was the one doing the torturing. I did like how you kept with the haunting moments of going back and forth between past and present, it gave it an interesting stream of consciousness moment. Loved the emotion and also the use of the hyphenated words that ring true to the very first sentence with "half-states" and how you fun that as a theme throughout the entire thing. I caught that and thought it was very clever.

Best of luck in the WCC, an overall well written piece, you should definitley try your hand and more prose!
Pink Parfait chapter 1 . 10/9/2010
Review for the Review Game!

I liked the force of this story, the impact it delievered. It was just like wham, a blow of emotion, a maelstrom of it probably just like you intended to convey. It just holds you in thrall and sweeps you along, the language so strong and drawing up vivid images.

I did feel however, that it was very confusing. Perhaps you meant it to be slightly that way, to let it be open to a lot of interpretations (holocaust made me think instantly of Nazis and people escaping from concentration camps, but then when you were talking about the circle of hell, I got confused)... perhaps making it longer would clear up some things?
Sercus Kaynine chapter 1 . 10/8/2010
I enjoyed the whimsical, dream-like tone throughout this piece. The whole stream-of-consciousness thing really worked here. It was beautiful, to say the least. The writing style was really enchanting. My hypothesis of what happened: she's hurt and in the hospital because her love died and begged her to live? Car crash, maybe?

Good job and good luck in WCC!
xenolith chapter 1 . 10/7/2010
Woah, what an intense story! Not quite sure what to think of it, what really happened. She's been hurt and the doctors are trying to ressusicate her, right? Well, I hope that was the general gist lol. But it was great anyways, very well written and intriguing.

Prose was lovely to read. Detailed, emotional, and most importantly it was interesting. I liked the little details, hydrous kiss, violent punch, phantom lips, poignant limbo.

Intense subject matter, makes me want to know more about their story. Nice connection to the prompt, kiss and water. All in all, I enjoyed reading this. Good luck in the WCC :)
Snowflakes Are Drifting chapter 1 . 10/7/2010
I wonder what happened to her. If she is alive or dead? Is she dreaming or is she experiencing all this through the body of a ghost? Did she died in a fire? and what were all those voices in the background? nice story. I like it. :P
sophiesix chapter 1 . 10/6/2010
oh this tortured my mind, lol! you really feel for the MC even though you don't know much about her situation, and the brink of life / death/ defintion of 'life' thing was all twisting me up.. i thought gabriel was torturing her for a while and there was that horrible fascination of loving someone that hurts you thing going on. great interpretation of the prompt! i was left wanting just a titch more info on why they were doing this to her, what that external situation was, but the powerlessness of not knowing works too :D Great stuff and good luck in teh WCC!
Negasi chapter 1 . 10/5/2010
I really enjoy the prose, as it is deep and very vivid. I am not completely sure of the meaning though, you must let me in on it! I am rather intrigued!
drink me pretty chapter 1 . 10/4/2010
Haunting. I'm still trying to grasp at the meaning, although I'm rather certain whether she is alive or dead is irrelevant seeing as that without Gabriel she feels non-existent, anyway.

I really liked this, the subtle allusions here and there, the intricacy. You should write more prose :)