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Thread: The Sarabandes series (short story)

  1. #1
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Thessalonike, The Byzantine Empire

    Default The Sarabandes series (short story)

    Part (the start, up to a point) of a short story I wrote in English. Feedback would be cool.

    The Sarabandes series

    Even the cerebral person can at times find it challenging to break free from persistent ideation, an idée fixe which seems to be very different from the innocent invitation to the usually idle or self-indulgent contemplation. And such mental struggles, wars within the confines of one’s mind, more often than not go undocumented – for even in the case of victory over the idée fixe, the opponent was just too particular with all its machinations confined to a single mind and its blows which reverberate only in battlefields inaccessible to friends or listeners. But more crucially, in the case of defeat, the results can be nothing short of disastrous.

    So, Mr. Sarras’ adulation for your periodical – of which he spoke to me numerous times – notwithstanding, it is with considerable hesitation that I am writing this letter to you. Indeed, if there is a small chance of my article being published, I shall attribute such a success primarily to our aforementioned common friend, who – quite paradoxically – plays a role in the actual story itself. He has written a series of articles for you, on that mysterious ancient dominion of the Sarabandes. That said, for reasons which will doubtlessly become obvious when you have read my letter, I definitely do not suggest that my own article is printed as a companion to the Sarabandes’ series! As I inferred, I am writing about a mental crisis of sorts, and being aware – from our common friend – that your publication also features articles on psychological topics, I hope that you may have a use for my recollection of a rather peculiar and quite sinister affliction which took some work on my part to finally put to rest.

    Mr. Sarras has been a good friend to me. Perhaps we share certain idiosyncratic traits, or an ever rarer quality in these troubled times: common courtesy. Each time I got invited to his apartment he’d be about as eager to speak to me about his own work regarding the strange archaeological evidence from that landlocked central Asian country later known by the rather cacophonous exonym of “Sarabandes” – I can assure you this annoys Sarras to no end – as he was to hear about my own endeavors to analyze an ominous recurring nightmare I started having some weeks ago. Indeed, sometimes he’d offer his views on the eerie elements of my dream and his research on the obscure ancient country, in the same breath, and even go on to draw curious parallels between them! I think he was always trying to further his own research, so in a way incorporated it even in unrelated subjects and this is, if you will, his own persistent thought or obsession, although it should go without saying that in his case it is one infinitely healthier than my own…
    For example, upon hearing that – in my dream – I had supposedly acquired a mastery of cutting-edge engineering, he’d comment that, in one of the theories he came across, the ancient inhabitants of the “Sarabandes” used machines capable of producing the very impressive effect that their landlocked and sizable country’s borders were perfectly symmetrical. As you know from his articles, he dwells on that theory – as well as the overarching preposition that those borders truly were symmetrical – very extensively, and despite expressing in public a healthy skepticism over so incomprehensible a feat for people of the iron age, he does admit that the various locations of the Sarabandes’ monuments, scattered in the desert, were precisely erected so as to signify the outlines of the country. It was, as he repeatedly assured me, common practice among ancient civilizations to build imposing monuments on the very edges of their territory, to inform both friend and foe whose land this was. But the good scholar, and even better friend, would also note that this archaic practice apparently had been picked up – albeit covertly – in elements contained in my nightmare. To be precise, he was referring to a small park, surrounded by tall apartment blocks, where I’d always spend my time in the dream:
    It was always in the night-time, and I’d sit on a bench, looking around, at first apparently in a relaxed manner as can be ascertained by my haphazard observations of various goings-on around and above me. People were out walking dogs or conversing near a larger group of benches in the distance, speaking a foreign language, and lights would flicker in isolated and lofty windows. Or some girl would appear to spend some idle time on a balcony. But at some point I’d turn to my right, and there was a sandpit with a motley collection of half-dilapidated toys like a tube and a swing, a makeshift playground for children. And indeed one child was there, walking ponderously in the sand, and seemed to keenly examine something next to his feet.
    This image would instantly shock me and – as if an entire ocean of repressed memories unleashed an all-devouring wave – I would suddenly recall, in perfect detail, that the child was in danger because in the dream I had supposedly hidden something in that sandpit, and that something was extremely dangerous…
    Sarras would say that, much like with his favorite ancient desert domain, the miniature sand dunes of the playground were marked – although in my dream they included something meant to conquer and destroy, and more so they kept it hidden instead of displaying it to deter trespassers or nomads entering the Sarabandes. “You used an equal, let alone equally unexpected of you, industriousness in your dream to that of our ancient friends”, he once reflected, “only in your case the end wasn’t to secure the calculated shape of your borders, but to infringe on those of others”. His remark was on point, given what was hidden in the sand, in my nightmare, was fully capable of maiming the child , and so I had every reason to be in shock as I watched it remain in the area.
    The actual mechanical construction was itself of an uncanny nature: petrified on the bench, I kept thinking of its blueprints describing fully its means of motor function. It was a very intricate machine, and the brilliancy of it rested on a type of self-sustenance, for it did not rely on batteries or some other electrical supply but instead self-perpetuated its motion by consuming insects and larger beings – like mice – and in theory could also make use of cats, dogs and even human victims. The original plan, as I terrifyingly recalled then and there, was for my machine to get strong enough so as to shed the unbecoming inconspicuousness of the ant-lion styled role forced upon it while still in its early stages, and then burst out of the sandpit to depopulate everything, getting stronger with each fresh kill; and larger as well, because only the primary parts of it were mechanical, with the rest able to enlarge as it gorged on more prey.
    Furthermore, the plan had been for my machine, this spreader of death, to destroy entire cities, and ultimately the continent. The sea, unfortunately for the machine – though very fortunately now for me! – was an obstacle I could not overcome and would have to travel myself to any lands separated by oceans so as to plant similar devices there. And while I certainly would not do that, I still would be powerless to prevent the annihilation of Eurasia!
    “That is quite a megalomaniac plan”, my friend noted, and managed to make me laugh – I think he was reassured by my laughter, cause he feared I might feel offended. “Sure, we can laugh about it, but I still am quite impressed by the insidious structure of your nightmare”. [...]
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC

  2. #2
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
    Content Director Patrician Citizen

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    Feb 2014
    United Kingdom

    Default Re: The Sarabandes series (short story)

    There's some good phrasing here, I especially like "cacophonous exonym". I wonder if it would help to engage readers to mention Mr Sarras in the opening paragraph, to get the reader interested in him. Adding a blank line between paragraphs could help to avoid the impression of a 'wall of text'. The ghostly elements in the dream of the small park at night-time are well done. The 'intricate machine' is an imaginative creation, an impressive nightmare, indeed!

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