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Nick Becher's picture


By Nick Becher in Arrest Us

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A man believes he has been possessed by demons after witnessing a cover up at a landfill in St. Louis, Missouri, rumored to be a site for dumping nuclear waste. This story is based on real events that have taken place in Missouri near the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. 


Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 3, 2014 - 9:28am


I like this story. The narator is good and the character of Devil Dan is great. Not sure if you're stuck on Landfill for the title, it's a good one, but Devil Dan as a title would be a real eyecathcer. Just a suggestion. Alot of times I have reservations putting characters names in titles but sometimes I find it works out pretty well.

I like the setup. How the aspiring writer goes to AA meetings to get ideas for stories. That's great. Maybe I missed it. Was he writing a story about Dan when he decided to check up on him all those years later? It's nice that he thought about him and checked on him but I'm not sure what the motivation was to check on and care about an essential stranger unless he was writing a story "based on" him. It isn't mentioned. Perhaps it's metafictive? Like the story we're reading is the story he's writing about the crazy old drunk he met?

Or was he just drawn to Dan the way Dan was to the Landfill. I'm not sure if there is actually something supernatural at play here or not. I don't typically mind ambiguity and you use it to nice affect for the most part, but the ending really seemed abrupt. Nothing was really tied up or perhaps it went over my head. Your narator wasn't the crazy one was he? Did the demons get out again? Will they possess your narator? Perhaps you wanted to leave the audience with these questions and let them decide for themselves. IF that's the case then good job. Thinking about it will provide a lasting effect. However, I felt a little unsatisfied because I was so anxious to find out rather Dan was crazy or possesed and I never got my answer.

Overall though, Great Job. This was a real page turner with great characters and strong writing. The setting was well constructed and the plotting/pacing worked for the most part until I just got lost in the ending. Thumbs up from me.



Nick Becher's picture
Nick Becher from St. Louis MO is reading Nonzero by Robert Wright June 3, 2014 - 10:32pm


Thank you for the feedback it is very much appreciated. It was my intent to leave things ambiguous at the end and it seems that I have done that effectively if you are left wondering. I think many of your questions about the plot are exactly the kind of questions I want people to have. So to that effect, I think I have done my job. There are a few changes I plan to make but this is the most complete version I have to date. I have been working on this piece for a few months and I'm just glad you felt excited enough about it to read it through and comment. It's very much appreciated. 

TheKyleBTM's picture
TheKyleBTM June 4, 2014 - 4:44pm

I loved the story, the vivid descriptions of the (psychosis / posession?) were as clear and disturbing as the screams in Devil Dan's head. the crudeness and anger in the narrator coupled with his compulsive fixations on things made him very real, even though he might not be the kind of person you want to be around. i wanted more into the break of the narrator at the climax, i wanted to hear the screams. very well written.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time June 4, 2014 - 6:38pm

I was a little on the fence about this one, but I gave it a thumbs up. The crime element for me was a little detached from the rest of the plot. This is more supernatural than criminal, but I was intrigued and the writing was very solid.

I like the repetition of the stains on clothing. I like the play on neurosis and the suggestion that maybe the MC wasn't all that mentally stable either.

I agree with John that "Devil Dan" would make for a more interesting title. I also think that more focus on that character and less on the landfill would also make it more intersting. Reminds me a little of a Stephen King's "Desperation." Nice work.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 5, 2014 - 10:17am


Clever work.  Nothing to pick apart, other than as a reader I want more from the ending, but as a guy who likes to leave things open, I completely understand why you did it.  I really liked how the conversations with Dan kept getting cut short in ways that didn't feel forced.  It allowed the reader to chew on the information at hand while they transition to the next piece.

Nick Becher's picture
Nick Becher from St. Louis MO is reading Nonzero by Robert Wright June 5, 2014 - 5:13pm

I want to thank everyone for reading and leaving productive feedback. Don't think it's going unnoticed. I intend to do a round of revisions after this contest is over to improve the piece any way that I can. 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 10, 2014 - 2:13am

I liked this one. You have a good setup, and a couple of decent characters, especially Devil Dan. It flows well, the writing is good, and the dialogue feels pretty natural. I do think there are a few ways you can improve it, but obviously this is just my opinion, so feel free to use or ignore as you see fit.

As much as I like the angle of Alex building a character from Dan, having everything told in dialogue makes this a little passive. I’m not usually a big fan of jumping perspectives, but I think you could make good use of it here. Tell us Dan’s story from his POV, rather than have him tell it to Alex. You would get a couple of sections that way with an unreliable narrator, and then have Alex providing a more cynical view.

There is a bit of a logic jump in the mental institution section, though you’ve clearly recognised that and tried to cover it off. When Alex and Dan meet for the first time in ten years (some of which for Dan has been spent in an institution presumably on some powerful meds), Dan recognises him immediately, and almost his first words are, “I’ll get you caught up on things”. You then have Dan saying this is because Alex is the only person he has ever told about the demons. This is a bit of a leap. Dan just accepts his appearance, spills the beans, then decides abruptly that he doesn’t want to see Alex ever again, even though he’s just referred to him as ‘my friend’.

The ending is quite abrupt too. I like the ambiguity in the story; it’s one of the strongest elements for me. I honestly don’t think you need the end section with the doctor. If the doctor is aware of Dan’s ‘writer friend’, why even agree to meet Alex in the first place. The radioactive material angle adds nothing to the story. I’d consider stripping out that section, and rejigging that pay off slightly. Ending it on a scream is perfect, but just hint towards it being the same scream as Dan heard. The voice talking about the ash goes too way to supporting the supernatural option. I’d rather have complete ambiguity; did he hear the same scream as Dan, or is it simply the scream of a madman in an institution. Leave Alex shaken completely, and add just a little foreshadowing of his own descent into madness.

This is certainly a thumbs up for me, but I do hope you take another run at it.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 17, 2014 - 5:44am

I like this, it feels like the start of a longer story. I can see the author becoming haunted by the screaming and going to the landfill to dig. Nice atmosphere, great dialogue. Nice one.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 27, 2014 - 4:26pm

Good story. I think it would have been interesting to focus a little more on the murder of Dan's wife and his voices, but under their current circumstances he probably wouldn't go into a lot of detail about it and you lose the opportunity because of first person perspective. Overall nice job.