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Chris Johnson's picture

Artificial Disasters

By Chris Johnson in Scare Us

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The bar where the story takes place is in my hometown. Elon, NC. It's called Sandy's Italian Grill. I sure hope I've got an original monster here. I mean, the marionette is only half the monster, you know? I also wanted to try to scrape the surface of PTSD and how most people don't understand the disorder, with how the news and movies and television have distorted what it really is, making it something to fear and thus ignore. Also, I wanted one of my characters to be kind of Aspergers-y, and I think I nailed that one. I really hope you guys like my story.


lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 2, 2012 - 12:10pm

Wow, that was gross and very visual. I definitely think the marionette/monster thing is working, although you may want to tie the cell phone controller in a little more? I also wanted more internal dialogue from the narrator -- she's kind of into the guy even though he looks like a hackjob, and she's not nearly as freaked out by the whole experience as I would have been. 

My favorite scene was the flashback to the vet. In particular: "Her psoriasis was still on the couch two hours after she left" and the description of the cat's crackling skin. I could just hear it chipping away..

Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway July 8, 2012 - 1:14pm


.'s picture
. July 3, 2012 - 11:00am


"It could have been a car crash, your tinkling glass glitter and smeary wet rouge and smoky dead bruised eyes. Maybe you can tell him your last name is Ecchymose. It doesn’t really matter." This would serve as a good hook. 

"He’s in the medical school and you have three classes a week while you live daddy’s money in a two bedroom walk up." Witty but 'live' doesn't work for me. Try 'spend' it's simple I know, but you get the point across without risking slowing down the flow of the narrative. 

"Ironically ironic." Again, witty but I'd think about nixing it. I don't know if it interrupts the narrative but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 

"He says something about how the turd he left in the bowl looked like Wayne Gale, even the same hair." I love NBK. Awesome reference!

Wow! I love the writing style. You took a chance writing in 2nd person but you pulled it off nicely. Great descriptions and you nail the apathy of that college kid age. I'd like to see a little more description of Andy when he comes out of the bathroom. How the light shines on him, etc. It would be a great moment to build up to the climax more and foreshadow a little bit. 

Great read.


Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway July 8, 2012 - 1:14pm

Thank you.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 7, 2012 - 12:40am

There are too many similes and metaphors for me in the first part of the story, but I loved the second person pov, and by the end of the story, I was really hooked on it. I thought it was especially interesting that while the poor narrator is being hacked to death, her date can't tear himself away from his video game. The first comment, though, makes me worry that I missed something important. I'm going to be careful the next time I go through Burlington, that's for sure.

Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway July 8, 2012 - 1:15pm

SPOILER: I'm pretty sure he's not playing a game, not for the whole story. But thanks for your review.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 8, 2012 - 1:42pm

OooOoooOoo fun! Sorry I missed that!

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 9, 2012 - 5:29am

Great job. I really enjoyed your writing style, and at first I wasn't necessarily on board with the 2nd person POV, but your writing won me over really quickly.

I loved a lot of the description, but do agree with Jane that there might be a bit too much, especially early on. Don't get me wrong, I think that taken on their own, most of the description is good-great, but when you pile it on, they start to lose some of their luster.  That said, I really got a kick out of "Shoes whispering bondage while showing your pedicure and testing your balance".

Casey staying on the phone while she's being attacked also struck me as a bit odd. It just felt like a weird reaction to have.

If I'm being picky, I would say that it doesn't seem to follow all the guidelines of the scare us thing, as there weren't three deaths-unless you count Andy's story about what happened to his unit. Still, I think this is a really good piece.

Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway July 9, 2012 - 10:49am

I'm doing a rewrite as we speak. Thanks to everyone for the advice. I'd added a piece in the first rewrite that I thought would explain why he stayed on his phone, plus the marionette part in the description would be a giveaway. Wanted to keep it subtle. As far as the body count, I've got the cat, Andy, and the girl. I'm working out the kinks though. Thanks for reading my story.

dreamingthrougheuphoria's picture
dreamingthrough... from Portland is reading The Alchemy of Air August 2, 2012 - 9:29am

My favorite line from this whole story was, "You wonder what it would be like to kiss him without that in his mouth, but you’d never do anything like that. It’s just something you want." After that, I was sold. I enjoyed the poetic descriptions of the people and scenes. It made things so much more real in my head as I read it. The psoriasis woman was exceptional.

Only a couple things out of curiosity: Why did you choose 2nd person narrative? I don't necessarily have a problem with it, but the only time I've seen it used is in those "Choose your own adventure" novels. 

and finally, how did you make up the rants that Andy starts using in the end? I thought they were done quite well, and was wondering if there was any type of strategy. 

Thank you for the words. I look forward to reading more of them. 


Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway August 2, 2012 - 12:42pm

Second person because I kept trying for first person and it just wouldn't come out right. Besides I think it's a second person that applies to the narrator in that it speaks to her caustic worldview. So a subjective second person? An integrated first/second person? First and a half-person? I dunno. It just seemed more immediate, the second person present tense. I dug that kind of style from the cyoa books. Gave me a feeling that it was happening RIGHT NOW, while most stories rely on past tense. My big goal is to write a giant cyoa book, only surreal/adults only style. Twist it up good and proper. I'm not kidding.

The rants I came up with stem from using the Cut-Up Technique as used by Wm. Burroughs and Byron Gysin. Everything I did with that form read like poetry written by someone under the influence of deliriants, had that 'man on PCP naked in a restaurant screaming' feel to it. That's how I went about it. I'm glad you liked my story. There is a revised draft up as well, only small changes though. Thanks again!

WendyT's picture
WendyT November 13, 2013 - 5:34am

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