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bryanhowie's picture

The Second Plague (2nd draft, 3150 words)

By bryanhowie in Scare Us

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2nd draft fixes most spelling/grammar errors (and probably introduces a few new ones).  Mostly just took advice and applied it. 

A plague of frogs descends on a small town.  The frogs are of normal variation, except for the bristles lining their backs.  Thunderstorms have brought them out, but what they do when mingling with a small town threatens to destroy a man.


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 17, 2012 - 8:46am

I think this new version gets it exactly right. This ia a powerful and sickening story.

Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King July 20, 2012 - 9:09am

That was a creepy yarn. I really liked the descriptions of the horror that took place at night. 


jennydecki's picture
jennydecki from Chicagoland is reading The Foreigners July 20, 2012 - 3:22pm

I like everything except something jumping into someone's mouth, but I'm just one person and you can take that with a grain of salt. I just know that when I'm awake, my mouth is shut. I see a spider, the first thing I do is shut my mouth. I'm looking for a frog in the dark, you can be damn sure my mouth is shut like I have lockjaw. That's why I'm stating it's one person - because I don't survey other people to verify if they, too, keep their mouths shut the minute danger or fear strikes! LOL

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 1, 2012 - 4:46pm

I didn't read the first version of this story, but this is excellent. Your descriptions are intense and memorable. Every bit of the action described at night is really well done - especially with the eyeballs. God...

I thought you handled your setting perfectly, the dialogue was solid, and this really worked in 1st person. Unlike most of the other stories I've read, your monster is somewhat grounded in reality. I don't think I'll look at frogs the same for some time.

For what its worth, there weren't any spelling or grammar errors that jumped out at me in this version.

That was a pleasure to read. Good stuff.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin August 2, 2012 - 2:37am

Howie ~ sorry this is a little late... Excellent revision, love the added little details, the extra on the body and gruesomeness. You pretty much nailed everything I previously highlighted in my LBL, my only nitpick is there are a few similes that could be metaphors, but, hey thats just my pet-gripe so you should probably ignore me.

Awesome story!

Pushpaw's picture
Pushpaw from Canada is reading Building Stories by Chris Ware August 2, 2012 - 4:47pm

Really enjoyed this read.

Love it when he sees the frog in the night the first time and calls out “Mr. Green?” - funny stuff

Agree with Ian above- amazingly well done descriptions of the lightning storm/frog escape scene.

The stuff with the little girl just seemed cruel, but I guess that's horror for you.

A suggestion: I was only really "in" the story at this line:

“If you lick them, you'll get high as a kite,” my brother, Mike told me as

Maybe you could start here, and fill in the details about the seven days of rain and all that later? You could reveal the description of the frogs through the kids'/main characters' interactions with them. That would be a way to get rid of the expository opening. Not that it's bad exposition--just that being immediately in the story is more powerful.

Thanks for sharing!

Twistedsage's picture
Twistedsage August 3, 2012 - 4:24am

I enjoyed where you went with the piece, which was not where I thought it was going.  Very well done.  The only part that really put me off was the use of a thunderstorm as a dramatic and plot point.  That is so over used in horror.  Such originality and creepiness hidden just out of the corner of my eye it almost off set by the fact that there is another thunderstorm in the background.  That's just me though. 

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. August 6, 2012 - 10:42am

It starts out string and then seems to just collapse about the time that the frog jumps down the guys throat.  From what I could tell, the guy is turning into some sort of carnivorous frog that runs around killing people at random.  That's a pretty horrific creature but there's something missing in the story.  If you flesh that part some more, you might have something here.


Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep August 6, 2012 - 10:48am

Well, I'll just take my lunch break and do a couple of reviews for LitReactor. Let's see, The Second Plague is up next. I sure hope it's not about strange killer frogs that jump in people's mouths! Great opening line. Ah, excellent dialogue, smooth. These people seem real enough, which means I'll feel something when the author casually murders them all (I'm sure). And--

Oh sonuva...this story is about strange killer frogs that jump in people's mouths.

Lot's of eyeball violence. Faces of kids being eaten. Yeah, so done with lunch. Top-notch gore work there. Thanks a lot!

What I like best is, during the violence, you can't tell if he's dreaming or not. Making this almost hallucinogenic really serves the story--especially since you introduced this concept earlier with the talk about licking frogs. I can't tell if he's seeing what the frogs see, turning into a frog, or simply participating in his own way. And I like it just fine being able to make that conclusion on my own.

For me, however, the ending isn't all that satisfactory. While it ends just as hallucinatory as the middle is, that's it--it just stops. I can't say exactly how it should end--maybe something where he goes and explores the devastation. I think you could still leave the ending ambiguous, but still allow us to see more.

I enjoyed the concept, and I really like the hallucination aspects, and I think there's a better ending there somehere. The frogs reminded me of King's "Rainy Season."

Suzy Vitello's picture
Suzy Vitello September 7, 2012 - 12:30pm

Hello Bryan,

Some fantastic description and terrific dialog in this. Love the concept on the whole. The opening and closing paragraphs are wonderful.

Now, let's fix the middle.

Though the images and sensual journey your narrator embarks upon is definitely true to the genre (scary! gross!), the reader is often dislocated--unsure whether the transformations are actually happening or merely a hallucination. And I know that's what you're going for--this sort of maybe-it's-real-maybe-it's-not thing--but the narrative blurs the edge in a way that doesn't totally work.

It's an example of something called imitative fallacy--which is when the writer attempts to convey a character's experience by replicating the narrative tools of the character. In this case, the narrative is confused because the character is confused.

Instead, consider abandoning the dream-wake-dream-wake aspect of the narrative, and just have the character wake up and see the frog on his pillow and then walk the reader through the character's horror. I don't think you need the phone call with the brother or the thunder and lightning, even. Use what you have set up: rain at night and climbing temperatures upon daybreak. Have this character enter the day as one of the victims of the plague. Have him become witness to the horrific occurrence with the older man. Have them interact, maybe? (You do dialog quite well.)

Maybe the kids come back, and they try to catch him this time? Return to the bristley back hairs (such a cool detail), does the narrator feel itchy as his back sprouts with hair?

And perhaps the full transformation occurs when the character accepts that he's become one of many croaking plague-delivers, crouched on his porch, lapping at his can of Bud or whatever.

The main thing, though, is to walk your readers through this experience with authority and avoid cluttering up the brilliant throughline with confusion.



bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. September 7, 2012 - 3:53pm

Thank you.  That's awesome.  The lbl is very helpful.  I'll rewrite this pretty soon with your notes (and all of the notes I've recieved) in mind.