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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Achoo (04/11/13)

TITLE: The Sound of Death
By Holly Hoell


Walking home from work, Alice marveled at the beautiful array of colors surrounding the setting sun. Realizing she was passing Middletown woods, she quickened her pace. News Stories of police finding several bodies of young women right in this very area last month swirled in her mind. They never did find the killer. She could feel beads of sweat starting to trickle down her back as she gained momentum. The Missouri heat was almost unbearable this time of year.

Squinting, she saw something ahead on the side of the road. A little girl’s bicycle? That’s strange; I didn’t see this on my way to work. No one lives in this area. She was about to ignore the situation, when a sound came from the woods. “Achoo! “

Oh no, I didn’t just hear that she reasoned. Getting old, hearing things. I’ve got lots to do, gotta get home. “Achoo!” She definitely heard it and it was coming from the woods. Taking a deep breath and looking around she stepped off the road and headed into the woods.

“Little Girl? Little Girl? Are you in here?” There was total silence except her heart beat pounding in her chest. Trying to stay as close to the edge of the woods as possible, she cautiously moved forward looking for anything that might be moving. She spotted a nice solid stick and picked it up. Maybe it would offer some protection. She took a few more steps and heard movement behind her. She swung around stick wielded ready to crack someone. Stupid squirrel!

Everything in her told her get out of there, call the police, they will investigate. Yet she kept stepping forward deeper into the woods; that’s when she saw her. The little girl was sitting on the ground looking at some flowers. Alice was just about to call out to her when her voice stuck in her throat. A man in orange prison clothing was kneeling in the near distance.

Moving backward behind a tree she closed her eyes for a second to get a grip. Looking again she saw he was drinking from a stream. She silently prayed God please help us. There was a noise and the man stood up and peered into the woods. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out a knife.

Now she could hear it; a voice calling “Emily where are you honey?” The man started walking toward the voice. Alice stealthily crept toward the little girl who was starting to stand up. Whispering to her, she said “sh Emily, my name is Alice, there is a bad man over there and we have to hide from him. We have to be quiet okay?”

Emily nodded but said “I hear my daddy.”

“I want you to hide behind this tree and do not come out till I call for you okay? I’m going to go get your daddy” Alice whispered.

“Okay” Emily said uneasily.

Alice headed toward where she thought the men would be. Soon she came upon the man in orange threatening the other man with his knife. Knowing she had to act quickly, she inched forward.

The man in orange was describing with evil pleasure how he was going to harm the other man. Tightly gripping the stick, she raised it high and swung just like her softball days with the church team. It connected solidly with the side of his head and broke. The man was knocked to the ground dazed. He held his head trying to get up.

“Come on” shrieked Alice, motioning to the man. They ran to Emily’s location. “Let’s get out of here” she yelled. Emily’s dad picked up his daughter and the three of them rushed for the road. They were starting to feel safe when from behind they heard “you’re all gonna die!” The road was close; they sprinted toward it with the man in orange closing in on them.

Breaking out of the woods, they spotted a green car. “Mommy,” Emily yelled! Waving to her they jumped in and locked the doors saying; “Go! Drive!” The enraged man in orange pounded violently on the passenger door as they pulled away. A few days later he was caught and later named the perpetrator of the Middletown woods murders. Alice got $10,000 for providing information leading to his capture.

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This article has been read 193 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Vince Martella04/19/13
Well done. Captivating story from the beginning through the end. Definitely kept my attention.
Judith Gayle Smith04/19/13
Exciting! Held my attention throughout. Great writing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/22/13
I love this story! You did a wonderful job of building the suspense. My mind raced in all kinds of directions. Was the prisoner the dad? Maybe the girl a decoy?

I did notice some tiny errors, especially with punctuation and quotation marks. You may want to find a reference book like Trunk and White's element of style or a website that helps refresh the rules. Punctuation almost always goes inside the quotation mark.

You seem to be doing a good job of working on doing more showing than telling. This line, however, is all telling: The Missouri heat was almost unbearable this time of year.
It is also redundant because you already showed the reader that it was hot. Granted that line about sweat could also show anxiety, but if you wanted to show both you could do something like this: As the heat seemed to produce a thick haze,the sweat dripped down her neck, but simultaneously she felt goosebumps explode on her arms as her eyes darted through the woods searching for danger.
I did that kind of fast so it may not be the best example, but I hope it shows what I was trying to say.

I think you did a great job of pulling the topic in and actually making it almost a character that threatened to give away the little girl's hiding spot. I like how the beginning introduced the conflict right away and pulled me in. The ending felt a bit forced. It might have had a bigger impact if you left out the last two lines and ended with the MC collapsing in tears as she wrapped her arms around the little girl. "Shh, we're safe. Thank God!"

You have a nice way of transitioning from intense danger to safety. There are all kinds of wonderful little messages packed into this story, as well as it was a thrilling read!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/26/13
Congratulations on ranking 4 in your level and 24 overall! (The highest rankings can be found on the message boards)
Judith Gayle Smith04/26/13
Judith Gayle Smith04/26/13