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Drama Fiction Historical Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

August



The foyer of St. Mary’s orphanage smells likes lye soap and freshly baked bread.

“Professor Gray, bless you for coming.”

The click of heels echoes through the hallway before I see her face—stoic and smooth, much like her black, unwrinkled dress.

“Are you Sister Marie?”

“Yes, that’s me.” She smiles and extends her hand.

“I came as soon as I received your letter.”

“And I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you’ve agreed to take this on, Professor.” She exhales in a huff.

“Your letter—I read it three times as I could hardly believe the details.” I lower my voice, lest little ears lurk nearby. “How has the boy been adjusting?”

“Well, Professor, it has not been easy.” She matches my volume. “He possesses a very turbulent nature.”

“And has he spoken? Anything at all?”

“Nothing intelligible, sir. We’ve tried putting him in classes with the youngest children, but we are simply understaffed and not trained to meet his…unique set of needs.” Her eyes grow misty. “So, you can see why you are a godsend.”

“Well, I’m not sure about that. I’ve only heard tales of situations like this, and I must confess, perhaps it is my professional curiosity more than my charitability that has urged me to take the boy on.”

“I applaud your honesty, sir, but I am certain if anyone can help the boy, it’s you.” She places a hand on my elbow and begins down the main hall. “I will show you to your classroom then.”

The building is dimly lit, and the floors creak as we walk, like nervous squeals imitating the anticipation I feel within.

“Sister Marie,” I rush to keep up with her long stride. “You said the hunters who found the boy brought him back to the nearest villages, but tell me, have all attempts been made to locate his family? Is no one looking for a missing child?”

She shakes her head. “If anyone had been looking for a lost child, it appears they gave up many years ago, as we believe he must have been missing for quite some time.” She continues down the hall, speaking in hushed tones. “No one from the village knew anything about him—though some did try to care for him—at first.”

We walk by a classroom full of children silently scratching pencils to paper. Every head turns as we pass. Sister Marie lowers her voice to a whisper. “There was a kind family who took him in—farmers who thought he might take to the work—but the boy was too wild, too unpredictable. He attacked them in the middle of the night and one of their daughters nearly lost an eye.”

“Good heavens.”

 “After that, none of the villagers wanted anything to do with him.”

A round-faced woman greets us in the hall and Sister Marie stops her. “Sister Margaret, will you please prepare Matthan for his lesson with Professor Gray? In the blue classroom.”

“Yes, Sister,” and she walks away.

“Matthan?” I ask.

“It means “hope, as we are hopeful that he will learn our ways and thrive here.”

“That’s good of you, Sister Marie. But I am curious, how did the boy end up here then?”

“Oh, it was quite providential.” She smiles over her shoulder. “Apparently, the hunters spoke of him all through town when they had gone to trade, and one of our benefactors was there on business. He heard the story—heard about the disaster with the farmers—and said he’d take the boy back with him and establish him here at St. Mary’s.”

“Incredible.”

She takes us deeper through the building, pointing out the dining hall and the kitchen, then steps inside a cramped staff room. She eases herself into a chair and gestures for me to sit in the one across from her.

“Professor, we are grateful the boy has been rescued and brought into our care,” she steeples her fingers, “but he must learn to assimilate—to learn basic communication skills and exhibit civilized behavior—or our directors have informed us that he will not be allowed to remain here.”

“What would happen to him then?”

She looks at her hands. “He would be taken to an asylum—a fate I do not wish upon any of our children.”

“No, of course not. I can’t imagine how isolated the boy—Matthan—must be feeling. To communicate is human, and to be—how old did you say he was?”

“We believe he’s between 8-10 years old, but it’s… difficult to say.”

“Interesting…it’s been theorized that a first language is impossible to acquire beyond the early developmental years, but perhaps, with rigorous training and extended exposure to—”

“You’ll have until the new year, Professor Gray.”

“What? But that’s hardly six months!”

“I’m sorry sir.” She chews her lip. “I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but this wasn’t up to me. If you can prove by the end of the year that Matthan is at least capable of learning, then we will reevaluate his position at St. Mary’s.”

“Well.” I catch myself rubbing my mustache—a mindless habit. “So be it. I guess theories exist to be tested.” I clap my knees. “Then we shall have to get to work.”

She smiles. “This is why I wrote to you, as I could think of no one better qualified to help him than an expert in linguistics and communication.” She rises from the chair. “Come. I’ll show you to your classroom.”

We walk down the hall and stop at the last door. “Oh, I nearly forgot.” She reaches into a pocket, pulls out a silver hand bell, and folds it into my hand. The metal is cool and serious against my skin. Her hazel eyes meet mine. “If there’s any trouble, just ring this and one of the sisters or I will come to you.”

I stare at the bell in my hands until Sister Marie touches my arm. “Don’t worry Professor, everything will be fine; the tonic keeps him somewhat tranquil, just be sure to give him a wide berth.”

She opens the door to a sparsely furnished classroom with peeling blue paint on the walls. “Matthan, this is Professor Gilbert Gray. He’s come to talk to you.”

In the corner, a dark-haired child sits hunched over with his head crooked to one side, chewing at his fingernails.

I clear my throat, nod my thanks to Sister Marie, and step inside. When the door clicks shut behind me, the boy whips his head around and stares at me with a set of wild, frantic eyes.

“Hello.” I say, offering a slight wave. “It’s nice to meet you, Matthan.”

The boy backs away, growling, and I can see a row of yellowed, jagged teeth in his mouth.

And then he barks.



September



“Let’s go over these again, Matthan. One at a time.”

Late morning sun trickles through the room’s single window, and dust dances in its rays. The boy stares, his shoulders hunching inward as I continue.

“Say it with me, A, as in apple.” I hold up a card with a bright red apple drawn on it.

Silence.

“That’s alright. Let’s try the next one. B, as in boy. Like you—boy.”

A gurgling sound claws its way out of Matthan’s throat—a sound that resembles nothing like “b”.

“Alright. What about this one: C, as in cat.” The card shows an orange striped tabby with a long tail.

Matthan shifts in his seat and growls, drool sliding down one corner of his mouth.

C, C. Just try.”

But Matthan only grows more agitated and begins rocking back and forth.

“It’s alright. We’ll move on.” The next card displays a large capital D drawn above a picture of a scruffy gray dog. “Can you say, D? As in dog?”

Matthan leans toward the card, a strange whine working at the back of his throat. He raises one hand and scratches the dog’s face with a dirty, curling fingernail. He begins to scrape and claw at the card, then throws his head back and howls—a mournful, disturbing wail.

“Matthan! It’s alright!”

He jumps down from the seat and tears at his rumpled shirt. A button breaks away from the fabric and clatters against the floor.

“It’s okay, we’ll stop!”

Matthan thrashes and scratches his own face. I reach out and lay a hand on his shoulder, desperate to calm his hysterics, but when I do, the boy snarls and lunges at me, sinking sharp teeth into my ink-stained fingers. Drops of blood dribble down his lip and along my hand. My screams must have alerted the sisters, for as I fumble for the silver bell in my coat, round-faced Sister Margaret appears in the doorway with brown bottle and a spoon.

“Help me hold his arms, Professor.” She speaks in a calm, monotone voice, belying no sense of unease at the boy’s outburst.

I do as instructed, looking away as she wrestles the concoction down his throat. When the boy finally calms, I hear the breathlessness in my voice when I speak. “I need a moment.”

I race from the building and onto the front steps. Noise from the bustling streets seems muffled and faraway as I fumble for my pipe and tin. I light the tobacco and watch as it glows. Inhale. Exhale.

How could so much ferocity, so much savagery be trapped inside such a small child?



October



The room holds a chill that seems to wrap itself around my vocal cords.

“Repeat after me, Matthan. A.”

His lips part ever so slightly. “Yeee.”

“No,” I shake my head and lean closer. “Aaay.”

“Yuuuuh.”

“Open your mouth wider.” I make a motion with my fingers like a flower opening. “Aayy. Now you try.”

“Eeeyuh.”

“You’re getting closer. Let’s move on. B.”

Matthan grunts.

B. B. Look, Matthan, see my lips.” I point to my mouth and smack my lips together.

He touches his own lips.

“Yes, those are your lips. Can you bring them together like this? Now say bee.”

He leans in. “Buuu.”

“Yes! That’s it! You’re getting it!”

We move through the alphabet, with Matthan showing decreasing aptitude and attention as we progress, and I start to wonder if any success we’ve had has been coincidental. Matthan struggles at the letter “J,” and grows frustrated. He leaps down from his chair and retreats to a corner.

I rest my head in my hands and try not to think about how fast the end of the year is approaching.

Someone raps on the door. One of the sisters pokes her head in. “It’s time for the children to go outdoors now, Professor.” Then she directs her voice to the corner. “Matthan, we’re going outside.”

The boy turns his head at the word and begins to half run, half crawl to the door. The woman holds a pair of shoes out to him, but he refuses them.

“Professor, you’re welcome to join us.”

I stretch my sore muscles and rise from the desk. “I think it would be good to observe Matthan beyond the classroom.”

We step through a backdoor and into the play yard where Matthan immediately shuffles over to a patch of grass and crouches, watching the children play. A few girls jump rope on one side, a group of boys huddles along the fence, likely plotting a coup against the sisters, and others gather around the swings.

I make my way near Matthan. “Why don’t you play with the others? Look, they have a ball over there.” He doesn’t follow my finger when I point or acknowledge my presence at all, but neither does he flinch or run away.

Soon, a sister returns to collect the children, but Matthan pays her no mind. She tries to guide him back inside, but he bares his teeth and rages at the woman.

“It’s okay. I’ll stay out here with him for a few more minutes—if that’s alright.”

She nods and leaves us alone.

I lower myself to the ground beside Matthan and pull my pipe from my jacket. “You’ve got the whole place to yourself now.” Matthan says nothing, but watches me as I light the pipe and pull air through its slender tip. His eyes follow the wisps of smoke rising into the sky.

“This is a pipe. Pipe.”

He crawls closer and plucks the whole thing from my mouth. “Hey now!”

He puts the narrow end in his own mouth, breathes in, then sputters and coughs, smoke spewing from his lips. I reach for the pipe, but he backs away, taking another pull before I can snatch it away from him.

I can’t help but laugh. “Now don’t you tell the sisters you had a smoke. They’ll have a holy fit.”

Smoke rises from the endless chimneys jutting all around us, billowing into one all-encompassing cloud of smog above the city. I picture families tucked inside their homes, gathered around the fireplace telling stories—communicating as easily as breathing.

We sit in silence a while longer, then Matthan turns to me, his head cocked to one side.

“Sssmoke.”



November



“Moon. Can you say moon?”

Matthan sits at the desk with his legs pulled to his chest, bare toes splayed across the wooden seat. He never wears shoes. He stares at the card, then rasps out the word. “Mooon.”

“Yes! Wonderful, Matthan! What about this one? Can you say sun?” I wait, my pocket watch ticking in the silence.

“Sssun,” he finally utters.

We move through the stack of cards, eventually coming to images of animals, which always pique Matthan’s interest.

“I think you know this one. Come on.”

His mouth works. “Berr. Berr.”

“Yes, you’re almost there.”

“Berrrduh.”

“Yes! Bird! Very good, Matthan!” I feel myself smiling. “Alright, what about this one?” I hold up an image of a green snake coiled in a pile.

Matthan growls, baring his teeth at the card.

“It’s alright, Matthan. It’s only a picture. It can’t hurt you.”

He jumps down from his chair, keeping his distance from the card, and begins to pace around the room.

“Please, talk to me, Matthan. What’s wrong?”

But he moves to the corner and turns his back to me, shutting me out of his world.

I stack the cards in a neat pile and let the hour run out in silence.



December



I have never been to an orphanage Christmas party before. The festivities are humble, but the spirit is wonderfully infectious. Someone has wheeled the piano into the dining hall, and a sister plays Christmas hymns. Children sing and spin about the rooms, laughing and wiping remnants of figgy pudding from their mouths.  

Sister Marie walks around with a heaping basket of parcels wrapped in brown paper and distributes one to each child. She lingers at my table where Matthan sits beside me, licking the crumbs off his plate.

“I see someone enjoyed his meal.” She raises an eyebrow.

I can feel him stiffen when she leans in, see him recoil when she extends a package to him.

“Matthan, it’s alright.” I offer. “It’s a gift—for you.”

He accepts the package, sniffs it, then rips the paper away and removes a blue knitted scarf. I help him drape it loosely over his shoulders. “There Matthan, you look very nice.” He returns to the food on his plate, and I leave him to it.

“Sister Marie,” I rise and follow her as she continues dispersing gifts. “I wanted to ask, well, if it’s been decided whether or not to extend my training with Matthan.” I lower my voice. “If he is staying, that is.”

She pauses, resting the basket on her hip. “I cannot say, as I truly do not know what will be decided. But I’ve certainly seen much improvement in the boy.”

“As have I. I am hopeful that, with just a bit more time, he will begin to—”

My words die under the ear-piercing rattle of a child’s shriek. I instinctually turn to the table where Matthan had been sitting, and my heart sinks when I see he isn’t there.

Sister Marie abandons the basket, and we both race toward the sound. A small girl, maybe three or four, runs between the tables, clutching Matthan’s blue scarf in her hands. He bounds behind her in a crouching shuffle—growling.

“Matthan! Stop!”

Panic rises in my voice. The girl dashes under a table, between the stocking clad legs of other orphans, and Matthan pursues her, toppling chairs and children to squeeze himself into the space with her. Her screams turn my blood to ice.

“Move everyone! Out of the way!” Two women rush to one side of the table, Sister Marie and I to the other. We fling chairs aside and I crawl under to see a tangle of limbs and hair and clothes as Matthan pins the girl underneath him. I grab him by the ankles and rip him away from her, my stomach heaving at the trail of blood his body smears along the floor.

Someone behind me wails. Children whimper. Sister Marie clamps a hand over her mouth. The girl remains still, unmoving in a heap under the table, a row of jagged teeth marks in her neck.

“Matthan.” I whisper. “What have you done.”


***


I pack up my books and cards and stacks of notes and click my case shut. Sister Marie meets me in the foyer.

“Professor Gray, I—”

“I thank you for this opportunity, Sister Marie.” I reach for her hand and fold the silver bell into her palm. “I can assert with some confidence now that if language is not acquired in one’s developmental years, it is too late.”

I pull my pipe from my jacket and step through the open door.

“Matthan never had a chance.”


December 24, 2022 01:03

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40 comments

Liv Chocolate
07:05 Dec 26, 2022

Aeris--you set the scene so elegantly with one concise, yet detailed opening line. "The foyer of St. Mary’s orphanage smells likes lye soap and freshly baked bread." And I love that you don't focus on just the visual details--you go for all five senses, even in the opening line with the smell of lye soap and freshly baked bread. From the beginning, you set the stakes and give the reader an incentive to keep reading. If Matthan doesn't improve, behaviorally and intellectually, he'll be sent to a psych ward. And even though the professor ...

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Aeris Walker
11:09 Dec 27, 2022

Liv, You picked up on exactly what I wanted to show with the professor’s character—how he becomes more invested in the process than on a purely experimental/academic level. And I agree—they say to “tell the truth” in writing, and I think a happy ending would have been further from reality than what actually *fictitiously* transpired. Thanks for being a great reader! I greatly appreciate it!

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Amanda Lieser
00:06 Jan 11, 2023

Hi Aeris! Wow this one packed a heavy punch. I thought you did it beautifully, though. I loved how these characters all genuinely wanted to do their best in the world. My heart was full at the thought that there may be hope for them, but I think you picked a realistic ending. I thought it was fascinating how this story worked to challenge some of our ideas of what it means to be civilized. My favorite line was: How could so much ferocity, so much savagery be trapped inside such a small child? because of the intense tragedy it gave. Nice job!

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Aeris Walker
22:01 Jan 13, 2023

Thank you Amanda! I really struggled to make this one fit the word limit, and felt like I had to hack away at all of my favorite parts, but I am glad to hear that it was still impactful for you! I greatly appreciate your feedback ☺️☺️

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Daniel Allen
14:36 Jan 04, 2023

This is a wonderful story based on a really intriguing concept. You could definitely turn this story into a book if you wanted to! You had me hooked really early, and the progress Matthan made led me to hope that he really would be able to live some sort of normal life. The ending itself was perfection. It was believable, emotional and not something I saw coming. The way you linked it to Matthan's earlier savagery, but also explained his behaviour somewhat by having the girl steal his scarf, worked really well. Fantastic work!

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Aeris Walker
19:18 Jan 04, 2023

I really appreciate your comment, Daniel! You always do such a great job with HF, so I'm pleased that you enjoyed this one. I wish I'd just had 100 or 200 more words to stretch out that ending, but yeah, the word count came up fast. I had to cut out any fluff to make it all fit. Thank you for reading and for your feedback!

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Rebecca Miles
06:42 Dec 29, 2022

All I can say is, blast that wordcount! This needs to be much longer; it's so rich and filling I want to keep digging in my spoon. The exposition is tightly but beautifully rendered: the click of the heels, the Sister's stoic face. The central premise is arresting; the dynamic between Matthan and the Professor fantastic. You chose his first word very wisely to be linked to an act of digression. Hints to the backstory are carefully placed as are the imagery around his bestiality; we know enough. And the end: Poor Matthan, nature red in toot...

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Aeris Walker
10:01 Dec 30, 2022

So glad you caught that detail of the significance of his first word—the fact that it wasn’t something warm or normal or pleasant like “mama” or “more,” but was menacing and threatening, almost foreshadowing the danger he would bring to these people and to himself. Word count—yes. It was originally way over 3k, and I had to take a ruthless knife to it. I know it’s already been bumped from the running, so I may take it down someday, flesh it out more, and see if I can give it a second life somewhere else ;) Thanks for being a faithful reade...

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Rebecca Miles
11:07 Dec 30, 2022

Historical fiction doesn't seem to do well on Reedsy and I really don't know why as to me it's some of the best written and interesting work on the platform. This would make a wonderful book and the premise would, I'm sure, interest an agent: those links to the Jungle Book and a reworking of the story to bring some of the more disturbing themes to the fore. You could do a lot with the transgressions you can only allude to here and of course include the sister's adoption ( is that the right word?) of Matthan. I suppose to make it commerciall...

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Aeris Walker
02:06 Dec 31, 2022

I’ve noticed the same thing with HF- I think both it and science fiction are like outlier genres that only a certain few truly enjoy. I greatly appreciate your words of encouragement and ideas of how to flesh out the story; I think they’re spot on and exactly what it needs. I would also be happy to be a future beta reader of your work! I’m still very much an amateur writer, but I hope to pursue editing someday and enjoy the practice of reading with a critical eye. I am impressed by anyone who has begun a novel, and I can’t imagine what a ...

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Edward Latham
16:37 Dec 28, 2022

Well-crafted story Aeris! What struck me as I finished it is the question around what might have been. We saw Matthan making progress with his speech, but what the Professor and the Sisters didn't seem to realise is that speech is only part of the assimilation that he needed. If this scenario happened in a place where he could receive psychological help and he was given more time before he was allowed to interact with others freely would he have been able to make the transition I wonder? You kept the tension well, I was always a little ne...

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Aeris Walker
21:16 Dec 28, 2022

Thank you! The whole story is based off the real life inspiration of The Jungle Book--a feral child named Dina Sanichar who was found in the jungle and brought to an orphanage in attempts to be rehabilitated, but he was never able to learn language, though "fun" fact, he did actually take up smoking. Interesting research for this one. Thanks for reading :)

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AnneMarie Miles
16:10 Dec 27, 2022

This is phenomenal, Aeris! You fit so much into such a small writing parameter. From the beginning you waste no time reeling us in with a very specific detail that tells us exactly where we are. Then you move directly into dialogue that sets the tone: something urgent and intense is happening. It instantly made me think of the opening scene of Harry Potter - I thought, "who is this mystery child?" I really appreciated the timeline of progress, as you moved through the months to show us bits of the Matthan's development. It allowed us to se...

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Aeris Walker
02:34 Dec 31, 2022

Anne Marie, Thank you so much for your kind and thorough feedback! You saw exactly what I hoped to show in this story, and pointed details I was sure would go unnoticed. Thanks for being a great reader! And side note: your story about motherhood deserves another chance. Bombard submittable and get it out there!

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AnneMarie Miles
02:58 Dec 31, 2022

Oh, right back at your Aeris! I love using submittable. I hope you find a home for this piece there. ❤️

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Michał Przywara
05:11 Dec 27, 2022

Woo, love it! Great twist, and certainly not where I was expecting it to go. But perhaps that's the point - we see Matthan's progress from our POV, and so it is necessarily tainted by our context. What does his progress look like from his POV? Very different, no doubt. He probably has no real sense of property other than what's immediately in his possession - much like he took the pipe. And he comes from a world of fairly honest fight or flight, which the human world is not. A tragedy for the little girl. This reminds me of the chimp domes...

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Aeris Walker
11:26 Dec 28, 2022

“Mortification, PTSD, disillusionment. It's like his world has been turned upside down and he's been hammered by reality.” You picked up on exactly what I hoped to show with the ending (which was severely truncated after edits to fit the word count) that the professor’s zealous sort of “naivety” was snuffed out quite immediately after the tragic Christmas party. Thanks for being a thorough and intentional reader—I always appreciate it!!

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Kelsey H
04:44 Dec 26, 2022

I enjoy your historical fiction so much! I loved the sense of tension you created with this, when Professor Gray and Sister Marie were discussing the boy I was intrigued to find out what was wrong and to actually meet him. There was this great sense of something terrible going to happen which then started to dissipate as Matthan seemed to start improving, and then he attacks the little girl and ends the hope of a happy ending. Great read though, interesting subject and characters.

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Aeris Walker
11:12 Dec 27, 2022

Thank you Kelsey!! I love HF, though the research involved often eats up my actual writing time 🥴 Probably going to bring it back to the 21st century for the next story haha.

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Suma Jayachandar
09:21 Dec 25, 2022

Aeris, What a disturbing tale, told in a tightly knit narrative! It makes one question the notions of language, connection and kindness in the world-how limited they can be to help someone if you don't understand their journey . Wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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Aeris Walker
12:29 Dec 26, 2022

Hi Suma! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I always appreciate it! Merry Christmas and Happy new year to you too!! Looking forward to a new year with more Suma stories 😊

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Zack Powell
08:35 Dec 25, 2022

When I saw your name on my feed, I told myself that I'd wait until Christmas to open my present, so to speak. And so here I am, at 12:01, giving you my December 25th hot takes. Happy holidays to ya. First: This story is very depressive (and I mean that in the best way possible, as someone who adores sad stories). And, I mean, great fiction should make you feel something, right? And sure enough, my emotions were playing a game of limbo reading this. Matthan and Professor Gray and the Sisters and the little girl at the end and...ugh. My heart...

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Aeris Walker
17:41 Dec 25, 2022

Zack--your comment is like a Christmas gift itself. Merry Christmas to you as well! I hope this depressing tale didn't sour your holiday spirit lol. What I was going for with this one is almost a "what if" take on Jungle Book's Mowgli. I'm super fascinated by how integral language is to who we are, how we think, etc, and basically wanted to poke holes in the idea that it would have even been possible for a child in Mowgli's situation to integrate into civilized society. (Don't even get me started on Tarzan). But Matthan's behavior in the s...

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Riel Rosehill
00:17 Dec 25, 2022

What an amazing story, Aeris 🤩 Poor Matthan - I was so rooting for him! And he was just got mad the girl stole his scarf 😭 Loved both the prof and this feral child, and the immersive descriptions of body language and noises - it really felt like I was in the story, and I was really invested in it. Such a tragedy - I was so so hoping for a a happy ending for them - but I suppose that is how a well-written tragedy should make me feel. Best of luck with this one. To me, from all I've read from this week so far, this one is the winner! PS. I...

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Aeris Walker
00:38 Dec 25, 2022

You’re the best, Riel 😉 I’m so pleased to hear you liked this one, though I STRUGGLED with it. I originally wrote it in 3rd person, but felt super disconnected from the characters, so I switched to 1st, then had to shave almost 200 words off at the end to keep it under 3k (all while my whole family and i have been dealing with some kind of stomach bug…it’s been a long week 🥴). Your comment made my day. Merry Christmas to you!!!

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Riel Rosehill
22:31 Dec 26, 2022

Third person is a struggle POV - for me to write at least 😂 And first person was definitely the right one for this story. But I would've never guessed this was difficult for you to write or that you had to chop it down for the word count - I feel like whenever I have to do that it must be very obvious to the reader - in this case for me it wasn't at all, so great edits!

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Zatoichi Mifune
11:40 Jul 18, 2023

*groan* How come whenever I think of something, someone else always gets there first? (As far as the idea of a boy who doesn't understand language goes.) Well, anyway - Wow. This is... something else. The way you told it as well as the story you told was just amazing. It went off in a direction I wasn't expecting, and although I felt a little sad for Matthan (and of course the girl, although oddly I felt sadder for Matthan than for her), I knew that it was definitely the right ending.

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Jeffrey Pope
22:11 Feb 03, 2023

I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish.

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Aeris Walker
01:31 Feb 10, 2023

Thank you so much, Jeffrey!

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Mike Rush
03:26 Jan 28, 2023

Aeris, I'm a little late to the party! But I thoroughly enjoyed your piece, especially the opening act. It's basically a long conversation. You create pace and scene with what you include between the quotes, and that's not always easy to do. Here's a great example: The building is dimly lit, and the floors creak as we walk, like nervous squeals imitating the anticipation I feel within. But there are so many. Now, if I could put the spot light on a an interesting rendering in a quote, author to author. I'm a former math teacher, turned wri...

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Aeris Walker
01:38 Feb 10, 2023

Hi Mike! Now I’m late with a response here, but thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this piece. Your questions about writing out numbers had me thinking, and I think instinctually my go-to is to type any number greater than one or two with a numeral, especially when they are significant details, but after touching up on the rules, I think for this story, 8 to 10 really should have been written out. Teachers are wonderful people! Math was the hardest subject for me in school, and bless my teachers, they had a lot of patience ...

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Aeris Walker
01:38 Feb 10, 2023

Hi Mike! Now I’m late with a response here, but thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this piece. Your questions about writing out numbers had me thinking, and I think instinctually my go-to is to type any number greater than one or two with a numeral, especially when they are significant details, but after touching up on the rules, I think for this story, 8 to 10 really should have been written out. Teachers are wonderful people! Math was the hardest subject for me in school, and bless my teachers, they had a lot of patience ...

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Wally Schmidt
19:36 Jan 09, 2023

What an incredible story. The way you built is is really stellar, little bits of detail and glimmers of hope, interspersed with a little levity (the pipe scene). I agree with the others, it could definitely be expanded into a book or a movie. But I'm so glad to have discovered in here.

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Aeris Walker
21:30 Jan 09, 2023

Thank you so much, Wally! I really appreciate that 😊

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Rama Shaar
11:11 Dec 30, 2022

This was a great read as always, Aeris. I love how you very masterfully teleport us into a different time and place. You also made your narrator appropriately noble and altruistic yet somewhat motivated by curiosity. I read in the comments that you plan on fleshing the story out at some point. May I suggest making Matthan a little more likeable? The incident with stealing the pipe makes him more than just a menace, but you could perhaps add more such encounters that show flashes of good nature corrupted by trauma. All in all, great and ...

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Aeris Walker
17:27 Dec 31, 2022

Hi Rama! I totally agree with you—I’m glad you saw in the professor what I was wanting to show, but yes, Matthan definitely needs more scenes that endear him to us and make us want him to succeed. I really appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts and insights ☺️

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Susan Catucci
19:02 Dec 29, 2022

As good as it gets, Aeris. In my mind as I read, I was teleported to the time and setting from The Elephant Man, completely black and white; that is how vividly I inhaled this story. Usually stories start out with a component of hope lurking in the wings that eventually takes center stage; here, hope takes one step on the stage and then turns and runs for the hills. Wonderful, just wonderful.

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Aeris Walker
17:29 Dec 31, 2022

Thank you so much, Susan! I absolutely love how you described this: “hope takes one step on the stage and then turns and runs for the hills.” That made me chuckle, because you’re so right. Really appreciate you reading ☺️

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Mary Lehnert
19:26 Dec 28, 2022

Aeris - a profoundly sad tale the unrealistic happy ending didn’t happen Sometimes things are just the way they are . Disturbing but so brutally honest. Well done

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Aeris Walker
21:27 Dec 28, 2022

Thank you for reading, Mary! Much appreciated :)

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RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.