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The Decider - not-so-short-story-anymore - Part Three

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    Parts one and two to be found here:http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...php?p=36979218
    and theeeeeeeeeeeen here: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=1986124



    Chapter Three

    I arrived home with three minutes to spare before the 3 o’clock news. Da was in the kitchen when I came inside.

    “Cutting it fine again, Alethea,” he said, glancing at the clock.

    “How’s Ma been?” I said, choosing to ignore his comment. He shrugged, shaking his head and drawing in a breath.

    “Oh, the usual. She’s in the other room, waiting for it to start.”

    I left the bags of food on the table and went to sit next to Mama, who was curled up like a foetus on the corner of the settee. She put a thin, pale hand on my knee, stroking me absently as the news came on, as she used to do when I was young. The opening credits showed a sweeping view of the Decisions Centres, from bottom to top. The Guards flashed momentarily on the screen, then a length of soaring concrete, then the sky. The anchor appeared on the screen, an elderly man sitting in a high-backed velvet chair in front of an oak desk. Behind him, inscribed on the wall, were the words “The Decider, with the people’s well-being and liberty in mind.” He spoke with the voice of a much younger man, confident and strong.

    “The People awoke today to a new and exciting Decision Letter. The Decider, showcasing –yet again – his compassion and grace, has Decided that a system will now be implemented in which HealthBase visits will be tallied for each person in the Land. If any one person exceeds a limit of ten visits each year, they will be given a full Health Check, funded by The Decision Centre, at a rehabilitation and well-being centre which is to be built on the Land's outskirts. This will include any required treatment, to ensure that every person in the Land is able to live a healthy and free life, as The Decider wishes. This protective system will take effect immediately.”

    I looked at Da.

    “I didn’t know we had another letter this morning?”

    “No, I only saw it was there while you were at market. We must have missed it this morning when we went to get the train,” he replied. I tried to meet his eye, but he was gazing in to the screen.

    “I’m on eight,” Mama said quietly.

    “Yes, well, there’s no reason you need make it to ten,” Da said sharply. I glared at him but said nothing, turning again to the television.

    “In other news, an elderly gentleman was tragically killed this morning at the Land edge in the west. Witnesses described how they had seen him behaving suspiciously in the same location several days ago, Defecting Decision Number 501 by vandalising the wall. A team of Guards were dispatched to the area at 7 o’clock this morning, upon receiving reports of Defections in the area. They found his body at the wall, severely mutilated: evidence points to cause of death being animal attack. There were also signs of self-mutilation on the man’s corpse.

    ‘We at the Decision Centre would like to remind the people that this sad, sad event reinforces the purpose of every Decision. They are there for our own safety, and Defectors only risk their own safety by choosing not to abide by The Decider’s better judgement. We would like to remind you all that the Land edge in the west is - by Decision - not to be accessed, and any form of self-mutilation is - by Decision - not permitted.”

    The anchor spoke firmly, and looked solemnly at the camera, his gaze penetrating the television screen, aiming directly at me. I became aware that Mama’s hand had stopped stroking my knee. She was very still, and said nothing. The anchor continued speaking for ten minutes, but his words passed straight through me. My memory flashed back to yesterday afternoon, an hour after the news had finished.

    I couldn’t get in to the bathroom. The door was jammed. I pushed and pushed and it moved, slowly. I could see through the gap, Mama, in the bath. The empty box of pills floating in the water, elegantly surfing the tiny waves made by her short, sharp breaths. Da! I pushed myself against the door. Da! It crashed open, no longer supporting me, and I fell. Da is behind me. He pulls her out. Her clothes are soaked. She groans. I’ll call HealthBase. No! he says, stay here! He leaves. No Mama, no no... I push at her lungs, and push and push, and water comes out, and she splutters. Da is back with a glass. He holds her nose, pours the salty water in to her mouth. She splutters again, and heaves, and she keels over, bent double, vomit pools around us, the smell like putrid festering fruit, the pills are still whole, she gags. Call now, call, quick. I call. Please hurry, my Mama, she fainted in the bath, please be quick. Da takes off her wet clothes, he pushes past me, returns with dry ones. She’s so thin, her naked body emaciated and shivering, sparse, downy hair covering her, standing on end. There’s vomit in her hair. Wash it out, Alethea, please, quick. I wash my Mama’s hair, placing her over the edge of the bath, wincing as a stray pill falls from the brittle, tangled mess on her head. Da lifts her when I am done, he puts her top on, carries her downstairs. I count the pills as I clean up. Seventeen, plus the one I washed down the bath. One pill for each year of my life. The bath mat is stained. I throw it out before the HealthTeam arrive.

    “Alethea?”

    Mama was staring at me; I realised she had been speaking to me for some time.

    “Tea time?” she asks. Her hand is on my knee still, and she’s stroking again. I hear Da in the kitchen, unpacking the bags that I brought home.

    “You can’t reach ten, Mama,” I say.

    “I know,” she says. “I know I can’t.”

    “I don’t want you to go to a rehabilitation and well-being centre.”

    “I don’t want to go to one.”

    “Mama?”

    “Yes?”

    “I don’t think it would help you.”

    “I don’t think it would either.”

    “I think they’d make you worse.”

    “I think they’d try to make me worse.” We were talking in whispers now, both conscious that Da would not like what we were saying, and both afraid to say that was the reason.

    “I think they’d try to stop you Defecting, Mama. And I don’t think they care what they do, as long as they can do that.”

    “I don’t want to Defect, Alethea. I want to behave. I want to be like everyone else. I want to be like I was, before…before…all of this. Before.”

    “Lila would hate this, Mama.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “So am I”

    “You don’t have to be sorry.”

    “We all do. We let her go.”

    “What else could we do?”

    I paused.

    “Mama?”

    “Yes?”

    “You know you’re not the only one, who Defects? We’re all Defectors. We all do, at some point, even if we don’t mean to. I’m a Defector. I think even Da is. But no one admits it.”

    “I know. But when they get found out, that’s it. They’re made to stop. It’s just the way it is.” She smiled at me. Her sad, unsmiling smile. I could hear Da pottering around the kitchen, the clatter of plates being laid on the table, one, two, three, the gush of air as the oven was opened and then shut again, the quiet sigh as the heat was turned off. Mama uncurled her legs from underneath her and pulled herself to her feet. I placed a hand on her back, guiding her up. She was still unstable on her legs; she reminded me of the baby deer that inhabit the forest along the wall in the east.

    Lila and I would watch them from a distance in the spring months, watch as they learned to walk, their mothers nudging their rears gently with their noses. They learned fast, and within weeks they would canter independently, lacing swiftly through the trees, chasing one another and leaping over fallen logs on the ground. Lila always tried to approach them, hoping she could tame one, train it to eat from her hand. But she never came close; they always scarpered before she was near enough to even try. I hadn’t been back to the woods since Lila had been Chosen. I had gone there for her, to watch her futile attempts to befriend wild animals, to laugh to myself as she raced between me and the deer, each time returning to me with mild frustration on her face and a pink tinge in her cheeks.

    Mama ate well that night, as if she had not been fed for many days.


    Chapter Four

    The following weeks brought weather conditions that mocked the mood of our home; bright sunshine, warm air and a pleasant light breeze. Mama insisted on frequently taking long afternoon walks around, across and zigzagging through the Land; at first she walked on her own, as Da and I had little desire to show our faces in public at this time, but I soon agreed to join her, and we would walk, leaving Da in the house alone.

    My first walk with Mama was on the firm condition that we would venture only as far as the hills, and she obliged my request. I worried often that she thought I was ashamed to be seen with her, but as she never broached the topic, I never had the chance to admit that it was in fact the fear that someone would say something to upset her that I was most concerned about. I had long ago become habituated to the spiteful whispers and raised eyebrows which so many people aimed at me. But Mama had spent the last five years in virtual solitary confinement. She hadn’t seen how people reacted. She didn’t know the names that people called our family. “Criminal”, “Defectors”, “ungrateful”, “evil”, “naïve” at best. I thought Mama was getting better, and I couldn’t bear the thought that someone might undo that. So we walked on the hills, and the next days we walked along the permitted perimeter of the wall. And soon, having hardly realised, Mama had moved me gradually closer in land, where the houses began to cluster together like starved lions around freshly killed prey, where the City was in eyes view, Decision Centres appearing to climb higher and higher as we got nearer.

    “Nothing’s changed since I saw it all last,” Mama observed one day, about two weeks in to our routine. We were sat on a stone wall bordering one of five agricultural fields in the Land. We were at a relatively high point; behind us in the distance were the hills which hid our house, in front of us was a sprawl of unordered streets, a corrugated iron and plastic veneer of market stall roofs, and further ahead, the peaks of the City buildings. The ground appears to slant only downwards from this perspective. I scanned my eyes around the scene in front of us, and realised she was right. Not one thing had changed. No new buildings, nothing knocked down, nothing has swopped places with something else. I remembered the news from yesterday.

    “There’ll be that new rehabilitation and well-being centre, soon,” I replied. “I wonder where it’ll be built”.

    “They’ll find space. They always do.”

    We just sat for another few moments, indulged in our own inner monologues, and then Mama said she was tired, and needed to head back.

    “You stay out if you want, Alethea. I’ll get back fine on my own,” she insisted. We both knew I wasn’t going to do that. So we began the walk back to the house.

    We were home shortly before the 3 o’clock news. They announced the site for the planned rehabilitation and well-being centre. It was to be built at the foot of the hills in the east of the Land.
    .

    Da was ecstatic.
    “This is perfect, just ideal. HealthTeam right outside our front door! Not that we’ll need them, necessarily. But if we do…you know! It’s good! It’s good to have that security!”

    “Da, it’s not another HealthBase – it’s rehabilitation…”

    “It doesn’t matter Alethea! The point is they’re there! It’s as if The Decider knows! It’s as if he knows that we could do with some extra help! I think he does know…oh…this, this is just perfect.”

    He hadn’t noticed that Mama had not said a word. He sprung from his chair and strolled from the room with a bounce. I heard him humming tunelessly in the kitchen, pottering around, clearing away pots and pans with jovial clangs. Mama wrenched herself from her chair, and I heard her ascend the stairs with painful slowness. I pushed myself up from my chair and headed for the stairs, shouting in to Da that I was not hungry for tea today. I could hear Mama in her bedroom when I reached the landing. I locked my bedroom door and sat at the wall which our rooms share. I rested my head against the wall, and listened intently. I heard the bed creak as she lay down. Her head was just an inch or two from mine, on the other side. If I held my breath, I could hear the steady pull of air in to her lungs and the gentle rush as she exhaled. I sat for two hours, until I heard her breaths become irregular, closely followed by the creak of the bed as she rose, and left to join Da downstairs.
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    It's really developing well Sammy.

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    (Original post by sammy-lou)
    Parts one and two to be found here:http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...php?p=36979218
    and theeeeeeeeeeeen here: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=1986124



    Chapter Three

    I arrived home with three minutes to spare before the 3 o’clock news. Da was in the kitchen when I came inside.

    “Cutting it fine again, Alethea,” he said, glancing at the clock.

    “How’s Ma been?” I said, choosing to ignore his comment. He shrugged, shaking his head and drawing in a breath.

    “Oh, the usual. She’s in the other room, waiting for it to start.”

    I left the bags of food on the table and went to sit next to Mama, who was curled up like a foetus on the corner of the settee. She put a thin, pale hand on my knee, stroking me absently as the news came on, as she used to do when I was young. The opening credits showed a sweeping view of the Decisions Centres, from bottom to top. The Guards flashed momentarily on the screen, then a length of soaring concrete, then the sky. The anchor appeared on the screen, an elderly man sitting in a high-backed velvet chair in front of an oak desk. Behind him, inscribed on the wall, were the words “The Decider, with the people’s well-being and liberty in mind.” He spoke with the voice of a much younger man, confident and strong.

    “The People awoke today to a new and exciting Decision Letter. The Decider, showcasing –yet again – his compassion and grace, has Decided that a system will now be implemented in which HealthBase visits will be tallied for each person in the Land. If any one person exceeds a limit of ten visits each year, they will be given a full Health Check, funded by The Decision Centre, at a rehabilitation and well-being centre which is to be built on the Land's outskirts. This will include any required treatment, to ensure that every person in the Land is able to live a healthy and free life, as The Decider wishes. This protective system will take effect immediately.”

    I looked at Da.

    “I didn’t know we had another letter this morning?”

    “No, I only saw it was there while you were at market. We must have missed it this morning when we went to get the train,” he replied. I tried to meet his eye, but he was gazing in to the screen.

    “I’m on eight,” Mama said quietly.

    “Yes, well, there’s no reason you need make it to ten,” Da said sharply. I glared at him but said nothing, turning again to the television.

    “In other news, an elderly gentleman was tragically killed this morning at the Land edge in the west. Witnesses described how they had seen him behaving suspiciously in the same location several days ago, Defecting Decision Number 501 by vandalising the wall. A team of Guards were dispatched to the area at 7 o’clock this morning, upon receiving reports of Defections in the area. They found his body at the wall, severely mutilated: evidence points to cause of death being animal attack. There were also signs of self-mutilation on the man’s corpse.

    ‘We at the Decision Centre would like to remind the people that this sad, sad event reinforces the purpose of every Decision. They are there for our own safety, and Defectors only risk their own safety by choosing not to abide by The Decider’s better judgement. We would like to remind you all that the Land edge in the west is - by Decision - not to be accessed, and any form of self-mutilation is - by Decision - not permitted.”

    The anchor spoke firmly, and looked solemnly at the camera, his gaze penetrating the television screen, aiming directly at me. I became aware that Mama’s hand had stopped stroking my knee. She was very still, and said nothing. The anchor continued speaking for ten minutes, but his words passed straight through me. My memory flashed back to yesterday afternoon, an hour after the news had finished.

    I couldn’t get in to the bathroom. The door was jammed. I pushed and pushed and it moved, slowly. I could see through the gap, Mama, in the bath. The empty box of pills floating in the water, elegantly surfing the tiny waves made by her short, sharp breaths. Da! I pushed myself against the door. Da! It crashed open, no longer supporting me, and I fell. Da is behind me. He pulls her out. Her clothes are soaked. She groans. I’ll call HealthBase. No! he says, stay here! He leaves. No Mama, no no... I push at her lungs, and push and push, and water comes out, and she splutters. Da is back with a glass. He holds her nose, pours the salty water in to her mouth. She splutters again, and heaves, and she keels over, bent double, vomit pools around us, the smell like putrid festering fruit, the pills are still whole, she gags. Call now, call, quick. I call. Please hurry, my Mama, she fainted in the bath, please be quick. Da takes off her wet clothes, he pushes past me, returns with dry ones. She’s so thin, her naked body emaciated and shivering, sparse, downy hair covering her, standing on end. There’s vomit in her hair. Wash it out, Alethea, please, quick. I wash my Mama’s hair, placing her over the edge of the bath, wincing as a stray pill falls from the brittle, tangled mess on her head. Da lifts her when I am done, he puts her top on, carries her downstairs. I count the pills as I clean up. Seventeen, plus the one I washed down the bath. One pill for each year of my life. The bath mat is stained. I throw it out before the HealthTeam arrive.

    “Alethea?”

    Mama was staring at me; I realised she had been speaking to me for some time.

    “Tea time?” she asks. Her hand is on my knee still, and she’s stroking again. I hear Da in the kitchen, unpacking the bags that I brought home.

    “You can’t reach ten, Mama,” I say.

    “I know,” she says. “I know I can’t.”

    “I don’t want you to go to a rehabilitation and well-being centre.”

    “I don’t want to go to one.”

    “Mama?”

    “Yes?”

    “I don’t think it would help you.”

    “I don’t think it would either.”

    “I think they’d make you worse.”

    “I think they’d try to make me worse.” We were talking in whispers now, both conscious that Da would not like what we were saying, and both afraid to say that was the reason.

    “I think they’d try to stop you Defecting, Mama. And I don’t think they care what they do, as long as they can do that.”

    “I don’t want to Defect, Alethea. I want to behave. I want to be like everyone else. I want to be like I was, before…before…all of this. Before.”

    “Lila would hate this, Mama.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “So am I”

    “You don’t have to be sorry.”

    “We all do. We let her go.”

    “What else could we do?”

    I paused.

    “Mama?”

    “Yes?”

    “You know you’re not the only one, who Defects? We’re all Defectors. We all do, at some point, even if we don’t mean to. I’m a Defector. I think even Da is. But no one admits it.”

    “I know. But when they get found out, that’s it. They’re made to stop. It’s just the way it is.” She smiled at me. Her sad, unsmiling smile. I could hear Da pottering around the kitchen, the clatter of plates being laid on the table, one, two, three, the gush of air as the oven was opened and then shut again, the quiet sigh as the heat was turned off. Mama uncurled her legs from underneath her and pulled herself to her feet. I placed a hand on her back, guiding her up. She was still unstable on her legs; she reminded me of the baby deer that inhabit the forest along the wall in the east.

    Lila and I would watch them from a distance in the spring months, watch as they learned to walk, their mothers nudging their rears gently with their noses. They learned fast, and within weeks they would canter independently, lacing swiftly through the trees, chasing one another and leaping over fallen logs on the ground. Lila always tried to approach them, hoping she could tame one, train it to eat from her hand. But she never came close; they always scarpered before she was near enough to even try. I hadn’t been back to the woods since Lila had been Chosen. I had gone there for her, to watch her futile attempts to befriend wild animals, to laugh to myself as she raced between me and the deer, each time returning to me with mild frustration on her face and a pink tinge in her cheeks.

    Mama ate well that night, as if she had not been fed for many days.


    Chapter Four

    The following weeks brought weather conditions that mocked the mood of our home; bright sunshine, warm air and a pleasant light breeze. Mama insisted on frequently taking long afternoon walks around, across and zigzagging through the Land; at first she walked on her own, as Da and I had little desire to show our faces in public at this time, but I soon agreed to join her, and we would walk, leaving Da in the house alone.

    My first walk with Mama was on the firm condition that we would venture only as far as the hills, and she obliged my request. I worried often that she thought I was ashamed to be seen with her, but as she never broached the topic, I never had the chance to admit that it was in fact the fear that someone would say something to upset her that I was most concerned about. I had long ago become habituated to the spiteful whispers and raised eyebrows which so many people aimed at me. But Mama had spent the last five years in virtual solitary confinement. She hadn’t seen how people reacted. She didn’t know the names that people called our family. “Criminal”, “Defectors”, “ungrateful”, “evil”, “naïve” at best. I thought Mama was getting better, and I couldn’t bear the thought that someone might undo that. So we walked on the hills, and the next days we walked along the permitted perimeter of the wall. And soon, having hardly realised, Mama had moved me gradually closer in land, where the houses began to cluster together like starved lions around freshly killed prey, where the City was in eyes view, Decision Centres appearing to climb higher and higher as we got nearer.

    “Nothing’s changed since I saw it all last,” Mama observed one day, about two weeks in to our routine. We were sat on a stone wall bordering one of five agricultural fields in the Land. We were at a relatively high point; behind us in the distance were the hills which hid our house, in front of us was a sprawl of unordered streets, a corrugated iron and plastic veneer of market stall roofs, and further ahead, the peaks of the City buildings. The ground appears to slant only downwards from this perspective. I scanned my eyes around the scene in front of us, and realised she was right. Not one thing had changed. No new buildings, nothing knocked down, nothing has swopped places with something else. I remembered the news from yesterday.

    “There’ll be that new rehabilitation and well-being centre, soon,” I replied. “I wonder where it’ll be built”.

    “They’ll find space. They always do.”

    We just sat for another few moments, indulged in our own inner monologues, and then Mama said she was tired, and needed to head back.

    “You stay out if you want, Alethea. I’ll get back fine on my own,” she insisted. We both knew I wasn’t going to do that. So we began the walk back to the house.

    We were home shortly before the 3 o’clock news. They announced the site for the planned rehabilitation and well-being centre. It was to be built at the foot of the hills in the east of the Land.
    .

    Da was ecstatic.
    “This is perfect, just ideal. HealthTeam right outside our front door! Not that we’ll need them, necessarily. But if we do…you know! It’s good! It’s good to have that security!”

    “Da, it’s not another HealthBase – it’s rehabilitation…”

    “It doesn’t matter Alethea! The point is they’re there! It’s as if The Decider knows! It’s as if he knows that we could do with some extra help! I think he does know…oh…this, this is just perfect.”

    He hadn’t noticed that Mama had not said a word. He sprung from his chair and strolled from the room with a bounce. I heard him humming tunelessly in the kitchen, pottering around, clearing away pots and pans with jovial clangs. Mama wrenched herself from her chair, and I heard her ascend the stairs with painful slowness. I pushed myself up from my chair and headed for the stairs, shouting in to Da that I was not hungry for tea today. I could hear Mama in her bedroom when I reached the landing. I locked my bedroom door and sat at the wall which our rooms share. I rested my head against the wall, and listened intently. I heard the bed creak as she lay down. Her head was just an inch or two from mine, on the other side. If I held my breath, I could hear the steady pull of air in to her lungs and the gentle rush as she exhaled. I sat for two hours, until I heard her breaths become irregular, closely followed by the creak of the bed as she rose, and left to join Da downstairs.
    also the spelling and punctuation is spot on... unheard of in TSR
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    Just read through all four chapters (perfect revision procrastination!) and really enjoyed it. The idea the story is based on is quite unnerving, but you've handled it well- you've gone into enough detail but at the same time the reader is still in the dark about a lot of things, making them want to read more. Your characterisations are great, too. It's an easy read but well-written, and I look forward to reading the next chapter!
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    (Original post by the bear)
    also the spelling and punctuation is spot on... unheard of in TSR
    Thank you! And yeah, I'm really tight with myself on that, bad spelling and punctuation ruins anything I'm reading for me!


    (Original post by llacerta)
    Just read through all four chapters (perfect revision procrastination!) and really enjoyed it. The idea the story is based on is quite unnerving, but you've handled it well- you've gone into enough detail but at the same time the reader is still in the dark about a lot of things, making them want to read more. Your characterisations are great, too. It's an easy read but well-written, and I look forward to reading the next chapter!
    Hey, thank you for taking the time to read through everything and comment, I know it's quite time-consuming so I really appreciate it! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I should be posting the next chapter or two over the next couple of weeks
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    (Original post by sammy-lou)
    Thank you! And yeah, I'm really tight with myself on that, bad spelling and punctuation ruins anything I'm reading for me!




    Hey, thank you for taking the time to read through everything and comment, I know it's quite time-consuming so I really appreciate it! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I should be posting the next chapter or two over the next couple of weeks
    hi. sorry i forgot to actually comment on the part two of the story. just wanna say its still really good! im definitely anticipating the next installment! its all developing nicely and getting quite creepy too lol!
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    (Original post by ugk4life)
    hi. sorry i forgot to actually comment on the part two of the story. just wanna say its still really good! im definitely anticipating the next installment! its all developing nicely and getting quite creepy too lol!
    Hey, no worries! I had hoped to have written more by now but been really bogged down with other work, it will be here soon!
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    Did you get inspiration from George Orwell?

    Either way it's well written (part 1 too) and keeps it interesting so people don't drift off, I don't think I can anymore criticism apart from that sorry. Do you plan to write a novel based on this?
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    (Original post by The Cornerstone)
    Did you get inspiration from George Orwell?

    Either way it's well written (part 1 too) and keeps it interesting so people don't drift off, I don't think I can anymore criticism apart from that sorry. Do you plan to write a novel based on this?
    Not intentionally, but I can see there is something very 1984 about it, which wouldn't suprise me as I did enjoy that book. The more I read this story back to myself the more I can see parallels with other similar stories that I've read.

    Thank you very much for your comments. The Decider started off as a short story but I just carried it on after I had some nice comments from people on TSR. I'm not entirely sure where it's going to be honest. I think I'll continue as I am until I decide!
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    (Original post by ugk4life)
    hi. sorry i forgot to actually comment on the part two of the story. just wanna say its still really good! im definitely anticipating the next installment! its all developing nicely and getting quite creepy too lol!

    (Original post by llacerta)
    Just read through all four chapters (perfect revision procrastination!) and really enjoyed it. The idea the story is based on is quite unnerving, but you've handled it well- you've gone into enough detail but at the same time the reader is still in the dark about a lot of things, making them want to read more. Your characterisations are great, too. It's an easy read but well-written, and I look forward to reading the next chapter!
    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...1#post37796211

    cheeky link to the next installment if you're interested guys!

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