Open Pen

The Strange Case of Iris and Siri: An Open Pen Critique

I am slowly getting through the Open Pen submissions. This week, we have a short story from Gabby. You can check out her website or her two published books here: Gabby’s Books.

Gabby wrote this mystery piece for a writing contest through her local library. Her story was inspired by “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Her limit is 1200 words, so please be aware of this word limit as you comment. Specifically, Gabby wanted to see if her mystery made logical sense and if it was interesting.

Next week, we have a critique from C. B. Cook, and the week after that, we have Sami P. Don’t worry– I am going to get to your pieces soon. 😉

Thanks for commenting, and if you want to submit a piece of your writing for a critique, you are welcome to here: Open Pen Critiques.

Have a great week!

God bless,

Gabrielle

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The Strange Case of Iris and Siri by Gabby G.

At that moment, Iris knew — at least she thought she knew.

“It was Claudia!” she shrieked, her green eyes glazed in pain and confusion. “Joel, you have to believe me. Why would I write this letter? Why would I ever say these things? It has to have been Claudia. She hates our friendship. You know that, Joel!” She thrust her last hope at him. “It isn’t even my handwriting.”

He said nothing. Just walked out the door. It slammed behind him with a deep echo. The note was crumpled in Iris’s shaking hands.

I smiled.

My plan was working. Perfectly.

“Who is this Iris?” you may ask.

Well, coincidentally, I have known her for quite a long time — for all of her fifteen years, actually. Through the mirror she has green eyes and brown hair. Straight. You would probably consider her pretty. I have heard her called this, and at one time I would have agreed.

I used to watch people and think they were pretty, even beautiful sometimes. I may be quiet, but I am not blind.

When Iris was little, she used to talk to me. She asked me about silly things such as puppies and rainbows. She created stories for me embellished with imaginary happenings. No matter how insignificant these conversations were, though, I cared.

I would always answer her. Even though my kind fears the night, I would light each candle in the candelabra every evening and reply to her. I loved her enough to risk the darkness. Every morning on her dresser, there would be a note.

We used to dance, too. In the dust of the sunshine, we would dance. Flying around us while we twirled, piano notes would stream from the radio. Her eyes would shine.

She was my girl. And I had loved her.

You may further wonder who I am and how I know Iris so well. It’s very simple, actually.

I am Siri. Her shadow.

Eleven days has passed and Joel has yet to speak to or even acknowledge Iris’s existence. I am quite proud of myself but growing impatient. Has she completely forgotten my penmanship? It’s high time that she notices me again.

She sits at the piano playing a depressing, yet melodious tune. Beethoven, I suppose. Suddenly, she smashes her fists down. The keys cry out in anguish under her clenched hands. A moment later her head is bowed towards the piano. I can hear her tears bouncing off the ivory keys.

Humans are so confusing. Sometimes I think they all need to be confined to asylums. Then again, I realize you may not know much about us shadows either; however, there is a difference. We care. We at least try to understand you selfish beasts as much as we are able. But you — you don’t care at all. Humans only care about themselves.

How do I know? Here’s how.

One day Iris and I were best friends. The next day she met Joel Walker. She hasn’t spoken to me since that day. Instead she talks to Joel. She dances with Joel. She even writes letters to Joel, but he doesn’t write back as often as I had.

Iris only has one nuisance in her life and that’s Claudia. This girl is jealous of Iris’s friendship with Joel. Frankly, I don’t blame her one little bit.

It must be obvious that I have to do whatever it takes to stop Iris from ignoring me and fawning over Joel. As you humans would put it, ‘I have turned the tables.’ You may be wondering if I am ashamed of what I am doing. My answer is no.

If only you were a shadow you would understand. We are bound to a human. We are unable to talk. We are forced to do as our human does.

Until sunset.

Many shadows fear the night. I used to myself. But now I reveal in it. In fact, it suits me quite well. Darkness is my friend for it grants me freedom for a small while.

However, there is only one way for a shadow to truly be free. They must break from their human to become a ghost; not as free or as tangible as a human, but not as enslaved or as overlooked as a shadow.

As Iris continues to ignore me, I am finally considering this as an option.

Civilly, I follow her to the mirror the next morning. She is different somehow. I sense it. As she stares at her reflection with blank, swollen eyes, I realize what has changed.

Her eyes — her striking green eyes I have always envied — they are flecked with grey. Grey like a shadow. Grey like my torn soul.

Do you know what has happened? Do you know why this has happened? I do.

It is because of me that my girl who was so very sweet and loquacious and good is gradually turning bad. Iris is turning bad and I am not sure if I care anymore. Perhaps shadows and humans are not as different as I had once thought.

From the pocket of her robe Iris pulls out the note. Joel’s note. The note that I penned in her name. Her speckled eyes grab onto the page. They finally study my handwriting. Her body tenses. She rushes to her closet. Out she pulls a small box with rainbows on it no less.

I watch in awe. Silent as always.

Coughing, she shakily wipes off the dust and slowly, very slowly, removes the lid.

I feel myself starting to cry. Though shadows don’t have tears, I can taste the salty drops as if they were running down my face.

She saved each one. Each note.

Gently, she picks up the top paper and compares it with the note to Joel. “Why?” she murmurs softly. “Siri, why?”

In the middle of a sob, I pause. It has been so long since I have heard my name. It has been so long since my girl has talked to her shadow. If only I could speak. If only I could tell her sorry for hurting her so deeply.

But suddenly I straighten. Iris hurt me first. She abandoned me for nine years while I thought of her every day. I stayed by her side though she ignored me. She does not deserve my apology. I deserve hers. But even her apology would never make up for what she had done.

I am in a quandary no longer. I have finally decided what must be done. Later tonight I will write her a note — my final note. Little does Iris know that today was her last day with a shadow. Tomorrow I will be free.

At last I will bring the life of this unhappy shadow, Siri, to an end.

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22 thoughts on “The Strange Case of Iris and Siri: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. Hey, Gabby!

    I checked out your website, and it is so cool that you have traditionally published a book. I am really impressed 🙂

    I hope you don’t mind if I e-mail you comments on your piece (when you submitted the form, I was sent your e-mail address.) For prose, I often prefer to write my comments directly in the text and then send a Word document. If you would rather that I post my comments below, let me know, and I can do that, too.

    Also I might not get to critiquing your work until later today. I have a timed test this morning and a swim meet early this afternoon. I’m sorry for the inconvenience!

    God bless,
    Gabrielle

    Like

    1. First of all, thank you very much for helping me out with this short story! I am fine with you emailing me your comments whenever you have time. I was out all morning and afternoon so I completely understand!

      In Christ,
      Gabby

      Like

  2. Wow, this is really awesome! I loved the story and the plot, and it was an amazing piece of writing!!! My only critique is that, in one spot, you said “But now I reveal in it” which I think should be “But now I revel in it.” You did an amazing job with this story, and I absolutely adored the idea behind it. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so happy that you enjoyed the story!! Thank you for your critique. When I was editing, I kept coming back to the word “reveal” because it looked wrong. Haha silly me 🙂 thanks for pointing it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your story is so creative! I enjoyed reading every bit. 🙂 I love how her shadow’s name is Siri which is Iris spelled backward. So neat!
    I would change one of the lines at the beginning. “The note was crumpled in Iris’s shaking hands.” This line is written in passive voice, and generally active voice engages readers better. Maybe it could be changed to something like, “Iris crumpled the note in her shaking hand.”
    Amazing writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your suggestion, Megan! I never realized how the sentence was written passively, and that is definitely something I could change for the better. Also, I really appreciate the praise the gave my story 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Really interesting story, Gabby! As far as critiques go, everyone else got it mostly covered. There was one line that kind of threw me off. The one “She had green eyes and brown hair. Straight.” It seems to put unnecessary emphasis on straight hair, and after that I would usually expect it to be very relevant in the story.
    Really creative, awesome story, overall! 😀 I think my favorite description was the piano keys. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! One of my friends pointed that out as well. I changed that sentence to, “She had green eyes and straight, brown hair.”

      I play piano and I felt like I could write some of my love for the instrument into this story.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was such an incredible story! I couldn’t find anything wrong, except the part where you said reveal instead of revel, which someone else already put. But other than that, this was flawless! It was so suspenseful, I read and pondered over every word! Amazing story!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh! Oh, I love this! I was honestly too caught up in the story to notice anything to critique, but I’m agreeing with everyone on the little things, I suppose, and definitely agreeing with everyone on its awesomeness!!! Awesome job, Gabby!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, Gabby! This is really creative! I love the Iris/Siri name reverse! You definitely created a very strong voice in this piece. Your characters are very concrete, and have pretty well developed motives for your word limit!

    The only thing that seemed a little funny was that the shadow decided to leave at the end. It seems like, in these kinds of setups, the shadow usually conquers and destroys the good side, or at least sticks around to make things miserable, seeing as they represent the evil in ourselves that we can’t overcome on our own (thinking Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Gollum and Smeagull, etc.).
    Or maybe, out would make more sense if there wasn’t the detail about the gray fleks in her eyes.
    Unless…. Unless the point is she doesn’t need Siri anymore because she’s becoming her own shadow?
    Either way, maybe a bit more clarity on that would help.

    I hope that makes sense. ❤ And I totally admire your technique! I will have to check out your website!

    Like

  8. This story is so intriguing, I’ve often thought of what life would be like for shadows. This is how I always thought it would be. The writing is beautiful. I love the descriptions. This is the sort of story I love. Beautiful and shot through with tragedy. Melancholy and sinister and perfectly stunning. I love it!

    Like

  9. I suppose it’s a product of the word limit (1,200 words seems really short), but I felt like you didn’t spend enough time on the main story, and that the resolution came too quickly, especially for a mystery. Your intro was well done, but (if it’s not too late for the contest), I would suggest shortening it in favor of more meat. After the contest, you can revert to the original intro and still spend more time on the main bit. The whole thing felt a bit off, but no one else seems to be noticing that, and I can’t pinpoint what is causing it, so maybe it’s just me. Your breaking the fourth wall distracted me from the story. It may have just been how you did it, and you could change the way you presented it without making major revisions, but that needs some attention.

    Aside from that, and some technical problems (e.g. “Out she pulls a small box with rainbows on it no less” doesn’t convey Siri’s emotions properly and needs some punctuation changes), you did a fairly good job.

    Oh, and one more thing: Claudia’s presence in the story is very strange. You need to either add her in more or take her out entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great job on this piece Gabby! 😀 I thought the story was great, and I would absolutely love it if you wrote more about Siri and Iris. The personification of the piano “cry out in anguish under her clenched hands” was wonderful! I wasn’t able to find much to critique, but what bothered me was the passive voice you wrote in the sentence “The note was crumpled in Iris’s shaking hands.”
    Maybe you could write in a non-passive voice, like “Iris crumpled the note in her shaking hands”…? Other than that, and the things other people critiqued already, I really liked the story!

    Liked by 1 person

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