On to First Page Friday and it's a good one!
by Jericho McKraven
Bathed in the light of a half crested moon, the Raven sank back into the shadows and waited. Nightfall beyond the edge of the forest was aglow with the flickering light of freshly lit lanterns, yet darkness crept slowly across the village, unheeding of the fragile glow that glimmered softly from each tiny flame. Soon, all would be drenched in night and the Raven would emerge.
He watched at a distance from his perch in a tree and remained there until well after sunset. He was waiting for his prey.
The Raven was not a creature that craved attention. He preferred the solitude and comfort of the dark. Rarely did he ever find a reason to grace the day with his presence, and today was no exception. The Raven found that he was much more suited for night and was less conspicuous as a hunter when clothed so deeply in shadows.
Easing away from the thick tangled branches of a gnarled old oak, the Raven grinned wickedly as he caught sight of his target.
A tall, lean, middle-aged man who stank of ale, stepped clumsily onto the cobblestone lane and fumbled arrogantly with the over-sized jewels that garnished his fingers. Rubies and emeralds shown brilliantly in the flickering lantern light and seemed to take on a life of their own as he twisted and tugged at their settings.
Finding the situation quite irresistible, Raven left his post at the edge of the forest and drew dangerously near the object of his interest.
As his prey made its way casually down the streets and lanes of the village, Raven followed. Keeping always to the shadows, he stalked in silence, remaining unnoticed until deciding that it was time to end this most simple of hunts.
Ms. Shreditor's Comments
What I really like about this first page is that the narrator isn’t human. The Raven observes the scene silently from his perch, and we hold our breath as his focus narrows to his prey. In the absence of dialogue, the suspense builds quietly.
Perhaps most chilling is the Raven’s use of the pronoun “its” to describe his drunken target. With just one word, we understand something fundamental about this narrator: He operates according to a different code than humans, and he has no qualms about the hunt. He is bucking his place in the food chain, reducing a human to an “it” and an “object.” This raises some interesting questions about the story that follows. Does the entire story take place from the Raven’s point of view, or is this merely a prologue? I’m not a huge fan of prologues as a general concept, but if this is one, I’m willing to make an exception because it leaves such a strong first impression.
Mood can be one of the trickiest intangibles in a story. If a writer strings words and images together carelessly, a story can feel hollow. Here, we can readily envision the foreboding darkness. What gives this piece a cinematic feel, though, is the effective use of lighting. In just one page, we experience the moonlight, the glimmering lanterns, and the gleams of light reflected on the prey’s gemstones. These shards of light illuminate only the most important details. When contrasted with the darkness (in which our narrator lurks), it creates a sort of literary chiaroscuro.
The page is quite clean. It’s clear that the author did some polishing before submitting this. There are a few minor issues (“clothed” in shadows instead of “cloaked,” “shown” brilliantly instead of “shone”). I’d also recast the second sentence so that it doesn’t contain both “aglow” and “glow.” Otherwise, though, there isn’t much to fix here. This feels submission-ready to me.
Thank you to Jericho and Ms. Shreditor. See you next week!