This was a bit of a challenge for me, since I like to write lenghty pieces, and the word limit for my genre was 4000. Well, when I typed up my story it was only about 2500 words, so I've added a part or two and I hope it all flows smoothly. I'm looking for people to critique spelling, grammar, and such, but more specifically, just the piece as a whole. Any good or no good at all? I would love to know.
The story itself revolves around two eleven-year-old brothers in an alternate world. It's around 3700 words now (a little over six pages) and is perfectly safe. The highest rating I would give it would be PG, for one of the last scenes.
Please, please critique! *bows*
The small wooden rowboat gently rocked with the water as it drifted down the clear river. Wind whistled through broken reeds, gently stirring the fuzzy cattails and long green grass, creating the whispers of the world. A few scattered clouds sat in endless blue as soft white explosions while the sun shone in the sky with brilliant gold smiles, spilling beams of luminescent laughter onto the land and into his face.
David’s dusky blonde hair sat on his eyes, protecting them from the sun and getting caught in his eyelashes every time he blinked. With a sigh, he brought his hand up and brushed the locks from his dark eyes, closing them again as the sun bled its warmth and brightness all over him. The river flowing beneath the wooden boat and carrying him downstream whispered against the shore and playfully lapped at the small hull that supported him. Occasionally he heard a fish splash or an animal scurry away from the river’s edge and into the forest. It was so peaceful out here, except...
“Move your feet,” he suddenly said, elbowing the legs beside him. “They reek.”
“You move yours,” his brother mumbled sleepily from the vicinity of David’s feet.
“There’s no room to!”
“Exactly. So shut up.”
David sighed and lay his head back down on the boat their father had made for them a few weeks before he died. He tried to get comfortable again, but his wings ached dully underneath him, pressured from the small body on top of the white feathers. Getting a mischievous idea, he suddenly grinned and grabbed the side of the boat. Moving his body from side to side, he started rocking the boat back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until- splash!
“David!” Jakob yelled after his sinking brother, irritated that his rest had been disturbed so rudely. The other was content to just float there for a few moments though, feeling the bubbles brush against his fingers and the water stream against his downy feathers. With a grin that had a slew of bubbles pouring from his mouth, David kicked his feet and pumped his wings, surfacing with a small gasp.
“I was sleeping, butthead,” his twin pouted, slouching against the side of the settling rowboat and flexing his dark leathery wings.
“I know, stinker,” David grinned.
“Don’t get me wet.”
“Okay.” He promptly rolled on his back and kicked his legs furiously, sending great splashes of water up to soak his brother.
“Argh! Don’t, David!” he yelled in protest, blocking his face with his arms and leaning back.
The other flipped to his stomach and swam up to the small boat, grabbing the edge and yanking on it hard enough to send a flustered Jakob overboard. He came up coughing and spluttering a few moments later. David laughed and put distance between himself and his twin, reaching up to flick dusky blond hair out of his eyes as he did so.
“Sorry, did I get you wet?” he taunted, sticking his tongue out playfully.
Light-colored eyes glared at him as Jakob pushed his own dark shaggy hair out of his face. “You really suck, you know that?”
“I know,” he grinned.
“Payback!” the other declared, pushing his body forward with his dark wings suddenly and surprising David. Jakob grabbed his brother’s shoulders and pushed him down under the water, even as he thrashed in protest. When the angel was finally let up, gasping and panting, Jakob was snickering at him. With a playful growl, David grabbed him.
The two brothers played heartily; dunking, pulling, splashing and taunting. They would hold each other under the water, but not for too long, and would wrestle for dominance. They splashed laughing faces or dove underwater and pulled each other’s ankles. Jakob had a bit of an advantage because David’s wings were so heavy in the water, but he always went easy on him.
Suddenly though, Jakob had his hands on his brother’s shoulders, holding him underwater and not letting him back up. David opened his eyes and grabbed at his hands, but through the clarity of the water he could see his twin’s normally light eyes shaded and filled with thrill. The thrill of the hunt.
Panic surged through him, igniting in his veins to blaze and tickle his heart and mind. David’s lungs screamed as he released a stream of bubbles, which escaped to the surface he could see, and the sunlight beyond. Involuntarily he opened his mouth to suck air in, but he inhaled water instead. He tried to cough it out and take a breath, but Jakob wasn’t letting him up! David thrashed and choked as a slow grin full of madness and lunacy took over Jakob’s face and made his eyes gleam. As his chest tightened unbearably and his vision darkened, David had never felt so utterly terrified.
A lucky kick saved him though, delivered right to Jakob’s stomach. He let him go, and David tried to make it to the surface, but his mind felt so dark, his body heavy, his wings an unimaginable burden... Then a hand grabbed his wrist and yanked him to the surface, throwing him on the riverbank where he gasped and immediately threw up more water than he thought his convulsing stomach would hold. David gripped the green grass as he shuddered and convulsed, gasping air and coughing all the burning water out of his lungs, hot tears coursing down his cheeks to add to the wet mess. When he finally felt it was over, he flipped over on his back, filling his lungs with sweet life-giving air over and over and over, not caring about his wings that were crumpled underneath him. Tears leaked out the corners of his eyes to tickle his ears as his bare chest rose and fell with his heartbeat, which was deafening to him. His breathing seemed too loud on the suddenly still day; even the river was no longer peaceful, but slightly annoying. Why was his hearing so intense? And why couldn’t he hear Jakob?
He sat up what felt like hours later, wiping the rest of the water and tears from his face and looking around for his brother. He stood clumsily and pushed his damp hair back with both hands as his dark eyes found Jakob down by the shore. He’d apparently gone to fetch their boat, which had drifted away during their playing, before coming back. The small rowboat was belly-up about a foot away from his brother, who was curled up in a little ball with his knees hugged to his chest and his black wings wrapped securely around his body, as if protecting him.
David let a small sigh escape him as he walked down to the edge, gently flapping his white wings to try and dry them a little. Jakob was hiding his face in his knees and didn’t look up when he got closer. Without a word, David sat down next to him, hugging his own knees and resting his chin on them.
Their mother had died giving birth to them. In their world, the only two people were the angels and the devils, and it was against both the law and nature for them to be anything more than bitter acquaintances. But their parents hadn’t cared; they loved each other anyway. They built a home out in the country, and soon were on their way to having twin boys. But Jakob was a devil growing inside an angel’s body, and no matter how much she loved her babies, nothing could stop the dark illness that ate her from the inside out.
When they were just six, their father had sat them down and told them why they didn’t have a mom, and why the town treated them so harsh. Rejection and prejudice ran strong in the world, even with two little boys who only knew they were different because of the way people treated them. Their father had told them that their mother birthed them two months prematurely. It was the last thing she did, except for the smile she gave her babies before she died. He hadn’t meant to tell them why she passed away, but Jakob, ever curious, was adamant about knowing.
Their dad tried to tell them nicely, but no matter how hard he tried, there was no way he could gently tell his sons that they were the reason their mother, his beloved wife, was dead. They had planned on having angel babies, assuming that her blood would be able to dominate his in their little ones. They had no idea that it was actually the opposite. And even if Jakob hadn’t been born, David still had devil blood in him. His dark eyes were the proof.
Jakob took it hard. All the times he got too rough playing with his brother, all the times he’d destroy things for no reason, all the times he’d crave for something meaty and bloody... All these things were his devil blood fighting and reacting against the angel blood inside of him.
David understood better than anyone as the closest one to his brother. He knew it wasn’t his fault the way he was, and never hated him because of it. Not even when Jakob tried to kill him, which was why he was sitting next to him now. David knew Jakob hated the way he was, and even though David didn’t blame him, the devil-child blamed himself.
David stretched his right wing out and wrapped it around Jakob, keeping his left around himself. He squeezed him with it a little, trying to reassure him. Trying to save him from his own darkness.
A couple hours later, the brothers were walking back to their home, following the winding dirt path through the woods with bare feet that knew the way by heart. They took periodic breaks; even though their boat was small, it was heavily made from sturdy oak. They didn’t talk much on the way back, except when David pointed out a bird or plant that captured his fancy.
“Lookit that one!” he suddenly exclaimed, dropping his end of the boat and chasing some strange creature into the forest.
Jakob grunted as he was suddenly left to hold the heavy rowboat by his lonesome, flapping his dark wings to help balance himself as he quickly set it down. With an aggravated sigh, he stepped in front of and sat down on the belly of the vessel, resting his chin in his hands and blowing his dark bangs out of his eyes. It would do no good to chase after him; David would have to come back by himself on his own time.
His brother returned not too long later, holding a little flower and looking triumphant. “I didn’t catch the animal, but look what I found!” he beamed, wings twitching with excitement.
Jakob’s frustrations faded at the exposure to his twin’s cute innocence. He let David bring the bright yellow flower over to him, his fingers gently twirling the stem as light-colored eyes observed its delicate and layered petals. “Oh, I’ve seen one of these before.” He shut his eyes, trying to think. He loved to read anything he could get his hands on, especially informational books. David always brought him things, curious about what they were, and Jakob always tried his best to appease him. He’d read countless books on animals and flowers, as they were cheap and easy to find. “It’s a zinnia,” he opened his eyes. “A yellow zinnia.”
“It’s really cool!”
“I think it means something like ‘daily remembrance’.”
Jakob gave him a small smile. “Daily remembrance. Um, like remembering things all the time. No wait, it can be a token too. Something given out of love or something.” He was pretty sure he got that right.
His brother crossed his arms and scrunched his nose in thought. “So... would our boat be a remembrance? Cause Dad gave it to us because he loved us?”
“I think so.” He wasn’t sure if the word was being used correctly or not, but the idea sounded good, and that’s all David cared about.
“So our boat is a zinny?” he shouted, breaking out into a wide smile.
“What- no. A zinnia is this flower,” he waved the plant in his hand, “and it means ‘daily remembrance’. Another example of a daily remembrance is, for us, our boat.”
“Oh,” David said, blinking.
“Never mind,” the dark-haired boy waved it off, his brother clearly not getting it. “Let’s go; I don’t wanna be stuck out here in the dark.”
“Scaredy-cat!” David laughed, running back to the front of the boat and lifting it up as Jakob slid off it, frowning.
“Am not! You’re the scared one!”
“I don’t mind being out here after dark!”
“Yeah right! Says the boy that crawls into my bed almost every night cause he’s afraid of noises that are all in his head!”
David stuck his tongue out, flapping his wings with faint irritation.
Jakob stuck his out in return, then lifted his end of the boat, leaving the yellow zinnia on its belly. The boys set one edge on their shoulders while their hands held the other side and proceeded home. They got there without any more interruptions, and with enough time to run to the market for supper.
“I’ll go to town!” David volunteered after helping Jakob set the boat up properly against the side of their small house. “We need more apples anyways.”
“Sure,” Jakob shrugged, bending over and grabbing the fallen zinnia. He hated going into town. It was mostly angels, and none took a little devil running around too kindly. He walked in the house and set the little flower on the counter, where David was fishing money out of the cookie jar there. Jakob settled into the nook in the livingroom where all his books were stacked, and was soon immersed in his own little world. Shoving the handful of coins in his dirty jeans, David quickly pulled on a shirt, grabbed a basket, and ran out the door. Because of their wings, all the shirts were button downs with large holes in the back. The angel had on a loose white one that was striped with blue and red. He left the long shirt sleeves unbuttoned to flap in the wind as he raced towards town, bare feet smacking against the dirt road.
Knowing that their marriage was unaccepted, their parents had built a house of their own out in the rural areas between towns. It was about a ten minute run from their house to town with nothing but green hills and dirt paths between. David got to the busy market in good time, everyone ignoring the dirty little angel with torn jeans and no shoes. And dark eyes.
Jakob closed his book as the light from the window became too dim to read by. He stood and stretched languidly before venturing out.
“David?” he called, rubbing his tanned shoulder and flapping his dark wings to stretch them. His light eyes wandered around the house, dimmed with the setting sun. “David?” he inquired again, finding the light switch. The cookie jar his brother had gotten the money out of remained upturned, just how he’d left it. Their dad had been saving almost all of his life, but he was dead from an accident and had left two orphans with ‘dirty blood’ behind. Sometimes the boys felt guilty for using the money, but they were too young to work (who would hire them anyway?) and needed to eat.
Alarm spiked in the dark-haired boy as he realized that his brother had yet to come back. Within seconds he was tearing down the front steps and sprinting along the dirt path, the last rays of the dying sun at his back.
Jakob found him in two minutes that felt like eternity, his brother kneeling on the ground, wicker basket forgotten at his side. “David?” he panted, coming up alongside him in a walk. His heart paused at what he found.
A cat, probably attacked by a stray dog, lay torn open on the side of the road, fur torn and its insides glistening in the traces of sunlight left in the world.
“David.” How long had he been kneeling beside this bloody corpse? “David, let’s go.” Jakob grabbed his arm and tried to pull him up, but his brother’s limp wings were getting in the way. “David!” he snapped, tightening his grip on his arm, dismaying when the other didn’t respond.
Finally he stirred, trying to pull his arm back. “No,” he muttered absently, as if his mind were a million miles away. “No, I have to save it. Jakob, it- it’s hurting.”
“It’s dead,” he hissed, yanking on his arm again. He had to get David away as soon as possibly. “Let’s go. Now.”
“No, Jakob,” his voice cracked. He turned his head upwards to look at his brother, dark eyes blank behind locks of light hair, tears streaked through his dirt-smudged cheeks. Jakob felt any hope he had plummet to the pit of his stomach in a heavy, solid lump.
Angels were gifted with the power to heal; the more powerful and practiced one was, the more they could cure. Young angels, or ones that didn’t care to expand their powers, could only heal small injuries. But David couldn’t heal anything. He felt the calling, the urge to help, but the devil blood inside of him blocked any power he might have. The result of trying to heal caused David excruciating pain, even though the craving to heal was so strong he couldn’t control himself.
David had probably come across the eviscerated cat and become overwhelmed with the desire to cure it. But when he did, he was hurt. He could have been out here for hours, for all Jakob knew, trying in vain to take away the hurt. Only it wasn’t the dead cat hurting; it was David.
“It’s dead,” he pressed, trying to get his brother to see that even if he had the ability to heal, he couldn’t do a thing for the unfortunate creature. “David, c’mon. Now,” Jakob demanded, pulling back and managing to move him a little. “David!”
“No!” he protested, reaching over with his other arm to push Jakob off of him. “No! I have to save it!” Fresh tears started to flow down his cheeks. “Jakob, please! I want to help it! It’s hurting!”
“It’s dead!” he shouted, flapping his wings to help pull his brother to his feet.
“No!” David sobbed, digging his heels into the ground. “No, Jakob! I want to help it! Jakob!” He tore away from his brother, back to the body. He clapped his hands together and sniffed as he tried to call forth his power to gather between his palms, which should have been as natural as breathing to him.
Jakob stepped closer slowly, watching his twin with saddened eyes. David’s face smoothed and his breathing deepened. He looked calm and at peace. Ethereal, even. But suddenly his face scrunched again and tightened, pain blossoming on his features. Just as Jakob was about to stop him, David pulled back with a sharp cry, clutching at his chest as his breathing came out in short gasps.
Sighing, the dark-haired boy walked over to the other side and bent over, grabbing the forgotten basket full of fruits and a few meats, then his brother’s hand. Jakob tugged him to his feet and kept a hold of his hand as he started to lead him home, David following somewhat reluctantly, shuffling his dirty feet and letting his white wings drag behind him. He kept his hand clasped with Jakob’s, letting his twin lead him home as he rubbed his eyes, soft sobs floating up in the darkening sky.