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10Beatrice Boyle
9C.L. Mareydt
10Nitz Kitty

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_In Search Of A Dream_

Patrick hunched down in his coat as the winter air swirled around him. His nose was already numb from being outside so long and he swore his toes had all frozen together into one big lump in his boots, making it close to impossible to walk. But he had to keep going. This was his only chance to put an end to this misery. To finally break free of everything that had been holding him down and keeping him from all his life could be.

He took in a deep breath through his frozen nose, coughed as the cold air hit his lungs and thought about turning back. Stopping, he turned to look at how far he had come, what he had faced to make it this far. Even though he only saw mountains and snow his mind conjured up everything he'd faced from the time he'd started his journey until now. Patrick turned to look at how much farther he'd have to go before it was finished and he could rest, warm and snug somewhere, anywhere, once this was over.

"I can't stop. I have to keep going." He said aloud. The wind replied back with a sharp blast to his front and he closed his eyes against the chills racing over his skin. Patrick couldn't stop, not because he didn't want to but because he was afraid to.

He knew the monestary was somewhere at the top of this mountain: He had seen it in a dream. In his minds eye, he knew exactly where it was, what the scenery looked like around it. In the dream, he could fly over the buildings and swoop around them. It was different in reality, of course - he had never felt the cold in his dreams; had never had to battle against snow-storms. But the monestary was out there, he knew it. He only needed to find it, and all his problems would be over.

He even knew the name of the monk he had to talk to. When he made it, he knew he had to knock five times on the door, and ask for Brother William.

Down below, on the windswept moors that had been his home for so many years, he also knew that They were out looking for him. He had made careful plans to get away without being missed, but he had always known he was only ever be buying himself a little extra time - they would have discovered his absence eventually, and then all hell would have broken loose. All this, he was sure must already have come to pass - even his careful preparations couldn't have allowed him to get away completely unnoticed - but he allowed himself a smile of smug satisfaction that he hadn't heard the sirens: he had hoped all along to get away far and fast enough not to know when the chase was begining; it was another sign that he was going to succeed.

He continued to push his way through the weather. Snow swirled around him, and he hugged his jacket in a futile effort to keep hold of the little warmth he still felt. Keeping his footing was also getting harder - the ground was getting more and more slippery, and as he ascended, the terrain was becoming rockier. Small stones and pebbles slipped under his feet, minature landslides that occasionally threatened to take his feet with them. He had to tread carefully, but his feet were becoming painful from the cold, and it was getting harder to keep going. He wished he could have prepared better - it would have been nice to have got some warmer clothing - but he had done the best he could: it hadn't been easy to get what he had without raising suspicion; if he had done any more, he would have been exposed before he had even started.

With a muttered prayer to Brother William and his collegues, Patrick was able to muster another reserve of energy. He strode forward with renewed purpose.

But the snow carried on falling, and although the wind did sometimes seem to ease off, it was only so it could build up to the extra strong blasts that were so effective at cutting right through his jacket and chilling him to his core.

And then, just as the first seeds of doubt were entering his mind, he saw it. It loomed out of the haze like a grey leviathan. The snow still battered him, making visibility almost zero, and it was hard to make out any details, but he was sure this was it. He staggered up to what he hoped was the front door, and beat his fist on it five times, praying fervently that he would be answered.

He listened intently for a sound; anything to tell him that he had been heard, but nothing happened. A couple of times he thought he caught the sound of chanting being carried to him by the wind, but the wind itself was howling and changing direction so much that the sounds were gone almost as soon as he heard them. He cursed his luck that he had chosen a day with such bad weather to make his journey. Another day, and it would have been different.

He considered whether he should knock again. But his dream had told him only about the one set of knocks. He had no idea what to do if they weren't answered. Or perhaps he wasn't at the front door? Maybe he should walk around and find another entrance? But what if someone answered his first knock and he wasn't there any more? The uncertainties tumbled one after the other through his mind. He wasn't used to this: He had never been uncertain of anything in this way before. He always knew what to do. But this was different.

* * * * *

When they found him, he was hunched against a sheltered rock-face, almost frozen to death, crying quietly to himself.

The snow storm had blown itself out and the sky had cleared, allowing the search to be extended by helicopter, and it was from the air that they finally spotted him. A rescue party was quickly on the scene, and Patrick was wrapped up and winched on board the chopper. But it was three weeks before he had recovered enough to give an account of his ordeal.

When he was finally discharged from the infirmary, he was taken directly to the governer's office. He had been there before, of course, but never under such circumstances, and he felt a genuine twinge of fear as he was led down the final corridor. Like a schoolboy, he thought, who knows he's about to be caned.

The door was opened, and he was ushered through.

The familiar voice of Mr van Sittart immediately filled the room: "Ah, Patrick," he said, "You put up a fine show there, didn't you."

Patrick's eyes darted nervously around the room in response.

"Take a seat," the governer said, "I want to show you something."

Patrick sat, uncomfortably, tense, and leaning forward.

Van Sittart also sat, and pushed a folded newspaper across the desk toward Patrick: "Take a look," he said, "you made the front page. I'm impressed."

Patrick scanned the page. 'Asylum Escapee Rescued', said the headline. His eyes flitted across the columns. The helicopter crew were heroes. The asylum procedures would have to be looked at. No mention of the monestary, but that was understandable - it was a secret; there was no reason why the journalist would know about it. And even if he did, no reason for him to mention it.

"Now why don't you tell me the story from your perspective?" said van Sittart amiably. He leaned back in his chair, and nodded encouragingly to Patrick. "Go on..."

Patrick felt able to tell them how he had escaped - he was fairly sure they would already know anyway, so there was nothing to be gained by holding anything back in that respect. They would know how he had got hold of the jacket and boots, how he had timed everything to fit the schedule, and how he had arranged diversions and excuses to explain his absense, so he told them everything.

What he didn't tell them was why he had done it. Of course, that was what they were most interested in, and they pressed him on it for weeks afterward, but he never broke. Brother William had told him that the monestary must remain secret, and he had no intention of breaking his word. Instead, he made up a weak excuse that he was simply sick of being confined. It was true enough up to a point, but they didn't believe him; they knew as well as he did that he was holding something back. They just never found out what.

Eventually the interrogations subsided. There was only a certain number of times that they could ask the same questions, and it was clear that the answer was not going to be given.

So after just a few short months, Patrick's routine was back to almost exactly the same as it always had been.

* * * * *

"I'm sorry about your troubles getting to us. I hope you have not been dissuaded from your quest? We are still waiting for you."

The coarse fibres of the monk's grey habit caught the light as he spoke, creating an eerie shimmering effect. His voice was the same as always - soft and calm, but at the same time powerfully intense, and his eyes gazed directly at Patrick with unhesitating boldness.

Patrick knew what he must do. His mind began sifting ideas; working out how things would be different this time. After breakfast, he would begin.

Spudley Strikes Again

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The following comments are for "In Search Of A Dream"
by Spudley


Perhaps its your title that hasn't pulled people in. I have been given the same advise - change your title if you want people to open it.

Your writing is smooth - there were several areas I understood what you meant, but were typos. I end up with those kinds of typos when I edit, cut and paste and miss the mistakes when I reread it.

The story kept me intersted and I did not think the guy was crazy at the beginning. It made me think of the movie, "A Beautiful Mind" where you are wondering all the way through if he's really crazy or there's some conspiracy going on. Also the book "I am the Cheese" that I read in Jr. High School.

I always like this kind of story because I see what a fine line there is between reality and insanity for so many people. I could overcome almost any handicap I think, just don't mess with my mind, please!

I might change the dream part because it is so overdone. Because he is certifiably crazy, you can have him refer to another way he got his information. Talk about the man in the college cafe who passes him notes or something (he thinks he's in college, but he's in the asylum). You can get away with anything because it can all be in his mind - and the reader need not know until the end that these other characters and events are not real. Maybe he could pull out his note in the govener's office and read it, when it is actually the next day's menu or something. You don't have to use this kind of idea, but you see what I mean about how limitless your options are, given his mental state, right?

I liked the way you found so many ways to describe the cold - an experience so common to man, that it is difficult to keep saying he's cold without being completely redundant.

Good work.


( Posted by: feliciastone [Member] On: January 18, 2005 )

A Travesty
Let me say first that it is a travesty that so few people have bothered to comment and rate this Write Off, because both of these entries are top notch. So with that said, here we go.


You have outdone yourself with this piece. You improve with each and every Write Off. This piece left me believing this was a fantasy tale at first and then seamlessly shifted into a more modern setting. The writing was tight and you did a good job of leaving the story at a satisfying place without rushing toward an ending.

I had a hard time rating this one, but the use of the monk in a dream was one of the things that did you in. I agree with felicia that you could have done something more original with that bit. If this hadn't been a Write Off, I would have given you a higher mark, but I connected with Jeff's tale on a more personal level and could find no fault in its telling.

But once again, this is excellent work.. I would like to see this story continued.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: January 20, 2005 )

I'm not a writer
but I am a reader and I like it...I'm also a person of few words...both stories were good but you get the 10...Kacee

( Posted by: Nitz Kitty [Member] On: January 20, 2005 )

Fun read!
This was a hoot. For those of you who don't know me, "hoot" is a high compliment. I enjoyed this lots. Reminds me of Harlan Ellison. I always like stories about crazy(?) people. Maybe it's because my dad's a shrink. Maybe it's because I need one. Who knows. Whatever the reason, this piece gave me pleasure. A real gas. Not what I was expecting at all, and isn't that why we read? To get away from what we expected. Props for nice use of the word "leviathan," too.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: January 21, 2005 )

I had to rate this a 10. I find this the better of the two, in my personal choice because your great ability to write SO much, in so few paragraphs. Perhaps it is the "dreamer" in me that I can truly say that I appreciate your ideas you put forth in a captivating manner.
Very hard to rate, when 1 is the only difference.
There is nothing of this I would change, hence, the 10. Great job Spudley.
My mind is working overtime here, wondering, , , what now? What will Patrick do?.....


( Posted by: Dareva [Member] On: January 21, 2005 )

Spud's Dreams...
...hello again, old chum.

My impressions:

Interesting twist, but I would have liked knowing a bit more about this monastary and why your protagonist is questing towards it. Sure, he's psychotic - or maybe he's not, but if there was some underlying reason, even something subtle, hinting at the symbolic nature of it, I would have been smoother to swallow.

Your decription of the cold was fantastic, perhaps too fantastic. I felt the urge to skip over sentences because they did not advance the story and gave snow imagery overkill.

Insanity is really fun to play with, and you left me contemplating whether or not the main character was a nut job or was in fact having some sort of religious epiphany. I love being left scratching my head ;) Good job, Spud! While your opponent had a much more formulaic plot, his character development gave him the edge this time around.

Thanks for the read! :)



( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: January 22, 2005 )

Nice work, Spudley! I had no idea where you were going with this at first, and the direction it ended up taking couldn't have been predicted from the opening paragraphs (not by me, anyway!). There are also a lot of unanswered questions, which I like.

My one gripe is this sentence: "All this, he was sure must already have come to pass - even his careful preparations couldn't have allowed him to get away completely unnoticed - but he allowed himself a smile of smug satisfaction that he hadn't heard the sirens: he had hoped all along to get away far and fast enough not to know when the chase was begining; it was another sign that he was going to succeed."

It's too long. By the time I got to the end of it, I couldn't remember what it was about!

In all, pretty damn good: 9/10

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: January 23, 2005 )

Gripping, Spud!
Well done Spud...unlike strangdaze, I found your description of the cold and his reaction to it, what made the story so real for me. I shivered as I read it...I hung on every word because you placed me there beside you, totally engrossed in his predicament! It was far from formulaic...if it had been, he would have succeeded in his quest and that would be that...end of story! But you've left me wondering what would happen to him next time...what would he do differently...would he succeed this time...did he really belong in that institution?

The sign of a good story for leaving me really caring about the character, and wanting to learn more. In that you have succeeded my friend.
You've sincerely earned my nod!


( Posted by: Beatrice Boyle [Member] On: January 24, 2005 )

Searching for a dream.
Firstly, many many thanks to everyone. To Jess for providing a really interesting starter, and to Jeff for writing an excellent story to compete against. Also thanks to everyone who commented on, voted for, or even just read my story. I hope you all enjoyed it.

I'll just respond to a few of the things that were said here:

To those who were wondering, yes - the main character is completely nuts. He's reacting perfectly rationally to the world as he sees it, but he's not seeing it the way everyone else sees it.

But I left that point as ambiguous as possible, because the story is from his viewpoint, and he doesn't recognise that he has a problem. (but I don't actually know much about psychiatry; it'd be interesting to know how realistic it was)

This was one of the quickest stories I've ever written - from the time I read the starter, it took me less than two hours to write it and post it on the site. It suprised even me how quickly it came out, but looking back, I could have spent a bit more time fleshing it out - particularly the dream sequence. I've already got a few ideas on how to improve it, so I may well do a re-write at some point.

I didn't think I'd written that much about the cold. Though perhaps you're right; I automatically skip over the first few paragraphs that make up the starter every time I read it, so I guess I missed how the descriptions I wrote might seem a bit much when added to what was already there.

The title was the one part that I struggled over. As I said, I was trying to keep his mental state ambiguous, so I didn't want to give anything away in the title. I toyed with calling it "Escape"... but that just happened to also be the title of my previous write-off entry, so I settled for "In Search of a Dream". I think it works.

Anyway, thanks again for all the comments and votes. It's good to be back in the write-off game again... it's given me a thirst for more! :-D

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: January 25, 2005 )

My hat is off to you Sir.
Thank you for the kind words and the welcome back. I have been away too long and I am glad to be back.

I enjoyed your story as well. The Write-off was always interesting to me and I have participated in quite a few of them, although not in a long time.

Bringing two writers together and giving them a story start is an interesting tactic. It is always fun to see the results. It really shows how an idea for a story is nothing more. It's what you do with it. Seeing what crazy different things two people can do with the same beginning never fails to make me smile.

I will definately spend some time enjoying some of your other works as well.

I look forward to meeting you on the battlefield again some day...



( Posted by: Jeff [Member] On: January 25, 2005 )

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