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The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 10, 2013, 04:05:18 PM
by davidsonhero
This is a straightforward, concrete horror story that taps into that fear of things that go bump in the night that so many of us share.

It's not much longer than a flash story, so it's over before you know it.

Overall, a good story to read on Halloween.


Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 12, 2013, 10:41:39 AM
by Jeani Rector
Thank you for your kind words about my story.

Jeani Rector, Editor
The Horror Zine

Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 15, 2013, 05:00:21 PM
by Lester Curtis
This is why I am never anywhere without a little flashlight in my pocket. Never.

I thought it very peculiar that the bathrooms were in a separate building. And why the segregated toileting just for freshmen? That's all just weird. Seems like either an epic architectural failure or a very transparent plot device. It took me out of the story.

The high point for me was:
The intense stillness was finally broken, and movement began again, as though the world was releasing the breath it held.

Other than that, it didn't do much for me. The janitor's fight with whatever-it-was was poorly described and didn't seem serious. His leg is injured, but we weren't told how, and he isn't depicted as feeling pain.

Give us some sensory input besides darkness (which is really a lack of sensation). Shouldn't that place stink? He saves that job for last because it's disgusting; make it stink in especially creepy and unexpected ways. And why isn't he equipped with a mop-bucket, at the least? The typical janitor's cart is full of weapons; arm the guy and make the fight serious.

I was unable to really connect with this guy in a way that would make me care about him; there's nothing in the way of character motivation outside of his job, and scant little there. Up the stakes and give us a reason to care. Doesn't he have a family that he has to stay alive to support? A car payment? A gambling debt to the mob? What if he was scheduled to donate an organ to save the life of a loved one -- and his appointment was the following day?

As it is now, the used-toilet-paper-monster could take him down, and the most I could do is shrug.

Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 15, 2013, 07:04:54 PM
by davidsonhero
Lester wrote:Give us some sensory input besides darkness (which is really a lack of sensation). Shouldn't that place stink?

I disagree with you about the author's use of sensory input. I just picked out a couple quick that stuck out as I skimmed back through:
He knelt to the cement floor of the bathroom, feeling the coldness of the stone on his knees all the way through his pants.

It felt wet and…dear god, did he feel it move?

A sour scent of musty brine assaulted his nostrils

He heard the thing slam against him more than he felt the blow, and understood that whatever was with him in this bathroom was big. He could hear someone sobbing and realized it was he who was doing the crying.

He cursed as he heard it bouncing into the bathroom, jangling as it tumbled and rolled the keys end over end.

As far as the description of the creature, personally I think it's sometimes more effective to not describe the horrible thing. The reader's imagination can take over then and tap into their own personal fears when visualizing it.

Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 18, 2013, 03:15:01 AM
by pseudodragon
Hi Ms. Rector,

I'm a newbie here and yours is the first story I've read on this site. Since you were good enough to put the time into writing it, I felt the least I could do was to comment on it. I'm somewhere between David and Lester in my opinion, but I mean all of it constructively.

First of all, I like the setting. Having worked as a schoolteacher myself (elementary, middle, and high school), I know how isolating and cold a school campus can feel after hours when all is dark and pools of shadow play tricks with the mind. Excellent choice, much better than a strip mall or nameless floor in a corporate high rise. Having said that, I did have some problems with the story.

Was there a reason for breaking it into paragraphs of 1 or 2 sentences each? That structure distracted me and affected the continuity of the story in my mind. If you were trying to punctuate his thoughts, then the emphasis was lost in the regular pattern of stunted paragraphs. I think it would have been more effective to intersperse abbreviated paragraphs at particularly dramatic moments.

I also wondered at the janitor's train of thought. For example, if he sees the lights are out, wouldn't he be the one normally called upon to check the electrical panel and flip the breakers or change the lights out? And what janitor doesn't have a flashlight, especially if he's working the night shift? Even if he didn't have it when he got out of the car, I would have expected him to retrieve one sometime during his rounds, given his nervous state of mind and the fact that the external lights are all out. You could have said that the batteries were low and the character had forgotten to change them, that the flashlight inexplicably sputtered and flared out when it came close to the dark bathroom, or that the character dropped it and broke it when something pale and fleshy appeared for a brief instant upon his opening the door to the bathroom. I agree with Lester that the absence of a mop and bucket when going to clean the bathroom was a mystery.

The squishy monster was perfectly cast, but how did it get there? Was it an alien from the darkness between the stars? A mutant leech grown to humongous proportions in the sewers below the school? Or perhaps the transmuted form of an unfortunate victim of a freshman hazing? You don't have to get that specific, but a bit of foreshadowing might have heightened the fear. For example, the janitor could have gotten a note that the bathroom was closed earlier after the drains backed up with some noxious olive slime.

The ending didn't particularly grab me. I think it might have worked better if you had the janitor suddenly realize that his keys were still in the bathroom or if the bathroom door had made a distinctive creak when he opened it and then when he was in the parking lot at the end he could have heard that same creaking sound and gotten a whiff of the creature's foul odor.

Some of the scenes had good sensory descriptions, but others could have benefited from a few more details. A few of the descriptions were overwritten and may have been improved with more economy of words.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but didn't deliver the suspense or "pop" that it could have. That's just my opinion, and I am not an expert by any means, but I hope it helps.


Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 18, 2013, 05:25:32 AM
by Wormtongue
Welcome to the madhouse, pseudodragon. Thanks for your thoughts.

Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 18, 2013, 12:58:43 PM
by Lester Curtis
Ah, we've got a good new commenter! Welcome, pseudodragon (just watch out for the bottomdweller :lol: )!

Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 18, 2013, 01:13:27 PM
by pseudodragon
Thank you.

Re: The Janitor by Jeani Rector

PostPosted: November 18, 2013, 05:44:08 PM
by Wormtongue
Lester Curtis wrote: (just watch out for the bottomdweller :lol: )!

There's nothing wrong with Michelle :)