27/10/2017
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Under the Microscope extra: Reincarnation

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Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's historical thriller intro

Reincarnation - original version

Mel awoke. Or at least he thought he was awake. Something seemed strange and unfamiliar, yet not completely alien. He tried to look around, but there was only darkness. He tried to move, but could only shift his limbs and body an inch or two by pushing against the slightly-yielding envelope that surrounded him. Despite this, he felt warm and protected and, somewhat to his surprise, not on the verge of a panic attack.

Unable to deduce where he was and what he was doing, Mel thought it might become clear if he could attract somebody’s attention. He tried to shout out, “Is anybody there?” Although he mouthed the words, the sound that emerged was muffled. It was as if there was no air passing his vocal chords to generate any resonance. Only then did it dawn on him that he was not actually breathing. Mel managed to suppress the first signs of anxiety that were now starting to gather, by a first stab at an explanation. Could I be dead?  Is this what it would be like when you shed your mortal coil, and commenced the journey to whatever lay beyond? If so, and despite his mild panic, at least for the moment it was not unbearable.

But the death explanation was probably unlikely. He remembered going to bed the previous night, after a very enjoyable dinner party with friends to celebrate his engagement to Angelina, his childhood sweetheart. It was a Saturday, and they had swapped jokes, philosophised about what life was all about, and perhaps imbibed just a tad too much wine. It was nearly midnight when the taxi dropped Mel off at his bachelor flat, and he had retired to bed soon afterwards. Tired and soporific from the effects of one glass too many, he very quickly drifted off into the land of nod. 

 

Reincarnation - McCredited version
Mel awoke. Something was strange – some alien sensation, some change in atmosphere. He was sure his eyes were open, but there was only darkness. He tried to move, but was constrained by a dry, elastic cocoon that seemed entirely to ensheath him. It was not uncomfortable.

“Is anybody there?”

He realised that the words had been only in his mind. His lips had moved but had made no sound. Indeed, he wasn’t breathing. Nor did he need to.

Could I be dead? Is this what death feels like? This . . . forever? The thought stirred panic in his chest. He sought a thread that might take him back to life.
Yes. The previous night, he’d eaten with friends to celebrate his engagement. His engagement to Angelina, his childhood sweetheart. Angelina. They’d laughed and drunk too much and talked about what life after death might look like. He’d arrived back at his bachelor pad about midnight. And now this . . .

 

Read the full critique in the December 2018 issue of Writing Magazine

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