Word counts and the forgotten scene

Word counts. I am in constant battle with them. I can see the reasoning behind them when it comes to publishers, but damn, they frustrate me.

At present I have a story titled ‘The progeny host’ out for submission. The maximum word count cited by the publisher (which will remain nameless at present) was a strict 6000 words. Plenty to play with you would think. Wrong. The word count on my laptop soon gets eaten up and upon completion of my story it was standing at 9500. Way over. I put the story away for a few days, then feeling refreshed, when to it with a large editing knife.

I cut and cut, re-arranged and re-wrote, and though I was now sitting in an abattoir of words, I had managed to squeeze it into the word count… just: 5998 words. Phew!

I sent the submission, but I felt a little disappointed in the story. Fitting it into the word count had meant I had to change quite a bit. My vision for it was diluted, the story now merely a promise of what could have been so much more. You see, by changing it, I had taken away the very essence of what I wanted to tell. I wanted the story; though a horror story, to be more than that. I wanted it to have some fantastical elements to it also. These parts; the fantastical moments, were lost. Only the horror remained.
I still like the story I sent. The writing is fairly tight, and I had fun working on it. But, still, it’s a shame isn’t it?
The ending in particular was hard to cut. The ending in the original version was nearer what I wanted. It was dark, yet beautiful. Horrific, yet comforting. Alas, it was too long. Way to long. It had to go. The re-write ending is simpler, shorter, and completely different. It works, but was it better?
For those few who have read the version I submitted, and for those who haven’t, but who just like to read this stuff anyway, I include the original ending here, in its first and only draft. Perhaps i should have cleaned it up, but then some things are best left as they are. How else are we to learn from our mistakes.

The progeny host: The missing end scene.

She sat up. The television must have turned itself off, for the room was now in darkness, the only indication she was awake, a drone that crashed and rose like a wave to her ears, filling the room with its music. She moved her hand up to her face; its movement slow as though passing through treacle and rubbed her eye, feeling hard beads pressed between knuckle and lid. She moved it away and tried to make out its shape , unsure now of her waking. It’s form eluded her. She was breathing harder now, fear rising from deep within her, a child’s fear, pure and unreasoning; the animal fear of the dark and what it may contain. She turned to her side, fingers fumbling for the lamp at the bedside, the cord thick in her hand, thicker than she remembered it; its plastic coating moving under her touch like a stream of jumping beans as though alive. Regardless, she found what she took to be the switch, just one press and….


She froze. The buzzing hushed slightly as the voice sounded, lowering its volume so the word could reach her ears unconstrained. She recognized its tone immediately, and her heart, which just a moment ago had been beating to burst, now seemed to stop dead as she put name to the voice.


A second passed and her heart once again found its rhythm. It sounded so loudly she doubted she would hear a reply if one came at all, but come it did, and with it confirmation.

‘I’m here Mae’

She was dreaming, had to be. Her husband was dead, buried more than sixty miles away. It was impossible to entertain the idea he was here in the room with her, speaking in a world of living. But if a dream, then it was one she had longed for. To hear him again, to say sorry for all her wrong doings, to hold him like she once did.

‘I forgive you’. The voice sounded. A dream it is then, how else could the entity read her thoughts.

‘Can I see you?’ The question sounded ridiculous; surely all she had to do was think upon what she wanted. Her mind conjured a clear day, Ned standing in his cream shirt and navy jeans, a smile wide upon his face, a gentle breeze toying his blonde hair. The dream was obeying it seemed. She felt a slight ripple across her face, and with it, sight began to return to her; the darkness dissolving from her, the room slowly coming into view, the buzzing sound low now, moving away until in the dim light she saw him. Her mind had tricks yet to play it seemed; for the man before her though resembling the image of her husband, hadn’t been conjured of flesh and blood, but of some dark cloud that swam over his form, causing his outline to be indistinct, constantly rippling like smoke from a fire. She edged closer upon the bed and realized her error. It was not smoke he was made of, it was flies. They gathered together in there thousands, legs and wings mixed together to create a whole; black and glistening before her.

She gasped and brought her hand to her mouth.

‘I’m here Mae’, the multitude said. ‘You missed me, yes?’


‘I too. So long I waited. To feel you again.’ he moved towards her and raised a hand to her cheek. She let it upon her skin, the insects vibrating causing her senses to tingle. Sensing her pleasure he leant down and planted a kiss to her lips, the contact crushed a host of flies upon her mouth but she allowed him access, eager to feel his tongue inside her, its dryness rough in her throat, the tiny wings tickling her as they buzzed. Then his hand was reaching between her thighs, pushing her nightdress up seeking her sex, black fingers rolling over her skin. Her whole body was ignited by the sensation, her pulse quickening as the man of flies moved over her. She reached down and found his cock, its size once adequate, now made bull like by the myriad of insects that made up its shaft, their numbers tumbling over her fingers as she worked him, only to be replaced by others eager to take their place at his centre.

She heard his mummers of appreciation and pulled him to her, opening her legs drawing him in. In a heartbeat he was thrusting, pushing his hive into her as she racked the flies along his back, biting down onto his shoulder, filling herself with every part of him until she was gorged upon the insect.

There love was deep. It burrowed into her flesh, into her sex, her ears and eyes. Wherever they found access the flies teased pleasure from her. She felt a sharpness deep within her lungs and breathed in letting, them fill her, swallowed as they swam upon her throat, inhaled until they filled her nose and danced up into her skull. She loved him she knew. Now in this form that found him more than ever. Dream or not she would be by his side always. The constraints of her flesh were being lifted as his form fed upon her. By morning Wallace would enter to find only bones she thought. She would have laughed, but her tongue had all but deserted her, its meat crumbling. Let it. She was eager to be rid of it. There were wonders waiting for her beyond this form. He had shown her that. Together they would be cloud, a river, a storm. The thought once conjured soon left her, flying free upon the air, then seeking refuge joined the maelstrom happy to take its fill of the flesh.


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