Oh no! Not the tea. Oh my goodness, that is too awful! Gee, a couple of these staff challenge prompts have spawned some very sad stories. :-( Actually, I can't say this story is overly sad in tone. Charlie is quite conversational with us, and he isn't really the self-pitying sort. Still, the idea of it makes me think about sniffing a bit.
I really admire the way you made the cup of tea he drank at the beginning of the day seem so completely ordinary. He didn't suspect it, I didn't suspect it, and probably no one suspected it but you! I racked my brains trying to figure out how Charlie could have been poisoned, but that ordinary little cup of tea flew right beneath my radar. I just liked the symmetry of it, mentioning the tea at the beginning and again at the end.
The way you described the effects of the poison on Charlie was quite good as well. It started out innocently enough, with a bit of paleness, a headache, maybe some weakness in the limbs. Maybe he was coming down with the flu or something. Then he needs water and is all weak. Hm, something's not right, but maybe that flu is just really nasty. And then comes the whopper of a description: the kitchen floor hits him on the face. I loved that description! It's much more fantastic than saying, "He crashed to the ground" or similar.
I thought Charlie's thought process after that point was good as well. I really felt how confused and anxious he is, how desperately worried. It's as if he's trying to rationalize his way out of the situation too. Also, it was very sad that he figured out what had happened to him, and then Sarah found him just at the moment of his death. (The very last line was probably my least favorite, but the rest of the story I liked so much it hardly seems worth mentioning.)
I love seeing how much your writing has improved from the earliest things you have posted, and even how it has changed since I first started reading your stories.
Author's Response: Yes, the tea. I really loved this prompt as soon as I read it and knew I had to write something for it. I guess it would have been hard for it not to be sad considering that a character had to die (although I know of someone who is writing a comedy piece based on the prompt).
I always admire the way writers are able to include seemingly insignificant information into a story only for the reader to find out at the end that it wasn't insignificant at all. I've always wished I could incorporate that into my writing, and this one-shot was a perfect opportunity to try it out. I'm so glad it turned out to be successful.
I'm glad you liked the way I described the gradual onset of symptoms and I'm glad you liked my description of him hitting the floor. In his dizzy and poisoned state I wanted it to seem as though Charlie hadn't realised at first that he had fallen, as though one minute he was standing and the next he found himself being hit by the floor and not knowing exactly how it happened.
I was a little unsure about the last few lines. I originally only had the first line of the last paragraph, but it didn't feel like a strong ending, so I added the part with Sarah coming down the stairs. The very last line, I guess, almost seems too blunt when I read it again now. I'm always glad you mention these things, it pushes me to be a better writer.
It's great having reviewers who have read all my work and can comment on how much my writing has improved, it makes me feel more confident in my writing and makes me appreciate even more how much HPFF and reviewers like yourself have really helped me on my writing journey.
Thank-you so much for your review.