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josh.townley
January 31st, 2012, 12:25 AM
Here's the beginning of a story that I've had floating around in my head for a while. It will probably be novella length when it's finished, but I'm not really sure where it's going yet. It's just a rough first draft so far, but I wanted to see if anyone thought it was an interesting enough start to carry on with.


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Mummy hadn’t moved for two days.

Three-year-old Zoey stood in the doorway of her mother’s darkened bedroom, silhouetted by the light from the hallway behind her. She held Hopkins, a tatty, stuffed rabbit, almost as big as she was, by the ear. The shape on the bed was completely motionless, and covered from head to toe with the thin, sweat-stained sheet. One thin, mottled arm dangled over the edge. On the small bedside table, the bright green numbers on the digital clock blinked on and off endlessly, but Zoey couldn’t read numbers yet. The only sound in the house was Spongebob’s cackling laugh coming from the room at the other end of the hallway. Once, a long time ago, the sound had made her giddy with excitement, but now she just wanted to cry. The DVD had been looping through the same four episodes for so long now.

‘Mummy,’ she whispered. ‘Mummy, I’m hungry.’

Silence.

Zoey took a couple of wobbly steps into the room, but had to stop when the smell overpowered her. The tears started to streak down her cheeks again.

‘Mummy,’ she sobbed. ‘Where’s daddy?’

Again silence.

Zoey retreated back out of the room and down the hallway. She hurried past the lounge room where Spongebob was chasing a jellyfish with a net and headed into the dining room. From the big window behind the table she had the best view of the street. Every day she would stand there and look out, waiting for daddy’s little red car to come around the corner while mummy set the table behind her. Every day he would flash his headlights at her, and she would shout ‘Daddy’s home!’ and run to the front door to meet him.

But daddy hadn’t come home.

Now when she looked out the big window, all she could see was the big, black SUV; its front end crumpled against the telephone pole outside.
Zoey stood there, waiting with her hands and nose pressed against the glass, until the Spongebob DVD returned to the title menu, and then eventually began to play through again. The world on the other side of the glass was silent and cold. She sat down on the carpet and took a handful of Froot Loops from the box that lay beside her. There wasn’t much left now apart from the broken bits and sugary powder that always came out in the last bowl. That had always been her favourite part. She lay her head down on Hopkins’s soft body and soon fell asleep.

A sound from outside stirred Zoey from her dreams. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Three Froot Loops that clung to her face fell silently, one after the other, to the carpet leaving red imprints in her cheek. Daddy? The sound was some sort of engine, but it sounded too loud to be daddy’s car. It was deep and angry, like a lion’s growl.

It was dark now, both inside and out, but there was a light that moved in the street, causing the long shadows of the trees and power poles to circle around, as if in fear of the source. The sound grew louder until a single, dazzling headlight burst around the corner. Zoey was blinded by the light and clamped her eyes tightly shut. The growl stopped outside the window and died down to a stuttering purr. Then there was a rush of footsteps and a loud voice.

‘LISA?!!’

Someone was hammering on the door.

‘LISA! For the love of God, open the door!’

The hammering stopped for a moment while the voice talked to itself more quietly.

‘Please, not you too. Please. Please. Please....’

Zoey clutched the curtain with one hand and tried to see the man at the door. She had a good view of the front door from the window, but the light from the thing on the front lawn was still shining straight at her and she could only make out the vague shape of him.

‘LISA!!! MARK!!! Open Up!’ The hammering began again, and the man said some angry-sounding words that Zoey didn’t understand. ‘I’m coming in, OK?’

There was silence for a moment, then the SMASH of breaking glass. Zoey knew that was a bad sound. Once, daddy had dropped one of mummy’s favourite glasses and it sounded just like that. Mummy had shouted at daddy, and then daddy shouted back at mummy, and then they didn’t talk to each other for a long time. She had been very frightened then, too, but this time it was worse.

The front door clicked, then flew open with a bang, and heavy boots were stomping through the house. Zoey hid behind the curtain.

‘LISAAA!!’

The footsteps went down to mummy’s room and stopped. It was quiet for a while. Then there came a howl of such agony and sorrow that it drowned out Spongebob and caused Zoey to pull the curtain tightly around her.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!’

CRASH. THUMP. CRASH. SMAAAAASHHH

It sounded like the man had picked up a chair and was slamming it again and again into the walls and floor, then hurled it through the window.
For a while it was quiet again, but Zoey could hear an occasional loud sniff or a sob.

‘NOOO!’ The man shouted, taking to himself again. ‘I won’t do it! Not again! Not Lisa...’

The bedroom door clicked gently shut, and the footsteps came back down the hall towards her. She was only partly concealed by the curtain when the man entered the room, but he still didn’t see her. His steps were slow and his eyes were turned to the floor.

Zoey thought he looked like a dirty Santa Claus, dressed in black. He wore a leather vest over a stained, white t-shirt that had a picture of a skull on it and was stretched to its limit over his bulging belly. His arms were thick, hairy, and covered with drawings, and while Santa’s beard was fluffy and white, this man’s was a greyish brown and looked as coarse as steel wool.

The man leaned his back against the wall and slid slowly down to the carpet where he pressed his head against his raised knees.
Zoey stood and watched him for a long time. She still didn’t know who he was, but somehow he didn’t seem as scary anymore. His body shook silently as he wept.

Slowly, she stepped out from behind the curtain, and felt around for Hopkins, while keeping her eyes on the dirty Santa. She took a few steps toward him, but he didn’t look up. It was only when he stepped right up beside him that he seemed to notice her. When he raised his head to look at her, his face was expressionless. Slowly, slowly, a look of confusion washed over him. It was eventually replaced by realisation and his body seemed to slump down further.

Zoey held Hopkins out to the man. When she was feeling sad, Hopkins could always help to cheer her up. The man took the rabbit and turned his puffy, bloodshot eyes slowly from it to her and back again. Then he said another word that Zoey didn’t understand.

‘You must be Zoey,’ he said. ‘You’ve grown a bit since I saw you last. Heck, you were only a few days old then.’

Zoey stared back at him with her big, dark eyes.

‘I’m your Uncle Barry, but everyone calls me Grizzly. You can too, I guess.’

He held out a giant, brown hand for her to shake, but she just continued to stare at him until he lowered it again.

‘Guess your mum told you not to talk to strangers. Good girl. Here, let me show you something.’

He leaned to one side and pulled a brown, leather wallet out of his back pocket. From the space in the middle, he took a small, folded photo.

‘See, that’s me, and your mum, and your Uncle Jay.’ He tapped the photo a few times.

‘Mummy...’ Zoey said, recognising her. She recognised the dirty Santa man too, even though his beard and his stomach were much smaller in the photo. Standing between them, with an arm draped around each of their necks was another man. He was even bigger than this man, but his face was hidden by the white, crumbling fold down the middle.
She looked up at Grizzly. She didn’t know what ‘Uncle’ meant, but he knew her Mummy, and he seemed nice.

‘I’m hungry,’ she said.

Grizzly smiled and handed Hopkins back to her.

‘Are you? Me too. Let’s see what we can find, eh?’

With one last great sniff, and considerable effort, he stood up. As he started to walk to the kitchen, Zoey spoke up again.

‘Do we have to go soon?’

Grizzly stopped in his tracks, and his head drooped again. He shook it, sadly.

‘You’re smart, just like Lisa. That’s right. We have to go soon, but let’s eat something first, OK?’

Zoey nodded and followed him into the kitchen.

BabaYaga
January 31st, 2012, 09:28 AM
Creepy- ... I liked the little girl's perspective, but someone who has a child is probably in a better position to judge it's accuracy. I wasn't crazy about the use onomatopoeic words here:

CRASH. THUMP. CRASH. SMAAAAASHHH

Felt like you could have used the MC's POV to describe the sounds instead.

This isn't the end is it? Because I want to see what happens next

josh.townley
January 31st, 2012, 10:07 AM
Creepy- ... I liked the little girl's perspective, but someone who has a child is probably in a better position to judge it's accuracy. I wasn't crazy about the use onomatopoeic words here:

CRASH. THUMP. CRASH. SMAAAAASHHH

Felt like you could have used the MC's POV to describe the sounds instead.

This isn't the end is it? Because I want to see what happens next

No, it's just the beginning, but I have no idea what's going to happen next. It's going to be a zombie apocalypse-type story with these two as the main characters in sort of 'Lone Wolf and Cub' roles. I will probably go back and re-write this once I have thought about it some more, but for now I just had to get it out.
Thanks for reading :)

Kyle R
January 31st, 2012, 10:40 AM
Good start! I fell in love with Zoey right away.

I was thinking, "Damn you, Josh Townley, you better rescue this poor, adorable little toddler." I was beginning to worry you were going to leave her in there to die.

But, thankfully, the uncle arrived.

I thought the caps-lock of the names he were calling was unnecessary. The exclamation marks alone are good enough to let the reader know that he's yelling. I also, like Baba, was not a fan of the onomatopeia.

But other than those two extremely minor points, I felt this was very good!

Being stuck in the "over Zoey's shoulder" perspective might prove a bit difficult for a full story, in my opinion. Perhaps this could be the inciting incident, and you can start the next chapter looking over the shoulder of the real protagonist/hero. Perhaps the Uncle is the one.

Maybe someone else, even. That's up to you.

When the uncle went into the bedroom and you did the sound effects, I thought, for a brief moment, that the mother's zombie corpse had come back to life and was attacking him. But perhaps that's just my own quirky mind, and not really a reflection of your writing.

Interesting and exciting. I'd definately read more. Cheers

SeaBee1
January 31st, 2012, 02:25 PM
Hi Josh!

Definitely a nice start! Apart from what the other guys have mentioned, I saw only one place worthy of calling out and you would most likely catch it in a second edit - when Zoey approaches Grizzley, you inadvertently refer to her as 'he'.

I also agree that telling a story from a three year old's perspective will likely be difficult. BUT... it might be worth a shot for uniqueness? I would try it, if I were you, just to see how it went. You can always fix it later if it doesn't work, and you will probably know rather quickly.

Waiting for more...

Best regards

CB

Higurro
January 31st, 2012, 05:19 PM
I would like to echo the points above really. I thought this was an excellent start - touching, haunting and tense. I agree that putting the whole story in the perspective of a three year old might be challenging and I'm not sure what it would bring to the story, but trying would be worthwhile I think. I'm not too familiar with the zombie apocalypse genre but I don't think there are too many featuring very young children, which could make things that bit harder and more serious for the survivors. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out.

josh.townley
January 31st, 2012, 08:26 PM
Good start! I fell in love with Zoey right away.

I was thinking, "Damn you, Josh Townley, you better rescue this poor, adorable little toddler." I was beginning to worry you were going to leave her in there to die.

But, thankfully, the uncle arrived.

I thought the caps-lock of the names he were calling was unnecessary. The exclamation marks alone are good enough to let the reader know that he's yelling. I also, like Baba, was not a fan of the onomatopeia.

But other than those two extremely minor points, I felt this was very good!

Being stuck in the "over Zoey's shoulder" perspective might prove a bit difficult for a full story, in my opinion. Perhaps this could be the inciting incident, and you can start the next chapter looking over the shoulder of the real protagonist/hero. Perhaps the Uncle is the one.

Maybe someone else, even. That's up to you.

When the uncle went into the bedroom and you did the sound effects, I thought, for a brief moment, that the mother's zombie corpse had come back to life and was attacking him. But perhaps that's just my own quirky mind, and not really a reflection of your writing.

Interesting and exciting. I'd definately read more. Cheers

Thanks, Kyle.

It was definitely difficult writing from a three-year-old's perspective, but that was the seed for the story so I had to give it a shot. I don't think I could keep it up for long, though, because it is quite limiting. I had to simplify my writing a bit, and avoid too many big words.

I did consider having the mother come back at that point, but that would have brought in too many moral questions a bit too soon for me. There'll be time for that later.

Thanks for reading!


I also agree that telling a story from a three year old's perspective will likely be difficult. BUT... it might be worth a shot for uniqueness? I would try it, if I were you, just to see how it went. You can always fix it later if it doesn't work, and you will probably know rather quickly.


I was thinking of doing a couple of chapters from her perspective to introduce the situation with the zombies, then a couple from the Uncle's where the story really gets going. For the conclusion, I thought about jumping ahead a few years so that Zoey can become a more interesting character, and I might be able to bring about some sort of resolution.

Thanks for catching that he/she mistake for me. I did give it a quick proof-read, but that was a bit of a silly one to miss.
Thanks for reading!


I would like to echo the points above really. I thought this was an excellent start - touching, haunting and tense. I agree that putting the whole story in the perspective of a three year old might be challenging and I'm not sure what it would bring to the story, but trying would be worthwhile I think. I'm not too familiar with the zombie apocalypse genre but I don't think there are too many featuring very young children, which could make things that bit harder and more serious for the survivors. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out.

Thanks for reading, Higurro. I haven't read much in the zombie apocalypse genre either, but I have seen plenty of films. I always felt a bit disappointed, either with how the survivors behave, or with how the story ends, so I thought I'd try my own take on it.
I've got some good ideas for a creepy type of zombie that I don't think have been done before.

SeaBee1
February 1st, 2012, 02:32 PM
Hello again Josh!

I slept on this and I do believe this story can work from Zoey's perspective. Here are my thoughts: I see Grizzly as a kind of out door (or 'outback' since I see you are from 'down under') sort of guy. A real survivor. Maybe he has a relationship with the Aborigines and can learn from one of their shaman the art of zombie killing (I don't know if they have any zombie lore, but I am sure it can be researched). As he learns, he teaches Zoey the art and she becomes a super duper zombie killer on a vengeance mission. Or something like that. Just a thought. I don't write zombie stuff, but like you, I have seen a few flicks. I don't think I have seen it done the way you have presented it, which is a good thing, I think. I really want to see how you work this out!

Best regards

CB

AlexBlack
February 1st, 2012, 07:37 PM
Love it. I have a two year old boy, and it's heartbreaking to imagine what would happen if he and his little brother were left on their own for a long time in this kind of situation. I'm not sure, but I imagine some sort of epidemic or plague has taken the lives of almost everyone on earth. Why else would the SUV still be crashed in front of the house after so long? Why hasn't anyone come to help the poor girl? Why is it acceptable to break into the house like that? It all points to an apocalyptic scenario, and you have handled it well. Looking forward to more. (:

josh.townley
February 2nd, 2012, 11:10 AM
Hello again Josh!

I slept on this and I do believe this story can work from Zoey's perspective. Here are my thoughts: I see Grizzly as a kind of out door (or 'outback' since I see you are from 'down under') sort of guy. A real survivor. Maybe he has a relationship with the Aborigines and can learn from one of their shaman the art of zombie killing (I don't know if they have any zombie lore, but I am sure it can be researched). As he learns, he teaches Zoey the art and she becomes a super duper zombie killer on a vengeance mission. Or something like that. Just a thought. I don't write zombie stuff, but like you, I have seen a few flicks. I don't think I have seen it done the way you have presented it, which is a good thing, I think. I really want to see how you work this out!

Best regards

CB

Thanks, SeaBee. I love that idea! After all, it's only logical that he would try to get them away from populated areas, so the outback would be the perfect place. I could do a few chapters with them fleeing the city, then trying to survive in the outback, and see where it goes from there.
Cheers!


Love it. I have a two year old boy, and it's heartbreaking to imagine what would happen if he and his little brother were left on their own for a long time in this kind of situation. I'm not sure, but I imagine some sort of epidemic or plague has taken the lives of almost everyone on earth. Why else would the SUV still be crashed in front of the house after so long? Why hasn't anyone come to help the poor girl? Why is it acceptable to break into the house like that? It all points to an apocalyptic scenario, and you have handled it well. Looking forward to more. (:

Thanks, Alex. I have a one-year-old daughter myself, and the idea originally came from a nightmare I had, so this was quite difficult even to write.
You're right with your guess about an epidemic. I was hoping the clues in this section would point to that, but sometimes it's hard to know what the reader, who has no information in the beginning, will take away from it.
Glad you enjoyed it. I'll certainly post more when I have time to come back to it.

AlexBlack
February 2nd, 2012, 06:57 PM
I know sometimes I worry about whether or not the reader will pick up on certain clues that if they don't catch, they may finish a chapter thinking, "What the hell did I just read?" You managed to convey your outbreak scenario without bombarding the reader with boring information. You don't insult the reader's intelligence by spelling it out. You let the clues here and there lead us to the scenario and that's how it should be written, in my opinion. That's why I give feedback on what I think is going on, so the writer knows he/she succeeded in conveying an unusual situation that wasn't just told to us in black and white.

VagabondSam
February 20th, 2012, 06:39 AM
I quite like the setup and the two characters so far.

Similar to has already been stated, All CAPS in prose, unless used specifically for a certain effect can create a sense of childishness to the writing. Same goes for more then one exclamation mark.

Describing the 'exclamation' such as

>'Lisa! Mark! Open up!' The man frantically begged as he began to hammer on the door >again

I just think that would add more for the reader to get a clearer picture of what is happening.

At any rate, just my 2 bob from a fellow aussie.

I have just started a Zombie story set in australia myself. I'll be basing it on the real escape strategy I concocted with many hours of talking it over with friends :p Still need the 'twist' to the zombies to make sure it is unique which I think will be a chalenge in the genre.

Archetype
February 21st, 2012, 01:29 AM
When it comes to post-apocalyptic horror like this I'm usually jaded. Except when children are involved. Then it hits a nerve. Zoey is going to loose her innocence and that's sad. Other than the all caps onomatopoeia already mentioned the only thing I'm curious about is what Zoey looks like. We have a great idea of Uncle Grizzly's appearance but not much to go by for Zoey. Perhaps a scene where she has to brush her own hair because her mother can't. That could be used to describe her appearance in the mirror.

Duncan21
March 1st, 2012, 07:42 PM
As a father of a 5 yr old son and a 4 yr old daughter this got to me right away. The fact that she is so young only helps to add tension to the over all story. The effort it takes to keep a kid safe in the real world is a huge pain sometimes. Imagine trying to keep ones kids alive and fight off zombies after the world as one knows it has come to an end. You have my attention and have pulled at my emotions. I impatiently await more.

KevinB
March 6th, 2012, 08:51 PM
Hi Josh, I think that is a very good start as well. I would really like to see you do more with that. Writing from the perspective of a three year old will be a challenge, but I think it would lend more than you might expect to the story, and would boost the realization of what is happening, if done right. A zombie apocalyptic story needs something more than just zombies, and the usual adult survivors. Throwing a kid into the mix certainly raises the intensity level, especially if she is put into dire situations. I say go for it. It would be a tough write throughout, but well worth the effort when it's done.

itsraining
March 22nd, 2012, 09:14 PM
Very nicely written. It left me guessing and wanting more! I loved how you didn't really say what was going on, but you gave some very good clues as to what was happening. When you said the mother had been in bed for three days I thought right away, she must be dead! But when you described the sweaty sheets I knew it was something more. The descriptions of outside was great! Even the small description of the froot loops on her cheek was perfect! I am hoping you write more and more in the POV of the little girl. Definitely different than other zombie stories. Excellent!

nathanmb
March 23rd, 2012, 12:29 AM
Pretty good and creepy. Great job on it. *claps*

starseed
March 27th, 2012, 05:56 PM
I liked it a lot! Right up my alley as I'm also writing a ZA story as my next novel. :) Maybe you can read some of mine sometime. I really don't even have any critiques, I liked it.

Alabastrine
March 27th, 2012, 07:32 PM
I don't know you and you don't know me, but that was a gut wrenching beginning. I was nervous and worried that the little girl wouldn't be rescued and it sucked me in. Can't wait to read more!

josh.townley
March 27th, 2012, 11:50 PM
I don't know you and you don't know me, but that was a gut wrenching beginning. I was nervous and worried that the little girl wouldn't be rescued and it sucked me in. Can't wait to read more!
Thanks a lot, Alabastrine! I've been thinking more about this story lately, and can't wait to do more. Once my current novel is finished and submitted, I might go to this next.


I liked it a lot! Right up my alley as I'm also writing a ZA story as my next novel. :) Maybe you can read some of mine sometime. I really don't even have any critiques, I liked it.
Thanks, starseed. When you post some of your ZA story, send me a note or an email so I can come check it out. Unfortunately I don't get to spend as much time on the forums as I'd like, so I miss a lot of stuff.

Jon Prosser
March 28th, 2012, 03:30 PM
More! I want moooore!
This is excellent work, I love the way you describe very specific things that show but don't tell - spongebob on a loop, the SUV wrapped around a telephone pole, the fruit loops running out. It really gives it atmosphere. Keep at it, I'd love to read more.

valondon
April 3rd, 2012, 01:52 AM
I just want to say that, that was a really captivating start. Your imagery from Zoey's perspective felt great and real. So far I don't have any critique, just wondering about the plot =)

Name the Sky
April 3rd, 2012, 04:39 PM
I liked the way you ended this section of the story, with the uncle attempting to achieve some degree of normalcy in what is clearly an terribly abnormal situation. The loss of both parents is a powerful way to start things off as well, and you do a great job of creating a frame of reference of how a child might view the beginning of an apocalyptic event. Writing from the perspective of children can be difficult to pull off in a way that is believable, and you've done so admirably. I think there's a lot of interesting directions you can take that perceptive angle, and I look forward to reading more.

torosuperfly16
April 3rd, 2012, 07:17 PM
That was a definite success for the beginning of your story. Drew me in right away AND kept me invested the whole time. I like the three-year old perspective, too, although I do admit it might be difficult to keep up. However, if you planned on making the story span across several years, you could incorporate her later as a now older character, and that could be really interesting... but anyways, I can't wait for more, good job!