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Crash_Tomas
April 4th, 2012, 10:36 PM
Chapter One
The Badlands Aren’t So Bad

Cael and Albee were in their sleeping bags and I sat around the open fire, out in the middle of a campsite near what used to be Amarillo, Texas. I was on watch and had brought back some firewood so we’d have enough to last the rest of the night. A full moon fought its way into view, battling clouds for its rightful place in the sky. I looked up at it and smiled, still finding some beauty in a world that was losing so much of it. Two nights before we crossed the border from New Mexico. Cael and I picked up Albee there and we were all headed for the east coast. I didn’t know what I planned to find there, but Cael had family there, I hoped they still were, and Albee just wanted out of New Mexico. There was no way I could blame him, because nothing was left there. Not for him, not for anybody.

Cael and I knew each other from college; we went to Idaho State, graduated and then the world went to super-shit, holding on for dear life to a hand grenade. Somehow we made our way down to New Mexico where the weather was warmer and the people, fewer. Idaho didn’t have that many to begin with but when the military started to arrive, Cael and I knew trouble wouldn’t be too far behind them, so we jacked out of there as fast as we could. The United States wanted to keep the country in some sort of order, but chaos is like a plague sometimes. Not to mention paranoia and fear. Mixed together, it’s like one giant clusterfuck of a storm that barrels into everything in sight.

“Hey Ben,” Cael called to me. “It’s my watch now,” his voice was gravelly and tired. The end of the free world would do that, I guess.

“All right,” I said and shuffled over to where he sat in the sleeping bag. I handed him the blanket I had wrapped around myself and we switched spots. Albee would take the next shift, and then it’d be time for us to move on.

Albee was Spanish and was shorter than Cael and I, with black hair and hardly any facial hair at all, with these crazy sharp blue eyes that could probably be seen in pitch-blackness. He had this fast way of talking that always left you with a sense of ‘what the fuck did you just say?’ and he would add some random Spanish words in with his English. Cael and I found him likable, so we let him join us. Cael was Irish and I was part German, mixed in with a few other places—made possible only by the former U.S of A.

I closed my eyes as Cael sat down near the fire and warmed his hands. I fell asleep almost instantly and when I woke up Albee was sitting where Cal had been a few hours before. He looked at me, but didn’t notice I was awake.

“Mi corazón perdido en ti,” he sang. I laughed, recognizing the song. He jumped and laughed, glaring at me with his paranormal eyes. “How long have you been awake?” he asked.

“Not long. Your wonderful singing woke me up.”

“Hey man, don’t be jealous of my Spanish heritage.”

“Yeah, that’s why you were singing a country song.” I laughed.

Albee smiled and stood up, stretching his legs. “Where we going today, Ben?” He jumped up and down to keep his circulation flowing. “We probably won’t make it to the border for a few days on feet. Maybe we should find a car or jeep or motorcycles. I’d love to ride a motorcycle.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking,” I replied. “I want to make it to the border as fast as we can.” I got out of the sleeping bag and shook Cael awake. He started and looked scared at first, but when he saw me, he calmed down.

“Dude. Don’t shake me like that. You’re going to give me a heart attack.”

“How would you like to be awoken in the future? A nice hot cup of cocoa and pancakes?” I asked with a laugh.

“That’d be great, thanks!” He laughed and sat up.

It was near a half hour before the sunrise so we all packed up the bags and watched the eastern sky explode with tremendous light. Albee handed out some energy bars from the packs and we ate our breakfast.

“Remember in Wyoming?” Cael asked. “That sunrise outside Cheyenne?”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “It started raining.”

“That’s beauty, Albee!” Cael shouted, unafraid of being overheard. He sighed and after a minute or so asked real quietly “How long ago was that?”

“A few months,” I replied.

He didn’t speak again after that, so we just stared at the sky until the beauty of it all disappeared with all of the rest.

I grabbed my hiking backpack and attached the sleeping bag to the top. Albee had his duffel bag and Cael had an army pack we found somewhere in Colorado. A military camp that was set up there, we found a bunch of packs in the barracks, rummaged through them as best we could and left before anybody knew we were there. It was easy to blend in; all army men look the same.

Our objective for the day was to find a better form of transportation. We headed back toward the city, finding it vacant, riddled with car wrecks and the remnants of a mound of burned bodies. We followed the roads mainly, finding it was easier to navigate that way. And plus, there were cars. Albee saw a military Humvee he liked and we tried to find the keys for it, but we didn’t have any luck. We rummaged it and found two pistols, I think they were “USP’s” but I couldn’t tell you for sure, and a few extra magazines. I took one and Albee took the other. Cael already had enough to carry. Our journey together was long, every day trying to not get in the middle of a fight or found by some military goons that had broken off from their stations. Like I said before, chaos is like a plague.

“How about that one?” I asked, pointing to a mudded up sedan. I couldn’t see it clearly from where we were, but as I walked closer I noticed it was a BMW. “Cael! Come on, this is the one.” I ran toward it, looked inside and saw black interior with a few bags in the back seat. The doors were unlocked and there was a key on the floorboards, as if someone was ripped from the car before they could put the key into the ignition. That was only in my imagination, but I’m sure the true story was much more violent.

I picked up the key and sat behind the wheel. I started the engine and found the tank to be nearly full of gas. I laughed ecstatically and banged my hands on the steering wheel in amazing happiness and relief. “Let’s go!” I yelled to them and they got in the car, Cael in the front passenger and Albee in the back.

“I really wanted a motorcycle to ride,” Albee muttered. Cael and I laughed and we were off down the road, out of Amarillo and toward the border of Oklahoma.

Albee searched the bags in the backseat as Cael manned the radio, searching for a station that could sort of fill us in on what was going on in the world. Much like everything else, there seemed to be a lot less radio stations. He found an emergency warning message and we listened to the announcer, somewhere in the middle of the broadcast:

“—no matter how far you’ve traveled. If you’re listening to this station, you’re somewhere in Texas, most other states don’t receive this frequency. Today’s updates are as follows. The uprising in California has subsided; the military stationed there have either abandoned their posts or have been killed. If you’re heading west, avoid San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Chinese reinforcements have taken shelter in both cities and are labeled as hostile. In Florida and Louisiana, the shelters for survivors can no longer take in refugees, though the shelters in Kentucky and New York are still accepting survivors. The final update: the Texas Rebel Force is recruiting those able to fight. There are outposts outside of Austin and San Antonio. This has been a broadcast of Free Texas Radio. Signing off, I am Oak Redwood.”

“Oak Redwood?” Cael asked.

“I think it may be some kind of code,” I said. “Like a pseudonym, but probably so you know when the next broadcast is.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Hey!” Albee yelled, half scaring me. “I found more food!”

“Anything good?” Cael asked, turning around to see.

I weaved in and out of the random car that was blocking our path on the roads. Everything was so deserted that it almost felt like one of those Zombie movies. I half expected the flesh eating undead to be feeding on dead corpses in front of us. The only danger here, though, in reality, was alive humans. A hundred times the threat as zombies, they wanted your clothes, food, everything. We had to move quickly and cautiously.

To Be Continued, Edited and Rewritten.

Elvenswordsman
April 8th, 2012, 01:54 PM
A starting note, and I do love your critiques that I've been reading around the site, but I believe you're overusing certain words in your first paragraph (there, to be specific).

Also, you have a bit of a run-on going on in the first paragraph.


Not to mention paranoia and fear. Mixed together, it’s like one giant clusterfuck of a storm that barrels into everything in sight.

After your run-on, I didn't expect this. It's condensed past where it needs to be. "Not to mention paranoia and fear; mixed together, it's like one giant clusterfuck of a storm that barrels into everything in sight." No need to break that up, it's a single sentence.

You also use survivors, refugees, and survivors in the broadcast. It's over usage, find a way to trim back on it. "Florida and Louisiana are no longer accepting refugees and survivors, but New York and Kentucky are." Easy change, and makes it more easily read.


I weaved in and out of the random car that was blocking our path on the roads.

You used roads, so I'm assuming you meant to use "cars". Just a quick fix.


I half expected the flesh eating undead to be feeding on dead corpses in front of us.

No need to write "dead corpses", as a corpse is dead. A bit redundant, wouldn't you agree.


The only danger here, though, in reality, was alive humans. A hundred times the threat as zombies, they wanted your clothes, food, everything. We had to move quickly and cautiously.

"The only real dangers here, though, are human in nature." is a suggested fix to the first part. "One hundred times as great a threat as zombies, who only wanted your brains for sustenance, humans would take your necessities to survive and leave you freezing in the wilderness, clothe-less, without food, water, or even the means to keep warm at night." This is another fix. I was surprised to see the poor quality in the last paragraph, as, on a whole, the story is quite well-written. Congrats, it's a great start and leads me to want to read more.

Crash_Tomas
April 9th, 2012, 02:35 AM
Hey, thanks for the input. The last paragraph just kind of ended and was rushed through, so I thank you for that point out. I've been editing and adding parts to this, since the chapter isn't complete as it is here. And yeah, first drafts usually contain excess words. I'm trying to kick that habit. I may post the finished chapter when I'm through with it.

Crash~

Draxia
April 9th, 2012, 05:07 PM
Do you really believe your main character would see such life in their current circumstances? If it happened to you, would you be so optimistic? This sounds like a deneoument, rather than a beginning, is it?

Crash_Tomas
April 10th, 2012, 02:29 AM
Interesting questions. Though, it isn't life they're looking for, so much as beauty, when they also see terrible sorts of things. so, mayhaps it's a coping mechanism. Though, I got the idea for this from something that could actually happen. so it's not that off the wall. I guess I should explain more in the story. so that helps. Thanks.