PDA

View Full Version : Edited Version: Chaos Scripted



Crash_Tomas
May 19th, 2012, 03:16 AM
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 were alive, 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. His hair was longer now, probably just as long as mine was. We’d been on the road for a few months after the, I don’t even know what to call it, this thing that happened. A meltdown? Apocalypse? Something. Everything seemed to just happen and there wasn’t much time in between the fallout and the invasion. I’m sure we’d both changed, in more ways than just our appearance. We were both unshaven, ragged brown hair, weary eyes, muddy faces. Cael looked back to me and nodded his assurance.

“Two hours, all right?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

I shut my eyes and fell asleep almost instantly. When I woke up Albee was sitting where Cal had been. He looked at me, but didn’t notice I was awake. I looked toward the other sleeping bag, seeing Cael laying in it.

“Mi corazón perdido en ti,” Albee sang. He hummed a few lines and started to put the fire out. It was already dying, but with the soon to rise sun, we didn’t want visible smoke. I laughed, recognizing the song. He jumped and laughed, glaring at me with his paranormal eyes. “How long have you been awake?”

“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. My voice was tired, I could feel it strain on my vocal chords. I needed water.

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 and bottled water from the packs and we ate our breakfast.

The sky turned that odd purple color it sometimes does in the morning. Not so much red, but a mixture of blue along with the fleeting nighttime sky. As time passed, the light changed the blackness to blue and purple, like it was telling us that the world still had some beauty in it. The only reason we watched the sunrise after all, was to see something worth seeing.

“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 asked real quietly “How long ago was that?”

“A few months,” I replied, looking off toward the horizon.

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. The day before we found it vacant, riddled with car wrecks and the remnants of a mound of burned bodies. The streets were trash-filled and everything felt more like a ghost land than an actual human built civilization. We followed Interstate 40, finding it was easier to navigate that way. And plus, there were cars everywhere, left abandoned for one of several reasons. Either they had run out of gas, were stopped by military and killed, or they decided it best to take the voyage on foot. There were probably other reasons, but I didn’t want to think about them. Albee saw a military Humvee he liked and we tried to find the keys for it, but we didn’t have any luck.

Albee climbed in the backseat and found a backpack. He started shuffling through it as I sat in the front seat and found a case underneath. I opened it and found two pistols. Sadly my knowledge of weaponry isn’t advanced, so I can’t tell you for sure what they were. Albee said they were Glock’s, but I can’t tell you if he was right or not. I handed one of the guns to Albee and kept the other. Cael already had enough to carry. He stood outside the Humvee, keeping an eye out for anything and anyone.
Our journey had been 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. On more than one occasion we’d had to hide in trees or just lay flat on the ground as a convoy of vehicles roared past us. We couldn’t risk stopping them, more than likely whoever they were would probably try and kill us. Like I said before, chaos is like a plague.

We kept walking along the Interstate, peeking in the windows of cars, some were empty, and others weren’t. I don’t want to describe what was in them. I opened the doors of the empty cars, most were muddy and caked with blood. I tried to find one of the cleaner ones.
“How about this one?” I asked. It was a black BMW sedan. There were a few bags in the backseat. The doors were unlocked so I opened the driver’s side and saw the key on the floorboards, as if someone had been 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.

“Nice,” Cael said.

“I really wanted a motorcycle to ride,” Albee muttered. Cael and I laughed and we were off down the road, away from 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.

They found some cartons of powdered milk, canned foods and bottled water, along with some sweatshirts and what looked like camouflage pants.

“Changes of clothes too,” Cael said, rather distantly.

I weaved in and out of the random cars that were blocking our path on the road. 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. I drove slowly, in and out of parked cars. The radio became a soft white noise and our breathing was really the only sound I could hear—until the unmistakable roar of another engine. I saw movement ahead of us and slowed down to a stop. Cael looked at me and I pointed out toward what I’d seen. Two trucks of men were sitting idle. The men were scattered about 200 yards away. I had stopped behind another car. Cael’s eyes stared ahead and after a few moments went wide and he gasped.

“Shut the engine off,” he said in a monotone.

“What?”

“Ben. Shut the engine off.”

So I did.

“Get down,” Cael ordered.

“Who are they?” Albee asked.

“Quiet. Get down and be quiet.”

We did. And we waited.
_______

still not a complete chapter. I'm painstakingly taking my time with this. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

stuffaboutstuff
May 28th, 2012, 06:04 AM
So far, great. Interesting. Your plot development is good: it doesn't reveal too much at once, but it creates an unfolding story with little details as hints of what the characters are experiencing in this world. One of your biggest strengths is your description. It's very vivid, especially when you say the world is "holding on for dear life to a hand grenade." It does a very good job describing the dire situation they're in.
I did find a few grammatical errors and a few things that I think would sound better if altered a touch. At the beginning, when you say, "weather was warmer and the people, fewer," you don't need that comma there. Conversely, you should add a comma after "but" here: "didn’t have that many to begin with but when the military." I also think this sentence could benefit from being split into two, maybe even right there, simply because it's so long. I think it would flow better if it were shorter, but it works either way. Later, when you say "on feet," it should be "on foot." I don't know why, it just is. When describing the guns, you would say "Glocks" instead of "Glock's." It looks strange, but apostrophe-s combination either denotes a contraction or possession. When talking about the radio stations, it should be "fewer" rather than "less." Also, when they are driving, I think you should change it to say, "I wove" instead of "I weaved." I don't know that "weaved" is wrong, but it just doesn't sound right to me.
The above were the only errors I found. You did a good job in that area. I just have one more suggestion about this sentence: "We’d been on the road for a few months after the, I don’t even know what to call it, this thing that happened." It works as it is, but I think replacing the first comma with "..." (called an ellipsis, if you didn't know- there's your fun fact of the day) would create a more fitting pause for that, as though he's trying to find words to describe it.

Jim Alias
May 28th, 2012, 08:05 AM
As much as I enjoy some of your descriptions, I kind of feel that the story loses itself a bit in its own context and doesn't fully bring the characters or their opinions into their own. You talk an awful lot about imagery and that's great, but it feels too much like your characters are just moving set pieces in this post apocalyptic painting you're drawing. It's got action, yeah, but it still looks like a still life to me (I understand it's early in the story, but all I know about any of the characters is their ethnicity). Maybe not worth adding retroactively, but definitely definitely definitely worth keeping in mind for future installments.

Now that the harshness is out of the way, I really do think you do a good job with the imagery. I especially loved the talk about the rainy sunrise. I could picture it in my head, and the dialogue here actually helped the image I was forming rather than give additional context. An absolutely excellent scene and one that you should keep in mind as you write. Good work here, I really mean it.

Here's where my advice gets weird, though: I don't feel that first person suits that story, and I don't know that it's necessary. Your protagonist/narrator seems to be omniscient in some cases, even aware of why people have left places or what a code may mean. If he's going to know these things, give reasons or provide them through the use of a third person narrator.

Crash_Tomas
June 2nd, 2012, 07:13 PM
Hey thanks to both of you. Both very helpful critiques. Gives me lots to think about. I appreciate the input. =)