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blue_evertonian
December 15th, 2012, 05:22 PM
This is the first short story that I've written in a while, so please leave any feedback or criticism you can think of, and if you don't want to post, please drop me a private message.

Look forward to reading people's thoughts, and thanks in advance! :D

PS. Sorry about the formatting, indents disappeared after posting.

Baby Born

Sunlight danced across spinning spokes as the boy rode his new pride and joy up and down the street. His audience sat lined up along the curb, a row of frowns and open mouths belying their mixed feelings of jealousy and awe. Exclamations and sighs accompanied the skid of fresh rubber on the hot asphalt. “So, how good is it?” Covetous eyes crawled over the shining spokes and up to the gleaming frame.
“What was wrong with your old one?” asked one of the smaller boys from the curb, holding a hand up to shade his eyes from the sun.
“Nothin’ really.” A moment of consideration passed. “But this one’s red and red’s a cooler colour.”
“Hey Bernard,” called another boy from the curb, “I bet Sam’s jealous.” The boy grinned and nodded, awaiting Bernard’s approval.
Bernard, astride the bike with one leg out for support, scanned the audience of fellow children for the familiar face of his best friend. “Where is he?”
Heads turned and looked about. “I think they’re getting a new baby,” someone mentioned. “Yeah, I heard that too,” added somebody else.
Bernard’s grin disappeared. “Oh,” he said sadly. “Well, I guess I’ll just show him tomorrow.”

The new baby was a cute little thing, bundled up in a fluffy blanket, and held snugly in the arms of Sam’s mother. Bernard peered at it curiously from behind the kitchen bench. “He’s so perfect!” exclaimed Bernard’s own mother, seated between Sam’s and a strange woman who Bernard had never seen before.
Sam’s mother rocked it gently in her arms and said, “I know. Isn’t he just beautiful?”
Bernard didn’t like the new baby. Its eyes reminded him of the earrings in his mother’s jewellery box upstairs, and its pink skin reminded him of the smooth but slightly grainy plastic of his sister’s toy baby doll. The strange woman fidgeted relentlessly. Her eyes crawled all over the baby, as if she wanted to take it away and have it as her own. She forced a smile and revealed two rows of straight white teeth. There was a smudge of scarlet lipstick on her tooth. “How long did it take to make him?” she whispered with barely contained enthusiasm.
Sam’s mother glanced at the eyes peeping over the bench top. “Only a few hours. We had a few failed attempts, but,” she nodded down at the baby in her arms, “we finally got what we wanted.”
“Where’s Sam?” leapt from Bernard’s mouth. The women were taken aback and they cast knowing looks at each other.
“Well, honey,” began Sam’s mother with a false smile, “he’s staying with some friends.”
“Who?” demanded Bernard.
“Oh, um, do you remember Max?”
Bernard’s mother looked from her son to Sam’s mother. “You mean the short boy who used to live at the end of the next street?” she said encouragingly.
“Yeah, that one,” said Sam’s mother.
“When’s he coming back?” interrupted Bernard.
His mother stood up and walked towards him. “I’m sure he’ll come back as soon as the baby’s settled.” Sam’s mother nodded in agreement. “You should go ride your new bike,” suggested his mother. Bernard cast the baby a dark look, before running out of the kitchen.

“Do you remember Max?” asked Bernard hopefully. His was the last in a line of downcast heads hiding between knees and under hands from the sun.
Someone murmured something to someone else and a few dunnos reached Bernard’s ears. “I think he moved to the country with his sister.”
“The country?” asked Bernard, puzzled.
“Yeah,” replied a muffled voice. “Mum told dad that his parents were getting sick of him.”
“But he was so cool,” another voice began, “he always had the newest Xbox games.” Everyone agreed.
“Well where’s the country?” asked Bernard.
“Don’t you know?” somebody asked the asphalt.
“No,” answered Bernard, slightly annoyed.
“Um,” a voice began, “I think it’s over the hill somewhere.” A head raised and a hand flung out, pointing to a hill that could be seen over a sea of house roofs, jutting upwards in the distance.
Bernard jumped up. “That must be where Sam is then!” The row of hung heads looked up at him. He ran over to his bike, which lay in the shade of a tree.
“Where are you going?” someone called. “You don’t even know where Max’s house is.”
“It’s in the country,” yelled Bernard over his shoulder, already riding away.
The children looked at one another and then scrambled to their feet. “Wait for us!”

The hill stood a few kilometres beyond the fences of the housing estates. The children rode their bikes, flicking up stones and a cloud of dust, along a back road which serviced some of the farms between the estates and the hill. It was a bigger hill than they had imagined from the curb, and was surrounded by some low foothills. They continued along the road until it began to veer away from the hill, at which point they left the road and lifted their bikes over a dilapidated wire fence. They rode through stony paddocks until they came to a thin animal track that meandered up the hill between peeling trees.
It was after lunchtime when the group finally reached the sparsely treed summit and gazed out upon a flat plain of pastureland cut up by faint brown lines and dotted by miniscule farmhouses and silos. If they squinted, they could make out low mountains on the horizon. A single black road emerged from the foothills on the other side and struck out dead straight towards a sprawling collection factories and warehouses. A lone red car sped along it towards the sprawl. The buildings in the distance reminded Bernard of the cardboard city which he and Sam and some other children had made at school once. They had used the cereal boxes and the packaging from their new televisions and Xboxes, along with a few egg cartons. Except their city had been a colourful one, proudly displaying Samsung and Microsoft logos alongside black and gold free-range egg stickers. The cardboard city in the distance was dirty and grey, and smoke poured from a cluster of chimney stacks at its heart.
“What is that?” someone asked timidly.
Bernard wasn’t sure. Nobody was. “I dunno. But we could get there pretty quick if we followed that road,” he said, pointing.
“Are you sure? Max’s house could be one of those ones.” Everyone’s eyes scanned the landscape and the houses dotted across it.
Bernard held his arms out, gathering up the plain and the dirty city and the farmhouses, and said, “We can’t go to all of those houses. Someone in the city will know where they are.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” replied Bernard confidently. “Dad’s always saying how the government won’t leave us alone. The government is in the city, so we should go to the city.” A few heads nodded.
“I’m going back,” said at least one unsteady voice. “I don’t even like Sam that much.” Some wheels turned in the dirt and rolled off back down the hill, leaving the rest to ride down onto the plain and onto the asphalt artery below.

In the distance, the sun had sunk beneath the edge of the plain and the purpling sky was struck through with bands of orange and crimson. A smaller group of bicycles rolled along the black asphalt than had rolled down the hill earlier, culled by excuses of hunger or homework. A monotonous hum carried to their ears on the evening breeze which blew coolly against their faces.
The children rolled to a stop a hundred or so metres from a large gate. It was flanked by booths that shone like small windowed lanterns. Beyond the booths in both directions, a wire fence disappeared into the night, except where it reappeared intermittently beneath the glow of tall light towers. The children followed Bernard off-road and along the fence. They searched for almost an hour before they came finally to a spot which was barely visible in the darkness between light towers, where an animal or something like had scraped the dirt away to wriggle under the fence. They dumped their bikes in the grass and wriggled underneath the wire.
Beneath a starless sky, they traipsed across a bleak expanse of gravelly grass that whipped at their shins. Lights twinkled ahead of them like fallen stars. The humming grew louder, resonating out across the plain. Bernard’s eyes strained to make out black shapes in the darkness.
The warehouses were long, low-roofed structures with high windows. Looking up, the boys saw some of them dimly illuminated from within. A sudden squawk alerted them to the shadows moving beyond the panes. “Quiet,” hissed Bernard, leading them to the warehouse walls. He placed a hand up against it, like he’d seen people do in movies. He hoped the wall would tell him what to do next or at least give him some clue on how to proceed. The wall was warm, still exuding the stored heat of the sunken sun. “There’s probably some way in,” he murmured.
A fence of corrugated iron had been erected at a gap between warehouses. After some fruitless clambering, a boy suggested in a barely audible voice that they each other a boost. “Good idea,” said Bernard. The same boy quickly volunteered, with a now quite audible voice, to do the boosting. He was glad to stay behind.
The deep shadows between the closely built warehouses enveloped the boys when they managed at last to clamber over the fence. The boys caught glimpses of fluttering moths by the flickering light of old bulbs above intermittent metal doors, all bolted from the outside. Above the humming Bernard heard a snapping noise which seemed to come from up ahead. He hissed at his friends to follow as he flitted from shadow to shadow, avoiding the lights.
He crouched at the end of the lane, at the building’s corner. The others crowded behind him and peered at the spectacle before them. A central square of cracked concrete lay before them. Over it towered an enormous factory with high windows of broken glass, crowned by great smoke stacks which spewed forth darkness into the night sky. A smaller building squatted opposite the greater, and before it was parked the red car they had seen from up on the hill. Bright white light shone from beyond the aged windows of the smaller building.
Bernard raised a pointed finger towards the smaller building. Following him, they stole towards it.

Teetering atop the shoulders of the two tallest boys, Bernard looked cautiously through the window, his fingers twisted around the wires of the caging. “Can you see anything?” whispered a voice from below.
When his eyes adjusted to the brilliant white light, two faces appeared before him, a man and a woman. The woman was vaguely familiar to Bernard, but the others unknown. A group of men in white coats flanked the pair, and they all stood before a metallic, casket-like contraption. Tubes sprouted from it in every direction and snaked off across the white tile floor and into sockets in the walls. Liquids, fleshy coloured and brown, flowed through the tubes and into the machine. The men in coats chatted voicelessly to the woman, while the man on her arm gazed intently at the machine before him. Something caused them to step back, except one of the coated men, who took a step forwards.
He casually flipped some locks and opened the contraption’s lid. A milky cloud billowed forth and engulfed the man as he reached into the casket and removed a small, writhing form. He held the squirming thing out before him for the man and woman to see. The woman pointed at something and shook her head. Her shoulders slumped and she rolled her eyes and Bernard could clearly read the word “again” on her lips. The doctor disappeared, carrying the thing before him, now struggling in his hands, through a heavy white door. Ignoring the groans of his human footstools, Bernard watched again as the process was repeated. He watched with strained eyes as one of the white-coated men reached into the metal casket, withdrew the prize, and turned to the scrutinizing eyes of the couple. The woman’s eyes inspected the damp, white face, and moved down to the hands and then feet that flailed about in a manner that, in Bernard’s mind, resembled the jilted movements of a marionette. Again it was rejected and carried away as the process began anew. “Put me down,” stammered Bernard and his pillars dumped him unceremoniously on the ground.
“What did you see?”
Bernard looked from one shadowy face to another. “We have to go home; we have to get out of here. I don’t think Sam’s here!” He ran silently towards the lane from which they had come, but he was stopped dead by a scream.

Shocked by the screaming siren, the boys sprang mindlessly behind the red car, concealing themselves as best as possible within the shadows. Something clattered loudly in the nearby factory building and the boys peeped around and under the car to get a view. A roller door opened in the wall of the factory like a vast yawning maw. Within, Bernard could make out vague shapes amidst flashes of cracking electricity. A man wearing a dirty yellow hardhat stood at the doorway, ushering smaller figures out into the night before him. The figures lined up neatly, slouching and coughing and rubbing grime from their faces as they waited.
Bernard’s eyes perused the dirty faces and his spirits lifted when he heard a gasp by his side. “Look!” exclaimed one of the boys. “It’s Max!” He pointed towards a short boy with a bent back and knotted black hair. The boy hissed Max's name and when the din broke for a moment, his dirty face snapped upwards. Max stared wildly at the collection of eyes and fingertips crowded around the edge of the car. Panic flashed in his wild eyes and he tried to call out but his voice was drowned by noise.
The overseer growled and the line began to move forwards. He raised an electric lantern and led them into a black crack between warehouses. Bernard could hear somebody whimpering by his side. The boys remained frozen in the shadows, and watched as another line of children emerged from a crack at the opposite side of the square. They tramped towards the gaping doorway of the factory. Bernard scanned grim and downcast faces but couldn’t find Sam’s. The line stopped abruptly as another overseer issued guttural commands and began ushering the hunched figures into the factory. One figure in the line looked up forlornly at the green car and when Bernard saw his face he felt the muscles across his chest and up through his neck go taught. “Bernard,” a voice whispered, “that boy looks like you.”

Days later, Bernard reluctantly followed the swaying hips of his mother as she marched down the street. He was tired and his body ached. He hadn’t slept much since that night. All of the boys had been grounded for staying out so late. None of them had told the truth.
“Will you please hurry up!” urged his mother. They were visiting a friend of his mother, who had recently had a baby. Bernard didn’t want to see the baby; he saw enough of them when he closed his eyes. From cold metal coffins they clambered, crawling out across cold white tiles. When he wandered onto the grass of the nature strip, his mother snapped at him. “Please Bernard, watch where you’re going and walk on the path!”
He looked up and saw that his mother had stopped at a letterbox. A red car was parked in the driveway, behind her. The clacking of heels announced someone approaching down the driveway. Bernard arrived tentatively at his mother’s side as she said, “And this is Bernard, if you remember.”
The friend smiled and her scarlet lips parted to reveal two neat rows of white teeth. Bernard’s eyes fell on the smudged lipstick on her tooth. “Hi Bernard, do you remember me? I’d like you to meet my new baby boy,” and she bounced the bundle before his eyes.
Bernard’s began to gush. “Isn’t he just perfect! I bet he’s exactly what you wanted.”
“Oh,” the new mother replied happily, “he is.”

Mellifera
December 16th, 2012, 12:24 PM
This story really took me by surprise. I really wasn't expecting it to go in the direction that it did haha.
You did a great job describing the town and people. Really vivid imagery (particularly of the woman with lipstick on her teeth. She makes you feel uneasy and you can't pinpoint why from the very beginning). That being said, some of your sentences were really long- not sure if they were quite run on sentences, but still a little bit confusing. I got a little lost in some places. The story itself was really unique and unexpectedly morbid. The only thing I don't really understand was why they went to the warehouses and decided to peek inside. If they were in the country to find Sam, why did that become their destination? Although that confused me a bit, it was still an interesting read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. (:

taataafornow
December 16th, 2012, 11:49 PM
The idea for the story was really great and very original, I loved it.

However, I felt that it was too wordy, and it didn't really flow...almost like you were trying too hard to use "impressive" words. One of my favorite paragraphs was the second one, where Bernard sees the new baby for the first time because the flow and word choice was great and very easy to read. Using a variety of words is always good, but in this story I was getting lost in the word choice.

blue_evertonian
December 21st, 2012, 04:26 AM
Thanks for the feedback! :)

StoneFrog
December 21st, 2012, 01:31 PM
I very much enjoyed this story, i like how you described the children's interaction. As said by others, i also got lost in some of the descriptions.
This is one of the spots i got a bit lost, and hindered the flow for me.

"The buildings in the distance reminded Bernard of the cardboard city which he and Sam and some other children had made at school once. They had used the cereal boxes and the packaging from their new televisions and Xboxes, along with a few egg cartons. Except their city had been a colourful one, proudly displaying Samsung and Microsoft logos alongside black and gold free-range egg stickers."

Im not the best at grammer so i wont offer a solution. I feel there needs to be more direction, which can be encouraged by commas; or shorter sentences.

heir_of_isildur0
December 21st, 2012, 10:29 PM
Man this is really good! Unlike the others I didn't find myself lost in the words at all. When reading a story with a child main character it is best to think from their point of view. Do they need a reason to go to the warehouses? They are kids they have no idea where "the country" is. I really enjoyed the simple-mindedness of this interlaced with the growing dark story.